HC Deb 29 October 1985 vol 84 cc808-9
14. Mr. Meadowcroft

asked the Paymaster General what steps he is taking to assist small areas of particularly high unemployment.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke

The Government have recently set up city action teams to cover each inner city partnership area to co-ordinate and improve the impact of the very substantial Government assistance already available in these areas. We are reviewing the way in which Government resources might be better targeted to give the most effective assistance there and in other localities of particularly high unemployment.

Mr. Meadowcroft

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman recognise that the artificial travel-to-work areas hide pockets of huge unemployment — often unemployment of more than 50 per cent.? Will he at least extend to those small areas the meagre assistance that is given to assisted areas? The travel-to-work areas are hidden because of the way in which the system operates.

Mr. Clarke

I agree that the incidence of unemployment varies between travel-to-work areas. They are defined as travel-to-work areas because it is usually possible to move about in a city to find work. It is impossible to break cities down into little self-contained labour markets as a way of otherwise defining the figures. I agree that there are other areas outside the partnership areas where we need to examine particular problems. I do not agree that assistance in the partnership areas is meagre. It amounts to £670 million across all Government programmes.

Mr. Roger King

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that it would assist areas of very high unemployment, such as Erdington and Sparkbrook in Birmingham and elsewhere, if Labour local authorities did not make big rate increases like Birmingham's increase of 43 per cent.?

Mr. Clarke

I agree with my hon. Friend. One finds repeatedly that those who speak most vociferously locally about the lack of new employment going to their cities are councilors who are raising their rates and making their cities unattractive for any kind of new business, and small businesses in particular.