HC Deb 05 June 1991 vol 192 cc285-338
Mr. Speaker

I must announce to the House that I have selected the amendment in the name of the Prime Minister. As many hon. Members wish to participate in the debate and I have no possibility of limiting the length of speeches in a half-day debate, I ask those on the Front Benches, and Back-Bench Members especially, to make brief contributions so that as many hon. Members as possible may be called.

3.52 pm
Mr. Bryan Gould (Dagenham)

I beg to move, That this House deplores the traffic congestion, the public transport chaos, the pollution, the homelessness, the filthy streets, the inner city decay and the unemployment which have made daily life a misery for millions of Londoners; holds the Government to account for the policies which have failed London over more than a decade; reaffirms the value and importance of a capital city which can realise its full potential as a manufacturing, trading, financial and cultural centre; and endorses the need for a Labour Government which will bring to London the benefits of constructive national policies on health, education and training, housing and transport, the spur to the efficient delivery of local authority services provided by the Quality Commission, and the establishment of an elected, city-wide, strategic authority which will give Londoners a voice on the future of their city. London is not working. Our great capital, once the world's greatest city, which has so much going for it and so great a heritage upon which to draw, is gradually grinding to a halt. Londoners may not know precisely why things are going wrong, but they certainly know that they have gone wrong. No fewer than 67 per cent. of Londoners, as revealed in an Evening Standard poll that was published last week, believe that services in the capital have got worse during the past 10 years.

It is not surprising that that should be their perception: they see the incontrovertible evidence in their daily lives. They see it in the overcrowded, filthy, overpriced and unreliable tube trains that make a nightmare of their daily trip to and from work. I travel regularly on the underground, and my experience, which I imagine is rarely shared by Ministers as they sweep by in their chauffeur-driven cars, but which is certainly shared by millions of other Londoners, is that there are few journeys that are not disrupted by cancellations, delays or breakdowns of one sort or another, adding frustration and chaos to what is already an uncomfortable and unpleasant experience.

London Underground's chairman, Mr. Wilfrid Newton, knows well the deficiencies of the system and the desperate need for new investment. He has described the system for which he is responsible as "an appalling shambles". That judgment is almost certain to be confirmed by the Monopolies and Mergers Commission report which is to be published shortly.

Mr. John Marshall (Hendon, South)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Gould

No, I have only just begun my speech. I may give way later.

In the meantime, we are lumbered with the highest fares in Europe—twice the European average—for a system which is barely delivering an acceptable service. The inevitable consequence of a Government policy which requires London Underground to operate without subsidy is that it is compelled to try to resolve its problems by pricing customers off its trains.

Londoners also know that things have gone wrong when they see the traffic congestion and the pollution on our roads as the traffic grinds to a halt. The average speed of traffic in London today has fallen below 10 miles an hour. That sharp fall, which has occurred in the past year or two, has brought the average speed down to not much more than it was at the turn of this century.

Londoners know that things have gone wrong when they see the filthy streets, strewn with litter and disfigured by graffiti. They also see it in the cracked pavements and the derelict sites, which go some way to explain Mother Teresa's famous comment that London to her looked in many respects like a third-world city.

Londoners know that things have gone wrong when they see the housing crisis in the capital, which has produced record levels of homelessness. More than 30,000 households are in temporary accommodation, and 8,000 are in bed-and-breakfast accommodation. There has been a rise of 300 per cent. in home repossessions in the capital, which compares with an already high figure of 100 per cent. in the rest of the country.

Londoners and visitors from outside the city have been shocked to see the revival of the shameful spectacle of young people begging on our streets by day and sleeping on our streets by night. We thought that that had been consigned to the Victorian era. That is the tip of a huge iceberg of unmet housing needs, which has produced the scandal of bed-and-breakfast accommodation and swollen housing waiting lists in every local authority with which surely every Conservative Member representing a London constituency must be familiar in his or her regular surgery. Unfortunately, it also produces the forcing ground for criminal practices such as those that are now being investigated by the fraud squad in Hackney.

Londoners know that things have gone wrong because of the swelling dole queues and the hopelessness felt by so many with no job prospects or opportunity to acquire the necessary skills. They know it from the boarded-up shop fronts and derelict factory sites, as London's role as a great manufacturing and trading centre is eroded by recession and business failures.

The facts of the recession in London speak for themselves. The latest figures for unemployment in London show an increase from 201,196 in April last year to 309,263 in April this year—an increase of 108,000 or 53.7 per cent. The ratio of unemployment to the number of vacancies in London is 26:1—the highest in the country. It is higher than the ratio of 25:1 in Northern Ireland and that of 9:1 in Scotland.

Business failures in London and the south-east rose by 109 per cent. between the last quarter of 1989 and 1990. Recent surveys of business confidence in the capital show clearly how business now fears even worse times. The London chamber of commerce survey for the first quarter of 1991 showed that, among the larger London firms, employing more than 250,000 staff each, fewer than 20 per cent. are operating at full strength. The Evening Standard/ Investors in Industry survey for April found that 94 per cent. of companies in the capital are likely to reduce, or at best maintain, their work forces in the coming year.

Londoners know that things are going wrong from the growing climate of violence and lawlessness which is the product of recession and hopelessness. It makes our streets unsafe and women afraid to leave their homes at night. The Evening Standard poll shows that no fewer than 69 per cent. of Londoners put their concern about the level of crime at the highest point on the scale that they were offered.

Londoners know that things are going wrong because the waiting lists for treatment in London hospitals are the longest in the country. They are particularly long in the North East Thames region—some Conservative Members who are present will know what I mean—where my constituency has the misfortune to suffer that problem, as does the constituency of the hon. Member for Romford (Sir M. Neubert).

Londoners know that things are going wrong with schools, which are struggling with low morale and resources. They see it in local government services, which have been cut as a consequence of the poll tax, the imposition of capping and the unfairness of a grant system that has been skewed for political purposes. They see it, too, in the problems of the voluntary sector, so long one of the flagships of London's pride and self-confidence but now a further victim of the cuts imposed by the Government.

In short, Londoners have lost confidence in their city. That has not happened, as the Government pretend, because the Labour party says so or because we have chosen to debate London's problems, but because the reality of their daily experience confirms that life in our city is now difficult, bad-tempered and without much hope of improvement. Among those who share that perception are many who would not normally be counted as supporters of the Labour party. They include the editors of The Sunday Times and the Evening Standard and the European Commissioner for the Environment. They all agree that the quality of life in our capital city has declined alarmingly.

A staggering 46 per cent. of Londoners would like to leave the city in which they live. Only the most purblind of Governments would seek to dismiss that judgment and vote of no confidence by Londoners. [Interruption.]

Even aspects of London that have traditionally been its greatest strength are being put needlessly at risk. The City's role as Europe's pre-eminent financial centre is increasingly being challenged by other cities, notably Frankfurt. London's attempts to fight back are hardly helped by transport and traffic systems that are grinding to a halt. Journeys to the City from the major airports take two or three times longer than they should. [Interruption.]

In case anyone should take seriously the Minister of State's interjections from a sedentary position, may I make it clear that such concerns are expressed not only by the Labour party but also by such people as Sir Martin Jacomb, Chairman of Barclays De Zoete Wedd, and Mr. Stanley Yassukovich, the former chairman of the Securities Association. They are among the increasingly powerful and concerned voices who share the Opposition's concern on this issue.

Mr. John Gorst (Hendon, North)

Without in any way detracting from some of the hon. Gentleman's points, may I ask him to try to put the problem into a wider perspective? Many of the complaints that he has chronicled can be found in Tokyo, Paris and every major capital city throughout the world. Are we not merely listening to a catalogue of the problems of living in large urban cities?

Mr. Gould

I am grateful for the tone of the hon. Gentleman's intervention, but I think that he is wrong. We have compared London's problems with those of other major capital cities such as Tokyo and Paris and of Frankfurt—the last not a capital, but an important European city—and our contention, which is widely accepted, is that London is falling behind other European cities in many respects.

The only example in which the hon. Gentleman has a point is one which I would adduce as a model to be avoided, and from which lessons can be learned—New York. I fully accept that what we describe as having gone wrong with London went wrong with New York some years earlier. We are determined that London should not go down that path. That is why we are holding this debate and why I wish to put these points on record. I want to assure Londoners that Labour Members—I suspect, to do them justice, that some Conservative Members share our concerns—are determined to avoid the fate that has befallen New York.

I was saying that even some of London's strengths have been unnecessarily undermined. London's traditional role as a great artistic and cultural centre is being increasingly put in the shade by modern European cities such as Paris, the very example given by the hon. Member for Hendon, North (Mr. Gorst). By contrast with the vibrant cultural life, imaginative new projects, stimulus to the best modern architects and attention to its built environment and riverscape shown by Paris, London has a cultural scene dominated by holes in the roof of the Tate gallery, the forced closure of the Royal Shakespeare Company for four months earlier this year and the withdrawal of funding from Tara Arts, a world-class Asian theatre group. Even London zoo is threatened with closure by a Government who are so short-sighted that they cannot see the point of investing in an institution which is a major tourist attraction and a centre for scientific research.

The pity of it is that London's great potential remains and could be realised. London is the first of our major cities to recognise the possibility of renewing itself by moving eastwards and redeveloping those districts which hitherto have been regarded merely as the casualties of its history. As both a resident and a Member of Parliament in east London, I can hardly say too much about the sense of excitement that I feel at that prospect. The shame of it is that the task of carrying out that redevelopment was entrusted by the Government to a development corporation, the very purpose of which was to exclude the interests of local people and which has now itself fallen victim to the very market forces that it unleashed.

Mr. Peter Bottomley (Eltham)

In my first six years in the House of Commons, there were many debates during the term of a Labour Government on how three Labour London authorities, plus the Greater London council, were unable to get anything happening in 5,000 acres of dereliction, absence of jobs, no housing and no prospects.

As to the issue of people wanting to move out, the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould) may consider adding this point to his speech. I represent a constituency in the borough of Greenwich. It is the only place I know where there have been two polls about whether people in the outlying parts of Bromley and Bexley would like to join Greenwich. The residents of Thamesmead and the residents of Mottingham said no firmly. One of the associate factors is that Greenwich is Labour-run and Bromley and Bexley are not. It seems that the Labour party should recognise how unpopular it is in London compared with other parts of the country.

Mr. Gould

I shall deal with the state of public opinion in London in a moment.

On the hon. Gentleman's first point, the London Docklands development corporation, which had the benefit of the tremendous and, we know now, unfortunate property boom, has found itself unable to use the huge sums that it managed to realise through speculation to do anything about the royal docks. Therefore, we can hardly look to the record of the LDDC as a model for achieving what was set before it as a task to serve the interests of Londoners.

Mr. Harry Cohen (Leyton)

Does not the experience of the LDDC show the appalling failure of the Government and their lack of planning policy? The docklands district is suffering because there is no proper road and rail infrastructure into it. Do not the Government have a Singapore mentality towards docklands, in that they ignore the surrounding districts, turning them into a sort of third world? [Laughter.]

Mr. Gould

My hon. Friend knows a good deal more about such problems than some of the Conservative Members who are laughing uproariously.

London can provide the gateway to Europe and constitute the essential fulcrum for opening up to new markets and influences which will be so important to our national economy as a whole. That cannot be achieved as long as what the director general of the Confederation of British Industry describes as an apparent allergy to strategic thinking means that, in his view, it will be northern France, not London and the south-east of England, that will benefit from the channel tunnel and the single European market.

