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Mr. Flannery : The right hon. Gentleman is not telling the full story. The reality is that the Government left the east end of Sheffield a desert--it was so still and quiet. There has been an upsurge at the prospect of the student games coming to Sheffield in a couple of years' time. We are pleading with the Government to give us more money for that. The Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, the hon. Member for Rossendale and Darwen (Mr. Trippier), could tell the right hon. Gentleman a lot more about Sheffield's lack of money and its urgent requests for more from the Government.

Mr. Newton : No doubt my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary has heard the hon. Gentleman.

Sheffield's pride in being able to stage the student games reflects its change in mood and confidence, which is also reflected in the work of the urban development corporation and plans that it has for the lower Don valley, in what the local authorities and the local business men, including those in the chamber of commerce, are achieving through partnership, and in the fact that there is a much stronger partnership now between the public and private sector in Sheffield than was ever the case two or three years ago.

The hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) asked about Merseyside. I will come closer to the immediate situation there by referring to a substantial supplement on Liverpool in The Times yesterday, which the hon. Gentleman no doubt saw, headed "Panorama of growing prosperity" and subheaded :

"As Liverpool toasts its Cup Final victory, it is also celebrating an economic turnaround which will enable the city to enter the 1990s with its confidence restored".

Another subheading reads :

"How Merseyside turned optimism to realism and won the confidence of industry and new investment".

Perhaps most telling of all is a quote from the Labour leader of Liverpool city council, Keva Coombes

"I am convinced that we have more reason to be optimistic now than for many years".

He is then reported as saying that :

"there was also now a more pragmatic approach to working together between the council and central government agencies."

Finally, with regard to the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook, I have with me the foreword to a document recently published by Birmingham city council called,

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"Birmingham economic strategy", signed by the Labour chairman of the economic development committee, Councillor Albert Bore, which says :

"There are many indications that Birmingham is regaining its competitive edge in many of the manufacturing sectors in which it was previously world famous. It is also going to become one of Europe's major visitor destinations for business, culture and leisure in the 1990s."

Another Birmingham city council publication, "The Birmingham Investment", published within the past month or so, says : "Look around the city and you will see evidence of new investment and new development everywhere."

This is the city that the right hon. Gentleman was describing in such gloomy and depressing terms no more than 10 minutes ago. It goes on :

"From more than £500 million of new retail and leisure developments-- including Britain's national indoor arena--to the new industrial and office property developments that are rising all over the city."

We are told :

"Listen to the city's new business community, and you will discover a new mood of confidence and optimism among thousands of local companies."

That is not a Minister talking, but Birmingham city council. Mr. Bruce Grocott (The Wrekin) rose --

Mr. Newton : I can understand why the hon. Gentleman may wish to stop me, but I will continue for a moment.

The publication goes on :

"Over the last few years a series of investments has changed the whole landscape of business property in Birmingham Birmingham Heartlands, for example, has brought the city together with 5 major developers in a unique inner city regeneration programme."

Mr. Grocott : The Minister is talking in glowing terms about new developments. Will he confirm the fundamental point that any recovery taking place in the west midlands in general or in Birmingham in particular is recovery from the devastation caused by the Conservatives as a deliberate instrument of economic policy in the early 1980s? Let us not overlook the question of the quality of jobs. In the west midlands, for instance, in engineering alone the number of apprenticeships, according to official Government figures, is 54 per cent. of what it was in 1979. Is that not a dreadful indictment of the Government?

Mr. Newton : I am not in a position to confirm the hon. Gentleman's observations of the causes and position from which industry in Birmingham and the west midlands is recovering, but let us consider the statistics relating to the motor car industry--historically a source of great importance to the midlands. The decline in that industry set in during the period of the Labour Government--aggravated, admittedly, in the early 1980s by a world recession. The industry is now recovering. Last year, the production of motor vehicles in Britain exceeded the 1978 level-- [Interruption.] The decline started during the 1970s. It did not suddenly start in 1979. The level of motor car production has now exceeded the 1978 level because, for the first time in a decade, the industry is moving up and not down.

