HC Deb 23 March 1983 vol 39 cc858-9
15. Mr. Proctor

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what recent meetings he has had with representatives of the ethnic minorities to discuss inner city problems; and if he will make a statement.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Sir George Young)

My right hon. Friend has had no such meetings recently, but, in accordance with my special responsibility for these matters within the Department of the Environment, I regularly meet representatives of ethnic minority groups to discuss subjects for which the Department is responsible, including inner city problems.

Mr. Proctor

Does my hon. Friend agree that the millions of pounds of taxpayers' money that has been poured by his Department into inner city areas is a waste of money, as it was in the United States of America? Would not those resources be better utilised by transferring them to the Home Office for the better protection and policing of Greater London, so that black and white alike can be better protected?

Sir George Young

I do not agree with that for one moment. There has been a welcome improvement in the atmosphere in our inner cities since the publication of the Scarman report and following the activities of several Government Departments, including the Home Office and mine, in building up a better dialogue in our inner cities and in backing a range of worthwhile projects with both public and private money. I cannot agree that a transfer of funds from the urban programme to the Home Office would tackle some of the deep social and economic problems that remain in our inner cities.

Mr. Hoyle

Does the Minister agree that the mischief-making of the hon. Member for Basildon (Mr. Proctor) does nothing for race relations, and that the money spent in this direction and any money that can be spent in improving racial harmony is money well spent, for the benefit of the entire community?

Sir George Young

My hon. Friend the Member for Basildon (Mr. Proctor) is entitled to his views on this matter.

Mr. Flannery

He is not.

Sir George Young

Any funds invested in the inner cities by my Department are scrutinised carefully. We try to back worthwhile projects that will reach the heart of the problems, but some local authorities tend to waste ratepayers' money on propaganda exercises that often raise the temperature rather than lower it.

Mr. John Grant

Does the Minister recognise that, while I accept what he said about the unwelcome propaganda exercises, we welcome his efforts in respect of the ethnic minorities in inner cities? We hope that they will be increased and that he will resist the obnoxious and racist comments of his hon. Friend the Member for Basildon (Mr. Proctor).

Sir George Young

On Monday I approved next year's partnership programme for Islington, which contains several new projects put forward by ethnic groups. I am confident that they will provide valuable services to the community.

Mr. Hill

Does my hon. Friend realise that in the inner cities one success story of his Department has been the general improvement in the housing action areas, which applies to all colours and creeds and is the way in which housing should be approached?

Sir George Young

My hon. Friend is right, but the question referred to ethnic minorities, which is why I couched my reply in those terms.

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