HC Deb 27 January 1993 vol 217 cc1028-9
5. Mr. Jim Cunningham

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement on the urban programme in Coventry.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Robin Squire)

The urban programme has supported, and will continue to support, some excellent projects to improve the quality of life for those who live and work in Coventry. In addition, Coventry city council has bid for urban partnership fund resources for 1993–94 to boost the extra spending power that it will have as a result of the change in the capital receipts rules.

Mr. Cunningham

Does the Minister realise that his statement is made against a background of diminishing resources? Did he carry out an evaluation before he announced a reduction in the urban programme over a period of years? Did he, along with his colleagues, also take into consideration the consequential effect of a reduction in the urban programme and, at the same time, the abandonment of the safer cities project? What hope can he offer people in inner cities, not only in Coventry but in the rest of the country, bearing in mind the serious disturbances last summer? Equally, will he take into account the effects on organisations such as community relations councils and CREDO, which do a tremendous amount of work in the inner cities, not only among the unemployed but in the black community?

Mr. Squire

Of course, all proper consideration was given before the announcement, but programmes must evolve in response to changing circumstances. It would be quite wrong to look at the urban programme in isolation from all other resources that the Government put into inner cities. In 1993–94 the Government will spend some £90 million more over the full range of our programmes in the inner cities than we previously intended.

Mr. Butcher

Will my hon. Friend keep a close eye on urban programmes in Coventry, some of which have been put to good use, and see to it that the accounting officers ensure that they get value for money? Will he also point out that good use has been made of the safer cities programme? When he visits Coventry next week, will he take some of the leaders of the council to one side and tell them that it might help their case if they stopped blaming the Government for all their ills and looked at the pattern of overspending for the past eight years which has led to some rather brutal decisions having to be made in recent months?

Mr. Squire

I am grateful for my hon. Friend's comments. He speaks with great knowledge of Coventry. It is certainly the case that authorities throughout the country—many of which have not benefited from urban programmes and will not benefit from them next year—have been able to fund precisely the sort of projects that concerned the hon. Member for Coventry, South-East (Mr. Cunningham) by efficient management of their resources.

Mr. Alan Howarth

Will my hon. Friend pay tribute to the remarkable work in Coventry of the Foleshill and Hillfields task force, led by Brian Laughland? Is he aware that when the task force completes its mission shortly—as was always the intention—it will have assisted more than 800 businesses and trained more than 4,000 people and that the beneficial effects of its initiatives in Coventry, taken in partnership with the city council and local community groups, will continue?

Mr. Squire

I commend to the House my hon. Friend's excellent words. He mentioned one task force. There are 16 and they are making significant inroads into inner city problems, creating jobs and improving training. Hon. Members on both sides of the Chamber know that and would applaud it in terms similar to those used by my hon. Friend.