§ 5.3 pm
§ Mr. Roland Boyes (Houghton and Washington)
I beg to move amendment No. 6, in page 1, line 14, after 'corporations', insert(whether or not existing at the commencement of the Urban Development Corporations (Financial Limits) Act 1987)
§ Madam Deputy Speaker (Miss Betty Boothroyd)
With this it will be convenient to discuss amendment No. 7, in page 1, line 19, at end insert(whether or not existing at the commencement of the Urban Development Corporations (Financial Limits) Act 1987)
§ Mr. Boyes
We gave the Bill an unopposed Second Reading, but expressed a number of reservations in principle about undemocratic, unelected bodies having strong powers, and I described those as planning, land assembly, disposal for private sector development, industrial and commercial development, promotion, environment improvement, housing and infrastructure. By any definition, urban development corporations will have tremendous powers.
We also stressed on Second Reading that the urban development corporations can work outside the strategic and economic goals of the local authority. Urban development corporations can actually implement policies contrary to the wishes and policies of the local authority. To that extent we regret very much that the Government could not support our amendment in Committee calling for consultation with the appropriate local authority, or authorities, before investment decisions were made.
It is interesting to note that the CBI, at its conference recently, also stressed the dangers of ignoring local authorities. Mr. Peter Hetherington, in an article in The Guardian, wrote:The CBI yesterday warned the Government that its efforts to revive inner cities will fail if it bypassed councils with Whitehall-controlled agencies.The CBI director-general, Mr. John Banham, said the councils were efficient and effective in many respects.In the same article, Mr. David Goldstone, the managing director of Regalian properties, said:government constraints on funds for local councils were often short-sighted.Despite our concerns, on Second Reading I said that we would work with the urban development corporations until the next general election, when we would review all development corporation activities.
The basis of the amendment is our concern about mini urban development corporations. There are strong rumours that an announcement will be made shortly that a large number of mini corporations are to be created. I understand that the figure is in excess of 24.I have a series of questions for the Minister. How many mini corporations does he expect to announce in the short term? 285 Are there any long-term objectives and goals? As rumours are flying at the moment about the creation of new mini urban development corporations, when will he announce a date for them?
As this matter is doubtless advanced, what consultation has taken place, or will take place, with the local authority or authorities concerned with these urban development corporations? This morning I spoke to the policy head of the directorate of Manchester city council. It is clear that a number of local authorities are already working closely with the private sector and developing urban regeneration initiatives in genuine joint venture partnerships. Might not the imposition of the solution of mini urban development corporations be unnecessary and even counter-productive in many of those areas? Will the Minister assure us that he will not impose the solution in areas where there is clear evidence of co-operation without consultation with local interests to see whether they believe that the introduction of such measures is necessary?
What will happen if a local authority refuses to agree to have a mini urban development corporation in its area? I am also concerned about the way in which the mini urban development corporations will be placed in localities. I raise this point because, in a speech on Wednesday 3 June 1987 to the Loynell's Road Residents Association in Birmingham Northfield, the Secretary of State for the Environment said:We hope local people will bring to our attention areas of dereliction which they think can benefit from this approach.He meant the mini UDC approach. When the Minister replies, will he define exactly what he means by "local people"? I see no mention of local authorities in the extract of the speech by the Secretary of State
Will the Minister tell us whether each mini urban development corporation will have its own board? That will be of particular interest if there should be more than one mini urban development corporation in one local authority area. Will he also amplify the point he made in reply to my question on 4 November 1987 when I asked if he would consider funding urban development corporations by the same method as the new town corporations are funded?
The Minister said:The answer to the question why we cannot fund them as we did the new towns is straightforward: the new towns were financed from loans and were building on green field sites. The UDCs are building in areas where many millions of pounds must be spent before sites can be developed, and the only prudent way of financing such expenditure is by grant." —[Official Report 4 November 1987; Vol. 121, c. 1013.]The difference is that central Government have absolute control over the grants, whereas, if the urban development corporations were free to raise loans on the market, for example, that would give them less control over the spending powers of the mini urban development corporations and the urban development corporations than the Minister intended. I could not follow the difference between the green fields suggestion and the other phrase that was used about the inner cities.
I understand that the aim is to attract private capital, with an initial investment of between £10 million and £15 million of public money. We made it absolutely clear on Second Reading that certain areas — for example, the north-east of England—have tremendous difficulties in raising private capital. At that time I quoted at length from a letter from Martin Laing, the chairman of John Lanig plc and chairman of the national contractors' group of the 286 Building Employers Confederation. I shall not quote from it now. That pointed out clearly the difficulties that areas such as mine would have in attracting private capital.
