HC Deb 18 January 1980 vol 976 cc2075-172 11.18 am
Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Ardwick)

I beg to move, That this House deplores the harmful effect on Greater Manchester of Conservative policies. I am grateful for the opportunity to raise the problems of Manchester and to draw attention to the damaging effect on our area of the present Conservative Government. My right hon. and hon. Friends from Greater Manchester will amplify my case.

When the train from Euston thankfully pulls into Piccadilly station in Manchester, the traveller walking down the platform sees facing him large illuminated advertising signs. We in Manchester think that they should be replaced so that when the visitor comes into Manchester he can see instead one huge illuminated notice saying "Don't blame us. We voted Labour."

Manchester is a Labour city. Greater Manchester is a Labour area. Of the 32 constituencies which are located entirely within Greater Manchester, 26 had Labour Members of Parliament before the general election last May. After the general election, all 26 continued to have Labour Members of Parliament. We did not lose one seat. Some of the seats were exceptionally marginal, but my right hon. and hon. Friends all had excellent results.

We should take the opportunity today to thank all the people of our area who showed their faith in the Labour Government and to thank the members of the Labour Party in the area who worked for the return of a Labour Government. I know that my right hon. and hon. Friends will agree when I pay a special tribute to Mr. Paul Carmody, our regional organiser, who has enjoyed particular success in ensureng that Greater Manchester remains a faithful Labour area. We in Greater Manchester voted for a Labour Government. We are afflicted instead with this Conservative Administration.

I ask the House to come with me to visit a typical Manchester family and see how, in eight and a half months of Tory Government, their lives have been made far more difficult and their living standards have been reduced. We have not only a Tory Government but a Conservative-controlled Greater Manchester council. That, too, is playing its part in causing difficulty and hardship.

One or more members of our typical Manchester family will start their day by travelling to work. If they go by bus, they will pay the highest fares of any bus service in any of our great provincial areas. If they travel one mile, they will pay 3p more for their journey than is charged by their most expensive competitor, West Yorkshire. If they travel two miles, it will cost them 2p more; if they travel five miles it will cost them 5p more; and if they travel nine miles it will cost them 3p more.

Increases in fares by Greater Manchester Transport in the past two years have been among the highest in the country. Whilst all people in Greater Manchester suffer from this, the inner area residents—my constituents and those of a number of my right hon. and hon. Friends—suffer most. At the same time as the fares have been pushed higher and higher, evening and Sunday bus services have been reduced.

The reason for the high fares and for the reduced services is simple. The Greater Manchester council, Conservative-controlled, is not putting into the service the kind of financial support that other areas are making available to their bus services. At present the revenue support being made available to its transport service by Greater Manchester Transport is the lowest in the country. That is why our constituents are suffering from such high fares, which are taking a bigger and bigger chunk out of the workers' wages.

Mr. Robert Sheldon (Ashton-under-Lyne)

I agree with everything that my right hon. Friend has said so far, and am sure that I shall agree with everything that he has yet to say. Does he accept that whereas there are fewer buses nearer the centre of the city when the authority tries to achieve economies in services, further away from the city there are actually cuts and services do not operate at all? This is one of the big problems that my constituents, and, I am sure, many others, will face.

Mr. Kaufman

I totally accept my right hon. Friend's valid point. It is interesting that we in the inner cities have one kind of problem as a result of the activities of Greater Manchester Transport, while my right hon. Friend and others who represent other areas of Greater Manchester have the kind of problems that he has described.

When the worker gets to work after his expensive bus journey, he will face a situation in which this Conservative Government are, through the Employment Bill now before the House, seeking to reduce the protection that he enjoys at work. Yet it is extremely important that workers have not less protection but more.

I wish to draw to the attention of the House what seems to be a serious abuse in that regard. It stems from a case brought to me in October by a constituent who then worked for a company run by a Mr. J. Tabner, who appears to be the controller of Mantax Radio Taxis. My constituent told me that he and the other drivers employed by that person had been forbidden to ply for hire at Ring way airport. That meant, because of the very profitable service enjoyed there, that they were losing large parts of their income.

I therefore wrote to the Manchester town clerk to ask whether what was being done was lawful. I received from the town clerk a letter saying that he would inquire of the proprietor. Mr. Tabner wrote to the town clerk on 7 December saying: Re: Operation of Hackney Carriages at Manchester Airport. No instruction has been issued to any of the drivers not to operate the Manchester Airport, and, furthermore, we would agree that as the Airport is now within the City limits, a possible breach of Hackney Carriage Bye-Laws would ensure, if such an instruction were given. In forwarding a copy of that letter to me, the town clerk said: Whilst the Council is unable to intervene directly in any contractual arrangements entered into between hackney carriage owners and drivers, should such arrangements result in breaches of the Hackney Carriage Bye-Laws the Council would of course institute the necessary proceedings. In this connection I would point out that a driver would be in contravention of Bye-Law 20 of the 1957 Hackney Carriage Bye-Laws should he refuse to convey a passenger who wished to travel to the Airport or from there to any point within the City of Manchester. I had that satisfactory assurance from the town clerk, enclosing the letter with the assurance of Mr. Tabner, of Mantax Radio Taxis. But then I received a letter from my constituent saying: I feel now that I must acquaint you with what has taken place since our last meeting. After having seen you, I would point out that in order to comply with my proprietor's instructions and being under the threat of dismissal, I kept away from the airport and just worked the city ranks. However, during the fourth week, as I was plying for hire on Piccadilly station, a fare got in my cab and said 'Manchester airport, please'. Now then, sir, since the airport is now classed as being within the taxi boundary, I could not refuse to take them there, and so I complied. On arrival, I decided in my own mind that I was perfectly within my rights and also thereby not causing a breach of the Hackney Carriage Bye-Laws. I placed my cab on the rank, and some 20 minutes later got a passenger back to the Midland Hotel, and thereafter managed to stay in the city for the rest of my shift. On Monday evening, December 3rd, at 1645 hours, I received a telephone call from Mr. Tabner's fleet manager, to the effect that due to my cab having been seen on the airport rank plying for hire he was instructed to inform me that I was sacked as from that moment and that the day driver on my cab had been instructed not to bring the cab to me but to take it to the garage. I am happy to say that that constituent came to see me again on Saturday and now has another job. But it is very important that we have a statement from Mr. Tabner and Mantax Radio Taxis, and from the city authorities, as to what is to be done when an explicit assurance is given by a proprietor that he is not in breach of the hackney carriage byelaws but following that an employee of his is dismissed for insisting upon abiding by the law.

That is a personal case, and it is right that I should draw the attention of the House to it.

When a worker arrives at his place of work, he may well be told that he is about to be made redundant. In the first six months of this Government's period of office, 1,229 redundancies were notified in the city of Manchester and 5,825 in Greater Manchester. Another 241 were notified as due to occur in the city from December 1979 onwards and 2,158 in the county. That makes a total, since this Government came to office, of 1,470 notified redundancies for the city and 7,983 for the county.

Mr. Fergus Montgomery (Altrincham and Sale)

Will the right hon. Gentleman give the figures for the period of the Labour Government?

Mr. Kaufman

I tried to obtain those figures from the Government but without success. I would have been glad to give them to the House.

Mr. Montgomery

The right hon. Gentleman was a Minister.

Mr. Kaufman

I was a member of the Department of Industry. We did not possess all those figures. They are kept in the Department of Employment. I would be interested to know them myself.

Many of the redundancies will have been brought about by the record 17 per cent. minimum lending rate, introduced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. This is causing great difficulty, particularly to small businesses, in the Manchester area. What chance exists of the redundancies—those that have already been notified and those that are undoubtedly in prospect—being made up by newly created jobs? I am sorry to say that there is little chance.

This Government have removed from the Manchester area almost all the industrial incentives that it enjoyed when it received intermediate area status. That status was awarded to the area, on the basis of its needs, by the Conservative Government in 1972 and by the late Mr. John Davies, the Member of Parliament for Knutsford, who had considerable knowledge of the area. We shall lose that status in 1982. The regional development grants that go with it have already been abolished. Not only have we lost the grants, but, in addition, industrialists are already acting in anticipation of the loss of intermediate area status.

I should like to deal with the kinds of aid that the Manchester area is losing. We are losing regional selective assistance under section 7 of the Industry Act 1972. We are losing regional development grants. We are losing inclusion in the assisted area factory building programmes for the English Industrial Estates Corporation. We are losing assistance from the European regional development fund.

By a curious and satisfactory coincidence, hon. Members have received this morning from the European Communities Commission details of the kind of assistance we are losing. The figures show that between 1975 and 1979 the North-West received £50.68 million from the European Commission under the regional fund, £27.12 million for infrastructure and £23.56 million for industry and tourism. Additional information, enclosed with the communication, shows that Greater Manchester was helped by European regional aid to obtain advance factories in Bury, Lower Broughton, Manchester and Wigan.

We lose loans from the European Investment Bank. We lose the 100 per cent. Government grants for derelict land reclamation. I shall refer again to this matter in my speech, and I understand that my hon. Friend the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry) wishes to deal with it in greater detail. We lose basic service grants under section 7 of the Local Employment Act 1972.

All of these losses of industrial incentives flow from the decision of the Secretary of State for Industry to deprive as of our intermediate area status. The loss of the regional development grant is an especially severe blow. In 1977–78, firms in Greater Manchester received £5½ million in such grants. Greater Manchester almost lost two important projects because of the loss of the grant.

One was the proposed rebuilding of the ICL, factory at West Gorton, in my constituency. It will be recalled that ICL, dissatisfed with the provision of facilities at West Gorton, considered leaving. A number of Labour Members, including my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Sheldon) and my hon. Friends the Members for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Marks) and for Stalybridge and Hyde, put great pressure on ICL to stay. We also received the active co-operation of the Labour-controlled Manchester city council.

From that stemmed the decision of ICL to build brand new factories both in Ardwick, at Upper Brook Street, in my constituency, and at Ashton-under-Lyne. Both factories were opened on 31 August last year. I have visited them. Conditions and facilities are unrivalled and a great credit to the company. Neither factory would have been possible without nearly £5 million worth of aid provided by the Labour Government. Thanks to the fruitful co-operation of the Labour Government and the Labour-controlled Manchester city council, there is a brand new ICL factory in Ardwick and another at Ashton-under-Lyne. They are assets to their neighbourhood and, in the case of the Ardwick factory, to the city of Manchester.

After that experience of co-operation from a Labour Government, ICL decided that instead of moving from West Gorton, as originally contemplated, it would rebuild its factory there. The factory was important for the retention of employment in the inner area of Manchester.

Then came the Tory Government and the announcement by the Secretary of State for 'industry of the withdrawal of regional development grants. That meant an outright loss of £1½ million for the West Gorton project in regional development grants and placed the project in jeopardy. Labour Members exerted great pressure on the Secretary of State. We consulted the company. As a result, after months of agonising delay, we learnt that the project had been saved. It was saved because the Government were persuaded to make half of the £1½-million loss of regional development grant with £750,000 worth of aid under section 7 of the Industry Act.

The project was saved. It should be recognised, however, that in two years' time that aid will not be available. We will lose access to section 7 aid. It will be impossible to save such projects. Another project, in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Moss Side (Mr. Morton), was saved only by the same device, which will soon not be available.

Before leaving the question of ICL, I should like to draw the attention of the House to the fact that the Conservative-controlled Greater Manchester council is at present contemplating placing a new computer order, not with the Manchester-based, British-owned ICL but with the American-owned IBM. My right hon. and hon. Friends who represent Manchester have sent a letter to the leader of the Conservative-controlled Greater Manchester council saying: We, as MPs for the City of Manchester, are writing to draw your attention to the extreme importance of the Greater Manchester Council Policy Committee, when it meets next week, deciding to place its computer order with ICL. It would be unthinkable for a Manchester local authority not to place its order with the only British-owned British computer company on which so many jobs depend in Greater Manchester. We therefore ask your Policy Committee to vote for ICL, for Manchester and for Britain. That call also goes out from the House

When we lose our industrial aid, how many potential jobs are we likely to lose and how many will we lose as a result of the loss of EEC grants? Two Manchester schemes are being considered in Brussels, and the latest news that we have of them is that they have not been approved but have been held over. I hope that they will be approved, but if we lose them it will be as a direct consequence of the Government's policy in denying us assisted area status.

Perhaps the most serious impact of the loss of intermediate area status is the effect of the loss of the 100 per cent. derelict land clearance grant which goes with it. In the city of Manchester we have 689 acres of derelict land—seven times the national proportion. In Greater Manchester there are 8,410 acres of derelict land—more than eight times the national proportion. Greater Manchester has the worst derelict land problem in the country, and since December 1975, as a result of action by the then Labour Government, derelict land clearance has been 100 per cent. grant-aided. From 1982 we shall have only a 50 per cent. derelict land clearance grant, even though we have the worst problem in the country.

In recent years the city of Manchester has cleared more derelict land than almost any other authority in the country.

Mr. Churchill (Stretford)

It has created derelict land.

Mr. Kaufman

The hon. Gentleman knows nothing about the city of Manchester, and I sometimes suspect that he knows little about Stretford.

The derelict land clearance programme is now threatened. Every council in Greater Manchester, even the Tory-controlled Greater Manchester council itself, has written to the Department of the Environment. The Greater Manchester council has told the Department: Any action which reduces the ability of the local authorities to make a major impact on the extent of derelict land is seen as having serious consequences for the future well-being of the area. That is what a Tory-controlled council says about the actions of the Tory Government. The Under-Secretary of State for the Environment has a colleague from the Department of Industry sitting to him who can prime him. We want an unequivocal assurance from the Under-Secretary that Greater Manchester will be declared a derelict land clearance area and that we will have the 100 per cent. grant so that we can get on with the essential job of improving the environment for our citizens.

Another serious blow to the industrial life of the Greater Manchester area is the Government's policy towards the National Enterprise Board. We hoped that we would get one of the factories of Inmos, the silicon chip enterprise which was set up through the approval of the previous Labour Government. Manchester is particularly well qualified for such a factory, but our loss of intermediate area status was the last blow and it deprived us of any chance of getting an Inmos factory.

Our existing industries are also threatened. We know that ICL would not exist as it is today, as the world's biggest and most profitable computer company that is not American-owned, but for the help it received from both Labour and Conservative Governments. When Mr. Christopher Chat away was Minister for Industrial Development, he announced £40 million of aid for ICL.

Altogether £71 million of Government money has gone into ICL, first to rescue it and then to help make it prosperous. The taxpayers' shareholding has been sold at the compulsion of the Government for a bargain price of £38 million. We have dot back only half the money. In fact, it is a great deal less than that, since the money that was put in would be worth a great deal more at 1980 prices. The taxpayer has been cheated of his return on his investment and the workers of ICL have been cheated of the reward for the effort that they have put into making the company profitable. Many of our constituents were in that factory, and they are angry about what the Government have done.

There is now concern about Ferranti. My right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris) and my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Eastham) are particularly concerned because they have Ferranti factories in their constituencies. The workers are concerned because the NEB's 50 per cent. holding in the company is likely to be sold.

Let us be clear about the fact that there would be no Ferranti without the public money given by the previous Labour Government. A total of £15.8 million of taxpayers' money saved Ferranti from total collapse. Both management and workers fear that the company is to be the victim of corporate asset-stripping. They fear that it will be taken over, stripped of its technology by a larger company and thrown to the City wolves. My right hon. and hon. Friends will be able to speak with far greater authority than I on that matter.

I draw the attention of the House to another petty outrage by the Government, namely, the attack on the rehabilitation centre at Denton, in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Gorton. One of my constituents who is an instructor at the centre visited me yesterday and told me that the Government sent an instruction, which arrived—brutally—on the Friday before Christmas, that every rehabilitation centre with 100 places will have to lose one class of between 12 and 16.

The Denton centre, like others, is of great value. All people with disabilities, except the blind, are helped, and the centre has been forced to lose one of its classes, which will mean the loss of 60 places a year. The centre gives white-collar and manual training. About 70 per cent. of its trainees have moved on to jobs or further training—55 per cent. to jobs. Now it is being maimed by the Government's petty vandalism—and all to save £25,000.

Mr. Kenenth Marks (Manchester, Gorton)

My right hon. Friend need not apologise for mentioning a centre in my constituency. The cut in the centre's work among people who are injured at work and cannot do their previous job or who have other handicaps is one example of the effects of Government policy, and there is another in my right hon. Friend's constituency where the centre for educational disadvantage is to be closed. That unit does good field work. It is staffed not by bureaucrats but by people who get out and work on behalf of the educationally disadvantaged. Those are examples of the Conservative attitude to the disabled, the handicapped, and the less well off.

Mr. Kaufman

My hon. Friend is right. What the Government are doing to that centre for educational disadvantage is absolutely scandalous.

While the worker travels on his expensive bus, his wife is out doing her best to make the family income stretch to meet today's high prices, and no doubt we shall learn on the tapes at any moment of a further twist in the inflationary spiral. Meanwhile, their children will have gone to school and may have used free school transport. They should value it while they can, because the Education (No. 2) Bill will abolish free school transport. As we know, the nature of Catholic educational provision means that their children are especially at risk.

Mr. Montgomery

The right hon. Gentleman is not being fair. The Bill is in Committee and will be discussed fully. Will he admit that during the period of the previous Labour Government the question of school transport was being looked at, that his Government were thinking of making a fixed charge for school transport, and that that possibility was taken back before the general election?

Mr. Kaufman

The hon. Gentleman is an amiable colleague, but he must not circulate that sort of fiction. I know that he is desperately clutching at any straw he can find, and I do not blame him for that. He is agreat admirer of theatrical entertainment, and I compliment him on making the effort.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett (Stockport, North)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that we have sat for about 60 hours in the Committee on the Education (No. 2) Bill and have continually pressed the Minister to tell us whether he intends to make a concession on the transport clause? So far he has given no indication that he is prepared to make a change. If the hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Montgomery) is saying that there will be a revolt of Tory Back Benchers, we shall all be pleased. However, in the Committee there is certainly no indication that the Minister will give way.

Mr. Kaufman

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. The very last adjective that I would use about the hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Montgomery) is "revolting". Nevertheless, I very much hope that he will give us his support on this issue.

I have received a very disturbing letter from the schools commissioner of the Salford Roman Catholic diocesan trustees. He has given me some very worrying figures about the impact on Catholic educational provision in the area. He tells me that of their children in secondary schools, those at present in their area who qualify for free travel total some 10,300. In the city of Manchester, the figure is 2,900.

What the schools commissioner, Mr. V. N. Lewis, tells me is this: All maintained Catholic secondary education in the diocese with the exception of the three schools in Trafford is now reorganised on comprehensive lines from which it can be safely said that the vast majority of pupils go to the nearest denominational school and are not, therefore, unjustly using choice at the expense of the rest of the community. Many of those who presently receive free transport are pupils who obtained a grammar school place under a selective system and who are now working their way out of the education system in transitional arrangements as their grammar schools are absorbed into comprehensive schools. Diocesan officers estimate that the number of free transport users in the urban areas will decline as the pupils admitted under the selective system phase out but need for free or concessional transport will remain in rural and semi-rural areas and those urban areas with school systems which involve travel, i.e. middle school systems and systems with shared sixth form arrangements (colleges or units serving more than one school).

Mr. Charles R. Morris (Manchester, Openshaw)

My right hon. Friend has rightly emphasised the impact which clause 23 of the Education (No. 2) Bill will have on denominational schools, but I am sure that he is equally aware that, in the geographical area of my constituency, no secondary comprehensive school exists. Therefore, every youngster in my constituency who attends a secondary comprehensive school, irrespective of whether he is attending a denominational school, is obliged to travel by bus.

