§ 2.40 p.m.
§ Mrs. Shirley Williams (Hitchin)
The Gracious Speech is one of the few occasions in the parliamentary year when the House has an opportunity to consider the directions in which our society is moving. The Opposition have requested that today's debate be devoted mainly to the question of the crisis in the cities, which affects many Departments, but the Home Secretary has been given a special function in relation to them. The last paragraph but two of the Gracious Speech states:Priority will continue to be given to programmes in support of law and order and law reform, to the improvement of community relations and to the problem of those suffering special disadvantages from the conditions of life in urban areas.That is in many ways a mild, almost an anodyne, paragraph. From reading it one would not know that our cities were perhaps in one of the most critical states they have been in for the last century.
The rumbling discontent that is erupting within them has revealed itself in many ways. For example, there are firemen on strike in Glasgow for the first time in over 40 years. In London, Hull, Manchester, Salford, Rochdale, Wigan and Nottingham the fire brigades are answering only emergency calls. The unprecedented situation in Glasgow exists despite an attempt—one which I hope the 316 House will appreciate—by the Fire Brigades Union, by the General Secretary of the TUC and by the General Secretary of the Scottish TUC, to end the strike because of the over-riding importance of the safety of the public.
In a second area, that of the police, which the House debated only three months ago, the serious position which then existed, notably in London, has deteriorated. In that debate the Home Secretary was able to point to a welcome reduction in the number of recorded crimes. He was not able to point to an equally welcome reduction in the number of crimes of violence, which are still rising at a rapid rate.
Yet in the last year to the end of September the Metropolitan Police has lost more than 400 officers. In another area of pressure, the West Midlands, there has been a small decline—although the Home Secretary will be able to say, quite accurately, that the position of the police in the provinces has improved. In the great cities the position worsens, despite the fact that the police now have to cope with a recrudescence of activity by terrorists, even within London.
The Metropolitan Police Commissioner summed up the serious position yesterday when he said that the lack of days off, the cancellation of leave, the inconvenience of working hours, and the constant crises of one kind or another imposed an unreasonable burden on a force which, though performing magnificently, is grossly undermanned, overworked and, as he said very modestly, I suspect at times rather tired.
In addition, at a time when the country is facing what may be a serious and possibly a lengthy petroleum crisis, which, even if we avoid rationing, will nevertheless considerably worsen the serious balance of payments situation, public transport finds itself in a desperate plight in our great cities.
In London there is a shortage of bus drivers to the extent of one in five. Even in Tyneside, with a relatively high unemployment figure still, there is a shortage of nearly one in five bus drivers. In Birmingham, West Yorkshire, in one conurbation after another, it is simply impossible to run effective public transport services. Yet the Secretary of State for the Environment said in a statement 317 on the Layfield Report on Greater London:The Government agrees with the panel—the expert panel—that public transport in all forms should be given higher priority than is proposed in the plan—that was the old plan, now changed—because it uses fewer resources, serves more people, and does less damage to the environment than the private carThe Secretary of State said that only a few months ago. Yet last week the Chairman of London Transport, Sir Richard Way, wrote to the Chairman of the Pay Board, saying that the standard of public transport will belower than most Londoners have ever experiencedunless he was to be given an opportunity to recruit more staff.
In education there is such a shortage of teachers in several of our great conurbations, but again notably in inner London, that children are being sent home and some are not being taught for parts of the day. This is often in areas where already there is deprivation and where mothers will be at work, not at home—and where these children will be adding to the ever-present threat of vandalism and, eventually, juvenile delinquency.
I could list a whole range of other desperate shortages of staff. For example, there is the shortage of 3,000 postmen in London and several thousands in the other cities, a shortage of ambulance drivers, a shortage of direct council building workers, a shortage of nurses so serious in the Coventry and Birmingham areas that last week, when the Secretary of State for Social Services went to open a desperately needed new psychiatric unit in Coventry, he was not able to do so because only 11 of the 83 nurses required had been recruited.
No wonder that the leader of the majority group on the GLC says,If the Government is not prepared to make special provision for London—and, one might add, for the other conurbations—services essential to our capital will be in serious danger of collapsing.Why has this situation arisen? I think 318 that most of my right hon. and hon. Friends would agree that one of the main reasons is that Governments of both parties have pursued prices and incomes policies. It is, above all, public service industries and public servants who are most likely to be hit by the consequences.
Those in the private sector to some extent—and I will not underline recent anomalies in this situation—can avoid some of the stringencies of prices and incomes policies. As we know, it is easier for people to change jobs and start new jobs at higher salaries and wages when they are in the private sector. But the public services, bound as they are to obey the spirit and the letter of the Government's policies, find themselves in a situation where their workers, already relatively lowly paid, are in a more and more desperate position. It is worth referring, for example, to the fact that a maintenance engineer for London Transport receives on average £10 a week less than a maintenance engineer in similar work in the private sector in the same city. One could draw the parallel in many other instances.
But perhaps the most serious way to illustrate it is to say that in Greater London alone 25 per cent. of families drawing the lowest incomes, most of them with the head of the family in public service industries, have seen a real decline in income of 1.7 per cent. in the six years ending in 1972, compared with a real increase of 13.2 per cent. for the 25 per cent. who are best off. One of the most disturbing features of the crisis is that it is above all in our cities that the differentials between the rich and the poor are widening most desperately of all.
One of the features that helps to sustain this position, in which the poor become more desperate and the wealthy take the resources that were intended for the poor, relates to housing.
§ Captain Walter Elliot (Carshalton)
Before the hon. Lady leaves the differentials between public service employees and others, can she state the difference in pension expectations between the two groups?
§ Mrs. Williams
I am sure that the hon. and gallant Member appreciates that it would take me a long time to do that. Briefly, the range of occupational 319 pension schemes is so wide that I suspect that he would find that one can make no effective comparison. Some private occupational pension schemes offer much more, especially at the top end, than do public service pension schemes. There are also private employments that offer nothing at all. It is the loss of low-cost rented accommodation in the cities that has made the situation not only bad but virtually desperate in recent years. In the last year, for example, more houses have been cleared in all the five major conurbations outside London than have been built. There has been a net decline of 14,000 houses in the ownership of councils in the year ending June 1973 in the five major English conurbations, apart from London. We are moving backwards at a time when the waiting lists in all these cities are growing rapidly, ranging from the 20 per cent. increase in Newcastle to the 35 per cent. increase in Manchester and London.
One has a lengthening of waiting lists, a stabilisation or decline of properties becoming available for reletting, and the continuing steady drive towards slum clearance, which is rightly inspired by Government policy but is not matched in any way by Government incentive to council house building. This Government will go down in history as the Government who destroyed more houses than they built at a time when we desperately needed housing in the cities.
In the centre of the cities, land has become part of a lottery—a lottery in which it is so expensive to buy land that so often it is not housing but office building and shops that gain the first priority. It is well that the House recognises that in the great cities thousands of square feet in office buildings remain unlet and empty.
I give some recent figures of those office buildings which are approved or already in occupation. There are so far 1.lion square feet of unoccupied office building in Newcastle; 4 million square feet in Manchester; 2.n square feet in Birmingham. In 1966—I ask my hon. and right hon. Friends to recognise the date—553 office development permits were given for central London. Last year, 6,514 office development permits were given for central London 320 and the total in the South-East had increased from 48 per cent. of a much smaller total to 57 per cent. for this area of greatest need.
It is astonishing, at a time when the situation in the inner cities is becoming so desperate, that office building and hotels should still be given priority by the Government over housing for people. It is not surprising that in the Layfield Report the phrase used about housing was,The most vital step in improving the whole environment of London would be an improvement of the housing situation.I do not believe that the Government have yet sufficiently recognised the impact that revaluation for rating purposes will have on those who live in the cheaper and less good accommodation. It is on such people in Birmingham, in London, and even in my own prosperous constituency, that revaluation is having its most desperate effects. The consequence is that revaluation is widening the gap between the richer and the less-well-off.
What of the homeless? Less than a third of those listed as homeless in London can be given emergency accommodation. One of the sad little footnotes to the rapaciousness of our society is that Rowton houses and other common lodging houses are being transformed into hotels so quickly that we have lost about 12,000 beds for these men and women, the outcasts, the poorest of society, and we are leaving them, as anyone who walks down the Embankment at midnight will see, to sleep under benches as if we were still back in the 1930s.
Additionally, there is the problem of homelessness in adolescence, of young people, white and black, in increasing numbers moving into cities such as Birmingham and London, often in desperate and futile pursuit of better pay, amenities and conditions. They have themselves become a large floating element among the homeless and, as the Home Secretary knows, an element that is particularly disturbing to the police, because it is this reservoir of homeless youngsters who, unless emergency action is taken, will become the young criminals of the next decade.
Underlying this situation is the loss of population from the inner cities to the suburbs, a loss over which few authorities 321 have direct control and which carries with it a decrease in the return from rates and an undermining of the financing of the services that the inner cities still require, because those who move to the suburbs commute back to the city, all the more when the city goes on building more and more office blocks, and then they require the same public transport, refuse collection, policing, and fire services as they required before they moved out of the city, although they contribute virtually nothing to those services.
Thus the inner cities are left with areas of multi-deprivation so serious that in a recent pamphlet, called "Born to Fail", the National Children's Bureau pointed out that some 6 per cent. of our children suffer from one disadvantage after another—poor and over-crowded housing, indifferent schooling, bad health, handicaps, sometimes also language difficulties. Not surprisingly, that pamphlet, in a moving summing up of the situation of these multi-deprived children, said:Our concern is to describe quantitatively something of the range of disadvantages that pile one on to another to depress body and spirit, hope and expectation.Among these multi-deprived children lie some of the sources of violence and crime in our society. It is not surprising that it is in the great inner cities that one finds figures of juvenile delinquency and crime that are one-and-a-half to two times those that one finds in the rest of the country.
What has been the Government's response to this situation? I have said that in housing it has been to promote destruction rather than construction. So serious is the situation that within 10 years' time there will be more houses in London with less than 15 years' life than there are today, despite the efforts of the Greater London Council.
§ Mr. Sydney Chapman (Birmingham, Handsworth)
In fairness, would the hon. Lady not admit that there has been a fundamental change in the housing policy over the past few years under both the Socialist and the Conservative administrations, and that the policy now is not to go ahead with large redevelopment schemes, but to renovate, not demolish wherever possible? Would she not agree that many hundreds of thousands of dwelling units, particularly in the inner 322 city areas, have been renovated over the past three years?
§ Mrs. Williams
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will recognise two factors. First, there is some housing that is beyond renovation, such as in inner London and parts of inner Birmingham, and in those areas fewer houses are being built by councils than were being built some years ago. Secondly, while I agree with the hon. Gentleman that there is a large area for renovation, I am sure that he will appreciate that every renovation creates additional thousands of people on the waiting lists—lists which can be dealt with only if building goes on at a greater rate than now.
Hon. Members seem to dissent. I shall give them the figures. In London 41 per cent. on the waiting list require houses simply as a result of council clearances. In Birmingham more than 50 per cent. of those on the waiting list are on the list because of clearance and are therefore using up many of the new houses.
The Government have done two other things—and I want to ask the Home Secretary to tell us something about both. The first relates to the exciting announcement made about a year ago by the then Secretary of State for the Environment, the right hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker), telling us that the Government were embarking on a scheme in six major inner city areas which would transform the conditions of living in those cities. I have heard little more about that scheme. What has happened or is happening to that scheme?
Secondly, what is constituted by the announcement made on 21st June 1973, when we were told that the Home Secretary would co-ordinate the whole approach to our cities? We have heard very little more about what is to be done. All we know is that under phases 8 and 9 of the urban programme, in April and October 1973, less money was spent than under phases 6 or 7, phases 4 or 5, or even phase 2.
There may be a new basing and perhaps the Home Secretary will explain. But the figures are that under phases 8 and 9 in 1973, £4.6 million was to be spent. In phase 2, in 1969–70, £4.9 million was spent, and under phases 4 and 5 the expenditure was to be £6.8 million. 323 No wonder The Times described the urban programme asa ragbag of good intentions.It is still not clear what the Home Secretary means to do with the urban programme. I ask him to tell us.
I turn to some constructive suggestions and ask the Home Secretary, or the Secretary of State for Education and Science when the right hon. Lady winds up the debate, to say something about each of my suggestions. The first is an emergency measure. The Opposition believe that it is crucial that under phase 3 of the prices and incomes policy there should be a new look at the allowances paid to public servants in the large cities. It must be possible for the Government to implement such long-term agreements as have been frozen already on one, two and sometimes three occasions.
I give as an example the Cunningham Report on the fire service, which led to major improvements in the manning and productivity of the fire service last year, but phase 2 shows a sign of its implementation being likely to be postponed again. I warn the Home Secretary that that will have a drastic effect on an under-staffed fire service. We ask him first, therefore, about phase 3. Will allowances of this kind be looked at in the light of the public interest, in respect of adequate staffing and recruitment?
Secondly, I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he will co-ordinate the Departments that deal with the inner city environment—education, social services and his own Department—in such a way that, instead of having a small experimental urban programme, at long last we may embark upon an effective, centrally co-ordinated massive urban programme in which a Minister will be able to take the responsibility for dealing with these serious cancers in the body politic. Would the right hon. Gentleman look particularly at some of the problems that I have outlined in such sectors as housing for rent in the centre of cities, and at the problems of delinquency and other relationships?
Would he properly define "deprivation"? How far is deprivation general? How far are there special kinds of deprivation, and would he ask such bodies as the National Children's Bureau, the Com- 324 munity Relations Commission, and the National Foundation for Educational Research to give us better measurements of deprivation than we have?
Last of all I come to three immediate problems. The first is that of young offenders. Can the Home Secretary tell us what action is being taken to provide adequate resources for community homes, for hostels, and for sufficient social service workers to deal with young people who once again are being sent to prison for lack of alternatives, and to deal with young people who are put in care and receive little cover from those who have taken over since the probation service was withdrawn?
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman, in respect of young immigrants, whether he is aware of the serious problem of homelessness, whether he will take action on the recommendations of the Select Committee concerning police training and police inquiries, and whether he has made any progress with getting an independent element into inquiries about complaints against the police? The Home Secretary will be as aware as I am of the serious strain on police-immigrant relations in London, especially in Ealing and Camden, as a result of recent police searches. I should like to know whether the right hon. Gentleman authorised those searches, which do not seem wholly compatible with his welcome statement that there would be no witch-hunts.
In the deprived areas, many people not only suffer from deprivation but lack any knowledge or effective help in finding where they can get assistance, and what their rights are. I want to quote one phrase from a gentleman who will be familiar to the Home Secretary. It is from a speech made in 1967 in Lincoln's Inn by the then Leader of the Opposition, the present Prime Minister. He saidIf people knew their rights and knew the protection the law can give them, it would go a long way to get rid of the persecution and racketeering that is one of the afflictions of poverty, and to eliminate the inarticulate frustration and resentment that still gives credence to the inveterate fallacy—'one law for the rich and one for the poor.That is an inveterate fallacy that is looking less like a fallacy every day.Alas, we still have pockets of poverty in this country, and as long as we have them we shall have to do something to provide them with legal advice.325 The Prime Minister went on to advocate a salaried legal service. He has been Prime Minister for more than three years. When is that salaried legal service to make its appearance? When are we to have an effective neghbourhood advice service which reaches those who are still excluded by the extensive legal aid scheme? The Home Secretary and the Government face in the cities a situation which could mean that within a decade we in Britain, who in many ways have such a fortunate record of public harmony and public order, faced some of the problems which have overtaken our great neighbour the United States. We must ask the Government to act, and to act in a decisive manner, before it is too late.
§ 3.8 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Robert Carr)
The hon. Member for Hitchin (Mrs. Shirley Williams) covered a wide range of subjects. As she warned me she would do, she covered a much wider range than my personal responsibilities as Home Secretary, but many of them are very much in my field and I shall do my best to reply to them, and to deal with one or two others, too.
I shall leave the important questions of education to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science to answer. When the hon. Lady referred to housing, she said that questions on this subject would be dealt with on a later day in our debate on the Gracious Speech. It would therefore be right for me to leave them to my right hon. and learned Friend to deal with in detail when that day comes, but I must point out one or two things.
The Government have deliberately concentrated far more resources on the renovation of old homes, and we believe that is the right policy to pursue. The hon. Lady referred to our destroying more houses than we were building. If I may say so with respect to her, this was more a feature of the policy of slum clearance that we inherited than the one which we are now pursuing. Indeed, in some of the big cities—I heard reference to Manchester during the hon. Lady's speech—one can see the vast areas that have been levelled to the ground and have stayed levelled to the ground for ages before new building has taken place. I am not ap- 326 portioning blame but trying to learn from experience. That has happened under Governments of both parties and under the local authorities of both parties in different cities.
§ Mr. Carr
Not for the moment.
One of the things we have learned in recent years is that the wholesale laying waste of an area prior to its wholesale redevelopment has not, probably with the wisdom of experience since the war, proved the right or wisest way in which to tackle it. That is why the Government have changed the emphasis and are tackling it another way.
§ Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Ardwick)
The right hon. Gentleman is right to attack any authority that leaves areas looking as though they had been hit by a bomb. But, as he referred to Manchester, it is only fair to say that when the Conservative Party was in control of Manchester it left sites vacant for years. My constituency suffered. The Labour council builds almost immediately and estates spring up almost overnight. The right hon. Gentleman should come to Stockport Road and see for himself.
§ Mr. Carr
That is a very narrow-minded, cheap point, because I was at pains to say that I was not apportioning blame. But we have learned from experience that what I was criticising had happened under Governments and local authorities of both parties. I was not making a party point, as I went out of my way to stress.
In dealing with the homeless—indeed, before she dealt with the homeless specifically—the hon. Lady made a lot of play about hotel building. Which Government gave grants per bed without any test of need in order to get new hotels built in London?—the hon. Lady's Government. Which Government changed that system?—our Government. We have learned from experience, but the hon. Lady has no right to make a party point, because if a mistake was made clearly it was made by the Opposition and not by the present Government. In fact, we have reversed the harm done 327 by the Labour Government in this respect.
I hope that the House will forgive me, because, soon after speaking today, I shall have to leave the House for a long-standing engagement—not of a party nature—to speak in Newcastle this evening. I spoke to the hon. Lady and her colleague about it and they said that they would excuse my departure to keep that engagement. Not only will my right hon. Friend be making the concluding speech; other Home Office Ministers will be present, so that should any Home Office question arise during the debate it will be reported directly to me.
I realise that essentially the hon. Lady was concentrating on the last main paragraph in the Gracious Speech. I welcome that, because that paragraph expresses attitudes and intentions that really go to the heart of the Government's vision of society and the way in which its problems should be approached.
The Government do not see society in terms of classes and categories of people, and therefore do not see the answer to every problem in terms of collectivist action and increasing State paternalism. That is a perfectly arguable point. I remember the hon. Member for Birmingham, All Saints (Mr. Brian Walden) in a debate on the Industrial Relations Bill three years ago, making one of the best speeches, during which he raised this point, which is a real and genuine issue between the two sides of the House. I do not think that either side should be ashamed of it.
It is one of the fundamental choices which our two main parties offer to the people of this country. Certainly for most of us it is not a matter of going to extremes. By and large, the Labour Party offers a collectivist solution and the Conservative Party traditionally offers a more individualist solution. I trust that neither goes to extremes.
We Conservatives do not see the answer in collectivist action or increasing State paternalism. Rather, we see society in terms of individuals and individual families, and believe that the task of Government is, above all, to be constantly seeking to increase freedom, personal choice and independence, and to be increasing the diversity of opportunity in which people can express themselves in 328 their own ways and pursue their own ideas of excellence for their lives.
The basis of all this is a society that respects law and order in the widest sense of that phrase. Law and order is not the enemy of freedom but the basic condition for it. One of the things which perhaps ought to worry us is that over the last decade or so, particularly among young people, the phrase "law and order" has taken on a nasty tang. It is extremely important that we should understand exactly what it means.
Freedom means the chance of "doing your own thing", as long as that does not stop other people from doing theirs. That is why—whether one starts in the family or through private organisations such as sports clubs, horticultural societies and trade unions—as long as one is doing one's own thing only in a private way there can be private, informal rules. Once one's activities begin to impinge on society as a whole and to claim influence in the State, both individuals and organisations must be subject to the rule of law, because the law is the State's expression about the rules we all have to obey if we want to enjoy our freedoms without interfering with other people's.
We see this clearly in this House, because we have our rules of order not to restrict but to guarantee free speech. What is true in this House is true of the community at large. That is why, as a party, before we came to power we laid stress on law and order as a theme in our programme and why, since we have been in office, we have deliberately given high priority to the programmes of law and order.
One has only to look at the allocation of public expenditure to see what that means in practice. The average annual rate of growth of forecast expenditure on law and order has consistently been among the highest for individual programmes under our planning, and the rate of increase has been more than twice the average for total public expenditure. This is an expression of that priority, which we made a major theme in our appeal to the country and which we have been deliberately putting into practice since.
Law and order is, therefore, the basis of a free society, but it means much more than merely an attack on crime. It means 329 respect for other people in every sphere. It means respect for the civil law as much as for the criminal law. Nevertheless, although it is only one aspect of this whole problem, crime is a measure of the ferment, frustration and irresponsibility in society. It is the visible tip of the ice-berg. When crime is increasing, I believe it is a sign of sickness in society as a whole, and when it begins to decrease I think we might hope that it is a sign of increasing health in society as a whole.
Unfortunately, crime has been increasing relentlessly for 20 years, but let us not be too worried about it in national terms. It has been a feature of life not only in Britain but in almost every country. It is not by any means only a British problem. It has been increasing relentlessly for 20 years, but now, at last, we are seeing some signs that the tide may have begun to ebb.
The rate of increase in overall crime slowed down in 1971, but it was still an increase. It slowed down further in 1972, but it was still an increase. But in 1973 it started to decline in total. For the first six months of this year, there was a 5½ per cent. decline in the total volume of crime. It is of interest, in order to appreciate the widespread nature of the situation, to recall that in the first six months of this year no fewer than 36 out of 47 police forces in England and Wales reported a decrease in crime in their areas compared with the first half of last year.
It is the first time for 20 years that we have seen such reports of a decrease in crime, but we must not be complacent about it. We cannot assume that one year's change is the beginning of a long-term trend, and I am not trying to make that claim, but this is the first time for many years that that has happened.
It is also true—one has to consider the black side as well as the bright lining in these clouds—that although overall crime has started to decline, violent crime is still rising, and rising sharply, and this is serious. But even with violent crime there are some signs of hope, because victims of burglary, robbery, and mugging are all substantially down this year compared with last year, and these are among the serious crimes that most 330 threaten the majority of ordinary people as they go about their daily lives.
Violence is still on the increase. It is still one of the most serious threats with which we have to deal, and I do not believe we yet know the true reasons for it. Within the Home Office I have put in hand a special study to see whether we can arrive at a better understanding of its causes, and therefore more of an understanding of the way in which we might set about its cure.
§ Mr. W. F. Deedes (Ashford)
Before my right hon. Friend leaves the subject of statistics, will he give the House an assurance that what some people allege is not true? It is said that the basis on which criminal statistics have been prepared in recent years may have altered the validity of the figures which my right hon. Friend offers. Can he give us an assurance that that is not so?
§ Mr. Carr
I think I can, yes. We have been altering the basis of our statistics considerably, but the figures published for last year gave the comparison between the old and the new. Although it would be foolish to claim too much accuracy for statistics, I think I can say with real certainty—the real certainty of our gathered statistics coupled with the monthly reports of chief constables throughout the country—that the downward trend which I have described is, indeed, a fact of life in 1973. Although we must not become complacent about the situation, I believe that it is true. We can only hope that it is not a one year's wonder, but is the beginning of the ebbing of the tide that has been flowing in so strongly for the last 20 years.
I want now to deal with one or two of the points made by the hon. Lady. She asked about young offenders. She will know that I am waiting for the report of my advisory council. I am not blaming it in any way, because it has had a heavy task. When I became Home Secretary 15 months ago, I hoped that I should have the council's report at the beginning of this year. Then I hoped that I should have it in the summer, and now I believe that I shall get it within the next few weeks. I emphasise that I say that not in any criticism of the council. 331 It could not have pressed ahead with its task with greater concentration than it has—justice is a big and difficult subject. I hope to have its report in a few weeks' time.
It has been right not to take any new decisions about young offenders until that report is available for consideration not only by me and my advisers in the Home Office, but by the House, the public and those who are most knowledgeable and experienced in that respect. When the report is available, we shall need to have a new look at the whole problem of treatment of young offenders.
§ Mrs. Shirley Williams
Will the Home Secretary say whether there is any liaison between his Department and the Department of Health and Social Security about alternatives to prison accommodation for young offenders under the Children and Young Persons Act, even at the point at which the Government have, as it were, brought this process to an end?
§ Mr. Carr
Yes, there is liaison. Community homes and other homes are being stimulated by my right hon. Friend. It will always be a matter of debate—divisions of responsibility are difficult to determine—and assuming the present division is right, there is no doubt that the hiving off from one Department to another inevitably—and I do not blame anybody—causes a temporary check before gathering momentum under the new auspices.
I am convinced it is gathering momentum, and I assure the hon. Lady and the House that the co-operation between the Home Office and my right hon. Friend's Department is good and close. It is not bedevilled by jealousy or the feeling, "You have got it, now you can get on with it." I assure the House that that spirit does not exist, and that we will make progress.
In many ways we are doing all we can to encourage treatment in non-custodial form. The House will probably agree that the 1972 Criminal Justice Act takes a big step forward in that respect by offering new opportunities to the courts for prescribing non-custodial treatment. We are increasing the financing of hostels of various types and, most important if we are to aim for more non-custodial 332 treatment, we must increase the number of probation officers. That is what we have done.
When we came to office, we found in situ 3,400 probation officers in England and Wales, with an establishment ceiling of only 3,500. That establishment ceiling has now been raised to 5,250 for 1976 and we already have well over 4,000 probation officers in post—and the recruiting and training of probation officers is, I am glad to say, still going well in 1973, in spite of difficulties in many other services. That is a good sign.
I have put in hand within the Home Office studies to see whether there are any new policy initiatives that we can take in order deliberately to increase the tendency to move away from custodial towards non-custodial treatment, particularly for the young offender and the minor offender. I do not believe that history in this and other countries indicates that prison is a very successful way of either deterring or reforming the criminal, or carrying out punishment, in so far as that is a proper part of penal policy. I therefore believe that while there must, of course, be prisons and more prison places than we now have in order to make prisons more effective, the more we can reserve prisons for criminals who must be locked up to protect the safety of the public, the better we shall get on. We are investigating what can be done to accelerate that trend.
§ Mr. S. C. Silkin (Dulwich)
Following the point which the right hon. Gentleman has been making about caring for the young, and also on the question of co-operation between his Department and the Department of Health and Social Security, can he give the House any indication of the progress that has been made with the setting up of detoxification centres, particularly as that is a problem which is affecting the young more and more?
§ Mr. Carr
I am sorry, but I cannot answer that question without notice. I shall write to the hon. and learned Gentleman. I agree about the importance of the subject. It is one which must have more priority, because the more one talks to people working with 333 the young, the more one realises how seriously we need to take the problem of alcohol.
Referring to the police complaints procedure, I merely tell the hon. Lady that I still hope to make a statement before the end of the year, or very soon after. Progress is being made.
I am unable to follow in detail the hon. Lady's remarks about legal aid. I must, however, remind her that expenditure on legal aid is expanding rapidly and we have at least introduced the £25 advice scheme. There may not have been as much progress as we could have made, but it is still considerable progress. I am unable to make any promises at this moment about the next stages.
§ Sir Elwyn Jones (West Ham, South)
Can the right hon. Gentleman give any hope about encouraging assistance to neighbourhood law centres? This is an important movement for the assistance of our fellow citizens who are in trouble. Can he give some idea whether the Government will live up to the splendid words of the Prime Minister before the General Election?