London's capacity to act as a magnet for the best and brightest talent remains undimmed. London has an unrivalled cultural heritage, which should continue to put our city in the forefront of European civilisation.

These high hopes of a revival of pride and confidence in our city can be achieved, but they have been needlessly undermined and betrayed by Government policies over more than a decade. Those policies have to a large extent been applied on a national scale, but they have had a particularly unfortunate impact on our capital city. They are essentially, as my hon. Friend the Member for Leyton (Mr. Cohen) said a moment ago, policies of disengagement, of non-intervention, of unfettered market forces—summed up in one word: under-investment.

I refer, for instance, to under-investment in housing; insanely, London boroughs, like other local authorities, have been prevented from spending their own money on grappling with a housing problem which is ticking away like a time bomb about to explode. That is just one aspect of this unremitting hostility to local government which has made the administration of London so difficult.

There has been under-investment in the transport system, which not only creates misery for those who have to use it but which presents a real threat to the city's economic viability because the deficiencies in our transport system act as such a disincentive to new investment in the capital.

Mr. John Marshall

Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that the draft Labour Budget presented by the right hon. and learned Member for Monklands, East (Mr. Smith) contains no provision for increased spending on public transport in London? How much is he now proposing to spend, and has he agreed it with the hon. Member for Derby, South (Mrs. Beckett)?

Mr. Gould

First, there never was any such thing as a draft Labour Budget; secondly, even if there had been and if the hon. Gentleman knew anything about Budgets, he would know that it would not have included provision for public spending.

Under-investment is seen at its most striking in education and training, in the health service and in protecting the environment. This under-investment leaves London and Londoners ill equipped to face a competitive future in which other European cities are forging ahead.

In addition to suffering from national policies, however, London has suffered from a particular set of Government policies that have disadvantaged the capital in special ways. Londoners have suffered from the impact of the poll tax and the damage resulting from the imposition of capping. They have suffered from the skewing of the grant system. But foremost among all these acts of damage was the act of political spite which, with the abolition of the GLC, deprived our city of a Londonwide voice.

Ministers who argue that Londoners were glad to see the demise of the GLC misrepresent the public attitude of the time and fail to understand the mood of Londoners today. The Evening Standard poll shows that two out of three Londoners want a voice for London, with the great majority of them favouring an elected citywide authority. Only one in five favour making no change, yet, with unerring accuracy, that is the very position adopted by the Secretary of State, whose absence today is notable. It shows how little interest he has in the future fortunes of our capital city.

This is precisely the position that the right hon. Gentleman adopts in his consultative paper, paragraph 28 of which states baldly: The Government have no plans to change the general structure of local government in London. Jibes at the GLC are hardly an adequate response to the overwhelming demand for change and for a London voice.

Londoners know that it is nonsense that our city, uniquely, has no citywide voice, no one capable of taking a strategic view of the needs and interests that we share as Londoners or of the future that should be ours. They see the contrast between London and other British cities, each of which has a citywide administration. They see the contrast with every other major capital city in the world. They know, for example, that London's ill-fated Olympic bid could not be taken seriously as long as there was no one to speak for London. They know that to insist that London is no more than a collection of boroughs that should be governed accordingly is to deny London's sense of community and identity, its history and its future.

As the Evening Standard's leading article put it on 28 May—I do not often quote leading articles from the Evening Standard—Londoners look upon themselves first and foremost as Londoners—citizens of the greatest, most historic, most beautiful and most-visited capital city in the world". That is why Londoners support our proposals.

In the hands of a Labour Government, our measures will provide London with the benefits of national policies for investment in the basic public services, and a priority commitment to the improvement of those services rather than to an increase in consumption through tax cuts and unsustainable credit booms. Londoners will want the benefits that will flow to a local administration from a Government who value the role of local government and who want to see boroughs fulfilling their proper role in building houses, protecting the local environment, helping, in partnership with the private sector, to regenerate the local economy, and delivering high-quality services.

Mr. Steve Norris (Epping Forest)

In the hon. Gentleman's great tour de raison of London, one issue does not seem to have been addressed. Most pollsters are aware of the London Labour factor, which shows how voters in London consistently turn against the Labour party in any national evaluation of opinion. A resident of Lambeth who looks at what is happening in Wandsworth sees clearly what is wrong with London. It is that too many London boroughs are controlled by the Labour party.

Mr. Gould

I fear that the hon. Gentleman is not the assiduous reader of the Evening Standard that I took him to be. If he had read with care and attention the poll results published last week on precisely this subject, he would have discovered not only overwhelming support for every aspect of our proposals but the fact that Londoners, by a margin of four percentage points—43 per cent. to 39 per cent.—support Labour rather than his party. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would like to make something of the difference between that lead and the lead of six percentage points that we enjoy in national polls, but I do not think that he wants to draw too much attention to those figures.

Londoners will especially welcome our proposals for a quality commission to encourage and promote the establishment and monitoring of high standards, which will be published and checkable, and for the provision for individual citizens of effective remedies if those standards are not met. Despite the Johnny-come-lately efforts of the Prime Minister to jump on the bandwagon, those measures offer a more real and certain prospect of efficient administration than can be offered by any Government who remain fundamentally hostile to local government.

Above all, Londoners want a new citywide, strategic, elected authority that will address the strategic interests of our capital city. They want a streamlined, professional, proactive, enabling authority that will take in hand the strategic planning of land use and economic development, the planning of our transport needs and the provision of our fire, police and emergency services. That authority will encourage our cultural life and will adopt an overall strategy to protect our environment.

Londoners have already responded to what we have said. They understand that we understand. We are offering them a compact for London. They want our policies, and they want a Labour Government. In their response to our forward-looking proposals for the capital, Londoners have shown that they are ready, willing and able to play their part in electing a Labour Government.

4.18 pm
The Minister for Local Government and Inner Cities (Mr. Michael Portillo)

I beg to move, in line I to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof: `deplores the habit of the Labour Party to run down London in a way which, if taken seriously, would damage its image abroad, deter foreign investors and bring glee to London's competitor cities overseas; emphasises that London is one of the world's finest cities with cultural and business attractions which have few rivals, a transport system as extensive as any in Europe and international hub airports which are the envy of others; welcomes the decision of the Government to relieve London of the unnecessary and highly wasteful Greater London Council; deplores Labour's plans to establish a still more wasteful London-wide body with powers to control the police which even the Greater London Council did not have; welcomes the Government's enormous investment programme in public transport and in infrastructure in Docklands; and salutes the Government's achievements of the last 12 years which have raised Britain's reputation abroad and with it that of her capital city'. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment and my hon. Friend the Minister for Housing and Planning are abroad. I know that they would have liked to speak in the debate. However, I am pleased that their absence gives me as a Londoner an opportunity to say that I am proud of this city and will happily compare its facilities and attractions with those of any city in the world. I take seriously my responsibility to speak up for London. I deplore Labour's attempts to denigrate our city, to make nothing of its recent achievements, and to blow its problems out of all recognition. The Opposition are doing all that they can to deter the foreign investor, to destroy tourism, and to damage our capital's economy.

When people in Frankfurt and Paris read the motion tabled by the Labour party today, they will be whooping for joy. The difference between our city and those cities is that they do not have a Labour party to run them down in public.

How much more honest it would have been to have said that, yes, London suffers problems—problems much like those of other cities. But to refer to problems such as dirty streets as Labour does in its motion is to score a splendid own goal. People in Westminster do not complain about dirty streets, but people in Lambeth, Camden, Haringey and Islington do because there the Labour boroughs are failing to do their duty.

Many of London's problems are the problems of a successful city. Overcrowded tubes and congested roads are the sign of a city which is alive and flourishing, not a city on its knees.

How much more honest it would have been of the Labour party to say that most people regard our traffic as better than that in Paris, Rome or Madrid, or to say that the M25, although crowded in the rush hours, is none the less Europe's longest orbital urban motorway, which has made possible a range of journeys which people could not contemplate before.

How much more honest it would have been to acknowledge that London's vast underground system is 100 years old, one of the deepest in the world, requiring massive investment and today benefiting from a huge programme of investment of which the Labour party could not have dreamt. It is all the more needed today because, during the years in which the GLC owned the underground, as the irresponsible populist that it was, it cut the fares and so cut investment too, which is now having to be made good.

Mr. Ken Livingstone (Brent, East)

Would the Minister care to point out to the House that the capital programme for London Regional Transport was under the control of the Government of the day via their majority in Parliament who were able to determine whether or not the money Bill was passed, and who, in preliminary negotiations with Treasury Ministers acting under Government instruction, told not just the Labour administration but the previous administration of Sir Horace Cutler that they would not allow the level of investment in London Regional Transport that successive GLC administrations wished?

Mr. Portillo

I am delighted to have drawn the hon. Gentleman to his feet. Those watching the debate at home will welcome the opportunity to be reminded about the government of London that we have shaken off, which is amply represented by the hon. Gentleman. [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer the question."] I will answer the question by saying that the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould) spoke throughout his speech of under-investment, but last year investment in the underground was more than double in real terms what it was in the last year of the GLC, and our plans are to invest yet more in the underground.

The Government have a comprehensive strategy for improving transport in London. During the next three years, London Regional Transport plans to invest more than £3 billion, supported by a Government grant of £2.5 billion—an increase of 120 per cent. in real terms over the previous three years.

Talk to people in London. They have seen the opening of the new Thameslink service and the refurbishment of Liverpool Street station. We will be opening up docklands and poorly served areas of south-east London with the Jubilee line extension, which will cost more than £1 billion. The Bank extension of the docklands light railway will open on 1 July, and the Beckton extension will open at the end of next year. That will bring investment in the railway to some £700 million. A Bill providing for an extension to Lewisham is now before Parliament. We are also committed to another vast project: the east-west crossrail, which will link Paddington with Liverpool Street, bringing substantial relief to central London commuters. We have already safeguarded the routes of the Chelsea-Hackney underground railway line.

Unlike the Labour party, whose recent policy document talks glibly of a transport policy for London that takes traffic off the streets", we recognise the reality—that many journeys and deliveries in London cannot easily be made by rail. We also recognise that massive road building in London is unacceptable. We have a programme involving expenditure of nearly £2 billion over the next 10 years, to make selective improvements to our trunk road networks and junctions and to get rid of the worst bottlenecks and accident blackspots.

We also want to get more out of the existing road network, by means of better traffic management. The New Roads and Street Works Bill will lead to the proper co-ordination of street works. We plan a 300-mile network of red routes through our capital, on which traffic will move more easily, reliably and safely. Journey times on the pilot red route scheme established in north London have already been cut by up to 30 per cent.

Mr. Chris Smith (Islington, South and Finsbury)

The Minister may well be right in saying that journey times for commuter traffic have been cut on the pilot red route. Takings in the shops along the route, however, have fallen dramatically, by 30 or 40 per cent., and the local people do not like the scheme and want it to be scrapped.

Mr. Portillo

Clearly the Labour party is opposed to any action that may cause problems. A succession of Labour Members have objected to private Bills relating to public transport—because they have some constituency interest, or because they have been put up to it. Time and again, public transport proposals are presented to the House and Labour Members object to them. Here is a proposal to get the traffic moving—including the buses, which also benefit from red routes.

Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)


Mr. Portillo

Sure enough, as soon as a solution is advanced, we can look for the Labour Member who has jumped to his feet.