Mr. Kaufman

With his great knowledge of his own area, my right hon. Friend is making an important and additional point. I am sure that he will expand upon it if he catches your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

I thought it right to draw attention to this matter, particularly since this very morning I have received a letter from one of my constituents. Mrs. McQuade, of 122 Birchfields Road. Fallowfield. who writes: Dear Mr. Kaufman, As a parishioner of St. Kentigerns in Fallowfield, Manchester, with a child at above school, I am concerned about the transport clause which will be harmful to Catholic schools. Catholic schools often draw pupils from a wide area, drawing pupils from many miles. The hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale says that the Bill is in Committee. I offer him amendments proposed by my constituent in her letter. The letter continues: I would like to see the Bill amended to take account of the Secretary of State's comment that the local authorities would treat Catholic pupils no less favourably than county schools. They should take into account number in family, charges by age and districts as guidelines, and to include within the Bill the present arrangement whereby the Secretary of State has the power to intervene where he believes an authority is using its powers unjustly. My constituent has proposed some changes. I hope that the Minister will take advantage of this debate to announce the abandonment of this pernicious provision in the Education (No. 2) Bill.

I have less hope that the Government will abandon their plan to end the statutory school meals service. Already they have raised the price of school meals twice. The latest available figures show that in the city of Manchester 34,075 schoolchildren have dinners paid for by their parents, and in Greater Manchester the number is 238,592. The increase of 40 per cent. in the charge under the present Government, from 25p to 35p, means a tax by the Government of £17,000 for every school week in the city of Manchester and £120,000 in Greater Manchester. Over the year, it is a tax on city of Manchester parents of nearly £750,000, and in Greater Manchester it is nearly £5 million.

I must also draw attention to the matter already raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Gorton, the truly wicked decision by the Government to shut down the centre for educational disadvantage, in my constituency. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Gorton will get a chance of dealing with this with his own particular authority, but what I should like to say now is that the Secretary of State is closing down this valuable centre without ever having bothered to visit it. My hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, West (Mrs. Taylor), as an Opposition spokesman on education, has been there, and she pays tribute to what the centre is doing. It is quite scandalous that the centre is being closed and that the acting chairman was notified by dispatch rider on the same day as the Minister's announcement and that neither the centre's director nor its governing body was consulted or even informed in advance of the decision to close it. All this is being done for an annual saving of £312.000—less than half of the money that the Government will be spending on their publicity campaign for the compulsory sale of council houses.

Before leaving the subject of education, I ought to give the House some figures that I have received from the Government this morning on the reduction of education and school building provision in our area. I have heard this morning that the reduction by the Government in this financial year in the county on primary and secondary building is 13 per cent. and in the city of Manchester it is 6 per cent. For the coming financial year, the cut in the county is 23 per cent. and in the city it is 25 per cent. The cut in nursery education provision this year by the present Government is 33 per cent. for the county and 37 per cent. for the city of Manchester.

When the wage earner has returned from his possibly threatened job, when the housewife has returned from her depressing shopping trip, and when the children have returned from their cut-ridden school, if they live in a council house in the city of Manchester they may live in a very new house, because the city of Manchester has the proud record of possessing the best house-building programme of any major city in Britain. Between the beginning of 1974 and September of last year, the city of Manchester started 9,285 houses—a far higher number than any other of England's large cities.

In relation to population, Manchester was 32 per cent. ahead of its nearest competitor, Birmingham. It was way ahead of Liverpool. It was more than twice as good as Leeds. The man responsible for that city's poor housing programme, Lord Bellwin, now holds office at the Department of the Environment. When Lord Bellwin was in charge at Leeds, the aim of his office was to dispose of public assets and not to create them. Our authority in Manchester has the objective—and it is successfully carrying it out—of creating public assets, and we have an unrivalled record of achievement.

Again, I should like to read an extract from a letter that I received only today from a lady in my constituency who suffers from multiple sclerosis and who, thanks to the enlightened house-building programme of Manchester city council and its particular provision for the disabled, has now been happily rehoused. She writes: Yes, we are rehoused in a beautifully adapted house in a lovely area. Just what we needed. That is thanks to Manchester's Labour council.

But that house-building record is now threatened by the Government's cuts in housing expenditure. They have sliced £598 million, 21 per cent., off the national housing investment programme, and they boast that they intend to build fewer houses.

For this financial year, the Government have already cut £600,000 from the city of Manchester's programme, and with only a couple of months to go before the new financial year the Government have still not announced the housing investment allocation for 1980–81. This is absolutely disgraceful.

Mr. Fred Silvester (Manchester, Withington)

Would the right hon. Gentleman care to quote all the figures from the answer to his question to the Minister on the housing investment programme? The figures which he received show that in 1978–79 the figure was £52.2 million. Even the revised figure for the forthcoming year is £59.9 million.

Mr. Kaufman

The hon. Gentleman knows that there is a cut of £600,000. Manchester city council has made that clear. I accept the figures given by the Minister. Will the Under-Secretary of State say when Manchester will get its housing investment programme allocation? When will Manchester be able to decide on its housing programme for the coming year?

Mr. Silvester

I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman would not wish to mislead the House. When he speaks of a cut in the housing investment programme, he is speaking of a cut in the provisional allocation of £600,000. There has been no cut in the previous year's allocation.

Mr. Kaufman

Allocations from the Labour Government for housing and education were chopped by the Tory Government on the basis of an overall under spend. The Government are now pretending that there have been no cuts. The city of Manchester is an outstanding house-building authority. The housing investment programme allocation does not only cover building; it includes municipalisation, which has been chopped completely by the Government, and improvements.

We do not yet know what the HIP allocation will be. However, we know that the Government are trying to force up rents for the city of Manchester's 110,000 tenants and the 306,000 council house tenants in Greater Manchester by an average of £1.50 a week. In the city of Manchester there are 33,700 tenants of private landlords, and at least 86,000 in the county. Under the Government's Housing Bill, controlled tenants will lose the protection of controls and will join the regulated tenants who, in future, will have to face rent increases every two years instead of every three as at present. That is a great blow to tenants of private landlords in my constituency.

The myth put about by the Government that landlords are miserable, put-upon people who long to improve their houses if they have the opportunity is not borne out by several landlords in my constituency, one group of whom is a gang of crooks and should be in gaol. [HON. MEMBERS: "Name them."] I shall readily name them. The group is called Halperns. It also runs the most disgraceful hire-purchase form of mortgage provision which makes people who are foolish enough to become involved with it prisoners of the most iniquitous form of hire purchase. It is a scandalous way to treat innocent people. The hon. and learned Member for Darwen (Mr. Fletcher-Cooke) agrees. I named that company because I was asked to do so by Conservative Members. I am glad to have been able to do so within the privilege of the House.

Manchester has inherited a miserable housing problem. Eighty per cent. of private accommodation was built before 1919. Manchester has pursued an admirable policy of municipalisation as the only way in which to help those tenants to obtain decent homes. The Government have now stopped that. They are hoping in vain that higher rents will persuade landlords to improve their properties.

Instead of public money being spent on improving properties, it will be spent on subsidising landlords through rent allowances. More than £1 million will be spent in the city of Manchester, and £3.6 million in the county, in order to pay landlords to increase their rents. How can we expect private landlords to behave decently to their tenants when the Tory-controlled Greater Manchester council refuses to do so?

I draw to the attention of the House the scandalous treatment of my constituent Miss Gutherson, of 29 Hopkins Street, Longsight. She lives in a house which has been blighted and purchased by the Greater Manchester council in pursuance of a road scheme which will be of no use to my constituents, is not wanted by them and may never be constructed. It is a road scheme for people using my constituency as a rat run. Nevertheless, the area is blighted. Miss Gutherson's house has neither a bath nor a shower.

While Manchester city council is by agreement managing the property for the Greater Manchester council and agrees to keep it in tenantable repair, it has not sufficient money to improve its own properties, let alone those belonging to the Greater Manchester council. Yet the mean-minded Greater Manchester council refuses to accept its responsibility as owner of the property and to spend on this and on other houses a fraction of the money that it is willing to squander on assisted places in independent schools. I hope, even at this late stage, that it will change its mind and do justice to Miss Gutherson and others who live in the city.

Mortgage payers are suffering grievously from the 15 per cent. mortgage rate. No doubt even in Manchester some of those people voted Conservative on the strength of the Conservative Party manifesto pledge to bring down mortgage rates. Now, in the North-West, owner-occupiers buying an average-size home are paying £4.56 a week more. They are paying nearly a quarter of their incomes on mortgage payments on 25-year mortgages. Such gain as they received in income tax cuts has been more than wiped out by that and other price increases since this Government came to office. At the end of his working week, the wage earner will have to pay a large chunk of his income in tax.

In his June Budget the Chancellor gave away £4,540 million in income tax concessions. Thirty-one per cent. of it—£1,400 million—went to the richest taxpayers. In Greater Manchester 31 per cent. went to the 4 per cent. of richest income taxpayers in our area. The other 96 per cent. had to make do with the rest. But the Manchester taxpayer is also a ratepayer. Because of the Government's policies, he will have to pay extra rates, too, following the Government's decision to cut rate aid to the cities in favour of the Tory shire counties.

Manchester has already lost £800,000 grant, in addition to the possibility of losing resources through the transitional provisions. It has also had £800,000 cut from its inner city provision.

This attack on our citizens is particularly grievous when a typical Manchester family may not have the head of its household in work, is paying off a mortgage with whatever difficulty, or is living in council accommodation, possibly of a high standard. Instead, it may be a family in povery, living in poor accommodation. The statistics of poverty in Manchester are depressing. In 1978, 10.3 per cent. of all households in the city were one-parent families. That is the highest figure outside London, and it is exceeded in London only in four boroughs.

In the city of Manchester, 17.1 per cent. of families were single-person households above the age of 60—well above the national average. One-third of the city's dwellings were built before 1919. Despite the city's excellent housing record, in 1978 8.8 per cent. of households were still lacking at least one basic amenity—far higher than the national average. The clamp-down on municipalisation will curb the city's attempts to put this right.

Since many of the householders are owner-occupiers with low resources, they are sometimes fearful of improving their properties, even with the grants available. They are especially fearful because they hear dreadful stories of what cowboy builders do to such property when they move in. Not only do they ruin respectably kept homes—I visited one such property in the Victoria Park area of my constituency last weekend—but they can also ruin householders financially. One of my constituents has lost all his savings due to the unscrupulous battening of criminal negligent builders who, when faced with retribution, go bankrupt to to avoid their responsibilities. Yet the Government's policy is to bolster the opportunities of such people by their attack on direct works departments, including Manchester's fine direct works department.

The Government should give direct works departments the power to carry out improvement work for private owners as well as on council property. I shall never forget the havoc caused in my constituency by Wimpey when that firm began the improvement programme on the Anson estate in my constituency, bringing great misery to my constituents, the council having launched an excellent programme which was carried out poorly by Wimpey.

Mr. Tom Arnold (Hazel Grove)

If the city of Manchester's housing department and direct works department are as well managed as the right hon. Gentleman makes them out to be, can he explain why the letters which I receive from constituents about housing problems are almost exclusively from tenants in the Manchester overspill estates, whereas the Stockport estates run by the local authority there are extremely well run in comparison? Every time I get a complaint, it is about one of the Manchester overspill estates.

Mr. Montgomery

And it takes a long time to get a reply.

Mr. Kaufman

When it comes to matters affecting Stockport, both my hon. Friends from Stockport are present and they will have their own comments. What is more, they are comments which I can confirm from my own experience as a Minister in the Department of the Environment. During that period, I had a meeting in this House with representatives of the Tory-controlled Stockport council because they had refused to build any houses of any kind and wanted to sell off their land to a private speculator. I had to speak to them fairly severely about that, and for a short time there was an improvement in their programme.

Mr. Tom McNally (Stockport, South)

If I may add to human knowledge, I can tell my right hon. Friend that Stockport council is one of the few to my knowledge to have been successfully prosecuted by a tenant for its deplorable standards of repair.

Mr. Kaufman

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for adding to the stock of knowledge of the hon. Member for Hazel Grove (Mr. Arnold).

One of the reasons why Manchester's direct works department is criticised is that its standard is so high that if it falls below that standard people want to know why. That is quite right; and my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Central (Mr. Litherland) has great experience of these matters.

Mr. Arnold

But why is it that, whenever I write to the Stockport council, at least I get a reply very quickly and at least the matter is looked into almost immediately? The problems which my hon. Friends and I have with Manchester's housing department are unending. It is difficult to get replies. We all have cases which run on for a long time, but I have one or two relating exclusively to the activities of Manchester's housing department which are deplorable beyond belief.

Mr. Kaufman

The reason why hon. Members get speedy replies from Stockport council is that it has so little to do. That being so, it is able to reply to hon. Members fairly quickly. But if Stockport council is so good, I wish that it would do something about the derelict land on the boundary with the Simon Freeman estate, in my constituency. My constituents in Simon Freeman Close have complained to me about the state in which the land just over the boundary has been left by the Stockport council

Mr. Montgomery

The right hon. Gentleman is making an attack on Stockport council and is telling us that apparently all the paragons of virtue exist in the Socialist group in the Manchester city council and how marvellous they are as landlords. Can he explain why the residents in the Turkey Lane flats were forced to take the city council to court to make it carry out essential repairs?

Mr. Kaufman

My hon. Friend who is the Member for that constituency is present and will be able to deal with that far more competently than I can. But I am not pretending that Manchester city council is a body of immaculate paragons. I have spent 10 years harassing Manchester city council to make sure that it does better. However, it starts from a very high base.

Mr. Robert Litherland (Manchester, Central)

Perhaps I may inform the hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Montgomery) that the Turkey Lane estate is the epitome of system building and that this is what we have always fought against with the direct labour department. The people in the North-West want traditional-type housing of bricks and mortar. These people were the victims of a cheap package deal which was imposed on my constituency. It is a split-level French design, and it has been dumped in the middle of Manchester. But the tenants were quite right to take the council to court, and they were right to win their case. As I see it, the solution to this type of problem is the clearance of package deals which have been imposed on the city centre.

Mr. Kaufman

I think that that is an admirable lesson for the hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale not to read out cases from a brief when we have an expert on the subject here to deal with these matters.

In Manchester, we have a great poverty problem. In two of the wards in my constituency, Ardwick and Longsight, between 40 and 49 per cent. of families are in poverty. In half a dozen wards represented by my right hon. and hon. Friends, the position is even worse. In Manchester, we have a model social services department which is a credit to a great city. It is seeking to contend with these problems. My right hon. Friend the Member for Wythenshawe, with his great experience, will deal with these matters in more detail if he catches your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

What is depressing is that the new proposals for rate support grant will penalise Manchester's social services department just because it is better than those in most other places. That is the crazy way in which the grant is being structured. It is a crazy way to deal with a grave national problem.

One very mean-minded action of the Government is to fail to continue the Labour Government's electricity discount scheme and to replace it with a scheme which will help only one person out of every 13 helped by the Labour Government's scheme. This is happening at a time when this Government deliberately are driving up fuel prices for ideological reasons—not for any economic reason.

Wherever we look in Manchester, we see ourselves hit by the Government's policies. Every family will suffer in some way from the Government's demand that Manchester city council should reduce its expenditure by at least £15 million this year and next. This could affect not only children at school but evening play centres, youth clubs and holiday schemes. It could undermine essential public services.

Manchester has a proud record of helping its citizens. So far it has resisted the cuts that the Government are seeking to impose. To fight these policies a Campaign for Manchester has been sponsored by Manchester trades council, Manchester Labour Party, Manchester city council Labour group and Manchester Co-operative Party. Today this campaign has come to the House of Commons in the first major debate on Manchester that the House has seen. That campaign will continue until this Government are compelled to change their policies. But it will not be completed until this Government are driven from office.

I ask the House to support the motion.

12.17 pm
Mr. Churchill (Stretford)

This morning, the House has been treated to a speech by the right hon. Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. Kaufman) rich in humbug and hypocrisy, of which the right hon. Gentleman is a notorious past master. He tells us that he and his Socialist colleagues in the city of Manchester have launched some high-falutin' campaign for Manchester. Where was this campaign when he was in office? Where was the campaign when he was sitting on the Treasury Bench? He tells us about Labour's successes. How does he explain to his constituents and to the people of the city of Manchester that unemployment more than doubled during the Socialist Government's tenure of office? Where was he when unemployment was doubling? Most certainly he was not putting down motions on Friday mornings deploring this.

The right hon. Gentleman was a Minister. He was part and parcel of the shoddy, lame-duck Administration which imposed these Socialist policies on the people of Manchester that caused unemployment to double during that period. Where was the right hon. Gentleman when jobs in the defence industries up and down the country, but more particularly in the Greater Manchester area, were being slashed wholesale by his Government? Where was he when his hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East (Mr. Allaun) was lecturing Hawker Siddeley workers at the aircraft factory at Chadderton who were shortly to become redundant and telling them in the true Marie Antoinette style that one has come to expect from Left-wing Socialists "Let them build caravans"? That is what he was telling men engaged in high industrial technology. The right hon. Gentleman should have come to this House today in sackcloth and ashes to make his apologies to the people of Manchester.

Mr. Kaufman

The hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Churchill) asks where I stood on defence matters at the time. I was having Cabinet discussions advocating that Nimrod should be built instead of the advance warning and control system. I do not know what the hon. Gentleman's attitude was to that, but as a result of what we proposed many jobs were created at Woodford. I was at British Aerospace in Preston announcing 385 orders for the Tornado, and those orders brought great prosperity to the workers of Preston. If the hon. Gentleman wants to know where I was during that time, I can tell him that I was working in my constituency, and when I explained the policies of the Labour Government to my constituents they increased my majority.

Mr. Churchill

How does the right hon. Gentleman explain the fact that his Government were responsible for the loss of 100,000 jobs in the defence industry? Why did his hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East need to propose to the workers of Chadderton that they should build caravans because there was so little work for them under the Labour Government?

The right hon. Gentleman asks where I stood on the Nimrod advance early warning system. My Conservative colleagues and I were largely instrumental in pressing the last Labour Government to abandon the idea of AWACS and make a firm decision in favour of the British-built Nimrod. As for British Aerospace at Preston and the Tornado order, why, if the right hon. Gentleman was so proud of his Government's record on that, was the slippage on the in-service date for Tornado allowed to be so great? Why was funding cut back, and why was more not done to make sure that this vital replacement aircraft for the Royal Air Force was produced on schedule?

The right hon. Gentleman spoke of Manchester as a Labour stronghold over the years. I do not dispute that. Since 1945—with the exception of the four years from 1967 to 1971—Manchester city has been under Socialist control. One need not walk far from the city centre to see the results of 10 years of Socialist control. One is faced with acres of derelict land. The city council sent in the bulldozers at the time that I was contesting the Manchester, Gorton seat. Square miles of houses were bulldozed. When one returns there today, one still sees vast derelict areas.

Such clearances by the Socialists are a denial of good planning. Instead of rebuilding those areas bit by bit, the Socialists bulldozed whole communities and moved them into overspill areas. That was the last thing that those people wanted. They were housed in high-rise blocks and taken away from their friends. Their shops and pubs were destroyed and they were made unhappy. That was the essence of Socialism and a denial of humanity.