§ Mr. Carr
I cannot give the right hon. and learned Gentleman any particular information today, but I take note of his remarks. I shall examine the matter and see that it is given serious consideration.
I turn to the subject of the police. In the front line of our campaign over the last year, as from the beginning, has been our effort to strengthen the police. When we came to power, police strength in England and Wales was 92,707; in September this year it had risen to 100,329. The 100,000 mark was exceeded during this year for the first time in our history. The House will appreciate that I am talking only of England and Wales. Furthermore, at the same time we have increased civilian back-up strength by 7,000, thus freeing a larger proportion of policemen to do jobs which only policemen can do and leaving civilians to do some of the other work.
I am glad to say that nationally the figures are still rising in most areas, but London—and I admitted this frankly to the House in July—is a serious and worrying problem. Therefore, I shall concentrate for a few moments on what we 334 intend to do about the situation in London.
It is no good pretending that there is any immediate, easy answer. In the first nine months of the year we suffered in the Metropolitan area a net loss of 429 policemen. This must be regarded as a serious loss of manpower. The number of policemen in London is, however, still slightly greater than it was when we took office, although I must admit that it looks as though I shall not be able to say that for very much longer if the present trend continues. I do not belittle the seriousness of the situation when I say that we did see an increase, but we are now suffering a loss, though at least the number is still slightly more than it was when we came to power.
What can we do about the situation? One's mind immediately turns to questions of pay, conditions and allowances. They are central matters. But we are also—and the Commissioner of Police is giving great attention to this—trying to learn more about the real causes of wastage. Although some occurs because of competitive pay and conditions, the problem cannot all be laid at that door. Any of us with practical experience of employment problems knows that if one concentrates on wastage one can do a good deal to reduce it by changes altogether outside pay. If we can reduce wastage, we shall have done a good deal to solve our problem. Recruitment is still taking place, though it is not as high as during the period when there was less full employment than there is today. Recruitment would be reasonably satisfactory if only wastage were lower. Therefore, we must concentrate on dealing with wastage. What must we do about pay and allowances? It must be said that we have already done a good deal about rent allowances, which was a matter the House discussed in July. We have already taken an extremely important step in raising the maximum allowance in the metropolitan area from the £10 which it was in July to just over £15 at present, though not every constable gets the maximum of £15. These allowances are not all in payment yet but, so far as I can work out, the whole system of paying rent allowance is now much better than it was. When these new rent allowances are in payment, 335 about 80 per cent. of those in the Metropolitan Police force who receive rent allowance will be receiving more than the old maximum. The average benefit to the Metropolitan policeman in terms of pay will be about £2 to £3 a week and it must be remembered that rent allowance is tax free.
Now that we have got the rent allowance right in London, we have taken a big step to improve the competitive position of the total pay and allowance for the Metropolitan Police. It was right to do this because it was a basic condition of service in the police that their salary levels were fixed, as the Royal Commission made clear, on the assumption that they had free housing either in police houses or were given an allowance equivalent to meet the cost of other housing. Therefore, it is in no way in breach of the normal pay policy to maintain the promise to the police that their salary levels should be separate from the housing allowance.
§ Mr. Robert Mellish (Bermondsey)
Because I have a vested interest in this matter, I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman one question. I recognise the importance of the increase in rent allowances, but I wish to point out that this improvement has now been cut back because of the enormous increase in mortgages that has taken place over the last few months, which has shattered any idea that policemen are receiving substantial rent allowances. Is the Home Secretary aware that the difficulties that face the London police forces fall upon them because of the vast responsibilities which they undertake and the quite terrifying split duties that they have to perform?
§ Mr. Carr
With respect to the right hon. Gentleman, it must be said that however much difficulty may be caused to people by the present mortgage interest rates, this is not a problem that applies particularly to policemen. It will not cause policemen to stop being policemen and become something else; they will not avoid the problem by ceasing to be policemen. But it must also be said that by increasing rent allowances—and we must take into account the fact that the allowances are tax-free—something substantial has been done.
§ Mr. Carr
I am sorry that I cannot give way on this point. There are a number of other matters which the hon. Member for Hitchin mentioned—particularly, urban deprivation—that I wish to take up, and I do not want to use too much of the time of the House.
In the last three years we have done a great deal to improve police pay relative to the pay in other sections of working life. That must not be forgotten. The criteria proposed for phase 3 will be of substantial help. The possibility of negotiating something in the Police Council in terms of unsocial hours is clearly of particular importance to the police. It does not need proof to show that police work unsocial hours. It is also important, for police and all the London services mentioned by the hon. Lady, that London allowance shall be outside pay limits. This is a new and important departure.
I should also like to mention the inquiry which we have asked the Pay Board to conduct into the whole question of London allowances. As the hon. Lady will know, London allowances are now calculated on the basis of the old National Board for Prices and Incomes Report, which was issued during the Labour Government's term of office, and we believe that those allowances should be looked at. At present the Pay Board says that it needs until next June to report. We shall do all we can to encourage the speeding up of that report. The House must realise that if we are to look in depth at the problem of London allowances, we must examine the matter properly. Therefore, although we shall do all we can to hurry it up, this is all I can say about timing at the moment.
§ Mr. George Cunningham
Does the right hon. Gentleman not remember that when, three or four months ago, some of us were pressing the Government to do exactly what the right hon. Gentleman is now saying, namely, to review the whole system of London allowances, the Government said that it would be premature to do this so soon after the previous investigation?
§ Mr. Carr
I will not go into that. At least we are doing so now. One also has 337 to bear in mind that to do this in conjunction with phase 3 is rather different from doing it in conjunction with the operation of phase 2, and all the work that the Pay Board was doing on its anomalies report and other matters. But it has now been put in hand as a matter of urgency for study in depth.
The hon. Lady made a lot of the problems of London and other cities. I think I can say, generally, that the measures that will help the police will help other public services as well. But it is no good burking the issue. The real problem that we are meeting in London, in particular, but also, no doubt, in other big cities, springs from two factors. First, there is the return to nearly full employment, and still rising employment; and, secondly, there is the fact that, unlike the situation that existed in the 1950s and the early 1960s, which was the last period during which we had this high level of employment, we are no longer permitting the entry into this country of large quantities of immigration labour to take up jobs of this sort. We have to face that fact quite clearly, and we have to say to the House and the country, "We cannot have it all ways".
As I have told the House many times—and I say this again firmly today—I have no doubt that because of the social problems in this country and the need to maintain good community relations it is right that we should now limit immigration to the inescapable minimum, and that is a very small number. But we cannot do that and then wonder why we are running into trouble with many services—because it is not only buses and trains; it is hospitals and everything in between—when in the last long period of full employment in this country that is how we met the need. That is something that we have to face. I noticed in the speech of the hon. Lady, just as I noticed in the speech of the Leader of the Opposition on Tuesday, that while there was a lot of criticism there was not one constructive suggestion as to how we should solve the problem.
This is a major problem, and it is no good imagining that it will be overcome by some deviations of incomes policy, by naming lots of special cases. I think that the House, as well as the last Gov- 338 ernment, who also had the unpleasant task—which was as regretful to them as it is to us—of trying to operate an incomes policy, knowing that when we grant special cases those special cases become general cases. I bitterly regret that, because it is an admission of failure on the part of all in our society that we have to operate this policy, but we do not believe that we can suddenly start making special cases and keep matters under control. The point is that the new system of statutory incomes policy is making an effort, of a kind which was never made by the last Government, to use the machinery of the Pay Board to deal with anomalies, to look at relativities, and to try to tackle this problem. But it is very difficult. It cannot be done quickly or easily. However, we have at least made a beginning, and that is something which nobody has done before.
§ Mr. Carr
The hon. Gentleman talks about the general problems of the lower-paid, but from the moment we started it our incomes policy has been deliberately biased in favour of the lower-paid, simply because the criteria have been expressed in lump sums. Even this year, when there is a percentage as an alternative, there is still a lump sum which is much more than a percentage increase would be for the lower-paid. This is a bias in favour of the lower-paid which was never present in the incomes policy of the party opposite, and they know it.
I want to end by saying something on the urban problem, because this is fundamental to the problems of our society and the level of crime in our society. As I said earlier, the level of crime is only the visible tip of the iceberg of social ferment lying beneath. This is not a new problem. When I look back to the old days of the Industrial Revolution, I naturally concentrate on the terrible areas and the terrible conditions for women and children, as well as for men, and I do not understand how such conditions could ever have been imposed. But sometimes I do not think we look back enough—
§ Mr. Carr
That was the old laissez-faire, not the policy of the Tory Party, and there is a big difference. But I believe that at least as bad, in the long run, in its effect on human beings as the bad working conditions was the way they were brought to live in large masses in urban centres. That did more to destroy the individuality, the sense of security, and so on, than did the bad working conditions in the factories.
§ Mr. Carr
I must not get into a debate today on that subject although, as the hon. Gentleman knows well, I could do so. The answer is not to get rid of private enterprise but to do the sort of things which Tory statesmen, such as Lord Shaftesbury and Disraeli, did in introducing a proper Factories Act. If one looks back 100 years, one recognises that they were very major statesmen in the context of their time. I shall not too greatly upset the modern Liberal Party by saying that it has far more responsibility for economic laissez-faire than we Conservatives. Our urban problems were inherited from long ago, and they are very serious. The last Government started to tackle these problems by their urban programmes in the Home Office, and in other ways, and since we came to power we have continued and intensified them. The hon. Lady mentioned smaller figures, but she must realise that expenditure on the urban programme has a cumulative effect. One is adding new tranches of expenditure every year, and the rate of addition may vary; it may go up again, just as, temporarily, it has fallen. But, of course, total expenditure is rising quite sharply—as will be seen from the Estimates—because there is an inheritance from the programme started in the past. Also, there are the special education priorities, about which my right hon. Friend will speak. In housing, we have not only concentrated on renovating older houses; we have recommended putting forward—
§ Mr. Carr
No, I must not give way again. The Secretary of State for Employment has continued the pilot experiment of community industry which I had 340 the opportunity to start, and that is now growing in some of our cities. There are the studies of life in six major cities inaugurated by my right hon. Friend the previous Secretary of State for the Environment. They are not yet complete, but I can assure the hon. Lady that they are going ahead and I hope that they will be completed fairly soon. There are the new experiments in the quality of life, recently announced by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment, the Paymaster-General and the Secretaries of State for Scotland and Wales, where in four areas—in Sunderland and Stoke in this country, in Flintshire in Wales, and in an area in Scotland—we are bringing together voluntary local government effort, aided by Government, to try to raise the qualities of leisure and the opportunities for the use of leisure.
Schemes are going on in many areas, and these have to be intensified. But something else has to be more intensified; we have to bring them together in a more co-ordinated way. That is why, a few months ago, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister asked me to act as the co-ordinating Minister in this field. He did that because we as a Government recognised that the time had come to draw together all these complex strands and all the work being done by different departments, many voluntary agencies, and local authorities.
We need to learn quickly whatever lessons are available not only from our own experience but from the experience of other countries. We need to establish priorities between the programmes so that we can strike a balance between them. This is a very complex task which presents an almost unprecedented challenge to central and local government. If it is to be tackled with enough vigour it will require special machinery, and to help me in this approach I have set up in the Home Office a special unit which I am calling the Urban Deprivation Unit. This is a unique piece of machinery, designed to meet a special need. It may be necessary to change it as we go along, but for the moment it is suited to do the job, and I should like briefly to tell the House something about it.
Essentially, it comprises two separate parts—a research organisation and an organisation for action. I have set in hand 341 a wide-ranging study of the real nature of urban deprivation and the deeper problems underlying it. It is being conducted by a senior economic adviser who has a number of specially recruited staff to help him. He is in touch with a wide range of people concerned with many aspects of urban deprivation. Consultations are being held with the local authorities which are dealing with the many problems. Discussions are going on with academics, sociologists and people who are practically concerned in this field. A thorough study is being made of the problems with up-to-date experience in this country and in others.
It is difficult to forecast at this stage when I shall receive a report, but I shall be disappointed if, by the summer of next year, I do not get at least some preliminary recommendations from this team, which I hope will lay down important new guidelines for policy, action and organisation from then onwards.
The second part of the urban deprivation unit is the action part. The first part is the thinking ahead. The second part is in charge of a senior administrative civil servant. It is concerned with the immediate practical issues, with what we are doing now in government as a whole and what we might do to tackle the major problems. To this section will fall the job immediately of examining the need to bring together the various activities of Government Departments and to channel resources so far as possible to where they are most needed, so that we get much more co-ordinated positive discrimination in favour of these city problems.
§ Mr. Carr
It is relatively small, but I shall expand it if and when it becomes necessary. In this area the working people are the local authorities, the voluntary bodies and the existing Government Departments. What is needed is some co-ordinating staff which ought not to be too big to make it effective. At the moment it is small; it consists of not more than half a dozen people. This is a very early stage, and I do not want to make a forecast of what the number will be in six months' time. It will not be 600, or even 60. It will, of course, 342 tend to grow when we see what the work is. We believe that we can add to the effectiveness of the programme while we are carrying out a study of what the programmes could be in the future.
Both sections of this unit have been set up and are now beginning to get into full swing, although it is early days yet. I shall have to report later to the House on the progress which is being made. I see this work as the key to providing a better life for those who live in the cities and also as a way of improving community relations. Although the urban problem is not one which, in itself centres on race, large numbers of our coloured citizens live in our older city areas. Therefore, if we can remove some of the stress and frustration from urban life we shall at the same time be making an important contribution to better race relations.
To sum up, behind these initiatives on the urban side lie three underlying principles. First, I have already referred to the principle which I think the Plowden Committee first described as positive descrimination. I do not think there will be any dissent from the recognition that it is right for the Government to make more help available to those problem areas to enable them more effectively to help themselves. This underlies the administration of the urban programme and it will increasingly underlie it.
The second principle which needs to be recognised is that we must provide a more comprehensive co-ordination of our policies, and that is what we are doing.
The third principle, which I think commands widespread acceptance, is the recognition of the need to give additional support to families living in deprived areas. It is, I believe, generally accepted that these families need more support and advice over a wide range of problems than do other families. There is ample evidence that people living in the poorer areas are not taking up their full entitlement to welfare benefits, and sometimes, for instance in the case of Ugandan Asians, they need to be helped to understand the system. That is the third principle that I want to see applied in practice as a result of this new drive.
I hope that I can leave the House with the feeling that a great deal more is being done than merely to continue the 343 lead started some years ago. Efforts are not only being intensified; acting on these three principles, they are being made more effective in the short run, and plans are being made to make them far more effective in the long run. We must recognise the wide range of problems. It is no good tackling them individually. It is no good bringing housing to one area and education to another. We must have an all-systems approach. That, I think, is implicit in what I have said. It is not something that can be done by central Government or local government on its own, or by voluntary bodies on their own. It is part of a problem that can be dealt with only in partnership between central Government, local government and all the voluntary bodies with which we are blessed, and if we can bring them into this active partnership in specified areas we shall find that we can begin to make some inroad into the major area of the problem.
§ Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)
I listened with great interest to the right hon. Gentleman and I agree with much of what he said. Would he add a further principle—a fourth principle? Not only should he co-ordinate the voluntary bodies, central Government and local government; the great fault of local government has been its failure to involve the people themselves. There must be participation by the people. This should be the fourth principle.
§ Mr. Carr
I fully accept that. I mentioned the quality of life experiments. When one talks about voluntary bodies at local level, one is talking about involving people at local level. This will not make sense—I appreciate the right hon. Gentleman's giving me the opportunity to say this—if we merely do things for communities. It will make sense only if we make it possible for communities to do things themselves for themselves.
§ 3.59 p.m.
§ Mr. Guy Barnett (Greenwich)
I am sure that many of us were interested to hear the remarks which came at the end of the Home Secretary's speech. Although none of us could possibly judge how important and valuable these proposals will be, since they seem to me to be very vague, I am sure that we 344 wish the right hon. Gentleman and the Government well in the steps which they are now taking.
I note that this proposal involving the right hon. Gentleman's co-ordinating rôle involves six people. We do not know how much money is to be spent on it, but we are glad to see that the right numbers are at work. I think this debate was originally thought of because of a feeling among many of us that the trouble with many of these problems is that they are departmentalised.
The ordinary citizen in the great city constituencies we represent does not see his problems as problems of the Department of Health and Social Security, the Department of Education and Science, the Home Office or any other Department. He sees them as his problems, and often those problems are indissolubly related one to another. That is why many of us on the Opposition benches feel that there is a strong case for setting up a special Ministry for London so that all these problems can be looked at globally. Certainly, much greater co-ordination between the home Departments will be needed if we are to overcome them.
I have some right to say this as it was I who in the Consolidated Fund debate last July at four o'clock in the morning opened a debate on the public services in London when I had an audience of about five. I am glad to have this opportunity of taking part in the debate today at this early stage.
At the beginning of our debate on the Gracious Speech on Tuesday my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition used the words "London is seizing up." In a recent leader The Times wrote,Public services in London are not far from breaking down.Those of us who represent constituencies in the great conurbations must try to assess the size of the problem which faces us. I did not get the impression from what the Home Secretary said—interspersed with his musings about Conservative philosophy—that he saw this as a growing problem. I do not share his faith in the level of crime as a barometer of the health of our society. I do not believe that the figure showing a decrease in crime in London is by any 345 means an indication that we are beginning to overcome the basic social problems.
The impression I get from talking to my constituents, people who are actually facing these problems, is that they are getting worse and that people's patience is getting further and further exhausted. This is the sort of remark that is made to me by people who live in slums: "When the war came to an end, we knew that buildings had been bombed and that the country faced problems but we were prepared to be patient, to wait to be rehoused, to wait for schools and other public buildings to be restored. We looked forward to the day when governments, whether local or national, would provide for our needs and would raise the general level of the district in which we lived."
Instead, those people have seen their environment steadily worsening. People who live in the conurbations are beginning to lose faith with politics and politicians because a great many people who had a loyalty to a particular part of London, Manchester or Liverpool are disappointed that the basic problems affecting their lives have remained unsolved—worse than that, the situation is deteriorating.
When I said that I was talking not about one problem but about a whole series of related problems I was not referring only to the social services. The Department of Employment should be involved in this debate to a considerable degree because the environment in which a man lives includes his place of work, the security of his job and how near that job is to where he lives. It includes the part the man plays both at his place of work and in his community.
By a curious accident there is an illustration of the problems to which I am drawing attention on the front page of my local newspaper, the Kentish Independent, under the headlines:We live in squalorBlack spot tenants form 'action group'At last, people who have been putting up with these appalling conditions are beginning to make a fuss about them. The newspaper reports a tenant as saying,The landlord has done nothing and, in desperation, my son is trying to carry out a few repairs that will make conditions tolerable 346 for us. Rain pours down the walls at the side of the house and some windows are jammed tight because the sash cords have broken.Another tenant is reported as saying that when it rains the water cascades through the ceiling, and that the place is alive with rats and mice. He claims that his daughter has been constantly ill because of the conditions. The property to which this remark refers was the subject of compulsory purchase order by the Greenwich Borough Council but an appeal against it was made by the landlord and upheld by the Secretary of State.
I have visited those properties myself and have seen the disgusting conditions in which these people live. If the Government want direct evidence of what can be done, they should look at properties of this kind, of which there are many in London, Liverpool, Birmingham and Newcastle. I do not blame just the Tories. I recognise that there is an element of responsibility also on the Opposition benches. In this and similar debates we should not be talking about whether it is the Government's fault or the Opposition's fault but rather about what policies the Government have that are relevant to this situation. I see little or no evidence in the Home Secretary's speech of any relevant policies that are central to the subject we are debating.
It is not surprising that people are getting angry. Their patience is exhausted. The group of tenants to whom I referred have formed a housing action group. There have been several demonstrations on the streets in my constituency about heavy lorries. Other hon. Members have had similar experiences in their constituencies, and rightly so. That is why, whatever the crime figures may tell the Home Secretary, I believe that the situation is getting worse. London is not merely seizing up; we shall see signs of increasing violence in our society as a consequence of the failure of governments, local and national, to tackle the problems.
I have been speaking about homes but we have also to remember the schools. The Secretary of State for Education and Science is here, and she knows as well as I do that in the London schools there is an appalling shortage of teachers and children are being sent home early. This poses problems for married women who 347 go out to work, many of whom are employed in the public services, so we get involved in a vicious circle.
The Secretary of State for Education and Science may have seen a copy of a National Union of Teachers document called "The Bitter Lesson". It is relevant to read from that document what one teacher says:I am moving firstly because it is increasingly difficult to live in London on the present rate of teachers' pay—even on scale three or four I still would not be able to maintain a decent standard of living Secondly because I am going to work in higher education. But thirdly and most important the quality of life in London has deteriorated considerably over recent years; amenities, transport, housing are now far better outside London.I have been making some investigations with the Management Service Unit of the London boroughs which is conducting a considerable survey into the reasons which lie behind the failure of the London boroughs to recruit specialist staff. One interesting piece of preliminary evidence, although the survey is by no means complete, is that people leave jobs in London for jobs in the provinces between the ages of 25 and 40. The Home Secretary speaks of the need for experienced people in London, but the tragedy is that in public service after public service it is the people who have the best working years of their lives to give who are going from London. They are going because at 25 a man is just beginning to start a family and cannot find any accommodation in London that he can possibly afford.
I came across an extraordinary case of a quite moderately paid railway man in my constituency who, to his surprise and amazement, discovered that the small terraced house that he had purchased and lived in for many years and was about to leave was worth £11,000. He asked the estate agent, "Who will buy my little house for £10,000 or £11,000? "The answer he got was, 'A civil servant or a teacher with an allowance."
Frankly, that is why teachers in their hundreds are leaving London. It is also why policemen are getting out of London. The Home Secretary does not seem to appreciate that increasingly among policemen there is a demand for owner-occupation. It is perfectly natural. They want to be owner-occupiers just as do teachers, 348 civil servants and others. As I said, this is why teachers are moving out and why the mortgage rate is directly relevant to the issue that we are discussing.
I realise that many hon. Members wish to speak in the debate and I have no desire to occupy the House much longer, but I must refer to two points.
The first—I ought to declare an interest as I am consultant to the Society of Civil Servants—concerns the desperate situation we are facing in offices of the Department of Health and Social Security where people come to claim benefit of one kind or another.
From talking to local managers I have discovered that there are two problems. The first is the lack of experience, to which I have referred, and the fact that they are losing so many officers in the higher grades who are in a position to give expert attention to applicants. The second is the shortfall in staff and the inability to recruit people to work on the desks. This directly affects the quality of life of people living in London.
My wife, who is a social worker, has told me of potential applicants who will not go to the local social security office now because they cannot bear the waiting and the peremptory treatment that they receive. Of course, that is the only treatment that can be given by civil servants who face queues of people waiting to see them. One reason for people not taking up benefit is that they cannot bear the waiting any longer to obtain it and Government offices are not equipped to pay them out quickly. I am not surprised to have heard a rumour going about that the Prime Minister's office has been making inquiries all over London about the shortfall in recruitment at these offices.
I will sum up on this second important point. I am glad that the Home Secretary paid some attention to the London allowance. That is an issue that we certainly need to discuss. My hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin (Mrs. Shirley Williams), who opened the debate with a most impressive speech, said that we need to look perhaps to a Birmingham allowance, a Liverpool allowance, and so on.
It seems directly relevant here to mention an article which appeared in the colour supplement to The Sunday Times 349 on 14th October headed "The best place to buy". It depicts a number of photographs of houses. One is of a Victorian terraced cottage with two bedrooms. If it happens to be in Barnes it will cost £20,000, if it is in Norwich it will cost £4,000 and if it is in Wolverhampton it will cost £3,500. That seems to sum up the problem that we are facing: that such property in London is outside the range of civil servants or teachers. In Norwich they might just manage to buy it and in Wolverhampton they probably can. There is also a map showing the variations in house prices in different parts of the country.
If the Government are serious in their desire to institute a good incomes policy and want to do it in fairness and justice to all sections of the community in all regions, a much wider inquiry is needed than has been talked about.
First, we need an across-the-board London allowance covering all public services—policemen, teachers, probation officers, and so on. Secondly, we need to look at variations in the cost of living in different parts of the country to ensure that wherever people are serving the public, in whatever capacity, they do not suffer in consequence of working in one part of the country compared with another.
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Sydney Chapman (Birmingham, Handsworth)
I am grateful for the opportunity of speaking in the debate. I am particularly pleased to follow the hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Guy Barnett) who has put forward his views both pungently and powerfully. I think that many hon. Members on both sides of the House will agree with much of what he said.
There is indeed a sense of intense frustration among those who live in what have been euphemistically called the inner city areas. I understand that the subject of the debate was chosen by the Opposition. Therefore, I should like to thank them for choosing a subject which gives us the opportunity to look at all the problems in these inner city areas rather than having to deal with them one by one as national subjects arise.
There are many problems in my constituency, part of which is an inner city area. These problems are doubtless 350 shared by other hon. Members in all parts of the country. But the particular problems facing Handsworth are not just of education, the environment and employment, but also of immigration and law and order. I am not suggesting that my constituency is unique in the problems that it faces, but, as with perhaps half-a-dozen similar areas in this kingdom, those problems are particularly concentrated in places such as Handsworth.
I want to take up the challenge by the hon. Member for Greenwich and his hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin (Mrs. Shirley Williams). The people living in these problem areas are, to say the least, utterly fed up with politicians and sociologists posing and talking about the problems. Not only do they want action but they want to see that action in their streets.
I hope that I may make one or two helpful suggestions to my right hon. Friends which they will consider. I recognise that Governments of both parties in the last five years have made sincere efforts to deal with social stress problems. I warmly welcomed certain aspects of the Housing Act 1969 to do with general improvement areas; the introduction of the urban aid programme; the setting up of education priority areas; and the various environmental grants that have been made available to try to tackle some of those problems.
I must take issue with one point of the hon. Member for Hitchin. Whatever criticisms can be made of this Government's housing policy—and criticisms there are—I think they are to be congratulated on their real effort to tackle not only slum conditions but what are regarded as twilight areas which would have become slums had radical action not been taken. For example, last year over 300,000 improvement grants were made available for dwellings, many of them in the inner city areas.
I think that the hon. Member for Hitchin took rather selective figures regarding the urban aid programme. In the last three years £22½ million has been specifically devoted to these projects. Also—doubtless my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science when she answers the debate will confirm this figure—572 schools have 351 come under education priority areas, and the building allocation programme for those schools is running at about £34 million.
We all recognise that help is being given, but no doubt we shall continue to argue that not enough help is being given. The real question is to examine whether the help that the Government are trying to give is being directed most effectively to the areas where it is most needed. The argument is not about resources or more resources—we are all agreed on that—but about how those resources should be used. Frankly, I question whether some of the local authorities—I recognise that they will be reformed next April—have the capacity to make the total approach that is necessary to deal with these problems.
The financial problems that local authorities face are obvious. I have always regarded the rating system as illogical, unfair and out of date. It acts against help being given to social stress areas. If the rating system is not abolished—as I fear it will not be—and replaced by a more practical method of local income tax, I greatly hope that the rate support grant will be radically altered to take into consideration the increased needs of inner city areas.
I believe that this cycle of deprivation will not be broken unless we can tackle the environmental quality of inner city areas. I do not say that environmental quality is the only difficulty, but I believe that it is the key to tackling successfully the other social and economic problems.
We need a national awareness of the situation. The nation as a whole must be more aware of the great dangers which we may face. Frustration could lead to violence and accentuate the other problems we must deal with—such as immigration—unless the nation is prepared to make much greater sacrifices and discriminate in favour of these areas. The awareness and the approach must be concerted, concentrated and co-ordinated.
I believe that we must define the areas we need to help. These areas may cut across local authority boundaries. They will certainly cut across ward boundaries. I wonder whether there is a case for setting up special action areas in some of our great cities. I believe these areas can be physically defined and delineated. 352 Some of the problems can be actually seen. I could go round my constituency, as other hon. Members could go round theirs, and literally draw the boundaries.
