HC Deb 04 June 1996 vol 278 cc392-3
8. Mr. Booth

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what plans he has to extend challenge funding. [29779]

Mr. Curry

We announced on 15 May the Government's decision to proceed with a pilot scheme for the allocation of local authority credit approvals through competitive bidding.

Mr. Booth

Is my hon. Friend aware that Conservative Members, at least, welcome the success of challenge funding and the principles behind it, especially as they affect inner cities? We also welcome its extension to other areas and the help that it will provide for estate action. The Opposition will never understand such success, nor could they ever achieve it, because they do not understand competition.

Mr. Curry

I have some sympathy with my hon. Friend's view. I regret that the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) was not at the Leeds Armories 10 days ago to hear his hon. Friend the Member for Stoke—on—Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher) praising the single regeneration budget and the principle behind the Government's regeneration policies. I am afraid that the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras is 15 years out of date.

It is true to say that our programmes based on competition work because they oblige people to get together, to put common programmes together and to secure additional funding—and therefore they get the best out of people and out of communities. Those are the principles to which we shall continue to adhere.

Mr. Dalyell

What is the justification for extending a system which, frankly, owes more to presentation than to substance?

Mr. Curry

The system of competitive bidding and regeneration owes everything to substance. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would care to take a trawl around the United Kingdom—perhaps by bicycle, if he is to follow the Opposition's precepts—and call in on some of the city challenge programmes and single regeneration budget programmes. He should also look at some of the urban development corporations. He will find that Labour authorities which, five or six years ago, were hostile to their very establishment are now saying that it has been an extremely productive use of funding, that competition works and that they hope that the programmes will continue. I pay tribute to those local authorities that are now acting co-operatively, working well and creating partnerships to deliver benefits for their communities. That is because the Government started that approach and I am glad that other people are following. The hon. Gentleman will eventually follow them.

Forward to