Mr. Marks

It is obvious that when the hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Churchill) failed to win the seat at Gorton he forgot it and hardly ever went there again. If he were to visit Gorton now, he would find that the acres of shocking nineteenth century houses have almost gone and that the remainder are being improved. In their place new houses have been built, none of which is higher than two storeys. They are surrounded by much pleasant landscaping and new industrial development. That is what the Labour Government helped Manchester city council to do in Gorton.

Mr. Churchill

I am glad to hear that there was such an improvement in the industrial situation in Gorton under the last Labour Government. If that is so, how is it that unemployment in Greater Manchester more than doubled under that Government? That hardly accords with the case which the hon. Gentleman seeks to advance.

The right hon. Member for Ardwick spoke with approval of comprehensive education in Manchester. Can he explain why the Socialist-controlled city council there has consistently refused to publish the numbers of GCE passes each year to parents and the general public so that they may compare those results with those obtained under other education systems? Examination results have been kept secret from the public because they have deteriorated from year to year. The 1979 GCE results for Manchester were the worst in England.

Mr. Ken Eastham (Manchester, Blackley)

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there are several leading Conservative-controlled authorities which do not publish their examination results? Is he further aware that the NUT and other teaching unions support such authorities?

Mr. Churchill

I note that the hon. Gentleman does not seek to defend the blanket of secrecy imposed on this very important matter by the Manchester city authorities. He argues that the same thing happens elsewhere. If that is so, I believe that it is wholly wrong.

Mr. Eastham rose

Mr. Churchill

I have given way to the hon. Gentleman already. He can make his own speech. The public have a right to know about examination results. It is no part of the job of elected officials to keep the public in the dark. What has happened to education in Manchester—which is reflected in the declining standards—wholly justifies the Trafford and former Tameside councils in resisting the imposition of comprehensive education in their areas. Their stand was courageous in the face of a tide running strongly against them, particularly among education officers and officials up and down the country, and the children of Trafford and Tameside have been the beneficiaries of that stand.

The right hon. Gentleman spoke of housing. The administration of the Manchester city housing authority is truly appalling. Throughout 1979 staff relations have been bad and the department has experienced many unofficial strikes. The level of rent arrears is currently £3,350,000, and that figure is increasing. The charge to the rates of the housing revenue account has increased no less than ninety fold, from £200,000 in 1971 to its present level of £18,463,000

The housing waiting list stands at 31,000. The list is open to anybody, anywhere, irrespective of his housing need. The real scandal of Manchester city housing is that 6,000 to 7,000 council homes are kept vacant. That is more than enough to accommodate the 4,000 to 5,000 people who, according to the points system, are in real housing need.

It is time that the vast army of Socialist Members of Parliament who represent Manchester got off their backsides and went as a deputation to City Hall and the housing department to demand the resignation of those responsible for that most unsatisfactory situation, which is causing substantial hardship of the people of Manchester.

Mr. Kaufman

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for suggesting that I go with a deputation to the town hall. My hon. Friends who have been councillors know that I am rarely out of the town hall on deputations. I took a deputation of council house tenants there recently when Dame Kathleen Ollerenshaw was the Lord Mayor. She knew so little about the area in which those constituents were living that in their presence she took out the A to Z guide for Manchester to look up their addresses.

Mr. Churchill

The righthon. Gentleman knows that the city of Manchester is Socialist-controlled and that his Socialist friends are responsible for the present scandalous state of affairs.

The Socialists are spendthrift in the extreme. They have plans for an international ice-skating centre, costing £14½ million at January 1981 prices. It is estimated that it will lose at least £250,000 a year, and possibly £500,000, once it is built. Are international ice-skating rinks the way to assist areas such as the right hon. Member for Ardwick's constituency, where, on his own admission, 40 per cent. of the people live in poverty? Would it not be better to help those people than to indulge in squandermania and civic pride?

Mr. Marks

Civic pride is not the reason for developing an ice-skating rink in Manchester. It will be a centre of excellence. The hon. Gentleman is active in winter sports—perhaps not in Manchester—and I should have thought that he would support such a centre.

Mr. Churchill

I am all in favour of ice-skating and other sporting facilities being established. However, we must recognise that at a time of severe economic constraint on the nation and individuals we should not squander taxpayers' and ratepayers' money. This is particularly so when, as all hon. Members who represent the Greater Manchester area know, squalor and misery exist within the bounds of the city.

Mr. Eastham rose

Mr. Churchill

I have given way on numerous occasions, and I must press on with my speech.

The city of Manchester council held a dinner for the town clerk on 12 October last year. He was not even retiring but was moving to a more lucrative post north of the border. The cost of the dinner, including councillors' allowances and officers' time, was £5,000. Now the council proposes a jamboree to Mexico in October, at a cost of £4,000. Only this week the Socialist housing committee approved a visit to Jerusalem in November.

Since we are discussing the relative merits of Conservative and Socialist policies as they impinge upon the citizens of Greater Manchester, it is worth noting the record of Greater Manchester, which has had a Conservative-controlled council since May 1977. That council has decided to cut out what it was going to pay towards the ice-skating palace, the opera house and the Manchester art gallery extension, which would have cost about £25 million in capital expenditure. The council has shelved the Pic-Vic scheme, which was estimated to cost between £80million and £121 million, although £300 million would be a more realistic estimate.

Those decisions taken by the Conservative-controlled Greater Manchester council have put on to a sensible basis the finance of Greater Manchester within the Government's guidelines. Basically, the Conservatives have readjusted priorities. They have given a high priority to the maintenance of essential services such as the police, fire and transport, which have been fully maintained and, in some cases, strengthened. The Conservatives are giving maximum assistance to industry and trade so that they can expand, with a view to relieving the heavy unemployment created by the Socialist policies of recent years. That has been done by setting up an economic development association and an economic development corporation with £5 million capital. I am glad to say that that proposal has enjoyed the support even of the Labour group.

The burden of Socialist misery to which the people of Greater Manchester have been subjected recently is intolerable. In few homes is health not of paramount importance. Few things cause greater unhappiness to families than to be told that an operation that they know is needed cannot be performed for weeks or months, and sometimes even years. A couple of years ago a constituent was told by his doctor that he needed urgent treatment for a stomach problem and that he should go urgently for X-rays. Week after week he was told that that was not possible because the facilities were not available and that he was nowhere near the front of the queue. Eventually the notification arrived from the hospital that it was ready to receive him. It was opened by his widow on the day that he had died. All hon. Members will be determined to prevent such occurrences.

During the period of the last Labour Government, between June 1974 and March 1979 the waiting list for operations in Greater Manchester increased from 40,789 to 51,521—an increase of over 11,000. That means that 11,000 families have suffered unnecessarily as a result of policies for which the last Administration were responsible.

The right hon. Member for Ardwick spoke with passion about the number of people in Greater Manchester who are being made redundant. What standing does he have to talk of redundancies in Greater Manchester? Unemployment in Stretford, Urmston and Trafford Park increased from 1,276 to 2,843 between March 1974 and May 1979. So it increased two-and-a-half times under a Socialist Government. In the North-West, during the same period, unemployment increased from 97,323 to no less than 191,066. So let us have less of the humbug and sanctimonious hypocrisy to which we have been treated by the right hon. Member for Ardwick. No doubt his colleagues will seek to follow the same line.

The Government are determined to bring the legacy of inflation and the price rises that were kept back in the Socialist pipeline under control. That can only mean bringing excessive public expenditure within the bounds of reason and cutting out waste at all levels. It is no easy matter to turn back the tide of inflation at a time of increasing international energy costs, but we intend to achieve that during our period of office. We intend to create a basis for new expansion of British industry, of which the industry of Greater Manchester and Trafford Park in my constituency is so much part and parcel.

The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the handouts provided by the previous Conservative Administration. I was at the forefront of the campaign for Trafford Park and Greater Manchester to be put on an equal footing with the rest of the North-West, with the exception of the special development areas. I was glad when Tony Barber, in his Budget of 1972, announced that that was to be done.

It is important to us in Greater Manchester that there are no inducements just across the border with which we are unable to compete. We do not need lavish handouts from hard-pressed wage earners' tax contributions. We need to be put on an equal footing with the rest of the United Kingdom. We do not need to have liabilities imposed on us, as happened under the Labour Administration of 1964 to 1970. We remain on an equal footing with the rest of the North-West, with the exception of the special development areas on Merseyside, but that is something that we can live with in the months ahead. Above all, the prosperity of the industry in Manchester depends on the prosperity of British industry, and that is a high priority for the Conservative Government.

We intend to restore the maximum amount of freedom to our citizens. We intend to give every council tenant the right to own his or her own home. That commitment is warmly welcomed by the people of Britain, and I believe that it was largely instrumental in securing the Conservative victory at the recent general election. The electorate should take note of the reaffirmed commitment of the Opposition to strip council tenants of this right should the Labour Party ever, by mischance, be re-elected to govern this country. The Labour Party seeks to keep council tenants in a position of servile inferiority—a status equal to that suffered under the worst feudal landlords of 300 to 400 years ago. Therefore, it is with enthusiasm that I oppose the right hon. Gentleman's motion.

12.43 pm
Mr. Alfred Morris (Manchester, Wythenshawe)

I am extremely grateful to my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. Kaufman) for having used his good fortune in the ballot to initiate this timely and important debate. He presented a most formidable indictment of the Government, and I entirely endorse his assessment of their policies.

As my right hon. Friend showed, the effect of the Government's policies on Manchester is deeply disturbing. He quite deliberately did not seek to deal with the whole of this subject in his speech. With his customary concern for others, he left the table, as it were, still feeling hungry. There is still a great deal for other right hon. and hon. Members to get their teeth into, and I hope that by the end of the day Ministers will see that the Government's policies are nowhere more ruinous than in their effect on Manchester.

My right hon. Friend kindly referred to my special interest in the public holding in Ferranti Ltd. The workpeople of that company have achieved a very great deal in recent years, both for the firm and for the taxpayer. I am deeply anxious that their view about the future of the public stake in the firm should be urgently and favourably considered by everyone concerned. In contact with Gruff Berry, the convener of the firm in Wythenshawe, I shall do everything possible to ensure that that happens. It is the merest requirement of justice that workpeople who have achieved so much should be fully and meaningfully consulted about the future of their firm.

My right hon. Friend referred to the Government's social priorities. Since taking office last May, they have pursued a policy of cuts for all. For the strong and the fortunate, they have cut taxes. For the sick and the disabled, the elderly and the poor, they have cut the social services. Tax cuts in the Budget gave an increase in take-home pay of 80 per cent. to those earning over £500 a week. Yet working people, in Manchester as elsewhere, are now to have their sick pay taxed when they are too ill to go to work. The richest 5 per cent. of taxpayers were treated to tax cuts of £1,400 million. Yet at the same time a health authority, faced with Government insistence on spending cuts, has had to contemplate the closure of a centre for the care of severely handicapped children.

In the city of Manchester we have led the country, over recent years, in the excellence of our social services for the old and the disabled, the lonely and the vulnerable. And this debate gives me the opportunity to pay warm tribute not only to successive chairmen of Manchester's social services committee for the leadership they have given but also to Mr. Clifford Hilditch, our director of social services, for the dedication and distinction with which he has, for so long, served disadvantaged people in our city.

Manchester is widely considered to be a "city with a heart" that puts humanity first and as one of high achievement in helping those most in need. This is a well-merited reputation that derives in no small measure from the fact that Labour's representatives at the town hall are unafraid to apply their principles.

There are clear differences between the political parties in Manchester, and they are about principles as well as policies. Like those who represent the city on the Opposition Benches in this House, our colleagues at the town hall utterly reject the Goverment's unprincipled attempt to throw the burden of economic recovery on to the weakest and poorest sections of the community. But the Government now seek to force Manchester council to cut vital services. In the process, the impression is given that the council is a big spender, whereas the truth is that the policies it pursues under Labour are not only humane but are also cost-effective and, indeed, a big saver for the taxpayer.

Let us take the example of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act. Since 1970, when that Act became law, no fewer than 29,175 people have been registered as disabled under its provisions. Over 6,600 disabled people have been helped with the cost of a telephone. Almost 10,000 of Manchester's disabled people have had their homes adapted under the Act. My right hon. Friend referred to a disabled person in his constituency who has been helped to live an independent and dignified life. I am glad that he referred as warmly as he did to the humanity of the local authority that made that possible. Aids appropriate to their needs have been supplied to 23,288 disabled people in the city, and more than 4,500 holidays have been sponsored for them. These are only some of the items on which money is spent by Manchester city council under the Act, but they demonstrate very clearly the complete justification of Manchester's reputation for humanity.

By contrast, there are neighbouring authorities that have won very different reputations. Mr. Nigel Smith, the senior regional officer of the Spastics Society, said of neighbouring Trafford that it is leading in the stakes for the meanest authority in the land. He went on to say: There is now no social work support for physically and mentally handicapped people in Trafford, other than emergency treatment. Those are very strong and serious charges to come not from any political source but from an experienced and respected officer of a charity as important as the Spastics Society.

His is not, however, the only such criticism that I have seen recently of those in authority who are cutting back on help for the severely disabled. To take another example, the Royal Association for Disability and Rehabilitation has recently levelled the charge that Ministers continually repeat their concern for severely disabled people, but their actions condemn them to increasing isolation and dependence. Moreover, in a recent "Call for Compassion" the National Society for Mentally Handicapped Children said that, if they knew the distress that they were causing among severely disabled children, those who are inflicting spending cuts on them would think again.

Let me emphasise strongly that there is a case for thinking again on economic as well as compassionate grounds. It can now cost more than £14,000 a year to keep a child in hospital, whereas it usually costs nothing like that to provide the help that can guarantee an independent life in the community. The Government's policy of slashing the personal social services is, therefore, foolhardy as well as inhumane.

Manchester's Labour councillors will need and deserve the maximum possible public support in their efforts to withstand the Government's bullying. And how else but as bullying can one describe the intention to impose a notional rate of £1.19, to which will be related the amount of rate support grant which a local authority will receive? This proposal, together with controls intended on capital expenditure, represents an intrusion into the proper role of elected local authorities. Is uniform mediocrity the ultimate goal? I am sure that the Minister will agree that this is hardly a goal in which he or his colleagues could take any pride.

It would help if councils in the Manchester conurbation which are not Labour-controlled could see that it is in their interests also to resist false economies. Of course, there are Ministers who try to give the impression that all their spending cuts can be achieved without hurting anyone who is in special need. They pretend that even in the social services the cuts that they have imposed can be met simply by reducing what they call bureaucracy and administration. But the Tory Minister's "administrator" is often the disabled person's home help.

Administration ensures that meals on wheels are properly cooked and arrive on time. Administration ensures that home helps meet the right customers, are briefed to do their job well and are properly paid. Administration ensures that old people's homes are properly built and effectively staffed at unsocial hours, and that elderly people are treated humanely and with dignity. In fact, reducing administration below a certain level means threatening the dignity of people who need our care.

We must come to terms with the reality that providing dignity and independence costs money. I want disabled people to lead full and fulfilling lives. In other words, I want them to be a part of and not apart from society. They are as entitled to independence and dignity as anyone else. Yet both will be denied them if the Government cannot be persuaded to rethink their policies. I hope that they will do so urgently in the light of this debate. Let them reflect, in particular, on the words of the Royal Association for Disability and Rehabilitation and on the moving appeal which I quoted from the National Society for Mentally Handicapped Children. Theirs are not political voices but sincere appeals for humanity and justice.

In considering the wider field of social services, let none of us forget in this debate that Manchester still has very many poor people who have gained nothing from tax cuts. A survey carried out in 1978 showed that 35 per cent. of families and 27 per cent. of the population of Manchester were living in poverty. These figures alone indicate and justify the need for a high level of social services in the city, both in quality and quantity. Certainly they show that it is not for present Ministers to hector and lecture Manchester's local government leaders about their social priorities.

The Government's policies are cutting job opportunities in Manchester, not least among young people. The have gratuitously increased prices and will increase them still further. Look at the effrontery of the Government's policy on gas prices. They are increasing human stress by their housing policy and forcing up rents and rates. Families with young children are hit by Government policy on school meals, milk and fares and, at the same time, the Government are wilfully damaging the educational opportunities of children and young people.

These are all matters of deep concern in my constituency and Manchester generally. They will, I am sure, be debated anxiously as we proceed today and in the weeks ahead. But my main purpose today is to argue the case of many of the least fortunate people in our society, including those who cannot argue for themselves.

Manchester is an industrial city with a high reputation for caring. Yet it seeks excellence in many other endeavours. For example, the arts have always flourished in modern Manchester, even at times of severe economic crisis. Today there is deep apprehension about the future of the arts, and I make no apology for concluding my speech with a plea for recognition of the city's claims in this area.

Earlier this week, speaking at the National Theatre, Sir Roy Shaw, the secretary-general of the Arts Council, said that in Britain today the arts are under-valued, undersubsidised, underpatronised and underdistributed. His sentiments would have been expressed in far stronger language in Manchester. Not until the end of January will North West Arts know the level of the grant that it will receive from the Arts Council for 1980–81. But I am authoritatively informed that an increase of anything less than 15 per cent. over the current year would be a disaster. Even with 15 per cent. it will only be possible to maintain existing subsidised theatre companies at minimum operational levels. Moreover, this assumes that the local authority contributions to North West Arts and theatre companies directly will be increased to take account of inflation.

Kevan Lim, the North-West organiser of Equity, has summed up the position as follows: The picture is a very gloomy one for the next 12 months and, if the Government's reductions in expenditure are as severe as they are suggesting, then there is no doubt that certain companies will be faced with closure. That is an important statement, of which the Minister with responsibility for the arts should take urgent note, just as I hope other Ministers will take full account of the appeals that have been made to them in this debate. Not to do so would add arrogance to the folly of having promoted policies which Manchester sees, and is right to see, as being as ill conceived as they are indefensible.

1 pm

Mr. Fred Silvester (Manchester, Withington)

As I understand the right hon. Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. Kaufman), we seem to be threatened with a campaign of "Labour for Manchester" or some such title. The campaign has gathered together a bunch whose combined views on the problems of Manchester pass no bounds. The Labour Party in Manchester, the Labour group on the city council, the trades council and Labour Members representing Manchester constituencies may all be admirable chaps individually, but the net result of their activities since 1945 has been a hard one for the citizens of Manchester to bear.

I am surprised that the right hon. Gentleman had the gall to introduce the debate. He would be better employed trying to remedy some of the defects of his own city. He says that he pops in and out of the town hall frequently. I know that he does. It is what he does when he gets there that bothers me.

We shall all be saying much about the level of public expenditure in Manchester. For instance, there are too many local government officers in Manchester. That is not usually their fault. Many of those who work for the city do a good job and work hard. I cast no aspersions upon their individual merits. I agree with the right hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris) that of the collection of departments undertaking various duties on behalf of the city, that of Mr. Hilditch is probably the most successful.

Having said that—those are all the bouquets that I am about to offer—it is necessary to face the realities. I refer to the city of Manchester because it has been held out in the debate, although we are talking about Greater Manchester, as the pinnacle of excellence, as the example of what would happen with the Labour Party in control.

There are many anecdotes. My hon. Friend the Member for Stretford (Mr. Churchill) has mentioned some of them. He referred to several items of public waste. My favourite is the visit to Camden to visit a theatre that had been shut for 18 months. There are many such anecdotes, and one does not have to try hard to find such examples. However, if we use anecdotes we are accused of being unreasonable. Therefore, I shall turn to the official statistics.

