HC Deb 15 July 1987 vol 119 cc1233-54 10.14 pm
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. David Trippier)

I beg to move, That the Urban Development Corporations (Financial Limits) Order 1987, a copy of which was laid before this House on 1st May 1987, in the last Session of Parliament, be approved. Urban development corporations are set up under the powers in part XVI of the Local Government, Planning and Land Act 1980, to regenerate their designated areas. The bulk of UDCs' activities are financed by grant-in-aid, paid out of money voted by Parliament with additional finance provided by loans from the national loans fund. UDCs may also plough back their receipts.

The 1980 Act set a limit of £200 million on the total of UDCs' grants and borrowing but provided for this to be raised to £400 million by order. The New Towns and Urban Development Corporations Act 1985 raised the statutory limit to £600 million with a similar power to raise it to £800 million subject to affirmative resolution of this House.

Present spending plans for the current financial year would take UDCs' overall grant and loan to within £3 million to £4 million of the £600 million. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has therefore made this order, which will increase the limit to £800 million.

The main functions of a UDC are to assemble, reclaim and service land, to provide infrastructure and to encourage development. A UDC brings a co-ordinated, single-minded and public sector backed approach to the regeneration of its area.

Urban development corporations make effective use of public money by concentrating it on particular problems in particular areas and by using it to stimulate private sector investment. They represent a key part of this Government's attack on urban problems. There are now seven UDCs. The first two, the Merseyside and London docklands development corporations, were established in 1981. Five more have been established this year. Four of them are in England—the Black Country, Teesside, Trafford Park and Tyne and Wear development corporations—and one in Wales, the Cardiff bay development corporation. There is no doubt that Merseyside development corporation and London docklands development corporation, have been successful, although their job is not yet complete. The House might find it helpful to have a brief summary of their achievements.

The Merseyside development corporation—

Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey)

Before the Minister tells us about the urban development corporations' achievements, can he tell us how much money per year the relevant local boroughs have had from the Government so that we can compare their ability to spend on equal terms? What do the three London boroughs get compared with the £800 million that he proposes for the LDDC and so on?

Mr. Trippier

I knew that I was unwise to allow the hon. Gentleman to intervene. I can certainly give him the figures now for the amount that the LDDC receives annually, and I shall refer to those in my wind-up. If I have the information to hand, I shall try to make the comparison for which the hon. Gentleman asks.

The Merseyside development corporation was set up because the Government recognised that the dereliction of the docks coupled with a depressed local economy called for substantial public sector resources to regenerate the area and stimulate private sector investment. Last month, within days of taking up my new responsibilities, I visited the MDC and was impressed at what had been achieved. The UDC had spent about £140 million in total. Its capital expenditure is already in excess of £100 million, with more committed. The private sector has responded and the results are there for all to see.

The corporation mounted the country's first ever international garden festival in 1984, attracting over 3.3 million visitors. Its great success brought new confidence to the area. It has restored the Albert dock warehouses—

Mr. Allan Roberts (Bootle)

What has happened to the garden festival site subsequently?

Mr. Trippier

The hon. Gentleman knows very well what has happened. He will have heard me say, just a few moments ago, that I paid an official visit to the area. He is also well aware that the Merseyside development corporation is seeking, through a partnership with local authority, to work out a compromise so that that part of Liverpool can be further developed.

The MDC has restored the Albert dock warehouses—the largest group of grade 1 listed buildings in the country. About 1.25 million sq ft of buildings have been refurbished. Partnership with the private sector has provided high-quality commercial development with the prospect of residential development to come. In 1988, with the opening of the Tate of the north in Liverpool, we shall see the completion of a transformation that has converted an area of gross dereliction into a hive of activity. By the end of the 1980s private sector investment in the Albert dock scheme is expected to exceed £60 million in return for half that amount from the public sector. Already some 2 million people visit the area each year and this is expected to rise to 5 million eventually. In all, over 200 acres of derelict land have been reclaimed by MDC for housing and commercial development and a further 200 acres of land and water have been reclaimed for recreation and public open space.

MDC is extending its regeneration activities to the area south of the Albert dock and its waterfront strategy envisages a number of tourism and leisure-related projects that will bring desperately needed jobs and investment to the area. The corporation estimates that around 2,300 permanent jobs have already been saved or created within its area and this is not to mention the 1,000 or so people working at any one time on construction and related projects.

I turn now to the London docklands development corporation. In July 1981, LDDC was charged with the regeneration of over eight square miles of London's docklands. Much of this area was severely run down following the closure of the docks and the associated decline of local industry. Land was left derelict and polluted. It was a formidable task. Just six years later LDDC has transformed its area. The docks are once again a focus for growth. Over £2.2 billion of private sector investment commitments have been attracted to the area at a cost of only £324 million in public expenditure. So, for each pound of public money spent, £7 of private money have been attracted. About 7,000 homes have so far been completed on LDDC sites and on private land, mainly by the private sector; 2.5 million sq ft of non-residential floorspace have been completed, 7.5 million sq ft are under construction and a further 7.5 million sq ft are committed. Ten thousand new jobs were attracted to the area between 1981 and 1986.

Improving access to this rather isolated area of London has been a high priority. The docklands light railway, which opens on time and within budget on 30 July, was promoted and part-funded by the corporation. Extensions to the east, and to the City, have now been proposed. In addition some 15 miles of new roads have been built. But the corporation's activities go far wider than that. Some 227 environmental projects have been carried out at a total cost of £26.7 million. About £10 million has been given to projects in the community and social areas to help meet LDDC's wider objectives of making docklands a pleasant environment in which to work and live and £2.4 million has been given to new and existing smaller businesses to ensure that they can survive and expand alongside the major schemes.

The corporation's latest corporate plan shows planned expenditure rising rapidly as its infrastructure programme reaches its peak. Some £135 million is to be spent on projects in this financial year alone, financed by a combination of grant aid and receipts from land sales. Over the next six years to 1993, LDDC has plans for an impressive list of infrastructure, social and environmental projects that will be financed partly from land sales. They will bring the process of regeneration rapidly to the point at which it is self-sustaining. Private sector interest is high. There is now competition for development in an area which, not many years ago, no developer would consider.

I turn now to the new UDCs. The four new English UDCs were each the subject of preliminary studies by consultants. Each UDC will be responsible for drawing up its own strategy, but the consultants' reports indicate what they might achieve. For example for Trafford Park DC, the consultants anticipate nearly 1,000 acres reclaimed or developed, well over 10 million sq ft of floorspace developed and more than 700 houses provided. For the Black Country DC, the consultants recommend the construction of a spine road and anticipate as much as 4 million sq ft of industrial development, 1,700 new homes and 250 acres of open space and parks.

