§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
§ Mr. Nigel Spearing (Acton)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it in order for me to speak first or should it be the hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Tugendhat) who wishes to introduce the Bill?
§ 7.1 p.m.
§ Mr. Christopher Tugendhat (Cities of London and Westminster)
In introducing the Bill it would be more appropriate to sit on the cross-benches—if we had them in this House—because it is essentially a non-partisan measure. It has been approved by both parties in the Greater London Council, and many of its provisions relate to the boroughs, some of which are Conservative-controlled while others are Labour-controlled. It is, as much as anything 312 can be in politics and in this House, a non-partisan measure.
Lest there be any misunderstanding, I make it clear that I am proud of the record of the Tory-controlled GLC and would be happy to defend its record in the election, in canvassing activities and in speeches. Today I shall endeavour to be as non-partisan as the measure. My intention is simply to present the Bill
§ Mr. Reginald Freeson (Willesden, East)
Before the hon. Gentleman leaves that rather general and controversial point, would he care to say how he can be proud of a record of 4,000 housing starts per year compared with the 9.000 planned some years ago?
§ Mr. Tugendhat
If I were to take up the hon. Gentleman's point I should feel the necessity to counter it with other achievements of the GLC. I am tempted to do so, but I feel that it would be more in the spirit of the Bill and the way in which it is being introduced to the House if I stick to the terms of the Bill rather than exchange claim and counter-claim, of which we shall no doubt hear a great deal in the coming weeks. I think the hon. Gentleman would agree that I am not backward in coming forward and talking about London matters. On this occasion, however, I will resist the temptation.
The hon. Gentleman's intervention leads me to make one other point with which I hope he will agree. All of us representing London seats regret the necessity for a London debate on the General Powers Bill. [HON MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am glad to have support on that point at least. We all recognise the necessity for the Bill, and yet, because of the way in which the House deals with London business, it is difficult for hon. Members to raise matters of great constituency interest and of general interest, such as the River Thames.
Because of that they are forced to raise these matters on an occasion such as tonight, when it is not really an appropriate opportunity. Because hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite put their names down in opposition to the Bill it gives the impression outside that they oppose it, whereas often they merely want to raise issues which they have no opportunity to raise on other occasions. 313 I hope that the House will find a more satisfactory way of dealing with this situation. Perhaps hon. Gentlemen opposite will agree with me if I say that if we do not adopt a more satisfactory way many of us at least hope that our debate will not often fall on Budget night. It is a great inconvenience when one has just listened to the Budget speech and would like to be thinking about it to have to revert to other issues.
The Bill has been published for some time and the GLC has circulated documents about it. I will not go into the details at length. I am sure that those hon. Members sufficiently interested in London matters and the provisions of the Bill to have remained behind when they do not have to must also have read the Bill. I know that many others have points which they will seek to raise, and because this is a limited debate the more time I take the less time they will have.
All that I shall do is to mention some of the high points of the Bill, so that those who read our debates outside will realise that we have taken it as seriously as it deserves and so that the Minister may see the context in which our deliberations are taking place. A large number of the early clauses deal with landing places. The opportunity has arisen for the GLC to acquire certain Thames landing places from the PLA and these clauses are designed to empower the GLC to acquire, construct, maintain and operate these places in the interests of its responsibility as the strategic planning and transport authority.
This is a matter of particular interest to the hon. Member for Acton (Mr. Spearing) who has devoted a great deal of his time since he entered the House to the problems of London's river. It is a subject on which he is a considerable expert. Clauses 19 and 20 are also connected with the river because they provide for the strengthening of flood defences. Here we must refer to the Thames Barrier and Flood Prevention Act which we discussed last year. Clause 19 provides for dams relating to the proposed barrier and Clause 20 deals with penalties for interference with flood prevention. I am sure that all of us who live in the area affected must welcome this.
§ Mr. James Wellbeloved (Erith and Crayford)
As the hon. Gentleman will be aware, flood prevention for London is a matter of vital interest. I hope that in his brief from the GLC he will be able to find some information dealing with the progress of the flood defence scheme. Can he say whether the GLC is satisfied that the powers it obtained in the Thames Barrier and Flood Prevention Act are sufficient? Can he give us a progress report?
§ Mr. Tugendhat
I have received a great deal of information from the GLC about this Bill. Nothing is included in the documents relating to progress on the barrier. I assume—and this is a tentative assumption; I will take advice during the course of the evening—that since the GLC has kept me so fully informed of the things about which it is unhappy this must be one of the things on which it is happy. It is a complex subject and I know that through his constituency the hon. Gentleman has a particular interest in these matters. I will try to secure an answer to his question.
Clause 21 changes the subject completely and updates the existing arrangements for allowances to members of the GLC to take account of the 1972 Local Government Act.
Clause 23 is one about which I feel particularly strongly and I am pleased to be in a position to introduce it. It is designed to prevent the phenomenon knows as "creeping hotels". As hon. Members on both sides know this is a desperately serious and quite disgraceful problem in the middle of London. There have been proposals from boroughs, notably Kensington and Chelsea, to deal with this and at last the opportunity has arisen to get a grip on the problem. That must be beneficial. Certainly in my part of London we feel we have, if anything, an excess of hotels. Many of these are at the higher end of the price bracket. At the higher and lower end it is found that residential property is being used, in effect, for tourists and other transients.
We are desperately short of residential property. We have long housing waiting lists, and many problems arise from the shortage of housing accommodation, and the way in which some housing stock has been misused for this purpose has been quite disgraceful. This clause in the 315 Bill will make a substantial difference and I am delighted that an opportunity has arisen to deal with the problem.
§ Mr. Freeson
If I may put a point to the hon. Member at this time in connection with the clause, has he been advised by the Greater London Council how such a planning amendment—because that is what it is—could be policed?
§ Mr. Tugendhat
The difficulty in answering that question in the context of the Bill is that policing will lie with the boroughs. It will be up to individual boroughs first of all to give or to refuse the changes in planning. I hope very much that they will be stringent in their interpretation of this power. I would have thought that certainly in Westminster, where the problem is serious, the council, through its existing activities, would have the resources to enable it to handle this problem. I know that Kensington and Chelsea, which pioneered proposals along these lines last year, seemed to be in no doubt that it was able to do so. I believe policing is less of a problem than ensuring that the provisions are sufficiently stringently interpreted.
Clause 24 of the Bill is covered by the Housing (Amendment) Bill which I believe has now passed through all its stages in this House. It having received the Royal Assent, this clause will be withdrawn. Clauses 25 to 29 are designed to help boroughs to recover rates without having to go to the extremes of distraint and imprisonment.
I know that these are controversial clauses and that they may have been misconstrued outside the House. It is important, therefore, to emphasise that their object is to enable the boroughs to take a more lenient rather than a harsher line. There are occasions when rents are not paid for a variety of reasons when the only choice open to the boroughs is either distraint and imprisonment, on the one hand, or to let the matter rest on the other, and plainly this is sometimes too extreme a choice. These clauses are designed to make rates a charge on the premises and recoverable, therefore, in the event of sale or death. It is a device to enable the boroughs to take a more lenient attitude on those occasions when the circumstances of the ratepayer are such that the more extreme action which 316 at present is open to them would not be appropriate.
§ Mr. A. W. Stallard (St. Pancras, North)
Is the hon. Gentleman saying that these powers are in lieu of or in place of those existing, or in addition to those existing?
§ Mr. Tugendhat
The boroughs still could go to the extremes of imprisonment and distraint and there are circumstances in which such action would be appropriate, but they now have an alternative, a softer option, and this is a useful addition. These provisions are in addition to, not instead of, those already existing.
Clause 30 blocks a loophole in the Food and Drugs Act. Danger arises in that situations can occur in which a conviction takes place involving an individual, but the offending premises can then be used by another individual for a period of time before the necessary countervailing action can be taken. This is an abuse with which cities other than London have had to deal. It is a wellprecedented clause. Manchester, Derby, Port Talbot and Coventry have all introduced or sponsored legislation along these lines. The object of safeguarding public health by making quite sure that premises which have been operated by somebody who has been convicted cannot be used continuously is desirable.
Clause 31 is designed to give the public in coin-operated laundries the same protection in dealing with the machines in those establishments as workers have in factories. Various Factories Acts provide a high standard of safety in factories where dangerous or potentially dangerous machinery is in operation. This clause is designed to give the public the same protection in coin-operated laundries as is given to people who work in factories with similarly dangerous machines.
Clause 32 is designed to bring the consumer advisory and protection service into line with the latest practice as established under the Local Government Act, 1972. The London Boroughs Association has asked for this. The Association believes that the changes advocated here will establish a consumer advisory and protection service greater than at present and also provide pre-shopping advice.
I believe all of us would agree that this is not only in keeping with the spirit 317 of the times but that improvements along these lines are particularly helpful and desirable in an area such as London, where the opportunity for people to deal with corner shops and small shopkeepers and, as it were, to know the state of the market in their shopping is much less than it is in small towns and in the country. Help along these lines is certainly desirable. Clause 33 deals with the maintenance cost of children in care.
These are the major provisions of the Bill. There are other clauses which I have not mentioned to which other hon. Gentlemen may refer during the debate, and I will endeavour to handle any questions which arise. Otherwise, I will certainly promise to ensure that the Greater London Council replies to any points which arise in this debate. My experience is that during the course of a debate unexpected points tend to arise and I will endeavour to get answers for hon. Gentlemen.
I should like to end my speech at this point so that hon. Gentlemen on both sides can raise matters of interest both within the direct provisions of the Bill and perhaps sometimes moving a little outside. I commend this Bill to the House.
§ Mr. Freeson
Before the hon. Gentleman sits down, may I point out that he has not touched on Clause 34? Could he advise us why there is no reference to a development fund being established, or to power to establish such a fund being placed with the Greater London Council as well as with the boroughs?
§ Mr. Tugendhat
I regret that I am unable to provide the hon. Gentleman with that information but I will do my best to obtain it for him.
§ 7.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Nigel Spearing (Acton)
I believe the whole House will agree that the hon. Member for the Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Tugendhat) has contributed signally to the debates we have had in this House on London matters. I recall particularly his contribution on 15th December last.
I agree with him that there are devices which we have necessarily to use to ensure that London matters are discussed. I believe that in relation to its area, London is the most densely-membered area of the country, having, I believe, more 318 Members than the whole of Scotland. Therefore it is right that we as a House should have time to debate London matters, and I am very glad that we have achieved that this evening, although perhaps, unfortunately, overshadowed by other events.
The powers of the Greater London Council which we are discussing this evening in the General Powers Bill are related directly to the powers contained in other statutes, and in terms of effect, at least, to what the Government decide to do and what the Government decide the GLC shall or shall not do. It is right, therefore, that the Government should have a listening ear. We are pleased to see the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, who will be able to hear the views of hon. Members on both sides of the House on many non-party matters which worry London people. I shall try to deal with matters as objectively as I can in the first instance and deal with party differences in a self-contained addendum.
One of the marked characteristics of our debates is that hon. Members representing London constituencies are able to look at the problems of London as a whole and to differ on the solutions. There will be a choice of solutions next month for the citizens of London when they go to the polls.
I wish to deal with three broad aspects. I first wish to comment on the Layfield Report. Secondly, I wish to refer to the docks study about which we have heard but which we have not seen and, thirdly, I wish to comment on matters concerning the River Thames which arise from the Bill.
No doubt there will be a debate on the Layfield Report in Government time, but some matters which bear on the powers and responsibilities of the GLC should be discussed tonight because they are relevant to the way in which the GLC and the Government make decisions for London in the near future.
