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European Regional Development Fund

Volume 124: debated on Wednesday 9 December 1987

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To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what is the total value of grants Scotland has received from the European regional development fund in each of the past three years.

Scotland has received grant commitment from the European regional development fund of £103 million in 1984, £69 million in 1985, and £84 million in 1986.

Does my hon. Friend think that those grants have been sufficiently well publicised? If not, what steps is he taking to ensure that their size, scale and nature are properly publicised in Scotland and that the benefits that accrue to Scotland are made known to the people?

As my hon. Friend will know, it is always difficult to obtain publicity for good news. However, his question enables me to publicise the fact that, among national programmes of Community interest, in 1985 Glasgow received £68 million, and we hope that this year West Lothian will be successful with a bid of £27 million. We are also hoping to succeed with a bid for Strathclyde, as an integrated operation, that will be worth £300 million over the next five years.

Is the Minister not well aware that areas of Scotland such as Galloway and the Borders do not qualify for assistance under the European regional development fund because they are not defined as assisted areas by the national Government? As the European Community is reconsidering the guidelines for that fund, with a view to opening it to rural development, irrespective of assisted area status, will the Minister assure us that the Scottish Office will support such a change?

As the right hon. Gentleman will know, the arrival of Spain and Portugal in the Community has made pressure on funds that much greater. Therefore, we cannot be sure that we will receive as large a proportion in future as we have in the past. However, the Scottish Office will do its best to ensure that Scottish interests are well advanced within the Community.

Is my hon. Friend aware that we welcome the tremendous help for the infrastructure of Scotland from that fund? Will he consider the issue of forest roads used in the extraction of timber, especially for those areas that do not have assisted area status? Will he discuss with other Departments and within the European Community the possibility of including that sort of development?

I shall certainly consider that point. As my hon. Friend knows, any regional authority that approaches the Government for capital allocation in that context can rely on having the matter sympathetically considered.

Is the Minister aware that during the last year for which figures are available, 1986, we had a net loss in the Common Market of £1·7 billion—the equivalent of about 20 days of the regional fund? Would it not be better if that £1 billion were spent on development in Britain, rather it being poured into the food mountains of Europe?

That is a perfectly worthwhile negotiating stance. However, it would be wrong to analyse each individual fund and try to ensure that this country made a profit from each and all of them. That is not what the Common Market is about.