HC Deb 12 December 1979 vol 975 cc1286-7
7. Mr. Thompson

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he has plans to establish further urban development corporations other than those in Liverpool and London.

Mr. Heseltine

I have no plans to set up urban development corporations other than in Merseyside and in London Docklands.

Mr. Thompson

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. Does he realise that many local authorities would dearly love powers similar to the UDCs for themselves, to enable them to cut through red tape and get on with the job?

Mr. Heseltine

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I realise that my proposals have been widely welcomed on both sides of the House and by a wide audience outside.

Mr. Alton

Does the Secretary of State recall a speech that he made in Liverpool in March or April of this year, when he said that the re-election of a Labour Government would no doubt mean the establishment of yet another quango to try to sort out the problems of Liverpool's dockland? What has suddenly brought about this great change of mind? Is he further aware that there are now 11 different agencies trying to sort out the problems of inner-city Liverpool? Will he say what accountability there will be on the part of the new UDC, and how much it will cost—

Mr. Speaker

Order. It is quite clear that there are hon. Members who were not in the Chamber at the beginning of Question Time, when I appealed for brief supplementary questions to enable other hon. Members to be called.

Mr. Heseltine

I have never believed that everything that the Labour Party proposes is wrong—it is just that it usually is.

Mr. Steen

Does my right hon. Friend agree that private enterprise will come to the docks in Liverpool and London only if there are special financial inducements or tax advantages? Is it proposed that the urban development corporations will offer such inducements?

Mr. Heseltine

The urban development corporation proposals are included in a Bill which is shortly to come before the House. We shall have the opportunity in a wide-ranging debate to consider exactly what powers and areas should be considered as appropriate to the urban development corporations. I believe that we should wait until then before making any final decisions.

Mr. Guy Barnett

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that all the experience of the new town movement suggests that the worst thing he could possibly do would be to set up urban development corporations in the teeth of local authority opposition in the areas concerned?

Mr. Heseltine

There are 5,000 acres of derelict land in the centre of London and 500 acres of such land on Merseyside. Unless we take the steps that I propose, that land will continue to be derelict.