HC Deb 21 June 1995 vol 262 cc340-1
10. Ms Corston

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment when he next intends to meet the chairman of English Partnership to discuss its progress. [28036]

Mr. Curry

My right hon. Friend will meet Lord Walker on 17 July.

Ms Corston

What steps does the Minister propose to take to ensure that local councils receive the help that they require with their plans for regeneration? Does he not realise that it is vital that the creation of a new agency should not be regarded as a substitute for Government action to help local councils with their plans for local regeneration and to help local businesses to bring prosperity to communities and cities?

Mr. Curry

I am sure that the hon. Lady will know that I have had detailed discussions with the Bristol development corporation, of which the chairman of Bristol local authority is a member, to try to make progress on the development scheme and to bring it to a successful completion. Two schemes previously proposed by the corporation have not materialised. There is now one on which I have authorised negotiations. I hope that that will be successful, but we must ensure that, when the corporation does come to an end, an organisation exists that is able to take over the assets. I have therefore insisted that there should also be discussions with English Partnership, a body that is very experienced in the subject. I hope that the private sector development will succeed, that I shall be able to authorise it and that the third one will be the lucky one. At the same time, it is important for the protection of Government money to ensure that there is a failsafe mechanism.

Mr. Vaz

Does the Minister accept that when the Government created English Partnership they failed to make clear that organisation's role? Will he now accept the views of the private sector and others, and initiate a thorough review of the role and functions of English Partnership so that it plays an important part in our regeneration process rather than being just another Government quango, as it is at present?

Mr. Curry

The Opposition have clearly caught review mania. It is amazing that they do not demand a review of whether today is Wednesday. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Leicester, East (Mr. Vaz) does not even know the answer to the question—not surprisingly.

English Partnership has a clear role: to assist in development, to act as a partner in development and as a focus and help for inward investment, and to use Government resources in the most cost-effective manner. That role is played admirably by Lord Walker, who has a very good knowledge of how government and the private sector work, and of regeneration—in fact. he is almost everything that the hon. Member for Leicester, East is not.