Since our debate last December, it has become more widely known that London faces an employment crisis, not in the sense of the unemployment which is a feature of the development areas but in the imbalance of employment. The Layfield Report did not come to that conclusion. Nearly every public representative, whether parliamentary, GLC or 319 borough, would disagree with the findings of Layfield. The Secretary of State for the Environment, in paragraph 17 of the Statement which he circulated but did not read, said this of the Layfield Report:On specific issues they regard the policy of seeking to reduce the rate at which jobs are leaving London as unjustified. The GLC feared that a continuous exodus of jobs would have an adverse effect on the income of Londoners, principally by removing the jobs which earned good incomes; but the Panel, after a lengthy review of the complex evidence on this difficult subject, have come to a quite contrary view: that on balance a continuing decline in population and employment at recent rates is likely to produce greater benefit in living and working conditions for everybody concerned—both those who stay and those who leave.I am worried about that finding, because everybody to whom I have spoken believes that the opposite is true. Many of the people who go to new or expanded towns under the ægis of the GLC are skilled or semi-skilled and are relatively young, perhaps with growing families. One reason why they may be given priority for movement is that they have housing problems. They leave behind a relatively ageing population, thus making the age and social balance in certain areas more critical than it would otherwise be. That argument can be justified by evidence from academic sources which I have read. But for some reason which I do not understand the Layfield Panel does not come to that conclusion.
Paragraph 5.71 of the report reads as follows:We were not presented with any evidence which shows this assumption to be true …That is the assumption that the number of jobs is rapidly running down.… and we, therefore, see no need for the policy in order to achieve the aim.The aim was to slow down the rate. In paragraph 25.16 the panel reports:Voluntary movement by firms out of Central London, in co-operation with their workers, is indeed to be encouraged, but a policy which deliberately restricts growth in the centre in order to put jobs closer to homes is not.The first part of that sentence refers to the official policy of the Government and the GLC to move out of London industry that can as well be carried on else- 320 where. Employment in the manufacturing industries in London has been going down rapidly. Various estimates have been made of how many years it will take before there is no manufacturing industry in London. The Layfield Panel may not face that prospect with qualms, and the Government may not. In view of increased specialisation in towns throughout Europe, this may be a natural consequence of increased efficiency and industrial reorganisation. But I suggest that the social side effects of such a policy would be disastrous.
In 1966, 1,431,000 people were engaged in manufacturing industries in Greater London. By 1970 that number had been reduced by 177,000. The unofficial figures show that in one year, between 1970 and 1971, that number went down by more than 50,000. That rate of reduction may begin to smooth out in a few years' time, but anyone who lives in an industrial area of London knows that there is a critical balance in the so-called pool of labour and experience and the structure of sub-contracting industries and trades, and that after a certain point has been reached the run down is more rapid and harder to arrest. I hope that the Government will urgently pay attention to this phenomenon and question closely whether the Layfield conclusions on this matter are correct.
The conclusion of the Layfield Panel which I read in my last quotation concerns employment in central London. We touched on this in our debate on 15th December, when my hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mrs. Lena Jeger) referred to answers she had received to Questions about office space. She said that she was told on 20th November 1972 by one of the Ministers in the Department of the Environment that 9 million sq. ft. of office premises were unoccupied, 11.1 million sq. ft. were under construction and another 8.6 million sq. ft. were the subject of planning permission but had not been built. Those figures add up to nearly 30 million sq. ft. over and above the office accommodation already occupied.
Much of this empty office accommodation is in central London, and we all know the office blocks in question. In that previous debate we anxiously waited 321 to hear the Minister for Housing and Construction say what he intended to do about this. We also wondered whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer this afternoon might say something about it. He said something that may have a marginal effect, but the pledges that were given by a former Secretary of State for the Environment have not yet been fulfilled. These empty office blocks represent a waste of resources and create an artificial office market which has repercussive effects on property values throughout London. When the value of an office development is artificially high, site values are likewise over-valued. The inflation in site values and accommodation throughout London, which everyone agrees is a curse, is an effect of this office market syndrome. I hope that if he intervenes the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment will be able to tell us something about that, because many people in all parties in London are very much concerned about it.
The next subject dealt with in the Layfield Report on which I wish to speak is that of transport. No doubt at a later stage there will be a lengthier debate on it, and it would be wrong to go into detail now. Since this is the first time that we are able to give our reactions to the proposals concerning roads, about which everyone was surprised, it seems appropriate to do so now. The report talks about the great housing crisis in London and recommends drastic measures to deal with it—measures which have been foreseen by my colleagues at County Hall and to which my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, Central (Mr. Clinton Davis) may make reference. But the report recommends a road pattern which would mean that 10,000, more or less—in any case a substantial number—of houses would have to be pulled down to provide for Ringway 1.
It may be that many of those houses will need to come down in any case, but probably many of them would not need to be pulled down. It seems extraordinary that this plan would do the most social damage by having the road go through areas which are already under social stress. It may be that the environment of those areas is not so pleasant as that of others further out in the area of the proposed Ringway 2 and Ringway 3, but that does not mean that environmental 322 stress should be piled on to the very great social stress which is already present.
My second question concerning transport is about public transport. The most significant paragraphs on this are contained in pages 361 and 362 of the report, dealing with fares. Whatever the convenience such as interchange or through-ticket arrangements, the total cost in the weekly or monthly budget of through movement by public transport is the important point. It is a reflection on the inadequacies of the Greater London Development Plan revealed by this report that almost at the same time as the report was made public the Secretary of State for the Environment saw fit to establish with the GLC a pane] to investigate a rail plan for London. These physical plans were left out of the Greater London Development Plan. I think that was an admission of failure.
Of course the road plans cause great controversy. I understand that the Secretary of State accepts certain things and leaves out others. That seems illogical. He has accepted the road plan apparently to deal with what he calls "congestion in London". I know that some people occasionally experience congestion in London. We have heard that on a famous occasion the Prime Minister experienced it. But what is not realised is that in general traffic in London is flowing relatively fast, indeed faster than it was 10 years ago. The Intelligence Unit Quarterly Bulletin of 16th September 1971 published figures to prove this. I will not quote the figures but I quote the conclusion:Off-peak speeds average 12 miles per hour in the centre, 17½ miles per hour in inner London, 24½ miles per hour in the outer areas, and 32 miles per hour on primary roads.Since 1962, the average speed on the primary network has increased by 3 miles per hour, largely due to the construction of new motorways, and has remained virtually unchanged on other roads. Meanwhile, traffic levels have risen by about 50 per cent.I stress that in general traffic is flowing fast. It is only when a lorry breaks down or some such event occurs that traffic builds up. This is increasingly true on main motorways between cities. Those of us who listen to the radio almost every morning hear of a motorway where some accident has occurred and motorists are advised to take an alternative route. But there are not objective surveys of the 323 actual amount of congestion, nor is the congestion compared with what it might be or what it was before the war. There is a great question whether the apparent reason for constructing Ringway 1 is congestion in Greater London.
§ Mr. Toby Jessel (Twickenham)
Would the hon. Member agree that the improvements in the average speed of traffic in London to which he has just referred have been achieved largely through the work of the GLC by computerisation of traffic lights, traffic management schemes such as clearways and waiting restrictions, and no-right-turns, one-way streets and so on? Would he agree that the number of such traffic management schemes has been very large over the last five or ten years, but that the scope for these is coming to an end and that there are not many others which could be effectively employed? When that limit is reached, further improvements in the speed of traffic flow can be attained or maintained at the present level only by construction of new roads.
§ Mr. Spearing
I am glad to agree entirely with the first part of the hon. Member's intervention. I spent many hours with him and many of his colleagues working on the schemes that he mentioned. He was quite right in what he said in the first part of his intervention, but I did not agree with the second part. He suggested that we have reached the limit to which traffic management schemes can go.
§ Mr. Spearing
Near the limit. He said that to improve traffic movement we have to build more roads. Many of my colleagues and I say that that is illogical. First, the population of Greater London is going down—going down faster than the GLDP suggested it would. The increase in total motor mileage in London is not so fast as the GLDP estimated. Thirdly, if we built more roads, particularly of the kind which the hon. Member and his Friends advocate, we should be increasing the number of people who wish to use cars over and above anything that is needed in the provision of secondary roads. Therefore we should move to public transport to maintain the balance 324 and make it easier for people to change from private transport to public transport. I am glad that the hon. Member made the point because it illustrates a party difference which will be of increasing importance in the next few months.
I turn to "the report that never was" That is the consultants' report on a very important part of London east of Tower Bridge which is generally referred to as the docklands. It would be right to rehearse the history of this study because many hon. Members on this side of the House are very gravely worried at the way in which that has been presented—or not presented—to public representatives and to the public.
A few weeks ago the Secretary of State for the Environment told the House that a consultative study giving a number of options for the development of this very important area of London would be published on 5th March. There were various leaks of this study, and indeed in today's newspapers we have descriptions of the so-called options for this area produced by the consultations at great expense. But yesterday when I went to the Vote Office to ask for a copy of this study —a document which I thought would have been placed there by the Department of the Environment—I was told that they did not have a copy. Therefore, I telephoned the Greater London Council this morning and asked whether I could have a copy of the study which was published yesterday. They confessed that although they had some responsibility for the document, there had been some delay either at the printers or on the part of the consultants and they had only three or four copies in County Hall, and even those copies were not available.
This is not the standard of public administration that we expect. First, I question the wisdom of the Secretary of State for having come to the House to give us a foretaste or trailer of what was to come and then, when the great day arrives, providing no copies of the report. The powers of the GLC will be crucial in this area of London, and the GLC is carrying out a vast public relations exercise in consultation with the people of the area. What is the use of such an exercise when even a short version of this study is not placed in the hands of hon. Members when the House is discussing the Greater London Council (General 325 Powers) Bill. I fear that this is characteristic of some of the methods adopted by the present administration, but it is not good enough and I hope that the Under-Secretary of State will be able to give some information, if not an apology, on this point.
The study gives me great cause for worry because, if we are to believe the Press reports, there are to be five self-contained options for an extensive area on either side of the Thames encompassing several London boroughs and providing in detail a number of imaginative schemes. This is rather on the lines of architectural consultants being given a plot of land of 20 or 30 acres and being asked to provide a number of alternatives in terms of housing and other activities within that area. Some would solve the problem by suggesting the installation of ponds or pools, others would advocate high-density housing, and others would put forward low-density park space. That may be all very well for a 20-acre or even for a 100-acre plot of land outside a city or new town, but many of us know that the dockland areas cannot be considered on those lines.
The dockland area is not an area which has been razed after bombing or following some natural disaster, but is very much a going concern. There are considerable industrial and commercial enterprises at work there and a large number of people live there. It is certainly not a virgin site from which one is starting from scratch. Yet from the way in which the study has so far been presented, one would imagine that it was a virgin site. It is felt that a new agency is required to deal with the area since many parts of the area have common features. Certain financial problems will have to be resolved, and perhaps some new mechanism will be required.
What is forgotten is that large and efficient London boroughs are already involved within these areas—for example, the London boroughs of Tower Hamlets and Southwark, which have large areas of land within the so-called dockland area. Any mechanisms which are introduced to help to rehabilitate and develop these areas must have some connection with the London borough councils which are already there and which are the planning authorities. There must be some convenient marriage between existing 326 statutory authorities and there should be full consultation with the local authorities if the Minister decides to introduce any new mechanisms.
Local authorities are already complaining that they have not been adequately consulted and I suggest that both the local authorities and the Member of Parliament concerned should be consulted before the Minister suddenly announces his decision about any statutory mechanism which he proposes to introduce to deal with various developments.
The consultant studies assume that the Royal Docks will be available for development. This is an unjustified assumption because the Royal Docks are an integral part of the Port of London. The docks are important particularly in terms of ship repairing and for laying up purposes. Therefore, for many reasons it would be both premature and wrong to assume that, even within a measureable time, they will not retain a water function and be part of the port.
