§ 4.7 pm
§ Dr. John Cunningham (Copeland)
I beg to move,That this House recognises that, as a result of Conservative Government policies, growing numbers of people in Britain are forced to live on the margins of poverty or below the threshold of an acceptable standard of living; believes that more individuals are being denied the opportunity to fulfil their true potential, and that society cannot become an harmonious whole while large numbers of people are homeless or living in totally unsatisfactory conditions; demands new initiatives to overcome widespread disrepair and to regenerate Britain's cities and urban areas; and therefore calls on Her Majesty's Government to reverse the deliberate reduction in Rate Support Grant and investment in housing, and to strengthen and develop the partnership arrangements seriously weakened by the actions of the present Government.We have chosen to debate the deepening problems of Britain's cities and urban areas because of their vital importance to the millions who live in these areas and because of their importance to the well-being of Britain as a whole. There is abundant evidence to support the need for urgent and fundamental changes in Government policies across a wide range of issues. It is indicative of the Government's failure, and fear of examination of it, that they have consistently refused to find time themselves for these issues, so crucial to the well-being of millions of families, to be debated in Parliament.
The evidence is mounting as report follows report and as each one exposes the Government's failures. For example, we have received reports from the Audit Commission; from the Duke of Edinburgh's inquiry into British housing; from the British chambers of commerce, entitled "Reviving the Inner Cities"; from the Group of Eight on construction resources; from the Department of the Environment on the condition of local authority housing stock; and, most recently and perhaps dramatically, from the Archbishop of Canterbury's commission, entitled "Faith in the City", from which the opening words in the motion are taken.
§ Mr. Eric Forth (Mid-Worcestershire)
Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the difficulty with reports that concentrate on only one part of our political or social life is that they take to themselves the luxury of seeing an item in isolation? Those who compile the reports do not have the responsibility which every Government must bear of providing resources across the spectrum of Government responsibility? Does he accept that any report must be seen in that important and restricted context?
§ Dr. Cunningham
No, I do not agree with any of that. Nor do I agree with the hon. Gentleman's description of the report which is entitled "Faith in the City". It does not match the reality of what the report has to say or the work that went into producing it.
This incompetent and cowardly Government are reduced to deception, insults and abuse in an attempt to discredit their critics who range across the whole spectrum of British society—the unions, the professions, industry, 930 voluntary bodies, the Church and all shades of political opinion. Sadly, in the latest example of orchestrated Government abuse, the trickery has partially succeeded. Having had the report of the Archbishop of Canterbury's commission for at least 10 days before publication, Ministers cynically connived in breaking the embargo with the sole intention of discrediting the report — [HoN. MEMBERS: "Oh."] That shows their sensitivity. They connived in breaking of the embargo, with the sole intention of discrediting the report and many distinguished members of the commission. As Ministers calculated, there has been as much discussion in the media of the commission's membership, alleged Marxism and other puerile insults as of the two years of sustained and constructive work of what, by any reasonable test, is an eminent and honourable group. The Government's behaviour can be described only as contemptible.
§ Mr. Jerry Hayes (Harlow)
As the hon. Gentleman is giving particular credit to the bishops who wrote the report, perhaps he will give credit to those bishops who have got into print by condemning the Militant Tendency in Liverpool and have seen through the smokescreen of fake public expenditure. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would like to praise those bishops as well.
§ Dr. Cunningham
Bishop David Sheppard—one of the two gentlemen to whom the hon. Gentleman referred, in case he was not aware of this—was a member of the Archbishop's commission.
It is perhaps significant and somewhat depressing that at the conclusion of this debate we shall hear not from the new, sparkling addition to the Department of the Environment, the Minister of State for Housing, Urban Affairs and Construction—the hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon (Mr. Patten) — but from the chairman of the Conservative party. I fear for the quality of his reply and indeed its accuracy, especially as many of us believe that it was the right hon. Gentleman who orchestrated the off-the-record briefing, abuse and denigration of the report in the first place.
§ The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Norman Tebbit)
I conducted no off-the-record briefings. Whatever I said about the report was on the record and said in public. It was not I or my colleagues who broke the embargo; it was whoever put the copies of the book on sale in the bookshops on Saturday.
§ Dr. Cunningham
In that case, I hope that the tight hon. Gentleman will join my colleagues and me in denouncing the behaviour of those of his colleagues who did not have the guts to put their remarks on the record in the first place. Apparently, the Government's relationships with the Church have sunk to such depths that when, in typical fashion, the Prime Minister harshly lectured a senior clergyman recently, sayingIf only you were better at teaching the people the ten commandments, we would not have unemployment and moaning minnies",the reply was swift:Prime Minister, if we were more successful at teaching people the ten commandments, we would not have your Government.All is not well in our cities and there is no point in saying—
§ The Minister for Housing, Urban Affairs and Construction (Mr. John Patten)
All is not well with your exaggerated speech, alas.
§ Dr. Cunningham
At least I am speaking, which is more than the hon. Gentleman is doing. I should not have too much to say from a sedentary position if I were him.
All is not well in our cities and there is no point in saying, as the chairman of the Conservative party does, that it is all due to "wickedness" or "post-war funk", whatever that might be. Nor is there any point in saying—
§ Mr. Nicholas Fairbairn (Perth and Kinross)
Just so that we understand, what does the hon. Gentleman call "our" cities? The report to which he refers has nothing to do with Scotland, and all is well in the cities in Scotland.
§ Dr. Cunningham
Nor is there any point in saying, as I am not saying, that the problems have just arisen or that they are all the responsibility of this Government. Some of today's problems have their origins in decisions taken years, if not decades, ago. They persist in areas where Labour councils are in office as well as in Tory areas. Yesterday's planning dreams and bureaucrats' housing units are today's nightmares for millions of families.
Our charge against the Government is not just one of indifference, although that exists and many Conservative Members regularly display that callous abdication of duty. We say that a mountain of evidence demonstrates that the special problems of the old inner cities are rapidly worsening because of deliberate, calculated and sustained policies applied during the past six years by the Conservative Government. The problems faced by millions of people are being increased by the failures of Conservative policies. For millions of our citizens, those failures mean that the nightmares will continue.
The problems are poverty, very high unemployment, low pay, inadequate and often appalling housing conditions, homelessness, poor health, family breakdown, unstable communities, racial discrimination and harassment and loss of confidence in the police and, indeed, in the political processes. Problem inner-city areas are often characterised by mixed cultural traditions or racial groups, high levels of crime, such as burglary, robbery, drug abuse and alcohol abuse, and general anti-social behaviour and violence. These awful conditions are often, but not always, associated with bad local authority housing. The inner-city problems exhibit stark contrasts between wealth and poverty, often within sight, or easy walking distance, of one another. There is usually a loss of middle income, skilled and administrative working people—those able to move out. After six years of this Government, almost every measure of inner-city deprivation is getting worse. The downward spiral is accelerated as unacceptable patterns of behaviour become a cause as well as a consequence of the problems.
At present, Government policy is a mix of largely uncoordinated, often contradictory and ineffective programmes. Frequently, Ministers are attempting to give some aid to deprived areas while penalising them much more. The claim that the Department of the Environment is concentrating resources on the worst affected communities is simply dishonest. The record is there for all to see. For urban programme allocations, for partnership and programme councils, which represent the most deprived communities, allocations increased—in real terms, it is true—from 1980 until the fiscal year 1982–83. They then remained static and were cut in cash terms for the current fiscal year.
932 The change over that period in real terms compared with 1981–82 and 1985–86 is an additional £39.5 million. In contrast, cash grant has been withdrawn sharply and regularly over the same period from those authorities. Including penalties, the reduction has been £428 million —more than ten times as much taken away as given to the authorities. When housing subsidy and housing investment cuts are considered, the position is even more horrendous.
I shall quote some examples comparing the provision in 1979–80 with the current fiscal year, at constant prices. The London borough of Hackney had rate support grant of £69.6 million six years ago. For 1985–86, the figure is £37 million—£32.6 million less than six years ago. In 1979–80, Hackney received £78.5 million in housing subsidy and investment allocations. For the current financial year, the figure is £45.3 million—over £33 million less than six years ago. Hackney now receives £3.5 million more in urban programme resources, compared with a combined total loss of £65.8 million. Hackney is classified by the Government as the most deprived urban borough in England.
On the same basis, Manchester's combined loss in rate support grant and housing support is £181.9 million. The gain is £3.7 million. For Birmingham, the comparable figures are a staggering loss of £214.5 million set against a gain of £3.4 million. Newcastle upon Tyne has had a loss of £101.9 million and a gain of £3.4 million. The record is the same for virtually all city and urban authorities. Liverpool has suffered the largest percentage of reduction in rate support grant of all—a staggering 76.4 per cent. reduction between 1981–82 and 1985–86.
Those authorities have had to cope with such cuts year on year for six consecutive years of Conservative Government. How dare Ministers claim that they are concentrating resources on those communities most in need? Such claims are a deception—frankly, a lie.
§ Mr. Anthony Beaumont-Dark (Birmingham, Selly Oak)
Does the hon. Gentleman accept that over the past six years I have had an honourable record of talking about local government problems, not least those of my city of Birmingham? Although it is correct to say that many places have not had the full grant that I believe they should have had, including the city of Birmingham—I hope that when the amount of grant we shall get is announced it will be more reasonable than seemed at one time—does he accept that if a council, whether Labour or Conservative-controlled, goes in for spending £7 million on new parish councils when cities are under pressure, that is the kind of social need that should be left on one side until the money is available to ensure that the ratepayers can afford it? Does he agree that some things may be desirable but cannot be afforded at this stage?
§ Dr. Cunningham
Yes, I agree that not everything can be afforded at once or at present, but I also disagree with the hon. Gentleman in the sense that those decisions are properly for the elected city council of Birmingham and not for this House or the Government.
My right hon. and hon. Friends support Birmingham in so far as it is moving towards the dispersal of its administration and devolution from city hall — the council house—towards structures which are nearer to the people and their problems.
§ Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)
Would it be worth putting it on the record that, whereas local authorities have had their grants cut by the Government, the Government can find plenty of money to bail out the casino economy — £350 million at a stroke for the Export Credits Guarantee Department, £252 million for the Common Market because it went bankrupt and £100 million for Johnson Matthey Bankers because their friends were in trouble? The list is as long as one's arm. They find the money to look after their own when it suits them. My hon. Friend and the rest of us will battle on to find money for the inner cities and the local authorities so that we can provide services for our people.
§ Dr. Cunningham
I am pleased to be able to say that I agree with my hon. Friend. [Interruption.] It is team work. That record and the Government's attitude are all the more despicable when set beside not just the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) but the tax cuts for the highest income earners, which have been worth more than £22 billion since 1979.
Who on the Conservative Benches dare parrot the cry of throwing money at problems when faced with such comparisons? We agree that throwing money at problems is an inefficient use of precious public resources, but taking money away from the inner cities, the under- privileged and the poor and ladling it into the hands of high income earners is an obscenity.
Who, apart from the most grasping, can justify the further use of desperately needed resources to make even more income tax cuts, while at the same time the Government are planning the further reductions in rate support grant that we shall hear announced next week and further cuts in housing investment —the very foundations of local authorities' abilities to tackle the multiple deprivation so prevalent in the areas under debate today?
Set beside the scale of the problems, the current urban programme is financially, managerially and politically marginal. In 1985–86 it comprises 0.0002 per cent. of planned Government spending, or 6.5 per cent. of planned expenditure by the relevant councils. In contrast, housing investment allocations alone have been reduced by 71 per cent. in real terms since 1979, according to the Institute of Housing.
§ Mr. Chris Smith (Islington, South and Finsbury)
Will my hon. Friend point out that, under the partnership programme, money from the Government must be matched by a 25 per cent. contribution from the local authority, and the Government have consistently refused to exclude that expenditure from calculations made under the rate-capping proposals?
§ Dr. Cunningham
Yes, my hon. Friend is correct. In addition, as my hon. Friend said, the same partnerhship authorities have been subjected to increasing central control through the Rates Act 1984, Government control of their capital receipts and the abolition of the metropolitan councils and the GLC.
Many of the lessons of the inner cities are that central control has caused problems and that monolithic national policies have produced the very disasters that we have to deal with. A most unlikely convert to the case for more freedom for local government emerged recently. He said:local authorities should be given back responsibility for their own affairs in the face of increasing Government intervention.934 It may surprise the House to learn that those were the words of the right hon. Member for Wanstead and Woodford (Mr. Jenkin) in a speech in Cardiff on 25 October 1985.
Some people will ask whether there are solutions to the problems. The Labour party's answer is that, however difficult the task, the problems of multiple deprivation must be resolved. We recognise that there can be no quick or simple solution, but such recognition is no excuse for any lack of urgency or for the complacency shown by the Government.
Local authorities cannot resolve the problem themselves. A partnership with central Government, industry and commerce is essential. I urge councils to develop positive attitudes towards business, enterprise and industry, however bad some experiences may have been. It is profoundly stupid, however, for the Government to suggest that private investment can be attracted to the problem areas while public resources are consistently withdrawn. Experience in America has shown that public investment is an essential first step in dealing with the problems. Local government has a pre-eminent role to play in investing in them and bringing about their resolution.
The Government urge less local government involvement and more private sector control. I remind the House that it was the Secretary of State for Education and Science who, when Minister for Housing and Local Government in the early 1960s, initiated with Taylor Woodrow in the private sector the idea of large-scale urban housing development and high-density system building, unhappily carried on by successive Governments. A decade later, the right hon. Gentleman was saying:I suppose I was genuinely convinced I had a new, answer. It was prefabrication and, heaven help me, high blocks.That is the most recent experience of major Government involvement, at the expense of local government, in attempts to resolve the problems.
The Government lack a clear sense of purpose. There must be a longer-term financial strategy that brings resources back to the inner cities, but central Government action must not be an excuse to undermine or bypass democratically elected councils. Surely it is critical to foster and develop people's capacity to influence their own lives and community.
Much of the hostility and disaffection felt by city dwellers towards authority comes from the feeling of being excluded from the places where the decisions are taken about them, their families and their communities. We must open up the power structures, streamline bureaucracy and improve people's capacity to influence their own circumstances. Decentralised housing management and social services can show the way. School governing bodies, parent-teacher associations and community health councils provide some forums in which that work can develop. They must be made to work properly and effectively and public participation and consultation in all aspects of local government life should be enhanced. That is exactly contrary to the Government's plans in their latest Local Government Bill.
A housing renewal programme is essential. The decline in both private and public sector housing is horrifying. Residents and tenants groups must be involved in planning and developing decisions so that people are committed to schemes for renovation or redevelopment. Although housing co-operatives cannot guarantee success, they have 935 already made major contributions in many areas. More workers in such spheres should be locally recruited, reflecting the ethnic and social background of those who will eventually live in the developments.
Urban poverty is rooted in high unemployment, low wages, lack of opportunity for the young, and bad and ineffective education. We believe that central to the Government's new strategy should be a commitment to full employment. The task of reviving the inner cities depends on work opportunities, particularly for the young and the long-term unemployed. However, it is not sufficient to provide jobs that cannot guarantee a decent standard of living, in which health and safety are sacrificed to short-term gain or from which whole groups of workers are excluded because of their colour or sex. That has been the nature of low-wage unemployment in the inner cities for far too long.
A strategy to combat poverty must also address the enormous disadvantages faced by black people and those from ethnic communities in the inner cities, who are found disproportionately among the poor. Discrimination is widespread in employment, housing, education and training, the provision of personal social services and access to credit or financial assistance. There is also a bias against black people which perpetuates the poverty that they face. Local authorities should be encouraged to monitor their provision in those areas to protect against discrimination and to see that the needs of ethnic groups are adequately considered.
Poverty is also concentrated among women in the inner cities, particularly single pensioners and single parents. Like black people, women suffer discrimination in employment and are found in the lowest paid, least secure jobs. Employment protection is therefore of special importance, along with adequate day care to improve women's employment opportunities.
There seems to be little point in further hand-wringing and agonising about what causes riots in our cities. We have accumulated analysis and experience in plenty from the United States and, regrettably, since the early 1980s we have been gathering all too much of our own. Surely we do not need to re-learn the lessons spelt out in the Kerner report following the civil disorders in the United States 20 years ago.
Police forces are absolutely critical to life in the inner cities where people are living closely packed, where poverty and dreary environment are combined in high concentration and the personal and collective security of people is often threatened. In parts of some cities it has simply ceased to exist. People are afraid to be out alone and at home they exist behind chains and bolts on their doors. A self-confident, disciplined police force is clearly crucial in improving the quality of people's lives. Too often, however, the police appear to be unable, if not unwilling, to discuss their operating policies openly with the communities that they serve. Too often, they seem prone to respond to violence or, even regrettably on occasion to provoke it.
As the old saying goes, a bobby's lot is not a happy one. Who steps between brawlers, disarms the armed robber, breaks down the door and finds the corpse and tackles the armed raiders? It is the police. In the Metropolitan police alone, nearly 3,000 officers were assaulted and injured on duty in 1984 and just over 3,000 in 1983. That is one in 936 seven officers or nearly 10 per day. It is a difficult and dangerous job and the burgeoning crime rate under the present Government is making it almost impossible in some inner-city areas.
The need to take ethnic recruits has been identified as an important factor in urban crises, but the record is deplorable. Only 700 out of 125,000 police officers in Britain are of black or ethnic origin. In the Metropolitan police last year, only 36 of the 1,220 new recruits were from ethnic minorities, only 1 per cent. of the whole force is not white and of that tiny proportion only two have reached the rank of inspector.
The problem is not a lack of applicants. The commissioner has said that he is loth to lower standards, but he does not have to do so. He has only to be more imaginative in the recruitment of willing applicants and to alter the grotesquely unrepresentative nature of our urban police force. The result will be a vast improvement in community relations, as similar programmes in the United States have shown. There are clear lessons for us in the American experience in that respect.
§ Dr. Cunningham
No. I have already given way to the hon. Gentleman.
Members of ethnic minorities resident in England are concentrated in the cities and major towns — 44 per cent. in greater London and 40 per cent. in the 32 local authority districts containing the partnership and programme areas considered by the Government to be in greatest need of help. Priorities will vary, but in many areas the size of the ethnic communities is sufficient to require explicit attention to their problems.
Mechanisms that the Government should introduce without delay include the assumption of powers to prescribe the keeping of ethnic records. Public sector organisations should know which employees are in which grades, who is applying and being recruited to vacant posts, who is profiting from in-service training and who is receiving the services offered. As many hon. Members recognise, the existing machinery of government in Whitehall and at local level seems ill equipped to tackle the vast problems of urban and inner city areas. The partnership programme started by the Labour Government recognised this almost a decade ago but progress in removing obstacles has been painfully small and slow. The main reasons for that have been the assault on local authority freedom, the massive withdrawal of resources and the huge inefficiencies of the Government's financial regime for local authority expenditure.
All should be changed, as the Government have belatedly recognised. We perhaps need a Minister for the inner cities to straddle the conflicting interests of the several Departments involved. Certainly more ministerial time and effort must be given to the problems. The same is true in local government. Spare-time, unpaid decision-takers are often ill equipped to deal with the huge problems that they inherit on election and which clearly need fulltime political attention.
There is no reason why urban life for millions of our fellow citizens should continue to involve poverty, misery, squalor and decay. There is no reason why the ethnic mixes of inner city communities should be a permanent problem. Despite the difficulties, there is a liveliness and 937 vigour to be encouraged and built upon. We must give people a chance and we must give them hope. The Government give them neither.
President John Kennedy said:If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich. Political sovereignty is but a mockery without the means of meeting poverty, illiteracy and disease. Self-determination is but a slogan if the future holds no hope.Under the present Government, the future for millions of our people in the inner cities offers no hope at all.
§ The Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Kenneth Baker)
I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof:recognises that the problems of the inner cities are longstanding and will not be solved by the outdated policies of inefficient and ill-directed public expenditure; supports the Government's policy of targeting public expenditure more effectively towards areas of greatest need; recognises the vital role of the private sector in providing jobs in cities; welcomes the growth in home ownership which has led to a massive transfer of wealth from municipal landlords to individual families; and calls upon local authorities to conduct their affairs responsibly so as to ensure that scarce resources are not wasted, and to encourage rather than deter private enterprise and opportunities for individuals and their familiesI shall attempt to refute the pessimistic note on which the hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) ended his speech. The hidden hand behind the debate, of course, is the report by the Archbishop's commission. That is why the debate is taking place. I had not noticed any great desire on the part of the Opposition in the past few weeks to debate the inner cities.
§ Dr. Cunningham
I am sorry to intervene so early in the right hon. Gentleman's speech but it is a matter of the record that in the past year the Opposition have several times chosen to give our time to debate these issues. The Government have consistently refused requests from my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition for such debates. That is the truth of the matter.
§ Mr. Baker
In the few weeks in which I have been responsible for my present portfolio I have detected no great desire by the Opposition to debate the inner cities, no doubt because such a debate gives us the opportunity to show how badly many Labour councils have been running the inner cities.
The analysis of the problem in "Faith in the Cities" starts from the view that the Christian should show compassion to those in need—the poor. People living in the inner cities are particularly beset by poverty, as the hon. Gentleman has pointed out. The report goes on to say that the Christian gospel is as much concerned with the civic as with the private sphere —that is to say, the Christian should be as much concerned with man's material condition as with his spiritual salvation.
The report admits that no single blueprint has emerged from the tradition of Christian social thought which would be able to deal with the problem.
§ Mr. Baker
I shall come to that.
I think that few would disagree with that analysis in the first few chapters of the report, but I enter one caveat. The report gives the impression of lumping together all the 938 people who live in the inner cities and describing them as poor when that is palpably not true. In chapter 9, the report defines poverty asbeing denied access to what is generally regarded as a reasonable standard and quality of life in that society.No attempt is made to distinguish absolute from relative poverty. Not being so well off as one's neighbour is put in the same category as destitution.
§ Mr. Baker
I will give way to the hon. Gentleman later.
The approach that I have described was strongly condemned by Charles Booth in his classic study of poverty in London in 1902. He wrote:The question of those who actually suffer from poverty should be considered separately from that of the true working classes whose desire for a larger share of the wealth is of a different character. It is the plan of agitators and the way of sensational writers to confound two in one, to talk of 'starving millions' and to tack on the thousands of the working classes to the tens of hundreds of the distressed. Against this method I protest. To confound these essentially distinct problems is to make the solution of both impossible. It is not by welding distress and aspiration that any good can be done.It is a pity that that crucial distinction is not made in the report. It is on that wide definition of poverty that the report bases its recommendations.
§ Mr. Heffer
I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman has read the report, because part of it considers the gentrification of areas of inner cities. It says that gentrification takes homes from people who badly need them and provides a contrast between the gentrified and people who are living in poverty.
§ Mr. Baker
The hon. Gentleman only emphasises my point, which is that the report does not distinguish between relative and absolute poverty, so putting into one class some 15 million people who it calls poor.
We need an escape from poverty, and I do not believe that the report's recommendations provide the best escape in inner cities. To deal with widespread poverty there must be massive State spending. This is, of course, not a revolutionary proposal. Indeed, it is highly conventional and can take its place alongside any number of proposals made in the 1950s, the 1960s and the 1970s, and it is implicit in the Opposition motion. It does not break new ground—the plough follows the predetermined furrow. That is what I find most disappointing in the report. The answer is a collectivist solution—the local council is essentially the saviour of the city. It is the council which must house the poor, feed the hungry and care for the old. The report fails to recognise that public expenditure can be only part—an important part—of the solution in dealing with the cities' problems. It also fails to recognise that injudicious public expenditure has often become a cause of the problem rather than being a solution. Considerable sums of money were spent in the 1960s and 1970s, but can we honestly say that that was money well spent?
