HL Deb 24 October 1979 vol 402 cc176-93

8.5 p.m.

The Earl of KIMBERLEY rose to ask Her Majesty's Government, in view of the continuing dereliction of the London docklands, what is their policy towards assisting private enterprise to encourage active participation in the regeneration of this area.

The noble Earl said: My Lords, the designated area of Docklands is but a small part of the tip of five boroughs: Tower Hamlets, Newham, Greenwhich, Lewisham, and Southwark and it takes up an area of about 8½ square miles. The majority of its land fringes on the Thames, with perhaps part of Newham not quite so adjacent. With containers and larger ships Tilbury became the modern deep-water dock for London and its principal port. Therefore, the other docks on the river declined and the decline was made even greater by the fact that there were other ports on the East and the South coasts of England.

During the last 30 years neither Government nor private enterprise were prepared to invest any money in this area and so alas! it slipped into even more disuse and ultimate degradation and dereliction. In olden times ships got as close as possible to the City of London, which is why the first bridge that we have is Tower Bridge. The only other links that we have down stream crossing the Thames are the Rotherhithe Tunnel, the Blackwall Tunnel, the Woolwich Ferry, the Greenwich pedestrian tunnel and the Dartford Tunnel. Without adequate road and rail access the whole area has become totally unviable for industry and commerce. There have been recent proposals for northern and southern relief roads which would give access to the motorways and thus link the North and the South of the Thames. They would run from the Isle of Dogs to the east end of the Surrey Docks.

In 1971 the Department of the Environment closely examined the area and all five boroughs requested assistance from the GLC so that they could start new industries. Thus, in 1974 the Docklands Joint Committee was formed and the then Secretary of State for the Environment called for the release of statutory land. Since then virtually nothing has happened. The dock workers have had a very hard time, watching their livelihood vanish and disappear before their eyes. They fought a strong but unavailing rearguard action. As a result they have had to have generous redundancy and resettlement arrangements to alleviate their troubles.

No new jobs are being generated in the area as industry will not move there unless it has a proper road infrastructure. In another place last night in a debate on the London Transport Bill the honourable Member for Newham said: Everyone is agreed that there should be development in dockland. The question is: what sort should it be? Everyone is agreed that there should be better transport in dockland. The questions are: what sort of transport, where shall the money come from and what type of facilities shall the community invest in?"— [Offical Report, Commons, 23/10/79, cols. 294–5.] The present population of Docklands is about 55,000. The Greater London population is just under seven million and the South-East standard region has a population of nearly 17 million. With the ever-increasing fuel costs and the evermore vital need for conservation of fuel, which has been so firmly stated by Her Majesty's Government, surely there must be a very strong logistic case to be made out for encouraging industry and commerce in this area, the most densely populated area of its size in the whole of Europe.

Your Lordships will well know that in the past port may well have improved through long sea journeys, but cornflakes and detergents do not improve; they simply cost more, particularly if the consumer is 100 miles or more away from the factory. Since 1971 each borough has remained very largely parochial and independent in its outlook on Docklands. These boroughs have not looked really beyond their own boundaries. I say this without acrimony because local councils are elected to look after local needs. I maintain that central Government must look after the overall picture and the "national interest". The development of this dilapidated and derelict area, which is a disgrace to the nation, must be of prime national concern. If the area was put under one authority it would immediately qualify for assistance from the EEC. I shall come back to this in a moment.

The present planning proposals show a complete lack of awareness of the role that private enterprise and investment will play in the redevelopment of the area provided public works are committed to improving the access. But there must also be a guarantee that at some future date there will not be a cut-back. No major institution or pension fund—and there are many—will invest millions of pounds in a section of Docklands only to discover that the main access to service the development might be postponed for two or three years.

I have seen letters of intent from some of the largest funds stating that they will not proceed without this assurance. I contend that the Government have no right to hinder further the implemention of the road infrastructure. The area is fast becoming a graveyard. Young people are moving away and soon only the old will remain. It is an indictment of Government that they have not yet taken instant power to reverse the situation. It would capture the imagination of the whole nation were the Government to act forthrightly. After all, Her Majesty's Government give incentives for industrial development in parts of South Wales, North West Scotland, and various other parts of the United Kingdom both to developer and to tenant. I should like to know what advantages and incentives there are for private industry to come to London's own Docklands.