Mr. Hattersley : I remind the Minister that the debate is explicitly and specifically about inner cities. Whether his facts are right or wrong, to talk about the prosperity of a

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whole region is wholly irrelevant-- [Interruption.] The Minister has hardly said a word about the inner cities since his opening remarks.

The idea that the tourist attraction that Birmingham is becoming, and I hope will increasingly become, will provide any jobs in the inner city of Birmingham is ridiculous. In the bit of the inner city that I represent, the improvement in the motor industry will have no effect whatever. The debate is designed to focus attention on specific problems. For the Minister to talk in such general terms shows that he does not even know what the inner cities are.

Mr. Newton : Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would rather I did not give way, as I have been doing in line with the normal courtesies of the House. My last observations were in response to the intervention of his hon. Friend the member for The Wrekin (Mr. Grocott). Does the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook really believe that the vehicle industry has nothing to do with the inner cities? Only a fortnight ago I was at what is now Leyland-DAF Vehicles, what used to be Freight Rover, in inner city Birmingham, one of the areas in which we have a task force-- [Interruption.] It is important in the area in which it is located. That firm is now embarking on a modernisation, expansion and training programme to ensure that the jobs that it is creating go to the people who live around the factory. That is the importance of some of these developments. If Opposition Members do not appreciate that, they should study some of the issues involved.

Mr. Keith Vaz (Leicester, East) : Will the right hon. Gentleman reflect on the task force experience in Leicester? Three years ago, amid a great fanfare, the Leicester task force was set up in Highfields. This year, in a sneaky letter to me and to other Leicester Members, it was announced that the task force was to close because of its failure. Will the Minister explain why that task force closed in Leicester?

Mr. Newton : The hon. Gentleman is not merely paraphrasing the letter that was written at the time but is turning it on its head. The point made in it was that the economic and employment situation in Leicester, including Highfields, had improved to a significant extent during the life of the task force, that a number of development funds and other activities had been set in hand which, in our view, would have a continuing beneficial effect, and that we felt it right to use the resource represented by task forces in areas where the problems are greater than those of that part of Leicester. The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that at the same time as I announced the winding down of task force programmes in Leicester, Wolverhampton and Preston between March and the end of the year, I announced new task forces, which are very much welcomed by the local authorities involved, in Granby and Toxteth in Liverpool, in Bradford and in Lewisham. Those areas all have significant problems which I believe that the task forces can help to overcome.

If the picture painted by the Opposition motion is unrecognisable in the real world, no right hon. or hon. Member would disguise the fact that there is still much more to do in pressing ahead with the programmes and initiatives to tackle inner-city problems. That is not surprising. The right hon. Member for Sparkbrook was

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very fair in acknowledging that the problems of inner cities did not suddenly come on to the scene in 1979 or in the early 1980s but that their causes are deep-seated and go back at least one generation--some would argue, longer than that--and just as their roots go back a long way, so it will take time to overcome them fully. Today I seek to describe the progress being made in overcoming problems which have been encountered over decades and even for generations. The right hon. Gentleman acknowledged that the causes are complex. The most obvious among them is the failure to come to grips with the pattern of industrial change over a long period and instead to pretend that it was not happening by disguising it in various ways, with the result that the process of adjustment was even more difficult than it needed to be. I should have made that point in particular to the hon. Member for The Wrekin if he were still in his place.

Whatever view is taken of the causes of industrial change, old industries close, leaving derelict sites which detract from the environment and causing a loss of income to the community which is reflected in declining property standards and falling land values. Too often, it also means that younger, more economically active people leave the area to work elsewhere, which in turn breeds a loss of community pride. Together, those factors create a depressing physical environment which has other adverse social and economic effects.

Mr. Heffer : There is no question but that there has been industrial change and that it is continuing, but does not that create a need for the Government to intervene? If there is decline in one or two industries, or in a whole series of them, surely the Government must have policies, plans and concepts for dealing with workers who are left high and dry and unemployed. Have not the Government failed to do anything serious about developing alternatives to deal with industrial change?