On Teesside the consultants believe that 1 million sq ft of industrial and warehousing space could be provided, a further 1 million sq ft of commercial and retail space and over 2,000 homes. Their recommended strategy includes several projects to change the image of Teesside, including an international nature reserve on the wetlands to the north of the Tees.

In Tyne and Wear the consultants envisage that nearly 1,000 acres of derelict land could be reclaimed for new development, with the creation of over 1 million sq ft of commercial and industrial floorspace and 1,300 houses, taking advantage of the dramatic and potentially attractive locations provided by the rivers.

Mr. Michael Fallon (Darlington)

Will my hon. Friend confirm that both those assessments include assessments of the potential for job creation and that the total for the two corporations is over 9,000 jobs—6,000 on Teesside and 3,500 on Tyneside?

Mr. Trippier

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his intervention. It is vitally important in all those areas—the four UDCs that have already been established and those to be established—that we try wherever possible to encourage enterprise. An important part of that process is encouraging the new jobs that go with that enterprise.

The Cardiff Bay DC is the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales. I understand that it, too, has embarked on a series of studies to examine development plans. Our initial estimate is that the new UDCs will each spend more than £100 million over the next decade. The total amount of spending, and its profile over time will depend in each case on the quality of the proposals that they bring forward, the response they receive from the private sector and public resources available.

Whatever the precise allocation of resources to the UDCs, there is no doubt that the total funds to be made available to them must be significant if they are to achieve their goals. This order provides the headroom within which the first two UDCs can build on their success, and the new UDCs can embark on the first stage of their task. I commend the order to the House.

10.26 pm
Mr. Allan Roberts (Bootle)

The procedure on financial limit orders such as the Urban Development Corporations (Financial Limits) Order 1987 is that the Opposition usually does not vote against increases in money that might bring some benefit to areas. To all intents and purposes, this order appears to increase funds. The maximum allowed by the Local Government, Planning and Land Act 1980 was £400 million. As the Minister has said, the New Towns and Urban Development Corporations Act 1985 increased that amount to £800 million. We are now considering an order that will allow a maximum of £800 million. However, there is one difference. When it was £400 million, there were only two development corporations—London and Liverpool. There are now another five. The increase from £400 million to £800 million for seven urban developments rather than two is not an increase: it is a major cut. If £800 million has to be shared among seven urban development corporations, when previously there was £400 million shared between two, the seven will not get as much as the previous two. That is common logic. That is not a massive increase.

Mr. Trippier

The hon. Gentleman should bear in mind the size of the areas that we are dealing with—the size of London docklands compared with the size of Merseyside. It is very different indeed.

Mr. Roberts

I shall come to the size of the area and the unique nature of the London docklands in a minute when I will point out where the Government's policies, in trying to project what they call a success in London docklands. are misguided. It is misleading to suggest that there is a massive increase in money. Notwithstanding that, the Opposition will not divide the House. Whatever little money for public expenditure one manages to wring out of a Conservative Government is welcome when they are the Government who cut public expenditure. There should be no mistake that it is a cut.

This is an important debate because the concept of the urban development corporations, as the Minister has tried to outline, is crucial to the Government's so-called inner-city policy initiative. There have been two long-standing urban development corporations that the Government claim are successful that we can look at in terms of the policies outlined by the Government. Apart from the selling-off of council estates over the heads of tenants, and in some cases the selling-off of tenants, this seems to be one of the crucial parts, with no great increase in public expenditure, of the Government's long-heralded inner-city initiatives.

The London docklands development corporation is unique. To suggest that eight square miles of land, with massive areas available for housing and other developments, situated right in the centre of London next to the City can be repeated elsewhere throughout the country and applied in other inner-city areas is nonsense. Whether one considers it successful or unsuccessful, as some of my colleagues will say later, it is unique. There is no City of London, or equivalent in Merseyside, Tyne and Wear, Trafford Park, the Black Country, Teesside or Cardiff. What the London docklands development corporation has done will not be repeated elsewhere and has not been repeated in Liverpool, where the docklands development corporation covers parts of the city of Liverpool and parts of my constituency in the local authority area of Sefton.

The other major difference between the London docklands development corporation area and the Merseyside experience is that there were people living and working in the London docklands before the development corporation was established. That was not true, except for one small council estate in my constituency, of Liverpool docklands.

Despite what the Government claim, the way that the London docklands has been developed by the corporation has ignored the local people. The corporation has brought in city-type office development; there has been speculative development; buildings have been erected; the plastic, steel and glass is there and there is plenty of activity for everyone to see, but conditions for local people have not improved in terms of jobs or housing conditions. Nothing has been done for the local community.

Jobs and housing are the two key matters with regard to the inner city—except for law and order and drugs—at which Government policy is directed. Jobs have been created in docklands but others have been driven out to make way for the large, prestigious, speculative developments. Compulsory purchase orders have been used on small and medium businesses that used to employ local labour, which has now been driven out. As my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) will point out later, on the Government's figures there has been a net loss of jobs.

Of the jobs that have been created, only 8 per cent. have gone to people who were living in the area before the London docklands development corporation was set up. The local community has been shut out. The developments that the docklands corporation has initiated have been for labour that is commuting in to the area. The docklands light railway may be a welcome development, but it does not go through the populated areas where the existing communities live. It is designed as a form of in-and-out transport and the proposed new West Ferry road, if it is built, will destroy local communities in docklands. A lot of the activity has been speculative and has created jobs for people outside, with some people coming from the United States of America. When I was in America recently there were advertisements in the press about the luxury housing in docklands saying, "It is the place to move to; bring your business and buy a house."

As to housing and private capital, 90 per cent. of the available land in the borough of Tower Hamlets for housing was handed over to the development corporation. What did it do? It massively increased the land values. That increase in land values has been the main source of finance. The private finance that the Minister talks about is not people putting money down, it is people obtaining land, selling it at inflated prices and using that money to build in docklands for profit. That is where a lot of the private finance has come from. No real private capital has yet been invested on any significant scale, except for what has accrued from the massive increase in land values as a result of the development corporation being declared.

