HC Deb 04 August 1976 vol 916 cc1925-77

2.16 a.m.

Mr. Norman Atkinson (Tottenham)

My hon. Friends and I are glad to be able to initiate this debate at a crucial stage in the development of London, at a stage when we believe that a whole series of decisions are about to be taken. Therefore, we hope to contribute some ideas and some guidance to the Ministers who are studying the important problems that London is facing.

I believe that the most critical of all the decisions being taken is to come to a conclusion on the optimum size of the capital's population. I go along with the idea which I understand is circulating in the Department of the Environment—namely, to try to aim for an ultimate population of about 6½ million by 1981. That is about right if we are to get throughout the London boroughs the environmental conditions that we should all like to see. It is uppermost in our minds that the highest priority should be given to the improvement of the London environment in every way possible. That can be achieved now that practically all the London boroughs have come to the conclusion that there should be no more high-rise development.

We should now be concentrating our ideas towards the general spread of the population and an improvement by way of increased open space and community amenities. There is general agreement that that is the way to do it. If we are thinking in terms of a multi-racial capital, the only way in which that can be established is by concentrating upon a vast improvement in the amenities available to our communities and in local authority provision for improved communities throughout the whole of the area.

It is essential to recognise that by and large throughout London the only organisations contributing in anything like a sizeable way towards the improved environment and the development of London are the local authorities. For many reasons, especially the cost of site clearance and new development, it is only the local authorities that are able to do so. In most of the Inner London Boroughs very few sites are being redeveloped or replanned except by the local authorities themselves.

A number of other things are happening which make London today a very different place from what it was 10 years ago. It is interesting to note that London has the fastest office development anywhere in the world and that it has built more square feet of office space than any other capital city. To our everlasting shame, London also has the fastest industrial decline in Britain. That is the seriousness of the situation that we are now facing.

We have the finest offices but the poorest factories. Indeed, many businesses have renewed their office accommodation in recent years but there has been total neglect of the industrial plant which is supposed to provide the resources to keep the offices in being. Where we find the most magnificent accommodation for administrative staffs we often find, on the other hand, that the industrial workers in the same organisation have to suffer the most primitive machinery and the most out-of-date equipment. They have to struggle in order to compete, not only in this country but with the rest of the world. There has, in fact, been industrial starvation. London is being starved of capital investment. At the same time, however, a lot of money is being poured into the property boom, which has changed the skyline of the city.

In many respects we have a city of empty sky blocks, declining industry and neglected means of productive manufacturing. It is, therefore, not surprising that we have a London that is in a totally unsatisfactory state. Indeed, the serious decline in skilled and unskilled manpower has been at a rate which has been unsurpassed anywhere. From the latest figures, I understand that there are something like 110,000 unemployed manual workers in the greater London area. That is an unbelievable figure. From that, one can imagine the size of the problems that will occur before very long, and no one can have much optimism that these difficulties will be overcome.

While the national average for manual workers within the total work force is about 44 per cent., according to the 1971 Census, the percentage in my constituency of Tottenham at that time, was 54 per cent. and in Southwark and similar boroughs it was 56 per cent. Over recent years there has been a higher proportion of manual workers in the inner London boroughs than anywhere else in the country. That comes as a great surprise to many people who have the impression that the whole of London depends upon administrative workers of one sort or another and that everyone is involved in some form of clerical work. The figures disprove that. In fact, they again emphasise the difficulties from which London suffers because of the rapid decline in manual work.

There is only one answer for London, as elsewhere in the country, and that is fast economic growth. I believe that London is as much entitled as the rest of the country to its fair share of any industrial aid that is made available. There is no justification whatever for this Government, or any Government, taking the view that London is not entitled to its share of any industrial aid, because our problems are equal to those in the rest of the country. The problem is being made worse by the very nature of the policies now being pursued and the deliberate directions that are being given to industrialists to seek new premises on new sites elsewhere in the country. They are encouraged to do that by the most generous grants which are made available to them.

That is bad planning. Manufacturers should not receive Government assistance merely to enable them to transfer their roots from London to another part of the country. It would be different if they were creating new industry. They should not be given assistance with reinvesting in new plant and machinery and buildings merely to enable them to move their roots. That aspect of industrial development should be urgently reconsidered.

The size of area qualifying for industrial development certificates has been increased to 12,500 sq. ft., but the system is a nonsense. There have been no recent rejections of applications, because manufacturers are not coming to London. They say that they cannot afford to do so. They certainly cannot extend in London and deny themselves the Government assistance which is available elsewhere. If no new public sector jobs are to be created and local authority staffs are to be frozen for the next three years, if there is no chance of expansion in huge sectors of the service industries and if the Government intend to provide 1 million new job opportunities, what will happen to London, which has an enormous unemployment problem among young people? If Government policy of shifting industry from London is not changed, London will not get any of those job opportunities.

Therefore, if for no other reason, this debate is important because it allows us to say strongly to the Government that there must now be fundamental changes in their industrial policy and the relocation of industry so that London has a fairer share of the promised job opportunities. I hope that we shall hear some good news about that.

Certainly there must be planning, the Government must have interventionist powers and the whole question of regional industry and grants must be reconsidered. The Government should now be building advance factories and other industrial development in London. Commercial developments will largely avoid the capital city. If there is to be balanced development, the Government must do it themselves—not only in dockland but throughout the GLC area. There should at least be a Minister of Cabinet rank responsible for co-ordinating all these developments and linking up with the GLC and the London boroughs. So great a job cannot be done in any other way. It must be co-ordinated in that way, and we should have political power and authority to bring about that co-ordination.

My final point is about young people. Other hon. Members will, I know, wish to comment about the situation of our youngsters in London. I understand that the national figure of unemployed youngsters under the age of 18 is about 400,000. It may be that the figure for those under 20 is about 500,000. In London we have the biggest share of those under 18 who have no job. Probably of greater significance is the fact that there is a diminishing possibility of youngsters in London getting a successful trade apprenticeship, not only in the engineering industries but in other skilled trades like printing. The chances of London youngsters getting an apprenticeship are in fast decline, for reasons about which we all know. An urgent problem is facing us.

I know that employers in many engineering and other skilled industries find that it is far cheaper to go to a skillcentre to get their labour requirements for a wage payment. Skill is presented to an employer at a skillcentre, and that is much cheaper for him than providing facilities for the training of young people. There is an attraction for employers to solve their problems in that way.

There is an immense difficulty and challenge in trying to provide balanced apprenticeships for London youngsters in certain skilled trades when we know that from whole areas of London industries are on the way out. Those opportunities will not be given, and we have to come to terms with this and do something about it urgently. It is not enough to talk youngsters into remaining at school or to provide interim training on a payment basis or otherwise. That is no way to do it. It has to be done in industry. That is the only way. There are no short cuts. We have a special responsibility in that direction.

Those are some of the problems that worry me. I know that these worries are shared by those of my hon. Friends who wish to take part in the debate. I hope the Government will consider these matters and before long produce a White Paper or a Government statement setting out their determination to do something about the problems facing London and to do something to give the city its fair share of the resources available so that it can face the future with optimism.

2.34 a.m.

Mr. Anthony Grant (Harrow, Central)

I shall not follow in great detail what the hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr. Atkinson) has said but I want to touch on one or two of his points. I agree with him that things in London are not right. They have been neglected over a long period and it is urgent that the Government look seriously at the way our capital city is to develop.

As one who has had an interest in regional policy for some time, I would tell the hon. Member that he should not turn up his nose at office and commercial jobs, because jobs are jobs and we need them in London. If the hon. Member goes round the regions and talks to his colleagues who represent development areas and places like that he will discover that they are longing for commercial development. Both Governments have given substantial sums to encourage the location not only of manufacturing industry but of service industry in development areas. We should not turn up our nose at commercial development and offices, which are an essential part of our capital city.

The hon. Member for Tottenham made a reasonable point in saying that manufacturing industries have to some extent run down in London. They do not receive the substantial aids that are given to manufacturing industry in development areas, as the Member pointed out. However, hon. Members delude themselves if they suppose that London's problems in industrial and unemployment problems can be compared with the fundamental problems of places such as Merseyside, Glasgow and, perhaps, the North-East.

Having said that, I agree with the hon. Gentleman that regional policy must be flexible. It must be reviewed periodically. It is absurd for it to be kept in a straitjacket. It is a long time since there was a review of regional policy. In the past two years unemployment has increased by 90 per cent. in the development areas, by 122 per cent in the intermediate areas, and by no less than 159 per cent. in the South-East non-assisted areas. This is not tolerable, and I hope that the Government will take the matter seriously.

I believe in the IDC weapon. Nevertheless, there is a case for further relaxation of the rules, because, as I have said before in the House, it is absurd to suppose that if the builders of a reasonably small development in London are stopped from building it they will up sticks and go to Newcastle or Glasgow.

The Government should review regional policy and see where such places as London and the South-East, which have suffered greatly in the past two years, fit into the scheme of things.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned housing and high-rise flats. I believe that London's housing problems could be substantially resolved if the scandal of dockland were sorted out. I will say no more about that because I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Bottomley) has been particularly interested in the problem, is nearer to it than I am, and if he is fortunate enough to catch the eye of the Chair will have something to say about it.

I want to say something about an important part of the economic and social life of London and, indeed, of the country as a whole. I refer to tourism, which provides a considerable number of jobs and has an important part to play in London and elsewhere.

I am deeply disturbed at what I believe to be a growing anti-tourist feeling in certain quarters of the capital city. This stems partly from the very understandable concern about congestion in the centre of London. It stems also, I regret to say, from the less desirable emotions of xenophobia and the unrealistic belief that agreeable parts of London can return to the state they were in 10, 20 or 50 years ago.

That is a total delusion because, if tourism did not exist in London, Kensington and Chelsea would not return to those halcyon days that some of us remember. If, suddenly, the tourist industry were replaced by manufacturing industry—if a drop forge or a strip mill were to be sited in Chelsea, say—the squawks would be heard from King's Road to Westminster. So those who imagine that life can be as it was a long time ago delude themselves.

