HC Deb 21 July 1978 vol 954 cc1036-42

Lords amendment: No. 2, in page 3, line 34, at end insert new clause "A"— A.—(1) Where a designated authority are satisfied that the establishment by any persons of a body which is intended to meet the requirements of—

  1. (a) paragraphs (a) to (c) of subsection (1) of section 2 of the Industrial Common Ownership Act 1976 (common ownership enterprises); or
  2. (b) paragraphs (a) and (b) of subsection

(2) of that section (co-operative enterprises), would benefit the designated district, they may make a loan or a grant or both to those persons for the purpose of enabling them to establish that body. (2) The Secretary of State may, either generally or with respect to particular cases, give directions as to the making of loans and grants under this section and, in particular, as to the imposition of conditions. (3) Subject to subsection (2) above, a designated district authority, in making a loan or a grant under this section, may impose such conditions as they think fit and may, in particular, impose a condition requiring the repayment of all or any part of the loan or grant—

  1. (a) if any other condition is not complied with; or
  2. (b) in such other circumstances as they may specify."

Read a Second time.

Mr. Guy Barnett

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this we may take Lords amendments nos. 8, 10, 12 and 13. I call the attention of the House to the fact that privilege is involved in Lords amendment no. 2

Mr. Barnett

Lords amendment no. 2 fulfilled another of the Government's undertakings which was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer) on Report. The clause enables designated district authorities to give financial assistance to facilitate the setting up of a co-operative or common ownership enterprise.

Amendments nos. 8, 10, 12 and 13 are minor consequential changes to other clauses to reflect the fact that the explicit statement of the power to make directions is now contained in this new clause. The amendments make the appropriate changes to the references in subsequent clauses. Hon. Members welcomed the principle of the proposed new clause when we discussed it previously, and I am sure that they will wish to agree with this amendment.

Mr. Geoffrey Finsberg (Hampstead)

I welcome this series of amendments, which goes a long way to meeting some of the points raised in Committee.

As the Minister knows, much of this stems from the Industrial Common Ownership Act 1976 and the Co-operative Development Agency Act. Much of the problem which occurs in inner cities can be overcome by a getting together of small units to work co-operatively in order to try to make a go of what in the past sometimes not operated. The wholesale redevelopment of areas, such as in the city of Birmingham, resulted in a lot of small firms having to disappear because they were not satisfied about going into new flatted factories. This concept will be of great assistance, and it ought to make a positive contribution towards reducing unemployment in the inner cities.

Mr. Ivor Clemitson (Luton, East)

On behalf of my hon. Friends and myself who originally tabled the amendment on Report, I thank my hon. Friend for fulfilling the pledge made by my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer).

Mr. George Morton (Manchester, Moss Side)

I am grateful for this opportunity to speak, since the attention paid to my constituency recently has brought forward to the public eye the issues of the inner city areas. Moss Side represents the inner city problem well.

I first record my respect for my predecessor. Having worked with him for some years, I know what a valiant and dedicated man Frank Hatton was. It is a matter of deep regret that his service in this House was so short. In that time, by his diligence and humanity he earned the respect and affection of many people in the constituency and elsewhere. In the past few weeks I have been told by large numbers of his constituents of their appreciation, and I endorse their feelings.

As a councillor, and as a Member of this House, Frank Hatton represented the inner area of Manchester for over 20 years. During that time he saw large areas totally rebuilt. While housing and physical conditions have greatly improved, there remain particular problems of poverty and unemployment. The falling population of the city of Manchester has caused a concentration in the city of families in need. In two wards of the constituency over 50 per cent. of the families are below the poverty line.

For this reason, I welcome the opportunity given by this Bill and by the inner city partnership to revive the inner areas of Manchester and increase the number of jobs. Inner cities are unpredictable and the people of Moss Side surprised some people last week. Visitors to the constituency from the press and elsewhere have presented the difficulties of part of the area as a major insoluble problem of the whole. I consider this to be inaccurate and damaging to the people who live in the constituency.

There is no doubt that some new housing has caused problems. Some deck access accommodation has proved unsuitable for families, but these problems are being tackled. Unsatisfactory houses in parts of the area will not be improved by labelling the whole district a disaster area. This denigration of the district is much resented by the many people there who are struggling to create a new community.

Moss Side is a constituency of contrasts, containing prosperous suburbs as well as inner area poverty. It is a lively part of the city and contains one of the largest sectors of higher education in the country. The strength of the area can be seen in the schools, where children's work is exciting and substantial. This is to the credit of the determination of the city council, and particularly of my predecessor in his time there, in building new schools and providing excellent staffs and equipment.

For many decades, Moss Side has accepted immigrant groups from any parts of the world. One of the most admirable aspects of the constituency is the great tolerance and understanding in which people live and work together as neighbours. We are proud of our record as a multiracial community, but we are aware of the danger of complacency.

