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1.57 pm

Jon Cruddas (Dagenham): Today's discussion covers important territory in terms of the needs of the people whom I represent in Dagenham. I want to examine the issues with reference both to my constituency and developments across east London.

Let us consider some of the basic characteristics of the community that I represent. It is the lowest-wage economy in Greater London and one of the most deprived boroughs in the capital. Adult numeracy is the second lowest in the country, literacy the fourth lowest. The number of residents with higher educational qualifications is the lowest in the country. Heart and lung disease, infant mortality and life expectancy are among the worst in the capital. Fear of crime dominates all community surveys. Police numbers are chronically low.

Questions surrounding public services cannot be separated from issues of regeneration. The national public services strategy is starting to have an effect locally. The borough has some of the most improved schools in the country. The early-years agenda has resulted in major investments. A new private finance initiative hospital in Romford is expected to open in 2005. Seventy-nine new police officers are to enter the borough in the next 18 months. Overall we are starting to witness change, yet the needs of the community are immense.

However, the real challenges in east London are more profound. The analysis contained in the London development agency's London plan shows that for 30 years after the second world war, business and populations emigrated from London through new town development. By 1983, London's population had dropped by some 1.2 million. What followed was a fall in housebuilding and an abandonment of strategic planning in London. Therefore, as London developed rapidly over the past 20 years, it was ill prepared to handle growth in terms of strategic guidance, infrastructure, housing, transport and public services.

The population is set to grow by another 1 million over the next 10 to 15 years, and the London plan sets out two options: either we witness a new period of externalisation out of London or we accept that economic growth and create an adequate infrastructure to enable the city to achieve sustainable development. The plan proposes the latter.

Huge issues are thrown up by that conclusion. How do we handle some 500,000 extra households over the next 15 years? Where is the brownfield development? Where do we physically build the houses? Where are these new communities employed? What are the consequences for education, health and transport?

When we consider how London will strategically manage those changes, we see that all roads lead east. Dagenham sits at the centre of the sub-region that will have to accommodate much of that growth—the Thames gateway. East London is an exciting place to be at the moment. In terms of London's economic development, the centre of gravity is moving eastwards. The Mayor talks of shifting priorities from west to east and of building a new city to the east.

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In Dagenham, the sheer scale of brownfield land will lead to massive development in the next 10 years. For example, one site in the borough, Barking Reach, will handle some 6,000 new homes—a population of 12,000 to 15,000 people. To the south of the borough, including in parts of Beckton, we have a regeneration site the size of Islington. That has huge implications for public services in the borough. The new communities will require schools and health care, and they will have to be policed. Many of the people who will live in these new communities will be public sector workers. They must be transported into and throughout the city. They cannot just start their cars and turn left on to the A13.

The proposed crossrail, for example, should not just shuttle commuters in and out of London; it must link new communities in London with key job generation sites. For example, it is estimated that some 40,000 people will be employed in the Royal Docks and 100,000 in Canary Wharf in 10 years. That is only part of the regeneration agenda. So far I have mentioned housing, public services and managing growth in this city. We also have to rebuild the manufacturing and economic centre of east London.

As I have said, Dagenham sits at the centre of the Thames gateway—an increasingly integrated area covering 13 boroughs and 2 million people in some of the most deprived areas in the country. Historically, because of the location of the Ford Motor Company, Dagenham has been the centre of manufacturing for east London. We must, and we are, rebuilding that, in partnership with the Government, the devolved agencies and local authorities.

On 20 February, the last Fiesta will roll off the line in Dagenham—the end of car assembly in the area. That will be a sad day. However, as one door shuts another opens—soon, a new high technology engine manufacturing plant will be built. It will be one of the most modern manufacturing facilities in Europe. Annual engine production will rise to about 900,000 units by 2004. Car assembly will end, but more than 5,000 people will still be employed on the Dagenham estate. It will continue to be London's largest industrial centre and will become Europe's premium manufacturing facility for diesel technology.

In addition, a new supplier park will be created in Dagenham, on London development agency land, to support that new diesel facility. That will attract small and medium-sized, high-tech businesses, on top of which a new centre for manufacturing excellence on the Ford estate will provide education and training, from basic skills right through to advanced postgraduate degrees for local people.

To rebuild east London's manufacturing base, we need more infrastructure. The scarcity of river crossings over the east Thames remains a major impediment to successful economic regeneration. The proposed package of three new river crossings will have a major impact, by creating employment and development opportunities.

The channel tunnel rail link, which will go underground in Dagenham, is vital if international and domestic connections to London and the south-east are to be created and major hubs for new investment established. I hope that the docklands light railway will be extended into the borough, linking it to the major job generation sites to the north of the Thames.

Overall, we are engaged in a genuinely radical attempt to confront deprivation and boost public services in this city and this country. The task that faces us in London is

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massive—to build a new city with a new economic centre to the east, with the infrastructure and services needed to build strong communities. That will involve the Government working hand in hand with the devolved agencies to forge an agenda for change that will materially alter the lives of the people whom I represent.

The process cannot descend into a financial dogfight, based on simplistic assumptions of the north-south divide, while ignoring the economic outflows from London to the rest of the United Kingdom. The people whom I represent deserve mature political governance by our national figures and the devolved agencies. That should be based on a clear understanding of the economic and social problems that confront London, not on a partial analysis of its economic prosperity forged in the Westminster beltway.

