asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what changes have been decided by the European Commission in the criteria for allocations from the European social fund; what are the implications for future allocations from the fund to Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement.
The review of the European social fund completed in late 1983 resulted in entirely new regulations and guidelines governing the funds's operations which remained unchanged in 1984 and 1985. New guidelines for the Management of the fund in 1986 have just been adopted by the Commission, but it is too early to say what effect they may gave on allocations to Northern Ireland in that year. The distribution of fund assistance is influenced by many factors including, notably, the overall pressure of demand on its resources. I would expect that Northern Ireland's status as an area of absolute priority will mean that it will continue to receive high levels of support from the fund.