HC Deb 25 June 1974 vol 875 cc1362-4
Mr. Stallard

I beg to move Amendment No. 8, in page 42, line 17, before 'environmental' insert 'social and'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. George Thomas)

With this it will be convenient to take the following amendments:

No. 9, in page 42, line 23, leave out 'amenities' and insert 'social and environmental provisions'.

No. 10, in page 42, line 26, after 'building' insert 'provision'.

No. 11, in page 42, line 30, before 'environmental' insert 'social and'.

No. 12, in page 42, line 32, at beginning insert 'social and'.

No. 13, in page 42, line 34, before 'environmental' insert 'social and'.

Mr. Stallard

Again, I am conscious of the debate that took place in Committee on Clauses 43 and 44. Therefore, I shall not weary the House by making a long speech.

Clauses 43 and 44 seem to introduce some kind of face-lift grant to be given in cases where housing accommodation is improved to less than the full improvement standard to assist with external works and improvements within the curtilage of buildings.

My opinion, after much experience, is that it is not good enough to tart up these curtilages in stress areas. Something more is needed. I suggest that a grant should be made available to improve the surroundings in stress areas in a much wider sense than a couple of trees or a bit of new pavement. We must think in wider terms than that for stress areas. Therefore, a grant should be made available for the provision of much-needed play spaces, and community centres and social facilities should be envisaged when we talk about the improvement of stress areas. It may be necessary to subsidise improvements by the closure of streets as well as the planting of trees and the provision of play spaces.

I hope that my hon. Friend will be able to assure me that that is the kind of face-lift that he has in mind rather than what appears to be a very niggly bit of tarting up of stress areas.

Mr. Tyler

Not having been a member of the Committee on this Bill I did not have an opportunity of speaking to this clause.

I warmly support what was said by the hon. Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. Stallard). I think that the environmental works referred to in the clause, while admirable in themselves, are a narrow definition of what is required.

Many hon. Members may recall that an initial pilot scheme for environmental improvement was carried out in the Deeplish area of Rochdale. Indeed, I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale (Mr. Smith) was instrumental in bringing about that scheme. The lesson which was quickly learned from that scheme was that small-scale environmental improvements are not nearly as important as the wider improvements that can be made to whole housing areas.

These amendments are important. Housing today does not become obsolete because its structure fails to conform to modern standards, not because there are or are not trees but because the social facilities of an area are not up to the standard that we now expect for our people.

I do not want to detain the House long. However, I must mention one specific facility which often makes all the difference to the potential of an area and whether it becomes obsolete. I refer to day centres for pre-school children. They are enormously important. I should like to add that specific point to what was said by the hon. Member for St. Pancras, North.

I hope that the Minister will assure us that these factors are not being overlooked in what may be a somewhat narrow definition of environmental improvement.

10.45 p.m.

Mr. Kaufman

I congratulate the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Tyler) on making a constituency speech on behalf of his hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale (Mr. Smith), wherever he may be. I am grateful to him for intervening in this debate.

My hon. Friend the Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. Stallard) said he was concerned about proposals for a niggly bit of tarting up. If my hon. Friend had not spoken in this debate, using those words, I would not have dreamed of describing the amendment in that way, because I dare not offend my hon. Friend. Since the hon. Member for Bodmin voted against us once tonight, I feel able to offend him a little.

Mr. Tyler

I have voted with the Government twice.

Mr. Kaufman

If he has voted twice, then I shall offend him twice as much.

Mr. Tyler

I have voted twice for you and once against.

Mr. Kaufman

Twice is not enough. The eye of a needle is too small for twice.

This amendment, as it stands, although I totally welcome what it seeks to do, is not necessary. If it were necessary, then I would be very anxious indeed to accept its implications. We have taken advice and we are assured that the word "amenities" is wide enough to embrace social and environmental provisions. We agree it should be wide enough to do that. I took part in a discussion on this point today with the Minister. I thought I heard him say that this could include provision for topless clubs in housing action areas. I later realised he was talking about toddlers' clubs. In some housing action areas the two could coexist happily.

We have environmental improvements very much in mind. To change the name given to the work that may be assisted under the clause without changing the definition would have no effect. The amendments are unnecessary. We have complete sympathy with my hon. Friend's objectives.

Mr. Stallard

On the basis of the assurance that the Minister has just given, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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