HC Deb 21 January 1964 vol 687 cc893-4
20. Dr. Bray

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs what steps he proposes to take to finance the increased expenditure falling on local authorities in regional development schemes.

Sir K. Joseph

Substantial grants of varying proportions are of course already available to local authorities for much road work, all housing, and much land reclamation. This is in addition to general grant and, when payable, rate deficiency grant. I have no reason to think that authorities are inhibited by financial difficulties from taking their full part in the plans for regional development from which they stand to gain so much.

Dr. Bray

Is the Minister aware that in schemes like that contained in the Report on the North-East, when the Government propose massive road development schemes, new bridges and the rest, without any suggestion of how these projects should be financed, or what the total cost will be, it is a little imprudent, if not downright nonsensical? Is he aware that it is thought locally that the Government are merely window-dressing for the General Election, and have not the least intention of carrying out this programme in the foreseeable future?

Sir K. Joseph

On the lowest ground of political self-interest, it would be a very wrong policy to ascribe to my party. We have put forward realistic proposals, and I have no evidence that the financial resources are not available. But the grants in some of these fields are being re-examined, and the financial implication of the Buchanan proposals in particular is being studied.

Mrs. Castle

Will the Minister help local authorities such as that of Blackburn to prepare the way for new industries and to develop their areas properly by paying them the 85 per cent. grant for the clearance of derelict industrial sites which at present only a few development districts enjoy?

Sir K.Joseph

I think that the hon. Lady will agree that in all spending of public money priorities must be taken into account, and the Government are giving priority above all to the areas needing employment.