In an editorial in The Times, of 13 November 1986, the writer stated: "the £128 million of grants to the Merseyside Board have yet to stimulate anything like the response from private developers seen in London's Dockland.The new boards will have to operate conditions much closer to Merseyside than to those of the London Docklands."Part of our opposition to the formation of mini UDCs is that we cannot see that £10 million to £15 million will attract the private capital that the government anticipate. We consider them to be a method of bypassing the local authorities. John Banham warned us of the dangers of putting money into areas without local authorities being given the opportunity to cary out their tasks and functions.
It has been put to me that it would be eminently sensible and wise to monitor the results obtained by the existing five urban development corporations before we get a proliferation of urban development corporations, even if some of them are minis. Could it not create an atmosphere in which in some areas urban development corporations will compete among themselves for scarce resources, particularly in areas where local authorities and other agencies already find it extremely difficult to attract private capital?
§ Mr. Boyes
No; I have almost finished.
We note, as part of our opposition to mini urban development corporations, Lord Young's comments in this morning's edition of The Independent He said:Where we see our role is to help employment come back to the inner cities. Now there is no way in which any new outside employer would go into the inner cities. Vandalism is too high and the problems are too great".It seems that the Conservative party has already abandoned its plans for inner-city regeneration Lord Young clearly accepts that there will be difficulties in attracting capital into our inner-city areas. If Lord Young is correct, does that not emphasise my point that the idea of a proliferation of mini UDCs should be abandoned? Opposition Members believe that they should be scrapped, or at worst delayed, because of that pessimistic approach.
Those of us interested in inner-city regeneration seek an optimistic approach. The Government's proposals today reveal a cynical approach. I hope that the Minister will make it absolutely clear that, until the five urban development corporations have existed for a reasonable time, and we have been able to measure their success. he will withhold any statement about the introduction of the 30 mini urban development corporations.
§ Mr. Steen
If I had been allowed to intervene, I should have asked the hon. Member for Houghton and Washington (Mr. Boyes) a number of questions based on the fact that he does not want urban development corporations. Is he saying that the same sums of money should go to local authorities? Is he saying that that is the solution to the inner-city problems? If one traces the history of the inner cities, one can see what has happened on the Opposition Benches.
In 1968, the then Prime Minister woke up to the problems of the inner cities. The Government gave £20 287 million to solve the problems. The Labour Government then shifted the rate support grant from the rural areas to the inner-city areas, believing that a little extra money would sort out the difficulties. It did not. The following Conservative Administration then put a lot of money into research, there were inner-city studies, and studies of the neighbourhood quality of life. They believed that more research was needed.
Then the Labour Government introduced a whole range of measures for rejigging local authority priorities. The most noticeable measure was the comprehensive community programme, which told local authorities to re-order their priorities in favour of the inner cities. Since 1979, the Conservative Administration have introduced an entirely new approach to the inner cities, based not on community development or social development, but on economic redevelopment. The watershed clearly occurred in 1979, when the research and other measures about social cohesion and community development were replaced by economic regeneration. We must give this Government the credit for that, and it should be stated that the single-minded approach on economic regeneration has had very important results.
Not all Government measures have been as successful as one would have liked. The enterprise zone presents a mixed picture and the free ports have not got off the ground as fast as one would have liked. The urban development corporations in Merseyside and the London docklands, which are the oldest, have no doubt had an impact
If we pump enormous sums of money into a very small locality, it is obvious that there will be some impact. The question is whether the impact is desirable, whether it is beneficial to the area, and whether there is a better way of spending those sums of public money.
I am anxious to hear the Minister's reply to the amendment, because President Carter spent billions of dollars on a similar exercise to the urban development corporations. He called it the model city programme, and targeted substantial sums of public money into rundown industrial areas, mostly in the North American cities, with one or two in the south. He spent every conceivable amount of public money trying to revive dying neighbourhoods. That is exactly what the urban development corporations are trying to do.
There is a slight distinction between them and the model city programme of President Carter, which erased the entire housing stock of an area, moved the people out, and then rebuilt the housing, redesigned the environment and put people back again. To the amazement of Congress, 10 years after the experiment it found unfortunately the same incidence of unemployment, drug addiction and drunkenness, the same problems with single-parent mums, the elderly and the retired, and the same number of young people on probation. So all that resulted was newer housing, but it soon became run down again as the same people moved back and could not maintain it.