The report undervalues the contribution that the individual can make to improve his condition. If a man has to look to the council to be the only provider of the roof over his head and if he has to look to the council to be the only payer of his wage packet, he will remain trapped and isolated in the inner city. That is the inevitable consequence of municipal Socialism.
The Opposition are today calling for more spending by the municipal authorities. What good would more money 939 do for Councillor Stringer in Manchester, Councillor Grant of Haringey, Councillor Knight of Lambeth and Councillor Hatton of Liverpool?
§ Dr. Cunningham
I regret that the right hon. Gentleman has all too quickly descended to the level of the chairman of the Conservative party. How can he prostitute himself by saying that high-rise flats are the responsibility of local government of whatever party when the designs and decisions were enforced on local government by housing and local government Ministers and originated with his party when in government?
§ Mr. Baker
I shall give way in a moment.
I know that Opposition Members agree that whole streets were demolished in the name of slum clearance. In the great surge of comprehensive redevelopment, the bulldozer relentlessly wiped out familiar neighbourhoods and whole communities. We lost the essential warp and weft of family relationships and friendship.
§ Mr. Robert N. Wareing (Liverpool, West Derby)
So what does the right hon. Gentleman intend to do about it?
§ Mr. Allan Roberts
The right hon. Gentleman blamed so-called Left-wing Labour councils for the problems of inner cities. He claims that they drive industry away and quotes the example of Liverpool. Will he explain why, in the inner-city area that I represent which has been ministered over for the past 10 years by a Conservative-controlled council, 30 per cent. of males of working age are unemployed? Who is driving the jobs away from my constituency? It is certainly not Derek Hatton. It might be Ron Watson, the Tory leader of Sefton council. It is Conservative controlled, one of the lowest rated metropolitan districts in the country and does everything that the Government ask, so why is its rate support grant cut? Why, when it asked for £30 million for its housing investment programme, did it get only £6.5 million, which is not a housing manager's pocket money?
§ Mr. Baker
The hon. Gentleman will remember that I visited his constituency about six months ago when I saw some impressive housing improvements in Bootle carried out by Sefton council. It was using the private sector to help and providing very cheap homes for many of the hon. Gentleman's constituents.
§ Mr. Robert Atkins
I served on Haringey council for nearly 10 years. When we took over in 1968, when Lord Greenwood, as he became, was the housing Minister, and Broadwater Farm, with all of its attendant problems—
§ Mr. Atkins
The plans were Labour's and Labour started it. The hon. Gentleman should be careful when talking about Islington, of which council he was a member. Broadwater Farm was started by a Labour-controlled Haringey and when there was a Labour housing Minister.
§ Mr. Baker
There is general agreement that, whoever bears the blame for what happened in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, it was disastrous for us architecturally and socially.
Let me turn to the future, and what can be done about housing problems in the inner cities. The answer to the inner cities' housing problems must be much more diverse, using different types of tenure and attracting as much private sector finance as possible. To launch out now on a huge programme of new council building would not deal with the problem. That has been tried. Certainly, more must be spent on renovation. This year £2.5 billion will be spent by councils on repairs, refurbishment and maintenance to improve conditions. I would like to see more spent. As the House knows, there is further provision for that in the public expenditure plans for next year.
I would also like to see a break-up in the management and ownership of large estates. The report recognises the importance of that. That is why we shall introduce a Bill to allow housing management to be passed to tenants' trusts, co-operatives or housing associations. The report also recognises the importance of our priority estates project, which has shown that localised housing 941 management, through tenant involvement, can help to reduce crime, bring down rent arrears and fill empty properties.
Within the last six weeks there has been an enormous breakthrough in setting up the Thamesmead trust. Five thousand five hundred houses now owned by the GLC will pass to a privately owned and managed trust. As a result of a huge process of consultation, involving a mini-election between a public sector trust run by Greenwich and the GLC and a private sector trust, the people chose the private sector trust.
§ Dr. Keith Hampson (Leeds, North-West)
We all welcome my right hon. Friend's initiative. It is important that tenants play a greater role in the management of estates. In Leeds there is an extraordinarily high proportion of extremely defective housing. Despite the Government's Housing Defects Act 1984, there are serious problems in meeting the needs of rapidly declining circumstances. Is it not possible in those cities to allow the councils to release some capital assets that they have gained by pursuing Government policies?
§ Mr. Baker
Next year extra funds will be made available to deal with the problem, which affects not only Leeds, but many other towns and cities. I ask my hon. Friend to wait for the announcement by my hon. Friend the Minister for Housing, Urban Affairs and Construction on spending allocations.
We also want to help councils dispose of whole council estates. I saw such a one in Bootle. Some of these are for sale, and some are for mixed renting and private ownership. Where that has happened, there has been outstanding success—in Salford, in the Wirral, in north Tyneside and in Middlesbrough. The success of the programmes has shown that many people in the inner cities want to be able to buy decent homes at prices they can afford. In those estates that have been sold and developed, prices are as low as £13,000 for single bedroom flats rising to £19,000 for two and three-bedroomed flats or houses.
We should not underestimate the importance of home ownership in dealing with the problems of inner cities. The report does not give enough weight to that. Home ownership strikes a deep chord in people, and I shall quote from the great work of Archbishop William Temple on "Christianity and the Social Order." He wrote:Modern communism abolishes legal ownership by private persons; under it no one has property to give away … to have no property or to be forcibly deprived of it is a serious infringement of personal freedom.We have been able to provide the possibility of home ownership to many people in the inner cities. That is why we give such importance to the right to buy, and why in our Housing Bill we shall increase the discount for tenants of council flats by 10 per cent. across the board, with a new maximum of 70 per cent. Home ownership and the right to buy represent a major transfer of wealth from the municipal landlord to individual families.
§ Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey)
Will the Minister explain how the right to buy can begin to alleviate the problems of the vast majority of people in the inner cities? The Economist, which is hardly an Opposition-supporting newspaper, last month said that the people living in the 4.8 million dwellings owned by councils in England and Wales are not just the poor, but the especially poor—the old, the ethnic minorities and 942 the single-parent families. What help does the right to buy give the really poor in our inner cities to alleviate their problems and daily misery?
§ Mr. Baker
The number of flats and houses bought under the right to buy in inner London is about 19,500. That is low. Wandsworth borough has sold most with 7,500. It has shown that many of its flats and houses can be sold at reasonable prices. I want more of that in the inner cities. I agree that it is much more difficult in some of the estates in the constituency of the hon. Gentleman, but we may be able to help with privatisation through various schemes on certain blocks and through housing associations and management trusts. It is important that we break up the monolithic ownership of the estates, which has dragged us down.
§ Mr. Baker
I also want to support more co-operatives. Already they are working successfully in many of our inner cities. They are funded by the Housing Corporation, whose expenditure under us has increased by 9 per cent. in real terms. Housing co-operatives in Liverpool are well known, are successful and have survived the vendetta of the Liverpool city council against them.
Hon. Members may have seen the programme on television some 10 days ago called "The Pride Factor", in which the Prince of Wales spoke about the role of community architecture. That film was an optimistic demonstration of what we can do as a nation by using the energies, talents, abilities and sweat of ordinary people who want to shape their environment and design their homes. Obviously, they can do it.
In Bristol we have had one experiment with [0 black youngsters, by the Zenzele housing association. Similar proposals are being put forward for a "sweat" housing cooperative—so-called because people will build homes and workshops by the sweat of their brows. I would like to see that approach tried elsewhere.
When hon. Members say that the co-operative housing movement is clutching at straws, I can only say that some of the best estates that I have seen in our inner cities are owned by co-operative associations. They are good because they have used people, and Opposition Members know that. That does not divide us. It is an excellent scheme. Therefore, I look forward to the support of both the Labour Front and Back Benches in this matter.
§ Mr. Baker
If the right hon. Gentleman will forgive me, I shall not give way.
The improvement of the housing condition in the inner cities, on which I place the highest priority, does not depend upon the council doing it all, owning it all, or designing it all. I am at one with the report which, in paragraph 13, talks of a lack of housing mix in many of the inner cities. The way forward cannot be through greater public ownership, more controls and bigger government. One nation is not a municipal nation.
§ Dr. Cunningham
None of the matters mentioned by the Secretary of State is included in the motion before the House. I remind him that we are debating not the report 943 "Faith in the City", but the motion tabled by the Opposition, and we expect him to answer for Government policies.
§ Mr. Baker
I am answering. The hon. Gentleman said at the beginning of his speech that some of the phrases used in the motion were taken from "Faith in the City". Therefore, when I refer to the report, he cannot say that I am not replying to the debate. I have answered the points that he raised and set out the Government's housing policy for the inner cities. I reject the thrust of the report, which is still the thrust of most Labour Members, that municipal collective Socialism is the correct solution.
§ Mr. Freeson
While welcoming the Secretary of State's conversion to co-operative Socialism, may I take him back to what he said at the beginning of that passage? He said that the Government had presided over a 9 per cent. increase in real terms in the Housing Corporation's budget for housing associations. If that is the case, will he explain to the House, the country and the housing association movement why, during that period, the number of dwellings provided by housing associations has decreased from 40,000 a year to 15,000 a year? Will he also explain why the Government propose to cut the 1986–87 budget by about £35 million?
§ Mr. Baker
The Housing Corporation is spending much more on rehabilitation and refurbishment at present, so during that period costs have increased. But I do not underestimate the importance of the housing association movement. The Housing Corporation is conducting many experiments. I saw an example the other day in Leeds, where an old industrial site was cleared, and the Regency housing association did a deal with the Halifax building society and proposed to build 120 houses that could be sold or let at market rates. That is the assured tenancy scheme. We must encourage more such schemes to increase the resources available to the inner cities. If we are to deal effectively with housing problems in the inner cities, we must tap the private sector as much as we can.
§ Mr. Anthony Steen (South Hams)
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the major problem in the inner cities is the percentage of publicly owned houses? Does he also agree that those problems are caused by the amount of public money that has been poured into the inner cities by successive Socialist Governments?
§ Mr. Baker
I did not mention Birmingham; I said "many inner city areas." The thrust of the report is that the municipal collective solution is the best one. I have said that that is not the best solution and that we need a mixture of tenure and much more private sector housing.
The second point of the hon. Member for Copeland was the erosion of the economic base of the inner cities. The report and the hon. Gentleman analysed it well, but they fail to recognise what the Government have done to encourage enterprise and individual effort in dealing with that problem. We have encouraged the re-use of redundant buildings to provide better premises for small businesses.
944 We have encouraged the setting up of local enterprise agencies to give advice, especially to those starting in business. During the past six years, we have provided 3,000 new and refurbished industrial units and enterprise workshops. The prosperity of the inner cities will be recreated very much by small businesses and individuals. It was built in that way during the last century, and there are encouraging signs of it happening again. Last week in Newcastle, I opened a craft exhibition by young people, many of whom were unemployed six to nine months ago. But they had all received enterprise allowances and started their own businesses. The allowance is directed to the individual, and is a cash payment to help him or her to start in business.
Much is being done to improve the environment of the cities. In Birmingham, we have tried to improve the look of the city through enveloping and through spending money on it. We have also tried to ensure that youngsters are trained to do much of that work. There are substantial training programmes within the urban programme. At present, 7,000 people are being trained in schemes within that programme, most of which are concentrated in our most deprived inner cities.
There has been a huge improvement in the physical appearance of many cities, although not all. London docklands is the most exciting example of urban regeneration in the world. It has already attracted more than £1 billion of private investment. Every pound of public money spent has drawn in nearly £6 of private investment. We know that 2,700 houses have been completed, with a further 5,000 under construction, and that 4,700 permanent jobs have been created, while, on average, a further 1,500 people are employed on construction at any one time.
I have been pressed to set up urban development corporations in more cities. We can learn important lessons from the success of those corporations, and we are assessing them carefully. It may be difficult to establish such agencies with the full range of urban development corporation powers in highly populated areas where the extent of dereliction is not great. But some local authorities find it difficult to cope with concentrated areas of dereliction, and some do not have the management capacity. Would they be helped by an urban renewal agency, possibly working with or taking the form of a private sector consortium or trust? Those possibilities must be explored.
The hon. Member for Copeland talked about resources. On public expenditure, the Opposition's charge is that, although we have increased the urban programme from £93 million in 1978–79 to £338 million this year, introduced urban development grants under which £77 million of public spending is levering £340 million of private investment, and increased derelict land grant from £20 million to £82 million, we have at the same time reduced the rate support grant. I accept that the grant has been reduced, but that has happened throughout the country. Some towns and cities have aggravated the reduction by wilfully overspending and thereby losing more grant.
The implication of the Opposition's case is that expenditure by towns and cities has decreased. That is simply not so. In 1979–80, in the seven most deprived inner authorities, which are the partnership areas, the local authorities spent £700 million in current expenditure. This year, they will spend just below £1,400 million, which is 945 almost double. Allowing for inflation, that is an increase in real terms of 4.3 per cent. In 1979, the 23 programme authorities spent just over £1 billion. This year, they will spend just over £2 billion, which again is nearly double, and an overall increase in real terms of 6 per cent. Since we have been in office, all the metropolitan areas have spent 7.5 per cent. more in real terms on current expenditure.
After allowing for inflation, the figures mean that more is being spent on local government services in our towns and cities. But does anyone claim that the increase has been matched by a reduction in inner city problems? Our contention, and the thrust of Government policy, is that only by targeting money through our grant schemes can we achieve the most effective results.
§ Mr. Baker
It is no good the hon. Gentleman shouting like that. The biggest cut in capital spending in public housing was under his Government. He was not a member of it, but the figures for between 1976 and 1979 speak for themselves.
Apart from better housing and the prospects of more jobs, the other problem that afflicts our cities, on which the hon. Member for Copeland touched, is the high rate of crime. Crime is often seen as a symptom of inner city decay. We must also recognise that it is a form of decay. Too many people living in our cities have been robbed, burgled or mugged, which drives them out. They want to look after their children and live in a safe area. The causes of criminality are complex, but it is too simplistic to say that poverty and unemployment create criminals. Few people would argue that, because if poverty and unemployment cause crime, the Victorian cities, which had much greater poverty, squalor and appalling suffering, would have been overwhelmed in a sea of lawlessness and disorder. They were not.
We must make our cities safer. I applaud the support that the hon. Member for Copeland gave to the efforts that the police are making, but the establishment of so-called police monitoring groups and the refusal of some teachers even to allow policemen into their schools cannot help in this task. On law and order, as on so many other issues, the people vote with their feet. I am delighted to see just how popular the neighbourhood watch schemes are. By working together as a community, people and the police can defeat crime.
The House will be aware of the evidence that organised crime is increasingly involved in drugs trafficking. This is a new corrosive cancer for British cities. In New York, heroin has destroyed Harlem. The Government are determined to tackle the problem and my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will introduce a Bill later this Session that will enable the authorities to trace, freeze and confiscate the assets of drug traffickers.
I accept that we are not debating the Church of England report, but it is the hidden hand behind the debate. It makes 38 recommendations to the Church and 23 to the state. I find it surprising that all its recommendations are made to institutions and none to individuals, for the very basis of Christian teaching is that grace flows through individuals, not through institutions. The institutions of local government, of central Government and the churches all have a role to play in helping our inner cities. However, if we undervalue the role of the individual, the role of the 946 family, the role of independence and the role of self-help, the problems of the inner cities will get worse. The goal is to make our cities places where people can find work, where they want to live and where they can bring up their children. They are the community there now. Do not let us undervalue the contribution that they can make, do not underestimate their abilities, their talents, their determination. It is time that their voices were heard and their energies marshalled.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean)
Many hon. Members wish to speak in the debate. I appeal for brief contributions.
§ Mr. Reg Freeson (Brent, East)
I shall deal first with resources and then with that aspect of matters on which the Minister seemed to pour scorn—the institutional aspect. I shall not bore the House or myself by quoting a whole series of statistics but it has to be said that, despite some of the acrobatics in the Secretary of State's speech, in the past six or seven years there has been a major reduction in resources going into inner urban areas. The resource cuts have been applied to other sectors beside housing, but they were significant enough. I do not think that the Secretary of State even understood the contents of my intervention when I said that his Department's figures show that in the housing association movement alone, which concentrates most of its work in inner city areas, there has been a reduction so that instead of producing 40,000 dwellings a year—rebuild and rehabilitation—it produces only 15,000. By some acrobatic means, the Secretary of State showed that there has been an increase in resources. In fact, there has been a major loss of housing produced and this is continuing.
This is not an argument about tenure. There is nothing new in the argument about the increase in the variety of tenure. I shall not go into the details of what was being put in hand when I was in the Department, but those initiatives and others were started then and have been continued. The increase in the variety of tenure or even the introduction of private finance into housing, of which I am in favour, is not an answer to the need for greater public investment.
There has been a 70 per cent. reduction in investment. A return of that investment would be leverage of private money into the inner city areas, but we do not get that leverage. Private investment does not come unless one puts a major proportion of public money into such areas to lever that money. There is nothing original about that. It is well known, as many successive Government's policies and methods have been directed to that end, not just in housing but in derelict land grants, on which I have had occasion to question the Secretary of State and his predecessors.
The derelict land budget is well below the level that would provide a huge increase of private investment in inner city areas to clear up derelict land. The biggest single cause of failure to bring derelict land and property into use is the failure to enlarge the derelict land budget, which levers large-scale private investment into those areas and on to sites. The Government know this. They know that there are schemes on shelves, in local authority after local authority, that could be brought off the shelves and put into operation within 12 or 18 months if the grant were to be increased.
947 Educational buildings in our inner areas are a disgrace and they are deteriorating rapidly again because of the cuts in the capital budget and the revenue budget for replacement, modernising or even undertaking the proper land maintenance that is lacking in many of the public and private sector buildings. The resources that should provide for new buildings, modernisation and planned maintenance of building on a properly programmed basis is not being made available but refused. The same is true of hospitals. Priority shaping of budgets so that more proportionately goes through regional authorities into the inner areas, as compared with more affluent areas, is not happening despite all that those Ministers, who are not here today, have been saying.
I have been investigating this matter, not for the first time, in my area. The regional health authority in my area —this is not untypical; it is happening all over the country — proportionately spends more capital and revenue in the outer metropolitan area than it does in the inner city area. The figures are there. The arguments are taking place between the area health authority and the regional health authority and little or nothing is being done about it at the level of the Secretary of State and his Department or in the Department of Health and Social Services.
In health, education, housing, industry and training the same point applies. In every possible direction there is inadequate resourcing going into urban renewal.
I shall not labour the point much further, because whatever Ministers may say, every authoritative source around the country — be it in politics, industry, commerce, the professions or the public services—will bring the same message back time and again to Government and Opposition Members. That message is that not enough resource is being provided and that where it is, it is not being properly applied in the areas of greatest priority need. In the main, that means the inner urban areas, although I accept that there are areas of rural deprivation that require a different approach from the one that is now being pursued.
§ Mr. Steen
Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that many of the traditional inner areas have, because of wholesale demolition, now been transferred to the outer areas? There may be half a dozen principal cities with major inner urban area problems, but in the main those problems have been transferred because of the demolition of the old inner city areas. Does not he also accept that perhaps the best way of dealing with housing in the inner areas is overnight to move public housing to private housing by transferring the rents paid by tenants to mortgage repayments?
§ Mr. Freeson
Although it was a brief allusion, I stressed the point about rural deprivation. It has been well established for many years that in some city areas there are problems on the fringes, not necessarily resulting from the transfer of population to council estates. But that does not alter the fact that the main priority areas are the rundown, decaying inner areas.
When one talks about urban renewal, one should not imagine that there are hard and fast, narrow, circular rings to be drawn in every city and that beyond them similar problems do not exist. Of course that is not so, but to some 948 extent one must speak in shorthand terms, and the thrust is correct—that the greatest concentration is in the inner areas.
As to housing, we should avoid getting bogged down in semantic misinterpretations and distortions. If, when talking about privatising council estates, Conservative Members are simply using a different label to bring ownership to tenants' groups, co-operatives and housing associations, or to alter the systems of management, that is not privatisation on my understanding of the English language. That is altering the method of management and devolving ownership and management from one kind of authority based in the town hall to authority resting in the neighbourhoods and with the communities. There is nothing new about that, although it has not been applied sufficiently.
If the Minister is now a convert to co-operative Socialism, he will get my backing, because some of us have been arguing that both inside and outside the Labour party. Indeed, my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) has been a strong advocate of that for many years.
The Secretary of State tended to scorn the institutional question. I become increasingly baffled by the way in which we are attempting to organise affairs in relation to urban renewal in the inner cities. Is the Secretary of State for the Environment the lead Minister, or is he not? Is it the Secretary of State for Employment or the Secretary of State for the Environment? Where do the Secretaries of State for Education and Science and for Health and Social Services, as well as all the other relevant Ministers, come in?
There was a beginning—I say no more than that—of co-ordination and hoped-for integration of Government action in 1977 and onwards following the inner city studies and the White Paper on inner area policy. For a few years we had the initiative of the partnerships. There was nothing marvellous about them, but they were the teetering beginnings of integration and co-ordination, on which two or three years later Lord Scarman placed much stress but on which there has been little, if any, action since.
The Department of the Environment was the lead Department in seeking to co-ordinate at partnership and programme authority level in respect of all the inner city areas that had been designated. It was taking a lead with other Government Departments—[Interruption.] I wish that the hon. Member for South Hams (Mr. Steen) would for a while listen to something more than noises in his head. He should listen to the noises of other hon. Members and make his speech at the appropriate time.
There was a beginning of co-ordination and a hoped-for integration across Government Departments. It was hoped that that would be echoed at local authority level. That was seven years ago, but today the partnerships exist in name only, not as a form of machinery—
§ Mr. Freeson
If the Parliamentary Under-Secretary does not agree, he should read the evidence of his own Department to the Select Committee on the Environment prior to the last general election, which made it quite clear that the partnerships had become a shell and were being overtaken by other methods of which we have now lost 949 sight. The partnerships do not exist as co-ordinating machinery. We do not even know which Minister is taking the lead. A letter that I received from the Prime Minister about 10 days ago tells me that the Secretary of State for Employment is co-ordinating the action teams —whatever they may be—in the inner city areas. But no one has said what they are doing or who is on them. Where is the Secretary of State for the Environment and his junior Ministers, not to mention all the other Ministers?
The Government are in a mess. They do not know where they are going. There is the Home Department, the Department of the Environment, the Department of Health and Social Security, the Department of Education and Science with the Secretary of State for Employment somewhere at the top doing we know not what. But we do know that a review is taking place. There have been six or seven years of wasted time. There is no need for another report or study. There is a need for action based on the reports and studies that are lying in their numbers on the shelves of the Department and elsewhere.
The Secretary of State referred to the urban renewal agencies. I favour them in particular circumstances, and I am especially concerned with the style of approach of the urban development corporations, the new town corporations, the now-expiring central Lancashire new town corporation and such local authorities as Thamesdown—or Swindon as it used to be known—that have been adopting the coherent, integral approach that the new town corporations have adopted for years. There are examples of that throughout the country, be it in the new towns, London docklands, Merseyside, Swindon or a number of other authorities.
§ Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for giving way. He is making an excellent speech. The problem in the London docklands is that, whatever development may be taking place there, the priorities are not geared to local dockland needs or the needs of the surrounding boroughs.
§ Mr. Freeson
That may well be, but I do not want to get involved in discussing the content of what is going on there. I am concentrating on the method of organisation.
If we are to learn the lessons of the new towns, the docklands and other development corporations, the expanded towns such as Swindon and a few other authorities, we must regard method, organisation and policy as central. For more than 20 years there has been talk about the idea of what were loosely called the old town development corporations. I have papers on this in my files at home going back 20 years when I was active on my own local authority. Yet here we are, still reviewing and teetering on the edge. Government Departments and local authorities must learn how to cross the boundaries between different Departments in terms of budget, organisation and policy.
