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Lord Bellwin: My Lords, I should like to contribute briefly because we are talking about my favourite home-town and I have had some experience of its affairs in a public capacity. We are also talking about what we always used to call "quangos", but they are now referred to as NDPBsnon-departmental public bodies. Given that at the end of this week I finish 10 years' service on the Commission for the New Towns, which is one such body, and I currently chair the Louth Hull Housing Action Trust, perhaps I should declare an interest in the subject.
To appreciate fully the extent of the achievements of the urban development corporation, I believe that one has physically to visit the area in question. It would be even better if one could not only see the area as it is now but know what it was like previously. I can say without any doubt that the transformationI use that word deliberatelyis quite remarkable. Indeed, I commend to your Lordships a splendid illustrated booklet on Leeds. I am sure that my noble friend the Minister will make a copy available to any noble Lord who wishes to see it. It graphically illustrates the "befores" and "afters". It is most impressive.
It has always been said that if one were to give development money to the local authority, it would do the job just as well. But it is not like that. I have worked for a local authority. Indeed, I was the leader of the authority in Leeds for many yearsand I know about this. Other Members of your Lordships' House who are in the Chamber at the moment could also tell the House about the constraints upon local authorities when trying to carry out all the functions and services for which they are responsible, when trying to keep an even balance between what is done in one area as compared with another and when trying to match up to the pressures placed upon them by all of their citizens. It is a hard thing to do. And it is not just a question of money. Without breaching any confidences, I can tell the House that it is simply not the case that previously it was only money that prevented us achieving all that we had hoped. Today I can compare my city with any other in the country, but it was not always like that and it was not simply a question of money.
The previous Labour leadership discussed with me at great length what more might be done and how it might be done. Although there were political pressures at the time, when the money became available through the establishment of the development corporation, many
Perhaps I may comment also on the board itself. According to the proceedings of another place, the chairman of the board was abused in a debate. He does not deserve that because he has done a splendid job of work. He is a most able man. Indeed, I hope that we shall always find such men coming forward on to such bodies and playing their part in helping to regenerate our cities. In fact, all members of the board are distinguished local people. Indeed, the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, is a member of that board, and no one can question her abilities and what she has to offer. Therefore, I have to disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Williams, although the point that he made is always made in such circumstances.
Another feature of the work of development corporations is that when money comes into a city, not only does it enable an area or areas of that city to be improved, but it means that the resources of the local authority can be better used to meet its other objectives. I know that that point, too, is appreciated.
The Minister gave us some examples of what he thought were the successes of the corporation. I shall not detain your Lordships by speaking of others, except to mention that one of my favourites is what has happened in Hunslet Green which was a problem area throughout all my years in the city. Any noble Lord who visits the area now and talks to the people who live there and to those in its forum will be able to understand just what the corporation has done and what it has meant to a far greater extent than is possible simply by listening to what is said here today.
The noble Lord, Lord Williams, said that there was no housing strategy. But I must advise him that 561 houses exist today that were not there previously. You can call that "strategy" or whatever, but I like what has happened very much indeed.
There is no doubt that, without the input of the development corporation, the city of Leeds would not now be set to receive the Royal Armouries which will mean so much to it. That is a wonderful example of a local authority, the private sector and the Government all putting in funds. It is a very happy story.
Perhaps I can tempt the noble Lord, Lord Williams, to visit Leeds to see what has happened along the riverside and, who knows, even to stay at one of the hotels there. That part of the city was previously derelict, but it is now delightful. Indeed, I would welcome the noble Lord to the city myself and would be glad to show him round if he needed it.
I must not go on. If my enthusiasm is showing through too much, I hope that your Lordships will make allowances for the fact that I am talking about my home-town. I do not need to go there to see it because I know it. Like my parents, I was born there. I was brought up there, and I am very proud of it.
I should like to finish by saying one or two thank-yous. I should like to thank the Government for putting in the funds in this way. We would not have had all the extra jobs and the millions of pounds of private sector investment without it. None of it would have happened without that. The Secretary of State who made the appointments to the board deserves congratulations on that. I have already said how much I appreciate what the leadership of the city council has brought to the party. We should not let this occasion pass without a word of praise for its officers. The chief executive, Martin Eagland, is an outstanding officer. Indeed, they have all done a fine job, as have all involved in businesses, the professions and, indeed, the community at large, 300 of whom turned out last Friday to say farewell. The Secretary of State came along. It was a splendid occasion.
There are those who seek to belittle what has happened. Politicians, as they did in another place, seek to score points. There are those who argue about the precise number of jobs that are being created. How many thousand was it really? How many hundreds of millions of pounds have gone in? Was it more or less than has been said? People can argue about that if they like, but when all the talking is done, the reality is there for all to see. An important area of the City of Leeds has been transformed. I use that word again deliberately.
Where there has been dereliction for a long time, there is now much of which everyone in the city can be proud. Much more needs to be done in Leeds. It will henceforth be the responsibility of others to do it. I say merely that I cheer them on in their doing of it because I want to see everything possible done to make the city a better place than it is at the momentgood though it is in comparison with all others. I pay tribute to all concerned for a job very well done.
Viscount Ullswater: My Lords, I welcome the contribution made to the debate by my noble friend Lord Bellwin. He has the knowledge and expertise which I certainly do not have, and so I welcome what he said. From the first he said that the transformation of the areas that the Leeds Development Corporation has tackled is remarkable.
Almost seven years ago the Government gave the Leeds Development Corporation the task of bringing back prosperity, business, jobs and housing to two very different areas of the city, at South Central Leeds and the Kirkstall Valley. It was given the powers and the resources to focus single-mindedly on removing the barriers which were preventing regeneration from taking place. The noble Lord, Lord Williams, said that the city council could of course have done that if it had been given the money. Perhaps it could have done, and perhaps it would have done in time, but, as my noble friend Lord Bellwin said, it was not just the money. It is not always just a question of money. The city council was looking at different priorities, and that makes it difficult for it to focus on any particular area. Hunslet Green was, I understand, an area of high-rise flats. The
The corporation is dedicated to its task. It has shown the vision, focus and determination to solve the problems which were holding back progress. Its achievements in attracting investors and breathing new life into the city are there for all to see.
I gave some illustrations earlier of how the corporation has succeeded in regenerating particular areas of the city. I should now like to sum up its achievements with some key output figures, starting with jobs. During its lifetime the corporation has helped to create over 9,000 jobs. That figure is not one calculated by the corporation itself. It has been arrived at by independent economic consultants, based on a full survey of all completed developments within the designated urban development area. That influx of new jobs bodes well for the future and looks set to increase as new developments are completed and businesses consolidate and expand. The noble Lord, Lord Williams, asked whether the corporation really had created jobs where there were none before. That independent assessment of the number of jobs created is an important one to examine.
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