I refer, first, to those published for the whole country by CIPFA. According to the statistics, which, as we know, are produced from returns from throughout the country by local authorities, Manchester spends a higher poundage rate on education, libraries and museums, personal social services, refuse collections, parks, open spaces, town planning and the housing revenue account than any other metropolitan district. It spends more on school meals than anywhere but Knowsley. It spends more on sports and swimming than anywhere other than Newcastle and Gateshead.

Mr. Marks

Hear, hear.

Mr. Silvester

Yes, already there are cheers. There are those who love to spend all that money. They roll out the great Manchester myth. We have heard it again today. The myth is that Manchester has such problems that only the Labour Party on the Manchester city council has the guts to spend the money that is necessary to deal with them.

Of course, Manchester has problems and it is a great regional city. That provides an alibi for the city council very well, but the myth is not true. For example, Liverpool, Sheffield, Newcastle, Leeds, Birmingham and Bradford are all great cities with regional responsibilities. They all have massive city problems. They have high immigrant populations and the aftermath of the Industrial Revolution. They have concentrations of poverty. They have had to clear away the sums. They suffer from populations drifting from the city centres to the outer areas. Every one of these great cities suffers from similar problems. However, the councils of the cities that I have mentioned manage to serve their people on a lower rate poundage than Manchester. When this argument is presented, it is usually said by Labour Members that the councils are not Labour-controlled. I accept that they are by no means all Labour-controlled. Some of them are Labour and some are Tory. However, they all manage to survive on a lower rate poundage.

Let us consider what that means. It occurs to some of us that perhaps Manchester is not doing quite as perfectly as it pretends. If it were not so distressing, it would be funny that the town planning department apparently spends a higher poundage rate than that of any other authority in the country. Its spending is about 30 per cent. higher than that of its nearest rival. When I see what it has done within my constituency with its planning over the years and the blight that has developed, I shudder to think what it is doing with all the money made available to it.

The right hon. Member for Ardwick mentioned Miss Gutherson and the problems that she is having. I sympathise with her deeply. However, great dereliction is being caused by planning blight. I am very grateful that the GMC removed some of the road programmes that affect my constituency. They have caused no end of trouble for many years.

Similarly, we have had quotations concerning builders. I could take the right hon. Gentleman to places in my constituency where the city council, in the thirst for municipalisation, purchased houses. It ought to have renovated them, but it has done nothing. The houses have fallen into decay. In one or two instances the council started to renovate the property. However, it did not finish the work, the houses deteriorated further and the work has had to be done again. It has been ridiculous. The city council has tried to put too many fingers in too many pies, and it cannot possibly manage to do it.

Mr. Kaufman

The hon. Gentleman argues that other cities have managed to get by on a lower rate poundage than Manchester. Of course they can do that if they do not deal so well with their citizens. For example, between 1974 and September 1979 Manchester started 9,285 houses. Liverpool, with a larger population, started 9,659. Leeds, with a population nearly 50 per cent. higher, started only 6,599. Liberal or Tory-controlled councils may spend less money, but often they do not want to do good for their citizens.

Mr. Silvester

I shall be talking about housing. It is an interesting subject. Unfortunately for the right hon. Gentleman, the examples that I gave did not concern Conservative councils. Is it being argued that in all the areas that I have mentioned only Manchester can do it right? Does that apply not only to housing but to virtually every subject that local government tackles? Or does it indicate that something is wrong in Manchester?

It is interesting to consider some of the figures relating to Manchester. For example, the education budget for 1974–75 carried 7,549 teachers. By 1978–79 the budget was carrying 8,179 teachers. However, by that time there were 6,000 fewer children in the schools. The catering service retains more or less the same number of staff. It serves fewer meals. It is not surprising that the food content of the cost of the meal, as opposed to the total cost of the meal, fell from 34 per cent. to 28 per cent. The number of administrators in the education department has increased by 50. That increase has taken place over the same period. That means that there has been a fall from 299 children per administrator to 244 per administrator.

The council has an insatiable appetite to hire more and more people, irrespective of the needs. When we started the exercise of trying to reduce public expenditure, the council passed a resolution to the effect that it would not do anything about it. It resolved that it would do all that it could, provided that there were no redundancies, and no changes of plan and that it had to do nothing different from what it was doing already. In other words, it said "We shall make a contribution to the needs of the country by cutting public expenditure, provided that we do not upset the empires of the great local government bosses."

Therefore, although the population fell from 542,000 in 1971 to 486,000 in 1979, the number of employees has gone up. I do not know whether those who live in Manchester realise that there used to be 18.61—if one can have such a figure—Mancunians for every employee. By 1979 there were only 12 Mancunians for every employee. That is quite a difference.

Mr. Eastham

Does the hon. Member agree that it is not necessarily a bad thing to take on more teachers? Parents desire to offer the best opportunities to their children, and if as a result of having more teachers the pupil-teacher ratio improves, that will be a good thing. Does the hon. Member agree also that Manchester has a reputation second to none in, for example, special education? Certain Conservative authorities outside Manchester which do not make such provision have to send people into Greater Manchester to share the benefits. They are the very people whom the hon. Member says we should not accept.

Mr. Silvester

The figures that I quoted are for all school teachers. There is no particular gain to special schools, as most of the gain went to the pupil-teacher ratios in ordinary secondary and primary schools. Of course, the hon. Member for Manchester has when there are so many I could sit here for many a long hour and we could plot many desirable things. It is a question whether we should reduce the pupil-teacher ratio to the degree that Manchester has, when there are so many other pressing burdens upon us. The city of Manchester never asks that question. It never seeks to judge properly between priorities. Priority is never given to decreasing the rate burden upon our people.

The housing authority is probably the worst in Britain, although I do not have experience of all authorities. It certainly manages to combine a maximum of arrogance and insensitivity towards its tenants with a total disregard for the ratepayer. That is not a very attractive combination. We all deal with council tenants in our surgeries, but the arrogance of the housing authority clearly demonstrates that the organisation is too big, too much and too distant. I agree with the right hon. Member for Ardwick that some of the private firms involved in modernisation have been pretty awful, but the council created the basic proposition that it moves into an area and decides that every one will have something done and that it will be done this way, whether one wants it or not.

A lady came to see me the other day who was clearly in need of a reallocation on the points system. She had been told by someone in one of the housing offices that she could not have a visit from the assessor because it was not her turn on the computer. We have installed a computer, and I have nothing against computers. They are neutral things. One gets out what one puts in. However, the computer has taken over this vast estate. Half of those who live in Manchester live in council property. The estate is far too big and cumbersome. Judging from the figures that I used before, the computer has not reduced staff levels. Staff numbers have increased from 702 to 899. It is amazing that such a monolith can sit upon half of the citizens of Manchester for so long. The unhappiness caused is quite extraordinary.

When I say that one gets out of a computer what one puts in, it is possible to give an example. The computer is so programmed that in practice one can get a tenancy in my area only by being moved from a clearance area in another part of the city. Several hon. Members will know about that, as I have the honour of having at least two hon. Members living in my constituency, and they will know that it is quite a pleasant area and that the demand is high.

It is possible for someone to live near his old mum in other parts of the city, but not in my area. I can only say "God help you". I shall not bother the House with all the details, but in various areas of the city one can find 20 per cent. of the population living in the area where they were brought up. The computer produced an answer of "Nil" for my area. No one feeds into the computer the desirability of living in the area in which one was brought up or in which one's old mum lives.

I turn to the effect of the housing authority on the poor old ratepayer. We have heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Stretford that rent arrears amount to £3 million. I am sorry that he has had to leave. The housing revenue account is a burden on the rates to the tune of £18½ million. That is about 20 per cent. of the rates. Judging from the official statistics, that comes out at about 65p per domestic ratepayer in Manchester. Of course, some of those are council tenants and they are therefore paying towards their reduced rents. Others are paying 65p a week to fund the reduction of other people's rent. Many of them are those who can least afford to do that. That burden falls upon the ratepayer, yet no one does anything about it.

The right hon. Member for Ardwick shed crocodile tears about industry. In Manchester the rate demand is about 20 per cent. above that levied in the surrounding countryside. I am not allowing for the higher rateable values but I am working on the straight poundage. Is it therefore any wonder that it is much more difficult for industries to start up and that they may look outside? The hon. Member for Ardwick is very selective in his facts. He talks about the intermediate area and the effect on Inmos. However, the decision about Inmos was not related to intermediate areas and I think that the decision was made by the previous Labour Government.

We face many detailed problems in our area that we shall have to deal with, and they will involve a great deal of public expenditure. I do not believe that there are many in Britain who fail to understand that the burden of public expenditure has been allowed to become too high. I know that certain Labour Members, particularly those on the Left of the Labour Party, think that we can carry on increasing public expenditure. Most sensible citizens accept that there is a limit. On the other hand, I agree with those who say that there is a strong and important role for public expenditure.

How can we achieve a balance and agreement between the sane people on both sides if we continue to have profligate councils, such as that of the city of Manchester? Such councils demonstrate time and time again that the only priority they refuse to accept is that of the burden they impose upon the ratepayers who have elected them. The chain of organisation by which rates can be affected by the poor old voter is almost impossible. It depends upon the willingness and wit of those councillors who make the decisions. With the exception of four years, those councillors who have sat in Manchester since 1945 have given a bum deal to the people of Manchester. I urge them to change their ways.

1.18 pm
Mr. Charles R. Morris (Manchester, Openshaw)

I join my parliamentary colleagues in congratulating my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. Kaufman) on the manner in which he moved the motion. The motion deals with the problems of the city of Manchester and those of the Greater Manchester area. My right hon. Friend brought to his task an eloquence and analysis of detail that were wholly impressive.

Like my right hon. Friend, I am anxious to focus attention on the problems of urban living in the city of Manchester —the difficulties associated with living in what is termed the inner city area. If social indicators are any guide, it is an area in which poverty and social deprivation exist, where there is appreciable scope for improvement in educational attainment levels and where, for many people, searching for work is fast becoming part of the daily round of family life.

The harsh realities of life for many of my constituents are reflected in the figures made available by the city of Manchester authorities, which were referred to by my right hon. Friend. It is estimated that in one ward in my constituency 43 per cent. of families are living at or below the poverty level. These people did not benefit from tax handouts but they will be affected by the abolition of the school bus pass, increases in gas prices, increases in prescription charges and a variety of other measures that, regrettably, the Government are encouraging.

An interesting fact and one that we tend to overlook is that, other than clerics, Anglican vicars and Roman Catholic priests, few professional people actually live in inner city areas. We rarely ask why or challenge those who are responsible for planning our inner cities.

The hon. Member for Manchester, Withington (Mr. Silvester) referred to the social composition of some areas in the city of Manchester. My right hon. Friend rightly drew attention to the impressive achievements of the Manchester corporation housing department. They are impressive, and 110,000 council houses have been built to rehouse people in the city. A whole city has been rehoused within a city and the slums of the nineteenth century have been eliminated.

However, while I recognise those achievements, I am not wholly uncritical of the housing department and the city planners. How can we justify the fact that, irrespective of choice, many people are obliged to live in contra-direction to where they work? I have always found it fascinating to observe that at the caprice of town planners the white collar worker lives in an owner-occupied dormitory suburb on the edge of Manchester and travels to and from his office in the city, while the blue collar worker lives in a council house in the inner city and works on an industrial estate on the periphery. Why?

I fully appreciate and understand the reasoning and good intentions of those who, eager to provide homes, have filled every vacant acre in the inner city with council houses. However, in creating residential reservations composed exclusively of council development, have not the planners and Government Departments that have endorsed the plans contributed to the concentration of problems in such areas? Has not planning effectively socially polarised the city's community?

I was encouraged to note that Manchester's housing department has taken the initiative in seeking to reverse that trend by building high-cost housing on a site in Manchester. I trust that the Government will provide the necessary funding and encouragement to the housing department to add to the city's splendid housing achievements and will allow the housing and direct works department to provide housing for all Manchester's citizens.

I am concerned about the new city of Manchester that is emerging, but I accept that jobs and future employment prospects are the issues that dominate the thinking of all who have the future well-being of Greater Manchester at heart. The ability to attract new industries to the area is the paramount issue in the South-East Lancashire conurbation. The Greater Manchester area, in something over two decades, has seen the decimation of the textile industry, the contraction of the coal mining industry and redundancies on a major scale in the steel-making and engineering industries.

My constituency mirrors the decline in manufacturing activity in the Greater Manchester area. When I first took my seat as Member for Openshaw, there were four textile mills, a British Steel Corporation steel-making plant and a National Coal Board colliery, all providing jobs for my constituents. First, the National Coal Board closed the Bradford colliery. That was followed by a decision of the British Steel Corporation to close its steel-making operations in Openshaw, and the textile mills in Failsworth seemed to disappear as part of the 367,000 jobs that the Lancashire textile industry has lost since 1964.

The hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Churchill) is regrettably not in his place, but if he challenged me about what I have done with regard to the question of contraction I would tell him that I have raised each and every one of those closures with the Ministers responsible, irrespective of the political complexion of the Government. If he challenges me as to what action I took as a Minister, I say to him that I encouraged my right hon. Friend the Member for Ardwick to support the National Enterprise Board's activities, efforts and actions to save the Ferranti company in my constituency, the engineering works of Francis Shaw and the jobs at Fairey Engineering in Stockport, which were at issue at that time. I would claim that the efforts of the Labour Administration and Labour Ministers have been in the interest of those I represent.

Mr. Silvester

I do not deny the right hon. Gentleman his activities, but the period of decline that he is talking about was between 1964 and 1979, during which, apart from three and a half years, the Labour party was in office.

Mr. Morris

The hon. Gentleman should look at the figures, and the history books will put him right. The period from 1964 to 1979 was not wholly under a Labour Administration.

I have referred to the industrial contraction that has taken place in the city of Manchester. Against this background, it was heartless and insensitive for the present Government to concoct unemployment statistics on a wholly unrealistic travel-to-work basis and use those statistics to justify the withdrawal of assisted area status from the city of Manchester. I believe that that decision will have an extremely damaging effect on the ability of Manchester and the Greater Manchester area to attract new industry.

I emphasise that Manchester is no lame-duck city seeking Government handouts. It is a city that historically has made a significant contribution to Britain's industrial and economic well-being. It deserves better from this Government than it has received so far.

I sometimes wonder whether Ministers understand the extent of political cynicism and frustration that recent Government decisions have engendered in those struggling to bring up their families on limited domestic incomes. It does not help Manchester housewives to be told that the Government accept no responsibility for the control of prices and that they are actively encouraging increases in food and gas prices. I wonder whether Ministers occasionally think about the thoughts that must go through the minds of youngsters eager to work, but unable to find work, when they are told that the Government consider that it is no part of their role to create jobs or employment opportunities.

Greater Manchester and the city of Manchester have formidable problems. I want briefly to refer to only two. In particular, I want to refer to the Manchester international airport. Understandably, Conservative hon. Members have today challenged the achievements of the Manchester city council under successive Labour Administrations. The city has a great record of civic achievement. Possibly one of the greatest jewels in its crown has been the establishment of the Manchester international airport, undoubtedly our outstanding provincial airport and still controlled by local government. If it is to expand and develop as Manchester citizens would wish in the years ahead, it will need Government encouragement and support. I hope that Ministers will give assurances about that.

I should like also to refer to Health Service provision in Manchester. The mortality rates, including perinatal mortality rates, in the North-West, including the Greater Manchester area, are among the worst in the country. I believe that this reflects on the amount of Government financial support made available to the area. I hope that Ministers will bear in mind the claims of Manchester and the North-West when they consider these important issues.

The debate has centred on a number of crucial problems. I trust that the Ministers present—I am gratified to see a collection of them here—will give the issues on which attention has been focused careful and serious consideration.

1.34 pm
Mr. Tom Arnold (Hazel Grove)

At times today I have felt as though I were listening to a private argument about the activities of the city of Manchester in particular, but the motion of the right hon. Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. Kaufman) goes much wider. It deals with the whole of Greater Manchester.

I should like to refer first to my own local authority area, where the position is very different from that outlined earlier. When we look at the activities of local authorities, I do not think it unreasonable or unfair to take into account, among other things, the efficiency of the services provided. As I listened to some of the figures given by my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Withington (Mr. Silvester) for the centre of Manchester, I could not help but reflect that the Stockport council offers a very efficient service compared with the centre of the city. This is all credit to the people who represent local wards in Stockport.

I believe I am right in saying that during the last Parliament the Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy worked out that Manchester employed about one person to every 52 residents, whereas in Stockport the local authority employed one person to every 125 residents. As my hon. Friend pointed out, since then the figures have changed yet again, very much to the disadvantage of the ratepayers of Manchester.

Most services in Manchester cost a great deal more per head of population than services in Stockport. Over the years this has reflected very badly on the way in which the city is run.

I have lived in Greater Manchester for 11 years, first in the old Cheetham constituency and more lately in Stockport. During that time—a period in which Labour have been in government for much longer than the Conservatives—most things have, far from getting better, become a great deal worse. The horizons of many of the citizens of the city of Manchester have steadily narrowed.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett

The hon. Gentleman seems to be proud of Stockport's record in having so few council employees. Does that extend to the pupil-teacher ratio? I am sure he is aware that Stockport's record is the worst in the country.

Mr. Arnold

The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that the council has reached a satisfactory outcome in its discussions with the teachers. It went to arbitration. Everyone recognises that the position needs to be improved, and I am satisfied that there will be some improvement.

I am certainly not arguing that the Stockport council is perfect. I am merely saying that its services to the public are a good deal more efficient than those given to the public in the centre of Manchester and that locally we have much to be proud of. I see no harm in putting that on record.

I return to the main theme of the debate. As my hon. Friend pointed out, in recent years public expenditure has pre-empted a growing level of national and local resources. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford (Mr. Churchill) that Manchester's prosperity depends upon the prosperity of England as a whole. In recent years we have seen a narrowing of the horizons of the people of Manchester, accompanied by an almost catastrophic decline in the number of jobs available.

Between 1965 and 1980, a period of 15 years, about 200,000 jobs in manufacturing industry in Greater Manchester have been lost. Although I recognise that this is controversial, I think it fair to say that counter-cyclical policies are now aggravating the very problems that they were designed to solve. That is why the Government are right to embark upon a different approach, based upon a different philosophy, which we put to the electorate at the last general election.

The right hon. Gentleman started his speech by saying that the Lancashire results in the last general election did not reflect the national trend. It always used to be said that Lancashire was the pointer to general election results. It is true that last May the Conservatives did not do as well in Lancashire as in other parts of the country. I suggest that one of the reasons, certainly in Greater Manchester, was that so many people have become worried about their future prospects that they find themselves able to think only upon almost wholly defensive lines. Instead of their being outward-looking and trying to put forward some measure of optimism and look for new opportunities, there is occurring a series of reflex actions that are designed to protect things that all too often, by their nature, can no longer be protected.

In the Greater Manchester area, most employers can be described as small businesses. When the economy does badly, so do those small businesses. Conversely, when the economy is doing well, small firms are able to generate a proportionately greater amount of employment. One of Greater Manchester's most important aims must be to create a climate of expansion in which entrepreneurs and others are prepared to risk their capital, to employ people and to bring about a return to happier days when manufacturing industry in the area occupied a much more important place.

I have already mentioned the figure of 200,000 jobs lost in the last 15 years. How are they to be replaced? I do not believe that they can be replaced by the Government. The right hon. Member for Ardwick referred to a number of industries in the Greater Manchester area. I should like to remind him of the unfortunate sequence of events which took place when he was a Minister concerning the activities of British Shipbuilders—for which he was in some measure responsible—and a firm in my constituency, Mirrlees Blackstone. So far from discouraging British Shipbuilders, a nationalised industry, from entering into competition with Mirrlees Blackstone in the manufacture of medium-speed diesel engines, in which none of the firms in British Shipbuilders had previously engaged, the right hon. Gentleman hedged his bets to such a degree that the opinion locally was that he was all in favour of a development that could only put at risk the jobs of a number of my constituents.

