§ Order for Third Reading read.7·13 pm
§ Mr. A. W. Stallard (St. Pancras, North)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.
It will be recalled that on Second Reading of the Bill some hon. Members used a blocking motion and a Division in a deliberate attempt to defeat it. I understand that there may be a similar attempt tonight, although I see another motion on the Order Paper which is supported by some Conservative Members. The Government did not vote against the Bill on Second Reading, and the blocking device has been used in the past to ensure that London's affairs are debated in the Chamber. Most hon. Members consider it unsatisfactory that such a parliamentary device should be used to obtain time to debate the affairs of the capital city. It causes much difficulty and many problems. I am one of those who think that this is a wholly unsatisfactory method of dealing with London's problems in the House.
I am concerned that the device may be misused. As well as using the blocking motion to obtain a debate on London's affairs, it could be used to try to ensure that the GLC does not get the capital expenditure that is provided by the Bill. That would be a misuse of a debate on the GLC's capital expenditure. I need not go into the history of the debate, because it has been set out on many occasions by GLC officers in their advice to Members.
The last occasion was not so much an attempt to debate the issues of London as an attempt to prevent that by a filibuster in the hope that some hon. Members would not be able to contribute. It certainly prevented several replies being given. While the device may be useful, it is capable of abuse. I hope that hon. Members will unite to find a better way to discuss the important problems of London.
The debate concerns the GLC's capital expenditure. Of necessity the GLC has had to discuss that expenditure with various Government Departments—in particular the Treasury—Secretaries of State and Ministers so that the matter could be presented to the House in a form that was acceptable to the Government as well as to the Opposition.
During the course of those discussions, the GLC was asked to make adjustments lo the tune of £39.6 million in order to make the estimates acceptable, which it did. Therefore, the Bill is acceptable to the Treasury Ministers and the various Departments involved, as well as to the GLC.
That does not mean that hon. Members are barred from discussing the revenue estimates or how those sums are to be split up. That is where the criticism of the debate comes. At the end of the day we must recognise that there is a relationship between the GLC and the electorate, who should be involved in any debate on how the revenue estimates are spent and determined. It is an abuse for the House to go into details and to vote against the Bill. There are other methods and times for that.
The Bill has not changed since its Committee stage. Therefore, I do not intend to go into details as I did on that occasion, except to emphasise the consequences of defeat, although I think that that is unlikely. The consequences of defeat should be understood. They are much as they were before. The GLC would not have the necessary powers to 1223 incur capital expenditure between the date of expiry on 30 September and the Royal Assent. That possibility seemed to excite the imagination of some members of the democratic part of the Social Democratic and Liberal alliance, which many other hon. Members could not understand.
Hon. Members who are trying to take a responsible attitude recognise the difficulties for London and the House and the precedents that could be created if the revenue estimates were defeated by a debate on capital expenditure in the way that some hon. Members believe is possible.
The GLC is in a unique position among authorities because its affairs are debated in the Chamber. That means that it suffers from the vagaries of the legislative process and the delays that arise in the parliamentary timetable. We have suffered especially during this Session because the timetable has been particularly cramped. Measures have been shifted around and we have heard today that we shall face even more difficulties as we move towards the end of the Session. That makes it all the more important that we accept the necessity for the Bill, its importance and the need for it to pass through the House without delay so that it may receive Royal Assent before the Summer Recess.
There will be contractual arrangements—some have already been entered into—with which to contend and many other implications if the House fails to adopt a reasonble approach. There would be a dramatic effect on a range of projects. It is important to consider some of the things that might be affected if the attitude that we saw on Second Reading is to be taken further tonight.
There will always be differences between the two main parties on the various Estimates and other aspects of the Bill, but the previous vote showed that there is a basic understanding between the two main parties on the democratic processes as they apply to local authorities, especially to the GLC.
If the Bill is not given a Third Reading tonight there will be many consequences and I shall give a few examples. First, there would be a further delay for the Thames barrier. It would be a tragedy if there were further protraction because of a procedural delay. Home loans and mortgages would probably be among the first casualties. Loans to housing associations would suffer if there were an unnecessary delay in the Bill's passage. Employment schemes are being discussed in conjunction with local authorities and the private sector. It is hoped that these schemes will improve the industrial scene and give a boost to employment prospects in the Greater London area. Chambers of commerce and other interested parties are keen to see that the discussions go ahead without further delay.
§ Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North)
I have serious reservations about the Greater London enterprise board and the cost to the people of the new chairman of £72,000 a year. The gentleman concerned is the deputy leader of the Labour Party in Wandsworth. I have such enormous reservations about that alone that I shall vote against the Bill. Is there anything that the hon. Gentleman can say to reassure me?
§ Mr. Stallard
This is the wrong debate in which to go into the establishment of the board in great detail. It might 1224 have been better to raise that issue on Second Reading. This is not the occasion to discuss capital expenditure. However, I should welcome such a debate and I hope that we shall have one on the enterprise board as it takes shape. We are all interested in the board's development and the opportunities that we hope it will give.
§ Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)
Is my hon. Friend aware that yesterday we debated the Government's policy for the regions? It embraced all the regions in Britain, employment, local authority implications and job opportunities. When my right hon. Friend the Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) replied to the debate he mentioned the enterprise board. If the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway) pursued the matter tonight he would probably be ruled out of order by Mr. Deputy Speaker.
§ Mr. Stallard
I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who I know participated in yesterday's debate. I was afraid, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that you might rule me out of order if I went too far down the road that was opened to me by the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway). I appreciate the hon, Gentleman's anxieties and I suggest that we both ask for an early debate on that aspect of the GLC's policy. I shall be happy to join him in making that request.
§ Mr. Ronald W. Brown (Hackney, South and Shoreditch)
When I intervened on Second Reading I drew the attention of the House to the statement made on behalf of the GLC at an open council meeting on 15 February that no new home loans would be made and that further aid to housing associations would stop. The hon. Gentleman says that the Bill will provide facilities for home loans and for aid to housing associations, but the council has already said that it will not be able to continue to make them available because of Government cutbacks.
§ Mr. Stallard
Item 8 of the schedule refers toSundry persons under the Housing Act 1957 and the Housing (Financial Provisions) Acts 1958 and 1959".I understand that part of the sum set against that item is allocated to home loans, mortgages and loans to housing associations. They come within the council's authority, and the item sets out the sum that is provided in the capital estimates. If I am wrong, I have no doubt that I shall be corrected. It is one item that would be in jeopardy if we continued down the road that some hon. Members embarked upon during the previous debate.
Such an approach would have a dramatic effect on the GLC's obligations that come within the transfer of housing to local authorities. We know how much heartache that causes in the Chamber. We know that some of those who are now opposing the transfer were in the forefront during the campaign in which it was advocated that more expenditure should be devoted to the houses and properties concerned. I find it difficult to understand the double voting of those hon. Members.
We are all interested in London's traffic and probably we would all demand that more and more money should be spent on traffic schemes.
§ Mr. Stallard
Surely we do not want to injure or prejudice schemes that are designed to improve road safety and to make the life of cyclists safer. We have been advocating such action for a long time. There is a traffic signal modernisation programme.
§ Mr. Toby Jessel (Twickenham)
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that there is a an unnecessary duplication of officials at borough and County Hall levels who are involved in traffic schemes, whether they be yellow lines, one-way streets, no right turns or parking meters? Under the present set-up each scheme has to be dealt with twice. This is a terrible waste of ratepayers' money. That set-up should go with the rest of the GLC.
§ Mr. Stallard
As I have said, it is almost an abuse of the debate to try to turn it into an anti-GLC tirade, or even to use it to make points at the council's expense. I am discussing some of the schemes that come within the council's capital expenditure and which will suffer if the irresponsibility of some who are trying to defeat the Bill on Third Reading cause the enactment of the Bill to be delayed. Many of us have criticisms of the traffic management schemes, but it is necessary to have such schemes. I have no doubt that we shall be discussing the GLC on future occasions.
I am especially concerned that the GLC's work on fire services should continue. In previous Parliaments we have taken a great deal of trouble to safeguard fire brigade services. If my hon. Friend the Member for Edmonton (Mr. Graham) catches your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I know that he will wish to enlarge on the safeguarding of those services.
I understand that £2.5 million has been allocated for a centralised mobilisation project for the fire services. The computerisation of the system, which is long overdue, could reduce the call-out time. Who will vote against that? Those who do will face the difficulty of explaining to their constituents why they did so. Furthermore, £2.5 million has been allocated to replace outdated appliances. The fire brigade services use their appliances for about 12 years. Surely no one except those who argued against the Bill on Second Reading will argue that 12-year-old appliances should not be replaced.
I hope that between now and then there will be a change of heart and that they will accept that the capital expenditure is necessary. Two new stations are to be built, one at Beckenham and another at North Kensington. Those new stations are necessary to bring the fire brigade up to date with modern techniques and the rest. Major improvements to at least three other stations are proposed, one at Shooters Hill, one at Willesden and another at Erith. Who will vote against that? The people of London will not understand or forgive hon. Members who do so.
Most London Members of Parliament could add to the list that I have given. Although we all have criticisms, most of them are between the electorate and the GLC. Nevertheless, we are debating the allocation of capital expenditure that has been agreed between the Government, the Treasury and the GLC.
§ Mr. James Wellbeloved (Erith and Crayford)
I have the GLC's detailed estimates on the fire brigade. I notice that no capital provision is included in the buildings and structures section of the GLC's document.
§ Mr. Stallard
Several detailed documents and minutes that explain the estimates were sent to the hon. Gentleman. Perhaps he has not read them or brought them with him. Perhaps if he reads them he will find the relevant information.
§ Mr. Stallard
I think that I am doing all right. I had enough help from the hon. Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved) on Second Reading. He can add little to the long diatribe that he made then. His assertion that he is unable to obtain sufficient information between then and now should not be taken too seriously.
I appeal to those hon. Members who supported the agreed estimates to go into the Lobby with those who will defend the GLC's capital expenditure projects to ensure that the Bill receives a Third Reading and Royal Assent before the recess.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Ernest Armstrong)
Mr. Speaker has not selected either of the amendments on the Order Paper.
§ Mr. John Hunt (Ravensbourne)
The House is grateful once again to the hon. Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. Stallard) for his explanation of the Bill. He referred rather disparagingly to what he called the device of the blocking motion.
§ Mr. Spearing
The hon. Gentleman is mistaken. The device of the blocking motion is well understood by all parties as a method of obtaining a debate on London matters. My hon. Friend the Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. Stallard) said that there would be a Division on Third Reading, which in effect will be a Division on the decisions of the elected body across the water. That will be the purpose of the Division. Whether it is advisable or proper is another matter.
