HC Deb 04 April 2001 vol 366 cc182-4W
Mr. Watts

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what steps the Government are taking to regenerate areas in England which are affected by the decline of the fishing industry; and if he will make a statement. [156804]

Ms Armstrong

Fishing communities in England, in common with other areas of the country, are eligible to apply for funding under a wide range of current Government and European Union initiatives. These can be split broadly into three categoriesinitiatives specific to coastal and rural communities—examples include grant schemes administered by MAFF, and the European Union LEADER programme; assistance for those leaving the industry with re-skilling and re-employment. DfEE administers a number of services and programmes through the Employment Service, including Work-Based Learning for Adults; the RDAs administer the Skills Development Fund, which is focused on local projects developed in response to specific need; and the new Learning and Skills Councils are working on Workforce Development Plans, again geared to local labour market requirements. regeneration initiatives—such as Regional Selective Assistance, Enterprise Grants, European Structural Funds and the RDAs' Single Regeneration Budget. These schemes are already providing considerable assistance. Nevertheless, I also appreciate that fishing communities have suffered particularly badly in recent times, due to declining fish stocks and other pressures, and that they have a strong case for further assistance.

I have therefore asked the Regional Development Agencies to set aside £5.5 million from their budget to go towards a new programme of assistance for fishing communities. The programme will aim to help local partnerships to devise strategies for regenerating affected areas. It will be designed specifically to help fishing communities develop plans for their areas and make their case to Regional Development Agencies and other sources of funding, and more effectively access assistance from existing programmes.

It will be possible for some of this money to be used to help tourism, including re-opening coastal paths.

This new initiative forms part of a wider Government package of assistance to fishing communities. Earlier this week, MAFF announced that they are making available £6 million for additional assistance in England to assist restructuring in the fishing industry. They will be consulting with the industry about the precise form the assistance should take. MAFF also announced that they are launching a fisheries structural fund grants scheme (FIFG) for England; they have already committed £6 million to this EU scheme over the coming three years. This is in addition to a separate £5 million fund for fisheries in Cornwall.

The total value of the MAFF and DETR packages is £22.5 million.

I am also pleased to say that colleagues in the DfEE are today announcing a package of support for fishing communities. The Employment Service will use every opportunity to assist those made unemployed to return to work as quickly as possible. This will be a flexible service, tailored to the needs of the particular community. The type of service will depend on what is appropriate in each instance. All aspects of jobsearch, training, access to vacancies, help with job applications and a fast track benefit service, maybe through On-site Jobshops, can be used. Open days and Job Fairs may also be an option.

ES staff will be available to offer intelligence on the local labour market and to match people to current vacancies. There is also access to over 350,000 vacancies on the website www.employmentservice.gov.uk and to a national telephone job hunting service Employment Service Direct (0845 60 60 234).

Additional help through the Job Transition Service will be offered in areas where large scale redundancies occur and where unemployment is already high. It will not only help those people directly affected but also people from communities which are dependent upon the fishing industry.

The Job Transition Service is a new programme and key to the way in which this Government are tackling large scale redundancies. The Job Transition Service builds on existing ES support to provide the extra help needed to move people rapidly back into work. In particular, it works with employers to identify skills shortages and match people without jobs to jobs without people.

The DfEE and the Employment Service will work closely with other departments and agencies to tackle the issue of job losses in the fisheries industry and the community as a whole. The approach will be practical and efficient, responding to local needs.