The consequence of the massively inflated land values is that housing is for sale at prices that none of the local people have any hope of affording. One has only to look at the advertisements for houses. A one-bedroom flat in Acorn yard costs £41,000. A three-bedroom house in Greenland quay costs £109,000. The development corporation claims that it offers the houses at, for example, £40,000, but that is a lot of money for people on Merseyside and elsewhere. The development corporation thinks that that is cheap. Local people cannot afford that, but within three or four months of them being bought the houses are resold for £100,000 or more. I know, because I live in the east end of London, that if one wants to get hold of one of the houses and one is not a local resident, there are rackets for buying fake local rent books so that one can prove that one is a local resident in order to buy a house at £40,000. Such houses are not lived in but are sold for £90,000 or £110,000 a few months later. Therefore, there is no housing for local people, but the areas are attracting a lot of people who are very rich and can afford houses at prices of £100,000.

It is obscene that there are 7,000 people on Tower Hamlets' waiting list. There are 1,000 homeless people in Tower Hamlets. The Liberal council is claiming that it cannot house the Bengali families and is evicting them. It is obscene that they cannot get housing but that riverside flats are selling for £500,000. Local people, because of those developments, are being denied access to their own river in the area where they grew up. That is the sort of casino economy that is being created in the London docklands.

However, Liverpool is different. As I said, very few people lived in the docklands area except for those on the small Rimrose estate. As the Minister admitted, the Merseyside docklands development corporation has produced only three initiatives. One was the garden festival. That was very successful as a one-off. People came to see it. It was very prestigious. However, the year after, because the Government would not support Liverpool city council and the other local councils in terms of rate support grant to enable them to take it over, a company called Transworld took it over. That company opened it for one season and then went into liquidation leaving hundreds of thousands of pounds' worth of debts. Since then—the Minister said that he has visited the area—there is a big fence around it, local people cannot get in. There is nothing there except the remains of a garden festival that once existed, with a fence round to keep people out because the Government, for doctrinaire reasons, would not allow the local authorities to take it over and run it and would not give them the rate support grant to enable them to do so. That was one initiative that was welcome at the time but it did not last very long.

Another initiative is the Albert dock. It is said that 90 per cent. of the contracts to develop it went to local firms, which, I should point out, do not necessarily employ local labour. The dock is welcome. It looks good. I visit it and enjoy it. However, if anyone suggests that that is a significant contribution to the area or that it will have a significant impact on the inner-city problems of Merseyside, Bootle, Liverpool and elsewhere they are fooling themselves. It is very nice and it is welcome but it is not stopping the hard drug-taking. It has done nothing about the high levels of unemployment, especially youth unemployment on Merseyside.

The other day I went just one mile away in my constituency and drove around with someone I brought in from another part of the country. We had just visited the prestigious Albert dock and as we were driving around my friend said, "Do you know what this area reminds me of? It is like the pictures we see on television after the bomb has dropped. It is like the pictures of where the survivors live after a nuclear war." The dereliction and empty factories are there for everybody to see. Welcome as the Albert dock is, it is not a major contribution to solving the inner-city problems of Merseyside.

Another initiative, welcome in itself, is that the development corporation has taken the negative value away from derelict land by cleaning it up. The land is there with big signs up advertising its availability. The trouble is that nobody has come to build factories on it. There is nothing on the derelict land, even though the negative value has been taken off by public expenditure.

As the Minister said, there is a hope that there will be a leisure scheme, a conference centre and a hotel built in parts of docklands. I hope that it happens, but this must be about the tenth time that those things have been proposed for Merseyside. Even in the days well before the development corporation we were told that people were coming to carry out that sort of scheme. What we need from the Government is public expenditure to make sure that kind of thing happens, because it is vital pump-priming.

I say to the people who have urban development corporations in Tyne and Wear, Trafford Park, the Black Country, Teesside and Cardiff: do not be too optimistic. As we have seen from the Government announcement today, there is a little bit of public expenditure, a bit of pump-priming and a lot of window-dressing. Those things will contribute to a small extent to the provision of some facilities, although they will create other problems for local communities of the kind that we have seen in London docklands.

What we really need is mainstream expenditure on housing, education, social services, on cleaning up the environment and on creating new jobs. The Government shy away from that and, having made massive cuts in rate support grant, they set up these development corporations as a substitute, as palliatives. We shall not vote against the extra money, because we are lucky to get any public expenditure out of the Government. However, we say quite clearly that it is too little and it is window-dressing.

The Secretary of State for the Environment in 1981 was the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine). Speaking to the Tory party conference he said that the principle of self-help was not applicable to inner-city problems. He said that the Tories must realise the true impact of unemployment. He went on: But if the case can be made it may also be from extra public expenditure. In the inner cities, none of us can act on a scale and with a speed that has the measure of the present recession. The right hon. Member for Henley said that on 9 October 1981. Those remarks are still applicable, but the Government are not listening. We welcome the little that they are doing, but it is not enough and they know it. This is no substitute for real policies to deal with inner-city problems.

10.42 pm
Mr. Michael Fallon (Darlington)

This order is warmly welcomed on the Government side and for a reason that may surprise some of my hon. Friends. Contrary to what we have just heard, the initiative to set up urban development corporations is now beginning to attract a measure of all-party support. My hon. Friends may have thought that the speech by the hon. Member for Bootle (Mr. Roberts) was a little grudging. There was a recognition that the money was all right but that it was not enough. Just two months ago some of us sat on the Statutory Instruments Committee at which the development corporations were set up. We were told by the hon. Member for Jarrow (Mr. Dixon) that if Labour came to power in the general election it would repeal the legislation to provide these urban development corporations.

We ought to be grateful for the grudging support from the Opposition Front-Bench spokesmen. Indeed, such support is perhaps spreading. At Question Time today the hon. Member for Durham, North-West (Ms. Armstrong) asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he would set up a development corporation in Consett. She obviously welcomed this sort of initiative that we are pioneering elsewhere.

The second reason why urban development corporations and the order are to be welcomed, is that those corporations are now finally up and running. That has not taken long. It is less than a year since it was announced at the Conservative party conference that more urban development corporations were to be created. The original two in London docklands and on Merseyside have been followed by five more. The corporations being established are important for every region in which they are being established, but they are especially important in the northeast. Two of the five corporations being established are in the north-east.

The hon. Member for Bootle spoke about increasing mainstream expenditure to the north. He seems not to have understood that one of the fundamental problems of the north-east is that we have had all the mainstream expenditure. We have had oodles of it. We have had regional aid, rate support grant, housing benefit and subsidies for nationalised industries. Everything that is going we have had. However, the assistance that the region has had now for 25 years has been spread far too widely. It has been blanket regional aid. It has been thinly spread subsidy for nationalised industries. It has been lop-sided rate support grant when what we needed—it was not until this Administration came to power that it was recognised—was much more specific help targeted clearly on those areas in the greatest need.