Mr. Banks

Surely the Minister remembers that it was the hon. Member for Hampstead and Highgate (Sir G. Finsberg) who objected to the last private Bill relating to London's transport: indeed, he attempted to talk it out. The Minister should get his facts right. There are many reasons why hon. Members may object to Bills. It is not that we do not want transport infrastructure investment; we want to ensure that it is the right kind of investment.

Mr. Portillo

I made no mistake in my facts, as the hon. Gentleman's remarks implicitly acknowledged. It remains absolutely true that many Labour Members oppose private Bills relating to public transport.

Sir Hugh Rossi (Hornsey and Wood Green)

The question of red routes greatly affects my constituency. Two main problems have arisen. The first is the speed at which the traffic now moves along the red route, and the failure of the police to take steps to reduce the speed and the resulting danger. The previous problem, which was caused by congestion, has been reversed.

The second problem is experienced by a number of local tradesmen who find that parking bays sited on the advice of the local authority are too far from their shop frontages. Can that problem be examined?

Mr. Portillo

One of the great sadnesses in my life is the fact that I am no longer a Transport Minister. I shall, however, ensure that my hon. Friend's points are taken up. My hon. Friend the Minister for Public Transport will be winding up the debate, and I shall draw those remarks to his attention.

Mr. Michael Shersby (Uxbridge)

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Portillo

Yes, although I had better not do so too many more times.

Mr. Shersby

My hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Sir H. Rossi) mentioned the problem of speeding vehicles. My hon. Friend the Minister will know that, in large parts of London, cameras are triggered automatically by vehicles that jump the traffic lights, and that the motorists responsible are prosecuted automatically. Is that not a substantial improvement in the policing of London?

Mr. Portillo

It is certainly a good idea for us to be able to enforce the operation of traffic lights more effectively, for safety reasons.

Let us look further ahead. My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Transport recently announced a wide-ranging study of traffic congestion in urban areas, which will include consideration of the possible role of road pricing in London and other cities.

The Labour party lives off grumbles and dissatisfaction as part of its election strategy. It does not matter that in the process it may demoralise our capital and do it untold harm.

Let no one be fooled into believing that the answer to London's problems is a new strategic body. If people believe that the streets are dirty, let them look to their borough councils which have clear responsibilities and let them use the Government's Environmental Protection Act 1990 to oblige inefficient Labour councils to do their duty.

If people are worried about those sleeping on the streets —they can be seen in every capital city—they should know that it is the Government who provided the London boroughs with a special homelessness initiative of £179 million to enable homeless families to be permanently housed, and that my hon. Friend the Minister for Housing and Planning has worked tirelessly with the voluntary sector to persuade people off the streets and into the direct access hostels which are there for them.

If people are worried about transport, they should know, as I have explained, that transport policy in London is already brought together under a single roof in the Department of Transport. That includes the underground, Network South East, the strategic roads and the buses, and now those services have the resources that they need.

If people are concerned about the need to co-ordinate planning, let me remind them that the Government have issued strategic planning guidance in place of the prescriptive, over-detailed GLC strategic framework which took 11 years to complete. In contrast, the present guidance as produced within a year of receiving the London planning advisory committee's advice. It allows the boroughs greater discretion in planning the development of their own areas and communities. They have quietly welcomed the new guidance as at last offering them a chance to bring forward comprehensive local plans that will reduce the old reliance on appeals to settle planning applications.

Mr. Tony Banks

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Portillo

No. I want to keep going for a while.

As I have said, it took the GLC 11 years to produce its master plan and, when it finally emerged, inevitably it was out of date. It is no wonder that in those days the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) described the GLC as the slowest bureaucracy this side of the Kremlin". Meanwhile, areas such as docklands were left to rot, neglected by the GLC and the London Labour boroughs.

Mr. Frank Dobson (Holborn and St. Pancras)

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Portillo

I intend to quote the hon. Gentleman again. Would he like to save his intervention until then?

The GLC is unlamented and unmourned. It spent £1 billion a year, it increased its spending by 170 per cent. in five years, and it employed nearly 20,000 people. For what? Who misses its grants to the Fleet street and Media Workers creche, Babies Against the Bomb or the South-East London Women for Life on Earth? It is no wonder that the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras said that the sooner it was abolished the better.

Mr. Dobson

I do not resile from either of the quotations. When the GLC was a major provider of housing and direct services such as that, it was far too vast and it was one of the slowest bureaucracies in the world. That was why I believed that it should be abolished. If the Minister had given the whole quotation, he would have realised that I wanted the GLC to be replaced by an authority covering the whole of London and with genuine strategic duties to carry out. Therefore, I am being perfectly consistent.

Mr. Portillo

I shall deal shortly with the vastness of the body that may be proposed by the Labour party.

The hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone) used to be the leader of the GLC. He said that he regretted that the Marshall Report did not push and say, 'Abolish the GLC' because I think it would have released massive resources which could have been put to more productive use". No wonder—

Ms. Mildred Gordon (Bow and Poplar)


Mr. Portillo

If the hon. Lady will forgive me, I shall keep going.

It is no wonder that the Labour party is ashamed of the GLC.

Mr. Tony Banks

Not at all.

Mr. Portillo

I wish that the Labour party would get its act together. Whenever the hon. Member for Dagenharn writes, appears in public or speaks on the radio—I am surprised that we keep hearing him on the radio, given his track record—he has to say that the Labour party does not intend to recreate the GLC. Therefore, it is clear that at least the hon. Member for Dagenham is ashamed of it. Unfortunately, when the hon. Gentleman says that he is not aiming to recreate the GLC, he is right: he is aiming to create something bigger, more bureaucratic and with wider powers.

Mr. Gorst

Surely what my hon. Friend the Minister is saying is that, although there may be no objection to a voice and an intelligent head, there is every objection to a large body with the fat corporation that goes with it.

Mr. Portillo

My pleasure in agreeing with my hon. Friend is mitigated to some extent only by the fact that he has stolen the next two pages of my speech.

Mr. Gould

If the Minister is going to use the next two pages of his speech to endorse his hon. Friend's comments are we to hear another U-turn this afternoon and a commitment to precisely the voice for London which his hon. Friend commended to him?

Mr. Portillo

Why does not the hon. Gentleman merely be patient and hear my speech?

Let us look more closely at the recent Labour party document. In many areas, its so-called "streamlined" GLA would have more extensive powers than the GLC ever enjoyed. It would control the fire service, land-use planning, tourism, and culture, and it would have oversight of London Regional Transport and traffic movements. Most significantly of all, it is proposed to give the GLA authority over the police. The GLC in its day gave more than £2 million to so-called police monitoring groups. In 1983-84 it gave £8,500 to the Campaign to Curb Police Powers, nearly £18,000 to the Gay London Police Monitoring Group and nearly £30,000 to Camden Policing the Police. To those people it is now proposed to hand over authority for the police.

The lure of such new powers prompted the hon. Member for Brent, East, the former leader of the GLC, to summon a meeting of the GLC in exile to be held in the House next week. The Labour leadership moved in to crush so transparent an exposure of its true intentions and cancelled the meeting.

Mr. Tony Banks


Mr. Portillo

I shall give way at the conclusion of my speech.

A spokeswoman for the Labour party said: It was just an old boys reunion, if you like … I know they've never had a reunion before, but it was just an ad hoc sort of thing. None the less, we were assured that the hon. Members for Brent, South (Mr. Boateng) and for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) "completely disassociated" themselves from the meeting, although why anyone should disassociate himself from "an old boys' reunion" or from an ad hoc sort of thing is not clear to me.

Mr. Banks

The Minister is making a ridiculous fool of himself by trying to suggest that there was a conspiracy. The person who wanted to organise the get-together was Harry Kay, the vice-chairman of the council. I resisted it for a long time because I thought that it would be very expensive on my pocket to buy drinks for Harry and all his mates, but he managed to get Ken Livingstone to do it. Ken fell for it.

Mr. Portillo

The old boy doth protest too much, I think.

If people are concerned to hear a single voice for London, singing London's praises and promoting London to the outside world, bringing together the public and the private sectors, then I have some sympathy.

We had in London a single organisation of the London boroughs, the London Boroughs Association. It did not support the GLC, so the Labour boroughs took their bat home. They went off to form a rival body—the Association of London Authorities—thus ensuring that London's voice would be cracked and discordant. Across London, Labour's antipathy to the private sector, to the City and to the people who make London work has meant that it holds back from joining with the wealth-creators to promote London. Indeed, today's motion shows that it wishes to denigrate London, not promote it.

That same antipathy to enterprise has guided Labour Members in their opposition to the regeneration of docklands. They opposed the creation of the LDDC. They carp about the immense achievements of the development there. They sing the praises of windswept, brutalist modern architecture in Paris, whilst attacking the beautiful fountains, parks, and riverside walkways of Canary wharf —simply because no bureaucrat in county hall had a hand in planning Canary wharf.

Despite the Labour party, other world cities look with envy at docklands as the area where the city can expand, a vast area where new growth can occur without putting an intolerable burden on our traditional centres.

If people want to know the truth about London, they should not ask the Labour party. They should ask the people who have money to invest. In a recent survey of American leading managers, 49 per cent. named London as their preferred European business location against 17 per cent. for Brussels and 17 per cent. for Frankfurt. London scored best on ease of access to markets, customers or clients, telecommunications, and the costs and availability of staff. It also scored highly on transport —yes, second only to Paris—availability of office space and on the climate that the Government create for business.

Can anyone seriously imagine that such people's propensity to invest in London would be encouraged if London were once again represented by the hon. Member for Brent, East as leader? Can anyone imagine that Japanese business men would feel more warmly about investing in London if they were met at Heathrow by the hon. Gentleman? Can anyone seriously believe that London would stand taller just because we put another layer of bureaucracy over our heads?

Can anyone seriously believe that London would enjoy the worldwide attention that it does today were it not for the fact that, after 12 years of Conservative government, Britain once again counts for so much in the world? London does not need another layer of government: it needs less Labour government in places such as Lambeth. Even the Labour party seems to agree, since it has now suspended Joan Twelves, the leader, and many of her colleagues.

In 1987, it was the London Labour party which first set Labour nationally on the skids for the general election. The London Labour party's proposals to recreate the waste and silliness of the GLC, and extend its powers to the police, are another albatross around the neck of the Labour party. Labour's proposals are immoderate, wasteful and plain dangerous. That is why I urge the House to support the amendment.

4.42 pm
Mr. Ken Livingstone (Brent, East)

No-one would wish to re-create the GLC in the form in which it existed. Let us remember that it was not created by a Labour Government. It was created by a Conservative Government under Harold Macmillan, in order to ensure Conservative control of the capital. In the debates and discussions that took place on the White Paper, many good ideas were suggested. Those ideas were endorsed by a broad consensus in local government, by academics and by the business community. But they were ignored in the legislation that created and set up the GLC.

From its beginning, the GLC was flawed. It was caught between being a strategic authority without the powers to perform that function and a body which overlapped and conflicted with the boroughs in the provision of personal services. That was recipe for conflict. The personal services should have been the responsibility of the boroughs. It was nonsense to create an authority that had such a vast housing stock. But the Government of the day did not want to create a proper strategic body, because it would have meant surrendering some of the powers of central Government to people elected by Londoners, who might take a different view from that of the Administration of the day. That is why I spoke against the GLC when I was a member of it. It had completely lost its way.

