Skip to main content

Inner Cities (Government Proposals)

Volume 929: debated on Wednesday 6 April 1977

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a statement on Government policy for the inner cities. My right hon. Friend will be commenting separately on the Scottish aspects.

Since the autumn my colleagues and I have been re-examining the problems that affect our major urban centres. In our work we have been able to draw upon the material prepared in a whole series of reports, not least the recently completed inner area studies carried out in Birmingham, Lambeth and Liverpool, and I pay tribute to the right hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Walker) who initiated these three major studies in 1972. On the evidence before us, there can be little doubt that, whilst previous Governments of both parties have paid increasing attention to urban problems, the extent and the changed character of the inner city problems is only now becoming fully understood.

During the post-war period policies have concentrated on encouraging the export of inner city populations and on large-scale, comprehensive redevelopment to provide new homes. But too little attention has been paid to the economic health and to the community interests of the inner areas.

Over the past decade inner cities have suffered a massive and disproportionate loss of jobs and a major exodus of population. Substantial ethnic minorities in some cities have added an extra dimension of difficulty. The old problems of poor housing—and, in some areas, congestion—have still to be overcome, but in many areas they have been joined by the new problems of high unemployment, decay and dereliction, unbalanced population structure, with disproportionate numbers of the disadvantaged and the elderly, and an accompanying loss of internal morale and external confidence.

A new direction is now needed for our urban policies. We must check and, where possible, halt the decline of the inner areas. Extra money will help but will not provide the sole solution. We need to secure better use of existing resources to work positively in favour of these areas. Above all, we have to shift the emphasis of Government policy and bring about changes in the attitudes of local authorities, of industry and of institutions.

Our proposals are in summary as follows. First, we shall give a new priority in the main policies and programmes of Government so that they contribute to a better life in these inner areas. We have already moved strongly in this direction in housing through our stress area policy and in local government finance through the needs element of the rate support grant. An inner area dimension is needed in other main programmes. Similarly, local authorities, which must be the main agents for action, should rethink their own priorities and give a new inner area emphasis to their policies and organisation.

Secondly, we need a more unified approach to urban problems. As the Prime Minister has announced today, responsibility for the urban programme will be transferred to my Department and in Wales to the Secretary of State.

Thirdly, our immediate priority must be to strengthen the economies of these areas. Subject only to priority for regional policy, suitable firms will be encouraged to establish themselves in the inner areas of the major cities. We shall introduce legislation to enhance the powers of local authorities with serious inner area problems to enable them to assist industry and to designate industrial improvement areas. We shall encourage local authorities to give more consideration to the needs of industry, particularly of small firms, in their planning policies.

Fourthly, our policies on population movement, national as well as local, need review and change. I made an announcement about the new towns to the House yesterday.

Fifthly, the Government have decided to recast the urban programme to cover economic and environmental as well as social projects and to increase it. A large measure of priority will be given in the early years to the regeneration of the inner areas of the major cities, but other cities and towns will have access to it on an increasing scale in later years.

Sixthly, the Government propose to offer special partnerships to the authorities—both districts and counties—of certain cities. This will involve the joint preparation of inner area programmes in order to secure a coherent across-the-board approach to their problems. Urban grants will be paid and related to these new inner area programmes.

We propose in the light of the inner area studies to offer partnerships to Liverpool and Birmingham, to Manchester-Salford, which have severe and large-scale inner urban problems, and in London to Lambeth and to the docklands authorities, which are ready to start a major programme of urban renewal. The Government will consider proposals for partnership from other authorities with major inner area problems. It will be necessary, however, to limit strictly the selection if the best use is to be made of extra resources.

Outside the partnership arrangement authorities will be able to prepare inner area programmes, and the Government will consider linking urban grants to those programmes, though necessarily on a modest scale in the early years. Work on a comprehensive community programme with Gateshead will continue.

I have already referred to the recasting of the urban programme. We intend to increase it from the present level of under £30 million to £125 million a year in 1979–80. I hope that it will be possible to increase it further in later years. Our intention is that this will form a continuing commitment of about £1,000 million over the next decade.

