HC Deb 16 July 2003 vol 409 cc269-70
5. Linda Perham (Ilford, North)

If he will make a statement on the role of his Department in promoting social inclusion. [125863]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Yvette Cooper)

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister works with other Departments and local agencies to address the problems faced by deprived areas, in particular to tackle problems highlighted by the social exclusion unit. There has been important progress, including, for example, a 10 per cent. drop in teenage pregnancies over the past three years.

Linda Perham

What message can my hon. Friend give to local authorities such as the London borough of Redbridge, run by the self-styled party for the vulnerable, which has abolished cabinet responsibility for social inclusion and torpedoed the project for promoting social inclusion?

Yvette Cooper

I am sorry to hear that the council has not taken social exclusion seriously. There are unjust inequalities in this country. It is not fair that people's chances in life should depend on where they live and what jobs their parents do. There are a series of investment programmes to tackle social exclusion, including sure start. Wise local government works with those programmes, not just because they are good for those on low incomes, but because they are good for the whole community.

Dr. Vincent Cable (Twickenham)

Does the Minister agree that one of the best ways to promote social inclusion is to incorporate affordable housing in high-income housing developments? Is she aware that significant numbers of developers are evading their planning obligations by building small, exclusive developments under the 14-house threshold? Will she address that anomaly urgently?

Yvette Cooper

The hon. Gentleman raises an important issue, of which the Government are aware. There are discretionary powers for local government in that regard. It is an important matter that needs to be addressed. That is why the Government have a wide programme to promote affordable housing and housing for key workers in particular areas.