§ Mr. Godman
To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement as to the outcome of his recent discussions with European Commissioner Flynn anent the delayed ESF payments to training agencies and providers in Strathclyde and elsewhere in Scotland. 
§ Mr. Macdonald
My right hon. Friend met Commissioner Padraig Flynn on 1 December to discuss, among other things, a report completed by a Working Group of Scottish European Structural Funds partnerships on European Social Fund procedures. My right hon. Friend said that the Group had presented a useful commentary on problems which have arisen in relation to ESF funding, and on providing suggested improvements to the ESF system. He was able to confirm that The Scottish Office and Scottish partnerships have already456W implemented many of the most important recommendations in the report. Nevertheless there are other improvements which it would be helpful to achieve; and my right hon. Friend stressed that it would assist significantly if the Commission's services were able to make changes to their systems to allow funding to be released promptly.
Several of these improvements can only be achieved when the structural funds Regulations are revised for the period after 1999. However, my right hon. Friend asked the Commissioner to take any opportunities available before then to improve the system.