The unemployment level is high in the Docklands area—probably about 1 in 9. That was the figure quoted last night in another place. It is unfortunate that the employment exchanges overlap the boundaries so that it is difficult to get a precise figure for the particular area, but it is probably as high as anywhere in the whole of the United Kingdom. In the circumstances it would be shameful if the Government failed to designate Dock-lands as an assisted area and thus entitle it to achieve aid from the EEC. There are three sources of aid from the EEC. First, the European Social Fund; secondly, the European Regional Development Fund; and thirdly, the European Investment Bank. The Secretary of State has it in his power to breathe new life into the area now, and one of my questions will be to request that he should do so forth with and thus end the shameful state that exists in our otherwise great and magnificent capital city.

One of the original questions I was going to ask was that the Government should form an Urban Development Corporation to control and develop the Docklands area. I am certainly not alone in welcoming the announcement by the Secretary of State that legislation to create such a corporation will be included in the forthcoming Local Government Planning and Land Bill next month. It has however been implied in the Press that the consultative document on the creation of these new urban development corporations may well make it out that they will not come into being until 1981. I should like to plead with, or even ask, my noble friend if he will endeavour to see that this date should be advanced to March 1980 at the latest. Such a delay will only put a further break on development of the area, which would be in tolerable.

The consultative document issued by the Department of the Environment last week sets out the reason for forming an Urban Development Corporation and one must accept that the motive is correct. It is to put the area under a single autonomous body since the Docklands Joint Committee has failed to produce results, and there have been far too much talk, far too many plans, and far too few results. However, this can be rectified.

For your Lordships' information, these bodies which exist at the moment at great expense are there basically to make London's Docklands viable. They are the Docklands Joint Committee; the Docklands Land Board; and the Dock-lands Development Organisation. I should like to suggest as an immediate and possible alternative to the Urban Development Corporation, why not give the Docklands Land Board the right to acquire and assemble land by compulsory purchase, if necessary, and have public sector land, in the area, transferred to that Board? For example, the surplus land owned by the Port of London Authority. Will the Government confirm that such land, which is incidentally 27 per cent. of the area, could be transferred to the agency that exists for this purpose; i.e., the Docklands Land Board?

I agree that it is the intention that the Urban Development Corporation will have this power in any event, financed by the Treasury on a grant and borrowing basis, so why not the Docklands Land Board? Such acquisitions would be on the recommendation of the Docklands Development Organisation. Since we know that the necessary millions of pounds will not be forthcoming from the Midastic pension funds and insurance companies, unless the northern and southern relief roads are guaranteed, the Minister could authorise their construction and then pass the control to the Docklands Development Organisation.

Finally, since the results have been pathetic in relation to the whole concept and urgency of implementation of a positive renewal of the area, let us remove the deadwood, streamline the Docklands Committee, Organisation and Board, and elect one man as absolute chairman over the three agencies, answerable directly to the Secretary of State. The qualifications of that individual, beyond total integrity, would be an excellent and successful business career combined with an understanding and sympathy for the area. A man, in short, who is altruistic, commercial, and a fearless and brave leader. I refuse to believe that we do not have a character like that somewhere in this country.

I have already given my noble friend Lord Bellwin notice of some of my questions with a view, hopefully, of trying to make this debate rather more constructive than it otherwise might be. I ask first, in view of the urgency of the problem, will the Minister take special powers for the formation and commencement of the Urban Development Corporation, to bring the date forward to March 1980 at the latest? Secondly, should this not be practicable, will the Minister invest the necessary authority in the existing Dock-lands Committee, Organisation and Board simultaneously appointing an overall chairman, and insisting at the same time on rational streamlining of the existing authorities? Thirdly, will the Government immediately declare the area designated as docklands an "assisted area" so that it may properly benefit through the EEC Regional and other funds? It seems that the Government, quite rightly, feel that we may be paying too much as our share to the EEC. Maybe we are, but we could get back what we are paying many times over if this project could be given the go-ahead.