Finally, I would emphasise that if there is to be any redevelopment in this area there must be jobs to go with it. I have already asked the Government about their proposals for a new town for the possible third London Airport at Maplin. I do not know whether they have considered that the Maplin area could provide jobs for the people in the dockland area. There will be many jobs available and it will be better to use the dockland area than to take people to a new town.
I feel that it is appropriate to concentrate on Part II of the Bill which makes provision for the Greater London Council to take over from the PLA responsibility for piers in the centre of London. I feel that it is right at this stage to recall a very great ex-Member of the House of Commons, Sir Alan Herbert, who for many years rightly criticised the LCC and the Minister of Transport for their conduct in respect of piers. I remember a caption written by Sir Alan which appeared beneath an illustration of old Waterloo Bridge and which went something like this:In the far distance is the site of the Temple pier, which was towed away by the LCC Nearer to the camera is the police pier where one may not land. On the left of the picture is a recess in the embankment for a pontoon There is now no pontoon. Behind the photographer is Charing Cross pier on which there is a notice 'Danger Keep off. L.CC property'. 327 The bridge in the picture is Waterloo Bridge which is falling down.That was in 1932 and it is at least something that we have moved on a little way from then and that the GLC is not only taking over these piers but is taking additional powers to construct a few more. In this respect the GLC is to be congratulated, and I hope that these rather complex clauses will be adequate to deal with a difficult task of taking over the management of these piers—and possibly, later, the river as well.
Clause 4 deals with powers to dispose of piers. I hope that the GLC will not decide to dispose of any piers which it purchases or constructs on a waterway. Piers are public places where one can land. In London it is difficult to land anywhere where there are not piers. For any pier to be leased or disposed of in such a way as to prevent access to it by the public or by watermen plying for hire would be a retrograde measure. In the Queen Anne's reign there were 40,000 watermen plying for hire on the Thames between Gravesend and Windsor. Unfortunately, there are far fewer today. It would be wrong if the places where they could ply for hire were reduced in any way.
Clause 6 deals with temporary closure of piers. I hope that at some stage the GLC will agree that before it can close piers under the byelaws available in the clause it will consult those most closely responsible for providing river services. Sometimes local authorities act a little arbitrarily, and there should be some safeguards.
Similarly, Clause 15 is a safeguarding clause. There are agreements which may or may not be in operation at the moment and these might be looked at carefully. In river management there are many hidden pitfalls, and in the Thames ancient rights and mediæval practices still to some extent hold sway.
The GLC is now entering into a new field. The House should know that last week in the Committee on the Water Bill the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment suggested that the GLC may take over not just the piers but in due course the powers and responsibility of the Port of London Authority between Teddington and the barrier site. That is 328 an improvement which many people have advocated for some years. The river in central London forms a coherent whole between these places and will play an increasingly important part in what we hope will be a better central area. Such powers are not in the Bill. They will no doubt require a separate Bill if the Secretary of State's suggestions come to fruition.
I deplore in some ways the circumstances which made the Under-Secretary of State's announcement necessary. I think that they were part of another deal and were not put forward necessarily on their merits. It so happens that the proposal for the GLC to take over from the PLA the upper London river has some advantage. I look forward to a future debate on the general powers of the GLC. If the hon. Member for the Cities of London and Westminster introduces such a measure it will probably meet with complete accord on both sides of the House, which will not necessarily be achieved tonight.
§ 7.53 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Reginald Eyre)
I think that it would be convenient to this House if I intervened briefly at this stage. Although I shall be very glad to note carefully the points that are made by right hon. and hon. Members who are privileged to represent London constituencies, I regret that it is not appropriate for me on this occasion to comment on the points made by the hon. Member for Acton (Mr. Spearing) about office development or employment. I regret the delay in making the dockland report available. I willingly apologise to the hon. Gentleman. As he will know from his reading of the newspapers, certain factors are having a disruptive effect on the timing of matters of this kind. However, the report will be available shortly and with the minimum possible delay.
I shall refer to the practical points which the hon. Gentleman made about dockland. As he knows, a short booklet will be published after the report is published. The next step will be to canvass public opinion on the results contained in the report. For that purpose a major public participation exercise will be launched, a programme for which will be announced later. Decisions will also need 329 to be taken in consultation with the Greater London Council and other local authorities concerned on the machinery necessary to carry out the redevelopment of the area. I appreciate the importance of that matter. I assure the hon. Gentleman that there will be full consultation about the machinery.
The hon. Gentleman also referred to the Port of London Authority's operations. Decisions about any dock closures are dependent on the operational planning of the Port of London Authority. The development possibilities for the purposes of the study are based on the consultants' assumptions, which do not commit any of the parties concerned. I hope that my brief reference to those two points will adequately reassure the hon. Gentleman.
I shall say little about the Bill on behalf of the Government. It is generally acceptable to the Government. There are one or two conditions which should assist central London boroughs to cope more effectively with some of their most important problems. My right hon. Friend has a number of minor reservations about the Bill, but these mainly concern drafting matters which we hope shortly to be discussing with the promoters. All that I have to say about the Bill, which was so ably introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for the Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Tugendhat), is that I hope the House will decide to give it a Second Reading and send it to a Committee. The members of the Committee will be in a much better position than we are to examine indetail the issues involved. They will have the added advantage of hearing expert evidence.
§ Mr. Clinton Davis (Hackney, Central)
Will the hon. Gentleman elucidate one point that he made about the Bill? He said that it materially assists the solving of the problems of central London boroughs. Presumably, he was referring to the stress areas, such as my constituency. Will he indicate how the Bill deals with the problem of homelessness which now afflicts my constituency, with the scandal of the misuse of improvement grants, and the way in which landlords abuse their rights in relation to tenants? I cannot see such provision in the Bill.
§ Mr. Eyre
The hon. Gentleman has raised on a number of occasions the serious matters to which he has just referred. On behalf of the Government, my right hon. Friend and I have always been prepared to discuss those matters in detail with the hon. Gentleman. However, the purpose of the debate is to deal with the proposals of the Bill, which, as my hon. Friend said, in introducing it, was brought forward with the agreement of both major parties on the Greater London Council. The planning provision regarding temporary sleeping accommodation is one of the items relevant to the problems in central London. The members of the Committee will be in a much better position than we are to examine in detail the issue involved. They will have the added advantage of hearing expert evidence. I commend the Bill to the House.
§ 7.59 p.m.
§ Mr. Reginald Freeson (Willesden, East)
I was glad to hear the Under-Secretary of State's general welcome for the Bill. There are things in it which, as he and the hon. Member for the Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Tugendhat) indicated, were put forward by both parties on the GLC. I was a little disappointed that the hon. Gentleman did not extend his remarks a little further, particularly that certain clauses of the Bill will provide substantial help for central London boroughs in handling some of their most serious problems. He had the opportunity to respond to the intervention by my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, Central (Mr. Clinton Davis).
I want to touch on one or two features of the Bill. In doing so I hope that my remarks will be of direct relevance to the clauses in which I have a special interest. I begin almost back to front, by welcoming Clause 34. I do not know to what extent the Under-Secretary realises the implications of the clause, to which he gave a general acceptance on behalf of the Government. I was delighted to hear it.
If the power given in the clause is used fully by London boroughs it will open up great opportunities in terms of freedom of action from Government interference financially, and will provide more scope for urban renewal in its broader 331 sense. What is more, it will do both at great savings to the ratepayers.
Perhaps I should explain those remarks at slightly greater length. The clause refers to powers being granted to the London boroughs to establish individual development funds and sets out the formula upon which they may operate and the ceiling to which they will be empowered to establish such a fund. In any one year it may receive a contribution of four times the product of a penny rate.
My own borough is not untypical, though obviously the figures will vary from borough to borough. It means that if the borough of Brent decides to use the power it will be able to make a contribution of £340,000 in any one year to such a development fund. The clause goes on to provide that the maximum ceiling permitted at any one time shall be 16 times the product of a penny rate. In my borough that would produce a figure of £1,360,000. I should love to see every London borough establish a development fund of that order.
I am reminded of my question to the hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster. I understand why he could not answer it off the cuff. Obviously, he did not have the background information. I look forward to an answer in due course. The clause should be redrafted to cover the GLC. It is not good enough for the GLC, in its General Powers Bill, merely to be the vehicle for the smaller authorities in London—the boroughs—to establish development funds. The GLC should itself be taking power.
I am aware that because of its immense financial resources the GLC can spend a good deal more from revenue on capital works than can any London borough or, for that matter, any other authority in the country. It is spending about £20 million a year on housing by way of capital raised from revenue, as distinct from borrowing. I realise that there is not the same economic pressure on the GLC. However, I suggest that this concept of a development fund for the improvement, redevelopment and development of whole areas is needed by the GLC if it is to implement its planning powers sensibly and positively in a way that it has signally failed to do for a number of years. My hon. Friend the Member for Acton (Mr. 332 Spearing) illustrated this point with a number of examples—
§ Mr. Ronald Brown (Shoreditch and Finsbury)
It will be within my hon. Friend's memory that I mentioned in this House the fact that the GLC refused to authorise open spaces in my constituency on the basis of the puerile argument that it did not have sufficient money—and that was in respect of only two or three acres which required development.
§ Mr. Freeson
My hon. Friend tempts me to pursue my argument on planning procedures. I am not speaking now of planning control but of more positive planning in the shape of urban renewal. This is a matter where local government generally still has a great deal more to do in terms of the organisation of its departments and its finances. It will be enabled to do it by effective Government action and if central Government and local government organise the financing of urban renewal on more coherent and long-term lines.
I welcome the concept of development funds. However, it is important for the GLC itself to establish such a fund. If some reference to the GLC were written into the clause and it used such a power, in any one year it could produce a contribution to a development fund for London of £72 million, and if the ceiling laid down-16 times the penny rate—were applied the fund would be £280 million. That is not an unimportant capital fund to have available for longterm positive planning.
Anyone who has had experience in local government and of the relationship between it and central Government in trying to get capital programmes going and maintained over a period of years will know the importance of establishing this kind of reserve so that there is flexibility and the capacity to move over a longer period of time than just from one year to another or from one period of two or three years to another period of two or three years, in terms of programming.
I could quote instances from my own area of redevelopment schemes being held up for want of some amenity provision because spending the necessary money would require either an extension of the locally-determined Vote head which the Government laid down or the inclusion 333 of open space provision under the general freedom of action in terms of capital expenditure on housing. The Ministry has refused the latter, and the locally-determined Vote heads are by no means big enough—and will not be big enough for years—to allow the local authority to lay out the urgently needed open space and amenities for an area which has been redeveloped over the past seven to 10 years. Land has been bought, and is standing developed. The local authority wants to get the open space provided with various amenities to complete an urban renewal scheme in what has been our worst slum area. It cannot do so because of the financial inhibitions of this Government. It is there that I see provisions of this kind coming to the aid of local authorities.
I resist the temptation to discuss the matter further, though it is of tremendous importance, but I urge the GLC—if not the present regime, then any new administration which may follow the elections next month—to reconsider this matter. The matter may be pursued further in Committee, and the clause may be amended.
My next point is a general one on planning, which my hon. Friend the Member for Acton discussed at length. I want to deal with only one aspect. There is a need for better planning in London, in the positive sense to which I have referred. I hope that I do not sound arrogant, but I watch what is going on from an arms-length distance, and in my view there has for years been a need to give the planning department at County Hall a more effective role. It is still far too much an advisory department, which is dominated by road engineers' planning.
We come back to the motorway problem, which was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Acton. Nowhere is this lack of effective planning policy and machinery in action to be seen better than in the whole mess into which we have got with the motorways. From the start, up to the public inquiry under Lay-field, the planning of motorways in London has been divorced from general town planning considerations.