The high unemployment among school leavers bears particularly heavily on young black people. Many of them feel that they are rejected because of the colour of their skin. They lose confidence and it is hard to persuade them that they are suffering from the defects of the economic system. They will be persuaded only by effective measures to create employment.

The Bill will create job opportunities in such areas. The opportunity that we have in expanding the Bill in this way to provide co-operative ventures is appropriate to an area where the community needs much greater development. The need in all aspects of a newly developed area is for the community to be developed, for people to work together and for them to work with the local coun- cil and central Government. I therefore welcome the amendment.

Mr. Reginald Eyre (Birmingham, Hall Green)

It is my pleasure, in accordance with the traditions of the House, to congratulate the hon. Member for Manchester, Moss Side (Mr. Morton) on his maiden speech. His predecessor was held in great respect and affection in the House and the hon. Gentleman has spoken with warmth and understanding about the problems affecting his constituency in the great city of Manchester. We look forward to his contributions on this subject in future.

It is entirely correct that the amendment should be made. Every possible effort to stimulate initiative and enterprise, whatever form it takes, must be made. The latest unemployment figures underline the seriousness of the situation. They show that the number of those on the dole has risen to 1.5 million and that the number of vacancies is falling. It is also clear that 600,000 to 700,000 jobs have been artificially, and probably temporarily, created so that the true figure of unemployment in this country is probably about 2 million. That figure more accurately represents the scale of the problem that we have to tackle and it underlines the importance of encouraging the founding and survival of every sort of enterprise that can create jobs.

It is well known that the most dramatic rises in unemployment have taken place in the large towns and cities and, inadequate as the Bill may be, it is in the densely populated industrial centres that the problems must be tackled if we are to avoid social unrest, especially as more and more young people become available for work and find disappointment.

12.15 p.m.

In considering the contribution that the amendment might make, it is necessary to recognise the necessity of hundreds of new small businesses being brought into existence in our large towns and cities. Of course, the economic climate must be favourable if business starters, in whatever category, are to come forward to take all the risks of founding new businesses, making new products and providing new services.

The Conservative Party has made clear that the present burdens of taxation and legislation will prevent the formation of new small businesses in sufficient numbers to have a real impact upon the very large problem of unemployment. Against this unsatisfactory legislative and taxation background, the effects of the Bill, even if it is improved by the amendment, will be puny and inadequate and the task of tackling the enormous problem of unemployment in our large towns and cities, to which the development of new small businesses could make such a great contribution, will be delayed.

A proper attack will not take place until the policies that we have advocated can be applied in their entirety. Nevertheless, the amendment is welcome as a tiny step in the right direction.

Mr. John Sever (Birmingham, Ladywood)

I join the hon. Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. Eyre) in offering to my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Moss Side (Mr. Morton) the House's congratulations on his enlightening and warm maiden speech. It is gratifying to note that he has chosen to say something about inner city problems, which confront him and those of us who represent cities, on the first occasion that he has spoken to us. I join other hon. Members in looking forward to hearing further contributions from my hon. Friend.

I welcome the Bill, but can the Minister elaborate on how he envisages the future development of co-operative ventures, particularly in inner urban areas? I was happy a few days ago to be able to explain to some constituents, who were anxious to form a small engineering concern in Birmingham, the ways in which the Government have in the past year or two promoted the interests of small businesses through this Bill and recent measures to encourage people to get together in co-ownership schemes.

I should like to see the Government actively participating in helping to bring people together in the first place to form the co-operatives which will be so welcome. Can the Minister indicate how such schemes might be promoted by the Government?

Mr. Guy Barnett

I join other hon. Members who have congratulated my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Moss Side (Mr. Morton) on his excellent maiden speech. I wish that my hon. Friend had managed to reach the House at an earlier stage of our discussions of the Bill because he spoke with authority about the problems of his constituency. I join him in paying tribute to his predecessor, the late Frank Hatton, who made a first-class contribution to our deliberations and I look forward to hearing more from my hon. Friend, who spoke with such authority and sincerity. I wish my hon. Friend the best of good fortune in this House.

This has been a brief but interesting debate, and I wish that I were in a position to respond to the request of my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Mr. Sever), but I think he will agree that the questions which he has put to me, important though they are, are matters for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry. He will recognise that through recent legislation and a number of initiatives taken by the Government we take very seriously the need to encourage in every possible way the development of small industry, co-operatives and common ownership ventures. Let me instance the conferences which have been held throughout the country for small firms and also the initiatives taken by the Government in fiscal proposals which will be followed by others in an attempt to assist those who, through self-help and co-operative enterprise, can help in these areas.

I agreed with the sentiments expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Moss Side about the importance of morale in urban areas. What is often said outside is unhelpful when what is needed is the development of morale among the people. One of the best things we can do in achieving that end is to assist cooperative enterprise, voluntary initiative and self-help in those areas. I thank those who have spoken for their appreciation of the amendments.

Question put and agreed to [Special Entry.]

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