HC Deb 02 December 1968 vol 774 cc1107-66

Order for Second Reading read.

7.0 p.m.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. James Callaghan)

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

The Bill is intended to carry out the undertaking given by the Government on 22nd July to deal with the problems of some urban areas of acute social need. It arose as a result of a speech made by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in Birmingham some months ago, and I believe that it will have some impact on the problem which we have to face in the kind of areas to which the Bill is directed.

There are substantial programmes now in these areas. The two major factors of policy are the Plowden Committee's recommendations which are being carried out in education, namely, a £16 million school building programme which is authorised for the years 1968–70 with the aim of meeting the educational needs of socially deprived districts; and the large local authority house building programme which will continue to give priority to slum clearance and to eliminating shortages, especially in rented accommodation. These are two large programmes and we are adding to them this third programme to try to meet some special aspects of urban need which in themselves have created social problems.

The purpose of the Bill is to provide for the care of our citizens who live in the poorest or most overcrowded parts of our cities and towns. It is intended to arrest, insofar as it is possible by financial means, and reverse the downward spiral which afflicts so many of these areas. There is a deadly quagmire of need and apathy. Those of us in public life, whether as Members of Parliament or councillors, know better than most, and with respect, better than most of our fellow citizens, the kind of areas to which the Bill is directed. I think that we have all seen in our public life the way in which unmet needs, when they are felt by citizens incapable of matching the requirements of the situation, create apathy and the apathy then gives rise to further needs which are not met.

The Bill is an expression of the concern which the Government and, I believe, the House feel for these areas and the people living in them and it is an attempt to inject some financial help through the local authorities to achieve the purpose of bringing areas of this kind nearer to the general levels of our cities and towns. These areas may or may not contain concentrations of immigrants; it depends on whether the criteria which have been laid down have been met. It would be wrong to assume that all areas in which immigrants are concentrated represent areas of acute social need. There are many areas with citizens who were born and have lived in this country for many years which have the same social needs.

Therefore, we have not hit upon this programme as a means of dealing with any aspect in particular of the problem caused by the inflow of immigrants. It is a programme designed to meet the needs of the poorest, whatever their colour. They are all citizens of this country.

This is to be a programme of local authority expenditure, and that is why I attach the utmost importance to the discussions which have begun with the local authority associations in which we shall consider the detailed financial arrangements and the selection of areas to benefit from the programme. The Bill, which is very short, will provide for a new specific grant. This is a technical term. It means that the general level of expenditure will not all be wrapped up and submerged in the rate support grant, but local authorities will be able to claim specifically in respect of expenditure which they undertake as a result of the Bill.

The Bill will not solve all the problems or the multi-deprivation in our cities. Nor is it a once-for-all operation. On the contrary, it is a continuing operation. As we see it centrally, the areas of social need are comparatively small pockets within local authority areas. They may represent whole wards; they may represent a group of streets. They need not necessarily represent the whole of the borough. It will be for the local authorities, in conjunction with the Home Office, to identify the areas concerned.

Clause 1 refers to special social need existing in certain urban areas, but in effect it is left to the Secretary of State to determine whether special social need exists. The areas which we shall be discussing with the local authorities usually bear the marks of deprivation in a number of ways. It can show itself by way of notable deficiencies, especially in housing, over-crowding of houses, persistent unemployment, and a high proportion of children in trouble or in need of care. A combination of these and other factors enables all of us to recognise the kind of area with which the Bill is intended to deal.

A substantial degree of immigrant settlement may also be an important factor, although not the determining factor, nor the only factor, in deciding the existence of special social need.

Mr. Charles Mapp (Oldham, East)

My right hon. Friend said that possibly areas in an authority may qualify, and he included wards. Would he elaborate on that? I have in mind a ward of 5,000 or 6,000 in a town of 110,000 people. Would the authority qualify for loan in respect of that ward?

Mr. Callaghan

It would certainly have to qualify at the present time in relation to the whole area. But it might want to devote the expenditure to a small area, and to put forward bids to this end. That was the purpose of what I said. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, who is associated with the Bill, and I a re not thinking of permanently designating geographical areas as areas of special social need. We are concerned, in the initial stages at any rate, to proceed by the more flexible method of laying down criteria of need and then asking the local authorities which consider that such need exists in their area to submit proposals designed to improve the areas and then decide whether aid should be given. The Bill, which is flexibly designed, enables us to provide a framework for a process of this kind. Fundamentally, the process will be one of bidding by the local authorities, who should, and do, know their own areas of difficulty, and then consideration by the central Departments.

This seems to me to be a field in which we might, over a period of years, if this is to be a continuing programme, try to get a more objective assessment of comparative need, as distinct from bidding. I hope, therefore, in conjunction with the Bill, to work on ideas for making use of statistics to enable us to corroborate the selection and comparison of areas. Already we are making plans for some computer-based experiments so that we can try, in due course, to get a more objective assessment rather than the simple process of bidding.

I do not think that I should say more about that at the moment because, although the work is advanced, it is not in a state where I can give a detailed assessment. I feel that in all these matters of government, as, I think, the House would agree, we should endeavour to get as objective an assessment as we can instead of relying on hunches or, indeed, the articulate nature of some of the local authority representatives.

Sir Edward Boyle (Birmingham, Handsworth)

I seem to recall that a certain amount of assessment of this kind was done by the Department of Education, when preparing for the Plowden exercise, for the money to be allocated for the priority areas. Will the Home Secretary undertake that the experience and views in that connection will be taken into account when the objective criteria are worked out under the new scheme?

Mr. Callaghan

That is not a difficult undertaking to give. It is elementary common sense that we will take into account what is being done by the Department of Education and Science. There is, as the right hon. Gentleman may recall, some communication between Departments and we will, of course, make full use of the information which they have got in this matter.

I have carefully considered what percentage rate should be applied to the new grant. Under the Bill, this is a matter for determination by the Home Secretary. As the House will know, the majority of specific grants are for 50 percent. of the expenditure involved. Taking into account the need for the programme to be quickly effective and the need for co-operation between the local authorities and central Government, my officials have proposed to the local authority associations that we should increase that rate of specific grant from 50 per cent. We propose exceptionally that grants should be paid on all programme expenditure at the rate of 75 per cent. and not 50 per cent. I hope that local authorities will regard this as an earnest of the importance which the Government attach to the programme.

At the same time, the Government have considered representations which they have received from the authorities which qualify for the payment of specific grant under Section 11 of the Local Government Act, 1966. This allows grant to be paid towards the cost of staff employed by local authorities which have to make special provision for carrying out their functions because of the presence of immigrants whose language and customs differ from those of the rest of the community.

The Government have decided, in the case of this grant also, that they will be justified in paying grant in future at the rate of 75 per cent. and the rate will, accordingly, be increased from 50 per cent. as from 1st April next. This has been put to the local authority associations and I understand their preliminary view to be that the programme grant should be 100 per cent.—in other words, that the Government should pay the whole sum.

There are no set principles in this matter. It is true to say, as the local authority associations say, that there is a strong national interest in the development of the urban programme. That, indeed, is why the Government have decided on the exceptionally high figure of 75 per cent. There is, however, a local as well as a national interest in the programme. I agree that where the local authority pays 25 per cent. of the cost and receives the remainder by way of grant, there may be an additional call on the rates. Although the total overall sums to be expended on the programme are not much compared with, say total expenditure on education or the like, they will, by the very nature of the programme be expended by comparatively few authorities.

The whole point of this programme is that we have here an exceptional and a local need, and I do not find it out of accord with the balance that should exist between the responsibilities of local authorities and those of the Government that 25 per cent. contribution should be made by the local authorities. I feel that the removal of all financial sanction in this matter would not be conducive to the best control of our financial affairs. I hope that, when they have reflected upon it, local authorities will see it in this way.

Certainly, I am glad to say that there has been no lack of willingness on the part of the 34 local authorities which I asked to submit proposals for the initial phase of the programme to put their proposals forward. I must, however, conclude that I do not find it easy to see how a case could be made for 100 per cent. Exchequer grant in aid of the programme. The Government have gone a substantial way by recognising that the normal specific grant of 50 per cent. is not enough and by putting it up to 75 per cent. we propose to give local authorities substantial help while giving them a financial stake in ensuring that the programme is carried out efficiently and economically.

I also propose to take into account the views of local authorities on the kind of project which is most likely to bring help to the districts which we have in mind. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science alluded, during the debate on the Address, to the fact that, in the initial phase of the programme, we have concentrated on nursery education and thereby made almost the first real move in that important sector for a good many years. I hope that we shall also be able to pioneer with different kinds of facilities that might be particularly adapted to those areas. I think of such things as family advice centres, play groups and the training in service of teachers to equip them for the difficult job of teaching in areas of special social need. These are matters which I shall certainly discuss with the local authorities and I will readily consider any ideas which they may have and which they want to bring forward to help us to carry out the programme.

I should like at this stage to pay my tribute to the host of workers in these areas who are, perhaps, employed by local authorities—teachers, welfare officers and child care officers, for example—who spend their time in these areas. If I may be permitted a personal recollection, I find it most refreshing, stimulating and encouraging to see the way in which teachers in these areas, and other local authority officers, are unstinting in their enthusiasm and zest and in the zeal with which they care for humanity and the manner in which they carry out their jobs.

To me, one of the most refreshing parts of the Recess is when I can spend a day or two going round that kind of area and seeing the enthusiasm which teachers and others lavish on the children in their care and on those who need it. I am sure that all of us in the House would like to pay our tribute to them. Insufficient is known about the tremendously high degree of, I will not say social conscience, but social civic sense, that our teachers and others have in this direction.

As I told the House in November I, with my Ministerial colleagues, invited proposals from 34 local authorities in whose areas it seemed clear that urban need existed. I expect to approve expenditure of up to £3 million on building projects up to the end of the year 1969–70, together with an additional sum towards running costs. As I have said, expenditure will be concentrated upon nursery schools, day nurseries and children's homes. I am glad to tell the House, whose authority I asked before I sent out the circular which was issued, that the response from local authorities has been most encouraging. Indeed, there will probably be considerably more applications than can be met at this stage of the programme. We shall do our best within the overall limits to see that what is not dealt with immediately will be picked up at a later stage of the programme.

What I have asked is that approval should be given to these projects as soon as possible without attempting to forecast exactly how the approvals under the circular may turn out, but I think it would be a fair estimate—and I should like to give the House these figures—that in education it should be possible to provide some 150 additional nursery classes; that in the field of health, about three times as many day nursery schemes may be approved as would have received approval under the existing programmes; and that in child care another 200 to 300 extra places could be provided in children's homes. That will be in the initial stage of the programme.

A similar advance programme has been authorised in Scotland. These are advance programmes.

I hope the House will agree—and this is the reason for the reference to the year 1968–69 in Clause 1(2)—to these proposals to pay grant retrospectively to the authorities concerned in the initial phase of the programme. There will be new nursery provision on the ground as the result of this.

It will have been clear from what I have said that there will have to be a definite ceiling of expenditure of £20 million to £25 million. That is the estimated total sum the Government are making available in this way. This we expect to incur during the first four years of the programme.

I, for my part, am suggesting to the local authorities—I understand that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland intends to work along similar lines—that very nearly £6 million should be allocated to the remainder of this financial year and to the year 1969–70. I hope very shortly to issue a second circular containing arrangements for bringing expenditure in 1969–70 up to this total. So we expect, up to April, 1970, to be able to sanction some £6 million, and the remainder of the £20 million to £25 million programme will be kept for the two years following.