§ Mr. Hunt
I am grateful for that elucidation. The more I listen to debates on London matters the more I question the procedure laid down by the London Government Act 1963 by which the GLC, alone of local authorities in Britain, must obtain specific approval of Parliament for its expenditure.
The procedure is tedious and time consuming and has largely been overtaken by events. We all know that Governments are able to exercise stringent and far-reaching control over local government expenditure by penalties and clawbacks of all descriptions on a scale that was never envisaged in 1963. There is no longer any purpose or point in a money Bill of this type. I hope that in due course it will be possible to amend the law in that respect and bring the GLC in line with every other local authority in the country.
The present procedure presents especial difficulty for a Government when the party in power in County Hall is different from that which holds a majority in the House of Commons. With regard to the present Bill, some Back-Bench Conservatives object to going through the Lobby in support of Mr. Livingstone's spending plans. But we are told by Ministers and Whips that the Bill must not be opposed as its loss would create problems of immense financial and constitutional complexity. That only underlines how farcical the proceedings are. The sooner they can be changed the better it will be for all of us.
§ Mr. Greenway
Does my hon. Friend agree that it is procedurally absurd that the Bill cannot be properly discussed? Some of us voted to give it a Second Reading so that it could be pulled out in Committee only to discover that that could not happen. The only way in which we can express dissatisfaction with the GLC's spending plans is to vote against the Third Reading.
§ Mr. Ronald W. Brown
The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that in 1975 he and his hon. Friends divided the House on a money Bill. The Bill was defeated and the GLC did not get its money for about six or eight weeks. The device that the hon. Gentleman referred to has already been used. Nevertheless, the GLC remained in business.
§ Mr. Hunt
I do not suggest that some of us have not had fun at the expense of the GLC. I still maintain that that is not the right way for such matters to be carried through. It would be neater and more sensible if the GLC conformed with other local authorities in expenditure matters, subject always to ultimate control of Government who hold the purse strings.
§ Mr. Ronald W. Brown
The Government may assure the hon. Gentleman now of the disaster that would occur if the Bill is not passed but the hon. Gentleman has proven the Government wrong as an earlier Bill was successfully blocked.
§ Mr. Hunt
I shall not be tempted along that line of argument as I might be tempted into the Lobby with the hon. Gentleman, in which case I should incur the displeasure of some of my right hon. and hon. Friends.
We are told that the Government have no objection to the Bill. I welcome my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment to our London debate. Will he give me an assurance that none of the items in the Bill reflect the spendthrift, irresponsible attitude to ratepayers' money that has symbolised Mr. Livingstone's period of power at County Hall?
Clause 4(a) provides for the expenditure of more than £10 million on recreation and the arts. Since Second Reading I have been assured that that item does not include anything for grants, but is that really so? The statement from the GLC in support of Second Reading described the item asProvision of recreational facilities and support for the Arts".That seems pretty wide. On Second Reading, in response to my intervention seeking an assurance that none of the money was earmarked for the kind of fringe radical theatre so loved by Mr. Livingstone, the hon. Member for St. Pancras, North strongly defended spending on the theatre and gave the impression that such expenditure was within the terms of the Bill. We are entitled to some clarification on that. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will be able to give it when he winds up the debate.
We are entitled to know, for example, whether the £10,688,000 for recreation and the arts includes any community arts grants, as they are described across the river. Does it include, for instance, the grant of £1,000 which I understand was made to the May Day theatre in Battersea—its very name is suspect enough and its performance seems to be sporadic, to say the least.
§ Mr. Hunt
I am told that it has not performed in public since 1979. It would be interesting to know what assessment of its artistic abilities was made by the GLC before the grant was approved. Perhaps the infrequency of its performances explains why its applications for grant have been turned down by the Arts Council, the Greater 1228 London Arts Association and Wandsworth borough council Mr. "Soft-Touch" Livingstone, however, has come up with the money. I want an absolute assurance that that money is not included in the Bill.
The other item in the schedule that I wish to query appears under the heading "Planning and Industry", and provision is made for a total of more than £62 million. The hon. Member for St. Pancras, North suggested that any discussion of the Greater London enterprise board would be outside the scope of the debate. The GLC statement supporting the Bill, however, described this item as an initiativeto stimulate industry and employment in London"—ignoring the fact that the greatest disincentive to industry and employment in London is the massive and escalating rate burden imposed on business and commerce by Mr. Livingstone and his friends.
§ Mr. Hunt
If we are asked to approve more than £60 million of expenditure on planning and industry, we are entitled to some explanation of how the money is to be spent. As I understand it, these funds are administered by the industry and employment committee at County Hall, and the committee envisages that half of the money will go to development and half to loan provision. I gather, however, that so far only two loans have been made under this heading. The first is a loan of £100,000 to the magazine City Limits, to which the hon. Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved) referred on Second Reading. That is certainly a high risk project. Indeed, even the GLC comptroller of finance was driven to warn the committee that the inherent risks should not be minimised. The other loan, I gather, is to the radical feminist publication Sheba Magazine which, whatever its distinctive merits or attractions, is hardly in the mainstream of London life.
§ Mr. Hunt
I apologise. The hon. Member for St. Pancras, North is getting briefed. I hope that he is also listening to my remarks and that when he has been briefed he will be able to bring us up to date on achievements so far in the provision of money for development to create jobs, whether through the Greater London enterprise board or in other ways. The only specific achievement that I can trace so far is the erection of 31 workshops said to provide 140 jobs at a total cost of £1,950,000. That works out at £13,892 per job. The Labour Party promised in its election manifesto two years ago to create 10,000 new jobs in London. On the basis of the cost of those workshops, the cost of that for London ratepayers will be £138,920,000, so we shall have to examine the next money Bill with even greater caution.
I have grave reservations about providing money for a council that has proved itself wholly indifferent to the interests of its ratepayers. The Greater London Council is 1229 an expensive shambles largely irrelevant to the real needs of London. I saw a magazine the other day which put the point rather well. It said of the GLC thatafter the furious but ill-directed activity of their first few months, as committees proliferate activity stagnates … No one could seriously accuse Ken and Co. of not working, but so much of the work has produced no worthwhile result—galloping off in all directions and making a great deal of noise may be fun for a while, but it will achieve nothing".That was the verdict not of Conservative Central Office but of London Time,—the journal of the GLC Staff Association—the people who work at County Hall and have seen the Labour administration there at first hand. They should know, and their comments should make us pause and ponder before giving the Bill a Third Reading.
§ Mr. Frank Dobson (Holborn and St. Pancras, South)
The hon Member for Ravensbourne (Mr. Hunt) did not mention the fact that the Bill covers provision for the Inner London education authority. Given the purposes for which that provision is intended, I am surprised at the opposition expressed by some hon. Members today.
Of the money provided for ILEA by the Bill, £1 million is for new nursery provision and a further £1 million is for updating and improving primary school premises so that they can provide nursery classes. A further £3½ million is intended for major works in primary and secondary schools owned and operated by the authority.
Those works include the very sensible effort, which ILEA has been making for a year or two, to provide sports facilities in or near its secondary schools so that children and teachers do not have to travel miles on ILEA or other coaches to outer London, which is a nuisance for both children and teachers who do not like travelling an hour each way on the bus and at great expense to the authority, and it means that the children enjoy games less than they otherwise might. To spend money on in situ school sports facilities is an admirable policy.
My constituency has benefited. The secondary school which my two oldest children attend had about £250,000 spent on it to improve the sports facilities on the site. That was done in a slightly more expensive way so that it would be possible for the local people to use the sports facilities during the evening when they were not being used by the school children.
The hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway), who was once a teacher at that school, was pleased enough to attend the open ceremony of those sports facilities, and I am surprised, therefore, that he is saying that the Bill fails to give value for money to London ratepayers. I did not hear him say that the scheme, which is identical to others provided for under the Bill, was not giving value for money. He did not say that to my constituents or to his former fellow teachers who were present that day.
§ Mr. Greenway
I fought for 12 years to improve the facilities at that school, so I do not need a lecture from the hon. Gentleman on the school's needs. I have to say in passing that the scheme is interesting. Children will be prevented from travelling to off-site games facilities which they have enjoyed and profited from for over 20 years.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman must not make remarks in passing when intervening. Interventions are supposed to be brief. Interventions prolong speeches and reduce the number of hon. Members who can take part in the debate.
§ Mr. Greenway
I shall be brief. The scheme prevents children from travelling. That is a mixed blessing. The children in that school will miss some valuable facilities as a result of it. Therefore, I have mixed feelings. The hon. Gentleman has been speaking against my constituency interests. I am sure that he will accept that.
§ Mr. Dobson
Children who come to my flat say they get sick when travelling on buses to outer London and they do not feel like playing games when they arrive there. I am sure that they do not consider playing games next to the school as a mixed blessing. They think that it is a wholehearted blessing, and so do the staff who normally accompany them.
It is those blessings that the authorities are trying to introduce into other schools. The area represented by my hon. Friend the Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. Stallard)—which is, regrettably, represented on the GLC by the sole elected SDP Member—contains the major secondary school facility of Haverstock school, which is the subject of the estimates that we are debating tonight. The intention is to improve its facilities so that the children will not need to travel. It is, therefore, surprising that SDP Members—none of whom, unlike Mrs. Sofer, has bothered to go to the electorate—are objecting to these schemes.
It is equally odd that the hon. Member for Islington, Central (Mr. Grant) is objecting—he is trying to block the Bill—to spending £38,200 on the relocation of the existing nursery at Hargrave Park school, which provides facilities for his constituents. He is objecting to spending money to move the existing nursery from substandard hutted accommodation into the main building. That is dreadful.
§ Mr. John Grant (Islington, Central)
The hon. Gentleman knows that he is being silly. I have objected to no such thing. I have not yet decided what I shall do about the Bill. The school is not in my constituency. Unless I have an opportunity to ask some questions and get some answers, I shall be obliged to vote against the Bill. I hope that I shall have that opportunity and get some sensible replies.
§ Mr. Dobson
The hon. Gentleman will need to explain to his constituents why he is opposed to spending £163,000 on improving Holloway school, which, even if it is not in his constituency, takes a substantial number of pupils from the area that he represents. Perhaps he will be in favour of having internal lavatories at Duncombe junior mixed school. That will benefit the children of his constituents. It is intended that that school should benefit from the Bill. [Interruption.] I do not suggest that any of the schools are necessarily in the hon. Gentleman's constituency, but I am willing to claim, and I doubt that he can gainsay it, that children from his constituency go to those schools.
There are other SDP Members who seem to have forgotten whom they represent. I notice that the hon. Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Mr. Brown) is in the Chamber.