It is no accident that where public money has been targeted most precisely and specifically, there we have had the best results. Examples are the enterprise zone in Hartlepool, the specific help given to Consett through the Derwentside industrial development agency, the assistance given by the Shildon and South Durham development agency to Shildon, when the railworks were closed. It is in those areas, where public money has been targeted, that the jobs are beginning to return.

The initiative in setting up the urban development corporation on Tyneside and Teesside recognises that, and that the historical and structural problems of the northeast are largely centred on the rivers of Tyne and Wear and Tees. It was on the rivers that the older industries were created and became established—shipbuilding, iron ore, steel works and so on. People were drawn to the river areas, and labour was imported there 100, 75 or 50 years ago. It is in those areas, where those industries have retracted the employment and people have been thrown out of work, that the greatest need is now apparent. The Government, in earmarking the river areas of the northeast, have got it right.

It is also no accident that in those river areas local government has failed, for example, in London, where too many local authorities were getting in each other's way, and too many Labour authorities were choosing the route of high spending, and putting up rates, driving out industries and the jobs that go with them.

Miss Marjorie Mowlam (Redcar)

I shall ask the hon. Gentleman two questions. First, will he explain how, on Teesside, the 43,000 jobs lost under the Tory Government will be replaced? For example, on the water front, about which he is talking, how will a nature reserve and investment of £10 million solve the problem of our job losses?

Mr. Fallon

I was waiting for the second question. The answer to the first question is that it is estimated that this single urban development corporation on Teesside will create, over the lifespan of its initial existence of five to seven years, some 6,000 jobs. That is no mean achievement, and should not be lightly disregarded. We all know that we have lost jobs in manufacturing and the older industries, but if I had been told four years ago that the Government would take a single initiative, and create through it some 6,000 jobs, even I might not have believed it.

I was saying that it is no accident that it is on the riverside areas that local government has failed. The plain fact is that it should not be—[Interruption.]

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)

Order. There is so much sedentary noise below the Gangway that I am not quite sure to which speech I am listening.

Mr. Fallon

It is no accident that urban development corporations are needed now. They would not be needed to get new business into those riverside areas if local authorities had not already failed by driving business out of those areas through their high-rating policies on Tyneside and Teesside.

I believe that the two new corporations that we are financing through the order tonight will cut through the problems with local authorities, the bureaucracy, the inertia that is attracted to bureaucracy and the inherent tendency of labour bureaucracies to choose the highspending, job-destructive route.

The two corporations will succeed, for three reasons. First, they will be very specific, as I have already argued. They will target their resources on relatively small geographic areas. I accept that Teesside is one of the larger areas, but by targeting on such areas that does not mean that they will not be helping the region as a whole. My constituents in Darlington will benefit because they will be able to find jobs in the new businesses that will be brought to Teesside just as jobs will be furnished for those who worked in the older industries. That means that the considerable amounts of money that are spent specifically and locally on Tyneside and Teesside and in development corporation areas will have a much wider and more subtle effect at spreading prosperity and job opportunities more widely across the north-east.

Secondly, the corporations will succeed where local authorities have failed because the corporations have the powers necessary to do so. We have already heard that the corporations have planning powers, and the hon. Member for Bootle was jealous of that. They have powers of compulsory purchase to cut through the inertia that bedevilled the London docklands for so long. They will have the ability to bypass the local politicians and to do in their areas what the London docklands development corporation has done in its to secure regeneration.

Thirdly, they will succeed because they will have the resources, although not the huge sums that have been spread so widely through regional aid or rate support grant which has been spent on subsidising a vast political clientele through housing benefit and rent subsidy. They will have resources specifically to prime the pump for new investment which will help to refurbish the old industrial landscape to attract fresh investment into those areas and the private sector finance that will follow.

Those of us who are serious about regenerating the economy of the north-east will wish the two urban development corporations well. If we are to regenerate the north-east we must begin by regenerating the riverside areas and helping the people who live there. That is the secret to re-establishing a firm economic base in the northeast.

10.52 pm
Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey)

I understood from the Prime Minister's first words after her election victory that she was specifically interested in the inner cities. She said so. However she betrayed her motivation at the same time. She said that she wanted them "for us now". That is what has been happening.

I am glad that the Secretary of State is in the Chamber. The trouble with the Tory party is that it sees what it wants to see and excludes a lot of the unpleasant truth. I am sad that the Minister—whom I welcome to his new job—went through his opening speech with such a flat apparent disinterest in communities where people live and want to continue to live in prosperity.

There is a difference between the London docklands development corporation and the other development corporations. The main difference, as the hon. Member for Bootle (Mr. Roberts) said, is that there was a community resident in the London area first, whereas there was no such community in the other areas. There is all the difference in the world between developing a vacant site and developing a populated one. The people who live on the site might be asked what they want to happen as they know the area better than anyone else.

Of course we welcome the one third increase in public money. Southwark, Tower Hamlets and Newham councils would also welcome a statement from the Secretary of State next week that he will increase their rate support grant by one third, but he will not do that.

The right hon. Gentleman will probably rate-cap one, two or three of them, or plan to do so again. That will cut the public money that locally elected councillors of whatever party can spend and allow the unelected appointees of his office to spend in their stead. If the money is available, there can be regeneration, but in whose interest will that be? The interests that should be served are clear, and we want regeneration for obvious reasons.

In my constituency there is 28 per cent. adult male unemployment. The percentage became substantially higher following the establishment of the London docklands development corporation. Where jobs have been created, they have gone substantially to people who live outside the borough. These jobs have been created largely in service industries, which do not require the natural skills that those in the community want to develop and to find employment in.

There are many jobs that could be done but the strategy has not been to allow the local community to develop the self-help that the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) talks about. It has been self-help for those who have come in with the money and paid the highest price. The regeneration has been in and for the interest of those who started off best. Opposite my home is a site that was sold the other day to Ideal Homes for £20 million. I gather that it is to parcel it up and sell it on. The consortium that was willing to buy the site partly for rented housing, partly for housing associations and partly for co-operative housing was not allowed to do so. Instead, the site was bought by a private developer who is planning to sell it on, for profit, to other developers, and mainly for private housing.

Most of those in my community cannot afford the prices that private housing now commands. Some private flats are being sold for £2.5 million each, while for those in work the average income in the area is between £100 and £200 a week. This is not regeneration in the local interest. Many of the new flats are going to employees of foreign companies. These are foreign employees who already have homes elsewhere and who should be subject to planning permission when it comes to second homes, bearing in mind that there are 15,000 in Southwark on the housing waiting list. Those 15,000 are waiting for a decent first home. This is not regeneration in the interests of the local community.

