HC Deb 03 March 1987 vol 111 cc712-3
2. Mr. Spencer

asked the Paymaster General what recent initiatives he has taken to promote employment in the inner cities.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke

So far I have approved some 75 projects committing around £4 million in our eight inner city task force areas, which will encourage enterprise training and job creation. We have also concentrated the efforts and programmes of the Manpower Services Commission and other Government Departments on the eight areas and their residents. We are also making progress on the greater use of local labour on inner city building work and targeted training schemes which link training with specific job opportunities for local people.

Mr. Spencer

When we welcomed my right hon. and learned Friend to Leicester recently in the inner area, did he notice the increase in the number of small businesses and the amount of training available, which has given rise to a large increase in jobs? Does he not think that the time has come for the city council to put its opposition to the Highfields task force on one side and show where its compassion really lies?

Mr. Clarke

I agree that the hostility of the extreme council in Leicester has slowed up progress in the early stages in that city. I have been told that the latest example of that is that the city council is refusing to co-operate with the Industrial Society in introducing the head start programme for training for young people, so its officers, in effect, cannot discuss the matter with the Industrial Society's officers. However, we are getting on without them and finding the sponsors we require. On my recent visit to Leicester, I was extremely grateful to my hon. Friends for introducing me to those who wish to take advantage of the scheme. I was also delighted to announce grants to the textile arts centre to increase the training of many more young people in the skills which are in desperately short supply in Leicester in the textile industry.

Mr. Mason

With regard to promoting employment, is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that since the Government changed the assisted area status map more than two years ago, there have been massive job losses, especially in coal mining areas due to pit closure programmes? If he wants to promote employment will he now consider changing the assisted area status map once again and—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The question is about inner cities.

Mr. Mason

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman consider areas, such as Barnsley, which have suffered drastically from job losses and give them development area status so that they can benefit from the new investment that goes with it?

Mr. Clarke

Development area status is, of course, a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. The job losses that have been caused in south Yorkshire have been largely the consequence of the closure of uneconomic coal mines taking place in a short space of time. Certainly my Department will consider the problems being created in some of those south Yorkshire towns, and, if any of them could benefit from the inner city initiative, I will certainly consider that.

Mr. Brandon-Bravo

My right hon. and learned Friend has often acknowledged that the promotion of employment, particularly in our inner cities, is a most complex matter which is not often helped by the actions and words of Opposition Members. Does he agree that one area of action is in real estate and land development? My right hon. and learned Friend has been most kind in meeting business men and others from the city of Nottingham. Will he comment on the degree of interdepartmental co-operation in that area?

Mr. Clarke

I made a special visit to the part of Nottingham represented by my hon. Friend. Indeed, my right hon. and noble Friend the Secretary of State for Employment and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment have recently paid visits to the city. We have seen the vast extent of unoccupied land and the need for more work experience and training of people living in the centre of Nottingham. I assure my hon. Friend that we are all working closely together to consider how to take further forward the present encouraging signs of a desire to take an initiative within the city.