Between 1981 and 1985, we made no pretence. We did our best with a flawed structure. In starting afresh, we shall not repeat that mistake. When I spoke in the debate which has been much quoted, I was thinking in particular of the metropolitan authority that controlled Toronto—one of the most successful cities in north America. Toronto has doubled its size and is one of the most attractive cities to live in. It has a strategic, slimline authority which co-ordinates and deals with major policy such as transportation, industrial regeneration, training and so on. But it does not get involved in day-to-day service delivery. That is the model that we shall wish to develop, explore and expand.

When I hear some of the old nonsense that we have just had to put up with, I wish that I had tape-recorded some of my conversations with Ministers when I was leader of the GLC. I remind Conservative Members that, as leader of the GLC, I met some of them in their previous incarnations when they were blocking what we sought to do.

When the Labour GLC was elected in 1981, we took up the legacy of Sir Horace Cutler to create a docklands tube by extending the Jubilee line out there. That proposal had been blocked under Sir Horace's administration and was still blocked. Within the first few weeks of the election, I went to see the Conservative Minister of Transport. I put our proposals to him. We were told that we could not implement them. It was not that we were asking the Government to give us the money—we were prepared to build the tube out to docklands out of our revenue.

The GLC was opposed to borrowing. Conservative Members who pretend to be monetarists might like to examine the accounts of the GLC. The only borrowing for capital works that we undertook was for housing, because the Government of the day were prepared to pay about 80 per cent. of the cost. All the remaining capital works of the GLC were paid for as we went.

During the lifetime of my administration at county hall, we almost halved the debt burden of the GLC in real terms. We do not want to hear this nonsense about profligacy. If central Government had reduced their debt burden by half in their 12 years, the nation would be in a much better state.

We were not in conflict with the City. The chambers of commerce and industry came to see me as leader of the GLC in the midst of another downturn in the economy caused by the Government. They said that they were straining, and asked us to reduce the rates that year by 7.5 per cent. We co-operated with them and did so. We cut the rates twice. Why were we able to do so? It was as a result of the success of our transport policy.

Mr. Terry Dicks (Hayes and Harlington)

If we accept what the hon. Gentleman says, why did he and his deputies try to lie to the British public in the last years of the GLC and say that £140 million had to be cut from GLC spending? The hon. Gentleman knows that his deputy was lying to him and that documents were shredded. In the end, the GLC had to increase expenditure, not reduce it by £140 million.

Mr. Livingstone

There was an internal power struggle inside the GLC Labour group. Fortunately, I won it. It was remarkably similar to the problems which are afflicting the Government today. They are in conflict about the direction in which they should be moving.

Mr. Dicks

The hon. Gentleman is a liar.

Mr. Livingstone

What we proposed—

Mr. Brian Sedgemore (Hackney, South and Shoreditch)

The hon. Gentleman is calling my hon. Friend a liar.

Mr. Livingstone

It will not be the first time or the last time, but I am not terribly worried about it.

We proposed a policy to use the engine of London Transport to make London more attractive. We cut the fares. However, we did not assume that that was all that had to be done. We wanted a programme for massive capital investment. We were blocked year after year by the Government.

We also recognised that, to be truly effective, we needed a completely integrated transport system. We wanted to integrate British Rail services throughout great areas of south London, and other areas where it was the main form of transport, with London Transport. We wanted to put money into British Rail so that it could increase the frequency of its services to match those on the tube, and reduce its fares to the level of tube fares.

I went to see the Conservative Minister of Transport in July 1981. I said that the GLC would give the money to British Rail to enable it to do what we proposed. The Minister, the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler) who still represents the Conservative party in the House, said, "If you proceed with that policy, we shall cut the Government grant to British Rail by an equivalent amount in order to invalidate it." That was simple, narrow, partisan, ideological opposition to what we were doing.

When people say that London does not want to go back to the days of the GLC, I say, "You have not been travelling on London transport." Every day, I am stopped by people on London transport. I am stopped not only by transport users, but even by drivers of black cabs, who are not usually members of the International Marksist Group or a natural constituency of the Labour party. One can hardly find anyone today who is dependent on public transport, or who drives around London in a car, who does not regret the passing of the GLC. They remember the first few years of the 1980s, which saw a reduction in traffic congestion and fares cuts, with a 5 per cent. fall in the numbers of commuter cars on the streets of London. Every taxi driver remembers that period, because they recollect being able to get around more easily. Industry was also able to get its goods and services to the point of production more easily.

Mr. Robert G. Hughes (Harrow, West)

Either the hon. Gentleman is being disingenuous, or his memory is failing him. The traffic reduction of which he speaks occurred after the fares fair policy had been ruled illegal. What the hon. Gentleman is telling the House is simply not true—and he knows it.

Mr. Livingstone

The hon. Gentleman is probably confused by the fact that the figures were published after the judges ruled that our policy was illegal. We did not have long. We cut the fares in October, and Lord Denning stuck his oar in in December. It was not until January or February that the traffic statistics were published. When we cut the fares a second time, in 1983, exactly the same thing happened. Some London firms even cancelled their car and petrol allowances and gave their employees bus and tube passes instead. They recognised the financial advantages of doing that, as well as the overall benefit to London.

I urge those who say that Labour's policy will be an albatross around its neck that they should talk to Londoners. They should talk to the people waiting in a queue for a bus. They should ask people how much longer they wait today, and how much longer they must allow for their journey to work. I know from talking to people on buses that, whereas they used to allow half an hour to get to work, today they must allow 45 minutes. It is not all a matter of congestion, because there are fewer buses on the roads.

When a bus does arrive, because it is on one-man operation, it stands there causing congestion while the driver has to take the fares. That is a disastrous practice in a heavily congested and densely populated city. That policy has been adopted not to increase mobility but to achieve cost savings, and it was pushed through under pressure from central Government. During the five years of the Labour GLC, we resisted all further moves to one-person operation.

I was interested in the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould) about the quality commission, which will give citizens the right to challenge the level of services. I would like to think that we will extend that concept nationwide. I fail to see why only Londoners should be given an opportunity to mobilise pressure on local authorities when they are not providing a proper level of service.

It is clear from the faces of Conservative Members that they know that Labour's policy is popular. For the first time, a Labour Government will have the time to create a local government structure for London. In the past, local government reorganisation has been undertaken by Conservative Administrations, which I deeply regret. There has never been a system that accurately reflected basic socialist principles of efficiency.

There is no inherent commitment to waste in socialism. When we ran London Transport, we made it clear that no extra jobs were to be created in its central bureaucracy, but that that bureaucracy was to be scaled down. We saw a shift of resources into direct service provision. I want to see that concept applied across the whole range of Government services. The new authority and the quality commission will give us an opportunity to begin reconstructing London's government.

4.53 pm
Mr. Richard Tracey (Surbiton)

My right hon. and hon. Friends and I welcome this debate on the government of London. We have been calling for one for some time to highlight the problems that exist in London, particularly in Labour borough councils.

The motion in the name of the Leader of the Opposition and other Labour Members is incredible. In its references to pollution, homelessness, filthy streets and inner-city decay, the motion draws attention to precisely what we and so many Londoners know to be the state of affairs in Labour-controlled boroughs. That is where the BBC and ITV should take their cameras. They should show that the problems to which the motion refers are not those of Conservative boroughs, where one sees waste bins, swept streets and the provision of proper services.

The motion refers also to realising London's full potential as a manufacturing, trading, financial and cultural centre"— as if Labour could achieve that. One has only to examine the facts to know that London has already attracted numerous financial institutions. There are more American banks represented in London than in New York. Some 270 foreign banks have opened offices in Germany, but 478 have realised the need to open offices in London. The sum of $900 billion has been deposited in the form of Eurocurrency in London. That is one fifth of the world total and equivalent to all the Eurofunds deposited elsewhere within the European Community. That is the London that we understand, and as it is understood in Europe and the wider world—on the other side of the Atlantic and of the channel. Tourists spend £4.5 billion each year in London, and some 80 per cent. of that figure is in foreign currency.

Labour's new policy document was rather appropriately launched as its leaders floated down the river a couple of weeks ago. They are trying to draw a smokescreen over London Labour authorities. Their vision of London is that represented by the Labour group whip on Brent council, Councillor Cyril Shaw, in his recent letter to the Labour members of Brent council: We need, above all, to win back the confidence of the electorate, and that will not be possible if we are seen as a disorganised, undisciplined rabble. The New Statesman is not necessarily a journal that is friendly towards the Conservative party, but in a recent article, it stated: Labour local authorities have provided the sole model of Labour in power in the past decade, and many have given the electorate a good fright. That is why Labour constantly attempts to portray London as a dirty city. As my hon. Friend the Minister pointed out, that is a disgraceful allegation. Labour is running down London in the eyes of the rest of the world, thus proving that it is so carried away with its public relations designs that it is prepared even to damage the reputation of our capital in the minds of tourists and foreign business men.

There are many examples of inefficiency in Labour authorities in London. In 1987, Brent council apparently lost £8.8 million in grant because it was five months' late in submitting budget details to the Government. Its failure to submit a claim for repairs after the hurricane in October 1987 cost it a further £750,000. Camden council, another model of Labour party control of a borough, has a startling record of financial mismanagement. Facts show that the building department overcharged the housing department by £100,000 for jobs, some of which had not not even been started. Those are a couple of examples of how Labour party behaves in power, yet it is seeking to impose a further tier of government on London.

My hon. Friends and I have often cited disgraceful examples of rent arrears and empty houses in Labour-controlled boroughs in London. The facts show that those authorities have the worst arrears in council rents and the most empty council houses, which could be used to house homeless people and solve, at a stroke, the problems of homelessness that we see so close to central London. Brent, which was Labour-controlled until two of its members sensibly crossed the floor recently, tops the list, followed by Lambeth, Southwark, Hackney, Islington, Ealing before it became Conservative-controlled —the Leader of the Opposition may have voted for the right party in the May elections—Haringey, Waltham Forest and Newham. Those councils, with a little contribution from Liverpool, are the worst in the country and are owed a total of £135 million in council rents. That is a disgraceful record.

Education has been called the "big idea" by the Labour party. What would happen if London's education authorities were Labour-controlled? Presumably they would follow the examples of the authorities that are at the bottom of the league table and produce the worst results in Britain for their children, such as the unlamented Inner London education authority, which was close to the bottom of the league table, Waltham Forest, Brent, Newham and Barking. Those are examples of what we believe is typical of the Labour party's education standards.

It is perhaps an opportune moment to quote what the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) told the 1990 Labour party conference: our nation and our children deserve the best; from us they shall get the best. As the press has revealed today, he is seeking the best for his children by sending his 11-year-old to a school in the City of Westminster, which is controlled by the Conservative party, and, as a new education authority following the abolition of ILEA, firmly intends to achieve fine results for its children.

Mr. Dobson

Has the hon. Gentleman considered what the city of Westminster intends to do to finance its education service in the next year? Is he aware that it has made no allowance for inflation, and therefore will insist on substantial cuts in its education service? Like my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw), who lives just across the river from Westminster, some of my constituents send their children to Westminster schools, just as Westminster parents send their children to schools in Camden because, under ILEA, boundaries did not matter. Is he aware that a substantial number of my constituents have written to complain about job cuts in Westminster's schools as a result of the policy of the Government and of that council?

Mr. Tracey

That was a long intervention. The hon. Gentleman simply must talk to the hon. Member for Blackburn, who presumably is the Labour party's expert on education and who chooses, in the cool light of his own judgment, to send his child across the river to Westminster. Westminster has said that it will run an efficient education authority. It will allocate resources to the classroom rather than to an over-fat bureaucracy, which was ILEA and the GLC before that.

