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EU Regional Aid Programmes

Volume 495: debated on Tuesday 30 June 2009

3. What recent discussions he has had in the General Affairs and External Relations Council on progress in the delivery of EU regional aid programmes. (282689)

Delivery of the EU structural and cohesion fund programmes was discussed at the General Affairs and External Relations Council on 15 June. We are awaiting detailed proposals from the European Commission on an amendment to the structural funds regulation to allow accelerated funding, as suggested in its communication of 3 June on employment.

Notwithstanding the Minister’s response, and given the uncertainty about and the cuts to the Learning and Skills Council, the Higher Education Funding Council and the regional development agencies budgets in the UK, what reassurance can the Minister give the EU Council and deprived UK regions, such as Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, that those convergence programmes will not suffer from the lack of UK match funding?

I can make an absolute guarantee that not a single extra penny needed for match funding in the UK would be brought forward by this proposal, which has not yet been outlined in full detail by the European Commission. There would not be a single penny missing in relation to the European social fund, which, as the hon. Gentleman knows, has already delivered significant extra benefits in Cornwall through the EMBARK programme and Workforce Cornwall. I hope that he will not be touting round the myth that the proposal would bring in extra money—every penny of match funding has already been provided.