HC Deb 10 November 1982 vol 31 cc542-3
14. Mr. Tilley

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he proposes to take steps to modify the inner city policy of his Department.

Mr. Heseltine

We are continually seeking new ways, such as the urban development grant, of achieving urban regeneration. The urban programme is relatively new. It offers the opportunity for considerable flexibility. It is continually under review as a consequence.

Mr. Tilley

Is the Minister aware of the reported remarks of his noble Friend and ministerial colleague, Lord Bellwin, on South Tyneside? Is he aware that Lord Bellwin is reported to have said that the Department is considering rejigging the inner city policy to take away the concentration of funds from the partnership areas? Partnership areas such as my constituency of Lambeth, and that of Liverpool, amongst others, while they are grateful for the concentration of funds in the past, still regard such funds as being sadly inadequate for their desperate needs. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that they will regard such a switch in policy as a betrayal of past statements on the inner city areas?

Mr. Heseltine

If the hon. Gentleman keeps in mind the fact that his authority's allocation has been increased by 30 per cent. this year compared with last year, he will see the seriousness with which we treat the matter. He will already have a flavour of the fact—it cannot be more than that—that the urban development grant initiative, which is now under consideration, means that significant increased funds should be flowing in his direction if the scheme stands up to examination. I hope to say something further about that shortly.

Mr. Alton

Is the Secretary of State aware that over the past 12 months 10,000 trees have been planted in inner city Liverpool, that one job has been lost for every tree planted and that one crime is committed every four minutes? His remedies are wholly cosmetic and irrelevant to the basic problems of unemployment and crime.

Mr. Heseltine

I was not aware that 10,000 trees had been planted in Liverpool over the past 12 months. I shall give the deepest consideration to the implications of that.

Mr. Dover

Will my right hon. Friend ease planning restrictions in inner city areas, to try to encourage more private development?

Mr. Heseltine

I am very sympathetic to that view. The Government have amended the general development order. One of the consequences of that will be to help in that way. However, local authorities are now adopting a very practical approach—particularly in some of the industrially deprived areas and in some of our inner cities—to the need to attract industrial and commercial investment.