Some years ago, when the proposals were first formulated and put forward for discussion, planning departments at borough level were pointing to the failure to plan roads in relation to the 334 total neighbourhood planning of the areas in which they were proposed to be put. I am not talking about the bandwagon of action against motorways in various parts of London—and I do not say that in any way cynically. These comments were made at length and in detail by local planning departments when the schemes were first formulated. From the time that Layfield called for further information—which was not available—on matters relating to housing connected with the motorway proposals right up to today, the planning of these motorways has virtually been divorced from general town planning considerations.
It is said that 15,000 homes are involved. We do not know for sure, because of the qualifications and reservations which have appeared in the Lay-field recommendations. In Brent about 1,500 homes are involved. I assure my hon. Friend the Member for Acton and others that a high proportion are very good, not poor, homes. There might be some sense in trying to relate new motorways to areas which are in need of redevelopment and reshaping, pulling down, and rebuilding houses in the same time span as the motorways are being built, but that is not what is being planned. The motorways are being carved through districts where there is no need to demolish. They will wreck those districts not just in terms of houses being demolished but by virtue of the impact that they will have on the whole neighbourhood. I am speaking not only of Brent but of other areas, which have received much wider publicity on this matter. In my opinion, there has been a total lack of proper town planning. It is time that the planning departments were given a better rôle.
I turn now to Clause 23, on which I intervened earlier, which relates to creeping hotelisation, to use an ugly term. I look forward to hearing further details in Committee. By virtue of what we say today we may be supplied with further briefing material by County Hall.
I cannot see how this matter can be more than marginally affected, because I do not think that it can be properly policed. I do not see how we can expect to go into people's houses and see what is happening inside in terms of sleeping accommodation. I am not decrying the effort, because it needs to be made. We 335 discussed this matter on the Floor of the House about a year ago on a motion proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mrs. Lena Jeger). Not only is it unlikely to be more than marginally effective; it does not deal with what is threatening to become a more important problem.
No doubt the creeping hotelisation of houses will continue. The indications are that there was a switch away, and publicity has been given in the Press recently to the fact that ordinary family dwellings are being held as such, in character with modernisation, repairs and redecoration, but that tenants are being put out because the properties are being sold over their heads and the flats are being held for transient visitors. Flats in properties which are being switched to hotel-type accommodation are being let to visitors to London. Families and residents of long standing are being pressurised out one way or another. Where tenants are moving out voluntarily, instead of the vacancies being relet to other well-established residents or prospective residents of a permanent kind they are being made available for visitors to London.
Therefore, Clause 23 will not be able to tackle the problem. Although there may be some resistance ideologically by hon. Gentlemen opposite, at the end of the day the only way to tackle the problem, if the market pressures continue, is by municipalisation. Hon. Gentlemen opposite may not like this term. They may feel ideologically so committed against it, because we on this side of the House have been advocating it for so long, that they will do nothing about it. However, I suggest that the only way to hold rented accommodation in London is by municipalising it, with the help possibly of housing associations, but it must be under the policy, direction and positive action of local authorities.
This was one of the views expressed by the Layfield Committee on the ground not only of the hotelisation of residential property, but on the need to deal with housing adequately in central London.
§ Mr. Tugendhat
I do not wish to become involved in the question of municipalisation, as the hon. Gentleman 336 will appreciate. When dealing with blocks of flats, hotelisation is desperately unpopular with the bona fide residents, as the hon. Gentleman knows. I think that by virtue of that fact alone we could rely on considerable public participation in reporting abuses of this kind. Does the hon. Gentleman agree?
§ Mr. Freeson
Frankly, no. If the flats are to be relet as I have described, they will be relet as flats. I do not see how, in law, a local authority will be able to stop anyone doing that. I do not see how it can be policed. The hon. Gentleman said that he did not wish to become involved in the question of municipalisation, and that I understand, but sooner or later the logic of the situation will involve him. Having heard and read articles by him on housing, I suspect that he is a good deal nearer to the Socialist approach than to his party. When it becomes respectable and accepted as an idea by Conservative voters, as indeed is happening, perhaps we shall get hon. Gentlemen opposite supporting us on this matter.
Clause 23 will not solve the problem of properties being bought and sold over the heads of tenants, which is one of the spark-offs of this kind of activity, but some kind of tenants' enfranchisement measure would. Tenants would have to be notified by law of any prospective sale of property which they occupied. Local authorities would also have to be notified automatically when any prospective sale was to take place. Furthermore, tenants, forming themselves into a co-operative housing association, would be able to purchase the property by law, as of right, and/or to nominate the local authority to act on their behalf. I will not go into further detail but I suggest that the way to solve the problem is a mixture of municipalisation, tenant enfranchisement and socialisation of rented property, not Clause 23. It may help marginally, but it does not tackle or solve the problem. Sooner or later the problem must be tackled along these lines.
I turn finally to a very serious though perhaps not surprising omission from the Bill—on the subject of land in London. The time has long since come in city areas—certainly in London, which has the most intense housing stress—to empower local authorities to have first call 337 on all land becoming available for sale, and at controlled prices. I do not propose to go into detail as to how this should be done. I put forward proposals on these lines to the previous Secretary of State for the Environment over a year ago. They were thrown out, after I had had a long correspondence with him on the matter. Until we tackle this subject we cannot tackle London's housing problems—not just the specific problems that we have been discussing but the general question of housing.
One figure is on the record at County Hall. About 46,000 planning approvals for new dwellings in Greater London on land at present available for such development have not been taken up. Most of them have been approved for over three years. The land is there and the planning approvals are there. About 1,000 acres of this land exists in London. It is about time that action was taken by local authorities and the G.L.C., not just to put restraints on the people who are holding this land but to get that land into public ownership, so that it can be used for the housing that has been approved.
It is a scandal and a disgrace that this situation should continue and that the GLC should still fail to seek the appropriate powers to take action in London because it does not have the political will to get on with the job of housing.
Some years ago—I think as far back as 1967—a GLC housing programme was under way which would by now have resulted in between 9,000 and 10,000 new dwellings being started each year by the GLC alone—never mind the boroughs. In fact, I suspect that if that programme had been maintained it would by now have been much bigger. Today, I believe —quoting from memory—we have a situation in which the GLC started 4,000 dwellings last year. I am not sure whether it achieved even that—
§ Mr. Freeson
In fact, it was fewer than 4,000, instead of the 9,000 to 10,000 in the programme for this year. I believe that that figure could go up, and needs to go up, to 12,000 or 15,000 a year. But there has been a dismal and abysmal failure by the GLC in these last years 338 to undertake its responsibility in this field.
It is another disgrace and scandal that the biggest authority in the country should have failed so badly to keep to its housing programme. It failed not by accident but by political decision. It failed because it did not have the political will to get the houses built. We are all agreed on the need to get them built. The need is so great as to require in London a doubling of the new house building programme by local authorities generally, of which that 12,000 or 15,000 would be the GLC's annual contribution.
To spark off that programme, to get it going again, action needs to be taken on land. The first priority is to bring into public ownership the land with planning approval for 46,000 dwellings already granted, to get the dwellings started. There is nothing in the Bill to move along those lines, and this is probably the central issue in London today. The reason that it is not in the Bill is that the present administration at County Hall does not have the political will or desire to do anything more about the house building programme than its present pitiful record shows.
§ 8.25 p.m.
§ Sir Brandon Rhys Williams (Kensington, South)
This is a Bill with which it is difficult to quarrel, and hon. Members on both sides have so far tended to refer to things which might have been in the Bill but are not, rather than its actual contents. I will tread the same path in what I have to say about Clause 23, which has already attracted some attention.
They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and I am naturally delighted that the GLC should have reproduced in this general powers Bill substantially, if not identically, the same provisions as were piloted through the House last year in a Private Bill introduced by my own borough. I am glad to see this protection extended for the benefit of all the boroughs of Greater London, because it is a thoroughly useful one.
I do not share the misgivings, particularly of the hon. Member for Willesden, East (Mr. Freeson), that it will prove unenforceable. This is something that only the passage of time will show. The fact that the conversion of property by creeping hotel development is illegal without 339 planning permission will deter many speculators, even if some are sufficiently audacious or foolhardy enough to go ahead and defy the regulations nevertheless. This is a useful measure, and I am delighted that it is in the Bill.
However, I wonder whether it is not possible to tackle the creeping hotel problem on a somewhat wider basis. I have previously recommended in the House another approach which I should like to repeat now in the hope that the Committee might be in order in considering it, possibly including something in the Bill along these lines.
What we are trying to tackle is a planning change which makes no apparent structural alteration, or may require none, but which, at the same time, substantially changes the character of the user of the property—particularly blocks of flats—and the sort of tenant. This is the point which regular Londoners find so objectionable.
The question is, how to catch all the changes which make up the creeping hotel problem. If we catch the provision of up-to-three-week accommodation, we shall have done something useful, but there are also short-stay tenancies of more than three weeks which change the character of a block when it has been used for unfurnished letting for perhaps seven or ten years or longer periods before that.
The hon. Member for Willesden, East is right to draw attention to the need to have a readily enforceable system of rules. If we analysed this, we might find our way to a solution which goes beyond what is in the Bill. First, the change that we are speaking of invariably increases the cost of the accommodation. That is obviously the purpose of the change. Second, the existing tenants have to be pushed out by one means or another. They are the people, as my hon. Friend the Member for the Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Tugendhat) pointed out, who are most likely to draw attention to what is going on.
There is therefore an army of "informers" who are able to let the planning authorities know their suspicions as soon as they find that vacancies arise in a block of flats that the landlord seems in no hurry to fill. When one finds that 340 there is a number of empty flats in a block, one must suspect that a change of use is intended. This very soon attracts attention, particularly where tenants are somewhat jumpy about landlords' intentions. The extra revenue per room normally arises from an increase in the service charges, taking the service charges in a very general sense. Often one finds that quite luxurious accommodation is provided by expensive furnishing or redecoration, and a relatively high standard of service is sometimes provided in order to attract the sensational rents which can be obtained in central London, particularly at the height of the tourist season.
If one looks for increased service charges of a sudden kind or the introduction of a service charge where none existed previously, one is probably focusing one's attention on this problem in the best way. It is the sudden increase in service charges which the creeping hotelier is trying to achieve, so that is a point at which the change of use can be detected and controlled. I have suggested previously in the House that the introduction of a service charge when none existed previously, or an increase of 50 per cent. in service charges in any one year, or perhaps 100 per cent. over a longer period of two, three or even five years, should be taken to constitute a change of user for planning purposes and should require specific planning consent.
I do not know whether that is an idea which will commend itself to the Committee or whether it would be in order at this stage of a Bill of this kind to add to the provisions brought before the House on Second Reading. But I hope that my suggestion will receive further study in Committee or in the Department. I have given this problem a certain amount of thought and we have experience of it in South Kensington. I believe that this is the way ahead.
In general, I find what the Bill contains largely uncontroversial. I wish the Bill a safe and rapid passage through the Committee.
§ 8.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Thomas Cox (Wandsworth, Central)
I wish to speak about Clause 34, in the hope that if it is enacted it will help to improve some of the things about which I wish to comment.
341 I am sure that many hon. Members on both sides of the House who represent London constituencies will agree that whereas some parts of Britain have singular problems of unemployment, housing, transport, the environment, and so on, we in London have all of them. When I first became a Member of Parliament, at my advice surgery the problems generally centred on housing, but I now find that the question of employment is fast overtaking the problems of housing.
Many of my hon. Friends and I have asked Questions about the Government's policies on employment for London, in the hope that the Government could start to give some genuine hope to Londoners, be they school leavers or adults, as to the kind of staple secure employment that will be available for them in London. Although we are promised many things in the replies we receive, we know only too well, as do our constituents, that very little has been achieved despite the pressure we have been putting on the Government for many months.
