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Urban Development Corporations

Volume 124: debated on Monday 7 December 1987

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3.53 pm

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The Secretary of State is now unveiling to the press his plans to create a number of new urban development corporations, and members of the press therefore have an opportunity to cross-examine him on these matters. Is it not a scandal that Members of Parliament are being denied the opportunity to question the Secretary of State when the creation of urban development corporations will directly affect the constituencies and constituents of hon. Members? Will you, Mr. Speaker, use your influence to enable us to hear the Secretary of State make an oral statement in the House —not an answer to a written question—on the creation of a whole series of new urban development corporations?

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. In relation to the announcement mentioned by the hon. Member for Houghton and Washington (Mr. Boyes), an announcement is to be made either by a press release or by a written reply. As I recall, Mr. Speaker, you have said in the past that these matters should be announced to the House. I ask you to invite the Minister to do that in this case.

You will remember, Mr. Speaker, that only last week we had the Third Reading of the Urban Development Corporations (Financial Limits) Bill, which reduces the opportunity of the House to debate any matters to do with the activities and financing of urban development corporations. That annual and regular opportunity will be lost if that Bill becomes law later this Session. Given that this week we are to debate local authorities and to approve their orders and their financing, it is unacceptable that the Secretary of State should make an announcement outside the House about territory that is effectively being moved out of the control of local authorities and into the control of Government quangos appointed by Ministers. These quangos are entirely unaccountable and have been much criticised, especially recently, in connection with all sorts of dubious activities. No Minister came to the House to make an announcement about that handover. Can you, Mr. Speaker, make strong representations to ensure that we get a statement on this issue, if not today, tomorrow?

The hon. Members for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) and for Houghton and Washington (Mr. Boyes) have made strong representations and I am sure that they will have been heard by the Leader of the House.

It is a matter for the Leader of the House and, as he is present, I hope that he will tell us whether there will be a statement later today or tomorrow on this very important matter.