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Simon Danczuk: The figures that the Minister presents show those cities during a period when they were being regenerated by a Labour Government, and that is why they were successful in increasing the business rate take—they were being helped and supported in regenerating by a Labour Government.

Grant Shapps: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his intervention, which may just describe a fundamental difference in belief and understanding between the Government and the Opposition about what drives an economy. If by regeneration, the hon. Gentleman simply means how much public money we can pump in to create public sector jobs in order to continue to sustain an unsustainable future, then perhaps he makes a point. My understanding of economics and the economy says that unless we are able to create wealth in this country and produce jobs that are not simply the Government employing people but the private sector employing people, we will never see real growth.

It is good to see that 500,000 new jobs have been created in the economy since the election and that unemployment has fallen this week. That shift is fundamental; it is important and it happens through regeneration, which excludes things such as the regional growth fund. It includes the enterprise zones, to which hon. Members have referred. The hon. Member for City of Durham (Roberta Blackman-Woods) made some good points about whether such schemes can end up displacing activity, but I do not believe that that will be the case. Hertfordshire, in my part of the country, does not have an enterprise zone, and I do not think that all of our businesses will get up and move to an area that does. Enterprise zones are about creating the right economic dynamic for new businesses, which is really important.

Local enterprise partnerships are a really important driving factor. In trying to understand our approach to regeneration, hon. Members talk about having some big Government document. Essentially what the Select Committee report says is that our document is too thin. From what I have heard and read in the report, it says, “What we need is a big document. If we had a big document somehow the country would regenerate better.” That has been tried and it has failed time and again. What we are giving the communities in this country is the ability to run their own regeneration policy and to do it through schemes such as the enterprise zones and the local enterprise partnerships, which make a real and sustainable difference.

I have heard some very impassioned speeches this afternoon about what is happening in different parts of the country, including Northampton Alive, which shows how communities can and will, if they have the leadership and determination, come together to regenerate.

Mr Binley: The Minister is most generous in giving way and I am grateful for what he says because it will work well at home. Does he recognise that our enterprise zone, which is the largest in the second tranche, is specifically for precision engineering and high technology? In order to fill it up with 400 companies, we have to go and sell abroad, because we have not got those companies that would want to move in this country anyway. The enterprise zone is a major driver to get inward investment into this country from the developed nations.

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Grant Shapps: My hon. Friend is absolutely right and completely gets it. The point is if this country is to thrive and survive it needs inward investment. It is a fantastic example of how a community can get together and work right the way across the local economy to bring in people from all different aspects—the local council, the county council, the MPs, the councillors, the business people, the academics—and actually grow an economy.

I am only a third of the way through the list of different things that I wanted to highlight let alone the many pages that are highlighted in this toolkit. UK Regeneration is a private enterprise that is able to raise money from the private sector and then get involved in regeneration. It is raising £30 million from Barclays Capital to regenerate areas in Nottingham. I understand that some people find it difficult to appreciate that to invest privately can be good not just for private investment but for regeneration. It is absolutely working and it is happening on the ground and we have heard the scale of ambition from UK Regeneration. The Empty Homes Agency is working hard to fill empty homes. In the context of regeneration, I am surprised not to hear from Her Majesty’s Opposition, or perhaps in the report, more of a welcome for the fact that 20,000 homes that were empty are now full. Since the election, the number of empty homes has fallen faster than at any time since 2004, because our regeneration policy, which says, “Let’s stop knocking down homes and instead fill the ones that are there,” is starting to work.

City deals—one has just been agreed in Liverpool, and more are coming along—are enormously important in delivering exactly the kind of localism that I know the Committee welcomes, because it has investigated how localism, which did not exist previously, could operate. When one adds up things such as local enterprise partnerships, enterprise zones and city deals, one starts to appreciate that it is a massive transfer of power. I know that it is difficult to lose the idea that everything must point to Whitehall and Westminster: “When is the Minister going to come up with an enormous report to back all this up?” Actually, transferring those powers to our great cities will enable a lot of regeneration to be done much nearer the ground.

Simon Danczuk rose—

Grant Shapps: I want to finish, if the hon. Gentleman does not mind.

The Portas pilots were touched on but not mentioned in great detail. They are an attempt to get behind the regeneration of our town centres. Again, interestingly, the Select Committee Chairman did not refer to retail regeneration of run-down town centres large and small throughout this country. To me, that is what regeneration is all about, which is why I am proud that we have launched the Portas and that 371 towns have applied. They will have the opportunity to be Portas winners, and even if they are not, they will have the opportunity to take part in their own regeneration.

Brief reference was also made to the national planning policy framework, which is an enormous fillip for those who are keen for regeneration to take place in this country and who want to make it much easier. We have the get Britain building fund for housing and the Growing

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Places fund. My hon. Friend the Member for Harrow East (Bob Blackman) mentioned a road in Park Royal that was driven through, enabling much more private sector investment. That is the fund available. It is large—hundreds of millions of pounds—but again, the report barely refers to it.

Decent homes funding was mentioned by several hon. Members, including the Opposition Front-Bench spokeswoman. I absolutely agree that it is a huge priority. That is why, given that the decent homes programme failed to finish on target for 2010, I am proud that we have put another £2.4 billion into finishing the task. It still will not be quite finished, but given the overall economic circumstances, I would have thought that that said a huge amount about our approach to improving homes and regenerating communities. I have discussed how the new homes bonus can be used.

I had hoped to have time to mention all the comments made by hon. Members that I thought were good, but I see that time has beaten us. This Government are absolutely passionate about regenerating this country. We could not be more attached to its importance. We have considered what happened in the past; I think that my earlier comments show that I have considered in great detail the No. 1 so-called regeneration programme in this country, the disastrous housing market renewal programme. If Her Majesty’s Opposition’s response to the report is to call for more of the same, I say no, absolutely not. We will not continue to devastate communities in that way. Instead, we will hand them the power, the tools, the knowledge and, for many of the schemes that I have described, the money to get on and do it themselves.

5.58 pm

Mr Betts: I echo the comments made by my hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale (Simon Danczuk) about Kevin Maddison and Committee staff for the excellent work that they did in producing our report. I thank all Members for contributing. We have certainly had a lively and stimulating debate. If Select Committee reports do nothing else, they clearly generate a bit of interest and contention among Members.

Clearly, we differ about the nature of the funding streams to which the Government refer and whether, simply because some regeneration areas will benefit from national schemes, that can therefore be labelled regeneration funding. It certainly does not amount to a regeneration strategy. There is still a need for area approaches, as my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham East (Heidi Alexander) called them, or a wholesale approach, as the hon. Member for Harrow East (Bob Blackman) described it. They must certainly be localist, in that a different approach must be taken in different areas, but that does not mean that the Government cannot evaluate what has worked in the past, propose ideas from other areas to communities, promote good initiatives and determine where money can best be spent. The Select Committee might well return to the topic in two or three years’ time to review what progress has been made.

5.59 pm

Sitting adjourned without Question put (Standing Order No. 10(11)).