It is impossible to believe that a nationalised industry that had never previously engaged in a certain type of activity should be encouraged to enter into direct competition with a firm wholly dependent for its success in the market place at a time when there is world overcapacity in a particular type of engine production. That is what took place. It reflects the kind of thinking of which the right hon. Gentleman is so fond. That is his position; it is not ours.

The right hon. Gentleman made various points about the Government's new regional policy. He was less than fair in saying that various grants to which he referred will not be available. The Government have not said that land dereliction grants will come to an abrupt halt in 1982. They have said that they will look, area by area, to discover which places should continue to receive 100 per cent. grants. That is a proposal I welcome. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Withington that it is not the fact of Government intervention but the type of Government intervention that is important.

I agree with Stockport council that it would be wholly desirable for Stockport to continue to receive land dereliction grant. We would wish to develop a number of areas in the town. The right hon. Gentleman referred to various areas of derelict land on the boundaries between Stockport and Manchester. I agree that this matter needs to be examined more closely.

My only reservation about Government policy is that it is, even now, perhaps not selective enough. I understand that Government policy is to remove what I would call a blanket subsidy and to concentrate resources more selectively. I feel, nevertheless, that the policy may still be too broad brush in some respects to cope with particular problems of particular areas. The ratepayers of Stockport are entitled to ask why they are apparently not to receive certain types of assistance that will still be available under the inner urban areas programme in the city of Manchester. My hon. Friend the Minister may care to comment upon this matter. I believe, however, that the main lines of Government policy are right. It is high time that we were more selective in what we seek to do.

I do not believe that the right hon. Member for Ardwick was wholly fair in saying that the Government were bringing all the various kinds of regional assistance to an abrupt halt. There is a fairly lengthy transitional period between now and 1982. Although there may be difficulties in individual instances, the main thrust of our policy remains fairly clear. That policy is to try to prevent the way in which public expenditure in recent years has eaten more and more of the nation's resources. That applies as much locally as nationally. It has been to the detriment of industry.

Mr. Kaufman

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the only form of aid capable of being reconsidered on a different basis out of the varieties that will be lost as a result of the removal of intermediate areas status is that in respect of derelict land clearance areas? Such areas can be designated separately. All the other varieties of aid will be extinguished automatically when we lose our intermediate area status. I hope very much that the Minister will say that we are to receive derelict land clearance status. It is not simply a matter of hoping. Unless we are told quickly that we are to be accorded such status, programmes cannot be planned properly. These have to be planned ahead.

Mr. Arnold

I do not believe that the right hon. Gentleman is entirely right. The European regional development fund will remain available until 1982. It is clear that the fund itself is about to undergo a considerable restructuring. With the enlargement of the Community, I do not see how the fund can maintain its present shape or structure. It is not fair now, early in 1980, to say what will or will not be available from the fund in 1982.

I understand that there are problems in applying for chunks of the fund because it has to go through national Governments. Two years is, nevertheless, a long time. I am sure that we shall see considerable changes in the way in which the fund operates between now and then. I am glad to see that my hon. Friend the Member for Cheadle (Mr. Normanton) is present. In his capacity as a Member of the European Parliament, he knows a great deal more than I about these matters. He may perhaps contribute to the debate.

The right hon. Member for Ardwick is being unfair in castigating the Government in such blanket, overall terms. It was made clear in the Conservative Party manifesto that we would be seeking to make changes, that we would make certain those changes were implemented gradually and that we would be careful to monitor the situation thereafter to see how selective assistance could be given where and when necessary.

I should like to return to the issue of small businesses. The future of employment throughout Greater Manchester will depend largely upon the willingness and readiness to recognise that yesterday's jobs cannot be protected for ever. In the last 15 years, there has been an enormous loss of jobs in manufacturing industry at a time when successive Governments have introduced regulations and Acts of Parliament to try to alleviate problems. We have reached a point where the total amounts involved and the distortions created are so enormous that it is virtually impossible to predict with any certainty what are likely to be the effects of those policies.

The activities of NORWIDA are the subject of considerable controversy. Hon. Members will be aware of the anxiety felt by members of the staff of NORWIDA about the report of the consultants, Coopers and Lybrand, who were unable, despite the efforts of NORWIDA to attract business into the North-West and into Greater Manchester, to identify with any great precision which firms had established themselves in the area that otherwise would not have done so. This matter is being debated. The wider lesson that it seems to indicate is that the kind of aids that hon. Members on both sides of the House have sought to introduce in recent years have not always worked to the extent that their exponents believed at the time the measures were put forward.

The regeneration of industry in Greater Manchester will depend more than anything on creating a climate in which business men, and particularly individual entrepreneurs—those who fell within the definition of small businesses when they were examined by the Bolton committee—will feel able to go out into the market place and take a chance.

An open-ended policy of trying to prop up concerns, whether large or small, cannot protect a further erosion or decline in jobs. Unfortunately, I see no way in which Greater Manchester can be divorced from the rest of the economy in terms of the cyclical effects that must be felt throughout industry.

When we are facing severe and increasing competition overseas, I regret to say that unless it is possible to encourage a new spirit of awareness of what can be done by allowing people to have their head, free from too much Government intervention, the future looks pretty bleak. Considering what has happened in the past 15 years, that is the last thing that we want to say.

I hope that when we next have a debate about Greater Manchester we shall be able to say that there has been a measure of progress and that there is a prospect of new jobs being created in new industries and businesses. Basically, that is the only way to secure, and eventually to improve, the standard of living of all our people.

1.51 pm
Mr. Tom Pendry (Stalybridge and Hyde)

I shall be brief, because it is important that every one of my hon. Friends who wishes to speak should be able to make his contribution. I join those who have congratulated my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. Kaufman), not just on his choice of subject but on the way that he presented it. I have no doubt that he has done a great job in articulating the problems that face all our constituents in Greater Manchester.

I wish to raise a couple of matters of Government policy that impinge on my constituency, but as Stalybridge and Hyde is in the metropolitan borough of Tameside my constituents will expect me to mention secondary education, and I am happy to do so.

There are many anxieties about education in Tameside, particularly among the parents of children of 11. I realise that this is a delicate time because proposals from the council are before the Secretary of State, and I do not wish to say anything that will impair the chances of that scheme being accepted.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Sheldon), my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Marks) and I keep reminding the House that Labour romped home in the Tameside local elections last year. Four-square in the Labour programme was the issue of comprehensive education, and it is clear that the vast majority of those in my constituency and throughout Tameside expect to see a comprehensive system of education accepted by the Secretary of State.

The chairman of the Tameside education committee, Councillor Roy Oldham, recognises the delicate stage that we have reached, but he wants me to tell the Secretary of State for Education and Science—it is a pity that we do not have a DES Minister present for the debate, though I am sure that the Secretary of State will read our remarks in Hansard—that in normal circumstances 11-year-old pupils in Tameside would be allocated their secondary schools in the first week of February. We are getting near that time, and there are many anxieties. Parents are worried about school uniforms and transportation, which has been made worse by the provisions of the Education (No. 2) Bill, and the authority is worried about where it should place its capital building work, staff and ancillary services.

It is estimated that up to 10 per cent. of staff will need to be reallocated in a new system of education in Tameside in order to match the subjects that will be taught in local schools. Many of the so-called grammar schools in Tameside have a teacher-pupil ratio for A-level subjects of one to two or three. The new education authority wants to see that ratio become one to six or 10 and to make the system more efficient as soon as possible. The message from the Tameside education committee to the Secretary of State is "Please make your decision as quickly as possible so that we can get on with the job of providing the education system that the people of Tameside want."

Tameside is part of the area under discussion, which was the driving force of the industrial boom in the 1900s, leading to the development of Manchester as a major commercial centre. However, with the decline in the traditional industries, particularly coal and textiles, there continues to be dereliction and obsolescence and an infrastructure that reflects the outcome of the nineteenth century economy. Throughout Tameside there is a pervasive atmosphere of neglect, the statistics of which cannot alone result in the district getting the recognition that it deserves.

I should like to raise two aspects of Government policy which, if persisted with, will create great hardship to Tameside and the people living there. With the loss of assisted area status and the development grants that go with it, together with the potential loss of derelict land clearance funds, Tameside faces a bleak future, as do many other districts around Manchester.

I should like to spell out some of the effects of the Government's folly. The abrupt cut-off of regional development grants brings in its wake a number of side effects. The first is a disinclination on the part of many companies to start projects that would otherwise have gone ahead. There are many examples, including the firm C. M. Coote of Hyde, which has shelved a project directly because of Government policy. That has resulted in a loss of industrial floor space and of employment, because the firm was to increase its work force by 100 per cent.

Another effect is that companies that have started projects will not be able to finish them on time. The steel strike will make that even more difficult, and the result will be considerable financial losses, especially for small firms, of which there are many examples in my constituency and Greater Manchester generally.

Another natural consequence is that building costs will be artificially inflated as firms compete for available labour and steel. They will be fighting to reach deadline dates that have been set.

In Tameside there are two schemes under way—both are in my constituency, in Hattersley and in North End Road, Stalybridge—where urban grant money is being used to provide industrial units to let. It is the council's policy to pass on the benefits of regional development grants to the occupiers of such units by means of abatement of rent. If any of the units do not qualify for grant, the resulting rent increases will either deter a firm from occupying the premises or require it to increase the cost of its product to meet the additional cost of production.

I turn to the more major aspect which has been touched on by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ardwick—the problem of land dereliction. In my constituency it is a very big problem. It is not untypical of many of the constituencies represented on the Opposition Benches today.

Following the Department of Employment's survey of derelict land undertaken only six years ago, the amount of derelict land in Tameside has increased from 316 acres to almost 900 acres today. The district of Tameside measures merely 5 miles by 8 miles, but it contains 200 mine shafts as well as a large area of dereliction. A recent survey of land use in Tameside shows that, of the built-up area, almost 10 per cent. of the total land area can be classified as being abandoned, under-used or derelict.

Such conditions have resulted in formidable problems when the economic redevelopment of sites is carried out. There is no doubt that the presence of dereliction or neglect strongly influences decisions to invest within the borough. I am, therefore, particularly concerned about those industrialists who, because of the problems that I have outlined, are not attracted to the area, because of the difficult sites and the general atmosphere of neglect which pervades it.

More than half of the industrial buildings now in use in Tameside were built before the First World War. In addition, more than half of Tameside's firms cannot expand on their present sites. The problems of dealing with the needs are exacerbated by the potential loss of derelict land funds. Clearly, outdated industrial buildings, inadequate sites and decaying infrastructure add to the deepening pool of dereliction.

A further factor is the ability of the community to cope with the problems that it faces. The area is largely working class, with average earnings some 10 per cent. below the national average, and in some key sectors, such as textiles, they are almost 20 per cent. below the national average earnings level.

Therefore, I must emphasise that the overall objective of derelict land grants is to increase or at least to maintain socio-economic confidence by reclaiming land for industry and housing. This will be destroyed if there is any erosion of Tameside's current status in receiving 100 per cent. reclamation grants. Tameside has a very active reclamation team. More than 125 acres has been reclaimed since local government reorganisation in 1974, and 500 acres is earmarked for reclamation by the present authority and has been given the initial approval by the Department of the Environment.

It is the size of the problem that concerns me. I hope that the Ministers present will take note not merely of what I have said on this subject but of what my hon. Friends have said, and will be saying, and that we shall get some positive response from them. I hope that they will listen.

2.3 pm

The Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Geoffrey Finsberg)

I commence by hoping that it would be helpful to the House if this were the stage at which I should intervene. I shall try to deal with as many as possible of the issues that have been raised.

The right hon. Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. Kaufman) has given the House one of the rare opportunities of discussing a particular area of the country—although, as in most things, London has led the way, as London Members have done that on more than one occasion, but we can return to that at a later date.

The right hon. Gentleman started with the comment that as he left Manchester Piccadilly station—which I know extremely well as I have known Manchester for more than 20 years—instead of the present intelligent advertisements he would like to see an advertisement saying "Don't blame us. We voted Labour." One does not need such an advertisement. One needs merely to walk around Manchester to see the monument to Labour rule in the city of Manchester for every year since the end of the war, bar four, and that does not need to be spelt out.

Mr. Charles R. Morris

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Finsberg

I shall give way shortly, but the right hon. Gentleman must allow me to make the opening that I was going to make. Then, particularly to him, I shall gladly give way.

The gratuitous insult with which the right hon. Member for Ardwick opened the debate was unnecessary. I fear that it set the whole tone of the debate, which I think, had it been pursued on a constructive basis by the right hon. Gentleman, could have been rather more useful that it will turn out to be.

Mr. Charles R. Morris

I was rather taken with the Minister's assessment of the achievements of Manchester. Will he accept my invitation to come to my constituency and the city to see the achievments at first hand?

Mr. Finsberg

If there is a suitable opportunity, I shall gladly do so. I have great respect for the right hon. Gentleman, as I shall enlarge upon a little later.

However, I must repeat that in the areas—it is not now confined purely to Manchester; it is applicable also to parts of London—that have been under the one-party rule of the Labour Party since the war, that is Labour's monument. It is visible. One does not need any advertisements to tell one about it.

I shall now try to deal with a couple of the specific points raised by the right hon. Member for Ardwick. He raised the question of the electricity discount scheme. He spoke in a rather unhappy tone at one point. He spoke sadly of the family who, according to him, were suffering certain problems. He said that if they are not of the right age they will have lost the benefits of the electricity discount scheme. I should like to give the House the facts. All that I shall try to do in this debate is to give facts in answer to fallacies.

The Labour scheme gave a large number of people roughly £4½ million, a small average amount of money—the average was about £7.50 per family—at the vast administrative cost, which everyone else had to bear, of some £4 million. The scheme that we have operated this winter gives benefits to those most in need, and we are assuming that it will benefit about 345,000 people—about 110,000 pensioners—and it will give them an average sum of £50. The administrative cost is expected to be well under £500,000. Therefore, what we have done is to give worthwhile payments to those in real need. That has been the key to our policy, not merely in this respect but on everything else, as I shall seek to demonstrate as I proceed.

Mr. Kaufman

Does the hon. Gentleman realise that he has just made an admission of great inefficiency? He is saying that the scheme which will give aid to one-thirteenth of the people that the Labour Government helped is costing one-eighth of the Labour Government's scheme. Therefore, there is about a 50 per cent. increase in cost per head.

Mr. Finsberg

If the right hon. Gentleman knew very much about business, he would appreciate that there is an irreducible minimum of administration that one has to have. But, of course, if he is advocating compulsory redundancy, let that be noted. That is what he is saying. Of course one could do it by dispensing with vast numbers of staff on a compulsory basis. That is what is behind the point that he has made.

Then the right hon. Gentleman went on to talk about the Denton rehabilitation centre, as did the hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Marks). I am advised—clearly, on issues that are, as it were, outside the Department of the Environment, I have to be advised—that the removal of the night sections from the largest of the employment rehabilitation centres will save posts and ease pressure on supervisors. It should not unduly affect throughput, because case conference teams can reasonably deal only with an occupation of 85 to 90, which is still possible. Obviously I shall draw the attention of my appropriate hon. Friend to the specific issue. If there is a further point to be answered on that, I shall see that it is answered.

The right hon. Gentleman also raised the question of the centre for educational disadvantage. My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science has received a paper from the governing body of the centre during the last few days. He will consider it carefully and write to the right hon. Gentleman when he has done so.

I am sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for Stretford (Mr. Churchill) is not in the House. He apologised for having to leave. Many hon. Members are sometimes placed in that position. There are one or two, for example, who spoke in the debate but who are not here now.

My hon. Friend made a telling speech which exposed the froth, dross and fallacies of the right hon. Member for Ardwick. I shall endeavour to continue the job that he started so well in putting the facts, not the fallacies, before the House.

We all acknowledge that Manchester is one of the great industrial and distributive centres in the country. Its development since the Industrial Revolution, as the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry) said, is comparable to a chart of the course which Britain has followed.

There was, first, a period of rapid growth under the stimulus of dynamic and innovative entrepreneurs. Then followed the period of world leadership, when economic and social development rested on the wealth of the basic industries—textiles, coal, steel and heavy engineering. Then followed a long period of slow, sometimes imperceptible, decline as the industries which were once the leaders became the victims mainly of changing demand but victims also of new and aggressive competitors, of low productivity, overmanning, restrictive prac- tices and the reluctance to adapt. They became victims of a tax burden which crippled profits so that the investment was made too little and too late.

Mr. Eastham

I do not agree. During that period, the North-West suffered seriously because of the asset strippers and private monopolies. They caused real suffering to the workers.

Mr. Finsberg

The hon. Gentleman must accept that I was giving a pen sketch of what had happened since the Industrial Revolution. In the last stage, the deliberate policies of his party caused the failure of many companies to survive, which made them wide open to takeover by other companies. I am trying to explain that that is the result of Socialism.

It is inescapable that the Government should rescue the country from a welter of grants and subsidies so widespread that all sense of form and purpose has been lost, so narcotic that enterprise and self-help have been dwindling away, so burdensome that resources are being sucked away from more productive purposes. We must get back, however painful the process, to a position in which the country at large stands on its own feet and special measures of help are directed with force and point to those limited cases where external help is absolutely necessary. That is the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Hazel Grove (Mr. Arnold). Of these areas, Greater Manchester, by and large, is not one.

My hon. Friend made a telling speech and pointed to the dangers of the protective attitude of holding on until it is too late for something for which there is no longer any market. That prescription has been written for many large companies in Britain as a result of direct Government policy of protectionism. That cannot work, as my hon. Friend rightly said.

Today, Manchester suffers from the inner city problems which bedevil the older industrial areas. But today also the spirit of new enterprise has grown in Manchester. The right hon. Member for Manchester, Openshaw (Mr. Morris) referred to Manchester's airport. Manchester's commercial strength has grown. Its prospering airport and good communications have fostered expansion of the service industries. While unemployment at 5.4 per cent. is considerably higher than any hon. Member would wish to see, it is slightly below the national average of 5.5 per cent. Many people, and not all of them from Manchester, would call it the business capital of the North. It was, therefore, with a feeling of sadness that I read the terms of the right hon. Gentleman's motion.

I listened to the right hon. Gentleman's not unusual attacks on those people who cannot answer for themselves in the House, distinguished people such as my colleague Lord Bellwin and Dame Kathleen Ollerenshaw. It should be beneath the dignity of the right hon. Gentleman to make that sort of attack on people who cannot defend themselves in the House. He can attack me and my colleagues as much as he likes. Those who do not have the opportunity of the Floor of the House deserve better protection, particularly Dame Kathleen, a person of distinction, who is acknowledged by most of the respectable members of the Labour Party in Manchester as a marvellous former Lord Mayor of that city.

Mr. Kaufman

Lord Bellwin has the freedom of the House of Lords in which to express his opinions. No doubt he will do so. He is not exactly unable to defend himself. Dame Kathleen Ollerenshaw is not only a distinguished former Lord Mayor of Manchester. She is a distinguished Tory councillor in my constituency who produces partisan policies. She is also perfectly capable of shrilly, if not incomprehensibly, stating her view.

Mr. Finsberg

The right hon. Gentleman underlines what I have said. I leave it to hon. Members who heard his remarks to decide whether he acted in the best traditions.

