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London Docklands

Volume 977: debated on Wednesday 30 January 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement on his visit to London Docklands on 14 January.

I found it most useful to meet leaders of the Docklands boroughs to discuss with them the problems of the area and the progress that has been made towards redeveloping it. What I saw confirmed my view that a powerful single-minded development agency is needed to build on the work that is already underway in the public sector, and to attract more private investment in housing, industry and commerce.

:Having seen the area for himself, would my right hon. Friend not agree that neglect of London's Docklands is one of the major scandals of our postwar era? As he has said, is not the setting up of the proposed development corporation the only effective way of ending the inter-borough bickering and the planning obstruction which has plagued this area for far too long? Having set up the corporation, will he ensure that adequate resources are available to it to restore and revive this decaying part of our capital city?

I thank my hon. Friend for that question. I agree that the establishment of such an agency is necessary. I find it encouraging that this view is now shared widely among informed opinion on the matter in the country. I shall do my best, in the context of public expenditure restrains on the Government, to provide the additional resources which I have no doubt are needed in the area.

:Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I am particularly grateful to him for visiting my constituency on 14 January but am sorry that he could not spend longer that 20 minutes there? Was that long enough for him to discover that there is so much activity in the designated Dockland area of my constituency that there will be literally nothing for an urban development corporation to do?

:The hon. Gentleman has spent more time there than I have, although, judging from what he says it is difficult to know what he has been doing. It is apparent that there are vast opportunities in that area. I hope, if the House gives a Second Reading to the Local Government, Planning and Land (No. 2) Bill, that all hon. Members will realise that the Government's sole purpose is to bring more resources and a unified central purpose to bear on a problem of crucial concern to the large numbers of people who live there, and who are suffering from the deprivation in that area.

Is the Secretary of State aware that council members and myself were glad to meet him on the ground in my constituency? Will he now state what can be done specifically by the urban development corporation in the part of the constituency that he saw which is not already being done by the borough council?

Yes. It can reconcile the conflicting attitudes of the various authorities. It can obtain the release of land which is being held up and which has been under-used for a long period, and it can bring resources to bear that are not currently available.