While the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) is on the subject of Labour education authorities, he might like to note that Haringey recommended that education authorities should establish full-time posts both to promote anti-heterosexual attitudes in education and to fight to abolish all laws and procedures that seek to restrict sex education to the promotion of family values. That is what the Labour party is up to in the classroom and in its education authorities—quietly, of course, behind the scenes and not too publicly lest it ruins any slight chance that it might have of impressing the electorate with its public relations programme.

We hear that the Labour party wants a Greater London authority—a lean and hungry beast, and quite unlike the GLC. The Herbert commission's idea of an all-London authority was for it to be lean and hungry, but that lean and hungry beast grew to have 22,000 staff and to spend £1,000 million. I suspect that this lean and hungry beast would soon grow into a rather fat creature similar to the GLC, which failed to be a strategic authority or to do anything with docklands or about traffic in south London. In 1964, the south circular road began its life under the GLC as a collection of signposts; in 1985, it finished its life under the GLC as a collection of signposts. Despite that, Labour Members claim that the GLC was a strategic authority. It took 11 years to produce a strategy, by which time it was out of date.

There is no earthly reason why any sensible person in London should want a Greater London authority. It would have little to do—the GLC was responsible for only 10 per cent. of the administration of London—and would spend its time producing motions about South Africa, eastern Europe and Northern Ireland, as we know only too well. That is not the voice for London that we want.

I should point out to the House an interesting comparison which I assume was made 10 days ago on television. The hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras and I were presented with a film about Birmingham—a city which apparently has great civic pride and achieves great things for its people. Since then I have done a little research into Birmingham council and I do not believe that the people of Birmingham are too keen on it.

A new Greater London authority might follow the example of the Labour-run Birmingham city council, especially with regard to foreign trips for councillors. Birmingham charge payers paid for 149 trips to 31 countries, including Puerto Rico, the Gambia, Hong Kong, Japan, Australia, the United States of America, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and the Soviet Union. The most popular destination was France, with 29 trips by Birmingham city councillors. Cannot we just imagine that that is what the 100 slimline, lean and hungry councillors of the new Greater London authority would be up to? It is not surprising that when Birmingham city council funded a MORI poll to find out whether the people of Birmingham liked their council, it found that three out of four residents thought that the council wasted public money and only a minority were in any way satisfied with the key services.

Some of my hon. Friends want to speak in the debate, especially, I suspect, about transport matters, so I shall bring my remarks to a close. Londoners do not want another elected supra-tier authority. The Government are inviting opinions from the rest of the country on unitary authorities. As long ago as 1979, the hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone) told us that he thought that London should be run in that way. The people of London recognised unitary authorities as the best way to run London. That way, they know where the bills are coming from. The people of London feel that they get the most intimate and immediate administration of local areas from unitary authorities.

It is a great tragedy that when the GLC was abolished, out of spite the Labour party decided to take its bat and ball home, pull out of the London Boroughs Association and form the Association of London Authorities. The LBA is the vehicle through which we should unify the voice of London, transmit it to the Government and, when necessary, bring it to the attention of the wider world. The Government should consider restoring the LBA as a body where the leaders of all 32 boroughs and the City of London come together.

I have spoken to my right hon. and hon. Friends in the Department of Transport about transport in London. Travel and transport over the whole London conurbation should be overseen by a single Transport Minister, who would simply have the responsibility for travel and transport in London. In that way, we could move towards the kind of administration that our people desire for the smooth running of London. We certainly do not want our capital city to be run down, as the Labour party has run it down both in the debate and too regularly in recent weeks.

5.14 pm
Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey)

I welcome the opportunity for this debate. It has already shown evidence of the trouble caused when party politics overrides the views of Londoners.

In his opening speech, the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould) correctly stated the litany of complaints of Londoners about how degraded the city is. Ministers should not pretend that there are not abundant and regular complaints from Londoners about how awful it is to live and work here. But the hon. Member for Dagenham failed to deal with one of the chief complaints of Londoners—the fact that, where the Labour party is in government, it governs badly, wastes resources and gives a bad service. A MORI opinion poll commissioned in Southwark revealed that 85 per cent. of people are dissatisfied with services in Southwark.

Mr. Robert G. Hughes

A Labour council.

Mr. Hughes

Exactly. London Labour councils are generally doing a bad job. If the hon. Member for Dagenham is to persuade Londoners that London would be better under Labour, he has a lot of persuading to do.

The Minister for Local Government and Inner Cities says that it is terrible to run London down because London is wonderful and there are no problems, or if there are problems, they are all the fault of Labour boroughs. That is not true either. One of the obvious failings of the past decade or so has been the Government's failure to deal with strategic issues—a fact recognised not only by politicians but by many objective commentators, too.

In common with other hon. Members, I received a document today from Hillier Parker, one of the largest London firms dealing with development. The covering letter said: Over the last eighteen months, Hillier Parker have voiced the property industry's growing concern that the near critical absence of any strategic planning regime in the capital is the consequence of a lack of London-wide coordination in local government". Both the Labour party and the Conservative party pretend that they have all the answers. The hon. Member for Surbiton (Mr. Tracey) fears that, if there is a new Londonwide body, the councillors will get on the gravy train and start taking trips round the world. They may or they may not, depending on who they are, but that accusation, coming from one of the Members of this House, so many of whom float around the world at public expense, is a bit rich.

London is a city where no party has the support of a majority of the people. At the moment, the city is balanced. The Londonwide bodies have no overall party control. There is not a majority of London boroughs run by Labour, by the Conservatives or by the Liberal Democrats. Opinion polls have been referred to, but when opinion polls ask people which party they would support, no party gets a majority of the support of Londoners, either.

The hon. Member for Dagenham was right when he said that the latest poll revealed that 43 per cent. Would support Labour, 39 per cent. the Conservatives and 13 per cent. the Liberal Democrats. That represents the same sort of balance. There would be no overall control, because there is no overwhelming support for any one party in London, as is also evidenced by the votes cast in local elections. Last year's May elections in London followed the same pattern—the Tories had 37.7 per cent., Labour 38.7 per cent. and the Liberal Democrats 14.4 per cent. Let us be clear that no party can claim to speak for London.

Mr. Robert G. Hughes

The hon. Gentleman is making important points about representation in London. Does he agree that the people who voted Labour in London would be outraged and astonished if they knew that only three of the 23 Labour Members representing London would bother to be here for the debate, and to hear the hon. Gentleman's important speech?

Mr. Simon Hughes

I am grateful for that last comment. To be fair, I must add that more Labour Members were here earlier, although what the hon. Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Hughes) has said is on the record. It is surprising, as the Labour party has mounted such a big campaign to persuade people of their commitment to changing London, that, in a debate lasting only three hours, called by the Labour party, so few Labour Members are here.

Mr. Keith Vaz (Leicester, East)

Where are the Liberals?

Mr. Hughes

I shall come to where the London Liberal Members are in a moment.

The Labour party has come up with a list of proposals, the general thrust of which is correct. My party in its present form believes, and the Liberal party for many years previously believed, in regional government for London. I do not know whether hon. Members have noticed one interesting fact about Labour's document. It does not cite a single Labour authority in London as an example of good practice. Indeed, it cites only one council, the London borough of Sutton, and that is run by the Liberal Democrats. I have checked and double-checked, and I can find not one Labour borough cited as an example of good local government practice.

Mr. Robert G. Hughes

The hon. Gentleman cannot blame Labour for that.

Mr. Hughes

No, I cannot blame Labour for that, because Labour examples of good local government practice are difficult to find.

The London county council was generally well supported and well respected. The Greater London council, which was created by the Tories, was never appreciated as correctly designed. The hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone) was correct to say that it was not the right size or shape and did not have the right powers. Like other colleagues, I opposed its abolition, because the Government did not produce an alternative. That is why we also opposed the abolition of the Inner London education authority.

Mr. John Marshall


Mr. Hughes

No, I shall not give way. I should like to press on a little.

We now have the chance of a review. The Government have said that they wish to review local government, but not in London. Everywhere else can contemplate having a different form of local government, but not London. That is the wrong stance and the wrong approach, because Londoners, as much as anyone else, can hold the view that their area needs to be reformed. Opinion polls show that a substantial majority of people are in favour of London having a coherent voice. According to the last poll, 67 per cent. of Londoners said that, in one form or another, London should have a single coherent voice.

The case for a strategic authority is well supported by all objective commentators outside this House. London is almost unique among the world's large cities in not having that co-ordination. Obvious examples of that need are regularly apparent. It is needed, for example, for planning London's transport system, instead of discovering that the land that is needed has already been sold off, so that land for a new railway or tube must, belatedly, be found somewhere else. We have not integrated bus, train, underground and riverbus services or planned such services with interchangeable tickets, and the inability to ensure that docklands is developed for the benefit of all the people of docklands, with democratic accountability, has shown the folly of policies that many have come to regret.

We must decide where to go from here. There are several examples of the weakness of Labour's document. First, it is clearly not yet Labour policy to provide any new strategic London authority with a substantial sum of money. It is no good coming up with a new structure without the money to finance it. Secondly, there is no clear timetable in Labour's document. Labour says that it will produce a new London authority at the same time as introducing devolution in the rest of the country. However, there is a strong argument that London should have its authority earlier than that, before the others. That is what Liberal Democrats believe.

Mr. Dick Douglas (Dunfermline, West)

Before Scotland?

Mr. Hughes

No, before any other region in England. Thirdly, Labour claims that the authority would be electorally accountable and, like me, supports the idea of annual elections. However, Labour fights shy of proportional representation and does not endorse the fundamental method of real accountability, which is to make the people who are elected reflect the views of the electorate.

Fourthly, the Labour document talks about boundaries, but it will be the Labour party that will decide the boundaries, not the people of London.

Labour's fifth proposal is the establishment of a quality commission. This is interesting, and it gives the game away. In 1990, Labour would have given the quality commission powers to require a council to invite alternative providers from the public, voluntary or private sector to deliver a customer contract if it was not working. However, the new document does not give any such powers. It states: In exceptional cases, the commission would have powers to send in a management advisory team to a particular authority if there was widespread public concern about the breakdown in the provision of a particular service. Although people could complain to the quality commission, the commission would not have the power to do anything about it.

Finally, Labour's document contains some wonderful double-talk about the City of London: Within London, we will meet the party's long standing commitment to abolish the local government powers of the Corporation of the City. We will consult with the Corporation and others to ensure the ceremonial duties now carried out by the Lord Mayor continue and that other institutions of value are maintained. When launching the document, the hon. Member for Dagenham apparently said that the City corporation would remain to elect the lord mayor, although it would not have any power other than to elect the lord major—how ridiculous. Either there should be a Lord Mayor for the whole of London or the lord mayor should remain in the City. I support the lord mayor being elected from the whole metropolis, but the issue should not be fudged as it is in the Labour party's document.

Mr. John Marshall


Mr. Shersby


Mr. Hughes

I shall give way just once—to the hon. Member for Hendon, South (Mr. Marshall), who rose earlier.

Mr. Marshall

I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way. Is he saying that he would do away with the City corporation and with the lord mayor who is elected by the City corporation?

Mr. Hughes

That is a perfectly reasonable question, and I shall answer it as I come to the end of my speech.

Mr. Shersby

Will the hon. Gentleman give way briefly on the question of the lord mayor?

Mr. Hughes

Very well.

Mr. Shersby

Does the hon. Gentleman recognise that there are two cities in what we know as London—the London borough of the city of Westminster, which has its own lord mayor, and on which body I served for several years, and the City of London? Do the Liberal Democrats propose to abolish the role of the lord mayor of the city of Westminster?

