§ 14. Mr. John H. Osborn
asked the Minister of Transport how the recent settlement of the United Kingdom's contribution to the Community budget in the years up to 1982 might affect the funds returned to the United Kingdom and earmarked for particular projects such as roads.
§ 17. Mr. Wickenden
asked the Minister of Transport whether he has received any proposals following the European Economic Community budget settlement, for increased Community expenditure on infrastructure projects in the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. Kenneth Clarke
Detailed arrangements for implementing the recent agreement on reducing our net contribution to the Community budget have yet to be agreed. The Commission has proposed participation in transport infrastructure as part of the Community's supplementary measures, but it is too soon to say what programmes or projects will eventually be associated with the increased receipts.
§ Mr. Osborn
Will those receipts be for projects of Community interest? Is there not a need for care in defining what we mean by Community interests? Will my hon. and learned Friend assure me that the projects will include an expanded and speeded-up road programme? I have in mind an infrastructure link between Sheffield and Manchester, which has been dawdling for many years.
§ Mr. Clarke
The projects with which the receipts are linked must have some Community interest. We shall agree those with the Commission. As my right hon. Friend has made clear, there is no way in which the return of our budget contri- 490 bution can lead to increased public spending in Britain. We are avoiding the need for further cuts in public spending in transport programmes by taking the receipts from the European Community. On the question of the infrastructure link between Sheffield and Manchester, there are already improvements at Stocksbridge and Wortley in the programme. They are scheduled for the reserve list for 1982-83.
§ Mr. Wickenden
Will my hon. and learned Friend say whether he has discussed the possibility of a Community contribution towards the Channel link? If so, what would be the probable level of that contribution?
§ Mr. Clarke
That cannot possibly arise out of the short-term matter that we are discussing here, of what happens as a result of the budget settlement which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has achieved. The Channel tunnel is obviously a much longer-term project. If that gets any aid from EEC funds, it will be in the context of the proposed transport infrastructure fund, which is still being considered by the Council of Ministers.
§ Mr. Clarke
Had we not achieved this settlement, and had the supplementary payments not been forthcoming from the Commission, there would undoubtedly have been further cuts in public spending programmes. Therefore, the schemes with which these funds are associated are maintaining their places in existing programmes because of the budget settlement.