The urban development corporations are pouring larger sums of public money into inner cities than has ever been poured into them before. The Opposition should be ecstatic that the Government have poured so much money into inner cities. That should be the Opposition's starting point, because no Government since 1968 have put so 288 much money into inner-city areas. The question that the Opposition should ask—they have not asked it, so I am asking it for them—is, could not that money be better or as well spent if it did not necessarily go through the local authorities? Local authorities have problems with competing claims, and they do not have the mechanism to do the things that urban development corporations could do.
The solution to inner-city problems has not been found by this Government or previous Governments because the money, which amounts to tens or hundreds of millions of pounds, is being spent solely on economic regeneration. Although economic regeneration is crucial to the redevelopment of inner cities, the only way inner cities will ever redevelop is by motivating and financing the people who live in the houses, street by street, to help themselves. In years to come, we will look back on urban development corporations as another watershed. They are another approach by which the Government try to rescue the inner cities.
The Opposition's argument, which they have put as strongly as they can, is that the weakness of urban development corporations as a concept is that they are undemocratic and do not go through local authorities. My argument is not along those lines. I think that local authorities have failed, for good reasons, to regenerate areas in ways the urban development corporations have done in dockland and on Merseyside.
My criticism is that the money could be better targeted if the urban development corporations were based on neighbourhoods and on people rather than on buildings. London is a special case and docklands has been a great success; no one would want to criticise the Government for putting money into London. On Merseyside they made a brave attempt, but I do not know how successful it has been. It was based on derelict docks; there were no people living there. I am concerned that the new development corporations or the mini development corporations may not be based on communities and neighbourhoods. The inner cities are bound to get worse unless the Government direct the public intervention, which is now on a larger scale than ever before, into neighbourhoods which exist; they should bolster the people living there and help them to help themselves.
Planning controls should be relaxed so that people can work even in their back garden or in their back shed which planning regulations prevent them doing now. There should be much more homesteading and shopsteading so that people can take over derelict buildings and renovate, improve and live in them. That was done in London under the Conservative GLC. It has been done all over the States, but it is not being done in our inner cities today. Homesteading and shopsteading would start to change the face of these areas.
Cheap money is critical so that people can borrow without the penalties suffered now because of the levels of interest. If public money is pumped into urban development corporations, something will happen. Places will look better, but if the model city programmes of the States have anything to teach us it is that just giving a facelift to decaying urban areas will not change the endemic problems of the people living there. We keep talking about being taught by what other people have done, but we seem never to learn; we go on making the same mistakes.
289 I think that the amendment is aiming to tease out the extent to which the Government will spend increasing sums of public money on inner cities through urban development corporations or mini urban development corporations but sidestepping local government. We may disagree about whether or not there is advantage in that. Although that expenditure may make areas look better, the endemic problems will still exist.
I fear that the urban development corporation is just another of the long list of initiatives, welcome though they are. The House must be delighted that the Government are concentrating on inner-city problems, but it would be wrong of me to welcome unreservedly more urban development corporations because I believe that public money could be better targeted. It should be targeted on people rather than on buildings and it should be invested in getting the people in problem areas to help themselves. In the 1970s, the Labour Government injected social and community workers into inner-city areas; I know, because I was one of them. As a result of so many social workers going into some inner cities, rents of unfurnished and furnished dwellings went up because the social workers wanted accommodation in the areas which they were supposed to help.
We want to support the Minister. He is brave and enthusiastic and he wants urban development corporations to succeed. Hundreds of millions of pounds are going into urban development corporations. It is too easy, in an empty Chamber on a Wednesday afternoon, to say, "It is fine, let us go ahead." That is the way the House operates. We pour enormous sums of public money into ailing urban areas, believing that that will solve the problems. Throwing money at any problem does not solve it unless the expenditure is targeted correctly. I think the House may have got the message. While I welcome the Government's interest in inner cities and while I welcome urban development corporations, certainly in docklands and possibly the brave attempt on Merseyside, I wonder if it is the salvation of inner-city problems to have more of them.
In five years' time, if I am still here, I will probably be making another speech when the Government come up with another scheme. We should be much more reflective before we pour in all this money. I am not at all convinced that it is the solution. It proves to the country that the Government care, but we could do better if the expenditure was targeted in a slightly different way. The Minister should tell us that he will consider my idea of changing slightly the boundaries of urban development corporations to include neighbourhoods so that the power behind urban development corporations is not civil servants and task forces sent from London setting up new local offices, but the people living in the area who are inspired to help themselves. That must be the message of the Government. I am sure in his reply the Minister will want to say something helpful.
