Northern Ireland Affairs Committee

Session 2002-2003

25 June 2003


PEACE II

Chairman's comments on publication of the Report

EMBARGOED

Not to be published in full, or in part, in any form before

11 a.m. on THURSDAY 26 JUNE 2003

TIME RUNNING OUT TO SPEND EUROPEAN PEACE II MILLIONS

Commenting on publication of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee's Seventh Report on PEACE II, Committee Chairman Michael Mates MP said:

"The European Union's PEACE II programme, which is worth £274 million to Northern Ireland over the period 2000-2004, constitutes a daring and creative response to the peace process in Northern Ireland.  It represents the best opportunity for building trust and community-level reconciliation that Northern Ireland has yet seen, and we are grateful for it.

But in spite of the goodwill surrounding the programme, its implementation has been beset by excessive bureaucracy and delays in delivering funding to communities in need.  These delays have had serious financial consequences for many voluntary and community organisations involved in this important work.

Although these problems are beginning to be addressed, time is running very short.  As much as £55 million could be lost to Northern Ireland if it is not spent by 31 December 2003.  This would be disastrous, particularly for those in the most disadvantaged areas, and those who have suffered most from the conflict.  It would be a betrayal of the ideals which led to the creation of the programme.  Avoiding this outcome at this late stage will require both radical decisions on expenditure, and significant, rapid improvement in the programme's administration.

The problems all point to a lack of clear direction and leadership, a lack of urgency, at critical points in the process.  The programme needs a champion, who will work with all the stakeholders, including the European Commission and Council, to realise the programme's goals and ensure that a sense of urgency about achieving those goals is maintained.  We are calling on the Minister of Finance to take urgent, personal managerial charge of the programme until it is handed back to the restored Assembly. 

This opportunity must not be wasted."

Notes:

1.The Committee's Seventh Report of Session 2002-03, Peace II (HC 653-I) will be published at 11.00 a.m. on Thursday 26 June 2003.  Copies of the report will be available at the time of publication at the Stationery Office in Belfast (02890 238451).

2.Volume II of the Report containing oral and written evidence (HC 653-II) is also being published at 11 a.m. on Thursday 26 June 2003 and will be available from the Committee at the same time.

3.Limited copies can be obtained  upon request from the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee or viewed on the Committee's website from approximately 3.30pm on the day of publication.

4.Copies of the report will be available to witnesses who gave oral or written evidence to the inquiry from the Committee at 7 Millbank, London  SW1P 3JA.

5.Press copies will also be available from the Press Gallery, House of Commons

6.On this occasion a press conference will not be held.

7.The Committee may be contacted on 020 7219 2172.