Some of the anti-tourists, though basically motivated by these emotions, will present their arguments in strictly financial terms. But juggle how one will with the figures, it is a fact that tourism contributes an input to the Revenue of at least £700 million, on the anti-tourists' argument alone—and I believe the figure to be much higher. It forms part of those invisible earnings without which our economy would have been sunk without trace a long time ago.

The last thing that I want to recommend at this time is an increase in public expenditure on tourism. The hotel development incentive scheme was misguided, and resulted in far too much taxpayers' money being spent on providing too many hotels in London. Some of that money should have gone elsewhere. I prefer a more effective development of the existing resources.

In the current year about £16 million is being spent on tourism. Tourism provides about 1½ million jobs. But that amount is piffling when compared with the subsidies poured into manufacturing industry. It does not compare favourably with other countries. For example, Canada spends eight times the amount that we spend on tourist boards.

People become irritated because they imagine that London is flooded with foreigners working in the tourist industry. But the number of foreign workers coming here for that purpose is declining each year. In 1975 there were 8,500 foreigners working in the tourist industry—or half of 1 per cent. of the total employed in the industry as a whole. It is therefore right, as a matter of policy, to encourage tourism—it is right for the economy and it is right in international terms. How on earth can we understand other people, and how can they understand us, unless we meet in agreeable and harmonious circumstances?

I question the rôle of the London Tourist Board. It is not necessary to market London. People will come here anyway. The rôle of the board should be to channel tourists in London to other parts of Great Britain.

I well understand the natural irritations of the oppressed and frustrated Londoners. They have to cope with the problems of housing and the cost and discomfort of transport. To travel from my constituency by car, tube or bus now costs 70 per cent. more than it did two years ago. Londoners have to bear the ever-increasing burden of rates and taxes, but I beg them not to turn against tourists or to make them the scapegoats. We do not need to further subsidise visitors to London. The top priority should be to spread tourist aid and to spread visitors throughout the country.

Whether we like it or not, London is a magnet not only to foreign tourists but to our fellow countrymen. More of them visit London than do foreigners. Why should they not? We have the best theatres, music, history and architect in the world. Why should we not want people to see them? By harassing and impeding tourists in London we shall not persuade them to go elsewhere. Instead we shall create a mean, narrow-minded and selfish image, which will undoubtedly deprive us of a valuable contribution to the economy.

Let London be proud that it attracts people from all over the world and from all over Britain. We should give our visitors the welcome and hospitality that is an intrinsic feature of our national character.

2.45 a.m.

Mrs. Millie Miller (Ilford, North)

I have the advantage of having a foot in both camps in London. Having been born in the City of London, near enough to qualify as a Cockney, and having spent the whole of my life within the central London area, I now represent a constituency in the greater London area which is increasingly sharing the problems of central London with which I am much more familiar.

The point that the hon. Member for Harrow, Central (Mr. Grant) has just made throws up one of the situations in which there is a common bond. It is true that far too many tourists are about the streets of central London, particularly at this time of the year, and that they cause problems for us. I do not see many tourists in central Ilford, and I suspect that many of the other greater London areas would welcome the opportunity of providing accommodation for tourists and allowing some of their surplus workers to be occupied in the tourist industry.

However, we should not over-estimate the quality of the jobs available in the industry, which is vital to the survival of London. Many of them in the service industries are very low-paid. Only a day or two ago there was a moving account of the way in which catering workers were queueing up in the early hours every morning in central London, hoping to be picked for some of the extremely low-paid jobs which are essential if we are to retain a tourist industry. There are two sides to the need for tourism. We have a great deal to offer in London, but we may be offering it at too low a price if it is at the expense of keeping Londoners permanently on low pay.

The non-development of industry in London has had a big effect on the living standards of people in the whole London area. In my constituency a number of industrial jobs remain, but it is not easy to persuade the management of many of the large companies to stay in the London area. My hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Shaw) and I have visited a number of companies which had planned to move even further afield and appealed to them to remain in the area so that our skilled people should have jobs.

Tourism is all very well, but it is a tragedy that we should be losing the skills in industry which are essential to our survival as a manufacturing nation. This is one of the problems which the policies of successive Governments since the war have forced on London, creating a situation in which the very heart of London is dying rapidly. No doubt my hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Mr. Mikardo) will talk about the dreadful situation in his constituency, where so much of the industrial capacity lies barren and unused because of the attraction of the development areas and the tremendous grants which have been offered over the years.

My constituency would welcome the opportunity of more office jobs. Not only the North-East and other development areas are starved of office work. Ilford was to have been one of the many centres on the outskirts of London. The plans for this kind of development have been set back, possibly for many years. Vast numbers of people in my constituency have to face delay, inconvenience and frustration in commuting from the outer areas into central London to carry on their jobs. With the increasing pressure for economies in administrative tasks their jobs may well be under threat as time goes on.

I pass from the industrial problems, because I am perhaps less well qualified to talk about them than some of my hon. Friends who will follow, to draw attention to a short broadcast that was produced in the last couple of weeks dealing with the situation in New York. I was listening to this as I drove home after a day in the House when we had been talking about London's problems. In that broadcast I heard the same phrase used in relation to New York as is used when talking about local government here—"The party is over"—as if there has ever been a party for local government. Yes, there were the golden years—the golden years of property speculation. There was certainly a big party, as a result of which the people living in central London in particular suffered. I suspect that the same is true in New York.

This short broadcast drew attention to the parallels between the crisis in London government and that in New York. It described to begin with the setting-up of a new school in New York a few years ago to cope with some of the young people in the centre of that vast city who suffered social disadvantage. It described how the experiment which this school introduced, of specialisation in skills and branches of knowledge which had been denied these young people, had been a great success and how in a short time the intake had grown—until New York was starved of funds.

Then, because of a feeling of insecurity, the staff started to leave. With the pressure to reduce expenditure in the city, because of the attitude of the federal Government, staff began to be cut back. School places were reduced, but gradually the intake to the school began to increase. The broadcast described in graphic terms the way in which the disaffection set in within the school as not only the remaining staff but the children experienced the insecurity that this kind of change was forcing on them. It also described—I hope we shall never see this in the London area—the way in which members of staff who remained within the school were gradually forced into such competitive relationships that they were having to compare the dates when they took up their appointments to see who was last in, because they would be first out.

Certain developments in London could move in that direction unless we start thinking seriously about the position. I know that it is popular to say that the population of London is dropping fast and therefore fewer schools are needed. If we take the example of New York and regard it as being in some ways parallel to our situation we shall see the dangers that could arise if and when the time comes when it is suggested that we can start cutting down on the number of schools to reflect the drop in population. Because of the many social problems within the London area it is vital that we retain not only the schools but the staff on whom we depend to provide particularly for the immigrant communities, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr. Atkinson) referred.

The broadcast referred to a situation in which, suddenly, people who had been either colleagues or friends were no longer so, because they were more concerned about when they weer appointed, and whether they were appointed before each other, than with the interests of the children whom they had originally come to the school to assist.

In many ways, too, this sort of attitude is reflected in New York in the hospital services. Again, oddly enough, there is a parallel to the situation in London, where it is being suggested that for one reason or another it is possible to close down a very considerable number of hospitals. In New York this has happened too, and the result has been that the most skilled people have left the area altogether to seek jobs in the developing areas of the hospital service. We have to bear in mind that private medicine reigns supreme in the United States, and that it is easy for the staff to select areas where the rewards will be greater as well as the security.

We must not overlook the fact that this could even apply in London, where greater and greater pressure is being applied concerning reductions in various of the services—both the National Health Service and the personal social services provided by local authorities. The campaign goes on daily for the provision of private services in these areas, so that it would be very easy as time went on, and with deteriorating public services, for the people with the most skills and the most experienced people to be sucked into the private sector, much to the detriment of the greater part of the population.

The hospital authorities and health authorities in New York have been fighting a losing battle on this score and it highlights for us the need for the Government to start to provide a proper strategy not just for industry in London but for health, for social services and for education. It is not good enough to argue that because there is a drop in the number of children we can do without schools, or that because there are other areas of the country not as well endowed as London with hospital services, hospital services can be removed almostad infinitum.

If London is to survive as a capital city it must regain the balance it once had. Housing—particularly council housing—and a programme of replacement of the kinds of homes which are a disgrace to any capital city, must continue through the local authorities, because there is no other rented accommodation for those who cannot afford to buy homes of their own. Giving people the opportunity of purchasing their council homes when some of them are outdated and lack by many miles facilities up to the Parker Morris standard, is no answer.

Even with modern council houses, the opportunity for purchase only produces a hollow laugh from those who, when they see the mortgage repayments—even with the cut-price offers which are being made by some local authorities—know that their income will never be sufficient for them both to pay the mortgage and undertake permanently the maintenance of these properties.

Housing must be maintained, and the Government must decide how they answer these questions. What is to be the size of London? What are to be the provisions for its maintenance? How are we to overcome the very considerable downward trend which has been allowed to continue until this date? Unless the Government do that, London will die as surely as New York's centre has already died. As was said in an earlier debate, this will indeed be an indictment of Ministers who are responsible for this problem. They know that we do not stay up until this hour of the morning to talk about London's problems for our own amusement; it is because we London Members feel so deeply about the serious problems that have emerged.

3.1 a.m.

Mr. John Cartwright (Woolwich, East)

I make no apology for returning to the question of employment and for at least starting my contribution by referring to the affairs of my own borough, which has been one of the hardest hit areas of London when it comes to industrial rundown.

Greenwich lost no fewer than 20,000 manufacturing jobs during the 1960's, and the impact on the area has been considerable. Whole areas which once were thriving industrial scenes are now simply cold, sterile warehouses which provide little contribution to employment, but add a great deal to the problem of juggernauts on our roads and similar environmental difficulties. Greenwich has no wish to be the warehouse of southeast London.

From being a borough into which people come to work, Greenwich has turned into a borough out of which people go increasing distances to work, because it is no longer easy to find employment in the immediate area for those who work in the heavy engineering which always went on alongside the Thames.

One point must be made over and over again. We cannot look at London as one travel-to-work area. We cannot say that, because there are jobs in West and North London, people in South and East London can take advantage of those opportunities. London is not one united whole. It is a collection of islands. The public transport system links between one island and another, between one part of London and another, and it is not always good. Therefore, we must look at these areas on their own merits.