Mr. Newton : No, I do not think that that is true. The hon. Gentleman may wish that it had proved possible in some cases to avoid some of the transitional difficulties which arise in moving from one pattern of industry to another, but I hope that he agrees that one of the most notable features of the regional economy currently--although the north-east is the most striking example, this can be seen in the north-west as well--is the increasing growth of new industries, not least with the assistance of inward investment from overseas in creating electronics industries, rebuilding some important parts of motor car manufacturing and the like. Very often that is assisted by the kind of Government policy for which the hon. Gentleman calls. In his own region, assistance was recently given to Vauxhall for further investment at Ellesmere port, which will both safeguard existing jobs and create new employment in that part of Merseyside. That is just one of many examples that I could cite.

As the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook seemed to recognise, it follows from the complexity and the deep-seated nature of the problems that there can be no simple or overnight solution to inner-city decline. It requires a range of measures tailored to deal with different aspects of the problem, and carried through with a sustained and determined approach over a number of years. That is precisely what we have sought to bring about through the "Action for Cities" programme.

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I emphasise that the Government's approach starts from the recognition that the first essential is a prosperous national economy. The whole House knows--certainly the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook knows it well from his experience in the last Labour Government--that regional resurgence and inner-city regeneration cannot be created on the back of the national economic stagnation and relative economic decline that we saw in the 1970s. The foundation of what we seek to achieve in the inner cities is what we have already achieved for the country as a whole--sustained economic growth such as has not been seen since the war.

It is on that foundation that we have built and are pressing forward the range of programmes and initiatives to which I referred briefly earlier in my speech. They cover housing, with the Estate Action programme involving tenants in the management and improvement of their homes. They provide a substantial increase in the money available to housing associations through the Housing Corporation and through local authorities. They cover a large expansion in training programmes, both to encourage enterprise--through, for instance, support for small firms--and to help people back into work. The programmes cover matters that the hon. Member for Walton has just raised, with support for inner city business--including regional selective assistance--and a variety of grants for small firms, as well as the work of the English Industrial Estates Corporation. They cover a substantial programme of derelict land reclamation, and--this comes closer to the points raised by the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook and by other hon. Members in interventions--they cover the urban programme, including city grants, and the work of the urban development corporations, which together are receiving a substantial increase in the coming year.

The programmes also cover the task forces to which I referred--in some 16 locations up and down the country--and the co-ordinated work of the city action teams, bringing together the work of various Government Departments. They cover the safer cities campaign, which is directed strongly towards the crime problems to which the right hon. Gentleman referred. It is, perhaps, unfortunate that he did not tell us about the decrease in a number of important elements in the crime figures last year. No one disputes that substantial increases in crime have occurred--again, over a period going back well before 1979--but last year, according to the metropolitan and

non-metropolitan force figures, there was a decrease in recorded notifiable offences of 11.3 per cent. in the west Midlands, 4.5 per cent. in West Yorkshire, just over 6.5 per cent. on Merseyside some 6.5 per cent. in Northumbria, more than 13 per cent. in South Yorkshire and nearly 8 per cent. in Greater Manchester.

No one is suggesting that further progress is not needed in tackling such problems. I merely ask the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook and his hon. Friends to recognise that in many important respects--and, I believe, to a significant extent as a result of the approach that the Government have adopted and the wide range of initiatives brought together in the "Action for Cities" programme--progress is now being made in dealing with some of the problems that have proved intractable for Governments of both parties over a long period.

All the initiatives that I have mentioned are being pressed forward continuously. In March, when "Progress on Cities" was published, we announced a number of new

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task force projects. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment announced the building up of his compacts initiative to improve opportunities for inner-city youngsters to build links with and get jobs in local firms. That is going on in a consistent drive all the time.

