HC Deb 16 May 1968 vol 764 cc1382-5
16. Mr. St. John-Stevas

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps have been taken by the Government, and will be taken, to give extra-economic aid to those areas of the country with a special immigrant problem.

26. Mr. Winnick

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what action is now being taken to give further aid to areas in Great Britain with a large immigrant population.

29. Mr. Lipton

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what Government aid is given to local authorities with immigrant problems.

31. Mr. Eyre

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will give details of the new urban programme of Government expenditure to assist local authorities where the immigration problem is substantial; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Callaghan

In addition to grants already payable, a sum amounting to nearly £1½ million has been paid out in advance of final claims for 1967–68 under Section 11 of the Local Government Act, 1966. As the House knows, the Government are urgently studying the programme of expenditure in urban areas of special need, including those which contain substantial numbers of immigrants. I will give further details when this study has been completed.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Will the right hon. Gentleman not undertake, in conjunction with other Ministerial colleagues, to draw up a five-year plan for aid to areas with a particular immigrant problem and publish it as a White Paper?

Mr. Callaghan

I will consider this, of course, but the inquiry is now in its early stages and I would prefer to maintain freedom of action as to the nature and form in which the results should be published.

Mr. Winnick

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many of us who deplore the incitement to hatred speech of the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell)—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—he has some supporters over there—are well aware of the strains and difficulties in some of the overcrowded areas? Would he not agree that, apart from special aid, one of the most effective solutions in such areas would be a more even distribution of industry throughout the country, a policy, of course, which the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West seems to oppose?

Mr. Callaghan

As I have said in a previous Answer, it is employers, mainly, who begin the procedure by which immigrants go to particular areas for jobs. I agree that the important thing in this matter and the approach which I hope will be made to it is that no children, whether born in this country or arriving here, will be denied the right to education and schooling because of overcrowding in schools, or denied the right to homes. If we start looking at the problem from that end, the other parts will be made to fall into place.

Mr. Lipton

Can my right hon. Friend say how much of the aid already allocated has reached the London Borough of Lambeth, bearing in mind that I introduced a deputation from the borough to the Colonial Office in 1955, pointing out the various steps which the Government at that time should take to deal with what has developed into a difficult problem?

Mr. Callaghan

The figure for Lambeth was published last week in HANSARD, but I regret to say that I do not carry it in my head.

Mr. Eyre

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that every day there is further evidence of the increasing problems in the reception areas, such as Birmingham? Will he bear this seriously in mind in determining the urgency of his review?

Mr. Callaghan

Certainly, Sir. I do not intend that this review should take months. Officials are working very rapidly. Each Department mainly concerned is working in association with the Home Office on this problem. Although I naturally would not give a guarantee, I hope to make a reasonably early report to the House.

Mr. John Fraser

Will my right hon. Friend recognise that good will, commonsense and tolerance are as valuable as money, and that no amount of money can undo the harm done by bigoted and prejudiced speeches by people who ought to know better?

Mr. Callaghan

There is a danger that this problem will get out of focus, and, as I study it closely, I see that, while there are great problems involved, the emotional overtones sometimes exaggerate those problems beyond their true merit.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

Since the right hon. Gentleman accepts the principle that additional aid should be given to those areas which fall below certain standards due to the influx of immigrants, would he consider whether during the passage through the House of the Race Relations Bill he could not introduce some steps in it to help to meet the problem?

Mr. Callaghan

The problem of how, under the law, we treat immigrants who are living in this country, and, indeed, those of second and third generation of a particular colour, is not closely related to the short-term problem which I am now considering to see what extra financial assistance shall be given to these areas.

22. Mr. Montgomery

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what was the amount paid last year to the County Borough of Wolverhampton under the scheme to financially assist local authorities with special immigrant problems.

Mr. Ennals

Wolverhampton County Borough submitted a claim in respect of expenditure of £65,643 in 1967–68, of which 50 per cent. is reimbursable by Exchequer grant. Grant of £29,539 has so far been paid.

Mr. Montgomery

Would not the Under-Secretary admit that this is really inadequate for the needs of Wolverhampton? When the Home Office is looking at the whole question of this grant, will it be more realistic, since the hon. Gentleman will surely agree that the way to get rid of tension in these areas is to provide more houses and school places? Would he agree that the Government must give more help to areas with this problem?

Mr. Ennals

To answer the first part of that supplementary question, I understand that the Wolverhampton Council—which, of course, decides on the extent of appointments to deal with this problem—has estimated that its expenditure in 1968–69 will be substantially higher, and in that case the grant from the Home Office will also be substantially higher. To answer the second part of the supplementary question, I assure the hon. Gentleman that in the study to which reference has already been made by my right hon. Friend any special needs will be given special consideration.

Mr. Whitaker

Would my hon. Friend agree that special aid should be given to areas with bad housing and educational problems irrespective of immigration and that immigrants should not be used as a scapegoat for social problems which have always existed?

Mr. Ennals

That is absolutely right. In the urban programme referred to by the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary we are looking at special urban problems. In some cases these are areas with a substantial proportion of immigrants but this is not necessarily so, as my hon. Friend rightly points out.