I have spent some time on the programme which this Bill is designed to help so that the House may understand to what practical end the machinery of the Bill is directed. Clause 1 provides for specific grant to be paid to local authorities in Britain on account of expenditure which, in the opinion of the Secretary of State, is incurred by them by reason of the existence, in any urban area, of special social need. It will enable grant to be paid in respect of expenditure during the year ended 31st March, 1969, as well as in subsequent years. We are now embarked upon discussions with the local authorities. I hope to be examining with them—indeed, I have already started to do so—any change in the criteria which they may want to bring forward for defining these areas of social need, and any further ideas they may have.

We are embarking, in this programme, on another modest but important step in trying to ensure that every citizen in this country has a fair start in life and a fair opportunity for living out his life. I commend the Bill as a Measure designed to improve conditions for all our citizens alike in areas of special social need.

7.24 p.m.

Mr. W. F. Deedes (Ashford)

We welcomed this proposal when it was first made by the Home Secretary in July, and it follows, of course, that we support the Bill. I think that most doubts have centred up to now not on what is to be done but on how it is to be done.

After the explanation which the Home Secretary has given us, some doubts on that score remain in my mind. Some confusion may have arisen from the version of this scheme which was given by the Prime Minister back in May when he made the speech to which the Home Secretary referred. In that speech in Birmingham which heralded this proposal the right hon. Gentleman indicated that the main objective, with particular emphasis on education, was, the 57 local authority areas where the immigrant problem is real and substantial". Either the Prime Minister got it wrong or there have been second thoughts about this approach. At all events, we now have a rather different scheme.

If he will forgive my saying so, the Home Secretary made rather euphemistic references to the immigration content in what is now required. We are now talking of urban areas of special social need, which probably include large concentrations of immigrants, but need not do so to qualify. That is as I understand it. I will come back to the question of criteria in a moment. I see clearly the objection to relating a scheme of this kind directly or too closely to immigrants' needs.

Let me join the Home Secretary in the tribute which he paid to the countless unknown and unsung persons who work in this field. Those who do work in this field dislike this approach; and in saying that as a measurement of social need it is inexact—and that is what they do say—they have a point. But I also see some danger in going too far the other way, and in seeking to avoid attributing too much to the immigrant population element we should not attempt to blur, at least for ourselves, the enormous impact of that population in certain areas. There is a need to be exact about that also.

It is really quite vain—I must begin by saying this—to pretend that acute social need in particular districts has arisen through a multiplicity of social causes in which immigrants are only unfortunate enough now to be involved. As the surveys which are beginning to come in have shown, a cause of what the Bill seeks in part to tackle is the weight or concentration of immigrant population in particular places.

The Bill, in effect, will add a fourth and fairly complicated tier to what is already a complex structure of urban programmes. As the Home Secretary indicated, we already have housing priority areas which embrace about 130 local authorities; we have a special education priority programme which followed Plowden on primary schools; we have authorities under Section 11 of the Local Government Act, to which the right hon. Gentleman referred. I think I am right in saying that that is now running at a rate of about £1½ million a year.

By my calculation, out of 90 London and county boroughs 23 are on all three lists; they count for priority under all three heads; and another 40 qualify on two out of three lists. That amounts to a pretty formidable number, all of which may qualify, and there may be others, too, under the Bill. Now we are to have another, a fourth, priority class—areas or districts of acute social need. I take the point about the districts. Presumably, most of these will be found among the 23 areas on all three lists, though I accept that if we are to deal with localised districts or pockets they may be elsewhere.

This may be a convenient moment to ask the right hon. Gentleman or the Minister who will reply to the debate what precisely is to be the future relationship between the Section 11 expenditure and this specific grant. I took the point about the 100 per cent. Can, for example, staff costs—I believe Section 11 is limited to staff costs—now be allowable under Section 11? Can these be incurred under Section 11 for a project provided under this Bill? Is it intended eventually to replace Section 11 by this specific grant?

I note what the Home Secretary has said about talks with local authorities. I do not propose to make a great issue out of whether the amount is to be 100 or 75 per cent.; I appreciate that discussions on this have only just begun. Could it be made clear how far resolving this issue may affect the total amount which will be available? In other words, if it is to be 100 per cent., does the sum of money envisaged between now and 1972 remain the same?

Mr. Callaghan indicated assent.

Mr. Deedes

I am a little baffled, as are some local authorities involved, how we will get clearly enough defined criteria laid down for this new urban programme in order to administer the funds without an impossibly burdensome administration. By what method are criteria of need to be established? I realise that they will be discussed with local authorities, but that will not establish them. When the criteria have been established, by what process will the most suitable programme then be selected?

From the evidence of the first fruits, the advance programme of which the Home Secretary spoke, and to judge from Circular 225 already issued to local authorities, the central department has decided, no doubt for good reasons, that the areas which will qualify for the advance scheme are those in which 2 per cent. of the households have more than 11 persons per room and more than 6 per cent. of immigrants on the school roll in January, 1967. Incidentally, that is nearly two years ago; why is January, 1967, taken as the criterion? Is there no more up-to-date figure? Perhaps the Under-Secretary will tell us this.

For these areas it has been decided that nursery schools and classes, day nurseries and children's homes are, so to speak, the best buy, and that may well be right, but how was it determined? By what process was the conclusion reached that this was the best possible way of spending money in the advance programme? In further programmes how will this criterion be established? I ask, since I know how much of their own research the Government are able to count on, and it is not a great deal.

I noted what was said about the computers, and we shall be glad to hear more on this. Up to now the information reaching the Home Office of a statistical character, on which policy decisions can be reached, is not extensive. In short, is the programme to be determined by a logical process of thought based on facts? Is it partly a guess, or is it, as I fear may be the case, that the needs of these deprived areas are so large that under a programme involving not more than £5 million a year we can pick out only a few things among the many things which need to be done?

I do not want to belittle anything which is being done, but we ought not to delude ourselves—and, to do him justice, the Home Secretary did not attempt to do so—as to what this will achieve in relation to total need. Even if it is taken with the rest of the urban programmes in areas of special need, I question whether this will anything like keep pace with the growth of need in arresting what the Home Secretary called the downward spiral.

Here I must return to the subject of the immigrants. We can, not unreasonably, expect to be added within the terms of this programme, up to March 1972, 200,000 to 250,000 immigrants, which is a conservative guess. If we then consider the evidence of some surveys which are beginning to emerge, we reach an inescapable conclusion that by 1972 we shall be fortunate not to have fallen behind even the point we are now at.

The right hon. Gentleman and the Home Office will, no doubt, have seen the report to Government Departments which has been made by a joint committee of the five West Midland county boroughs. I will not make selective quotations from that document, but it ought to be studied by anyone who wants to measure the likely overall effect of this programme on the total need.

Nor is the issue wholly a matter of concern for areas of special need. One consequence of any system of priorities, which I accept we must have, is that those who are not priority must inevitably be deprived of what they would otherwise receive. As an example of this, in a document called "Health and Hospitals", describing the background of the Bill, I find this passage: The hospital building programme averages well over £100 million per annum for the next ten years. The criteria for the distribution of resources are intended to enable progress to be made, particularly where deficiencies and obsolescence are greatest, so as to produce a satisfactory standard in all parts of the country. This policy has in practice worked to the benefit of areas where immigrants and social pressure have increased the demands on hospitals. Many of the areas mentioned in the list of present priority areas have new district general hospitals as well as other major building schemes planned or recently committed. Starts of major schemes in the immigration priority areas amount to more than £62 million in 1969–70 and £32 million in 1970–71, on average more than half the programme for all such schemes in England and Wales. I accept the need for that, but what is the consequence? Hon. Members who represent more fortunate areas can give some answers to that question. We may be more fortunate, but we also have certain needs. My own constituency is an overspill town. Some of my hon. Friends will have like needs. For various things which we need most urgently—hospitals, roads and schools—we now have to whistle, and perhaps whistle louder than ever before. I must warn the Government that, excellent though the system of priorities may be, it must inevitably build up in some areas the sort of backlog which we experienced during the four or five years in which very little building was done during the war.

The cost of the scheme appears to be borne by the same rather euphemistic formula. Money will be set apart from general economies made in the course of normal processes of managing public expenditure programmes. In plains words, some others will get less. The money will not be added to what otherwise would have been the totality of the cost of the programme. That is what it means, and we should be aware of it.

Before I conclude I have two questions to ask. The first comes back to the point which I raised with the Home Secretary a week or two back when we discussed expiring laws. Since, at least to some degree, the needs which we are discussing here arise from the concentration at certain points of immigrant population, does not the Home Secretary feel that it would be a good thing to look again at our policy governing the movement of new arrivals? At present there is no policy. Arrivals are free to go where they will, and almost certainly they move towards areas of highest concentration. I accept that any alternative may involve an element of direction, to which there are many objections, although they could perhaps be reduced if a scheme could be initiated before the entry of voucher holders. Dependants must, of course, inevitably go to the head of the household when they arrive.

The more I look at this, the more I think that the objections to the present policy are very strong, are getting stronger and are tending to exacerbate some situations which the Bill seeks to remedy. Even now a form of negative control would be better than nothing—something whereby we said that certain places were no longer open to settlement by the voucher holder. I urge the right hon. Gentleman to look at the matter again.

My second question is: who is to carry main Ministerial responsibility for the implementation of this programme? What sort of machinery will there be? I observe in the circular to which I referred a moment ago that for their nursery schools and classes local authorities are to apply to the Department of Education and Science; for their day nurseries to the Ministry of Health, and for children's homes to the Home Office. Does that make sense? How are we to get an integrated programme on these lines?

The Home Secretary referred to a central department. Is this the interdepartmental committee which has been considering these things, or is there to be a more central department for which the right hon. Gentleman or someone else it to be responsible? There are those who think that the Home Secretary's rôles in immigration and race relations are incompatible, and should be separated. One idea would be to put the second—and, of course, programmes of this kind—under the Secretary of State for Social Services. I am not at all sure about that, but it is essential that a scheme of this kind should become an integrated function of Government, and that those concerned should know where, in a sense, ministerial responsibility lay for the programme.

This is essential, because the more one looks at the matter the more one sees the danger of policy becoming fragmented over a number of overworked Departments. Moreover, as the results of local, national, voluntary and official surveys begin to accumulate, there is bound to be a conflict of evidence—people observe the problem through different windows. But it will be imperative at some central point, with clearly established Ministerial responsibility, for the right facts, both convenient and inconvenient, to be sifted and brought to bear on policy.

From an admittedly superficial reading of such facts as I have been able to lay my hands on, it seems to me that notwithstanding this Bill we shall, by 1972, be fortunate if in these respects we are no worse off than we are now. The Home Secretary did not seek to exaggerate the impact of the programme, and I acknowledge it. It is, in terms of need, a relatively very small sum and a very small Measure. By 1972 I fear that Ministers may well find that they have a harsh choice to make—either to spend a very great deal more or to seek fresh ways of reducing pressure, and much of that pressure will he the pressure of fresh arrivals.

I understand the fact, and I am sympathetic, that those here who care most deeply about race relations resent and resist very much arguments which relate immigration policies to these urban programmes. With respect, however, I fear that even from their own point of view they may be wrong. What we are discussing here—overcrowding, schools, hospitals, multiple occupation, and all the results of this in an urban area or district—is the very stuff of social tension. Those who insist that there is here a social obligation to be fulfilled without reference to any question of immigration policy, who insist that we should be equal to all these demands without questioning the reasoning for them, are guilty of a disturbing sort of folie de grandeur. Their thinking—I will not say that it is beyond our means, because nothing is beyond our means, and those who say that we are a wealthy country and could do more than we are doing may be right, but it is beyond the means we think we can afford. I do not go with them.

