HC Deb 13 January 1988 vol 125 cc284-5
14. Mr. Allen

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster how many people in his Department are employed on inner-city policy.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke

Inner-city policy is an important part of my Department's responsibilities and all members of staff take account of it in their work. Policy is coordinated by the inner cities unit, which employs 26 staff. There are also 88 people in the inner-city task forces, as well as some staff in my regional offices who work with the interdepartmental city action teams.

Mr. Allen

What policies does the right hon. and learned Gentleman have to assist the outer cities?

Mr. Clarke

The outer cities are benefiting considerably from the general revival in the British economy and the rapid fall in the level of unemployment. I agree that there are outer estates of some cities where social problems and the problems associated with unemployment are just as severe as those found in inner-city areas. Any lessons found while we develop new policies in inner cities which promote the physical redevelopment of cities and training and employment opportunities for their residents can happily be applied to outer-city districts as we go along.

Mr. Nicholas Bennett

My right hon. and learned Friend's reply will be a great encouragement to those of us who represent rural constituencies which nevertheless contain towns which have similar social and economic problems to those experienced in some inner cities. I am delighted to hear that he will pass on any solutions.

Mr. Clarke

We help with the development of employment—creating activity in rural areas through such organisations as the Council for Small Industries in Rural Areas. I am sure my hon. Friend agrees that the problems in rural areas are sometimes different in nature and background from those in cities, but anything that we develop which speeds up the physical redevelopment of cities and the creation of new work and business opportunities ought to be applied wherever it is relevant.

Mr. Caborn

I do not know whether to offer the Minister congratulations or commiserations on the announcement that was made just before Christmas, now that he has responsibility for co-ordinating all the Government's inner-city policies. In that position, will he address the problems of ignorance and utter confusion in inner cities about grant regimes and the Government's policy towards inner cities? Will he respond to the ever-growing calls, which now embrace the Confederation of British Industry, the Trades Union Congress, local authorities and the churches, which produced "Faith in the City", and the Prince of Wales, who only a few weeks ago said that the Government must take account of local authorities and respond to local needs and opinions? Will the Minister produce a White Paper in the near future setting out how policies for inner cities will be coordinated?

Mr. Clarke

By making the appointment my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister clearly felt that we needed to explain more clearly the policies that we are developing. The Government know exactly what the relationship is between urban development corporations, inner-city task forces, city action teams and enterprise zones. We work well together and will continue to do so. Where coordination is called for, as I work for the Prime Minister, I look forward to being involved. There will certainly be a White Paper, which we hope will encourage yet more private sector companies to become involved with us and local authorities which want to take a positive view of these matters. In my work so far I have worked closely with Conservative-controlled city authorities in Nottingham and Wolverhampton, and Labour-controlled ones in Birmingham and Hartlepool. The hon. Gentleman knows, given where he stands in the Labour party, that there are some councils where it is rather more difficult to work.

Mr. Tim Smith

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the key to a successful inner-city policy is not the number of people employed in his or any other Department, but the extent to which successful coordination, now, I am glad to say, organised by my right hon. and learned Friend, encourages private sector investment in inner-city areas and the jobs that go with it?

Mr. Clarke

I agree strongly with my hon. Friend. Some Opposition Members judge any policy by how many staff it employs and how much public money it spends. We judge these things by results, and they are best achieved by bringing private sector business, initiative and employment back into inner cities. That is what we are trying to do.