Commons Gate

Coalfield Communities

ODPM Committee 8 Dec 2003

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Transcript of Oral Evidence given by Janet Bibby, Chief Executive, Coalfields Regeneration Trust, Stephen Johnson, Director of Operations, Heritage Lottery Fund, Gerald Oppenheim, Director of Policy and Communications, Community Fund and Mark McGann, New Opportunities Fund; Trevor Beattie, Corporate Strategy Director and Rob Pearson, Head of National Programmes, English Partnerships, Alan Clarke, Chief Executive, One North East, and Martin Briggs, Chief Executive, East Midlands Development Agency; Rt Hon Lord Rooker, Minister of State for Regeneration and Regional Development, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, Melanie Johnson MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Public Health), Department of Health and Rt Hon Margaret Hodge MBE MP, Minister of State for Children, Department of Education and Skills: uploaded on 12 December 2003

Mr David Clelland, in the Chair

Q229 Chairman: How are you monitoring the impact of these programmes? When will we know that the regeneration of the coalfields has been achieved, for instance?

Lord Rooker: I wish I could give you a year for that. There are some research projects underway at the present time. There is one to be commissioned next year, to have a look, particularly on coalfields, to see where we are and how far we have got. In other words, I am not sure I am putting the correct words which actually will be asked, but, from my point of view, I must say, to ask the question, "Is this policy doing what the Government and Parliament intended it to do, at this early stage?" There is a research project to be started off, commissioned, early next year. There is some work going on at the present time which ministers will get hopefully before the end of this year, which means it is not very far away, certainly for publication next year, on looking at the areas in the country where, even in areas of low unemployment, there are still pockets of unexplained, very, very high unemployment, where three-quarters of the street are not working, as it were. That is in hot spots around the country, not just selling the coalfields but clearly they are there, but there are some in areas which are quite surprising. There is a project going on with the Social Exclusion Unit, having a look at that particular issue at the moment. Obviously we have got higher employment in the country than we have had ever, I think the figure is about 28 million, or something like that, unemployment is low, in historical terms, in recent years, but there are some real, severe pockets where we need to find out what the reasons are for that. As I say, there is a project underway on that, which hopefully we will have before the end of the year.

Q230 Chairman: In a lot of those pockets, when you say high levels of unemployment, are you talking about unemployment as measured in terms of unemployment statistics, or are you talking about people out of work in terms of people out of work because of a long-term sickness benefit?

Lord Rooker: A bit of both really, where you get high levels of economic inactivity, particularly with people over 50. We have got a huge number of people in this country over 50 economically inactive, some forced out with so-called early retirement schemes which seemed all right at the time, others forced out against their will. Let us face it, the best asset this country has got, like any country, is its people and their capacity to work and their willingness to work. We have got a huge number of people who would be willing and have got a capacity to work, but we have got some hot spots. When you look at the overall picture, things are looking quite good and the Government can boast rightly about the number of people in work, people might argue about the hours, but in work and economically active. We do need to look at these hot spots to see if there is something else we need to do, in terms of changing policy or adding to policy. It is not all in the areas to the North and the Midlands, there are some of these hot spots in the South East, in the so-called engine of the country, in terms of economic activities concerned.


Q251 Chairman: Will the local authorities be likely to have the power to license a particular landlord, as opposed to a particular area?

Lord Rooker: Yes, I think it is. The idea, of course, let us face it, to license the landlord is to drive the crooks out of business, let us not put too fine a point on this. It may be that the landlord cannot be licensed, the manager gets the licence because he is not a crook, where a spiv is a rip-off merchant causing mayhem in the community and therefore can manage it differently. I think there is a fair degree of discretion for the local authority to license in an area maybe all the landlords in a street. Of course, the good landlords, who have good relations with the local authority now, are not going to object to this, because it is the others giving them and their industry a bad name.

Q252 Chairman: I think my point was that you may have a particular landlord who has a number of properties, in different areas, each one of which is giving problems, so it is the individual rather than the area?

Lord Rooker: Let me put it this way, the House has not had the legislation yet, so we have got plenty of chances for amending it. I would like to think that the legislation will be flexible enough that, if there were the case of a national landlord, operating in different parts of the country, who had a reputation for running the properties badly, where there was a reasonable amount of anti-social behaviour, housing benefit fraud and other such matters that caused the licensing in the first place, we could target that landlord. It may be that we have to target the areas where they operate, but I do not think the good landlords will object to that.

This is an uncorrected transcript of evidence taken in public and reported to the House. The transcript has been placed on the internet on the authority of the Committee. Neither witnesses nor Members have had the opportunity to correct the record. The transcript is not yet an approved formal record of these proceedings.

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