The structural changes and industrial decline that we have seen in savage terms in some parts of London have left serious pockets of residual unemployment—pockets which are not solved by improvements in the economic situation.

There is a school of thought that says "Yes, there are problems in London. These problems will be solved when the upturn in the economy comes in a way which they will not be solved on Merseyside, in the North-East or in Scotland."

All the research carried out by organisations—for example, the South-East London Industrial Consultative Group—shows that these pockets of employment in London always lead the rest of London when there is a slump. When unemployment is increasing, those areas are always in front. When the reverse takes place and the boom is with us, those areas always lag behind the rest of London. The difficulty and the risk is that, in looking at London as one whole, we tend to overlook these serious areas represented in the debate tonight.

The problem of skills has already been mentioned. One of the saddest things about areas, such as mine, in South-East London is that, alongside a steady 3,500 people registered unemployed at the Woolwich labour exchange month after month, we have industrialists, month after month, saying "we cannot get the skilled labour that we need in our plants. If we cannot get that skilled labour, sadly we shall have to leave this area and search elsewhere for the skills that we need."

The tragedy is that we had those skills in South-East London. The area was built on manufacturing and engineering skills. The experience of the AEI closure in 1968 shows that many skilled engineers, having been made redundant two or three times, said "That is it. No more engineering for me. I am going to work for the Post Office. I am going to sell whatever I can find to sell. I shall use any other kind of expertise, but I shall not go back into manufacturing industry." It is tragic that we are trying to provide skilled training opportunities for a number of new people when the skills are there among many former manufacturing employees.

Others have mentioned the problems of the young. As the manufacturing base contracts, so the training opportunities for the young diminish. I was horrified to learn from an answer given by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State that in Woolwich and Greenwich alone this summer there will be 1,500 school leavers looking for a job, and that suitable vacancies for them in Area No. 83. I accept that many of these young people will travel to central London and try to find employment there, but it is still a tragic situation that that number of young people will be looking for jobs in an area such as mine. I have been to the local office of the Department of Health and Social Security and seen the sad sight of the special arrangements that have to be made for young people to sign on to collect unemployment benefit after they leave school. That is something that many of us are bitterly ashamed to see happening.

The other problem about unemployment among the young is that so many of our people who have been made redundant so often in engineering are saying "My son will not go into manufacturing industry. He will go into something else because I do not want him to go through the experience and the redundancy that I have been through so many tittles".

The causes of the industrial decline in South-East London are many and varied. We have seen the rationalisation of firms, usually rationalising themselves out of London because of the opportunities for financial assistance that are offered in other parts of the country. We have seen industrialists discover that the value of the land on which a factory stands is very much higher if sold for office or hotels or other uses rather than for manufacturing industry. We have seen the impact of high rents and high rates, and the problems that occur when small firms are pushed out by council redevelopment schemes. We have seen, too, the problems of transport in inner London and the problems of shortages of skilled manpower.

One of the difficulties is that this is a vicious circle. People are going because jobs are not available, and jobs are going because the skilled labour is not available. The vicious circle turns constantly, and one wonders whether we shall be able to reverse it. One is glad to note that at long last the GLC is saying "Let us call a halt. Let us try to stop this deliberate moving of jobs out of London to new and expanded towns". I am glad that the GLC is talking that view, because it is the council that has been responsible for robbing us of a good deal of industry in inner London. I wonder how successful the council will be.

Whether one is talking about the shifting of industry or the shifting of population, I believe that a great deal of this goes on on a voluntary basis without the sort of deliberate movement that is being planned by the GLC or anyone else. The tragedy is that the movement of population is unbalanced. What we tend to lose, by and large, are the young, the skilled and the enterprising. What we are left with are the elderly, the less skilled, the handicapped, the deprived, the poorer groups and the minority ethnic groups. As my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, North (Mrs. Miller) said, we follow the class pattern of the American cities: as the social problems build up in the city because the deprived are being left behind, so the revenue base to meet that social problem declines as the better off move out, and industry, too, moves out.

There are a number of things that we ought to say we need to do in London. First, I agree with the comment that has been made twice in this debate, that we ought to be defining what size the city of London should be. Should it be the present 7½ million, 6 million or 6½ million? We ought to be debating in London what size the city we want to provide for, and then provide for that sort of size of capital city.

We need to do much more to retain our young people. On the housing front that means more opportunities for home ownership. One of the difficulties is that those young people who want to buy their own homes are forced out into Kent and Essex. If we are to stop this sort of trend we must have more of the half-and-half schemes which the GLC is experimenting with to bring home ownership within the reach of more young people.

We must provide housing for key workers in order to hold on to industries and bring in new ones. We must also provide the maximum number of industrial training opportunities for young people. This means a change in Government attitude towards industry in London. I welcome the IDC relaxation that we have seen so far, but this has not changed the image that the Government are presenting of industry in London. The general view is that the Government do not want to see industry developing in London.

We still have the crazy ban on London local authorities advertising their own advantages for industrial and commercial opportunities. The crowning stupidity is that London Tubes and buses carry advertisements urging people to open up in Peterborough, Peterlee, and every other place from Lands End to John o' Groats, but they are not allowed to advertise opportunities which exist in London. That should be changed.

We want to see fewer Government attempts to move jobs temporarily from London. When the Ministry of Defence announced that it was going to shift Government jobs many people assumed that these would be white-collar jobs, but no. They were skilled engineering jobs which were being shifted—2,200 quality assurance jobs at Woolwich Arsenal alone. I believe that the Government should think twice, or even three times before threatening to remove jobs of this kind from the hard hit areas of inner London.

We want to see a more positive attitude towards industry, and more thought being given before planning schemes and developments push out industrial firms. We want to see more co-operation and understanding between local authorities and industrialists. In my area, the London borough of Greenwich employs an employment development officer who has done a tremendous amount of work in building co-operation within the borough. We want to see more groups like the South-East London Industrial Consultative Group, in which trade unions, employers, and local authorities all get together to try to sort out the problems of industry and retain it in London.

More thought should go into our transport problems. Sitting as a Member for a riparian constituency, I believe that we should make vastly more use of our river. It is the one great, broad highway from the coast to the heart of the city which could bring in goods without any impact on the environment at all. It is a tragedy that our river is under-used.

Finally, we want to see more co-ordination between the various Government Departments involved. We need from central Government a more coherent approach to London's problems—an approach that means a realisation that the deliberate bleeding of London's resources has got to stop; it means recognising that not all London's streets are paved with gold; and it means acceptance of the fact that if London is not to go the way of New York a clear strategy for the city is necessary—a strategy involving central Government just as much as local government.

3.14 a.m.

Mr. Peter Bottomley (Woolwich. West)

I wish to make two preliminary remarks. Firstly, I value this debate on London and feel that it is a pity it has come so early in the morning. This House would benefit a great deal if we spent more time debating the major areas like London, and the details of their education, and social problems, rather than being solely concerned with the treadmill of legislation. If the time that was devoted here to the Dock Work Regulation Bill had been spent on dealing with London there would have been a greater understanding, with bipartisan agreement about some of London's problems and the solutions to them. The House would then have been serving London far better than it has been in the last four or six weeks.

In general, Governments cannot solve the detailed problems of a capital city like London. If it is to be a capital city it must have the freedom to generate its own growth and to solve most of its problems. One cannot rely on Governments to solve the detailed problems. Obviously the Government can settle the overall structure and lay down the target for job creation and population. But in significant ways local and national authorities have been carried away on questions of detail. The hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr. Atkinson) referred to the decline of high-rise flats. That was an example of local authorities and the GLC being carried away—with Government encouragement—by their enthusiasm, on what proved to be a passing fad. That fad has left a scar on London society and on the London environment.

Take the question of education, where comprehensive schools have been scattered around the outskirts of London over the last 15 or 20 years. They may have turned out to be satisfactory, but I do not think that anyone would regard a school of more than 2,000 pupils as desirable in itself. If more thought had been given to the matter, perhaps some of the money that went into building these magnificent schools, of which there are two in my constituency, would have been spent on education in the inner parts of London, where the schools are old, the facilities poor and the playing facilities non-existent. The children there would then have had as good a chance as those I represent.

The major point about detailed planning and the way in which it can fail is shown up on the question of Dockland. There has been a constant decline in Dockland over the last 15 years. Five local authorities and the GLC have been involved and the Government have been looking over the whole issue, but virtually nothing has been done. That is the greatest condemnation of the way in which London has been run. There are 5,000 acres of Dockland, but there has been activity on only 25 of those acres.

I insist that before the recess the Government make a statement about Dockland. It would be doing a grave disservice to London if we went into recess without a statement on Dockland. This is an area of human waste, land waste and lost job opportunities. The Government must try to restore confidence. They can do that by showing that they have an overall plan for Dockland, agreed with the GLC and the boroughs, so that people living on the eastern side of the capital can look forward to a mode of development in which jobs, homes and the environment will be improving fast from now on.

Action must be taken to keep the young, the skilled and the enterprising in London. Employment can be facilitated by job creation schemes, but we need people with enterprise who can see a market that they can fulfil, whether in the manufacturing service or the tourist industries. It depends on individuals or groups seizing their opportunity, provided that they can get the necessary resources. These are the people who can create jobs in London, but they are being driven out.

During the crisis in education, when teachers could not be found for love or money in London—at about the time of the raising of the school leaving age—it was suggested that local authority flats should be provided for new teachers.

I conducted a survey at a school with which I was connected and was told by teachers that although they might stay in London for six months or so if they were given a council flat, they wanted to own their own homes and would consequently have to move out to Essex or Kent and face a journey to work of perhaps two hours a day. The result would be that they could not devote as much time to either their teaching or their families as they would like.

It is interesting to note how many teachers have moved out of London when their children have reached the age at which they are to be transferred to secondary schools.

The current financial stringency may help all except the extremists on both sides to recognise that there is a great deal of common ground to look for in housing and education so that we can satisfy the needs of young people for homes and families with young children for schools. It is a disgrace that so many people have left London because of the policies and, even more, the practices in housing and education.

