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EU Structural Funds: Least Developed Regions — [Siobhain McDonagh in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:47 pm on 26th June 2019.

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Photo of Jake Berry Jake Berry Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Housing, Communities and Local Government), Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) 3:47 pm, 26th June 2019

I hope the hon. Lady goes back and reads the Hansard report of my opening statement. I have limited time, but she will find that I answered both those questions. Many people—including the SNP spokesman, the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey, who is chuntering and chuckling to himself—have said that the problem is that places do not have certainty. I was simply pointing out that even if we remained in Europe—I sincerely hope we do not—they still would not have the certainty they seek in any event.

I want to mention briefly the comments of the Chair of the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee, Mr Betts, who said we should start some form of consultation. Although, clearly, the consultation has been delayed, I know he is aware, because it has been said in the House when he has been present, that more than 500 people have already been involved in a consultation with the Government—what we might call a pre-consultation consultation. I have consulted widely with the metro Mayors both about this subject and more widely about the impact of Brexit in places such as South Yorkshire, where the hon. Member for Barnsley Central is the Mayor. We are already involved in detailed discussions with officials in the devolved Administrations about the form and function of the UK shared prosperity fund, of which I am sure the SNP spokesman is aware.

I wish I had time to talk in more detail about the brilliant speeches that were made by many others, but I will move directly to address some of the points made by the Opposition spokesman, the hon. Member for City of Durham, and I am sure many others. The Government have been absolutely clear that we will respect the devolution settlement when it comes to the UK shared prosperity fund. That has not changed, and it will not change. We have been clear that we will consult widely in order to get right the UK shared prosperity fund, which is designed to tackle inequality.

I know that, in many cases, the people who spoke about the benefit of European funds know they are not perfect. The SNP spokesman said he sees a wee European flag on many projects. One of my jobs in Government is to take back the money from projects that forgot to put that wee European flag on them, because it is one of the requirements of the hugely complicated and bureaucratic EU structural funds that if someone does not put that wee European flag on their project, the money, in many cases, has to be recovered. We are consulting on a UK shared prosperity fund to ensure that funding is simplified. We will be consulting shortly, and the quantum of the fund will be set during the comprehensive spending review, in the same way that EU structural funds would have been.