HC Deb 15 July 1987 vol 119 cc1119-20
3. Mr. Alton

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what information he has as to the proportion of the employees of contractors working for each of the London Docklands and Merseyside Development Corporations that live (a) in the development corporation area, (b) in one of the boroughs that partly fall within the development corporation area and (c) in the local travel-to-work area.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. David Trippier)

The information is not held in the form requested. However 85 per cent. of the Merseyside Development Corporation's contracts were let to local firms in 1986–87. I think it reasonable to assume that these local firms employ mainly local people.

Mr. Alton

Notwithstanding the unsatisfactory nature of that reply, does the Minister accept that the positive proposals that have been made by his right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster should not have been thwarted by his Department, that guidelines should be developed to ensure that local labour is used for inner-city regeneration plans, otherwise not only will local democracy be bypassed but local needs and the local communities will be bypassed? Just as the initiatives of his right hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) failed after the riots in 1982, does the Minister not accept that his proposals may seem largely irrelevant and will end up as window dressing?

Mr. Trippier

It is not a question of my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster being thwarted by any individual or Government Department. It is simply that the European Community directives make it clear that to ensure equal conditions of competition for public works it is not permitted to introduce contractual processes that promote the employment prospects of the residents of inner cities.

Mr. John Marshall

Does my hon. Friend agree that the London Docklands Development Corporation has been a major success story in revitalising that part of London? Will he remind the House of the number of jobs and homes that have been created there since the LDDC was formed?

Mr. Trippier

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The LDDC has been a huge success, though much of its work still remains to be done. It will become even more successful. As for employment prospects, to date 10,000 jobs have been created.

Mr. Heffer

Is the hon. Gentleman saying that the Government are prepared to put EEC directives in front of the interests of the people of the inner city of Liverpool and of those who live in other inner-city areas? If the Government are really serious about dealing with the inner cities, they must be concerned about creating employment for the people who live in them, including areas such as Liverpool 8, Liverpool 6 and Liverpool 5, where large numbers of young people who require work are out of work. If the Government are serious about it, why do they not say to the EEC, as the Prime Minister has said to it on other occasions, that our interests are more important than those of the EEC?

Mr. Trippier

There is a dichotomy in the hon. Gentleman's proposal and the stance adopted by the hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Blunkett) in his substantive supplementary question to No. 1 on the Order Paper. We cannot have it both ways. Both the Department of the Environment and other Government Departments are anxious to encourage the use of local labour, but the hon. Gentleman is aware, more than most, of the difficulties that can be experienced through lack of skill shortages in the construction industry. The hon. Gentleman is an expert in that area. It is as clear to me as it will be to him that it might be extremely difficult to provide the necessary skills within a certain area to match the vacancies to which he refers. That problem can be resolved only through the Manpower Services Commission and the Construction Industry Training Board. Through those two bodies, we are taking steps to put that right.

Mr. John Mark Taylor

Does my hon. Friend agree that it is a sad reflection on modern local government that part of the reason for the success of the London docklands scheme was that it was able to bypass local government?

Mr. Trippier

That is undoubtedly true. If we were to examine carefully what would have happened if the LDDC had not been created for London docklands, we should find that the significant success that was referred to in earlier questions could not have been achieved.

Mr. Fraser

Despite more than £150 million of public money having been spent on London docklands, unemployment there has risen, no ordinary local person is able to afford to buy a house there, no homes are available to rent and the homeless on the edge of docklands are being evicted by the Liberal council in Tower Hamlets. It is no good the Minister blaming Brussels for his failure. The fault lies with the Government, who have confused development opportunities for land with development opportunities for people. It is about time that they had an inner-city development strategy that helped people, not property developers.

Mr. Trippier

The hon. Gentleman knows well that there is an affordable homes policy within the London docklands area which I should have thought he would pursue. I should love to hear him say to the people who are living in those affordable homes what he has just said to us, because I think that his comment was an insult to them. It must also be made clear that the urban development corporation created those affordable homes and that 45 per cent. of all occupiers of new homes on LDDC sites come from the areas to which the hon. Gentleman referred.