Two Rotherham MPs standing up for South Yorkshire. Can’t be bad.
John Healey (Wath and Dearne) tells the Secretary of State of concerns to him, his Labour colleagues, councils and business organisations in South Yorkshire about the allocation of EU funds.
” By protecting Northern Ireland and allowing Scotland to protect the highlands and islands, the Government have completely distorted the funding purpose and the budget for the nine English transition regions, resulting in some wealthy, more developed regions receiving significantly more funding from the EU in this proposed seven-year period than the transition regions, which have a much lower GDP.
The judge at the hearing described the situation as bizarre. He rightly said that the decision to protect Northern Ireland and Scotland was what got the Government into this mess and skewed the budget for the nine English transition regions.
Let me illustrate the point about the flaws and the unfairness just by looking at the highlands and islands of Scotland, which like South Yorkshire is an ex-objective 1 area and, in the current funding period, has phasing status—in other words diminishing and tapering funding during the seven years. It is a transition region in the next period and has a GDP exactly the same as that of South Yorkshire—84% of the European average. But unlike South Yorkshire it is set to get not €117 a head but €478 for every man, woman and child in the region. In other words, it is similar in economic status but will receive more than four times the European funding for the seven years ahead. The Chief Secretary was clearly doing a job for his area. The Deputy Prime Ministerwas clearly not doing a job for ours when the Government were blatantly making such bad and damaging decisions for South Yorkshire.
Kevin Barron (Rother Valley, Labour)
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on getting this debate. Does he think it ironic, after the 20 years or more of changing South Yorkshire’s infrastructure as a result of the coal mining programme, that we see a succession of members of this Government coming to the Advanced Manufacturing Park? The last Government used structural funds to build it, and these Ministers now all get their photo shots done there. It is attempting to turn the South Yorkshire economy around, yet the same people appear to be putting the boot into South Yorkshire through the structural funding.
My right hon. Friend is right. We know how to use funds well in South Yorkshire. We have plans to use them well in the future. The Secretary of State himself has regularly visited the Advanced Manufacturing Park. He will know what a contribution it is making to overcoming some of the structural weakness in the South Yorkshire economy. We will fight this all the way because the Government are making decisions not just for next year’s funding. These decisions set the funding for a full seven years—for the whole of the next Parliament and the next Government and beyond. That is why they are so important. The Secretary of State has agreed to meet me and my hon. Friend Mr Watts. I hope that the review that the Court judgment has forced on Ministers will mean that he will lead the Government in thinking again and making good the funding shortfall for South Yorkshire and Merseyside that the allocation decisions so far have caused.