Does my right hon. Friend agree that the inner area studies have indicated that curative action is necessary in many of the inner areas, and may I urge him to look at the need for preventive action in areas such as Garston? Is he aware that there is a high degree of obsolescence there and great housing stress and that we look for his assistance, in co-operation with Liverpool, in dealing with the problem? In those circumstances, may I ask—
I can assure my hon. Friend that the problems of Garston are not unknown to my Department or to me. On the two main points that have been raised, of course I agree that the inner Liverpool study has revealed the seriousness of the situation and the need for early and effective action. I also wholly agree that it is important for local authorities, and, indeed, the Government, to be aware of the areas where problems are not as advanced and serious as they are in some of our inner cities but where they could become so if proper preventive action is not taken.
Will the Minister pay particular attention to some of the suggestions that have been made for creating new small industries on the edge of inner city areas, because they could bring relief and could also take up some of the Government advance factory building if it was apportioned off?
Yes. I agree that the rôle of small firms, particularly in inner cities, is important. Local authorities, which have in the past in general been somewhat insensitive about the needs of small firms, are now becoming much more aware of the important part that they can play.
Does the Minister realise that, apart from the cities that took part in the inner area studies, there are a great number of smaller cities such as Hull which have all these problems? Is it not important that when my right hon. Friend publishes his White Paper he should pay attention to such areas, which have all the problems of obsolescence and lack of housing that exist in city centres?
I am aware of the problem. We must face the fact that there are throughout the country, in all cities and large towns, areas of decay and problems that certainly need tackling. If we are to do anything effective, and if we are to deal with the really major problems affecting our inner cities, we must be extremely selective in what we do.
As the Minister has published a summary of inner city studies—which, I am sure he will agree, contains many constructive suggestions and useful analyses—and as he is considering a statement of policy on this matter, would it not be a good idea if the House were able to debate the report on inner city studies before he comes to a final conclusion?
Is my right hon. Friend aware that in inner areas in some regions, particularly in my constituency, unemployment has reached 40 per cent. and that the construction industry in Merseyside has the highest level of unemployment of any region in Great Britain? What plans does my right hon. Friend have to help alleviate unemployment in inner areas and to reduce unemployment in the construction industry?
I am very much aware of the intense problems facing Liverpool, which has difficulties as great as any city in the country. I am also aware of the great importance of helping to deal with unemployment in that area. I hope my hon. Friend will agree on a point that is also relevant elsewhere—that Liverpool and Merseyside are part of a special development area, yet there is within that area an unacceptable differential of high unemployment in the inner part of Liverpool which my hon. Friend knows about. I have a feeling that we must look not only to regional policies but to intraregional policies to tackle these problems effectively.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that while he is considering his review of these problems the situation on Merseyside is rapidly getting a great deal worse as a result of many policies of his Government? Is he aware that bankruptcies among small firms on Merseyside are at a record level, that the Merseyside housing programme is rapidly declining and that unemployment in the area is rising? What are the Government going to do about these urgent problems?
The hon. Gentleman can ask my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer about the general economic recovery. He will be saying something about the state of the economy very soon. I do not agree with what the hon. Gentleman said about housing and the development of housing programmes. We made Liverpool a housing stress area for council house building and it is coming forward with a substantial programme of new building.