As launching aid, the Chancellor has announced an extra sum for construction works in certain inner cities of which over £80 million will be available in England to be spent over the next two years. We shall be in touch with major authorities, particularly in the partnership areas, about projects in inner areas which will form part of the scheme. These will enable a start to be made in advance of the preparation of inner area programmes, which will inevitably take some time to prepare, and will, of course, cover current as well as capital expenditure.

The Government intend to lay a White Paper before Parliament as soon as possible, and to invite the House to debate the Government's proposals.

The Government's attention to the serious problems of the inner cities is to be welcomed, following the report commissioned by my right hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr. Walker).

Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that his statement will need careful study and early debate? Does he realise that the resources allocated—a modest transfer of funds to the urban programme, plus £100 million over two years by the Chancellor of the Exchequer—are trivial against the background of the enormous problems affecting inner areas, even when great areas of urban deprivation are postponed from consideration for many years and resources are concentrated on a small number of the most seriously affected areas? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that even this allocation is misleading because, by an earlier statement, he has taken £57 million away from the housing associations that are carrying out a great deal of improvement work and conversions in these very areas?

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that we on this side of the House understand the difficulties of capital expenditure, but that we find particularly disappointing his lack of response to suggestions, put to him frequently from these Benches, that commercial and industrial assets in the new towns should be sold and the capital moneys released to help inner city areas, without recourse to further public borrowing?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that an essential requirement for jobs is to attract greater investment from companies and individuals, and that we strongly support the emphasis put on the contribution that small businesses can make? However, does the right hon. Gentleman realise that changed policies on the part of the Government to encourage wealth and job creators are essential?

Will the Secretary of State accept that the Opposition view with anxiety his proposal to continue using the needs element of the rate support grant to transfer money from country areas to the cities?

Finally, does the right hon. Gentleman realise that his statement lacks new initiatives, which are necessary to involve city dwellers more directly in controlling their own lives rather than being dominated by officialdom? Much further thought will have to be given to neighbourhood concepts involving individuals and families in a more positive way.

I note what the hon. Gentleman has said. I note his welcome, and I accept that my statement and, indeed, the White Paper when it comes will need and deserve careful study, and we shall make sure that it gets that in the House of Commons.

Although the hon. Gentleman welcomed the statement, I think that it is a little odd of him to reproach me for not making sufficient resources available for the inner areas and at the same time to express his anxiety that the needs element of the rate support grant is being used for precisely the purpose of giving resources to the areas of greatest need.

We have to be honest with each other about tackling this problem of the inner cities. I believe, and hope, that the Opposition parties will share with and join us in trying to solve this extremely difficult and intractable question. I hope, therefore, that we shall get their support for the general policies that we are seeking to outline. I hope, too, that in the course of time, if they are convinced that there is more to be done, they will themselves encourage the further public expenditure that is required—or may be required—in these areas, and that they will do all that they can to assist us.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that his statement will be well received by those of us who represent inner city areas, and that the part of his statement indicating that a White Paper will be published and discussed later in the House is also acceptable, although long overdue? May I press my right hon. Friend further about partnerships, because Leeds, the city in which my constituency is situated, is not included in the list? That city is among the six largest in England which made a joint submission to him in February for additional aid to assist inner city deprivation. Does his statement mean that no additional assistance will be available for cities other than those on the list?

I appeal to hon. Members. Everyone will have seen that half those right hon. and hon. Members present wish to be called. If all hon. Members make such long statements, I shall not be able to call a third of those seeking to catch my eye.

I have announced the names of those cities with which I believe we should enter into partnership discussions. There will, of course, be others that will wish to be considered. I do not exclude the possibility of further partnership areas, but I must stress that we shall have to apply very strict conditions indeed for eligibility.

Will the Secretary of State be more explicit about what he means by "special partnership arrangements"? In his statement on new towns yesterday, the Secretary of State stressed the link between new town development and inner city problems. Does he not agree that the vast assets created for the new towns and perimeter estates of cities are part of the inner city renewal? Does he not see that assets created in new towns and outer perimeter estates of cities should be used, rolled over, and made available as a resource for the renewal of inner cities?

I shall consider whether there is any possible additional resource that can be tapped. I do not wish to go further than that at present.

We have in mind that a partnership committee should be established in each of these areas. It would include representatives of the main Government Departments and representatives of the main local authorities concerned. Other important interests, such as health and other services, could also be drawn in.

