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Ms Atherton: The hon. Gentleman makes important points about bureaucracy, which none of us want, so does he welcome the fact that the UK Treasury is meeting key partners from Cornwall to find ways to ensure that match funding and core objective 1 moneywhatever it is called and however it arrivesget to the parts of Cornwall that we want them to reach?
Andrew George: Absolutely. I have been taking up my worries about area-based initiatives and the complexities that have been created for some time, which is why I was keen for the Cabinet Office regional co-ordination unit to acknowledge that there were problems with the bureaucracy surrounding the system. I suppose that the situation is in a way caused by the successful creation of many development programmes and area-based initiatives, but the complexities and problems that I have tried to describe have come with that. If the Treasury and the Government intend to introduce an initiative to try to iron out the problems of bureaucracy and delivery and to devolve responsibility so that people on the ground can make decisions, I will say, "Alleluia," and strongly support it.
Lembit Öpik (Montgomeryshire) (LD): Government Members are keen to trumpet the success of Labour, but I feel moved to remind my hon. Friend and the House of the enormous problems that the Labour Administration in Wales had not so long ago, when they seemed unable to deliver proper commitments from Westminster Labour Ministers to secure funding. Does he agree that one of the biggest problems that we have in Wales is the fact that to this day there has been no statement from the Government giving us an assurance of the same kind of long-term funding security as is necessarily present in the arrangements that come directly from Europe?
I entirely agree. There have been acknowledgements, and in the consultation document circulated by the Treasury following the pre-Budget report in December there is a proposal to examine the
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delivery mechanisms, but even in that document there is no commitment to address issues of delivery of Government funds beyond 2008.
Mr. Kilfoyle: On delivery mechanisms, perhaps the hon. Gentleman and I should have a conversation outside this place about the failure of the Liberal Democrat council in Liverpool to deliver anything meaningful under objective 1. The money has been made available by national Government and by the European Commission, but there has been a catalogue of total and abysmal failure by the Liberal Democrats on Merseyside to deliver a single flagship project.
Andrew George: I shall be happy to have a discussion with the hon. Gentleman outside this place, if he wishesa discussion, I say. He needs to reflect on the fact that the Liberal Democrats cannot be doing too badly, as they keep getting re-elected in larger and larger numbers.
Chris Ruane (Vale of Clwyd) (Lab): The hon. Gentleman just concurred with the Member for Montgomeryshire (Lembit Öpik) on what he called the failure of the Westminster Government to give match funding to Wales. May I point out what actually happened? The Opposition in Wales were deliberately trying to stir the political pot ahead of the comprehensive spending review to get the Chancellor to reserve funding for Wales, which he was not prepared to do. After the CSR, hundreds of millions of pounds of match funding were made available to Wales. We delivered on objective 1 and we delivered the match funding in Wales.
Andrew George: Labour also delivered a change in the First Minister in Wales. I am happy to let hon. Members settle their political scores in their regions if that is what they wish to do, but I think scores are better settled, as I will do with the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Kilfoyle), outside the Chamber. The hon. Member for Vale of Clwyd (Chris Ruane) should see my hon. Friend the Member for Montgomeryshire outside the Chamber to settle scores.
Lembit Öpik: I accept the challenge to settle the matter outside, perhaps in the Strangers Bar. However, I remind the House that a large number of Labour Assembly Members called for the resignation of the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Alun Michael) when he was First Minister on exactly the basis under discussion. It was not the other parties alone. It was Labour Assembly Members who said that because he had failed to secure assurances from Westminster, he should goso the blame cannot be pinned solely on the Opposition.
Let us consider the successes in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. If the Minister accepts that all the partners in Cornwall and most of the politicians in Cornwall wish to retain objective 1 status beyond 2006, she can be reassured that in return for the guarantees that we seek from the Government, there will be a guarantee from Cornwall that we can deliver on our programme, just
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as we are doing now, but it is important that she should understand that we need to target economic regeneration resources at Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. We need to own our own numbers, as it were. We need to have territorial visibility. We need to have structures that, as now, actually work. It will not help Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly to have a programme that is operated from an office in Bristol, Taunton or anywhere else, because that will not help its delivery in the place that most needs it. There is an important distinction to be made between a genuine region such as Cornwall and a Government zone such as the south-west. The delivery programmes that might be operated in each are necessarily very different.
There is also support for the role of the partnership, and one of the points made by those operating the programme in Cornwall is that we now have something that has not happened successfully enough in the pastpublic, private and voluntary sectors working together, not only in the preparation of the programme but in its delivery. The private sector now articulates very directly to the public sector what it requires on training, for example, and in other spheres as well. An integrated programme is operating in an area where it is deliverable, and it would be unfortunate if the Government threw out the opportunity to maintain that and allow Cornwall to continue the economic regeneration and success that it has achieved in recent years and carry it forward beyond 2006.
Mr. Watts: I understand the hon. Gentleman's concern, but does he not acknowledge that he has held meetings with Ministers who have made it clear that although the decision has not been taken on whether to have a nationalised or a European programme, there will be a programme for Cornwall in the future? On the same management point, does he further acknowledge that on a number of occasions the Minister has made it clear that she would like to discuss these issues in more depth to ensure that there is as much flexibility as possible, but there must be local, national and European accountability, so there will have to be structures there. I should have thought, though, that the hon. Gentleman could take some comfort from the fact that, since 1997, the Government have delivered on all those programmes and put a tremendous amount of new resources into helping areas such as Cornwall and Merseyside.
The hon. Gentleman must also recognise that, just as we had the discussion earlier about claiming creditI can assure him that the South West regional assembly which is not an elected or accountable body, still claims credit for having achieved objective 1 status for Cornwallin exactly the same way, Cornwall has had to fight all the way to achieve what it has achieved so far, and to achieve what it has achieved within the programme. The commitments made, which he will have heard me enunciate earlier, if he was in the Chamber, when I quoted letters and statements made by Ministers, are not sufficiently specific, on time scale, geographical coverage or the programme levels. There are clearly encouraging statements, but they do not amount to the kind of cast iron guarantees that exist in the third cohesion report. One can either see in that report a clear commitment for a seven-year period, plus two, and know that, depending
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on the negotiations, there will be a budget, or there will simply be promises of an intention to deliver, which we do not know will be achieved.
Mr. Kilfoyle: Just to reinforce the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for St. Helens, North (Mr. Watts), I have come out of meetings with the Paymaster General with the clear understanding that there was an undertaking that whether the funding was repatriated or not, there would be no loss to the objective 1 areas. That is the only thing that matters. We want to see a smooth transition into the future: a proper taper that ensures that we can carry on with the development work in Cornwall, Wales and South Yorkshire, as well as on Merseyside. I was under no doubt whatever. I was completely satisfied coming out of those meetings.
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