HC Deb 30 November 1994 vol 250 cc1190-1
6. Dr. Spink

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what action he is taking to protect small shops in town and village centres from out-of-town super stores and car boot sales.

Mr. Gummer

I am determined to support and improve our town centres, and our planning guidance has been revised to encourage in-town developments.

Dr. Spink

I welcome unreservedly that answer from my right hon. Friend. Does he recall that it is now almost a year since he issued his minded-to-approve decision for a large out-of-town supermarket for Canvey island? The section 106 agreement has been delayed unacceptably by Aldersgate Development. Will he do what he can to bring that agreement forward so that my council and my constituents know what is happening about that development?

Mr. Gummer

It is very important that people should know where they stand, and I will do all I can to ensure that there is a solution to that problem. However, I am sure that my hon. Friend noticed that the Labour party clearly does not think that it is a good idea to improve in-town developments and make our town centres live again. We know who is on the reactionary side in the House.

Mr. Lewis

Does not the Secretary of State realise what a ridiculous figure he cuts at the moment—[Interruption.]—the Whale show—as he spends taxpayers' money trying to push through the Dumplington scheme in Greater Manchester, while at the same time he pretends to be in favour of in-town shopping?

Mr. Gummer

The hon. Gentleman must know that the issue at stake is whether decisions by previous Secretaries of State should stand or whether they can be continually second-guessed thereafter. Any Secretary of State in my position would stand up for the maintenance of certainty in these decisions. That is precisely why I answered my hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Dr. Spink) in the way that I did. What is more, if there ever were a Labour Secretary of State for the Environment, he would do precisely the same.

Dr. Twinn

Does my right hon. Friend agree that out-of-town shopping centres are popular with the driving public because people can park their cars easily and for free? If we are going to make town centres competitive in respect of out-of-town shopping—and we should be doing that—does he agree that it is up to local authorities and shop owners in city centres to make city centres competitive, which means free parking?

Mr. Gummer

My hon. Friend is quite right to say that parking arrangements are crucial to delivering the in-town shopping centres that we want. Local authorities must make that possible and recognise that car parking is not a matter largely for them but that it can be much better run by those with an economic interest in the success of city centres, who run better car parks and ensure that there is closed circuit television to cover them.