§ Mr. Beggs
To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (1) what is the average time taken by each department of government in Northern Ireland to respond to bids for European social funds; 
(2) how much European social funding available to Northern Ireland in each of the past five years could not be drawn down because of delay at Government level in responding to bids submitted. 
§ Mr. Ancram
Responsibility for the subject in question has been delegated to the Training and Employment Agency under its chief executive, Mr. Ian Walters. I have asked him to arrange for a reply to be given.
Letter from Ian Walters to Mr. Roy Beggs, dated 30 January 1997:The Secretary of State has asked me, as Chief Executive of the Training and Employment Agency, to reply to your questions about the European Social Fund (ESF).
Question 13066The majority of Northern Ireland applications to the Fund are processed by this Agency. Applications are invited through press advertisements each time funds become available. They are then scored against programme criteria and ranked by a Selection Committee. While the time taken to reach decisions is directly related to the number of applications to be assessed at each "call", the process is normally completed within 3 months of the application closing date.
Question 13067I am pleased to say that at no time over the past 5 years has there been a failure to draw down monies from the European Social Fund because of delays in responding to bids. While there was an underspend on ESF in 1994, this was due to the delay in the approval of the Northern Ireland Single Programme. The full amount of the underspend was rolled forward to subsequent years and so will be fully spent.