Mr. Hughes

I shall deal with that quickly. Of course the city of Westminster should have its own lord mayor. Indeed, some of us in Southwark, where we have two cathedrals, believe that we should have a lord mayor and be a city ourselves, but that is another argument. I shall come to the wider issue of the lord mayor of London in a moment.

My colleagues and I believe that the principles that should govern local government include starting from the bottom up and ensuring that local government bodies reflect natural communities and that their boundaries reflect the boundaries of those communities. Government should be at the lowest tier possible. We should have parish and community councils in London. They are permitted everywhere else in England but not, for some reason, in our capital city. There should also be a strategic regional tier of government, devolved from Whitehall, with powers that should be exercised Londonwide but by a democratically accountable London body.

Between those tiers—here I believe that I carry with me the right hon. Member for Brent, North (Sir R. Boyson)—there is a strong view, which runs against the tight conspiracy of the Tory and Labour parties generally, that the present London boroughs are not the right size. At a pensioners' meeting in Bermondsey this morning, I put my view that, if we had a fixed regional authority, we could have much smaller boroughs, as used to be the case. That was met with overwhelming approval, because such boroughs would reflect the size of the local communities, whether in Holborn, Bermondsey, Camberwell or Southwark.

Finally, we must give local government the power to levy its own taxation. It is no good making local government dependent upon Government handouts, which is what Labour does, because, as the right hon. and learned Member for Monklands, East (Mr. Smith) is always telling us in debates about money, Government handouts depend on the economy being able to allow that money to be handed out, and there is no guarantee of that.

We should stop the dog fight. We should stop pretending that any of us had the right to impose our view about the government of London on Londoners. If hon. Members argue here that the people of Vilnius, Latvia, Estonia or Lithuania should have the right to self-determination, why should not the people of London have the same right? Let them decide. Let them decide where their boundaries should be. I read that the mayor of Croydon would like Croydon to be regarded as Surrey, not a Greater London authority. Let the people of Croydon, or Bexley, or Bromley, decide for themselves. Let the people, not the politicians, decide.

If the people want London boroughs of the present size or much smaller boroughs such as the old metropolitan ones, let them decide. I think that they would decide for a smaller metropolitan borough, in which government is much closer to home. If they want parish and community councils, Londoners should, like those in the rest of England, decide. If they want a regional authority, let the people of London decide that, too.

In answer to the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Shersby) and for Hendon, South, I and my party believe that the City of London corporation should be abolished. Then the lord mayor of London could be elected to represent the metropolis as it is eventually defined. Londoners should decide that matter as well. If Londoners think that the anomaly of an electorate made up of a few people in the City—business people and people such as myself still with a vote as a legacy of my days as a practitioner at the Bar in the Temple—is suitable to elect the lord mayor of London, so be it. Let all Londoners decide what the electorate should be. I think that they would decide that the present system is anomalous and out of date and ought to change.

I hope that Londoners decide that London government should be based in county hall and that we should not lose county hall to the private sector, which is now the risk. They should also decide the question that the Secretary of State has placed on the agenda in his consultation paper which we await: how should local government be run? Should it be run as now, when councillors elect a local leader, or should we elect for each level of authority a small number of councillors either with an elected mayor or five or six people elected to carry out the tasks of running transport, housing and so on? I favour a move in that direction, but let Londoners decide.

None of the political parties has the majority support of Londoners.

Ms. Diane Abbott (Hackney, North and Stoke Newington)

Speak for yourself.

Mr. Hughes

I speak for the hon. Lady too. The Labour party does not have majority support in London.

Ms. Gordon

Come off it.

Mr. Hughes

The Labour party does not have a majority in London; neither do the Tories or the Liberal Democrats.

Any party which imposed its will on London would be unreasonable and would create the same hostility and anomaly, and thus the desire for change, for which we have fought for the past 20 years. Let us have a fair system for electing the type of government that the people want, and less arrogance from the politicians.

5.32 pm
Sir William Shelton (Streatham)

After the press conference of the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould), given while he was floating down the Thames, I was rung up by the press and asked if I thought that London was in crisis. I said that I did not think so; that Lambeth was in crisis, not London. I entirely agree with my hon. Friends that the way in which the hon. Gentleman rubbished our capital city was disgraceful, yet he had the clear support of Labour Members. It was wrong and does no good. It is reasonable to criticise, but not to rubbish London as he did. He spoke for 30 minutes and spent 20 or 25 minutes criticising London, but only about seven or eight minutes suggesting solutions. I shall come to them later.

I was a member for Wandsworth on the Greater London council in its glorious years from 1967 to 1970. They were glorious because the council was Tory-controlled. Even then I thought that the GLC and the Inner London education authority, of which I was chief whip, contributed little and cost a great deal. Today, we have heard of a possible son of the GLC—a new Greater London authority.

Like my hon. Friend the Member for Surbiton (Mr. Tracey), I was taken aback by the words that the hon. Member for Dagenham chose when he spoke of a lean and hungry animal, or whatever it was. As my hon. Friend said, everything that is lean and hungry gets fattened up. If the hon. Gentleman had said that the new authority would be neutered, muzzled and on a lead, we might have been slightly reassured. I certainly was not reassured when the hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone) said that the Opposition would have the opportunity to set up this new tier of London government on true socialist principles. I just wish that every Londoner could have heard him. They would have shuddered at his remarks.

It is unfortunate that my hon. Friend the Member for Surbiton spoke before me as much of my speech is along the same lines. I agree with him that the London Boroughs Association could become a forum for the discussion of Londonwide matters. I see no reason why that should not happen. There are occasions when such matters should be discussed and, presumably, that is the purpose of the LBA. Rather than build new layers of bureaucracy upwards, that forum seems to be the way forward. Conservative Members are trying to move decision making down to the people. For example, we have introduced local management of schools by governors and parents and have attempted to move decision making downwards on council estates so that residents take over their management. I am sure that that will be the trend for the next decade, rather than building tiers of government upwards at great cost.

As I represent Lambeth, my hon. Friends will understand why I express dismay that a Greater London authority may one day be Labour-controlled. Lambeth is absolutely typical of Labour control. Lambeth is cutting education, although I must tell my hon. Friends that it is not closing youth clubs, as has been reported, but merely youth centres, which will re-open in September.

Mr. John Marshall

Is my hon. Friend aware that the shadow Secretary of State for Education, the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw), is choosing to have his children educated in Conservative-controlled Westminster rather than in Labour-controlled Lambeth?

Sir William Shelton

I understand that the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) lives in Lambeth and, I am afraid, that decision shows his good sense.

Lambeth council is cutting youth provision and social services, just to name a few. The automatic reason that the council gives is that its community charge has been capped. I am trying to find out the truth about that and I have had discussions. So far as I can see, the cuts cannot and should not spring from capping because Lambeth's standard spending assessment for education is £131 million. I understand that Lambeth proposes to spend £18 million less than that. I may be wrong, but that is what I understand, and it is difficult to forget such figures. The council is raiding the education budget for other purposes. In a recent debate, I used the phrase "raiding the education budget" and Hansard made it "raising". Lambeth is raiding, not raising, the education budget and capping has been blamed.

So far as I can tell from the papers in my possession, last year's budget in Lambeth was £285 million. This year the budget has been capped to £311 million—a cash rise of £26 million or 9 per cent. If inflation this year is 6 per cent., that represents a rise—admittedly a small one—in real terms. Why is Lambeth making enormous cuts? Every letter it sends out is about the cuts. It is as though it is flying that fact from the flag on the town hall—I would not be surprised if it did. The position is extraordinary, but I suppose it is due to the bad debts that Lambeth must service. If that is the case, I just wish that the Government could be more helpful in allowing us to roll those debts over a longer period, because it is damaging education in my constituency.

Mr. Shersby

Can my hon. Friend tell the House the level of non-collection of the community charge in Lambeth? From an election campaign in which I participated in Lambeth, I understand that a large percentage of people do not pay their community charge and that, before it was introduced, many people did not pay their rates either.

Sir William Shelton

My hon. Friend is right, but I do not know the answer to his question and I doubt whether Lambeth knows it. Many of my constituents have not received even their community charge bills for last year. Last November, some 14,000 first bills had not been sent out. I received a letter from three members of an extremely distraught household that had received eight different paying-in books in the space of 10 days, each with a letter demanding immediate payment. To put it mildly, there has been some confusion in the management there.

May I make a plea to my hon. Friend the Minister for Public Transport? Consultation will take place throughout the country to seek the views of citizens and residents about how local government should be organised and what sort of local government they would like to have. Why should my constituents, Londoners, be denied that? We, too, have our problems. My hon. Friend may be aware of the massive move in Clapham and Streatham to return to the borough of Wandsworth, from which they were wrenched in 1965. I recognise that that is a matter for the local government Boundary Commission, not for the Government. Nevertheless, surely the constituents of all London Members have the right to be consulted about the construction of local government in London. That issue should be given some consideration.

5.43 pm
Miss Kate Hoey (Vauxhall)

It is interesting to follow the hon. Member for Streatham (Sir W. Shelton). As one of the three Members for Lambeth present, I am sure that he would like me to mention that, today, all three Lambeth Members had a productive meeting with the new leader of Lambeth council and the new chair of education. What Lambeth now needs most is to be taken out of the headlines—[Interruption.] It would be helpful if Lambeth were now given a period to settle down under a new leadership and to continue trying to improve its services under difficult circumstances.

The subject of the debate is the government of London and the need for an overall strategic authority. We seek not to re-create the Greater London council, as was firmly stated by my hon. Friend the Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould), but to create a new streamlined authority to deal with the problems which everyone in London accepts exist. As someone who chose to live and work in London, I am amazed that Conservative Members accuse us of not being proud of living in London. It is precisely because we are proud of living and working in London that we wanted this debate. We want to redress some of the problems that London now faces, many as a direct result of the fact that there is no strategic authority. We initiated this debate because we have pride in and care about London.

It is rather sad that, in his opening remarks, the Minister implied that this debate would stop tourists coming to London. Tourists will come no matter how run-down the city becomes, but we want tourists to leave London with a better impression than they have been getting recently. We want them to be able to see London as I first saw it some 20 years ago when I came to this part of the United Kingdom. They no longer see the city that I saw when I first came—as an artistic and cultural centre. We want London to be prosperous and to contribute to the prosperity of Britain. We want to put right some of the things that have gone wrong.

There will be agreement throughout London that, to achieve those aims, transport must be co-ordinated. Many Conservative Members know that, if they are honest enough to admit it. One has only to speak to those who travel regularly by London Transport to know that there are real problems.

A strategic overview is needed in other areas, too. I shall not discuss housing because other hon. Members will go into more detail on that issue and the problem caused by the increase in homelessness, the shortage of affordable housing and the necessity for people to move around in London. There must be co-ordination to solve those problems and to ensure that affordable housing is built.

I feel strongly about the fact that sporting facilities and sport generally are no longer co-ordinated, so that in future young people will have less opportunity. Who is funding, and who will fund in future, the strategic voluntary initiatives for sport and recreation? The London Borough Grants Committee which was set up to bring together grants for voluntary activities after the Greater London council was abolished, has failed to fund many of the genuine strategic projects, such as the London Playing Fields Association. The Sports Council grant for London, which was initially increased to get over the distribution problems when the GLC was abolished, has been reduced in recent years. The Sports Council expects local authorities to pick up the tab. Naturally, they are unable to do so and many developments are now being stopped.