Does my right hon. Friend accept that the one reason great manufacturing companies have left the centre of London and built new places elsewhere is the massive subsidies that the Government have offered them as a deliberate policy to move industry away from London to the regions? Is my right hon. Friend announcing a reversal of that policy? Can he assure the House that companies that want to take up their roots from London and put them down somewhere else will not continue to receive the subsidies that they have received in the past?

My hon. Friend invites me to pronounce a death sentence on regional policy. Since I am connected with the London area, I understand fully that that is an attractive proposal, on the face of it, but it would be great folly if, at this stage, we began to abandon regional policy.

We need to do two things. First, we must shift the emphasis intra-regionally. We must give an intra-regional bias in favour of inner city areas. In London and the South-East, for instance, we must have industrial location bias in favour of inner city areas as opposed to the rest of the South-East. That would apply to other inner cities, including those in assisted areas. A striking feature is that there is a differential between the inner cities and their surrounding areas in both the assisted and non-assisted areas.

Is the Secretary of State aware that many of us will welcome the removal of responsibility for the urban aid programme from the Home Office to his Department? That is right. Is he aware that many of us will be disappointed that the areas of high unemployment in London and Birmingham will not be treated in a way similar to areas of high unemployment in other parts of the country? Is he aware that there will be disappointment among those who started the shift in the rate support grant that much of the shift has not gone to the benefit of inner city areas but has been spread among cities as a whole? Will he take some action to deal with that?

Is the Secretary of State aware that many of us will remain disappointed that the Government are to give only an additional £50 million for the construction industry programme next year when they will be paying £600 million in unemployment and social security benefits to unemployed construction workers?

If I can find a way of bringing more of our unemployed resources into use without adding to the size of the public sector borrowing requirement, I shall do so. If the right hon. Gentleman can suggest ways to square that sum, I shall be interested to hear them. The rate support grant and the movement of resources through the needs element is not a perfect instrument for ensuring either that money is distributed to the areas of particular need, or, when it reaches those authorities, that they spend it. That is why an additional supplementary grant directly related to inner city programmes is an important stimulus to local authorities. They have a good deal to do in rethinking their priorities for helping inner city areas.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that his announcement will give pleasure to those who represent decaying or decayed inner cities? Is he aware that I was particularly gratified by his mention of Lambeth? That borough, as no doubt some other areas have, has important and large rehabilitation schemes. But in London they have been savagely cut by my right hon. Friend on behalf of the Government, for reasons that we understand.

The proposals are long term. Is my right hon. Friend prepared to consider short-term help by permitting at least some of the rehabilitation proposals that have been turned down to be carried out? Will he allow his right hon. Friend the Minister for Housing and Construction to see a deputation from the area, since he has refused to see a deputation from the Lambeth Borough Council on this matter? Will he look into that?

I shall certainly take that up with my right hon. Friend the Minister for Housing and Construction. My right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss) may not have seen the reply that I made today to a Question about the new borrowing arrangements for local authority housing programmes. The arrangements that we have announced will enable local authorities to increase their spending on rehabilitation and other programmes. I do not accept that there have been savage cuts in London or inner city area housing programmes. We have done our utmost, by designating stress areas and by allocations under other programmes, to safeguard them.

Does the Minister realise that this method of announcing Scottish inner city area programmes is a disgrace? Why is the Secretary of State for Scotland not here today to answer questions on the participation agreements and the legislation that these measures will entail? Why is it that England deserves a full statement on this matter but Scotland has to make do with only a Written Answer?

I think that the hon. Gentleman is not treating the House with the seriousness that it deserves. He knows perfectly well that the Secretary of State for Scotland has, in a sense, foreshadowed many of these events by his announcement on the East End of Glasgow some time ago. Further, my right hon. Friend will be making a statement himself shortly.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that cities such as Hull, although they have their own stress areas, will be very disappointed by his statement? The statement has given no indication whatever of how the medium-sized cities, which were deprived of their independent representation by the right hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Walker), will be dealt with under these proposals. We have had no benefit whatever, or very little benefit, from regional policies. What will be done to help our inner, decaying cities, where we have the same intensity of problems as many of these other areas that have had a bigger slice of the cake for a long time?

