HC Deb 25 November 1987 vol 123 cc243-5
3. Mr. Bowis

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if he will give the most recent figures for the establishment of manufacturing and service industry firms in the inner cities.

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister of Trade and Industry (Mr. Kenneth Clarke)

I regret that the information requested by my hon. Friend is not available because we do not keep the statistics on this basis.

Mr. Bowis

Nevertheless, does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that, although the Government are making great strides in their policy towards encouraging investment in the inner cities in both manufacturing and services, there is still great scope for more private investment? Will he examine in particular the concept of the tax-exempt bond, along the lines of the industrial revenue bonds that have worked successfully in America?

Mr. Clarke

I agree that there is scope for more encouragement of new investment and start-up business in inner-city areas. That is why we are working so closely in many ways with Business in the Community, Investment in Industry and the clearing banks, and with the task force areas in particular, to try to boost investment. I am familiar with the tax-exempt bonds used in the United States. My hon. Friend will no doubt address questions on that to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, too. I am not sure that the tax relief policies of the United States would automatically command support here.

Mr. Madden

Is the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster aware that while he and Lord Young have been conspiring to get control of the Prime Minister's inner-city campaign, that campaign has died a death? Will he confirm that unless the Government are prepared to inject substantial new money into rebuilding inner cities, such as Bradford, private investment will not have the confidence to be forthcoming? When will he revive the campaign and inject substantial new money so that the important job of rebuilding our inner cities can get under way?

Mr. Clarke

I thought that public interest in a non-existent campaign by my noble Friend and myself had died a death. No such campaign is taking place. The Governments inner-city policy—the urban development corporations, the city action teams and the inner-city task forces—is going ahead with great strength. More than 200 private sector firms are collaborating with our 16 inner-city task forces in projects of all kinds.

Mr. Holt

Would my right hon. and learned Friend care to refute the statement by the hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Madden) by pointing out to him that £100 million of private investment has been put into Teesside development corporation in the 10 weeks since it was established?

Mr. Clarke

I can certainly confirm that. There is very widespread support in Teesside for the work that is beginning in the urban development corporation area. We are backing the Cleveland youth business centre, and that idea is now making very reasonable progress, with private sector and public sector funds going into the project.

Mr. Caborn

It is appalling that the answer to the question is that the information is not available, especially as the Minister is personally in charge of the inner-city task force and, as I am led to believe, gives his personal endorsement to every scheme. Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that many organisations—particularly chambers of commerce, chambers of trade and local authorities — are highly critical of the Governments unco-ordinated piecemeal approach to the inner-city and urban regeneration policies? What exactly is happening on the Government side? The Daily Telegraphon Monday said: Thatcher set to appoint Inner Cities Minister. Who is now co-ordinating the policy? The Prime Minister seems to be setting up yet another Ministry for the inner cities. Will the Chancellor tell us the exact position with regard to the co-ordination of inner-city policies? Who has control?.

Mr. Clarke

No Government have ever kept statistics on a separate inner-city basis of the kind that have been asked for. I certainly agree that there is a case for considering whether we should keep statistics on that basis. We have always had the support of chambers of commerce and we have had the support of growing numbers of private sector companies. I have had discussions with the CBI, and I am already working with Business in the Community. Since the election most local authorities, too, have been working with us on inner-city policy.

On the last question, the hon. Gentleman knows that the Prime Minister is co-ordinating the Governments inner-city policy, which is consuming a great deal of effort and many resources in a large number of Government Departments.