The scandals at the William Tyndale School were a question not just of the progressives versus the traditionalists but of structure and whether it was what people wanted. The same applies to housing.

I emphasise again how important it is that London gets its fair share of time in this Chamber and its fair share of attention in government.

My party has done a great deal in recognising the power, position, and influence of London, and its needs. We have appointed a vice-chairman responsible for London, and I know that the work done by the party with business people, local organisations and people living in the city, including those represented by tenants associations or residents groups, has helped us to recognise the problems of London.

I hope that we shall have regular debates on London, preferably not tied to legislation, because that is when we have our differences. The importance of this debate is to find areas of agreement and to give advice to the Government which they can consider and act upon to make London a capital city of which we can be proud and in which we can work, individually as well as collectively, to make it a better place for ourselves and our neighbours.

3.25 a.m.

Miss Jo Richardson (Barking)

I support the call of the hon. Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Bottomley) for more London debates on specific matters not tied to legislation. We are glad to have provided him and his hon. Friends with the opportunity for a debate which they would otherwise not have had.

A considerable number of my hon. Friends put their names down for this debate. The fact that they represent all parts of the city indicates the considerable concern felt about the problems of London. It is not too dramatic to say, as a number of hon. Members have already said, that London is becoming a dying city. It will die if we are not careful.

I drive regularly from Barking, which is my constituency, through Newham into Tower Hamlets and on to Hammersmith, where I live. During that drive I follow the river almost all the way. I pass through areas such as Narrow Street, Limehouse Causeway and the Highway, which at one time were humming with activity and life. Sometimes in the late hours, when it is dark and it is only possible to see the outlines of the buildings it looks romantic, but it is dead. That is because there are only empty and derelict wharves and warehouses and run-down and broken-down buildings where once there was activity. The work has moved away that once took place on those streets, and the ancillary services have gone. In a way, that seems to make the streets even more sad. One sees the boarded-up little shops, the corner places where the dockers used to go to buy their morning papers. There is the pub or sweet shop that has had to close down—all the things that used to make un life. The parts of London through which I drive are extremely sad.

The hon. Member for Woolwich, West mentioned the Docklands Joint Study Committee. I hope, along with the hon. Gentleman and other hon. Members, that we shall shortly see some movement from the Secretary of State for the Environment in response to the proposals made by the committee. A great deal of work has been put into considering the problems, against a background of considerable concern.

The scene that I see when I drive through East London is repeated in West London. This shows how our efforts to shoot people out of the town have gone too far and too fast. If industry is not attracted back, and if proper use is not made of the potential capacity and talents of those who have been thrown out of work and who have always lived and worked in the capital, it will be too late to rescue anything.

In Hammersmith the problem is similar. Recently the London borough of Hammersmith has been advertising for an employment development officer. The advertisement points out that the borough has lost much of its manufacturing industry over the past few years and that unemployment levels within the borough are high. It is making a great effort to find the right sort of person to try to coordinate industry in West London.

I am sure that many of my hon. Friends and Opposition Members have looked at London not from a drive from east to west but from the river. Last year I was invited to go along the river with a couple of friends who have been concerned about these matters. They started and have been active in an organisation which I know is known to many people, namely, Transport on Water. They invited me to look at London from where they see it all the time. They invited me to go with them on their tug, which was to tow barges from Greenwich to Wandsworth. I joined them after a moment of pure terror, when I realised that to do so would necessitate climbing down the side of a wall, perhaps the height of the Chamber, on a rope ladder. It took all my nerve to go down the rope ladder and step into a tiny rocking boat to get out to the tug.

I had a fascinating trip, once on the tug. The barges that we drew, incidentally, were the equivalent of 66 lorry-loads of cement. There would have been all those lorries on the roads if the cement had not been carried by barge. The river was deserted. The only river traffic that interrupted our passage from east to west was the odd pleasure steamer with tourists aboard. I saw, from a different angle the deserted wharves, warehouses and derelict factories. There seemed to be acres of land with nothing on it. It was really striking and really a tragedy.

My hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Cartwright) has talked about the use of the river as it used to be—one of the biggest and busiest highways in our land. We have lost over 1 million tons of cargo each year in the past decade and the number of lighter-men and bargemen who used to work on the river has shrunk from over 4,000 to under 1,000 in tht relatively short time.

The overwhelming bulk of our expenditure on surface traffic is poured on to the roads. We have spent millions of pounds of taxpayers' money to subsidise roads when we should have been financing a properly co-ordinated transport system that makes the maximum use of our rivers, waterways, roads and rail, and provides continuing employment as well as alleviating the growing environmental problems caused by too much traffic.

My constituency is right on the outer edge of London and our employment problems, and some of our social problems, are not yet as great, as deep, or as obvious as those in other boroughs further into the centre of London. Many of my constituents work in inner London, but are finding it expensive to do so because of the constant increases in rail fares that have ocurred in the last two or three years.

Many of my constituents are dockers, who have been involved in the arguments that have been going on about the rationalisation of the Upper Docks, because many of them work there but live further out. The Port of London Authority plan to close Millwall and West India Docks, even with the promise to transfer the dockers to the Royal Group, or offer voluntary severance pay, has been strenuously resisted by a large number of bodies, trade unions and other organisations. From the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Mr. Mikardo) to that of my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing), who is not here this evening, and in boroughs like Tower Hamlets, the docks are a base industry. In the outer areas, as my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, North (Mrs. Miller) will also find, we get a sort of spin-off effect from the difficulties which arise from disputes and arguments about what shall become of a base industry like the docks. Thank goodness the Port of London Authority is thinking again, but that is only as a result of the strong representations that have been made.

In Barking we are also worried that the unacceptable level of unemployment in the East End is fast creeping our way. Thank goodness, we do not yet have an unemployment problem to match that of the East End, but in the last couple of years unemployment in Barking has doubled. From 1975 to 1976 the figure has precisely doubled in my constituency. In the borough as a whole unemployment has gone up by one-third.

We are lucky. In the constituency next door we have the Ford Motor Company. I am glad to see that it is now in the process of taking on 3,000 extra workers. That will be of great help to Barking and other areas where Ford workers come from. But what would happen if we did not have the Ford company? It is a multinational corporation and is a complete law unto itself. There is nothing to prevent Fords, governed as it is from Detroit, from running down Dagenham and transferring the work to its Spanish or West German operations. I am sure the company does not intend to do that, but one is always nervous of decisions being made by multinational corporations which might result in large-scale unemployment, which could totally upset the balance of a city like London.

Like other boroughs, mine has been instructed to reduced spending. This is a difficult and shocking job for finance committees all over the country. We in Barking have tried to comply, but we are right up against it. We have cut our spending by about half the amount that the Secretary of State requires, but if we go further we shall undoubtedly cause unemployment. As it is, we shall have to reduce repairs and maintenance on property. Council rents will rise in October by 60p a week. Furniture and equipment that would have been ordered and that must be providing employment somewhere will not now be ordered. Goodness knows what will happen when the further, and to my mind, hated cuts announced this week come upon local authorities.

What distresses me is that although we may not actually cause redundancies, we shall not be filling vacancies like home helps. We should keep up such social services. Many London boroughs have ageing populations, who depend on this service. I learn that natural wastage in the service will not be made up. My own borough may have to consider this. We should not disadvantage our elderly people in that way.

There has been much talk recently about social security abuses. I have had representations from DHSS staff about possible redundancies because of the cuts announced this week. Opposition Members may shout and scream about abuse, but if they stop and think they will realise that it is infinitesimal compared with the overwhelming numbers who draw benefit because they need it. Cuts in social security staff would bring nothing but hardship to such people.

My hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, East said that London's problems should not be considered as a whole. But there should be a basis of general co-operation, with each borough helping the others rather than isolating itself. We all know the problems. It is only by co-operating among London Members of Parliament and among London parties and organisations that we shall get the Government to understand our need for a real strategy for London and its future. That is the only way of reviving industry and bringing life back to what has always been the hub of Britain.

3.40 a.m.

Mr. Ian Mikardo (Bethnal Green and Bow)

My hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Miss Richardson), like other hon. Members on both sides who preceded her, has rightly drawn attention to the necessity for a long-term strategic plan for London—a plan that must take account, as my hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr. Atkinson) said, of the size and population of the place, so as to fit within that jigsaw all the necessities of life.

The only reason I intervene—because the problem was so comprehensively dealt with by other hon. Members—is to speak of the short term and immediate, rather than the long term, because, in addition to the strategic plan hon. Members have called for, in some parts of London and in respect of some problems, we need some quick fire brigade action, some first-aid decisions, if the patient is not to bleed to death before the long-term remedies can begin to be applied.

Although I listen to all debates on London, and have taken part in most; although I listen to Ministers talking at great length about London, and although I have had many arguments with them in private, as well as across the Floor of the House, I am still not satisfied that the full urgency of some of the problems is fully comprehended.

The hon. Member for Harrow, Central (Mr. Anthony Grant) gave some evidence of this. He said, grandly, "I do not want to overstate the problems, because the problems of London are not the problems of Merseyside". It may look like that from the leafy heights of Harrow, but if he wandered from those heights to the East End he would discover that what he said was wrong. Is there any difference between the problems of the banks of the Mersey and those of the banks of the Thames? Both have suffered from the same factor—loss of cargo, partly as a result of the general depression, but even more as a result of cargo-handling moving steadily downriver from upriver docks and wharves. The pattern on Thames-side and the adjacent riparian areas is identical to that of Merseyside and its adjacent riparian areas.

If one is talking about the intensity of the problem, in the area of the two labour exchanges with catchment areas nearly coterminous with the borough of Tower Hamlets, adult male unemployment is 13 per cent. That is higher than in any development areas except Northern Ireland. One problem is that we produce our statistics and our industrial, employment, and development policy with much too broad a brush. We talk about and publish unemployment statistics in terms of regions, but one can have a pocket of severe depression in a region which, on the average, is much better off than most, as indeed, one can and does have pockets of prosperity in regions which are, on average, worse off than most. So long as we do our regional development in the broad-brush sort of way, with the areas designated being much more global than they should be, we are bound to make a lot of mistakes and not deal with the problems as they are.