I believe that there could be a need for the creation of a new national agency to deal with these defined areas and to decide and direct the priorities which should be devoted to them. If we can have the setting-up of new town development corporations, perhaps we could have development corporations for these special action areas.
I know that it is the current vogue amongst all politicians to ask for a Minister to deal with particular and special problems. But I think that there is a case for a Minister to be appointed with sole and special responsibility for these areas. I take the point that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has been asked by the Prime Minister to co-ordinate activities in these areas, but I suggest there is an overriding case for a Minister with sole responsibility.
Obviously these areas need extra powers and greater resources. If we are, as I believe we must, to discriminate in favour of these areas, I suggest that this could be done in a number of ways. This list is not meant to be comprehensive. First, whatever is the proportion that can be paid in improvement grants for improving a house, particularly in general improvement areas, surely that proportion might be greater for those renovating property in special action areas. There is a case for giving extra help, for example, to housing associations changing property or renovating property in these areas as opposed to others. If these areas qualify for dereliction grants—I hope that the scope of these grants will be extended to deal with waste land in cities—a grant above the national 85 per cent., even at the level of 100 per cent., might be the sort of discriminatory method chosen to deal with renewal problems.
The agencies, which as my right hon. Friend suggested must inevitably be a combination of national Government and local government working together, might have extra powers of control in these areas for such things as dealing with pollution and traffic. Criteria could well be laid down as to density of population, and the recreation and community facilities.
353 We must tackle the problem which is highlighted in the peculiarly difficult situation of the Metropolis, but which is equaly applicable to certain other cities, and discriminate in favour of professional people's pay. I do not believe that an adequate number of teachers will be persuaded into some of the urban areas where they are most needed unless the differential is much greater than it is, recognising that there is an additional £105 for teachers who at present work in one of the 572 schools that come under the educational priority areas.
There should be discrimination also in police pay in these areas. The policeman who has to look after the beat on the Soho Road, part of which is in my constituency, should be paid more than the policeman who is looking after the beat in a Somerset village. I know that the Police Federation will resist this and say that all police salaries should be raised. I do not believe that we shall get rid of the under-manning problem in Birmingham, where there is no under-manning allowance, unless that happens. The same thing must apply to social workers.
Lastly, I want to mention one aspect of the problem of the high proportion of immigrants concentrated in my constituency and doubtless in other parts of other cities. I am prepared to accept absolutely that it is wrong to have a policy of dispersing immigrant children to other schools in certain areas. Five years ago the Department of Education and Science encouraged the idea that where there were more than 30 per cent. of immigrant children in any class the policy of dispersal should be encouraged. With very few exceptions, practically every local education authority thinks that this is bad or has not put it into practice. There are sound social as well as educational reasons why this should not be done, and I understand them.
But if that is so, I think that these areas have the right to greater educational resources than the national average. Whatever the national average may be of children to a classroom, it should be less in areas such as Handsworth. I hope that my right hon. Friend will be able to reassure me on that point in relation to Government policy in the months ahead.
354 Finally, the people of Handsworth think that far too many politicians have been talking for too long about the problems. The people of Handsworth ask for action, not only in their interests, but they believe, and I think rightly, in the overall national interest. If the greatest need in the world today is to have people of different races living in harmony, and if we can create happy communities in places such as Handsworth then we shall have seized an opportunity and set an example to many other countries which have shirked such a responsibility. If we are to do that, it will not be just a question of national resources being put into places such as parts of my constituency. It will involve very much also the psychological approach on which successive Governments have failed—that of government being seen to give extra discriminatory help to areas such as mine.
§ 4.29 p.m.
§ Mr. Kenneth Marks (Manchester, Gorton)
The hon. Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Mr. Sydney Chapman) rightly said that the people in the streets of his constituency, like those in mine, are demanding action now. At a time when there is an urgent crisis in the cities, we have had from the Secretary of State for the Home Department a series of promises about investigations, about the setting up of research and working parties small and large. What is needed is extra cash for the cities from national resources.
The Department most concerned, the Department of the Environment, is unrepresented on the Government Front Bench. During the last Session I initiated debates on five occasions on the financial problems of the large cities. I initiated Adjournment debates, Consolidated Fund debates and all the different kinds of debate it was possible to raise. I pointed out that the financial problems of the great cities were what they were because of the big cities' tremendous social problems—for example, social and housing problems.
Further, I pointed out that schools in the big cities faced special problems. The Prime Minister thought it odd that the Manchester City Council raised its social services spending by 35 per cent. in one year. In my view that was not enough. 355 There has been an increase in crime in the big cities. That is not because the citizens of Manchester, Leeds or Birmingham tend to be more criminal than in other parts of the country. The fact is that cities are magnets for criminals. Perhaps that applies most to London.
There are the problems of transport and traffic. In the large cities there is the traffic not only of the citizens of the cities but thousands of vehicles which stream in and through every day. There are problems of cleansing which make the problems of other more salubrious areas seem as nothing.
Last year we asked for more aid to go to the big cities by way of the rate support grant. We did not get it. We pointed out that the rate support grant formula contained anomalies which acted against big cities and acted in favour of the seaside areas. The Prime Minister saw the leaders of the big cities. The right hon. Gentleman said that nothing could be done. In fact, a great deal could have been done last year through local government grants to solve the problems about which we are now talking.
I hope that some of the anomalies of the rate support grant will be eradicated in the new Bill. There seems to be a promise that more will be done for the cities in the coming years. I shall not describe it as death-bed repentance. The General Election is a little further off than that. However, it is certainly sickbed repentance.
I wish to direct my remarks to what Government and Parliament can do to help, but a great deal could be done by other bodies. The schools could do more by way of social education. Education authorities could give more support for the welfare services to enable schools to tackle, for example, problems of truancy. But we must remember that the teachers in the schools in the large cities are already the most hard-pressed teachers of all.
I spent all my teaching career before I came here in the city areas. During the last six years since entering Parliament I have visited many schools and I know that the difficulties of a teacher in the cities have grown enormously. The trouble is that it is the younger teachers who are bearing the brunt. That is 356 because the proportion of younger teachers in the cities is much greater than elsewhere.
Much can be done by good neighbourliness. There was a lot of criticism of the flats in the city centre of Manchester in a recent by-election. If people did not throw rubbish off the balconies of flats that would be a great help. Training is needed. The Secretary of State for the Home Department virtually condemned the comprehensive redevelopment which is taking place in some of our cities. Such redevelopment was the only way to tackle the problems. Literally 100,000 houses in Manchester needed to be demolished. They could not be improved. The only way to tackle the problem was to create comprehensive redevelopment areas. That is what happened.
The Ministry approved the developments and clearances. To say now that one property has to be improved and another demolished is not the right way to tackle the problem in certain areas of Manchester—namely, Ardwick, Ancoats, the greater part of Gorton and other areas close to the city centre. It was right to create redevelopment areas. The haphazard method would not do. The idea of improvement areas would not have worked in the areas which I have mentioned. Perhaps it will work on the outskirts.
It is possible to criticise some of the developments which take place. They can be criticised by hindsight. Tower blocks have proved unsatisfactory, for many deck-access flats also present difficulties. The ideal would be to build houses with gardens, but with the cost of land and with the cost limits imposed on local authorities, that is not possible.
There are real problems in the clearance areas and in what the hon. Member for Birmingham, Handsworth, described as the twilight areas. We could both do a great deal more if instead of making speeches we took hon. Members on conducted tours through such areas in our constituencies, including not only the streets but the "back entries". I am sure that all hon. Members would be appalled. I am sure that they would demand that something should be done.
In the areas in which half the houses are empty, it is often the old people who 357 are left. Often they refuse the offers of various houses and flats. Basically they do not want to move. For them life is terrible during the period of clearance. Some of the empty houses are occupied by squatters and, in my area, by Irish tinkers. That presents great difficulties. Often the people living in such areas have sympathy with the tinkers, who are the victims of the wide boys in Ireland and in England. The refuse which is dumped in the back yards of the empty houses also presents a great problem. An immense effort is required to keep such areas clear. That is why financial help to the cities is needed, and more help than was given at the time of the rate support grant.
It is an expensive job to enable people to live decently. The cities should get a lot more help from the Government. Those whose houses are not to be cleared, which are capable of improvement, are often the victims of unscrupulous landlords. Landlords often seek to get the tenants out and to have the improvements effected with the help of a hefty grant before they sell the property. The lives of such tenants are uncertain. It is no wonder that many people arrive in new areas of blocks of flats and overspill estates completely uninspired, tired and dis-spirited when they should have the prospect of a new life.
When I visit areas of my constituency—I am sure this applies to my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. Kaufman) and the hon. Member for Birmingham, Handsworth—I realise that it is not surprising that young people go astray and turn to crime. It is no wonder that they resort to vandalism. The miracle is that more people in the deprived areas do not react in that way. If one wants to find areas where it is hardest to get doctors to practise, where there is most difficulty in getting teachers, where less advice is available and where there are fewer organisations to raise the standard of protest, those are the areas.
The task of settling down when people move into a new area is difficult. That applies even when a new estate is built and people voluntarily move into it as owner-occupiers. We all know that for several years the number of complaints and difficulties from such an area are con- 358 siderable. Hon. Members see the people at their advice centres who live in them.
The difficulties are greater when people are moved compulsorily and often to places which would not be their first choice. Such areas should have priority in public building programmes. A lot more help should be given through the rate support grant. The urban programme is useful but in total it forms only a small part of the spending which is necessary in local government areas. The cities can be exciting places in which to live, and many of us would find life in the country difficult. Cities can be good places in which to live. They can be convenient. But they need a great deal of help from national sources.
The area I have been describing, with half the houses empty and refuse lying about the place, has just been told that the school which was to be built as part of the redevelopment has not been approved. Final approval was expected for the St. James' School in the last week of October. It has missed the boat and will not now be considered until January. I hope that the Secretary of State will make a special examination of those areas, not particularly mine, which have the special problems I have described and which will encounter further problems through the postponement of school building approvals.
A few weeks before that announcement I watched the BBC television programme in which David Dimbleby visited a private school, Sunningdale. In the light of this, anyone who can talk of this being one nation, of this Government having tried to make it more a united nation, is living in another world. I do not intend to say anything about the "prep" schools but the Home Secretary said that freedom is something we should enjoy unless it impinges on the freedom of others. The kind of freedom enjoyed by those people does that.
In the past our educational service has had as its priorities the most able and the well-off. We have to end that and to give priority to the least able, the least well-off and to girls rather than boys, because they have suffered most in the past.
Will the Secretary of State tell us what the cuts in education and other services 359 will mean for the coming year? The authorities have been told that the rate support grant will not be what was originally proposed. The building programme has already been postponed. When areas are forced to make cuts of this nature the room for manoeuvre is narrow. It usually means that repairs to schools are not done, that books and equipment, and other things to which the right hon. Lady said close attention must be paid, are not purchased. What effect will these cuts have on the education service? Will they mean that the proposals in her White Paper for the advancement of education will be cut back?
§ 4.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Alan Haselhurst (Middleton and Prestwich)
There were two passages in the Gracious Speech which particularly caught my eye. Early in the Speech we are told that the Government's continuing aim isto improve the health, welfare, educational and other social services. They will have particular regard to the requirements of the old, the sick and the needy.& My Government will seek to encourage increased opportunities for voluntary service and to support activities organised by and for young people.Those two passages are separated by 12 paragraphs. I hope that they are closely related in the eyes of the Government.
The social services are undergoing continuing improvement. All of us have our own experiences from observation on the ground and some hon. Members have experience over a wide area of the country. I can relate my experiences only to my constituency. I have found that since social service departments have been set up there has been an ever-improving standard of provision for the needy in the community. Everyone concerned with the work realises that there is a great deal to be done. New needs are continually being discovered. It is recognised all too readily that there is much under the surface which has not even been detected. Work is now going on in a purposeful manner.
The professionals concerned with it realise that they need a substantial voluntary contribution. Those who have been involved in the voluntary services have to some extent been displeased at the setting-up of the new departments and the way they have begun their work. I 360 do not say that that reaction has been universal, but I do know in many instances that people in the voluntary services feel that they perhaps know more about certain local conditions and individuals than do the newly-appointed professionals entering the social service departments.
There have been a few areas of tension which will disappear with the passage of time. Clearly we need many more volunteers in the social services. There has to be an attempt to co-ordinate as well as to expand the voluntary contribution to the welfare and social services in all our towns and cities. It is obvious that young people can provide both numbers and great enthusiasm towards the prosecution of this work. Many young people, individually or via a school class or the youth service, are making contributions in many imaginative ways. The more we yearn about what they are doing, and admire it, the more we realise how much can still be done and how much more probably would be done if many more young people realised what needed to be done.
I cannot help feeling that we should try a rather more systematic approach to the problem. I do not believe that young people or anyone else should be dragooned into giving voluntary assistance. But I do believe that if people were to see what was going on in the community and were aware of the needs that existed, there would be many more volunteers. I have been impressed, when meeting, young people in my constituency who have become involved in voluntary work, to discover that some found out about this by a pure accidental encounter. They never dreamt of the kinds of need which existed. By knowing someone else who was involved, perhaps having a mother who worked at the adult training centre, they have gone along, seen something, and their enthusiasm has been fired. I would have hoped that we could try to find a means whereby young people at least have the opportunity to understand the structure of the community in which they live and all the varying needs.
I confess that before I became involved in what we call, in a rather gradiose way, public life, I had little conception of the kind of work that was being done in the community and the varying kinds of 361 needs. I hope that I have not gone through life blindfold, but I still do not know the full range of needs. There are many young people who would be amazed if they had the opportunity to see the manifold needs which exist. This is the way to improve the social services and at the same time to do much to revivify the youth service.
The youth service deserves greater priority than it has so far been given. I recognise the enormous demands that exist upon my right hon. Friend's Department and I would not urge her to cut expenditure anywhere else. Indeed, I and other hon. Members would urge her to spend. The youth service seems to be at the end of the queue and I hope that it may be uplifted a little in future. The youth service should not be regarded. as many regard it, as a response to vandalism and disturbance in our society. It has a much more positive rôle to play, in equipping young people to gain a satisfactory life for themselves in the community and perhaps also to improve the standard of life of other needy people.
In saying that the youth service should be given a higher priority, I realise that more cash would be needed, at least in part, but it would be a relatively small amount compared with the benefits which would result.
I urge upon my right hon. Friend that more attention should be given to the training of youth leaders, in which there is a serious deficiency. As a result of talks with people who know much more than I do about the youth service, I am not satisfied that the age range for which the service caters is correct. I do not believe that a minimum age of 14 is realistic today.
There has been an increase in the establishment of play schemes, going far beyond what was originally conceived since the age range of those involved has extended from four to 16. The benefits which many children derive from the schemes are quite marked, but many of them have nowhere to go, for at present the youth service can cater only for the older children. Clearly, the youth service will not deal with children of four, but I do not believe that 14 is the right level, particularly in view of the 362 success of the play schemes and that type of youth involvement.
With the introduction of intermediate treatment, there will be referrals of children who are under 14. There are implications in that for the ages dealt with by the youth service.
There is grave concern among those who are dealing with young people, whether professionally or through the voluntary services, about the availability of buildings. A new drive is needed for the multi-use of buildings. The Department of Education and Science has responsibility for more buildings of the type which could be useful in the youth service than any other Government Department. I hope there will be an initiative by the Department to try to persuade local education authorities, headmasters and also, perhaps, care-takers, who sometimes cause difficulty, that there are buildings which could be used to great benefit for the community but which are not at present utilised as much as they could be.
I also draw the attention of my right hon. Friend to the need for specialised buildings, which have been called resource centres, which could provide a basis for constructive youth work in the community. We are a long way behind what is desirable. I realise that these facilities cannot be provided all at once, or quickly, but there should be a proper concept towards which to work. The resource centre idea is very imaginative. It could be a relevant, helpful extension to the sort of youth service we could have.
I have mentioned a number of disconnected points relating to the youth service. The service needs a boost. I hope that the Government will make clear during the session that they have plans to assist all those who are professionally, as well as voluntarily, concerned with providing for youth, and acknowledge that their work is extremely valuable and will be of ever-increasing importance.
Having made that plea about the youth service in a particular sense, I do not want to contradict myself when I say that I am not sure that we are right to make such exact definitions when we talk about provision within the community. It is too easy to regard the youth service as self-contained when in one sense it is 363 part of a wide overall educational provision, almost from the pre-school play group through to adult education.
The right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) talked about participation. One of the great things about the pre-school playgroup movement is that it involves the participation of mothers. We want to encourage participation by parents, so that the whole idea of participation runs right the way through our educational and community provision. That will lead to a healthier society. We should not think of the youth service as just a sector of life where a certain kind of help is needed.
In another sense the youth service can make a contribution to the improvement of community life. There are various other possible contributors to that improvement, and we should see how we can relate the youth service to them. I do not believe that we are seeing the full potential of the youth service in the widest context.
There are certain structural problems in the way in which we consider these matters. There is a gap between the school and youth work. I do not suppose that anyone is sure that the additional year in school is being used to the best effect. Many young people would benefit from having their eyes opened to the needs of the community. That could form a vital part of school work.
When I was at school the emphasis was very much on those of an academic bent. Those who were not quite so good at algebra and geometry and whose skills were in handicraft were regarded as being at a second level. Such people were probably good at sport, and that was all right, but they were not quite the tops.
We have moved a long way from that attitude, and both types of ability are seen as being equally important. But many young people who have no handicraft skills or talent are also not particularly enamoured of the details of mathematics and languages yet have a personality which can contribute a great deal when it comes into contact with other people. I have found in talks with people in my constituency that many have become involved in the youth service because, although not particularly 364 bright at school, they found a vocation and something worth while when they came into contact with those who had needs which they could help to meet. I hope that another educational stream can come into being to develop such talents much more, to enrich and improve our community.
There is also a gap between school and employment. There are serious deficiencies when people leaving school can be told in the first weeks and months in their jobs that the first thing they should do is to forget all they learned at school. I hope that we can consider, imaginatively, breaking down some of the barriers between school and job. We should need the co-operation of the trade union movement, and there are complications over insurance and so on, but the last year or two in school could well be spent in a working environment so that there was a closer contact between the realities of work and what was being learnt in school.
The danger is that people who leave school and find a totally different environment at work often become discontent, feeling at a loose end, and therefore contribute to the social problems of our cities and towns.
There are particular problems relating to overspill estates, of which I have close experience. Here I agree with what was said by the hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Marks). If we are serious in our efforts to cut down social problems in our cities and towns we could easily, in the near future, do something about the overspill estates. They produce many social and educational problems by the very fact that they are isolated from the local authority which in part administers them. That leads to many social problems which outweigh some of the housing difficulties that such estates were invented to solve. There must be a balance. I believe that the solution is at hand, if only the Government will take the opportunity in local government reorganisation to ensure that we do not have overspill estates as a continuing source of social problems.
In dealing with the youth service, the social services and young people in employment, have we yet found the right approach in either central or local government? It fills people with horror—I 365 hope that it fills my right hon. Friend with horror—that in the new local government set-up some local authorities are thinking of relegating the youth service to the parks and recreation committee, taking it away from the education committee. Some of us may be uncertain whether the education committee is exactly the right place for it, and whether we should do better to examine the problems in the context of the community. After all, the community will benefit if we have an improved youth service, with better provision for the community and young people contributing to that provision. It is community life that will be enriched.
The Government have established a milestone with their new standards for dealing with the environment. They are trying to improve the physical conditions in which we live. Is there not also an opportunity to set a new standard for the kind of life we live in the improved environment? Cannot we do something by an approach under the heading "Community" which will improve the relationships between people and perhaps teach them tolerance, so that they are more understanding of the needs of those around them and want to do something for them?
Might not that approach also enable us to bring in outsiders? I know that certain people who are interested in and involved in the youth service would not object if commercial interests and industry could be called in at local authority level to play a part in the development of a full and better community policy.
There may be considerable uncertainty about the best structure in both central and local government to deal with such matters. I should be happy to know that the Government were giving the matter considerable thought and that they would not be afraid to have a new structure, or to encourage it within local government, for dealing effectively and imaginatively with the problems of the community. Although there are restraints on public expenditure, I should also be happy if such developments were not entirely starved of the necessary cash.
I started by quoting twice from the Gracious Speech. The Government could meet the aims set out in those parts of the Speech in a fine and outstanding way if 366 my right hon. Friend gave those assurances tonight.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Mr. S. C. Silkin (Dulwich)
I listened with great interest to the hon. Member for Middleton and Prestwich (Mr. Haslehurst). His contributions are always thoughtful and imaginative. Often I find myself agreeing with many of them as I do today. He spoke about two aspects of the life of inner city areas, and I shall develop that broad concept during my speech.
The hon. Member referred to young people and their problems, and to the social services. He said that in the inner cities there is a developing sense of frustration among young people, for one reason or another. Like me, he believes that an understanding approach is better than a punitive approach when matters go wrong.
I agree with the concept that education should not come to an end at a certain point. It should be a continuing process through the period of employment as well as through the period of school or higher education. I am certain that the hon. Member will agree, as other hon. Members have suggested, that the criticism that one constantly hears about young people today has probably always been made.
One has to consider the conditions that produce the frustration that causes, unhappily, instances of crime and behaviour which is a source of offence to the public. They get the headlines, rather than the better things that young people are able to do. It is that frustration that we must try to deal with and solve.
The hon. Member spoke of the social services within the local authorities. I go even further than he did. I say that the growth in the social services provided by local authorities—an instance of what the Home Secretary represents as the collectivism which the Opposition certainly stand for—was one of the major revolutions in local government within our time—a revolution which, I believe, will grow. The time has come when we ought to be seriously thinking about the way in which the social services can expand, and in what direction they should do so. For example, is it right that welfare facilities in the areas of deprivation in the inner cities should be totally divorced, struc- 367 turally at any rate, from the financial services of the Department of Health and Social Service?
Later I shall come to the question of the provision of advice for those who need it, whether it be of a welfare, matrimonial or legal nature. I shall suggest to the House that we have to look at this as part of a single problem concerning primarily the deprived areas of the inner cities.
I make no apologies for returning to the subject of London, which has been referred to so eloquently by my hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Guy Barnett). I am not exaggerating when I say that, more and more today, people do not live in London unless they have to, unless their jobs compel them to do so, or because they cannot, for reasons of means or age, find anywhere else to go.
My hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Marks) spoke about teachers who are leaving London because they cannot afford to live here and because of the frustrations of life in the inner city. The reverse of that coin is that those teachers who have employment in other parts of the country—I know this from my own family—would require much more inducement than London teachers now get to bring them back to London.
I agree with those who have said that what is needed, particularly in the inner city areas, is a system of strong, positive discrimination that will at least seek to equate the short-term disadvantages that people have to suffer through living in those areas with some sort of financial recompense. This is difficult. At the moment, we are not looking at this in the right way. We are considering the matter on the basis of how much money someone needs to live in London, and meet the higher expenses of London, compared with, let us say, Oxford. Something far more than that must be given—a positive incentive to live in an area in which the quality of life, unhappily, is falling lower and lower.
The hon. Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Mr. Sydney Chapman) spoke chiefly about the environment. Of course, the environment comes very much into this—the commuter traffic going in 368 by day and out by night, often right through the middle of residential areas; the effect both of that traffic and of shortages of labour on the public transport system; the fact that the amount that a retirement pensioner in London receives will not go so far as the same amount received by a pensioner in some other part of the country. In that context, I am glad that my colleagues on the other side of the river have seen the wisdom of enabling pensioners to travel free on public transport.
All these are environmental factors, but the problem goes far wider than that. There is also, for instance, the fact that people cannot afford to live in London and enjoy the quality of life in the way that they can outside. That is becoming clearer and clearer every day, as costs of housing and other facilities rise in the city areas. One of the causes is that, since the war, when we have been trying to rebuild those parts of London with the biggest housing problems we have concentrated on the particular need to get people housed as quickly as possible because of the appalling conditions in which they live.
I do not blame anyone for that. I do not like the political auction in house completions which has developed since the celebrated Conservative Party conference, when the figure of 300,000 was forced upon Mr. Macmillan, but I accept that all local authorities, of whatever political complexion, have been compelled to make the building of houses their first priority. The result is that where, previously, there were communities, however defective, they have now too often been replaced by homes, and nothing but homes. The communities that should exist in an area like London often no longer exist.
One of the consequences is that the people about whom we have been talking—the teachers, the probation officers, and so on—who should be living in the community in which they are working so as to get to know those for whom they work, and vice versa, are unable to do so. There simply is nowhere for them to go, so they have to live miles away in the suburbs, if indeed they can find anywhere to live at the sort of price that is within their means.
This trend needs to be reversed. I am glad that, even now, in their fourth year, 369 this Government have decided to set up a research body to look into this kind of problem. I could have wished that they had not wasted a couple of years on the dogmatic side of their policy, but I wish them good fortune. I hope that knowledge and experience will be produced. I believe that this exercise is likely to produce at least the knowledge that, in the great inner urban areas, particularly, there is an urgent need for the deliberate setting up of real communities.
I come finally to the point I mentioned earlier—the provision of advice within the social services and the expansion of their rôle in the cities. We who have advice centres and constituency correspondence—particularly those of us who, happily or unhappily, are lawyers—know that the problems that our constituents bring to us are problems which they often cannot dissect into their various parts—legal, social, financial, matrimonial, and so on.
But the legal part is as much a social welfare part as the others. It is, therefore, just as necessary to regard the advice on the law and how it affects their problems as part of the social welfare system as is the advice people may get on the possibility of a transfer to local authority accommodation, or on problems about their children.
I want to see, particularly within the stress areas of the cities, the social services departments in their local offices containing not merely social welfare officers who can advise on welfare problems but also those who can advise on their legal aspects. The Legal Advice and Assistance Act, which became law last year, set up the £25 scheme which is no doubt of some help in providing advice to those who know that they need it, know where to go, and are prepared to go to a solicitor. There are, unfortunately, too many people who are too frightened to see a solicitor, perhaps because they think the costs are open-ended.
That scheme is certainly helpful. Part II of the Act, which provides for the setting up of legal advice centres under the Law Society, could, perhaps, go a little way in the direction that I have indicated. But I believe that this segregation which the Act provides between what is legal and what is social is quite wrong.
370 That is proved by the fact that we see today the setting up in various parts of the country, certainly in various parts of London, of centres which the local authorities are managing. More and more we are seeing local authorities providing advice centres as an integrated whole, the legal side, the social side and welfare side all together. That I believe to be right.
I hope, therefore—and my hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin (Mrs. Shirley Williams) touched upon this—that, in the course of their urban programme, the Government will not think it enough merely to have encouraged and financed, so far as they do, the social services in their existing form, but will look kindly at the expansion which is occurring because the need is there in fact. I hope that they will accept that their ideas when that legislation was being passed are insufficient for the needs of today, and particularly insufficient for the needs of the deprived of the inner city areas. I hope that they will have the imagination to accept what the Opposition were putting to them at the time and which I emphasise even more strongly today.
§ 5.23 p.m.
§ Mr. John Stokes (Oldbury and Halesowen)
It is most important in this debate in which there have not been great differences betwen the two sides of the House, not to exaggerate the troubles in our national life, troubles which we all know to exist to some extent in the inner parts of our large towns.
One of our faults as a nation, particularly now, is that we criticise ourselves sometimes too harshly, and trumpet our failures to the world. In fact, we have a great deal of which to be proud. I am most proud of the part of the country which I represent and of its people, although I would be the first to admit that some of the housing conditions there are far from what they should be. But, however, England as a whole is probably more civilised, and more agreeable to live in, than anywhere else in the world, and certainly plenty of people want to live here.
A second fault, which we must guard against is the thought, natural, perhaps, to legislators, that Acts of Parliament can cure all our problems. I believe that we have too many laws, and that good 371 administration is at least as important as passing new laws. We also have to be particularly careful, in framing new Acts of Parliament with the intention of helping people with their individual problems, that we do not at the same time inadvertently deprive them of their liberty, and that we do not create a vast bureaucratic machine and increase the number of civil servants well beyond tolerable limits.
