HC Deb 31 July 1980 vol 989 cc1707-9
2. Mr. Flannery

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what studies his Department is making of the effect of high unemployment among young blacks on race relations.

The Minister of State, Home Office, (Mr. Timothy Raison)

The Home Office has commissioned a study into the attitudes of young people of West Indian origin to social and statutory agencies. This study will include an analysis of the attitudes of young black people who are unemployed. This is in addition to a number of other studies currently being undertaken by the Government on unemployment among the ethnic minorities.

Mr. Flannery

Does the Minister realise that the rate of unemployment among young blacks, especially West Indians, is about four times as high as it is among young white people, bad though that is, and that the "sus" laws have exacerbated a difficult and growing situation which undoubtedly led to incidents that occurred in Bristol? Is he aware that there will undoubtedly be a recurrence of similar incidents unless some action is taken to alleviate this terrible situation?

Mr. Raison

We are aware of the problem that the hon. Gentleman has described. The Department of Employment and the Manpower Services Commission are carrying out a great deal of work on the matter. We accept the need for a change in the law on "sus", but if the offence were repealed immediately, certain acts that show indisputable criminal intent, such as tampering with car doors, would be legalised. Therefore, the offence must be looked at in the context of the criminal law as a whole.

Mr. Garel-Jones

Does my hon. Friend agree that the attitude shown by the chairman of the Watford Muslim Association, Mr. Rashid Choudrey, is constructive? Is my hon. Friend aware that on his election Mr. Choudrey asked me to accompany him on his visit to the local chief superintendent of police to discuss ways of improving race relations in the borough of Watford? Is not that the sort of attitude that we should be encouraging?

Mr. Raison

My hon. Friend is clearly fortunate that the chairman of the Watford Muslim Association adopts such an attitude. I agree that it is pre-eminently a matter in which constructive initiatives are necessary.

Mr. Tilley

Is the Minister aware that the leisurely nature of the studies that are taking place will cause great disappointment in inner cities areas such as Brixton, which I represent, where there are fears that social tensions are rising rapidly because of youth unemployment? Is he aware that 4,000 young people, black and white, left schools in Lambeth last week and were chasing 140 vacancies?

Mr. Raison

Obviously research alone will not cure the problem. The Department of Emploment is increasing the youth opportunities programme by 25 per cent. as one of the measures that it is taking to deal with the serious problem.

Mr. Marlow

Does my hon. Friend agree that the number of unemployed young blacks will be reduced if the number of blacks in the country is reduced or kept to an irreducible minimum? Does he further agree that the vast majority of the people of this country would wish the Government to take action, which they have not so far taken, to cut back the number of coloured people coming to this country and to increase the voluntary repatriation proposals from the laughable proposals that we have at the moment?

Mr. Raison

We have taken measures to tighten our immigration control and they will be having an effect, but I do not feel that my hon. Friend's approach is necessarily the one which will do most to solve the problem.

Dr. Summerskill

Will the hon. Gentleman bear in mind that this is such an urgent problem that studies are not enough? In view of the high unemployment among blacks, will he tackle racial disadvantage in every inner city area and every area where it can occur and is occurring? Will he also introduce legislation on the lines of the Local Government Grants (Ethnic Groups) Bill which was introduced by the previous Government?

Mr. Raison

I have already said that I believe that research alone will not solve the problem. I doubt whether the reintroduction of the legislation of the previous Government would make any significant contribution. What matter are the sort of steps being taken by the Department of Employment, and the strengthening of our economy, which is the Government's overriding economic objective.