Today, for example, we are announcing an important agreement between English Estates and London Industrial to co-operate in a joint venture for a substantial programme to provide managed work space in inner-city areas of London. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale and Darwen (Mr. Trippier), whom I am delighted to see here, has today announced two new city grants totalling more than half a million pounds towards the construction of industrial units on the Ketley business park in the Wrekin and--this will interest the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer), I hope--towards the cost of the refurbishment and conversion of a 160, 000 sq ft factory into industrial units in Huyton in the borough of Knowsley.

Those are just further examples of practical steps being taken under the initiatives to which I have referred to tackle the sort of problems that we all acknowledge need to be tackled if we are successfully to overcome the long inner-city decline.

As a number of right hon. and hon. Members wish to speak in the debate, I will therefore emphasise only briefly three points that I believe to be of particular importance in considering what the Government have been seeking to do.

Mr. Vaz : Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Newton : I think not. I have already taken up a good deal of the time of the House. I think that it would be sensible now to allow the hon. Gentleman to make his own contribution to the debate. The first point that I want to make about the way in which the Government programmes are organised and the results that they have achieved concerns the significantly greater involvement of the private sector in the regeneration of inner cities and in working together with local authorities to that end. Sheffield, to which I referred earlier, is a very good example--as is Birmingham, with the Heartlands scheme--but those examples are now being matched and modelled in many parts of the country with the development of business leadership teams, often involving a direct partnership between local authorities and the business community, such as the Wearside Opportunity, the Newcastle initiative, Teesside Tomorrow, and a number of others.

That greater involvement of business, which is crucial to the real regeneration of the inner cities, is being assisted and supported by the way in which--this is what I had in mind in answering an intervention a few moments ago--the remodelling of some of the initiatives to which I referred in summarising the elements in the "Action for Cities" programme is very much directed to ensuring that Government money brings in substantial amounts of private sector investment alongside.

The urban development corporation is a very good example. I will not use only the London Docklands development corporation because the gearing there is particularly high--between £8 and £10 of private money

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coming in for every £1 of Government expenditure on the urban development corporation. That is well above the average, but even the average is about £4 of private sector money coming in behind every £1 of Government money and much the same ratio is true for city grant as well.

It is important to understand the extent to which the Government's initiatives are bringing in other resources on a very large scale and that therefore the figures that we use--whether £3 billion for last year or £3.5 billion for this year--for the total Government spending on the inner-city programmes are a significant underestimate of the resources now coming into the cities to assist with their regeneration.

The second point, on which the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook touched, is the improvement, which I very much welcome, in the degree of co-operation and--the right hon. Gentleman also used the word--the partnership which is taking place between central and local Government. Many local authorities, for example, are becoming much more actively involved in the work of urban development corporations and of the Government's task forces and in co- operating not just with other agencies in Government but with the private sector and voluntary organisations. That is a very important part of the improvement in the scene that has occurred in the past few years and one that I very much welcome.

The third point that I wish to emphasise is very much related to the points that have been made about the need to ensure that the benefits of all these programmes, including the work of the urban development corporations and the physical redevelopment that is taking place, accrue to the people who live in the inner-city areas. I do not accept the simple assessment that has been made in some quarters that the mere fact that docklands is being regenerated--to take an example that is frequently used--attracts people into the area and therefore can be seen as benefiting them as well is contrary to the aims of Government policy.

Part of the problem of the inner cities, a point to which I referred earlier, has been the extent to which many of the young, dynamic, economically active people have left the inner cities over a long period, leaving behind only the deprived and the disadvantaged. It follows that part of the real long-term answer to inner city problems must be to recreate more balanced communities in the inner cities and therefore to attract back to them

Mr. Vaz : Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Newton : No, I do not intend to give way now.

We must attract back to the inner cities some of the groups who, historically, have left or been driven out. I make no apology for that.

Mr. Vaz : Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Newton : No.

Mr. Vaz rose--

Mr. Newton : What is important--I very much welcome it--is what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment is doing through his training programmes, what the urban development corporations and others are doing through their programmes--not least those associated with Canary wharf--and not least what the Government's inner-city task forces are doing by developing what are called customised training projects,

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involving the matching of local unemployed people with the training required to get them the jobs that are known already to exist and the employment that is required with local employers. That is an increasingly significant part of the inner-city policy.

