HL Deb 08 October 1986 vol 480 cc239-45

3.1 p.m.

Viscount Davidson

With permission, my Lords, I should like to make a Statement about urban development corporations.

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Environment is today announcing the Government's intention to set up further urban development corporations. Subject to the approval by both Houses of Parliament of the necessary designation orders, four will be set up during the next two years in Trafford Park in Greater Manchester; on Teesside; in the Black Country; and in Tyne and Wear. These are all places with major concentrations of derelict or disused former industrial land and serious problems in creating employment and attracting new investment.

Under the Local Government Planning and Land Act 1980, the area of an urban development corporation in England must fall within a metropolitan county or inner London. Three of the urban development corporations now proposed would lie within metropolitan counties. Teesside, however, lies within the county of Cleveland, which is not a metropolitan county. Thus an urban development corporation cannot be set up on Teesside under the legislation as it now stands. But the problems of unemployment and industrial dereliction on Teesside are at least as severe as those in any other area in the country.

My noble friend Lord Skelmersdale has therefore tabled an amendment to the Housing and Planning Bill to remove the present restriction on the designation of urban development corporation areas in England.

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

Baroness David

My Lords, I should like to thank the Minister for making the Statement about the new urban development corporations, which I understand are being announced today by the Secretary of State. Of course, we on this side welcome anything that will help the gross problems of unemployment and dereliction that exist in the areas mentioned. We also welcome anything that will help unemployment

Perhaps I may ask the Minister how many jobs will be created as a result of these UDCs, and, very importantly, what resources are to be put into them. This matters greatly, and we must remember, in thinking of it, that these areas have been deprived of vast sums in rate support grant in the past five years. Trafford-Salford alone lost £270 million in real terms since 1981 and other areas have also lost equally large sums. At present, public expenditure on the two existing urban development corporations is £93 million for 1986–87, according to the Public Expenditure Survey (Cmnd. 9702); and in order to make up the difference between that and what has been lost on rate support grant, a great deal of money must be put in. May I therefore ask what kind of sums are envisaged?

We have to remember as well that vast sums will be needed for infrastructure that has been allowed to decay, and also for transport facilities. Where will that money come from? Will it be taken from the present UDC allocations or will be entirely new money?

It is also very important to know what local authority and community involvement there will be. Will there be involvement by local businesses, and tenants' organisations and so on, as well as by local authorities? I understand that in Cleveland, for instance, something called the Cleveland Initiative is very interested in doing something in this area. It is, I am quite sure, very important that the UDCs should work with and not against the local authorities in the area. That has been one of the problems, I believe, in London docklands, and I hope that the Government, with that in mind, will have many consultations with the local authorities involved before these boundaries are decided and the actual corporations are set up.

Will the Government also ensure that the structure of the boards that run the UDCs will reflect the need to involve local interests? It is very important that people from the local councils should have a right to be on the boards. Certainly, when I was a member of Peterborough Development Corporation, it helped greatly if people were appointed in their own right as councillors and could be there to put the point of view of the local authority. That perhaps has been one of the reasons that London docklands has had its problems.

With those questions, we give our welcome to the announcement—so long as the answers are satisfactory!

Baroness Stedman

My Lords, I first thank the Leader of the House for responding so positively to my PNQ this morning and the noble Viscount, Lord Davidson, for making the Statement. Last evening I received a letter from the right honourable gentleman the Secretary of State telling me of the announcement on the lines of the Statement today. I congratulate the Leader of the House on ensuring that the Statement was made to this House in Parliament and not from the conference platform in Bournemouth. Will he ensure that other statements from Bournemouth are also made to this House first, either by the appropriate Minister or by his junior Minister in this House?

Concerning the Statement itself, I can understand the need for the proposed amendments to the Housing and Planning Bill to extend government powers to non-metropolitan areas. As well as considering UDCs, have the Government considered a general review of the system of payment of grants in order to concentrate money on inner-city needs? Has the time not come for a new framework for policies enabling action by both central and local government agencies and voluntary organisations to integrate their programmes? Does the Minister agree that, with the formation of the urban development corporations, the local authorities are bypassed altogether through the creation of more of these corporations, however good a job they may be doing?

I can see the Government's problem in trying to make clear that inner cities are still one of their national priorities, when they have cut back urban renewal funds by 10 per cent. in real terms in this financial year. However, like the noble Baroness, Lady David, I must ask where the money will come from for the new urban development corporations. Is this new money or extra money? From which pocket will it come and who or what will be the loser? We have seen many initiatives launched in a blaze of publicity—such things as the city action teams and the task forces—but we have seen no extra cash and ultimately, therefore, no long-term useful effects.

Viscount Davidson

My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady David, and the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, for their welcoming reception of the Statement. I am not sure that I am capable of answering all the questions they have asked, since my briefing was necessarily short. However, I shall do my best.