The hon. Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Bottomley) said that East London has been in decline for 15 years. I have known it intimately and lived in it for more than half a century. It has been in decline all that time and since before that. This is an area which has suffered from four successive blights. Till 1939 it suffered from poverty blight—the blight of low wages, overcrowding, the slum house and the sweat shop. They were the characteristics of East London.

Between 1939 and 1945 the area suffered from bombing blight to a much greater extent than the rest of London and greater than almost anywhere else in Great Britain. From then until about the early-to mid-1950s, when the housing programmes started to get under way, the area suffered from housing blight, because while the old stuff was being cleared and the sites were being prepared there were roads stopped, mud and rubble and goodness knows what, until it all started to get moving.

Fourth and last, and in some respects worst of all, apart, perhaps, from the bombing, in the last few years the area suffered from planning blight, from nothing being done in bricks and mortar, because so much was being done on bits of paper. It suffered from planning blight, which is almost the most direct and most severe example of the perfect being the enemy of the good. Nothing is done, because somebody is trying to think out something better to do than one is ready, willing and able to do.

Then two or three years were lost when a firm of consultant surveyors was brought in to produce a plan. It produced 18 options for Dockland. The 18 were whittled down to five, none of which was satisfactory, because nobody had seen fit to go out and talk to anyone on the ground. Everyone had to start afresh, because all those things were unacceptable.

I am talking about the area that is roughly bordered by the Lea Bridge Road to the north and the river to the south, spilling over the river into a bit of the borough of Southwark and a bit of the borough of Greenwich and, on our side of the river, from Aldgate Pump to Barking Creek. I am talking about a population of between 500,000 and 1 million people living in circumstances of great difficulty and facing the vicious circle which was described so graphically by my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Cartwright).

Because the area is shabby and rundown, and because it is short of jobs, the young men move out. Because the young men move out, employers move out. The area is then left with older people, problem families and all sorts of social problems that create a disproportionate problem for the local authority. Of all local authorities in Great Britain my borough has the highest proportion of children in care.

At the same time, because of the rundown, rateable value is reduced, with the consequent reduction in rate revenue with which to cope with the growing problems. Only a quick, dramatic intervention will break the ring and stop the snowball rolling down the hill and becoming bigger and bigger until everything in its path is destroyed. That area of London is literally dying. One can watch it die. We cannot afford to wait for long term plans, however well conceived.

Hon. Members have explained how industry is moving out—partly because of the general run-down and partly because it has been induced to move out. We now need a case-by-case study of the threatened closure of every factory. We can identify those that are involved. There have been plenty of notices of impending closures. We should examine them one by one and find out what is necessary to persuade them to stay and then take the necessary action. For each of those threatened closures we should repeat the action taken over the East India-Millwall group. That problem was solved by people rallying round and putting their heads together to find an alternative way. That was done for one employment and it should be done for all. It is more urgent to staunch the flow of blood, to prevent firms from moving out, than to attract new people. That can be done only by a case-by-case approach.

We need urgent first-aid measures before we can get down to working out long-term, perhaps grandiose, strategic plans. Unless something is done, the area will become a desert, a home for old people and problem families with social problems of all kinds, with the life blood, the people of the best working age, best energy, best skills, running away from the place. That is happening before our eyes. I know that the Minister has been to have a look-see. I say to him "Have a few more look-sees and do something—but do it quickly."

3.54 a.m.

Mr. Anthony Berry (Southgate)

I last spoke in a debate on London about four weeks ago, at about 12.15 a.m., and I then expressed the hope that we would in future debate London at a different hour. The hour is different, but it is not quite what I had in mind.

The theme of the debate has been rather sad. The phrase "dying London" has been used in a number of speeches. One must accept that those hon. Members who use that phrase sincerely and genuinely feel that that is what is happening—none less than the hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Mr. Mikardo) who has great experience of London, which is a different entity although complete in itself. Those of us who represent other parts of London and have not quite the same problems as some hon. Members who have spoken cannot but be conscious of the difficulties in parts of our great city.

The hon. Member for Barking (Miss Richardson) talked about Transport on Water. I have a connection with ToW. If the hon. Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Williams) had opened the debate, as he intended, he would probably have developed that theme at greater length, as he is the chairman of the all-party group concerned with that matter.

My connection with water transport goes back to the Transport Act 1968. I support what Labour Members have said about better use of the Thames. There are other smaller waterways in London which could be developed. Heaven forbid that I, as a Whip, should suggest more legislation for next year, but something could be done to improve our waterway system not only in London but over a much wider area.

I now turn to the question of road transport. I was pleased to see yesterday a Department of the Environment hand-out and answer to a Written Question on the cuts in the motorway and trunk road programme as part of the expenditure cuts. I was glad to find that the M25, which will be the ring road round the outside of London, is one of the few roads which has not been cut. As far as I can see the completion dates for the various sections will be as planned, but I still wish that the road could be finished before 1981. However, I am pleased that the road, which will be vital to Londoners in all parts of the city, is to remain more or less on its present timetable.

There is one small problem that many of us have in our constituencies, and about which I have written to the Minister responsible. I am concerned about what I believe to be a great increase in the number of permissions being given to residents to carry on industrial machinery work in their own houses. In many areas it is a great nuisance to their neighbours. If they are not immigrants, those concerned tend at least to have names sounding as if they are immigrants. That is bad for community relations, because people turn against them.

I agree with what has been said about our employment problems. Whatever part of London we represent, we are all receiving letters every day from school leavers and those who had appointments with local authorities on a temporary basis, which they thought would become permanent but which are suddenly proving really to be temporary. The measures that the Government announced yesterday may help a little, but they must look at the matter closely.

I hesitate to talk about Dockland in the presence of so many hon. Members, such as the hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow, who have such personal knowledge of the area, but I hope that there will soon be a statement from the Government. I was indirectly connected with our Government's attempt to institute an inquiry. That was a step in the right direction. I do not think that it was anyone's fault that it was slowed down and that nothing concrete came of it. It is an exciting possibility for the centre of London and it would be a tragedy if full use were not made of it.

It would also be a tragedy if, in present conditions, we were to do anything to affect the green belt that many of us on the outskirts of London are privileged to enjoy on the fringes of our constituencies. I hope that the Government will continue, as have all Governments in recent years, to protect that green belt.

We all understand the reasons for introducing the Drought Bill, and know that it is essential that local authorities should have these new powers. I was worried to see a report to the effect that every new tree planted this year is likely to die as a result of the drought. Many of us, I am sure, have planted trees as part of the campaign earlier this year. When water is available more freely again, urgent steps should be taken to deal with this situation, because these new trees are something for future generations to enjoy.

I have been thinking about the possibility of having a Minister with responsibilities for London. The Under-Secretary must be pondering this subject, too. Although we know that he is capable of entertaining us at some not inconsiderable length, should it be his wish, or should it be the wish of the Chief Whip, he has a detailed brief tonight. He has to answer questions covering a variety of matters. If he were Minister for London he would not have so many problems, because he would know most of the answers from his own experience.

I wonder whether Labour Members are right to say that we can decide the size of London. I do not think that we can. London will continue to evolve as it has always done. It may get smaller, it may grow in size. We understand that during the next Session devolution may occupy our minds from time to time. London is not likely to be devolved, and the Government may think that there is a chance for them not to pay too much attention to London. I hope that they will realise, from the strength of feeling expressed on both sides during this debate, that if they think that they will be wrong. We shall continue to discuss London's problems as frequently as possible.

4.4 a.m.

Mr. Ronald Brown (Hackney, South and Shoreditch)

I begin by paying a tribute to the Under-Secretary. He is one of the first Members to hold the post who has shown a particular interest in London's problems. He has taken the trouble to visit areas of London to examine the veracity of our comments, I am grateful for the interest he has shown.

I ask the House to forgive me if I locate myself firmly in my constituency tonight. Normally in these debates I have ranged over a wider area. I hope that I may be allowed to take a more parochial view, because my area is a microcosm of the problems of London. In years gone by my constituency was a furniture-making centre. It was the major craft, along with tailoring, garment-making and leather working. Today, there is hardly a furniture factory to be seen. Almost all of them have gone from the area. There is virtually nothing left of the tailoring and garment-making industry, or indeed of other industries. Most of those once employed in the furniture trade can be found in Mount Pleasant Post Office. They can also be found in the brewery. I am often told that if Mount Pleasant would only employ its former cabinet makers on cabinet making the Post Office would make a profit.

It is rather ludicrous that at precisely the same time as we have large numbers of skilled workers being distributed round unskilled jobs, we have the industrial training board for the furniture industry beavering away to provide courses for cabinet makers and upholsterers—the very people who are going spare elsewhere.

I ask the Minister to talk to the Training Services Agency to see whether the money it is spending in this regard is being well spent. Something must be done to stop this skill drain. It is absolutely stupid that we should do this silly exercise of sacking skilled people on the one hand, and training skilled people on the other when there are no jobs available for them.

I had the privilege recently of showing the Minister a part of my constituency, and the latest figures for unemployment in our area will interest him. In April of this year the total unemployed in the Hackney and Shoreditch area was 5,704. The figure on 19th July 1976 in that same area was 6,213—an increase of about 9 per cent. in only three months. I am sure the Minister will appreciate the seriousness of the problem.

When people talk of devolution, it is worth reminding ourselves that the unemployed in Greater London in June this year numbered 148,479, and that on the same day the unemployment figure for the whole of Scotland was 144,134. In other words, there were more unemployed in the Greater London area than in the whole of Scotland. These are significant figures which show the dimensions of the problem. I hope that the Government will soon have something to say about it. Indeed, I hope that the Minister will make some statement tonight about the issue I raised in our previous debate, when I referred to Section 73 of the London Government Act 1963 and to Section 144 of the Local Government Act 1972, which preclude the GLC from advertising to show people the industrial possibilities for firms in London, especially for the Dockland area.

Many of us have been pressing for a statement on Dockland, and I hope that we may have it tomorrow. We have pressed this for a long time and it would be a very valuable contribution if the Minister would make a statement on Dockland tomorrow. He will remember that in talking with him on his visit to my area I drew his attention to the problems of the Job Creation Programme. Some weeks have gone by, and Hackney is still no further ahead with its Job Creation Programme. Likewise, no programme has yet been agreed for the community industry projects. I accept that these programmes can only be of help in the short term.