Mr. Bernie Grant (Tottenham) : Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Newton : No, I will not give way, for the reasons that I have already explained.

That is, I repeat, an increasingly significant part of our inner city policy, and one to which we are determined to give greater emphasis.

I have taken up a good deal of time, not least because I have sought to respond substantially to the interventions that have been made.

Mr. Vaz : The Minister has not done so.

Mr. Newton : Whether it is judged in terms of expenditure, the range and purpose of the programmes and the increasing results of the programmes- -measured not just by what I say, but by what people are saying throughout the country, whether business leaders, or local government leaders and others--there is no way in which what is happening can credibly be presented, as the Opposition's motion seeks to present it, as a story of total neglect.

Mr. Vaz : It is.

Mr. Newton : It is a story of increasing success in spreading to all parts of the country the increasing prosperity that we have created for the nation as a whole. I invite the House to reject the motion and to pass the amendment.

4.47 pm

Mr. Robert Litherland (Manchester, Central) : When we discuss the regeneration of the inner cities, we have to differentiate between myth and reality. The myth was perpetrated by the Prime Minister at the last general election when she said that the Government must get into the inner cities. That myth has been prolonged by Government propaganda. Glossy brochures have been distributed, illustrating proposed developments in the inner-city areas. There has been media coverage of visiting Ministers donning protective helmets and cutting tapes, trowel in hand, ready for action. They have posed and postulated in order to convince the electorate that all is well, that the inner cities are safe in their hands.

That is the myth. The only people to benefit will be the developers and financiers and those with the yuppie mentality, enjoying their new "with it" accommodation in converted warehouses or posing in their new theme pubs. What, however, is the reality? In Manchester inner city, the commercial centre is surrounded on the periphery by real people with real problems. They have experienced the loss of some 25,000 jobs, mainly in manufacturing industry, since the early 1980s, creating an army of unemployed. There is still over 33 per cent. male unemployment in the inner cities. That is intensified in pockets where there is a concentration of ethnic minorities who, like the disabled, find it hard to get employment, unless in the low-paid service sector, doing menial tasks.

In the inner city of Manchester, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr.

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Hattersley) said, there is a lower standard of living than in greater Manchester or north Cheshire. Before the changes in benefit in April 1988, 83,000 people were dependent on supplementary benefit. Those are the very people who have suffered an adverse effect in their meagre standard of living since then. A total of 18,000 have lost all housing benefit, and 45,000 now receive no help with their water rate bills. Then there are the children : 7,000 have been deprived of school meals. Because of social security changes, and especially because of the abolition of Department of Social Security grants and their replacement by the social fund, 50,000 people are worse off. Also, they have the spectre of the poll tax just over the horizon.

Poverty is a stark reality in the inner city. It manifests itself in low birth weights, premature deaths and increased crime. A recent report by the city council on the impact of poverty shows what poverty really means :

"Not being able to afford food. Over a third of households in poverty said they ran short of money to buy food. Falling into Debt. Over a half of households in poverty said that they had fallen seriously behind with payments during the previous year. A Cold Home. One third of households say there are times when they go without essential heating, and around half of them are in debt with fuel bills."

That is the inner city in Manchester. In a so-called booming economy, the gap between the poor and the rich is widening. The few jobs created outside the bogus training schemes are mainly low-paid and part-time, with no job security. As the better-off receive tax handouts and the benefits of the poll tax, the poor in the inner cities are losing. They are the people who are left on the sidelines.

Ethnic minority households suffer even worse. Their rate of unemployment is estimated at more than one and a half times that of white people. They have greater difficulty in obtaining work. There are only two growth industries. The first is the demolition contractor, smashing down the old, empty factories, like wolverines at a dead carcase. Those factories once provided jobs and dignity for the people of pride in their craft. The other growth industry is the loan shark, preying like a vulture on the misery of people. Again, what can we expect? That is private enterprise and will be welcomed by the Government, who cynically deceive the inner-city people that all is well but at the same time deprive them of meagre means so that they can line the pockets of their affluent friends and supporters. It is no use building luxury flats, marinas and theme pubs, and in Manchester fantasising about the G Mex Centre, mainly financed by public money, and the vast improvements to the Holiday inn, once the Midland hotel owned by British Rail, when very few of the people that I represent can afford the prices that would give them access to such places.