I take the view that our obligations to those who are now here, immigrants as well as everyone else in these cities, are absolutely inescapable. Our obligations to those who have yet to come and who may increase these problems to a degree ought to be realistically measured against the resources likely to be made available. To dodge that is to store up untold trouble for ourselves. That is why I hope that the Bill, in addition to doing all that the Home Secretary said it will do, may also be a signal to the Government to take a fairly hard look again at the policy over the whole field, and observing some of the lessons of the past, to accept that hard decisions which are shirked here become infinitely harder to make as the years go on.

Several Hon. Members rose——

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harry Gourlay)

Order. This is a very short debate and many hon. Members have indicated their desire to speak. I therefore hope that hon. Members will keep their speeches brief.

7.45 p.m.

Mrs. Renée Short (Wolverhampton, North-East)

I welcome the Bill, though I regret the whole background that has led to its introduction. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said that it stemmed from the speech made by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in Birmingham last May, and all of us who have this problem and who live with it all the time very much welcomed his statement that some help was to be given to special areas—17 London boroughs and 17 other towns—that have this problem.

The origin of the need for the Bill goes back very much further in history—to the period from 1951 or 1952 when the party opposite was responsible for the large influx of Commonwealth immigrants——

Mr. Fergus Montgomery (Brierley Hill)

What about 1962?

Mrs. Short

In 1962 the party opposite was also in power— —

Mr. Montgomery

Will the hon. Lady give way?

Mrs. Short

No, she will not; not at the moment. In 1962 the party opposite took little action, and then it was rather lame action and had little effect.

I have made it perfectly clear here before that I support all my right hon. Friend's efforts to reduce the number of immigrants, and whatever proposal he has in the future I shall also certainly support. I also support the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) when he says that our obligations are to those who are here. That is absolutely so, and it refers to our indigenous population—the white population, and the coloured people who have been allowed to come in. That is why I supported the legislation that was introduced to try to ensure that all our people were treated perfectly fairly and had equality of opportunity.

The whole area is fraught with very great difficulty, and it has been made fantastically more difficult by the recent speeches of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell). I have the constituency next to his, I have a larger number of immigrants, and I am very concerned with the problems that arise from the whole situation of difficult race relations. I know that that situation has been made more difficult throughout the whole of the West Midlands—and I speak for my other colleagues here—since those speeches were made.

To me, it is extraordinary that those speeches should have been made only since 1964–65. No such speeches were made during the period when the right hon. Gentleman was a member of the Government and in a position to take steps to control the numbers of people who were coming into the country. The Ministry of Housing, the Treasury, the Ministry of Health were ideal positions from which words of warning could have been uttered and action taken.

During that time, houses in Wolverhampton were coming into multi-occupation and overcrowding was evident. Although the housing situation is very difficult in Wolverhampton, the Bill does not make any provision for additional help for housing, although overcrowded and multi-occupied houses were mentioned in the circular sent out by my right hon. Friend at the beginning of October to local authorities. Yet even during the period from 1955 to 1957 when the right hon. Gentleman was at the Ministry of Housing, no steps were taken to provide relief for his constituency or any others; indeed, during the period from 1955 to 1964 over 560,000 immigrants came in and in respect of the whole period when the party opposite was in power—accurate figures are not available for the first few years—it would not be an exaggeration to say that nearly 750,000 immigrants came in.

In 1963, after the introduction of the Bill in respect of which the hon. Member for Brierley Hill (Mr. Montgomery) wanted to interrupt me, about 29,000 work vouchers were issued. My right hon. Friend deserves enormous credit for having reduced the number of vouchers to 4,500 last year. It follows inevitably that this reduction in work vouchers means a reduction in the numbers coming in in the next few years, although we know that there is a time lag of four, five or six years before dependants are able to join the heads of their families and that it is in this period that things are likely to be difficult. We hope that the Bill will go some way to overcome those difficulties.

The situation in Wolverhampton has become more difficult because of the numbers which have been allowed to come in, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will find some way of providing relief for Wolverhampton. If we have help—and the Bill will give us some help—and a respite from inflammatory speeches, I am sure that we shall be able to overcome our difficulties.

As my right hon. Friend said, teachers in towns such as Wolverhampton are making a magnificent contribution towards solving the problem of race relations and deprived children. Many organisations in Wolverhampton are working through the Council for Racial Harmony and are making their contribution to the achievement of a reasonable and sane life for all our people, white and coloured.

The aid that the Government are able to give under the Bill is too small to deal with the problems that we have to face, however. At the moment no help is provided for housing, as I have already mentioned. Let us consider the £3 million or so which is to be given during the coming year. If this is divided among 34 authorities it works out at about £90,000 per authority.

Mr. Callaghan

The figure of £3 million was the preliminary one. On the advanced programme I hope that it will be double that, in respect of the year ending April, 1970. I hope that we shall be able to allocate at least £6 million in that period. The figure of £3 million was related only to the earliest programme.

Mrs. Short

I thank my right hon. Friend for that information, but when I tell him what my local authority has asked for he will see that I have a point when I say that the amount available seams to be rather small.

I welcome the fact that we shall be making a start with nursery provision. I have been urging for some time the need to implement the Plowden proposals, especially in the priority areas. I have urged support for training courses for teachers, including immigrant teachers, who have a special part to play in solving this problem. In Wolverhampton our day training college has made a valuable contribution to the training of immigrant teachers. As the Minister of State for Education and Science said in reply to my Question a few days ago, about 57 immigrant teachers are now teaching after having been trained at day colleges of this kind. I have urged upon my right hon. Friend the Minister for Education and Science the need to implement a much more generous school building programme, especially for my area. Whatever we do in this matter will benefit everybody—not only the immigrant community but the white community as well.

I urge my right hon. Friend to pay special attention to the pressing problems that exist in housing. We have embarked on slum clearance programmes, but many streets in my constituency are still full of ancient houses in multi-occupation, without bathrooms, hot water systems or indoor lavatories. In my opinion those houses are unfit for occupation by anybody. They are bad enough with one white family living in them but they are intolerable when several immigrant families are living in them in multi-occupation.

At a meeting upstairs—I understand that it was reported in the national Press—my right hon. Friend the Minister for Education and Science said that we were likely to get about 2,000 nursery classes out of this programme. My right hon. Friend has produced a more realistic figure. I thought that the figure would probably be about 100, but he says that he thinks it will be about 150. I hope that he is right. But my local authority has asked for a fairly long list. It wants three new nursery schools—nursery schools and not nursery classes; it wants two of the old nursery schools to be reconditioned; it wants two new children's homes, a new matron's house, a new reception centre for 40 children and considerable extension of two existing children's homes.

Under the children's homes part of this aid the authority is asking for 79 additional places, and since my right hon. Friend has said that there will be between 200 and 300 additional places in children's homes it is clear that if Wolverhampton gets what it asks for the other 33 authorities will be very much short of what they want, whereas if the allocation is divided fairly equally Wolverhampton will get only a small proportion of the number of places for which it asks.

Wolverhampton needs relief besides financial relief, and for that reason I welcome the Bill, although in my opinion it does not go far enough. Wolverhampton needs relief in terms of the pressure of people coming into the town. Not long ago between 20 and 25 children of school age were coming into my constituency each week. There was also a time when we had four hundred children of school age for whom places could not be found.

This is a serious situation. The figure has fallen somewhat as a result of my right hon. Friend's efforts in another direction, and it is now between 15 and 20 per week. But this is still a high figure. It is clear, as I have said on many occasions—I said it when we were discussing the last Commonwealth Immigrants Bill to be put on the Statute Book—that we cannot continue to take people into the Wolverhampton area, or the West Midlands generally, at this rate.

The basis of this immigration programme, started in the early 1950s by the party opposite, was to subsidise inefficient management in industry, because they thought it was much cheaper to bring people in and to use them for cheap labour—although it did not work out that way—than to compel managements to spend money to reinvest in new machinery in order to increase productivity.

The time has come when industry in the West Midlands should be compelled to face up to its responsibilities. I ask my right hon. Friend to tell the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity that no work vouchers should be issued for Wolverhampton. This would prevent us from bringing large numbers of additional people into the area.

The A and B vouchers should now be merged. I strongly believe that many of those who come in under the B voucher scheme come to Britain without jobs, whereas the A voucher people have jobs to go to. It is wrong that people should come to Britain and look for jobs, often in areas which they think require their training and education, only to find when they apply for vacancies that the degrees they obtained at home are not suitable and their post-graduate experience is not acceptable; so they cannot get the jobs they come here hoping to get. They therefore work in unskilled jobs, which is pointless.

If we could divert people to other parts of the country where there is not such heavy concentration as we have in the West Midlands, the next logical thing is to say that we should be able to phase the entry of dependants. This does not mean that we deny anything we have said before about families being reunited. I see no reason why we should not put a ceiling to the numbers of dependants being allowed into Britain each year. This would mean that the entry of families would be spread over a long period.

If we did this we should be able to get some relief. We should be able to catch up on our house building and school building programmes and on the nurseries we hope to provide under the Bill. This would spread the intake over a longer period. It should not be impossible to say that, if people are prepared to live and work in areas apart from, say, the West Midlands or any other area my right hon. Friend cares to designate, their dependants would get precedence over dependants coming to join those in the more congested areas. In this way we might give an incentive to people coming to Britain to move to other parts of the country.

This whole question needs examination. We should view it from a Socialist point of view and not be afraid to grasp the difficulties and problems facing us. As a Socialist I cannot see that it benefits Commonwealth countries if we take from them the people in whose education they have invested a great deal of their gross national product.

The right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West never pays tribute to the contribution to our economy and to the National Health Service made by immigrants who have so far come here. He quoted something reported by the Medical Officer of Health for Wolverhampton, but he did not continue with the quotation and tell us that 10 per cent. of our general practitioners, 20 per cent. of our domiciliary midwives, 60 per cent. of our junior hospital medical staff, and 10 per cent. of our hospital nurses in Wolverhampton are Commonwealth immigrants.

We take from the Commonwealth countries these large numbers of skilled people who to their own countries are extremely skilled and whose services are badly needed in their own countries. If we take from them their engineers and teachers we do them a disservice, because they need their engineers far more than we need them. If we were to say that their people with skills should stay at home and work there, we should put pressure in British industry to modernise. We should take in far more Commonwealth students so that they could train here and gain their first degrees here before returning home to work to raise the standard of living of their own people.

I hope that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will discuss these matters with the Secretaries of State for Education and Science and for Employment and Productivity. I hope that my right hon. Friend will include in the list of problems he discusses with local authorities the question of what they are doing to extend family planning clinics, particularly in towns where help is being given. Many local authorities are not implementing the Family Planning Act. With education and help on these lines, considerable steps can be taken to improve the standard of living of all our people in all these areas which are designated under the Bill.

8.6 p.m.

Mr. Fergus Montgomery (Brierley Hill)

I would have liked to have made a longer speech, but in view of your plea, Mr. Deputy Speaker, having regard to the length of the last speech, and as I have a broken leg and cannot stand for long, you will be pleased to hear that I shall make a very short speech.

This is a short and modest Bill. Its aim is to provide money for areas of special social need. This includes areas with a high percentage of immigrants. This is a problem which has been with us for many years. In the 1959–64 Parliament I represented Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East, where we had few immigrants. I suppose I had 300 Pakistanis in the whole of that constituency. We had no trouble, because they were good citizens and integration went ahead without any problem.