There are many ways in which the problems that beset Hull can best be tackled. It may be that the greatest contribution the Government can make is not so much in the context of inner city policy but in the context of industrial and regional policy. As my hon. Friend knows, I am not unsympathetic to Hull, for very good reasons. I am not telling the House that I am not aware that most of our cities have problems, but what I have had to do, because this is the only realistic way to proceed, is to concentrate what resources we have on the areas of greatest need.

Will not the Secretary of State agree that the first essential step is to revive the economic life of the inner cities? If that does not happen, all the money spent on social expenditure will go into a bottomless bucket. Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that in London, if we are to create more jobs in manufacturing and commerce, we have to change many old-established planning attitudes? Would it not give more encouragement to London if the Secretary of State were able to announce an ending of industrial development certificates and office development permits?

Those are somewhat over-simple solutions, but I believe that the IDC relaxation and the new intra-regional stress in IDC policies in favour of the inner areas will be a substantial help, as will be the increased powers of local authorities to assist industry. Of course I agree that the planning attitudes of local authorities have in the past been unhelpful in a number of instances, but I have seen plenty of evidence in many of the local authorities and local councils of a very significant change in their thinking.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on what may turn out to be the most important decision that the Government have made. However, it is not with unalloyed joy that I look on the transfer of the urban programme to a completely non-black programme. The urban programme was designed as a black programme in the aftermath of the "rivers of blood" speech, and has never been fully used for that purpose. If my right hon. Friend is taking over the urban programme, why is he not taking over Section 11? In the choice of cities to be helped by the planned improvements, why is Bradford omitted when it is third in the list of census deprivation indicators and third in the number of New Commonwealth immigrants who live there?

The Section 11 programme under the 1966 Act remains unaffected by what I have said and will continue to be used by the Home Office, which has its particular responsibilities in this field, linked with its responsibility for immigration policy. I do not think that we would all agree that the urban programme has in the past been a black programme. If it has been, it has been extremely ill-directed, because an extremely small part has gone to areas where black communities are strongly established.

My purpose is to deal, regardless of whether there are black or white populations, with aggregated problems of poverty and deprivation in our major urban centres. That is my purpose and policy. In some of the inner cities black communities are very small and in others they are very large. I believe that that is the best way to proceed.

Has not the Secretary of State dealt a death blow to overspill schemes for the Greater London Council? The effect on my own constituency of Hastings will be devastating as we have unemployment of more than 10 per cent. and we have spent millions of pounds and years of time trying to get together on the scheme on which the Government have now done a U-turn.

I should not like to predict what effects my policy announcement will have on certain towns in the South. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is already aware that some very radical rethinking has gone on in the GLC about its overspill programme, and what I have said does not necessarily relate to the decisions of the accommodating authorities themselves.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that his statement will be warmly welcomed by Liverpool? Can he explain a little further the idea of a joint partnership or joint committee? Is he suggesting that the joint committee should have powers similar to those of new town authorities in order to cut through the very difficult bureaucratic planning arrangements that exist in order that speedy action can be taken? Can he give a further assurance that the Department of Industry will be very much involved in the creation of small nursery factories in the inner areas to help small businesses develop?

The joint committees to which I referred in a partnership context will, of course, draw up programmes covering the total needs of the area, bringing together central Government as well as local government input into the needs of the area. That will be the basis for assessing the direct grant for the programme worked out. Whether particular cities would wish to call in additional executive bodies or would wish themselves to invite the setting up of new kinds of organisations to deal with their problems is a question to which I certainly have not closed my mind. It is for them to put forward other proposals.

I welcome the Governments' initiative in relation to the East End of Glasgow. However, can the Secretary of State tell us when we can expect a further statement from the Secretary of State for Scotland about what is happening there? In Dalmarnock a tremendous contribution has been made by local community associations and community groups. Will the Secretary of State respond to what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. Eyre) and say what role he sees for community associations and community groups in the scheme that the Government have put forward?

I cannot help the hon. Gentleman on the first part of his question. I am sure that my right hon. Friend will make an announcement as soon as he can.

