HC Deb 31 July 1980 vol 989 cc1729-30
Q3. Mr. Alton

asked the Prime Minister if she will agree to the joint request of the Liverpool city council and the representatives of city council employees to meet her in order to discuss the problems facing the city of Liverpool.

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment has replied to the leader of the city council. How housing resources within the city's allocation are to be used is a matter for the council to decide.

Mr. Alton

Does the Prime Minister realise that her reply will come as a great disappointment to people in Liverpool? Is she aware that the city council is presently contemplating sacking 430 employees in the maintenance division as a result of the reduction in this year's housing investment programme? Is she further aware that it will cost more in redundancy payments—some £3 million—to make those people unemployed than it will cost to continue their employment? Does not she think that it is a slap in the face and an insult to the people of Liverpool for her not to have visited that city since her election last year, and now to turn down a request from all three party leaders and trade union leaders on Merseyside to meet them?

The Prime Minister

I am delighted to be in such demand. Every hon. Member wants me to visit his constituency—

Mr. Skinner

Not every hon. Member.

The Prime Minister

The housing investment programme allocation this year is £47 million, which is an increased share of regional resources reflecting Liverpool's needs. The Government have also allocated £17.5 million under the urban programme for 1980-81, which is a real increase on last year. In addition, we are trying to make Speke an enterprise zone—I realise that it is not in the hon. Gentleman's constituency—which will help to create new employment.

Mr. Porter

Is my right hon. Friend aware that Liverpool has been under the control of the Liberal and/or Labour Parties for longer than some of us care to remember—which might have something to do with the city's present difficulties?

Mr. Heifer

Is the Prime Minister aware that I am surprised at her reply to the hon. Member for Liverpool, Edge Hill (Mr. Alton) because only today I received a letter from her Office saying that she is considering meeting a deputation from the Liverpool city council and its employees? Would she reconsider her reply, especially as my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition was prepared to, and did, meet a deputation from the Liverpool city council at a time when there were problems in that city? Is it not clear that with 107,000 unemployed on Merseyside, and 12,000 youngsters chasing 20 jobs, it is time for her to listen compassionately to the problems of people on Merseyside?

The Prime Minister

Almost every hon. Member wants to bring a deputation to see me. They should go to the Minister concerned—in this case, the Secretary of State for the Environment or the Secretary of State for Employment. The youth opportunities programme in Liverpool is providing about 6,000 opportunities for youngsters.

Mr. Parry

When the Prime Minister does meet the Liverpool city council leaders, will she congratulate the Liberals on carrying out Tory policies by cutting public spending in the poorest sections of Liverpool, by creating about 600 jobs in the rates department, and by refusing to fill vacancies, which increases unemployment on Merseyside?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir.