Regional Selective Assistance

Oral Answers to Questions — Trade and Industry – in the House of Commons at 2:22 pm on 12th July 1995.

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Photo of Mr Sebastian Coe Mr Sebastian Coe , Falmouth and Camborne 2:22 pm, 12th July 1995

To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will make a statement on the processing time of applications for regional selective assistance. [32134]

Photo of Mr Richard Page Mr Richard Page , South West Hertfordshire

Processing times vary according to the level of assistance requested. The existing targets are currently under review, and revised target times will be announced in our response to the Trade and Industry Select Committee report on regional policy.

Photo of Mr Sebastian Coe Mr Sebastian Coe , Falmouth and Camborne

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his reply. He will know of the long delays that have left many south-western companies, including Cornish companies, in a frustrating no-man's-land. I welcome regional selective assistance, which has changed the industrial landscape in my constituency: it has created some 500 jobs since April, when offers were made. I urge my hon. Friend, however, to look closely at the time taken to process applications in Cornwall and elsewhere in the south-west.

Photo of Mr Richard Page Mr Richard Page , South West Hertfordshire

My hon. Friend has been an enthusiastic chaser of RSA applications into my office. Along with those 500 jobs, there have been 19 applications relating to his constituency since last year. I accept, however, that the position is rather like the curate's egg—good in parts and bad in parts. The average processing time is about 40 working days, but many applications have been delayed, in some cases because of the slow return of information by applicants. A review is taking place. I know that my hon. Friend would not expect me to make any announcement before responding to the Select Committee, but I expect one to be made very shortly.

Photo of Mr John Gunnell Mr John Gunnell , Leeds South and Morley

As the Minister knows, we are normally in competition for inward investment with our European partners. Is he satisfied that our processing is at least as efficient as that of any other European country, that some of the criticism about our not always conforming to the "level playing field" arrangements are unjustified and that all our European partners are operating such arrangements?

Photo of Mr Richard Page Mr Richard Page , South West Hertfordshire

The hon. Gentleman is jumping from one part to another. The Invest in Britain Bureau has been enormously successful. Last year, we had some 434 investment programmes, which will produce some 100,000 jobs in this country. On regional selective assistance applications, the review is taking place, and, again, it would be wrong for me to bring forward those details, but I can tell the hon. Gentleman that, last year, we made about 1,065 offers, with a value of £158 million, and we hope to create some 25,000 jobs, so one can see that the RSA process is doing a good job for UK Ltd.