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Social Exclusion

Volume 405: debated on Wednesday 14 May 2003

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What assessment his Department has made of the links between transience and social exclusion in seaside and coastal towns. [112947]

The Minister for Social Exclusion and Deputy Minister for Women
(Mrs. Barbara Roche)

The Department has not made a formal assessment of the links between transience and social exclusion in coastal and seaside towns. I know that this issue is a particular problem in my hon. Friend's constituency, and that the local education authority is currently preparing a report on the subject.

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply, and for the interest that she and my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister have shown in regeneration issues, in Blackpool and other seaside towns. Is she aware of recent research from Sheffield Hallam university showing that there is a significant, continuing and long-term inflow into coastal towns of people with low skills, low employment prospects and, often, poor health? With that in mind, does she agree that we need a more targeted and focused approach? Would she look at the coalfields initiative, and consider whether a similar initiative could be adopted for seaside towns, along the lines of a seaside regeneration taskforce and trust?

I should be very interested to read the research produced by Sheffield Hallam university. I agree that the subject of transience and social exclusion is important. That is reflected in the neighbourhood renewal strategy, and my hon. Friend's constituency benefits from that funding. However, I shall certainly look to see what we can do.

My right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister was born in the coastal town of Prestatyn, and he will be aware of the dramatic decline of seaside towns in the UK over the past 30 years, which has been as great as that in any steel, coal, rural or inner-city community. What additional help can be given to seaside towns to help them to recover?

I have already mentioned neighbourhood renewal funding, and many regional development agencies cover coastal towns and recognise that responsibility. I shall make certain that my hon. Friend's interest is communicated to them.