ILEA is spending a substantial sum of money on improving the schools in its area. There are more than 60 pages—the schedule is even longer, with 70 pages—setting out in detail ILEA's intended improvements to its schools. That spending is intended to improve the educational opportunities of the children whom even 1231 London SDP hon. Members represent. They should not forget that, nor should their constituents. It is deplorable that they should be attempting to stop the Bill.
SDP hon. Members should not talk about what they are doing on Third Reading. Some SDP hon. Members voted against the Bill on Second Reading. They tried to stop it. More than £300,000 of the money to be made available under the Bill is intended to be spent by ILEA on improving the means of escape, in case of fire, from the authority's schools and from many voluntary schools in the area. It is deplorable that SDP hon. Members voted against that on Second Reading and are considering voting against the Bill now. What will they say if one of the schools burns down? Will they say "We were just playing games in the House of Commons one night"? When the hon. Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved) spoke for one hour and 21 minutes, he was not trying to stop the Bill from going through; he was just trying to organise a vote against it! That sort of approach is absolutely disgraceful.
It is also deplorable that some hon. Members are attempting to prevent ILEA from going ahead with a limited amount of new spending on entirely new school buildings. I should have thought that the hon. Member for Erith and Crayford and the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Cartwright) would be interested in the tentative proposals to build a new secondary school to assist in secondary education in Thamesmead. The expenditure will not be chickenfeed. It will be £10 million.
An expenditure of £1 million will be needed in the heart of the East End to provide a new primary school which is intended to give a decent start in life—better than we could previously have expected—for many children from Bangladeshi homes. Any reasonable person would welcome such expenditure by ILEA. That expenditure has to come before the House because of the peculiar and outdated procedures to which the hon. Member for Ravensbourne referred. I agree with him on that.
Therefore, I hope that, even without asking their questions and waiting for answers, the SDP Members—I regret that they are on the Opposition Benches, rather than on the other side of the House—will consider the consequences of a further effort to obstruct the passage of the Bill. I hope they will remember that their silly game playing would, if it succeeded, severely damage the educational opportunities and even the health and safety of a large number of London children. I do not think that we should play that sort of game. Anyone who is claiming to break the mould of British politics should avoid playing that sort of game, but ever since SDP Members have operated in this House it seems to be the only sort of game that they play.
§ 8 pm
§ Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North)
When the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mr. Dobson) speaks of the money required for the Inner London Education Authority under the Bill, he is talking of about £31 million. He detailed several of the projects that the money will cover. I know, from my 23 years' service with the ILEA, that there will be many valuable projects involved. The problem with a Bill such as this is that, 1232 while one does not oppose everything in it, if one opposes certain things, one can only do so by referring to them in a speech and by voting against the Bill.
I put it to the hon. Gentleman that the expenditure of which he was speaking in such moving terms amounts to £31 million, and that the ILEA has a budget during the current year of £748 million, so that it will not put the ILEA on the floor if the GLC loses the Bill.
I have to consider the balance of my constituents' interests. That is what I am here to do. It is a form of blackmail to say that one would be voting against children's interests if one voted against the Bill. That is not what I am intending to vote against in voting against the Bill. I shall be voting against other matters in it.
I have a long experience of East London, where there are many primary schools. Several of them are being closed. Therefore, I did not weep too much over some of the hon. Gentleman's remarks, because buildings are available.
The hon. Gentleman referred to the school attended by his own children, thereby declaring his personal interest in that school and its facilities, which we all accept. When he speaks—presumably as an educationist—of the value of on-site facilities for children, and of the fact that the Bill will make provisions of that kind, I go a very long way with him. However, I do not go all the way with him when he gives a particular example about which I know a good deal more than he does, having worked at the school in King's Cross for 12 years and been deputy head of it. I still know many of the staff extremely well, and the parents too. I would not say that I know them all better than the hon. Gentleman does, who represents them, but it may be that I know some of them better than he does.
What the hon. Gentleman said about the scheme to which he tried to bind my vote was not altogether fair. Children will lose a great deal by being kept on site at the school in question and thereby being denied the chance to travel to off-site facilities. Some of them are a little distant but some are not so far away. Many of the journeys, which I undertook from the school for years, were not by bus but by Underground or train. Mornington Crescent Underground station is within walking distance of the school, as is Euston. In 15 or 20 minutes one could be out in the country, in the open air, enjoying the facilities of the countryside. That is what children from King's Cross particularly need.
I hope that the hon. Gentleman will remember that his constituents have profited enormously in the past and still profit from being taken out to the country for sports and other recreational facilities. I regret very much the loss of those facilities, just as, I am sure, the children do. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will watch their interests in this way.
§ Mr. Spearing
Apart from the fact that most of the pros and cons of these matters are for the ILEA, the hon. Gentleman said that he was looking after the interests of his constituents, but is it not correct that his constituents are entirely within the London borough of Ealing and have nothing to do with the ILEA—and, indeed, do not even contribute to the grant from the Exchequer to the ILEA, because under the Secretary of State there is not one?
§ Mr. Greenway
If the hon. Member had been following the debate with his customary attention, he would have noticed that I said that I have to balance the 1233 interests of my constituents against the arguments being advanced by the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South, who has put specific points to me in regard to education. I have been challenged to speak on them. All the points are in the Bill and it is the Bill that we are discussing. What is out of order in that? I have long known of the hon. Gentleman's experience and his teaching at Elliott school in the ILEA. I know about his rowing coaching, and of the day when all the boys walked away from the boat. He will remember that. They would not work with him.
§ Mr. Neil Thorne (Ilford, South)
Will my hon. Friend accept that the rates charged on behalf of ILEA have a real effect on the residents in outer London boroughs, many of whom have their employment in central London? The level of employment very much depends on the level of rate demands. Therefore, there is no divorce between employment and rates, and the actions of a profligate local authority, such as the ILEA, will affect the level of employment.
§ Mr. Greenway
My hon. Friend makes an extremely valid point. He poses an argument which I support and which will need to be answered by the hon. Member for Edmonton (Mr. Graham) when he replies to the debate.
My sense of outrage about the Bill is that the Labour Party fought the GLC election in my constituency on a promise not to take the proposed Hayes bypass to the White Hart roundabout in Northolt. Yesterday, it went back on that promise, having won Ealing, North by the small majority of 200 or 300 votes. Now, by diktat of Mr. Livingstone and his friends, and facilitated by this miserable Bill, we shall have this disgraceful road to the White Hart roundabout, in direct contradiction of a promise to the electors of my constituency and beyond. That is scandalous.
I shall not rest until I have done everything possible to reverse the decision. All the traffic that is not wanted in Hayes and Southall is now to be imposed on the people of Northolt, causing them hell and misery and destroying their way of life. I cannot support a Bill that facilitates that. If an assurance was given from the Opposition Front Bench that the Labour majority on the Greater London Council would keep its promise about the bypass, I would vote for the Bill. Without that assurance, I shall vote against it.
§ Mr. Greenway
I am pleased to answer the hon. Gentleman's question. The Conservative candidate said that he would support termination of the bypass in the area, although he did not specify the White Hart roundabout, but added that he was looking for ways in which the matter could be handled with the least disturbance to the people. He took that line against my strong opposition and the opposition of the local community and the A312 committee. But the Labour candidate said in his election manifesto that he and the Labour Partyoppose termination of the delayed Hayes bypass at the White Hart roundabout.He was elected by a margin of 200 or 300 votes. The fact that a promise has not been kept is serious for the community that I represent. On that basis alone, I cannot support the Bill.
1234 The Bill provides for the GLC's continued doubtful handling of London Transport. I cannot support the GLC's action in doubling fares. That may prompt ironical laughter from the Opposition Benches, but it is in fact what happened. There is now to be another "Fares Fair" campaign at a cost to the ratepayers of hundreds of thousands of pounds. That is the best that the GLC can do. I want to see London Transport taken away from the GLC and put under a separate transport authority with a proper public subsidy. It should not in any case be subsidised by the ratepayers whose rates have been doubled by the GLC in less than a year. I cannot support any Bill that helps that state of affairs to continue.
There are many individual reasons why I oppose the Bill, though I support in most ways the case made by my hon. Friend the Member for Ravensbourne (Mr. Hunt).
§ Mr. John Cartwright (Woolwich, East)
I congratulate the hon. Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. Stallard) on the fair and clear manner in which he introduced the Bill. As he says, the Second Reading debate arose from the action of my hon. Friends and myself in blocking the Bill. I make no apology for that. Had there been no blocking motion, there would have been no debate and no scrutiny of the spending of £1 million of public money. It is fair to recall that a vote against Second Reading of the money Bill is not unprecedented. I have good reason to remember that the Second Reading of the money Bill was defeated in 1976. I was the Member responsible for introducing the Bill on that occasion. It was defeated because Members of the then Opposition objected to certain parts. As a result, there had to be a renegotiation of the Bill between the appropriate authorities in County Hall and in Government. I suggest that if the Third Reading is defeated tonight, exactly the same process will take place. All the heart-rending tales that we have heard from Labour Members tonight about the dreadful consequences of defeating the Bill add up to nothing. If the Bill were to be defeated tonight, a renegotiated Bill would be introduced that would, I hope, leave out all the things to which we object and retain the good elements to which other hon. Members have referred, and we would support it.
The Second Reading debate was exactly four weeks ago. The debate was enlivened by a contribution from my hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved), who raised some wide-ranging issues, including home defence, the role of the Greater London enterprise board, the activities of the GLC police committee, the problems of mobility of council tenants and other important constituency issues.
We understood why the hon. Member for St. Pancras, North could not deal with all those points in a short speech at the end of the debate. As is usual in such a case, he undertook to provide a written reply. Therefore, I was surprised to find that my hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Crayford has not yet received that detailed written reply, nor has my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Mr. Brown), who also raised issues in that debate. All that they received late this afternoon was a photocopy of a letter addressed to the hon. Member for St. Pancras, North. That is a somewhat cavalier treatment of hon. Members who are entitled to a personal reply from the GLC on the issues that they raised.
§ Mr. Stallard
Replies were received. The hon. Gentleman's point is a petty one. Naturally, as I was responsible for introducing the Bill, the replies were sent to me and I accept responsibility for replying to the questions that could not be answered then because of the filibustering by his hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Crayford. Those replies were not given and I accept the responsibility for not having given them. It is petty to say that a photocopy of a letter to me was provided. I replied as far as I could to the detailed constituency points that are not relevant to the Bill.
§ Mr. Cartwright
I hear what the hon. Member for St. Pancras, North says, but if he were treated in that way by a Minister—simply sent a photocopy of a letter to someone else—I know what his reaction would be, and I would support him all the way. My hon. Friends were entitled to a personal reply.