I listened to the right hon. Gentleman's plea for handouts, for protection from reality, and I remembered that Manchester was the home of the free trade movement. It was Manchester which led the way in calling for the dead hand of Government to be lifted from the industry and commerce on which our economy depends. It was Manchester which led the way in the economic growth which followed. Manchester has nothing to fear from the Conservative policies of today. It has everything to lose from the recipes of the right hon. Gentleman.

The subject of today's debate is wide. Many aspects of our policies are primarily matters for other Ministers, and I cannot hope to deal with them all in detail.

The hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde said that he would have liked to see present today an education Minister. So far, our discussions have concerned industry, trade, health and social services, employment, environment and education. In his past reincarnation, he will know that one Minister has to be given the opportunity of answering as best he can those sections of a debate falling outside the responsibilities of his Department. I repeat that I shall specifically draw to the attention of my colleagues matters in which their Departments are involved and ask them to write to the hon. Members concerned.

I remind hon. Gentlemen yet again of the realities of public expenditure. As a Government, we are totally committed to improving the standard of public services. But public spending has to be paid for, and improvements can be achieved only with a strong economy. The truth is that, over the years, public spending has been planned on assumptions about economic growth which have not been achieved. It is now at a level which the economy cannot support. High taxes and high levels of Government borrowing have combined to reduce incentives, to fuel inflation, and to discourage investment. In short, public expenditure is stifling economic growth.

So our first task is to increase the country's resources through higher output. That can be achieved only through lower taxes, less Government borrowing, and increased investment in the areas of economic growth. Therefore, the growth in public expenditure must first be halted and then reversed until public spending falls to a level that the economy can afford. The alternative is continued economic decline and serious long-term damage to the public services as our ability to finance them diminishes still further. We will not follow that course.

Mr. Kaufman rose

Mr. Finsberg

I shall give way to the right hon. Gentleman. However, I must point out to him that the more that I give way, the less chance there is for his colleagues and mine to say any more.

Mr. Kaufman

The hon. Gentleman made a very fair point. With regard to what he says about public expenditure, Dame Kathleen Ollerenshaw gave up the the leadership of the Conservative Party on Manchester city council because she opposed the attitude of her colleagues against public expenditure cuts.

Mr. Finsberg

I shall hold that one in the air for a moment until I come to deal with the right hon. Gentleman's speech.

As our resources are limited—and we should be living in a fool's paradise if we pretended they were not—it is all the more important to ensure that they are used to best effect. That is why we have announced the changes in regional industrial policy which the right hon. Gentleman and other hon. Members mentioned. They will appreciate that this is not a matter for which my Department is responsible. Let me say, however, that we intend our regional industrial policy to be selective and effective. It will be concentrated on the parts of the country with the most serious problems of unemployment and structural weakness. That is right and proper.

I appreciate that, as a result of these changes, much of Greater Manchester will lose its intermediate area status in 1982. It would be unjust if Greater Manchester, with unemployment slightly below the national average, were to have assisted area status. There are places with higher unemployment which do not. The value of such assistance is dissipated to nothing when it is spread too widely, and, to minimise any difficulty in adjusting, we are allowing a lengthy three-year transitional period. We have recognised the special problems of Wigan by uplifting its status from intermediate area to development area, something which the right hon. Member for Ardwick, for all his fine words, did not succeed in doing during his time of power and influence at the Department of Industry.

There has been some concern about the consequent reduction—except in Wigan—in eligibility for aid from the European regional development fund. I note that the Commission is looking at this, and it may be that if my hon. Friend the Member for Cheadle (Mr. Normanton) catches your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, he will be able to say something further about it. Again, it is regrettable, but in my view right, that there are no allocations for par- ticular areas or regions. Available funds are directed to the best projects in the areas most in need. I am sure that no one in Manchester would wish to see any other set of criteria used.

The right hon. Gentleman spoke about Inmos. The future of the Inmos project is, as the right hon. Gentleman admitted, one for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry. I understand that the Inmos board has decided, on the basis of a detailed analysis by consultants and further studies of its own, that Bristol would be the most suitable location for its first production plant. The National Enterprise Board has considered that decision and believes that there is no valid reason to seek to overturn the view of the Inmos board. The NEB has now sought approval for the second tranche of £25 million for the project. As my right hon. Friend made clear, he wishes to subject the whole project to a detailed review before committing further funds. The review is now in progress, and it would not be appropriate for me to say any more at this stage.

A further worry has been expressed about the possible loss of 100 per cent. derelict land clearance grants. Such a loss will not necessarily follow the ending of assisted area status. The possibility of designation as a derelict land clearance area remains, and the Department of Industry and my Department are studying the situation in all those places which will lose assisted area status. I cannot at this stage say what the outcome of the study will be, but we are carrying it out as rapidly as we can.

I am sure that Greater Manchester has the industrial strength and resilience to withstand any pressures caused by the loss of assisted area status. I am sure, too, that industry and commerce in Manchester will take full advantage of the benefits which will result from the reduced burden of public expenditure.

The right hon. Member mentioned our plans for local authority spending. Local authorities account for a quarter of all public spending. They cannot be insulated from the realities of the national economy. It is essential for the Government to exercise overall control on their expenditure. That does not in any way detract from our determination to give authorities the maximum freedom of action within that overall control. As soon as we took office, we had to take steps to reverse the growth in local spending which the Labour Government had planned in a mood of quite unjustified economic optimism—some might say madness, others electoral bribery. Local authority manpower had reached its highest-ever level. We called for a recruitment freeze, and now manpower has begun to fall. We asked authorities to spend not 1½ per cent. more than in 1978–79 but 1½ per cent. less. We gave them early warning of our plans for a further 1 per cent. reduction in 1980–81 and of our intention that restraint should continue in the years to come.

If we look back, how different that is from the position in 1977 when local government had to make panic cuts of 2½ per cent. imposed not as a matter of considered policy but as a demand from the International Monetary Fund, to which the last Government had to rush cap in hand. I do not remember speeches from the right hon. Member for Ardwick or the right hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris) saying how monstrous it was that their Government attacked the principle of local authority spending and made the local authorities reduce it by 2½ per cent. They were not Labour's forgotten men. They were Labour's silent men.

I now say a word about the rate support grant. We need to see in context exactly what has happened in Manchester. The 1980–81 rate support grant settlement, which was debated and approved in this House earlier this week, halts the drift in grant away from the shire counties which took place under the last Labour Government. The shire counties will enjoy a modest increase in their share of the total needs element for the first time since 1973–74. But it would be quite wrong to say that we had achieved this at the expense of the metropolitan areas. In 1980–81 they also will enjoy an increase in their share of the grant, in contrast to the decline in 1979–80. Most authorities in Greater Manchester have done well out of the latest settlement.

The only significant loss arises for the city of Manchester, but that has been limited by a generous safety net to the equivalent of only a penny rate, which is hardly a financial disaster.

Mr. Marks

I think that the hon. Gentleman has it wrong. This drift to the metropolitan areas, except for London, from the shire counties never took place. In the live years to 1974, the increase in the proportion of grant that the metropolitan districts and counties got was only 0.7 per cent.

Mr. Finsberg

Having looked at the figures and argued them over the years, I am content to stand by the version that I gave a moment ago. We have made a rate support grant settlement this year which is fair and equitable. We have not repeated the last Government's disastrous mistake of setting a cash limit so unrealistically low that it had to be adjusted almost as soon as it was made.

We have ensured that no authority suffers an excessive loss of grant. We have kept up the Government's contribution to protect the ratepayer. Within the limits of the present system, the Government have made a very fair settlement. We have played our part. We now look to all local authorities in the Manchester area and elsewhere to play their part in the fight against inflation and raise not a penny more in rates than is absolutely necessary. I hope that I carry Labour Members with me in saying that.

Our plans for local spending have been subjected to a barrage of uninformed criticism. Ordinary people have been unnecessarily alarmed by irresponsible scare stories about cuts in essential services. Scant attention has been paid to the facts and figures. Not for the first time, I set these cuts firmly in perspective. They are not all that large.

For every £100 spent by local authorities last year, we are asking them to spend not more than £97.50 next year. I do not pretend that this will not cause difficulties, but nobody can argue intelligently that this is an attack on the fabric of the public services. We must remember that the level of spending and the standard of services are not the same thing, as my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Withington (Mr. Silvester) said very firmly.

Can anyone say that there is no waste or inefficiency in local authorities? Much of what we are asking can be achieved through greater attention to efficiency and value for money. Does Manchester—as has been mentioned—really need to build an ice centre for £14 million? Does it need to send a delegation from the direct works committee to Belfast at a cost of £3,500? A problem here is that Belfast has no direct works committee. The Manchester delegation still went to Belfast.

Does the city need to spend £10 million on a museum complex? At a time of financial stringency, are these the kind of burdens that ought to be laid upon ratepayers? Is it any wonder that industry is moving away from areas such as Manchester when such areas are imposing greater and greater burdens on a shrinking rate base?

My hon. Friend the Member for Stretford referred to Manchester's rent arrears. If we examine the housing revenue account, we see that Manchester made a contribution of £16 million—that is, £3.60 per dwelling—to its housing revenue account as a voluntary rate fund contribution. The figure in 1971 was £250,000. Leeds made no voluntary contribution.

What of rents? The average unrebated Manchester council house rent is £5.47 a week as against a national average of £6.56 a week. Compare that with Leeds, where the rent is £6.86 a week. The rents in Leeds have risen in line with the guidelines laid down by the Labour Government. What were the right hon. Gentleman and his Department doing when Manchester city council thumbed its nose at him year after year? He did nothing. At a result, since 1975–76 rents have been increased in Manchester by less than £1.25 a week as against his Government's guidelines, which suggested £2.70 a week. In 1975–76, rents in Manchester were in line with the national average. If they had kept in step, as did rents in Leeds, the Manchester rate would have been 7p in the pound less. That is an active sign that a city would have considered the needs of all its ratepayers.

The crocodile tears shed over the loss of jobs could well be because the rates have gone up by 7p in the pound more that they need have done because of the policies of the Labour-controlled Manchester authorities. There are rent arrears in Manchester of £3,250,000 and 6,000 vacant housing units. There is a condemnation of what we call "Bleak House" by Shelter. That is the record of the Labour-controlled Manchester corporation.

The right hon. Gentleman made much of the alleged cuts in the housing invest- ment programme. We should get the facts straight. The total allocation, across the board, for Manchester was £65 million. The reduction was £600,000, and there is no certainty now, as there was no certainty then, that Manchester would even spend the full allocation. The reduction of £600,000 on £65 million was made following consultations which indicated that Manchester, in company with most other local authorities, did not believe that it could spend its allocation. Let us, therefore, have no more nonsense about dramatic and drastic cuts.

I cannot yet say when the Government will be able to announce next year's allocations. I appreciate, as I am sure the right hon. Gentleman did when the HIP system started, that it is desperately important for local authorities to know their allocations as soon as possible. We will let them know as soon as we are able to do so.

The right hon. Gentleman's speech to-day was a less funny re-run of his rather dismal winding-up speech on Tuesday. The only memorable aspect of that debate was the pledge by the leader of his department to withdraw from 6 million council tenants the right to buy their homes if and when we suffer another Labour Government.

I appreciate the anecdote of my hon. Friend the Member for Withington about the visit to a theatre in Camden which has been closed for 18 months. However, I have to contradict him, because my constituency is in the borough of Camden. It would not have been an unfruitful visit because all the councillors would have been able to swap stories about their determination to have the highest rent arrears; not to increase rents year after year; not to make any reductions and still have pretty lousy standards of public services. The visit was probably not a waste. The brothers were able to get together happily and compare the miseries each of their authorities is imposing upon its ratepayers.

How will these cuts affect Manchester? That depends very much on the decisions of the local authorities in the Manchester area. We have asked all local authorities to make overall reductions and we expect them to do that. In the White Paper we set out a broad breakdown of local authority expenditure between services. This reflects our view of national priorities.

Individual local authorities must decide for themselves where savings are to be made in the light of local needs and conditions. I have no doubt that this is the right course. Just as the Government are better placed than local authorities to judge what overall levels of expenditure the economy can support, so the local authorities are better placed, on the whole, to weigh up local priorities and to decide how the available resources should be allocated.

The right hon. Member for Wythenshaw—perhaps he will forgive me if I refer to him in his absence—raised a number of points. I regard the right hon. Member as a man of real integrity and compassion. However, he is taken in by propaganda. His right hon. Friend and relation the Member for Openshaw, for whom we also have great respect, seems to take the same view, although in a more extreme form.

I answer one of the points made by the right hon. Member for Openshaw. We will not permit Manchester corporation direct works department to expand outside its area. Equally, as soon as legislation is passed, that department will be subjected to proper financial disciplines and scrutiny. I make two comments on points made by the right hon. Gentleman. One may be helpful, one may not.

In a rather untypical way for him, he said that the Government were taking no responsibility for the control of prices. That is a fair summary of what he said. I recall that the Government of which the right hon. Member for Openshaw was a member controlled prices and that they rose by about 100 per cent. I do not believe that the right hon. Member has got that right.

The right hon. Gentleman asked me about Manchester airport. My right hon. Friend directed that on 6 September 1979 the planning applications submitted by the Manchester International Airport Authority to the GMC and the Cheshire county council for permission to extend the main runway should be determined by him instead of the two local authorities. A public local inquiry has been arranged for 12 February. The considerations to betaken into account will include the effect of the proposal on the green belt and the existing landscape, noise, pollution, highways, the proposed departure from the approved development plan, the need for the extension and the community benefit deriving from it. I hope that the assurance that we are acting as rapidly as we can in coming to a decision will be of comfort to hon. Members.

When local authorities reach their decisions on where to make savings, I hope that they will review their priorities carefully. We have done nothing to rule out subsidised or free school transport. That is a myth. We simply propose to remove the present restrictive rules which prevent local authorities from developing their own school transport policies entirely in accord with local needs. If the legislation is passed, local authorities will have discretion to do that. The same applies to school meals. They may subsidise if they judge that to be necessary.

I understand that some authorities are anxious because they have been more prudent than others—and that applies in particular to the Greater Manchester council since 1977 and authorities such as Stockport. I realise that such authorities will find it more difficult to make reductions. They will be able to take into account the measures that we propose to give authorities greater flexibility in their spending decisions. They include greater discretion in the provision of and charging for school meals, milk and transport, the ability to charge for planning applications and for building regulations and changes in planning legislation, including the general development order.

We are reviewing the statutory duties of local authorities with a view to increasing local discretion and improving value for money We have greatly reduced the number of time-consuming Government circulars and propose to remove over 300 wasteful and unnecessary controls. All this, together with improvements in efficiency, will enable those local authtorities with the will to achieve significant expenditure savings while maintaining the priority services. I have no doubt that in making the necessary savings the authorities concerned will make every effort to ensure that their resources are used to the best effect.

I turn to the inner areas, a subject which has not been raised by Opposition Members, perhaps because they are unhappy about the way in which we are reorganising them and making them work.

The Secretary of State has already affirmed the Government's commitment last September to securing the regeneration of the inner areas. We are determined to do all that is possible to create the conditions that will bring growth and prosperity back to the inner cities. Most of all, we are determined to make them areas where the private job-creating sector can thrive. Our general policies on land, on taxation, on reducing bureaucratic red tape and on small businesses will all help.

Unlike the Opposition, we do not seek to exaggerate the role of the public sector. Of course it has a part to play in creating the right climate, in providing opportunities that others can take up—for example, by reclaiming derelict land and by bringing unused land on to the market to attract private development, by improving the environment—we have taken powers to assist in this way in the Housing Bill—making areas pleasanter places in which to live, and by encouraging the voluntary sector to build up a self-reliant community. But private investment is the vital ingredient. The public sector alone will simply not have the resources that are needed.

As the House knows, we inherited a complex machine for urban aid which we have simplified while retaining the essential elements of Government involvement and of central and local government cooperation. We have continued the partnership and programme authority arrangements but with streamlined procedures and reduced bureaucracy. We have retained the Inner Urban Areas Act. In Greater Manchester this means that the Manchester and Salford inner city partnership continues, Bolton and Oldham retain their programme authority status and Rochdale and Wigan remain as designated districts, which gives them additional powers to assist in the economic regeneration of their areas.

We have simplified the way in which urban aid is given to partnership and programme authorities. Instead of paying out from separate pockets for inner area schemes, outer area schemes and Operation Clean-Up, authorities will now receive a single allocation and the aid will be administered under a single procedure minimising bureaucracy and paper work.

Despite the heavy pressures on resources in the public sector for next year, we have retained the overall level of resources available under the urban programme in 1980–81 at the same level, in real terms, as in 1979–80. It is true that we have had to make a small reduction in the resources available in 1979–80 in the case of the Manchester and Salford partnership amounting to £800,000, but I understand that, in spite of that, the allocation for next year is likely to represent a significant increase over actual expenditure in the current year.

I emphasise once more that there has been no reduction in the level of urban aid available in 1980–81 and the authorities in Greater Manchester will continue to benefit. Provisional allocations for 1980–81 have been given to the partnership and programme authorities. Manchester and Salford have £12.37 million, Bolton £1.52 million and Oldham £1.62 million. Rochdale and Wigan will be able to put forward industrial and commercial projects to be funded from the £1.4 million that will be available to designated districts in the North-West region. This represents a slight increase over 1979–80.

The economic regeneration of the inner area has always been a high priority for the partnership, and I am pleased to say that the programme shows an increasing emphasis being placed on schemes that have a direct economic benefit. I am certain that the impact of the Government's policies will become increasingly evident in the coming years as the programme rolls forward and our broader economic policies take effect. While recognising that we are embarked on a long haul and that many difficulties must be overcome, I look forward to the day when the inner areas are bustling, thriving communities once more, creating jobs and swelling, not diminishing, the rate base.

Today Manchester and all Britain stand at the crossroads. To the left is high public spending and continued decline. If we are foolish enough to follow that course, we shall find that if the world recession deepens and we fritter away our resources the economic base which supports our public services diminishes, that the funds we use to shore up unproductive services—and unproductive industries—dry up, and that nobody owes us a living.

By taking the right road, we are creating a last opportunity for Britain to change direction. We are ensuring that the Government no longer waste resources which belong to the community at large. We are recreating the freedom of opportunity and reward that thrust Britain into the forefront of the Industrial Revolution. We cannot, as a Government, pull Britain round unaided. Industry must invest, modernise, seek out and develop new markets. Local authorities must do all that they can to create in their own area's the conditions in which industry—and particularly small firms—can flourish. Higher rates will do exactly the opposite.

Individuals must look a little further ahead for the real increases in their standard of living that will come from profit-making industry. We must all reject the lemming rush to self-destruction of the annual search for more and more paper money which buys less and less. I believe that the people of Manchester—and, indeed, of Britain—understand and welcome our policies and will benefit from them.

The right hon. Member and his hon. Friends have wildly overstated their case. Greater Manchester certainly has problems, but they are of a limited character. By any standard, Greater Manchester remains an area of wealth and resourcefulness and is an important centre of enterprise. Talking it down will merely drive away the very investors Manchester wants.

The Government have preserved the level of resources injected into those parts of the county where distinct needs can be shown—through the urban programme, particularly to the inner areas of the cities of Salford and Manchester—and have increased the scope for help from regional industrial policy in the Wigan area.

Apart from that, the public authorities and the county cannot be exempted from the pressure to restrain the amount of resources withdrawn from the private sector to be applied for public purposes and to reshape and refocus their activity to secure more pointed effect.

