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EU Funding: Community Groups

Volume 617: debated on Monday 28 November 2016

1. What the Government's policy is on the replacement of EU funding to community groups after the UK leaves the EU. (907494)

The Government have guaranteed support for projects that have signed agreements for EU funding. This guarantee applies even when those projects continue beyond EU exit. We are considering future arrangements regarding domestic support for local growth.

A key aim of European funding for community groups is to promote skills and employment. Last week’s autumn statement appeared to have no long-term strategy for investment in skills and employment. Given how important this is for the UK to compete globally post-Brexit, does the Secretary of State agree that this shows yet again that the Government simply have no plan for Brexit?

I completely disagree. I have noted that the hon. Lady’s constituency has seen a 49% fall in unemployment since 2010, and I hope that she would welcome that. What we saw in the autumn statement were further measures to keep the strength in our economy, including the announcement of regional allocations of a local growth fund—it will apply to the hon. Lady’s area—that will go on to generate both growth and jobs.

Will my hon. Friend confirm that for every £2 we give to the European Union we get only £1 back? Under our own scheme, we could potentially be more generous than the EU is at the moment and we could give to community groups in line with national priorities rather than EU priorities?

As usual, my hon. Friend makes a very good point. Once we have left the EU, we will be able to design schemes for local growth and offer support through funding that will meet all our national priorities, provide value for money for British taxpayers and lead to more jobs and growth.

On 25 February, the Government announced that they would make an application to the EU solidarity fund to provide extra support to flood-hit communities across the UK, including a number in my own constituency. Given that we have now voted to leave the EU, can the Minister give us an update on the progress of this application, so that communities that are still dealing with the consequences of flooding can be reassured that they will receive this money?

I am happy to tell the hon. Gentleman that we have made an application and that it is now being considered by the European Commission. We hope to update Members as soon as we can.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that there is no such thing as EU money—it is taxpayers’ money—and that when business rates are kept locally by local authorities, thanks to this Government, local community groups will be able to benefit from that funding?

That is a very important reminder from my hon. Friend that it is all our money at the end of the day. He reminds us that, when we leave the EU, we can use that money locally as we wish. The connection that my hon. Friend has made to business rates is the right one.