HC Deb 17 May 1995 vol 260 cc323-5
8. Mr. Enright

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what plans he has to extend the city pride initiative. [23198]

Mr. Gummer

Birmingham, London and Manchester have made tremendous progress in pursuing city pride. We will look at what they have achieved before extending the initiative.

Mr. Enright

Is not the way in which the Government look at special schemes and then set them up, excluding other areas, somewhat arbitrary? I am thinking particularly of the single regeneration initiative, which is not all bad and in which some very good things are happening. However, its arbitrary nature is excluding certain areas. South Elmsall, South Kirkby and Upton have been put together, but Hemsworth in the middle, which has equally desperate needs, is not included and that impedes other initiatives.

Mr. Gummer

The single regeneration budget is not in any way arbitrary. People are able to bid for the money and we try to ensure that the bids which provide the best use of the money are met. We try to help those who have failed in the first round to prepare for the bids in the second round. The hon. Gentleman will find that the mix that is achieved—a mixture of meeting the need and finding the best capacity contra to the money put in by the taxpayer—is valuable.

Birmingham, London and Manchester were not chosen arbitrarily. They are the three largest towns in England and it seemed sensible to spread the choice geographically. We must remember that Birmingham has not yet launched its final draft of city pride, but if we find that those cities produce what we hope that they will, we will look to see whether others want to participate. The scheme does not exclude others. When I first announced it, I said that if cities wanted to start outside the scheme, they could do so in the same position as Birmingham, Manchester and London.

Mr. McLoughlin

Will my right hon. Friend consider the possibility of using more private sector involvement in the schemes? I am sure that he is aware of the huge amount of money that the Government are spending on regeneration throughout the country, in both city pride and city challenge. The Government get very little credit for the amount that is spent, perhaps because they usually have to work with hostile Labour local authorities.

Mr. Gummer

It would be helpful in this area to recognise the very large amount of money that the taxpayer puts into these schemes and the significant success of bringing in private capital. There ought to be cross-party support for that. If we get at least £4 and sometimes even £5 or £6 from the private sector for every £1 put into these schemes, we get a great deal more money to help people and to provide the things about which both sides of the House ought to be concerned.

It seems to me that we can at least agree that this initiative is sensible and proper and successful. We must see how we can make it more successful and effective. I want to do that by getting greater co-operation.

Let us take the Manchester scheme. Under city pride, for the very first time, Manchester council is working well with the other two authorities that make up Manchester—Manchester council hardly talked to one of those authorities previously, even though it was a Labour-controlled council—and with the urban development corporations, which were damned from the housetops when they started.

Mr. Vaz

The whole House realises that city pride is nothing more than a public relations exercise initiated by a beleaguered Secretary of State who has run out of ideas for regeneration policy. Despite that, the Manchester, Birmingham and London pride initiatives have used their own time, efforts and resources to prepare excellent policy documents. How does the Secretary of State intend to turn those vision statements into reality when, as he knows, city pride offers no extra resources to any of those local authorities?

Mr. Gummer

I am told by the press that the hon. Gentleman is always a nice man, so I will answer him as nicely as I can, given the total absence of truth in his question. The truth of the matter is that Manchester, London and Birmingham have produced their documents and are very pleased with the co-operation, not only with the Government as a whole but with the Government offices concerned. In one way or another, they have all received significant sums from the single regeneration budget. I am pleased to say that Manchester asked me, as Secretary of State, to launch its scheme, so keen was it on city pride. The hon. Gentleman ought to talk to some of his supporters occasionally.

Mr. Ian Bruce

Does my right hon. Friend appreciate that it does not always need Government cash to get those principles in place? Will he look at what Purbeck district council has done in setting up Purbeck Pride, with only private sector money and not a penny from the Government? The council is creating the sort of pride that is bringing more tourism and business into Purbeck without a penny of public subsidy.

Mr. Gummer

My hon. Friend will have noticed that the hon. Member for Leicester, East (Mr. Vaz) not only laughed at the activities of Labour councils in Manchester and Birmingham and many of those in London that are working for city pride, but evidently finds any reference to a rural area incredibly comic. The fact is that the Labour party does not care about rural areas at all. My hon. Friend points out that in many rural areas, entirely by private initiative working with local authorities, we are doing a great deal to achieve what must be done to secure better opportunities for jobs and employment in those areas.