§ Mr. Wellbeloved
Had we not put down a motion to block the Bill on Third Reading, we would not even have received that photocopied reply from the GLC, and nothing, whether courtesy or any other reason, would have induced the GLC even to acknowledge the important points that were raised.
§ Mr. Ronald W. Brown
I should say that at five o'clock this evening I received from the Minister a letter that was directed to the wrong Member. It went to the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Brown) first, but I finally received it at five o'clock. I always receive letters from the Minister via Leith. The Department of the Environment does, however, address letters to the right names even if turns out to be the wrong Member.
§ Mr. Cartwright
The hon. Member for St. Pancras, North referred to the Thames barrier, which is vital to my constituents. I visited that mammoth scheme several times since it started, and my hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Crayford and I toured it earlier this year. The scheme is a credit to the skill, ingenuity and expertise of all involved. It has been dogged by practical problems that are acceptable in such a pioneering project, but the scheme has also been dogged by industrial relations difficulties. Those problems have affected both the cost of the project and the construction programme. In December 1973, the original cost of the barrier alone was put at £88 million. The most recent estimate is £452 million, which represents a five-fold increase in eight years. If the associated river defence work is included, the total cost is now put at £750 million.
The original completion date of September 1979 has slipped substantially and despite alterations to the programme the project is expected to be completed in November 1982. That date is still firm despite a further industrial stoppage in January. Seventy-five per cent. of the capital cost is met by a grant from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. I hope that at the end of the project there will be a detailed analysis and an explanation of the incredible increase in cost to discover how much of the increase was caused by industrial problems, inflation and practical difficulties.
On Second Reading my hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Crayford referred to several grants from the GLC. The reaction of some Labour Members was to say that, when set against the gigantic £1 billion capital spending in the Bill, the grants, even if they amounted to 1236 several hundred thousand or one million pounds, were too small to worry about. That is a strange argument. When resources for local government in London are limited, any spending on low priority schemes removes resources from high priority schemes.
An example of such a scheme is the GLC women's committee set up a few months ago. It drew adverse comment from the staff side representatives in County Hall. They said:The feeling has been expressed by a number of departments reflecting the view, of women members of staff that the proposed committee would well, at best, not assist policies for equal opportunities, and at worst be counter-productive. It has been suggested that if there are problems they should be dealt with within the Council's committee structure without the creation of a new bureaucracy.The new bureaucracy has a budget of £62,000 for staff, £70,000 a year for conferences, publicity and other expenses and £200,000 for grants. It is advertising the availability of grants at a cost to the ratepayers of £1,200, despite the fact that the comptroller of finance at County Hall advised the committee that, of the £200,000 available, £74,000 is already committed and applications received exceed £300,000.
§ Mr. Race
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the reason for the establishment of the women's committee was that it was believed that women were being discriminated against in the GLC and in the population at large and that it was necessary to have a separate committee to establish where that discrimination existed and to do something about it? Is he further aware that the grants made available by the committee are to such laudable projects as the safe women's transport group in Lewisham, which provides minibuses to transport women who may otherwise be attacked by men in the streets? Is he against that?
§ Mr. Cartwright
It is hard to believe that discrimination against GLC employees can best be dealt with by setting up a separate committee. If trade unions were doing their job—the hon. Gentleman knows much about the work of trade unions—they would use the existing machinery to look after their members. I shall not go into the rights or wrongs of an individual grant. My point is that to advertise for more applications at a cost of £1,200, when the money already available is oversubscribed, is not a good use of the ratepayers' contributions.
We were told on Second Reading that employment creation was the main emphasis of the GLC's spending programme as represented by this Bill. That is borne out by the estimates. Capital spending on industry and employment is £24.5 million compared with £2¼ million in 1981–82. That is a tenfold increase in one year. Revenue spending is £10.5 million compared with £3¼ million in 1981–82, which is a threefold increase.
The main element in the programme is clearly the Greater London enterprise board. That was one of the Labour Party's manifesto commitments during the last GLC elections. At the time, we were told that it was the brainchild of the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Holland). As a result, one might have expected a well worked-out, finely-tuned scheme ready to go into operation straight away. However, there have been considerable fluctuations and alterations in policy in relation to the GLEB.
On 26 January, in a report on the formation and establishment of the board, the GLC was told: 1237It is hoped that the company will be operative by the end of March 1982".It would appear that that hope has not been fulfilled.
There was, of course, the hiccup over the position of the chairman and chief executive. In December 1981, it was announced that Mr. Edward Cunningham of the Scottish Development Agency would be appointed as chairman and chief executive. However, certain differences appeared to arise between him and elected councillors. The party of open Government at County Hall is coy about the details, but whatever they were it was announced in May that Mr. Cunningham had departed after less than five months.
At a GLC meeting on 30 March, a report from the industry and employment committee set out the revised board structure: three full-time board directors to be appointed at once; up to three more full-time directors later; and up to seven part-time directors at some other point in time. However, by 8 June the position had changed again. We now had a two-tier structure: a main board, presided over by the chairman and chief executive and 12 part-time directors, and a management board, again presided over by the chairman and chief executive, and six executive directors heading individual divisions within the board's operations.
On 29 June Mr. McGarvey was appointed as chief executive alone and it was implied that further consideration would he given to the appointment of a part-time non-executive chairperson.
§ Mr. Spearing
Would not it be more appropriate for these criticisms—if they are criticisms—to be taken up by those sitting at County Hall, who may be members of the hon. Gentleman's party? I am told that capital is not involved and whatever the merits of the hon. Gentleman's remarks he is surely referring to administrative wisdom rather than to revenue expenditure.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman must relate his remarks to the Bill's provisions. We are on Third Reading, and therefore we are concerned only with the Bill's contents.
§ Mr. Cartwright
I accept that, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am relating my remarks to the administrative expenses that arise out of the capital provision. The GLC has made it clear that it cannot simply give capital away. It must build an administrative structure to oversee the disbursements of those capital grants. I am discussing that administrative structure.
The salaries in that administrative structure are important. In earlier debates the salary of Mr. McGarvey, the chief executive, was referred to. The report to the GLC on 29 June said that his salary would be "not less than £25,000". It has turned out to be £35,000 and with the extra elements in the package it adds up to about £45,000. In addition, loss of Government grant will add 60 per cent. to that expenditure. That adds a further £27,000 and thus we reach the publicised figure of £72,000 as the cost to ratepayers.
§ Mr. Jessel
The hon. Gentleman is discussing the cost of bureaucracy in the GLC, but is he aware that within the past week the SDP has floated the idea of a new regional government for the South-East? Is not it almost beyond belief—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. If the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Cartwright) answers that point, his remarks will be wide of the Bill. He must relate his remarks to the Bill's provisions.
§ Mr. Cartwright
Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am referring to the salaries of the directors of the Greater London enterprise board. They will be running the board and disbursing the capital sums included in the Bill. On 8 June the GLC heard in a report that the part-time directors of the GLEB were to receive salaries of between 10 per cent. and 20 per cent. of the chief executive's salary. If the salary of the chief executive was £25,000, their remuneration was to be £2,500 to £5,000.
The report explained that the salaries werebased on the premise that all part-time members will spend one half day per week in work for the board and some as much as one full day per week.However, we know that the chief executive's salary is not £25,000 but £35,000, and therefore the part-time directors' salaries will be between £3,500 and £7,000, depending on whether they work a half day or a full day per week.
According to the report by the comptroller of finance issued on 8 June, the salaries of part-time directors would add up to £90,000 in a full year. That was based on a chief executive's salary of £30,000, but that salary is £35,000. We must also add on 60 per cent. for grant loss as a result of the spending. That makes a bill of £160,000 for the ratepayers for the part-time members of the Greater London enterprise board.
The comptroller of finance commented:These estimates exclude accommodation charges about which a separate report is proposed.I should have thought that there were enough rooms in County Hall without having to find extra accommodation for the part-time members of the board.
There is a further report on the salaries of the management board members—the full-time executive directors who head divisions. It is unlikely that they will earn less than £25,000 a year. Allowing for the loss of Government grant, that means a bill of about £250,000 for the full-time executive directors. The salary of the part-time, non-executive chairman must be added. His salary is unlikely to be less than £10,000. With the loss of grant the salaries of the chief executive, the part-time chairman, the part-time directors and the full-time directors produce a net cost to London ratepayers of about £½ million a year. That is before the staffing costs are taken into account.
We are told that the Greater London enterprise board is to have six divisional groups of staff covering sector and structural development, appraisal, technology, area and property development, common services and general administrative support. So far, only interim staff arrangements are known. The 79 posts carry a full-year cost of £1,112,000. Even in the early stages it seems that the administrative costs of the board will be about £1¾ million. That is before even one job is created.
We are entitled to ask questions about the board. When will it be operative? How many staff will it finally employ? What are the total estimated operating costs to be borne by London ratepayers? Most important, how many jobs will be created?
§ Mr. John Wheeler (Paddington)
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that to spend the money from the Greater London Council it will be necessary to raise a precept in London to produce money from the ratepayers—most of 1239 whom are commercial ratepayers—and that, for every £10,000 taken from commercial ratepayers, one job in London is lost?
§ Mr. Cartwright
I would not comment on the arithmetic. It is possible to exaggerate the impact on employment of rate increases, but they do have an impact. To tax more harshly firms left in London to create new jobs is a self-defeating exercise.
The Bill deals with another aspect of job creation at County Hall. A new unit, the economic policy group, is associated with capital spending. The chief economic adviser has already been appointed. In a report which the council considered on 29 June he says:The first stage, the establishment of a 'nucleus' team, was completed on 1 March by which time a Chief Economic Adviser and four senior economic assistants…had taken up posts. A review of the staffing necessary to carry out the primary functions of EPG to draw up the London Industrial Strategy (LIS) and the London Manpower Plan (LMP) has now been completed and forms the basis of this report.That involves an extra 14 posts. According to the comptroller of finance, in the current financial year that adds up to another £205,000. If one allows for the 60 per cent. grant loss, the figure becomes £328,000. The full year cost of the posts is £307,300. That is an average of £22,000 per job—nice jobs if you can get them, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
§ Mr. Dobson
In response to an intervention by the Chair, the hon. Member justified relating to the Bill the salaries paid by the Greater London enterprise board by saying that the funds for investment were covered by the Bill. Is he justifying his present excursions on the same ground? It appears that there is no capital expenditure in the Bill relating to the revenue expenditure on the salaries that he is discussing.
§ Mr. Cartwright
As I understand it, the economic policy group is responsible for setting out the London employment strategy, which is something that is followed by the activities of the Greater London enterprise board and other GLC departments associated with job creation. If the hon. Gentleman is patient, he will see that when I get to the point.