Too often people in our modern society, particularly those living in our big urban areas feel somewhat isolated, lost, and separated from their Government and rulers. They cannot easily identify themselves with the Government's aims, just as people cannot always identify themselves with a political party if that party deviates too much from what it is generally supposed to have as its principle. One recent law which I would repeal is the vast change which we promulgated in local government in England and Wales.
The local boundary changes, to my certain knowledge and to the knowledge of many other people, have alarmed and bewildered many people who do not care for neat, efficient changes in their localities if those changes do away with old, familiar names, and bring new, amorphous bodies into existence. People begin to lose a sense of identity with the neighbourhood in which they live. Looking back, I feel that many of the boundary changes were unnecessary, and harmful, and have added to the rootlessness which is one of the curses of modern life.
Those changes might have been more acceptable from, for instance, a reforming Socialist Government than from a Government who are supposedly Conservative. The continuity of local life has been one of the strengths of society in England for centuries. I am fortunate enough to represent an area in the West Midlands where local loyalties are strong and fierce.
Apart from the dislocations caused by the new boundary changes, one of the greatest mistakes of the last 25 years, one which all Governments have made, has been the admission into this country of very large numbers of coloured immigrants. That mistake is now widely admitted by many in both major parties, 372 and it is hard to see a long-term solution, but I believe a Government cannot commit a worse transgression than to uproot an indigenous people from the place where they were born and brought up and force them to move and live elsewhere in order to make way for new, quite alien peoples. This tragedy has happened and is still happening in many urban areas of England.
When I hear all the new jargon, such as "urban deprivation units", I ask the Government to remember that some English people, too, have been deprived and that they feel bitterly about it and feel that we have let them down in this most important respect. Ordinary English people still look to Westminster, to this House, to this Government and, above all, to the Home Office, for protection to enable them to live their lives where they belong, and to continue their way of life as it has been handed down to them most preciously by previous generations. The sense of national identity, of being a nation State, an island, has always been one of the great strengths of this country.
Public money is to be spent on areas where immigrant concentrations are great. Could not some be spared to help repatriate those immigrants who wish to return to their homelands? Governments have both wittingly and unwittingly changed the face of our country by admitting many immigrants in a very short time without the consent of the English people. This is the wrong which must be put right before it is too late.
§ Mr. Stokes
There are other matters causing great concern in our large towns. Crime and violence are rampant.
§ Mr. Stokes
The reduction in crimes, about which we have heard from my right hon. Friend, does not appear to ordinary people to have occurred. I well remember the first door I knocked on in the West Bromwich by-election. A man opened it whose face was covered with blood. He had been mugged only a few hours before. That sort of thing brings it home 373 to people. Ordinary people want the Home Office to take the sternest measures against crime and wrongdoers.
I welcome the legislation proposed in the Gracious Speech against the display of pornography, which particularly affects towns and not the countryside. I am sure that it will have great support among all classes. This sort of pollution is more insidious than physical pollution. The Government should support the people who are trying to lead decent lives and to bring up their children with decent standards. The so-called permissive society does not exist, fortunately, many miles from London. It may have its devotees in the media and among the trendy intellectuals, but it has only a tiny percentage of support among the majority of people in this country.
Our way of life is under attack by enemies of the State, both within and without. Our religious, moral and cultural heritage is under attack. We look to the Government to defend us, and the Government must be seen to defend us.
§ 5.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Clement Freud (Isle of Ely)
I am grateful for the opportunity of making this my maiden speech which, I believe, by tradition will be extravagantly ignored and warmly praised, possibly in the reverse order. Conventions—and I carefully consulted a volume called "Maiden Speeches for Beginners"—appear to give Members the right, after their first flight into verbiage, to take a full part in the House. Up to this point I have had to remain seated and make noises like "Hear, hear", with occasional shouts of "Resign". Consequently, I shall be grateful for getting this speech over.
By tradition, I understand, one makes reference to one's predecessor. This is something which I should not like to do by tradition. My predecessor, the late Sir Harry Legge-Bourke, was the most admirable man, a man infinitely respected both in the House and one who had the love and respect of constituents of all political parties in the Isle of Ely. I am very proud to succeed him, and I do so in all humility.
I believe that it is also a tradition that one makes reference to one's constituency. Many right hon. and hon. Members helped my cause during the by-election by speaking in the constituency on 374 behalf of the other candidates. They will have noticed that my constituents are an independent and an honourable people. This is historic fact; take the year 1816 in Littleport, which is in the south-east of my constituency; while the rest of the country seethed with indignation at the Governments' failure to keep down the price of food—which must ring a bell—the men of Littleport rioted. There took place the famous Littleport riots about which, I am sure, the House knows much. The men of my constituency, when they are roused, are honestly and decently roused.
In the west of my constituency we have a town called Whittlesey in which there is a brickworks. This brickworks was part of the National Coal Board—a model employer, which when told in 1970 that nationalised industries must get rid of peripheral interests, kept the work force decently informed of what it intended to do.
The National Coal Board wrote to the Whittlesey brickworks and the letter, which was addressed to all employees ended:Furthermore I am authorised to say that the National Coal Board would not agree to any sale unless they were satisfied that existing employees of the company would be fairly treated by any new owner.In spite of that message, which is a splendid concept of worker relations such as my party has always advocated, last Monday the brickworks was sold to the London Brick Company, and in two and quater hours of totally frustrating meetings the work force was given no guarantees about the retention of jobs, rates of pay, or anything else.
I sent a telegram to the National Coal Board in protest. I received the following reply which I think should be looked at with interest. It says and I quote:You telegraphed the Chairman of the Coal Board on 26th October which we received here on the 29th. Unfortunately he is away….Frankly I am impressed by this consolidation of Government Departments, because clearly, next time someone complains about the delay in first-class mail, it will be pointed out to him that this is normal, as telegrams now take three days.
There is a tradition that a maiden speech should not be controversial. Earlier in the debate the Home Secretary blamed the Opposition for the hotel grant, which was £50 million. The right 375 hon. Gentleman expressed pride in his party's ending of that grant, to the approbation of his hon. and right hon. Friends. As I blame both parties for what has happened, I trust that this speech will be considered uncontroversial.
The position in the hotel industry is that, due to the virtual non-existence of menial staff, hotels are closing down and restaurants are ceasing to function. The history is strange. The quota system was brought in during 1970, when the unemployment figures were rising one million. The system was brought in as a special concession to the difficulties of the catering industry, which has always employed foreign labour, and then, in spite of massive unemployment, the catering industry was allowed 3,500 foreign employees, provided that those employees had undergone a sufficient number of years of training.
In 1973, the position is that the quota has been changed: 5,000 foreign workers may now be brought in, but that covers all trained and untrained people, the only exception being students, women and Maltese. It takes brilliance to find this sort of legislation!
Tourism was responsible for £721 million last year, namely, 5 per cent. of our overseas earnings, and, because the position in the hotel industry is now intolerable, the tourist industry of Britain has become a laughing stock. In June of this year, 32,766 vacancies were notified to the Department of Employment. If one knows of the reluctance of the catering industry to notify that Department of vacancies, and if one realises that June is the month before the holidays begin, one knows that there were probably 100,000 vacancies to be filled.
The catering industry can no longer employ for menial work the traditional staff, who came willingly from Greece, Spain, Portugal, Cyprus and latterly from Yugoslavia and North Africa, because Britain is in the Common Market and the Government thought, in their wisdom, that when we joined the Common Market, Frenchmen, Germans, Belgians and Dutchmen would come here, presumably drawn by the irresistible urge of our gastonomic delights, such as "fish fingers". It will come as no surprise that 376 they stayed in their own countries, and they stayed in their own countries because there they have four to six weeks' holiday in a year, and earn 30 per cent. more than they would in the catering industry in this country.
What is more, all over the Continent, particularly in France, people in the catering industry are treated as respected members of a professional class. In this country they are not. In Austria, the wife of an assistant hall porter has a title; she is known as "Mrs. Assistant Hall Porter". In this country a waiter has no credit rating; he cannot obtain a mortgage and is treated as itinerant. That is an appalling state.
There are two ways to put tourism back into a responsible position and one of which we can be proud: first, by encouraging young people to go into all kinds of catering; secondly, to make catering the honourable profession it is in other Common Market countries. At this moment it would be unthinkable at a social function to sit next to a hotel hall porter; hall porters are treated as lepers—they do not go out—though in France they become mayors and aldermen.
The country must consider hotel workers as honourable people and have training schools to make them so. While this is taking place, the industry needs a "bridging loan" of foreign labour to do the menial tasks, and it does not matter where the labour comes from. At present, it takes between 10 and 20 weeks to get a work permit for the class of student, woman, or Maltese who are the only people in this country prepared and allowed to wash up—and an awful lot of washing up piles up in 10 or 20 weeks.
If that does not happen, if the hotel industry is allowed to continue with a deficit of 100,000 people, our image will sadly deteriorate. At present, we are serving gastronomic Muzak. I saw a cartoon the other day in which a customer turned to the waiter and said, "My compliments to the mechanic." That is very sad, because in this country we have splendid natural ingredients, many of which are grown in my constituency. We should be proud of our food and stop imitating that of other nations, and make our hotel industry one of which we can be proud, not ashamed.
§ 5.46 p.m.
§ Mr. W. R. Rees-Davies (Isle of Thanet)
It is my pleasure to have the opportunity to speak immediately after the hon. Member for Isle of Ely (Mr. Freud). I toyed with the idea of going to speak for him during his election campaign. Alas, I realised that if I did so there would be little doubt that the House would have been poorer, because I should have secured the votes of a considerable number of Conservatives for my party had I spoken for him. As a result, the hon. Gentleman would not have been in this House, which I should have regretted.
The hon. Gentleman is most appropriately the Member for Isle of Ely, because he displays the particular qualities found in his predecessor. One of the qualities clearly displayed is his independence of mind and the quality of determination to express his own viewpoint in an independent manner and on a subject very much of his own choice. We recognise his wit, and thank God for it. We are short of such wits as Mr. Leslie Hale, who was the Member for Oldham, East, and others one remembers who could garnish a speech in the right way, just as the hon. Member for Isle of Ely has done. The hon. Gentleman today was not overcome by the exuberance of his verbosity, as he occasionally is, and he was therefore able to give us a most encouraging and excellent verbal demonstration of the culinary arts of which he is an expert.
It is apposite that I should follow the hon. Gentleman in the debate because for several years I had the task of being chairman of an all-party committee on tourism. It was never inhabited by any member of the Labour Party but we did have an occasional Liberal intervention. We shall certainly welcome the hon. Gentleman to that committee, which has, a small number of members who have a close interest in the problems of tourism, and has always done its best to pursue those interests.
May I underline two points which the hon. Gentleman made. First, there are now no fewer than 100,000 vacancies in the hotel industry, and these need to be filled. Secondly, the status of the industry needs to be enhanced greatly. Those are admirable points, but both have been overlooked by successive Governments and by all parties. But we are now on 378 an encouraging path because in my constituency, there is the Thanet Technical College. It is probably one of the foremost teaching colleges in Europe—indeed, I think in the world—and it is producing good cooks, good chefs, good staff and good hotel management for the future. It is that approach which we must pursue, but I strongly support the hon. Gentleman in urging the Government to find a way to increase rapidly the quota of foreign entrants I shall name just one person who will corroborate everything said today by the hon. Gentleman, and his is a name to be conjured with in the industry.
Only a month of so ago I spoke to Max Joseph. I asked him, "What would you particularly wish to see for the improvement of the hotel industry?". He said straight away, "My dear chap, plenty more good waiters and staff of that kind. We are desperately short." I do not believe that the Government understand the industry, for the simple reason that no one Department is responsible for it.
There are now a great many hotel bedrooms. Indeed, there are so many that there is a danger that they may not be filled. The industry is as big a dollar-earner as any and one which is attracting an increasing number of visitors to our shores. There are nearly 20 per cent. more visitors this year than the year before. We cannot handle them if we have an over-employment situation with a continuing lack of the opportunities to fill these vacancies, and we need to carry out the suggestions contained in the hon. Gentleman's speech.
It was a particular pleasure to follow the hon. Gentleman this evening in that regard, and I am able to say that I have never been more sincere in anything that I have said.
I now turn to the popular à la mode subject—environment. What do we mean by the word "environment"? I believe that it is the Government's duty to protect the rights of individuals and to see that they have the quality of life as they believe it should be. In other words, it is the maintenance of the individual's right to have the quality of life which he thinks is right and proper.
If we are to achieve that, the first thing to do is to preserve the security of his 379 person and his property, and to maintain democratic freedom and law and order. We shall not succeed in that unless a number of important changes are made. There are three difficulties to deal with: first, the recruitment of police; secondly, the detection of crime; thirdly, the treatment of the criminal.
I have written a lot and spoken many times on this subject, and one day I shall finally achieve these objectives. I say without fear of contradiction from nearly all my colleagues at the Bar, certainly without fear of contradition from any of the detectives in the criminal investigation force, and with the support, I am certain nearly all my constituents, who are typical in this regard, that there must be more effective recruitment to the police.
In the Metropolitan area, that means better allowances and, in particular, better housing. It also means the improvement of housing and allowances in the country generally. I am sure that the police in London should be paid higher rates than elsewhere in the country. That is self-evident, because of the much higher costs. It may be that the pay should be higher in certain of our other major cities, too.
I turn to the nub of the matter. In recent years, the pleas which I and others have put forward time and again for the introduction of special regional crime squads, silver and jewellery squads, robbery squads, and others, have at last begun to bear fruit, but if the police force is to be effective in the long term, its status and position must be raised to that of a profession. The only way to get good detectives in the force who will catch the thieves and robbers is to make it a career as important as being a leader at the Bar, a top chartered accountant, or so on.
I have spoken at more than a dozen universities in this country, and I can say categorically that there are many university students who want to take up the police force as a career, but one and all have told me that they will not do so on the beat. They recognise that they must have a general understanding of the force, but they want an absolute guarantee that, subject to the completion of the period of their probation, they can go into the criminal investigation department and serve as detectives. It is a 380 different career from what I call a county policeman on the beat. It is an excellent career.
I had the privilege and honour to command 40 Cardiff city policemen in the war—excellent men, first-class, good "coppers", good in the local community, with a sense of loyalty and all the other attributes one needs in order to be a local policeman. But only one of those men would have made a detective.
The art of selecting personnel with the capacity of detection—with the type of mind which with training will catch the thieves and robbers of today—requires a specialist force. These personnel must, of course, be paid more and they must achieve a status of great importance in our society. It is work along those lines, and only along those lines, which must be pursued.
I draw attention to a pamphlet that I wrote. The Lord Chancellor pointed out that in that pamphlet I expressed controversial ideas which he commended to the Government. Years have passed. I saw my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnett (Mr. Maudling) two and a half years ago and still nothing has been done to drive ahead this view. The development of a first-class detective force is still in its infancy. It will not be fully developed until we recruit from all classes and ages.
Let me give one other example. We have a weak company fraud squad now. It is quite incapable of handling the manifold frauds and troubles that occur in the City. They are a nice, hardworking body of men. They badly need chartered accountants. A chartered accountant ought to be recruited by the police force as a chartered accountant and still be able to be a policeman, but that cannot be done today. Such a man should be within the police force, not drawn from outside for advisory duties.
Furthermore, the police who will do the job of meeting criminals must have the chance to meet them. It is no good the Commissioner pursuing his present line in the belief that if he allows his detectives to mix with criminals, they will become corrupt. That is the wrong approach. One must trust one's police-man; one must get the best type of man; one must pay him a first-class wage for his status, and then one will succeed.
381 Until the policy that I adumbrate this evening is pursued, this country will not succeed in the conquest of crime. The police have followed along a bit, because they have followed the advice of the specialist squads which have already been set up. If they want substantial success, they must go further along the line.
I turn to the protection of the liberty of the individual. Of course one's person must be protected and the criminals must be caught, but why do we not try to use the criminals themselves to secure effective treatment? It has been shown in America that by setting up community centres one can help in the treatment of criminals. Those who have been in trouble are often those best able to assist. I believe that working along those lines we could improve the position of those who have been in trouble.
I also believe that among the young we want to use the detention centres for training to a greater degree and more effectively. We should develop opportunities for discipline and training which are necessary to turn young people away from the incipient path of crime.
I turn to the way in which the Government have adopted the right approach to defend the interests of the individual and to try to improve the quality of life. It is in that way that the matter of public indecency arises.
When one walks down the street, surely it is right that one should not have thrust at one's face grossly offensive material of a sexual or perverted nature, or of sadistic violence. Whether one wants to read it is another matter. Whether one has to have this thrust in one's face, or in one's children's faces, or the face of one's mother or father, is quite another matter. The House appreciates that this is a gross public nuisance and the Government are right to take action.
They are also right to consider the various improvements of the amenities. It is just as offensive to be walking along a pavement and to have an appalling smelly juggernaut lorry come thundering past. Therefore I believe that control over noise, control over juggernauts, and consideration of whether we should have statutory routes, are all part of the environmental factor of the quality of life.
We must consider, therefore, the new traffic laws which are to be introduced. 382 I hope they will be wide enough for us to consider the question of the heavy lorries, the factor of noise, and the adequacy of the appropriate types of parking, special parking for lorries, and so on.
Another aspect of the quality of life is that we should enhance the sports pleasures and leisures of this country. I am glad to note there is to be licensing of sports grounds. I hope that we shall not overlook the need to push local authorities to provide greater leisure facilities and sports amenities, in particular swimming, throughout the country.
People go on holiday, and an integral part of that consideration is that we should consider the interests of tourism and the tourist amenities and facilities in this country for our own people. Far too often we think of tourism as travel overseas, of the foreigner visiting this country. Far too seldom do we consider facilities for our own people who visit Margate, Broadstairs, Ramsgate, or the other salubrious resorts that I have the honour to represent.
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
My hon. and learned Friend, who I am delighted to see here, represents Sandwich, an important place because many who go there like to play golf on its magnificent courses, as well as on our very attractive course on the North Foreland.
It is, therefore, a question of maintaining the quality of life. The Government deserve considerable credit for the move—led by the Prime Minister, right through the Cabinet—to try to understand the necessity to improve the quality of life, to get better amenities, and to preserve the rights of the individual so that he does not live in an environment where he is trampled upon by people but where he has the right to have his feelings considered.
It is also right that the girls should have a look in. I am delighted that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science is speaking tonight. She was one of those who gave—if I may say so to spare her blushes—immensely intelligent evidence to the Select Committee on the question of discrimination against women, as did the Home Secretary. Now it will be the 383 responsibility of the Home Office to deal with this problem, but I have no doubt there will be great co-operation between the Home Office and the Secretary of State for Education, and also the Secretary of State for Employment, in the production of what I call the Women's Bill, as it will be known—the Bill to provide equal opportunities for the sexes in employment, education and training. That is another measure of the recognition today that we owe a duty to each other to try to remove these inequalities.
I hope that we shall be able to bring to boot one or two of the trade union leaders who are determined to be against any advance in that respect. I refer particularly to the printing unions, and I give notice that I hope that they will change their manners and their methods before this matter is debated in a few months. NATSOPA and SOGAT not only do not, and will not, employ women but effectively take measures to stop them having the opportunity to vote even on those measures. Where there is discrimination which is definite so that a woman cannot ever become responsible for layout or be a compositor, or anything of that nature, and is not allowed to do the kind of work to which women are perfectly well-fitted, the time has come for the country to say that it recognises that there should be equality of opportunity for everyone irrespective of sex.
I conclude by saying that I believe the Government are now following the right path and it is a great encouragement to see that they are acting on the lines which I have outlined. I hope that the Home Office will at long last listen to my appeal, an appeal which is not merely impassioned but reasoned. I hope that they will take active steps to improve police recruitment which will be very much to the good in bringing about improvement in the path of law and order.
§ 6.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Doig (Dundee, West)
I should like to congratulate the hon. Member for Isle of Ely (Mr. Freud) upon an excellent, well-delivered and interesting speech. We all look forward to hearing him many times in the coming Session.
I wish to begin by relating a fairly recent case in my constituency because it raises some interesting problems. An 384 18-year-old youth dropped a cardboard teacup on the ground and was charged with an offence under the Litter Act. He pleaded guilty by letter but was ordered by the magistrate to appear in court. He was then remanded in custody pending a social inquiry report. He was there for five days, was then tried and fined £5. For a minor offence this youth has lost a week's wages worth £25—he might have lost his job—and he or his parents have had to pay the £5 fine and the cost of the services of a solicitor—all because the magistrate decided to ignore the advice given to him by the appropriate officials.
The boy's mother wrote me a letter on this subject. She was in court at the time and states in her letter that the burgh police court judge, a Mr. Whyte, first sentenced her son to 20 days' detention for the offence. As her son turned to go downstairs to the cells a court official jumped up and said that the magistrate could not jail the youth for an offence under the Litter Act and that there had to be a fine. The judge then decided instead to remand the boy in custody. Can a person be remanded in custody—the equivalent of imprisonment—for an offence for which a prison sentence is not allowed? Is it legal for a magistrate to take such action?
Secondly, I should like to know whether a police court judge can be removed from office. I understand that all other judges, such as sheriffs and magistrates, can be removed. It must be remembered that they are professionals. The police court magistrate to whom I have referred is an amateur in administrating justice and, so far as I can find out, there is no provision under which he can be removed from office.
A further point to which I must draw attention is that legal aid is not allowed for cases that come before a burgh court. Why is this state of affairs allowed to continue? In all courts there should be a defence lawyer available to any defendant wanting to avail himself of his services. After all, there is always a qualified man appearing in such a court for the prosecution. It has always been a strong element of British justice that the opposing sides should be balanced fairly—and not everybody can afford to employ a lawyer, as this youth's parents were able to do. Most people are put in an unfair 385 position when they have appearing against them, on behalf of the prosecution, a qualified lawyer and when they themselves, as defendants, have no legal representative. This situation should be put right, and to do this would probably cost no more than the Government spend on legal aid. It would certainly be fairer, because help would be available to everybody in all courts. When the Government are thinking about new legislation, I hope they will keep this matter well in mind.
It may be thought, because I have suggested that the youth was harshly treated, that I am not firmly against criminals. I must make it quite clear that I am as firm as anybody in this House against anybody who commits a serious criminal offence. Indeed, during debates in this House I have been among those who have advocated the restoration of capital punishment.
I am very worried indeed about the increase in the number of murders in Scotland and in the nation as a whole. Unfortunately this also applies to my own constituency. I also wish to draw attention to the increase in the number of assaults with violence, robbery with violence and the like. Although there was a slight reduction of such assaults in my constituency, as evidenced from the last report on this subject, unfortunately the figure is still high.
To give an example of the present situation in our towns, a young man in my constituency who was walking along the High Street, a well-lit street which contained a big Littlewoods store, was attacked by a gang of young people who committed this crime for no apparent reason whatever. The young man did not know them and the members of the gang did not know him. Nevertheless they suddenly decided to attack him. The young man is fairly short-sighted and wears glasses, and the first thing the gang did was to knock off his glasses, which made him helpless. The incident happened in the centre of a town at about eight o'clock in the evening when there were many people about, but not one person went to his assistance.
When I asked the young man about the incident he told me that he had not even reported the matter to the police. I wonder how many more people have been involved in such incidents and have 386 not bothered to report them to the police. The young man told me that the reason why he took no action was that he felt he could not identify any of the gang. Since he had lost his spectacles, he would not have been able to see clearly enough to make an identification, assuming that the police had been able to trace the members of the gang. At any rate, this young person thought it a waste of time to report the incident. One wonders how often this happens.
The whole situation worries my constituents and I am sure that it worries constituents throughout the whole of the United Kingdom. I think it can be said that it is becoming unsafe to wander around the streets of our towns at any time under any conditions. Even in the most favourable conditions a person is likely to be attacked, and, unfortunately, few people are willing to go to the aid of others. Furthermore, people who witness crimes are unwilling to inform the police about them or to attend court as witnesses. Recently in my constituency there were a number of attacks on bus drivers and conductors. The situation became so bad that they ceased to operate buses on certain nights after eight o'clock. The staff flatly refused to run them. If the public are to be deprived of essential services because these sorts of attacks go on, it is surely high time that the Government thought much more seriously about what can be done about the situation.
We must also consider mob intimidation, which often happens when somebody who belongs to an organisation is brought before a court and brings all his supporters along with him. This is a form of intimidation of witnesses, and this can also be said to affect jury members in trying a case. This sort of intimidation goes on in all sorts of ways and in all sorts of places. It happens at football matches, and also in city centres where youths congregate in gangs and push people off the pavement and generally make great nuisances of themselves. This behaviour is not peculiar to my constituency, and it is time we had some fresh thoughts about dealing with it.
In 1968 I tried to introduce a Bill to make provision for weapons of defence against dogs, because it came to my notice that there were effective weapons for this purpose, but I also realised, and subsequently introduced a Bill about it, that 387 these weapons could be used for self-defence against thugs and would give an old woman or an invalid a reasonable chance of defence. I am not suggesting that those would be perfect defensive weapons, but it is time that those in authority started to think about finding a weapon which will defend innocent people and which will do no permanent damage. In the past, the argument has been that such a weapon might get into the hands of thugs. If no permanent damage were done, that would not matter. It would be better to allow those people a means of defence than to have thugs kicking their faces and ribs. Such weapons could be licensed by the police and given only to people not having a criminal record, or to someone who had been attacked and is afraid of going on the streets alone.
When I made inquiries about the matter I found that such weapons would contravene Section 5(1)(b) of the Firearms Act 1968. I wrote to the Home Office in 1969 and asked whether it would have any objection to a defensive weapon of that kind. The first letter I received stated:Thank you for your letter of 23rd January about the use of spray repellents to prevent dogs biting postmen.The Home Secretary is not directly concerned. All I can say is that no representations have been made to the Home Office by police forces about these sprays and we do not know of any effort by the police to prevent their use. We have certainly not sought to intervene in the consideration being given by the Post Office to the best means of protecting postmenA little later I put down a Question to the Home Secretary, because nothing had happened:To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, if he will take steps to amend Section 5(1)(b) of the Firearms Act 1968 to enable postmen and others to carry an approved aerosol dog repellent for self defence?The answer was very brief:No, Sir."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th Nov., 1969; Vol. 791, c. 334.]I was then given to understand at the begining that there would be no objections, but at the end I was told that nothing would be done.
This would not be the perfect weapon for self defence, but it is possible for someone to devise such a weapon which would do no permanent damage.
388 I turn now to the persecution of motorists. A person who parks a car is sometimes fined more than someone who appears in the same court on the same day charged with robbery with violence. I know that cars can cause congestion and trouble, but consider what is happening at the present time. The traffic in Oxford Street in London was getting too heavy, and public service vehicles were taking too long to travel along it, so it was decided to narrow the street and ban private cars from using parts of it at certain hours. Where do the authorities think those cars went to? They did not stop coming into London. They simply went into what were already congested streets elsewhere and made them even more congested. There are all sorts of side effects from a decision such as that. Ambulances, police cars and fire engines could always get along Oxford Street by weaving between the traffic with their lights flashing, but now they cannot get along it if there is a bus in front of them, unles they can cut across to the other side of the road when there is no bus coming the other way.
I often wonder how many extra police are used for enforcing one-way street systems and for seeing that cars do not go along certain streets. In fact, I wonder whether the one-way street system is at all justified, because it has a number of disadvantages. For example, it is more dangerous for a pedestrian to cross a road. One can cross a road which has two or three streams of traffic in each direction by making for the middle of the road where one is reasonably safe, but when there are six lanes of traffic travelling in one direction it is sheer suicide to try to cross.
Strangers find such roads particularly difficult. The people who have grown up with all these regulations know where to go and which lane to be in, but a stranger finds it most difficult to get through London. I have seen people with sweat pouring off their faces because they could not get from, say, Edgware Road into Oxford Street. The police who are involved in these duties could be better employed in other ways. This is something which should be looked at.