If we did not learn the lessons of 20 years ago, surely we ought to learn the lessons of the studies that were undertaken in the 1970s in the inner areas: in Lambeth, Birmingham and Liverpool 8, Toxteth. They pointed the way towards the urban development agency approach. They, together with a number of other experiments, also pointed the way towards local neighbourhood management in the inner city areaas on virtually a parish basis. One crossed the line from management to community. If all of the parties cannot adopt this policy and apply it in 950 the inner city areas and wherever else it is needed—in the suburbs and beyond — we shall be debating this matter 10 years hence. We said in the early 1970s that if we did not act then we should be arguing about this problem in 1980 and 1985. If central and local government do not adopt a comprehensive community policy for dealing with urban renewal, we shall be arguing about this problem in similar debates 10 years from now, by which time we shall have created further disasters for millions of people, whom we are here supposedly to serve.
§ Mr. Julian Amery (Brighton, Pavilion)
I was under the impression that the general election was two years hence. Therefore, I am surprised that this debate should have opened with such a partisan note being sounded on both sides. I understand why my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment may not regard the Opposition as a target worthy of his mettle, but he is misguided if he thinks that the Church of England merits such an attack. It is a very insignificant element in the debate.
The right hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Freeson) has improved the temperature of the debate. I have always regarded the right hon. Gentleman as a dangerous Left-winger. When I was Minister of Housing for two and a half years, I had many debates with him. He knows what he is talking about. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is lucky that he is not the Opposition spokesman. The House of Commons will be the poorer if the right hon. Gentleman is prevented from returning to it at the next general election.
When we consider urban deprivation, we face a double problem. There is the old problem of the slums. When the right hon. Member for Brent, East and the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) and I were debating these matters 15 years ago, slum clearance was a high priority. It was a bricks and mortar problem. There was a residue of houses that were built before world war I. The slum clearance programme between the wars was interrupted and aggravated by 10 years of war and its aftermath.
One of our main objectives was to get rid of those buildings, either by rebuilding or by renovation. Many of them were in friendly, neighbourly areas. Socially, it seemed much wiser to concentrate upon improvement grants rather than upon clearance. If I were to be asked what was my greatest contribution to that office, which I did not hold for more than two and a half years. I would say that it was the contribution that I made towards stimulating improvement grants. I hope that the Government will bear very much in mind the point that that is where the social interplay between bricks and mortar and the community is to be found. If one can preserve communities, it is worth making the effort.
A new problem exercises the minds of most people. It is not that of bricks and mortar. I understand that the Broadwater Farm estate received an award for urban construction. Estates of that kind have been built all over the country and I have visited them. We were not conscious of the social price of bricks and mortar when I was Minister of Housing 15 years ago. However, it was beginning to worry some of us. The social price of high rise is now being paid. We are beginning to understand the dangers.
§ Mr. Amery
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will allow me to proceed with my speech because I have done no more so far, than state the obvious.
The problem is not that of bricks and mortar but of leadership, and we have to analyse its cause. The responsibility—I shall not say the blame—for this falls largely upon the motor car and other transport improvements. Before world war I, when the motor car was a rarity, the employer and his chief executives lived, if they could, within walking distance of their place of business. It was convenient for them. Joe Chamberlain, when he was the lord mayor of Birmingham, lived, at the earlier stage, within walking distance of his factory. Therefore, he and his chief executives became the patrons of various communal organisations—clubs and various amateur theatricals. His sons took part in those activities and his wife helped the sick and needy. They set certain standards. It was rather like the "lady bountiful" of the village in earlier days, but it provided a positive factor in setting standards.
After world war I, when the motor car began to become popular, many of what one might call the economic leaders went to live in the country, where they made their contribution to good causes. That contribution was no longer made at the place where they worked but at the place where they lived. Nevertheless, junior executives and skilled workers continued to live close to their place of business. This continued after the war, during petrol rationing and the development of the motor car, until the 1960s. However, as soon as the motor car became universally popular, anybody who could afford to buy one was tempted to go and live in the country or in the suburbs.
I do not say that economic success is necessarily a qualification for leadership, but it is important. Those who are relatively affluent set the standards. There has been an exodus from the inner cities of the potential community leaders, the ones who would normally have set the standards. They have left behind them what Mrs. Shirley Williams has called an under-class of one-parent families and ethnic minorities, among whom there is heavy unemployment. One cause of the unemployment is the absence in Mrs. Shirley Williams' under-class of an old boy network. The old boy network is not, as the newspapers would have us believe, a middle-class organisation. It exists throughout the country.
For 18 years I was the Member of Parliament for Preston, whose community contains a good industrial cross-section. I soon discovered that a young boy obtained employment in a factory because his uncle, cousin or friend knew the foreman and recommended him as a likely lad. However, this does not happen in the black community. It is not yet sufficiently integrated into our community to benefit from it. In deprived areas, the leaders tend to be the political leaders. Let us not cloak ourselves in white sheets. We know that in opposition we look for votes by exploiting grievances. Those who exploit grievances become the natural leaders in the deprived communities.
We cannot turn the clock back; we cannot stop the motor car; we cannot stop the television. We know that the public meeting has virtually disappeared because of television. Not only political associations, but almost all communal efforts suffer because of television and the atomisation of society that follows from that.
Who will assert the positive leadership that is needed? The two most obvious sources are the clergy and teachers.
952 However, having read the report of the Archbishop of Canterbury, it seems to me that the Church will not make much of a positive effort. What could be more condescending than its saying that it wants its clergy to talk with a different accent? It is as if the Church believes that people in deprived areas do not want educated men to teach them. I know from my experience of industrial England that people generally do not care whether a man has an educated accent; they are more interested in his views.
Teachers could also set an example, but it does not look as though they are doing that yet. Councils could help by making it attractive to industry to come into their areas. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State referred to the London Docklands development corporation. That is an appointed authority, but its example could be followed by elected councils. The sale of council houses and flats would help, because ownership is the best guarantee against vandalism, provided that there is a reasonable standard of law and order.
Congestion on the roads is already helping. Across the river we see the process known as "gentrification". People who work in the City and inner London, including some who work in the House, have bought property across the river. However, they depend on a reasonable enforcement of law and order.
We must accept that there will be major changes as a result of the Changing pattern of trade. I am glad to see the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) in the Chamber. Liverpool rose to greatness on the slave trade. It was a very good business, but I do not think that we can start it again. There was also good business with south America and north America, but the trade balance has shifted towards the south-east of England.
Glasgow rose to greatness because ships were prepared to come up the river to get their goods. They are no longer prepared to do that.
We cannot resist the pressure of geography. We must ease it. We face a similar problem with unemployment. Most unemployment—I am not talking about the hard core—is the transfer of human resources from older industries to newer ones. Thanks to our relative wealth, we have been able to make the transfer not too painful.
Money will help to solve the problem, but we must make the money first. That is reminiscent of Mrs Beeton and her cookery book — "First catch your hare." National growth is the key. Some hon. Members may have read Jane Jacobs' book "Cities and the Wealth of Nations". I recommend other hon. Members to read her book, because she takes the view that nations are the economic creatures of their cities and that if their cities die, they die. With modern communications, however, the island of Great Britain is rapidly becoming a city. The welfare of its parts depends on the welfare of the whole.
We come back to the central argument: what is the right economic policy to pursue? It is proper for the two sides of the House to differ on that question, but I firmly believe that the Government have got it right.
§ Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey)
The right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) did a disservice to his thoughtful speech by suggesting that the Church has nothing appropriate to say.
953 It comes ill for a succession of Conservative Members, led by the Secretary of State for the Environment, to speak so disparagingly of the Church—
§ Mr. Hughes
Yes, the Church of England. Such remarks come ill from Conservative Members given that the Church preaches above all the message to love one's neighbour, particularly the neighbour who is less well off. I think that the Secretary of State will have offended many people who thought that he was the new and acceptable face of the Tory party. He was expected to be sensitive to the issues, but we did not get much sensitivity today.
A few weeks ago, a publication sponsored by several organisations said:Unemployment, inner urban decay and and homelessness are among the key issues facing us in the run-up to the next election … The message is a bleak one. Unemployment is at the highest level since the 1930s. 83,000 families were declared homeless in 1984, the highest figure on record and our housing stock is sliding further into decay. The condition of the inner-cities is deteriorating and the Government initiatives to solve these problems seem to have run out of steam.In each case, this report shows how an obsession with short-term monetary targets has jeopardised longer-term objectives. It is false economy to sacrifice essential maintenance in order to meet ever tighter budgets, yet that is what the Government has done.The report was signed by Mr. Richard Fuller the chairman of the National Young Conservatives.
§ Mr. Fairbairn
The document "Faith in the City" claims to be about Great Britain. The hon. Gentleman read out some figures and I take it that they apply to England, because they certainly do not apply to Scotland. This is a British debate
§ Mr. Hughes
If the hon. and learned Gentleman will wait a moment, he will see that I address the problem on a British scale.
The two themes of the debate are the crisis in housing and the deprivation in our urban areas: crisis—a time of acute danger; deprivation—a felt loss.
The Government ought to realise that they have the responsibility to defend the indictment that has been made more strongly and stridently this year than probably ever before.
The hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) referred to four reports. There have been many more than four reports this year saying the same thing. Only the last report—by the Church—moved the issue from a secular to a moral plane and said that housing people is a moral issue and that people have a fundamental right to be decently housed. But the other reports came to the same general conclusion, which is that we do not have a national housing policy. We have a policy to deal not deprivation, but with privatisation. The policy of privatising housing is one for dealing with housing tenure and not one for meeting housing needs.
The succession of reports should make provocative and troublesome reading for the Government. The report of the Royal Institute of British Architects said in January:The Public Expenditure White Paper … makes clear the Government's intention to continue for a further three years policies which are leading to the rapid degradation of the built environment. The Government's proposals for a 10 per cent. cut in spending on construction in 1985–86 … follow a decade of neglect of the nation's building.The Institute of Housing report in February said: 954Overall, the Government's proposals are about to produce the most severe 'on the ground' cutback in housing spending in recent history, far exceeding those in the early 1980s when councils were underspending available resources.Later in the year, the National Home Improvement Council said:Reliance on capital receipts to supplement housing expenditure is an expedient which is both short term and shortsighted. The United Kingdom's expenditure on residential construction as a percentage of GDP is the lowest of all the European Community countries.The Government cannot escape the indictment:Cuts have fallen far more heavily on housing than on any other item of public expenditure.The Building Employers Confederation also said in February:Coupled with the current shortfall in new housing of 100,000 units per annum, this report shows that unless the Government does something soon towards its stated aim of making Britain one of the best housed nations in Europe, the situation will become irreversible.Lord Scarman said that we faceda new housing slum generation.In June the Audit Commission said:The backlog of spending on routine repairs to council housing … is now mounting by £1,000 million a year.The commission agrees that the Government's policy of restricting the spending of capital receipts by loal authorities is crazy.
Then came the sting in the tail — the Duke of Edinburgh's committee, which is hardly likely to do a shoddy piece of work. It concluded:Very real housing problems are being experienced by many people with low and limited incomes. If the situation is not to deterioriate further, more energy and more money must be devoted to improving the availability and condition of the nation's housing.The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, professional people hardly given to political rhetoric, said:There is … an acute and growing shortage of housing … This manifests itself in high and rising prices for owner-occupied housing, long council waiting lists and great difficulty for those competing in a shrinking market for flats or rooms for private renting.After all that we received the Archbishop's report the other day. The total makes up a litany declaring that the Government have a responsibility to do more than repeat the cry "The magic of the market place must prevail. We can afford no more.Without housing and investment in the inner cities the trend will continue. The vacuum will remain. There will be no hope, just disrepair.
On a non-party basis the Economic and Social Research Council produced a widely welcomed report called "Changing Cities" which drew upon experience in the United States. It concluded that unless we bring partnership and investment into housing, into community building and into jobs, we shall continue to lose in mammoth percentages our industry and our accommodation in the most deprived parts of Britain.
§ The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Norman Tebbit)
I have been listening to what the hon. Gentleman has been saying about housing and particularly about the views expressed in "Faith in the City." Does the hon. Gentleman believe that the report was right to imply some criticism of mortgage interest tax relief? Will he enlarge on his views and say whether he thinks that such tax relief is helpful or unhelpful?
§ Mr. Hughes
I have made my views known regularly. The Liberal parry voted against increasing from £25,000 955 to £30,000 the limit at which mortgage tax relief is available. Under the housing and tax credit system which we would use to replace the tax and benefits systems, that tax relief would go. People would receive benefit if they needed it and pay taxes if they should. There would be no disadvantage to people in the private sector or the public sector because they would be able to afford what they had in their pockets to spend.
The hon. and learned Member for Perth and Kinross (Mr. Fairbairn) said that this was a British debate. The inner city of London and the docks of Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast all suffer housing problems. The hon. and learned Gentleman will know that this applies not only to the capital cities. It applies to cities such as Liverpool, Glasgow, Newport and Londonderry as well. Many cities experience acute housing stress.
§ Mr. Fairbairn
The capital of Scotland is Edinburgh. One could not find a more prosperous and magnificent example of prosperous and thriving community than Leith, thanks to funding by this Government.
§ Mr. Hughes
If the hon. and learned Gentleman is saying that there is no housing need in his capital city, many would quarrel with him.
§ Mr. Hughes
I know. If the hon. Gentleman does not listen carefully perhaps not many more references will be made to his part of the country.
Mammoth increases in homelessness have taken place in our inner cities. Tonight about 27,500 people in London will be homeless and be either on the street or in bed and breakfast accommodation. Many people in boroughs such as Southwark just across the river within a mile or so of Westminster are waiting for accommodation that can be called reasonable. On some estates in Southwark even the milkman and the postman now request police escorts as they go about their business.
The Government have been dishonest because they have presented their policy as if more money were going into the inner cities. They have never aggregated rate support grant and urban aid. They say that they have increased urban aid, but the relative proportion of all national funding that has gone to the inner cities has gone down and down and down. Urban aid is minimal as a qualification of that reduction. It is a question of an increase of a few million pounds compared to the reduction of tens of millions of pounds in rate support grant for boroughs such as mine.
Rate support grant has been reduced from over 60 per cent. to below 50 per cent. of local authority expenditure by this Government. Local authority expenditure has been held down more tightly than Government expenditure. The better-off local authorities with the largest capital receipts can spend more on housing than the poor authorities which do not have much good accommodation to sell, and therefore have almost no capital receipts to supplement expenditure.
If the Government really believed in investing in the inner cities, more money, not less, would have been given to the Housing Corporation for housing associations. If the Government believed that there was a need for money to go into the inner cities, local authorities would not have 956 had their housing capital receipts kept down to 20 per cent. of expenditure and councils would have been able to use some more of their own money to meet local needs.
§ Mr. Corbyn
What exactly is Liberal party policy on the Government enforced sale of public assets by some local authorities?
§ Mr. Hughes
I believe that local authorities should be entitled to decide whether they wish to sell, as they were before. All capital receipts should be available to local authorities to spend. There should be no restriction. If a local authority earns money through selling property, it should be allowed to spend it. It should not be kept locked in the bank.
§ Mr. Tebbit
Many hon. Members will be interested in the hon. Gentleman's argument. Is he saying that he is against compulsion on local authorities in terms of the right to buy and that we should revert to the old practice under which local authorities were not compelled to sell to tenants?
§ Mr. Hughes
We have always believed in local government making as many decisions as possible. That means local authorities deciding whether to sell and the Government not dictating. We also believe that local authorities should be democratically representative of local views, which means proportional representation. That would give the right hon. Gentleman far less cause to complain against extremist policies of local authorities because with PR there would be a balanced and representative presentation of views on behalf of the local community, rather than the bias towards extremism that there is under the present first-past-the-post system.
The Secretary of State said that the important factor was the family and individal responsibility. But families need decent homes, and decent homes are a prerequisite of proper community life. Our policy has always been that Government have a responsibility to facilitate, equip, lend and otherwise provide the resources that are needed for the most fundamental of our requirements as a nation, which is to house those without homes or those who are inadequately housed. It is these people who are generally to be found in the inner cities.
We also need a partnership between public and private moneys for housing and jobs and partnership to make sure that the police are supported. Cities require partnership, not antagonism and confrontation. For that reason, my hon. Friends and I will not support the Government amendment. It talks of "targeting", a word which reminds one of snipers, in this case aiming from their emplacement in Marsham street at a couple of the problems that they can see from their high lookout tower. We do not need snipers. We need a bombardment of Government commitment with the full artillery that the Secretary of State and the chairman of the Conservative party can direct at the issues that matter to the people at the bottom of the heap.
Perhaps the Conservative party is not able to deliver because of the divide between the wealthy and poor. For example, in the constituency of the Secretary of State for the Environment, Mole Valley, nearly 30 per cent. of people are professional or managerial, 66 per cent. are middle class and 65 per cent are owner-occupiers. Compare those figures with the areas that hon. Members on the Opposition Benches represent, such as mine, in which 7 per cent. are professional or managerial, 39 per 957 cent. are middle class and 2 per cent. are owner-occupiers. Having made that comparison, the right hon. Gentleman may begin to understand why the Conservatives do not understand the real issues. The reality is that they do not share them.
The Archbishop's report called for "Faith in the City". That means commitment to the city. It means charity, yes love, to people in the city. It may be difficult enough at a time of increasing prosperity to have a bias for the poor. If the Government are drawing the purse strings tightly round the spending that they control, the bias to the poor should be even greater. We have a duty to say to this neglectful and complacent Government, "You have a responsibility. Sleeper, wake".
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I again remind the House that a large number of hon. Members wish to take part in the debate. I make a further appeal for brevity.
§ Mr. Anthony Beaumont-Dark (Birmingham, Selly Oak)
I shall obey your stricture, Mr. Speaker, because this debate is of great importance to hon. Members who represent city constituencies.
We face two problems. The first is the need for us to live with the problems of a generation now dead. The second involves the way in which we solve those problems, and by "we" I mean those who, like myself, have been involved in public life in cities for 20 years or more.
We face not only Victorian and Edwardian decay. We are having to solve as well the problems about which we spoke in the 1950s, when we talked of building units rather than homes. I recall more than one Minister of Housing, of either party, urging me, when I was the chairman of housing in Birmingham, to keep on building units. Indeed, when I occupied that office in Birmingham we built in a record year 9,400 units. That was regarded as—and it was in the short-term — a considerable achievement, particularly compared with the number of units we build today. The trouble was that they were units. They did not make particularly happy homes. They shoved people up into the clouds, and those flats have caused many of the social and other problems of today.
The Secretary of State for the Environment's report refers to the need to spend £19 billion to bring the nation's housing up to a decent standard. That amount grows like the fungus on the decaying walls of the inner city areas of this country.
§ Mr. Beaumont-Dark
We are debating Great Britain, of which I thought Scotland was a part.
We must decide our priorities. I accept that it is proper for the Church of England to produce a report such as "Faith in the City." On the other hand, the Church's sermons might ring truer if, as a great landlord, it did more for its tenants to help solve the problems in the hundreds of thousands of houses that it holds.
The chairman of a residents' association of property in Maida Vale talked about the Church being unchristian, dictatorial, unfair and unkind. I agree that the Church has every right to produce a 400-page report on this subject, 958 but it might do better to look to the mote in its own eye rather than in the beam of the politicians. The report was right to declare that there are problems for us all to face.
§ Mr. Beaumont-Dark
I will not give way because, as Mr. Speaker pointed out, many hon. Members wish to contribute to the debate.
An enormous problem faces us all. If tens of billions of pounds are needed to solve the problem, we must consider how it is to be raised. Lord Stockton talked about selling the Georgian silver and the Rembrandts. Few of us have such items to sell. If the noble Lord was saying that selling such items to go to Monte Carlo or on a world cruise was a misuse of the money, he was right. But if we sold the Georgian silver and the Rembrandts to make sure that the walls were sound and the roofs were waterproof, that would be a good investment. The state does not need to hold British Gas or any other great asset. But it must make sure that the assets that it sells on behalf of the people improve the fabric of society, especially those in society who cannot help themselves.
If a great part of the money that is raised from such sales is used to improve areas such as Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester, the people of which suffered to make Britain the great industrial nation it was, it will have been a good investment. But if it is frittered away, we will not have made a good sale. That is the great debate that we should be having.
Nobody—from the official Opposition, the alliance or these Tory Benches—would suggest that there is an easy answer. Those who say that if we had the will all our problems could be solved within a couple of years or so are wrong. As an ex-chairman of housing and a leader in Birmingham local government for many years, I appreciate that we are talking about gargantuan sums. They amount to more than £19 billion. It is likely that that sum would have to be spent each year.
We must decide as a nation what we are seeking to do. Instead of talking about housing units, we must make sure that we do not build the new slums of tomorrow. It is so easy to talk about units, but instead we must talk about homes, areas and people. The greatest mistake in which I and others of my generation were involved was in sweeping aside people who sometimes lived happier lives in squalid conditions than in the awful flats that we built. Let us ensure that what we provide for tomorrow is better and more enduring than the new slums that many of us were involved in building.
§ Mr. George Park (Coventry, North-East)
Many different reports on housing have been mentioned during the debate, but I would not have thought that any Member who represents an inner urban area, or who has one within his or her constituency, would need a report from any quarter to make him aware that there is a housing crisis. If Members in that position visit their constituents' houses, listen to the cases that are brought to them al: their surgeries, and appreciate that many members of the building trades are out of work, they will know, without the provision of any reports, that there is a housing crisis.
In Coventry, in the aftermath of the bombing, the most immediate and pressing task was to get roofs over heads. Traditional building could not provide the roofs as quickly 959 as they were needed, so Coventry council turned to Wimpeys, which constructed thousands of no-fine dwellings. Central heating needs to be installed in these dwellings along with the provision of improved insulation and new wiring. That need is desperate. The windows need to be replaced in high-rise flats and there is a need also for new lifts.
It has been estimated that to make 7,000 dwellings habitable in the categories to which I have referred, the cost would be £36 million, plus a further £12 million for single-storey buildings to replace floors, to make general improvements and to carry out conversions.
In responding to Government policy, the council was in negotiations with the original contractor to get it to take on the refurbishment of part of one of the estates in my constituency. It negotiated with Wimpeys for two years to try to get the company to take on the work. Unfortunately, Wimpeys has pulled out of the negotiations. It has left the council to try to find another contractor to do what the Government are urging local authorities to undertake. There has been a delay of two or probably three years and the tenants see their current misery extending well into the future. The result is a rising tide of resentment. So much for private involvement.
In addition to the post-war dwellings, there are 2,700 pre-war houses. The cost of modernising them is estimated to be £33 million. There are 17,000 houses in the private sector which need modernising at a cost of £70 million. I appreciate that even if the Government made resources available on that scale, the building industry could not respond immediately. However, with a need to spend £151 million on housing, Coventry has an allocation under the housing investment programme of £7.7 million. That has been supplemented by £12 million from capital receipts from the sale of houses and land, but that can be only a short-term expedient. At the current rate, it will take 11 years to cater for the pre-war houses alone, never mind the no-fine housing. In the private sector, it will take 23 years to deal with the existing problems. It must be recognised that the deterioration continues and becomes worse week by week.
In Coventry, there has been no new building for the past two years, during which there has been a waiting list of over 7,000. All new build has been stopped, even for those in special categories such as the elderly and the disabled. All the resources are concentrated on modernising and improving. The help from housing associations is minimal due to the reduction in housing that they have been able to provide.
The Government cannot possibly believe that they are giving a fair deal to those who live in urban areas. In my constituency, the areas which have the no-fine constructions are doubly disadvantaged because they are the areas in which the rate of unemployment is roughly double what it is in other parts of the constituency. In those areas it is 34 per cent. as opposed to 15 per cent. elsewhere.