§ Mr. John Grant
Does my hon. Friend not think that it is curious that we keep having interventions from Labour Members seeking to restrict discussion on the Greater London enterprise board? Does this not mean that there is something to hide?
§ Mr. Cartwright
My hon. Friend is much more suspicious than I. I assumed that the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mr. Dobson) was merely concerned about the rules of order.
§ Mr. Dobson
Since I deliberately made a short speech so that every hon. Member who wished to speak would have the opportunity to do so, I am concerned to assist those of my hon. Friends, and even Conservative Members, who would like to speak, to do so within the rules of order.
§ Mr. Cartwright
I have given way to a number of interventions from the Labour Benches, which has extended the length of my remarks.
I was referring to the extra jobs in the economic policy group. The number of jobs will be 26 and the full year cost 1240 is estimated at £550,000, again at over £21,000 a job. If we add the 60 per cent. grant loss, the cost to London ratepayers will be £850,000. The senior officers on the staff side say:The work, as described, appears to duplicate and overlap in part the separate proposals for the Greater London Enterprise Board activity…There is also duplication of effort with the Central Policy Unit and the Central Policy Intelligence Unit. No justification exists for the establishment of parallel units.That is the reaction of the staff, and I found it very powerful.
Another point I wish to make is about the industry and capital employment programme and its staffing. There are 38 extra posts in the valuation and estates, architects and mechanical engineering departments being added specifically as a result of the capital programme. That is another full year cost of £695,000, and it is only the start of the process.
I accept that the aim of this operation is to create jobs for the unemployed in London, but I am sad to see that the result at the early stages is doing nothing more than adding highly paid jobs to the County Hall bureaucracy.
My hon. Friends and I divided the House on Second Reading to show our concern about certain aspects of GLC spending plans. We might have expected that our concern was shared by right hon. and hon. Members on the Government Benches. On a number of occasions they have been extremely critical of the spending policies of the GLC. When it came to the Division we found that 56 Conservative Members voted with 57 Labour Members to guarantee the Bill a Second Reading. We noticed that in the Lobby, several Ministers and Whips were voting for the Bill.
There has now been, a little late in the day, an attempt to recover the situation by the amendment on the Order Paper in the name of a number of Conservative Members, some of whom appear to have had a conversion since the Second Reading vote. In future I shall find it difficult to take seriously Government criticism of the GLC and its spending policies. For example, the Under-Secretary of State said:I commend the Bill to the House and say that it is consistent with the Government's overall strategy to local government.That must contrast sharply with some of the adverse comments made by the Secretary of State and by the Minister responsible for local government about the spending activities of the GLC.
§ Mr. Jessel
Is not the point that the Minister was worried that if the Bill were not passed the cost of running the GLC could fall on the Department of the Environment? That was his point. He was not by any means commending everything that the GLC did.
§ Mr. Cartwright
I remind the hon. Gentleman of what the Minister said:I commend the Bill to the House".—[Official Report, 17 June; Vol. 25, c. 1175.]I repeat the precedent in 1976. Had the Bill been defeated, it would have been possible to renegotiate the Bill in substantially the same form, but without the objectionable features.
It is clear from the exercise on Second Reading that the Government are fighting a phoney war against the Greater London Council. If the Government are fighting a phoney war, what about the position of the GLC's Labour leadership? What about Mr. Livingstone? He likes to present himself as "super Ken" fighting on the barricades, 1241 fending off the Heseltinian hordes from Marsham Street and prepared to shed his last drop of blood to defend the spending plans of the GLC from Government interference.
As we have heard, a deal was done between the GLC leadership and the Government, which has rendered the GLC's spending programmes acceptable to the Government. Large parts of those programmes are not acceptable to me or to my hon. Friends. I am glad that we have succeeded in shedding some light on them in these debates. I do not accept that that is an abuse of the procedures of the House. We have done a service to the House and to the people of London.
§ Mr. Reg Race (Wood Green)
The hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Cartwright) referred to the salaries of members of the Greater London enterprise board. I draw to the attention of the House the fact that on a number of occasions we are called upon to vote for or against increases in the salaries of Members of Parliament and Ministers. I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman was in the Lobby with me when we voted against the increase of pay of Members of Parliament in 1979. Is it only substantial salaries for members of the Greater London enterprise board that he is against when there happens to be a Labour-controlled leadership of the GLC or is he also against top salaries being paid to Ministers and Members of Parliament? That is a pertinent point.
I would have greater respect for the hon. Gentleman's point of view were he to argue that high pay for all executives was a mistake and that it should bear some relation to the jobs that they were creating and the people that they were looking after. That is an important point, of which the Greater London Council and the Government must take note.
§ Mr. John Grant
Is the hon. Gentleman in favour of the salary being paid to Mr. McGarvey or is he not? If he followed his argument to its logical conclusion, he would condemn it.
§ Mr. Race
The hon. Gentleman has asked me a pertinent question. I shall give a straightforward answer. The salaries that are being offered at the top level of the GLC are too high. One of the reasons advanced for the salary paid to the chairman and the chief executive of the Greater London enterprise board is that it has to fit in with the rest of the bureaucracy at County Hall, which is related to the special scales negotiated by the GLC staff association and the other trade unions that make up the trade union side. The structure of the top salaries in the GLC is out of line with what should be paid.
I shall pick up some points that have been made in the debate. The Bill is about jobs, housing and transport. Significantly, it is also about the cost of the GLC's services to the ratepayer. If the Social Democratic Party or the Conservative Party were to vote against the Bill, they would be voting against the improvements in housing that have been made possible by the GLC's plans.
An estate in my constituency, the White Hart Lane Estate, was built at the turn of the century and is now in dire need of urgent improvement. On 1 April 1982 it was handed over to the London borough of Haringey. Many of the houses on that estate are in a deplorable condition. They need new roofs, new guttering, new damp courses, new sinks and rewiring and a whole string of other major 1242 improvements to bring them up to modern standards. For any hon. Member to vote against a Bill that does those specific things for specific people is outrageous.
Therefore, I hope hon. Members on both sides of the House will recognise that the Bill will improve the quality of life for people on estates such as the one in the constituency of the hon. Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Mr. Brown) which was taken over by Hackney borough council on 1 April 1982 and is also in need of substantial improvement.
The Bill is also about jobs. The purpose of the Greater London enterprise board is not to provide an expensive bureaucracy but to put jobs on the ground. That was the Labour Party's commitment in the GLC election manifesto on which we fought and won the election in 1981. I must tell the hon. Member for Ravensbourne (Mr. Hunt), who has now left the Chamber, that the Greater London enterprise board and the GLC have already begun to provide jobs in the Greater London area under existing powers. They have done so in Haringey by providing workshops and they have a number of other schemes throughout London to provide a substantial number of jobs in the immediate future. That is how we should test the success or otherwise of the Greater London enterprise board. Given that there ate 340,000 unemployed in Greater London, it is scandalous that attacks should be made on a local authority that is seeking to do its best to remove unemployment.
I wish to contrast the activities of the Labour-controlled GLC with the activities of the Government in providing employment. The GLC is seeking to use taxpayers' and ratepayers' money to provide jobs in London. The Government are using taxpayers' money to give grants to companies to move out of London and thereby to destroy jobs in London. That is what has happened in the past few months in Haringey. The Government gave a grant to Berec and Hanson Trust to remove the group technical centre from Tottenham to Consett in County Durham. That may be good news for Consett but it is bad news for London.
There is a contrast between the use of taxpayers' money to provide such grants and the use of ratepayers' money for the Greater London enterprise board, which is proposed in the Bill. I hope the House will support the objectives of the Greater London enterprise board in its objectives.
The Bill is also important because it affects transport. Many hon. Members will have in mind road schemes that they wish to be implemented by the GLC. I found it extraordinary that the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway) should suggest that we did not need a London-wide transport planning authority. That is an extraordinary suggestion, given that individual boroughs cannot solve their transport problems by themselves. They cannot possibly be given the responsibility for providing solutions to London-wide problems. That appears so obvious that it is extraordinary that a Conservative Member should put the idea forward as a serious suggestion.
§ Mr. Neil Thorne
I fear that the hon. Member far Wood Green (Mr. Race) did not hear the intervention in the same terms as I did. I heard my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway) say that that responsibility should be taken away from the Greater London Coucil. He did not mention that the responsibility should be taken away from any other authority. I had the 1243 distinct impression that he thought that some other authority would be more capable of dealing with the matter.
§ Mr. Race
The hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Thorne) is rapidly putting nails in his hon. Friend's coffin. What other authority is there? The London boroughs cannot do the job and neither can the Government, who are not elected to do a local authority's job. The GLC is the appropriate body to plan and run London's transport.
We need the Bill to provide the money for sensible and much-needed transport improvements. We are not talking about motorway boxes. We need to reduce lead pollution, the number of accidents and general congestion. I do not wish Conservative or SDP Members to vote to prevent much-needed road improvements in my constituency and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Edmonton (Mr. Graham). We are both interested in the North-South route through the Lea Valley to relieve the enormous congestion in Edmonton, Wood Green and North Tottenham. We do not want children contaminated by lead pollution; we do not want road congestion to continue. The Bill is about jobs, transport and housing.
Conservative Members criticise the GLC and the Bill. They accuse the GLC of being a spendthrift and profligate local authority interested only in raising rates for no useful purpose. They say that rate increases drive jobs away. The hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Cartwright) put it well; rate rises do affect job preservation and creation. But we must consider other local authority activities and those of the Government.
I suspect that a large number of jobs in London have been lost through the huge interest rate increases as a result of the Government's policy over the past three years. The reply to a parliamentary question from my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) on 26 April disclosed that rates were only 0.76 per cent. of industry's total manufacturing costs. To listen to the Conservatives one would think that they were a major cost of production.
I cannot take seriously the argument that the GLC is destroying jobs. Its policy is to reverse the industrial decline, in London, to create jobs, to renew housing and to improve transport. It needs its own money for capital developments, and it needs money from the Government, too. The scandal is that its reasonable and legitimate objectives are blocked at every turn by the Government. They have withdrawn grants from the GLC and ILEA and hounded the reasonable Labour administration at County Hall, which seeks to implement its manifesto in the principled way in which, doubtless, the Government believe that they themselves are seeking to implement their promises.
I commend the Bill to the House. I hope and pray that SDP and Conservative Members will not oppose it. If they do, London's electorate will draw simple conclusions about their attitude to desperately needed improvements in the quality of life in our capital city.
§ Mr. John Wheeler (Paddington)
The Bill is a source of great worry to my constituents and myself, particularly as the amounts of revenue raised by the precept for the GLC and its committee, the Inner London Education 1244 Authority, are oppressive. The average rate raised in my constituency is about £650 a year, of which at least £460 is accounted for by the GLC and the ILEA committee.