The land sales and the speculation in development are horrendous. The land price is £1 million an acre. It is immoral that the community has to battle for small pieces of land for a little more rented housing, sheltered accommodation for the elderly or more play space, when down the river the Kuwait Investment Office, through the arm of the St. Martin's Property Corporation Ltd.—I raised this issue on the Adjournment on Friday—wants to erect a building that would look rather like this palace but much larger. It would provide 1.2 million sq ft of office development on a prime riverside site, and it would dwarf everything around it.

There is no employment strategy. Until last year, the LDDC did not have such a strategy, and it is only just beginning to put one together. There is no community development strategy. I do not mind if the Minister does not accept the truth from me because of my political partisanship, but I suggest that he speaks to the Prince of Wales. The Prince visited Tower Hamlets the other day and he was not pleased with what he saw. He saw housing conditions that the Select Committee on the Environment, which is chaired by a Conservative Member, said demanded a national response from this Conservative Government. The Minister should talk to Prince Philip, who chaired the inquiry into British housing, about the housing policies that should be implemented in the inner cities. The princes have views that are certainly not those of the Government.

Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the Prince of Wales said—this appeared in an article in The Times of 4 July—that we want to regenerate the environment and to create viable and self-sustained communities"? The Act on which all these considerations must be based does not require anything to do with people. Instead, it is directed to regenerating profit.

Mr. Hughes

The hon. Gentleman knows as well as I do that the original Act lays down no requirements that the community should have a role to play. That is the fundamental failure. The Government proclaim the morality of the family but ignore the community. To develop over the top of community is to deny the history of the riverside communities, which the hon. Member for Darlington (Mr. Fallon) so lauds, and which have contributed as much as any. It also denies their ability to contribute, which is enormous, and it is what they want to do. Give them decent housing, whether as owner-occupiers at a low price or for rent, public transport and jobs and they will contribute with proper community development.

The hon. Member for Darlington may not yet accept what I am saying, but if they are willing to do so, he and the Minister should come to my constituency, where they can listen to people who have lived through the development of the LDDC and who have battled to hang on to any of the principles which communities are about.

Money could be spent well. It could be spent on providing a decent public transport service north and south of the river. It could be spent on ensuring that our environment is more pleasant, that there is more green space, that there are more open amenity areas and more community facilities. In the basics, however, such as jobs and housing, we must respond to need rather than demand.

The Minister said that there is now competition for development. It is no use having competition for development when local people cannot begin to compete because the price is way beyond their reach. The London docklands is often a rip-off working for the profit of those who started with the most. That is unacceptable, arid it should be unacceptable to people of decency on the other side of the House.

11.1 pm

Mr. Den Dover (Chorley)

Anyone who has listened to the debate so far must conclude that the hon. Members for Bootle (Mr. Roberts) and for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) are keen on public investment in inner cities, whereas our Minister has rightly emphasised how well we have done to attract private investment.

Nobody could have predicted the liveliness and regeneration of the past seven years in the previously derelict and despairing docklands area. I applaud the foresight of my right hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine), then the Secretary of State for the Environment, who did a marvellous job in the docklands and tried to follow up that success in Merseyside.

The Back-Bench Committee on Urban Affairs and New Towns, has considered what needs to be done in inner cities which have had the traumatic experience of job losses and a loss of public confidence and faith in the future. We strongly recommended urban development corporations, which should be scattered around the United Kingdom. I greatly welcome the Government's emphasis on inner cities for the future.

In the east end of London, we have 96 per cent. rented housing. How can that be sensible when we have 70 per cent. owner-occupation in other parts of the country? Private developers such as Wimpey, for whom I worked part-time until the end of last year, have invested in the land, often when it was of negative value and put down houses. People have met that supply of housing with their own cash. Whereas working people in the east end were hamstrung and had to look for rented housing, they have been able to buy housing which has greatly increased in value, thus helping to transform the area.

It must be said, however, that the opportunities in docklands are much better than in Merseyside. A few years ago, though, one would never have expected private investment and jobs to be brought to an area so that local people would have jobs in services, construction and transport. Therefore I welcome the investment and the increase in borrowing powers to ensure that the inner cities are revitalised. The Trafford Park area and the west midlands are very anxious that this development should take place.

I am sure that there will be sensible investment in the infrastructure by the development corporations. There should be small teams of chief officers and experts, because more of the work ought to be handed to private sector consultants. There will be investment in private housing. In the past there has been only rented accommodation and public investment. Land values will increase. The hon. Member for Bootle referred to negative land values on Merseyside. I agree entirely with him. That has to be contrasted with what is happening in docklands and what will happen in the four urban development corporations. All that the Opposition can offer are sour grapes, even though the Government's strong initiative strikes at the heart of regional needs—the need for private investment and the need for an act of faith by the Government of the day. I applaud what the Government are doing.

11.6 pm

Ms. Mildred Gordon (Bow and Poplar)

As this is my maiden speech I take great pleasure in paying tribute to my predecessor, Ian Mikardo. He represented constituencies in Bow and Poplar for 23 years, and he first entered the House in 1950. He was much loved and respected both here and throughout the country for his wit and wisdom. I wish him a happy retirement. I hope that he will write his memoirs so that we can all read the many wonderful stories that he has to tell. My predecessor loved this place and I hope that I shall find it as attractive as he did. When I arrived here I was greeted with cries of, "When are you going to start the book?" I have to inform hon. Members that I shall disappoint them, as I have no talents in that direction.

At first, I found that many things here were strange. It is strange to be debating a serious subject at this time of night. Perhaps this accounts for the fact that out of 633 Members of Parliament only 41 are women. What young woman with children could be attracted to a place in which one has to spend half the night and work such unsocial hours?

At one time I taught in Holloway prison—I hasten to add as a visiting teacher. It shares many similarities with this place, which is dark and gloomy. We lose our name and we are referred to by the name of our constituencies. We hardly see our families, unless they come to visit us in the family room. That is another reason why women are not attracted to stand for Parliament.

The sentence that the result of the election has given to my constituents is very serious. It means that many of them are imprisoned for another four years in crumbling flats and in the despair of poverty and unemployment.

I am very honoured to represent Bow and Poplar. I ask for the indulgence of the House while I speak about the east end. I was born and bred there; I went to school there; my father was a Stepney councillor; I taught for many years in east end schools.