I am not quite sure what the civil servants think they are doing. Do they believe that they are playing a "Twenty Questions" game? Do they believe that this is a bit of fun, or do they really understand the importance of providing these schemes urgently? It will be no good agreeing a scheme to commence in January or February of next year; the unemployment of young people is a factor that we face today. I get very angry about this issue. I ask the Minister to have a talk with his civil servants and to tell them that, while we accept that it is only a temporary solution, we want action from them. They should stop playing silly beggars and trying to dot the i's and cross the t's to satisfy some peculiar bureaucratic mind. Action is needed in areas such as mine. Indeed, it is a good example of where help is desperately needed. The environmental conditions, as I have often pointed out in this House, are a disgrace. My hon. Friend saw for himself when he visited my constituency.

I shall never understand how Ebenezer Howard, 40 or 50 years ago, was able to design Welwyn Garden City. My hon. Friend will know that Ebenezer Howard did a tremendous job, in the face of great opposition, in bringing Welwyn Garden City to life. It is a beautiful place which is still protected. Yet the architects and planners were allowed to destroy my area. I have from time to time described them as dedicated educated idiots. I have no doubt that many of them have finished up in the Department of the Environment, having since won medals and scholarships; but the heritage that they left behind in my area is a scandal.

My hon. Friend knows that I represent a high density constituency with 136 person to the acre. My constituents are warehoused, not housed. My hon. Friend saw some of the warehousing when he visited the area. I am sure that he will recall that I pointed out an area which is designated as an open space. I explained that the corrugated jungle that he saw commenced about 1967 when the then Conservative-controlled GLC refused to honour its obligation of providing an open space in that densely populated area.

In 1971 the right hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) decided to hand back all the open spaces from the GLC to the London boroughs. I objected to that proposal. I pointed to areas in my constituency on which money had not been spent by the Greater London Council to develop open spaces and complained that development would never take place. The right hon. Gentleman sent me a three-page letter explaining that I was wrong. Indeed, he suggested that, by handing back the open spaces to the boroughs, the matter would be expedited. While he could not tell me where the money would come from, he assured me that an open space would be provided and that I was wrong to suggest that it would be delayed.

The right hon. Member for Crosby, who was here earlier, has now turned his attention to lotteries. Perhaps that is as well, because as a Minister at the Department of the Environment he was a disaster. I have news for the right hon. Gentleman. The area that he handed back—the area that he said would be dealt with immediately and not subjected to delay—is still a corrugated jungle. However, it has hardly been improved by fly tipping and having juggernauts parked around.

Mr. Cartwright

And gipsies.

Mr. Brown

They are there, too, Actually they are tinkers, not gipsies. There is a lot of filth and squalor present in the area.

I asked the chief public health officer to look into the matter, and I have had a letter from him about it. The council has finally decided to take action to move the itinerants off the site because of the squalor. Indeed, the public health officer told me: I regret to inform you that the council were unsuccessful in applying for the order for possession of the land. The reason why the council was unsuccessful is interesting. I come back to the right hon. Member for Crosby. Apparently the judge was not satisfied about the ownership of the land as between the London Borough of Hackney and the Greater London Council. Therefore, my constituents have to suffer the filth and squalor until such time as the GLC and the London borough of Hackney agree which part of that site is in the ownership of which side before action can be taken. It is a scandal.

The public health officer said that to help me he was proposing to put a skip on the site, so that all the filth and rubbish from the itinerants could be put into it and it might be collected and emptied on a weekly or monthly basis, as necessary. The site is in juxtaposition to a school, and a large number of children will suffer from the filth and squalor of this skip while they are attending lessons. This is a direct heritage left by the right hon. Member for Crosby, who is now so interested in having lotteries.

The creation of areas such as this creates contempt for the locality. That contempt leads to the problem of heavy vehicles in the area, to fly tipping, to filth in the streets, which attracts the undesirable element and, in turn, produces filthy slogans on the walls. All this leads to a tired, could-not-care-less attitude by the authorities. When I complain to the councils they raise their hands and say "What can we do, Mr. Brown?" I see the police, and they say "What can we do? We do not have enough men. We cannot do this or that". I go to the shops and to the business owners because they are contributing to the squalor, but nothing is done. Finally, the residents get fed up to the back teeth. There is a feeling of despair, that there is nothing that they can do to help themselves.

Why should this happen in my area? It would not happen in a Hampstead Garden City suburb. There are so many middle-class trendies, too many lawyers, and too many people in the upper income bracket in that area that they would not allow that sort of thing to go on. They would fight it like blazes. Where, other than in my area, would one find that a burglar alarm is allowed to ring day and night for the whole weekend without, apparently, anyone being able to stop it? Where else would one have all-night parties where nobody, apparently, is able to stop them? If a case is taken to court, the magistrates find it possible to make all the excuses in the world for levying the lowest possible fine, which acts as an encouragement to those concerned, so that within three days they hold a big party to show that they were fined only £50.

Where else would one find the pavements smashed by heavy lorries running on them and parking on them? It must be remembered that this House passed the Greater London Council (General Powers) Bill in 1974 to stop that. The result of the damaged pavements is that old folk fall over and damage themselves, sometimes seriously, and on many occasions they risk their lives. But they are too poor to go to court to get their just dues. They cannot get legal aid because of the 1968 decision. They suffer their injuries in silence, and nothing is done about the damage to the pavements due to these heavy vehicles.

Where else would one find heavy vehicles redirected through the centre of a densely populated housing area? Heavy lorries travel through the area nose to tail in both directions, 24 hours a day. They have been redirected from a designated autoroute specifically laid down for them. They were redirected because of the middle-class trendies who were able to influence the transportation committee of the GLC. Where else would one find that sort of situation?

Where else would one find post offices closed down, with the result that old people have to trundle long distances to get their pensions? The post offices were closed overnight, and the old folk have to wander through difficult areas where they come up against these heavy lorries travel-lying nose to tail. The old people are frightened out of their lives, but who cares?

Where but in my area would one find that it is proposed to close four hospitals because, as my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, North (Mrs. Miller) said, it is a convenient bureaucratic argument? I have come to the conclusion that the basic philosophy of the area health authority is that if only it could close all the hospitals there would be no problem. It could save all the money and spend it on something different—certainly not on health.

In what other area of the country would one find that sort of thing going on every day? The trouble is that no one—not even the Government—seems able to do anything about it. I have written to the Home Office about the burglar alarms, and to the Department of the Environment about the gas cylinders lying around, but nothing is done at all.

My constituency suffers, because my constituents are decent, honest working-class people, struggling to keep body and soul together. I have fought for too many years on their behalf to be silent now. We are entitled to decent conditions. We are entitled to be proud of our area. We are fed up with delays, vascillations and excuses.

I hope that tonight the message will get through to the Government that someone had better be responsible for ensuring that areas like mine in London are given top priority in jobs, in the provision of housing, and in environmental conditions. We do not want any more social problems added to those we already have, because we have had enough.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Myer Galpern)

If hon. Members are regulating the length of their speeches by the chiming of Big Ben, they will be glad to know that their speeches have made such an impression on Big Ben that he has come out in sympathy with them, and refused to strike.

4.22 a.m.

Mr. Geoffrey Finsberg (Hampstead)

This has been a fascinating debate, which has been of great value to everyone. I hope that the Government will take on board the real problems of London, and the fact that these have been expressed by all hon. Members, with one exception, in a completely non-political way.

It is difficult for the Minister, not being a Londoner, to understand the depth of feeling with which Londoners on both sides of the House speak. The Government have failed to understand the desperate need to co-ordinate the problems of the London boroughs and to look at the city as a whole. I do not agree with the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Cartwright), who suggests that each area and each constituency is a village. Within each of these villages there are six or seven other villages. Until one gets the whole constituency right, it is impossible to regard London as anything but a whole.

Mr. Cartwright

I said that it was quite wrong to regard the whole of London as one travel-to-work area. It is impossible, in terms of employment. I do not believe that people in my constituency could take advantage of jobs being offered on the other side of London.

Mr. Finsberg

In that context, I agree with the hon. Member. But London must be treated as a whole for governmental purposes. Employment is a problem, because we lack proper transport. South of the Thames, London does not even enjoy a proper Underground system. I hope that something will be done about that in the not-too-distant future.

The hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr. Atkinson) spoke about the IDC refusals. He thinks that this no longer matters. It strikes me that one of the reasons why we have a small number of IDC refusals is that many companies cannot be bothered to go through the rigmarole of applying for them.

London has been neglected. I am still concerned that no one in the Government has taken on board its problems. They are not just problems of employment, transport, environment and housing. There is a collection of problems, and the capital city has had bad treatment from Governments since the war—the hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Mr. Mikardo) might even say "since before the war". It has never been treated like a capital city.

My hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, Central (Mr. Grant) said that hon. Members frequently run down the importance of the service industries. To an unemployed school leaver the prospect of a job in a service industry or in an office is better than the prospect of no job. I hope that more jobs of all kinds will be created, not just in manufacturing and light industry but in the service industries such as distribution.

I agree that the tourists are important. My hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, Central is perhaps a little alarmist when he speaks about xenophobia and a hate-the-tourist campaign. I remember, while on a CPA visit some while ago to Jamaica, seeing a full-page advertisement every day in the Press telling people to love the tourist because he brought in a lot of foreign currency. We should remember that.

Equally, I see no reason why a fairly substantial bed tax should not be imposed to provide additional revenue for local government in London. I do not think that that is an issue that will divide hon. Members on both sides of the House, but it would probably divide us from the Treasury who would not like it. In other countries there are such things as tourist taxes, and I see no reason why we should not have one in London.

We must end the shilly-shallying over the Docklands. This has gone on under all Governments. The time has come for a decision to be made. The hon. Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Mr. Brown) said that he wanted a statement from the Government tomorrow. I believe that the Secretary of State should give one today and put Londoners out of their misery.