I have examined the substantial budgetary statement of more than 200 pages which has been prepared by the GLC. There are items in it of which I approve and which will be generally welcomed by the people of London. Of course we want to see the Thames barrier completed, because that is in London's interest, but is the administration of the Thames barrier and its finances being carried out efficiently and competently? Should responsibility for the Thames barrier rest with the GLC at all? I maintain that the barrier should be the responsibility of the Thames water authority, which is, after all, the water authority for London.
I am concerned to see evidence of duplication in the budgetary statement in the services that are supposedly supplied by the GLC. Thirty-two London boroughs are concerned with the well-being of the people who live in London. Those are the councils that provide common services such as housing, refuse collection and so on.
It is puzzling to find in the budgetary statement and schedules to the Bill expenditure that is intended for functions that are already carried out in part or in whole by the London borough councils. I refer in particular to traffic regulations, road safety, parking, building regulations and planning. I cannot understand why the House is called upon to approve legislation which is clearly raising revenue to duplicate the work of other local authorities.
My constituents are worried about the fact that the level of the rates obliges many of them to leave their homes and businesses in inner London, and it is up to me and my colleagues in the House to seek to defend their interests.
Much has been made of the so-called Greater London enterprise board. There is no evidence that that board has yet made any substantial loans that would provide real and lasting jobs for the benefit of people in London. Furthermore, the evidence from the City of Westminster Chamber of Commerce—a body which, unfortunately, through its membership raises a substantial part of the rates revenue in London—is that the increasing burden of the rates, which largely come from the GLC, is causing members of the chamber to withdraw their businesses from inner London, with a consequent loss of jobs.
It is unacceptable to allow the Bill to go through the House on the nod, without objection or substantial scrutiny. We are not in a position tonight to inquire into the contents of the Bill or the budgetary statement that has been presented with it and in support of it in sufficient detail to enable us to determine what is acceptable and what is not, both to London Members and their constituents.
However, I have been examining some aspects of the statement and I draw to the attention of the House the statement on page 48 about the police. The GLC says that it will continue to campaignfor the establishment of a police authority for London.There is a police authority for London already, and it is vested in the Home Secretary, the office holder who has been responsible for the police service in London since it was established in 1829.
The statement tells us also that the council will campaignfor the establishment of an independent procedure for investigating complaints against the police.1245 It is not the reponsibility of one of London's councils to enter into that activity. The responsibility lies with the House. The Select Committee on Home Affairs has inquired into the subject and reported to the House. I understand that its recommendations are likely to be found in legislation to be brought forward in the new Session. Why is the GLC seeking to raise revenue to spend money on an activity which is not the responsibility or duty of that authority?
There is a reference on page 48 to ethnic minorities. The budgetary statement says:The council will campaign the advocacy of the repeal of racially discriminatory immigration and nationality laws and practices in the United Kingdom.That is not the GLC's function. It is the function of this place to determine what Acts of Parliament shall remain on the statute book. It is the duty of the House and not that of the council.
Having examined the statement and a number of items that have been presented to us in the Bill, I am in no doubt that I cannot possibly support the Bill. I shall oppose it later tonight.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bernard Weatherill)
Order. I understand that the first Front Bench spokesman would like to begin his reply to the debate at half-past nine. I am anxious to get into the debate every hon. Member who has been rising and trying to catch my eye.
§ 9.4 pm
§ Mr. Thomas Cox (Tooting)
It will be an insult to London if there is an attempt to oppose the Bill or an attempt by any hon. Member to talk it out. As London Members, we all know the problems that exist in London, be they in inner London or outer London.
We know that in London unemployment worsens month by month. There are over 340,000 men and women out of work in London. It is only by the efforts of local authorities, be they local borough authorities or the GLC, that we in London can start to give some hope of employment to those who are, sadly, unemployed. It is by the development of small workshops at a local level that we can start to bring hope into the areas that we represent. When these projects are developed by the GLC in conjunction with local authorities, the result is of benefit to the areas that we represent. That is true irrespective of the party that we may represent, and no one should forget that. We should do all in our power to support those projects at all times.
I warmly welcome and support the expenditure proposed by ILEA. Many parts of inner London will benefit from the various schemes submitted by ILEA and included in the Bill. All London Members, whether from inner or outer London, know that teachers and PTAs constantly ask us to help them to improve their schools. Anyone who attempts in any way to hinder the Bill today should think what the effect of that will be for some areas of London.
Several projects are planned for Wandsworth, by no means all of them in my constituency. ILEA proposes to spend money on the following projects in Wandsworth schools. At Oak Lodge, it plans to provide new radio-based equipment for the deaf. Does any hon. Member oppose that? At the Franciscan school in my constituency, a nursery class is to be provided by the adaptation of 1246 existing classroom accommodation. There is a 65 per cent. deficiency in nursery provision in that area, which I know well. It is an area that cries out for help. For far too many of the youngsters living there the only play facilities are the streets, with all the problems and fears for parents who know that there is nowhere for their youngsters to go but the streets to kick balls and play games.
At Swaffield, Hernville, Eardley and Earlsfield schools, the last two of which are in my constituency, teachers and PTAs have spent years of effort trying to secure decent toilet facilities for the schools. Last winter schools had to be closed because the outside toilets had frozen up. Under the ILEA projects many schools will have indoor toilets for the first time ever.
If any hon. Member says that he does not care a damn about mums and children in Wandsworth and intends to oppose the Bill and do all that he can to block it, heaven help him, because by next week the mums and teachers will know all about it. They will know which Members were responsible and they will be up here in force. It would be an utter disgrace for any Member of Parliament to deprive areas of provisions of that kind after the years of effort put in by those people.
In our occasional debates on London many hon. Members, irrespective of party, have complained about the way in which we have to discuss London matters through debates on GLC Bills. I have no objection to those Bills being debated, but we have to try to bring in as wide a range of topics as we possibly can. Then there are the Consolidated Fund debates, when we stay up until all hours of the night. These are the only opportunities that we have to debate London matters. I criticise successive Governments for this. The Labour Government were just as bad as the Conservatives have been. It is time that we and the usual channels decided that each year one or two days will be allocated for London debates. Hon. Members could then decide, through consultation, which key areas should be debated, and the appropriate Ministers would be present to open and close the debates.
I hope that we shall not hear any more nonsense from hon. Members about whether they oppose the Bill will depend upon the answers that they get. Of course we have different views on many aspects concerning London, but, as London Members, we know about the problems of employment, education, housing, and transport. We debate them time and again. Our first priority is not to obstruct improvements, but to do everything that we can to obtain them. Those improvements may be slow in coming forward, and we may object to that, but let us not have any more of this damned nonsense—
§ Mr. Neil Thorne (Ilford, South)
The hon. Member for St. Pancras, North ',(Mr. Stallard) started his speech by complaining about the need to generate debates or London. I entirely agree. Both parties have been at fault in this respect when in Government and also in 1247 Opposition. The Opposition could devote a Supply Day to a debate on London if they wanted to. That would be helpful.
Some other hon. Members complained about blocking tactics being used on Third Reading. I do not share that view. The Greater London Council, of its own free will, decided that it wished to have the right of a money Bill. It did in fact ask me to sponsor provision for a money Bill in the Committee stage of the Local Government Planning and Land (No. 2) Bill. I am glad to say that the Minister agreed and the GLC now has its money Bill. As always, there are advantages and disadvantages with a money Bill. One cannot take the advantages without the disadvantages. Therefore, hon. Members have every right to raise these issues on Second Reading and also on Third Reading. It is proper that they should.
I was amazed to hear the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mr. Dobson) advance the theory that if one agrees with part of the Bill one must support the whole. That is an erroneous argument. If one disagrees with parts they must be drawn to the promoter's attention so that they can be corrected. It has been pointed out that that has happened in the past and the GLC lost its money Bill, but that was not the end of the world. The Bill was re-presented later. I am sure that as a result due account was taken of the objections and the money Bill was tailored accordingly. That was a proper course of action because such Bills give hon. Members an opportunity to express their opinions.
I have severe reservations about the Bill. The hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Cartwright) made an interesting speech. He drew attention to the need for administrative support for the vast sums that will be spent under the Bill. I can well imagine that the extra costs are likely to lead to overspending, and that could affect the GLC's rate support grant. That is a serious matter. I accept that the political parties in the GLC have every right to fight a campaign on the platform of their own choice, and can claim that, having won it, they are entitled to carry out their policy. The present leader was not in control of the Labour Party's campaign when the party won the election—the leadership was subtly changed after the election—nevertheless, the Labour Party has control, but it has to come to this House to have its money Bill approved.
It is right and proper therefore that we should look very carefully at the various aspects of the Bill before we give it our support. The administrative costs are considerable, and if they are likely to lead to a reduction in Government funding which will in turn affect my constituents' rate bills, that is a serious matter. I have no wish to see my constituents deprived of anything because of the behaviour of the GLC and the manner in which it handles its affairs. That is especially so when funds are available to the ratepayers of every authority which is reasonable in its demands. It is therefore, right and proper that we should ask questions about the make-up of the Bill. If we are not satisfied with the answers, we have every right to vote against it.
Some hon. Members made the curious statement that they did not accept that rates were a significant factor in the profitability of a business. That shows how little they know about business. The hon. Member for Wood Green (Mr. Race) made that very point and he could not be more 1248 wrong. Whereas 20 or 30 years ago the profitability of business was 10, 15 or 20 per cent., it is now more like 3 or 4 per cent. The rate bill may represent only 2 or 3 per cent. of the total bill of a firm, but a 50 per cent. increase in rates can reduce a profitability of 3 per cent. to 2 per cent. or less. It can in consequence put a company entirely into the red and cause considerable unemployment problems. That factor is too often ignored.
With regard to improvements to schools and the other desirable factors mentioned by the hon. Member for Tooting (Mr. Cox), Labour Members fail to appreciate the need to cut one's coat according to one's cloth. Whereas we would all agree that improved facilities for schools and many other worthy causes are desirable, nevertheless we may vary in our views as to when we can afford to put them into effect. If we feel that we cannot afford to put them into effect now because by so doing we may increase unemployment, we have a right to ask and expect the people concerned to adopt a more reasonble approach and to postpone their desires for the immediate future. In that respect I have severe reservations about the Bill, and unless I can be assured that employment prospects will not be harmed by any reduction in Government support arising out of profligate expenditure by the GLC, I shall wish to register my opposition and to vote against the Bill.
