HC Deb 23 July 1986 vol 102 cc333-5
9. Mr. Hardy

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what representations he has received seeking additional resources for authorities to enable them to increase expenditure on environmental services.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mrs. Angela Rumbold)

The local authority associations through the Consultative Council for Local Government Finance are consulted about local authority relevant expenditure, including that on local environmental services.

I also receive representations from individual authorities.

Mr. Hardy

Does the Minister not accept that some areas need more resources in order to make swifter environmental improvements to compensate for rapid economic decline? Is she aware that the Minister responsible for sport recently visited South Yorkshire and is reported as having realised that the position is grave? Indeed, I believe that he used the word tragic. If his visit does not lead to increased support for my area, may we command the attention of the organ grinder rather than of the monkey?

Mrs. Rumbold

In 1986–87 the hon. Gentleman's local authority is receiving some £400,000 in derelict land grant compared with the sum of only £300,000 that it received collectively for the previous three years. In addition, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced a very realistic settlement yesterday. Consequently, it is to be hoped that the hon. Gentleman's local authority will be able to find adequate provision for local environmental services.

Sir Dudley Smith

Does my hon. Friend agree that some of the money could well be used by local authorities to preserve the integrity of the green belt, which is constantly under attack? Is she aware that the green belt is particularly vulnerable when big and desirable projects such as motorways are put forward for development on the fringes, where people are trying to convert the green belt into extra work?

Mrs. Rumbold

It is to be hoped that local planning authorities take great care not to infringe the green belt unless there is general consent for that among the local population.

Dr. David Clark

Does the Minister not realise that her assurances fly in the face of reality? Will she confirm that the number of those employed in the key environmental agencies — the Countryside Commission, the Nature Conservancy Council, the Countryside Commission for Scotland, the Forestry Commission, and the Council for Small Industries in Rural Areas has fallen by more than 2.000 during the seven years in which the Government have been in office?

Mrs. Rumbold

All those organisations have managed to increase their services and to improve on their excellence in discussion and consultation with central Government. Staffing numbers are adequate, according to their own lights.

Mrs. Kellett-Bowman

Is my hon. Friend aware that there has been a suspension of European regional development fund non-quota grants to local enterprise boards which wish to carry out environmental improvements in, for example, Lancaster? Will she affirm that such boards are eligible for grants from the ERDF, and expedite them?

Mrs. Rumbold

My hon. Friend knows that ERDF funds have to be matched by funds from the local authority. I note what my hon. Friend says, and will take it into account.