Many of the inner London boroughs and a large number of the outer ones have long had a history of local employment —employing local people, both skilled and unskilled—and of apprenticeships being available to young people in those areas. Generally, because of this, the whole community has flourished. Unfortunately, much of this is now in fast decline. The most recent figures indicate that in the last six years—from 1966 to 1972—Greater London has lost over 400,000 jobs. Not only have these jobs been lost; the apprenticeships which clearly would have been available but for this kind of loss have also been lost. The position worsens month by month.
In my borough, which once had many industries operating along the waterfront from Battersea, through into Wandsworth and along to Putney, we have found in recent years that many industries have closed. Those industries offered a great deal of employment to local people in the borough and from surrounding boroughs. They have closed down. Regrettably, nothing has come into the borough to replace the jobs which have been lost in recent years. I am sure that other hon. Members could relate similar experiences in boroughs that they represent. Some of the jobs have obviously gone because factories have moved out. 342 Many of us are increasingly concerned that jobs have been lost not because industry has left but because factories have been closed down under the guise of one reason or another, and the owners of some of those factories have been making substantial profits from selling their sites, often to private developers and speculators who have embarked on enterprises which have not been of benefit to local residents. There can be no dispute about that.
It may surprise hon. Members that we in Greater London have the highest weekly figures of redundancies of any region in the country. We now lose 6,000 jobs a week. The great difficulty that this causes is something that we can all understand. In my constituency skilled men have lost their jobs and have taken unskilled employment, often in public services. Great credit is due to them for taking this work, because we know of the problems that have been facing many of the essential public services in our cities in recent years. They have taken these jobs, with a corresponding loss of income, for one reason only—to get stability of employment. Other skilled workers have tried to retain the skills and follow the jobs they may have been in for many years, and this has resulted in their travelling to other parts of London, with all the problems that that causes. They have to allow for travelling time and the increased cost of travelling resulting in a lower weekly income. This is much of the cause of the industrial disputes now taking place and, tragically, it is a point that the Government seem completely to miss or to ignore. It has great relevance to my constituency.
§ Mr. Ronald Brown
Does my hon. Friend realise that by the loss of these 400,000 jobs that cannot and will not be replaced there is therefore a continual decline throughout the industrial scene in London?
§ Mr. Cox
I agree with my hon. Friend, but I hope in the latter part of my speech to deal with the prospect which I hope we can hold out to London generally. If properly applied Clause 34 could provide for the redevelopment of industry and greater job opportunities in Greater London and I am sure that he, like myself and other hon. Members, would welcome that.
§ Mr. Eyre
I am interested in the points the hon. Gentleman is making. I see a number of compulsory purchase orders affecting land in various London boroughs, and often those orders affect small factories and businesses which have to close down and be reaccommodated. Often the inspector recommends to the local authority that it should provide alternative sites for those businesses. In view of what the hon. Gentleman said, perhaps he will agree that it is important that local authorities should do everything possible to provide alternative sites, in view of the important contribution that the businesses can make to the variety of employment in London.
§ Mr. Cox
I take the Minister's point and I go a long way with him. There are two factors on which he has not commented. One is the cost and the other—to which I referred earlier when I mentioned the Questions that we had put to the Government—is the granting of IDC certificates for London. We cannot get satisfactory answers, although many hon. Members have repeatedly put these Questions to the Secretary of State for Employment and the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry about the position in Greater London. With the greatest respect, we get a load of waffle, but nothing at all constructive.
To reply to the Under-Secretary's point, so concerned was my borough of Wandsworth about its loss of employment that it commissioned the report published in August of last year. Five council officers worked full time for many months in compiling the report. It has now been agreed that a full-time officer should be appointed with the sole responsibility of trying to encourage jobs back into Wandsworth. I am sure that the kind of efforts we are making in Wandsworth are typical of those being made by other London authorities.
In the debate the problems facing London and Londoners of all age groups as a result of loss of employment must be realised. Great criticism can be made of the GLC for its lack of concern in this matter. No concern has been shown by the GLC, although the necessary evidence has been available for a very long time.
There is hope under Clause 34 if it is correctly applied. My hon. Friend out- 344 lined the kind of finances available. I suggest that the finances available from the GLC added to those that the boroughs could raise by way of rates might total about £100 million a year. I do not suggest for a moment that that sum should be applied for employment alone, but a large part of it could be so applied and thus begin to give hope to many thousands of Londoners who, week after week, are uncertain how long they will remain in their jobs. This is a matter at which we should look in greater depth than we have so far done.
Several other points ought also to be examined. In Greater London some developers have been obsessed with certain kinds of development. One can cite office development or hotel development which has had little benefit for anyone living in my constituency.
The point already made in the debate regarding the amount of square feet of office development in London should be reiterated: nine million square feet unoccupied, eight million under construction and eight and a half with planning consent. We have gone mad on office development in London. But again there appears to be very little co-ordination between the GLC and the Government to stop this development. It appears to he very easy to obtain office planning permission in London—in spite of all the evidence available of millions of feet of office development remaining empty not for months or weeks but for years on end—rather than to try to encourage into London industries which will offer jobs for which skilled people are available in the city.
The kind of facts we must attempt to ascertain from the Government concern such matters as the granting of IDCs for London. As I said earlier, we are told that these are available, but one hears an entirely different story from any local authority that has attempted to get them.
Another matter which must be scrutinised much mare closely is the question of Government grants for industry to move out of London. This has become an absolute racket. Some firms will move out of London willy-nilly, without any concern for the social problems they cause purely because they receive substantial Government grants with which 345 they virtually remodernise their factories. In fact, such firms allow this run-down in the hope of receiving a sizeable Government grant and then remodernise with no concern for the many people who will be left behind and without in many cases hope of future employment.
It is, therefore, time for Government help to be given to encourage employment either to remain and develop, or to develop afresh, in London. All the evidence points to the kinds of job that have been lost when there is indisputably a demand for the kinds of product that were previously being made in London. But the jobs have gone, resulting in a great deal of human suffering. What is needed is regular meetings between representatives of the Government, the GLC and the London Boroughs Association, not meetings once or twice a year but regular meetings where the general problems of London can be discussed. I suggest a committee named "Employment and Industrial Development for Greater London". That shows how important the problem has become.
The issue crosses party lines. No party considerations are involved. At least, they should not be, because whether we represent the Labour Party or the Conservative Party our first obligation as London Members is to try to safeguard the job opportunities of Londoners. We have not been very successful. All the evidence points to the continuous rundown of job opportunities in London in recent years, and unfortunately that is continuing.
If there is willingness on the part of the Government and the GLC, there can be no question about the willingness of the boroughs, many of which have repeatedly requested the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to have regular meetings at which the problem can be discussed. With that willingness by the Government and the GLC we can in a very short time start to give greater hope to Londoners of all ages—the adult man who finds himself redundant, with little hope of secure employment, and the youngster who, even when apprenticeships are available, and there are not many, will question the wisdom of entering one when he will ask, "How long will the factory remain open? Shall I still be an apprentice in a year, or will the firm then be closed?"
346 Our task as London Members is to fight to give that hope. It is of the utmost priority for all of us who are concerned about the problem.
§ 8.48 p.m.
§ Mr. David Price (Eastleigh)
Unlike the hon. Member for Wandsworth, Central (Mr. Thomas Cox) and all the other hon. Members who have spoken so far, except my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary, I am not a London Member. But I am concerned about the Bill.
I am very dubious about Parliament's allowing the Greater London Council any further powers in any respect until the GLC learns to exercise its current extensive powers with more responsibility and more concern towards people and local authorities outside London. I shall illustrate my argument by reference to the behaviour of the GLC in South Hampshire. Hon. Members may have seen Motion No. 216. I can probably put my argument most succinctly by reading it to the House. It says:That this House deplores the efforts of the Greater London Council to buy for London housing development 30 acres of land at Lowford in the parish of Bursledon, adjacent to the City of Southampton, which land lies in Area 18 of the South Hampshire Interim Plan (S.H.I.P.II), thus negating the entire strategy of the South Hampshire Structure Plan which specifically excludes planned immigration into South Hampshire; and invites the Secretary of State for the Environment to prevent the Greater London Council from buying land anywhere in South Hampshire which has major development problems of its own.My complaint can be put on four counts. First, I do not believe that the GLC should be buying any land at all in South Hampshire because we have major growth problems with our own indigenous shortage of land. These problems have been brought together in the draft of the South Hampshire Structure Plan and are well known to GLC officials.
Secondly, I suggest that South Hampshire is too far away from London to be of any real assistance in the serious housing problems of London, whether for elderly people or for people of working age. If anyone in the GLC thinks it is possible to journey from anywhere in my constituency to work in the factories of Wandsworth which the hon. Member for Wandsworth, Central (Mr. Thomas Cox) was talking about, I recommend 347 him to do the journey and see what it is like.
As for elderly people, we have seen the same problem in other parts of England. The GLC have said that it is good for elderly people to be at the seaside, but certainly, to my knowledge, it has not proved successful. These people come down under pressure from the GLC and become the responsibility of other authorities and hence of other ratepayers. I am sure that every hon. Member knows that as regards the elderly there is a limit in any given area to the amount of voluntary support which can be got to help the old with their needs. There are threshold levels in regard to numbers. I do not believe that it is the proper solution for elderly people to take them away from the environment and the community they know, from their family, their children, their grandchildren and their neighbours. This is not, socially, the right answer and I do not believe that it is any solution to a major social problem.
My third point is that if the GLC wishes to buy land outside London it should have the common courtesy to consult the local authorities concerned. The GLC is not the only body concerned with the sort of problems we are hearing about today. I know its problems are on a larger scale, but qualitatively they are no different from the problems of many other local authorities around the country. Now particularly, when we are to have metropolitan and non-metropolitan counties, the GLC should recognise that although it remains the largest local authority in the country, we are not all non-league sides, if I may draw a further analogy, and the GLC the only member of the first division.
§ Mr. Freeson
I think we are all rather surprised, to put it mildly, by something the hon. Gentleman is telling the House. Could he tell us whether it is correct that the GLC has failed to hold consultations even with the joint planning committee for the South Hampshire development?
§ Mr. Price
If I may take the specific point I refer to in my motion, it is the Winchester Rural District Council, and according to my local authorities it was 348 never informed at all, nor was the Hampshire County Council. We have not yet got the new non-metropolitan county of Hampshire, so there are three parties to the structure plan—the Hampshire County Council and the county boroughs of Portsmouth and Southampton. In a year's time we shall become the new non-metropolitan county of Hampshire.
The fourth point I make is that, when the GLC bid for land, I believe they should do it openly and not through agents. My local authorities have described to me the recent action of the GLC in South Hampshire as akin to that of thieves in the night. That is the language of my own officers. I can tell the House that the South Hampshire members of both parties have supported the concept of our strategic planning, although there have been certain criticisms from some of the interests in our constituency that insufficient land for building is to be made available for immediate local needs
I think I ought to illustrate this by explaining to the House that the South Hampshire Structure Plan is itself based on three earlier studies—the South East study of 1964, the South Hampshire study of 1966 and the Strategic Plan for the South East of 1970. I draw the attention of the House to the first and third of these, because the GLC participated in both these plans. In the South Hampshire Structure Plan, just to show hon. Members that I do not think we are being unreasonable, we are talking about a growth rate from the base year of 1966 of an actual population of 800,000. I give round figures to keep it simple. It is estimated that by 1981 the population will be up to 1 million, that by 1991 it will be up to 1,200,000, and that by 2001 it will be up to 1,400,000. This is a massive growth.
It is also calculated that the permanent dwelling need in South Hampshire is likely to give rise to a new house building need of some 145,000 new dwellings in the period from 1966, our reference year, to 1991. That is from a 1966 base of 261,000.
