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Inner City Development (London)

Volume 930: debated on Wednesday 20 April 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a further statement on his plans for inner city development in London.


asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what further plans he has for new development in dockland; and if he will make a statement.


asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a further statement on his plans for inner city development in London.

Following my statement on 6th April, I shall be consulting the GLC, the Docklands Joint Committee and other authorities concerned in London with a view to setting up partnership arrangements as early as possible.

I welcome part of that statement by the Minister, but will he clarify further his philosophy? Does he agree that relief in inner areas of excessively bad housing and multiple deprivation should not be given at the expense of outer urban areas and areas that, in total numbers of units, are above average in terms of bad housing in any case?

Because of the unity of London as a housing area and because the area faces great housing problems, we made the whole of London a housing stress area so that we should not interfere with London's building programme. However, there are in London an enormous variety of conditions. In particular inner areas we have identified multiple problems of a kind familiar to most hon. Members who know these areas well. They require special arrangements, and we hope that much good will arise from partnership agreements.

To relieve the housing shortage in inner London areas, what action does the Minister intend to take to put pressure on the Greater London Council to build a substantial quantity of new housing in dockland, which, so far, it has dismally failed to do?

I am amazed that the hon. Gentleman should make those comments. There are substantial proposals for house building in the dockland areas, and I am glad to say that some are now going forward. The GLC, as a strategic housing authority, has tried to deal with the needs of London as a whole. It is right that the commuter boroughs as well as the inner boroughs should make arrangements to help deal with London's pressing housing problems.

Is my hon. Friend aware that, despite what has been said by the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel), the Dockland Joint Committee has said that over 1,000 houses are now being built in the dockland statutory area? What proportion of the allocation announced before the recess will be available to dockland?

I cannot give an answer on the second part of my hon. Friend's question, but I hope to be able to make the allocation plain in the White Paper—not only dockland's share of the additional expenditure of £83 million announced by my hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Budget, but also the share of other partnership areas. We may be able to indicate also the allocations among the different partnership areas in the longer-term programme, to which my statement of 6th April was directed. I endorse what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) about the number of houses that have already been built in dockland by local authorities. There is evidence of considerable encouragement in terms of progress made.

Will the Minister turn his attention to the subject of unemployment in inner London? May I ask whether he is aware that in the borough of Lambeth more than 11,000 people were unemployed in October last year—an increase of 44 per cent. compared to the same month of the previous year? Of this total, 681 comprised young persons, and of these does he not appreciate that over half are school leavers who left school some five months before? What are the right hon. Gentleman's plans to remedy the situation?

I am sure that the House will welcome the expression of concern about unemployment in the inner areas. As the hon. Gentleman well knows, Lambeth is one of the areas that we have identified for partnership arrangements. I can conclude from what the hon. Gentleman has said that my proposals are welcome to him and to the borough of Lambeth.

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the necessity of trying to get the building societies to co-operate in the regeneration of inner areas such as Lambeth? Is he aware, for example, that the building societies have refused a staggering 59 per cent. of council nominees in Lambeth compared with much lower figures in outer areas?

I am sure that the societies have an important part to play in helping the revival of the inner areas. As my hon. Friend will know, we are now commencing the new arrangements with the building societies—they having begun in April of this year—under which sums of building society replacement lending moneys have been allocated to the major local authorities. It is my intention to watch closely how the arrangements work out.

Will the right hon. Gentleman postpone his discussions on partnership plans until after 5th May, as he may find that any deals that he does with a dying administration may turn out in the end to be just as bad as the Lib-Lab deal that is keeping him in power at the moment?

I wondered when the imminence of the county council elections would be reflected in contributions from the Opposition Front Bench. Although I am not an avid student of Conservative Party literature, I have on the whole been rather encouraged by the expressions of concern for the inner areas, including the partnership areas, that have come from the Opposition benches in County Hall. I hope that I may proceed in the knowledge that whatever I do will have the full backing of all the parties concerned.