There was great agitation about the motorway box around London, as there was when the first motorways were built 389 in this country. Before they were built there were policemen at every crossing in all the villages and towns between my constituency and London, directing traffic all day long. Now, when one drives up and down the motorways one sees a police car only very occasionally. It is reasonable to deduce that building a motorway would relieve many policemen of their extra traffic duties and would make the roads much safer for everybody. This, too, is something which should be looked at.
I should like to say a few words about hypermarkets, which some mistaken local authorities have tried to ban. Surely we should be encouraging hypermarkets. Half the people of the country own motor cars and want to use them. I ask hon. Members to imagine what Oxford Street would be like if cars were completely barred from the centre of London, as some people suggest. What would the buses be like, with everybody getting on laden with messages? I can imagine what it would be like because I have seen it happen. We ought to be encouraging hypermarkets, which provide ample parking space so that cars cause no obstruction at all. It is time we realised that people want to use their cars, and no Government will stay in power very long if they do not allow them to do so.
My final point relates to the recent Hardman Report. We have heard of all the troubles which occur in places like London because of overcrowding and the density of traffic. We have been told of the difficulties of trying to get a house at a reasonable price. What did the Government do when they decided to disperse some industries and offices from London? They sent them to the most overcrowded part of Scotland—Glasgow. That was the only place in Scotland which the Government recommended should be considered. They decided which places should be investigated. It is not Hard-man's fault. The Government laid down where he should investigate, and they proposed only one place. They selected the most overcrowded part of Scotland. Is not that crazy? All these problems already existed in Glasgow, though on a slightly smaller scale than in London.
The other places which were considered were equally crazily selected. Cardiff, Newcastle and Liverpool were mentioned. The conditions in those cities 390 are the closest to conditions in London. Those cities already have the same problem as London. The Government did not consider places which can cope with extra traffic and jobs. Instead, they considered those places least able to cope with these problems and where the problems will be recreated to the same degree in a very short time.
§ Mr. Percy Grieve (Solihull)
Surely one of the aspects of the Hardman Report and one of the reasons for sending Departments out of London is to meet the problems of unemployment in the areas to which the hon. Gentleman has drawn attention.
§ Mr. Doig
There are other parts of Scotland which have just as serious problems as Glasgow, and I have no doubt that there are other parts of Wales where the problems are just as serious as they are in Cardiff. I think it will be found that this applies everywhere along the line. The Government have chosen a place which will soon reach the crisis point which exists in London, and that is where it is proposed to send these Departments. This seems to me a crazy philosophy.
It has been said several times in this debate that use should be made of voluntary help and that money should be pumped in to provide community services. There already exist in almost every city and town of any size a number of clubs which have excellent helpers and instructors, and these clubs are slowly but surely going out of existence for lack of funds. In my spare time I play chess. We have a chess club in Dundee, and that club gives vast sums of money to the community centres which do a first-class job. There are also clubs where people can get better instruction, where all the facilities are provided and experts are available to enable people to participate in competitions.
A small sum of money, something like £20 or £25, would be enough to keep such a club going, but grants are refused and instead a large sum of money is give to provide something which is quite useless. These clubs do not need paid helpers. Many of them are in back streets because they cannot afford premises elsewhere. Very often they are in dilapidated premises. A small amount of money invested in these clubs would 391 work wonders and would take people—young people in particular—away from concentrating on crime. In the chess club to which I belong, where we have about 100 very young members, I have never known one of them get into trouble with the police. The Government ought to consider this suggestion as a cheaper and better way of making use of the money which they have to spend.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Timothy Raison (Aylesbury)
The hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Doig) has given us a very spirited anthology on a number of different problems. At the beginning of his speech I thought I had strayed into the Adjournment debate and that the main debate had dried up. The hon. Gentleman then appeared to make an application speech for membership of the Monday Club. I have no doubt that his application will be successful. To be serious and to be fair to the hon. Gentleman, however, he made a number of points which, I am sure, many people will feel should have been made in the House. I should like to refer to what I think has been the main theme of today's debate, namely, the question of urban stress and deprivation. I represent a constituency which is rather different from the constituencies of most Members who have spoken on this topic today. Most of them have come from big cities where the stress is great. I do not say that we do not have problems in Aylesbury. We do, but they are different in scale from the kind of things one sees in London, Birmingham and elsewhere. I think it is entirely right that the Queen's Speech should have given close attention to what I believe to be one of the major matters in politics, and it is very important that it should be properly debated in the House.
I welcome the statement by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary that he intends to set up an Urban Deprivation Unit in the Home Office. It is always easy to say that it should have been set up two or three years ago. No doubt that is a fair point, but it is not a very constructive line of argument. This is an important and useful development. Also, the principles which my right hon. Friend adopted seemed to me to make sense. He spoke of the need for positive dis- 392 crimination and better co-ordination. I will come back to them.
My right hon. Friend also stressed the need to support families. This statement may in a way sound trite, but there is real meaning to it. There is an alarming tendency among some of the people involved in social work to put so much trust in community action and political action as the answer to the social problems which face us that support for the family is in danger of being underplayed. I was glad to observe support for my right hon. Friend's statement from Opposition Members. I do not under-rate the importance of community and social action in dealing with these things, but the traditional basis in case work is very important and it would be a pity to be misled into believing otherwise.
This topic is of major importance, and unless we are prepared to tackle it seriously we cannot claim to put forward any sort of one-nation policy. There is misery in our country which is completely intolerable and must be defeated. That means that more resources are needed. I do not quarrel with the reference in the Gracious Speech to the need to contain public expenditure—that is very important—but we must look at all our programmes and our sources of revenue and find the money somehow. Economic growth plays an important part in this, and the Government are right to continue to place a good deal of emphasis on it, but we must also go beyond this to consider how to find ways of transferring wealth from one sector to another.
I want to talk about the kind of policies which make sense in dealing with this topic. I have recently returned from three weeks in the United States. I was asked to go there by the State Department. When I was there I said that I would like to look at the problem of urban stress. I must admit that at times it was difficult not to be led into Watergate and Agnew. However, I picked up one or two points which seem to have a genuine bearing on what we are facing in this country.
If there is one overriding lesson that I brought back, it is the importance of thinking before one acts. I am sure that some hon. Members will have read the book written by Daniel Moynihan, 393 "Maximum Feasible Misunderstanding", about some of the programmes which the United States went in for in the 1960s. It is a good book. The lesson of thinking before one acts is something which he puts over well. For that reason the proposal of my right hon. Friend to set up a research section within the Urban Deprivation Unit makes good sense.
Another lesson which we should learn from the United States is that we should not multiply programmes and agencies. The United States went in for a great many things during the 1960s in the Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson era. They were all sensible initiatives in their own way, but they ended up with an appalling amount of muddle.
There is in the American system of government tremendous emphasis on acting quickly. That is part of the trouble. The Americans are less good than we are at running a continuous policy. Because of the inter-mixture of federal, city and state programmes, they were much less effective than they might otherwise have been. Before we start saying "Let us set up a new agency", let us think hard about whether it is necessary.
I also hope that we shall not over-involve the central Government in matters which could be managed by local government. When hon. Members talked about the need for partnership between central and local government they were saying something with which I agree entirely. We are right to say that the scale of the problems in the cities is too large to be solved locally. Nevertheless it would be a pity if we set up the sort of agency which my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Mr. Sydney Chapman) was talking about. My hon. Friend wants to have a Minister, and he suggested the possibility of having the equivalent of a new town development corporation to take over the hard hit areas in the inner cities. I do not think that that is the right approach. It would be much better to try to work through local government wherever possible.
I acknowledge that local government is a frail vessel in many respects. For that matter, so is national government. It does not do any good to say that local government is no good and to turn elsewhere. There is some justice in the point which local government makes when it 394 is accused of incompetence in handling its problems—namely, "We have not the resources to handle the problems in positive ways during the next few months". I hope we shall see that that is the nub of the matter.
I reiterate that I believe that the principle of positive discrimination is right. These are arguments against it. It is not quite such an easy matter as it appears. Positive discrimination has taken its place in the stock language of politics. Therefore, we probably do not think very much about what it means. There are problems. It is haphazard. If we say that we are to concentrate our resources on certain problem areas, we are by definition leaving out of that concentration other people in other areas who may be just as badly off. In other words, it is a selective policy.
Further, there is a risk which people have often talked about of a kind of stigma being attached to the notion of identifying areas for positive help. Hence there are objections. On balance, however, I think that the argument goes the other way. The case for positive discrimination is fundamentally the self-reinforcing nature of the crisis in the urban areas and the cycle of deprivation about which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services has talked so eloquently. There is a geometrical progression in social misery which a constructive policy can improve.
We should stick to the principle of the geographical area rather than trying to fragment it. We made a mistake when the Plowden Report proposals on the education priority areas were implemented. Plowden recommended that areas should be picked rather than individual schools. When the policy of help was introduced there was a switch from areas to individual schools. On balance that was a mistake. It is fair to say that by and large the problems which were at the heart of the difficulties were social or area problems rather than individual school problems. While I can see that, where resources are always scarce, tighter discrimination may be appealing in some respects, I believe that we should think in terms of switching to an area basis. That means finding an effective yardstick. That is not a difficult problem. It is not difficult to work out 395 which are the hard hit areas which need extra help.
I have already said that I hope we shall resist the temptation to bypass local authorities. I have indicated that we must give more financial help to local authorities. It is not an easy thing for me to say because I represent a quite prosperous area. Moreover, it is an area which is faced with an acute rate crisis in the coming months owing to the loss of Slough, which contributes a large part of the Buckinghamshire rates.
It is not easy to expect the people in the more prosperous parts of the country to forgo things so that other people will be better off. I hope that hon. Members who represent the hard hit areas will realise that. Nevertheless I accept the principle that we must help such areas. That means a tight look at the way in which we organise local authority finance.
Some hon. Members have referred to the studies carried out by the Department of the Environment, "Making Towns Better". Three studies have now been published and they are well worth considering. The Oldham study has one or two interesting comments which are well worth discussion. The study says:The Department of the Environment should continually re-examine the measures of problems which are available and possible improvements in the Rate Support Grant formula. The Department of the Environment should consider making adjustments to the RSG formula to take greater account of urban obsolescence and the need to compensate for a low level of private investment.It goes on to talk about factors which should be considered in the needs element. Later it says:We suggest, however, that the Department of the Environment considers with other relevant departments the initiation of a new loan sanction key sector called Urban Renewal.I do not claim to be an expert on local government finance. I do not say that those things are necessarily exactly the right things to do. That applies particularly to the last recommendation which I have quoted. However, that seems to be the right kind of proposal and approach which we must consider if we are to get anywhere.
We must return to the fact that housing is the crux—if anything is the crux—of the matters which we are discussing. 396 I shall now be rather more specifically Conservative than I might have been accused of being so far. The important thing is to get a mix. The more we consider housing the more disastrous it becomes to have uniform housing. American experience reinforces that. Massive local authority housing by itself is not the answer. Fundamentally we need more housing, but we need more variety in the way in which we provide it. We are getting into an over-polarised condition with a sharp divide between council housing and home ownership. The Gracious Speech is right to speak of greater support for housing associations. I hope we shall try to do more to help lower middle income and middle income families to get housed in the private sector. That would be preferable by home ownership, but private renting should be considered.
The disappearance of the private landlord is not in itself a victory. I do not think we shall gain by it. Of course there are abuses, but the private landlord's disappearance is not a desirable end because that would lead to inflexibility. I hope that the Government will find ways to help the lower and middle income families to get into the housing market. There is a gap because those families are largely excluded from Government assistance.
Education is of almost equal importance in this. The most important thing which has happened in the educational world, in the deprived areas, has been my right hon. Friend's endorsement or putting forward of a scheme for introducing pre-school provision on a much larger scale than we have now. I have been entirely behind that and will continue to be behind it. I hope that the programme will go ahead as fast as it can.
But it is worth making the point that we should not expect too much from preschool provision. I return to my American analogy. The Americans had their "Headstart" programme 10 years ago. Great expectations were placed upon it and they have not been fulfilled. I do not believe that they ever could have been. People were expecting pre-school education to do more than is humanly possible. We have to accept that this is not a panacea. It will not produce a transformation but it will make the lives of those receiving it happier than they would otherwise have been. It is important to 397 have some kind of notion of steadfastness about these things and not to get overexcited, because that would lead to a reaction that would take us too far the other way.
It is also unquestionable that secondary schooling will loom larger in the political debate, quite rightly, than it has done for some years. Although the early years are important, they are not in my judgment as important as some people think. What happens later is also important. The comprehensive argument has rather dominated discussion on secondary education. There are more important things at issue and we are coming to see that.
There is no doubt that secondary schools are under great pressure in some areas at the moment, particularly in London. I am sure my right hon. Friend is aware of that. I hope we can take some steps to come to their rescue. Money is part of the story, and yet I do not think it is the whole story. I do not think that larger London allowances and so on will substantially ease the problem. The problem in the London schools, the thing which drives teachers away, is the stress under which many of them have to operate. There is no doubt that they have a very tough time indeed.
The answer to this is difficult but fundamentally I believe it lies in the greater professionalisation of the teaching profession. Of course there are many dedicated teachers, but they do not at the moment have what I would regard as full professional status. They will never be able to cope with their problems as well as is possible unless we can build up that status. Also, we need to be terribly careful about the ideas which were put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Middleton and Prestwich (Mr. Haselhurst). It seemed that he had fallen prey to what I regard as the anti-academicism which is creeping into educational discussion at the moment. I will not pursue this now but it is an important point.
It is just as important today to stress the need for good academic standards, the need for children to be pressed in these schools, as it has ever been. I see absolutely nothing anti-egalitarian about making that point. I am sure it is a point of view which my right hon. Friend shares.
398 Fundamentally we must recognise that what we are talking about to a great extent is sheer poverty. At the end of the day the answer to many of these problems is simply that people have to become richer. It is interesting to realise, and worth making the point, that in the United States, for example, the colour problem which is such an obsession at the moment in many areas of social policy is something which will probably resolve itself. I am told that by the year 2000 negro incomes will be on a par with other incomes. I suspect that the tensions about which people are worried will be largely diminished by then. That makes the point that a lot of what we have to do will be resolved in time as incomes rise.
Clearly that is not the whole story. What we need to do basically is to find some sort of readiness to be patient and also readiness to persevere. Daniel Moynihan, whose book I quoted earlier, introduced a phrase which became quite fashionable in the United States when he talked about "benign neglect". He was talking in particular about the colour problem. I do not share the view that that is a suitable watchword. I would rather commend to my right hon. Friend something like "constructive patience". I am sure that is what we have to practise. I am delighted at the signs in the Gracious Speech that this is what the Government are committed to.
§ 6.47 p.m.
§ Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Ardwick)
The hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison) said that what he sought was a one-nation policy. If people were to take a look at his constituency and then look at part of mine, in Ardwick, they would wonder not whether they were part of the same nation but whether they were part of the same planet. The hon. Member acknowledges the affluence of his constituency. There are very few parts of my constituency which could claim to be affluent, while there are other parts of it which labour under the most appalling burdens of deprivation and whose inhabitants can for much of the time see little way out for themselves and their families.
A paragraph in the Gracious Speech—I hope not too significantly the last paragraph—refers to this problem. However sincerely it is meant by the Government, 399 many thousands of my constituents can do no more than receive it with bitterness and disbelief. The paragraph says thatPriority will continue to be given to … the problem of those suffering special disadvantages from the conditions of life in urban areas.Many of my constituents cannot see from their own daily lives that priority has been given to this in recent years. They rightly demand that priority should be given to their problems.
About five months ago the Home Secretary sped through Manchester on a lightning tour. He condemned what he saw in the inner part of Manchester, was appointed to give us and other cities special help, and then appeared to forget about us. We have only today heard that he is beginning to take some kind of action, including the setting up of two units which he announced to the House. The Home Secretary came to Manchester and he departed, but the problems, of which he saw only the surface, remain every day for those of us like my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Marks) and myself who represent constituencies in Manchester.
They are problems which make life a daily misery for thousands of people, problems moreover which could be solved with only a fraction of the money which is to be squandered on Maplin airport. Manchester is being starved by the Government of money which is totally essential to make a start on solving these problems. I wish the Home Secretary could return to Manchester. I wish he could pay a longer visit and accompany my hon. Friends and myself around our constituencies. I wish he could come with me to a block of flats I visited last Saturday morning—Greenwood House, a pre-war walk-up block of flats—where a group of tenants organised an impromptu meeting with me.
It was significant that the only place in the block of flats which they could find for their meeting was the communal washhouse, which is a washhouse of extremely low standard and about which I have received many complaints.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. David Lane)
The hon. Gentleman has mentioned a lot of things which he wished my right hon. 400 Friend had been able to do when he was in Manchester. Will he now accept that many of us in various Government Departments have been, and will continue to go, to Manchester and other cities to see the problems, of which we are aware, and to try to find better methods of tackling them than any other Government have found? I hope the right hon. Gentleman will acknowledge that.
§ Mr. Kaufman
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for saying that. Since he has advertised across the Floor of the House his willingness to come to look at the problems, I invite him to visit my constituency on a mutually convenient date and see the problems which I am about to relate to the House and the circumstances in which thousands of my constituents and their families have to live their daily lives.
§ Mr. Kaufman
I am grateful for that offer, and I trust that the hon. Gentleman's Department will keep in touch with me so that I can arrange for him a tour of the high spots of my constituency.
In the block of flats which I visited last Saturday morning, and which I visit regularly, I have seen, as the hon. Gentleman will see if he goes there, enormous quantities of glass scattered about. There is a total lack of play facilities for children who live in these walk-up flats. There is nowhere for old people to sit out in good weather. The windows in the upper storeys have been so designed that they cannot be cleaned by the residents, and they are not cleaned by anyone else. There are bedrooms which cannot be heated. The refuse disposal facilities are unsatisfactory. There is vandalism of a kind which appals and sometimes terro-rises the inhabitants of the flats. The tenants have to pay massive rents, which have been increased by £1.50 in the course of a year due to the Housing Finance Act, for flats which should not be lived in. People should be paid to live in them rather than be expected to pay massive rents.
I hope that the hon. Gentleman will visit another part of my constituency, South Street, which consists of old terrace houses which have been isolated within a 401 vast building site. Children living there ruin their shoes in six weeks because of constant mud and dirt, which they drag in from the building site. The children are scared away by private security police who are in charge of the building site. These children have nowhere safe to play in the vicinity. On one side there is the main road and on the other side the building site, which is full of dangers. The narrow street is lined with cars, which do not belong to the residents but which inconvenience them as they try to live their daily lives. Mud and dust are constantly brought into the homes of house-proud women who try to keep their homes tidy.
The noise in the area is intolerable to the people living there, including night workers. One lady is a hospital worker, doing the essential work which we have been discussing today. She tells me that she is on night work constantly and is unable to sleep during the day because of the constant noise to which she and the other residents are subjected.
There is danger to the whole future of the children living there. Another lady who lives in the street has told me about her son who is growing up in these conditions. She has written that heis losing all interest at school and his teacher is worrying about him, and why. I think it is the atmosphere in which we are living. He is bored and fed up. So are we all, and it is beginning to affect our health, and I am sure that if you had to live here it would affect you, too.The lady is right; of course it would.
I hope that the hon. Gentleman will visit yet another area of my constituency where there is a good green space called Greenbank Fields, but there is a path across it which is so decrepit that when old-age pensioners have to cross to the post office to collect their pensions they are liable to walk across in mud when there is rain. The corporation cannot afford to keep the path in good trim because of lack of finance.
I also hope that the hon. Gentleman will visit a small select area, Park Crescent, a nice crescent near an old people's home. We have tried to have two benches provided for people from the home to use when the weather is good but the corporation cannot afford to buy the benches, much as it would like to do so.
402 I hope that the hon. Gentleman will come with me to another very neglected part of my constituency, the Union Street flats, which border a great motorway called the Mancunian Way, where the children play and a child has been killed. There is a chronic lack of play facilities, which the corporation wishes to provide but which its finances will not run to providing.
I hope that the hon. Gentleman will come to St. Kentigern's School, which I have discussed with the Secretary of State for Education and Science. I have written to her about it and hope to arouse her sympathy. We are putting our case again for consideration in the next review. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will look at what is a model school of its kind, with wonderful staff, including excellent kitchen staff, and wonderful pupils but a school with grossly overcrowded classroom and kitchen facilities. We hope that we shall be able to persuade the Secretary of State to include us in the next minor works programme. If the hon. Gentleman saw the overcrowded conditions for himself, I am sure he would put in a word for us with his right hon. Friend.
Day after day the letters arrive for me from by constituents. Weekend after weekend I go round my constituency and see the problems, which are heartrending—noise, dirt, infestation by rats and mice and insects of all kinds, and dereliction. It is not surprising that when figures are made available for such areas we see a higher rate of infant mortality than in the better-off parts of the city and a lower rate of life expectation because they are the deprived areas. Our fellow citizens, with as much right to a decent future as any hon. Member or anyone in any other part of the country, are living in conditions that no one should be expected to tolerate.
Manchester Corporation's Director of Works has issued a report on some of the older council property. He measures his words, because he must accept the council's duty to offer a solution, but he talks aboutthe neglected plight of the estates where walk-up flats abound …years of seemingly discouraging neglectand the extreme neglect of places like Greenwood House, Heywood House, also in my constituency, and Brookhouse, 403 in my constituency now but to be transferred to the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Gorton after the next election.
Manchester Corporation is doing its best to put matters right in areas which are surrounded by a state of upheaval, looking as though a bomb has fallen, as the demolition takes place. Even though we are now building far more quickly than before, the dangers to those concerned are as great as if a bomb had dropped. The corporation has started a new clean-up campaign. One area of my constituency, the Coverdale Estate, which is as notorious as Fort Ardwick throughout the country for the problems it presents, will be helped by a works service unit.
To deal with the problems of one estate, with 573 dwellings, will cost an enormous amount. How are we to obtain the money to deal with all the other areas in my constituency, in other parts of Manchester, in inner areas of cities such as Liverpool and Birmingham, and other areas of great need? I do not see how it can be done without much greater Government help.
Yet Manchester, which does not have enough money to begin to deal with the problems adequately, is already subjected to a massive rates burden, which has aroused great resentment in the city. The Government's attitude has been a cynical scandal. Under the prices and incomes policy they examined our rates and accepted that every penny off expenditure was essential. They were not able to pare a single new penny of what we planned, but apart from the derisory help of the rating revaluation, which will help only a minimal number of people in the city, and very few of my constituents, the Government are doing nothing to help.
I looked with hope at the new Local Government Bill published yesterday. It will be of little assistance because it contains no recognition of our special problems. I had hoped that by a leap of the imagination the Government might recognise the special problems of the inner city areas. We need more than just the special kinds of element in the rate support grant described in the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum. I should like a special inner city subsidy to be applied to areas which can 404 easily be defined simply by driving round them and marking them on a map, an inner city subsidy directly related to problems of the kind I have described.
Unless we have special, much more direct and urgent help than we have been receiving, the inner cities will continue to degenerate until they may be beyond reclaim. If that happens, people's lives will be blighted and the hopes of their children thwarted. No hon. Member will be ready to tolerate that.
§ 7.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Percy Grieve (Solihull)
This is the first time I have had the honour of addressing the House when you have been occupying the Speaker's Chair, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I hope that I am not out of order in expressing my pleasure and my congratulations to you. I am sure that I carry every hon. Member with me when I say that we hope you will occupy your present high office with distinction for a long time.
The hon. Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. Kaufman) referred to many aspects of life and conditions in his constituency. It is impossible for me to deal with the details of his speech, because I am not acquainted with his constituency. I speak about it with the humility that becomes someone who represents a very prosperous area. I am sure that in the hon. Gentleman's constituency, as in those of his hon. Friends the Members for Greenwich (Mr. Guy Barnett) and Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Marks), to both of whom we listened with attention, there are many housing and other conditions that would horrify every hon. Member.
But we have not paid sufficient regard in the debate to the enormous progress that the country has made over the years in housing, welfare, education and care for the old and the young. We have a proud place, having been one of the first countries in the world to deal with these problems, and perhaps the pioneer in welfare. I say that not to diminish the points made by those hon. Members who have spoken of bad conditions in their constituencies, but to put these matters in perspective. Governments of both complexions since the war have striven to achieve the highest measure of welfare. Remembering that Rome was not built in a day, we should acknowledge that, although there is much to be done, much has already been done.
405 I say these things as a preface to dealing with the point of the hon. Member for Greenwich, suggested in the speeches of several hon. Members this afternoon, and to which my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary referred at some length in his speech—that the problems most worrying us are those of law and order. It is the suggestion that those problems of increasing crime are due to the bad conditions in inner urban areas.
That is a gross over-simplification of the problem. That crime has increased immeasurably in a post-war Britain which has known the benefits of a Welfare State, and which has seen the social improvements to which I have so briefly drawn attention, has been clearly demonstrated.
In pre-war Britain, where we suffered far more disfiguring conditions and far more widespread disfiguring conditions than those from which we now suffer, crime did not exist on anything like the same scale. For that reason in my brief contribution I ask the House to consider the causes of crime and the ways in which we may properly and adequately deal with them.
A debate on the Gracious Speech is inevitably a discursive affair, a great opportunity which this House has at the beginning of each Session to consider problems facing the country and to consider the remedies outlined by Her Majesty's Government in the Gracious Speech as their offering of some measure of solution to be achieved in the forthcoming Session. Therefore, one finds many points arising from time to time in hon. Members' speeches in the debate, as for instance, the hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Doig), who dealt with the Hardman Report, which had not been mentioned before.
Increasing crime in our society is not to be found in bad conditions—or to very little extent. It is to be found in something to which my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison) drew attention—even though he did so in parenthesis: that in this country since the war we have overestimated the power of society in these matters, that we have overestimated our reliance on social organs and on local authorities while we have underestimated the part which the family and the home environment can play. I agree that the home environ- 406 ment is affected by bad conditions and matters of that kind. But it is affected even more by discipline in the home, by the unity of the home, by the security and integrity of the home.
Since the war in this country we have seen the decline of the family as a social unit. That is a matter which we should investigate more than we have hitherto. The decay of the family and the decay in its religious sanctions are at the roots of some of our present problems in crime.
Today we see greatly increased prosperity which, when discipline and religious sanctions are relaxed, puts temptations in the way of young people which they are far less able to resist than when they live in worse conditions but in a far more stable home environment.
I welcome the measures which Her Majesty's Government have already taken to deal with the problem of crime in our society and I welcome the further promise in the Gracious Speech that priority will continue to be given to programmes in support of law and order and law reform. I speak as one who exercises criminal jurisdiction as a recorder and as one who sometimes takes part in criminal cases at the Bar.
I am happy to say that some of the measures included in the 1972 Criminal Justice Act are already bearing fruit, providing the courts with new and fresh ways of dealing with crime, not only by way of punishment but—what is much more important—by way of prevention. First, the provisions relating to criminal bankruptcy have provided the courts with a most important means of dealing with the fraudulent or large-scale offender who has been able to put money by and provide, as he thinks, a cushy future for himself, even if he has to pay the price of his crime.
From a social point of view, the increased power given to the courts in the 1972 Act to combine a suspended sentence with a supervision order has been of the greatest value. When the suspended sentence was introduced by the previous Criminal Justice Act, it was expressly provided that it could not be combined with a probation order. This was a great mistake. If anyone needed help, it was the man with a suspended sentence of two years hanging over his head, and there was no one who could 407 help him. I therfore welcome that provision and have already seen it usefully applied by the courts since the provision came into force at the beginning of the year.
Another provision was the community service order. This is very much in its infancy still, but it points the way towards dealing with offenders. I hope that it will be of use and will be increasingly used and developed as time goes on. Speaking as one whose duty it sometimes is to send people to prison, I am absolutely convinced that prison is no answer. It is a sanction against those who have never been to prison—they fear it terribly—but once a man has fallen into prison, the threat of a prison sentence has lost a good deal of its sanction. Certainly it will do very little to prevent any future crime. All that it may do is protect society from then on against the criminal who is a danger to society.
