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Ms Atherton: It was kind of the hon. Gentleman to remember that. He is right that there was broad coalition of people who campaigned to achieve objective 1 status for Cornwall. However, does he not agree that the critical thing in making it happen was the political push by the Government, and in particular the Prime Minister?
Andrew George: I was told by the regional chambera quangothat it was all thanks to them. Everyone's contribution was critical. The Prime Minister's support was important, but there was a partnership and no single contribution was more important than any of the others. Cornwall was clearly eligible as the poorest region in the UK, so it was a question of whether anyone was going to stand in the way of something to which it was richly entitled.
It did not entirely coincide. I agree that the prospect of success was greater with the change of Government, but I was involved in the objective 1 campaign before the 1997 election. Cornwall needed to achieve statistical separation to make its case for objective 1 status. Under the previous programme, we
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were entitled to objective 1 status, but we did not achieve the statistical separation for Cornwall to be considered as a NUTS 2 region.
Mr. Peter Kilfoyle (Liverpool, Walton) (Lab): While we are in the business of giving credit where it is due, as the hon. Gentleman knows, Merseyside was the first English region to secure objective 1 status. Credit ought to be given to the then European Commissioner, Bruce Millan, and his chef de cabinet, Graham Meadows, who is still a member of a Brussels directorate, as they drove through the original idea of objective 1 for the English regions.
Andrew George: I entirely agree, and had dealings with both men, especially Graham Meadows, as I was involved with the 5b programme in Cornwall before we achieved objective 1 status. We should not forget the members of the European Commission who made a significant contribution to the process. Whoever claims credit for objective 1 status, we are entitled to ask questions. The poverty of Cornish people was the primary driver for objective 1 status, and it was for them that it was won. We should be concerned primarily with serving them, and I want to ensure that that is the case after 2006, as that is what the Cornish people richly deserve.
Mr. David Watts (St. Helens, North) (Lab): I agree with the hon. Gentleman, but does he not agree that when objective 1 was created in Merseysidethe first area to enjoy that statusthe major problem was that the then Government would not provide the match resources, so what we had was substitution? Half the resources being spent in the programmes in Cornwall and everywhere else are being doubled up by the UK Government's regional policy. That is to the credit of this Administration.
Andrew George: I agree that objective 1 does not exist unless there is public match funding. If a Government, having signed up to objective 1 programmes in certain regions, did not match the funding, that would be a failure. The fact that this Government have largely honoured the promise that they made to match the funds is very much appreciated. I am sure that it is appreciated in Liberal Democrat Merseyside just as it is in other regions.
The objective 1 programme in Cornwall has been a significant success. When we compare Cornwall withdare I say it in the presence of those representing these regionsother objective 1 regions, we see that it has met its targets for commitment and spend. Significant projects have been funded in Cornwall as a result of objective 1. For example, there has been the rolling out of broadband, and the Combined Universities in Cornwall has its hub and rim around the county. Objective 1 has also made a contribution to the Eden project.
There have been many other significant contributions to projects around Cornwall, but the full effect of objective 1 and the investments made through the programme are not yet being fully felt. Clearly the gross domestic product of Cornwall has not yet reached anywhere close to the 75 per cent. level of the EU 25 average, so there is still more work to be done.
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On overall funding, and as a slight interlude, I should point out that problems still exist with the programme, and the partnership in Cornwall has been working heroically to overcome them. They are partly the result of the complexity of the system, but also of the way in which it dovetails into the many other area-based initiatives that the Government are offering. We are grateful for them.
For example, in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, among the many initiatives, we have objective 1 integrated area plans, the much-appreciated neighbourhood renewal programmes and health action zones, the healthy towns initiatives, healthy living initiatives, market town initiatives, coastal town initiatives, vital villages, Sure Start, the Cornwall action team for jobs[Hon. Members: "Labour."] We also have neighbourhood nursery schemes, the parish paths partnership, partnership development funds, the skills development fund, the rural key fund, rural renaissance initiatives, the community champions fund, community chest, the community empowerment fund and the safer communities initiatives. [Hon. Members: "Labour."] I have named just a few, and if Labour is claming credit for all of them, it should provide a strategy in which to deliver them.
Unfortunately, we have initiative fatigue in many areas, because so many bodies, visions, missions and committees have to be set up with the same people sitting on the same committees to manage little pots of money. I am not saying that we are not grateful, but it would be far better simply to devolve the pots of money and allow local communities to determine how best to revive themselves.
Mr. Kilfoyle: I am not going to claim credit for Labour, because its record speaks for itself in Cornwall and in other areas. The hon. Gentleman mentioned the Eden project, so could he enlighten us on what proportion of the costs of that major and, as I understand it, very successful project was met out of objective 1 funding? Could he give us an indication of the other public funding streams that were used to supplement it?
Andrew George: I am grateful for that question. Actually, the project is not in my constituency but in that of my hon. Friend the Member for Truro and St. Austell (Matthew Taylor), who was in the Chamber a moment ago but had to leave to chair a meeting. The total project costs of the Eden enhancements were £38.5 million, and I understand that the public sector contribution was in the region of £15.5 million. However, those figures relate to the second phase of the Eden project development.
The Government's regional co-ordination unit in the Cabinet Office has identified that more than 100 partnerships are operating in places such as Cornwall under area-based initiatives such as those that I described. I estimate that if we take into account all the money available through objective 1 and the various initiatives fundsall of them, whether through economic, social or infrastructure development are designed to address social exclusionwe are looking at a budget of £650 million over the next five years, which is made up of EU money, largely, and also match funding.
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Such funding is the equivalent of giving each of the 500,000 inhabitants of Cornwall £1,300, or of giving more than £100,000, or £20,000 a year, to each of the most deprived 5 per cent. of Cornwall's families.
Problems arise when projects, especially smaller ones, try to interface with the objective 1 programme. The difficulties are due not to the programme officers but to the obstacles involved in accessing the programme and the tests that must be met. The gathering of match money so that a project can get off the ground is especially difficult. If the figures that I cited are the amounts available to people who are socially excluded in Cornwall, we could ask them whether they would prefer to receive funding in the form of vouchers to the value that I described, or a labyrinthine system that is difficult to access. The programme teams are working heroically to overcome the bureaucratic challenges that the Government and Europe have set them, but it is a fact that a lot of the aid is being spent on bureaucracy, consultants and facilitation, although I accept that facilitation is necessary to overcome the hurdles that have been set up.
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