The Government intend that it shall be a characteristic of any system of sub- sidy or grant to encourage good housekeeping, the avoidance of waste, shrewd judgment of priorities in the management of resources, and partnership with and encouragement of the private sector and not its replacement. None of these principles can be claimed as other than a very proper guide for local authority administration.

The Government are merely restating, with clarity, areas of responsibility to which local government, under the drugging influence of too much interference and too many handouts from the centre, has unjustifiably given too little attention.

The Government do not accept that Greater Manchester is weak and ailing and cannot find ways of holding its position with the rest of the country. The Government do not believe that Greater Manchester has so lost sight of its great heritage that it can no longer respond to new challenges. The Government do not accept that the public authorities of Greater Manchester cannot successfully manage their affairs and give the service which their constituents can fairly expect. We feel that much of what the Opposition have said sells Greater Manchester short. I doubt whether many Greater Mancunians will recognise themselves from what the right hon. Gentleman said and they will rightly resent it. We, unlike our predecessors, have faith in people.

2.52 pm
Mr. George Morton (Manchester, Moss Side)

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. Kaufman) for giving us the opportunity for this debate, which I think has been useful. In part, the debate has shown a lack of understanding and a lack of communication on the Government Benches. On a private Members' day, one would have expected a little less statement of Government policy and a little more time for private Members. My right hon. Friend is right to point out that Manchester did not vote for the changes that are now being forced upon it. This is the message that we shall continue to carry from Greater Manchester.

One of the issues that has recurred in this debate has been public expenditure and the complete difference in attitude between the parties. We believe that public services are important and that they are more important in areas such as the inner cities with their higher proportion of poorer people. It is easy to make promises to cut public expenditure and to win votes on such a superficial argument. Happily, the voters in Manchester did not fall for that argument. The Mancunians did not vote to give their children poorer education or to add to the cost of meals and school transport. Nor did they vote to cut aid to the old and the disabled.

We recognise that to run good services—as Manchester city council does—costs money, but such services are part of the living standards of the people of Manchester. The city council does not spend its money for self-aggrandisement but for serious investment in the future of the people of the city.

The hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Churchill) referred to what he regarded as the "sensible policies" of the Manchester city council in not spending money on items of grand expendture. If we had had "sensible policies" in the past, the Manchester city council of its time would not have invested in the Manchester ship canal and would certainly not have invested in Manchester airport, both of which were vital to the Manchester of their time.

Another point is that Manchester has a particular role as the centre for the county and beyond, giving the city a disproportionate expenditure on services. Manchester has the art gallery, the library and many other factors which make comparisons unsatisfactory. These services are used, though not paid for, by many outside the city and the county, and this causes resentment on the part of Manchester city ratepayers. These expenses retain highly valued institutions which are threatened by the proposals to restrict local government expenditure.

The loss of intermediate status in 1962 has already been referred to by a number of hon. Members, but it has been potentially damaging to the Manchester city area, which has struggled to replace the large number of jobs lost in the established industries. From the inner city point of view, it is important to recognise the difference between an overall employment figure for a large area such as the Manchester travel-to-work area and the high unemployment that exists in part of that area. The Moss Side jobcentre figures are expected to be about 25 per cent. That is an alarming figure and needs drastic attention.

The inner city areas require special help because of their special problems, and the lack of basic assistance for the area as a whole makes their position that much more difficult. We have already pointed out the difficulty that can arise, because of the removal of intermediate area status in respect of EEC money, and the fact that this has reduced the priority given to a possible extension of the airport.

There is another point to which we require an answer fairly soon, and that is the matter of derelict land. It is fine for Tory Members to say that it is possible that the Minister will make a decision to give aid to derelict land areas, but it is important that there is sufficient time for local authorities to create a programme in advance. We should receive an answer to this matter soon.

Housing is probably the basic interest of my part of the inner areas, as it is to most of the inner areas of Manchester. I noted that the hon. Member for Stretford referred to the attractiveness of the promises to sell council houses to the electorate. I would point out to him that it was because of such an "attractive" proposition that we had a swing to Labour in Moss Side. About half the number of people in Moss Side are housed in council property. The right to buy is of very little interest to them. In fact, many see it as a great disadvantage. They know that if people in the more pleasant areas have the right to buy, that removes their opportunity to get out of housing that they do not like. In addition, many do not have the income to qualify for a mortgage. Therefore, the right to buy is really non-existent. For such people their main opportunity to move into a better house is to obtain another council house in another part of the city. If those other houses are sold, such opportunities will no longer exist.

There is another point about poorer council houses. There is a continuing need for money to be spent to make them more acceptable. We are desperately anxious that the improvement work on older housing and on houses with joint access should be allowed to continue and develop.

Fuel costs have been a recurring problem in certain of these developments because tenants with low incomes are often faced with inefficient and expensive forms of heating. We know that many old people risk suffering from hypothermia. They worry about the cost of heating and they under-use their heating systems because of that. We must be able to improve these systems, some of which may not be that old. Also, because of the increasing cost of electricity, we must ensure that such systems are made more effective. The Government have not given any promise that they will do this.

The more immediate point is that fuel costs will become an increasing burden because in many cases the Government have removed the opportunities for people to get assistance. I have a report from my local citizens' advice bureau, which is very concerned about the implications of the loss of the old scheme for assistance on fuel. It has received many criticisms about this loss, and the national citizens' advice bureau has done a survey of the questions that it has received in the past about fuel cost assistance. It was most unhappy about the old scheme because it was inadequate and confusing, but that confusion will be largely removed now because few people will be entitled to assistance and, therefore, the answer will be that much quicker. This is not satisfactory for those who are struggling to pay high bills. That report was prepared before the big gas increases this week. Now, people with gas are no longer in a fortunate position.

I should like to refer to the problems of higher education and the great increase in fees for overseas students. This has implications for higher education establishments in my constituency and around it. The University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology in particular has a large number of overseas students. Its charges are now supposed to be based on economic fees, but clearly these are far more than the cost of many of the courses.

The calculation of economic fees includes the total costs of the university, including research, and that must mean that students from abroad will find our universities much less attractive when compared with those of America, Europe and the Communist countries. It may well be said that those other countries offer better value for money. This will cause problems in the short term for Manchester because it will change the balance of the activity of the university, and it will have problems for the future of the country because it will mean that we no longer have the same kind of contact with students from abroad.

I realise that many of the problems that I am describing in Manchester and its inner areas are not solely the problems of people in that city. Such problems are shared by the old, the deprived and others in all parts of the country. These are the people who are suffering most from the Government's action in lowering the living standards of all but the wealthy.

If all this were related to policies that were likely to generate industrial development, there might be some consolation. When the prospects are that the economic base of the Manchester area will be weakened, we can view it with nothing but alarm.

3.5 pm

Mr. Fergus Montgomery (Altrincham and Sale)

I shall try to be brief because I realise that there are Labour Members who wish to speak in the debate. We have had some long speeches.

The right hon. Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. Kaufman) opened the debate. I do not know what to say about the right hon. Gentleman. He has great charm socially, but once he starts to speak in the House of Commons that charm disappears like melting snow. The right hon. Gentleman is irresponsible and incorrigible. Today we had an exhibition, or performance, during which he ran through the gamut of emotions from A to B. He seems to believe that sin began with the Tory Party and that all the troubles of Manchester are to be blamed on the wicked Tories. Anyone listening to him would think that the Tories have had control of Manchester for generations.

The right hon. Gentleman, conveniently for him, has forgotten the facts. They have been referred to consistently by my hon. Friends. We have had Socialist Governments for 11 of the 16 years since 1964. Apart from 1967 to 1971. Socialists have controlled the Manchester council since 1945. If Manchester has problems, the greatest need is to ascertain why Socialism has failed.

We have had the usual waffle from the Opposition about more and more public expenditure. They do not seem to realise that public expenditure has to be paid for. That was emphasised by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State. We are spending about 60 per cent. of the gross national product on public expenditure. I think that most will agree that that is too high a percentage. As a result, we have taxation that is too high. The Government's strategy, and the policy on which they were elected on 3 May, is to reduce the burden of direct taxation. Our policy is to provide incentives, in the hope that they will create new wealth. If that is achieved, we shall be able to afford what we believe to be socially desirable and still live within our means.

Even the previous Socialist Government had to face that reality. On 21 October 1976 the then Prime Minister, who is now the Leader of the Oppposition, said: With regard to cutting public expenditure, it ought to be reduced over a period as a proportion of GNP."—[Oificial Report, 21 October 1976; Vol. 917, c. 1654.]. They were brave words, but they were not followed through. When the Conservative Government took office on 3 May 1979, they found that public expenditure programmes were planned to take a larger and larger share of the GNP. It is interesting to note the percentage of public expenditure that is devoted to wages and salaries. That was causing concern to the Leader of the Opposition a year ago when he was Prime Minister.

Almost a year ago to the day—namely, on 16 January 1979—when Britain was going through a period of awful industrial action, affecting especially the sick and the elderly, the right hon. Gentleman said: Excessive pay settlements to public servants will mean worse and poorer services for the public generally. The tragedy will be that, if pay settlements are excessive, there will be cuts in rail services, longer hospital waiting lists, poorer education and fewer jobs. Let us have some sense in this situation."—[Official Report, 16 January 1979; Vol. 900, c. 1555.] No sooner had the right hon. Gentleman made that speech than excessive pay settlements came into being and were witnessed. The right hon. Gentleman's prophecy that they would mean less money for services became a reality.

If the right hon. Member for Ardwick believes that there would have been no curtailment of public expenditure if the Labour Party had managed to win the election on 3 May, I shall be interested to know how he thinks that that could have been achieved. The Labour Government estimated increased public expenditure of about £3,500 million. That was based on the assumption that we would achieve economic growth of 2 to 3 per cent. However, the growth rate was nil. Where is the extra £3,500 million to come from?

There are a number of permutations. Would the Labour Party like the standard rate of income tax to be increased by 8p? Would it like value added tax increased to 20 per cent.? Would it borrow the money and leave future generations to pay the bill? Would it print the money and so fuel inflation? Those were the options that faced the Government on 3 May. The Government said that public expenditure would be stabilised. They stated that we could not afford the increase that had been estimated by the previous Labour Administration.

There sits on the Opposition Benches a candid Member of Parliament who is wisely not present today. I refer to the right hon. Member for Heywood and Royton (Mr. Barnett). He is a man with a great deal of experience. He was the Chief Secretary to the Treasury in the previous Labour Government. On 25 September 1979 he said: The fact is that we had to cut public expenditure in the past five years.…We will need to cut expenditure again. With disarming candour, he continued: The laws of arithmetic do not change with a change of Government. The previous Government made public expenditure cuts. Has the right hon. Member for Ardwick heard of the IMF? If he has not, it stands for the International Monetary Fund. When he was a Minister, the IMF had to come and bail us out. At that time cuts were being made, yet he was a Minister in that Government. What happened? We heard neither a squeak nor a whisper from him. Perhaps he was unaware of those cuts. Perhaps he is some type of political Rip Van Winkle. Perhaps he was asleep for the last five years of Labour Government. If that is so, he was very lucky, because most of us would have missed that experience with great pleasure.

I shall return to the problems of Manchester. No one pretends that there are no problems. Manchester city council is Socialist-controlled, and the Greater Manchester council was taken over by the Conservatives in 1977.When they took over, the Conservatives decided to drop certain projects. The first project to be dropped was the underground link between Piccadilly station and Victoria station. Estimates for that project varied between £80 million and £120 million. Many people believe that the figure might have been considerably higher.

The skating palace has already been referred to. That project was dropped by the Greater Manchester council and picked up by Manchester city council. The cost of that project is estimated at about £13 million. The annual operating cost might be as high as £220,000, depending on the scale of charges. No doubt the right hon. Member for Ardwick will be firmly in favour of that project, because after today's performance he will need practice in skating on thin ice as that is what he has done, with very little effect, today. How high on his list of priorities is the ice palace?

There are far more important uses for public money in the city of Manchester. The leader of the Conservative group on the city of Manchester council, Sir Cecil Franks, suggested that there should be a local poll to test reaction to whether the ice palace project should continue. However, that suggestion was blocked by the Labour majority. Councillor Norman Morris, the Labour leader, said: There would be an extremely low number of voters who would be completely unrepresentative. If that is democracy, I am sorry for it.

While the argument about the ice rink rumbles on, what is happening in the city? We have been told over and over again about the large numbers of people living in the poverty zone—about 35 per cent. of all families. That figure rises as high as 70 per cent. in the Collegiate Church ward. What good will an ice palace be to those people?

My hon. Friend the Member for Stretford (Mr. Churchill) mentioned education, but since the Labour Party gained control in 1971 the results for the General Certificate of Education examination have not been published. The hon. Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Eastham) said that Tory councils had done the same thing, but when we challenged him to name those councils there was a sudden silence.

Mr. Eastham

I shall arrange to send the names of those authorities to the hon. Gentleman if he so desires.

Mr. Montgomery

That would be very helpful. However, if I had made a statement such as that in the House of Commons, I would have checked my facts and been able to state them at the time. It is rumoured that the results for the GCE examination in Manchester in 1979 were the worst in England. If so, it is not surprising that the council kept the figure hidden. Nor is it surprising that the population is declining so quickly.

Much has been said about housing and the enormous rent arrears that have accrued within the city of Manchester. The city of Manchester has a housing list of about 30,000. There is an enormous number of corporation houses standing empty. In my constituency there are Manchester corporation houses on an overspill estate. People from that estate always tell me about houses and flats that are standing empty which they would desperately like to occupy. If the hon. Member for Blackley writes to Stockport council, I wager that he will get a faster answer from that housing department than from that of Manchester city council. My hon. Friends the Members for Cheadle (Mr. Normanton) and Hazel Grove (Mr. Arnold) have also experienced that.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett

Will the hon. Gentleman give us the names of some of the streets in his area that have houses standing empty, and will he tell us what action he is taking?

Mr. Montgomery

I have repeatedly written to the housing director of Manchester council to ask why houses are standing empty. I have given him the names and addresses of those who have asked about them. He knows as well as I do the number of houses standing empty in the city of Manchester.

There are council flats in Hulme, in the constituency of the hon. Member for Manchester, Moss Side (Mr. Morton), and a more depressing sight one could never find. It so depressing that ITV devoted one of its "World in Action" programmes to the problems of the people who live there. What a monument to Socialism they are ! They cannot be blamed on the Tories. They were built under a Socialist administration in the city of Manchester.

As we expected, the right hon. Member for Ardwick warmed our hearts with talk of the compassion and kindness of Manchester's Socialist rulers. On 19 October 1979 he wrote a letter to The Daily Telegraph, in which he said: Manchester's Social Services Department maintains high standards of care and compassion, particularly for the disabled. I am not sure whether Levenshulme comes within the right hon. Gentleman's constituency, but on 8 January there was an article in the Manchester Evening News stating: A handicapped six-year old may be forced to leave his home—because Manchester Corporation is slow to pay its bills, say his parents. The boy cannot sit up, walk or talk. The task of carrying him around the house—upstairs to bed and the bathroom, downstairs to the kitchen and lounge—becomes more difficult by the week. Manchester city council has agreed to the necessary work being done, but no builder will undertake the work, and the parents say that everyone they go to gives them the same story. They all say that they will not take on any more grant work from Manchester corporation because they are fed up with the time that it takes them to get their money.

During his speech, the right hon. Gentleman regaled us with letters that he had had in the post this morning. I do not know whether the people referred to in that article are in his constituency or whether their letter was in his post this morning. If it was, I am surprised that he did not read it.

I wish to quote again from the right hon. Gentleman's letter of 19 October, when he said: Manchester votes Labour because Labour in Manchester cares about the city and its people. A visit to the rundown and neglected Tory-controlled districts in the area provides a telling contrast. The right hon. Gentleman is getting to the stage where, through writing so many letters to the newspapers, he is fast becoming the most prolific letter writer that this country has had since Charles Dickens. What are the rundown districts that he is talking about? Is he referring to Trafford? People seem to be moving out of the city of Manchester in droves to these self-same Tory-controlled districts, so his remark is strange.

Mr. Marks

They always have done.

Mr. Montgomery

The hon. Gentleman knows as well as I do that the population in the city of Manchester is rapidly declining, and we are entitled to ask why. It could be that Manchester is not the Socialist paradise that Labour Members believe and that it is not attracting people to the city. It is possible that the population of the city of Manchester is declining because of the cost of Socialism.

My constituency borders on the city of Manchester in the Brooklands area. Down Brooklands Road, on the boundary between Trafford and the city of Manchester, there are houses of similar types, and we can try to compare the rate burden on the citizens of Manchester and of Trafford. There is no comparison however, because the rate burden placed on the citizens of the city of Manchester is out of all proportion. Manchester city has the highest rates in the whole county of Greater Manchester.

Mr. Charles R. Morris

With the greatest achievements.

Mr. Montgomery

With respect to the right hon. Gentleman, I do not believe that it has the greatest achievements. I honestly do not believe that the people of Manchester are better provided for. If they are, why are they leaving in such large numbers?

Instead of initiating the debate, the right hon. Member for Ardwick would have been better occupied in planning ways of attracting people back to the city of Manchester. He could perhaps get the job of PRO and sing his lament. It will not be "Come back to Sorrento", but "Come back to Manchester". I can think of all the glories that he couldsing about. He could extol the delights of the flats in Hulme, of the charms of Moss Side, of the high degree of poverty, of the deteriorating General Certificate of Education results, of the squander-mania of the Socialist council and of the high burden placed on ratepayers. People are getting out of the city of Manchester, and I believe that that is an indictment of Socialism.

If the right hon. Gentleman calls for a vote this afternoon, I hope that the House will show its contempt for the humbug that we have had to listen to from the Labour Benches.

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bernard Weatherill)

Order. There are 40 minutes left before the debate ends, and six hon. Members have indicated their wish to speak. The House would show good sense if they could all be called.

3.20 pm
Mr. Tom McNally (Stockport, South)

It is interesting that most of the speeches by Conservative hon. Members have amounted to an almost neurotic attack on the city of Manchester council, although the debate is about Government policies. There has been a marked reluctance on the Conservative Benches to enter the lists in defence of the Government. I am not surprised, because if Manchester hon. Members tried to defend the Government's policies they would quickly be under attack from their constituents.

If my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. Kaufman) deserved credit for nothing else in securing this debate, it would be for the fact that we have had another restatement of Government industrial strategy. It is basically a "Don't ring us" strategy.

I believe that the people of Greater Manchester voted Labour at the last election because they had confidence in the Labour Government's industrial strategy. Thousands of them were in jobs because of that Government's interventionist policies. Firms such as ICL, Fairey, Ferranti and British Aerospace saw the Government in action, protecting their work, giving them confidence for the future. What they have seen since last May is a retreat by the Government from an industrial strategy, a kind of blind faith in the entrepreneur that we heard expressed by the hon. Member for Hazel Grove (Mr. Arnold) and briefly by the Minister.

When in the past 30 or 35 years have the entrepreneurs shown any initiative and advance? As the right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) bemoaned in 1976 and 1977, when the entrepreneurs were given their freedom they did not use it to invest in British industry but sent their money abroad to invest it in property and other items.

A Stockport chamber of commerce survey has shown growing pessimism among local business men, caused by what the Department of Industry is doing in areas such as Greater Manchester. The Department's philosophy consists of a hope and a prayer that somehow the entrepreneurs will use their large tax cuts to invest in industry, which they have never done in the past. There is concern about what will happen to industry.

