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House of Commons

Wednesday 8 July 1998

The House met at half-past Nine o'clock


[Madam Speaker n the Chair]

Points of Order

9.34 am

Mr. Menzies Campbell (North-East Fife): On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I seek your advice on whether Standing Orders allow a Minister to make a statement between now and 3.30 on the apparent leak of the strategic defence review which appears on the front pages of all this morning's broadsheet newspapers. Earlier this week, you once again felt constrained to observe that it seemed that the House was consistently being bypassed on these matters. I understand that the leaking of the document was systematic, in that it was sent to a series of newspapers in brown envelopes. We thought that brown envelopes were a feature of the previous Parliament, not of this one.

I am sure that you will agree, Madam Speaker, that leaking in that way is an insult to the House and to the men and women of the armed services whose jobs and future may depend on the contents of the strategic defence review. Can you advise me whether Standing Orders permit any Minister who seeks to make a statement between now and 3.30 to do so, and whether you would look favourably on any such application?

Mr. Paul Tyler (North Cornwall): Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker. The examples that you dealt with previously could have been accidental leakages, but, in the words of my hon. and learned Friend, this leak seems to be quite deliberate. May I draw your attention to the fact that they were not photocopies but actual copies of the defence review? It seems to be a deliberate attempt to drive other matters from the front pages of the newspapers.

Mr. Gerald Howarth (Aldershot): Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker. Given your strong feelings on such matters, could you tell Ministers that you would regard it as entirely appropriate if, following their investigations, the most proper and perhaps draconian action were taken against those who are responsible?

Madam Speaker: In answer to the first point of order, the Standing Orders of the House do not allow for a statement on that matter before 3.30. The Secretary of State for Defence has already telephoned me this morning. I am fully aware of the situation. He is prepared at 3.30 to make some comment--I put it no higher than that--on this matter, which disturbs him greatly, too. If the House will bear with me until 3.30, I think that he will be very forthcoming at that time.

Mr. Menzies Campbell: I am very much obliged, Madam Speaker.

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EU Structural Funds (London)

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.--[Mr. Betts.]

9.37 am

Mr. Tony Colman (Putney): I shall first declare an interest. I am a former director of Greater London Enterprise, and I am still the chair of Greater London Enterprise development capital on a pro-bono basis. I am a former leader of Merton borough council and vice-chair of the Association of London Authorities, a member of the leaders' committee of the ALG and a director of the London First centre.

I am pleased to have an opportunity to debate the current and future position of the EU structural funds for London. The United Kingdom's presidency of the European Union has just finished, and I am keen that the House should have an opportunity to hear from my hon. Friend the Minister about her progress in the past five months on achieving a good deal for the UK and particularly for London. She is, of course, a London Member.

Agenda 2000, which set this matter in train, led to the publication of new regulations governing the reform of the funds. They were published by the EU Commission on 18 March and cover the period 2000-2007. I understand that agreement on the overall structural funds budget is due at the Vienna summit in December and that final adoption of the regulations will take place at the German summit in June 1999. Therefore, the timing of the debate is helpful in ensuring that the London case is put in time.

Already, hon. Members in all parts of the House have been putting the case for their constituencies. A recent example of that was on 15 June when my hon. Friend the Member for Clwyd, West (Mr. Thomas) had an Adjournment debate on the subject in the context of Wales. All hon. Members would wish to support Northern Ireland's quest to continue its objective 1 status. The continuing sad news from Northern Ireland underlines the need to ensure that the Commission allows Northern Ireland to retain that.

I pay tribute to the various organisations that have, over recent years, been part of making the case for London. Greater London Enterprise has been foremost in that. It has a specialist team working on that case, but it was important that, some four years ago, London house was made available by Greater London Enterprise to ensure that there was a base for London to be able to lobby the European Commission. Before 1994, other regions had already set up lobbying organisations. Perhaps they were ahead of London in realising the importance of having a visible presence in Brussels.

The next grouping that I commend to the House is the Association of London Authorities, the London Boroughs Association, and the Association of London Government, as it became in 1995. I particularly pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. McDonnell), who, as secretary of the ALA and ALG, led the drive to ensure that London was not left behind in terms of ensuring that structural funds were available. I pay tribute to the current secretary, Martin Pilgrim, and to the assistant secretary,

8 Jul 1998 : Column 991

Madeleine Williams, the person in charge, for the work that she and her department do to ensure that London is properly represented.

I commend also the work that has been done on the London study, which was presented to my hon. Friend the Minister for London and Construction at a meeting on Monday to demonstrate a way forward. That study was part funded by the EU, by London boroughs and by many organisations in London, and sets the backdrop to a strong claim for objective 2 status for London in the negotiations that are coming up.

