§ 3. Mr. Fatchett
To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what is the total amount of money spent by the Government through urban development corporations since 1981–82; how many houses for rent have been provided by each of the urban development councils during that period; and if he will make a statement.
§ The Minister for Local Government and Inner Cities (Mr. David Hunt)
Urban development corporations have proved to be an excellent investment of taxpayers' money: £820 million has secured £7 billion worth of private sector investment, the creation of 26,000 new jobs and the reclamation of 2,700 acres of derelict land. Up to last year more than 2,000 homes for rent had been completed in UDC areas and several further schemes are under way or proposed.
§ Mr. Fatchett
May I congratulate the Minister on his forthcoming appointment and ask him whether he will deny that it is simply a manoeuvre to avoid having to deal with the chairman of Leeds urban development corporation, who is clearly an embarrassment to Leeds UDC and the Government? It is clear that development in UDC areas often involves an emphasis on big and grandiose schemes at the cost of small and local business, and there is plenty of evidence that that is already happening in Leeds. Does the Minister agree that the UDC should have a priority to provide for local business and also to provide for local people to live in the inner-city areas, in housing that they can afford—either by low-cost purchase or by rental? Are not the schemes envisaged by the UDCs pushing such people out and depriving them of housing opportunities in inner-city areas?
§ Mr. Hunt
UDCs have a statutory remit to encourage people to live and work in their areas. Some 2,500 homes for rent are being built or are proposed in UDC areas in England and Wales at present. Instead of criticising his local development corporation and its chairman, the hon. Gentleman should concentrate—as many Opposition Members and many of my hon. Friends do—on supporting development corporations and their chairmen in the excellent work that they do.
§ Mr. Batiste
I hope that my hon. Friend will disregard the continual and irresponsible attacks that the hon. Member for Leeds, Central (Mr. Fatchett) makes on Leeds 1107 urban development corporation. Does my hon. Friend recognise that one of the difficulties in the rented accommodation sector in Leeds—especially in constituencies such as mine, comprised of towns and villages on the periphery of the city—is that the council will not afford any priority to housing local people in areas where they have been brought up? If it did so, more housing would be available in rural communities around Leeds.
§ Mr. Hunt
I could not agree more with my hon. Friend. We must ensure that, in our inner-city policy, we concentrate on giving people greater opportunities for jobs, better community facilities, a better environment in which to work and live and better homes. That is what the development corporations are doing and I only wish that they received more co-operation and help from local authorities.
§ Mr. Loyden
In spite of what the Minister has said, he must be aware that in the main the responsibility still lies with local authorities that have to meet the needs of the people who are compelled to seek housing for rent. Is he aware that because of the Government's policies, the urban renewal programme in Liverpool is in danger of not being completed? I am sure that he is aware that that city has had tremendous housing problems throughout the post-war period. Does he accept that the Government must do something to allow local authorities to continue their building programmes?
§ Mr. Hunt
I hope that the hon. Gentleman will find time in his busy day today to attend the conference at the Barbican, which is being organised by Business Opportunities on Merseyside and which will be addressed this afternoon by both myself and the leader of Liverpool city council. If the hon. Gentleman were to do so, he would hear a much more positive message than the one that he it trying to put across. There is a positive partnership in Liverpool to improve the quality of life for the people there. The hon. Gentleman should praise and recognise that instead of belittling it.