The hon. Member for Hazel Grove referred to Mirrlees Blackstone, a firm on the borders of both our constituencies. When I went there recently I was extremely impressed by the level of investment in the firm. I was also very impressed by the trade unions' willingness to enter into negotiations about greater productivity. What worried the workers, and to some extent the management, was that one of the largest pieces of capital equipment there, one of the newest machine tools in which the firm had invested, came from Italy, though the design was exactly the same as that of a machine designed in Stockport six years before. The firm making that machine tool had been allowed to go to the wall by the then Conservative Government.

The "Don't ring us" attitude, in place of an industrial strategy, causes fear among workers and management, because they have seen it before. They have no faith in the mysterious entrepreneurs whom the hon. Gentleman thinks will do so much good. They fear that this Government will do grave damage to British industry, and industry in Greater Manchester in particular, before seeing the folly of their ways.

I shall heed your words about the time remaining for debate, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I should like to make two or three short points about how the Government are using local authorities as their "hit men" in cutting public expenditure. We in Stockport have the misfortune not only to have many inner city problems but to have them dealt with by a council dominated by what was rural Cheshire, with all the small-minded prejudices that go with it. As a result, the real problems of inner Stockport are being neglected, with the encouragement of the Conservative Government.

I went to see Stockport council in action recently. The present Government Front Bench are pale pinkos compared with those cutters and axe men and women. When the Minister says that he wants to give councils discretion, I can assure him that the Stockport Tories will use that discretion to put up school meals charges, transport charges, rents and rates. It is the height of hypocrisy to say that they wantonly discretion. One knows that their policy is to charge more to the poorest in the community.

The hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Churchill), who has now left the Chamber, began by talking humbug and then went through the gamut of humbug when he talked feelingly about the Health Service. The fact is that the Government have abandoned any attempt to fulfil the equalisation of health spending between the better-off southern areas and the North-West. Many people who wish to go into hospital in Stockport will find the best facilities creamed off by a new private health hospital in Cheadle. It is easy to see how far we have progressed along the road of humbug with the master of humbug in the lead.

I wish to make a plea about public expenditure that does not affect the social side but does affect the industrial side. A statement is to be made soon on transport policy. One decision that will most affect Stockport is whether priority is to be given to the M63-M66 link. Anyone who does not visit Stockport will be unaware of the importance of this piece of public spending to the whole viability of the town. It will decide whether the motorway ends in the middle of a busy industrial city, decanting its load into a major council estate and on to inadequate roads, or whether the traffic is carried through. Motorway programmes and, indeed, the whole of investment in transport, especially in times of recession, are important in preparing for the future.

I heard the Minister state that Opposition Members had sold Manchester short. I have listened carefully to most of the speeches. Most of the cheap jibes and press quotation politics came from the Government side of the House. There is a great deal of confidence in the future of Greater Manchester. That confidence was greater a year ago when there were a Government in office who believed in the workers, believed in encouraging cooperation between both sides of industry and believed in investing for the future instead of allowing the resources of the country to go in an import-led consumer boom.

But that confidence remains. There is a skilled work force that shows far more adaptability than the hon. Member for Hazel Grove gave credit for. The old ingenuity of the Manchester people still prevails. Although the House heard from the Minister the old and clear prejudicies of Hampstead, I recall Sir John Betjeman saying that Londoners hated the Euston Arch because it stood as a symbol of the confidence of the North-West. Symbolically, I believe, the Euston Arch is still there. If people will take the two and a half hour trip by rail to Manchester, they will find an area that showed its confidence in the Labour movement last May and still has a great deal of self-confidence in itself.

3.29 pm
Mr. Charles Fletcher-Cooke (Darwen)

The debate has shown at least this amount of agreement—that the centre areas of Manchester are in a very bad way. The only dispute between the two sides of the House is why, and who is responsible. The debate was opened, unusually for a Private Member's motion, by the right hon. Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. Kaufman) with a tremendous discharge of political acid. It would be incredible if, having raised the temperature, if not the standard, of a private Members' day to such a high political degree, the right hon. Gentleman did not follow his voice with his vote at the end of the debate. That would show a lack of confidence in his case.

The right hon. Gentleman has blamed the Government who have been in power for nine months for the disasters that have afflicted the centre of Manchester for the past 25 years. I should like to put a contrary case. The hon. Member for Stockport, South (Mr. McNally) said that central Manchester had voted Labour in May and implied that the voters were satisfied with the state of affairs left by the Labour Government.

I believe that there is another explanation for that vote. It was a classic case of a large area of the electorate having been debauched, if not bribed, by a series of measures on public and local government services, subsidised housing and every form of public expenditure to such an extent that there is a locked-in Labour vote that it is impossible to displace.

The only mistake made by the hon. Member for Manchester, Moss Side (Mr. Morton) in his thoughtful speech was his remark that cuts in public expenditure were popular. It is not popular to raise rents because subsidies are cut, and it is not popular to increase the price of fuel as a result of cutting public expenditure.

It is clear that cuts in public expenditure are wildly unpopular, and the 200,000 voters in the city of Manchester, who live in the most subsidised council houses in the world, are not likely to vote Conservative if they think that there will be proper public expenditure cuts. That is why central Manchester voted Socialist in May, unlike most of the country.

Once one gets into a certain vortex of subsidies, votes and, therefore, more subsidies—as New York has done—one is liable to perpetuate a voting pattern that is pork-barrel voting of the most difficult sort. The centre of Manchester is an area of which no one can be proud, despite the spirit and guts of the Mancunians. The reason is that it has been politically debauched for more than 30 years.

What is the consequence of that? Is there any self-regulating mechanism? Is there anything that the Manchester school of the last century would expect to occur in that situation? I believe that there is. It is to be found in the facts that the rates in Manchester are 107p in the pound, compared with 71p in Birmingham, and the population is declining. The political weight of central Manchester is, at long last, declining, because the Boundary Commissions are to have a go at it.

That is where the gods of the copy book headings will eventually have their revenge. When the right hon. Member for Ardwick and the hon. Member for Stockport, South take credit for the fact that the tiny unrepresentative constituencies in the middle of Manchester went against the national voting trends last year, let them lay not that flattering unction to their souls, because next time round we shall have our revenge.

3.34 pm
Mr. Kenneth Marks (Manchester, Gorton)

I always follow the hon. and learned Member for Darwen (Mr. Fletcher-Cooke) with interest. I am not sure what will happen to his constituency in the boundary change about which he was talking.

Mr. Fletcher-Cooke

It will be wiped out.

Mr. Marks

It was not only the central area of Manchester which expressed its support for Labour. I remind the hon. and learned Member that Bolton—which always goes the way that the country goes—stayed Labour and that Bury, Stockport, Tameside and Oldham did the same. The whole of Greater Manchester saw through the Conservatives' campaign.

I was intrigued by the Under-Secretary's first words—that London led the way. I have been puzzling out what he meant. I feel sure that he meant the pride which Londoners take in the services that they have created—in education, for instance. I willingly say that the old London County Council and the Inner London Education Authority and some of the boroughs have done just as well as the city of Manchester. These are the things in which citizens take pride, as they will do in the future. Past decisions to take money for such community efforts rather than to spend it on Japanese television sets and the like were wise.

Mr. Geoffrey Finsberg

Perhaps the hon. Member will quote me specifically. I said that we had led the way by initiating a debate on the subject of London in this House—and I did it from the Back Benches and not from the Front Bench.

Mr. Marks

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman took pride in that debate in the things about which I have been talking. I promise to read carefully what he said about the Denton rehabilitation centre. Frankly, I did not understand it when he said it, and I am not sure that he understood it.

I remind Ministers that what the Government must guard against is cutting down training facilities. All right—there is unemployment and Ministers expect it to increase. If they really believe that there will be an upturn in the future, they must prepare for it by keeping up training facilities. This applies not only to matters such as this but to the advisory services on careers and all sorts of things. These are being cut.

The Minister talked about the cuts not being all that large. He said that the Government were only simplifying and streamlining and making one grant from what were many grants. However, the whole tenor of the Government's approach is to cut. The Prime Minister has also said that they have not really started yet and there is a lot more to come.

Much has been said about the achievements of the councils in the Greater Manchester area. I shall not go into detail about that. I am sorry that at present the hon. Members for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Montgomery) and for Stretford (Mr. Churchill) are not in the Chamber. It is significant that neither of them mentioned the current controversy in their borough of Trafford over the disgraceful cuts which that council is making in its education service.

Conservative Members have been very careful not to talk about the terms of the motion, the effect of what has happened in the nine months of Conservative Government, or whether the cut in income tax really produced a tremendous incentive. We are talking about harmful effects on an area and the people who live in it. It may be that some people who live in Cheadle, Hazel Grove, Altrincham and Sale and even, perhaps, Withington—although not many—may have benefited from the central package that we have had from the Government in the last nine months. There will not be very many. Altrincham and Sale has what used to be the richest district in the country—Bowdon—where the income level was the highest per head of any district. There may be people in Bowdon who have benefited from the tax cuts. But the people of Altrincham and Sale in general will not have benefited.

Today we are talking not merely about the cuts in certain services, disastrous though they are, but the Government's entire economic, financial and taxation policy which has emerged. They say that sacrifices are needed. When sacrifices are mentioned, I am reminded of a 1931 cartoon in which were depicted a lot of people standing on a ladder. The well-off were at the top and the least-well-off were at the bottom. The bottom of the ladder was in a river. Someone was saying "Equality of sacrifice. All down one step." But the present Government have not even done that. Those at the top, perhaps the top 5 per cent., have done very well. The rest have had to pay for it.

The particular group that has had to pay most for the sacrifices are young families—not necessarily those on supplementary benefit, but those in work, with one breadwinner and with children at school, with perhaps an old person needing some assistance from the social services. They are the people who are making the biggest sacrifice in this cause.

I turn briefly to the cuts in education expenditure. The centre for educational disadvantage is a national body, based in Manchester. I am pleased that the Secretary of State is to reconsider his decision about it. It is not simply a bureaucratic body pushing out paper. Teachers often take a dim view of advisers and other people who try to tell them how to do their jobs, but I assure the Minister—and through him the Secretary of State—that Manchester teachers who receive the benefit of the advice of that organisation strongly support its continued existence.

The Secretary of State's argument is that the cuts are mainly in non-teaching areas. The Minister said today that it was up to the local authorities to make decisions on transport, meals and so on. It is up to them, so long as they make a cut of about £200 million in the coming financial year and £30 million this year. There have been cuts in teaching staff. Trafford is an example, with its Tory-controlled council. The authorities which stand up to the Government are those that will be threatened by the Secretary of State for the Environment. There will not only be cuts in teaching staff; there will be cuts in books. Teachers and books are the essentials of the education service.

Manchester is threatened by those cuts. In that city, 50 per cent. of the 3 to 5-year-olds go to nursery schools. The figure is 10 per cent in other areas of Manchester controlled by Conservative councils. In the interests of the country's future and our industrial investment, which local authority is right—Manchester or Trafford?

I intended to mention prices, but Conservative Members need only go to the supermarket tomorrow morning and listen at the cash counter to discover how people feel about prices.

The hon. Member for Stretford spoke about the Health Service and delays. What do the Government intend to do about that? They will make cuts. The Health Service will be worse as a result of Government policy. I hope that all the authorities in Greater Manchester—I represent parts of Tameside and Manchester—will not be bullied too much by the Government. As my hon. Friend the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry) said, Tameside has expressed its view on what Conservative government means. Thirty-seven Labour councillors and seven Conservative councillors were elected in the last two years. That is an example of a Conservative-controlled area.

I hope that the Government will listen to some of the views that have been expressed today.

3.43 pm
Mr. Tom Normanton (Cheadle)

Conservative Members may be forgiven for supposing that they have been witnessing the opening stages of an election campaign. During election campaigns wild statements are occasionally made. Since I have been a Member of the House, I have never heard such distortions of the facts and realities as those which have come from the lips of the right hon. Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. Kaufman).

I declare an interest in the sense that I was born in the Greater Manchester area. I have lived in it all my life. I went to school in it and worked in it. No one can say that I am looking at Manchester through distant or rose-coloured glasses. I am looking at the Manchester which I know, and not the one described by the right hon. Gentleman. He indulged in superlatives—I have made a careful note of some of them—which defy description. He said that Manchester had an unrivalled record of achievement and was an outstanding building authority. If the right hon. Gentleman cares to talk to tenants in the houses built in my constituency by that authority, he will discover the truth and nothing but the truth. Throughout this period, was the right hon. Gentleman blinding himself to the truth? I hope that he is not attempting to deceive the public about Manchester's housing achievements.

The right hon. Gentleman spoke of "a unique housing authority". How does he explain the desperation of tenants who wish to move, to change their houses or to get any kind of service from the housing department? Most of them are extremely distressed by their experience. In this context, it can be summarised in the phrase "the utter remoteness of bureaucracy". If that is an achievement to be proud of, I hope that this act of deception will not succeed on 8 May.

The right hon. Gentleman also spoke of huge dividends from industrial and regional aid. It is not necessary to know the Manchester of 50 years ago and to know one's way round the industrial areas to realise what has happened under the administration of a Labour Government. It is a sad, distressing picture for all those who sincerely have the interests of Manchester and not those of party politics at heart. Manchester is Labour-controlled. So long as that state of affairs remains, we shall continue seeing this demoralising, depressed area.

There is very little time available to me, because a number of right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House still wish to participate in the debate. However, a number of statements have been made which need to be answered.

The right hon. Member for Ardwick referred to Manchester as "an outstanding building authority." I invite him to come to the Culshaw Farm estate and see the truth for himself. I offer him a warm welcome, in whatever capacity he chooses to come. He will discover what my tenants in Manchester think about Labour's great achievement.

We have heard references to "a miserable legacy". My sympathy goes to the present GMC because of its inheritance from its predecessors in office. Set against the background of Labour's maladministration of the Manchester area, any analysis produces some extremely enlightening and sobering revelations, some of which could be disclosed only in this Chamber. If anyone attempted to do so outside, he would find himself in severe difficulties.

The right hon. Gentleman referred to IBM and said that an order had been placed with it which he felt should have been given to ICL. Does he not recognise that IBM is just as much an employer of labour and of brawn and brain as any other company? It is not as big an employer as ICL, but the right hon. Gentleman's chauvinistic, parochial approach reflects badly on a former Minister in the Department of Industry.

We heard about the two Manchester schemes being considered in Brussels. The tragedy is that the impression left in Brussels of the history of Socialist administration in this country is not a very glowing testimonial to encourage European Community officials to look all that sympathetically at such schemes. The righthon. Gentleman's Administration left a very damaging legacy, and we shall continue for a long time to pay the price for it.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hazel Grove (Mr. Arnold) referred briefly to the European Community, and I am grateful to him for reminding the House that I am privileged to serve not only in this House but in the European Parliament. I am also grateful to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary. He, too, referred to my activities in Europe. In the interests of time, I shall concentrate my remarks on this aspect of my work.

The regional policy of the European Community, as we all know, was well and truly thought out by a former right hon. Member of this House now Lord Thomson of Monifieth. Congratulations are due to him for his attempts to find a broad-based solution to regional problems which, up to now, has not been found by individual nation States.

The way in which the Labour Government mishandled European Community regional policy should be placed on record. That mishandling should be disclosed, exposed and indicted. Many of our present difficulties with regional aid policy flow from that mishandling.

There is an unfortunate rumour to the effect that the European Investment Bank will, perhaps, in two or three years' time no longer be empowered to offer aid. Nothing could be further from the truth. The European Investment Bank has established a branch a few hundred yards from the House. It is determined—and will be able—to render increasing service to industry and commerce. I think that the House should be aware of that because it is not generally known that this facility is available. Too few sectors of industry and commerce are fully aware of the resources offered by the European Investment Bank.

Related to the European Investment Bank's activities is the Ortoli facility. I hope that the Government and the European Commission will strongly emphasise the help available throughout the whole of Europe—and particularly in Britain—by way of the Ortoli facility. It is a new development of which I hope local government, central Government, industry and commerce will make use. In addition, the Government have proposals for improving regional policy.

Mr. Charles R. Morris

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that access to the European Investment Bank is tied to assisted area status?

Mr. Normanton

That is not so. Such restrictions apply to Governments and local authorities but not to individual companies. There are perfectly honourable and legitimate ways in which the resources and arrangements offered by the European Investment Bank are extensively used in the Community. The means of obtaining such help are not fully appreciated here, and I hope that they will be better publicised by the Minister and his colleagues.

Many brickbats have been hurled at the Greater Manchester council and the Labour-controlled Manchester city council. I place on the records of the House my congratulations to the GMC and to the four other county authorities in the North-West, which have voluntarily taken an initiative which I believe will be of considerable benefit not to the GMC alone but to the whole region. I refer to the establishment of the North-West Committee of County Council Associations. The purpose of that committee is not only to co-ordinate the work of the councils and representational activities on a regional basis but to co-ordinate their actions in the context of European Community legislation and administration. It is on a regional basis, not on a city or GMC basis alone, that some of the major, deep-rooted and long-standing difficulties of the North-West will be resolved.

3.55 pm
Mr. Andrew F. Bennett (Stockport, North)

Since time is short so I shall not try to persuade the Government to make U-turns over their many disastrous policies. I shall try to suggest how some of the pitfalls can be avoided. The Government should give the Manchester international airport more encouragement by declaring that they will not develop a third London airport for a long time. They should encourage the international airlines to examine ways of improving their services into and out of Manchester. I have received several representations from firms in my constituency which say that Manchester is an ideal base to serve the whole of Northern Europe, provided that there are better flights to North America. If the Government really have an urge to help the area, they should decide to encourage Manchester airport to develop rather than spend money on a third London airport.

My hon. Friend the Member for Stockport, South (Mr. McNally) urged the Government not to cut the motorway programme to the east of Manchester. I agree with him. For too long my constituents have suffered through the M63 finishing at Cheadle Heath. We were grateful to the last Government for allowing the next stage to be built as far as Portwood, but there are rumours that the Government will not continue the motorway. That means that traffic congestion will be transferred from Cheadle Heath to Portwood. If the Government want to help, they should improve communications. It is important that motorways do not decant on to roads which are incapable of taking the traffic.

Although there is a high level of unemployment in the Stockport area, there are many vacancies. I plead with the Government to examine the problems facing school leavers. There is a bulge in the numbers leaving school. Firms should take note of the fact that the number of school leavers will fall drastically in the future. They should now be training extra apprentices to cope with the future shortfall. Few firms in my constituency are increasing the number of apprentices. The Government should give positive incentives to employers to increase the number of apprentices whom they employ.

Stockport has another problem. For some years, the local authority has purchased its fuel from Total at a competitive price. The company is now holding the authority to ransom as a result of a Government directive insisting that oil companies do not take on new customers. The Stockport authority cannot switch to another company but is stuck with its present supplier. That supplier has pushed up the price. The Government should examine that and ensure that local authorities are not held to ransom by the oil companies, because that forces up council rates and rents. I suggest that this is an issue that the Minister should take up urgently. I am certain that all four hon. Members representing the Stockport area have pressed Government Departments on this matter. We hope to get a helpful reply soon.

I turn now to a further problem—it is a major problem in the Stockport area—namely, obtaining council accommodation for tenants who have large families. I find it difficult to get my constituents rehoused into—

It being Four o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.

Mr. Silvester

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Has there not been some mistake? It does not seem credible to me that, having expressed such indignation all day, Opposition Members are not prepared to put their motion to a vote. There must have been a mistake somewhere.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Whether there has been a mistake is not a matter for me. The hon. Member for Stockport, North (Mr. Bennett) ran out of time.