asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement on his visit to Merseyside on 22 and 23 April; and what practical and financial assistance to Liverpool will result from it.
[pursuant to his reply, 25 April 1985, c. 549.]: I visited Merseyside on 22 and 23 April 1985 to review progress on some of the intiatives launched in the area in recent years.I arrived on the evening of 22 April to attend one of the regular meetings that Halton borough council hold with members of the local business community at the invitation of the leader of the council. I offered to consider urban programme help with premises for a proposed new development agency for the borough. On the morning of 23 April I held a press conference in Liverpool where I made a statement and answered questions about the Liverpool city action team.I then visited the site of the former Courtaulds factory at Aintree which is now in the hands of private developers who, with the help of derelict land grant, are reclaiming the site for industrial use. I was pleased to learn that jobs with the firms on the industrial estate now nearly equals the jobs lost when Courtaulds closed.I later visited Cammell Laird (Shipbuilders) Ltd, Birkenhead and met the managing director and the shop stewards' committee. I was also able to see work in progress on the Type 42 destroyer, HMS Edinburgh, which they are constructing in their yard.After lunch, I toured the Liverpool freeport where I met the freeport manager and representatives of the two companies established within the freeport area. One, a textile firm already employs about forty people most of whom were unemployed before the freeport was established.The visit enabled me to satisfy myself at first hand that the substantial public funds made available to these projects are being used to best effect.The matter of Liverpool city council's budget was not discussed during the visit. I have made it quite clear on numerous occasions that I am not prepared to re-open discussions on this year's rate support grant. The responsibility for setting a legal budget rests fairly and squarely with the city council.