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Cornwall Local Enterprise Partnership

Volume 592: debated on Tuesday 10 February 2015

1. What discussions he has had with Cornwall local enterprise partnership on devolving powers and responsibilities from Whitehall. (907512)

The Government have already devolved powers and responsibilities to the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly local enterprise partnership through the growth deal, which was agreed last summer and extended just two weeks ago. It will mean that around £60 million is invested in Cornwall and Isles of Scilly, including in a range of infrastructure investments in the area. In Truro, that will mean money for seven new low-floor buses to provide additional capacity for the city’s successful park and ride scheme.

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his answer, but when will the European regional development funds for Cornwall be available to spend, and will the LEP make the decisions on how that vital money for the future of Cornwall is spent?

I strongly agree with my hon. Friend that it is essential that we get clarity as soon as possible on the use of the European structural investment funds through the so-called operational programmes. She may be aware that there has been lots of to-ing and fro-ing between the Government and the European Commission to ensure that the operational programmes are agreed as soon as possible. We are looking at everything to mitigate the impact of any delay. For example, we are looking at extending the deadline for spending on the 2007 to 2013 ERDF programme for some projects from the end of June to the end of September this year. Of course, every step of the way, the local enterprise partnerships are rightly involved in how that money is subsequently spent.

Further to that exchange, I would be grateful if the Deputy Prime Minister ensured that he impresses on the Communities and Local Government Secretary the importance of Cornwall achieving intermediate body status, because only by doing so can we proceed with making decisions.

As much as my hon. Friend points the finger of blame, it is pointed not so much at Departments in Whitehall but at the European Commission, which appears to struggle with the idea that there can be lots of different intermediate bodies within the United Kingdom. As he knows, London already has intermediate status. We have found it very difficult to persuade the European Commission to grant similar or analogous powers to other parts of the UK. We want to ensure that, while we make that case—everyone in the Government is making that case—we do not lose the use of the money. That is the balance we are trying to strike.