HC Deb 04 June 1980 vol 985 cc1411-3
14. Mr. Steen

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what funds he is planning to make available in addition to the urban aid programme for urban areas under the Inner Urban Areas Act and for partnership and programme authorities for the current financial year; and if he will make a statement.

21. Mr. Bevan

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment, what funds, in addition to the urban aid programme, he will make available for urban renewal under the Inner Urban Areas Act and for partnership and programme authorities for the current financial year.

Mr. King

Partnership authorities have been allocated £110.8 million and programme authorities £42 million in the current year. Other districts designated under the Inner Urban Areas Act have been allocated £5.6 million for work under the Act and similar purposes. There are no proposals for further allocations for urban renewal.

Mr. Steen

Does the Minister agree that many of the problems of inner city areas have been created by too much Government intervention and by a lack of private investment? Will he take an early opportunity to lean heavily on the clearing banks and suggest to them that, to fulfil their social and financial obligations to the inner areas, they should invest some of their windfall profits in urban renewal?

Mr. King

I very much agree with the idea that the amount of effort which can be expended dealing with the serious problems that we face in many inner urban areas should not be measured by the amount of public assistance and public funds which can be contributed towards them. There is a considerable contribution for the private sector to make as well. I am glad to say that there are encouraging signs that it is taking up this challenge, and we shall give further encouragement to that end.

Mr. Bevan

Will my right hon. Friend confirm whether, in his new proposals, there will be an opportunity to cut back on the vast local authority bureaucracy which has diminshed funds in inner city areas and resulted in the prolongation of planning applications?

Mr. King

The first impression that we had, especially of the partnership authorities when my right hon. and hon. Friends became concerned with them, was of the excessive amount of bureaucracy and paper work involved in getting action in these areas. We have concentrated on getting results with the minimum of bureaucracy and committee work.

Mr. Tilley

Is the Minister concerned about the low level of ministerial involvement in committee meetings? May I draw attention to the fact that at a recent Lambeth partnership committee meeting, although seven Ministers are members of the committee, only two, including the Minister of State, turned up? Is that a matter of policy, or was there a major race meeting that day as well?

Mr. King

Our concern is to get results. It is typical of what I call the " unessential" approach of many Opposition Members to be over-concerned about whether there were Ministers there, even if there were not subjects concerning them on the agenda. We are concerned to get results, both to cut down the paper work and to cut down the costs of the attendance of a lot of people who are not involved in a particular meeting.

Mr. Marlow

With a view to cutting back on the need for vast amounts of urban aid in the future, may I ask what my right hon. Friend is doing to stop socialist local authorities from despoiling their areas and frightening employers away so that in future there will be no jobs and a great requirement for central Government money?

Mr. King

I accept the point behind my hon. Friend's question. When we are seeking to stimulate economic revival in inner city areas, it is positively counterproductive if some local authorities raise their rates to levels which drive out small businesses from their areas. We can make our contribution, but it has to be a cooperative effort with the local authorities. I hope that my hon. Friend's message will be heard more widely.