HC Deb 27 February 1980 vol 979 cc1353-5
25. Mr. Thompson

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment how much money will be allocated to urban development corporations in their first year of operation; and on what terms.

Mr. Heseltine

The amount of money to be allocated to UDCs in their first year will depend upon the scale of their proposed programmes, and the extent to which these can be accommodated within the Government's public expenditure plans. Loan finance will be made available for commercial-type projects, and grant for non-commercial type projects. I intend to table an amendment in Committee delineating those types of expenditure which would be eligible for grant.

Mr. Thompson

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many of his hon. Friends have visited docklands and seen the vast dereliction there and that we sympathise with and understand the problems? However, does he also realise that, in an era of finite resources, many other urban areas are looking carefully at the financing of the UDCs?

Mr. Heseltine

I understand my hon. Friend's concern. He will be aware that other urban programmes are administered through my Department and are of help to the areas where the worst problems of urban dereliction exist outside docklands. However, the Government's view is that the two areas where UDCs are to be set up, London and Merseyside, are examples of such extreme dereliction that urgent action is necessary.

Mr. Chapman

Does my right hon. Friend agree that equally as important are the executive powers given to the corporations to get on with the job and their ability to acquire surplus lands from local authorities and statutory undertakings with the minimum of bureaucracy?

Mr. Heseltine

My hon. Friend understands the problems clearly. It will he for hon. Members to decide what powers to give to the UDCs when we put the order before Parliament. I shall certainly bear in mind what my hon. Friend has said.

Mr. Alton

If the corporations are to be successful—and a figure of £200 million was mentioned at one stage—is it not reasonable that they should be told soon how much money will be made available to them?

Mr. Heseltine

It would be helpful if we knew what they wanted to do with the money before we answer that question.

Mr. Steen

The establishment of the corporations and the injection of public money will not, of themselves, regenerate ailing urban areas. What is needed is an injection of private funds and private investment. How will the UDCs achieve that?

Mr. Heseltine

I know that my hon. Friend understands the problems well. The purpose of the money that we shall make available to the corporations will be to clear the areas to encourage private sector investment, which, alone, will lead to the success that we want to see.

Mr. Parry

Will the right hon. Gentleman make a personal visit to Liverpool docklands before deciding on the allocation of money to the area?

Mr. Heseltine

I have visited the area many times and I shall certainly go there again.