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Inner Cities—Construction

Volume 929: debated on Tuesday 29 March 1977

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Within the general problem of unemployment, the construction industry has suffered particularly hard. Although the prospective upturn in industrial investment and a probable fall in mortgage interest rates will give it some relief, the Government intend to give it additional help by means which will also assist in coping with the growing problems of inner city areas.

For this reason £100 million of additional expenditure will be made available at once from the Contingency Reserve for construction work over the next two years, in certain inner city areas in England, and for similar work in selected areas in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The Government will consult the local authorities about the allocation and programming of this expenditure.

It is likely that the work in England will include the rehabilitation and improvement of old housing, industrial site preparation, the building of advance factories, school improvements, community buildings, day centres, health facilities and the reclamation of derelict and neglected land. My right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for the Environment and the Secretary of State for Scotland will be making a further statement about inner cities shortly.

The list of employment and construction measures I have just mentioned has a gross cost of about £400 million over the next two years. This includes £165 million from the sum I set aside for this purpose in my Statement last December. The measures should create or maintain between 150,000 and 200,000 jobs or training places by the fourth quarter of this year, depending on the allowance made for the displacement of jobs elsewhere in the economy. I think that the House will agree that this is a real contribution to reducing our unemployment problem.