§ Mr. Richard Holt (Langbaurgh)
I do not know whether my hon. Friend the Member for South Hams (Mr. Steen) has ever been to Teesside. If he had been there recently, he would have seen the enormous strides which have already been made by Teesside development corporation. It has been in existence for only 10 weeks, but during that time it has announced three major projects, one covering Hartlepool marina involving an injection of £50 million, one covering the Stockton race track 290 development involving £8 million, and one covering the Smiths dock offshore projects, for which I have not got a figure.
Matching that, and very important, is the fact that already £100 million of private money has been put into the urban development corporation, as I was informed this morning when I spoke to the chief executive. This is the type of new thinking and initiative that will come from the urban development corporations. We should not try to make them stillborn, as my hon. Friend the Member for South Hams seems to want to do. When the Prime Minister visited Teesside, she said that it was an area of initiative, talent and ability and those words have been taken as a slogan by the Teesside development corporation.
Many enthusiastic people will help in this matter. In Stockton, for example, there will be a leisure development which will be the best of its kind in the country. That will attract people to the north-east. Far too often, Governments have given money to the region, just as the Government did earlier this year when they gave a regional grant of £330,000 to ICI. That money probably bought machinery from overseas and showed up as a book-keeping entry from one area to another carried out in London. None of that regional development money would have been spent in Teesside or have improved the region's economy. On the other hand, the UDC is spending the money in the region and priority will be given to local firms. Local firms have already benefited within the first 10 weeks of the UDC being set up
On Second Reading, I made some fairly strong remarks about the calibre of Labour councillors in the north-east of England. I do not withdraw from that as a generalised statement, but I identified an individual and that was wrong. I regret that an individual was so identified. I shall keep to the thrust of my comments, but I would like to retract my comments about any individuals.
§ Mr. Boyes
Although I welcome the latter comments of the hon. Gentleman, will he retract what he said about local authority officers who cannot defend themselves? Local councillors and Members of Parliament can defend themselves through a plethora of means, but civil servants and local government officers, who are often criticised, have no means of defending themselves.
§ Miss Marjorie Mowlam (Redcar)
I recognise that this is as near as the hon. Gentleman will come to an apology, and I welcome it. Would it be a good idea for him to apologise for his remarks in the press — to save him having to do so the next time we debate the Bill — alleging corruption in direct labour organisations in the district of Langbaurgh, when there is no substantial evidence to support those remarks?
§ Miss Mowlam
If that is not the case, would the hon. Gentleman like to withdraw what was printed in the local press saying that he made those statements? Is this not an ideal chance for him to contradict those statements?
§ Mr. Tim Devlin (Stockton, South)
I would like to point out the magnanimity of my hon. Friend the Member for Langbaurgh (Mr. Holt). It is nice to see this gentlemanly act and the withdrawal of his remarks about an individual during our last debate on this matter. That was right, but both I and my hon. Friend stress the need for co-operation between UDCs and local authorities. That has been the hallmark of the success of the Teesside development corporation and I speak for both of us when I say that I would like to see that continued.
§ Mr. Holt
I would like to see it continuing, but I am not sure that it will. Let me explain to my hon. Friend some of the problems that he is likely to have with the UDC. The chairman of the highways committee of Cleveland county council has said that he will not change his priorities to meet the requirements of the UDC. The hon. Member for Houghton and Washington (Mr. Boyes) said that there must be co-operation between Cleveland county council and the UDC. It is no good their saying that they will not help the UDC with the roads and services needed to develop the area, as the chairman of the highways committee said recently. That will not help progress. It is important for the two sides to work together. I hope that, in the same spirit of magnanimity, the hon. Member for Houghton and Washington will speak to senior Labour Members in Cleveland and prevail upon them to work with the new Teesside development corporation so that new jobs can be produced
§ Miss Mowlam
I would like to echo the comments of the hon. Member for Stockton, South (Mr. Devlin) and say how keen we are to work with the new UDC. Money is available for Teesside and, as the hon. Member for South Hams (Mr. Steen) said, we are keen to co-operate, whatever our doubts may be. If the hon. Member for Langbaurgh (Mr. Holt) is seeking co-operation with the county and the districts, he is more likely to achieve it if he starts working through the normal channels of communication with local authority officers and elected members, rather than making outrageous statements in the press and in the House
§ Mr. Holt
I do not think that my statements are any more outrageous than those of the chairman of the Cleveland highways committee. If the hon. Lady wants to talk to someone, she should talk to him, not me. Co-operation must come from the committee which made the statement.
