HC Deb 04 February 1981 vol 998 cc281-2
10. Mr. Freud

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what criteria guide him in giving grant aid to a district council that applies to him under the urban programme Circular No. 21.

Mr. King

The criteria are set out in the circular. Generally, all projects should operate in or for the benefit of urban areas where there is special social need, and aim to alleviate the deprivation identified in that area.

Mr. Freud

I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. Will he bear in mind that the Fenland district council, which wrote to him, now has a much worse situation than at the time of writing? With the closure of Smedleys, the second largest employer in north Cambridgeshire, the position needs all the sympathy that the right hon. Gentleman can give to it.

Mr. King

I am aware of the difficult situation in Wisbech as a result of the announcement of that closure and the problems that the hon. Gentleman has rightly raised in the House. We shall not be able to make an announcement on the urban programme grants until early April. However, the hon. Gentleman will have noticed the announcement that I made yesterday about the improved arrangements for COSIRA, which is active in his constituency. I am sure that the whole House will welcome the new arrangements under which COSIRA in the SIA areas will now be able to be a lender of last resort, and will operate schemes for fifty-fifty workshops in conjunction with local authorities in those areas, which we believe will help to provide employment in such areas.

Mr. Foster

Will the Minister assure the House that any district council which, through the urban programme circular, funds citizens' rights centres and neighbourhood advice centres will not subsequently have that funding removed on pseudo-political grounds as his noble Friend has recently done in Sunderland?

Mr. King

We believe that such advice centres should be genuinely operated for the service of the people in the area, not on a party political basis for propaganda and other purposes. We shall stick closely to the guidelines that were laid down by the Labour Government and by the Labour Lord Chancellor who said that such advice centres should not be used for political purposes. We intend to see that that is implemented.