I turn now to the context of land use, which, again, is relevant to my complaint against the GLC. Our total land needs between 1966 and 1991 will be approximately a further 10,000 acres above existing commitments and above what is made 349 available by redevelopment. This amounts to an increase of more than 16 per cent. in our total area of 60,000 acres of built-up land. I think that in these circumstances the House will agree that my complaint is not unreasonable.
The draft structure plan has not yet gone officially to my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment for approval. The plan states categorically:No provision is made for the planned intake of population into South Hampshire.Let it be noted by those hon. Members who represent London constituencies, lest they think that I and my colleagues on the local authorities in Hampshire are not sympathetic to the major problems which face the GLC, that we in Hampshire are involved in two properly planned overspill schemes at Basingstoke and Andover. We are playing our part in helping London.
§ Mr. Wellbeloved
London Members on this side of the House are entirely with the hon. Gentleman in the points he is making. We think it scandalous that the Conservative-controlled GLC should be treating local authorities with such contempt, particularly when in London there are areas of land which could be developed if oniy the GLC would get down to the job of doing it.
§ Mr. Price
There is nothing illegal in what the GLC is doing. The London Government Act 1963 gave it complete authority. Nor has my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State any power to intervene in these matters. I have consulted those who are learned in the law on that point. I believe that the situation will have to be remedied by amending legislation, and I give notice that I and some of my colleagues from Hampshire may well endeavour to do so.
Since these issues of South Hampshire have come to light, and since I and some of my hon. Friends placed Early Day Motion No. 216 on the Notice Paper, other hon. Members from other parts of southern England have indicated to me somewhat similar cases in their own areas. I believe that if the GLC is determined to continue with this practice, legislative remedy is necessary. In the meantime, I cannot support a Bill to give any more power to the GLC until it has at least, in 350 the language of the lawyers, purged its contempt of the people and local authorities of Hampshire.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Ronald Brown (Shoreditch and Finsbury)
I can assure the hon. Member for Eastleigh (Mr. David Price) that I very much support him in what he said about the GLC. I hope to show just cause for saying that he is right. I am continually having sessions with the GLC about constituency matters. The housing situation in Hackney is frightening.
I want to tell the House about one case in particular which I heard about from a probation officer. It concerns a family comprising a mother, father and seven children. The males are aged 23, 17, six and four, and the females 19, 14 and three. The two young men of 23 and 17 sleep in the same room as their sisters of 19 and 14. A younger brother shares one of the bunk beds with his sister. The other child sleeps with his parents. I raised this with the local authority because it is a local authority two-bedroom house in which this family is living. I received a letter from the local authority acknowledging that this was a real problem but saying that it was unable to help and not likely to be able to help in future. The letter said:I am most concerned that such a serious overcrowding situation exists in a Council dwelling … everything possible will be done to transfer them to larger accommodation … In addition to these commitments, there are at present 18 4 and 5 bedroom families who have the maximum medical priority awaiting rehousing.The case I have cited is not as bad as the other 18 and the House has heard of their bad living conditions.
I asked the council to nominate this family to the Greater London Council but was told that the council is not allowed to nominate such families to the GLC because it has no accommodation for four-bedroom families. I have had a copy of that document from the GLC sent to me. Having adduced all the arguments about not having any property, I am now told that not half a mile away from where this man is living in such appalling conditions there are 14 four-bedroom houses owned by the GLC up for sale. Providing any of these people can afford from £11,000 upwards, there is a four-bedroom house just down the road.
351 I have passed this information on to the Department and asked for a public inquiry into the scandalous situation whereby a Member of Parliament can be so misled in his inquiries. This is not the only case. I have frequently been told that there was no possibility of housing urgent cases because of a lack of premises yet at the same time the GLC has gone ahead with the sale of houses. I have a list of places within a short distance of my constituency where there are such houses for sale…14 four-bedroom houses, four four-bedroom houses, 16 three-bedroom houses, 33 three-bedroom houses, two two-bedroom houses.
Provided a person has from £8,000 up to a figure which has not yet been decided, but which if rumour in my constituency is correct will be fixed at £12,000 for a group of 10 three-bedroom houses, he can obtain a home. The document I have received points out that gross earnings per month must be five times the monthly mortgage repayments. An example is given showing that to afford the lowest-priced house of £8,000, payable over 25 years, a person needs £250 a month or £58.50 a week. This is a scandalous situation not least because it involves the misleading of Members of Parliament. My hon. Friends and I are told that there is no property available, yet the GLC prefers to play this silly game of putting homes up for sale.
Now I come to South Hampshire. All around London there are houses available for people living in Hackney where, incidentally, there are 10,000 people living in inadequate accommodation. More and more homeless are coming in from South Hampshire and other places and here the GLC is trying to sell houses in London to people from South Hampshire and at the same time going down to South Hampshire and stealing land from under the very noses of the county council. This is a GLC gone mad, and the House must at some stage take it to task.
It is an impossible position when we find that our constituents are living in these appalling, miserable conditions. I would underline the fact that the case I have quoted is typical and not unusual. It seems to me we would not be doing justice to our constituents if we did not raise such cases under the General Powers Bill, which is the only way I can protest 352 on behalf of my constituents against the work of the GLC.
§ Mr. Clinton Davis
Would my hon. Friend agree that the number of cases that he and I get of the kind to which he has been referring must be some 20 or 30 a week and that absolute hopelessness is written on the face of so many of our constituents?
§ Mr. Brown
I do confirm that. I have told the Minister this and the standard reply is that, however serious such cases are, they are very sorry but there are just no properties available. I am submitting tonight that that is grossly untrue. It is a political decision of the GLC that properties are not available.
I would like to talk on a second item, on which I intervened when my hon. Friend the Member for Wandsworth, Central (Mr. Thomas Cox) was speaking in relation to open spaces. For many years since I have been in the House I have raised the matter of the need for open spaces in my constituency, which has none. There is no green grass or trees. We have three principal areas which have been under compulsory purchase order since 1965, in Shepherdess Walk, in Shoreditch Park and Haggerston Park, each partially developed with an acre or two of very sparse grass.
Back in 1968 I took up with the GLC the question of establishing Shepherdess Walk Park. It would mean development, with houses being pulled down and families rehoused. The properties are in a disgraceful condition and people there who have been subjected to compulsory purchase since 1965 have sat patiently, coming to see me regularly about the situation. I have gone regularly to the council while trying to persuade my constituents to be patient in the hope that eventually the GLC would get round to doing the job.
In April 1971 an order was laid transferring open spaces in London from the GLC to the individual London boroughs. I prayed against that order but the Government would not find time for me to establish may case, why I thought it was bad and why Hackney would be unable to provide that kind of open space, first because of the lack of money, secondly, because families could not be rehoused, having regard to the situation about which I have spoken, and thirdly because it was 353 impossible to do all the reorganisation and taking out of industry, quite apart from housing.
The Minister—the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page)—sent me a three-page letter when I raised this matter in the House, pointing out how wrong I was and telling me that he had spoken to the GLC about the transfer of land in Shepherdess Walk and had been assured that conversations were going on between the GLC and the London Borough of Hackney and that there would be no problem.
Nearly two years have elapsed, there is no park, and no conversations are going on. Those people are still living in Shepherdess Walk in appalling conditions waiting to be rehoused. The London Borough of Hackney answers me by saying, "We are terribly sorry. We will get in the public health inspector and do what we can." The owners do not spend any money on the buildings because they are under a compulsory purchase order. Not only is there no park, which was planned years ago, but these people are forced to continue to live in deplorable conditions because the GLC, having started on this venture at my insistence in 1968, has handed it over to somebody else who is unable to do it. I do not blame the GLC, which was trying to shift the burden of responsibility, but I do blame the Government. The Government refused me the right to put my case before they approved the order.
§ Mr. Stallard
Will my hon. Friend accept that that is a common story in London? In North St. Pancras the plan for an open space has been in the state described by my hon. Friend not since 1965 but since 1951. The LCC sat on the proposals and when they were handed over to the borough a compulsory purchase order was put on the site. One can imagine the blight that has affected the area ever since 1951. Literally nothing has been done. Many of the houses have no standard amenities. The Government eventually turned down the compulsory purchase order proposal. The speculators move in and the harassment begins. But I will tell the House about that shortly if I catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
§ Mr. Brown
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for supporting me. In years to come Clause 34 may put that matter to 354 rights and the borough council may be able to develop the open space.
The GLC has been dilatory, and that is why I am calling for a public inquiry. It is a matter of the greatest public importance, and the GLC should not be allowed to get away with this sort of behaviour.
On 26th January I wrote to the Minister, but so far I have received no reply. I ask him to stop the sale of the houses pending an inquiry into the needs of Hackney. It is a matter of great importance that a decision should be taken urgently.
I have raised frequently the transport situation in my constituency, which is an absolute disgrace by any yardstick. Every heavy juggernaut in London comes through the area. Night after night my constituents are kept awake by heavy vehicles. I have petitioned the GLC many times and recently the council has been a little more helpful.
Originally, I was misled into agreeing to a temporary ban on heavy vehicles using one road. I was given a promise that within 12 months the arrangement would be made permanent unless there was some impediment. That was three years ago, and the arrangement is still not permanent. One of my colleagues on the GLC told me that I was being misled by the council, but I chose to believe what the council said, since it is not my wont to disbelieve public representatives. But my colleague was right, and I am still waiting. Since my intention to oppose the Bill has become known I have received a letter from the GLC stating that it is the council's intention to put in train the legal formalities necessary to implement the promise given three years ago. I pay tribute to the GLC to that extent.
It is not the responsibility of hon. Members in this House to keep fetching and carrying for Greater London Council. The council knows what is wrong and it knows what its powers are and what it should be doing. It is quite insufferable that we have to act virtually as welfare officers running after the officers of Greater London Council to tell them to make sure that their political masters make intelligent decisions.
I hope that our discussion tonight will again underline to the Greater London 355 Council how very dissatisfied London Members are with our relationship. I accept the point made by the hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Tugendhat) that we should have other means of expressing our grievances than those provided in debate on this Bill. It is unsatisfactory that on this occasion we have to make these comments, because our boroughs have asked for certain powers. But this is the only way in which we can put forward these problems.
There is a great problem in London over housing for nurses and teachers, who are in revolt. The Government will not allow teachers to get their measly allowance. The cost of living in the London Borough of Hackney where they are trying to teach is enormous. Yet the Government will not give them the London allowance to help them to cope with extra costs. I believe all the schools are closed either because of shortage of teachers or shortage of gas. It is an impossible situation, but the Government appear to ignore it in the hope that people will revolt and that the teachers will suffer opprobrium from the public. They are seriously wrong, for public support is behind the teachers.
When one sees the conditions under which they have to teach and the deplorable situation they have to face, one understands why they want some help to meet the cost of living in London. No one volunteers to come to teach in my constituency. They are all pressed men. When they come to the constituency they have nowhere to live and they find the conditions for work deplorable. They stay because they are dedicated—not because the conditions are right. They are loyal to the educational service and to the children. I pay them that tribute. London teachers are entitled to the London allowance in full. I support them 100 per cent. It is disgraceful that they are being forced to go on strike so as to call attention to the deplorable situation they face.
I hope that another way will be found for discussing our grievances. I believe the GLC is guilty of dereliction of duty and has behaved in a disgraceful way. What it has done in South Hampshire cannot be excused. Why does the council 356 go to South Hampshire to steal land when only a few yards away there is the London Borough of Bromley which is well enriched? They go to the London Borough of Bromley to do their dirty work. They have done a deal with that borough.
§ Mr. Freeson
Is my hon. Friend aware that, according to information which I have had put before me only this week, a similar arrangement or deal has been done between the present GLC administration and Kingston? It is an agreement not to build any GLC housing there, provided that there is a I per cent. nomination per year.
