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TRADE AND INDUSTRY

EU Structural Funds Programmes 2007–13

The Minister for Industry and the Regions (Alun Michael): I am today launching a consultation on a draft National Strategic Reference Framework for EU Structural Funds Programmes in the UK during the 2007–13 period. The National Framework will establish the broad priorities for Structural Funds spending across the UK for this period.

The European Council of 15–16 December 2005 reached agreement on the next EC budget, including future Structural Funds expenditure, for the 2007–13 Financial Perspective. As I explained in my statement to Parliament of 20 December, the UK will receive approximately €9.4 billion (in 2004 prices) in Structural Funds from 2007 to 2013, including approximately €2.6 billion in Convergence funding for its poorest regions (Cornwall, West Wales and the Valleys and the Highlands and Islands); approximately €6.2 billion in Competitiveness funding for other regions; and approximately €0.6 billion in Co-operation funding for cross-border cooperation projects.

The member states are now in the process of finalising a package of four Structural Funds Regulations, which will establish the rules for delivering the funds during the 2007–13 budgetary cycle. Under the new Regulations, each member state will be required to draw up a National Strategic Reference Framework that
 
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establishes its broad priorities for Structural Funds spending, while demonstrating consistency with the EU's objectives for regional policy.

The main purpose of this consultation is to invite comments from interested parties on the Government's draft Framework. My Department has developed the Framework in close collaboration with other Government Departments with responsibility for Structural Funds and the Scottish Executive, the Welsh Assembly Government and the Northern Ireland Administration. The Framework provides an overview of the economic strengths and weaknesses of the UK's nations and regions, and puts forward a proposed approach to future Structural Funds spending across the UK. It includes a strong focus on activities to promote enterprise, innovation, sustainable communities, sustainable development, skills and employment, in support of the Lisbon and Gothenburg agendas.

At the same time, the consultation invites comments on two related issues: the Government's proposals for distributing the UK's Structural Funds allocations under the new Competitiveness Objective; and administrative arrangements for delivering the funds in the UK during the 2007–13 budgetary cycle. The consultation begins on 28 February 2006 and ends on 22 May 2006.

The Government will aim to publish a response to the consultation within three months following the close of the consultation. This will include a summary of responses, a statement of the Government's position on the issues raised, and the final National Strategic Reference Framework for the UK.

TRANSPORT

Surface Transport (Emissions Trading)

The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Alistair Darling): On 22 February my right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and Trade and Industry and I wrote to Vice-President Jacques Barrot, Vice-President Gunter Verhuegen and Commissioner Stavros Dimas of the European Commission expressing the UK's support for the Commission review of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) and to draw early attention to the potential expansion of the EU ETS to the surface transport sector. The letter asked that the inclusion of emissions from surface transport be considered as part of the review and offered our active contribution to work in this area. A copy of the letter is available in the Libraries of both Houses.