|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Andrew Bennett (Denton and Reddish): Does the hon. Gentleman accept that in 1997 and, I suspect, at the last election, the Liberal Democrats were offered an extra Select Committeethe Joint Committee on Statutory Instrumentsbut they chose not to take it up?
Mr. Tyler: That is not technically true. All sorts of offers are made and it is perfectly true that the hon. Gentleman's party and the Conservative party sometimes ask that certain Committees have particular Chairmen. I assure the hon. Gentleman that my comments this evening are not intended as a reflection on the qualifications of certain Members to chair Select Committeesthere is nothing personal in my comments. However, we would be grateful if the Leader of the House gave us an assurance that the conventions of the House will be obeyed in future.
Mr. Robin Cook: The hon. Member for North Cornwall (Mr. Tyler) raised the issue of who might chair the Select Committees. Strictly speaking, as he knows, that is not a matter to be debated on the Floor of the Houseit is a matter for the Committees themselves. However, it is on record that we are creating two Committees from a Committee which had two sub-Committees. I mention this delicately because I do not know what those Committees will do, but the field is already rather crowded.
I am sensitive to the hon. Gentleman's grievance, which he has raised on a number of occasions, and assure him that I am under no illusion about the fact that he will continue to raise it until I take action to remedy it.
This is not the occasion to take action in response to the grievance of the hon. Member for North Cornwall, but I am conscious of it and shall bear it in mind. Should an opportunity present itself, I shall certainly welcome the occasion to remedy it, but many factors have to be taken into account when choosing the Chair of a Select Committee.
Pete Wishart: If the Leader of the House is in the business of addressing grievances, how does he feel about the fact that there is still not one member of Plaid Cymru or the Scottish National party serving on non-regional Select Committees?
Mr. Cook: I draw the hon. Gentleman's attention to the fact that the list before the House in the motions to be moved by the Chair of the Committee of Selection includes one member of a minority party. In a total of 22 appointees, a member of one minority party strikes precisely the right arithmetical balance. I know of the hon. Gentleman's grievance. I know of the grievances of most parties in the House and most corners in those parties but, sadly, it is not within my power immediately to remedy them. However, I am conscious of the matter raised by the hon. Gentleman, and we shall certainly watch for an opportunity when we can put it right.
I was enormously encouraged by the opening remarks of the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth), who failed to find any controversy in the motion, which gives me hope that when the motion is put to the House it will be carried. I commend it to the House, as it will enable us to make good progress on keeping our Select Committees in good order.
I remember the negative impact that Conservative policies had on the people of Hull, North during the 1980s and 1990s, especially on those living in the Orchard Park ward. There were high levels of unemployment and long-term unemployment, no commercial or retail activity, housing that needed improvement, and rising crime and delinquency. The Tory financial constraints imposed on local government meant that the council's Labour group had to look for other ways to raise funds, such as the flotation of Kingston Communications, to improve the quality of life for the people of Hull.
It seems strange that an article on the subject in The Guardian last Saturday expresses shock, horror and disgust that a Labour council is spending money on repairing dilapidated schools, repairing houses, installing central heating and double glazing, and building a suitable stadium for the people of the citya shocking waste of money.
Thankfully, the election of the Labour Government saw a tide change for the people of Orchard Park. For the first time, central Government policies were having a direct impact. The new deal started to break the cycle of generational unemployment. The sure start scheme in Orchard Park aimed at child health and development is having a great and growing impact. The city learning centre at the Sir Henry Cooper school offers courses for local people to improve their basic skills and is helping to raise the standard of adult education.
In addition, the regeneration of Orchard Park has started, and it is about this that I shall voice most of my concerns. Those stem from what seems to be the political inexperience of the new Liberal Democrat leadership of Hull city council. Bit by bit, its decisions are unstitching the regeneration programme that had been put in place, and I fear that that will have a devastating effect on the local community, the quality of their environment and their hopes for the future.
