HC Deb 25 July 1979 vol 971 cc594-6
16. Sir William Elliott

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will ensure that in the next phase of the urban aid programme a minimum percentage of at least 40 per cent. of the total funds are made available to promote voluntary and charitable work.

20. Mr. Steen

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will ensure that in the next phase of the urban aid programme a minimum percentage of at least 50 per cent. of the total funds avilable will go to promote voluntary and charitable work.

Mr. Heseltine

As I have said, the Government are currently reviewing the urban programme. I cannot comment on particular aspects before the outcome of that review. The voluntary sector has a positive role to play, but I do not feel that I can fix a precise apportionment in the way the questions suggest.

Sir W. Elliott

I am most grateful for that answer. Does my right hon. Friend accept that one of the cornerstones of Conservative policy is self-help and voluntary endeavour? Will he, therefore, use the urban aid programme to encourage voluntary organisations in cities such as Newcastle upon Tyne to the utmost of his ability?

Mr. Heseltine

This year the voluntary bodies will get nearly £10 million from the urban programme for new projects, which is £3 million more in real terms than last year and £7 million more than the year before that. I believe that my hon. Friend will feel that that is a move in the right direction.

Mr. Steen

Although I know that my right hon. Friend does not like to interfere with what local authorities do, is he aware that many local authorities, especially those controlled by the Labour Party, have already indicated that for next year their first target for cuts will be the work of voluntary and social organisations? Will he please do something to ensure that they are not allowed to do this?

Mr. Heseltine

I thank my hon. Friend for his fair and dispassionate assessment of my attitude towards local authorities. I should tell him that voluntary associations attract support from the local authorities to the tune of 25 per cent. of the costs, and there is, therefore, a relationship between that and their enthusiasm for the schemes. I very much accept the point that he and my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle upon Tyne North (Sir W. Elliott) have made, that there is a role—in times of public constraint perhaps a particularly important role—for voluntary organisations.

Mr. McNamara

When the right hon. Gentleman is discussing the question of rate support grant and the shift in favour of the shire counties, will he ensure that shire counties in which there are district councils with difficult inner city prob- lems will maintain and increase the amount of money going to the inner city areas? Can he also say when he expects his review of the problem to be finished, because many towns with inner city problems are seeking to plan their progress over the next few years but are unable to do so until they know the Government's intentions?

Mr. Heseltine

I do not think that there is any difficulty in the planning of the programmes in the way that the hon. Gentleman has suggested. Over the past few weeks, my Ministers have been in very close touch with the programme and partnership areas and a dialogue has been maintained and continued in this respect. The hon. Gentleman and the House will understand that it would be quite irresponsible to suggest, particularly in the climate of public expenditure constraint into which we are about to enter, that it is possible to talk in terms of increasing programmes.

Mr. Kaufman

Since the right hon. Gentleman has agreed with his hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Waver-tree (Mr. Steen) that he does not want to interfere with the right of local authorities to do what they want in their areas, will he now abandon his plans to force them to sell council houses?

Mr. Heseltine

No, because the people of this country have clearly voted to achieve such an end.