I hope that the hon. Member for Ilford, North (Mrs. Miller) will forgive me if I say that part of her speech struck a discordant note—the part in which she mentioned her objection to selling council houses. The two sides of the House do not agree on this matter. She referred to older council houses, but I believe that if people were offered such accommodation at a lower price than a modern council house they would jump at the chance of buying it and owning their own home. Local authorities must be prepared to sell council flats. It is wrong that one section of the community should be deprived of the opportunity to pass on a piece of property to their children.

The hon. Member for Woolwich, East showed clearly that London expects more thought from the Government than it has had for a long time. The Government must draw together the strands of employment, transport and housing and try to produce a coherent policy, which will not be changed after two or three years because someone feels that London is getting more than it should. I am not sure that anyone can say that the capital city is getting more than it should. Apart from being a place in which people live and work, it should be a showplace.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Bottomley) for his kind remarks. It was a most interesting experience, which many hon. Members would have welcomed, to listen—which is not easy for politicians—to people and organisations who normally have no contact with party politics. I asked representatives of groups such as Shelter and Gingerbread what sort of London they would like to see and I hope that their ideas will be incorporated in policy documents for the Conservative Party for GLC, borough and parliamentary elections, with special application to London.

We sometimes talk more than we listen, and it is a sobering experience to listen, particularly to people who do not normally come into contact with political animals like ourselves.

The hon. Member for Barking (Miss Richardson) spoke about the need to get more trade on the river. There was a lost opportunity for commuting on the Thames. An experiment about two years ago did not go on for long enough, and I should like to see a further, longer-term experiment with vessels that have a high capacity and a low cost per maritime mile and that are less noisy than those we have seen in the past. I hope that someone will introduce a service that will be of benefit to commuting Londoners and that could take tourists down the river during off-peak hours faster than coaches, which clog up the roads anyway.

The hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow said something that we have all been longing to say—that the real enemy of the people is planning blight. This is not confined to Dockland. It applies wherever there is a large scheme, whether it is a Government, local government or private development. Blight that continues for year after year brings heartache to people who cannot understand the connection between the deterioration of their community and the marvellous plans that they are told will come about when their grandchildren have grown up.

In many parts of London, blight leads to squatting, which causes great offence to people from all sections of the comunity—not just the middle-class trendies referred to by the hon. Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch—who dislike seeing property being unlawfully occupied. I use the word "unlawfully", because many local authorities, including Camden Borough Council, license squatting organisations that comply with the law and move out at the end of a certain period. No one objects to that sort of occupation.

My hon. Friend the Member for Southgate (Mr. Berry), who knows so much about transport, gave us the welcome news that there was to be no hold-up in the work on the M25. This is a vital piece of road and there would have been great despair if it had been delayed.

The hon. Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch asked three rhetorical questions. Where, he asked, do we find burglar alarms ringing? He was implying that it happens in an area such as the one that he represents but not in what he is pleased to describe as trendy middle-class areas. If he goes to Hampstead and the Finchley Road he will hear burglar alarms ringing night after night. At present there is nothing to stop that happening, other than some noise regulation. We need proper legislation to protect people from that nuisance. It is not con-lined to Hackney, South and Shoreditch.

Where, the hon. Member asked, do we find all-night parties'? They are to be found in Hampstead. Those who complain are dissatisfied with the small fines that the courts sometimes mete out. Where, the hon. Member asks, do we find hospitals being closed? Closures are taking place in Hampstead and Camden. The Elizabeth Garrett Anderson hospital is a good example. These problems are not confined to Hackney, South and Shoreditch. They do not disappear outside that area because in other parts of London there are middle-class trendies who are able to stand up against officialdom. We are all suffering from officialdom and from noise nuisance.

There is great fear for young people in London. There is anxiety about the disappearance of opportunities for apprenticeships. We are losing those opportunities, whether it be in building and construction or in other spheres. That should be a source of great concern to the Minister. Without the chance of apprenticeships we shall have many school leavers thoroughly demoralised.

I was worried by the ease with which the hon. Members for Tottenham and Woolwich, East said that we should decide upon the optimum size for London. My hon. Friend the Member for Southgate doubted whether hon. Members or the Government can decide the optimum size of a city. I do not believe that the planners can do so. On their past record they do not have very much to show for their endeavours. I am not certain that to decide upon the optimum size for London is necessarily the prerequisite that it was said to be.

Unemployment is the central feature of the problems about which we have spoken. It is mounting steadily in greater London. In August 1974 it was about 53,000, which was 1.3 per cent. In August 1975 it was 105,000 or 2.7 per cent. Today, as the hon. Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch has said, it is 148,500, which is 3.8 per cent. That is the highest unemployment since the war. The male unemployment figure in May was 141,500, or 5.4 per cent. When we last debated the change in IDC certificates on 25th February 1975, Londoners were told not to confuse their 1.5 per cent. unemployment with the 5 per cent. in Glasgow.

We were told by hon. Members on both sides of the House from outside London that we were alarmists and that our problems were not so bad. They cannot accept that we know our London better than they do. Indeed, one of the most complacent speeches came from the then Minister at the time who was bravely trying to defend his having accepted an amendment tabled by the hon. Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch, with our full support. The Minister kept saying that he would accept it, knowing full well that if he had not the House would have voted it through by a combination of hon. Members on both sides. The Government did not seem to appreciate that London was heading for a difficult situation.

The unemployment figures that I have mentioned are only the most obvious indication of a whole series of interlocking crises. First, there is the stifling of new economic growth by the repressive system of industrial development certificates and office development permits. Until the last war, the prosperity of London was intimately bound up with the Thames. Our post-war economic recovery during the prosperous years of the 1950s masked the fundamental eeffct of Dockland's decline on London's economic infrastructure. Unless economic forces are allowed to operate freely, London cannot be regenerated.

The decay of East London is scandalous, but if its full potentialities for development could be exploited London's whole centre of gravity could be shifted to the east. We are not asking for special Government help. What we are asking for is that the Government get out of the way and do not treat London any worse than the rest of the country.

If anyone still doubts the need for more development to be allowed he ought to look at the latest unemployment figures in some parts of London. Male unemployment in Stepney is now 12.6 per cent. In Poplar it is 14.9 per cent. London's unemployment particularly affects the inner city and this leads to multiple deprivation and areas of urban stress. It also attracts immigrant communities in search of cheap housing. Over an 18-month period, up to May 1975, it would apear that whereas unemployment rose by 65 per cent. overall, it rose by 156 per cent, for immigrant minorities, according to theNew Statesman on 30th July. Therefore, we can expect that some inner city areas will have a particularly high level of immigrant unemployed.

A break-down of unemployment by employment exchanges indicates the seriousness of the problem. Lambeth, Brixton has a total of 8,100 unemployed, non-seasonally adjusted. Male unemployment there is 6,383, or 8.1 per cent. of the total male unemployment. Hammersmith, including Notting Hill but excluding Fulham, has 6,100 totally iunemployed, with 4,894 males unemployed, or 7.9 per cent. Poplar has the highest figures of all. Male unemployment in that area is 2,250, or 14.9 per cent.

I know that the Minister is not complacent. He is as aware of the figures as we are. But I do not think anyone in London could have drawn much comfort from the statement that the Secretary of State made yesterday.

It is often said that London is still prosperous, and does not need much attention. Southwark Trades Council has published an interesting document, which talks about total employment lost to London between 1961 and 1974 in the form of 396,000 jobs. The hon. Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch spoke about a comparison between unemployment in London and Scotland. In July 1975 the total of registered unemployed males in London was 87,000, when it was 96,000 for the whole of Scotland and 49,000 for the whole of Wales. Even a year ago there was not that much to choose between the problems of London and the problems of Scotland.

Mr. Ronald Brown

I underline the fact that we also question the figures. We do not believe that the figures for London accurately describe the position in percentage terms. We believe that the percentage is much higher.

Mr. Finsberg

We seem to be getting into difficulties with statistics and immigrant employment. We even had trouble over the junior hospital doctors' statistical pay in the report of the Expenditure Committee about three months ago.

Between 1966 and 1974, 652 firms moved from London to London-related new and expanding towns. That is appalling, because, as the trade council publication to which I have referred rightly says, the firms leaving London are the stronger ones, which are acting to enlarge their industrial base. They leave behind, in the scale and rapidity of their departure, groups of workers in London with skills which are no longer in demand, who find difficulty in getting employment. At best they have to be satisfied with lower-paid and less-skilled work, at worst with no work at all.

In case people talk about London still being well off, I would point out that manufacturing employment has been declining faster there than in the rest of the country. Between 1961 and 1974 the decline was 34 per cent., compared with 5 per cent., over the country as a whole. In the rest of the South-East there was a quite different development—an increase of 21 per cent. in manufacturing employment during the same period. I am sure that the Minister had had this publication, but in case it has got lost in the recesses of his Department I recommend it to him, as it contains some appalling figures.

Linked with unemployment are the long-term consequences for all of us in race relations. London's employment problems are also exacerbated by some of the educational policies in inner London. What chance, for example, will the children of William Tyndale School have on a competitive labour market? I have a horrible feeling that, as was said at County Hall, William Tyndale is only the tip of the iceberg. The Inner London Education Authority appears to have managed to spend more and more on teaching less and less.

A generation of London's children are threatened by educational malnutrition. Prominent among them, of course, are the children of New Commonwealth immigrants. That is worrying, because that is the generation which will resent it far more than their parents did when they are unable to get a job. They have been brought up here since birth and will feel doubly disadvantaged. For them, the transition from the chaotic environment of some of their schools to the real-life demands of the labour market will be traumatic. If they respond, by delinquency, to the stigma of rejection or of finding no jobs, the blame must rest with those who wasted public money while neglecting their duty to educate.

London can be compared in some ways with New York. We shall not face a situation similar to that in which the Federal Government told New York, "No more; you are bankrupt," because we do not have that system, but there is a real danger that the growing burden of rates upon London will drive out more and more firms which provide employment, which themselves would have provided the rate base for more income.

