§ 3. Mr. Terry Lewis
asked the Paymaster General if street cleaning is presently included within the framework of the community programme.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Ian Lang)
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment has recently announced a new environmental improvement initiative which it is estimated will initially provide work for up to 5,000 long-term unemployed people through the community programme together with additional opportunities for volunteers. A very wide range of worthwhile activities can be undertaken through the programme provided they involve work which would not otherwise be done and bring practical benefits to the community.
§ Mr. Bruce
I am sure that those who are unemployed will be grateful for the opportunity to take up work. However, does this scheme not show how much out of touch the Prime Minister is with the reality of what is 162 happening in Britain and that the opportunity should have been taken to restore some civic pride in Britain and give local authorities the resources to clean up their own streets?
§ Mr. Lewis
Is the Paymaster General aware that 155,000 jobs have been lost in local government in the manual sector, many of them street cleaners and the like? Rather than give youngsters skivvying jobs, would it not be a good thing to give rate support grant back to local government and let it do the job properly?
§ Mr. Lang
As I have just explained, the work planned for the initiative does not, to a large extent, fall within the scope of local authorities. The proposals will be wide ranging in their effect and I believe that they will have the wide and strong support of the vast majority of the people of this country.
§ Mr. Speller
When my hon. Friend helps to promote this excellent campaign, may we also ask that the resources be directed to the areas where unemployment is at its highest, such as the coastal areas of the west country, and that we look to that as well as to the over-employed south-east?
§ Ms. Clare Short
Is the Minister aware that everyone in the country, except it seems the Prime Minister, is aware that our streets have been becoming dirtier and tattier for many years because of the squeeze on local authority expenditure and privatisation, which has reduced the number of people who are cleaning our streets? The answer is not to take on a trendy business man to take on more and more unemployed people at very low rates of pay and then dump them back into unemployment, but to give more money to local authorities to employ people on a permanent basis to do the job properly and reduce the numbers who are unemployed.
§ Mr. Lang
The hon. Lady is wrong. Local authority spending needs are fully taken into account in setting the level of expenditure for rate support grant purposes. The intention of the programme is not to replace the activities of local authorities as regards their refuse and litter collection. That remains their duty, and they will continue to have sufficient resources to carry that out. Nor will there be substitution for existing jobs under the community programme, the rules of which are specifically designed to avoid that.
§ Mr. Hancock
How long will the schemes last, and how will the clean-up campaign work with local government? Will it be an integral part of local government responsibility to find areas for these people to clean, or will the process be completely separate?