§ Mr. Greg Knight
asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he will make a statement about the future of Thamesmead.
§ Sir George Young
I have recently seen a press release about Thamesmead issued by the chairman of the GLC housing committee on 28 November. The chairman claims that the Government have forgotten about Thamesmead and have shown no interest in the area. The allegation is based on the absence of a specific reference to Thamesmead in the Local Government Bill.
The allegation is ridiculous. The Government have made it clear that we firmly support the early completion of Thamesmead as a balanced community. We granted the GLC a special allocation for the current year of £5 million for works at Thamesmead. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and my hon. Friend the Minister for Housing and Construction have both visited the area in recent months, and I am visiting in January.
Our first preference for Thamesmead after abolition is that ownership should pass to a non-profit-making trust, a company limited by guarantee and using private finance but including full representation for local residents. I have made it absolutely clear, however, that there will be wide consultation with residents before any decision is taken, and that we will not seek to impose a trust if the residents do not want one.
Consultation will take place during 1985. If a trust is established, no special powers will be needed under the abolition legislation, as the GLC will be well aware from their knowledge of trusts which already exist and which they have visited. If the residents do not want a trust, Thamesmead will pass to borough ownership by order under the general provision in the Bill to transfer property consequent on abolition.
Far from having forgotten Thamesmead, the Government are convinced of the need to see the development successfully completed and of achieving whichever solution—a trust or borough ownership—best accords with residents' wishes. Neither alternative requires further provision in the Bill. There is no reason why the confidence of investors or residents should falter, and I am disappointed that by misrepresenting our position the chairman of the GLC's housing committee should choose to suggest otherwise.