HC Deb 12 April 1978 vol 947 cc1371-3
5. Mr. Loyden

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment when he next expects to meet the Liverpool Inner Area Committee; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Shore

I chaired the last partnership meeting in Liverpool on 10th March and I expect to chair a further meeting in June or July.

Mr. Loyden

Is my right hon. Friend aware that much of his effort to salvage the neglect of one hundred years in the inner areas is being frustrated by the closures and redundancies declared in the private sector, particularly on Merseyside? Will he not now take the opportunity to accelerate any programme for the development of community co-operatives in that area to fill the vacuum left by the collapse of the private sector?

Mr. Shore

I am very much aware of the many heavy blows sustained on Merseyside, in terms of jobs, through firms closing during the past few months. Any measures that we can help with will be taken. Merseyside already has the highest possible priority as a special development area. I have no doubt that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry, along with myself, will want to consider any further proposals of the kind that my hon. Friend has made. However, in the terms of the partnership arrangements with Liverpool, I believe that we must go ahead with the efforts that we have just started there to make the city itself a much more attractive place than it has been in recent years for people to live and work in.

Mr. Grimond

Is it the case that this committee met only once before March? If so, is the Secretary of State satisfied with these rather infrequent meetings? Is he, indeed, satisfied in general with the progress made with his whole policy on inner cities?

Mr. Shore

I think that I declared the partnership offer to Liverpool less than a year ago. We had the first meeting with the Liverpool partnership probably only six months ago. I do not think that we should be in monthly session with the partnership committee. That would be unnecessary and would generate an unnecessary amount of work. However, I think that we need to meet perhaps three or four times a year. The major task for Liverpool at the moment is to draw up its programme for the first three years of a rolling programme for inner city revival. That is what the council is engaged upon, with our help.

Mr. Heffer

Is my right hon. Friend aware that although we warmly welcome the attitude that he and his hon. Friends have taken to Liverpool, the Liverpool City Council has called a special meeting for tomorrow, on unemployment, and that I understand that it will be drawing up plans which could lead to proposals for the modernisation and the speeding up of the modernisation of both private and council property? Will my right hon. Friend look sympathetically at the sort of ideas that the council has to bring down unemployment?

Mr. Shore

I assure my hon. Friend that my Department is anxious to do whatever is possible to help Liverpool. We have increased the housing allocation for Liverpool in cash terms this year by 44 per cent., which is very high compared with other areas. We are of course, through the rate support grant, making a substantial contribution to the finances of the city of Liverpool. In addition, as my hon. Friend knows, there is a big PSA building programme of major offices in the city. But we shall look at suggestions.