§ Mr. Winnick
If at the end of the day my hon. Friend is the only west midlands Member who is fortunate enough to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, may I intervene to say that in my borough there has been no new build in the public sector since 1979, and that there remain many dwellings awaiting modernisation? The tenants of the 960 Rosehill estate at Willenhall sent a deputation to the Department of the Environment to put their case. Is it not essential that the Government's policies are reversed so that provision can be made for the many thousands of families that are waiting to be housed or rehoused by local authorities?
§ Mr. Park
I appreciate what my hon. Friend says. I do not imagine that Coventry is facing a housing crisis on its own. The Opposition have decided to debate the issue because they recognise that it is a nationwide problem. We have been given an opportunity to highlight the problems that we face in our constituencies. That is why I am drawing attention to the problems within my constituency.
The Government have no policy that will make the inner cities or urban areas generally better places in which to live and obtain employment. If someone gives a prospective employer his address and it is in one of the areas on which we are focusing attention, that is enough to rule him out as a prospective employee. Many of my constituents have told me about that. The urban programme is not an urban policy, as it operates only at the margins. My hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham), who opened the debate on behalf of the Opposition, went into that in some detail and I shall not go over that ground again.
The ability of local authorities to develop urban policies has been hamstrung by financial restraints. Taking the rate support grant at 1985–86 prices, Coventry received slightly less than £74 million in 1981£82. In 1985–86, it received £57.5 million, a reduction of about £16.4 million, or 22.2 per cent. The sheer scale of the problem has been identified by the Audit Commission. It concluded that between £30 billion and £40 billion must be spent on housing construction in the public and private sectors. There is a backlog of about £15 billion on renovation and major repairs. The immensity of the problem is not being faced by the Government. The cost in human terms—in misery and frustration—is incalculable.
The Government should start to work with, not against, local government to develop a corporate urban strategy, to assess the effects of one facet of Government policy against another. They should break out of their watertight compartments and out of this vicious circle of no jobs and bad housing — a seedbed for urban problems which cannot always be foisted on to the police to solve. The housing crisis and urban deprivation are matters as pressing as the problems facing Coventry immediately after the last war.
The need is there, and the good will would develop if it were seen that the Government were seriously intent on overcoming the problem of disrepair, lessening the demand for housing and improving the chance of obtaining a job in our urban areas. For that reason, I shall support the Opposition motion.
§ Sir Peter Hordern (Horsham)
The hon. Member for Coventry, North-East (Mr. Park) and some of the hon. Members who preceded him referred to the number of reports on the inner cities and the sad state of our housing stock in inner cities and other parts of the country. One thread runs through all those reports—the proposal that the Government should spend more money and that there should be a collective solution to the problems of poor 961 housing, especially in the inner cities. That recommendation was made in the report by the Archibishop's commission.
As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said, it is a pity that the upshot of all the reports is that there should be a collective approach. I believe that each of our inner cities has its own particular problems. Those problems arose partly through historical accident and partly because of the different treatment given to each of the cities by their respective councils. Some of the deprivation in our inner cities has been caused by the success of some of the new towns which were set up after the war. For some years, I represented Crawley new town, which has been one of the most— if not the most—successful new towns. People and industry, especially in south London and the docklands, have been drawn as though by a magnet to the new towns that circle London. My right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) said that some time ago, and he was right. The collective approach of successive Governments has promoted this trend. This is a national problem, and we should consider not only the reasons for urban decay but the problems of the inner cities in particular.
There is some dispute about the amount of money that the Government give the urban areas. The report of the Archibishop's commission said that, in some respects, some of the inner cities have suffered cuts. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said that the money had been increased. Whatever the position, there should be an objective assessment of the needs of cities and towns. The old system effectively allowed local authorities to increase rates by as much as they liked in the full knowledge that they were protected through the rate rebate system from ever incurring the displeasure of their electors. One reason for the demise of urban areas is that small firms and businesses found that they could no longer operate there and either stopped business altogether or moved out. Not to acknowledge that as one of the main reasons for the deprivation in our cities is to ignore the truth.
An objective assessment of rates is necessary. Government grants should be supported on that assessment, wherever it may lead. The amount devoted to urban aid has increased considerably. There is a considerable difference between places like Liverpool and Glasgow. I visited Liverpool some months ago and Glasgow more recently. Glasgow is enjoying an economic revival and Liverpool—in part, at least—is sharing an architectural revival. I am referring to the Albert docks centre, the garden festival site, and so on. They are admirable examples of what can be done. On looking at the streets of Liverpool one cannot help but be struck by the number of tenement buildings that have been broken up and the vast areas of factory space lying empty.
What has happened to Government support for places such as Liverpool? A number of firms that were attracted to the city took the money and, when the going got rough, moved out. Vacant factory lots litter the ground in Liverpool. I do not believe that, on that basis, there is any good argument that more money should be pumped into the cities in the same way—which is how I regard the collective solution. There must be a different approach.
§ Sir Peter Hordern
I saw some of those areas. I was profoundly distressed by the amount of housing that had been destroyed, especially the newer tenement buildings and those older buildings that received architectural prizes when they were built in the 1930s. Those buildings have now been broken up.
No one can deny that the rate support grant given to the citizens of Liverpool has been generous. In Liverpool, RSG per head is £232, which contrasts with Oxford where the amount is £30 a head. ft is not reasonable or rational to accuse the Government of not giving sufficient money to places like Liverpool. It is important to consider how that money should be spent and to understand the lessons to be learnt from other countries that also have urban problems. The United Stales has many cities that have experienced great troubles because of the demise of older industries such as steel—for example, Pittsburgh. Other places such as Philadelphia have approached the problems in differing, characteristic ways. These cities believe in a partnership between the private sector and the city authorities. They have been fortunate in gaining a good deal of private support. Local authorities have primed the pump by putting in money to create the infrastructure.
This is happening, with great success, in the London docklands. I understand that the ratio of public sector to private sector money invested in the docklands is £1 £14. The London docklands are booming. Can this experiment be carried forward to Liverpool and other urban centres? My right hon. Friends on the Treasury Bench are doing a good deal in this respect, and no doubt they will say so.
I put forward another proposal to my right hon. Friends on the Treasury Bench to which they might not yet have considered their reaction. The common thread running through all these areas of deprivation is the need to reduce the cost of work. The experience of providing large extra funds has not been successful, but there is a strong case for reducing the national insurance contribution of employers and employees in places such as Liverpool.
It might be worth considering the system of giving tax-exempt bonds to cities that operates in the United States. It might be done by having an urban development commission. The right hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Freeson) was talking about that earlier. He said that it should have been set up ages ago for the older towns. There is merit in the suggestion. Private enterprise would be attracted by having tax-free funds floated by an urban development commission from which banks could borrow. They could then lend to private enterprise in deprived areas. That idea has proved to be extremely successful in some of the older cities in the United States. It is an idea that we might follow.
The trouble with places such as Liverpool is that there are too many people trying to do too much. There is often confusion in local authorities about the work that they do. I am not sure that my right hon. Friends are clear as to who should be responsible for the urban programme. I wish that I felt more sure that they were certain about that.
I note that the regional grant system, for example, in Scotland and Wales has been handed over to the Secretaries of State for Scotland and Wales respectively. A strong case can be made for handing over regional grants from the Department of Trade and Industry to the Department of the Environment. I see my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster frowning, but that is only because he is a former Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. The practice of combining the work 963 of those Departments by using small teams is excellent. The impetus must come from local initiatives which are supported and headed by one authority. I am not convinced that we have the structure right.
The problem of our inner cities cannot be solved or in any way lightened by the intemperate language that we hear. The problems require deep humility from us all. I think that the Church of which I am a member was wrong to say that it thought that the Government lacked a political will in this matter. We may lack wisdom, we cannot always get things right, but it is wrong to accuse the Government of lack of political will. We should not become too fond of the extravagant statements that are sometimes made on both sides of the House about Governments, whether Labour or Conservative, about urban deprivation. The problems are deep seated. They require the attention of us all. It is easy to say that there is a magic solution, but the road that is paved with good intentions is not the road that we should adopt.
Mr. Eric S. Heifer (Liverpool, Walton)
I agree with one thing that the hon. Member for Horsham (Sir P. Hordern) said. He said that the problems that we are discussing are deep-seated and require careful consideration. They also require action. The hon. Gentleman summed up moderately in contrast to some of his colleagues who have not been so moderate. Many Conservative Members still assume that the Church of England is the Tory party at prayer. I do not think that it ever was. At one time there was possibly greater justification for saying that than there is today.
Conservative Members try to claim the national Church for themselves in the same way that they tend to claim the Union Jack for themselves. That is arrogance. The hon. Gentleman described the Church as the one to which he belonged. It is also the one to which I belong. There are millions of people who are members of that Church, because it is our national Church, who are by no means Conservatives or supporters of the Tory party.
I once had to say to a Conservative Member that Jesus was not a member of the Conservative party. He was not the Member for Nazareth, South and certainly not for Nazareth, North. Had he been a Conservative he would not have been nailed on the cross for fighting the establishment of his day. In addition to being the son of God, he was nailed on the cross because he was fighting for the rights of ordinary people in that part of the world.
When Conservative Members talk about Marxists, they remind me of what Dom Helder Camara, the Catholic archbishop of a Brazilian city, once said:When I give food to the poor they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food they call me a Communist.That just about sums up the attitude of Conservative Members.
There are many traditions within the Church of England, but there are two basic ones. There is the establishment and there is the group of which, in its early days, John Ball, the radical who wanted to change society, was a member. When I was a young boy in the Church, I can remember listening to Father Grozer in the east end of London and many other people who were preaching not 964 so much the Protestant ethic within the Church but the basic Catholic ethic, which I believe should be the true attitude towards Christianity.
Whether hon. Members like it or not, Christianity is based not just on the individual spirit and salvation but upon a collective responsibility to all people in society. In particular, it is based upon one's attitude to the poor in society, and the idea of helping those who cannot help themselves. That goes very much to the issue of housing.
§ Mrs. Elaine Kellett-Bowman (Lancaster)
Does the hon. Gentleman accept that while there is moral sense in giving one's own money to try to help people there is no moral content in the Government giving away other people's money? It is for individuals to make the effort. The command of our Lord wastake up thy bed, and walkand means to put individual effort into something. [Interruption.] There is also, "Help thy neighbour", but the two must be wedded.
When we pay our taxes, we are all contributing towards the nation's money. I think of one of my constituents who does not have a house or perhaps of a young person who has come from Liverpool to seek work in London and cannot get any accommodation and is living under the arches. I am prepared to pay more taxes if it will provide him or her with shelter and accommodation. So should anyone else who has a conscience and a Christian attitude towards helping other people.
§ Mr. Heffer
The right hon. Gentleman will reply to the debate. Other hon. Members have only a few minutes in which to speak. He should content himself — [Interruption.]—with replying to the debate. He should not seek to intervene.
The report asks why the poor either have no homes or live in bad housing. That is the basis of the report's housing section. I am not against people buying their own homes. I never have been. I bought my own home at an early stage. As I had no children, I should never have had a home without saving up and obtaining a mortgage. I would never have obtained a council house in the days when I was young. I lived for 10 years in two rooms.
I know about the housing problems of ordinary working people. There are millions of young people who have no opportunity of obtaining a mortgage or buying their own homes, but who need accommodation. The only way that can be solved is by renting. There is little private renting now. Council property has gone down and there is not sufficient being built to deal with the problems. That is the essence of the matter.
"Faith in the City" is a magnificent report, particularly the section on housing. It is first-class, and one of the best reports that I have read for a long time. If I may say so, I think it is even slightly better than the report we in the Labour party produced and put to conference.
It is similar to ours because it does not say that there is only one answer. It makes the very important point that, for many people in the urban priority areas, low wages and rising unemployment put home ownership beyond their reach. Their only chance of housing will be by renting.
965 Increasingly, rented housing will be necessary for existing owner-occupiers hit by unemployment. If one walks around the older areas of Liverpool today where working people are trying to buy their homes on mortgages, one will see road after road of "For sale" signs. Incidentally, they do not all have a bike to come south to find jobs. Even if they did find a job, how would they sell their house in an area such as Liverpool and then find two or three times the price to buy in London? That is the reality and I am glad that my hon. Friends have raised the subject.
I should have liked to speak longer but as there are many hon. Members who would like to speak I shall make a final point about Liverpool. I referred recently to an excellent article in The Guardian by Geoff Andrews called
"The Greening of Liverpool". The article says:Throughout Liverpool's financial crisis, the 'city housing policy' has been widely portrayed as an open drain down which the profligate council has been pouring cash that it didn't have. But, like everyone involved in the scheme, Tony Byrne firmly rejects these allegations.That response might have been dismissed as a political one until the arrival this summer of 'Utopia on Trial', a book by Alice Coleman, director of the Land Use Research Unit at King's College, London … When Coleman visited Liverpool she announced that 'practically everything we had recommended they are doing—not in patches but the whole lot—Liverpool is the pioneer'.That is what Liverpool is trying to do and if it got sufficient money and help from the Government it would deal with the problem—[Horn. MEMBERS: "Heseltine did that."] The 16 priority areas were introduced by Labour councils, not by the Secretary of State for Defence. If Liverpool could get the money, it could deal with the problem in the way that it is trying to do at the moment. I ask the hon. Member for Horsham to return to Liverpool. I agree with him that when one looks at parts of Liverpool one feels one has to cry about what has happened. We can look at the positive side, which is what the council has been trying to do and unfortunately has to continue to do, partially by mortgaging itself further with a loan from the Swiss, when it should have received assistance from the Government. That should have been the way to deal with Liverpool's problem. I totally support the motion.
§ Mr. Fred Silvester (Manchester, Withington)
The hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) thinks that the Church of England is still the Tory party at prayer. Nobody who lives in the diocese of Manchester could fall into that error. I do not wish to criticise the Church for its views on that or any other matter. I shall deal with two aspects, on one of which the Church spent much time and one which was omitted from its report. Both are crucial to the understanding of what we should do about our inner cities. The Church's report, like so many others, reflects the same story. Our discussions today and reports over many years have followed the same pattern and much of the analysis in the Church's report follows the analysis in many earlier reports.
I wish to refer to a point on which the Church has been silent. The hon. Member for Walton said that the Church had a view about the role of the community as well as the role of the individual. That is true. But it is also important to recognise that over the years the understanding of how to tackle inner city problems has moved from the belief that it could be done by communal action to an understanding of the importance of individual actions and responsibility.
966 A recent and interesting document from the Society of Friends contained a number of quotations from people working in the inner cities. It showed that one of the features of the small areas within our inner cities is apathy, at times verging on despair. My right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) referred to lack of people able to pick up and run businesses. David Sheppard's comment about the helpless being left behind is true. The solutions suggested do not take account of the importance of personal involvement. Many people who complain that the inner city is full of old people are the very people who argue that family responsibility for old people has faded away and that it is now sufficient to park them in a home at the state's expense and make the Christmas visit with a potted plant and a smile. Those responsibilities, however, still remain.
The Church talked about people moving away from the inner cities to the suburbs and leafier places. Of course, as people get wealthier they will do that, but the link between the old place and the new is a powerful and important one. In earlier days it led to a lot of resources and money going back to the area from which the people came, but that process is diminishing. I cite one example related to changes that have occurred in education within the cities. I will not go through the arguments for grammar schools, but in the days when there was a grammar school selection process the grammar school would select from all over the city. The family remained in the place from which the child came. Nowadays, people move into my constituency to be within the catchment area of the school that is regarded as having the best academic record and highest social kudos, thus creating a middle-class ghetto. That is one of the side effects of the policies that we are pursuing. I hope that when we discuss these matters we shall remember— the Church did not, although I had hoped that it would — to pay more attention to the personal aspects of some of the policies and to the personal responsibilities that go with them.
I wish to refer mainly to housing, as that is the centre of the debate. I prefer the Duke of Edinburgh's report to the Church's report because it deals with a real problem to which the Government must pay attention. The Duke's report said, in effect, that the present structure was so confusing that it was actually hindering the housing market. Much has been said in the debate and in the Church's report about the decline in privately rented accommodation. The Church wrings its hands, makes no real recommendations about how to tackle the problem and virtually suggests that it is impossible. The Duke's report, however, makes practical suggestions. They may not prove acceptable in detail, but at least an effort has been made to tackle the problem. Mortgage interest relief, which is likely to become a subject of increasing political debate, housing associations and all the other aspects of housing in the city are considered within the overall context. The Church, however, washes its hands of all that and says that we should go back to looking to the councils to provide the necessary facilities.
If I have learnt one thing over the years it is that mammoth council estates have been one of the worst features of inner city housing. I do not refer only to high-rise accommodation and I shall not go into the question of who was responsible. It was a fashion in which we all became involved and we are well out of it. When I was on a council in the early days I dealt with apparently trifling matters such as whether old ladies could keep dogs 967 in blocks of flats, which were then pooh-poohed as matters of no concern but the importance of which has been increasingly appreciated since. Having passed through that fashion, however, let us not pass into another and imagine that it is sufficient to divide the council estates into smaller units with neighbourhood offices and the like. People want a real choice, not just between one type of house and another but among the various people offering housing — housing associations, private landlords, owner-occupation if they can afford it, shared houses, and so on. We want people to have the maximum options and to choose for themselves how to conduct their lives. I do not doubt for one moment that more money is needed for housing, but it must be provided in a way that will multiply the choice available to individuals and families.
I believe that the Government must continue to consider the amount of money available for housing. It is not just a question whether to build more council estates or to try to solve the problem in other ways. The housing fabric of the cities is clearly declining. My right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion referred to repair grants and there is still much more scope for the use of such grants in our cities. I am delighted that the Government are increasing the scope for the renovation of council estates, but we shall need more money than is now available to deal with some of the lousy estates put up after the war. Some money has been set aside for that, but the problem is considerable.
The hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) wanted a fusillade to be directed at the whole problem. I believe that we need a carefully aimed shot. There are real problems in the inner cities, predominantly concerning the physical environment and especially housing. If we concentrate our resources on those aspects we shall begin to make strides.
I hope that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster will not merely defend the Government's record, which is very good and much better than most comments in the debate have allowed, but will concentrate on the two central issues. First, he must not say that additional resources are not required for housing when clearly they are required and we cannot possibly tackle the problem without them. Secondly, the Government must strongly encourage developments already begun in which Government money for industry, for instance, is linked with private resources.
It is of fundamental importance that we should engage the people who live and work in these areas to make things hum for themselves. People brought in from outside do a good job but then go back to homes in the leafy suburbs. The people who live and work in the area must be helped and stimulated to do their own thing.
§ 7.6 pm
§ Mr. Ernie Roberts (Hackney, North and Stoke Newington)
I wish to deal with the Prime Minister's amendment, so I shall be referring to matters other than housing. I suggest that when the Minister comes to reply to the debate and to the Archbishop's report he should take the Bible out of the Dispatch Box to avoid blasphemy.
Hackney is said to be the poorest borough in Britain. It is no accident that it is cheek by jowl with the richest area in Britain—the City. The wealth created in this nation does not go to areas such as Hackney. It goes from 968 those areas and finds its way to the City. Poverty and deprivation are widespread in Hackney among both black and white communities and the housing situation is catastrophic. Some 14,000 families, both black and white, are waiting for homes while 8,000 housing units stand empty and unfit for habitation. We need money to make those dwellings habitable but we have had only cuts from the Government.
Some housing in the area is so bad that it has had to be blown up. When the multi-storey accommodation at Trowbridge was blown up people actually applied to live in the remaining flats amid the rubble just to have somewhere to live. In my constituency 300 families are living in bed and breakfast accommodation. The housing need among the elderly is equally deplorable. Age Concern reported that 15,500 dwellings for elderly people were needed in 1980 but in 1985 there are only 6,400, so more than half the housing need of the elderly has been disregarded. Many thousands of building trade workers need work and would be only too pleased to provide housing for the elderly and homeless.
Some 22 per cent. of black and white workers are unemployed in Hackney. I must stress that the problem affects everybody in my constituency, not just black people. It affects men, women, young people and school leavers who have given up hope and end up in revolt. Hon. Members ask why there are revolts — these are the reasons for revolts in Tottenham, Brixton and Hackney.
Business has withdrawn from the area. Metal Box, and clothing and furniture businesses have left in spite of pleas and offers to beat others' rates because they want to move to areas where the job can be done more cheaply so that they can make a bigger profit. Most school buildings in the area are slums. Some have been closed because they are falling to pieces. Some Ministers have gone to the area to see hospital buildings. Like me, they wear glasses, but they leave their glasses at home when they go to Hackney because they do not see what is happening. If they did see, they would do something about it.
Hospital buildings are disgusting. I have been lobbied today by some of the hospital workers who came here complaining that hospital provision in the area will get even worse because the Middlesex hospital casualty department, which treats some 14,000 patients a year, is to be closed. They demand that it be kept open and that there is better provision.
Hackney has the highest level of mental illness in the country because of the problems I have outlined and the conditions imposed on the people there by the Government. Infant mortality is the highest in Britain and expectant mothers do not get proper care, adequate food or decent housing. There are more than 5,000 single-parent families in the borough, many of whom suffer bad housing and unemployment. They need nurseries for their children so that they can go out and look for a job. The chairman of the Conservative party once told them to get on their bikes. Many have gone on bikes, trains and aeroplanes but still cannot find a job.
There are serious difficulties with relations between the police and the public and between Hackney borough council police committee and the Home Secretary, who refuses to allow the local police committee and the local police to unite to deal with problems in the area and protect old people.
Much has been said about the Church's report. I should like to quote from a document entitled "Open letter to 969 Church and Nation" written by 30 Methodist ministers working in inner cities. They have their feet on the ground and are aware of the problems in inner cities and write:There have clearly been criminal acts in some of the disturbances which have taken place. There are, however, crimes which contravene an existing criminal code, and crimes against humanity. Who are the greater criminals in our society? Whose are the policies that drive unemployment up to 80 per cent. and 90 per cent. among our young people and drive them to despair? Who are the companies that take themselves off from our neighbourhoods because profits are too low? Who are the financial institutions that find us unworthy of their investment? Who are the comfortable, wealthy middle-classes who inhabit pleasant detached surroundings such as Guildford and Cheadle and Harrogate and Solihull and either don't want to know us or even wish us in hell so they don't have to share the takings?Old-age pensioners are rising from their poverty and demanding the removal of standing charges for gas and for electricity. They demand free television licences, a free telephone service and the maintenance of free travel. Old people in inner-city areas such as Hackney will feel the consequences of abolition of the GLC and metropolitan councils. The Government have cut the funding of Hackney borough council just as they have cut the funding of Liverpool and some other Labour-controlled councils. Hackney's block grant was more than £50 million in 1981–82 and, at constant prices, it is only £33 million for 1985–86 — a cut of more than 33 per cent., or £65 million in real terms. The Government take the money and then ask who is responsible for the problems. The Tories say that they have not the money and that we must not throw money at the problem. The 400,000 unemployed building trade workers say, "For Christ's sake throw us the money and let us get on with building." The money should be thrown to the building trade. All this nonsense about not throwing money at the problem is just a slogan.
§ Mr. Roberts
Hackney and other inner-city areas suffer poverty because the Government are mis-spending public money. The Prime Minister and her colleagues ask where the money is coming from. I will tell them the answer. They have the money. They have £132 billion of our money, but what do they do with it? That is what the unemployed, taxpayers and I, on behalf of Hackney, want to know. Britain is not a poor country. We have only to ask the Sainsburys of the country who are making colossal profits out of the people to learn that this is a rich country. They want even more riches. They are embarrassed by their wealth, but they reach out their greedy hands for more and call on the Government for lower taxation. They want lower taxes for themselves and higher taxes on the backs of workers. That is what the Conservative party stands for.