Surplus housing stock had been a major problem in Orchard Park and the surrounding area. After much debate, the Labour council agreed a programme of demolition, and remodelling commenced. On the Danes, an estate in Orchard Park, I recently witnessedto the delight of local residentstwo tower blocks being demolished, as had been agreed by the Labour council, with a further 150 houses due for demolition.
I fully support the demolition of surplus housing stock. I equally support the remodelling of those areas but, worryingly, it is this second factor that the Liberal Democrats are refusing to acknowledge. There are plans to halt any further demolition in the Danes area, pending a re-examination of the entire future of that area. More importantly, the council has removed the £800,000 available to carry out the remodelling of the Danes area. That will mean that my constituents who live there will have to live in unacceptable conditions, with boarded-up houses next to improved properties and uncertainty about their future and their future housing.
In addition, the council's cabinet has agreed to delegate plans for further demolition to remove surplus stock to private consultants and the newly established citywide residents and tenants groups, which do not cover all the groups in my constituency. That will put on hold for at least a year the identification of surplus properties and the demolitions already agreed with the Danes residents. That is an unacceptable situation and is unfair to the people of Orchard Park. It is not consistent with the original council plan or the policies of the Labour Government, which advocate revitalising the area.
Given the content of the Deputy Prime Minister's statement to the House last Thursday, I should be grateful if my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary could relay those concerns to the Minister in charge of housing and regeneration, to see what can be done to prevent any delay in the demolition of surplus housing and the remodelling of the area.
The second and more urgent issue is the proposed Department of Health LIFT scheme for Orchard Park. In his sustainable communities statement, the Deputy Prime Minister emphasised the need for adequate health services, but that seems to have gone unnoticed by the Liberal Hull city council. Hull was one of the 18 areas to be given approval for LIFT funding, with the aim of improving primary care services where they are desperately needed. That is of particular importance to the Orchard Park area, which has low health status compared with other areas of Hull. Unfortunately, it seems that that much needed investment is unlikely to occuragain, because of the decisions of the Liberal Democrats.
To summarise the situation, a regeneration plan for Orchard Park had been agreed between Hull city council and the West Hull primary care trust. The outline business case had been drawn up for the project and private finance initiative credits had been provisionally approved for the replacement community centre, citizens advice bureau and a new retail development to replace the substandard shopping precinct. In addition, it was agreed that, through the LIFT scheme, a number of retail shops would be purchased from the council and that the one-stop health centre costing £5.5 million would be located there.
The council's and LIFT's funding sources are interlinked, and failure by either party to fulfil its commitment would put in serious doubt the whole regeneration scheme. It is here that my concern lies, because Liberal Democrat-led Hull city council has indicated to West Hull PCT that it is not in a position to buy the retail shops.
That poses a number of serious issues for the future of the Orchard Park LIFT project. If the council had owned the shops, that would have reduced the risk and ensured the managed transition from existing retail units to the shops planned as part of the regeneration project. Without that, and leaving the shops at Orchard Park in third-party ownership, as the Liberal Democrats seem to demand, is inappropriate. If the shops were vacated piecemeal, that would result in some shops being boarded up, which would not add to the expected improvements resulting from the regeneration scheme. The council's purchase of the retail outlets is key to the entire LIFT scheme.
As a result, it seems that the burden will fall on the PCT to buy the shops. Current advice that I have received is that that option is likely to be rejected under the LIFT funding scheme. It therefore puts in doubt not only the
The Orchard Park regeneration scheme is vital not only to ensure better health provision, but to deal with employment, environment and community involvement, yet the Liberal Democrats are turning their backs on it. As it seems that the council is reneging on earlier promises, I should be grateful if my right hon. and hon. Friends at the Department of Health and the Minister with responsibility for regeneration could work together to investigate whether any alternative funding methods are available, so that the Orchard Park scheme can be included in the LIFT scheme, and the LIFT scheme can go ahead. That is most important in one of the most deprived wards in the whole of the United Kingdom.