§ Mr. John Grant (Islington, Central)
I agree with the remarks of the hon. Member for Ravensbourne (Mr. Hunt), and repeated by the hon. Member for Tooting (Mr. Cox), about the general undesirability of this procedure. I shall continue to say that until the alliance is in power at County Hall and at Westminster, when I hope that something will be done about it.
I wish to concentrate on the single issue of the spending earmarked in the Bill for employment in industry and in particular on the Greater London enterprise board. I recognise, like all hon. Members, the appalling unemployment situation in London. My constituency in the London borough of Islington is one of the worst hit. It is one of the major unemployment blackspots in inner London. Next week's unemployment figures for the nation in general and London in particular will probably reach a record level. The grim economic and social problems facing so many inner cities certainly prevail in our capital city.
The hon. Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. Stallard) and other Labour Members have made it clear that they see the Greater London enterprise board as a positive step in reducing London's grave unemployment problem. I do not quarrel with the aims and objectives of those hon. Members. Conservative Members are not in a position to criticise, when the Government have done so much to create the jobs crisis in London and elsewhere. It would be foolish to dismiss the Greater London enterprise board as a potentially useful vehicle for job creation. I am not opposed in principle, but I have serious misgivings about what has occurred in practice.
If hon. Members are to act as public watchdogs when measures like this Bill come before the House, it is right that such misgivings should be aired. If the muddled thinking, the equivocation and, I think one can say, the maladministration that has taken place at County Hall in respect of the enterprise board had occurred in a private company, the shareholders would have been in revolt and the employees, through their unions, would have been up 1249 in arms. Someone had better get a firm and rapid grip—it may possibly have to be a political grip—on the Greater London enterprise board. Otherwise, there will be every justification for a ratepayers' revolt.
If the objective of this admittedly still embryonic board is job creation, one has to say that the only success it seems to have achieved so far is to create a lavishly expensive position for Mr. McGarvey as the chief executive. He came as second choice following the strange one-off affair with Mr. Cunningham, never properly explained, who apparently took off again almost as soon as he touched down at County Hall, because he could not stomach what he found. Mr. Garvey has, of course, the right political pedigree. I do not complain about that if he is up to the job. Nor do I want jobs of this kind done on the cheap. "If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys".
There is still uncertainty about how much Mr. McGarvey will cost. There is the figure of £35,000 for salary. When one adds the perks, the figure floating around is £72,000. I am not sure whether that is the correct figure. Whatever it is, he is the highest paid GLC official. I should have thought that there was room for a rather more modest starting salary, with an element of payment by results introduced to the position.
It is ironic that Labour Members who flood to sign motions on behalf of poorly paid workers such as nurses—I agree with that assessment—and who compare their rises with those of judges and admirals, do not appear to see anything wrong with this salary. The GLC is now advertising jobs under Mr. McGarvey. Some of the salaries are £24,000 a year basic. I do not know what additional perks might be possible. The intermediate staffing arrangements for the board will cost well over £1 million in a full year. If that is peanuts, I can only say that the GLC has some of the highest-paid monkeys in captivity.
I understand that the council is to expand its economic policy unit staff at a cost of another cool £500,000 a year. I find it hard to believe that all this empire building will not result in a considerable overlapping and duplication of effort of a kind that the GLC is on record as condemning.
I wish now to deal with a specific matter that concerns me, related to my own borough of Islington. I refer to an interesting document which has been drawn up by three of the borough's most senior officials, headed "Greater London Enterprise Board—Islington Bid." The document points out that officers from Islington council met a team of officers from the GLC to discuss the submission ofa package of schemes costing up to £5 million in 1982–83 for consideration by the Greater London Enterprise Board. At the time the GLC officers gave the impression that the GLEB was well towards being established, with consultants on tap to provide support services as required, and that only minimal assistance would be needed from the boroughs staff. The GLC officers requested that the package should emphasise any major industrial or mixed industrial/commercial development projects which could be started this year even if such schemes were not strictly feasible economically. The council's officers accordingly submitted a package of schemes.The package totals more than £2 million for 1982–83 and nearly £4 million for future years. Thus, the cost of the schemes proposed amounts to £6 million.
The report goes into great detail about cost indications. It continues:Having submitted the bid the Council's officers were advised that there had been a change of thinking at County Hall about how the GLEB was to operate. Mr. Cunningham had declined 1250 to accept the position as chairman/chief executive of GLEB because of a difference of opinion on how GLEB should operate.The assistant director, whom the council had met, was no longer leading the GLC team, and the report goes on to say:A second meeting was therefore held with GLC officers, who outlined a significantly different position from that presented at the first meeting. GLC thinking, at least for the first year of GLEB's operation, is to concentrate resources into existing large and medium size firms to create employment. This will leave some £5 million for area and property development for the whole of Greater London.Yet Islington had been advised to put in a bid of nearly £6 million for that borough alone.
The report continues:GLEB has no staff in post, no consultants ready to advise and its effectiveness in the current year is therefore in doubt. In effect the GLC are looking to the Council to provide the staff resources to support GLEB in the current year on the feasibility and marketing studies which would be required.In addition the GLC officers made it quite clear that they are now looking for schemes from the boroughs which are virtually ready to start with the majority of expenditure in the current year and either no or only a minor commitment to future years … unless the GLC's approach to GLEB expenditure this year changes it is unlikely that this borough will obtain any significant benefit in 1982–83.That is a fine mess. Islington borough was led up the garden. Clearly a political change of course was imposed on officials by those responsible at County Hall. That time-wasting exercise cost the borough staff time and resources, a cost that is then footed by the ratepayers.
The unemployed people of my borough have been left waiting because of a failure to act when they should have been assisted. Islington is only one London borough. I wonder how many other London boroughs worked out similar packages on the advice of the GLC to put to the Greater London enterprise board, only to have their hopes dashed by the political bungling and indecision at County Hall. I wonder how much time, paper and cash have been wasted by officials in all those boroughs as well as at County Hall. Ratepayers' money was squandered unnecessarily. That bungling could well provide an omnibus case of maladministration for the consideration of the local government ombudsman.
Whether or not that matter merits such investigation, it inspires little confidence that those who are in control at County Hall are capable of adequately safeguarding London's cash, running London's affairs efficiently and effectively or having, the know-how or the political will to create the necessary jobs in our city's ailing industry. It also illustrates the difficulty of discovering what the Greater London enterprise board will do, or be told to do, to meet the uncertain and changing requirements of its political masters. There are still some sensible people in the Labour group at County Hall, but they are in a minority. A crackpot leadership now controls the purse strings and that is why I am so worried about the passage of the Bill.
§ Mr. Ted Graham (Edmonton)
We have had a good and largely even-tempered debate tonight. Normally the Third Reading of such a Bill does not cause much controversy. Most hon. Members have demonstrated tonight that the Bill is crucial to the welfare of London. I underscore all that has been said by members of the Labour Party, who are appalled at the possibility that the Bill will be opposed or obstructed.
1251 That does not mean that I believe that we should not criticise what is contained in the Bill or the motives, intentions, competence and political nous of those who may be responsible for it. However, there is a world of difference between raising reservations and pointing out criticisms and taking those criticisms to such a length that one wishes to flout the will, not merely of Labour Members, but of the leaders of the GLC and Ministers, who have held discussions to ensure that the package is considered by all to be moderate and reasonable.
The GLC and the hon. Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. Stallard), the promoter of the Bill, have shown courtesy and respect for the conventions of the House and for London as a whole. With such a political dimension, it is impossible to find other than diametrically opposed political philosophies enmeshed in what could be, on another occasion, a prosaic list of projects. It is sad that some hon. Members have threatened—I hope that the threats will not be fulfilled—to delay the Bill.
The hon. Member for Ravensbourne (Mr. Hunt) repeated that this should not be the way in which London's capital requirements are treated in the House. He and others, including myself, have some responsibility to initiate discussions on whether that is a general view not only of parliamentarians but of members of the GLC. We should spend a little time outside the openness of debates in the House to see how that can be done. However, it was sad that the hon. Gentleman injected some bile and rancour into his remarks that spoiled an otherwise reasonable contribution. These days, Conservative Members cannot discuss London without personalising everything. The hon. Gentleman above all hon. Members should know that we are dealing not with revenue but capital matters. It is fair enough to want to know the revenue consequences of capital provisions, but the hon. Gentleman's contribution was not worthy of his usual contributions in debates on London.
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway) is not in his place. I greatly respect his background in teaching and education. However, together with other hon. Members, he is carrying on a vendetta against the leadership of the GLC and that shone through in his speech. The hon. Gentleman said that ultimately he had to consider the interests of his constituents. Of course, we all consider our constituents' interests, but the principle of the greatest good for the greatest number should prevail. He was right to make a valid constituency point about transport and to refer to the apparent change of heart or volte face on the part of some individuals at the GLC. It is right to air such points, but it would not merit opposing and perhaps delaying the Bill.
The hon. Member for Ealing, North also referred to the GLC and London Transport. We all know that the funding and future of London Transport are important. The problem will not go away and it must be resolved. However, the hon. Gentleman was less than fair when he forgot recent history. The Secretary of State invited the GLC to put forward proposals on future funding and management. As every hon. Member knows, the GLC took the trouble of preparing a paper, which has been presented to the Secretary of State. It contains such options as a return to the "Fares Fair" policy, no growth, cash limits and a return to the position before March 1982. The 1252 GLC points out that the Government's treatment of transport provision in the capital deserved consultation and discussion at the highest level.
The hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Cartwright) spoke for about 27 minutes and it was probably the longest speech of the evening. I respect his great experience of local government. He was right to say that if the Bill is lost tonight the next step will be to renegotiate a more acceptable measure. However, I blanch at the thought of the hiatus that will be caused at County Hall and in every town hall in London if the measure is delayed.
The Opposition are neither sanguine nor uncaring about whether the Bill is enacted. The will of the House will prevail. However, I shall echo the comments made by several hon. Members, particularly those on the Opposition Benches. London and Londoners will not forgive or forget any hon. Member who professes to represent London's best interests if by his vote or voice tonight he hinders the Bill's passage.
I much enjoyed the contribution of my hon. Friend the Member for Tooting (Mr. Cox). His usual passionate and eloquent speech not only on behalf of his constituents, but also on behalf of London demonstrated his deep knowledge of such affairs. With justification he warned what would befall Conservative Members who threatened London and Londoners with the consequences of the withdrawal of their support. The hon. Member for Islington, Central (Mr. Grant) brought to the debate his knowledge of the employment scene and dealt mainly with the enterprise board. We await the progress of the board with as much interest as he.
One can look across Westminster Bridge and see evidence to the effect that 344,000 Londoners are unemployed. The hon. Member for Islington, Central predicted that that figure will show an increase next Tuesday. Any initiative by the GLC designed to reduce the number of unemployed should be given a fair wind.