There are some promising signs. For example, the strategic partnership in the DTLR for the Thames gateway is creatively confronting some of those issues. This is a key turning point for the Government and London. All the participants should rise to the challenges that will be produced, and I welcome the opportunity to contribute today.

2.4 pm

Mr. Mark Hendrick (Preston): I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Dagenham (Jon Cruddas), who cut short his remarks, and other hon. Members for the opportunity to take part in this debate.

Regeneration in Preston requires both public and private finance along with a vision of economic development underpinned by major employment prospects, educational and skills opportunities, community development and partnership with the local authority. I pay tribute to Preston borough council—under the stewardship of its leader, Councillor Ian Hall, and the portfolio holder for regeneration, Councillor Veronica Afrin—and to the businesses, voluntary groups and local communities that have an important role to play in the regeneration process.

Preston sees its future economic growth coming from three main sources. The first is its establishment as the major regional shopping centre for the north-west outside the Manchester and Liverpool conurbations. The Tithbarn project will bring in £300 million of private investment to Preston for the development of shopping facilities and the town centre generally. The second is as the tertiary education centre for the sub-region, and the third is the establishment of the town as a centre for art, culture and design.

Preston's assets include a relatively young and expanding population, its role as an access gateway into much of the sub-region and region, and the fact that it is a private and public decision-making and administrative centre and a seat of learning that is seeking to develop its expertise in the technologies of the future and to take advantage of its locational attributes. Taken together, those assets contribute to the development of a competitive business environment and of an area that is potentially attractive to investors in the high value-added, knowledge-based sectors of the economy that are at the centre of the regional economic strategy as well as national economic policy.

Economic development and regeneration are key aspirations of the local Preston partnership. To achieve long-term and effective regeneration, it is necessary to

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recognise and minimise the constraints affecting economic development. The constraints include the increasing polarisation of growth in the large cities and towns. Such growth is due in part to the huge improvement in the facilities in, and the environment of, major town centres; the economic growth that acts as a magnate for the young professional and entrepreneur; the concentration of the "ideas" culture in the cities and towns; and the cosmopolitan lifestyle now available because of the rapid growth of city centre and residential areas. If those trends continue unabated, there will be a growing population and employment shift to the regional cities and that will result in the economic, social and cultural decline of their urban hinterlands.

If regional towns such as Preston are to prosper in the new century, they need to develop into micro-cities that incorporate many of the benefits of the mega-city and blend them with the unique feature of a large town. The economic regeneration of Preston in the years up to the next Preston guild in 2012 will take place in an unprecedented period of organisational change and new initiatives. The Northwest development agency's regional prospectus of October 2001 said:

The Government, through their single regeneration budget funding and neighbourhood renewal strategy, support and will continue to support organisations throughout the community. Areas of Preston receiving significant amounts of support are Fishwick, Ribbleton, Deepdale, St. Mathew's, Brookfield, Avenham and Central wards.

An example of an agency in Preston working towards regeneration is the Avenquest community regeneration trust, the annual general meeting of which I shall attend next week on Thursday 14 February. It is a community-led organisation that is working towards the economic and social regeneration of one of the most deprived areas in the north-west, with many poor and deprived white and ethnic minority residents. The trust is developing a range of programmes, partnerships and initiatives to tackle deprivation and to build the capacity of individuals, households and communities to participate effectively in, and to benefit from, the process of regeneration.

The trust is working with Avenham ward residents to create opportunities and pathways away from poverty and disadvantage and into jobs, education and training. The trust has been in existence for almost two years and it has made significant progress. The focus of current activity is to target those communities that have not been able to access mainstream opportunities. The goals are: creating employment, promoting community education and developing training opportunities. The chief purpose of the trust is to attack the root causes of poverty by meeting the problems of unemployment and providing assistance and support to those who seek employment, together with the advancement of education, training or re-training and the provision of work experience.

The trust works in the community by providing drop-in facilities in information and communications technology, arts activities, volunteer activities, informal education, support activities and enabling opportunities. Key projects

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include local labour in construction, the health for all partnership, the new Avenham centre, community access to ICT and a community resource room. Success is coming from partnerships that are committed to new ways of working with different communities. The trust's future priorities are job creation and job growth; developing training opportunities; working with communities and agencies; developing volunteers and activities; becoming financially self-sufficient; and continuing to be community-based and accountable.

In addition, Preston borough council has developed a policy in pursuit of establishing Preston town centre as an economic development zone. The projects and information compiled for the bid will act as guiding messages for a 10-year action plan, whether the EDZ application is successful or not. The improved wealth shown by improvements in gross domestic product will be brought about only by the growing ambitions of existing and new start-ups and inward investing companies. The competitiveness of the Greater Preston economy depends on the concerted and co-ordinated actions of the local partners, as well as a city region that both companies and residents are proud to belong to and represent as ambassadors.

Preston is in the process of developing and consulting on targets for regeneration. Suggested starting points for discussion with partners are improvement of GDP from £9,000 to £18,000 a year over the period of the strategy; unemployment in the priority 2 area to be reduced from 1,700 to under 1,000; workspace provision to be improved by 400 workspace units; the number of creative businesses in the Preston area to increase by an agreed amount; museum visitors to increase over a fixed period by a certain amount; transport improvements to increase non-car movements by a target amount; graduate retention measures; and an inward investment measure. Those are the targets of an ambitious town hopefully, one day soon, to become a city and the third major conurbation in the north-west after Manchester and Liverpool.

Preston is a thriving town and the pockets of severe deprivation will be dealt with by the measures that I have outlined. I look forward to a bright future for that proud town.

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