§ Mr. Thomas Cox
My hon. Friend has cited the situation in Bromley. Could I draw his attention to a Question which I tabled for answer on 11th December last when I sought to discover the number of local authority dwellings which were under construction. My hon. Friend will be surprised to hear that in Bromley there is not one GLC house under construction. Indeed the borough has only 228 under construction. In Enfield there is not one GLC house under construction. The borough has 272 under construction. In Hillingdon there is not one GLC house under construction. The borough has 551 under construction. In Kingston-upon-Thames six GLC houses are under construction—so at least Kingston is making a start.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Robert Grant-Ferris)
Order. The hon. Gentleman's intervention is rather long, and he knows that he must not make two speeches.
§ Mr. Brown
I am grateful to you Mr. Deputy Speaker, and I am also grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Wandsworth, Central, for drawing my attention to that information. We have tried to illustrate that the GLC has a responsibility which it has not been discharging. This is the gravamen of the charge we make. This is not a party political issue. Hon. Members in their constituencies have to face the people 357 and say to them, "There is no hope for you to obtain housing accommodation". I know of a mother and father and seven children living in a two-bedroomed council flat for whom there is no hope of alternative accommodation. The situation is absurd, and I hope that this debate will lead the GLC to behave like a genuine local authority. If it does not do so, then it must get out and let in somebody who can do the job.
§ 9.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson (Walthamstow, East)
I cannot remain in my place and allow the Greater London Council to be attacked in this way, as though everything the council does and thinks is politically motivated. We have heard mention of open spaces. Why cannot the Labour-controlled Waltham Forest borough find £6,000 to convert derelict land into playing fields for the use of 400 children, when at the same time it can provide a sum of £15,000 to erect aerials for the reception of colour television? If the hon. Member for Shoreditch and Finsbury (Mr. Ronald Brown) thinks those are the right social priorities, I do not agree. That has nothing to do with the GLC. It has something to do with a council which has strange priorities and which claims to be Labour.
We have heard a good deal about housing and we in Waltham Forest have a waiting list of 6,000 people. I recently asked the housing manager why the figures seemed to go down so slowly, if at all. He answered that as people get married at a younger age, there is a greater demand for housing and people who live in bad houses are demanding better housing. The result is that housing that was once good enough to live in is no longer thought fit to live in—and nor should it be. This causes the problem.
In the same way when a tenement block is pulled down, then the housing accommodation that is put in its place must be of a much better standard than that which was provided in the tenement, and this means more units of housing, for generally people are asking for better housing. I agree that around Greater London there are too many sites that for various reasons have not been pressed into action. Such sites do not belong 358 just to the GLC but, for example, to British Rail and the British Waterways Board. The time has come for somebody to do a survey of land in London that could be used for housing. I suspect that we would find that there is a good deal more of it than many of us realise.
§ Mr. Freeson
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman has overlooked the fact that such a study was embarked upon and completed by the London Action Group, chaired by his hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment. We are still waiting to hear the results of such information being collated and additional acreage being made available to local authorities for housing purposes.
Secondly, is the hon. Gentleman aware that one of the reasons that Waltham Forest is suffering today is because, under the hon. Gentleman's party administration only a few years ago, there was a sharp cut in the housebuilding programme year by year for three years?
§ Mr. McNair-Wilson
I do not intend to pursue matters relating to Waltham Forest, as we are talking about the GLC, but if a site of roughly one acre of derelict land can remain completely useless and not be used for the benefit of children or for housing, I find it difficult to believe that the council, which is now Labour-controlled, has its priorities right.
I now want to speak about Clause 30 which relates to hygiene in food shops and stalls. I am sure that all hon. Members will agree that it is entirely right that we should pay the greatest attention to the standard of hygiene in food shops and at stalls. We must be concerned if there is any danger to public health because of vermin, refuse or any of the other dangers set out in the Bill as being within the terms of what the officer of health may discover.
This is the first time in any GLC Bill that the GLC has attempted to lay down one standard for street market stalls throughout Greater London. It is a departure from custom which I welcome. In my constituency there is a successful and bustling street market which has been in existence for 40 years. Anyone who has been to see it on a Friday or Saturday will realise that it 359 is something of a magnet for North-East London. It is welcomed by the shopkeepers in the High Street. They appreciate that it brings to them a great deal of custom.
The street market sells a wide variety of goods, including foodstuffs. The stalls are prized possessions of those who hold licences within the market. However, the market is licensed by the borough and therefore does not come under the GLC, except for Clause 30.
An unfairness which exists between some markets relates to the passing on of the holding of the stall from one family to another. The stalls often pass from father to son, or even from a father to a nephew. Under Section 21(2)(a) of the London County Council (General Powers) Act 1947, as amended by Section 33 of the London County Council (General Powers) Act 1962, when somebody holding a stall dies an application by the person or relative to whom the deceased stallholder wished to leave the stall must be made within 10 days. A number of the stallholders in Waltham-stow are of the Jewish faith. As I understand it, when a member of his family dies a Jew mourns for seven days. A situation is thus created whereby the son or the daughter of Jewish parents finds it extremely difficult to make application for the stall that once belonged to his or her father or mother. I consider this to be a considerable unfairness to persons of that faith, more especially because in Walthamstow and in the inner London boroughs application must be made within 10 days, whereas in the City of London 21 days are allowed. It seems nonsense to say that in one area of London there shall be a 10-day period while there is a 21-day period in another. Therefore, it is surely necessary for the GLC to produce some sort of common practice applying to all street markets on matters concerning applications for licences.
If I may pursue the point a little further, the word "relative" has different meanings in the City of London and in the outer boroughs or the old LCC area. In one case a very broad category of people is included and in the other a very narrow one. Here again, there is an unfairness which should be ironed out, though of course the GLC's Clause 30 is 360 beginning to introduce commonality, which is a move in the right direction.
The reference in Clause 30 to food hygiene suggests that the clause will hold good throughout the whole of Greater London. However, I do not know whether it will supersede legislation such as the Walthamstow Corporation Act 1956. Will the penalties laid down in Clause 30 replace those in the Walthamstow Corporation Act, or will both Acts have a bearing? If they will, the street traders of Walthamstow are likely to run a double risk. If a food inspector in Walthamstow believes that a stall is unhygienic he has the power to revoke the licence. But he must give seven days' notice and he must be willing to listen to an appeal from the stallholder. Under thte GLC's Clause 30, 24 hours' notice is all that is required to close down a stall. Will the stallholder in Waltham-stow be put in a position where he can be had under one of two Acts and, if so, which one?
§ Mr. Ronald Brown
The hon. Gentleman will find that the provisions under Part IV come directly from the London Boroughs Association. Waltham Forest will have been involved in the drafting of the clause. This is not a Greater London Council clause. This is the part of the Bill in which the GLC allows the London Boroughs Association to put forward its proposals. Waltham Forest will have the right to apply this power itself. In other words, in spite of the Walthamstow Corporation Act, presumably it feels that this proposed power will be helpful.
§ Mr. McNair-Wilson
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising that matter. I should have thought it was clear. But it is not. I know that there is provision for compensation in Clause 30 if subsequently the stallholder is found to be not guilty. However, there is some possibility that he is in jeopardy twice over, and that does not seem reasonable.
Then there is the matter of complaints which may be made against the stall-holder for having premises which are unsatisfactory or whose structure, fittings, fixtures and equipment are defective. Does that mean that all stall holders selling foodstuffs from now on should seek to have their stalls examined by a GLC inspector to ensure that they meet whatever are the criteria being laid down?
§ Mr. Ronald Brown
It is obvious that I did not explain myself very well. This is not the GLC. The Waltham Forest Borough Council will operate Clause 30. The clause happens to be contained in the GLC Bill, but only because the London Boroughs Association asked the GLC to insert Clause 30. It is the borough councils' clause. Waltham Forest will apply Clause 30, not the Greater London Council.
§ Mr. McNair-Wilson
I do not wish to pursue the point too far. The clause reads,If on complaint by the proper officer a magistrates' court is satisfied".We seem to be talking about the courts.
I should like to continue the point I was on, because there is strength in it. Who shall decide whether the stallholder's stall is up to the required standard? There is also the question ofinfestation of vermin or accumulation of refuse,all of which is said to be likely to be a hygiene risk.
§ Mr. Wellbeloved
The hon. Gentleman will see that in Clause 2 "proper officer" is defined as being theofficer appointed by a borough council".Therefore, the Waltham Forest Borough Council will determine whether to proceed under the provisions of the Bill, if enacted, or under the provisions of any Act already in existence. It will be within the power of the local authority, not the magistrates' court. It is the local authority's proper officer who will initiate the necessary steps.
§ Mr. McNair-Wilson
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that intervention, but I am informed that there is a risk of double jeopardy. Hence my question to whoever is to wind up the debate: is there a double jeopardy? If so, it seems unreasonable.
My last point relates to vermin or refuse. I gather that most stalls are lit in the winter by either Tilley or paraffin oil lamps. One can imagine the amount of refuse that is left around a street market. I invite any hon. Member to visit Walthamstow High Street on any Friday or Saturday evening to see the enormous amount of waste paper that accumulates around the stalls. Obviously 362 Tilley or paraffin oil lamps are high fire risks. Therefore, I suggest that the recommendation put forward by some of the stall holders, that electric points or some form of electric lighting should be supplied to avoid this risk, is worth consideration.
I come back to the point at which I started. There seems to be a real need to harmonise the regulations governing all street markets in Greater London.
§ 9.37 p.m.
§ Mr. A. W. Stallard (St. Pancras, North)
I know that a number of my hon. Friends wish to participate in the debate even at this late hour, so I will be exceedingly brief.
I find much in the Bill that is commendable. I accept that many advances have been made. However I deplore the fact that we must use this device and time for the discussion which has proved so necessary by the contributions which have been made.
I have spent over 20 years in London government. On a number of occasions in the last two years I have been appalled at the apparent lack of knowledge of many Government spokesmen about conditions in London not only in housing, but generally.
I do not think that hon. Members generally appreciate the utter mismanagement of GLC property that has gone on in the past few years. The appalling conditions in which some GLC tenants have been forced to live during the past three or four years must be seen to be believed. These conditions have arisen because the GLC has run down its maintenance staff or has dismissed what was a very good direct labour force. This will create many difficulties unless it is stopped. The Bill does not mention that kind of management or anything like it.
§ Mr. Ronald Brown
My hon. Friend will probably be seized of the point that whilst the GLC has allowed the condition of its properties to deteriorate it has not been slow to put up to £5 a week the rent for a two-bedroomed flat, only one room of which can be used because the rest is so damp.
§ Mr. Stallard
My hon. Friend has anticipated what I was about to say regarding the rents charged for miserable hovels which go under the name of GLC 363 accommodation. I could enlarge on many matters, particularly the complete mismanagement—I could use stronger language—of many GLC estates and properties in inner London.
Like my hon. Friends, at my weekly advice service I am constantly confronted by constitutents who have tried for the last two or three years to get a minor repair done. After a while, these become major necessities, and still nothing is done. The state in which some of our people have to live in alleged G.L.C. flats, at fantastic rents, is a scandal and should be stopped.
There are some things in the Bill that I welcome, particulary Clause 23. My only reservation is that it should be extended. In inner London we are worried not only about the change from residential to tourist or hotel accommodation but also about the complete loss of rented accommodation, furnished and unfurnished. Hon. Members will know that I have been worried for a long time about the antics of speculators in London in this respect. It is very lucrative to empty properties with speculation in view. I could go on for the next two or three hours about the way in which properties are being emptied in London by professional "winklers", as they are called, so that the vacant property can be developed into hotel or similar accommodation or into furnished accommodation.