I feel that I know what is needed by the people in the east end and how they feel and think, because I have suffered from many of the same problems. There is widespread unemployment, 28 per cent. among men and 15 per cent. among women. There is a serious problem of homelessness and higher than average mortality and perinatal mortality rates. There are long hospital waiting lists, fewer cars than average and bad transport, particularly from north to south.

Lest anybody should think that all is bleak and gloomy in the east end, I must point out that there is much there that we treasure. There is a rich cultural life; enriched by people from many parts of the world. We have the river. The area in which I was born, once known as Red Cliff, was a salubrious area centuries ago, where people from the City went to take the air and to convalesce. So there is a natural beauty in the area, which has been destroyed by man.

There is also warmth and compassion, and the companionship that enables poor people to survive harsh conditions. There is great courage and close family life, which is under threat because the children of people living in the east end can no longer afford to live there. When they move out, their parents will be left alone to fend for themselves, which is not as it should be.

I lived in the east end during the war when we were under serious threat, but we fought back. I was an air raid warden. My first ideals of Socialism were strengthened when I saw ordinary working men and women, who had never been given the chance to do anything but menial jobs, take command during air raids when the area was cut off. The sent for the fire and rescue services and saw about people being clothed and fed. They did all that and I realised the talent that is wasted among working people because this society has no use for it and does not allow them to get out into the light and to use it.

We are under attack once again. We are under attack from the reforms that are proposed in the Gracious Speech. We cringe when we hear the word "reform". I am reminded of Humpty Dumpty in "Alice Through the Looking Glass", who explained his strange use of words. 'When I use a word' Humpty Dumpty said 'it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.' 'The question is' said Alice 'whether you can make words mean so many different things.' 'The question is' said Humpty Dumpty 'which is to be master, that's all.' In this Government's looking-glass world, the word "reform" is used to mean the opposite of reform. It is used when the Prime Minister means that she is going into the attack. To people in Tower Hamlets, the "reform" of education means that the prices of school meals will increase and that the children whose parents cannot afford the extra fees for woodwork or home economics will be excluded from those extra subjects. Where are we to find the extra teachers to look after the children who will be excluded from those subjects because their parents do not have the money to pay for the materials? "Reform" in education will also mean the introduction of something like the 11-plus. As a former teacher in the east end, I shall have a great deal more to say, when the time comes, about the obscenity of the 11-plus and the loss of confidence that system brought about in 90 per cent. of the children whom I taught.

The "reform" of the Health Service means that we already have a private hospital that is drawing staff from the London hospital, and increasing the waiting lists for people who cannot afford to do other than use the Health Service, which is no longer serving their needs as it should. I have dozens and dozens of letters that are cries of pain from people who cannot get the treatment that they need and, indeed, the treatment for which they have paid when they paid their national insurance contributions.

The "reform" of social security will be an attack on young people who are unemployed. It will make them work for a pittance and undercut other people's wages. It will cut the maternity grant and various other benefits.

The community charge will increase costs for everybody in Tower Hamlets. The average rate per household is £548 and the estimated community charge per adult will be £639. Therefore, even a pensioner or any single person living on his own will have to pay £91 more per year under the community charge. So much for reform.

Now the Government's reforming zeal has been turned to the inner city. The London docklands development corporation is put forward as the jewel in the Government's crown—a blueprint for urban development corporations in other major cities. But we who live with the problems created by the LDDC can tell hon. Members that the jewel is paste and the crown is tarnished. A historic opportunity to solve the housing problems of the east end once and for all is being frittered away.

In Tower Hamlets we need an improved environment, homes and jobs. Let us examine the record of the LDDC. As a child I grew up within the sound of the river, but not the sight of it. I could hear the ships' horns, but in front of me was a grey dock wall. There was a little park some distance away where a small area of the river bank was open and we played. I hoped when those docks closed and the jobs were lost that there would at least be some community gain and at last we could have a riverside walk.

Some £300 million to £400 million has been spent. When I visit the east end and the Isle of Dogs today I get the feeling that it is as the Wild West must have been. There is plunder in the air. The biggest growth industries are wine bars and real estate agents. The area should be developed for the benefit of the people. I do not believe that anyone should be allowed to build right on to the river hank. It should be for the use of the whole population, not for the pleasure of the privileged few.

The proposals for Canary wharf are architecturally and otherwise obscene. It will obscure the view of Greenwich which east enders have enjoyed for many generations. Land prices are rocketing and house prices are spiralling. I have a cutting from a local newspaper about a new development which has just come on the market in Wapping and it states: Under LDDC rules the homes were offered to Tower Hamlets residents for the first month, but there was not a single offer from local people for the flats which cost £90,000 plus. What a mockery! On paper the residents have the first offer of the houses, but they cannot afford to pay for them. Instead the houses go to outsiders and local people have no chance to live in the area where their families have, always lived.

Has the money used by the LDDC been well spent? It claims that 8,000 additional jobs have been created, but more than 5,000 of them were transfers from the outside, from Billingsgate and the printing industry. Only 2,800 of those new jobs were real new jobs. Some 3,355 jobs have been lost through firms being squeezed out by compulsory purchase orders and rising land prices. Despite all that money being spent, there has been a net loss of 517 jobs. So much for the benefits that the LDDC has brought to the unemployed in the east end.

Canary wharf is in my constituency on the Isle of Dogs. This huge development was given planning permission in two weeks—less time than it takes to get planning permission for a fish a chip shop. After 18 months the master building agreement is still not signed. Two of the developers have pulled out and now a new developer from Canada is said to be moving in. It is all secret. We do not know what is happening. We are not consulted. The development is simply being imposed on us. The land was offered to the Canary wharf consortium at a price well below its market value. We do not know how the price was arrived at. Was it based on a certificate from an independent valuer or did the Department of the Environment give its specific consent to dispose of the land at a price lower than its market value? We have not been told.

The local community groups do not want Canary wharf. They do not want the docklands highway that is to go with it, which will make life a misery for many local people, and they do not want to have anything to do with the obscene idea of a £30 million memorial statue in an area where so much else is needed. These disgraceful ideas have nothing to do with the needs of the people in Bow and Poplar.

Peat, Marwick, Mitchell and Co., the accountants of the LDDC, reported that the number of jobs that we had been told that Canary wharf would produce had been vastly overestimated, that most of the jobs would be for people brought in from the outside once again and that only about 1,800 jobs would be provided for local people. Most of those jobs would be part-time and many of them would be cleaning jobs. The developers, on the other hand, were to get very great gains. They would get tax relief which could be written off against of any of their developments anywhere in the country and the Exchequer would pay about £80 million in lieu of rates. Tower Hamlets council will not gain because it will lose the block grant. It will lose £1.3 million for every £1 million of rateable value of Canary wharf and there will be a net loss to the community.

