HC Deb 14 February 1973 vol 850 cc1269-70
16. Mr. Sutcliffe

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he is satisfied with the progress of special environmental assistance schemes.

27. Mr. Conlan

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will extend the period during which grants are payable under the scheme known as Operation Eyesore.

Mr. Rippon

I am satisfied that this scheme has had a major impact on the quality of the environment in the assisted areas. By the end of January over 11,000 projects valued at about £28 million had been approved for grant in England. I am reviewing the working of this scheme but have not yet decided whether it can be extended beyond 30th June this year.

Mr. Sutcliffe

The Government are to be congratulated on a measure that can create a better image for the North. But is it not a fact that the schemes took a long time to set up and that there will have been only one year and one tree-planting season to carry them out? If Operation Eyesore is ended in June, will not the impetus to improvement and employment be lost?

Mr. Rippon

It has certainly been a successful scheme. The whole purpose was to give a short, sharp boost to the assisted areas, and to urge speed. It is encouraging that in Teesside, for example, 271 schemes have been approved at a cost of £670,000, which shows that Operation Eyesore has been very effective.

Mr. Conlan

Does the Minister appreciate that, although the scheme has been beneficial to the regions, all the work that is vitally necessary cannot possibly be carried out before the end of June? What is more, in the Northern Region the unemployment figure is still running at 6 per cent. On those grounds alone there is a very good case for an extension.

Mr. Rippon

These are factors that we will bear in mind in considering whether to extend the scheme. I am reviewing its working at present.