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Greater London (Population)

Volume 932: debated on Wednesday 18 May 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what discussions he has had about reducing the population of Greater London.

Will the Secretary of State talk to the Minister for the Civil Service about this matter? For years London has been steadily losing jobs. Therefore, it does not make sense to press ahead and spend £500 million or more on moving thousands of civil servants out of Greater London, with all the resulting domestic and administrative upheavals. Will he think again about this matter?

I understand the hon. Member's point, but I have been trying to give emphasis to inner city revival in examining the dispersal plans. These plans can play a very important part because, while I am concerned about the inner city areas in London, I am also concerned about the inner city areas in other parts of the country. It would be wrong to lose sight of the balance that needs to be struck. It is relevant to look at the time scale over which these planned dispersals are designed to take effect.

Is the Secretary of State aware that my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart) does not need to worry too much about this problem? I received an answer to a parliamentary Question which showed that the sum total of Government activity on the Hardman Report was that 0·001 per cent. of civil servants were being moved to development areas.

The hon. Member has made the point that I was making about the time scale being very relevant to this issue.

Is the Secretary of State saying that he wants civil servants living on the outskirts of London to have their jobs moved to deprived areas of the country so that they can live in inner cities there?

We want to strike a balance in the distribution of office and Government employment in different parts of the country. We are acutely aware of the present problems in London, but we must look at this situation over a considerable period of time and adjust the balance, which in the past has been heavily centred on London.