HC Deb 18 May 1977 vol 932 cc437-9
11. Mr. Anthony Grant

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what resources he plans to make available for relieving urban blight in areas other than those included in the partnership arrangement.

Mr. Shore

As I said in my statement on 6th April, outside the partnership arrangements authorities will be able to prepare inner area programmes, and the Government will consider linking urban grants to those programmes, though necessarily on a modest scale in the early years.

Mr. Grant

While not in any way wishing to increase public expenditure, may I ask whether the Minister is satisfied that he has the policy right within existing proposals? If one takes London as an example, is the Minister aware that I could take him to half a dozen areas in which there is greater deprivation than in Lambeth? How far have the Government viewed the recommendations of the Community Development Project—which cost about £5 million—in formulating this limited and unfair policy?

Mr. Shore

I note what the hon. Gentleman said about public expenditure, and that is welcome. He seems to have joined the growing ranks of converts on both sides of the House. In reply to the first part of his question, I must point out that so far we have made only a preliminary determination. The areas that we have announced are firm, but I have made it clear that we shall be discussing with local authorities the possibility of including a limited number of additional areas in the partnership arrangements.

Mr. Loyden

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the scheme is gaining support among local authorities, particularly in the areas already referred to? Does he further agree that the degree of flexibility that is being applied to the problem in some areas offers exciting possibilities of co-operation. Will he pursue this line in the areas that have been designated for these purposes?

Mr. Shore

Yes. On the whole, the response has been good and local authorities have certainly been attracted by the number of proposals that we have been able to make so far. I hope that as we work out the ideas in partnership and through the other arrangements there will be a possibility of achieving something of great benefit to the people of inner cities throughout the country.

Sir W. Elliott

Does the Secretary of State accept that the reception of the proposals in Newcastle upon Tyne was bad? Will he take it from me that the exclusion of that great city from the list of those in the partnership agreement was badly received locally, and will he seek to rectify the omission?

Mr. Shore

I understand the feeling there. Indeed, it has been indicated to me by a number of hon. Members who represent that city. I have said that I am willing to receive a deputation from Newcastle to discuss the scheme with them, and I hope to do so soon.

Mr. Lipton

Will my right hon. Friend utterly and decisively reject any proposal to divert money from Lambeth to Harrow?

Mr. Shore

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Eyre

I understand the limitation on resources, but does the Secretary of State recognise that there is genuine concern about the criteria that the Government have used in establishing priorities? Will he particularly remember that there are decayed areas in outer areas of cities, as well as blighted regions, in the Black Country and Midland towns and in the industrial areas of Lancashire and Yorkshire, that will not share in the arrangements? Does he realise that these areas feel neglected?

Mr. Shore

I understand that, but the House must face this problem realistically. I am prepared to broaden the criteria as soon as the House as a whole is prepared to give me more money to spend to deal with the problem of urban decay. To the best of my ability, I am applying to the areas of greatest need the inevitably limited resources now available.