We must look for alternative means of dealing with offenders. The 1972 Criminal Justice Act has pointed the way—I hope a constructive way—which, in due course, this Government and future Governments, and this House for a long time to come, will be able to follow up.
I am very concerned, as I believe are many of those connected with the administration of justice, with the operation of the Children and Young Persons Act, 1969. Perhaps the most worrying problem that this country faces in the realm of law and order is juvenile delinquency. Many hon. Members will have been horrified to read in The Times and many other newspapers the other day of a criminal gang which had "clocked up" about 25 burglaries and which consisted of, if it were not led by, children 10 years old. One 10-year-old was a leader.
I thought at the time of the 1969 Act, and voiced the opinion in Parliament, that it was crazy, in the very year in which we lowered the age of majority to 18, to raise the age of criminal responsibility, in the sense of being subject to trial on indictment in the higher courts, from 14 to 17. At that time, many concerned with the administration of law, in the legal profession and the police, voiced that opinion.
Many probation officers said that the fact that a boy or girl of 14 recognised that something was a crime for which 408 he or she could be responsible in the criminal courts itself showed that it was something that should not be done, and that, by passing that legislation, the House had removed that sanction. I believe that this opinion is true. The increasing worry of juvenile delinquency emboldens me to say that the Government should take a very hard look indeed at the provisions of the Children and Young Persons Act, which in many respects has completely failed.
Law and order is integral: it is one and indivisible. Respect for the law must be encouraged and must be the basis of the conduct of everyone in society. If law breaks down, society itself breaks down. In this regard, I have watched with increasing apprehension the flouting of the law by the very organs of society which should not only inculcate respect for the law but which sometimes have the very duty of making law themselves in the form of byelaws. I refer to local authorities.
It was astonishing that, after the passing of the Housing Finance Act, some local authorities thought that they could flout and resist the law because they did not like it. If any of us here were to take the view that we should not obey a law because we did not like it, that would be the end of law and order, and life would indeed be "nasty, poor, brutish and short" for everyone in society.
I refer to the most recent manifestation of this trend—the Clay Cross matter. I was horrified when a distinguished member of the Labour Party, a Privy Councillor, came out with the threat of indemnifying persons who had flouted the law and incurred penalties as a result.
§ Mr. Heffer
Would the hon. and learned Gentleman agree that there is another responsibility on politicians—to tell people the truth in their manifesto? The Conservative manifesto clearly said—I have read it only recently in preparation for a debate at Oxford—
§ Mr. Heffer
Yes, we lost the debate, but we won the argument.
The Tory Party manifesto said that there should be no further interference with local authorities, that they should 409 have independence. It is precisely independence which was taken away from local authorities by the Housing Finance Act. This Government turned the local authorities into agents of the central Government and told an untruth to the people of this country.
§ Mr. Grieve
—is that local authorities are bound to have the function of enforcing the law made by Parliament. That is not an interference with local authorities; it is in fact an increase of their sphere of activity. If the promise in the Conservative manifesto were to be interpreted as the hon. Gentleman seeks to interpret it, there would be no further addition to the powers or responsibilities of local authorities for all time to come. What the hon. Gentleman said is nonsense, as he will recognise, I am sure, on reflection.
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
On that very matter, did not the Government give additional powers to the local authorities, for example to provide rebates in respect of furnished and unfurnished accommodation and to enlarge their spheres of influence in order to give every advantage to tenants?
§ Mr. Grieve
I am most grateful to my hon. and learned Friend. He is absolutely right. If local authorities are to benefit anyone with anything, it has to be done with money taken from the pockets of people. The hon. Gentleman was making a completely false point.
I return to my main point. It is the duty of everybody in a position of responsibility to recognise that laws made by Parliament are laws to be obeyed. If disobedience to such laws is encouraged, it is cutting at the foundations of our society.
§ Mr. George Cunningham
May we take it that if any future Labour Government provide that there will be a compulsion upon local authorities to municipalise, and acquire into their own ownership stated categories of rented private accommodation, it will be entirely wrong for any Conservative local authority which is com- 410 pletely opposed to that policy to resist it in any way?
§ Mr. Grieve
I should most certainly be opposed to a flouting of the law by any local authority whatsoever Government was in power, and of whatever political complexion that Government was. That is the root and basis of what I am saying and my submission to the House. I should have thought it so clear that I cannot see that anyone with good intentions and the long-term wellbeing of our society at heart could fail for one moment to see the force of what I am saying. How can one expect young men or young women to resist the temptation to commit crime, not to help themselves to other people's property to which they are not entitled, and not to commit crime of other kinds, if they see the law flouted by those in authority in the State and the councils of the Queen?
With those observations, I turn to something which, unless I am mistaken, has not yet been adverted to. That is the promise to strengthen the laws against indecent public advertisement display.
§ Mr. Grieve
I beg my hon. Friend's pardon. I apologise, and I greatly regret that I missed what he said. I know that in these matters he is a considerable authority and speaks with authority.
Speaking for myself, I have always approached problems of censorship of any kind with the greatest possible hesitation. I believe that it has been almost impossible in the past to frame obscenity laws and a definition of obscenity. I have welcomed the gradual relaxation of laws applying censorship in the various spheres in which they were applied originally—the cinema, the theatre, books and so on. I believe that in a civilised society adults should, on paying a proper fee for their tickets, attend cinemas and theatres to see anything in reason. The same applies to books and printed matter.
But that is a different matter from seeing daily in the streets, on placards, in shop windows and outside cinemas matter which is offensive to a great part of the population and which is corrupting to some of the younger members of the population who may see it.
I think it is high time that a Government tackled this problem, removed manifest prurient pornography from placards, 411 shop windows and cinema and theatre exits, and legislated to that effect. It will not be easy to legislate, because it will not be easy to define obscenity in these matters. No doubt we shall have an opportunity of discussing the definition when the necessary legislation is brought before the House. I look forward to the Second Reading with interest and hope that such measures as the Government introduce in this regard will speedily be passed into law.
Having made those few observations, I do not propose to detain the House longer this afternoon. I am grateful for this opportunity of being able to make a contribution to the debate on the Gracious Speech and I would like in conclusion to congratulate my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary on the measures he has introduced and on the Government's legislative programme. I believe that the present Home Secretary, my right hon. Friend, has been a humane and firm Home Secretary, and I am convinced that those measures which the House passed in the previous Sessions and for which he was responsible will be followed up this Session by constructive legislation for the public good.
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ Mr. A. W. Stallard (St. Pancras, North)
Much as I am tempted to do so, I shall refrain from following the hon. and learned Member for Solihull (Mr. Grieve) in his assertions. I shall enlarge on some of the aspects mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin (Mrs. Shirley Williams) who opened the debate this afternoon from the Opposition Front Bench with an excellent, wide-ranging speech in which she mentioned many of the problems affecting the inner London area and the constituency of St. Pancras, North, which I have the honour to represent. Each of the headings which my hon. Friend mentioned could form the subject of separate, long debates, and so in my short contribution I shall deal with the part which concerns me.
As were other Opposition Members, I was extremely disappointed with many aspects of the Gracious Speech. However, today I shall deal with the Government's intentions about housing and im- 412 proving living conditions. What bothers me is not what is in the Gracious Speech but what is not in but should have been included and could easily have been included if the Government were serious and intended to do something about the terrible problems mentioned by several hon. Members.
Undoubtedly, one of the main reasons for the problems of all the public services in London and many other cities is the terrible housing problem and all that goes with it. The astronomical increase in the price of housing and the impossibility for key workers of obtaining mortgages are driving skilled craftsmen, technicians and professional workers to other areas. Many youngsters are pulling up their roots in desperation and leaving already deprived areas for other areas where circumstances and conditions and the quality of life are much better than in the middle of some cities.
We are all aware from our constituency advice services of the heartbreaking attempts of young couples to buy any home in the inner London area. Even when both husband and wife have reasonably good jobs, which is quite common, particularly with young teachers, social workers, professional workers, probation officers and manual workers such as bus drivers, and those in jobs where women earn almost as much as their husbands, so that both earn reasonably good wages, the difficulty of youngsters in finding anywhere to live is one of the most harassing problems that I meet.
We were all shocked, disgusted and horrified to read recently that a young teacher had been offered a mortgage on condition that his wife produced a certificate from her doctor to say that she was in good health and that she would take the pill for five years. We must have wondered where this was leading us. Is an estate agent now to make that a condition of granting a mortgage? Incidentally, had the couple succeeded in getting a mortgage, they could not have bought a one-bedroom flat in my constituency; it would not have been enough to put them into a bed-sitter in Camden Town.
The Government not only appear to be incapable of dealing with this problem but their policy is worsening the position. We have heard many examples 413 today of how the new proposals under phase 3 will make the situation dramatically worse for many people in the constituencies I have referred to. The paltry attempts, which would be comic if they were not so tragic, of the Government's recent machinations in relation to interest rates have led to the worsening of the position of thousands of people. The Government have lacked direction and policy in dealing with a problem which has terrible social aspects.
We in London have the equally appalling problem of homelessness. In my constituency the homeless can be divided into three categories. First, the number of those with notice to quit is on an ever-increasing and alarming scale. Secondly, young people and others from the provinces are still flocking to London in search of the good life. London in this respect means King's Cross, St. Pancras or Euston—and that means Camden. The furthest one can carry a heavy suitcase in one hand from Euston is Camden Town. And that means me! Therefore, we have this tremendous problem in London, and particularly the part of London that I represent, of people coming from all over the world to find jobs and fortunes. They add to the already great problem of homelessness.
Thirdly, there are the single homeless people who are being evicted daily from furnished accommodation in the London area. They are being evicted by landlords who want to convert and refurbish and relet at fabulous rents. Working men and women who have lived for a long time in "digs" are now being thrown out, sometimes at a moment's notice, certainly at never more than a hour's. I hear from them weekly, even daily, and they have literally nowhere to go. Scores of people are being treated like this in inner London and other cities. Elderly women who have been furnished tenants for many years are being forced out of their accommodation. Students and young workers cannot afford the rents that are being charged for what few properties are available for rent. Such people do not qualify for any priority or consideration on local authority lists. Is it any wonder that squatting is on the increase? What else can these people do? What can any of them do in London in circumstances in which they see hundreds of empty houses standing 414 idle waiting for somebody to come along with enough money to buy? It has been calculated that if we could occupy all the vacant houses in London we could solve the housing shortage.
The Government are doing nothing about the situation. What does the Conservative election leaflet entitled "The Gracious Speech" say that the Government will do about it? It says only that they will continue to give it priority. I could not better what my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition said at the beginning of the debate on the Gracious Speech. Heaven help us if the Government continue to give the kind of priority they have given since 1970. If the situation has deteriorated to the extent that I know it has, Heaven help those who will suffer from the Government's order of priority.
I hope to return to the problem of homelessness in a future debate. Many London Members of Parliament tried during the previous Session and the one before that, to bring it to the attention of whatever party was in power, and they and I will go on doing it until we are satisfied that we have a satisfactory solution.
My main argument is allied to this matter. It is one of the most serious problems with which I deal. Many other right hon. and hon. Members will face similar problems in the coming months. I refer to the problem of harassment and winklers in the inner London areas. Indeed, the problem is not confined to London. If my postbag is anything to go by, it shows that it is spreading all over the country. People are getting in on this lucrative business of winkling. The practice might almost seem to be encouraged in some areas because of the Government's failure to tackle the problem.
The hon. and learned Member for Solihull referred to law and order and its enforcement. If ever there was a jungle of law and order which is not enforced, it is in the sphere of harassment and winkling, of housing, of greedy gansters using the law, flouting the law, to make fantastic profits out of people's misery and hardship. It ill behoves Conservative Members to lecture me about how they will enforce law and order and to tell me that their party is pledged to law and 415 order. I could spend the rest of the week giving examples of how the Government have failed in that respect and about the suffering caused as a result.
In my constituency, behind almost every notice board reading "For Sale" or "Sold by" in the front garden, there is a tale of despair, fear, worry and harassment. These boards are fast becoming a dreaded sign in London. As soon as I see such a board I know there will be problems which must be solved if we are serious in what we say about inner London and other city areas throughout the country.
What are the problems arising from the display of such boards? As soon as a board is put up, the sitting tenant says "What will it mean? By how much will my rent go up?". It is an automatic reflex action. It must mean something. We know from experience what happens: the rent goes up, or the tenant says "Will the new landlord try to get me out?". We know the drill from experience and we know the sequence of events. People say "Shall I be treated like Mrs. So-and-so up the road? Shall I be stuck in a couple of damp basement rooms because he wants my property—in which I have lived for 30 years—to convert into a luxury dwelling? Then he will sell it, while I end up in a stinking, damp basement."
There are hundreds of houses throughout London in which that happens. I could give many examples. The tenant says "If I complain to the new landlord, will that make it worse? Will that provoke him into taking action against me?".
§ Mr. Stallard
I agree. I shall speak on that in a moment.
There is genuine fear. We talk about the problems of mugging, which are serious, but what is happening in housing is legalised mugging. Yet we talk about law and order and their enforcement! We should speak of these people living in fear behind boards in London and elsewhere.
I could give many examples. Last year I tried to amend existing legislation to help to solve some of these problems. At that time I cited examples of the greedy speculator. It is mostly older people who are involved because it is 416 controlled tenancies which are affected, and to be a controlled tenant one must be either middle-aged or elderly—it is impossible to be a young controlled tenant.
The most vulnerable section of our community is those least able to defend themselves, such as older people, those who have given their whole lives to society, those who now, in the twilight of their lives, have to face harassment and fear. I could continue to give examples of their suffering, because I receive letters from all over the country. I should like to quote one which I received the other day from Kent. It says:I am a widower and until two months ago had been a controlled tenant for 35 years, since 1938. I have always paid my rent. But my furniture is now in store and I am homeless because I can no longer tolerate my landlady's particular form of harassment and also the legal fees necessary to safeguard my rights as a citizen.He gave up, and I can understand his giving up.
I have witnessed this harassment and can understand the fear in that old man's mind when he received those bogus unenforceable notices to quit. Old men and women worry a great deal when they receive a legal document, even though not enforceable, telling them they have to be out of their home in a month's time. If a landlord does that three or four times over a period of 12 or 18 months, it is harassment. Lawyers and other legal gentlemen say, "That is not harassment. You cannot prove that is harassment." But I can. That old man can prove that it is. Everyone around him knows it.
What happens to that old man, even with legal advice, paraphernalia, help and assistance when his landlord, using the existing law—which I wish to change, but which the Government are not keen to change—faces him with an application for permission to enter his home to improve it? He says, "It will be to your advantage." We all know the spiel; it is becoming familiar. "All I want to do is put in a bathroom", he says, "Wouldn't you like a new lavatory or a new bathroom?" Because the old man is afraid to say "No", he says "All right, go ahead."
If that old man goes to a local council, it will say "You cannot object. How can you? It is a perfectly reasonable 417 proposition. The man wants to improve your property. This is renovation, so how can you object?" In the case I am quoting, the man says:I agreed.… Immediately the only WC in the house was demolished"—under the guise of building a new one—and the gas stove was disconnected"—because he was going to do decorations and so on in that part of the house; but then the landlord disappears. The property was like that for 11 months, with no alternative sanitation, no cooking facilities.
One may say that the old man could take the landlord to court, but I will show what would happen. I understand why this old man saysMy furniture is now in store and I am homelessHere is a man who has joined my homeless list—in the twilight of his life—because of Government policy. He is not alone. Unfortunately he is one of hundreds of similar cases throughout the country, certainly dozens in my constituency.
There was a case recently of an old lady who had spent all her life cultivating a few inches of garden at the back of a tatty old dwelling in North London. She had spent years establishing an oasis, a beautiful spot in the back garden. It was her only hobby, her life. I can understand that. She was proud of it. It was her sole joy and delight. The house changed hands and the first thing that happened was that the new landlord wanted vacant possession. That sort of thing always happens, and the landlord starts the winkling process. His first tactic was to dig up the garden, chop down the trees, cut the shrubs, smash down the clothes props, make the garden derelict and then refuse her permission to use it. He even put wire down the middle and said that she could not cross it any more. Such tactics are important because they are used daily.
A landlord bought a property under the guise of inspecting it and having to do something because of insurance cover. He persuaded two old-age pensioners who had lived there for 38 years that a detailed survey was necessary. He told them that for the purpose it would be necessary to take certain parts to pieces and he would put them in an hotel at 418 King's Cross for a couple of days while the job was done. That actually happened. The old-age pensioners were put in a bed-and-breakfast place, and when they returned their furniture was in the back garden covered by a tarpaulin. Everything had been taken out of the house. They were shocked and terrified, not knowing what to do, and they ended up in a two-room basement with a short lease in another part of North London before anyone was able to take up the case. Thus the landlord got vacant possession and sold the house at a fantastic profit.
There was a pensioner in my constituency who was without heat or light for weeks and weeks because the landlord said that he was doing urgent repairs to the rooms above her accommodation. He was in fact converting it, and it is now for sale as a self-contained two-room dwelling for £17,000. The pensioner spent weeks of misery with no electric light, no heating or other facilities while the job went on. And then one talks of law and order.
There are another two couples who have been without heating and light since April 1973 and who have been living in a house that is semi-derelict. There was a fire in the middle, and one of the couples lives at the bottom and the other lives at the top of the house. They are burning candles and the landlord refuses to sell the house to the local authority because he wants more money for it. He will not negotiate. We all know how long compulsory purchase orders take.
Those are merely a few examples of the problems. I have only skimmed the surface because I know that other hon. Members from inner London could double and treble the list daily. They are social problems because they affect not only the old man or the old lady but the sons and daughters and grandchildren who suddenly have this extra burden thrust upon them.
I should like now to pay tribute to the journalists of many newspapers. The Times, the Sunday Times and the News of the World have done a tremendous job in exposing some of these obscenities and excesses. I would recommend as good reading two recent articles in the News of the World which exposed the activities of winklers and the lengths to which some of them are prepared to go 419 in order to obtain vacant possession. One has to read those articles and to have that experience before one can believe that it could happen in the capital of Great Britain in 1973. One would not believe it unless one lived it, as I do, day in and day out.
People who come from "the sticks", the "jungle", or the provinces—Aylesbury, for instance—may ask how these things happen. What makes men behave like this towards their fellows? It is difficult to understand, until one looks at the root. Basically the reason is greed, unadulterated greed for money by people who want to make a quick "buck".
Such people are encouraged by the present system. The present state of society and the present Government encourage them and have arranged and so organised the country that such people are able to benefit from this filthy business.
A partly occupied house, for instance, purchased a few years ago for £6,500, with one floor vacant, with the tenants winkled out, even if as much as £500 has been paid to get such tenants out, now vacant and converted, has a current value of more than £40,000. So we are not talking about peanuts. We are not talking about £20, £30, £40 or £50. We are talking of thousands of pounds. One sees why people behave as they do to their fellows. Unfortunately there are people who will do such things because there is £20,000 to be made—sometimes more.
There are other examples of houses costing a maximum of £23,000 which sell after conversion into separate units for £175,000. I do not want to tempt any right hon. or hon. Gentlemen to go into this business, but that is the sort of money we are talking about. The incentive is there for people to flout the law, such as it is. How can a man be frightened when he is gambling with £25,000? How can he be frightened off with costs of 2 guineas, a £2 fine and a warning not to do it again? What sort of law and order is that? These things go on and very little is being done about them.
We seem to be content to leave it to the journalists to try to chivvy local authorities into issuing compulsory purchase orders when and if they can, if the 420 Minister will agree. There are many instances when the Minister on appeal has rejected such orders and found in favour of the landlord. The whole issue is littered with nauseating decisions that ought never to have been taken.
There are difficulties in the existing law, which is why I have tried to change it. There are difficulties, for instance, even in mounting a prosecution. The 1965 and 1968 laws—I am not blaming the present Government for them, because those laws were the fault of the Labour Government—were the woolliest and most loosely-worded legislation on housing ever to go on the statute book. They have created a jungle. That is not to say that the Government are absolved from doing something about it, particularly when the opportunites have been presented.
In my modest fashion I have tried twice; other hon. Members have tried many times. We always get a rebuttal, a refusal to give a Second Reading. It may not be perfect, it may not be good, but it would be capable of amendment. If one were serious one would say "We will take it. We do not like it, so we will amend it. We think it is a good idea and we shall implement it."
That is how I judge the sincerity of the Government and the Queen's Speech. Even if one can mount the prosecution in face of the difficulties, what happens when it gets to court? The courts adopt a hopelessly weak attitude to the cases that come before them, notwithstanding the increased penalties. I could spend a long time giving examples of what has happened since the penalties were increased. I confine my remarks to inner London and that part of inner London that I know best, Camden. According to my example,The maximum penalties for unlawful eviction and harassment were increased as a result of the Criminal Justice Act 1972.That we know. However, in a recent case of unlawful eviction the learned justices imposed a fine of £10 with £10 costs. That must have frightened a man contemplating a £30,000 profit! He must have had sleepless nights worrying about where to find the £20. In another case, also for unlawful eviction, the defendant was given a conditional discharge for 12 months, in spite of the increased penalties.
421 In a neighbouring borough—that of my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South-West (Mr. George Cunningham)—nine successful prosecutions by the council for harassment or unlawful eviction were taken to court. It must have taken a tremendous amount of work to mount those prosecutions. To get them as far as the court is a vast task. Anybody who understands the workings of the courts will know how difficult it is to get a case to court. Of those nine cases, one resulted in an absolute discharge, four in fines between £2 and £3, two in fines of £20, two in fines of £40 and no costs were awarded in two of the cases. Can one honestly say that those are realistic fines?
I have an other list, with which I shall not weary the House, six times as long as that, all of cases of unlawful eviction with no penalty over £30, in spite of the increased penalties boasted about by the Minister and others.
§ Mr. Thomas Cox (Wandsworth, Central)
Would not my hon. Friend agree that not only are the fines imposed by the courts derisory but the courts never order, as of right, repossession to a tenant who has been unlawfully evicted? This is another weakness in the courts.
§ Mr. Stallard
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for mentioning that, because it is another facet that I tried to tidy up with my Ten-Minute Bill last Session. I shall be trying again to tidy it up. There is the question of what happens after eviction until the court case which I shall mention later. I have mentioned the worst cases. They must be the worst cases because they reached the courts, despite the difficulties and obstacles faced by the local council in prosecuting. What happens to the hundreds of other cases which never get that far? The people involved simply continue to suffer in misery.
I have tried to plug some of the gaps by way of Private Members' Bills and I shall continue to do so. It has been said by the Minister and the Department that to shift the onus or burden of proof, which was my suggestion, would be unreasonable—for example, let the landlord prove that he did not put a pram on the stairs outside an old-age pensioner's door so that she would fall over it to frighten her. I am not a lawyer, but I know that there 422 are difficulties. Nevertheless, they can and should be surmounted. It is not good enough to say that there are difficulties and that there are no precedents.
Because the fines are so derisory, because the courts, even with the increased fines, do not seem capable, or willing, to implement them, let them impose minimum fines. Instead of stipulating a maximum fine of, say, £400 and leaving it to someone's good sense or otherwise to impose a fine of perhaps £1.50 or £2, with a whip round for the costs, let them impose minimum fines. A legal gentleman will find difficulties about everything. But difficulties are there to be surmounted if we want to solve the problem.
I therefore suggested minimum fines. The Minister said:I hope very much that the courts will use the new heavy penalties more and more.That is almost a joke in inner London. But the Minister says:I think we must rely on this happening—rather than do what I suggested. That was not said to the trade union movement when voluntary co-operation was discussed. The Government introduced the most vicious industrial relations legislation ever put on the statute book to hammer the trade unions. But for property speculators, landlords and winklers the Government say, "Let it happen. We will come to some voluntary arrangement".
The Minister says that he opposes minimum fines and says that the only other minimum sentence in English law is the mandatory life sentence for murder. Therefore, he does not feel that I have a case. I do not believe he is even factually correct, because I recollect that there are minimum penalties under the breathalyser legislation. There are minimum penalties for offences of driving after disqualification as a result of a breathalyser prosecution. Certainly minimum penalties can be imposed in the constituency in which I live for parking a vehicle outside one's own door if it is in a restricted area. The penalty is £2. I have yet to meet the person who negotiates over whether it should be 35-bob, 25-bob or £1. There is a minimum penalty for those minor offences.
To say that it is unreasonable to introduce minimum penalties for some of the wicked crimes that I have outlined, and 423 some that I have not outlined about which hon. Members know, shows that the position is not being treated as seriously as it deserves, and I shall try in the near future to do something about it.
There are actions which we should consider taking immediately. For example, if we are serious about telling people of their rights, we should make it easier for them by setting up community law centres on a 24-hour service basis. This has been done in Camden and is performing an excellent job on behalf of many people with problems. It has certainly taken much pressure from local represeentatives and people like us who have to deal with harrowing cases. I therefore believe that something on those lines is a necessity.
Dealing with the point mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South-West. I should like to see the land register opened to public gaze. I do not have time to go into the difficulties that exist in finding out who owns property. An old-age pensioner or controlled tenant has not a hope in hell of finding out who owns the property or who has bought it. Therefore the Land Register must be opened up, and I shall try to introduce a measure to bring this about.
I should like to see the police given powers of arrest in cases where an eviction has taken place, where a person's furniture has been put out on the pavement, where locks have been changed and where people thrown out of their homes. The culprit should be arrested. There should be no question of a fine of a couple of pounds. The person concerned should be dealt with by law. I should like to see minimum penalties introduced and amendments brought in to deal with the jungle of housing legislation which now exists. Much of this legislation is permissive. It should be mandatory.
If some of these important matters had been spelt out in the Gracious Speech, I would have felt much more confident that the Government were sincere in their plans for the coming Session. However, they have done little to alleviate the fears of the people whose predicaments I have described. It is surprising that the Government can come forward in the Gracious Speech with a 424 programme which does nothing to cope with the serious problems which face people in inner London.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Robert Grant-Ferris)
I must inform the House that, if we are to complete the number of speakers I should like to call on my list, each speaker will have to take no more than five or ten minutes. I hope that from now on that will be regarded as the order of the day. Perhaps I may say to the hon. Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. Stallard)—my old constituency—that I am not casting any aspersions in his direction.
§ 8.13 p.m.
§ Mr. J. R. Kinsey (Birmingham, Perry Barr)
I listened to the hon. Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. Stallard) with respect and sympathy. However, I must point out to him that the Conservative Party did not try to defend the indefensible, as did the Labour Party, when dealing with the subject of law and order. We believe that laws exist to be observed. These are factors which we feel should be dealt with in the Gracious Speech, although I must say that there are many things which some of us would like to see included in that Speech in addition to the matters which are already covered.
It would appear that the speakers on behalf of the official Opposition argue a contradictory case. We heard today the speech made by the hon. Lady the Member for Hitchin (Mrs. Shirley Williams), and we remembered the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition on Tuesday laying stress on the difficulty of manning city services, the ambulance services, the fire services, the transport services and the many difficulties which are being experienced. It must be said that the crisis we face does not arise from conditions of poverty and deprivation, as the Opposition try to represent to the House, but arises from the conditions of prosperity which we are all enjoying. This is a factor which is quite different from the sort of view which is being put to the House by Opposition speakers. In a period of 12 months we have seen a great change in the pattern of employment, and this has been a great achievement by the Conservative Government. The Opposition must learn to live with this fact.
425 The arguments advanced by the Opposition are at great variance with the situation which wage earners are now experiencing. The Opposition must recognise that this prosperity has not escaped the notice of the people. Our standard of living is rising and people are better off under a Conservative administration than they ever were under the previous Labour Government.
The arguments advanced by the Socialist Party today are negative arguments. They have advanced no positive case but have expressed only their condemnation of Conservative policies. The only substantive point made by the Opposition is that wage increases are needed in the public sector to allow people to be attracted back into the various services which they have mentioned. That would mean an extra rate burden, but the Opposition have not said how they would meet it.