So far as jobs are concerned, a detailed consultant's study of Trafford Park shows the potential to create some 16,000 new jobs. We do not as yet have corresponding figures for the other areas. So far as resources are concerned, each of the new UDCs could spend between £100 million and £160 million over six or seven years. I cannot tell your Lordships exactly how the money will be found at this stage but some of the expenditure which the UDCs incur will represent work that would otherwise have eventually been undertaken under existing programmes. Overall, the announcement represents a substantial increase in the resources devoted to urban regeneration.

So far as discussions with the local authorities are concerned, before the areas are designated we certainly intend to have discussions with all the local authorities involved. Without appearing to be "chicken", as they say, in view of the fact that the amendments will be coming up for discussion when we reach Part VI of the Bill next Monday and when the Minister will be here, I suggest that we leave the substantive discussion on these matters until then.

Lord Gisborough

My Lords, I am delighted to hear that Cleveland has been included for an urban development corporation, because we have no less than 23 per cent. unemployment throughout the county and up to 90 per cent. unemployment in some quite sizeable areas, so we really need help. Can my noble friend say whether this is for Middlesbrough or for Hartlepool? They are two different factors and I believe that Hartlepool is probably the place where it needs to be. Secondly, I should like to support what the noble Baroness opposite said. Surely the Minister will take into account the contribution of the local authority and their involvement. Having said that, I am sure that the lesson has been learned with the London scheme. The commercial interest must be in charge and, unfortunately, must have predominance over the elected council.

Viscount Davidson

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Gisborough. I can say that so far as Teesside is concerned the closure of chemical, steel and shipbuilding works has left the largest continuous area of de-industrialised land in Europe, along the banks of the Tees stretching from Langbaurgh through Middlesbrough to Stockton, and some 3,500 acres of derelict land are involved in that area.

Lord Tordoff

My Lords, I wonder whether I may underline what my noble friend Lady Stedman said. I hope that the Leader of the House will take on board her words, particularly in relation to an anticipated Statement by a Member of your Lordships' House in the shape of the noble Lord, Lord Young of Graffham. It would be looked upon with some disfavour by your Lordships if Statements by him, in particular, were made at Bournemouth and not to your Lordships' House while Parliament is sitting; and while this House is in session Parliament is, of course, sitting.

May I direct my few remarks specifically to Trafford Park in Manchester? May I ask the noble Viscount whether he will comment on the impact of this new scheme on the Phoenix initiative, which received a very considerable amount of support from Sir George Young, Mr. Nicholas Ridley, Mr. John Patten, Mrs. Angela Rumbold and other members of Government when this initiative was put together? This was a co-operative venture between private capital, the local authority, the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department of the Environment. I hope that the imposition of this new corporation will not destroy that interesting initiative which could be an example to many other parts of the country.

Viscount Davidson

My Lords, so far as the first part of the noble Lord's remarks are concerned, if there is a need for a Statement to be made in this House when my noble friend is making a statement at Bournemouth, I assure the noble Lord that I shall make it—

The Lord President of the Council (Viscount Whitelaw)

My Lords, I shall make it.

Viscount Davidson

Thank Goodness, my Lords! My noble friend the Leader of the House will make it. So far as Trafford Park is concerned, the Government will also be considering the inclusion of other land within the overall urban development area.

Baroness Fisher of Rednal

My Lords, can the noble Viscount describe the areas which will cover the Black Country? Are these the local authorities that used to comprise the West Midlands county?

Viscount Davidson

My Lords, I am afraid that the only note I have on the Black Country is that these are vast areas of derelict and disused land, as metal bashing industries have declined, and the area clearly needs a new image building on entrepreneurial spirit. I am afraid that I have no details of the geographical location.

3.15 p.m.

Lord Diamond

My Lords, is the noble Viscount the Minister aware that we on this side—I am sure in common with all the Members of your Lordships' House—are very grateful indeed for what has just been said about the precedent which the Leader of the House is going to adopt in these unusual circumstances, where there is a party conference going on at the same time as your Lordships' House, this workhouse, is uniquely engaged? May I also ask the Minister, in view of the fact that the resources available are one of the essential ingredients of the whole of his announcement, and also in view of the fact that what he has so far indicated is that there will be a pure transfer and no new resources allocated for the purpose, whether when we reach the relevant amendment, to which he has referred, the noble Viscount will have instructed himself completely so as to be able to tell the House exactly whether there are new resources and where they are coming from?

Viscount Davidson

My Lords, I shall certainly convey the noble Lord's remarks to my noble friend Lord Skelmersdale who will be dealing with the matter next Monday.