UDCs were established by the Government primarily to regenerate the inner cities and to create jobs. Teesside development corporation expects the creation of 3,000 jobs in the first three years. That is to be welcomed by everybody. It is cheap per job in comparison with what has been spent in regional aid that has gone to the head offices of companies in London, not to the area. Within the next fortnight, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will open the marina project at Hartlepool and, thereafter, other proposed schemes will go ahead.
292 I hope that the Minister will answer a question which he did not answer on Second Reading and tell us whether the Government are prepared to re-examine the boundaries of the Teesside development corporation. The boundaries in Langbaurgh have been drawn arbitrarily. They should be flexible and should not be drawn for all time. None of my constituency is included in the TDC area, but many of my constituents work in that area. These lines on the map should not be absolute
§ Madam Deputy Speaker
Order. This amendment deals with money, not boundaries. On Third Reading, the hon. Gentleman is at liberty to discuss boundaries, but not during debate on this group of amendments
§ Mr. Holt
I take your point, Madam Deputy Speaker. I hope that there will be sufficient money in the kitty to enable the review of boundaries to be undertaken on a permanent basis. If that comes about, my constituents will be grateful for that amount of money having been thoughtfully set aside by the Minister when he reconsidered the matter.
On Second Reading, I said that the amount of money that had been made available will make the people happy. I do not know whether happiness can be bought with money, but something along the lines of the Teesside development corporation is necessary. What is encouraging is that, as a result of the sort of regeneration that the Government are bringing, we already have private investment outside the UDC area, which has brought 2,000 jobs and £25 million of investment. That was the result of an announcement on 23 October by a private company.
There can be no doubt that the north-east of England has received and is receiving a great deal of attention from the Government and from the Minister—I know that he has taken a particular interest in the area. We welcome the initiative and we welcome the money. We look forward to that money being spent so that 3,000 jobs are created in two years at the absolute maximum.
§ Mr. Tim Devlin (Stockton, South)
When the hon. Member for Houghton and Washington (Mr. Boyes) opened this debate he mentioned the dfficulties that will be experienced by the UDCs in raising private capital in the north-east of England. He referred specifically to a leading article on 26 October, which said that the £120 million available to Merseyside had not attracted anything near the sum of private money that had been attracted to London.
My hon. Friend the Member for Langbaurgh (Mr. Holt) has told the House that £100 million has already been attracted for the Teesside development corporation from the private sector. That sum is a measure of the TDCs success. It may be that, because TDC is the largest development corporation—it is larger than several other development corporations put together, including London —it is therefore attracting a great deal of interest. It is also attracting interest because it has a deep-water port facing east on the east coast.
The hon. Member for Houghton and Washington also mentioned that he was looking for greater co-operation between the local authorities and the development corporations. On Second Reading and in Committee we discussed, at great length, the need for such co-operation. The urgency with which we must address this matter tonight is due to the fact that the imagination that has been 293 injected by the TDC into the local economy has been sadly lacking in the local authorities in Cleveland, Stockton and elsewhere in the region. In years gone by, it has been all too evident that those local authorities have made political decisions more often than they have made marketing decisions. Indeed, the Labour party is used to regarding the north-east as safe territory where it can do exactly as it likes. It has done its best to extinguish the torch of enterprise in that region by driving out the private householder and, wherever possible, the private business man.
The local Labour-controlled authorities are only now waking up to the fact that their policies have driven jobs away from the region, but the Conservatives have always been concerned to ensure that business and private enterprise thrives in the north as much as it does in the south
§ Mr. Devlin
I shall give way in a moment. That is why we are pumping extra resources into the UDCs and, in particular, into Teesside. I hope that the available money and the extra allocation announced by the Chancellor in the Autumn Statement will not be given in equal parts to the UDCs, but will take account of special needs and exciting projects. On that basis, Teesside will inevitably take the lion's share
Opposition Members are chiefly concerned not that we are bypassing local authorities, but that we are throwing the policies of the Labour party in the north-east into reverse. I believe that that is the main reason behind the amendments that they have tabled to the Bill.
§ Miss Mowlam
I agree with the hon. Member for Stockton, South (Mr. Devlin) about the jobs that have arrived on Teesside as a result of the money invested. Both sides of the House welcome such job creation. However, will he justify his statement that local Labour authorities have turned jobs away from the area? What industries and jobs have been specifically turned away?