I am pleased to see that some alteration of local government finances is advocated in the Queen's Speech, but I am not entirely satisfied that we are doing all we should. However, there is at least an acknowledgment of the need that some services should be financed by central Government. The Opposition have argued that everything should be nationalised, but the Leader of the Opposition must say whether wages should be reduced to the level of those in the nationalised industries and in local government. If that is what he wants, the levelling down will make the workers of this country beware of a Socialist Government.
§ Mr. Kinsey
I know that it might be drivel, but it is better drivel than some of the speeches that have been made from the other side of the House today. The Opposition are ignoring the expanding prosperity of the country. By not gearing themselves to that expansion, hon. Members opposite are very much out of date and have become irrelevant.
I turn to one of the Opposition's arguments about the division between the rich and the poor, and about how people are being priced out of the market, particularly in housing. The Opposition have completely ignored the Housing 426 Finance Act which increases the help given to the rented sector. Today's most urgent problem is to get home ownership back on to an even keel, and to give people the ability to purchase. That is the problem which is being recognised by the Government at the present time.
§ Mr. Kinsey
Yes, to get back on to an even keel, away from the 11 per cent. The hon. Gentleman must understand the argument. He should not put one finger in his mouth and other fingers in his ears, because he will not hear what I am saying and will not say anything sensible himself.
Another proposal put forward by the Opposition is that building land should be nationalised. That would take away the only protection against inflation of people who own their houses. Under the Opposition's proposal, they will have the prospect of occupying a rented house on Government land. The Socialists must come clean on this point. They advocate the nationalisation of building land, but they are also advocating the nationalisation of the land on which houses are already standing. This is something which ought to be put to the country.
§ Mr. Kinsey
The hon. Member says that it is not true, but how will he overcome the difficulty? But the hon. Gentleman will have an opportunity later to make his point, without making me depart from my speech.
§ Mr. Cunningham
I am grateful to the hon. Member for giving way. He knows perfectly well that the Labour Party has specifically said that it will not nationalise the land on which owner-occupied houses stand.
§ Mr. Kinsey
The hon. Gentleman is forgetting that housing is an ever-changing factor. Within the City of Birmingham we are redeveloping all the time. A redevelopment plan which has been brought out will make the whole city into building land in a few years' time and Socialist policy is to take that land away from the people who have houses on it and build on it again.
427 Vacant areas which have been left within cities have been referred to by the Home Secretary. Birmingham is such a place. We have room in the inner ring of our city for several thousand houses, on land on which derelict houses have been demolished. The housing list grows, yet this land remains empty. We cannot get builders to utilise the sites for local government building. The Socialist council in Birmingham wants to build only municipal dwellings on this property. It is not prepared to move outside the limits of its policy. If only the council would free the land to the builders who are willing to build inside the city area, restricting the dwellings to people on the council list, I am sure the builders would come forward with a policy to meet this demand. The builders build for need; in fact, that is the only way in which they can stay in business.
I am pleased to note the action of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary in setting up the Urban Deprivation Unit, with particular emphasis on the academics and sociologists who are to play an important part in this study. The empty acres in our city centres once contained people who lived in the worst possible conditions. The properties in which many problem families were crowded because of the low rents have now been bulldozed out of those areas, and the people are moving into new areas. Naturally they choose an area where the rent is such that they can afford to pay it, and the fair rent Act has assisted in this connection.
They still wish to move to the pre-war type of municipally-owned large housing estates, and we get a one-class choice for people in those areas. This is an unfortunate factor when people are prepared to move only from municipal dwellings to municipal dwellings. There should be an opportunity to buy so that people can be rehoused in their own homes.
I represent one of those areas to which these people are moving. It is a large pre-war municipal estate in Kingstanding, one of the largest in the country. In fairness to the people who are established in that area, and in fairness to the problem families themselves, we should not recreate a new overcrowding position of deprivation, and I welcome the Secretary 428 of State's study which will consider this matter.
I called for a conference in Birmingham to discuss this problem. I have been told by the Labour leader of the Birmingham City Council that I am an opportunist. I do not know what he would call the Members of the Opposition who have called for exactly the same sort of debate. This problem must be tackled urgently.
One area which is affected is that of education. I am certain that my right hon. Friend will take note of this. A shortage of school places has been revealed in north Birmingham. At present there are 12 or more children in the King-standing area without school places. Several of them travel back to the school which they were previously attending. Often this is a good thing because they are in the middle of examinations, but frequently they do this simply because there are no school places available on the north side of the city. If the continual importing of large families continues the present shortage will be only compounded.
I urge my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department to ask his team to consider that matter so that he can be aware of what is happening. The study team should consider how the problem can be handled from the point of view of other problem families.
We must not ignore the contribution which is made to the whole scene by the local authorities. Often, with their dogmatic policies, they make a position worse. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science will recall Birmingham's secondary school reorganisation plan.
Birmingham's Labour chairman's determination to spoil any selective placing of children in Birmingham was such that she warned parents that no choice would be given for schooling if the children who sat the examination for secondary selection failed in their tests for such a place. She is doing the same again this year. In consequence, many children who would be in secondary selected places are still occupying seats in schools in areas which would be available to the normal stream. The result is that newcomers to the area are crowded out and possibly their education is put at risk.
429 It is obvious that the Government are aware of the problems facing the inner city areas and that they are tackling them in a practical way. My hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison) referred to the speech which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services made in 1972 about deprived families and the cycle of deprivation. I am hoping that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science will take note of the need for pre-school places, which are an important factor in helping in such circumstances.
We are pressing ahead with schemes to improve further the quality of life in cities. I welcome the statement about the income tax reform plan. That will play a most important part in helping the poorer families and those in need. One exclusion which I regret is that of law and order. I was hoping that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department would in some measure bring back capital punishment. I was hoping that we might take the direction of the Conservative Party Conference vote at Blackpool on that matter.
It is not only the Government who must help. There is a need for support from all sections of the community. This is not just the Government's fight but everyone's fight. It is not a matter only of figures, but there is a financial demand and for that reason our economy needs to be in a strong state. We shall not strike our way out of the problem. We shall not restrict our way out of the problem. We can only expand our way out of the problem. I am pleased to see that the Government recognise that it is the Government's job and the peoples' job. As their personal economy improves they will be able to meet many of the demands themselves, and that, thank God, is beginning to happen.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Mr. George Cunningham (Islington, South-West)
In the first part of his speech the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Bar (Mr. Kinsey) allowed himself to indulge in what might be called a partisan attack upon Labour Members. I do not think that it serves the interests either of the House or of the country to misrepresent the positions adopted by any other Member of the House or any 430 political party. May I draw his attention to two points which might persuade him that there is less in what he was saying in that part of his speech than he thought?
First, he suggested that the Labour Party was ideologically committed to the nationalisation of land and municipalisation of rented property, irrespective of the conditions which give rise to a desire to do that. In my constituency the most significant thing in this area in the last year or two has been that people who previously would never have dreamt of asking the local authority to take over their houses are doing exactly that.
New classes of people to whom the idea would have been abhorrent, or at least not attractive, see this as being the only way now. Many do not at heart like the idea but they see no alternative. It is a question either of being permanently owned by the local authority or owned by it initially and then passed on to a housing association, or else it means staying in the hands of the kind of companies which my hon. Friend the Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. Stallard) and I know so well operating in these areas. People are not prepared to tolerate the latter.
It is that which is giving rise to the new movement for municipalisation of rented property in the cities, not the reading of books by candlelight. It is the reality of life in the cities. I made a note about a second point dealing with the first part of the hon. Gentleman's speech but I cannot now read what I have written. The point is in the body of my notes I know, so I will come to it later.
This debate is supposed to be about the social problems of the inner cities. Some of the problems which people find very pressing, particularly those dealing with traffic routing and vehicle parking, although very important, I will leave to one side. The most important social problem in my area is without doubt that of housing. During the period of this Government there is hardly any group—I am being fair about this—of persons which has not been disadvantaged in housing.
The council tenant has found his rent pushed up artificially as compared with the previous system of assessing council 431 rents. The private tenant has found that he is being pushed out of a controlled rent and into a regulated rent, which nearly always means that the increase in his rent exceeds any new rent allowance to which he may be entitled. That is the answer to the Government boasting about rent allowances. They are fine but they are less in value than the increase in rents which has taken place and which will be made in the next two or three years.
In an area such as mine, an inner city, the housing associations are finding it practically impossible to buy and then let housing at fair rents and balance their books. They can find properties which they would be prepared to buy, but the prices being asked are such that they could not balance their books while charging fair rents. Those people, too, are disadvantaged.
To the amazement and shame no doubt of Conservative Members, the owner-occupier has found himself possibly more speedily disadvantaged in the last year than he has ever been before because of the massive rise in interest rates. If hon. Gentlemen are inclined to say, "That has nothing to do with the Government; that is the free play of the market and we cannot interfere with that," we can point out that what the Government did was to take money from the building societies by offering higher rates of interest to produce savings as an alternative to taxation. It was the Government's refusal to levy taxes for the services which they wanted—as has been pointed out by many of their more sensible back benchers—which forced them to borrow and to offer higher interest rates than the building societies, which put the building societies in the cart, which forced the Government to lend money to get them out of the cart. Then the Government said, "We cannot go on doing this until the cows come home."
There never has been a tale of such financial muddling. With the exception of the few whose rent allowance exceeds the increase in their rent, every group has been disadvantaged in housing.
I shall not speak for long, because my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) wishes to talk about the important problems of Liverpool, and London should not hog the dabate.
432 I agree with every word of my hon. Friend the Member for St. Pancras, North about the problems of controlled tenants, winkling and so on. He and I could trump each other's stories, one for one, all the time. Some of mine have had a great deal of television publicity recently, and therefore I should not repeat them now. But I will tell one, because it is the second half of a story I told the House in July. The hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr might heed its moral.
There was a well-publicised case in my constituency of a land-owning company—Marcolt Investments Ltd.—attempting to winkle out tenants by removing the whole front wall of the house. As viewers saw on television, there was nothing between the tenants' rooms, including the bedroom, and the street. The house remained like that for months. For a while there was a plastic sheet between the rooms and the street.
The law should provide a remedy. It contains provisions which perhaps could have been invoked, but they could not be effectively invoked in that case. Neither the social conscience of the owners nor any pressure I was able to exert upon them did the trick.
In the end, what transformed the life of the tenants was the council's persuasion of the owners, under threat of a compulsory purchase order, to sell to it. The house is now in the coucil's ownership. Only by that means has the terrorisation of the family ceased. The hon. Member for Perry Barr must tell those people what is absolutely terrible about the local authority's owning property of that kind.
§ Mr. Kinsey
I was referring to houses in the owner-occupied sector, not rented houses. If the hon. Gentleman had followed my argument, he would have heard me say that.
§ Mr. Cunningham
I understood the hon. Gentleman to be regretting the fact that property was progressively coming into local authority ownership. I think that that is a fair deduction from his speech. I am saying that it is the only way in which many tenants have found it possible to improve their conditions.
Another difficulty in an area such as mine is that of social shift, which in our inner cities will become one of the most 433 important features of life. As a result of the cleaning-up of cities, middle-class professional people are more anxious to live close to the centre. Therefore, areas that have traditionally been occupied by the working-class are being colonised by professional people. In those circumstances, if council accommodation is sold, even to the sitting tenant, there will be that social shift, because, although there is no effect until the sitting tenant moves, it will then be sold to the highest bidder. The result will be that fewer and fewer of the working people required to make a city work can find accommodation in the heart of the city. That is something which we cannot tolerate if we are to make our cities operate with the facilities that we require of them.
I want finally to draw attention to some of the worrying features of the recent information in the newspapers about all property empires in London in particular. I hope that all hon. Members have read The Times articles which describe the spider's web property empire of Mr. John Chalk and Mr. Timothy Gwyn-Jones, whose activities began in my constituency and which, as a result of council activity, will, I hope, shortly be brought to a halt.
One of the most worrying features is that at least two quasi-governmental institutions have been involved to some extent in these property companies or companies like them. I think, first, of the Church Commissioners. The New River Company owns a vast estate in one part of Islington which is between 10 per cent. and 25 per cent. empty because the company is waiting for it to be completely empty so as to develop it.
Approximately 9 per cent. of the New River Company is owned by the Church Commissioners. The First and Second Church Estates Commissioners of the Church Commissioners are appointed by the Crown and on the advice of the Prime Minister, at least with regard to one of them. So the stipend of every vicar and curate in the country is partly drawn from the profits of a company which is leaving property empty in order to make a profit out of it.
The other quasi-governmental institution—which has proved to be involved in the actual Chalk-Gwyn-Jones empire—is the Crown Agents for overseas Governments. The Crown Agents have a good 434 record in their traditional activities of buying everything from blotting-paper to cruisers for any overseas Government which wishes to use their services. But in recent years they have extended their functions and have received on behalf of overseas Governments vast deposits of money, so that they manipulate upon the money and property markets in London and Australia about £1,000 million. They represent probably the biggest factor operating in the property sector of the market in London.
The Chairman of the Crown Agents, as he is called, is appointed by the British Government. It is high time that the operations of the Crown Agents, which I do not suggest are corrupt but which I think raise very serious issues, were investigated by a Committee of this House. I hope that the Select Committee on Overseas Development, which has a rôle in its oversight of overseas matters, will agree to look into their activities.
I said just now that there are many streets and estates of houses in private ownership in London which are largely empty—sometimes 10 per cent. empty in a block of flats, often higher. If we could get our hands only on the empty property in the centre of London, I do not say that we could abolish the housing lists of local authorities, but in my own area we might be able to halve it. Since the Islington housing list numbers 12,000 and is still rising, to be able to make any reduction by getting our hands on property left empty for purely speculative purposes would be a great improvement in the conditions that my constituents face.
§ 8.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Ivor Stanbrook (Orpington)
I was disappointed at the lack of action promised in the Gracious Speech on Home Office problems. What is good is late and insufficient and, for the rest, it is largely irrelevant. Most Home Office problems seem to have been glossed over. One example is immigration, one of those subjects—[Interruption.] May I suggest to the hon. Member that he stays?
§ Mr. Stanbrook
May I continue? Home Office problems were to some extent glossed over. Immigration problems will not go away just because they are ignored, as the Government appear 435 to be ignoring them at the moment. It remains the political subject on which people feel most deeply and emotionally. It is, therefore, something that should be treated with the utmost concern.
There were recent reports in the Press of an intended admission into this country of some 200 families from Chile, and that the Government are negotiating with the Kenyan Government for an increase in the quota of Kenya Asians who might be entitled to enter this country. I implore my right hon. Friend to consider carefully what the effects of any concession in either of those directions might be on public opinion. He should say, as I think most people in this country would say, "No, No, a thousand times No".
The Gracious Speech refers to…indecent public advertisement and display…".It is an intention which could have been carried out three years ago. It would perhaps be wrong of me to fail to compliment the Government on having introduced it, for it amounts to some progress because only two years ago the Home Secretary's predecessor, my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling), said that he saw no need for a change in the law. It is a good thing that this aspect at least is being attended to.
However, if the Government intend to stop there, they will leave a vast area of the law governing obscenity unreformed. The law in this respect is in a mess. There is no distinction between so-called "soft" porn and "hard" porn, and between the words "indecent" and "obscene". There has arisen a legal computation in which one term is comprised within the other, so that justices now are reluctant to convict in a matter which is alleged to be indecent unless it can be proved to be obscene. Meanwhile, there is a flood of literature in the country, including weekly magazines, which encourages, exemplifies and exhorts promiscuity, sexual immorality and vice.
The Government, by their inactivity and permissive attitude towards questions of morality, are encouraging the view that an easy attitude to morality and sexual matters in general is proper, normal and 436 unexceptionable. There are magazines and newspapers which corrupt the minds of young men and women and inculcate in them the idea that anything goes. I have one such in my hand. It is called Eve—a publication addressed to young people, dated 20th October 1973. Its cover, advertising the contents within, says, "Whatever Turns Him On", which is an article on how to arouse a man sexually; another is "Permissiveness", sub-titled, "Meet the Women who Invented the Word", the third is "Men as Sex Objects", sub-titled "Now We've Seen Everything". [Laughter.] It is not a subject that deserves the laughter of the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Golding). I hope he will take it seriously.
Published by Spotlight Publications Limited, of London, the articles inside have an immoral content. They take sexual promiscuity for granted; they contain stories of a disgusting and immoral character. One wonders why they are allowed to circulate freely in defiance of the notions of most people of what constitutes the law on obscenity. The Government should do more than they have promised in the Gracious Speech and should endeavour to clean up immoral literature.
Finally, I wish to refer to police recruitment, especially in the London area. It is true that, overall, the figures for crime have been falling and that means, of course, all the administrative offences which have been created as a class by legislation over the years and which do not, in the minds of most ordinary people, amount to crime as such. Figures for such crimes may be falling, but the figures for crimes of violence are rising. The London police are 5,000 under strength, and recently their numbers have been falling further owing to insufficient recruitment. This is a matter of the gravest anxiety to all Londoners. It is not right to take credit for the fall in the figures of crime; nor is it right to gloss over the shortage of policemen.
The crime detection rate is now about 35 per cent. in London. One can imagine how many further crimes would be detected in London, and could be prevented, if only the Commissioner of Police had those 5,000 extra men. That would be the greatest single contribution the Government could make to law and 437 order, and I am disappointed that they have been unable to achieve any progress towards it in the three years they have been in power.
The Gracious Speech does offer what I consider to be an irrelevance—a charter for the career woman which amounts to a blow to the traditional concept of wife and mother. As a contribution towards law and order and other matters which the Home Office should really be concerned about, it amounts to very little. The Government's record may well be said to be good, but it is by no means good enough.
§ 8.50 p.m.
§ Mr. James Scott-Hopkins (Derbyshire, West)
It seems that I am fated to be the the last back-bench speaker—this is the second time it has happened—with a very strict time limit on me to engage the attention of the House. I wish to make only three short points.
The first point concerns the police, who were mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook). I confess to anxiety concerning the level of recruitment and the state of the police forces outside London and in the areas which I represent in the East Midlands and Derbyshire. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary told the House that the statistics showed a decrease in crime in the first six months of this year compared with the first six months of 1972. That is so.
I can speak only about the East Midlands, where the figures have decreased too. But we must bear in mind that in the first six months of 1972 we went through a period of great industrial unrest, when the incidence of indictable offences was extremely high compared with the same period in 1973, which was not a period of industrial unrest, certainly not in the East Midlands. That is one of the reasons why the incidence of total crime in my part of the country has gone down in 1973 compared with 1972. I ask my right hon. Friend to bear in mind, however, that other crimes, and not only violent crime, are on the increase. I know only the statistics in respect of my own area, which are striking.
I am drawn to the conclusion that, although there has been a welcome increase in police recruitment during the 438 years the Government have been in office, it has not been sufficient. The situation causes me to wonder whether, if a serious situation arose in the near future, the police forces not only in the East Midlands but elsewhere in England would be able to cope. I hope that they could, but I urge my right hon. Friend to do his utmost to increase recruitment to the police. That is the only solution to the problem of the crime wave and any trouble which might arise in future.
My second comment concerns my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science, who is to reply to the debate. Since my right hon. Friend has been Secretary of State I have been asking her what is being done, and what she plans to do, about the parochial question of travelling to school and the cost of bus services serving schools. My right hon. Friend promised the House, and me in particular, that she would make changes in the two-and three-mile regulation, whereby parents sending their children to primary schools have a two-mile limit and those going to secondary schools a three-mile limit. She promised that there would be changes in the rigid application and formula under which the scheme is carried out.
I read the Gracious Speech hopefully, but to my sorrow I did not find any reference to that subject. The only reference to education is a bland statement at the top of page 3 of the Gracious Speech. I hope that my right hon. Friend will introduce legislation during the Session to deal with this vexed problem. She virtually promised it in the previous Session. I hope that her plans will be formulated and consultations completed to enable this anachronism to be overcome.
My third and final point concerns what has been said by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) following his speech at Cambridge. I listened to him with incredulous interest during a television programme that he shared with my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science. I hope he will not take it amiss that I disagreed with the basis of his argument. It is absolutely essential to give the maximum choice to parents, and if they wish to spend their money on private schools they should be able to do so. The hon. Gentleman is wrong and 439 immoral—I do not wish to use offensive language—in trying to blackmail and frighten parents into thinking that they would be wrong to spend their money in buying an education for their children.
I ask my right hon. Friend during the coming year to do whatever she can to keep the choice of education, in the secondary sector particularly, as clearcut as possible, and to resist the kind of schemes put forward by some local education authorities, schemes which are a hotch-potch of amalgamation of two schools, as happened in my constituency at Ashbourne where a grammar school and secondary school have been amalgamated into a comprehensive. They are nearly a mile and a half miles apart and the amount of shuttling backwards and forwards is incredible. Nevertheless, it has happened and it is no good going back over history. I hope that my right hon. Friend will do her utmost to ensure that that kind of hotch-potch amalgamation does not take place in future. I welcome her recent statement that not only private education, but grant-aided education also, will be helped on by her throughout the coming years.
The hon. Member for Sparkbrook has done a great deal of good to my party in his recent speeches, beginning with what he said in Cambridge. He has at last made clear the dividing line between our two parties. He is wrong, and I am certain the majority of the electorate believe he is wrong and that what my right hon. Friend is doing for education is the right way to go about things. I hope that that will continue for a long time to come.
§ 8.59 p.m.
§ Mr. Roy Hattersley (Birmingham, Sparkbrook)
I begin by offering—I was going to say even in his absence, but perhaps I mean especially in his absence—congratulations to the hon. Member for Isle of Ely (Mr. Freud) on his maiden speech. I put it in such terms not because we are glad that he is not here, but because it is the only occasion in my 10 years of listening to maiden speeches that I have known a new Member make a speech about a condition in his constituency, then immediately leave the House to put that condition right. I 440 understand he is at the Whittlesey brickworks even now, and we shall look forward with interest over the next two or three days to see whether the things the hon. Gentleman said in that remarkable maiden speech—I use the word "remarkable" almost entirely as a compliment—come to fruition as a result of his visit.
The major issue of this debate is the final substantive passage in the Gracious Speech—reference to those people living in cities who suffer…special disadvantages from the conditions of life in urban areas.As has been made plain, some of those problems, which amount to crisis, affect the cities as a whole. They affect the suburbs and slums alike. They affect the middle-income group and the industrial poor equally. I mean, of course, the high cost of every sort of housing, which will be debated in detail on Tuesday. I mean the inadequacies of urban transport. I mean the problems of refuse disposal and collection. I mean the problems of atmospheric pollution and noise. I mean the concern about crime.
But while those issues, problems and crises are general to all cities, I want to deal now almost exclusively with the problems endured by those families who share the general disadvantages of the cities crisis but also have many additional problems which are theirs almost as historic destiny. They are the problems of the chronically under-privileged, the problems of the people who live in decaying central areas of old cities, the inhabitants of slums and the inhabitants of single furnished rooms in multi-occupied houses. They are the problems of the lowest 10 per cent. in the earnings scale and the families whose prospects are the chances of greater ill-health and much more unemployment than is the generality for even city dwellers. In particular, I want to deal with the problems of the under-privileged and the under-privileged children.
But first I give the right hon. Lady notice publicly of what I have given one of her hon. Friends notice privately—that, even outside that range of interest, there is one question which is not her departmental responsibility but to which I am sure she can provide an answer, which we are anxious to hear during the evening.
441 My hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin (Mrs. Shirley Williams), in opening the debate, specifically asked the Home Secretary whether the police raids which took place in Tower Hamlets in Camden on 11th October—in her view, and in mine, to the great disadvantage of community relations in that area—had been specifically authorised by the Home Secretary. Because of the difficulties of speaking immediately after the opening speech, the Home Secretary was unable to answer the question, but I think there is a strong case for his answering it today. Earlier in the evening I gave notice to the right hon. Lady, or her colleague, that we hoped to have the question answered in order that she might have consultations and make an answer not a possibility but a certainty.
I return to the central issue of what I want to say—the problem of the underprivileged and particularly the problems of their children. I want to echo and emphasise the judgment of my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Marks), who said that in terms of education provision we need a swing of emphasis, enthusiasm and, indeed, resources, towards the traditionally neglected areas in English education of the people who have been largely overlooked and forgotten, not simply during the last three years, but during the last 103 years—since the Education Act 1870.
It is appropriate that we should be discussing these children's problems in the shadow—that is absolutely the right word—of the National Children's Bureau Report—"Born to Fail". That report is a study of the socially and economically disadvantaged child. It ends with a simple—my hon. Friends and I would say stark—conclusion. Of the disadvantaged child the report says:One in 16"—that is the disadvantaged group—suffered adversity after adversity heaped upon them from before birth. Their health was poor, their social attainment and their physical environment worse in almost every way than that of the ordinary children. For those children there is no equality of opportunity in any real meaning of the word. Nature and environment has not prepared them to take part in a competitive education system.On behalf of those children and in the light of what the Home Secretary said about the great divide between the two 442 parties—our belief in paternalism and the Conservative Party's belief in freedom—I point out that the real divide is not that one of us prefers freedom to the other, but that one of us, namely, the Labour Party, understands the real meaning of freedom a great deal more. It is nonsensical for the hon. Member for Derbyshire, West (Mr. Scott-Hopkins) to talk about freedom in terms of educational opportunity which is concerned with the freedom of buying privilege over the poorest and the most disadvantaged.
A comment about his judgment was made by Professor Tawney 20 years ago, when he said:None of these problems is solved by the venerable device of describing privilege as if it was freedom.That is what the hon. Gentleman has done and that is what the Opposition cannot and will not do. To answer the Home Secretary's philosophical point, may I say that we want to promote freedom, but to promote it for the most necessitous, the most disadvantaged, the most underprivileged members of the community. It is not simply a matter of passing more laws to promote freedom. It is a question of providing the under-privileged with the economic wherewithal to enjoy some of the freedoms which have traditionally been the preserve of an advantaged or privileged 5 or 10 per cent.
§ Mr. Scott-Hopkins
Is the hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) saying that he has a monopoly of anxiety about the people he is describing? Does he believe that by taking one child out of the private education system and putting him into the public system he will help under-privileged children? If so, how?
§ Mr. Hattersley
I am saying two things. I do not claim, nor does my party, to have a monopoly of anxiety about those children. But when one asks some representatives of the system that the hon. Gentleman advocates how they manifest their anxiety, they find it difficult to answer.
Secondly, there have been long discussions and extended statements about the benefits of unifying the education system. I shall not spend long on it this evening because I propose to turn to the more important issues of promoting the interests of the under-privileged 443 and the children in city areas about whom the debate is concerned.
I turn to their interests and problems by reiterating the statement that was made by the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison) that a reorganisation of education, a concentration of education resources on these children, cannot solve their problems.
The hon. Gentleman was right to say that 10 years ago there were many claims made about nursery and pre-school education, as an education priority, solving all the problems of such children. On analysis and on consideration those claims have not turned out to be as hopefully right as we once believed them to be.
I share his view that while some of us—and I may be guilty of this, though perhaps he is not—overstated the advantages that could be obtained for the under-privileged by giving them extra educational resources, nobody has demonstrated that one can solve any of their problems unless one concentrates many more educational resources on them. They will, of course, remain poor and under-privileged until we get the housing situation right and until we get a reallocation of wealth and capital.
But part of that movement towards greater equality must come through some form of educational readjustment. It has to come by adopting the policies which the hon. Member for Aylesbury quoted as being initially part of the Plowden recommendation that schools in depressed areas should be given priority in many respects:The first step must be to raise the schools of low standard to the national average and, the second, quite deliberately, to make them better.Some moves in that direction have already been made as a result of the policies of two Governments—the right hon. Lady's Government and the Government in which the Labour Party pioneered and began the urban programme. Some progress has been made in that direction because of the enthusiasm of some local authorities. Some progress has actually been made because of shifts in population, which has made it easier to have smaller classes in the depressed central areas.
444 While some progress has been made, it is impossible to argue that it has been half enough. For example, not even the majority of the Plowden recommendations for helping education in such areas have been implemented; recommendations made in 1966 and published in early 1967.