Who will look after the capital projects in London on a strategic level? A good example exists in Southwark where, at Herne Hill cycle stadium, there were plans for a velodrome. This country is lacking a facility for cycling, but the cost will fall mainly on Southwark, which cannot afford such a strategic facility that will be used by people from throughout London and the country.

Who will replace the ice rink in the London borough of Richmond when it closes in 1992? Who is thinking about such problems now? Ultimately, because there is no overall authority to consider them, each borough is interested only in what happens in its little patch.

In the London borough of Epsom—[Interruption.] I count it as near enough to be a London borough. The London Residuary Body is responsible for 70 acres of playing fields, including the Priesthill playing field in Epsom. It has been lying empty and idle since the GLC and ILEA were abolished, and no one is taking overall responsibility for it.

Although many hon. Members are more than happy that Manchester won the bid for the Olympics—hon. Members throughout the House will do our best to ensure that Manchester wins the Olympic bid—London did not even have an equal chance to compete. We did not even begin with "level playing fields", because we had no voice in the matter and no person or group who could sign the contract with the British Olympic Association. I do not think that is acceptable.

Therefore, this debate is about not just the issues that are seen as up front—transport, housing and the overall environment in London—but those issues that together make our capital city a great place where people can feel proud to be. We cannot allow the deterioration to continue. Something must be done, and the Labour party's proposal to recreate a streamlined Greater London authority is the way forward to that.

5.50 pm
Sir Rhodes Boyson (Brent, North)

I agreed with the abolition of the Greater London Council because I considered it wasteful, extravagant and politically motivated. It was intensely disliked, and the very image of it is still disliked in my constituency. It had a budget of £1 billion, about £150 to £200 per man, woman and child in London. People talk about the community charge, but the GLC was an imposition on the people of London carried out by the then Labour Government.

The GLC also affected employment. In 1983, the London Chamber of Commerce survey showed that the cost of the GLC on London meant that employment had decreased when otherwise it would have increased. We have heard much about where the money went. It was not a vast amount but my constituents were irritated about where it went. It was spent on the Gay Police Monitoring Unit and Babies Against the Bomb—

Ms. Abbott

The right hon. Gentleman lists the same old things.

Sir Rhodes Boyson

The Opposition do not like me talking about this. They do not want it in the papers tomorrow.

Mr. Livingstone

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Sir Rhodes Boyson

I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman. I shall give way to only one Member from each party.

Mr. Livingstone

Although it caused some controversy when we gave a grant to a group to ensure that the police were not discriminating against lesbians and gay men, it seems that our message has got across, because the Metropolitan police are actively taking on board those lessons and trying to eliminate prejudice based on sexual orientation. Surely the right hon. Gentleman welcomes that.

Sir Rhodes Boyson

I shall give some more examples —the English Collective of Prostitutes, the Police Accountability for Community Enlightenment—presumably, people go around shining torches—the Women's Peace Bus, and a marvellous thing that I do not understand, the See Red Women's Workshop. If anyone can understand that, one would be able to write a PhD thesis backwards.

There were cheers in my constituency when the GLC was abolished. As hon. Members will have expected me to do, I spoke in my constituency this morning and warned of the great spectre rising again like something in Dickens coming to destroy us.

It is said that the new organisation will be lean and hungry at the beginning—my hon. Friend the Member for Steatham (Sir W. Shelton) referred to that—but it will grow. It is to have two powers which it did not have before, involving health and the police. It reminds me of the old Lancashire tale of an illegitimate child born in the 19th century. When the child's mother was asked, "What is your excuse?" she replied, "It is only a little one." But it grew, and the new London organisation will grow in the same way—

Mr. Norris

Will my right hon. Friend say that again?

Sir Rhodes Boyson

Do I want to do it again? I shall do it in the second act. Others must read what I have said and then they can take part in the second act with me. I shall say it in less of a Lancashire accent next time.

The only difference with the new organisation will be that, presumably, the Labour party will try to convey the image of Glenda Jackson, not that of the hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone), who foisted the GLC on Londoners.

The Government must recognise three problems in London. The first is the state of public transport, which is in uproar. From my constituency 20,000 people a day use the underground. The number of escalators that do not work must be the highest anywhere. Londoners do not like the breakdowns and delays and do not know why the system cannot be made better. Public transport is a sort of strange quango which is responsible to nobody. That will not do, and the Government must act either by privatising the service or putting in more money. For 100 years we have lived on the capital of the Victorians. The system needs new lines and more expenditure and, certainly before the next general election, the Government will have to tackle the problem. If the money is not available, the Government will have to privatise the service and allow people to build other lines.

Yesterday, I watched the beating the retreat with some of my hon. Friends, and I recommend it to any hon. Member. One service that works in this country is that of the armed forces, and I shall not vote for any reduction in those forces because they are probably the best training ground in the country. Instead of putting young people in all the training schemes advocated by the Secretary of State for Employment, they should put them in the armed forces for two or three years and then they would be able to do something afterwards. Is there a spare general to take charge of London Transport? He should be told that he has two years to solve the problem or will go to the scaffold—that would concentrate the mind.

Secondly, there must be a voice for London. Whether that is achieved by bringing together the various boroughs or in some other way, we need a voice for London. Otherwise, hon. Members' views will be affected by those of their constituents. There must be a voice to speak for the whole of London on such issues as the Olympics. Perhaps there should be an elected mayor working with the boroughs. That is a radical suggestion, and I must not become radical, or I shall worry many of my constituents and my wife.

Thirdly, we cannot have local government reorganisation in the rest of the country if we do not have it in London and the metropolitan districts. If that is a plot hinted at by hon. Members from both sides of the House this afternoon, I shall not take part in it. I shall vote against any local government reorganisation until there is reorganisation in London. My constituents in Brent did not want the last local government reorganisation. I mean no disrespect to the Government, under whom it was introduced, but my constituents did not feel that they were linked to that reorganisation. Even the name of my district is anonymous—no one knows where it is and Brent Cross and Brent Cross station are not within it. There is no Brent oilfield, there are no Brent geese, so they call it Brent. During the war, we took away the names of stations because we feared an imminent German invasion. We must have then thought that a Russian invasion was imminent so it was best if no one knew where their district was.

Mr. John Marshall

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Dicks

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Sir Rhodes Boyson

I shall give way to my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Dicks) because he has been bobbing up and down and I am worried about his health.

Mr. Dicks

My right hon. Friend mentioned the financing of the London underground. He should be aware that the London underground authorities told the Select Committee on Transport that money was not the problem, and that in 1987, 1988 and 1989 the capital allocation had been underspent. Therefore, something other than money must be causing the problem.

Sir Rhodes Boyson

The management must be changed immediately if it cannot use the money.

The hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) spoke about consulting people. There must be consultation about boundaries in London. If people are put in districts where they do not belong, they resent it because it is not right. If we stroke the cat one way, it purrs, and if we stroke it the other way it growls. Good government is when the cat is stroked so that it purrs. I would expect there to be full consultation in London on whether we should return to smaller districts, so that we can determine that people know their own districts.

The Government must do something about those three problems. It is no good merely attacking the Labour party's plans. If we tackle those problems in the correct way, it will help us, not only in London, but in the general election.

5.58 pm
Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)

After the right hon. Member for Brent, North (Sir R. Boyson) listed the central office bê te noires—those grants given out by the GLC—he spoke a great deal of good sense, and I hope that Ministers will heed what he said. He is the only Conservative Member to have addressed strategic issues in London. He mentioned transport, the reorganisation of London local government and a voice for London. I do not want to do the right hon. Gentleman any more damage by praising him, but he was the first Conservative Member to elevate the debate and talk about the strategic interests of London as a whole.

I always try to stick by the old saying that in politics we should not get angry: we should get even. Unfortunately, I usually fail, because I am still angry about the abolition of the GLC and how it was done. I am now beginning to get the sweet smell of revenge and getting even because I know that there will be a Labour Government and a restoration of strategic local government in London. That is what Londoners want and it is what they had until 1986 —97 years of strategic government in London. We had the Metropolitan Board of Works, superseded by the London county council and then by the Greater London council. The new Greater London Authority will resume the process of the evolution of government in London, and Londoners will greatly welcome that.

Our capital is the only one in the world that does not have city wide local government. We all know why the GLC was abolished—because of the ideological fixation of that second-rate bigot, that authoritarian who inhabited 10 Downing street at the time. I well remember her predecessor saying how appalled he was when he realised that the Conservative party had committed itself to the abolition of the GLC. Londoners did not want that, and at the time not even a majority of Conservative Members in London wanted it. But because it was ordered by "she who must be obeyed" it was pushed through. Despite all the evidence against them, there are still Conservative Members fighting in the Thatcherite bunker, but they are out of time and out of place now—and they will soon be out of office. Londoners are looking forward to that.

Abolition was never popular with London. I remind Conservative Members that in March 1986, on the eve of abolition of the GLC, a Harris opinion poll showed that 81 per cent. of Londoners thought it important to have a single body in the capital to provide and co-ordinate strategic services; 22 per cent. of Londoners approved of abolition; 62 per cent. disapproved; and 59 per cent. believed that matters would be worse after abolition. How right they were.

The 1986 opinion poll findings are remarkably consistent with the latest findings carried out by the Evening Standard.

Mr. John Marshall


Mr. Banks

Two thirds of all Londoners are revealed as believing that London should have an elected authority. I support the suggestion by the right hon. Member for Brent, North of a mayor or a Minister for London, incidentally. Two thirds of Londoners believe that London needs an authoritative voice. The same proportion believe that services in the capital have got worse. So whatever the Government have done to deceive themselves about abolition and its aftermath, Londoners have not been deceived. They understand full well how badly services have deteriorated since abolition, and Tory Members deceive themselves if they think that matters can improve without a strategic body for London.

All informed comment agrees with me on this. Sir Ralf Dahrendorf, in his London Weekend Television London lecture, and Dr. John Rigg, of the Henley Centre for Forecasting, have given their unanimous verdict. They maintain that London is in decline, that it is unplanned and unco-ordinated, that it is dirty, and that it lacks a sense of identity and of civic pride. This last has all but disappeared in London. There is no focal point in the capital, and that is what people complain about so much. LWT's "The London Programme" poll showed that 50 per cent. of Londoners would leave the capital if they could, and only 39 per cent. said that they liked living in London.

We know what the major complaints are. The right hon. Member for Brent, North and my hon. Friend the Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould) mentioned one of them—poor transport. London's roads are breaking up and are riddled with potholes which are a danger to drivers, cyclists and pedestrians alike. The infrastructure of transport has been allowed to fall into dereliction through lack of investment. Belatedly, the Government are recognising the need to push money into transport. Every scheme that the Minister proposes for investment in public transport will be welcomed by us. We shall of course offer constructive criticism. It is rather late in the day, however, to be taking investment decisions that should have been taken over the past decade, but the Government are trying to rush them through now before a general election.

Certainly there is conflict between central Government and city government in Paris. President Mitterrand and Jacques Chirac are always fighting, but they are fighting over who can bestow the greatest prizes on the capital of France. They take great pride in their capital. London, on the other hand, has become a battlefield between the Government and the Opposition in recent years. We should be able to get together and talk about our capital. The Opposition remain ready to sit down at any time with the Secretary of State to discuss the reorganisation of local government in London; yet, as the right hon. Member for Brent, North correctly said, that is the one aspect that has been ruled out of the new proposals on local government structures.