Since April, 1967 I have represented a Midlands constituency which includes part of the County Borough of Dudley arid part of the County Borough of Wolverhampton. I emphasise that latter part for the benefit of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Renee Short) because when I had the temerity to ask a Question about Wolverhampton earlier this year she screamed that I should keep out of Wolverhampton. As I have about 20,000 electors in the County Borough of Wolverhampton, anything that attracts grants to Wolverhampton is of interest to my constituents.

I think that we were wrong in allowing unrestricted Commonwealth immigration. Before making speeches of the type she has just made, I suggest that the hon. Lady goes to the Library and reads the debates which took place in 1962 and 1963 on Commonwealth immigration. She would find that her right hon. and hon. Friends kept the Conservative Government up night after night attacking that Bill, and at one stage even talked about repealing it. The hon. Lady puts all the blame for immigration on this side of the House, but she should think twice before she casts stones.

Mrs. Renée Short

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Montgomery

No, I will not give way. The hon. Lady would not give way. What is good to give is good to take.

Mrs. Short

The figures speak for themselves.

Mr. Montgomery

Also, I think we were wrong to allow immigrants to concentrate in certain areas. What my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) said was true. There is this tremendous problem in certain parts of the country. Other parts of the country are unaware of the problem.

In April, my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) made a very famous speech in which he highlighted the dangers of immigration continuing. He was reviled by certain sections for that speech. I believe that at least my right hon. Friend started something off in the way of action being taken to deal with the problem of immigration. It could be that it is because of his speech that the Government are now taking action. Both the Home Secretary and my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford said that this came about as a result of the speech made by the Prime Minister on 5th May in Birmingham. But the Prime Minister had said very little about immigration before that date.

Although we do not take much notice of all the Prime Minister says, he stated in that speech that the Government would embark on a new urban programme. This was followed on 22nd July by an announcement from the Home Secretary that £20 million to £25 million of grant-aided local authority expenditure would be authorised this year and in the next three years, and that was followed in October by an announcement that £3 million out of the £20 million to £25 million would be authorised in the current financial year to 34 local authorities which had been invited to submit projects.

Under Section 11 of the Local Government Act, 1966, grants are deducted from the aggregate amount available through Exchequer grant. I hope that the Under-Secretary of State will clarify tonight whether the same formula is to be adopted for the provisions of this Bill, and, if so, whether the 3 per cent. increase in real terms on local authority expenditure, the limit imposed by the Prime Minister's statement of 16th January, is to be applied to the overall sum before the deduction or after it.

Now, with direct reference to the proposals in the Bill, the Circular sent to local authorities stated that expenditure in the initial phase would be restricted and that emphasis would be on nursery schools, day nurseries and children's homes. For once, I agree with the hon. Lady the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East. Not enough is being done in other spheres. Although the circular goes on to say that exceptional consideration would be given to other projects where a special case could be made, to me that smacks of the doctrine that the man in Whitehall knows best. It would have been far better to allow local authorities themselves to decide the order of priority in the projects to be tackled.

As regards immigration and the problems which it raises, I hope that the Bill will go a little way towards easing tension in the areas where there is a concentration of immigrants, but it does little more than scratch the surface. In Wolverhampton today, expenditure on immigrants is being incurred at above the normal level of expenditure, and the local authority has been receiving 50 per cent. grant on part of that expenditure. If I understand the Home Secretary aright, this is now to be increased to 75 per cent. I am sure that the council will welcome that, because it has felt strongly that the percentage should be raised.

What are some of the causes of tension in these areas? First, they are to be found in the health services. I do not imagine that anyone will deny that immigrants make heavy demands on local authority services, particularly the maternity services. The record of births in Wolverhampton in 1967 shows that immigrant mothers accounted for 23 per cent. of births and 33 per cent. of institutional confinements. The result was that many of the indigenous residents could not have maternity beds. This causes tension and trouble, and it also underlines the need for expansion of that service.

I direct attention above all to education. In Wolverhampton today, there are just over 200 children of school age who cannot be given a place in the county borough. This is not surprising. I do not know how the local education authority has managed to cope in recent years. The hon. Lady spoke of the number of immigrant children coming into the county borough every week. In 1962—perhaps these figures will interest the hon. Lady—there were 1,000 immigrants in Wolverhampton schools. This number grew annually by 500 until, in 1967, the annual intake was in excess of 1,000. In January, 1967, we had 4.500 immigrants in our schools, and by January, 1968, the number had risen to 5,566, or nearly 12 per cent. of the entire school population.

I hope that the Government, and particularly the Department of Education and Science, will bear in mind that no account whatever seems to be taken by them of the number of children who have not yet arrived in this country but who, if we are to go on previous years, are bound to arrive in the ensuing year.

Tremendous problems have been brought to Wolverhampton. Most of the immigrants are concentrated in and about the centre of the town and there is, therefore, need for dispersal to schools away from the centre. The last figures available show that we had 13 buses a day taking 550 children to about 40 schools where accommodation is available. For this service, bus escorts are required which, I believe, cost about £2,400 per year, of which 50 per cent., up to now, was recoverable by grant. But the additional cost of transport to take these children to school is £12,000 per annum, and this does not qualify for grant. What nonsense. The Government must look at the matter again.

Now, school building. The crash programme in Wolverhampton is helping. The Grove Junior School has just been completed in five months. But I am told by officials in Wolverhampton that, if the influx of immigrant children into our schools goes on at the rate of over 1,000 a year, the speed of building will be surpassed by the number of children moving in.

Like the hon. Lady the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East, I earnestly hope that we shall have a stop to further immigration and that more help will be given to areas such as this, which desperately need it. Although the amount of money provided for under the Bill sounds a good deal in total, it is not much when spread over all the local authorities concerned. I remember the time when, in the dreary days just after the war, I watched a lady making sandwiches in preparation for a function. She made the butter very soft, she spread it on, and then she scraped it off. I said that it did not look very good, and her reply was, "I know, but when we have very little, we just have to give everybody a taste". All that the local authorities wall get under this Bill will be a taste.

I am concerned about the burden which will still fall on the ratepayers of these areas. It is all very well for the Home Secretary to say that, in fairness, they should bear 25 per cent. The whole point is that people in these areas are living with the problem, and they feel that it is very unfair that they should pay for it, too. I hope that this modest Bill will be only a taster and that we shall soon have before us realistic proposals setting out how the Government intend to tackle the problem. The local authorities in the areas concerned must be sick to death of having the "buck" passed 10 them.

8.18 p.m.

Mr. John Horner (Oldbury and Halesowen)

I represent a constituency in which one of these areas of need is situated. It has been in need for a long time, and very little has happened in the past few years to meet the longstanding need of Oldbury.

Oldbury is part of the County Borough of Warley, and Warley consists of Smethwick, Oldbury and Rowley Regis. I know that what I have to say tonight will express not only my sentiments but those of my hon. Friends the Members for Smethwick (Mr. Faulds) and Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. Archer).

Last summer, we had a visit from my hon. Friend the Member for Dover (Mr. Ennals), who was then Under-Secretary of. State at the Home Office. He came to Warley and spent some time going round the whole borough with local council officials and the mayor examining the borough's needs on the spot. The discussions with council officials naturally remained private, but at a public meeting my hon. Friend said that he was surprised that of all the areas in which there were concentrations of Commonwealth immigrants the County Borough of Warley had no council for community relations. He suggested that it would be a good idea for the County Borough council to support the establishment of such an organisation. He made it clear that the full cost of the salary of the trained social worker who would be appointed to look after community relations would fall on the Treasury.

We all expected to see a council for community relations set up in the county borough of Warley. Unfortunately, the local authority took a different view. It thought that although it was right and proper that the salary of that full-time welfare officer should be borne by the Treasury, and not be a charge to the rates, such an officer would require office accommodation and typing assistance. It felt that those were not wholly proper charges to fall on the rates. Therefore, the appointment was not made, and there is no community relations council in the Borough of Warley, although I am glad to say that the churches, the immigrant organisations, the Trades Council and the Council of Social Service are gallantly attempting, without financial or other assistance from the County Borough Council, to set up a community relations council like those in 54 other authorities' areas.

So when we came to examine the effect of the Bill on the special needs of an area like Oldbury, we should have been warned. Oldbury bears the scars of the Industrial Revolution. Much of it is dirty and overcrowded. It has smells, smells that have been there for a long time. When the largest slagheap in the West Midlands was removed to make way for the new motorway extension from the M5 to West Bromwich, the chemical slag of over a century was disturbed. This created a public nuisance that went on for months, and the Ministry of Transport had to take special precautions for a school that was being bedevilled by the stink which had been lying around there for nearly a hundred years.

We have the largest phosphorus plant in Western Europe; they do not talk about clean air in that part of Oldbury. We have overcrowding, and finally we have a number of Commonwealth immigrants. Therefore, I was delighted when the County Borough Council said, "What we need are two nursery classes, a nursery school and a children's centre in Oldbury"—a modest shopping list. But the council attached a condition, saying that it would not co-operate in providing them unless it was satisfied that the whole cost would be borne by the Government. The leader of the majority party in the council was reported to have said that "Warley people had not asked the immigrants to come there", and that "they were a drain on the resources". I do not know who asked anybody to come to Oldbury. We have many old people. Old people are living longer these days, thank goodness, and there is a problem of the aged in Oldbury. There are overcrowded and neglected schools.

As a matter of fact, the largest concentration of immigrants in the borough is not in my part of the world. They are with my lion. Friend the Member for Smethwick. I asked why we had a request for nursery schools in Oldbury and I was told, "When the new county borough was established, we took in Smethwick, which was an excepted area for education purposes, as a county borough of its own. It has nursery schools. We took in Rowley Regis, which was part of Staffordshire and did not do too badly. It, too, had nursery schools. We also took in Oldbury, which was at the wrong end of Worcestershire and was lacking nursery schools." So we have needed nursery schools in Oldbury for a long time. Now we are told by the council that it will be wrong for my constituents, the ratepayers to benefit from them unless we can hook the immigrant issue on to the question and therefore demand a 100 per cent. grant from the Treasury. That is wholly misconceived and, I must say in the light of some of the statements recently made in the West Midlands, a highly dangerous and most regrettable attitude for the local authority to take. How does one begin to educate the education authority?

I am delighted with my right hon. Friend's statement tonight that a 75 per cent. grant is proposed. The County Borough Council assumed that it might be a 50 per cent. grant, and worked out that that would mean a 3d. rate if all their projects were accepted. I beg my right hon. Friend not to be dissuaded by the attitude of the Borough of Warley. I hope that there will be conferences between his Department and the council. We need the nursery schools, and have needed them for a long time.

The kiddies who go to them when they are built will not all be brown or black children. They will be children of the citizens and ratepapers of Warley, and the schools will be of benefit to the whole community, just as the community relations council will be of benefit to the whole community. It is wholly wrong and grossly misconceived for anybody in a public position to suggest that by devoting time, energy, official work and money into channels of this kind a "privileged class" is somehow established in the community, as has been suggested by the leader of the Warley Council who I quoted earlier.

The debate is a short one. I want to close on an optimistic note about our county borough. This weekend, the rural dean held a ruridecanal conference. He and his fellow Ministers had something to say about the problem that faces all of us in Warley. The conference roundly condemned the attitude of the borough council, and said: The conference wishes to draw the attention of the council to the following considerations: the contribution that those of Commonwealth origin make by their labour to the wealth of Warley's industries and especially to the health and transport services of the region; their contribution to the rate fund, especially as occupiers of private housing; the status of the majority as British citizens by virtue of their residence for many years; and the probability that the provision of these facilities, which will be available to all children, will also assist coloured children to adapt themselves to the demands of our educational system, and thus minimise any possibility of their presence adversely affecting the education of white children. I thought that such a far-seeing and Christian pronouncement from the rural dean's conference ought to be read to the House of Commons. I think that he and his fellow priests have shown that the problem that we are discussing and these very modest proposals are not as it were, placing a new unjustified rate burden upon the already heavily burdened people of the West Midlands, Warley, Brent, Birmingham or wherever it may be.