Canary wharf will change the face of the east end and of London. It will extend the City into the east end. Aldgate already looks dehumanised. It is already part of the City, and that change will go further. Local people are considered to be in the way. This is not the first time that people have been pushed out because they ae considered to be in the way. It happened in the 18th century to the peasants, with the enclosure of the land. Today some councils are selling off council estates, moving the tenants out and handing those estates over to private developers.

The London docklands development corporation commissioned a report by Sandra Wallman of University College. She started with recommended points for the consortium of Canary wharf. She talks about dockland traditions, and this is very significant. She said: This issue is more diffuse, covering the need for some parcel(s) of land to be held in trust so that the continuity of the traditional community is assured, the matter of local place names and the environment. Commitment to local identity in all its forms is a serious need at this initial stage. What does that mean? Does it mean that the east enders are to be pushed into some parcel of land that has been set aside, just as the red Indians were pushed into reservations? At least the Dutch bought the island of Manhattan for beads; the LDDC is getting the Isle of Dogs for a song. Is it considering allowing a small group of east enders to stay on the Isle of Dogs to be a sort of living museum—a "chirpy, cheeky, Cockney, chappy" living museum? Would we be walking around wearing cloth caps and mufflers and saying, "Gor blimey, Guy. How's your trouble and strife? She's up the apples and pears." What kind of nonsense is this? Is this what the LDDC has in store for us? Is the City to move in and take over while a few of us will be allowed to stay on some parcel of land, squeezed into a corner of the Isle of Dogs? East enders are not going to stand for that. We refuse to be treated like this.

East enders are proud people; they are fighters. They fought Mosley in Cable street. They knew how to unite—community side by side with community—against the people who were attacking them. They stood firm during the war and they will stand firm against attacks on their way of life today.

We are not backward-looking. We want to keep the best of the old traditions and we want to take advantage of new technology. We want the training that is needed to go with that new technology. We want homes with gardens for our people and for the children. We want jobs and a better environment. We do not want decisions that affect our lives to be taken in secret. We want democratic control of the land to be returned to the community. As we have resisted before we shall resist the LDDC plans that are against our interests now. I shall be proud to be part of that resistance.

11.25 pm
Ms. Hilary Armstrong (Durham, North-West)

As other hon. Members have noted, one of the first acts of the Prime Minister after the election was to reassure us that the Government would do something about "those inner cities" and especially about jobs. The urban development corporations are the Government's answer with regard to jobs and are a means of interfering in the market mechanism.

I welcome that readjustment and realignment in Government thinking. I particularly welcome that change in the hon. Member for Darlington (Mr. Fallon). For many years the hon. Gentleman had preached to us that we should rely upon the market mechanism. I am pleased that there is a recognition of the fact that the market mechanism has signally failed areas such as the north-east.

For years we have known that markets, left to their own devices, cannot create the jobs that are necessary to overcome the divisions we know and experience in British society.

Apparently this £800 million is all there is. I presume to intervene in this debate even though I know that there is no hope of anyone in my constituency benefiting from the establishment of the UDCs. The Under-Secretary of State made that clear in his answer to my question. I believe that he also made it clear that the rationality behind the criteria used to decide which areas will get that aid is somewhat questionable.

My constituency meets all the normal criteria in terms of unemployment levels and deprivation. Every Government report recognises that my constituency meets those criteria. Indeed, the Secretary of State recognised that my constituency has what he calls a "reclaimed site" that would be ideal for more investment. I remind the House that that "reclaimed site" was not derelict when the Government came to power. Then, it was the site of a thriving steel mill. Now it is a derelict, open, green field site. The Government's answer to the massive problems of many areas in Britain is to throw money at them.

It is sad to note that the things over which the Government bashed so many local authorities are now at the heart of their suggestions. The money is to be channelled through organisations whose chairmen, on a daily basis, are costing us much more than the people who ran those democratically elected authorities that the Government got rid of not so long ago because they were too expensive.

Why are the Government and the Secretary of State so frightened of local democracy? We have heard unspecified rumours that the Government are punishing local authorities that hampered development. We have heard the rumour that the only way to get development is to remove any opportunity from local government and put it into non-elected, non-accountable bodies. What does that mean for areas such as north-west Durham? I do not believe that even the Government could say that the local authorities in north-west Durham came anywhere near the category of hampering those people who wanted to establish private development in their area. They have done as much as any local authority could possibly have done.

It is true that within the Derwentside area over 3,000 jobs have been created since the closure of the steelworks site, but at the same time other jobs have been lost and they have been skilled and full-time jobs. Many of the jobs that have been created are unskilled and part-time. Northwest Durham, like many other areas, is an area where there are hundreds of workers willing to change, willing to develop their skills and desperate to make their contribution, but there is no chance now of those people getting the sort of assistance that the Government now recognise is necessary for hope for areas such as that.

The Secretary of State this afternoon accused me of simply knocking the north. I forgive him for that. He does not know me very well. He will know by the end of this Parliament that I fiercely defend the north at every opportunity, but defending and fighting for a future does not mean that I go around with my ears shut and my eyes closed. I cannot develop and open up opportunities for the people who are asking me to so without recognising the depth of their need and the opportunities that they are crying out to be offered and that they are being denied at the moment.

Derwentsicle district council, which is only one of the district councils that comes within my purview, tells me that this week the Audit Commission said that since 1983 there has been no rise in the amount of money that has been spent on rate-related purposes. But the Audit Commission says that Derwentside, nevertheless, has had an exceptionally difficult task because the grant amount of that rate-related expenditure has been significantly reduced in that time. In a council of increasing unemployment, trying to work with local investors, the Government have been taking away money and have not been enabling it to match its needs, as it sees them and as it knows them. This, then, is the result of the Government's flight from democracy, the result of their failure to listen to the people of the north.

When the Secretary of State visited Derwentside last week, he did not meet and talk to those people who have managed to gain the support of the local electorate. He met those people who have signally failed to get the support of the local people. He met his Conservative colleagues. I do not believe that his colleagues in the north represent any real voice and any real thing that the Government should be listening to. If they are going to listen to them, they have got to listen also to the people who have been elected by the people of the north to represent them. With no democratic accountability, with no democratic planning and with no control from any elected body, the money that is being put in will not, I am very sad to say, create the necessary jobs.