§ Mr. Devlin
Certainly it has been the case that Teesside local authorities — Stockton borough council, Middlesbrough borough council and Cleveland county council—are high-rating authorities. On more than one occasion—I will happily name names if the hon. Lady wishes—businesses have moved to north Yorkshire and other parts of the country to escape Cleveland's high rates.
§ Madam Deputy Speaker
Order. I do not believe that there is any reason to name names. I am afraid that the hon. Member for Redcar (Miss Mowlam) is leading the hon. Member for Stockton, South (Mr. Devlin) up the garden path.
§ Madam Deputy Speaker
Order. We are now very wide of the amendment. I have tried to bring the hon. Member for Stockton, South back to the amendment and I appeal to him to deal with it.
§ Mr. Devlin
My hon. Friend the Member for South Hams (Mr. Steen) said that there are many things lacking in the UDCs and he feels that, in some ways, it would be better to scrap the entire Bill rather than to amend it in the ways sought by the Opposition.
I suggest that what is lacking in the north-east is confidence. The TDC and the Tyneside development corporation will reinvoke the self-confidence that drove our region forward in the past century. I tried to invoke some of that spirit in my maiden speech to the House on Second Reading of the Bill.
I have a sneaking suspicion—I believe it is shared by many northerners — that perhaps there is something wrong with the region and that is why we have such high unemployment. However, it is the TDCs task to show that there is nothing wrong with our region, that we have everything going for us, and to pick up all the elements of enterprise that are succeeding throughout Teesside and show them off. It is the TDCs task to show the region that the self-confidence that previously drove the region forward is still there and is flourishing. It is also necessary for the TDC to re-establish that spirit of self-confidence, either where it is no longer present or where it has been driven out by the policies of Labour-controlled local authorities.
§ Mr. Boyes
On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. As you know I am not one who rises often on points of order. I must feel quite strongly before I do so.
The amendment that has been tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Normanton (Mr. O'Brien) and myself is fairly narrow. With respect to the hon. Member for Stockton, South (Mr. Devlin), who is a new Member, he has ample opportunity in his maiden speech to make what he considered to be the important points. I believe that he is turning this debate into one about the nature of local authorities and UDCs and not about UDC funding——
§ Madam Deputy Speaker
Order. I have got the point. It is difficult and I have tried to bring the hon. Member for Stockton, South back to the amendment. He is a new Member and the Chair must be more tolerant of new Members. However, I appeal to hon. Members to speak to the amendment on the Order Paper and not to go wide of that amendment. It is fine to speak more widely on Third Reading, but not when dealing with amendments. I appeal to all hon. Members who wish to take part in this debate to speak to the amendments, because I have been as tolerant as I possibly could be.
§ Mr. Devlin
Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for your tolerance and forbearance. I apologise if I have erred from the path of righteousness during the debate. I shall now keep rigidly to the amendment.
I think that the most important point about the funding of development corporations is that it should not be distributed on an equal basis between all the corporations. In my disclosure of the many hidden talents of the north-east, I was attempting to show that Teesside has many things going for it—many strengths on which an urban development corporation can build very strongly. I look 295 forward to Teesside gaining a much greater share of the available resources when the Government come to consider the corporations on merit.
Given its beautiful countryside, skilled work force and good communications, I believe that Teesside will take off in a way that other development corporations may not. I therefore hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will examine what extra resources can be given to the exciting projects that have been outlined by my hon. Friend the Member for Langbaurgh.
§ Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey)
On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. The hon. Member for South Hams (Mr. Steen) has already spoken. Is it not the case that he cannot speak again without leave of the House?
§ Madam Deputy Speaker
I beg the hon. Gentleman's pardon. He is quite right. The hon. Member for South Hams has spoken, and can do so again only by leave of the House?
§ Madam Deputy Speaker
Order. By leave of the House, the hon. Gentleman can do that. However, there has been an objection. The hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) objected to the hon. Gentleman speaking again.
§ Miss Mowlam
May I quickly ask the Minister two questions directly related to finance? First, can he tell us whether any financial implications have emerged from his meeting in Brussels in relation to efforts to get local people working on schemes produced by the Teesside development corporation? Is there any initiative to link the money invested with local jobs?
Secondly, I am concerned that money made available through the Teesside development corporation may be negated by the money that could potentially disappear from the area because of the unified business rate to be brought in with the poll tax. If the money is to be centrally redistributed per head of population—I ask the Minister to clarify that, because I am not sure about it—in some inner urban areas, where there is a low level of population, that could result in less money coming back from the unified business rate, which would negate the money going in via the urban development corporation.
