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Objective 1 Regions

14. Mr. Andrew George (St. Ives): What progress he has made in completing financial arrangements for the United Kingdom's European objective 1 regions. [130141]

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Andrew Smith): The spending review announcements ensure that all the UK's objective 1 programmes can now draw down

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their full structural funds allocations for the next three years. This is very good news for the regeneration of objective 1 areas.

Mr. George: I am sure that the Minister is aware how warmly the Chancellor's announcement on Tuesday was greeted in the UK's four objective 1 regions. However, is he aware how anxious those regions are to secure some further detail, such as the mechanisms that will now be put in place to ensure the efficient delivery of those match funds? What Treasury spending guidelines will be available to the spending Departments in objective 1 regions?

Mr. Smith: I can give the hon. Gentleman some more detail now. The Government will provide full funding for expenditure under objectives 1, 2 and 3 programmes within departmental allocations. That is estimated to total £4.2 billion for EU structural funds in the UK over three years, including an estimated £600 million for new objective 1 programmes in English regions, and of course the extra allocation of £80 million, £90 million and £100 million to Wales to ensure funding of European expenditure under objective 1 there.

We have delivered on our support for the objective 1 programme, regenerating areas of the country that were neglected by the Conservative party. The Liberal Democrats, like everybody else, should welcome it.

Mr. Harry Barnes (North-East Derbyshire): Will my right hon. Friend look at areas that fall just outside objective 1 funding provisions and whose objective 2 funding has been seriously cut? I appreciate that borders must be drawn somewhere, but it is difficult for impoverished neighbours such as north-east Derbyshire, which cannot cash in on some of the provisions that have been added.

Mr. Smith: I understand the concerns to which my hon. Friend draws the House's attention. I recently met representatives of the Alliance for Regional Aid, and we discussed precisely these issues. I have asked for a further report from my officials. I should be only too happy to meet my hon. Friend and his local representatives to see how we can ensure that if people are eligible for this support, they actually get it.

Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East): Does the Chief Secretary recognise that there is only one objective for the Government on European funding or on anything else, which is to try to con the electorate in 2001 as they conned them in 1997? Is not the reason why they are so desperate to spend their time attacking Opposition policies instead of answering questions about Government policy the fact that they know there are no answers to those questions and that they are preparing to swap Front Benches with the Opposition at the next general election?

Mr. Smith: The one crucial reality that is most relevant to all these issues is that a growing, extreme section of the Conservative party would end this help from the European Union and the support of these programmes because it wants to pull us out of Europe.

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Business of the House

12.30 pm

Sir George Young (North-West Hampshire): May I ask the Leader of the House to give us the business for next week?

The President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mrs. Margaret Beckett): Monday 24 July--Consideration of Lords Amendments to the Child Support, Pensions and Social Security Bill.

Consideration of Lords Amendments to the Government Resources and Accounts Bill.

Tuesday 25 July--Remaining stages of the Criminal Justice (Mode of Trial) (No.2) Bill.

Consideration of Lords Amendments to the Learning and Skills Bill [Lords].

Wednesday 26 July--Remaining stages of the Census (Amendment) Bill [Lords].

Consideration of Lords Amendments to the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Bill.

Thursday 27 July--Consideration of Lords Amendments to the Utilities Bill.

Consideration of Lords Amendments to the Postal Services Bill.

Friday 28 July--Motion on the Summer Recess Adjournment.

The House may also be asked to consider any Lords messages which may be received.

The House will also wish to know that on Monday 24 July there will be a debate on a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation, in European Standing Committee C. Details of the relevant documents will be given in the Official Report.

[Monday 24 July 2000:

European Standing Committee C--Relevant European Union Document: 13540/99; A general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation. Relevant European Scrutiny Committee Reports: HC 23-vii; HC23-xix and HC 23-xxiv (1999-200)

Sir George Young: The House is grateful to the Leader of the House for the business for next week. Can she confirm that on Monday, the Prime Minister will make a statement to the House on his return from the G8 summit? What other statements will be made by Ministers next week? On that subject, is it not slightly absurd that the House was formally told only at 11 o'clock today that there would be a statement on transport by the Deputy Prime Minister, whereas the media have known for days that that would happen? Is not there a better way of letting the House know about planned statements? I think that the right hon. Lady will find that the Chancellor mentioned the publication.

The Deputy Prime Minister's statement is, of course, not yet available to the House, but is it not clear that the details have already been released to the press? The Evening Standard must have had all the details before 9 o'clock, because they are set out in that newspaper. Will the right hon. Lady conduct a leak inquiry into how that discourtesy to the House could have occurred?

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I understand that a decision is imminent on the future ownership of the dome. There is much public interest in how much it is being sold for and in the new owner's future plans for the site. Could the House have a statement on that?

Finally, can the right hon. Lady confirm that on Wednesday, there will be valedictory tributes to Madam Speaker and that on Thursday, there will be a business statement giving the business for the first two weeks back after the recess?

Mrs. Beckett: Yes, I anticipate that the Prime Minister will make a statement on the G8 summit.

I take the right hon. Gentleman's point about formal notification of statements, but he will know that those are the procedures of the House. Whether a statement is to be made is always in the balance until the morning in question because, apart from anything else, Madam Speaker and others may have decisions to make about the progress of business, so the final decision is not made until that morning. However, I take his point that there may be merit in giving advance notification if it is fairly certain that a statement is to be made. I endeavour to do that in the business statement, but I shall consider his point.

I fear that I have not seen the Evening Standard, so in consequence I do not know whether what is in it is accurate or a leak. Whatever the case may be, as my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister will be making a statement in the not too distant future, the opportunity to raise that issue will arise. Nor is it clear how imminent is the decision about the dome, but I shall draw the right hon. Gentleman's remarks to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.

The right hon. Gentleman is quite correct to say that on Wednesday, we expect the formal valedictory from and for Madam Speaker. The whole House is looking forward to that. I have forgotten what the right hon. Gentleman asked me about Thursday.

Sir George Young: Will there be a business statement?

Mrs. Beckett: Yes. I anticipate making a business statement on Thursday.

Mr. David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire): Seven days ago I raised with my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House the subject of the cluster of new variant CJD victims in the north Leicestershire village of Queniborough, in the constituency of the right hon. Member for Charnwood (Mr. Dorrell). Will my right hon. Friend urge the Secretary of State for Health to make a statement before the recess on the background to that incident; to reassure the House and the people of Leicestershire that enough is being done to investigate this worrying occurrence; and to reassure them that sufficient resources are being devoted to it so that we can learn from what has happened?

Mrs. Beckett: I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who raised this matter last week. I shall certainly draw his remarks to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health. My hon. Friend will know that some quite detailed investigations and research are

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under way. While I understand his anxiety to have a statement before the recess, if possible, I am sure that neither he nor anyone else would wish my right hon. Friend to make a statement before there is a clear understanding of the situation.

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