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City Action Teams

Volume 175: debated on Wednesday 27 June 1990

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To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement on the progress of the work of the city action teams.

City team actions exist to make the most from the Government's substantial programmes for inner-city areas. They encourage co-operation between central and local government and between business and the voluntary sector so as to bring regeneration to inner cities and to benefit their residents.

Does my hon. Friend agree that city action teams play a vital role in the Government's £4 billion programme to revitalise the inner cities while Labour's candy floss document, "Looking to the Future", contains not a section and barely a word about inner cities? Does not that tell us something about Labour's commitment to the inner cities, compared with the Government's record?

As my hon. Friend says, it is an extraordinary omission. The period of the last Labour Government was not a good one for inner cities. We are perfectly used to inaction by the Labour party, but to lack even rhetoric and promises about the inner cities is remarkable indeed and certainly contrasts with the £4 billion per year programme of Government aid for inner-city areas. I am pleased to say that that programme is flourishing, helped by the city action teams.

Does the Minister realise that, given the crisis in inner cities and the housing crisis throughout the country, the programme is insignificant and little is happening? Is he aware that the Housing Act 1988, to which the Under-Secretary of State referred, is in tatters without one housing action trust being set up, no voluntary transfers and absolute chaos in the Housing Corporation? Instead of all the talk, will the Government do something about housing and the inner-city crisis?

I must overcome my disappointment that the hon. Gentleman did not tell us his party's policy on inner cities, given that the absence of such a policy has been pointed out. The hon. Gentleman's comments about results under this Government were untrue. He will know that the urban development corporations have attracted £7 billion of private investment, much of which is being spent on housing. City grants, and the predecessors, are supporting 430 projects and leading to the construction of 11,800 homes, among other things. When I say "among other things", I mean 47,000 jobs and a further £1 billion of private sector investment. If the hon. Gentleman does not know what is going on in the inner cities he must be going round blindfolded.

Does my hon. Friend agree that whatever progress is made by city action teams in improving the quality of life for inner-city residents, one of the greatest environmental problems still to be tackled is the war against litter, graffiti and vandalism? Does he agree that we must do all that we can to encourage community initiatives? Will he pay particular tribute to the initiative being taken by the Wolverhampton Express and Star. with its "litter busters" initiative, to try to clean up the black country and to involve young people in that activity?

I welcome campaigns of that sort. My hon. Friend is absolutely right that it is important to keep sites free from litter and dumping in order to raise the spirit of the area. The Government's actions are directed towards raising the level of economic prosperity so that regeneration will be self-sustaining. There is no point in investing in housing projects or whatever alone—one must raise the general level of prosperity to create a better environment in inner-city areas.