This is becoming a major problem in London, and this is why my hon. Friend the Member for Shoreditch and Finsbury (Mr. Ronald Brown) mentioned the difficulty of teachers, for instance. I did a small survey this week at one school, asking some of the teachers who had been to see me about the London allowance what kind of accommodation they had. One of the complaints of these young teachers is that they can no longer find accommodation in inner London. This of course, causing our education service in London many headaches, and it will get worse as time goes on.
As a result of my survey, I learned that in cases where these youngsters have been able to find anything at all it is usually some tatty room with a couple of sticks called furniture, for an average of £10 a week. I am prepared to give details of the teachers whom I consulted and their rents, and so on. It 364 is an impossible situation, and only gives more credence to the claim, not just for the London allowance for teachers but for far better wages and conditions to attract teachers into the inner London area, rather than creating the conditions in which they have to live.
I would have hoped that this provision could go further than just ending the change of use from residential to hotel. I should like completely to stop the change from residential. Perfectly good residential accommodation, above shops in the older-established shopping areas, is now being turned into offices, warehouses and stores. Gradually, what results is a dead area with shops and nothing above them. I would have liked to see this provision go further and prevent the change of any residential accommodation, particularly when it is rented, furnished or unfurnished.
I would certainly welcome some of the things which have been mentioned. The hon. Member for Walthamstow, East (Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson) mentioned something else which is long overdue—an attempt, under Clause 30, to control the conditions of some of the filthy stalls that we see, particularly in the West End. Probably the constituency of the hon. Member for the Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Tugendhat) suffers most from this kind of thing. Having lived near his constituency for many years, I have often felt that something should be done in that regard and I am glad that a start has now been made to try to clean up some of these repulsive things which go under the name of stalls or food premises.
I welcome many of these provisions, but I would have liked them extended. I conclude by hoping that the sponsor of the Bill will agree with me on two counts—first, that the GLC has failed miserably in its complete and utter mismanagement of many of the estates in inner London, and, second, that the change of use of residential accommodation to hotel accommodation should be extended to include any change of use.
§ 9.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Clinton Davis (Hackney, Central)
Like many of my hon. Friends, I welcome some of the points made in the Bill. The Bill is rather like the Budget in a way. While it has some good points, its 365 thinking is monumentally irrelevant to the problems facing London at present, in just the same way as the Budget today was monumentally irrelevant to the problems facing the country. The Bill lacks a coherent philosophy, an urgency and a comprehension of these problems.
I should like to make one point at the very beginning of my remarks. I gave notice of this matter to the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Tope) when he deigned to come into the Chamber for a few moments during this debate on London. It is rather noticeable that although the Liberal Party today espouses the cause of community politics, it espouses that cause everywhere but in this place. I am told that the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam is his party's spokesman on housing. If I am speaking behind his back, that is not my fault. As a spokesman on housing, he has shown remarkable reticence about opening his mouth on the vital issue of housing in London. We have had debate after debate on housing, on rates and now on the Greater London Council. The hon. Member is elsewhere. One would have thought that Sutton and Cheam had suddenly declared UDI from the GLC. But it may be only the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam who has declared UDI. However, it is a sad commentary on the Liberal Party, which makes a spurious claim to identify with the people yet is absent when the issues are being debated. I make no more point about that. It is not worth wasting any more time on the Liberal Party.
I refer next to something which troubles me enormously. I have given notice of this point to the hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Tugendhat). This concerns Clause 12 and the powers of arrest which are to be conferred onAny constable or any officer or servant of the Council authorised in writing to enforce any byelaws made by the Council under section 6 … and any person called to the assistance of such constable, officer or servant may without other warrant than this Act seize and detain any person committing or having committed any offence against any of such byelaws …That is a gross interference with the liberty of the subject. It extends to virtually any servant of the Greater London Council. It extends, perhaps, to a foreman on a site who is authorised in writ- 366 ing under this clause to have afforded to him the powers of a constable, the power of arrest without warrant. I understand that the GLC employs Securicor. This power would be conferred upon members of the staff of Securicor. My hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Hamling) and I have spoken previously about Securicor. The clause would confer upon employees of Securicor this wide power of arrest without warrant.
§ Mr. William Shelton (Clapham)
Does the hon. Gentleman have any experience of such a power ever having being used?
§ Mr. Davis
If there is no evidence of the power having been used, there is simply no point in this power being invoked, as a number of my hon. Friends have said. I challenge the hon. Gentleman to indicate why this power should be included in the Bill if it is not to be used. I am told that it is based on virtually the same phraseology as the Thames River Steamboat Service Act 1904. The point about civil liberties may well have been overlooked in the debate, such as it was, which took place in 1904. I have done no research into that.
§ Mr. Tugendhat
The hon. Member was kind enough to give me notice that he was to raise this matter and we discussed earlier the implications of the Thames River Steamboat Service Act 1904, and the clause is based upon that. There are three points arising from the hon. Member's comments. First, the 1904 Act is still in operation as it applies to Greenwich Pier. Now that the GLC is acquiring more piers and is going into steamboat services it is an extension of the existing power rather than a new power. Secondly, though it is true that the officers of the council would have these powers in these circumstances it is important to realise that they can be applied only against persons, whose name or residence is unknown and cannot concurrently be ascertained. The officer of the council would have to take the malefactor to a police station or before a justice of the peace to be dealt with according to law.
The purpose of this provision is to meet those occasions which might arise on a boat on the river where rowdyism is taking place, where the GLC official attempts to bring it under control and is told to "get lost". This would enable 367 him to bring the malefactors before a justice of the peace or a policeman, and the fact that nothing could be done without a policeman or a justice of the peace is a safeguard.
This matter has, of course, been looked at by the Home Office without objection, and no doubt after the hon. Member's interjection the Committee which will look into the Bill, if the Bill gets a Second Reading, will pay particular attention to the point he raised.
§ Mr. Davis
To base it on the Steamboat Act of 1904 seems to me an unwise precedent. I do not think that the House will be convinced by the hon. Member and I do not think—I have a great deal of admiration for him—that he is convinced about it himself. The Bill will confer upon people who are not in uniform a very wide power of arrest and I do not think it should have any place in this sort of legislation.
I go on to one aspect of transport to which I have wanted to refer for some time. We are told that it is a little uncertain how Hackney will be affected by the motorway box, but my constituency will be affected by it. Many of my constituents already have been adversely affected by developments of that kind. There was the Eastway route which caused people to come to my surgery Friday after Friday and to write letters because they were in a state of acute distress through having to face up to the difficulties of noise nuisance and pollution, difficulties they still face, not for a matter of a few hours, but day after day and night after night. The problem has existed for about four years. Those who felt that the structure of their houses was being affected were constantly told by the GLC that this was nonsense. When they saw cracks appearing in the walls the GLC would say, "Absolute nonsense."
The tenants will not be assisted, as I understand it, by the Land Compensation 368 Bill, but they are as adversely affected as the owner-occupiers. They were at the periphery of the development and they had to cope with all the horrendous pressures that were involved. These difficulties will be multiplied throughout many areas of London, and the lessons are clear. I am glad that the Labour Party in London has declared unequivocally that it will have none of it.
I turn next to housing. We have had an appalling history of lack of consultation between Hampshire and the GLC and it is no fault of Hampshire at all. That insensitivity, that lack of co-operation, is reflected in so many other aspects of the behaviour of the GLC towards the London boroughs.
One of the matters that have been referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Willesden, East (Mr. Freeson), about which the GLC ought perhaps not necessarily to consult so much but to do something practical, is the policy of the Tory outer London boroughs to refuse to co-operate in the provision of land for inner London. We have heard about the so-called agreement—a scandalous agreement—made between the GLC and Bromley. Where does the Minister stand on this? Presumably he approves. His silence would certainly indicate that he does not dissent from what has happened.
§ Mr. Eyre
I must ask the hon. Member to be careful in the allegations he makes. He will know that very considerable efforts have been made by the London Housing Action Group, which includes very experienced aldermen and councillors from both the major parties in London, to assess the situation and to encourage from all the boroughs in London the maximum contribution towards the very serious housing problems we know exist.
§ Mr. Davis
But I am afraid that bromide will not do, because the London Housing Action Group has not produced an acre of housing in London. It is full of very good intentions, but it is urgent action that needs to be taken now.
369 Indeed, information was provided by London borough councils and outer London borough councils that 12,000 acres of land would be available by 1980 which would house thousands of people in the stress areas, but the Government are sitting idly back. If the Government were to move in and, as they should, demand that the outer London boroughs act and make land available now, a great many votes for the Conservative Party would be lost in the forthcoming GLC elections. The outer London boroughs do not want people from my area or that of my hon. Friend the Member for Shoreditch and Finsbury (Mr. Ronald Brown) or of my hon. Friend the Member for Acton (Mr. Spearing) or from the stress areas of Hammersmith and Kensington to move into these areas because they feel it would blight these areas and reduce values. One hears about this every time one argues the point with Conservatives in such areas.
§ Question accordingly negatived.
§ It being after Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned370
§ This matter goes to the very heart of our problems. In Hackney we cannot resolve our housing problems without aid from outer London. If the Government merely say, "Let us wait for another six months or another year until the Action Group has reported and then we shall consider the report", let me tell the Minister that for every day that passes while this occurs, people continue to live in appallingly tragic conditions, where delay cannot be brooked any longer. This is the criticism I make not only of him, and of his Department, but in particular of the Government as a whole. There is no urgency because there is no will. If there were the will, action would be taken.
§ Mr. Tugendhat rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.
§ Question put, That the Question be now put:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 35 Noes 49.369
|Division No. 78.]||AYES||[10.0 p.m.|
|Burden, F. A.||Jessel, Toby||Shelton, William (Clapham)|
|Chapman, Sydney||Jopling, Michael||Shersby, Michael|
|Clark, William (Surrey, E.)||Knox, David||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Lamont, Norman||Taylor, Robert (Croydon, N.W.)|
|Cormack, Patrick||Lane, David||Tebbit, Norman|
|Crouch, David||Loveridge, John||Temple, John M.|
|Eyre, Reginald||McNair-Wilson, Michael||Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)|
|Fidler, Michael||Maddan, Martin||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Fookes, Miss Janet||Murton, Oscar||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Gray, Hamish||Page, Rt. Hn. Graham (Crosby)|
|Gurden, Harold||Price, David (Eastleigh)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Havers, Michael||Russell, Sir Ronald||Mr. Christopher Tugendhat and|
|Hunt, John||Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)||Mr. Barney Hayhoe.|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Hunter, Adam||Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)|
|Boardman, H. (I.eigh)||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Spearing, Nigel|
|Brown, Ronald (Shoreditch & F'bury)||Lamond, James||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Buchan, Norman||Lawson, George||Stallard, A. W.|
|Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)||Lestor, Miss Joan||Steel, David|
|Davis, Clinton (Hackney, C.)||McBride, Neil||Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael (Fulham)|
|Davis, Terry (Bromsgrove)||Mackenzie, Gregor||Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)|
|Douglas, Dick (Stirlingshire, E.)||McNamara, J. Kevin||Urwin. T. W.|
|Duffy, A. E. P.||Mikardo, Ian||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Eadie, Alex||Millan, Bruce||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Ewing, Harry||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Whitehead, Phillip|
|Fernyhough, Rt. Hn. E.||Prescott, John||Woof, Robert|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Rees, Merlyn (Leeds, S.)|
|Garrett, W. E.||Robertson, John (Paisley)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside)||Roderick, Caerwyn E.(Brc'n&R'dnor)||Mr. James Wellbeloved and|
|Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)||Short, Rt.Hn.Edward(N'c'tle-u-Tyne)||Mr. William Hamling.|
|Hooson, Emlyn||Small, William|
§ Debate to be resumed upon Thursday next.