Next time Ministers come to Manchester, they should visit the real people and see their standard of living, their poor housing conditions and the effect on a great city and its people of the Government draining it of financial resources. If Ministers have any conscience, they will not sleep easily afterwards. The Prime Minister's words have rebounded in her face. She has no conception of life in the inner cities. She does not care, and she has betrayed the finest people in the country.

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4.54 pm

Mr. David Gilroy Bevan (Birmingham, Yardley) : It gives me great pleasure to support my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy. The Government have achieved miracles in the resuscitation of the inner cities. Much of what I heard earlier from the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) represents a Birmingham that I do not recognise. I have lived there for 60 years ; I was born, bred and educated in Birmingham. I served on the city council and the West Midlands council for 20 years. My father was a slum clergyman in a city centre mission, where I worked from my teens. I know my Birmingham, and I know the city centre.

Birmingham's decline happened from the time of Sir Stafford Cripps, under the national Government. Giving assisted area status to every other part of the country was against the interests of the heartland of Britain. Industry was not allowed to build brick upon brick there until the Conservative Government got in and reversed that policy in 1979. The dictum of strengthening the weak weakened the strong in the west midlands, until the area had to be totally refurbished. Thanks to the actions of the Government, the picture is totally different. By January 1989, in England alone, inner-city unemployment had fallen by 26 per cent. and in Birmingham it had fallen by 23 per cent. No wonder the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook moved the motion in such a quiet tone and was so inhibited. The real massage from the inner cities is that they are alive and thriving under a combination of public and private enterprise and that they are economically successful. Many of the things that the right hon. Gentleman said were inaccurate. I saw the chamber of commerce not some time in the past, as he did, but last Friday, and it did not express any dissatisfaction. It was waiting to hear what the Secretary of State for Transport would say on inter-urban roads. He introduced a programme that will raise public investment in roads from £5 million to £12 billion. That will help the economic success of Birmingham and the west midlands.

The right hon. Member for Sparkbrook spoke about city training centres but he got the address wrong. The address is Kingshurst, Birmingham. It is a mere 100 yd or so outside the city boundary. We have a picture of increasing success. I am pleased that earlier today the House approved without argument the Third Reading of the Midland Metro Bill, which will lead to the investment of £1,000 million in the light electric railway system to link the towns lying between Wolverhampton and Birmingham on the line of the Wolverhampton low-level rail route. This will work wonders and green up an area which has been neglected in the past ; it will environmentally help the city centres of all the so-called black country towns which lie along the route--and that is only part of the scheme.

Following the advent of the national exhibition centre, we have approved and are building a conference--convention centre which will open in two or three years time. We are spending £147 million, which is coming partly from Europe, partly from the Government and partly from private enterprise. We are spending £240 million on a canalside leisure project. So, in Birmingham and the inner city, £1.6 billion-worth of building and investment is under way.

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Everywhere, shopping schemes, factory schemes and units of commerce are being created in Birmingham, with a consequential shattering reduction in unemployment. Unemployment has almost ceased to be the major problem that it was in the past.

We have spent about £90 million on Birmingham international airport, and another £80 million is to be spent on it, bringing business people from all over the world to our factories, convention centres and exhibition centres.

Heartlands Birmingham, a city centre initiative chaired by a former illustrious colleague of ours, Sir Reginald Eyre--the former Member for Birmingham, Hall Green--is redeveloping more than 2,000 acres. That partnership was requested by the Labour-controlled city council of Birmingham ; it is a partnership between the private and public sectors, involving a large amount of private enterprise money. This urban development authority was not in line with Government thinking on urban development corporations, one of which has been so successful in and around the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Hicks). Nevertheless, the initiative was allowed and is now in being.