The Government are wasting our money. They spend £18 billion on armaments but it does not defend the people of Hackney, who want decent living conditions, not defence against some fictitious enemy. They want another £10 billion spent not on Trident, but on housing and jobs. They want £17 billion spent not on unemployment, but on jobs. They do not want £5 billion spent hanging on to Northern Ireland; they want that money to be spent on the people of this country. They want £1 billion spent;on the EEC and supporting activities, but on the problems of our cities. They do not want £12 billion to go in interest payments to usurers who own the national debt; the money should be used to satisfy the needs of the people.
970 I was an engineer until I retired. Working people created £270 billion of wealth last year. This is a wealthy nation, but what are the Government doing with that money? Who gets it? That wealth should be redistributed in the interests of inner cities.
§ Mr. Cecil Franks (Barrow and Furness)
I listened carefully to the speech of the hon. Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Mr. Roberts). It is not unreasonable to remind the House, particularly Labour Members, that Conservative Members care as much as they do about the inner-city areas, particularly those of us who were born. bred, and educated and have spent our working lives in the cities. We can agree with much of what Opposition Members say, but equally we profoundly disagree with many of their conclusions, especially when hyperbole starts and rational argument disappears.
What I find most puzzling and disturbing about the debate is that no one, not even the Church in its paper "Faith in the City", has addressed the fundamental question which must be asked and analysed before we can find remedies, which is whether we need the cities. Lest it be thought that I am about to argue that we should abandon the cities to their fate, let me say straight away that I shall argue for the reverse.
That question was the name of a report commissioned by President Carter in 1979 when the United States of America turned its mind to the problem, in much the same way as we are doing today. The report was called, "Do we need the cities?". In the United States there was a drift from the northern industrial towns and states to the southern states, with northern America suffering from the same urban decay and deprivation as we do.
How do we perceive the role of the city in the 21st century? The city as we know it today, and the industrial city as it was known in the past, will bear little resemblance to the city of the 21st century. We must consider the way in which our industrial cities evolved. Two hundred and fifty years ago Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle and Sheffield were only villages. With the advent of the industrial revolution came the growth of the modern industrial city as people moved from working on the land to working in the city. At that time people moved from the land to the city because they expected and found a better life in the cities. Although, by comparison with today, living standards then may have been abysmal, they were better in the cities than on the land.
The growth of the cities escalated when the railways extended city boundaries to the suburbs. The growth of the cities is reflected in the 1832 Reform Bill, when, for the first time, the cities were enfranchised. One can almost identify precisely the peak in the growth in the cities in the 1931 census. From then on one can trace the depopulation of the inner-city areas throughout the length and breadth of the land.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) rightly pointed out that the decline in the population of inner-city areas coincided precisely with the growth of motor car ownership. In the past, when people moved to cities to find work and homes they had no mobility. Therefore, they had to live as close to their place of work as possible. With the coming of the motor car, artisans had a choice. The 1930s saw the exodus of people in the upper income brackets from our inner-city areas; but the real exodus started after the war with the 971 professional classes. If they could work in Manchester yet live in the more luxurious places of Cheshire or Lancashire, why should they live in the hostile environment of an inner city? They had mobility, so they left, followed soon after by people in the middle income groups. Today those who live in our inner cities do so not from choice, but because they are trapped by economic conditions. If they had the financial resources and economic means, they would be in the forefront of those seeking to leave the inner-city areas. The economic walls and bars which surround the inner-city ghettos are as real as the steel bars which keep in the inmates of Strangeways and Walton gaols.
The House, better than any other body, knows of the decline of our inner-city areas. A trend which applies to every city is that 15 years ago the city of Manchester had 11 Members of Parliament representing it, but today it has five. That accurately mirrors the decline of the cities, and the same is true for Liverpool, Sheffield, Newcastle and Birmingham. The cities have been declining as the consumers — the inner-city dwellers — have exercised their choice, and at the first opportunity have sought to live anywhere other than the city.
What is the role of the city in the 21st century? Every hon. Member will have his own notion and idea, and I do not claim that mine is necessarily right, but one or two facts are abundantly clear. Cities will continue to decline in importance, to become the administrative and regional centres, and centres for the transportation systems. It is an inescapable fact that our inner-city populations will continue to decline because the man in the street does not wish to live in the poverty, squalor and hostile environment of our inner-city areas.
What positive steps can we take to alleviate today's conditions? In the late 1950s and in the 1960s Moss Side in Manchester was cleared under an ambitious slum clearance programme, for which no one will fault the council. I was a new young member of local government in Salford in 1960, and went with the council to see what was happening in Moss Side. It was said to be the future, and an example of how cities could rebuild the slums of the past. It is now 25 years since then, and we have new slums and new ghettos. It may seem strange that I, who spent 10 years as leader of the Conservative group on Manchester city council fighting the Labour party, particularly the new Left, should take this opportunity to pay them at least one compliment. When I visited the city recently, I saw that the council had taken the brave, but absolutely correct, decision to demolish the multi-storey deck access flats in Moss Side. I applaud that.
But the council will face a genuine problem following that decision, and the same will apply to every council that adopts that approach. The council will have borrowed money over 60 years for that block of flats, which, after 20 years, it has demolished. It has destroyed an asset which in reality was no longer an asset, but a liability. For the next 40 years the council will be obliged to pay the capital and interest charges on that development. It is futile to apportion blame in this matter. The truth is that central Government encouraged and local government was happy to be encouraged. One political party designed the tower blocks and the other contructed them. All political parties are culpable, and it is a waste of time to apportion blame as to whom is responsible. However, the practical problem 972 remains in Liverpool, Hackney, and all the places where councils wish, rightly, to demolish the mistakes of the past.
The Government may wish to consider a good way of helping the inner cities and of removing the faults of the immediate past. That is to adopt the precedent that we have set with our nationalised industries of allowing local authorities to write off part of the debt. If a local authority decides that a high-rise block of flats is anti-social, the Government should co-operate in writing off part of its debt.
§ Mr. John Patten
I visited Manchester and Salford this morning. My hon. Friend mentioned the need to rehabilitate inner-city housing. With his greater knowledge of Manchester and Salford from his experience of local government there, can he explain why one Labour-controlled council — Salford — is co-operating with the private sector to bring back into use housing that is desperately needed, but Manchester city council is refusing to do so?
§ Mr. Franks
I can explain that easily. I was leader of Salford council for several years, and I know the current leader well. He is what I would describe as a moderate, sensible, local Labour politician with whom, at the end of the day, common sense prevails. However, the leadership in Manchester has gone exactly the same way as the leadership in Liverpool. I should tell Labour Members that when they have finished their inquiry in Liverpool, the next one will need to be in Manchester.
It is obvious that the cities of the future will have different communities from those of today. They are being created even now. We talk about the communities destroyed by the bulldozers. That is true, but new communities will arise of their own accord. At present, we can use only words, but what we must do is give some leadership to the new communities. It is futile to spend money on trying to keep captive an inner-city population that does not want to live there. However, at the end of the day, there will be a population of some sort. In any expenditure on the inner cities, our top priority must be to improve the environment. If we do that, we shall start to attract people back. Why has one out of three citizens in Manchester and Liverpool left those cities during the past 50 years? The answer is that, in old industrial terms, the cities have outlived their purpose. We must look to the cities of the future, not to those of the past.
§ Mr. Richard Caborn (Sheffield, Central)
In response to the hon. Member for Barrow and Furness (Mr. Franks), may I say that probably one of the most damaging Acts of the recent past — it stopped the development of the suburbs and the free movement of the population—was the Transport Act 1985. South Yorkshire county council and Sheffield city council had started to move people out of the city centres, but that will be brought to a complete end by the Government's transport policy, not to mention their public expenditure policies. Sheffield liberated much of its housing in that way, but the Transport Act will prove a major factor in stopping the movement of people from the inner cities.
Like many Labour Members who have spoken, I represent an inner-city constituency. In many respects, and according to the 1981 census, which has since been 973 updated, it ranks as the most disadvantaged constituency in Yorkshire and Humberside. In the national context, only a few inner-city constituencies have more problems than does Sheffield, Central. Average unemployment is almost 30 per cent. In some parts of my constituency, it is about 50 per cent. Indeed, it is greater than Sheffield's unemployment as a whole before 1979.
I was interested to hear the Secretary of State talk about the family unit, which is under tremendous pressure in the inner cities. When one considers divorce rates, visits to doctors for tranquillisers, crime, and problems with drugs and prostitution, it is easy to appreciate the immense difficulty of keeping together the family unit. For the Secretary of State to talk about the family unit almost in a throwaway line was an insult to many of those who are imprisoned in the inner cities with all their problems of unemployment.
The problems of the inner cities are not sensationalised on the front pages of the tabloids, because many people prefer to keep their problems to themselves. However, may I give one example from many in my constituency. During the general election campaign, I visited an estate in my constituency. I knocked on a door and a woman came out. We began by discussing the election, but then she closed the door behind her and started to talk about her son. She did not want her son to hear what she said. She had a serious problem; it was nothing to be glib about. Her son had gone through the education system, attended Sheffield polytechnic, obtained a degree and applied for more than 100 jobs, but obtained none. Two days before I knocked on the door, that young man, who wanted to make a contribution to society and in whom society had invested, tried to commit suicide. His mother was deeply upset and blamed unemployment and the problems that follow it. Many of my colleagues will know from their surgeries of similar problems.
Sheffield has a housing problem. The council recently conducted a comprehensive survey of its housing stock that revealed some startling statistics. The cost of repairing and improving the housing stock satisfactorily would be £489 million. The high estimate is accounted for by the fact that many different problems have emerged at the same time. It is important that those problems are put on the record. All pre-war houses in Sheffield need to be modernised. Indeed, most of the council's money has been spent on modernising those dwellings, and 8,000 have been completed. If the annual rate of completion is not increased, it will be 26 years before they are all modernised. The council would like to step up the rate to 3,000 a year, enabling the work to be done in under eight years, but that cannot be done without substantial resources being diverted into the programme.
The second affected sector is the immediate post-war housing that was traditionally built. It is also in need of considerable repair and improvement and is facing rapid deterioration. For example, if the windows and roofs are not renovated soon, continued damage will be done and many may have to be written off. Some 13,000 houses were built between 1944 and 1950 and on average it is estimated that we need to spend £4,000 a dwelling. That brings the bill to about £52 million. The 1940–50 properties built with the uncoventional systems are in need of repair, and large expenditure is needed, estimated at about £5,000 a dwelling.
Probably one of the biggest problems in the inner cities is high-rise flats. It has been correctly pointed out that over 974 the years a number of Administrations have encouraged the building of high-rise flats. The slum clearance programmes between the 1960s and the 1970s relied on new maisonettes, flats and tower blocks to solve the housing problems. Now, these blocks face major structural damage and major repairs are required. One Sheffield tower block, from which all the people have to be removed soon, will cost more than £4 million to renovate. It has been estimated that it will cost Sheffield some £62 million to renovate all its high-rise flats.
The hon. Member for Barrow and Furness made an important point about writing off debts. In Sheffield, there is an area called the Broomhull flats, which housed 653 units and was completed in May 1970. It was built by a private contractor, Shepherds and Sons Constructions. They are known in the north of England as they were active in Leeds, Nottingham and other areas. The flats cost £3.7 million to build. The block has just been completely evacuated and with the debt charges and the rehousing charges, the project will cost £1.5 million a year for the next half century. Some 653 units have been destroyed and 653 families are being rehoused. That is a major problem.
Other sectors of the housing stock have been looked at, particularly the private sector. The environmental health and housing department is in the process of surveying the entire pre-1919 stock of about 46,000 dwellings in the centre of Sheffield. Much of the stock is in dire need of renewal—both repair and improvement. Housed in this sector are many of the most vulnerable members of society, such as the elderly and the ethnic minorities. The majority of the Sheffield Asian population lives in terraced housing in the inner and urban areas.
In one ward in my constituency, 13 per cent. of the housing stock does not have inside toilets or bathrooms. The estimated cost of renewal for these dwellings is being put at £600 million. Given sufficient funding, the housing department could undertake a 10-year programme to renew the stock, using a strategy of area improvement.
Sheffield has already submitted to the Department of the Environment its programme for the coming year. It wants £489 million, but we have made a bid for £150 million for the housing investment programme for the year 1986–87. However, it is estimated on the basis of last year's grant allocation that Sheffield is likely to receive £21.6 million. That is a drop in the ocean. Sheffield's aim is to supplement its spending allocation through capital receipts and other resources and it is undertaking a capital programme of about £42 million in the year 1986–87.
Once we have dealt with the privatised stock that is in poor condition and on which a considerable amount of money has to be spent, we have to deal with the public sector. The Secretary of State and many of his Back Benchers talked about co-operatives. Nobody is knocking them or any of the housing ventures. However, the magnitude of the problem in inner-city areas means that, without direct Government intervention, there is no way in which enough money can be raised on the open market to allow Sheffield to even start effecting its housing programme. It has intervened on the open market from which much of the money comes. We are now lumbered on one programme alone with a £1.5 million debt every year for the next 50 years. These are some of the major problems and merely to touch them at the fringes will not affect the real problem of decay.
On average, Sheffield has sold 1,000 homes a year out of its housing stock, as the Government have told it to. On 975 top, it has had to take about 1,000 houses a year out of use because they are structurally unsound. However, we have been able to complete only 500 houses over the past two years. Such is the magnitude of the problem that 30,000 people are on the housing waiting list. The Government are forcing us to sell housing stock, some housing stock is being taken out because it is structurally unsound—I can give many examples of that—while 30,000 people are on the housing waiting list. At the same time the Government are always restricting expenditure on new build. That is a major problem for Sheffield and only mirrors what is happening in the other inner-city areas. Tory Members do not seem to comprehend the problems, whether they are social, housing, employment or any other facets of the inner city.
The Church report was correct when it said:If the smouldering anger and quiet despair are not displaced by hope, overt violence or more destructive activities may surge again. It is the sharp increase in unemployment in the inner cities in recent years that has more than anything increased the number of people living in poverty.The housing crisis has become more acute, particularly in the inner-city areas, because people have nowhere to go to work. Therefore, they are forced to stop in their communities and their localities, which puts pressure on the family unit. With a background of 4 million people unemployed in the country, there is over 50 per cent. unemployment in the centre of Sheffield and 30 per cent. as an average, which makes such problems acute.
Unless the Government are prepared to heed the advice given not just from Labour Benches but from the Church of England and other reports on housing in the inner cities produced over the past 18 months or two years, the Government will have to talk about police forces quelling unrest. However, the problem is far too deep for such a solution. Unemployment and deprivation must be tackled and unless the Government do so, they will have to call for more and more police facilities, and more expenditure on them. However, at the end of the day, the problems will not be resolved. The Government must heed the advice given by the Labour party, the Church of England report, the Duke of Edinburgh's report and the housing associations' report. If they do not, they will reap what they have sown.
§ Mr. Nicholas Fairbairn (Perth and Kinross)
Having listened to many of the contributions, particularly to that of the hon. Member for Sheffield, Central (Mr. Caborn), I should declare an interest — I am British and not English. I am a Scot, and I find it offensive and un-Christian that a report that claims to be addressed to the nation and that constantly refers to Great Britain does not, in fact, talk about Great Britain at all.
If the Church of England has any concept of charity, or wishes to have any concept of authority, it is reasonable to assume that it should at least understand that in its brotherly love, if not in its church, it has British people who do not live in England and do not have the difficulties that it appears to identify in what it callously calls "inner cities".
Lest I suggest that the Church of England's hubristic, sanctimonious, self-righteous and irreligious report demonstrates a total ignorance of Scotland, let me give a 976 quotation from this wretched document on which I have spent much time reading. Scotland is mentioned. The report states—and the House should harken to this—By contrast with Europe and even Scotland, English preference for the country seat as the fount of civility and power has endured for centuries".It continues:The British antipathy"—not the English antipathy—to the city was already well known to the Romans".When Tacitus was about, I do not remember there being very many cities, but assuming that there were, let me pose a question. If the Church was speaking for the people then, why was it building minsters in York and churches in Oxford, Lichfield and Ely, not to mention all the great institutions of the state in the inner cities of England and the towns and cities of Scotland when it took the view that the population was antipathetic to living there?
I would not wish to advise the Church of England as it seems to be so wise, but if it believes, as its report says, that for every one person in the inner cities who harkens to its word 99 do not, it might not be a bad idea if it preached the word of God. Page 38 of its report refers to the clergy getting increasing job satisfaction in UPAs thanks togreater frequency of involvement … in youth work, community work, counselling and training".That does not seem to have done much for the word of God, and even less for the inner cities. I felt it right, in what is apparently a predominantly English matter, to deal with one or two Scottish questions in order to demonstrate the fact that these problems are soluble.
The report states:In the foreground are the shabby streets, neglected houses and sordid demolition sites of the inner city, in the middle ground the vandalism of public spaces of the peripheral estates and in the background are the green and wooded suburbs of middle Britain".I do not know where middle Britain is, but I took the trouble to look at the map, and as near as one can get it, it is Catterick. I cannot identify that middle Britain as Catterick, nor can I identify that description as having anything to do with any town or city in Scotland—far less any in England—that I have visited. It is offensive, when looking at a desperate problem, to start from pejorative nonsense of an emotional and prejudiced kind such as that.
I remind the House that the entire justification of the report is contained in its second chapter, which says that there is a Christian duty to remember the poor. The report also makes an assumption, which I find offensive, that the rich are sinful and the poor are gracious. I have no reason to believe, for example, that the Good Samaritan was a rich man. He was a good man, but for all I know the Levi priest who passed on the other side was much richer. This is not a question of whether is one in a position to pay the innkeeper — it is a question of whether one does. Therefore, the whole tenor of the report is offensive to my understanding of the Christian ethic of "do unto others as they would do unto you."
I represent the city of Perth, among many other places. I was brought up in the city of Edinburgh, and spent much of my life practising in the city of Glasgow, the city of Inverness, the city of Aberdeen and the city of Dundee, to mention only a few. In those cities there has always been a tradition of family, and although, as my right hon.
977 Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) said, the motor car has altered the construction of where people live, that has been a slower process in Scotland.
In the very centre of Edinburgh, people live in Gorgie and Dalry. Working class people own their houses there, and in Tollcross, the whole of Edinburgh and the new towns there are people of all types. The same is true of the centre of Perth, Inverness and all the other cities of Scotland.
If there was one exception, it would be the city of Glasgow, but that city has none of the problems that are described in lurid terms in the speeches of English Members. There are people living in the city of Glasgow from all walks of life, particularly in the last eight years thanks to the Government's grants system for the repair of houses. Today, the Trongate, Maryhill and other places are lived in by people from all walks of life who own their own houses. If there is a problem in Scotland, it is the reverse—that the very policies which "Faith in the City" suggests we should follow have had an effect. The glorious tenements that were built by Irish labour when Scottish industry provided work for poor Irishmen in the last century have been bulldozed, and the people who lived there with some satisfaction banished to the necklace of hideous council schemes — 50,000 units each — in Easterhouse, Nitts Hill, Black Hill, Castlemilk and so on. That is our problem, which in my opinion results from an attitude that regards human beings as disposable.
Officials take the view that one may or may not live in a certain place, or that one may or may not have a new sink, or that one's house will be painted a certain colour. That is an extremely offensive concept. English Members of Parliament refer to "our country" and "our inner cities" when they are referring to England, but "our country" includes Scotland. Our inner cities have no problems, and I shall tell the House how Scotland solved them.
The hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) referred to Leith. I imagine that he was speaking on behalf of the Liberal party, because I do not believe that the other half of what is rudely called "the alliance" agrees with him. It prefers to have twin views on everything. When the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey referred to Leith he did not know what he was talking about. I do not know whether he has been to Edinburgh, but he obviously thinks that the port of Edinburgh is in Princes street.
Leith is a very good example of what has been done in Scotland. The warehouses of yesteryear have been converted into luxury flats. People want to live in Leith. Leith is now the place to live. Gorgie and Dalry, which were comparatively downcast, have been restored and are places where people want to live. They are in the middle of the city, as is the Trongate in Glasgow.
If I may give another example, several hon. Members have referred to co-operation. Pilton, in Edinburgh, was identified in the report as the kind of place that stigmatised those who lived there. If one came from Pilton one did not get a job, or one was assumed to have previous convictions, or people moved away from one in the bus. But what happened? The town council of Edinburgh—it is called the town council although it is a city—sold Pilton to a private contractor. He did up all the houses on the Pilton estate. Who wants to live there now? Not only does everybody want to live there but more than everybody —including the people who used to live in Pilton—want to go there. They claim they are Piltoners.
§ Mr. John Patten
What lessons does my hon. and learned Friend draw from what happened at Pilton for the city councils of Liverpool and Manchester who resolutely refuse to co-operate with the private sector in rehabilitating and renovating empty houses that deserve to be lived in?
§ Mr. Fairbairn
I shall tell the Minister what lessons I believe can be learnt from Pilton. Certain councils in Scotland said that Pilton should be knocked down and rebuilt with expensive houses. That is what Manchester and Liverpool wish to do. By doing so they will compound the slavery — because slavery it is — in which these people are encamped. However, if these houses were done up and the people who lived in them felt proud of their homes, this problem would be solved. It is not because the Church of England has failed that vandalism and mugging occur. Vandalism and mugging occur because the dignity of the people who live in these places has been destroyed.
How can that dignity be restored? It can be restored by making them places of which they can be proud. One way to achieve that aim is for these people to own their own homes. Another way to achieve that aim is to make them feel proud to belong to their community. That has happened by the transformation of Pilton, and it is a political lesson that ought to be learnt by everybody. It has also happened in parts of London. I live in a very nice village in Lambeth, near Waterloo. In the Scottish tradition it is a family that contains people from all walks of life. They like one another, get on with one another and believe that each of them matters. That characteristic is absent from what is described in the Church of England report with such mordant morbidity.
Our duty is to restore human dignity to the home. I do not believe that the residents of Lambeth will be helped by the expenditure of vast sums of money upon such causes as lesbians, gays, action centres and all the rest. The solution to the problem of human loneliness and degradation is simple. It is human dignity. I live in and represent a poor constituency. Almost everybody in my constituency is infinitely less well off and more deprived than those who live in the inner cities, but they matter. They are contributing to the £230 that is spent upon everybody in the inner cities of England, compared with the £23 that is spent upon everybody in rural Scotland. When the Church of England is so compassionate for the poor, let it not forget that it is the poor in my constituency who are contributing to the riches of the inner city, which it has the effrontery to pretend that it represents.
§ 8.6 pm
§ Mr. Robert Litherland (Manchester, Central)
May I remind the House that this debate is about the housing crisis and urban deprivation. It appears from the contributions of certain Conservative Members that they would have preferred this debate to be held across the road in Westminster Abbey. This debate has nothing to do with the Church of England report.
The hon. Member for Barrow and Furness (Mr. Franks) is the former leader of the Conservative party in Manchester. He said that there had been a decrease in the number of Manchester inhabitants. However, he did not point out that Manchester's problems have increased. Those who are strong in wind and limb have left the city. The people who remain there are in the greatest need: the unemployed, the semi-skilled, the elderly and the disabled. They all need welfare services.
979 Male unemployment in some of the areas to which the hon. Member for Barrow and Furness referred stands at 40 per cent. Since the late 1960s, 20,000 jobs have been lost in one of the areas in my constituency. There is a stronger possibility of premature death in Manchester than can be found anywhere else in the United Kingdom, including Scotland. I see that the hon. and learned Member for Perth and Kinross (Mr. Fairbairn) has left the Chamber.
There is great deprivation in many of the inner city areas. Housing is a cause of great stress, a point that has been highlighted in today's debate. It is recognised beyond doubt that the worst housing stock and the associated problems of deprivation and unemployment are concentrated in the inner city areas. However, one has to experience inner-city conditions to realise what it is like to live in slum, system-built, high-rise developments or in slum, private landlord tenancies. No brief visit from a housing Minister can result in a valid assessment of the social deprivation or the indignity that is caused by living in areas which are in great need of environmental improvement. In those areas where the cost of the repair is too great, demolition is the only answer.