The Government are attempting to deal with longstanding social and human problems which in certain cases have been exacerbated by the developments of the last decade. They should be given the blessing of this House. I give them a modest blessing for a modest Bill. But I think that in so doing we should make clear that the unwise and gross—I say no more—distortions that are being made about the Bill in certain local authority circles such as the Borough Council of Warley are condemned by the House.

8.30 p.m.

Mr. R. Bonner Pink (Portsmouth, South)

It seems that so far the debate has been confined to the immigration problem. Although one appreciates that the Midlands has a major problem, it is clear from paragraph 2 of the circular that there are very many other considerations.

I welcome the Bill as one which goes some way to help some local authorities with some of their problems. With regard to their financial problems, the help, as has beer emphasised, is limited. Much pressure will undoubtedly be put on the Home Secretary to take part in the sharing.

Portsmouth is not in the list of 34 local authorities which are termed most in need, but it would not be very difficult to make out a very strong case for it according to the criteria in paragraph 2 of the circular.

I am in some difficulty in this matter, because only a week or so ago an article appeared in a national daily newspaper emphasising our difficulties and problems and indicating that Portsmouth is under a cloud. This is very far from being the case. The article was very one-sided. Nothing was said about the problems which have been overcome, the problems being tackled and the tremendous progress that we have made since the war.

I do not want it to be thought that in outlining our problems and appealing for more help I am merely endorsing those criticisms and ignoring our real progress. It is true that, like many other cities, we have problems. We have persistent unemployment not only above the average for South-East England but above the national average. We have one of the highest figures for county boroughs for children in care, too large a waiting list for day nurseries, too many unfit houses, problems relating to environment, too many suicides and too many illegitimate babies. All these are national problems as a matter of degree between individual authorities. It is a matter of opinion whether some of these factors such as children in care, unfit houses and environment problems are perhaps exaggerated because we have gone out to find them and deal with them energetically.

I do not want to make this just a constituency matter. I have cited Portsmouth's problems as an example. I am sure that there are many other authorities in similar difficulties, difficulties most often brought about by closely drawn boundaries, boundaries so closely drawn that it is impossible to rebuild war damage, to redevelop old parts and carry out slum clearance to modern standards without building beyond the boundaries, and at the same time provide for unusually large numbers of elderly people who cannot be asked to live outside. I hope that the Home Secretary will expand his list to include those with the serious problems outlined in paragraph 2.

There is one last problem that I ask the Home Secretary to consider. He has laid down criteria for need, and it follows from the Bill that he considers that money can alleviate it. Therefore, it follows that any financial stringency must aggravate the position. The problem concerns the anomalies that arise under the present grant system. All will agree that whatever formula is adopted there are bound to be anomalies. This was previously recognised by what was known as the rate equalisation grant, whereby authorities which seemed to do too well under the Government grant system paid out to those which were badly off. I remember that Portsmouth always paid up, and now when it needs help that grant has gone.

I give an example of the anomalies which arise under the present grant formula. It concerns the education supplement. Portsmouth, with 28,600 children, receives £385,000; Southampton, with 35,800 children, receives £1,489,000. Thus, Southampton, with only 7,200 more children, gets £1,100,000 more grant. This is entirely due to the weighting factors in the grant formula.

I do not suggest that Southampton should get less but I do suggest that Portsmouth should get more. The City Council has repeatedly brought this anomaly to the attention of the Minister and, rightly, he says that he has no power to do anything about it. I suggest that when the Bill becomes law, however, the Home Secretary will have that power, although I appreciate that, if we ask for £1 million, he will have little else for any other authority. But I hope that the Government will use this power in future to help Portsmouth and other authorities similarly placed in suffering such anomalies under the grant formula. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will in one way or another manage to help Portsmouth's need.

8.36 p.m.

Miss Joan Lestor (Eton and Slough)

I welcome the Bill. I can say that it is not enough, but I do not think that any hon. Member opposite is in a position to say that it is not enough in view of their calls for a cut in public expenditure. If this Bill is what we mean by selectivity, then I am all for it.

When trying to apportion blame for areas of social deprivation, it would be true to say that, if such a Bill had been introduced 15 or 20 years ago, many of the areas which will benefit from this Bill would have been on the list then. During the debates on the Commonwealth Immigrants Act, 1962, my right hon. Friend the present Secretary of State for Defence, leading for the then Opposition, said in one of the debates that what was needed was urgent help and assistance to areas which were not already socially deprived but where there was a high concentration of Commonwealth immigrants.

It is a pity that so many hon. Members have concentrated on one aspect of the criteria in the Bill—the presence of Commonwealth immigrants in an area—because this is only one standard, and, as was stated by the hon. Member for Portsmouth, South (Mr. Pink), it is not the sole determinant. My area has one of the highest concentrations of immigrants in the country. At the moment, we do not appear to qualify for aid under the Bill. It does not mean that we do not have social problems but that the high concentration of Commonwealth immigrants within the area has not produced the social problems which many people claim it has produced in their areas. There are reasons for this but, if we look back over the history of social deprivation, we find areas previously which had no Commonwealth immigrants but which would have qualified for such aid and have, indeed, been in need of it for a very long time.

I am delighted that so much of the aid in the Bill is to go to the pre-school child—the child under the age of five. I have made many speeches about this highlighting the needs of this section of the community. In the enormous post which I have received on this subject have been letters from all over the country pointing out the need for more nursery schools, more day nurseries and more play groups, and one of the things that has struck me has been that they have come from areas with no immigrants as well as from areas with high concentrations of immigrants. The neglect of the pre-school child has been going on for a long time and while it is true that there are greater difficulties where there are higher concentrations of women at work in other areas and many of these women are immigrants, this may act as the barium meal which shows up the need and not be the main factor.

I should like my right hon. Friend to comment on one or two of the problems of my own constituency, especially in education. When I ran a multi-racial playgroup in South London for several years, I found that there were many children, including Polish children whose parents had come to the country many years before, who were about to start school without being able to speak a word of English. I am distressed to find that this is happening in many areas where there is a concentration of non-English speaking people. Anything which can be done in the way of play groups or nursery schools to involve parents in the education of the under-fives and to enlarge social facilities would help to teach not only the children but the mothers English, and it would be an important factor in bringing them into an understanding of and communication with the whole education system.

One of the problems of the under-five; which is mentioned by the Seebohm Report and which is touched on by the Bill arises because Departmental responsibility for dealing with the various needs of the under-fives is so confused and spread among so many Departments. If we could get overall responsibility, perhaps we could make a bigger contribution. When it is possible to allocate more money in this direction, I hope that we shall bear in mind not only the child from the obviously materially deprived home, but the child who may be emotionally deprived, the many children from seemingly good homes who are also in need of the facilities provided by the Bill.

Only limited provision for housing is made in the Bill and it will not keep pace with the growing demands which will be placed on local authorities which are already in difficulties. I hope that before assistance is given to local authorities, a good look will be taken at their housing policies. Some authorities, such a; mine and many others in other areas, have cut down the building of council houses and are also selling council houses. Some of them are also selling land previously acquired for the provision of local authority housing. Some of them seem likely to create or exaggerate a housing problem which might have been avoided if this policy had not been adopted, and I hope that there will be full and frank discussion before housing aid for these authorities is considered.

In housing as well as in help for the under-fives much more has to be done, because it is the children in need of special care, in need of special day care, the children who are inadequately housed, who are the children at risk and who, unless we are careful, will in future swell the numbers in approved schools and in local authority care. We have to concentrate much more attention on these aspects.

I turn lastly to immigration. I would not attempt at this stage to define an immigration policy, because it would take too long and would be out of order. I may be in a minority on this, but I think that we should get away from talking about immigrants as if they are insensitive, inanimate objects, without any feeling, as if they were statistics that we can add up or subtract, and talk about what they put in or take out. The sooner that we get away from that and talk about areas of social need with immigrants as one of the factors, the sooner we will make a far better contribution to race relations.

8.45 p.m.

Mr. J. E. B. Hill (Norfolk, South)

The hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Miss Lestor) has great experience of the needs and education of children under five, and of their mothers. I agree that it is highly desirable that the Government should try to bring the whole administration of the under fives into one unified department if possible. There is a great deal of departmental division which militates against the best use of resources. I too, welcome the priority that the Government are giving this, but, like my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes), I wonder what is being left out.

What is the size of the problem? To begin with, we exclude any consideration of rural educational priority areas, and there are many slum schools in the countryside. I want to keep that on the record, because it is so often thought that slum schools exist only in urban conditions. Secondly, this Bill excludes consideration of the 39 remaining local education authorities sharing in the educational priority area school building programme. The response to the Circular from the Department by the 24 L.E.A.s has been much greater than the Government expected. The Circular speaks of expenditure to be authorised of £3 million for provision and expansions of the three categories, nursery schools and classes, day nurseries and children's homes, and then talks of additional staff expenditure and running costs.

That first item is put at £3 million in the Circular, and yet the Home Secretary has indicated that by 1970, the same date as in the Circular, it is expected that £6 million will be spent. It seems that the response has exceeded the Government's expectations, and I deduce from that that the size of the problem is probably a good deal greater than the Government suspect. What does the nursery education programme add as a whole? The bids received from all the authorities except two have been summarised in a Written Answer on 28th November.

May I say in passing that there are several Written Answers on 28th November giving a great deal of useful information to different Members on this subject. The total bids at the moment amount to a possible provision of 9,000 full-time places, and just over 200 projects. The proportion that it represents, if it is all carried out, of existing provision, is roughly one-third. The existing provision is just under 27,000 full-time places in nursery classes or their equivalent. The one-third addition, if this programme is taken right through, refers only to the existing low coverage. We should like to know how many children under the age of five are living in areas of acute need. I agree that one cannot simply take the whole population of a local authority area, and that is why this must be a matter of estimation.

All the evidence obtainable suggests the numbers concerned are much greater than even the enlarged provision proposed. This is demonstrated by the waiting lists for any services for children under five provided by the voluntary agencies, for example, the play-groups run by the Save the Children Fund.

I am satisfied that we must regard this as an emergency and, therefore, emergency treatment is required. All the available resources and enthusiasm should be used. Yet there is a basic dilemma in expanding the provision for children under the age of five. Either we give a high degree of help to relatively few children and their families, or we provide a smaller degree of help to as many people as possible. The maintained nursery school education system is probably as good as any in the world, and that provides our best. But to date it has been provided for sadly too few children. Contrast that with the work done by such organisations as the Save the Children Fund, which have very limited resources and get a great demand for the playgroups which they provide in areas of acute social deprivation. Their standards in premises and in numbers of highly-trained teaching staff are much less exacting and, therefore, they can provide effective help more cheaply and often more quickly.

I ask the Minister to bear in mind some of the relative costs because this is important in carrying out a programme on a limited budget as quickly as possible. The capital cost of a place in a new purpose-built nursery school is about £400 with an annual recurrent cost of £150. The cost of a day nursery place is even greater—£1,000 capital and a recurrent cost of £250. On the other hand, for an organisation like the Save the Children Fund in which one begs, borrows or rents premises, the annual cost of giving 50 children five half-day sessions a week is £2,300 a year. The annual cost of providing a nursery school place on a half-day basis, which is not done at the moment, would be about £75 for five half-days a week for the terms only, whereas the Save the Children Fund can provide a place throughout the year on a playgroup basis for under £50.