To give the obvious example, Plowden recommended that to attract extra teachers into areas of education priority there should be a special teachers' allowance of £120. Having gone up by three stages, that special allowance is £105 today. Comparing the purchasing power of the special allowance as it is now with what it would have been had the Plowden recommendations been accepted, one sees the inadequacy of our move towards the Plowden attempts positively to discriminate in favour of the under-privileged.
Similarly, Plowden recommended teacher aides in such schools at the ratio of one to two, a proposal that has been lost along the way. The Plowden Committee also recommended that in education priority areas there should be a nursery programme that provided 50 per cent. of the places full time to meet the needs of those families where both parents worked or where there was only one parent. Even in the right hon. Lady's nursery programme, about which we hear so much, there has been no suggestion that that Plowden recommendation, published in early 1967, should be incorporated into the scheme.
I believe that we must move further along the road to meet the needs of these areas. We must have a much more positive and effective policy of concentrating extra educational resources on those areas that need them most. We must have a policy of positive discrimination which will act efficiently and well if we take five positive steps.
The first step is to remedy the overwhelming necessity to have a better definition of need, knowing the areas where special assistance must be provided and having an index by which those areas are measured. The second step involves training not just enough teachers to meet the overall demands of the nation but enough extra teachers to go to educational priority areas to do the extra jobs that are so crucial there. The third step relates to the expansion 445 of the nursery programme to meet the special needs of priority areas. The fourth step involves the maintenance of a building programme to make sure that those areas get newer and better schools. The fifth concerns the general availability of all forms of finance, both local and national.
I deal first with what I have called the definition of need. The hon. Member for Aylesbury and also the hon. Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Mr. Sydney Chapman) spoke of the necessity for having geographically-determined educational priority areas. The hon. Member for Aylesbury was right to say that this was the Plowden view—namely, that if there are areas of special need in large town centres, it is surely logical to define them on a geographical basis by drawing notional lines around them and saying "Into those areas extra resources must go." I suspect that the hon. Member for Handsworth advocated a similar policy because he represents, as I do, in part an area in Birmingham which is tangibly and visibly in need of special education, and indeed of other special resources. In a sense it is the other special resources which provide the logic for the geographical description. If we are to concentrate all sorts of efforts, not simply in terms of education but of health, social security, housing and all sorts of care in certain areas the only way in which this can be guaranteed is by drawing imaginary boundaries around obvious areas of special need and saying, "Into those geographical areas will go this amount of special assistance." They are areas in which welfare officers must work in non-traditional ways to encourage the right partnership between home and school that is so essential for the families in these areas.
Therefore, I should like to see not simply the definition of the need for educational priority being a great deal more objective and nationally based than it is at the moment. I should like to see the right hon. Lady construct, or have constructed in her Department, an index number—something which they have tried to do, and, in a sense, successfully have done, in the Inner London Education Authority—by which one can measure deprivation and need. I should like the right hon. Lady to regard it as her national obligation, first, to decide 446 the method of measurement; secondly, to apply that method of measurement; thirdly, to draw a boundary around the areas where that measurement applies; and, fourthly, to work with her right hon. Friends in concentrating all sorts of resources within those areas.
One of a number of resources which must be concentrated in those areas is that of pre-school education places. May I ask the right hon. Lady a number of questions about her pre-school programme? She knows very well—and I do not propose to labour the point this evening, because this has largely been a non-party political debate—that we have always said, certainly since the publication of her White Paper, that her overall nursery places would not meet the national demand by 1981. We have said more than that. We have said that if the overall demand is not met, there is an enormous risk that the areas of particular need will move to the back of the queue. It was the Economist which on 9th December, writing about the White Paper, "A Framework for Expansion", said,There is an obvious danger that those who need it most—"it" being nursery education—will find themselves last in the queue.That is certainly a danger if the overall provision is not enough to meet the demands of all the nation.
May I therefore ask the right hon. Lady two questions? First, allowing for stage, or is it phase 3, allowing for cuts announced and anticipated, do the nursery programme figures announced in her White Paper still hold good? But whether or not they do, may I ask her to go further? May I ask her to explain and exemplify those parts of the White Paper, dealing with the nursery sector, which urged or advised local authorities to give priority to areas of special need? I have to tell her—perhaps offending people outside this House more than I offend her—that I suspect that, if it is simply left to the discretion of local authorites, there will be some who do not choose to use the early years of the nursery programme to concentrate pre-school provision in areas of special need.
I should be most grateful—and, I am sure, so would the House—if we could be told what, for instance, paragraph 28 of "A Framework for Expansion" means 447 when the right hon. Lady said that some priority in the allocation of capital resources during 1974–76 will be given to educational priority areas, or what she means when she said in paragraph 9 of Circular 2/73 that the Secretary of State wished to concentrate available resources for nursery education on areas of social deprivation.
May we be told how that will work in practice, whether it is more than an aspiration and a hope, whether there is a mechanism in her Department, and from her Department to the local authorities, to make sure, particularly if the nursery programme will not be fulfilled as a result of capital and other reductions, that what there is of it will be concentrated in the areas of maximum need?
I turn from that, moving, I hope, logically through the age range, to what is perhaps a more important area of concern for educational priority areas—the provision of adequate numbers of teachers. Nothing is more important for the children in these areas than the acquisition of the basic skills of reading, writing and arithmetic. I know that there are areas of educational opinion which believe that nursery education and primary education should not be obsessed with the need for acquiring these formal basic skills. But I have no doubt at all that what children in deprived areas need more than anything else is to leave the school system competent in these basic tasks. If they are not prepared in that way, they are not prepared for life at all.
Preparing them in that way requires the right level of teachers doing the right jobs in the right area. The right hon. Lady knows that we have been critical, and I suspect will be critical again, of the reduction in college of education places which she not only announced but implemented with extraordinary speed. We shall reconstitute what I will call the short college of education programme, getting back to the 114,000 places figure.
In the meantime, as a matter of more urgent concern, since it takes years to recreate training college places and to prepare teachers, may I ask the right hon. Lady some questions about the availability of teachers in the short term to meet the immediate crisis? May I first ask about the crisis in London, which I think we 448 can describe in those terms without overstating the situation. She does not need me to remind her that even now there are 12,000 pupils in London schools not receiving full-time education. Six weeks ago I believe it was 20,000. The right hon. Lady does not need me to remind her that that prospect is likely to get worse rather than better.
I was deeply depressed by what I heard from the Home Secretary about the Pay Board's inquiry into the London allowance. He assured us that it would report in July. If it reports in July, if the Government implement the report exactly and immediately, and if the report is implemented in such a way that it meets the needs of London teachers, it will still be too late to recruit the teachers for the term beginning in September 1974. Even if that report turns out to be wonderful and if it is accepted and implemented straight away, it offers no hope before the term beginning in January 1975.
Will the right hon. Lady give an assurance that something adequate will be done about the London allowance for teachers before the Pay Board reports? Will she recall that this quick turnover in London schools, detrimental to the interests of most of the schools, has now been shown to have a particularly sinister aspect? The National Union of Teachers' survey shows that over one-third of each school's teaching population that leaves each school is not, as it was originally thought, simply moving from one school to another, but is leaving teaching altogether. One-third of the teachers who resign from any one London school at the end of the winter term will not be moving schools but will be leaving the education system.
Until we can get an adequate teacher training programme and reconstitute the college of education places which my right hon. Friend the Deputy Leader of the Opposition planned and which we will re-create, one must get those teachers back into teaching and keep in teaching those who are potential losses to the service. That can only be done in London by an adequate London allowance. Nothing could depress hon. Members on this side of the House more than the right hon. Lady telling us that because of the necessities of an incomes policy there can be no assurances given until the Pay Board reports—not least 449 because it is not only the derisory level of the London allowance which has resulted in the reduction in the London teaching force. It is the enormous effect on teachers' morale of the Government's attitude over the entire London teaching question.
Many teachers say that it is bad enough not to get the money, that it is bad enough not being able to buy or rent a house in London. The final straw is the demonstration of the Government's lack of concern and respect for the profession in London. That morale can only be re-created if we are assured today that there will be no pious necessity to wait until July to decide what logic and justice the London case has. I shall take it personally with some amusement if the right hon. Lady stands on the necessities of an incomes policy. The right hon. Lady and I have discussed incomes policies before from opposite sides of the House. Then I was in favour of an incomes policy in particular, and she was against an incomes policy in general. I am still in favour of some kind of incomes policy, and I shall be sorry to hear the right hon. Lady say that her conversion is such that not only does she now accept the theory of an incomes policy but she accepts its practice when it continues to have crucial and detrimental effects on schools in general and on London schools in particular.
Building is deeply important to the matters we have been debating. The House will know, and will have learnt to its regret, that as part of the phase 3 proposals the Prime Minister announced a temporary moratorium on school building. I must point out to the right hon. Lady how severe and significant that moratorium is. No contracts can be confirmed between 4th October and 1st January. We all know that, as a result of the inadequacies of the building cost limits, virtually every education authority has had to put back and postpone much of its school building programme. Between 4th October and 1st January most LEAs hoped to get out to tender and to have contracts confirmed which, in an ideal world, they would have put out to tender and had confirmed between April and October of this year.
The right hon. Lady's Permanent Secretary, writing about the position of last 450 year, told the Association of Education Committees that almost every contract had been squeezed into the year, albeit during the last few months.
The moratorium has a crucial and damaging effect which is much greater than the three months of suspension. How much of the anticipated building for the present financial year will now be approved and started in this financial year if the "Education: A Framework for Expansion" figures on school building, about which we have been critical in the past, are still the figures and capital estimates by which the Government stand and which they believe can be applied between now and 1981?
More specifically and more directly in terms of today's debate, as clearly those contracts will not be achieved, the Opposition hope that the building funds which are available under the right hon. Lady's régime will in some way be concentrated, as Plowden urged they should be, on the areas of special need—namely, the decaying central areas, the education priority areas, which we want to see extended and redefined. Those are the parts of the cities which are in most desperate need.
In three minutes I shall make two final points. All that I have said about the necessity to concentrate funds in areas of special need has a second application to some people within those areas—namely, the children of immigrants who often are concentrated in what should be designated as EPAs. While suffering all the problems of general urban deprivation, they have problems of their own associated with learning English as a second language and with inadequate numbers of teachers to teach them English as a second language. That is associated with our scheme of paying teachers increments which pays far too much attention to men who are teaching four boys Greek in preparation for Oxford and which pays far to little attention to women who help children to read and to improve their reading performance.
I hope and anticipate that the Select Committee Report on the problems of community relations and education will be debated in the not-too-distant future and that we are to have an entire day to consider the education of immigrant children and the special problems involved.
451 My absolutely final point—my final, final point—concerns the availability of other funds. I have had 32 minutes and I must leave the right hon. Lady 31. I refer to the rate support grant and other moneys which the central Government should make available to local government. I am told that on 5th November—I hope that it will not be a bizarrely appropriate day—the Secretary of State for the Environment is to meet the local authority representatives to decide what the revised formula for the rate support grant will be. I am told that it is the latest date in any year when such dicussions have taken place. This makes it virtually impossible for local authorities to begin to negotiate and plan their budgets until far later than they would ideally choose.
I hope that the right hon. Lady can tell us something about the general level of provision which she anticipates will be available next year for local authorities. Of course, she cannot quote figures or percentages but if we are to talk sensibly about the problems of urban deprivation we need to know whether those education authorities who are paying for their own EPA course are likely to have a year of intense squeeze and intense limitation or whether they can look forward to some money being available and the formula accepting the need to meet the problems of the areas I have described.
I have dealt with the problems of education in these areas in a way which I know is both discursive and lacking. I do so not because the problem has been neglected in the past but because the areas have been neglected for 173 years. This House is inclined to debate the more controversial issues of education without examining the problems of the people who suffer most through the educational inadequacies of Government policy.
I do not believe there is any item in the educational programme or budget which ought to command our attention or enthusiasm more than meeting the needs of the deprived and depressed groups. I do not believe we can meet their needs until we have a new attitude and a new emphasis in education. That is why I believe that the key sentence of the entire debate was the one spoken four hours ago by my hon. Friend the 452 Member for Manchester, Gorton. I almost began with it. I shall certainly end with it.
If we are to meet the needs of these children, the most under-privileged, the most depressed and disadvantaged, we need a new philosophy of education which swings the emphasis away from the most talented and most privileged to those who have been traditionally neglected. All that the Labour Party has said this year has been intended to move that balance, to swing that advantage and to bring to the nation's understanding and realisation how desperate is their plight and how urgent it is that we should do something to meet their needs.
§ 9.32 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)
May I, too, congratulate the hon. Member for Isle of Ely (Mr. Freud) upon his maiden speech. We on the Conservative side of the House particularly appreciated the generous tribute he paid to his predecessor. The hon. Gentleman has courteously told me that he cannot be here because of an important constituency meeting.
I thought he made an extremely important point when he said, in relation to the profession of which he was speaking, that it was not just pay that mattered but that prestige was just as important. He said during his speech that it was the one occasion upon which a Member can always expect to have generous tributes paid to him and praise heaped upon him. I hope he will cherish this one occasion and I do heap those generous tributes which he expected.
The hon. Member for Hitchin (Mrs. Shirley Williams) and the hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) mentioned the recent police searches in parts of London and asked whether they had been specifically authorised by my right hon. Friend. They both know that a Minister is always in difficulty in answering for another Minister. I will, therefore, read out the message that I have been given and I hope that they will not attempt to cross-examine me upon it.
The Home Secretary's authority was not necessary. These searches were a follow-up to earlier inquiries by the police and to information from the immigration 453 service after the escape from Harmondsworth Detention Centre of a man refused admission to this country. My right hon. Friend is awaiting further reports and the hon. Lady has a Parliamentary Question to him down for answer next Thursday.
The House has listened to a wide-ranging debate. Indeed, for the greater part I admit that I have been wondering whether I am the right Minister to answer it. It has also occurred to me that on the whole the House must be very pleased with the way in which education is performing because I have never sat here for so long and heard so little criticism. I am sure that if there were criticism it would have been forthcoming. This is a great plus for the education service. I will, of course, refer mainly to educational issues. But I agree with almost everyone that the subject we are discussing is not particular to one Department but cuts across many, indeed most, of the Departments of Government. The problem is to co-ordinate them to secure that the resources available go to those who need them.
I should like to start with four points, to get the problem and the subject of the debate into perspective. First, nearly half the total population of England and Wales lives in cities—about 15 per cent. in Greater London, 25 per cent. in the new metropolitan districts, and 4 per cent. in other cities with more than 250,000 inhabitants. We are not concerned only with the situation of the Inner London Education Authority, which accounts for 5 per cent. of the total school population. In all, over 4 million children go to maintained schools in cities.
Secondly, not all those children or all those cities suffer from the social problems we have been discussing. It would be wrong to give the impression that most of them are deprived, or that our affairs are changing only for the worse. They are not. In many respects, under successive Governments, the situation of those children has been changing very much for the better. The material standards of the average urban dweller are better today than they have ever been, and the prospects for his children, in health, nutrition, education and economic opportunity, are better than they were for him when he was young.
454 Thirdly, to the extent that our cities undeniably have social problems, those problems are not necessarily homogeneous; they are many and varied. London's problems are not identical with those of Leeds, Liverpool or Manchester. Even within London, not only are Brent's problems different from those of Westminster but so are Newham's from, say, Ealing's. There are many varieties of downtown areas, and no two subtopias are alike. Therefore, we must be on our guard against sweeping generalisations.
It was apparent as hon. Members on both sides spoke that they are speaking about different things that they knew from their experience in their own areas. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison), that we do not need new organisations to deal with the situation, that we must use the local authorities, because they know what is going on in their areas.
Fourthly, although we are dealing with a complex set of facts, about which none of us can be sure which is cause and which effect, we can all recognise the main characteristics of the problems we have been discussing, without setting up specific, rigid, statistical criteria. We know that there are urban areas whose acute problems are rooted in poverty, poor housing and environmental deprivation of many kinds. The inhabitants are a shifting population. The able and well-to-do move out, and the disadvantaged take their place. There is no certainty of employment, no sense of community, no place for the young to play, and no facilities for recreation for the old to enjoy. It does no service to exaggerate the scale or severity of those conditions, but it would be absurd to deny that such areas exist in Britain today, or that life in them is misery for a number of people.
I shall follow the hon. Member for Sparkbrook, in focussing my main remarks on education, and should like to deal with a number of points which have been raised by my hon. Friends. Education cannot compensate single-handed for all the sins and omissions of environmental blight, but I believe three things. First, the education service can make, and is making, a real contribution to dealing with those problems. The hon. Gentleman will agree that the new report, "Born to Fail", recognised that 455 education was making a significant contribution. There was little criticism of what the education services are offering in those areas.
Secondly, we owe a debt of gratitude to the thousands of teachers who have committed themselves and their professional skills to the education of children under the handicap of social deprivation.
Thirdly, the educational policies and programmes of the Government already recognise the need to discriminate in favour of those places and people in greatest need.
A number of hon. Members have mentioned the need for co-ordination. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary gave some information about the urban programme and the new unit that he has set up in the Home Office. We in the Department of Education and Science, since we have started a separate nursery programme, have fortunately been able to allocate our share of the urban programme to other things to which we are glad to give some priority. We have in the last phase made a number of recommendations for the improvement of education in areas of social deprivation, and the allocations often tend to cater for projects which emphasise the need for pre-school provision and the need to create better links between home and the school which many of my hon. Friends have mentioned.
The single most important influence in a child's life is the parental influence. There are two things that one would try to pinpoint in trying to raise the standard of children in these areas. The first is probably housing and the second parental influence. In some ways they are linked, but in others they are not.
We shall of course be talking about housing on Monday. If a child does not have good housing, he suffers from a double deprivation—first, the actual material condition itself and, second, the effect of bad conditions on a parent who has great hopes for the future of his child. The effect of bad conditions there can be most frustrating. It means that the mother cannot provide a good home to which a child can return and bring other children or to which the young person can bring other teenagers. That is an added deprivation to the actual physical conditions. Also, of course, 456 it means that sometimes the mother suffers such serious physical problems in coping that she almost gives up, finds it very difficult to continue or gets worn out in trying.
All these things are by-products of bad housing and most of us would accept, I think, that to have good housing is probably the single most important thing we can do for these areas. Having said that, however—I am trespassing on another Minister's pastures—we should be wary of believing that merely providing good housing in place of bad will solve the problem. Many of us have been well aware in some of the slum clearance schemes of the difficulties attached to the new areas to which the people have gone and some of the defects in design not only of the individual home but of the layout of the areas as a whole.
There is a great deal to be learned from our faults of the past to ensure that, in the layout of the new housing estates, those faults are not repeated, that the layout is such that people can really communicate with one another and that they are in easy reach of leisure facilities and shops which are necessary for life as a whole. My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hands-worth (Mr. Sydney Chapman) was very much aware of this. We have used our phases of the urban programme in helping to provide more parental-school links by having rooms for parents in schools and by appointing special officers to develop these links in the difficult areas.
We have also used them extensively to assist youth service projects. My hon. Friend the Member for Middleton and Prestwich (Mr. Haselhurst) made an interesting speech about the youth service much of which I endorse. In the Department we fully appreciate and agree with its very great significance. It is a very important part of the Department's service, particularly to those young people who are not perhaps going on to further education. We tend to think of it in terms of official buildings and structures, but I sometimes wish that local authorities could attach a little more importance in some of these difficult areas to the work of what is called the unattached youth worker.
457 So many of these young people will not go near anything that smacks of authority or of the establishment, and the only way to get hold of them, to get their interest or to make them realise that there is someone who cares, is for people to go into these areas as unattached youth workers, to be there, to get the interest of the young people and to help them as much as they can.
Many hon. Members have mentioned the immigrant problem. Because a number of immigrants live in the older houses of our older city areas, some of their needs they share with the other inhabitants of the areas and some arise specifically from the need to adapt to a new culture and way of life and, it may be, to a new language. Education is an important way in which we can help these people to adapt to life in a new society.
I know that from time to time immigrants cannot be immediately accommodated in the schools of the area in which they choose to settle. I have, however, been impressed with the speed with which local authorities have moved to make places available, particularly last autumn when there was a sudden influx of Ugandan Asians. My Department was able to help by making extra allocations of capital expenditure, and the urban programme has provided another means of assistance with buildings. In fact, 24 centres for giving immigrant children initial instruction in the English language have been approved under this programme.
Local authorities with large numbers of immigrants in their areas may apply for additions to their teacher supply quotas, and for the current year 3,100 teachers additional to quota have been approved to meet the extra demands on teaching time imposed by the presence of a large number of immigrants.
To help local authorities with the cost of extra staff employed to cater for a large number of Commonwealth immigrants, the Government make available a specific grant of 75 per cent. under Section 11 of the Local Government Act 1966. It covers a wide range of local authority employees, but the largest proportion, more than 80 per cent. last year, goes on educational staff, mostly teachers, and, with some need to employ additional ancillary helpers and education welfare 458 officers, represents a considerable source of extra help.
§ Mrs. Shirley Williams
Why has not the Department mounted any form of short crash course for those Ugandan Asians who came here as qualified teachers and who might have made a major contribution to the areas to which the Ugandan Asians went?
§ Mrs. Thatcher
There are a number of people who were trained in Uganda to teach. We have treated them in exactly the same way as we treat other applications for qualified teaching posts. A few possessed the requisite requirements for qualification. The majority had not, because the standard of the training they received was not the standard on which we now insist for qualified teachers. But each of them who has come to our notice has been told of conversion courses leading to qualification in this country. We have dealt with the problem in that way.
The schools inspectorate has been active in the areas of immigration—it is a fact which has escaped attention—and has published three education surveys dealing specifically with immigrant education between 1970 and 1972. That work has been excellent. It is not new, although we have not a specific unit in the inspectorate to deal with this work; the inspectorate has already been active on this front.
My hon. Friend the Member for Handsworth asked that specific extra help should be available. Let me tell him the figures for Birmingham for teacher supply and the extra quota. This term, the Birmingham authority is employing 8,992 qualified teachers, including 8,934 quota teachers. This compares with a figure of 8,718 qualified teachers at the same time last year, of whom 8,678 were quota teachers. I am sure my hon. Friend will see the significance of these figures when he reads them tomorrow.
This year the quota allocation is 8,892, which Birmingham has exceeded. It is a difficult area but it has been able to get more teachers than its quota. That quota included a special allowance of 150 teachers for schools of exceptional difficulty and a further 357 for immigrant pupils. We have allocated extra teachers to such areas, both for immigrants and for schools of exceptional difficulty. This 459 question goes wider than that of immigrants and is partly what the debate is about today.
A number of hon. Members raised the question of teacher supply in London and elsewhere. I refer to the problem in other cities first because this is an example of where the problems in the cities, although having something in common, seem to differ. One would expect that the problems in some of the down-town schools in Birmingham, Liverpool and London were the same. I do not know whether they are or not, but some of the other big cities—Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham, Sheffield and Teesside, for all of which I have the figures with me—have been able not only to recruit teachers up to the quota level but have exceeded it. Liverpool has exceeded its quota by 276, and one might have thought that Liverpool would probably be one of the areas with the most grievous problems in schools which teachers might be reluctant to tackle.
I turn now to London, which according to the latest figures is approximately 1 per cent. down on quota. That is all. This year the figure is 19,840 teachers, which is 543 more than at the same time last year. I stress this fact because hon. Members know that throughout the years the Inner London Education Authority has had one of the best pupil/teacher ratios and supplies of teachers in the country. I can tell the hon. Member for Norwood (Mr. John Fraser) in particular that the problem is not one of shortage of numbers. London has one of the best teacher supply positions in the country.
§ Mrs. Thatcher
No, I cannot give way. The hon. Gentleman has left me a much shorter time than he had, and he was not interrupted once. I have a good deal to say.
On 6th September The Guardian reported the comment of the Chief Education Officer of the Inner London Education Authority to this effect:The Authority still has one of the best teacher/pupil ratios in the country.Therefore, the problem is one not of numbers but of shortage in certain subjects, mathematics and handicrafts in particular.
460 The problems in some of these schools are undoubtedly great. The schools suffer from the general permissive atmosphere of society which makes it much more difficult for some teachers to teach in the schools. The schools undoubtedly need more teachers. It is interesting that Liverpool has recruited up to and over quota but London has not. The hon. Member for Sparkbrook asked me to refer specifically to the London allowance.
There are two problems—the immediate one and that of the longer term. On the immediate one, under phase 3 we have been successful in getting the London allowance increased, if given according to the 1967 formula of the Labour Government under the National Board for Prices and Incomes, outside the pay limit for teachers and other public sector employees and for those who have also been tied to the 1967 Labour Government formula. That increase will be given immediately outside the pay limit, and I hope that this will be some consolation to those who complain that it was previously within the pay limits.
There is the longer-term problem of making a reference to the Pay Board. Very extensive terms of reference have been given to the board to consider whether the appropriate NBPI Report, which governs the London weighting, is still valid and, if not, what principle should replace it, and to review the present weightings and geographical boundaries used in applying the 1967 formula.
The hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Guy Barnett) said that he thought there should be a number of different allowances and that we should examine the methods used to keep the weightings up to date and to consider whether it would be desirable and practicable to set common rates of weighting, boundaries and dates of implementation of increases for all those in public sector employment who benefit from London weighting. The Government want the board to consider these issues in relation to the use of London weighting generally. The terms of reference are extensive and give the Pay Board a pretty free hand, and the Government have specifically said that they would welcome a report from the 461 board by 30th June 1974. I hope that that report will be used as a basis for future negotiations.
The hon. Gentleman and a number of my hon. Friends mentioned the nursery education programme. It is a programme that the Labour Government would have liked to introduce but which we were successful in introducing, and I was most grateful for that. There is no doubt whatsoever that this will considerably improve the chances of children in these areas. It will not be the answer to everything. There is no one thing in education, or indeed in other spheres, which is the answer to everything. But in so far as we can get these children into nursery schools earlier it will help them tremendously.
It is no good supplying nursery schools, whether part time or full time, unless the children who really need them get to them, and for this we rely upon the local authorities. They have extensive discretion concerning transport. The report to which my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, West (Mr. Scott-Hopkins) referred has just arrived with me and I hope it will be published well before Christmas.
The local education authorities have extensive discretion about transport and are able to supply it to pick up children from home and take them to nursery school. In some cases that might be the only way of getting children to school, because a mother who is so weighed down with other things cannot get them there herself.
Two-thirds of the £34 million programme has been allocated to the deprived areas and one-third spread over the rest of the country as a whole. We have used income indicators and the take-up of free school meals and so on to pinpoint the deprived areas. Within those deprived areas I have more trust and confidence in the local education authorities to use their allocation for the deprived areas within the larger deprivation than perhaps the hon. Member for Sparkbrook has. I believe that they will wish to use it that way and will in fact use it that way.
The Government have steadily discriminated in favour of those areas in practically all their building policies. First, I have explained the way in which 462 there has been discrimination in favour of those areas for the nursery school programme. Secondly, the primary school building improvement programme, which has been running at the rate of £50 million a year, in the first year had a considerable slant specifically towards the deprived areas. In the other years I have given it in proportion to the pre-1903 schools in the local education authority area. But the reality is that a lot of those old schools are in the deprived areas and they are benefiting particularly from that programme. Much of the secondary school improvement programme which was announced recently has gone to the deprived areas, too.
The hon. Gentleman asked me about the rephasing of the building programmes. The easiest way I can describe it is to say that it is a kind of pushing backwards by three months of the approvals, putting to the next quarter what would have been done this quarter. I am happy to tell the hon. Gentleman that we do not expect the programme to start on the existing cost limits. That is one of the matters about which we are consulting in the appropriate Departments, and we hope that a circular will be out shortly.
The contribution of the education service to urban needs has been growing and will continue to grow. We all recognise that this is an old problem which will need continuing and steady improvement on all fronts. I believe, however, that the education service has made and will continue to make a significant contribution.
§ Debate adjourned.—[Mr. Hall-Davis.]
§ Debate to be resumed tomorrow.