Will that not undermine the stated aim of the Government, which is to invest more money in inner areas?
§ Mr. Holt
On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Three Conservative Members spoke before the 296 hon. Member for Redcar (Miss Mowlam) rose. Is it not normal for hon. Members who wish to speak, and who are present in the Chamber, to rise continually and try to catch your eye, so that we have a balanced debate?
§ Madam Deputy Speaker
It is possible that hon. Members who are not inspired to speak in the earlier part of the debate may later feel inclined to involve themselves for one reason or another. The hon. Lady is perfectly in order.
§ he Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. David Trippier)
I welcome the largely positive approach adopted by Opposition Members, particularly those from the official Opposition, not only during the moving of amendments but on Second Reading —which was unopposed —and in Committee. I also welcome the description of me as brave by my hon. Friend the Member for South Hams (Mr. Steen). It is the first time that I have been called that for a very long time. The last time was in 1972, when I was fighting a by-election against the present hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Smith). He not merely beat me; he metaphorically sat on me. That was a very painful experience, and the local paper described me as brave for taking him on. It is a pity that the hon. Member for Rochdale is not present to hear that, because he would have enjoyed it.
I am anxious to try to answer as many of the questions raised in the debate as possible. Let me start by reiterating what I said about mini UDCs in Committee. I referred then to the Conservative party manifesto commitment, and I do not feel any need to rehearse that again. I spelt out clearly what criteria we would be looking for when declaring areas mini UDCs. However, I should perhaps draw the attention of the hon. Member for Houghton and Washington (Mr. Boyes) to the figure that he quoted in his opening remarks on the amendment. He referred to a figure of about two dozen. I can categorically deny that: the hon. Gentleman is very wide of the mark. I do not know whether that helps him. What I cannot help him with is an announcement about mini UDCs, but, as I tried to make clear in Committee, we hope to make an announcement by the end of the year.
The hon. Gentleman asked what consultations had taken place with local authorities. I also tried to deal with that in Committee. It would be extremely difficult for us to enter into consultations with local authorities in an area where we intend to put a UDC. To some extent, expectations would be built up; and the extra money that would be available for the area would have a considerable bearing on developments. It could be extremely reckless for us to act in that way. There must and will be a period of consultation before a UDC is created, which may be of some comfort to the hon. Gentleman.
The hon. Gentleman asked what would happen if local authorities refused to have UDCs. He can probably guess the answer. If the proposal is passed by a statute in the House, the law of the land will override all other considerations. He also asked what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State meant when he referred in a recent speech to local people. The local people in question could have relevant knowledge of the development potential of a particular area. They might be local residents, business men or local authorities. Of course, the decision whether to designate a UDC is for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, subject to Parliament's approval. Not 297 all areas identified or brought to many attention, formally or informally will be appropriate for UDC purposes. As for the question whether, each UDC will have its own board the answer is yes.
The hon Gentleman asked why we cannot monitor existing UDCs more effectively before declaring more, although they may be smaller than their cousins. Again there is a straight forward answer. Having made a commitment in the manifesto, which was the major plank on which we were elected, we are determined to speed up the regeneration of many such areas If there is any difference between the Opposition and ourselves on what constitutes an area that is worthy of regeneration, that will apply not only to inner cities but to inner urban areas. We have had some experience with two UDCs which have been in operation for some time.
§ Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)
The Minister has referred to UDCs already in operation. I think that he would agree that the London Docklands development corporation is a maxi corporation. Can the Minister define "mini"? According to my recollection, section 135 of the Local Government, Planning and Land Act 1980 defines the possibility of a corporation without grading corporations in any way. Will the Minister tell us what he has in mind? Has he announced the number of UDCs that he expects the Government to establish?
§ Mr. Trippier
I understand why the hon. Gentleman asks that question. However, although I do not wish to make a heavy point of it, he was not present earlier when his hon. Friend the Member for Houghton and Washington was asking me questions. My definition of a mini urban development corporation is "small." It is small in area. Furthermore, it would receive a smaller sum of money than its cousin, the maxi urban development corporation. The hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) has given another reason why the Government cannot effectively monitor mini urban development corporations. There are no mini urban development corporations at the moment. We shall have to build on the obvious success of the maxi urban development corporations
The hon. Member for Houghton and Washington asked whether a local authority could apply. Yes, it could. Those to whom the Secretary of State referred in his recent speech could include local authorities. The hon. Gentleman referred also to a recent interview with my right hon. Friend Lord Young. There is no difference of opinion between the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department of the Environment. Inward investment in Washington has been extremely successful. For example, Nissan is now located there, but the point that I have made on several occasions is that one cannot regularly expect to achieve that degree of success.