I am glad that the hon. Member has brought me back to the important part that voluntary bodies and community groups can play in the inner areas. I believe that they have a very important part to play. Local people should be involved in planning and development in their own areas, but whatever we do in this direction, I do not wish to derogate from what I believe to be the prime responsibility of properly elected councillors.

I appreciate the tremendous problem with which my right hon. Friend is grappling, but does he appreciate the intensity of feeling in areas such as Sheffield, which at less than 24 hours' notice sent to London the top delegation that it could muster to ask us to mention that Sheffield was likely not to be in the list? Could my right hon. Friend explore more deeply the question of partnership to enable us to offer hope to areas that were heavily bombed in the war and the inner cities of which are in a dire position?

I note what my hon. Friend has said. I understand that any authority not included in my present list is bound to be worried and apprehensive, but I certainly do not rule out at all the possibility of talks and deputations to enable us to hear any further representations that they wish to make.

Will the right hon. Gentleman accept that on first hearing his statement is helpful, but will he also accept that the legislation should provide for removing some of the shackles on London? My hon. Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Baker) has mentioned the IDCs and ODPs which deter people from bothering to apply even though they may know that they will get the certificates that they require. Will he also consider the demise of the Location of Offices Bureau?

I am glad to have a second opportunity to come back to the LOB. Certainly my view is that a change of direction is needed there, too. I think that its new emphasis must be far more on looking at what contribution it can make in office development to help the inner areas, including the inner areas of London. I shall have other things to say about the LOB at a later date.

Order. To put hon. Members out of their agony I can tell them that I shall allow extra time beyond what I had in mind for this statement. It will help, however, if hon. Members are as concise as possible.

How soon will my right hon. Friend consult those city councils that have been left out of the arrangements? I am thinking of Leicester. What test does my right hon. Friend intend to apply for eligibility, since Leicester, which is a recognised stress area with a high level of deprivation, 36 enumeration districts and a substantial ethnic minority, has been left out? It is very worried and apprehensive.

I understand my hon. and learned Friend's anxiety, but the fact that he mentioned Leicester's great housing problem enables me to point out that where this is the major problem our housing stress policy and housing investment programmes will be of direct relevance and help to his city. Beyond that, clearly a lot depends on the mix and intensity of the problems from which particular major urban areas suffer. I am perfectly prepared to look at the mix of such problems and, indeed, I have done so already. I repeat, however, that the test will have to be very stringent and the selection will have to be small.

However disappointing the details may be, may I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on at last having grasped this extremely difficult nettle? First, does he accept that his statement has implications for the expanding towns as well as for the new towns? Will he consider these implications and make a further statement later? Why did he leave out of his list of inner city problems two problems of special importance—first, crime and violence, especially among the young, and, secondly, the problems of immigration and race relations? Since both these problems intimately concern the police, will he ensure that the police as well as social workers are fully consulted in the development of his policy?

I shall look at what the hon. Gentleman said about the implications of my statement for the expanding towns. These will obviously have to be looked at in some detail. Crime and violence is broadly a problem for the country as a whole, although maybe it has an added sharpness in the inner city areas. However, in so far as it has, and in so far as it requires programmes to be deployed in a way that concentrates resources more in those areas, what I have been saying will be directly relevant. The Home Office will, of course, still be very much involved in general Government consideration of inner area policy.

I welcome the attempt by the Secretary of State to come to grips with the inner city problem, but is he aware that nowhere in Yorkshire is there at present a listed partnership city? Does he appreciate that every one of the indicators he mentioned in his statement, including a substantial immigrant community and a disproportionate number of elderly, is fully applicable to Bradford? There will be great dismay at the exclusion of this city. Since my right hon. Friend says that the door to negotiations is not closed in terms of further cities seeking to join that very small list, how quickly will he act to negotiate and consider applications for joining that partnership list?

If it is any help to my hon. and learned Friend I can tell him to get going straight away and to start mobilising his case. I shall be more than willing to discuss it with him after the recess. Bradford has serious problems, but I have to determine whether they are of such a magnitude as to justify special partnership arrangements.

Will the Secretary of State please be rather more forthcoming on the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Baker)? Is there to be a positive relaxation of IDC and ODP control in the cities in general and in London in particular? If so, by how much will it be relaxed? If it is not to be relaxed, how does the right hon. Gentleman hope to get the balanced industrial and commercial development that he requires?

