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Urban Deprivation Unit

Volume 933: debated on Thursday 16 June 1977

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9.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement as to the estimated budget of running the Urban Deprivation Unit.

It is estimated that the staff cost of the Urban Deprivation Unit, most of whose functions have been transferred to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment, would have been about £115,000 in the current financial year.

Will the Minister explain what he regards as the major achievements of the unit? Why is it still partly based in the Home Office, when the responsibility for these problems has been wholly transferred to the Department of the Environment? Is it that the impact of the unit is so insignificant that it is being overlooked?

First, I would say that it has contributed towards our understanding of these difficult questions. Secondly, it has brought to the disbursement of moneys in this sector a knowledge of and a co-ordination with local authorities that has borne fruit. As for the remaining functions, Section 11 grants responsibility is to remain with the Home Office because the responsibility for race relations remains with the Home Office. As the hon. Gentleman will know, community development projects have been completed and their activities are being wound up. It is appropriate that the Home Office should receive the remaining reports.

Has not the money that has been expended over the past four years upon this department been proved to have been almost entirely useless because the comprehensive community programme idea that it originated has never been implemented except in one trial run, and even that is now being wound up? Is my hon. Friend aware that it was an imaginative idea that was never pursued because there was not enough gumption in the Department to pursue it?

My hon. Friend is better able than I am to comment on the majority of the time that is covered by his supplementary question. If he asks me whether the money spent on urban aid is wasted, I should say emphatically that it is not. Many facilities in many of our most deprived areas are directly due to the disbursements of moneys centrally under the urban aid scheme.

12.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he is satisfied with the cost-effectiveness of the Urban Deprivation Unit.

How can the Minister reconcile his earlier answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Wirral (Mr. Hunt), when he mentioned a cost of £115,000, with the reply given on 29th July 1976, to the effect that the unit cost over £7 million? In view of the fact that it has been made clear from both sides of the House that the recommendations of the unit are not being followed, surely much more practical use could be made of these resources in dealing with the problems of urban areas.

I shall look at the answer given in 1976. The Urban Deprivation Unit was a small unit attached to the Home Office. If it were being paid £7 million a year, that would cause me considerable surprise. It has been concerned with the urban programme and Section 11 grants, both of which were running at over £21 million in the last current year. Therefore, it has had charge over considerable sums. It is not the case that its recommendations are not being followed. I believe that both the Department of the Environment and my own Department have largely adopted in whatever guise, the comprehensive community approach in dealing with these questions in the White Paper that was issued by my right hon. Friend yesterday.

Does the Home Secretary agree that the very worst form of deprivation in cities, particularly among the young, is the impossibility of getting jobs? Do any of the programmes contribute to helping people to find work?

Yes. If the hon. Member studies the scheme he will see that in the self-help and training schemes, contributions to the possession of skills— one of the problems facing the young in inner cities—are dealt with.