We are mindful that the Bill is a set piece in London's Government. The House has a job to do tonight—to allow the Bill to pass so that Londoners are allowed to get on with the standard of living to which they are entitled. Londoners can stand on their own feet. Hon. Members have said that Londoners should have a better deal. I do not cavil at the use of strong language, but those who try to damage the ability of the GLC to give London effective Government do a disservice to democracy. We have had enough of the Secretary of State with his constant interfering in the ability of locally elected men and women to govern their region. The Bill is modest, constructive and needed by Londoners.
The House should endorse the programme of works requested. London Members have a responsibility and duty to forget their petty partisan sniping. I give the Bill a warm welcome on behalf of the official Opposition.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Giles Shaw)
As a Yorkshire man I am conscious that I am alien to a debate on London. I feel a little like the cavalry in war, adding tone to what otherwise would be a vulgar brawl. The House will understand that the Under-Secretary, my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, Acton (Sir G. Young), has a major and prior engagement this evening, and I have come to the Box in his stead. I apologise to the hon. Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Mr. Brown) for the fact that the letter sent to 1253 him by my colleague reached him via Leith in Scotland and not directly. On reading the letter the hon. Member will no doubt believe—unlike George III who said that no good ever came out of Scotland—that at least he has some good news.
The Bill is a well-established procedure. It has been criticised by hon. Members on both sides of the House and that should be taken into account. The GLC operates under the London Government Act 1963. When new controls on capital expenditure by local authorities were introduced by the Local Government, Planning and Land Act 1980, the GLC was keen to retain its unique procedure. The previous arrangements have been modified, partly in the 1980 Act and partly through understanding between the Government and the GLC. In spite of retaining the Bill procedure, the GLC is in practice under a regime as similar as possible to that applying to other authorities. Hon. Members will know that there are debates from time to time on rate support grant orders and matters of that kind, which deal with capital spend and capital provisions of local authorities elsewhere.
We explained on Second Reading that the provisions in the Bill are, in practice, agreed by the various interested Departments in consultation with the GLC before the Bill is deposited. The Government have no objection in principle to the proposals. However, some of my hon. Friends have suggested that the Bill is objectionable because of its provision for a number of matters, such as assistance for industry. There was also the question of support for artistic groups which my hon. Friend the Member for Ravensbourne (Mr. Hunt) raised. There were also certain other aspects of how the money should be spent, which did not attract my hon. Friend's support.
The Government have, to the extent that it is possible, satisfied themselves about the level of provision for capital expenditure in total in the Bill. That provision is based on the capital expenditure allocation made to the council, as to all other local authorities last December, allowing for the use of capital receipts. After the original draft of the Bill had been seen in my Department, there were discussions and substantial modifications. About £40 million-worth of modifications were made, which shows that the Bill and its content have been substantially examined as to the capital.
The GLC, if it secures passage of the Bill tonight, can direct these resources to other activities and away from the services where the Government believe the need to be greatest. This is where other difficulties could arise, but, as far as the Bill's passage tonight is concerned, the principles of the capital spend and the capital allocation that it contains have been discussed and are broadly satisfactory to the Government.
However, I have noted what my hon. Friends have said about the behaviour of the existing administration at County Hall. The results of the disastrous "Fares Fair" policy on London Transport are still with us. It has set up, for some extraordinary reason, a police committee, although it has no responsibility for police matters. Daily we hear, and this evening we heard from the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Cartwright), of new posts that have precious little to do with a body that was elected to look after specific local government services in Greater London.
The GLC cannot strike a posture as the nation's conscience in these matters. All of these activities no doubt contribute to its record as a notorious overspender. 1254 For the hon. Member for Wood Green (Mr. Race) to suggest that there is no relationship between the level of rates and the difficulties facing industries, large and small, in Greater London shows an appalling lack of knowledge of the case.
§ Mr. Race
The Minister should read Hansard tomorrow because he will see that that was not what I said. I agreed with the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Cartwright) that there was a relationship between rate rises and job preservation and destruction. However, other factors overlay that and are much more significant. Primarily, that meant the real cost of production for industry, particularly the cost of capital and raw materials. I referred to the parliamentary question and answer which his ministerial colleague gave on 26 April to my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw).
§ Mr. Shaw
I am aware of the hon. Gentleman's views on this matter, but he gave the impression that he was seeking to dismiss the consequence of the rate increases on the capacity of industry to survive and continue to employ people. He is wrong to be dismissive and many a small business has been forced out of operating in Greater London because of the extremely high rate rises. My hon. Friends will be aware of the substantial differences between Conservative-controlled boroughs and most other places when it comes to the level of rates. In inner London Conservative local rates are less than half those charged by Labour authorities. In outer London Conservative local rates are less than two thirds of Labour local rates. In terms of weekly cash outgoings, a typical household with a domestic rateable value of £300 will pay £7 per week in a Conservative borough and £10 a week in a Labour borough. We have discussed those matters previously in the House. It is not right that the Bill should be allowed to proceed without recognising that the absolute level of rates is a major deterrent to industry and employment.
§ Mr. Graham
Will the Minister take note of what the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry said in a letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer earlier this year? It said:Those areas where assistance would prove most effective are:—Does the Minister agree that, whatever effect increases in rates might have, the Government have, if not the same, at least a greater share of responsibility for any problems facing industry?
- interest rates
- increased capital spending
- reductions in the National Insurance Surcharge and energy costs".
§ Mr. Shaw
Everyone understands that industry's costs in every quarter have risen sharply. Everyone recognises that rates have risen very sharply. When rates or other costs are rising and when an industry's prospects are falling, there is no doubt that profit levels are reduced to a point where the, industry is rendered non-viable.
In the Bill, we are dealing with the provision of capital allocation to the GLC. The House must contend with it under the existing procedures. I recognise the criticisms that have been made, but I fear that it is not for us at this juncture to suggest that the GLC should not be entitled to obtain approval for its money Bill from the Government.
I sympathise with my hon. Friends, who rightly see in the Bill expenditure being laid out for matters that they and 1255 their constituents find unacceptable, but the fact is that the government of Greater London must continue. Therefore, the Bill must find its way through the House. I would not say that I have the privilege, even the enthusiasm or the utter conviction in the bottom of my soul, but at least I have the duty to see that the Bill proceeds through the House.
§ Mr. Stallard
I shall reply to some of the points that have been raised. I am grateful to hon. Members for keeping their contributions brief so that I can reply, unlike the Second Reading debate, when I had less than a minute to reply to a welter of questions.
Like my hon. Friend the Member for Edmonton (Mr. Graham), I believe that the debate has been excellent. Of course there have been differences. That is what London debates are about. The majority of hon. Members on both sides of the House have tried to be constructive, not destructive. One or two have been destructive, but by and large any criticism, some of which was about the revenue estimates, has been justified.
The most difficult aspect of my reply is that most of the points made were not relevant to the debate, which was more like another Second Reading debate than a Third Reading debate on capital estimates. There is a vast difference between capital and revenue estimates. Most hon. Members with local government experience understand that, but many points raised even by those hon. Members were about revenue estimates. Therefore, it is difficult, if not impossible, to reply.
An hon. Member may say: "If I do not get a reasonable reply from the promoter of the Bill on the detailed points that I have made on the revenue estimates, over which he has no control, I shall not vote for the capital estimates", but that does not make sense in any assembly with the expertise that we have. That is not fair. It is an excuse for hon. Members to make mischief and join some of the other mischief makers who are intent on that course. However, that is not a valid reason for withholding their votes.
Most of the comments were irrelevant to the capital estimates. The women's committee, the ethnic committee and the police committee were just areas for criticism, but none concerned the capital budget. Therefore, they should not have been included in tonight's Third Reading debate on the capital estimates. It is disconcerting and a little sharp to say "Unless I am given a satisfactory answer about the police committee, the women's committee or the ethnic committee, I will not vote for the capital estimates." That is not how we should conduct London's affairs.
There were some relevant criticisms. The hon. Member for Ravensbourne (Mr. Hunt), who asked about recreation and the arts, is entitled to a reply, because that is an item in the schedule. There is no provision in the item for revenue arts grants to which the hon. Member referred. However, there is a breakdown. We have parks, £3.4 million; national sports centre, £500,000; concert halls—the Festival Hall and so on—£500,000; canal paths £700,000; museums £200,000; the Thamesmead open space—a fairly large expenditure—£1.2 million. That is a total of £6,488,000 in the estimates.
Other items about which we may have complaints are on the revenue estimates and therefore are not specifically relevant to this part.
1256 Transport was mentioned, although it is not entirely relevant. We have had separate discussions on the London Transport budget, and I am sure there will be more. I was surprised to hear the Minister refer to the "disastrous" "Fares Fair" policy, and he went on to echo the chorus from the Conservative Benches. It is relevant for me to say to him that the chairman of the London Transport Executive—he is certainly not a member of the Opposition—in a statement only recently issued, said:Thus, for the first time for about 20 years, a steady decline in the use by passengers of public transport services in London was halted and reversed, in spite of the continuing growth in the ownership of private cars and a declining population of the capital city. Accompanying the reduction in fares and the consequent increase in travel by public transport, there was a small but significant reduction in the use of private cars in central London, a reduction in traffic congestion and undoubtedly a reduction in road accidents. These beneficial results went some way towards offsetting the increased cost to ratepayers while employers and businesses in central London benefited from cheaper and more effective public transport.I did not write that. It was written by the chairman of the London Transport Executive. It more than adequately answers the criticisms of the "Fares Fair" policy which were raised in a partisan fashion both tonight and in previous debates.
A perfectly reasonable point was made about home loans to individuals and to housing associations, to which I tried to give a brief reply. I have had another look at the estimates.
We expect the home loans provisions of the GLC both to individuals and to housing associations to be restricted because of the general cuts due to Government restrictions, but they are still available for the sale of properties taken into possession for homesteading, for repairs and improvements in housing action areas and for repairs to properties already on mortgage. Who will oppose that outside the democratic element of the SDP-Liberal alliance? Those were the most relevant points on the capital estimates. It is a shame that the other points mentioned were not to do with tonight's debate.
Much of the criticism of the enterprise board centred around the salaries and wages, which, again, are not a part of the capital estimates. It is reasonable for hon. Members to criticise the fact, but they should choose the right vehicle. The Third Reading of the Bill is not the right time seriously to criticise the enterprise board. As my hon. Friend the Member for Edmonton said, any attempt to reduce the total of 344,000 unemployed is welcome. I hope that the Bill will be read the Third time.
§ Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.
§ Main Question put accordingly and agreed to.
§ Bill read the Third time and passed.