Viscount Whitelaw

My Lords, I think I ought to reply to something which the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, said, because there was perhaps some misunderstanding earlier when I mentioned the point to my noble friend. I must make it perfectly clear that I have not yet created a precedent, but I think it will only be to the acceptance of the House, if my noble friend Lord Young were to say something tomorrow which was felt to be worthy of a Statement to this House, and if a Statement to this House were wanted, that it would obviously be proper for me, as the only Cabinet Minister available to do it, other than the Lord Chancellor, to make that Statement myself, and that I will do.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, I am very much obliged to the Leader of the House for what he has said. I wonder whether he would go a step further and say that if major Government statements are made in Bournemouth then, as a matter of course, they should be repeated in this House because Parliament is sitting at this time.

Viscount Whitelaw

My Lords, I shall certainly consider what the noble Lord has said in all the circumstances that might come forward. Where another Minister in that department was available, I was not myself considering it right to do it. It is simply the point that, my noble friend Lord Young being in this House, it seemed that I should certainly do it in his position.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, with great respect it is not only the Statement of the noble Lord, Lord Young, which would be important. If any Cabinet Minister made a statement of importance in relation to the Government and the nation then, as a matter of course, that statement should be made by the responsible Minister in this House, because while this House is sitting Parliament is sitting.

Viscount Whitelaw

My Lords, that is a matter for consideration and we shall see what comes up tomorrow or what might happen. I shall certainly take account of what the noble Lord said. I could not commit myself to every possible statement; that would go too far.

Lord Dean of Beswick

My Lords, is the Minister aware that I fully concur with what my noble friend on the Front Bench said regarding the withdrawal since 1979 of financial resources from the Trafford area? Having worked in Trafford Park till becoming a Member of another place, I have to say that any new input of finance in order to re-invigorate the industrial activity there must be welcome. But may I also urge the Minister, as other noble Lords have done, not on this occasion to bypass the local authority, as to do so may well set up an obstruction which would be counter-productive to anybody? May I urge him to involve them as much as he can in all the proceedings?

Viscount Davidson

My Lords, I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Dean, as I said earlier, that we shall be discussing with local authorities all the matters involved.

Lord Nugent of Guildford

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that in this context the outstanding success of the Docklands Corporation should be borne in mind, because that structure has been outstandingly successful in attracting private capital for this spectacular development in the derelict docklands? Unless the structure of the urban development corporations is set up in a way which will be attractive to private capital—which will not always occur if it is simply a local authority matter—we may very well not get the input of private capital which we so very much need. Will he bear that in mind?

Viscount Davidson

My Lords, I am most grateful to my noble friend Lord Nugent. I shall not only bear in mind what he has said but will see that it is conveyed to my noble friend.

Lord Taylor of Blackburn

My Lords, may I ask the noble Viscount whether when the amendment is tabled it will concern only Cleveland, or will it at some future date enable the Government to extend this to other shire counties?

Viscount Davidson

My Lords, I am unable to reply to that question, but I shall make sure that a reply is sent to the noble Lord.

Lord Tordoff

My Lords, if it is of assistance to the House, the amendment is in the Printed Paper Office. The purpose of the amendment is to extend the power of an earlier Act outside metropolitan areas. Therefore I think the answer to the noble Lord's question is, yes.

Viscount Davidson

My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord for answering the question.

Lord Underhill

My Lords, may I be permitted a third intervention from the Front Bench? I intervene not as a Member of the Front Bench but as one of the five Members of your Lordships' House who were members of the Select Committee which recommended the formation of the London Docklands Corporation. I hope that before this amendment is placed before your Lordships the Minister will read very carefully, as I am sure he will, the report of the Select Committee on the London Docklands Corporation. There were special circumstances in London, and the Committee expressed the view that it would not lightly recommend a transfer of planning powers for a wide area to the Secretary of State from democratically elected councils. There were special circumstances in London which I hope will be taken into consideration, along with the report of the debate in your Lordships' House when we discussed the Select Committee report.

Viscount Davidson

My Lords, I can only say that I shall make sure that my noble friend reads Hansard.

Lord Sefton of Garston

My Lords, in taking their decision am I right in assuming that the Government bore in mind the success or otherwise of the two development corporations—Merseyside and London Docklands? Am I also right in assuming that in taking that decision they had the full facts in front of them, which I imagine the Minister replying will also have in front of him? Can he tell the House how many jobs have been created on Merseyside during the life of the development corporation; how many full-time and permanent jobs have been created and what was the cost per job?

Viscount Davidson

My Lords, I am afraid that I cannot tell the House that.

Lord Sefton of Garston

My Lords, can the Minister make sure that before any necessary amendment is moved the House is informed of that?

Viscount Davidson

; My Lords, I have already suggested that as this will all be discussed in the debate on the amendment on Monday these more substantive matters should be left until then.

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