People are clamouring for housing that fits the needs of the citizens of the inner cities. The riots should serve as a warning. Inner city decay manifests itself in unrest. Local authorities, the churches and right hon. and hon. Members have warned the Government about this. The former leader of the city of Manchester, Lord Dean of Beswick, has warned the Government repeatedly in the other place to stop urban decay or face the consequences. The Prime Minister knows about the housing problem. She said recently;Of course there'll always be a part for the public sector to play in meeting special needs and providing decent housing for those who, for one reason or another, will never be able to own their own homes.Those are the people I represent in the inner city of Manchester. But what has happened since the Prime Minister's statement? Nothing. The Government have refused to meet their responsibility to build enough houses to meet the need, and cuts in maintenance grants have led to a deterioration of existing housing stock.
It was estimated in 1977 that we would need to build 300,000 new houses a year. The number of houses completed has fallen from 313,000 in 1975 to one quarter of that figure since the Tories came to power in 1979. Their record is abysmal. The Government have not only slashed housing allocations to local government, but have cut maintenance and improvement work in both public sector and private sector housing, yet the Government's own survey showed that more than 4 million homes in England and Wales needed repair.
The Association of Metropolitan Authorities estimated that £19 billion needs to be spent on our housing stock. Over half that money is required to remedy the enormous defects inherent in the post-war housing that was constructed by industrialised building methods which have brought in their wake major environmental problems in the inner cities.
One has only to look at the physical state of the dwellings, the structural problems and the problems of dampness, water penetration and the use of asbestos to realise that system-built tower blocks and walkways in the sky have been a monumental disaster and will continue to 980 be a disaster unless the Government do something to rectify the problems, and I do not mean Ministers coming to Manchester and the north-west, wringing their hands in anguish, crying crocodile tears and returning to their Ministries in London and forgetting all about the people in the north-west.
The Government have a responsibility and they should face it. I agreed with the hon. Member for Barrow and Furness—probably for the first time—when he said that even if the properties were demolished, leaving only holes in the ground, the ratepayers of Manchester would still be paying for them. I also agree with the hon. Gentleman that the Government should foot the bill. They have a responsibility. Tory Governments were enticing local government to build such structures in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
For the planners, designers and builders, the prefabricated concrete dwelling represented an exciting experiment and a sure-fire way of making big profits. For the thousands of people who live in those dwellings, including those in Beswick and Hulme and those on the Ardwick estates, they are an expensive, uncomfortable and unforgiveable folly. The whole story of system building is one of abject maladministration and neglect on the grandest scale. It is a national scandal which the Government would like to brush under the carpet. It will require billions of pounds to repair, improve or replace our stock of defective buildings.
There is a community and tenant rejection. The Bison tenants have started a national campaign. I received letters today from Bison dwellers pleading for something to be done. They are looking to the Government.
Those people have the experience. They have seen loved ones dying in condensation-ridden flats; they know what it is like to have thousands of cockroaches invading their home every night, to be found in the bedding, in the food and where the children sleep; they see the green mildew on their shoes, on their clothes and in their wardrobes; they are the victims of package-deal shoddy housing and construction methods that were supposed to be a panacea for all our housing ills.
The accomodation intended to replace the Victorian slums are the slums of today, and they have become slums in a very short period. Whole estates in my constituency have been demolished, within 15 years of being built, and others fester, awaiting the same fate, for, without the infusion of financial assistance, there is no hope. Some people made vast profits and got knighthoods after building such places. They have left behind deprivation and squalor.
What hope remains? After six years of Tory housing policy—a policy of neglect—is it any wonder that we have intense frustration on those estates? Is it any wonder that we have riots? Unemployment, bad housing, deprivation, a poor environment: all the ingredients of unrest are there and all the warning signs are there. If they go unheeded the Government can expect to reap the whirlwind.
I am not a churchgoer, but I should like to quote from a report by Inner-City Methodist Clergy:We reject utterly the view that these events are simply activities of hooligans and criminals"—it is referring to the riots.On the contrary, we believe they are a frighteningly clear statement about the division and disintegration in our society, the frustration and anger or our inner-city youth, the hopelessness and despair of life in communities where education, jobs, 981 housing, welfare services and recreation on offer remain at a pathetically low level. Increasing concentration on 'public order' will do nothing to remove the causes and we do not believe it will end the violence.The scale of the crisis is enormous. More people are living in bad housing than at any time in the past 20 years, yet housing—good housing—should be seen as a right and a priority. Poor housing is a false economy, especially in the inner cities where the burden falls on the welfare and health services to pick up the pieces. It is a false economy when 400,000 construction workers are on the dole and when poor housing contributes to economic decline and decay.
Many words have been spoken by housing Ministers, but few have shed real tears over the plight of those on waiting lists, the thousands upon thousands of homeless forced into bed and breakfast accommodation and the 500,000 in overcrowded accommodation. The figures go on mounting day by day.
The areas most affected are the inner city areas and if we think that council tenants have been neglected by the Government, I remind hon. Members that some of the worst slums are in the private landlord sector. Some of the houses that I have been in are unfit for human habitation. They lack basic amenities and are substandard accommodation, yet local authority housing departments know that if the tenants are rehoused those properties will be re-let to tenants who are forced by the shortage of good housing to take such tenancies in sheer desperation.
The Government turn a blind eye to the abuses inflicted on tenants by unscrupulous landlords, they turn a blind eye to eviction and harassment and they turn a blind eye to the patch and prop repairs that enable landlords to get round the maintenance laws.
The Tories have no housing policy. They have abandoned the inner city areas and the council tenants in most need and they have supported private landlordism. Their answer to any criticism of inner city policy is the offensive rhetoric of smear tactics. Their only solution is more police, more riot gear and more plastic bullets. Those are the reactions of clueless, mindless Ministers, bereft of answers to the problem. Their allegiance lies elsewhere. Their allegiance is to those who do not require housing, jobs or welfare services; whose only requirement is more wealth. Ministers look after the greedy. Their allegiance is to the greedy, not the needy.
The Church document to which I referred earlier states:We love our inner-city communities. To us they are the finest, warmest, most rewarding places to work and to live in Britain today … More fires will burn, unless there is a genuine repentance. And if they do, it will be a disaster for us all.
§ Mr. Richard Ottaway (Nottingham, North)
The speech by the hon. Member for Manchester, Central (Mr. Litherland) was one of deep meaning sincerity. I can understand the hon. Gentleman's frustrations, but he must remember that the problems did not start in 1979. They did not even start 40 years ago after the war. They have been with us for decades and throughout the centuries. If he thinks of the industrial revolution and the clearance of the slums, he will realise that the problems did not begin a few years ago.
The Government are right to try to target public expenditure. Nottingham is proof that projects can be successful. One of the best examples is the Turney's quay site by Trent Bridge cricket ground and the Notts Forest 982 and Notts County ground which for many years was a waste site. It was derelict containing only an unused warehouse. As a result of an urban development grant, encouraged and promoted by the present Government, the site is transformed into an area of excellent housing. It has good quality flats, 70 per cent. of which were sold within a year of the site's completion. The area is transformed and an eyesore has been removed. The old post office site has also be redeveloped. Many new houses have been constructed under the urban programme with the help of the urban development grant.
Through the skilful use of the inner area programme, a dramatic improvement is being made in the quality of life on some of the enormous council estates in Nottingham. Paving, bollards, trees, parks and clean-up operations are improving the environment The riverside walkway along the river Trent and the cycle track between Old Basford and Bulwell have improved the quality of life and demonstrate that the Government are committed to promoting useful projects and that money is being spent on them. The money is being used carefully and well.
I have some criticism of the Nottinghamshire county council and the Nottingham city council. Their priorities are wrong and the impact of rate levels in the county and the city is having a dramatic effect upon the environment and the quality of life.
We do not need the Archbishop's report on the inner cities to tell us about the problems in Nottingham. I do not believe that the report is Marxist. It is well meaning, but irrelevant. We all know about the problems in the inner cities. The report should be taken on board, but it is only another contribution to the debate.
Nottingham has one of the largest council house stocks in the country. It had about 46,000 council houses in 1984–85.
Like the areas represented by the hon. Member for Sheffield, Central (Mr. Caborn) and my hon. Friend the Member for Barrow and Furness (Mr. Franks), Nottingham's suburbs had two high-rise blocks of flats built in the late 1960s. They were regarded with pride and provided many flats and homes for the people of Nottingham. They were erected in haste. I do not blame the Government or local authority of the day. The architects must take some responsibility for the high-rise blocks.
The flats suffered all the usual problems of condensation and high energy costs and provided an unsatisfactory life style. A few years ago it was decided that the flats should be demolished. They were no longer suitable for habitation. I differ from others in the solution which emerged after the decision to demolish the flats was made.
A number of private developers in Nottingham would have paid to buy the high-rise blocks. They would have paid for the land and paid to demolish the flats. Despite the opportunities, the city authorities decided to demolish the flats at the ratepayers' expense. A ratepayer born today will be paying for 45 years for a block of flats demolished before he was born. The city authority would not listen and for dogmatic reasons decided to build council houses on the site.
I would not mind if the local authority had done that, but, having rejected the offers, it has done nothing. The land is empty and unused.
§ Mr. Corbyn
What would be the loss to the community of giving away that land at a reduced price to get rid of the flats? Surely the land should be retained in public ownership so that it can be used for housing development. The hon. Gentleman's suggestion would take the land for all time.
The hon. Gentleman is wrong. Private developers offered to build houses on the land. Nottingham has 46,000 council houses. That is enough to meet the needs of the very poor people. Many people with good incomes and good employment live in council houses simply because there are so few starter homes in Nottingham. It is not impossible to obtain a 100 per cent. mortgage in Nottingham. If houses had been built on that land, many people could have moved from the council estates and owned their own homes without costing the ratepayer or the Government a penny. There is a solution which must be grasped.
The hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) talked about what has been lost to the community. The loss is the £750,000 which the developers were prepared to pay to take over the site. That money could have been used to modernise existing council house stock.
I received a delegation the other day from the Wyrale drive action group. They came to see me because of the poor quality of their council houses. They have no insulation and no central heating. All that I could say to them was that the city council had thrown away £750,000 which could have been used to modernise their homes.
It is not only financial control that is important, but the little micro solutions which can improve the quality of life. Just a year before the decision was taken to demolish the blocks £300,000 was spent on storage heaters as a temporary form of central heating. Did the council take the storage heaters out and use them elsewhere? Not a bit of it. The storage heaters were left and sold by the demolition gang on site for £25. I know, because I bought one.
I argued with the local authority that the heaters could have been used in old people's homes. I thought that the chairman of the housing group would say "Sorry, we made a mistake." Instead he said "No, Mr. Ottaway, you are wrong. The storage heaters are not suitable." That is an admission that the solution had been examined but that nothing was done. I have a perfectly good storage heater in my possession, which proves that I was right. We are considering not just how money is spent but the management of that money and the fact that small solutions are often of great importance.
When considering how to generate life in inner cities and the suburbs of places such as Nottingham, Manchester and Sheffield, we must look not only at housing but at all matters affecting the local economy. I received recently from Nottinghamshire Chamber of Commerce a survey carried out in October 1985 among local small employers. The report pointed out that62 per cent. of participating companies said an … increase in rates would affect their competitiveness … and would adversely affect their employment situation.The report showed that 61 per cent. of the companies questioned said that an increase in rates of 5 to 10 per cent. would affect employment chances. The report added:Rates have influenced the levels of business activity in Nottinghamshire and are a contributory factor in the level of employment in the county.One would imagine that, on hearing retailers say that an increase in rates would result in unemployment, the local 984 authority would be on its guard. Nottingham's rates are almost the highest in the country. Private investigations by companies such as Peat, Marwick have reported:The level of rates next year could be kept to the level of inflation.It comes as a surprise, on hearing that, to learn that the rates will have to go up by 20 to 30 per cent. in Nottingham next year simply because the local authority will not accept all the opportunities available to it to behave efficiently, to economise and, for example, to put tenders out to private contract.
We think of the wasteful expenditure on the part of that authority — of the 400 additional staff who have been taken on in the last three and a half years, of the equal opportunities unit which cost Nottingham £150,000 last year, employing gay and lesbian officers, and the £20,000 spent in the last year on anti-nuclear activities.
I do not mind if local authorities spend money on such projects if they believe them to be worthwhile. But I have old-age pensioners coming to the House to see me to complain about their houses not being modernised. The Nottingham Evening Post, to which I pay tribute, almost daily highlights in its "Old and Cold" campaign problems that need urgent attention, in particular the problems that the local old people face, such as hypothermia. Money realised from the sale of flats in the way that I described and not spent on equal opportunities units and so on could be spent properly on the community.
The Government are not wholly free of responsibility, and I do not believe that they would claim otherwise. All local authorities want more, and we in Nottingham hope that when the increased levels are announced next week, we shall get our fair share of the increase. But local authorities must accept their share of responsibility and spend wisely the money that is available to them.
§ Mr. Max Madden (Bradford, West)
In the last year, many hon. Members have speculated on the reasons for riots and why people turn to crime. I make no apology for reading an extract from a letter that I recently received from a constituent of mine, a man in his early twenties who has been unemployed for two years:I just cannot get anywhere decent to live. At the moment I have a horrible bedsit without hot water.After two years waiting for a flat from a housing association, he was offered short-life council accommodation. He goes on:The flat was completely empty. I had no heat or hot water for two whole weeks. The DHSS did things in their own time. There I was in an empty, cold flat, miles from anywhere, no cooker, no bed and not much else. So I got into trouble. There was always temptation, other people indulging in crime, but I never took part because I could survive without it. When I found myself alone without the basic household things and no money, I got into trouble. What does it matter when you've got nothing to lose … I went to court, I was fined and that was the end of that. I took my time, suffered when I had to and used what money I had wisely, like my mother always did. I bought a gas fire, stereo table, I received money for a bed and a cooker and started to settle. Then I was burgled twice. I lost everything including the gas fire. Even the boiler was taken. Back to Manningham and furnished accommodation. I rented a really good flat — I started to settle down with a nice girlfriend. I wallpapered the room and I thought my troubles were over. I fell behind on my fine payments. I was warned. In July, seven months after I was fined, I fell behind again with payments and I was sent to jail for 18 days. Around this time my landlord had received orders from the council to renovate his property. Eighteen days later, the men had packed my things and he just told me I didn't live there any more.985 He concludes:It's painful. Honestly, you don't know what to say. You just realise the hopelessness of your situation, and what can you do? Who can you tell? Telling my friends doesn't help. It's the people in authority and positions of responsibility who need to know what's going on, who need to care about what's going on, and quite frankly, Mr. Madden, not many people do care. Even riots don't encourage people to look closer at what's happening, at how some people live or don't live. People may now give some attention to Brixton, Handsworth etc., but similar conditions, similar deprivation, exist here.I inquired of a housing association about that young man's prospects of being offered a fiat. I was told by one association:Your constituent's present accommodation is not ideal and lacks facilities, but his application is rated quite a way down the points system. The Association has currently over 800 applications, of which 25 per cent. are requiring bedsit or one bedroom accommodation in the Bradford area.Another housing association told me:The great distress caused by the lack of decent rented accommodation cannot be emphasised too often and I would like to detail one small example of the situation as it exists in Bradford. We are currently building 38 Category 1 flats for the elderly in Bradford, and without any advertising we have received over 200 applications for the accommodation. It has been necessary for us to refuse any further applications, despite the accommodation not being ready for letting until later this year. I am sure you will be only too familiar with the distress caused to the elderly living in inadequate conditions and the disappointment which will be felt when the majority of applications are refused. There is an inadequate supply of good rented accommodation for all age groups in Bradford and the problem is increasing.A number of hon. Members have, rightly, pointed out that the populations of inner cities are declining. That is not the case in Bradford. Indeed, Bradford has the largest population projection growth of any urban area in the country, including all the London boroughs. The population will increase by 10 per cent. in the next 20 years, according to the official population forecasts.
We have 30,000 unemployed and a waiting list for council property of more than 8,000. There are 5,500 people living in homes with no toilet, bathroom or running water. In the last three years, 146 properties were started by the local council and 84 have been completed. Our housing investment programme has been decimated. In the last three years it has been reduced by the Government by £6 million or 31 per cent., or about half in real terms. Improvement grant programmes have also been decimated.
About 10,000 improvement grant applications have been refused and the expenditure provided by the Government for grants has been dramatically reduced. In the last three years, the amount given to Bradford council for home improvement grant purposes has been £28 million. We need £66 million to meet our real needs. The gap between the required resources and the available resources for housing investment in Bradford widens each year. In 1977–78 it was only £2 million, and the latest figures show that for 1986–87 it will be £34 million.
Structurally defective housing has been mentioned. Bradford has had to transfer about 1,500 people from such housing. There are 4,786 defective properties still to be dealt with. The Government have provided only £18 million to Bradford council for that purpose. As one official said to me, "Such allocation is merely nibbling at the edges of a massive problem." We ask for action, and when we make that request we are told a variety of things. We have heard during the debate that the Conservative party is shifting its ground. The Government are saying 986 that the problems to which we have referred have always existed. When we ask for money, the Government say that there is no point in throwing money at the problems or, "We do not have the money."
As my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Mr. Roberts) has said, we completely reject the Government's assertion that the resources are not available to tackle the problems to which we draw their attention. We know that that is a lie. We know that the poor in the inner cities of the constituencies that we Labour Members represent have been paying for the massive tax cuts that have been enjoyed by the richest sections of the community. We have authority for saying that if we turn to the financial section of The Guardian of July. The introduction to one of its articles read:Mrs. Thatcher succeeded in giving a lot of people the impression that she intended to cut taxes, but the opposite has been the case. According to the latest calculations for the Guardian by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, only 6 per cent. of the population are actually better off as a result of the tax and benefit changes which the Prime Minister has made since 1978–79, and they tend to be those who were richest to start with. Tax changes have made some 87 per cent. unequivocally worse off.That is the reality.
I hope that the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster will not tell us when he replies that the necessary money is not available. Of course, he will give us an almost inevitable lecture on morality. We know that he is a reborn monetarist. We know also that the factor which is lacking is the political will of the Government to allocate resources where they are most needed. Resources must he made available so that we can deal with the problems that are to be found in inner cities throughout the country.
Yesterday, the Government were at it again. They took the first steps to flog off the gas industry so as to enable them to give the richest section of our community even more tax cuts next year. We in Bradford have been asking for only £4 million to electrify the line between Bradford and Leeds, and last week, when I had an Adjournment debate, the Minister who replied told me that the Government could not intervene, that it was a matter entirely for British Rail.
What is going on elsewhere? It is proposed that thousands of millions of pounds of public and private investment should be spent on the Channel link. The Government are rushing the proposal through after one of the shortest periods of consultation that can be imagined. They are refusing to allow a public inquiry into the greatest investment of public and private resources that Britain has seen in many a long year, yet my city is told that there is not a miserable £4 million available to electrify a line and thereby enable it to tackle massive unemployment and the enormous social and industrial problems with which it has been struggling for more than a century.
We are told that no money is available. There is a housing crisis in Bradford, yet £250,000 of urban aid has been directed recently to renovating 30 bedrooms in a luxury hotel in Bradford. I do not think that the 5,500 who lack a bath, running water and an inside toilet saw that expenditure as the concentration of available resources on those most in need.
At a conservative estimate, £5,000 million is being lost to the Inland Revenue through tax evasion. The Government are cutting the number of Inland Revenue inspectors while increasing the number of DHSS inspectors to deal with fraud — in other words, the 987 miserable sums which the poor sometimes obtain by mistakes or human error within the Department. The Government cannot sustain the argument that there is a lack of resources.
We know that £3 million a day is being spent on the fortress Falklands policy. We know that millions upon millions of pounds of taxpayers' money are being used to bail out Johnson Matthey. Millions of pounds of taxpayers' money are being directed to bailing out the Export Credits Guarantee Department. We are aware that £10,000 million or £12,000 million is being made available to finance the Trident nuclear submarine programme. The stench of corruption and fraud is hanging over the City, which is even beginning to reach some of the none-too-sensitive nostrils of those in this place. The Government do not have the guts, the will or the determination to instigate an inquiry into what is going on at Lloyd's, or what went on in the sale of British Telecom shares. They are reluctant, to say the least, to inquire into what is going on in other sections of the City.
The Government saw no reason for not granting bumper pay increases to judges, top civil servants and generals. At the same time, the Government paid lip service to their interest in the family. Of course, they have cut child benefit, which provides the most effective way of combating family poverty. The Tories do not like child benefit. They argue that it goes to everyone, rich or poor, and that it is wrong to support the better-off through the payment of benefit such as child benefit. However, they do not object to the payment of the large subsidies that go to the relatively well-off in the form of mortgage tax relief. Nor do they object to large handouts to the rich in the form of tax cuts.
The Bradford chamber of commerce recently conducted a survey of 180 companies. It asked them what had been the major constraints on their businesses over the past 12 months. Nearly 40 per cent. of the companies referred to high interest rates and the high exchange rate as major constraints. They did not put the rating system into that category. Interest rates and the exchange rate are affected by Government policy.
That which we see in the inner cities is the result of Government neglect, lack of resources and a refusal by the Government to act. Crime has reached record levels and the victims are working-class people. They want the social and economic problems dealt with which lead to crime and not more oppressive laws. The Government are responsible primarily for the problems which lead to the commission of crime. The people want a Government who listen, care, act and recognise the problems and deal with them in a sensible and common-sense way. They do not want a Government who, when criticised, immediately accuse their critics of being naive, muddleheaded or Marxist.
My right hon. and hon. Friends have set out the arguments on behalf of the inner cities and directed themselves to the help which the inner cities need so desperately. It is a great tragedy that the Government are deaf, that they do not care and that they promote acute inequalities.
Until the Government's policies are changed, the crisis which faces the inner cities in housing, education, health and the environment will continue and intensify. My colleagues and I will continue to bring to the House the 988 complaints of those in the inner cities. It is the forum of the nation and the appropriate place for us to articulate on behalf of our constituents.
Whether the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster likes it or not, we shall continue to raise these matters in this place. We shall continue to tell our constituents that it is for the Government to act. It is the Government's responsibility to ensure that the resources that they have available are allocated where they are most needed, which is to the poor, the deprived, the unemployed, the sick, the disabled and the elderly.
I hope that the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, who has been so keen to intervene in the debate, will not give us another third-rate lecture on morality. I hope instead that he will make some positive proposals and set out the way in which the Government intend to act to combat and remedy the crisis which is facing them, whether they wish to acknowledge it or not, in inner cities throughout the country.
§ Sir Reginald Eyre (Birmingham, Hall Green)
The hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Madden) spoke of his feeling for the problems of the inner areas. I do not underrate those problems. I should like to look to the future of the inner areas, especially in the large cities and conurbations, where so many of these problems are concentrated.
The hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) was straightforward in acknowledging that the resources for dealing with all these problems are not immediately available. Supply of development land is crucial. We shall need sound solutions in the next five, 10, 15 or 20 years. We must concentrate on tackling the problems of derelict land. There are thousands of acres of underused derelict land in or near the centres of our largest cities and conurbations and, in the next 10 to 20 years, nearly every square yard will be needed for development, housing, industry, commerce, education and recreation.
The problems of land supply are underrated. In geographical terms, Britain has a much smaller area available for development than many other countries, especially the United States and even France. We have a relatively smaller area to accommodate our people. Already there are growing pressures against the development of the peripheries of our cities and strong opposition to material development in the green belt. Already the Government are doing much useful work to make land available by derelict land grants and other grants. That helps to bring wasted areas into use and thus attract new investment.