I hope that the Government have taken on board the fact that London, with its ageing population, with the need to develop areas like Dockland, cannot go on doing so on a smaller and smaller rate base and with such a substantial claw-back from the rate support grant. Surely we have the right to say to the Government "Examine urgently and conclude whether there is any further need to continue with IDCs, with the Location of Offices Bureau, with office development permits". It might be shown that they have contributed to London's employment plight, however well-intentioned were those who set them up.

I repeat that London is not asking for anything special. The North-West, Merseyside, and Glasgow need not say that London cannot be allowed to be relieved of the ban on advertising, outside its own area, job opportunities in factories. All we are saying is "Let us have equal opportunities". Glasgow and Merseyside need not worry. All we are saying is that London must not be treated any longer as a second-class city, finding Governments—I emphasise "Governments"—unsympathetic to its problems. I hope very much that what has come from the debate tonight is that London wants more time for general debates on the Floor of the House, at a civilised hour, and does not want to be fobbed off with so-called debates upstairs in a regional committee. It is true, that if the Minister does what I have heard him do on occasions we shall have reached a civilised hour.

4.52 a.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. John Golding)

As a tourist from Newcastle-under-Lyme who would have welcomed paying bed tax this night, I begin by congratulating the 28 Labour Members who asked for this debate. I fully understand that they cannot all be here, having more pressing engagements elsewhere. I was bitterly disappointed that the noted gambling luck of my hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Mr. Mikardo) deserted him in the Ballot, in which he drew number 62. If he had drawn a position on the inside rails we would all have been home much earlier.

The Government recognise that there is an employment problem in London. Over London as a whole the level of unemployment is still below the national average, although that is still intolerably high. Unemployment in London as a whole is also intolerably high, but there is not the severe problem in every part of London that there is in other parts of the country. Some parts of London are not so hard hit, but other areas, like Tower Hamlets, which I visited before coming to the House yesterday, and Shoreditch, which I saw at first-hand recently, and areas like them, have great problems.

Tonight, my hon. Friends the Members for Tottenham (Mr. Atkinson), Woolwich, East (Mr. John Cartwright), Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Mr. Brown), Barking (Miss Richardson), Ilford, North (Mrs. Miller) and Bethnal Green and Bow have sat up late to describe the unemployment situation in their own constituencies. The Opposition Members for Southgate (Mr. Berry), Hampstead (Mr. Finsberg), Harrow, Central (Mr. Grant) and Woolwich, West (Mr. Bottomley) have joined them in describing the growing problem that besets the inner city areas of London and some other areas of London.

The Government are increasingly aware of the problems of the inner city areas, not only in London but in other towns. Employment problems are related to the grave social problems. The problems in the inner areas of London have been made much more difficult of solution by the present economic recession.

We must all work for an improvement in the economy generally. There will still be a problem in these areas, even after the recovery. Jobs have disappeared from some London areas more quickly than have the people, and far more quickly in some places. Some boroughs are now faced with a mass of unskilled workpeople with an inadequate number of factories to work in. I was brought up to believe that the very basis of work was that of making things. Although I fully appreciate the importance of service industries in London, I also recognise that in every community there must be workplaces in which people can make things.

This problem has not been caused primarily by regional policy. I believe that it would be much easier of solution were it so. Only 10 per cent. is a consequence of firms moving to assisted areas, perhaps as a result of financial incentives and IDC control. Only just over one-quarter—27 per cent.—of the job loss is due to removal, most of this to the South-East and other areas where there is no financial assistance. The North must not be blamed. Most of the job loss from London is due to firms here cutting down on staff or closing down altogether.

The reason why industry is having such a rough time in certain London areas and some other inner city areas is a complex one. One suggestion made from time to time is that firms in these areas are finding it difficult to attract skilled labour, skilled people having moved out for housing reasons, or to go to new towns. The recent report of the Expenditure Committee on new towns drew attention to the way in which new and expanded town policy may have impinged on the employment problems of the inner city areas.

The Government are now considering this very carefully indeed. It is already clear that the problems faced by the inner city areas are grave and need to be tackled urgently. We have first, however, to gain a greater understanding of the size and causes of the problem. The evidence of high unemployment in particular areas is clear to the eye if one visits career offices, job centres and employment offices, as I have done.

For technical reasons, because of the extent of commuting it is not easy to produce means of measuring unemployment in those areas, but they are needed. The figures that we now present for greater London as a whole can have no meaning for those trying to tackle the enormous problems of the inner city area. I accept the assertion of hon. Members on both sides that there is no meaning in having a travel-to-work unemployment figure for the whole of London. We have localised figures from the 1971 census, but these are of little use in today's dramatically changed circumstances.

Because of this, I have asked my officials to assist the Greater London Council and they are now discussing with the council officials ways in which my Department may be able to help the council update the census of population figures on the basis of the numbers registered as unemployed at local employment offices. If that can be achieved it will give hon. Members the figures that they need to enable them to argue the case for the inner London areas.

To help establish the complex causes, the Department of the Environment is conducting nationally three inner city area studies. The decision to do that was made because of the growing disquiet in Government about the problems that have been highlighted in the debate tonight. One of those studies is taking place in Lambeth, which was selected because it is a typical inner London borough. We hope to learn a substantial amount from the study so that there can be coordinated local government and national Government action of the type demanded in the debate.

Mr. Peter Bottomley

When will the results of that study be known? I live in the area, and therefore have an interest.

Mr. Golding

I cannot say, but it is the Government's intention that the study should be completed as speedily as possible. Both the statistical exercise and the Lambeth study will take some time however and in the meantime the Government will take other action.

I now turn to the subject of docklands. The Government are concerned about the special problems created in east and south-east London by the loss of jobs in the docks and port-related industries. The Docklands Joint Committee, which brings together representatives of the GLC and the five boroughs, approved a draft strategy on 19th July which expresses the anxiety felt by the Docklands boroughs about the decline in manufacturing industry and suggests retaining and creating industrial employment in the area. The Government hope that it will be possible to make a statement to the House later today—if I have not talked out tomorrow's business in replying to the debate—which will set out the Government's views on the strategy.

I now turn to advertising. I am aware of the concern about the legislation which prevents local authorities from publicising, in the United Kingdom, the commercial and industrial advantages of London. Government Departments have examined the matter to see if it is possible to agree to an easement of the ban to help the needs of those areas which are experiencing particularly serious employment problems without prejudicing the needs of the assisted areas. But I ask hon. Members to await the statement from the Department of the Environment.

Hon. Members have recognised the easement in IDC control. On the subject of regional policy generally I should draw attention to the statement of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer last week that the Government have decided to move towards putting more emphasis on selective rather than general assistance to industry. There was a change in the regional employment premium, and my right hon. Friend said that more aid would be channelled through the NEB.

One or two hon. Members spoke of the importance of training. Although the main responsibility for training remains with industry, the Government have offset the declining training opportunities which would otherwise have resulted from the economic recession. The Manpower Services Commission has increased the number of training places under the Training Opportunities Scheme and made available money to finance additional training in industry. Over 8,300 people were trained in London under TOPS in 1975, and the target for 1976 is 12,600, a considerable expansion.

There are now five skillcentres in London, providing well over 2,000 places. Provision has been made in the expansion programme for new centres to be established at Deptford and Battersea and in North London, and for additional annexes at Barking and Woolwich. Temporary use will also be made of accommodation becoming available at Kidbrooke. It is hoped that all these facilities will be open by 1980. In addition, a new office training centre, the first of its kind, is to open in Croydon later this year. Altogether, these facilities will provide more than 1,200 additional training places in London. The Government have issued a consultative document on the collective funding of training in transferable skills, which will have relevance for apprenticeship.

Apart from these special training measures, the Government have introduced a number of schemes to try to help mitigate the worst effects of the present economic recession, schemes which should help London. We estimate that the Manpower Services Commission Job Creation Programme, the temporary employment subsidy and the recruitment subsidy for school leavers together have saved or created more than 7,500 jobs in London.

I was very sorry to hear that still no progress has been made on job creation and community industry in Hackney. I was disappointed to learn that more stringent conditions were being applied to job creation in projects in London than elsewhere. I have asked the Manpower Services Commission when operating the job creation programme to pay special attention to the problems of inner city areas and other similar areas experiencing serious employment problems. The same is true of community industry. We have asked for additional community industry provision, and I think that this has been granted in the past two months.

Over the past year community industry has been expanded from 90 places in London to 385. There are now six schemes—at Lambeth, Haringey, Camden, Wandsworth, Lewisham and Tower Hamlets, which I visited before coming to the House. That visit gave me the chance also to discuss with the ILEA careers service officers in the East End, who are doing a very good job, our concern about the situation facing school leavers and young people generally in London. We know how demoralising it is for young people to leave school and to be without a job. The recruitment subsidy for school leavers, the Job Creation Programme and the expansion of community industry, plus the increases in training and the strengthening of the careers service, will be of help to as many as 100,000 young people this autumn.

However, as Members will know, the Government have recognised the need to take further action. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced on Tuesday a series of special measures to help young people. There is the youth employment subsidy of £10 a week, which will be paid for up to six months to any employer recruiting a young person under 20 who has been unemployed for six months or more. The scheme will be limited to the engagement during six months from 1st October to 31st March 1977. The Manpower Services Commission is to increase the number of training places for young people below skilled level which are specifically directed towards the needs of young people.

The Commission is urgently working out arrangements for a work experience programme. I hope that London gets its fair share of this. Taken together, these measures should help about 60,000 young people to obtain jobs, training or work experience in the course of the next 12 months. We realise the truth of what ILEA careers officers told me this morning in the East End—that young people appreciate the Job Creation Programme and community industry work, and know that they can be helped by the work experience project, but what they want most of all are permanent jobs of their own. So, also, do adults. This is the policy of the Government.

I say to my hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Bow that the Secretary of State has listened carefully to the arguments that have come from Tower Hamlets. He has recognised the importance of those agruments and has agreed that officials should examine proposals put forward very quickly indeed. We in the Department of Employment recognise the urgency of the problems that the East End of London and other inner city areas face in the employment sphere. We believe that with the renewed growth of output the situation will improve, but I end as I began, by saying that we also appreciate that even when the economy revives, parts of London will continue to experience unemployment and other difficulties. We accept that it is our responsibility to do all we can to reduce the level of unemployment in this area.