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Lord Howie of Troon: My Lords, I am always reassured when the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor says something to me, no matter what it is. Not being a lawyer I shall study Hansard tomorrow to see just how and where I have been put right. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 4 and 5 not moved.]

Activity Centres (Young Persons' Safety) Bill

Brought from the Commons; read a first time, and to be printed.

Leeds Development Corporation (Area and Constitution) Order 1995

4.8 p.m.

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Viscount Ullswater) rose to move, That the order laid before the House on 9th February be approved [11th Report from the Joint Committee].

The noble Viscount said: My Lords, the order was approved in another place on 6th March. It is one of four required to wind up the Leeds Development Corporation. Its effect is straightforward. It simply revokes the 1988 order which designated the Leeds Urban Development Area and established the development corporation.

Revocation is in two stages. That part of the 1988 order which designated the urban development area is to be revoked on 1st April. The part which established the development corporation is to be revoked on 1st July.

I should like briefly to explain why there is a two-stage wind-up process and why we need four orders in total to wind up the development corporation. The intention is that the Leeds Development Corporation will cease to exercise any operational functions after 31st March. It is appropriate therefore that the urban development area should cease to exist as from 1st April. There will then be a three-month non-operational period during which time the corporation, with just a few staff, will prepare its final accounts and report and wind up its affairs. Finally, the corporation will be dissolved on 1st July.

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None of the other three orders required to wind up the corporation is subject to the affirmative resolution procedure. A dissolution order will be made at the end of March requiring the corporation to cease to act from 1st April and dissolving it on 1st July. That order is not subject to any parliamentary procedure.

The other two orders were laid before the House on 24th February and are subject to the negative resolution procedure. One order transfers planning functions from the corporation to Leeds City Council at the end of March. The other transfers to the Secretary of State for the Environment any assets or liabilities that the corporation has not disposed of by wind-up. This is a necessary safety net to ensure that there is a residual home for any remaining assets and liabilities.

I have explained what the area and constitution order does and how it ties in with the other wind-up orders. I should now like to explain why the Government are now winding up the Leeds Development Corporation: indeed, why we intend to wind up all 12 UDCs in England over the next three years.

I must make quite clear that this is not because they have failed to meet the objectives we set them: quite the reverse. It is precisely because the Leeds Development Corporation has largely done what it set out to do, and others will have done so over the next three years, that we now are able to embark on this wind-up programme.

UDCs were always intended to have limited lives—some shorter than others, depending upon the extent of the problems they faced. They were set up in order to provide a focused approach to the physical and economic regeneration of particular run-down urban areas; to give these areas a much-needed shot in the arm. At the same time, we have looked to UDCs to establish a solid base for sustainable regeneration that other bodies, both in the public and private sectors, can build upon after they have gone.

This is what Leeds and other development corporations have done: mainly by way of assembling land, providing infrastructure, facilitating much-needed development, and improving the local environment. An important part of their remit has been to lever in as much private investment as possible. Their records in this regard are impressive. Take the case of Leeds. In spending £55.7 million of public money, the development corporation has drawn in £350 million of private sector investment, including £45 million from abroad. That gives a ratio of public to private investment of 1:6.3.

I was pleased to have the opportunity to see for myself how the corporation has transformed the area when I visited Leeds in January. I should like to highlight some of its achievements. In Holbeck, life has been brought back into an important conservation area by restoring historic workshops and redeveloping adjacent sites. The south side of Boar Lane has been transformed into a smart office and hotel location. The Calls and Riverside is now a lively business, residential and restaurant district.

In the Kirkstall Valley, the former power station ash tip has been transformed into a 10 hectare nature reserve. A new village heart has been put back in Hunslet with the new Hunslet Green development,

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which has turned 20 hectares of derelict land into a new urban village complete with new shopping and sporting facilities. Under construction at the moment, and due to open at Easter 1996, is the £42 million Royal Armouries Museum. The development corporation was instrumental in persuading the Royal Armouries to move to Leeds, and the development is expected to attract 1 million visitors a year.

I could go on to list many other outstanding examples of the corporation's achievements, but I think I have made my point. The corporation has a record to be proud of, and I congratulate its board and officials for their remarkable achievements in under seven years.

