Our people have not lost enterprise and initiative. We remain an innovative, resourceful and inventive people but, to a great extent, that is being stifled by red tape. Today, we have to labour under the town and country planning legislation. The first such Act passed in 1948, and since that date, those responsible for administering the legislation have worked out a jargon all their own, as I know from my experience. They give such reasons for refusing applications as, "There is a certain rhythm about the roof scale along this stretch of London road and this should not be disturbed" or, "Such an item would not be a welcome addition to the street scene." I do not know where they get this jargon from—perhaps they learn it at planning school—but it is of no help to the small business man who is trying to expand his factory.
I congratulate the Government on revising the use classes order. This is excellent, but I urge them to go further. They have not really started. I can give another example of obstructionism — that by local authorities. To this day, 43 years after the second world war ended, there are still empty bomb sites in our cities. There is such an empty site only 100 yd from where I live, and such sites can be found in many parts of our great cities. The one near my home was owned by the Greater London council.
Those of us who take an interest in property matters are keeping a careful eye on property auction catalogues. In those we see properties that were formerly owned by the GLC being sold at auction. In many instances the leases on those properties expired years ago. The rents being paid today are at levels that obtained 10, 15 or 20 years ago. Many properties owned by local authorities should be given over for use by business. However, many local authorities do not even know what properties they own. They have no idea and are not interested.
In my area, the London borough of Waltham Forest is controlled by Labour and the council imposed a 62 per cent. rate increase last year and decided to set up an economic development unit. How very helpful to local businesses to know that they can go and discuss that 62 per cent. rate increase with friendly officials at the town hall!
Page 31 of the White Paper says under the heading "Inner Cities":
The identification of Urban Programme Areas for particular help is a new policy for DTI and recognises the particular difficulties of such areas. A number of inner cities will similarly benefit from the new measures for Development Areas as well as Regional Selective Assistance. DTI is also responsible for coordinating the work of the City Action Teams in major cities and running 16 Inner City Task Forces.
That is greatly welcomed. I urge my hon. Friends in the Department of Trade and Industry to confer with the Department of the Environment so that we may have some co-operation between those two Departments. It is fine for the DTI to bring forward this sort of programme. However, obstruction by the local authorities that rule in inner city areas will tend to cancel the benefits of such programmes. We must make full use of all the resources in our inner cities.