HC Deb 07 March 1963 vol 673 cc634-5
9. Mr. Owen

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs what steps are being taken to speed up slum clearance in the areas of heavy unemployment; and whether he will make a statement.

Sir K. Joseph

Most of the local authorities with the heaviest slum clearance problems are in parts of the North where unemployment is now relatively high. Some time ago I set up a regional office in Manchester with the specific task of helping the northern authorities to achieve a much higher slum clearance rate: and as I announced in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Darlington (Mr. Bourne-Arton) on Tuesday, I intend to establish another office in the North-East. Five-year building programmes are being approved which will speed up the rate of clearance and replacement.

Mr. Owen

Is the Minister aware that of 50 slum clearance black spots, 45 are in the North? Does he realise that if this immense and urgent problem is to be effectively tackled, it can no longer be left wholly to local authorities? There is urgent need not merely for regional planning, but for a basic national drive to deal with this pressing problem.

Sir K. Joseph

That is exactly what the Government are doing and the local authorities are responding splendidly. In the area to which the hon. Member's Question refers, the local authorities' programmes are increasing 75 per cent. this year over last year.

Mr. Jeger

Is the Minister aware that there are patches of heavy unemployment in areas which, as a whole, are not scheduled as areas of heavy unemployment? Will he take the initiative in seeing that there is a gigantic slum clearance scheme which extends throughout the whole country and not merely to the areas in the North-East to which the spotlight has been directed?

Sir K. Joseph

I am putting the heaviest pressure upon all local authorities with slum clearance problems to make as much speed as possible. That is why the Government announced only two weeks ago that there would be extra land for the main areas of slum clearance by way of new town provision. The effort is succeeding, as witness the programmes of which I have spoken.