I obviously commend the work that has been done within the Committee of the Regions by our representatives on the committee, Councillor Peter Bowness, who has now been translated to another place and who, I think, was the first member of the committee, Councillor Toby Harris, who is shortly to be translated to another place, Councillor David Williams from the Liberal Democrats and Councillor Sally Powell. I know that other councillors have also done excellent work on the committee, but, at a key time, when it was so important to put the case for London in the committee and the European Commission, they were the four people who led the charge.

I mentioned the work of the London First centre. There was a tremendous need, which was clearly identified, for London to have its own development agency. On a basis of shared funding between the Department of Trade and Industry, the borough of Westminster, London Docklands development corporation, the Corporation of London and the business community, over the past three or four years, there has been a lively and successful inward investment agency for London, albeit working on rather limited funds compared with what is available for, say, Scotland, which has a similar population, or Wales, the population of which is significantly smaller.

As I develop my theme, hon. Members will see that London's needs are perhaps as great as those of Wales and Scotland combined, so it is important for the Minister to take back to the DTI the need to ensure that the funding for the London First centre and successor bodies is adequate.

Obviously, I commend the new shadow London development agency. That will help to bring together much more strongly the work of the organisations that I have mentioned. It is important that the Greater London authority--the elected mayor and assembly--has a clear view from the business community, from the social partners in London and from elected representatives in London of the way in which the GLA should support the way forward for EU structural funds and for the future of London.

I pay tribute to Members of the European Parliament who have spearheaded this work, including, obviously, Pauline Green, as chair of the socialist MEPs, and my own MEP, Anita Pollack, the MEP for London South West London, who has done sterling work in looking after that area.

As hon. Members will realise, Putney is not in an objective 1 or 2 area. Wandsworth council, with the local training and enterprise council, AZTEC, of which I was formerly a director, and the local regeneration partnership, the Wandle Valley Partnership, has been extremely

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successful in obtaining funds through objective 3, the European regional development fund, the European social fund, Adapt, Horizon, Social Exclusion, Youthstart, Life, Pacte, PHARE and Ecos Ouverture.

I have listed those EU programmes in full because I am concerned that virtually all the programmes will be subsumed within the new objective 2 and 3 status. It is important that areas in London that suffer from high unemployment and deprivation, such as Wandsworth and parts of Putney, should still be able to apply for and to receive EU funding.

I commend to the House the work of the Wandsworth economic development office, under Mike Brook and Judith Roscoe, in ensuring that those funds have been won fairly. One hears in the House, correctly, that there has perhaps been a tilting of the playing field, in favour of the standard spending assessment for Wandsworth, but, in this area, I commend Wandsworth council for its work to ensure that funds are available for unemployed people and others who can benefit from those programmes. It has won its case fair and square with Brussels, with the Government office for London and with Whitehall.

The vast majority of current EU London funding goes to the Lea valley and east London. I know that my hon. Friends from some constituencies in those areas wish to take part in the debate to do their own advocacy. Those areas will receive in 1997-99 some £80 million; that is 102 million ecu. That is 4 per cent. of the UK total of objective 2 funds. The London share of the UK unemployed is 18 per cent. and its share of the long-term unemployed is 25 per cent. London has more unemployed than Wales and Scotland put together; their share of the UK's unemployed is 15 per cent. London receives only 4 per cent. of objective 2 resources, compared with Wales and Scotland, whose share is 29 per cent. North-east England receives 15 per cent. of the resources and has only 7 per cent. of the unemployed. The west midlands receives 18 per cent. of the resources, but has only 9 per cent. of the unemployed.

I have no wish to denigrate other regions or countries within the British Isles about their share of those resources. I wish to ensure only that the London case is put. I believe that those comparisons have not been put to the House before. That clearly shows a lack of interest in London by the previous Government when it came to EU resources. I and fellow London Members want to ensure fair treatment for London for the next period--2000-07. I do not criticise the single regeneration budget division of resources, which more accurately reflects the needs of London, but it is remarkable that the EU share-out does not.

I have used comparative unemployment levels, which were the key indicator used for objective 2 for the last round. However, things are changing; the Minister will advise us of that. In terms of Agenda 2000, the amount of money that can be accessed is being reduced--the share of the EU population that benefits is reducing from 50 per cent. to between 35 and 40 per cent. There is a new way forward, which particularly takes account of EU enlargement in coming years.

I understand that, to maximise the UK overall take, the key criterion that should be used is gross domestic product; the UK has the fourth lowest GDP in Europe. However, while I would support that, other indicators should be looked at when considering the split of

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EU resources within the United Kingdom. I understand that 50 per cent. of the indicators come from Brussels and the other 50 per cent. from the UK.

The Association of London Government proposes criteria that relate to

Greater London has lost 382,000 industrial jobs, representing 50 per cent. of industrial employment, since 1984. In east London and the Lea valley, 51 per cent. of industrial jobs have been lost--77,000 down to 40,000--with a further loss of 10,000 jobs in the service sector. It is a difficult area and it needs every penny it can get. It is important that the current £80 million funding is sustained, if not increased.

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