Wherever possible, we must encourage indigenous growth. Therefore, I welcome what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Langbaurgh (Mr. Holt): that the urban development corporation in his area is of great benefit to local firms. It is important to encourage start-ups, but it is also very important to encourage the development and the strengthening of existing firms—a point that will not be lost on the hon. Member for Houghton and Washington.
I welcomed the bullish statement of my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton, South (Mr. Devlin) concerning his 298 constituency and the north-east region as a whole. He made a similar statement in his maiden speech. I very much welcomed it then, and I am sure that the House enjoyed it.
On Second Reading, the hon. Member for Redcar (Miss Mowlam) said that in future I ought not to fly over Redcar; I ought to drop in. I do not know whether the hon. Lady meant that literally. If the hon. Lady would be kind enough to extend an invitation to me to visit Redcar, I should be only too pleased to do so.
I shall reply in reverse order to the hon. Lady's two questions. I shall check what I am about to say when I return to the Department, but I believe that the proposed unified business rate will benefit the north-east, including the area that she represents. I shall happily write to the hon. Lady explaining in what way the area would benefit and what the percentage decrease would be. In general terms, it will benefit areas in the north as opposed to those in the south.
§ Mr. Devlin
I think that my hon. Friend the Minister is looking for a reduction of about 23 per cent
§ Mr. Trippier
If that is a fact rather than hypothesis, I am sure that the hon. Lady will be impressed.
§ Miss Mowlam
The figure that the hon. Member for Stockton, South (Mr. Devlin) has given is the average figure. I agree wholeheartedly that the average figure is 23 per cent. If, however, it were to be redistributed on a per head of population basis, the figure would be different. I am interested in what would happen if we went below the average level. It is that figure in which I am particularly interested.
§ Mr. Trippier
The announcement will have to be made about the unified business rate. My hon. Friend the Member for Stockton, South referred to the only available figures at the moment. If there is any further information that I can give to the hon. Lady, I shall write to her.
The hon. Lady also referred to the employment of local people. A European Community directive clearly states that it is not mandatory that local people should be employed. I do not believe that there is any intention to alter that directive. On Second Reading the hon. Lady made it clear that she wanted the Government to do all that they could to encourage the employment of local people. I support that view, but we cannot make the employment of local people mandatory.
The Government have achieved considerable success with the Merseyside development corporation. The vast majority of those who are employed on construction work and in manufacturing, both in new firms and in expanding firms, are local people. That gives me the confidence to say to the hon. Lady that I am sure that that can be replicated on Teesside. We want, wherever possible, to encourage the employment of local people, but it is nonsense to say that they will automatically be employed. They cannot be employed unless their skills are up to the standards required by the companies that have vacancies. The Manpower Services Commission must concentrate on dealing with this problem and overcome the mismatch of skills; otherwise, we shall be wasting our time.
My hon. Friend the Member for Langbaurgh referred yet again to boundaries. The boundaries of all the urban development corporations are subject to revision, but they can be revised only by statutory instrument. I have taken 299 on board my hon. Friend's point, and I shall be prepared to look from time to time at the revision of their boundaries.
When the hon. Member for Houghton and Washington moved his amendment, he said that it was a probing amendment, by means of which he could ask a few questions. I am grateful to him for saying that. He knows that his amendments are unnecessary and that the provisions of the Bill apply to all urban development corporations. In the circumstances, I hope that he will feel able to withdraw his amendment.
My hon. Friend the Member for South Hams referred to neighbourhood schemes. My hon. Friend may be making a mistake by drawing a comparison between urban development corporations and neighbourhood schemes. He believes that they are mutually exclusive, but they are not. A number of initiatives have been taken recently. A few years ago my hon. Friend wrote an excellent book on inner-city regeneration. He referred to the city action teams and to the task forces that have responsibility for neighbourhoods. Estate Action, with which I am familiar, because it operates in my constituency, deals with a clearly defined neighbourhood.
Housing action trusts:— which have not yet been announced, but which have been discussed in the recent White Paper—and general improvement areas will not be nullified by the declaration of urban development corporations. It is important that I should write to my hon. Friend to tell him of certain recent initiatives that have been deployed by the London Docklands development corporation, particularly with regard to community support. He might then be encouraged. But if he wished to come back to me afterwards, he would be very welcome to do so.
I hope that the hon. Member for Houghton and Washington will now withdraw his amendment.
§ Amendment negatived.