I should mention also that the corporation has made every effort to ensure that its exit is an orderly one, and that suitable succession arrangements are in place. The city council, as well as inheriting the corporation's planning functions, is taking over responsibility for maintaining amenity areas landscaped by the corporation. English Partnerships intends to take over responsibility for a number of projects that will not be completed by the end of March. In both cases, the corporation is paying an agreed endowment sum to its successor.

We charged the Leeds Development Corporation with the task of pump-priming regeneration of its area and it has achieved that objective admirably. We asked it to achieve an orderly exit, and it has done that also. The time has now come, therefore, to wind up the corporation, and we need to approve the area and constitution order to do that. I recommend this order to the House for approval. I beg to move.

Moved, That the order laid before the House on 9th February be approved [11th Report from the Joint Committee.]—(Viscount Ullswater.)

4.15 p.m.

Lord Williams of Elvel: My Lords, the House will be grateful to the noble Viscount for introducing this order. I say at the outset that it is welcome, not perhaps entirely for the reasons that the noble Viscount adduced but because we believe that the proper way to develop inner cities is in partnership between councils, local authorities and the private sector. They can do that by themselves without the need for urban development corporations. Indeed, we welcome the fact that the development of the centre of Leeds is basically going to move along the lines that we would recommend, as the noble Viscount has described.

The question then arises as to whether this urban development corporation has worked in any meaningful sense. Indeed, do UDCs work? I would seek to define "work" a little more closely. Has it really helped to regenerate previously derelict inner city areas which would otherwise not have been regenerated? Has it improved the lot of local residents? Has it created employment that otherwise would not have been created? I believe that those are three good criteria by which to measure the success or otherwise of any urban development corporation, and in particular the one which is before us today; namely, the Leeds Development Corporation.

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I shall not talk about the others, but as regards the Leeds Development Corporation I believe that the position is uncertain. We ask ourselves what it has achieved in seven years of existence. As the noble Viscount will know, there was already a good working partnership between Leeds City Council and the private sector. I ask your Lordships this question: what would have happened if the resources which have been made available to the UDC had been made available direct to Leeds City Council? Our belief is that Leeds would have achieved the same attraction of private funds because that is exactly what it did in the Asda development, which was near completion before the UDC came into existence.

The next question about Leeds is: what sort of jobs have been created? We have heard a figure of over 8,000 jobs. Perhaps the noble Viscount can help me on this matter. I cannot find anywhere a precise statement on whether these jobs are temporary or permanent. Do they relate to the unemployment position in Leeds, which is essentially that of male heads of households? Are the jobs planting trees? Are they jobs in economic and public relations consultancies, in which many have been employed by the UDC and perhaps to good purpose?

I hope the noble Viscount will confirm that these are not jobs which are in pursuit of the development corporation's housing strategy for the simple reason that the corporation had no housing strategy. For an urban development corporation to set out to regenerate an inner city without having such a strategy seems to me very odd, to say the least.

Neither did the Leeds Development Corporation pay much attention to social projects. Will the noble Viscount confirm that of the total expenditure of that corporation only 0.2 per cent. went on any project of a social nature? Will the noble Viscount also confirm that this and the housing question were the objects of a severely critical report from the National Audit Office published on 27th July 1993? So everything is not quite as successful as the noble Viscount described.

The noble Viscount said that he visited Leeds. He will have reflected on and heard the opinions of my honourable friends in another place who said that in many instances the Leeds Development Corporation neglected local small businesses which are precisely the kind of businesses which are required for regeneration of that nature. The corporation is very keen on big developments, but not very keen on local, small businesses.

Generally speaking, have UDCs worked? We understand from the noble Viscount that there will be an orderly wind-up of all 12 UDCs over the next three years. Have the Government lost faith in the whole exercise? We hear very little about UDCs nowadays. They used to be trumpeted as the great new weapon by which the inner cities would be regenerated. There is none of that now. There is none of the publicity or hype that we had previously. The fact of the matter is that urban development corporations have had a difficult time—not least because they have been operating in an economic climate which has not been favourable. I

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accept that, but given that the Government are to wind up all of the UDCs, I must ask whether they have lost faith in them. If they have lost faith, I think that it would be more honest for them to say so instead of using the fig-leaf of saying that they were simply pump-priming operations which were to be handed over to the local authorities when ready.

I said at the beginning of my speech—I say it again—that we welcome the order because we believe that the future regeneration of our inner cities lies with local authorities working in partnership with the private sector. It was for that reason that I put my questions to the noble Viscount in a constructive manner and in the hope that he will be able to answer them.

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