HC Deb 26 March 1968 vol 761 cc1155-6
Q2. Mrs. Renée Short

asked the Prime Minister what proposals he has to coordinate the work of all Ministers involved in the problems of racial integration; and what additional financial help is to be made available for those towns and cities with a large immigrant population.

The Prime Minister

My right hon. Friends already work closely together on this as on other matters and both the arrangements for co-ordination and the policy are kept under continuous review. As to assistance, my hon. Friend will know of the provision of Section 11 of the Local Government Act, 1966.

Mrs. Short

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the help given to local authorities like mine is completely inadequate to deal with the very severe problems which exist? Is he further aware that there are hundreds of families in my constituency living in disgusting old ghettoes and that we have almost 400 children who cannot be found school places? The money which the Government give does not provide the houses and schools which we need. Will my right hon. Friend consider the amount which the Government are prepared to give to towns like these, and appoint one Minister to be responsible for channelling the money to local authorities? [Interruption.] This is a serious matter.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Lady must appreciate that other hon. Members have Questions, too.

The Prime Minister

I am aware of the very serious conditions in the town, part of which my hon. Friend represents. Indeed, in a meeting elsewhere, I have heard her deploy this argument much more fully. I agree that this is a serious matter, but she will be aware of the very generous help being given. Also, I have been discussing with the National Committee for Commonwealth Immigrants what more might be done through the medium of that Committee.

Mr. Marten

Is not part of the solution of this problem the dispersal of the great concentration of these people? Is it not true that past Governments have not approached this problem really forcefully? As we are the head of a multiracial Commonwealth in which we take great pride, would the right hon. Gentleman look at this aspect of the matter again?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right about dispersal, although he will recognise the great difficulties about doing anything effective to redistribute Commonwealth immigrants more evenly over the country. Certainly some cities and towns in the Midlands, and parts of London and Yorkshire and elsewhere, have had a very heavy concentration of them. Anything that we can do to encourage dispersal we shall be glad to do.

Mr. Molloy

Would my right hon. Friend agree that, while the answer is dispersal, for many boroughs in London, particularly the Ealing Borough which is very near Heathrow Airport, many problems have been created? The council and its officers are responding magnificently in an endeavour to solve them, but they are in urgent need of financial assistance. Would my right hon. Friend be prepared to consider this?

The Prime Minister

I am aware of the special problems of areas such as the one mentioned by my hon. Friend. But I am sure that he recognises the need for exercising due economy in the provision, which is still rapidly expanding despite the cut-back, for housing, for education, and for matters of that kind. We are trying to see if it can be more fairly distributed.