HC Deb 17 December 1980 vol 996 cc286-8
20. Mr. Parry

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment when he next plans to chair a meeting of the Liverpool inner city partnership committee; and what subjects are likely to be on the agenda.

Mr. Heseltine

On 12 January. The main item will be the partnership's programme for 1981–82. In addition, there will be a review of progress this year and discussion of the independent review team's report.

Mr. Parry

When the Secretary of State visits Liverpool in January, will he meet the representatives of the housing associations and co-operatives, who are complaining bitterly about the massive reduction of the HIP in Liverpool? Is he aware that all hon. Members representing Liverpool constituencies have been inundated by representations from the housing associations regarding that problem? Will he also have the guts to meet leaders of the tenants' associations to explain the proposed massive increases in council house rents? Is he aware that in many cases in Liverpool the increase will be more than 20 per cent.? How can he or the Government expect public employees or people on low incomes to accept a 6 per cent. wage increase?

Mr. Heseltine

The short answer to the question why they should accept a 6 per cent. increase is very much the explanation that the former Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) gave to the House when he was trying to deal with the same problems. He made it clear that if moderation did not prevail there would be more unemployment. The issues are the same today as they were then. The more that we pay ourselves higher inflationary wage increases without creating extra wealth, the more the wealth-creating sector will bear the burden and the number of jobs in the country at large will be reduced. The hon. Gentleman knows that as well as I do.

Mr. Alton

When the Secretary of State meets the partnership committee, will he consider making an announcement on the future of small businesses on Merseyside, bearing in mind the effect of the moratorium on small builders? Will he particularly bear in mind the effect of massive rate increases this year and consider deferring those rate increases by transferring money that will otherwise be spent on the Liverpool inner ring road?

Mr. Heseltine

The hon. Gentleman will be able to anticipate my visit to Liverpool by telling the small builders that we have released from the moratorium the improvement grants in the private sector for all under-spending authorities. He will also be able to spread the encouraging news that the urban development corporation, which I hope will come into existence shortly, will bring an enhanced level of public commitment to the regeneration of that important area.

Mr. Steen

Will my right hon. Friend ensure that under the agenda item "any other business" the committee discusses the need to use partnership money to lever private money? Is he further aware that the revitalisation of an area such as Liverpool will depend upon the amount of private investment and private money that the partnership can bring back to old industrial areas of this kind?

Mr. Heseltine

My only qualification in agreeing with my hon. Friend is that I should not wish to wait for the "any other business" item for that thought to dominate our attitudes. That thought has led to the recasting of the expenditure pattern of the programme money in Liverpool since I have been responsible for the chairmanship there.

Forward to