I wish that I could believe that the proposal before us this evening will create jobs. It will not work, but not because we will not co-operate. People in the north have demonstrated over generations and to the Government that we will work with them, whatever their proposals are, in whatever way we can, to improve opportunities for our folk. But we know that Government appointees, like colonial administrators, do not know the skills and the capacities of local people. It will not work because the Government have not learned to listen even to people such as Lord Scarman, who argued this week for a much closer partnership between local government and central Government in these necessary interventions in the markets. Such a partnership would mean that central Government might understand a little more about what they were doing in those localities, from which they seem to be so very far removed. All that may seem immaterial to the Government because they have demonstrated that they simply have no idea of the part that local democracy can and must play in economic regeneration.

Given the Government's distaste for local democracy, the people of the north can only look on in horror as a Secretary of State who has destroyed local government is now put in charge of economic regeneration also. We are desperately afraid that new failures will follow old failures. We once again urge the Government to recognise that we will co-operate, but that if we do so they must listen to what the elected people of the north are saying.

11.35 pm
Mr. Trippier

I am anxious to begin my reply to the debate by paying a warm tribute to the hon. Member for Bow and Poplar (Ms. Gordon), who made her maiden speech this evening. Obviously, my colleagues on both sides of the House will welcome her future interventions. I especially welcome the fact that she paid tribute to Ian Mikardo, her predecessor. I do not suppose that I would ever agree politically with Ian on many issues, but there is one exception—small firms. He was an expert in that area. In my former incarnation as the Minister responsible for small firms, I enjoyed many exchanges with him cm the Floor of the House. He was the chairman of the Tower Hamlets local enterprise agency—a post that he filled with distinction. He spoke with great authority about small firms and he supported many of the measures introduced by this Government, especially the local enterprise agency grant scheme—which I introduced—which was a bipartisan measure that drew support from many political parties.

I was interested to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Darlington (Mr. Fallon) make a point that I thought was absolutely true—that support for urban development corporations was coming from many people in different political parties at both local and national level. At least, I thought that to be true until I heard the speech by the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes). I refer him to a statement made by his hon. Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith): The alliance believes that UDCs can do a very useful job. We shall seek to work closely with them. The then Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon (Mr. Patten) intervened, and asked: Is the hon. Gentleman giving us a clear and unequivocal pledge that the urban development corporations will be supported, after the next election, by the alliance? The hon. Gentleman replied: Yes. The Minister may have that pledge."—[Official Report, Sixth Standing Committee on Statutory Instrurnents, &c. 12 May 1987; c. 10–13.]

Mr. Simon Hughes


Mr. Trippier

I am sorry, but I do not have the time to give way. I have only eight minutes to reply. We know that the alliance—if there is such a thing—has difficulties at the moment, but the hon. Gentleman should get to grips with his hon. Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed on this matter. I also suggest to Opposition Members who have spoken, especially the hon. Member for Bootle (Mr. Roberts), that they confer with the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) who said: The Opposition believe that corporations and boards can be an effective machinery for action, and that setting them up is not an attack on local government, as some people would suggest … We hope that the urban development corporation will be a success."—[Official Report, Sixth Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c. 21 January 1987; c. 9–10.] That is absolutely amazing. We cannot believe that those hon. Members could have said that and, prior to a general election which they must have suspected, in their wildest dreams, was looming. Of course, it has come and gone and, fortunately for us, we have been returned with a significant majority to carry on with our good work with urban development corporations.

I was fascinated by the speech of the hon. Member for Bootle. He kept on referring to the council, by which I assume that he meant the former Labour council—[Interruption.] We are all aware of where the hon. Gentleman's constituency is, and that he was talking about Liverpool council.

Mr. Roberts

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Trippier

The hon. Gentleman has had an opportunity to address the House.

Mr. Roberts

The Minister should not misrepresent me.

Mr. Trippier

Would I ever do that?

We heard no criticism of the former Liverpool council, but I do not think that the vast majority of Labour Members would wish to be associated with that council.

The hon. Gentleman referred disparagingly to the Albert Dock. He did not refer to the 2 million people who visit that area bringing with them more money that can be spent in Liverpool and which is creating more jobs.

Most important of all, the hon. Gentleman failed to mention the substantial rate increases that have driven industry out of Liverpool.

Mr. Roberts


Mr. Trippier

My hon. Friend the Member for Darlington made that point with regard to a number of local authorities in the north-east. It is true that that is the greatest disincentive to the growth of enterprise; it acts as a brake on enterprise. It is clear from all that we have done with the UDCs to date that they have been a significant success in this regard.

When the hon. Member for Redcar (Miss Mowlam) intervened in my hon. Friend's speech she referred to the loss of jobs in traditional industries as if, had her party been in Government during that period, it would somehow have been possible to avoid the losses in those traditional industries. Yet no Labour Member has explained why when the last Labour Government were in power unemployment more than doubled. There was a significant loss of jobs in traditional industries, particularly in the north.

Miss Mowlam

I was drawing a comparison between the 45,000 jobs that have been lost in the past eight years and the 6,000 jobs that are promised by the UDC.

Mr. Trippier

The situation would have been far worse had there not been that kind of impetus from UDCs in the areas that we are discussing.

Matters are improving, with unemployment gradually coming down. Obviously it is not declining fast enough and we recognise that it is an unacceptable level of unemployment, but we should be on the same side in trying to stimulate growth in the number of jobs and the expansion of wealth in these areas.

My hon. Friend the Member for Darlington made an important point about the north-east with which I agree. He said that blanket regional aid for the north-east was wrong. I do not think that I have ever heard anybody say that before. I have thought about it on a number of occasions and about the fact that 94 per cent. of the population of the north-east live in an assisted area. It is extremely difficult to focus attention on one constituency or travel-to-work area and attract people from outside that area to it if 94 per cent. of the population are living in an assisted area. What can one do to target aid? When I think of the five different instruments that we have available through the Department of the Environment with the urban block, including the use of UDCs, the 32 schemes that are available through the Department of Employment and the 64 schemes that are available through the Department of Trade and Industry, it is vitally important for the Government, especially in this Parliament, to target aid more specifically. That is one of our roles and that is what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is asking us to do.

Ms. Armstrong

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Trippier

I am sorry I have only one minute left to wind up.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

The hon. Gentleman is mistaken; he has no time.

It being one and a half hours after the commencement of proceedings on the motion, THE DEPUTY SPEAKER put the Question, pursuant to Standing Order No. 14 ( Exempted business).

Question put accordingly

Question agreed to.

Resolved, That the Urban Development Corporations (Financial Limits) Order 1987, a copy of which was laid before this House on 1st May 1987, in the last Session of Parliament, be approved.