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Rechar Funding

Volume 281: debated on Wednesday 17 July 1996

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To ask the President of the Board of Trade what representations he has received recently concerning Rechar funding; and if he will make a statement. [36066]

My Department received five representations. I announced additional allocations to Rechar and other European structural funds community initiatives to the House on 3 July.

As you know, Madam Speaker, I have been to see the Minister this morning at his pre-meeting, along with the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Waterson) and various other hon. Members. I must say that it was something of a damp squib, and that we did not rehearse this question.

In the past, the coalfield communities have felt that the Rechar moneys were ripped off by the Government because of the problem of additionality. Can we ensure that the moneys that are to be available to four areas for community initiatives as a result of recent decisions will be distributed in such a way that the coalfield communities get their fair whack? Has everything been done by the Government to ensure that the total amount for the initiatives is distributed fairly, including a fair element for the coalfield communities?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for coming along to my meeting. I was particularly grateful to him for telling me that he was coming via Mr. Matthew Parris. I am sure that he will find that my answer is more beneficial as a result of that meeting. I was able to tell him, for example, that his constituency will also benefit from Resider. I hope that a decision on that will be made by the Commission within a few days.

On Rechar, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will accept that the additional allocation of money that became due exceeded the expectations of the Coalfield Communities Campaign. Its representatives wrote to me asking me to ensure that they received at least 18 million ecu; I was able to announce recently that they will receive 20 million ecu. I am keen that Rechar 2 funds should be spent expeditiously and effectively. I am sure that we will try to do that in the hon. Gentleman's constituency as well as in other newly qualifying areas.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Barlestone and Osbaston community association project for a new sports hall in my constituency has been effectively stopped because of a change of criteria in the Rechar 2 rules, which exclude recreational projects? Does he agree that, although the current criteria help former coalfield communities in many ways, the failure to include projects for recreation should perhaps be considered again, and would he care to look into that matter if I write to him?

I can do better than that. I am in the business of offering meetings, and I would be delighted to offer my hon. Friend a meeting to discuss it.