HC Deb 04 February 1981 vol 998 cc276-7
4. Sir William Elliott

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will give his reasons why the private sector is not included in the membership of the partnership committees.

12. Mr. David Hunt

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will give his reasons why the private sector is not included in the membership of the partnership committees concerned with urban problems.

Mr. Heseltine

We want to keep the partnership committees and the attendant bureaucracy as small as possible. But we believe that involvement of the private sector is vital to the regeneration of the inner cities, and intend to make urban grant conditional on there having been effective consultation with local industry and commerce.

Sir William Elliott

Does my right hon. Friend appreciate that that answer is most welcome? Does he agree that the revitalisation of city centres such as that of Newcastle upon Tyne is heavily dependent upon private enterprise and the private sector, and that his answer will be welcomed in every major city?

Mr. Heseltine

I confirm the views of my hon. Friend. I am delighted that we are able to contribute towards the success of the urban programme in Newcastle upon Tyne and towards the enterprise zone opportunities which we have also brought there.

Mr. Hunt

I endorse what my right hon. Friend has said, but does he accept that involvement of the private sector in the membership of these committees would give a new and more commercial impetus to their work?

Mr. Heseltine

I have considered the point put to me by my hon. Friend. However, I do not believe that involving the private sector in those committees would give a new momentum. The procedure which we have adopted will have a greater effect. It ensures that the private sector is deeply involved in the formative and consultative processes that lead to decisions on those programmes.

Mr. Alton

Will the Secretary of State reconsider his decision and consider involving not only the local chambers of commerce, particularly in the partnership committees, but the voluntary organisations, which feel that they are being excluded from the workings of partnership committees?

Mr. Heseltine

We want to secure the maximum involvement of the voluntary organisations. However that is difficult because of their large numbers. It is also difficult to have a process which genuinely involves them in decision-making. However, I am sympathetic to the role and scope for support in the voluntary sector.

Mr. Steen

Will the Minister explain what the logic is of excluding the private sector from joint enterprises, when public/private partnership is at the root of urban revitalisation?

Mr. Heseltine

If I have given that impression to my hon. Friend, I want to remove it at once. When we took over responsibility for the urban programme, there was no effective involvement of the private sector. We have now ensured that future decisions about the scale and scope of the programme will be conditional upon consultation with the private sector.

Mr. Robert C. Brown

Does not the Secretary of State recognise that membership of the partnership committees does not matter a tuppenny damn but that what matters his recognition of the problems of the inner cities and facing up to them?

Mr. Heseltine

I do not think I would use the precise words used by the hon. Gentleman. Perhaps the flavour of what I was saying was not far away from the point he made. It is precisely because we realise the need for a public/private sector commitment to the inner cities that we are pursuing our present policies.