§ 1. Mr. Pendry
asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will meet a deputation from Tameside district council to discuss the 1987–88 urban programme and Tameside's non-inclusion in the programme to date.
§ The Minister for Housing, Urban Affairs and Construction (Mr. John Patten)
My hon. Friend, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, met the leader of Tameside and others on 9 December 1986 to discuss our proposals to direct urban programme resources to the areas of greatest need, which I confirmed at the end of January 1987. My right hon. Friend has recently written to the right hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyme (Mr. Sheldon) about this same issue.
§ Mr. Pendry
Notwithstanding that, will the Minister say that he will meet a deputation? If so, when he meets it will he show an element of flexibility and understanding? Since Tameside was excluded from the urban programme, the situation has become worse in my constituency. Some 400 jobs were lost this week, in an area where the unemployment rate is about 30 per cent. If, after those figures, the Minister is still not convinced, will he read the first chapter of a book that was issued this week entitled "Left Behind", written by David Selbourne, who is not a supporter of the Labour party. He paints a dismal picture of my constituency. If the Minister enters those talks with a fair mind, I believe that he will grant the aid that Tameside richly deserves.
§ Mr. Patten
All the 1987–88 urban programme moneys are now allocated. The hon. Gentleman's constituents saw my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary to discuss this issue, and we saw delegations from other parts of the country. As a result, some changes were made to the list. The consultation process was extremely useful
§ Mr. Robert Sheldon
The Minister will recall a brief conversation—very brief, I accept—that I had with him in December 1986, and a further conversation with his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, where I expressed my involvement and intention to seek such a meeting. It is a great pity that the decisions were made before the meeting between the three Members of Parliament and the local authority. Will he reconsider the decision in the light of my representations?
§ Mr. Patten
The right hon. Gentleman is a right hon. Gentleman, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of 854 State would be prepared to see him at any time to discuss these issues. My right hon. Friend is not in a position to make any changes to the urban programme allocations as already given.
§ Mr. Andrew F. Bennett
Will the Minister explain his decision? Will he accept that on every count of social deprivation Tameside has at least as many problems as the neighbouring authorities of Oldham, Rochdale and Manchester? Surely there is a strong case for bringing aid into Tameside? Do he and his colleagues know where Tameside is? Will he accept that the east side of Manchester has the same problems as are suffered by the surounding towns — declining cotton mills and other problems.
§ Mr. Patten
The hon. Gentleman is wrong. We are aware of the socio-economic problems that face boroughs around Tameside, and we know exactly where Tameside is. The unemployment level, discounting the additional 400 job losses that were mentioned by the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry), remains about the national average. Most areas that are receiving inner urban programme help have average unemployment of around 18 per cent. We are seeking to concentrate help where it is most needed. That process of concentration has been welcomed by the Opposition Front Bench.
§ Mr. Pendry
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the unsatisfactory nature of that reply, I give notice that I shall raise this matter at the earliest opportunity on the Adjournment.