The Save the Children Fund has over 100 playgroups in being, almost all with waiting lists and many in deprived areas. What is perhaps more significant is that it has groups ready to start in about 20 local education authorities, five hospitals and seven G.L.C. housing estates if grants are available from the local authorities concerned.

The local authorities are faced with two choices: either they preserve a high nursery education standard everywhere inviolate and leave many children outside, or they spread help as widely as possible by co-operating with and assisting the expansion of the Save the Children Fund and similar organisations. The latter will mean some allocation of money, a small diversion of personnel in the appointment of playgroup supervisors and in the provision of training for nursery aides and, on a lesser scale, for mothers who would be good at helping with children in playgroups.

I hope that the Home Secretary will so expand the categories of help which can rank for grant as to include this kind of provision. If that is not done, the very fact of arranging the 75 per cent. grant may operate to discriminate against work which is carried on by such organisations as the Save the Children Fund.

If local education authorities, as J.L.E.A. is doing, greatly to their credit, are finding 100 per cent. of the cost to enable the Save the Children Fund to do their work but this does not rank for grant, local authorities will become less inclined to support the work done by the Save the Children Fund. The policy of that organisation is to prime the pump by going into an area, getting something started and, once it is established, seeing it taken over by the local authority and then moving on into fresh areas. This is what, I hope, the Home Office will consider and facilitate.

I stress that I am not putting the idea forward as an alternative. I regard the standards of our nursery education as extremely important. They must be maintained and not debased. If one is faced with an emergency, however, one cannot go wholly by the book; and if we depart from the book for the sake of the emergency, it surely does not mean that we are rejecting the standards. What we are doing, as we must, is working through some degree of delegation. I would rather call it delegation than dilution.

I hope, therefore, that these other agencies will rank for support, because if that is not done there is the danger that the Government may create some splendid new oases but leave too many children and mothers still stranded in a desert of loneliness and deprivation.

8.57 p.m.

Mr. David Ginsburg (Dewsbury)

The hon. Member for Norfolk, South (Mr. J. E. B. Hill) has rightly referred to the aspects of the Bill which deal with social need and not only with the immigrant question, but he will, I am sure, forgive me if I return to that aspect of the Bill.

In my opinion, no party in this House can claim a monopoly of virtue in immigrant policy. My party—and, it is fair to add in view of the interruptions in the debate, some hon. Members opposite—clung rather too long to the open-door policy. Equally, however, it is true and it is fair to say that the party opposite, when in government, did effectively nothing to foster institutions that would help to integrate the immigrant community. Indeed, it has been pointed out that the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell), as Minister of Health in particular, bore his share of responsibility for developments that took place.

Like other hon. Members who have spoken in the debate, I have said before in my constituency, which has an important immigrant community, and in this House that there must be the severest limitation on further entry by immigrants into this country, coupled, of course, with measures to help the immigrant community which is already here and to promote harmony with the local community.

In my opinion, the Bill moves in the right direction but it is a modest measure and it could be improved. I would say to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State, who is to reply to the debate, that the consultations with the local authorities concerning the implementation of the Bill have been a trifle rushed. Speaking for myself, I wish we had an additional general grant related to immigrant population in the area. It would give local authorities scope beyond what they can already do under Section 11 of the Local Government Act, 1966.

Looking at the Bill from the point of view of my constituency of Dewsbury, it is true, I think, to say that the facilities for assistance for nursery schools will not be utilised till 1969–70. Indeed, it is fair to say that the big problem in the Dewsbury constituency is not yet that of immigrant children. It is still less than the figure in the Bill of 6 per cent. though there is, of course, a very rapid percentage increase under way. The real problem locally is overcrowding, in that there are more than 2 per cent. of households with more than one and a half persons per room. This, as the House knows, is based on information from the 1966 Census. Though one cannot, of course, be absolutely certain, it reflects over-occupation by immigrants in the town.

This brings me to one other and perhaps the most important argument underlying our plea that there should be some more flexible proposals introduced into the Bill. It should be pointed out that the Minister of Housing and Local Government has, following Treasury policy, severely limited loans for house purchase during the second half of 1968–69. I was obliged, following representations from my local authority, to approach the Minister of Housing and Local Government to ask him to think again. He has thought again, but he has been unable to alter his decision.

The effect of this policy has been virtually to halt the supply of mortgage money coming forward to the local authority and in particular which the local authority can advance in order to enable immigrants to purchase older houses for owner-occupation. I would have thought this a very short-sighted policy indeed, because the lack of these funds will mean that there will be increasing pressure on the local authority to build even more housing accommodation, and that will strain capital requirements even further. I hope that the Minister, in reply to the debate, will be able to say something more positive about Government policy in relation to house ownership so far as immigrants are concerned.

9.2 p.m.

Mr. Arthur Jones (Northants, South)

I very much welcome the direction the debate has taken, and I am glad to follow the hon. Lady the Member for Eton and Slough (Miss Lestor) and to emphasise, as she did, the very important part of pre-school nursery play groups and the effect of the Bill's provisions on them. The House knows her great interest in nursery play groups and her voluntary work for them. It is that I wish to emphasise, following my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South (Mr. J. E. B. Hill).

Of course the Government have limited resources, and this is only a meagre provision, and I hope they will have very much more regard—no mention was made of this by the Home Secretary in his speech today—to the tremendous importance of voluntary work which there is, particularly in nursery education and child care, which the Government are emphasising. Many authorities already make substantial contributions to recognised organisations—I.L.E.A., for example, to the Save the Children Fund, which my hon. Friend has already mentioned, and also, to the pre-school nursery play groups; Lambeth is extending grant from £4,000 a year to £10,000 in the next financial year.

Because resources are limited they must be used effectively and I should like to see exercises which stimulate local interest and energy and result in the involvement of voluntary social workers. Tributes have already been paid to the staffs of local authorities and I support those tributes, but there is a tremendous amount of work being done by the voluntary organisations. What we want to see is self-help, and less reliance on welfare, with the idea that once schemes are initiated there should be an added spur for enthusiastic support by the voluntary organisations and workers.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South suggested, local auth- orities should be eligible for grant aid where they are supporting voluntary bodies. I have in mind the Save the Children Fund, which pioneers play groups. I was interested in the word used by the Home Secretary when he said there would be a great deal of "pioneer" work involved, and the Save the Children Fund emphasises the necessity for experimental methods in these two vital areas.

Shelter is another charitable organisation which has given substantial help to the deprived areas. Shelter has put up a scheme, which has had the approval of the Minister of Housing and Local Government, to acquire 600 houses in the Granby Street area of Liverpool. It is prepared to grant something like £100,000 for three years in order to aid the Granby Street area. I am confident that, in addition, aid could be extended to the areas we are discussing.

The Notting Hill Housing Trust might also be linked in this work, and certainly the Mulberry Housing Trust. As reported in The Times last week, Miss Jackson, speaking to the Association of Public Health Inspectors, emphasised the great scope for intelligent voluntary work in these deprived areas.

Our limited resources must be so used as to stimulate a response of human effort and money from other sources, involving people and the community, the great reservoirs of voluntary service which, happily, are there in our society, from whom I believe an immediate and ready response would be forthcoming.

9.7 p.m.

Mr. Edward Lyons (Bradford, East)

I will detain the House only for a minute or two. I know that such a remark normally prefaces a long speech, but that will not be so with me. In speaking of areas of special need, it would be wrong for the name of Bradford not to be mentioned. It is important that the problems of Bradford and the region should be brought to the attention of the Minister.

A few statistics may help to show the size of the problem. In Bradford, 53 per cent. of the housing is pre-1914; 27 per cent. of the houses have only an outside water closet; 12 per cent. have no hot water; 20 per cent. have no fixed bath; 15 per cent. do not reach minimum statutory fitness levels.

In education, 68.3 per cent. of primary schools were built before the First World War one-fifth were built before 1870. Over three-fifths of the secondary schools were built before the First World War.

There were serious problems in Bradford before the immigrants arrived; the problems were not created by immigrants. Bradford needed help 30 years ago. It would be wrong to say, however, that further strain is not caused by the increasing population. In the light of those difficulties, such a Bill as this, no matter how small in scope, is most welcome. However. I feel that in view of the size of the problem, the Bill will not even begin to produce a solution.

It is interesting to note that the criteria for acute social need are three. First, the area has to be one of housing priority—Bradford is a housing priority area. Secondly, it has to be an area allocated special school building resources under the educational priority programme—such an area is Bradford. Thirdly, the area has to be one accepted for grant under Section 11 of the Local Government Act, 1966, which provides for a special grant to local authorities in whose areas there is a substantial number of immigrants—we qualify in Bradford for that grant also. We are one of only 19 county or London boroughs which, I regret to say, come under all three heads. The fact that we do so means that our problems are immense; yet, although we come under all three heads, it seems that very little is being done.

It is true that in the 1966–67 school programme, and again in the 1968–69 school programme, an additional school was authorised for Bradford, but Bradford appreciates this less than it should because all it means is that there is an authorisation for the city council to build a further school. The money with which to build it is not provided. In Bradford, an area of low rateable value, there is a limit to the amount that can come from local sources.

The Government say, "We have given you 45 teachers above quota in order to deal with the difficulties of teaching English to immigrant children", but, as I understand it, the burden of paying for those teachers comes on Bradford. As we are all interested in removing causes of friction and resentment, it would be a great step forward if the Government were to introduce a scheme which would create, perhaps, throughout the country a pooling system of all local authorities to meet the extra expense caused by this more recent problem.

I have sought simply to draw attention to Bradford's problems—as I should as one representing a Bradford constituency—but I think that the problem will get worse whatever is in the Bill. That is very sad. Frankly, one is conscious now of a deterioration of atmosphere even in a town with a record of tolerance as excellent as Bradford's. I am not happy now about the future. I say, merely to have it on record so that the Government can take note of it, that even towns with records of tolerance are now concerned, and this is partly because of the emotive lead given by certain speeches in the last six months. They are to be regretted.

I congratulate the Government on bringing in the Bill and Bradford's teachers on the wonderful job they are doing—and they are tackling the problems facing them most manfully. The fact that the schools are old does not mean that the teaching inside them is bad. In Bradford it is very good indeed.

9.14 p.m.

Dr. M. P. Winstanley (Cheadle)

In view of the hour I will make no comment on the speech of the hon. Member for Bradford, East (Mr. Edward Lyons) save to say that I have visited Bradford on many occasion to study this problem. I believe that the people and authorities there have handled this very special problem extremely ably, and have held out an example which could, with advantage, be followed by many.

We, on this bench, support the Bill, but we regret its necessity. We regret that there are areas of special need that require special help. That there are these areas of special need is, in a way, a criticism of both the local and the central Government systems. It is also a criticism of the method of raising finance for local government. There is little doubt that those areas which need most money tend to be those which raise least. Those which raise the most money, in terms of local revenue, tend to be the ones that need least. That is true in the case of this special need referred to in this Bill.

There are ways of evening this out through central funds, but it has not been evened out sufficiently and we regret that these areas of special need exist. Some local authorities have not met this problem with the degree of efficiency, application and even humanity that others have displayed. But we regret most of all the wide and automatic assumption that an area is an area of special need purely because of the presence of immigrants. I agree that in an area of special need the presence of immigrants causes tensions and anxieties to be exaggerated, especially if shortages exist in housing and employment.