The land register shows that thousands of underused acres are owned by public authorities. There are more than 400 acres in Birmingham alone. Many hundreds of additional acres are in private ownership. Often there is widely spread ownership, the sites are fragmented, and land is not available for development. There is a need for a land assembly agency to bring parcels of land together so that sites can be prepared for development
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment referred in his excellent speech to the success of the Government's policy with respect to the London Docklands development corporation. I must admit, as a Birmingham Member, that I looked enviously at the 989 success generated in the docklands, at the many developments there and at the rising wave of land values in formerly derelict and decrepit areas.
The Land Authority for Wales is another example of the Government's success. Under the Local Government, Planning and Land Act 1980 the authority hasthe function of acquiring land in Wales which in its opinion needs to be made available for development, and of disposing of it to other persons (for development by them) at a time which is in the Authority's opinion appropriate to meet the need.The authority was very successful last year, covering its administrative expenses, making a trading profit of £2.25 million and disposing of 312 acres for development at a price of just over £4 million. That authority operates in cooperation with local authorities and other bodies. It comes in to assemble sites, to provide access or services and to persuade others to do so. It disposes of land on commercial terms. There has been sensible co-operation, but would that type of co-operation be forthcoming from all local authorities? It might be necessary to have back-up powers if local authorities did not reasonably and properly cooperate in the beneficial developments in a certain area. We can see that a land development agency is operating successfully and on a commercial basis.
My right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for the Environment and the Home Secretary have referred to the need to review inner area policies with the aim of channelling resources in the most beneficial way. I agree with them, but I hope that they can accommodate this approach to the need to prepare land for further development. This policy would lock in extremely well with other positive aspects of the Government's philosophy and policy. I refer especially to the simplified planning zones proposal, which is to come before the House later in the Session, which is aimed at reducing the expensive planning delays that frustrate development in all parts of Britain. Simplification of planning law would be particularly beneficial in inner urban areas. The liberalised laws relating to building societies offer the prospect of a new flow of funds for housing association projects and new rented accommodation. If there were such developments, pension and institutional funds would be forthcoming.
Encouraging the provision of small industrial and commercial premises is already part of the Government's policy. The leverage effect from the introduction of private sector resources could be accelerated by a greater development of land use policies. I hope that my right hon. Friends will consider that proposal. I believe that it would make a positive contribution towards solving the problems. Progress along those lines would provide additional beneficial activity in the inner areas and an effective framework for sensible development. It would contribute to the success of local economies.
§ Dr. Hampson
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. There is something amiss with the procedures of the House when, as far as I am aware, no Conservative Member has been called to represent the voice of Yorkshire, Humberside and the north. If it had not been for the spite and vindictiveness of the hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Madden) and the right hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Freeson), Conservative Members could have spoken. If the Chair, with all respect, Mr. 990 Deputy Speaker, is not to impose the 10 minutes rule some discretion must be used as to what time Front Bench speeches begin, especially considering the length of the opening speeches.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker, (Mr. Harold Walker)
There has been nothing different from the normal convention of the House. The selection of speakers is entirely a matter for the Chair.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. Let me deal with one point of order at a time. The hon. Member for Leeds, North-West (Dr. Hampson) must recognise the difficulties facing the Chair. We have to take many factors into account when deciding who is to speak.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order, We cannot have a debate now on which regions have been properly represented in the debate. We should get on with the debate. Mr. Rooker.
§ Mr. Wareing
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I should like to register my protest at the lack of speakers from Liverpool. If the hon. Member for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton) was here, he would have been called because he is a member of the Liberal party. Liverpool has been grossly under—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. The hon. Member must resume his seat. There are 650 right hon. and hon. Members in this House representing all parts of the United Kingdom—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. The hon. Member must not challenge me when I am on my feet. The Chair is faced with great difficulties in ensuring that all the various regions are properly represented in a debate. It is clear that in a debate of this kind we cannot have every part of the United Kingdom represented. I hope that we can get on with the debate. Mr. Jeff Rooker.
§ Mr. Harry Cohen (Leyton)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I ask that you look at the procedures of this House. That point was raised by the hon. Member for Leeds, North-West (Dr. Hampson). This is the second debate running that I have sat through and not been called. I do not know what convention of the House it is that allows such patent unfairness.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I remind the House that there are 650 Members representing all parts of the United Kingdom. The Session is only a few weeks old but the 991 hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Cohen) has already had an opportunity to participate in a major debate. I hope that the House will recognise the difficulties that the Chair faces in ensuring that the speaking time is evenly distributed among all hon. Members. I hope that we can get on with the debate. Mr. Jeff Rooker.
§ Mr. Rooker
If I have counted correctly, there have been 15 Back-Bench speeches. I have missed only one, and I apologise to the hon. Member for Nottingham, North (Mr. Ottaway). Many hon. Members, including one from Scotland, have sought to catch the eye of the Chair.
I want to put on the record one point relating to what the Secretary of State said. The first week after the summer recess, in Opposition time, the House debated a motion relating to the inner cities. It lasted two and three quarter hours. We asked for a full day in Government time just before Prorogation. There was a day spare. Since publication of the Department of the Environment report on local authority housing we have repeatedly asked the Leader of the House for a debate. That completely contradicts what the Secretary of State said about the pressure for the debate.
It is remarkable that there has been no Social Democratic party speaker or presence in the Chamber and no amendment to the main motion, and they claim to be the effective opposition to the major parties.
One would not believe from the amendment in the name of the Prime Minister that the most recent manifesto produced by the Conservative party promised to make Britain the best housed nation in Europe. I am surprised that those words did not appear in the amendment.
It has been a wide-ranging debate and I can attempt to touch on only some of the points. I shall start by returning to 1977, to the beginning of policy formation for the inner cities in the House at national level. The problem was identified some time before that, but I shall start with the publication of "Unequal City" published by the Government of the time. It refers to the city part of which I have the honour to represent—Birmingham. It was the final report of the inner areas study.
One of the points that it made has to be put on record:The case for more resources rests not simply on present disparities between inner areas and other areas but on the urgency of reversing the trends of decline.Therefore, "urgency" was a key factor in the report of the inner areas study. The study went on to point out:The nature and scale of the problems which beset inner areas are such that no real or lasting 'solution' is to be expected without a substantial change in the distribution of social goods and opportunities.It went on:To postpone redistribution is to exacerbate the problems and increase still further the economic and social costs of dealing with them effectively.992 That was the report produced under the last Labour Government.
The reference to that report in "Faith in the City" produced by the Archbishop's working party is illuminating. Paragraph 8.18 of "Faith in the City" describesan overall decline in central Government's financial support.It goes on to say:Although the Urban Programme—the icing—has grown in real terms, the cake — the 'bending' of main policies and programmes — has either shrunk or disappeared altogether. There is one exception: the only main central Government expenditure programme to have shown a significant growth in the inner city in real terms since 1979 is that of the police.The police have become the dustbin of Government policies. I do not intend to repeat what my hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) said about the dirty and difficult job that the police have to do. I shall stand second to nobody in condemning the violence that occurred in the inner cities in the latter part of the recess.
The report of the chief constable of the west midlands on the disturbances in the Handsworth and Lozells road area of Birmingham on September 9 and 10, in addition to the hour-by-hour account, contained some telling points that I hope the Government will take on board. I hope that the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster will also take account of them in his final summation, which is the last chapter. I shall quote the chief constable because of the growth in expenditure on the police in real terms:I believe also that the riots in Handsworth/Lozells, now seen against a background of further, somewhat similar, disorders in London and elsewhere, have brought into sharp focus a fundamental question concerning life in deprived inner city areas and the effect that such an environment can have on the conduct and aspirations of the people who live there … Policemen of every rank charged with the responsibility of keeping a fragile peace and upholding law and order in the difficult environment of the inner cities, have known for years of the facts I have just expressed. They have had to live with the fact that the problem has been passed off for them to deal with in isolation, knowing that if later difficulties occurred it would then automatically be assumed by some to be the fault of the police.That was said by Geoffrey Dear, the chief constable of the west midlands. He was saying to the Government that they have isolated the police and are asking them to do too much in the inner cities. That is his assessment of what happened in the west midlands in September. I shall not go over the rest of the report but that point must be made clear because of what was said in 1977 and the conclusions that are drawn in the Church report.
I have listened between the lines today and the Church report has been the bearer of rural nostalgia for too long. I shall grant Conservative Members that the Church report gives a long description of economic decline, physical decay and social disintegration.
It cannot be denied that the Church's assessment of life in the inner cities is accurate, whatever the Conservatives may say about its conclusions. The Secretary of State pooh-poohed the idea of poverty and launched into a discourse about absolute and relative poverty. I suppose that the ultimate is death due to poverty. Mortality statistics standardised to take account of sex, age, and so on, taking the average chance of dying tomorrow as 100, show that the figure for Gateshead is 115 but for Scarborough 98; for central Manchester 118 but for Trafford 98; for west Birmingham 112 but for Rugby 94. No one can argue that those figures do not show a problem as between inner and outer areas. When 33 per cent. of the population of this country live on 3 per cent. of its land 993 mass in the seven great conurbations it is inevitable that they demand a different kind of policy to that now being pursued.
The right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery), who is no longer present, made a thoughtful speech. I agreed with everything that the right hon. Gentleman, a former housing Minister, said except his final comment that he thought that the Government's economic policy was correct. The right hon. Gentleman referred to political representation and structure in the inner cities and the changes that have taken place in society.
The norms of our society have clearly changed. In 1977, "Unequal City" referred to thepolitical culture in which people are content to leave the complicated business of government to the professional or committed few who understand it.The report referred to "the decline in activity" and to "changes in life styles". On the subject on people opting out, it said:Or again, it could be argued that changes in national electioneering, employing nationally networked media, and the lessening importance of local issues in local elections have reduced the functional role of constituency parties and ward organisations. Yet, whatever the precise combination of factors held to be responsible, the simple fact remains that people in inner areas do not participate because they see no advantage to themselves.The report concluded thatthe existing political structures of urban government serve inner area residents particularly poorly.I admit that we did not go into that problem in great detail following the 1977 report, but the Government must acknowledge that inner city policy must address that point. Birmingham was criticised earlier in the debate for parishing the whole city to devolve the government of the city and make it more meaningful to people of locally defined areas so that they do not feel alienated from decisions taken in council chambers and committees that they have no chance to attend. Hon. Members may criticise that move, but it is at least an attempt to meet the problems so clearly identified as long ago as 1977.
The problems took decades to create and they were substantially identified for the first time by the Labour Government through the inner area studies and the White Paper which preceded the setting up of the partnership authorities. If the chairman of the Tory party answers no other question when he replies to the debate I hope that he will reply to one point in the Church's report which has formed the background to the debate, both that report and the Duke of Edinburgh's inquiry being mentioned in the motion. Paragraph 8.16 of the Church's report states:Since the coming to power of a Conservative Government in 1979, there has been no departure in policy statements from the 1977 White Paper's emphasis on the need for a central government response to the challenge presented by the inner cities.The report goes on to quote the former Secretary of State for the Environment.
Partnership authorities should have been excluded from the general rate support grant cuts if inner city policy meant anything and if there was a decision to shift the balance towards the inner cities. The argument is based on well-founded research throughout the country. The inner cities should have been protected from the general cuts in rate support grant. Do the Government still accept the statements of the 1977 White Paper? Is it still their policy? If not, we should be told because there has been no statement since 1979.
994 Several hon. Members, especially my right hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East (Mr. Freeson), mentioned the contribution of the voluntary sector through housing associations. A decent home for all makes a difference between sickness and health if nothing else. Doctors and workers at medical centres in the inner-city part of my constituency tell me that better quality housing would do more than anything else to improve my constituent's health. It is so annoying to prepare treatment for somebody knowing that they will go home to a house with a leaking roof, an outside toilet and no proper bathroom. It might be their own house. They are standing on their own two feet, but they cannot get the improvement grant to get the house up to a decent standard.
Next week, we shall have the report of Shelter and the Stress Areas Housing Associations Group, which will make some pertinent observations. Contradicted by Ministers, it will say that there has been a cut in inner-city housing association activity from 40,000 homes a year in the late 1970s to 15,000, or 18,000 a year if one includes low-cost home ownership. Nevertheless, 18,000 its the maximum, but the Housing Corporations' funding for 1986–87 means, according to some of the most senior executives in the housing association movement, a cut of 20 per cent. in new projects. That will affect housing associations which specialise in run-down short-life inner-city properties which are so neglected by the private sector.
Birmingham has 9,300 empty properties, 60 per cent of which are in the private sector. London has 125,000 empty properties, 70 per cent. of which are in the private sector. Liverpool has 8,400 empty properties, 59 per cent. of which are in the private sector. Leeds, which I visited yesterday, has 8,500 empty properties, no less than 69 per cent. of which are in the private sector. Local authorities cannot be blamed for that state of affairs, but that is what we constantly hear from the Government. So many empty properties offer an opportunity. However, public investment is needed to start the process of making them homes for people. Nobody defends empty properties, public or private. I do not and nor do any of my right hon. and hon. Friends. Nevertheless, the majority of empty properties in the cities that I have mentioned are in the private sector.
The Secretary of State was quick to mention the problems of the 1960s and the 1970s. He criticised the quick-build policies pursued then. He later threw in the 1950s as well. That was when the numbers game was all. We see today the results of playing the numbers game. One Tory Member of Parliament became Prime Minister on the strength of it and he now lectures us all from another place. There was another. I should like to quote from a typical Tory election leaflet from 1951. It says:Provision of houses is the most urgent social service of all. It will be the duty of a Conservative government to spare no effort to increase the number of houses built per year. After the needs of defence have been met, we shall give housing priority over all other forms of building.
§ Mr. Rooker
Yes. That was the numbers game. The numbers game was all. Quality, design and building homes for people meant nothing. They were just numbers. Of course, Conservative Members have probably realised that what I quoted was the election address of Margaret Roberts in 1951.
995 That policy can now be seen to have produced a boom in junk housing.
§ Mr. Rooker
Local authorities were virtually bribed to build what is now unfit housing. Yesterday when I was in Leeds, I saw some of the 22,000 system-built dwellings of the council's 93,000 stock. Leeds has a horrendous problem with non-traditional building. In Birmingham we went the other way. We are not proud of it, and the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Beaumont-Dark) said as much.
§ Mr. Rooker
I regret that I shall not give way because I am keen to finish my speech when I promised. I was delayed in starting for reasons that I shall not go into.
In Birmingham our solution was to build 429 tower blocks of flats. When I visit other areas with 100 such blocks they do not believe that figure. Most of the tower blocks require a massive sum to be spent on them. The Government could allow 90 per cent. grants, but people would not buy those flats because they know that they cannot sell them. That is the reality for many citizens who live in tower blocks in Birmingham.
If we were repairing and improving faster than the rate of deterioration of the housing stock, the cut of 100,000 new homes in each year of the Government's period of office could be explained, but we are not repairing or renovating at that rate. Therefore, we cannot explain a cut in the new building programme of 2,000 new homes fewer every week than were provided by the Labour Government. That is the total figure, if one does not separate public and private housing. We are interested in the right to a home, and we shall not argue about tenure. People should be allowed to choose whether they want to own, rent or share. They cannot have that choice unless there is a good supply of homes with every type of tenure.
At present there is no coherent policy for housing. Home ownership is an aim, but cannot of itself constitute a policy. We would argue for the Socialist themes of choice, variety, freedom and control—[Interruption.]— real choice and control, not control by landlords, whether public or private. That is reflected in "Faith in the City".
Without massive investment those aspirations will not become a reality for anybody. Therefore, we should not be too dogmatic about finance, as the Government are. They seek all solutions in the private sector. We are prepared to use the private sector so long as it is working with the public sector. The private sector alone cannot cope with what has happened. But to listen to Ministers one would think that that was the answer.
If that were so, why are so many schemes which are set up by different housing associations in co-operation with other organisations and require private cash ruled out by the Government? There is no magic of the market for housing. Those were the words used by the former Minister for Housing and Construction, the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow). If that were so, Leeds would not have had to take over a sheltered speculative development built by one of the most famous private sector builders because he could not do anything with it. If that were so, Parker Morris homes with three bedrooms 996 and two toilets on Teesside would not, having been done up and sold to the private sector, have only one toilet. If that were so, in Birmingham, post-war flats sold to a private company for work to start in two months, would not be sitting after 14 months with no work having been started.
§ Mr. Rooker
No, I shall not give way.
Without the efforts of local authorities—no one, least of all anyone who has been in the House longer than me, can deny this—during the past decades many millions of people would not have had a decent home. In the 1920s and 1930s, when public sector building got under way for the first time on a reasonably large scale, it was argued, particularly in the north of England among Labour councillors, that landlordism was not a role for Socialists. Those arguments are part of the record of that decade. But we have learnt from our mistakes. The Labour party can say that, and I would like the Government to say it. When we say in "Homes for the Future" that we have learnt from our mistakes, that applies just as much to management attitudes as it does to the horrendous construction and design techniques of the past.
Many Conservative Members have criticised the Church of England report. They believe that the report implies that the public sector is the be-all and end-all. That is not true. It shows that they have not read the report. Paragraph 10.61 on page 246, which deals with public rented housing, states:It will be argued by some that public housing has failed: local authority provision has resulted in a product that no-one wants. Certainly there is much to be criticised, particularly in the style of management. We have been told how councillors in the past would regard council housing as 'theirs' to distribute. ('Come along to my surgery next week, and I'll see you right.')That is paternalism, not Socialism. We reject that sort of management style — [Interruption.] conservative Members can no longer argue that the Church of England report says that the answer lies in local authority housing. We can see their sensitive reaction to that. The Labour party rejects those management styles completely in its new policy statement. That sort of paternalism—
§ Mr. Rooker
When "Homes for the Future" is put into operation by the next Labour Government, the hon. Gentleman will find out what our position is. Perhaps we need not wait that long. We propose to give local authority tenants a legal right to take over the management of their estates. The Government do not propose that, but at Question Time last week I was told by a Minister:If the hon. Gentleman tables an amendment to that effect, it may well receive support from the Government."—[Official Report, 4 December 1985; Vol. 88, c. 296.]I am prepared to table amendment after amendent and new clause after new clause based on "Homes for the Future". If Ministers accept them, perhaps there will be a change in management before an incoming Labour Government. But that Bill will contain Labour party policy, not Tory party policy.
It cannot be denied that the urban priority areas were created by the Labour Government. All the reports that have been published this year describe the problem estates that are difficult to let. Instead of using those terms, which imply that there is something wrong with the tenants, the 997 reports should say simply that those estates are hard to live in. I agree with those Conservative Members who asked for debt charges to be written off when 16 and 17-year-old properties must be demolished. We wrote off the costs of Concorde. We can write off the charges of deck access and high-rise flats.
There are housing problems, even in the constituency of Chingford. Waltham Forest local authority, which is governed by 25 Tory councillors, 25 Labour councillors and seven Liberals — the Tories and Liberals have formed a governing coalition—presides over 8,700 unfit houses in the private sector, and 5,700 houses without inside toilets or proper bathrooms. That is the reality of life in the backyard of the chairman of the Tory party. He must be fighting as hard as Labour Members do for the owner-occupiers in his constituency to obtain grants. However, he can do something about it. and we cannot. How does the position in Chingford, with all that unfit housing, relate to the overall position?
Given the co-ordinated rubbishing of the Church report and the Duke of Edinburgh's report, the way that Ministers have ignored all other reports of the local authorities, the Royal Institute of British Architects, the Building Employers Confederation, and the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, it looks very much as if the Prime Minister is simply not taking the matter seriously. If she is doing so behind the closed doors of Whitehall, the ignorant public statements are even more of a scandal than we think that they are.
I make no apology for returning to the point about Geoffrey Dear's report on the disturbances in the west midlands. What he said fits in with the tone of our motion, which was carefully drafted. It directs the blame for the present problems on Government policies, although we accept that the problem has been there for decades and was identified by a Labour Government. In his last paragraph, Mr. Dear said:Just as a riot is not an entity to be judged in isolation but must be understood against the background of the community as a whole it follows that the police alone cannot remedy the circumstances that led to the riot. The Police Service will continue to play its part in the re-building of trust but the task can be successful only if the whole community works together to achieve the common aim of a harmonious society.It is in that wholly constructive spirit that we move our motion.
§ The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Norman Tebbit)
I hope that I shall be able to pick up the threads of a number of the interesting speeches that have been made. However, I shall comment first on the interesting speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Sir R. Eyre) who rightly addressed the problem of local authorities that hold on to land that others might develop, and spoke of the benefits that might come when authorities co-operate in disposing of that land. I noted carefully what he said about the possible ways in which they might be pushed a little harder into so disposing of land
I was also interested in the speech of the right hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Freeson) which on its own contained material for several hours of debate. I respond to two points. He inquired about the city action teams, which are co-ordinating about £270 million of Government expenditure in the inner cities, including that from the Department of the Environment, the Department of 998 Employment—which is particularly concerned with the expenditure for the youth training scheme and the community programme—and the Department of Trade and Industry.
The teams report to Ministers collectively under the arrangements co-ordinated by Lord Young and they consist of the regional directors of the Departments of the Environment, Trade and Industry and Employment, and from the Manpower Services Commission. There are five teams in the partnership areas. I hope that that gives the right hon. Gentleman some reassurance about how they operate.
The right hon. Gentleman also spoke about the expenditure on the Housing Corporation, I can confirm that the spend in 1979–80 was £400 million and in 1985–86 £700 million. The output in terms of completions, fair rent dwellings, new houses, refurbished houses and low-cost home ownership was 20,700 units in 1978–79 and 28,000 in 1985–86.
§ Mr. Tebbit
They are not false figures. I should hate to be on bad terms with the right hon. Gentleman, because, although I could never say that I welcomed him all the time in the past, I realise how lucky we are to have had him and how unlucky we are to be losing him, in view of his probable successor.
I was a little surprised that the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker), having thought that he had me in a difficult position through answering a debate concerning the affairs of Departments other than my own, should stick his neck right out and make remarks about the borough of Waltham Forest, about which he clearly knows very little. The hon. Gentleman described a rather bad state of affairs in the borough, but did not say that since the borough was created it has been under Conservative control for only three years. At present the Conservative party is in office but has to rely upon some pretty uncertain Liberal support—and we all know what that is like when we are trying to solve problems.
Furthermore, the hon. Gentleman does not understand the difference between the parts of the borough, in that Chingford has a much better housing stock, which is much better looked after. That is because Chingford was formerly in Essex before the Greater London council—that abortion—was invented. Chingford benefits from not having had a Socialist council, whereas the Walthamstow and Leytonstone areas have been traditional Labour boroughs and therefore have substantial housing problems.
The hon. Gentleman quoted one of the sections of the Church of England report that is simply not correct, in that it says that the only programme that has been increased in the inner cities is the one on behalf of the police. My right hon. Friend dealt with that in his opening speech, but clearly the hon. Gentleman was not listening. Let me go through some of the figures again. Derelict land grant has doubled to £82 million; support for the voluntary sector has trebled to £640 million; housing improvement grants have trebled to £500 million; and in 1984, 105,000 houses belonging to councils and housing associations were improved, compared with 74.000 in 1978.
My right hon. Friend made the point that, in 1978, the seven most deprived inner authorities—the partnership areas — had local authorities which in 1979–80, in 999 current expenditure terms, spent £700 million. In the current year, their spend will be just below £1,400 million —virtually double, and an increase in real terms. The hon. Gentleman has quoted one of the parts of the report which, regrettably, is somewhat inaccurate.
I guess that the House will tonight divide on tribal lines. In many ways that is a pity, because a good deal of common cause underlies much of the noise of today's debate. Both sides of the House recognise the special problems of the inner cities. The hon. Member for Perry Barr asked about the 1977 White Paper which led to the urban programme, and that urban programme is still being strongly supported by this Government.