Fourthly, could my noble friend the Minister ensure that the private sector is properly represented on the Board and/or Boards which would thus weld the sharp edge of enlightened enterprise to what has been the blunt blade of bureaucracy? Fifthly, can my noble friend give an assurance that the Secretary of State will meet a representative body from the private sector in the very near future, to quote that horrible expression, "like right now", bearing in mind that the private sector wishes to promote Dock-lands in conjunction with local and central Government? Sixthly, will the Government, without further delay guarantee a starting and finishing date for the northern and southern relief roads? Last night in another place the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport said: We must look at the needs of Docklands. Everyone is agreed that there are important transport deficiencies in the way of reviving Docklands. Providing the proper transport infrastructure is a key point in getting the Dock-lands strategy moving".—[Official Report, Commons, 23/10/79, col. 310.] This would allow pension and other funds to concentrate new development in the area. One would imagine, for example, that the National Coal Board pension fund would prefer to help its deprived brothers in Docklands rather than speculate vast sums in the United States.

My last question, No. 7, is this: Bearing in mind that the public is ignorant of the true connotation of Docklands, particularly as the area is no longer really a dockland, will Her Majesty's Government state that their intentions for the rehabilitation of this area are of such vital importance to the nation that they will designate it as "New London"? Her Majesty's Government believe in private enterprise. Docklands is not a lame duck; it is a goose that will lay a golden egg, for vast employment and productivity will be generated if the Government will take the initiative, and hundreds of millions of pounds from the private sector is waiting for the green light.

8.22 p.m.


My Lords, I am always suspicious of grandiose plans in the planning field. Having been involved in planning problems in London for more than 20 years and having seen the developments which have taken place, one becomes even more suspicious of grandiose plans. In particular, I can think of two of the major problems in London with which I have been associated—the problem of the redevelopment of Piccadilly Circus and the problem of the redevelopment of Covent Garden. Both of those areas had grandiose plans drawn up for them at different points in hisotry and those plans were subsequently shelved, and a piecemeal development more in line with current thought among environmentalists took place in those areas.

Docklands is, of course, very different in scope from the other inner urban areas, but it is still a problem of urban redevelopment; it is not a green field situation. I thank the noble Earl, Lord Kimberley, for initiating this short debate. Successive Governments and administrations at County Hall and Whitehall have tried to tackle the problem of Docklands for a number of years. In 1973 the Government/GLC-sponsored Travers-Morgan inquiry suggested five possible approaches to the problems of Docklands and none of those was found acceptable at that time.

However, they offered a way forward and led to the question of the practicability of dealing with the artificially drawn Dock-lands area being discussed. The alter natives then discussed were the questions whether there should be a London borough GLC administration or a new town-type corporation for Docklands, and it was after considerable consultation, with the blessing of the then Secretary of State, Mr. Geoffrey Rippon, that it was agreed that a Docklands Joint Committee should be established on which representatives of local authorities involved in the area, including the GLC, should be represented, with an additional number of members on the Joint Committee to be appointed by the Secretary of State.

The area of Docklands—and we have had an even longer historical survey than the slightly different historical survey which Lord Kimberley gave tonight—includes large portions of some of the boroughs involved, and of the total area of 5,500 acres, 4,000 are within Tower Hamlets and Newham, which between them are currently contributing about £20 million in public sector investment out of the total investment of £50 million which is being made. The effect of the setting up of an urban development corporation would be to deny democratic representation in these matters to the boroughs concerned, and this is particularly serious in the case of the Newham London borough where one-third of the borough is within the Docklands area.

The noble Earl, Lord Kimberley, intimated that one of the problems of the redevelopment of Docklands is resources. Successive Administrations have been asked to provide more resources for this purpose, and in particular both parties at different times in power on the GLC have unsuccessfully argued with successive Ministers of Transport that there should be money for the extension of the Jubilee Line. I understand that the Leader of the GLC has reluctantly accepted the view of the present Secretary of State about the need for the restraint of local government expenditure, but nobody should suppose that that is the end of the battle for funds to be made available for the extension of this underground railway system. The noble Earl rightly pointed to the importance of having a proper roads structure in Docklands. Equally important in my view is the question of the public transport structure, particularly through the Jubilee Line, which would immediately, by being built, bring the whole of Docklands much closer to the centre of London.

Unfortunately, on the question of funds being made available, the consultation paper by the Department of the Environment on Urban Development Corporations indicates in paragraph 17 that UDCs will he provided with resources adequate for them to undertake their tasks "allocated as necessary from relevant programmes". The implication of that is certainly seen to be that there will be no additional moneys available other than cash which is in existing programmes. That is a sad situation because it requires a high level of public investment to get the infra-structure of Docklands right.