It is introducing phenomenal infrastructure. A new water link scheme on the canal was initiated this very week. When, in future, we discuss inner-city redevelopment we must bear in mind not only isolated spots of canal redevelopment but redevelopment throughout the country on canals that run through so many of our city centres in the midlands and the north. In Brum we have more canals than Venice, and I commend to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy this complete urban renewal along canal frontages by means of environmental and commercial schemes.

The one thing that Heartlands Birmingham would appreciate now, on top of the vast sums of money announced in the inter-urban road scheme, is finance for the Spline road, which will be needed to bring more factories and redevelopment into Heartlands. I should declare an interest as an adviser to PPG Industries--

Mr. Litherland : Ah!

Mr. Bevan : --a firm which has brought to the centre of Birmingham a project involving huge refurbishment of most of the land. It did the same in Pittsburgh, and it has invested £60 million in Wigan, not far from the area of Manchester represented by the hon. Member for Manchester, Central (Mr. Litherland) who has been making sedentary remarks. This firm has specialised, and has introduced private sector schemes of excellence everywhere. I hope that this redevelopment will continue.

In addition to passing on to my right hon. Friend unstinted congratulations on the regeneration of our city, I recommend to him the adoption of a scheme of tax-free municipal bonds, which can produce more and more money for the redevelopment of inner cities. This scheme has been wholly successful in America. Tax-free bonds have been taken out by corporations and individuals on worthless land in the Baltimore inner-port scheme, and in Boston, Massachusetts, Washington and New York. Redevelopment has increased the worth of those bonds substantially. Thus, they have rejuvenated city centres in many parts of America. I hope that we too will be able to begin such a system to improve still further the excellent

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development that is already in place. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Minister will, with his right hon. Friends in the Treasury, determine whether such a scheme could perpetuate the excellent action that has already been taken in Birmingham and other areas. 5.6 pm

Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge) : It is a measure of the Government's failure adequately to deal with the problems faced by our inner cities that, after ten years, we still have to raise these issues and press for more effective solutions. The Government have tried, as the Minister has described this afternoon, in their own way, but despite the numerous gimmicks--tons of glossy brochures, loads of slick advertising, breakfast time press launches and myriad excuses--the basic problems remain : inadequate housing, poor facilities and poverty in the areas that we describe as inner cities.

Despite the attempts by the Secretary of State for Social Services to deny the obvious, large-scale poverty has grown in the past ten years in these areas. Where there is poverty, bad housing, poor facilities and services, there is unfortunately also crime to add to the miserable conditions in which people must live.

The Opposition motion calls for more emphasis on partnership between Government and local authorities. Inner-area partnerships already exist. My constituency is entirely encompassed by the Newcastle-Gateshead inner area partnership. The system was set up by the last Labour Government but, although it has been continued by this Government, its effectiveness has slowly been eroded by inflation, which has not been properly compensated for and which has led to a reduction in real terms of Government investment. Government restrictions on the type and duration of schemes have led to an emphasis on economic development, and because of its limited resources and a reduction in support for socially desirable schemes, the partnership can have little impact--yet it could have had a major effect.

The influence of local authorities has been gradually limited even though almost all the innovations and partnership proposals come from them. Those which do not, come from the voluntary sector. The Department of the Environment merely holds the purse strings, and Ministers continually block schemes which councils know will benefit their areas because they do not fit the Government's political philosophy. The money that central Government contribute, apart from being eroded and strictly applied, has to be balanced against the money that was taken away from the councils by reductions in rate support grant and other grants over that period. In the case of Newcastle and Gateshead, the reduction in rate support grant alone came to more than twice what was received through partnership over the past 10 years. The Government give with one hand and take back with a forklift truck.

One of the most worrying aspects of the Government's 10 years has been the horrific increase in crime. As I said earlier, our inner cities have also borne the brunt of this. What has the party of law and order done about it? The answer is percious little, and nothing that has had any noticeable effect. Northumbria police authority has continually pressed for more resources to deal with the

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