I repeat, after the offers of assistance under regional policy have been made, we intend, through the administration of IDC policy, to put the inner areas as the next preference for firms seeking to establish themselves in the non-assisted areas. In the assisted areas where IDC policy is not used we have to use other means, and the Department of Industry will use some of the 1972 Act powers as well as the direct programmes of small factory building to which my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) referred earlier.

In view of the statement, most of which I welcome, will my right hon. Friend undertake to look favourably at certain problems for redevelopment schemes in the borough of Wands-worth, schemes of which I have given him particulars? Some of them are self-financing, but they require his approval and ODPs.

I always look carefully at propositions put to me by my right hon. Friend, and I shall look even more carefully at those he has mentioned.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the success of what he has announced today will depend largely on his ability to concentrate resources where the need is greatest, and that to do that he will have to resist the blandishments of hon. Members on both sides of the House? Does he appreciate that if this Government and the next do not put sufficient resources into the programme, the cost to the country as a whole in terms of worsening race relations and crime will be very great?

I agree that the cost of failing to tackle the problems of our inner cities—and they are not coterminous with the problems of race, although they are often mingled together—the failure to deal with real decay and neglect could be very great to the whole country. That is why we must take action to solve those problems.

Does my right hon. Friend accept that his statement and his proposals will be particularly welcomed in Salford? Will he do what he can to deal with the outstanding planning appeals for the large rehousing programme for the city, because at present they are a serious impediment to dealing with the housing problems of the city's inner areas?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Government lopped £20 million off the programme to improve houses in Liverpool? Is he now proposing to return that £20 million by way of the £100 million that he will give to five cities, including Liverpool?

I hesitate to confirm what the hon. Gentleman said without looking carefully at the allocations we have made to Liverpool. However, Liverpool and the other local authorities will have the opportunity of borrowing up to 25 per cent., and I shall help them to increase what is available in improvement grants.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, welcome as the proposals are, they are likely to be too small and too slow in taking effect to overcome the massive problems of multiple deprivation? Will he accept that the most serious problem in these areas, apart from housing, is the lack of skilled and semi-skilled jobs? Will he reconsider the reply which he gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr. Atkinson) with a view to making the regional employment premium system more discriminating and applying it in areas such as inner London where there is an acute need for it?

I shall consider my hon. Friend's comments and suggestions. As for the size of the programme, may I make this quite clear? What I have been talking about is, as it were, a direct urban grant, which, as I have said, we intend to increase from the present levels to £125 million and to keep going from 1979–80. But, as my hon. Friend must be aware, because most of the expenditure in the cities is through the local authorities, an increase in the budgets and spending of local authorities is also directly relevant to the amount of resources available. I cannot quantify it, though I could give my hon. Friend some idea, but this has increased considerably precisely as a result of what we have done through the rate support grant needs element. Lastly, in terms of direct Government spending, what I have said excludes entirely the expenditure on housing which we make through central grants and determinations, which also have a special stress in favour of the hard-pressed urban areas.

I welcome the Secretary of State's statement, but is he aware that some of us are pretty sceptical about the likely ability of his joint committees to stimulate economic development? Has the right hon. Gentleman any plans to tackle the problem of artificially high land values in the inner cities, and second, has he any plan to tackle the problem of land hoarding by public authorities, which has been made worse by the Community Land Act?

I do not accept that last assertion but I agree that land hoarding presents a serious question in both the public and the private sector. We shall certainly make very plain to public sector holders of land which they do not need that we want its disposal at the earliest possible moment. As regards high land values, there is a problem because much of the land is simply not being offered. There does not appear to be even a sensible market against which the values can be tested. If we can find ways of testing values—perhaps through what the hon. Gentleman almost suggested, by deliberate sales or carefully judged sales—in order to test and, if possible, lower market prices, that will be very much in our interest.

Is the Secretary of State aware of the difficulties which his announcement creates for those of us who are conscious of inner city problems but who represent areas where city population has already expanded but where the services have not kept pace? To many of my constituents it will look as though the Government have first moved them out and then moved the money back to where they came from. May we be assured at least that the right hon. Gentleman's policies—which are undoubtedly right in principle—will not be pursued to a degree which creates new deprivation in the areas to which city population has already moved?

