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Regional Growth Fund

Volume 518: debated on Thursday 18 November 2010

As I said earlier, the regional growth fund is a challenge fund for the whole of England and it should not have any ring-fencing or pre-allocations. We expect a number of very positive applications, and the first opening round of those will conclude on 21 January 2011.

Businesses in my constituency often impress on me how important reliable modern infrastructure is to their success. Can the Minister confirm that bids to the regional growth fund for capital funding will be considered if they meet the objectives set out in the growth White Paper?

I can confirm that all bids that meet the criteria of the fund, including bids for projects such as those that my hon. Friend mentioned, will, of course, be considered on their merits.

The Prime Minister two weeks ago supported the idea of a new silicon valley in east London. Is that an initiative that the regional growth fund could be used to support? What else will the Minister’s Department do to support the Prime Minister’s proposal?

The point of the proposal, and the regional growth fund, is to ensure that in areas where there is a particular reliance on the public sector, or on any other single sector, there will be a diversity of job opportunities. I am sure that the opportunity for a new silicon valley will be an excellent project, and one that will be considered carefully by the independent panel advising Ministers.

In the past, regional development funds have ignored areas of deprivation in some parts of the country—for instance, those in West Suffolk—because they are surrounded by areas of comparative wealth. Will the Minister confirm that any area of the country can apply for funding under the new regional growth fund, no matter how small the area of comparative deprivation might be?

All bids will be considered fairly and on merit. That means that when there is an opportunity to transform the economy so that it is less reliant on the public sector, irrespective of location, those applications will be considered with due care and consideration.

Now that we have a local enterprise partnership in Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire, will the Minister assure me that we will be able to bid for regional growth funding for applications in respect of ceramics in Stoke-on-Trent and in respect of the new environmental technologies? Will he keep a close watch on ensuring that our deprived area gets that Government funding?

That is an excellent question, and I shall keep a close eye on the proposals—and, indeed, on the future of the economy in Stoke-on-Trent.