I hope that nobody outside the House will assume that special help needs to be given to special areas because immigrants are in some way doing damage to them. It is necessary to comment, as other hon. Members have, upon the contribution that these immigrants have made. I take my profession as an example. At the moment more than half the resident medical staff in our hospitals consists of immigrant doctors. They have also made a great contribution in nursing and in transport. What would happen to our transport services without these immigrants? They are also making a contribution to housing. It is often said that the immigrant population is taking up houses that others need, but it is not so often said that immigrants, by their contribution to the labour force in the construction industry, are building more houses than they are occupying. That fact needs underlining.

We also need to underline the fact that these people cost no more to the social services than do others; indeed, there is substantial evidence that they cost less in terms of unemployment pay and pensions—and certainly in respect of the National Health Service. Much has been made of the fact that the immigrant population has more tuberculosis than does the indigenous population, but not as much is made of the equally undoubted fact that the vast majority contract tuberculosis in this country, and do not bring it in with them. Special help must be given to these areas, but we must make it clear that it is not being provided because immigrants are a special burden. They are not. They are making a contribution to our economy and they are no greater burden on the various services than are our own people.

I end by referring to a letter which appeared in The Times recently over the name of the Bishop of Stepney. The letter moved me very much, and it is one that ought to be drawn to the attention of more and more people. In the course of his letter the Bishop refers to a fact of some importance when he says: England, by her participation in the slave trade and by her colonial adventures over two centuries and more has been the greatest single contributor to the alienation of peoples from their motherlands … she has no moral right to speak of alienation within her own borders. She has a massive debt to repay; and it will take her generations to repay it. In place of our arrogant assumptions let us turn in penitence, and very swiftly, to the task of reparation. This Measure, giving special help to certain areas, will help these people and thus go some way to repay the debt. It is in that spirit that my hon. Friends and I support it.

9.19 p.m.

Mr. Kenneth Marks (Manchester, Gorton)

When I hear talk of the immigrant problem I am reminded of the story told by the late Gilbert Harding, who once went to the wrong part of a bus in one of the Southern States in America. He said that he was told to get off because he was in the coloured section of the bus, and he replied, "I am coloured, because I am pink". There are many "coloured" immigrants in my constituency but I doubt whether they are included among the immigrants in the 34 boroughs. The Bill will not solve many of the problems of the people I have in mind. The great problem of these areas, whether or not they are immigrant-populated, is housing.

When hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite say that not enough is being done they should reconsider their views as expressed last week on housing subsidies and public expenditure. This is a job which private enterprise cannot do. Private enterprise has made the situation worse.

It could be argued that provision for nursery schools and classes will not attack the root of the problem. However, these provisions will help those who probably bear the brunt of these physical conditions—the mothers and young children; the mothers because of sheer physical and mental strain, the children because they are deprived of healthy surroundings and opportunities for play. They may help the children to get an early start to their education, because their later education will be hindered by their environment.

There is much to be said for nursery classes being held in primary schools, if the accommodation can be found, rather than in new buildings. Then the under-fives can be given a gradual introduction to school and can share some of the facilities. Even if there are not teachers for all the nursery classes, experienced teachers are around to help. It is also useful that the older children in the families are close at hand.

Action should be taken on the pay of the nursery nurses and assistants who are responsible for the under-fives. Their pay and prospects are inadequate for the responsibilities they shoulder.

It is not just a question of buildings. Sympathetic and knowledgeable people to help and advise are vitally necessary. Health visitors and school welfare officers are needed in addition to the staffs of nurseries and nursery classes. Information services should be efficient and near at hand. There is a tendency at present for social security offices, education offices, and so on, to become larger and to deal with larger areas. If this continues, there will be a need for local education centres. I was delighted to hear my right hon. Friend talk about family advice centres. I hope that we shall hear much about these. I hope that there will be many of them and that they will be sited in and around the shopping and market places rather than in the bleak offices where other services exist.

9.22 p.m.

Sir Edward Boyle (Birmingham, Handsworth)

I echo the tribute paid by the Secretary of State for the Home Department and by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) to teachers in the central areas of the big cities. The right hon. Gentleman referred specifically, quite rightly—to the tremendous skill and devotion shown by many teachers in schools having a large concentration of immigrants. More generally, I believe that we tend to forget the extraordinary amount of common sense and devotion shown over generations by teachers in the older central areas.

The Bill sets out to deal with the problems of certain areas in big cities of acute social need. I myself represent a big city, Birmingham. These areas of acute social need are very diverse and cannot all be simply described as slum areas in the traditional sense of the word. When I speak of these areas, I think not just of slum areas but of the large, old, terrace areas, often solidly built, perhaps almost too solidly built in certain respects, where it is unrealistic to expect a major redevelopment scheme in the near future but where I believe that it is particularly important that there should be social improvement.

I expect a number of hon. Members have read with admiration and profit, as I did, "Housing On Trial" by Elizabeth Burney. I want to read one quotation which impressed me particularly: The problem is the holding together of a disintegrating society while a gradual process of change takes place. This is why the notion of 'positive discrimination' is such an important one, applied not only to schools but to other services (nurseries, playgrounds, clubs etc.) in the depressed areas. The normal pattern is for the redevelopment of housing to come first, and other services to lag behind. But redevelopment takes time. Far better to insert the services first so that everyone has something better while their housing conditions are improved. As I see it, that is essentially the purpose of the present modest Bill, to do something to improve services and to strengthen morale in these areas so that as many people as possible may have something better. It is a valuable Measure, though modest, as many hon. Members have said. My right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford was justified in asking what it would achieve in relation to the total need, and in this context he was right to point out that, in accordance with present policies, we can expect in this country a total of up to 200,000 to 250,000 more immigrants by 1972.

In the same context I say a word to the hon. Member for Cheadle (Dr. Winstanley). The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right when he reaches the conclusion that immigrant families make smaller demands as a whole on the social services than do other families. That is correct in relation to the central Government. The article which appeared in the National Institute for Economic and Social Research Economic Review for August, 1967, is a basic paper on this subject, which, I assure the House, speaking as a Member for an area with a considerable concentration of immigrants, I have frequently had occasion to quote. But let us remember that, while those figures are correct and the conclusion is true in relation to the central Government, those figures are no great consolation to local government because it is the local authorities which face the full brunt of arrivals into this country.

I hope that hon. Members will acquit me of wishing to raise scares on this subject, but I have never wished to play down the very real problems which have been caused for local authorities such as Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Bradford and many other such during the past decade.

I come now to the Bill as it affects education.

Mr. Sydney Bidwell (Southwell)

Before he leaves the other point, will the right hon. Gentleman agree that, although it is not the whole story, the problem has a great deal to do with employment opportunities—an aspect not sufficiently laboured in this debate—in other words, where people go to live and where they want work?

Sir E. Boyle

The hon. Gentleman is quite right in relation to new voucher holders. This is not a subject for which I have responsibility on this Front Bench, but outside the House I have expressed the feeling that we could have had better planning in the past in certain respects. I hope that the Home Secretary will not think that I am deliberately going back over this, but, as I have been asked the question, perhaps I may say that, for example, I have felt that there was some force in the point that it might have been possible to see whether some of our fellow citizens from East Africa could not have gone to a new town in the North of England. But besides the new voucher holders, there is also the problem of the dependants who inevitably, as the Home Office reasonably remind us, tend to congregate where the breadwinner is already at work.

I come now to the educational aspect of the Bill, and I take up first a point made by the hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Marks). We all know that a child without educational qualifications can only rarely make real progress up the social and educational ladder and, at the same time, we have come to recognise much more clearly the significance of cultural deprivation for any child during its school years. Education authorities have a duty not only to give a child the best possible opportunity, but to work to remove, or at least to mitigate, the worst handicaps of environment which can inhibit the very development of intelligence on which a child's educability depends.

Many children from the families of immigrants have an extra layer of cultural disability, especially language handicaps. It is with these considerations in mind that I think that the right hon. Gentleman was right today, and the Secretary of State for Education and Science has been right, to lay emphasis on nursery classes and pre-school education. As the Plowden Report made clear, and as American experience has shown, it is precisely the victims of what is called cultural deprivation, and children with language handicaps, who need to start schooling as early as possible, especially if they are to gain the full benefit from their years of compulsory schooling afterwards.

At the same time, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will take note of what my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South (Mr. J. E. B. Hill) said about nursery schools and the contribution that voluntary effort can make. We should consider side by side the efforts made by local authorities and by voluntary bodies. There are about 4,000 play groups in Britain today, catering for more than 100,000 children under the age of 5—nearly five times as many children as are accommodated in maintained nursery schools. There is no reason why play groups should not thrive in deprived areas as much as they do in the suburban areas, but in poor areas they may need financial help to get started. It is precisely in giving a start to the formation of such groups that the money available under the Bill can be of special importance.

I would point out to the right hon. Gentleman the excellent projects like the first pre-school play groups set up by the Camden Committee for Community Relations, which has achieved considerable success in its aim of promoting understanding and co-operation between families of many different nationalities. Parents of English, Cypriot, Irish, West Indian, African and Indian three- to five-year-olds are glad to help each other and each other's children by giving a hand in running it. That is the sort of project that I hope we shall always bear in mind.

It is a mistake to think that in priority areas we must always plan in grandiose terms. In such areas, a quite limited project, such as an adventure playground as a limited site becomes available, can often do a great deal of good.

I hope that we shall never forget the importance of education for the children of immigrant families. Here I should like to return to what I said some weeks ago in the debate on the Loyal Address. A number of experts have been rather depressed by our apparent lack of curiosity in Britain about American experience. There is also sometimes a rather naive belief that so long as we tackle the language problem everything else will solve itself. I do not believe this. There are many issues, like dispersal, which badly need more research and greater attention, using experience from overseas as well as in this country.

Mr. Callaghan

I very much agree with the right hon. Gentleman. There is a principal from the Home Office at present in the United States studying the kind of community development that I think the right hon. Gentleman has in mind. We hope to put him on this work when he returns.

Sir E. Boyle

I am very glad to learn that, because there is still much that we can learn from American experience.

Lastly on this point. Let us never forget the importance of housing policy side by side with education policy. The two must go together. Some months ago there was a leading article on the subject in The Times, which I have remembered ever since. It talked about … the dangers of a vicious circle in which a black face means a poor job, a home in a bad neighbourhood, and therefore a school below average standard for the children. That is the measure of the problem, and the House should always remember it.

I want to leave the Minister plenty of time to reply, but I should like to ask the Government questions about two points. First, my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford was right to draw attention to the dangers of over-complexity within the Government machine in handling the problem. He pointed out that the urban programme is, as it were, a fourth tier to a structure which already includes the special housing priority programme, the educational priority areas and also Section 11 of the 1966 Act.

I think that the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Miss Lestor) was completely justified in pointing out the large number of Departments which seem to be involved in the provision of education or play groups for the under-fives. We have only recently achieved what I regard as the real step forward of bringing together all ministerial responsibility for handicapped children. I hope very much that where immigrants and also the under-fives are concerned we shall make as much effort as possible to simplify the administration, so that not too much consultation has to take place between Departments.

I agree with what the Home Secretary said about the need to make an objective assessment of comparative needs, but, after listening to the right hon. Gentleman's proposals for putting it all on to a computer, it was a little depressing to return to Circular 225 from the Home Office, which is also Circular 1968 from the Department of Education and Science, and look at paragraph 5 and find that the criterion of immigrant numbers on the school roll still relates to the figures for January, 1967, which is very nearly two years ago. I am afraid that I have rather too often told the House the story of the friend of mine at school who used 7-figure log tables to work out an example which took π as equal to 22 over 7. But there is always danger of doing this in the Government machine, and I hope that the Under-Secretary will be able to tell us that the figures for immigrants on the school roll will shortly be brought up to date.