I shall be concerned to see that that does not happen, but, as the hon. Gentleman recognises, it is a matter of getting the right balance between areas of new growth and the older areas where growth has been all too lacking.

Order. I shall call other hon. Members, but I do not wish it to be taken as a precedent. I have been overcome by the spirit of Easter. I hope, however, that hon. Members will be brief in their questions. There is another statement to follow.

Does my right hon. Friend recall that in the inner city area of Willesden, which I represent, there have been more than 60 factory closures in the past five years and the imbalance in the community through having thousands of skilled engineers out and lots of warehousemen in is creating problems? I noted what my right hon. Friend said about the partnership effort. Will he extend it beyond the boroughs concerned to bring in entrepreneurs and industry so that we may once again have a balanced mix of industry and jobs, as in the Park Royal estate?

In making my announcement about Lambeth and docklands, I have not, as it were, closed the door to other areas of London. They will certainly be considered. As for bringing in industry, I am convinced that there must be far more active relationships established between local authorities and industry if we are to achieve the revival we want.

What plans has my right hon. Friend to issue a circular or other information to all local authorities regarding the policies which he has enunciated today? Second, will he confirm that for this Government tackling areas of deprivation in no way means that there are two classes of citizen, and they are pledged to tackle areas of deprivation wherever they are to be found?

Yes, of course we want to do that, but, as I understand it, it is very much part of our party's whole philosophy to treat the most urgent needs first—to assess needs and then try to meet them. I am trying to tackle the most urgent needs, but I do not rule out or in any way dismiss the claims of other parts of the country.

I welcome my right hon. Friend's statement, but on what criteria does he exclude Sandwell, part of which is represented by myself and part by my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General? Sandwell suffers from exactly the same problems in similar concentration as do his chosen areas.

It is a matter of detailed analysis, and I shall have something further to say about that at the time of the White Paper. But I assure my hon. Friend that what we have tried to do is take account of virtually all the major indicators of need as well as the scale of the problem and other matters which are relevant. We shall try to satisfy my hon. Friend about our choice in due course.

I hope that my right hon. Friend will take it that the people of Salford will welcome some of his proposals, but is he aware of the disgruntlement on both sides of the House about the amount? Will he agree that if one took proper account of the construction industry and the low import element in building, it would be better to employ unemployed construction workers and provide more money? Will my right hon Friend accept that in Salford there may well be an element of healthy scepticism about the way the Government will act when it is known that when proposals are made by Salford City Council they are bogged down in his Department for three to four months?

If I could launch a more far-reaching programme, I should be very pleased to do so, but the House must be aware that only two months ago we announced, to great applause, at least from the Opposition Benches, major reductions in public expenditure. Now, when I am able to announce an increase in the programmes, apparently with the approval of both sides, I hear—I am delighted to hear it—that perhaps I should consider doing even more. I have no doubt that all this will be noted not only by me but by my right hon. Friends.

Outside the partnership areas, exactly whose responsibility will it be to stimulate the necessary employment? Is my right hon. Friend thinking of giving local authorities extra specific powers to take positive responsibility for employment in their areas?

Yes. The Government themselves cannot, as it were, take on the job for the whole country. It is therefore right and proper that local authorities should have somewhat greater powers than they have at present to do things to help their own urban economies.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that his statement will be welcomed in East London, and especially in the London borough of Newham, where in Newham, South we have half the designated London docklands area? In the partnership scheme, will the partnership be with the existing Docklands Joint Committee? Will it be expanded in any way in the partnership? Further, is it correct that the savings in development in South-East England—developments which may not take place now in green-field sites—will be well in excess in cash terms of the share of the docklands money which my right hon. Friend has just announced?

I shall need notice of the second part of that question. As far as relationships with the Dockland Joint Committee are concerned, obviously we want to talk about how the new partnership arrangements will fit in with that committee's own unique organisation. I am not proposing that we should seek to tear up a much negotiated and valuable organisation, but some modification of it may be needed.

Before I call the Minister of State to make a statement on the EEC Council of Ministers' meeting I should tell the House that I allowed longer on that statement because of the direct constituency interests.