Public sector investment is running this year at some £51 million ; it is expected to go in 1980–81 to £67 million and in 1981–82 to some £79 million, and of course this money is being used by the Docklands Joint Committee to improve roads within the Docklands area, to improve transport services, to improve sites, to infill docks and variously to consolidate particular sites within the area. There has been factory construction in Greenwich; there is an industrial park in Newham of some 65 acres which is being sponsored by private investment; News International is proposing to move into the Tower Hamlets part of Docklands and that will provide about 3,000 jobs there; and Billingsgate fish market is proposing a move to West India Dock, though I suppose one could not say that will create extra jobs because the jobs are being shifted from the City of London into the West India Dock area. Internally within the areas there has been the move of a brewery on to the former site of Standard Telephones.

An advantage which the Joint Committee now enjoys is that it is now able to advertise sites, which should help development further. However, it should be said that none of the sites within Docklands is particularly big. In fact, there is only one which is over 20 acres in size. This is the site where there was formerly proposed a development by Trammel Crow who withdrew from development because they could not get the necessary guarantees. There have been a number of subsequent suggestions about what should happen on this particular site. Only last week Taylor Woodrow announced proposals for developing the site, which would bring at least 9,000 jobs to this part of Southwark, and which should regenerate extra rates of £11 million a year. This particular proposal includes a shopping centre which would be nearly twice as big as the Brent Cross scheme in North-West London.

Unfortunately, there is not likely to be any speedy decision on these ideas, because I understand that the GLC is in the process of announcing a competition for the development of the use of this particularly large and important site in Docklands. I understand that the holding of the competition will mean that there will not be a decision on this particular part of Docklands until the end of July. I should like to support the noble Earl in the point about how everything seems to drag along and take a very long time. This competition will delay matters further.

The proposal to set up the Urban Development Corporation is seen by many people involved as adding to the time being taken in dealing with this question. As I said in my opening remarks, my fear is that once again we shall be thinking in terms of drawing up some elaborate scheme, whereas to allow the process of development in certain parts of Docklands to proceed would bring about a slow rejuvenation of the area rather than the sterilising of large parts of it. This is the kind of lesson that I have particularly learnt from past experiences of inner urban redevelopment in London.

The strategic plan drawn up by the Docklands Joint Committee proposes a population increase from about 56,000 to between 100,000 and 120,000 over a period of years. The plan also comments on the inadequacy of the transport facilities and the need for a number of new developments in the area. The message must be there that things are happening in Docklands. It is wrong to say that nothing at all is happening. I would plead with the Government that whatever decisions are eventually arrived at with regard to the Development Corporation, action on it should be taken sooner rather than later. As the corporation is to be included with wider legislation to be introduced shortly, I believe that it will probably not get onto the Statute Book until next summer. Thus, the corporation could not be set up until after that time, and it would be a long time before it could be effective. In closing, I wish once more to thank the noble Earl for raising this matter this evening. It is a question of great concern to London, and it is important in terms of the problem of the vitality of our City being solved.

8.35 p.m.


My Lords, when we took office we made it one of our priorities to review the problems of the inner areas of our great cities and the arrangements for dealing with them. These areas are vital to the prosperity of the country; indeed, they are the very areas on which so much of our past economic strength was built. But they are often now also areas of bad housing and social conditions, and they have been caught between the rising expectations of living standards and rapidly changing economic forces. Old industries have become obsolete and have run down, moved away, or simply died. They have left behind a legacy of decay and frustration. People, particularly the young and skilled, have moved away to better houses and jobs, leaving behind those less able to look after themselves, the elderly and the poor.

London's Docklands have been particularly badly affected. The once great docks have largely moved down river, and the industries and population who serviced them have gone, too. Much of the area has become derelict. This has left not only great problems, but also probably the greatest opportunity for urban redevelopment and regeneration in the country, if not indeed in Europe. The situation in Docklands needs special measures if it is to be tackled effectively, and I shall come to these in a moment. The first objective must be to create the conditions in which people will once again want to live and to work, and where enterprise and industry will flourish. As with other areas, it is most likely to prosper in an economic climate which encourages private initiative and investment.

In the very short time that we have been in office the Government have already taken several important steps in this direction. As well as the reductions in direct taxation announced in the Budget, and already beginning to take effect, there have been specific measures and proposals which have a bearing on areas like Docklands. Releasing suitable land for development is an essential ingredient in the regeneration process and one group of measures is aimed at that.

