HC Deb 28 October 1987 vol 121 cc294-5
14. Mr. Rooker

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if he is satisfied with the progress made by the Handsworth task force in stimulating employment in Birmingham.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke

I am very satisfied with the progress made by the Government's Handsworth task force in stimulating employment in the Handsworth area of Birmingham. Since it was set up in February 1986 the task force has been very successful in targeting Government programmes more effectively in Handsworth. It has also worked closely with the local community and the private sector to encourage the growth of enterprise and employment for local people. In total 45 projects have received task force top-up support amounting to some £2.4 million, which has helped to lever a further £4 million from private sector and other public sector sources.

Mr. Rooker

I thank the Minister for that answer and pay tribute to that small contribution to the Handsworth part of my constituency. Is the Minister not disappointed that the task force was unable to help more people already in work stay in work by its refusal to fund the latchkey project at the Handsworth day care centre? The day care centre was told by the task force that it fulfilled all the criteria, but that it did not have a politically high enough profile. Does the Minister accept that that is not a good enough reason for not giving away Government money?

Mr. Clarke

I very much doubt that that was the reason, and I shall inquire into it. I shall go back and look at that case again. I realise that the hon. Gentleman is constrained to give faint praise to the task force, and perhaps I should be constrained in giving faint praise to him and the Birmingham city council. There is, however, a high level of co-operation in Handsworth between the task force, the city council and on all political fronts. I shall certainly make sure that no projects are turned down for any party political or other political reason.