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Lord Dean of Beswick: My Lords, I am pleased with the Minister's Answer. Is she aware that where huge developments have taken place--for example, Meadowhall and Dumplington outside Manchester--there has been a devastating effect on trade in the inner cities? Most of those driven into bankruptcy have been small shopkeepers and market traders. Does the Minister agree that the demise of such traders mitigates completely against the regeneration of those inner city centres?
Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I agree with the points made by my noble friend. The objectives of government policy are to sustain and enhance the vitality and viability of centres, especially town centres, which can serve the whole community and to ensure that there is available a wide range of shopping opportunities to which people have easy access.
Lord Graham of Edmonton: My Lords, will the Minister accept that many of the casualties in the battle of the giants of the high street have been thousands of small traders, and market traders in particular, as mentioned by my noble friend Lord Dean? I am pleased to hear the Minister say that that situation occurred in the past. However, can she reinforce her assurance that in future special attention will be given to the small towns and market places where such people have served for centuries and whose absence would result in those town centres and the countryside being the poorer.
Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I very much accept what my noble friend says. There is scope for encouraging town centre management to bring together the public agencies, investors, retailers and residents to develop a strategy for enhancing the vitality of town centres and for increasing activity by locating businesses, leisure developments, houses or offices--all those different components--in or near town centres. Indeed, as the noble Lord suggested, there should be encouragement to occupy flats above shops.
The Earl of Lindsay: My Lords, I remind the Minister that the development of out-of-town shopping centres needs to be balanced not only with city centre shopping but also with the needs of shops in small towns and rural villages. Therefore, will the Government implement the initiatives which were being advocated by the previous Conservative Government as regards rate relief schemes for small town shops in order that they also can be helped and their needs can be balanced with those of large out-of-town shopping developments?
Baroness Hayman: My Lords, we are well aware of the concerns in those areas. We are currently looking at the detailed options for review of the national non-domestic rating system. We shall be consulting widely with businesses, local authorities and others to take into account just the kind of matters which have been raised by the noble Earl.
Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I know that that is an area which causes concern to small traders and is of interest to Members of the House. However, I suspect that if we start to interfere in the workings of the market place and planning permissions in that kind of detail, we shall be accused of being far too interfering.
Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I am very happy to do so. I was actually in Manchester on the day on which the bomb went off because I was visiting my mother in hospital. I saw how the local hospital responded on that occasion to what, thankfully, was not an enormous number of casualties but at that time that was not known. From then on, the response from within the city has been what one would expect from the people of Manchester but nonetheless admirable for that.
Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I shall not say that that is extremely wide of the original Question. I shall say that when looking at the minimum wage, the Low Wage Commission is taking into account all the elements and all the considerations that need to be looked at in coming to a settlement and a level of wage compatible both with our desires to create a strong and sustainable economy and to do justice to the low paid.
On the capital side, this year, as an immediate consequence of the increased capital provision, pupils and teachers in 2,300 schools in England will benefit from badly needed repair and improvement work. By the end of this Parliament, we shall have made long overdue progress as regards replacing unsafe and sub-standard buildings and outdated equipment so that our schools can provide an environment fit for teaching and learning.
Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that Answer. Does my noble friend agree with me that parents and schools will measure the success of that injection of funds by what happens in the classroom? Will he explain to the House and to me how he has consulted with local education authorities and what procedures he has put in place to ensure that every penny of the money that has been released for that purpose actually goes to the classrooms and the schools themselves?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, there have been and there are continuing long discussions with the local authority associations and individual local authorities to make sure that that money goes to where it is intended. It is precisely the case that it is intended to improve the situation for pupils in the classroom: to improve the quality of teaching; to improve the quality of equipment; to improve the quality of the environment in which they work; and in particular, to improve the technology with which they work in their schools.
Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, perhaps I may seek some clarification with regard to the Minister's interesting reply. First, can he specify the exact period for which this particular increase will apply? Secondly, given the change in the deflator from 2 per cent. per year to 2.75 per cent. per year in the Budget of July 1997, will the Minister tell us what is the net value of the increase in education given that the value of the original education budget has been reduced by 0.75 per cent. per year?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, as regards the second matter, the recurrent expenditure, which for this year is just over £1 billion, is 5.7 per cent. in money terms, which in real terms is a 3 per cent. increase. There are two parts of the provision: £1 billion this year and recurrently, and £1.3 billion towards capital improvements which covers this year and the next four years.
Lord Taylor of Gryfe: My Lords, I am aware that under the devolution proposals, education and health will be devolved. Could I have some assurance that the large sums which are mentioned here for distribution in education will be distributed on the Barnett formula in relation to Scottish education?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, the new money in the recurrent funding includes provision for Scotland of £50 million. As regards capital expenditure, the allocation for Scotland this year is £9 million and £27 million for each of the subsequent years. The grants in Scotland are allocated on a somewhat different basis from those in England. However, that is the commitment of this Government to education in Scotland as it is in England and Wales.
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