The rate of development land tax has been reduced and the amount of development value which can be realised in any one year has been increased. Local authorities can now dispose of development land, by sale or long lease, without reference to Government, and the rest of the unnecessary paraphernalia of the Community Land Scheme will soon be swept away. We are taking steps to speed up the release of unused land held by public bodies. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Environment has announced the Government's intention to require such land to be registered, and if there is no good reason for it to be unused, there will be a power to require it to be offered for sale. Restrictions on office and industrial developments have been relaxed by abolishing the office development permit system and by raising the limits for industrial development certificates.

As a further encouragement to industry, we have asked planning authorities to be more sympathetic to small firms wishing to set up or remain in business in urban areas. Another matter which I know many people complain about is the delays involved in obtaining planning permission. Steps are being taken to reduce the time taken to deal with planning appeals, and we have urged local authorities to deal more quickly with planning applications.

All these and other measures will help to encourage development and stimulate economic regeneration. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Environment recently announced the Government's decision on the special arrangements necessary for tackling the problems of the inner cities. He said—and I think it is worth repeating: I would like to see inner cities once again be full of hustle and bustle on a human scale, varied, alive; above all, places where people are free to develop and to succeed". How will this be brought about in Docklands? The Docklands area of London stretches for about seven miles down river from Tower Bridge. It is broken up by the river and by local authority boundaries, so that it consists physically and administratively of several distinct parts. They all suffer from similar problems associated with the closure and decline of the docks, and from a range of other environmental and social problems, which they share with other parts of the Docklands boroughs.

My Lords, it has been recognised for some years that to tackle the particular problems of the Docklands area special measures are and were necessary. During the last Conservative Administration, a study of the area was commissioned jointly by my department and the Greater London Council, and various schemes for redevelopment were proposed. Although none of these was adopted, the momentum led to the formation, in January 1974, of the Docklands Joint Committee, on which the GLC and the five Docklands boroughs were represented. It exercised power by delegation from the constituent authorities, and its main task was to produce a strategic plan for the development of the area. In the five years or so since the DJC was set up, a good deal has been happening in Docklands. A strategic plan was published in July 1976. The first operational programme, published two years later, included an analysis of progress towards redevelopment. That showed good progress, in providing some of the infrastructure and services essential to the redevelopment of the area, draining and filling old docks, laying trunk sewers and drains, building new roads, improving public transport and providing essential services. So far as it goes, what has been achieved reflects credit on the DJC and the local authorities involved.

On the other hand, within the totality of the needs of the area progress has been disappointing. Although the number of houses built has been in line with the target, they have been predominantly in the public sector. There has been a serious shortfall in private housing, and it must be very doubtful, if the present arrangements were to continue, whether a reasonable mix of tenure would be achieved, and new, large council estates are by no means what is needed. Even more important has been the failure to attract new private industrial and commercial investment on anything like the scale needed to regenerate the economy. It is clear, therefore, that far stronger measures are needed.

As I said earlier, the Docklands area provides us with a tremendous opportunity. My Lords, "the bottle may well be half empty, but it is also half full". Indeed, it is probably unique in Europe as a large area for redevelopment adjacent to the heart of a major commercial city. What happens in Dock-lands is important not just for East London, but for the country as a whole. If the opportunity is to be fully grasped, it will need a degree of commitment and singleness of purpose that it would be unreasonable to expect within the present arrangements. In short, it is not a task which the local authorites, acting on their own and through a joint committee, can be expected to tackle successfully. That is not a criticism of the authorities involved. Indeed, as I have said, within the constraints of the machinery available to them they have achieved a great deal. But the machinery is not good enough.

My Lords, that is why the Government have announced their intention to seek powers to set up urban development corporations—to tackle such problems—and one of these corporations will operate in London's Docklands. Legislation to achieve this will be introduced soon. I do not wish today to anticipate the debate that we shall undoubtedly have later, but noble Lords will wish to know the outline of the Government's intentions in this matter. The legislation will seek to allow the Secretary of State to designate areas in which urban development corporations are to operate. As well as London's Docklands, it is envisaged that a development corporation will operate in parts of the dock areas of Merseyside. The terms of the legislation will be modelled on that under which new towns operate. It will contain a range of powers which could include planning, land assembly and disposal for private sector development, industrial and commercial promotion and development, environmental improvement, housing, and the provision of infra-structure.