I think it has been common ground in the House tonight that there is a continuing need to restrict immigrant numbers into our society. We feel that it is, frankly, unreal to discuss this Bill tonight without making some reference to immigrant numbers and the acute problems caused for certain areas of Britain. But, equally, let it go out loud and clear from this House on every possible occasion that ours is a society in which all men and women enjoy equal citizenship.

I particularly mention this because in my experience this is a subject on which today young people in this country feel very strongly, and rightly so. There is a very strong feeling now among younger people, including younger people at our universities, on the whole subject of human dignity, the need for justice in race relations, the importance of world peace and the great concern that we should all feel about world hunger. On all these subjects, irrespective of party, I find real concern among the younger generation.

I always think when speaking about this subject of the very finest speech in the whole of our Western literature, the funeral oration of Pericles, which is the absolutely classical expression of the view that people may be different but that their personalities are all of equal value. He said: Not in our public life are we liberal, but also as regards our freedom from suspicion of one another in the pursuits of everyday life; for we do not feel resentment at our neighbour if he does as he likes nor yet do we put on sour looks". The House may feel that it is perhaps not altogether inappropriate at this moment to quote not merely a Professor of Greek but the finest speech in the whole of Greek literature.

Having said that, I put it to the House that all of us must also realise the problems that are caused for local authorities today. We realise the tremendous amount of devoted work being done by teachers and also, in my experience, local councillors. I believe that the time has now come generally for less rhetoric and harder work on this subject of immigration and race relations. I welcome the Bill as a step, distinctly modest, that will none the less make it more possible for many devoted public servants of the community to give of their best.

9.40 p.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Merlyn Rees)

The main tenor of the debate has been support for the Bill from both sides of the House. In the short time at my disposal, I shall deal with as many points raised as possible and will write to right hon. and hon. Members about those I have not time to reply to.

Although there has been general agreement, there has been some question about the size and scope of activity under the Bill. I point out, as my right hon. Friend did, that, already, there are substantial programmes of expenditure in all the sectors with which the Bill is associated. One of the mysteries of political life at the moment is that, whereas we have people complaining about the size of public expenditure, in the country as a whole little is known about the amount of public expenditure and what it is provided for.

There is a record housing programme in deprived areas which cannot be ignored when talking about this smaller Measure, which is for a different purpose. Later this Session, the Government will introduce a Measure to deal with multiple occupation and improvement of old houses, based on methods developed in Leeds over the years. The same story applies to hospital building and to school building plus Plowden. Quite rightly, there are arguments about long-term programmes in these sectors and about social security, but this Bill cannot be judged except in the perspective of the vast programme of public expenditure on the social services.

The right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) raised the question of the origin of this Measure and the speech of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. The checking I have done shows that my right hon. Friend made it clear on that occasion that he was referring to urban areas not only in the immigration context. We will be discussing with local authorities the question of definition of areas where they wish to spend money. We realise that the problem is greater than that of the 34 urban areas which the circular originally defined. It is not necessary for the areas with which we are concerned to be in towns and cities. The Bill is drawn to include rural areas.

It might be useful if I mention the phases of the programme. The first phase was the circular of 4th October sent to the 34 local authorities. This was narrowly drawn in the context of overcrowding and of the percentage of immigrants in schools. It dealt with capital works for nursery education and child care, and running costs of these capital works. Under that scheme, £3 million were provided up to the end of the financial year 1969–70. There was little scope under the circular for experiment and discussion.

The second phase will be a circular, possibly before Christmas, authorising further expenditure over a wider range. The local authorities will come more into discussions on matters such as family advice centres and assistance for play groups. Excluding Scotland, this will mean an extra £2 million up to the end of the financial year, 1969–70. This will be more specific, and will provide more room for manoeuvre and discussion.

The third phase will begin with a circular, to be issued at about next Easter, asking for bids for the rest of the four-year programme, which will give £16 million for the years 1970–71 and 1971–72. It is in this third phase that we think that it may be possible to move into the housing sector. Hon. Members have discussed the question of spending money on housing at this pitch of time, but I have already mentioned what has been done there. Certainly, in the third phase, it will be possible to move into the housing sector, and this is open to discussion.

Local authorities might find that school transport is appropriate among the purposes laid down in the Bill and might well apply to the Government for approval for grants. The right hon. Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle)—and I do not blame him, and I must confess that it was my first instinct to do the same—poked a little fun at map techniques with the aid of a computer arid suggested that it might be better to draw on the knowledge of the people in the areas. It is apparent that the best knowledge can be obtained from the people on the spot and we all know that we and local councillors know our own areas very well. But this mapping technique is extremely interesting. A wide variety of different variables can be fed in and the result is maps which are of such value that, I understand, on hearing of them local authorities want to obtain copies to consider in the context of their own areas. I assure the right hon. Gentleman that in no sense are the Government trying to do it all at the centre; there is no suggestion that the man in Whitehall knows best.

As for the financing of the Bill, I am reminded that Pericles also said in his funeral oration: We pursue high ideals with due regard for economy. The majority of the specific grants now available are 50 per cent. and the 50 per cent. specific grants under Section 11 of the Local Governments Act, 1966, will be increased to 75 per cent. In due course, the 75 per cent. grant will be taken into account under Section 1(2) of that Act for the purposes of estimating the portions of the aggregate Exchequer grant which the Minister estimates will be allocated to grants in respect of specific services; but only after 1970–71. The grant will be paid in aid of revenue. Grant in respect of capital expenditure which a local authority meets by way of loans will be not on the total cost, but towards the periodical expenditure of loan charges. The 3 per cent. increase for rate support grant for 1969–70 will not include expenditure under the Bill; such expenditure will be additional.

It is intended that the Section 11 grant and the urban programme shall lie side by side. Some staff salaries may qualify for grant under Section 11, while the projects for which the staff are engaged, for example, a new school, may qualify for a programme grant. The urban programme will not be limited to staff salaries: it may therefore be said that the programme will aid local authorities with expenditure for which Section 11 cannot help them, but they will not be paid on expenditure in respect of which a Section 11 grant may be paid. To put it in a shorter version, the new grant may not be used where a Section 11 grant may be used, but it may be used wherever a Section 11 grant may not be used.

I was asked why the 1966 census figures were used as a basis of the circulars of a few weeks ago. The reason is that the latest available figures are those from the sample census of that year. Oddly enough, when the circulars were sent out, the 1967 school roll figures were the latest available.

I assure the right hon. Gentleman that in the later discussions there will be, obviously, much more up-to-date information to feed into these discussions. This will not be just the sort of figures taken into account for the earlier circular. There are other questions of social need which have to be considered, such as the question of child delinquency in an area.

The hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Renée Short), and others, raised the question of vouchers. I will certainly see that her remarks are made known to the Department of Employment and Productivity, which is the Department concerned.

I have only recently taken up this job, and one of the odd things that I find is that people tell me that there is mass immigration into this country. This is not so. In terms of the initial breadwinner who enters the country, that is the voucher holder, there is an extremely small number coming in. There has been a reduction since those days of 1963 when there were 20,000 breadwinners coming into the country.

The question that the House has to face, and we have done so in debates recently, is that if there is to be a cut in the number of people coming into the country it will not be on the voucher-holders, but on dependants. One is faced straight away with the fact that in general dependants are coming to join their breadwinners and the latter are already in the congested areas. It is extremely difficult, outside of a State where people have labour passes and so on, to move people from where their families live or to move people who are already here. While I see the problem we must return to this basic point.

Mr. Reginald Eyre (Birmingham, Hall Green)

On this point of dependants, where about 40,000 arrive a year, and say about 6,000 come to live in Birmingham, does the Minister understand that when one talks about the costs of the burden falling upon local authorities, many people believe that there will be need for a much greater diversion of resources to deal with this problem as it develops during the years? This is why Members have described the Bill as a very modest proposal.

Mr. Rees

Modest as it is, in terms of what we want to do, I must remind the hon. Gentleman that the major programme which I mentioned at the beginning cannot be left out of account. Perhaps I should tell the hon. Gentleman, as he represents a Birmingham constituency, that I have agreed to meet a delegation from the Birmingham area.

Something that I have noted in the last three or four weeks is that people of all political persuasions in the areas where the problems exist most resent those who attempt to sweep the problem under the carpet, as if it does not exist. There is is a problem and all of us, whatever our views, are endeavouring to do something about it. Those people in the field whom we quite properly praised, and whom I have met for the first time in recent weeks, have a feeling that people do not appreciate the curious difficulties that they have to face.

I turn now to the machinery of Government. There is an inter-departmental committee of Ministers. The firm responsibility is in the hands of my right hon. Friend, and the programme is coordinated from the Home Office. It is quite right that, when one is moving into an area concerning health or education, the expert advice which comes from those Departments should be taken into account. I see the problem we have had many times in our social history, of the proliferation of bodies and Departments dealing with a particular matter. There are times when Governments are able to deal with such problems and the right hon. Gentleman mentioned this about social security. At the moment we are convinced that ours is the best way, given the nature of the various interests and the line of communications to local authorities.

My hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Miss Lestor) mentioned, from her practical experience, bringing in the parents. We are creating something of the American situation. Many years ago the new Americans, the children, had parents who spoke only Polish, Russian or German. This is beginning to happen here. We are talking about young children, I know, but it is important to bring the parents into the educational scene as early as possible, and here the family advice centres are important. There is a problem which I do not suggest is of vast dimensions.

Some of us remember, however small the memory remains, the efforts made by voluntary bodies to help in the days of the depression. That was not always well received. One reason for it was that sometimes people came in from outside rather too much like missionaries. Now there is the danger in the social field of people from more respectable areas coming in as missionaries to help those with social problems. It is difficult to deal with this matter. A great friend of mine in Leeds has moved into a socially deprived area, but not everybody can do that. The important thing is to bring in the parents because they, being older, will realise the needs of the situation.

It is our intention that the voluntary bodies, whether it be in education or housing, should receive grants. Many hon. Members have made a case for this. In principle it is our intention that they shall be brought into the development of this social programme through the local authorities.

This is not a mammoth Bill, but I repeat that it should be seen in perspective. We have not merely the problem of the immigrants, but, as my hon. Friend the Member for Oldbury and Halesowen (Mr. Horner) said, we are still dealing with the scars of the Industrial Revolution. Many people in the South who never go north of the Trent would be surprised and perhaps would understand why a high proportion of our housing allocation must go to the cities in the North. I know the problem of a city like Portsmouth; I do not say that problems do not exist there.

But it is not simply a problem of immigrants. In many towns immigrants have arrived in the past and the new immigrants take the place of the old ones as they move to different pastures. When the hon. Member for Brierley Hill (Mr. Montgomery) was speaking, I could not help but wonder how many people talked in that way about the Irish in the 19th century. It was felt that the Irish would never reach the socially promised land. There is hope for the new immigrants. They have a contribution to make to the social and political life of our country.

The right hon. Member for Hands-worth spoke movingly about Pericles. The social workers in the field are far too busy to be considering things of that kind. Nevertheless, he is right. I agree with him that young people are concerned about this matter. Working class people as much as non-working class people are also concerned about it. This country is not made up of millions of Alf Garnetts. If we were to approach the matter in that sense, we should all be better off.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Bill committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 40 (Corn-initial of Bills).