Both sides also accept that these programmes have not just been created in the last six years, although during one speech there were moments when I thought that crime had also been invented in the last six years. Both sides of the House want to improve the lives of those who live in the inner-city areas that have fallen into decay.
There are those who see the inner urban areas as a fertile breeding ground for revolution. There are perhaps those with ambitions short of violent revolution who regard the problems of those areas and the people who live in them as the raw material of confrontation with Government to bring about a radical change in society that is unlikely to spring from a Parliament elected in a free election. That is the Militant Tendency position as I understand it.
That is where we Conservatives wish the Leader of the Opposition well—it is always good when he pops in to listen to the debate — in his forthcoming purge of Militant Tendency supporters from the Labour party in Liverpool and in other cities—
§ Mr. Tebbit
Can we forget the purge so soon? Will there be a purge in other cities, not least in Birmingham and Manchester—[Interruption.] Did not the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell) know about Militant Tendency in Birmingham —[Interruption.]
§ Mr. Tebbit
I notice, Mr. Speaker, that the Opposition claim that this is a debate upon a serious issue, yet since the Leader of the Opposition came into the Chamber they have done nothing but giggle. The right hon. Member for Small Heath said that he did not know about Militant Tendency in Birmingham. I am going to tell him.—[Interruption.] If he will not listen, I shall have to write to him and tell him what is going on in his own back yard. According to Labour Briefing—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. Tebbit
No, Mr. Speaker, they do not want to hear it, because they do not want to know about Militant Tendency in their own ranks. I shall quote from Labour Briefing—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. Tebbit
Labour Briefing says:The Labour group is forced to scuttle from election to election trying to win voters on second hand social democratic 1000 policies. In the face of this, Labour Briefing has tried to organise a concerted ideological assault on the politics of the Labour group through their briefing magazine. Alongside this, we have set about building an organisational network across the city. This has involved establishing conveners in all the city's constituencies"—this is the city of Birmingham—as a base around which to build effective briefing groups. On top of that, we are now co-ordinating an effective briefing caucus at district party level.The right hon. Gentleman said that he did not know about this. I shall take him a bit further. How much more would the right hon. Gentleman like of it? I shall quote Mr. Mullins. The right hon. Gentleman knows Mr. Mullins. He was expelled from the Warley, West Labour party on 1 May.—[Interruption.] I agree about that.
According to Mr. Mullins, the full-time organiser and chief spokesman—
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr, (Mr. Rooker) had a fair hearing. [Interruption.] Order. Mr. Tebbit.
§ Mr. Tebbit
We have seen how they behave in the council chambers and we see how they behave here. We see the people who are determined that there should not be a debate. [Interruption.] They are not going to shout me down.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I will hear the hon. Gentleman's point of order, but I am not sure that it will help much.
§ Mr. Walker
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I heard the speech of the Opposition spokesman clearly and I find it disturbing that Labour Members are not prepared to allow us to hear the speech of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I do not think that I need any help. This Chamber is about free speech —[Interruption.] Order. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has as much right as anyone else to be heard —[Interruption.] It is intolerable that he is not listened to.
§ Mr. Caborn
I hope that you, Mr. Speaker, will protect my constituents. I have raised some serious points about problems in my constituency—[Interruption.] I have raised those points on behalf of my constituents, in conformity with the debate. I hope that you will protect my constituents and ensure that the reply that is being given is not a party political broadcast but an answer to the problems of my constituents.
§ Mr. Speaker
I thank the hon. Gentleman. That was a helpful point of order, because it will enable the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster to answer the debate.
§ Mr. Tebbit
In my own good time—[Interruption.] You will have noticed, Mr. Speaker, that I started my speech by answering two of the Back-Bench speakers and the hon. Member for Perry Barr. I got the right hon. Member for Small Heath interested in his own constituency and I want to tell him that Mr. Mullins says:Militant has members in all three Constituency Labour Parties in Wolverhampton, in Sandwell, in Dudley and in Walsall and in 11 of the 12 in Birmingham. Support is particularly strong in Bromsgrove, Ladywood, Yardley, Perry Barr, Dudley East and West Bromwich and is growing steadily in Edgbaston.
§ Mr. Leighton
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it in order for a Minister to read? Quite apart from whether it is boring or irrelevant, is it permissible for him to read?
§ Mr. Tebbit
Having dealt with the right hon. Member for Small Heath, I return to the main theme of the debate —[Interruption.] Despite the agreement over the nature of the problem, we differ, as usual, over the methods. It is interesting to notice that the Opposition did not want to hear about Militant Tendency. They wanted to shout that down.
There is a wide diversity of views about the methods that we should use, but I wonder whether there might be enough dignity on the Opposition Benches —[Interruption.]— for us at least to unite in total rejection of the views of extremists.
I see no point—[Interruption.] When the Leader of the Opposition has managed to gain a little dignity himself —[Interruption.]
§ Mr. Tebbit
I see no point in, for example, simply blaming the immigrants in these inner-city areas —[Interruption.]—although there can be no doubt that, from whatever causes the problems arose, they are more difficult to deal with in a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic society than in a mono-cultural society of single racial origin. There is simply no point in talking of sending them back home, least of all when so many, particularly of those who have been led or fallen into some of the problem categories, were born here. In that sense the cry of "Send them back home" or "Deport them" means send them to Lambeth or Brixton, or vice versa. We cannot wish ourselves back into the past before the problems existed in our inner cities.
Equally, I hope—I believe that I have managed to unite the House on this—
§ Mr. Tebbit
I had hoped to carry the hon. Member for Newham, North-East (Mr. Leighton) with me on this, even though some trade unions are not too keen on such matters.
1002 I hope that we can unite in our abhorrence of extremism of the opposite kind. One could look at examples of other views on how to solve the problems. I have another quotation:We are not interested in reforming the prevailing institutions — the police, armed services, judiciary and monarchy —through which the ruling classes keep us in our place. We are about dismantling them and replacing them with our own machinery of class rule. Our aim is to replace the present leadership with people prepared to fight for the working class and to fight for real power. Wherever possible, we should work for all-black shortlists and all-women shortlists so that the issues can be thrashed out on the basis of class politics alone.
§ Mr. Tebbit
I invite the hon. Member for Copeland to say whether he can join me in condemning that attitude.
§ Dr. Cunningham
I can join the House, including many Government Members, in condemning this despicable parody of a response. [HoN. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]
§ Mr. Tebbit
I have been on my feet for 20 minutes and been speaking for about three minutes. That is why we are having difficulty in making progress. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Copeland finds it difficult to condemn that attitude.
Let us look afresh at some of the problems and solutions.
§ Mr. Tebbit
The hon. Gentleman does not do himself credit by shouting and yelling like one of the hooligans with whom we are trying to deal.
The Labour party has prayed in aid the Church of England report. I do not blame hon. Members for that, but I suggest that there are other voices to be heard and other responses to the problems. There are even other views of the problems.
On page 15 of "Faith in the City" appears the following comment:How are these conditionsconditions that we all deplore—best communicated and understood? They may be described quite simply as poverty.The words of Rabbi Blue on the radio on Monday morning shed light from a different angle and of a different quality. He said:Well, a clergyman recently whispered in my ear, 'You know, there is nothing worse than poverty, Rabbi Blue,' and he shook his head fiercely. I thought about it and then I shook my head too because I did know and it just wasn't true. It was the kind of thing middle-class people say if they have been brought up in a garden suburb and then got sent to a seminary after Oxbridge. If you have lived in poverty, you would know there were many things much worse.
§ Mr. Tebbit
I shall not give way. I have never had such an insolent request to give way. I shall continue to quote the rabbi. He said:You can survive without your money but if you lose your respectability you can't live with your neighbours, and if you 've lost hope you can't live with yourself.Respectability"—to use the rabbi's words—gives dignity to families even in poverty, and hope gives them sustenance in hard times.1003 However, it is not possible to maintain respectability in a society in which violence and lawlessness get the upper hand, yet that is the sort of society that has been encouraged in many of our cities.
We on the Government Benches believe that crime and family disintegration have wrought havoc. So I believe do many on the Opposition Benches believe that, though not all of them. Worse, an increasing number of them seem to believe that the police, not the criminals, are the enemy of order.
The hon. Member for Copeland made a great speech in support of the police, but what he says is not what Mr. Bernie Grant says. He began with a great deal of sympathy —[Interruption.] It is too late for the Opposition Front Bench to tell their Back Benchers to shut up.
§ Mr. Tebbit
The Leader of the Opposition is unduly excited. I do not know where he has been, but he seems to have become a little carried away with himself.
§ Mr. Alan Williams (Swansea, West)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Can you advise the House of the last occasion when a Government Front Bench spokesman refused to give way to the Leader of the Opposition?
§ Mr. Tebbit
I would eat the right hon. Gentleman for breakfast, but not after his display of trying to get me shouted down. [Interruption.]
We had an interesting speech from the hon. Member for Copeland, every word of which was heard in silence. He expressed a great deal of sympathy with policemen injured on duty, but he did not say by whom they were injured, such as by mass pickets, by Left-wing demonstrators—[Interruption.] No, he did not go into any of that.
The whole point of this debate—I have been able to be heard for very little of it—is that, as the Government amendment says, we shall targetpublic expenditure more effectively towards areas of greatest need",recognisingthe vital role of the private sector in providing jobs in citiesas in London's dockland. We do not want to see the Liverpool Labour solution of employment only by the council and housing solely in the control of the council. We, as our amendment says, welcomethe growth of home ownership.As my right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) said, people do not burn their own homes—[Interruption.]—or their own businesses. We must reinforce—
§ Mr. Tebbit
We believe in extending personal ownership where we can. [Interruption.] We have seen the attitudes and tactics of Militant Tendency tonight. As I say, we believe in extending personal ownership where we can, even by what the right hon. Member for Brent, East called, by some old Socialist tag that I think I recognised, and with some sympathy — [Interruption.] — co-ownership, where we cannot achieve personal ownership. We shall do all we can to promote responsibility on the part of councils.
On all those issues, but above all on the issue of free speech, we part company with the Opposition Front Bench, and even — [Interruption.] — more with the Labour party as a whole. There is no way forward by bashing home buyers, as the Liberals want; or by chaining down businesses, as the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) wants; or by barring enterprise from flourishing; or by enterprise boards run by Bernie Grant; or by letting crime run rampant. That is why I ask my right hon. and hon. Friends and hon. Members of good will on the Opposition Benches to support the amendment, not least to show our contempt for that rabble who try to deny free speech in this place.
§ Question put, That the original words stand part of the Question:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 201, Noes 290.1007
|Division No. 24]||[10.00 pm|
|Adams, Allen (Paisley N)||Corbyn, Jeremy|
|Alton, David||Crowther, Stan|
|Anderson, Donald||Cunliffe, Lawrence|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Cunningham, Dr John|
|Ashley, Rt Hon Jack||Dalyell, Tam|
|Ashton, Joe||Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli)|
|Atkinson, N. (Tottenham)||Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly)|
|Banks, Tony (Newham NW)||Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'l)|
|Barnett, Guy||Deakins, Eric|
|Barron, Kevin||Dewar, Donald|
|Beith, A. J.||Dixon, Donald|
|Bell, Stuart||Dobson, Frank|
|Benn, Rt Hon Tony||Dormand, Jack|
|Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh)||Douglas, Dick|
|Bermingham, Gerald||Dubs, Alfred|
|Blair, Anthony||Duffy, A. E. P.|
|Boothroyd, Miss Betty||Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G.|
|Boyes, Roland||Eadie, Alex|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Eastham, Ken|
|Brown, Gordon (D'f'mline E)||Edwards, Bob (W'h'mpt'n SE)|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)||Evans, John (St. Helens N)|
|Brown, N. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne E)||Ewing, Harry|
|Brown, R. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne N)||Field, Frank (Birkenhead)|
|Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith)||Fields, T. (L'pool Broad Gn)|
|Bruce, Malcolm||Flannery, Martin|
|Buchan, Norman||Foot, Rt Hon Michael|
|Caborn, Richard||Forrester, John|
|Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M)||Foster, Derek|
|Campbell, Ian||Foulkes, George|
|Campbell-Savours, Dale||Fraser, J. (Norwood)|
|Canavan, Dennis||Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald|
|Carlile, Alexander (Montg'y)||Freud, Clement|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Garrett, W. E.|
|Cartwright, John||George, Bruce|
|Clark, Dr David (S Shields)||Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John|
|Clarke, Thomas||Godman, Dr Norman|
|Clay, Robert||Golding, John|
|Clelland, David Gordon||Gould, Bryan|
|Clwyd, Mrs Ann||Gourlay, Harry|
|Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S.)||Hamilton, James (M'well N)|
|Cohen, Harry||Hancock, Mr. Michael|
|Coleman, Donald||Hardy, Peter|
|Conlan, Bernard||Harman, Ms Harriet|
|Cook, Robin F. (Livingston)||Harrison, Rt Hon Walter|
|Corbett, Robin||Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith|
|Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy||Parry, Robert|
|Haynes, Frank||Patchett, Terry|
|Healey, Rt Hon Denis||Pavitt, Laurie|
|Heffer, Eric S.||Pendry, Tom|
|Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)||Pike, Peter|
|Holland, Stuart (Vauxhall)||Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)|
|Home Robertson, John||Prescott, John|
|Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)||Radice, Giles|
|Howells, Geraint||Randall, Stuart|
|Hoyle, Douglas||Redmond, M.|
|Hughes, Dr. Mark (Durham)||Rees, Rt Hon M. (Leeds S)|
|Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)||Richardson, Ms Jo|
|Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)||Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)|
|Hughes, Simon (Southwark)||Robinson, G. (Coventry NW)|
|Janner, Hon Greville||Rogers, Allan|
|Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)||Rooker, J. W.|
|Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald||Ross, Ernest (Dundee W)|
|Kennedy, Charles||Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)|
|Kilroy-Silk, Robert||Rowlands, Ted|
|Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil||Ryman, John|
|Kirkwood, Archy||Sedgemore, Brian|
|Lambie, David||Sheerman, Barry|
|Lamond, James||Sheldon, Rt Hon R.|
|Leighton, Ronald||Shore, Rt Hon Peter|
|Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Short, Ms Clare (Ladywood)|
|Lewis, Terence (Worsley)||Short, Mrs R.(W'hampt'n NE)|
|Litherland, Robert||Silkin, Rt Hon J.|
|Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)||Skinner, Dennis|
|Lofthouse, Geoffrey||Smith, C.(lsl'ton S & F'bury)|
|McCartney, Hugh||Smith, Rt Hon J. (M'kl'ds E)|
|McDonald, Dr Oonagh||Snape, Peter|
|McGuire, Michael||Soley, Clive|
|McKelvey, William||Spearing, Nigel|
|MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor||Steel, Rt Hon David|
|Maclennan, Robert||Stewart, Rt Hon D. (W Isles)|
|McNamara, Kevin||Stott, Roger|
|McTaggart, Robert||Strang, Gavin|
|McWilliam, John||Straw, Jack|
|Madden, Max||Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)|
|Marek, Dr John||Thomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen)|
|Martin, Michael||Thompson, J. (Wansbeck)|
|Mason, Rt Hon Roy||Thorne, Stan (Preston)|
|Maxton, John||Tinn, James|
|Maynard, Miss Joan||Wallace, James|
|Meacher, Michael||Warden, Gareth (Gower)|
|Michie, William||Wareing, Robert|
|Mikardo, Ian||Weetch, Ken|
|Millan, Rt Hon Bruce||Welsh, Michael|
|Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)||White, James|
|Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)||Williams, Rt Hon A.|
|Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)||Wilson, Gordon|
|Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)||Winnick, David|
|Nellist, David||Young, David (Bolton SE)|
|Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon|
|O'Brien, William||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|O'Neill, Martin||Mr. Allen McKay and|
|Owen, Rt Hon Dr David||Mr. Mark Fisher.|
|Adley, Robert||Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Brandon-Bravo, Martin|
|Alison, Rt Hon Michael||Brinton, Tim|
|Amery, Rt Hon Julian||Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes)|
|Ancram, Michael||Bryan, Sir Paul|
|Arnold, Tom||Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon A.|
|Atkins, Rt Hon Sir H.||Budgen, Nick|
|Atkins, Robert (South Ribble)||Bulmer, Esmond|
|Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Vall'y)||Burt, Alistair|
|Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)||Butcher, John|
|Batiste, Spencer||Butterfill, John|
|Beaumont-Dark, Anthony||Carlisle, John (Luton N)|
|Benyon, William||Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (W'ton S)|
|Bevan, David Gilroy||Cash, William|
|Biffen, Rt Hon John||Chapman, Sydney|
|Biggs-Davison, Sir John||Churchill, W. S.|
|Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter||Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)|
|Body, Richard||Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)|
|Bonsor, Sir Nicholas||Clegg, Sir Walter|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Cockeram, Eric|
|Conway, Derek||Jones, Robert (Herts W)|
|Cope, John||Jopling, Rt Hon Michael|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine|
|Critchley, Julian||Kershaw, Sir Anthony|
|Crouch, David||King, Rt Hon Tom|
|Currie, Mrs Edwina||Knight, Greg (Derby N)|
|Dorrell, Stephen||Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.||Knowles, Michael|
|Dunn, Robert||Knox, David|
|Durant, Tony||Lamont, Norman|
|Emery, Sir Peter||Lang, Ian|
|Eyre, Sir Reginald||Latham, Michael|
|Fairbairn, Nicholas||Lawler, Geoffrey|
|Farr, Sir John||Lawrence, Ivan|
|Favell, Anthony||Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel|
|Fenner, Mrs Peggy||Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)|
|Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey||Lester, Jim|
|Fletcher, Alexander||Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd)|
|Fookes, Miss Janet||Lightbown, David|
|Forman, Nigel||Lilley, Peter|
|Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)||Lloyd, Ian (Havant)|
|Forth, Eric||Lloyd, Peter, (Fareham)|
|Fox, Marcus||Lord, Michael|
|Franks, Cecil||Luce, Richard|
|Fraser, Peter (Angus East)||Lyell, Nicholas|
|Freeman, Roger||McCrindle, Robert|
|Galley, Roy||McCurley, Mrs Anna|
|Gardner, Sir Edward (Fylde)||Macfarlane, Neil|
|Garel-Jones, Tristan||MacGregor, Rt Hon John|
|Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian||MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire)|
|Glyn, Dr Alan||MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute)|
|Goodhart, Sir Philip||Maclean, David John|
|Gorst, John||McNair-Wilson, M. (N'bury)|
|Gow, Ian||McNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st)|
|Gower, Sir Raymond||McQuarrie, Albert|
|Grant, Sir Anthony||Madel, David|
|Greenway, Harry||Major, John|
|Gregory, Conal||Malins, Humfrey|
|Griffiths, Sir Eldon||Malone, Gerald|
|Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N)||Maples, John|
|Grist, Ian||Marlow, Antony|
|Ground, Patrick||Marshall, Michael (Arundel)|
|Grylls, Michael||Maude, Hon Francis|
|Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)||Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin|
|Hampson, Dr Keith||Mayhew, Sir Patrick|
|Hanley, Jeremy||Mellor, David|
|Hannam, John||Merchant, Piers|
|Harris, David||Meyer, Sir Anthony|
|Harvey, Robert||Miller, Hal (B'grove)|
|Haselhurst, Alan||Mills, lain (Meriden)|
|Hawkins, C. (High Peak)||Miscampbell, Norman|
|Hayes, J.||Mitchell, David (Hants NW)|
|Hayhoe, Rt Hon Barney||Moate, Roger|
|Hayward, Robert||Monro, Sir Hector|
|Heathcoat-Amory, David||Montgomery, Sir Fergus|
|Henderson, Barry||Morris, M. (N'hampton, S)|
|Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael||Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)|
|Hickmet, Richard||Moynihan, Hon C.|
|Hicks, Robert||Murphy, Christopher|
|Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.||Neale, Gerrard|
|Hill, James||Needham, Richard|
|Hind, Kenneth||Newton, Tony|
|Hirst, Michael||Nicholls, Patrick|
|Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)||Norris, Steven|
|Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling)||Onslow, Cranley|
|Holt, Richard||Oppenheim, Phillip|
|Hordern, Sir Peter||Osborn, Sir John|
|Howard, Michael||Ottaway, Richard|
|Howarth, Gerald (Cannock)||Page, Richard (Herts SW)|
|Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldford)||Parris, Matthew|
|Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N)||Patten, Christopher (Bath)|
|Hubbard-Miles, Peter||Patten, J. (Oxf W & Abdgn)|
|Hunt, David (Wirral)||Pattie, Geoffrey|
|Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)||Pawsey, James|
|Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas||Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth|
|Irving, Charles||Percival, Rt Hon Sir Ian|
|Jackson, Robert||Pollock, Alexander|
|Jessel, Toby||Portillo, Michael|
|Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey||Powell, William (Corby)|
|Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)||Powley, John|
|Prentice, Rt Hon Reg||Stradling Thomas, Sir John|
|Price, Sir David||Sumberg, David|
|Prior, Rt Hon James||Taylor, John (Solihull)|
|Proctor, K. Harvey||Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)|
|Raffan, Keith||Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman|
|Raison, Rt Hon Timothy||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Rathbone, Tim||Terlezki, Stefan|
|Rees, Rt Hon Peter (Dover)||Thomas, Rt Hon Peter|
|Rhodes James, Robert||Thompson, Donald (Calder V)|
|Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon||Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)|
|Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas||Thorne, Neil (llford S)|
|Ridsdale, Sir Julian||Thornton, Malcolm|
|Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey||Thurnham, Peter|
|Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)||Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)|
|Robinson, Mark (N'port W)||Tracey, Richard|
|Roe, Mrs Marion||Trippier, David|
|Rossi, Sir Hugh||Trotter, Neville|
|Rost, Peter||Twinn, Dr Ian|
|Rowe, Andrew||van Straubenzee, Sir W.|
|Rumbold, Mrs Angela||Vaughan, Sir Gerard|
|Ryder, Richard||Viggers, Peter|
|Sackville, Hon Thomas||Waddington, David|
|Sainsbury, Hon Timothy||Wakeham, Rt Hon John|
|Scott, Nicholas||Waldegrave, Hon William|
|Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)||Walker, Bill (T'side N)|
|Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')||Walker, Rt Hon P. (W'cester)|
|Shelton, William (Streatham)||Wall, Sir Patrick|
|Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)||Ward, John|
|Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)||Wardle, C. (Bexhill)|
|Shersby, Michael||Warren, Kenneth|
|Silvester, Fred||Watson, John|
|Skeet, T. H. H.||Watts, John|
|Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)||Wells, Bowen (Hertford)|
|Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)||Wheeler, John|
|Soames, Hon Nicholas||Whitfield, John|
|Speed, Keith||Whitney, Raymond|
|Spence, John||Wilkinson, John|
|Spencer, Derek||Wolfson, Mark|
|Spicer, Jim (Dorset W)||Wood, Timothy|
|Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)||Woodcock, Michael|
|Stanbrook, Ivor||Yeo, Tim|
|Stanley, John||Young, Sir George (Acton)|
|Steen, Anthony||Younger, Rt Hon George|
|Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Stevens, Martin (Fulham)||Mr. Archie Hamilton and|
|Stewart, Ian (Hertf'dshire N)||Mr. Michael Neubert.|
§ Question accordingly negatived.
§ Question, That the proposed words be there added, put forthwith pursuant to Standing Order No. 33 (Questions on amendments) and agreed to.
§ Mr. Speaker
forthwith declared the main Question, as amended, to be agreed to.
Resolved,That this House recognises that the problems of the inner cities are longstanding and will not be solved by the outdated policies of inefficient and ill-directed public expenditure; supports the Government's policy of targeting public expenditure more effectively towards areas of greatest need; recognises the vital role of the private sector in providing jobs in cities; welcomes the growth in home ownership which has led to a massive transfer of wealth from municipal landlords to individual families; and calls upon local authorities to conduct their affairs responsibly so as to ensure that scarce resources are not wasted, and to encourage rather than deter private enterprise and opportunities for individuals and their families.