The next stage will be to make special designation orders for each UDC. Those will contain the particular range of powers that the UDC is to have, and will define the boundaries of its area. The orders will be subject to Affirmative Resolution. It is proposed that the main legislation should afford the urban development corporation power to acquire and assemble land, by compulsory purchase if necessary. To ensure that it owned sufficient land to begin its task speedily, it is envisaged that the designation order should make provision for the transfer of some public sector land direct to the UDC. The development corporations will be provided with resources adequate for them to undertake their tasks. But I must stress (to return directly to my noble friend's Question) that underlying our whole approach to this matter is the realisation that the most important ingredient of all is private sector finance. The Government's role is to create the right conditions. Their financial contribution must be limited to providing the services and facilities which only they can provide, and which are essential to attract the massive private investment needed.

The UDCs will not be massive bureaucracies; that would defeat the main aim. Neither will they take over all the powers and duties of local authorities. Their main task will be economic regeneration. Some of the powers will be exercised jointly with the local authorities. For example, to the extent that the local authorities are willing and able to provide the appropriate housing and infrastructure needs of the UDC, then it would make good sense for them to do so. The local authorities will continue to be responsible, either solely or jointly, for a wide range of services. So it really is a nonsense to say, as has been suggested elsewhere, that the UDCs will disenfranchise people in the area.

It is of the essence of a new town type corporation that members of the board are appointed, not elected. One alternative, I suppose, would have been to create a new London borough of Docklands, but I doubt whether anyone would seriously argue that case. My noble friend Lord Kimberley asked whether the private sector would be represented on the board. Yes, it will be. I cannot today discuss the structure of the board, but it will certainly include prople with an expertise in securing major new private sector investment; and it will also include people having a special knowledge of the locality.

I sympathise with the point made by my noble friend Lord Kimberley that, in view of the urgency of the problem, the UDCs should be set up as soon as possible. That is indeed the Government's aim; but I think the date he mentioned—March 1980—is too optimistic. I doubt if the enabling legislation will be on the Statute Book by then. It might, however, be sensible to think in terms of making an early appointment of the chairman designate, and possibly some at least of the board members. They would then be placed to take up their full duties effectively as soon as the UDC was designated. We will certainly consider that.

My noble friend Lord Kimberley also made, I think, two other points. He asked whether Docklands would be given assisted area status. The answer is: No, that is not our intention. He further asked whether the Government would guarantee the start and finish dates for the northern and southern relief roads. My Lords, this Government are certainly brave, but to guarantee the completion date of major new road schemes would indeed be giving hostage to fortune! I take my noble friend's point, though: better roads and better tranport infrastructure in general are vital. The Minister for Transport recognises this, and has already announced his commitment to getting the right tranport links in and for Docklands.

Finally, I should like to emphasise two points. The new development corporation will indeed have a crucial part to play, but the GLC and the boroughs will also continue to have very important roles. If the regeneration of Docklands is to be successfully achieved, there will need to be a high degree of co-operation between all the agencies involved. It is perfectly understandable that the local authorities would have preferred a different arrangement, perhaps a strengthening of the DJC, but I hope and believe that at the end of the day, with the best interests of the area as the prime objective, they will co-operate with the UDC. The second point is that we should not underestimate the size of the task. Docklands has been in decline for several decades; it will still take years to halt the decline and regenerate the economy. The Government believe that the appointment of a special development corporation will significantly speed up the process, while clearly recognising that it will not happen over night.

My Lords, it would be so easy to drift along as we have been doing, seeing modest progress taking place, a little here, a little there. That way would mean no requirement for new powers, no aggravation with dissenting parties; just a faint stirring of the waves. In five and ten years' time the situation would surely be marginally better—but nothing would have fundamentally changed. This Government are not prepared to allow that to happen. That sort of scene has been with us for too long now and the time has come for firm and bold action. That is the Government's intention; that is what the formation of the UDCs is all about.

I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Kimberley for raising this matter tonight, thereby affording me the opportunity to set out the Government's thinking and intentions on this most pressing situation. If I have not covered every point he has made, I will carefully read the transcript of this debate and will write to him. May I thank the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, for his constructive remarks. As to the point he made regarding the precise amount and source of additional funds which will go into the UDC, we shall have to await the Government's decision on that. I hardly think that the noble Lord would expect me to answer that question tonight. I thank him for his helpful contribution. The points he made are very relevant.