We are prepared to sit down and discuss the best way to advance our capital city. We have to live in it together, so we should try to improve it together. The rest of the world's capitals organise their local affairs much better than we do. Ministers come out with a great deal of propaganda about how popular London is with overseas visitors, but they should read what is being said by many involved in commerce and industry, who offer many criticisms of transport in London, of planning in London and of the quality of life in London. All these factors are taken into account when business people are deciding whether to locate their financial enterprises here. We are losing out badly to cities such as Frankfurt and Paris because their administrations understand what is needed and do not operate on the ad hoc planning approach adopted by our Government.

The confusion and delay surrounding the route of the channel tunnel to London perhaps sums up best the lack of strategic thinking by the Government. The French have managed to get it right, but we are still dithering. I know that there are many political considerations—how, for instance, to avoid marginal Conservative constituencies—but this is no way to plan the south-east's major transport investment decision.

The Minister for Public Transport (Mr. Roger Freeman)

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that, in the document on London published by the Labour party, it is clear that the first action that his party would take would be to postpone any decision on the channel tunnel rail link for six months?

Mr. Banks

That refers to six months from our election, so as to ensure that decisions that will affect the economic life of this country for decades to come are based on strategic considerations, not narrow party considerations such as those that the Government adopt in respect of the route from Folkestone to London and of the siting of the second channel tunnel station.

Labour's commitment to restoring an elected strategic body for London will be welcomed by a majority of Londoners. I am proud to say that I will be fighting the election in Newham and around London on the policy paper launched by the Leader of the Opposition a couple of weeks ago. The Greater London authority will not be the GLC—why should it be? London's strategic government has evolved in 97 years—that is, until the decision to abolish the GLC. When we restore such a body after the next election, everyone will appreciate that abolition was nothing more than an aberration in the flow of London's history. The great majority of Londoners will welcome the new Greater London authority.

I share the disappointment expressed by the right hon. Member for Brent, North that our document does not mention the possibility of a directly elected London mayor, which is an idea whose time has come. It captures the imagination of Londoners, and I for one will continue to campaign for the proposal to be put to the House for debate—[Interruption.] My hon. Friend the Member for Dagenham seems to be suggesting that I might put my name forward as a candidate for such a post, although I understand that there will be competition from my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone). That is fine by me; it is the sort of constructive competition that the next Labour Government will bring to the affairs of London.

I was also delighted to see that our document restates the need to abolish the City of London. It is about time that that anachronistic local government set-up was abolished. It makes no great sense. The Government have simply used the City as an overall strategic authority. It has been given many functions and powers that extend well beyond its limits of one square mile. In any rational examination of the structure of local Government in London, we shall say, as Mr. Gladstone said, that it is about time the City of London was abolished. I hope that we shall retain the ancient and honourable office of Lord Mayor of London, however. To my colleagues who think that I am being rather reactionary, I say that the office of Lord Mayor predates capitalism. It is worth preserving, but it should be preserved in the context of a directly elected Lord Mayor of London.

At about midnight on 31 March 1986 I performed my last duty as the last chairman of the Greater London Council. It predated my removal of all the silver from County Hall and it was the lowering of the GLC standard.

Mr. Robert G. Hughes

The flag got stuck.

Mr. Banks

Of course it got stuck. Fate did not want to see it lowered; it wanted to preserve the GLC.

The flag was lowered to the strains of Nimrod, from Elgar's Enigma Variations. It was a moving occasion at which I said: Tonight is an occasion for happiness tinged with only a little sadness. We are celebrating 97 years of service to London and doing it in a way only the GLC could organise—with music, with colour and with friendship. In that spirit I ask you to salute the Greater London Council and look forward with me in total confidence to its early return. I look forward to returning to county hall to see the flag raised again to celebrate the first meeting of the Greater London authority. I shall rejoice on that evening, and I suggest that the majority of Londoners will rejoice with me.

6.10 pm
Dr. Charles Goodson-Wickes (Wimbledon)

I am glad to have an opportunity to contribute to the debate, not as a transport expert but as a regular user of British rail and London underground and as a regular recipient of many letters of complaint about what purports to be a public service. For those reasons, I welcome all the more the efforts of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport and his ministerial team to promote a more responsive and efficient transport system for London.

The initiative comes at a time when my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has advanced the pioneering concept of a citizens' charter. I was most interested to hear an apparent endorsement of that by the hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone). Under that charter, the citizen will at last be able to seek some redress when a public service fails to live up to expected standards. In an increasingly consumer-oriented society, passengers, in common with patients and pupils, will no longer put up with a take-it-or-leave-it attitude.

To improve the situation, two underlying problems must be tackled. They are finance and management. The current record level of public investment is essential, whatever the future structure of the respective systems. The increasing interest of the private sector in ancillary activities is to be welcomed, and I hope that the Government will continue to explore the radical possibilities of franchising rolling stock, track and even the staffing of parts of the system. The prospect of privatisation, even though it is not welcomed by the Opposition, concentrates minds wonderfully in the short term, and in the longer term privatisation will lead to much-needed private capital to provide the system that will be needed in the next century.

In terms of management, it is difficult to avoid a litany of anecdotal evidence heard when passengers gather to swap horror stories. It is all very well to publish plans for reorganising Network SouthEast, but the only issue that matters is whether the passenger perceives that he is receiving a better service. In that context, I shall quote from some letters from the previous chairman of British Rail in response to my representations about constituents' problems.

On reliability, I was told: locomotives do not, sadly, have a very good performance record … maintenance had, regrettably, fallen into arrears due to an unusually high number of … trains operating elsewhere in Network SouthEast requiring tyre damage repairs following the autumn leaf fall. That explanation is reminiscent of one that I missed this year, when British Rail complained about the wrong type of snow.

On overcrowding, I was told that it was not an uncommon practice throughout Network SouthEast for some passengers electing to stand for the whole journey, rather than wait for a later service on which they could travel in comfort. Those letters are as disturbing in tone as they are in content. On top of those complacent platitudes, customers have to tolerate price increases and deplorable standards of cleanliness and comfort. A problem of attitude pervades the whole management system, and unless it is firmly tackled, there is no hope at all of the culture changing. I shall give some other examples.

In December 1990, the director SouthWest wrote an unsolicited letter to me and other hon. Members with constituency interests reminding us that the current timetable would expire in May 1991. Subsequent events showed that he was hoist by his own petard.

After a few months overseas in a military capacity in which such incompetence would not be tolerated, I arrived at Waterloo to catch a specific train and was told that it had been cancelled, not just for that day but for the duration of the very timetable that had been publicised and sent to me. On the same day I was unable to find a member of the platform staff who could explain from the same timetable how trains apparently left Clapham junction before they had arrived from Waterloo.

The next matter is a master stroke. The open-ended return ticket, vital for people with an irregular pattern of train travel, was removed. I asked BR to explain and it said in a letter—if I can find it—

Mr. Tony Banks

I nodded off there.

Dr. Goodson-Wickes

I shall try to awaken the hon. Gentleman.

British Rail said: Network SouthEast loses an estimated £30 million through fraud and ticketless travel every year … a major chink in our armour in the past is the misuse of return tickets valid for more than one day. A ticket that is not stamped or collected could be repeatedly used, resulting in significant revenue losses. It beggars belief that the genuine needs of consumers can so readily be brushed aside. Surely the right question for British Rail to ask was how it could spend £30 million on sophisticated electronic equipment to ensure that it can move towards the elimination of fraud. Hon. Members may think that those are petty examples, but added together, they represent a deep malaise in the transport system.

The Northern line is often referred to as the most embarrassing part of the London underground or, more colloquially, as the misery line. That line has its depot and two stations in my constituency. I await the report from the Monopolies and Mergers Commission, and I hope that the Minister can give us some encouragement about a major and long overdue upgrading of that line. My beleaguered constituents are desperate for some good news.

The Opposition make great play of their concern for public transport, and in that context I have an anecdote which I am sure the hon. Member for Newham, South-West (Mr. Banks) will appreciate. In November, the Northern line celebrated its centenary, and there was much to look back on with pride. It is the oldest electric tube system in the world and had the longest tunnel of its type until the channel tunnel was built. More importantly, that celebration was an opportunity for hon. Members interested in the welfare of their constituents to meet the Northern line managers to discuss the problems of demand exceeding supply, of crime on trains and platforms, and on the issue of safety which rightly concerns the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott).

What was the response of the local Labour party, flushed with success at winning control of Merton council for the first time? It boycotted the entire proceedings. That is typical of Labour's posturings and its total lack of practical and positive measures.

A familiar expression of the late Airey Neave was: "There's work to be done." I have enormous faith in the ability of my hon. Friend and his colleagues to tackle the problems of public transport, both British Rail and London Underground, by applying the necessary impetus in all meanings of that word.

6.19 pm
Ms. Diane Abbott (Hackney, North and Stoke Newington)

Like the Minister, I am a Londoner. I was born in London, I went to school in London, I was a London councillor, and now I am proud to be a London Member of Parliament. It has been noticeable in the debate how Conservative Members, with the single exception of the right hon. Member for Brent, North (Sir R. Boyson), have missed the point. None has talked about the strategic issue. Instead, we have had the same old anecdotes about Labour councils and Labour looniness.

No one pretends that London Labour councils do not have their problems and management difficulties. In Hackney, we have just uncovered a serious housing scandal. I take the opportunity this afternoon to congratulate the new director of housing in Hackney, Bernard Crofton, who has worked hard with a new team to uncover the scandal and turn the situation round. All of us in Hackney concerned with the issue are giving him every support.

I have served as a London Labour Member of Parliament, but I have also served on a Tory-led council. Corruption and mismanagement are not the exclusive preserve of London Labour councils. Despite all that London Labour councils may have done, none has sunk so low as Westminster city council under Lady Shirley Porter, who sold cemeteries for 5p a time. Anyone who wants to hear what people think of Tory councils, their values, morals and commitments, should talk to the relatives of those buried in those cemeteries and saw them peddled to property dealers and overrun by weeds in the pursuit of market values and enterprise. That is what Tory local government amounts to—peddling the dead.

Conservative Members and the Minister have talked about the attractions of London for business, particularly American business. It is true that American businesses wish to come here rather than go to Brussels or Frankfurt, and the main reason for that is language. No Labour Member argues that London is not still an attractive place to live for the rich. The question is what sort of a place London is becoming for the poor and those on middle incomes.

I have lived in London all my life, and I think that one of London's strengths compared with cities such as New York and Washington is that London has always had a high degree of social and racial integration. In New York and Washington, the rich and the white community live in fear behind stockades. Even today, after 12 years of Tory Government, even after the disturbances that we saw at the beginning of the decade, London is still a remarkably integrated city, where people of all colours and creeds can live side by side.

London Labour authorities, with all their faults, did much during the 1980s to hold London together; to make it a city in which people can walk up and down through many communities in a way which cannot be done in New York or Washington. Whatever people may say about the Labour party in London, inasmuch as we helped to hold London together as an integrated city, we did a service to London. One can see what could have happened to London if one crosses the Atlantic and visits New York and other American cities which are divided by class and race; cities where people cannot leave their neighbourhoods without being in fear of their lives. That is the truth.

That is an issue which Conservative Members do not wish to address. London Conservative Members in their entirety speak from their suburban fastnesses; they speak ridden by suburban bigotry. But the pride and strength of London has always been that it is a city to which people can come from all over the country and from all over the world and in which they can live, work and go to school together, in the knowledge that their children and grandchildren can go as far as they want to go. That is the strength of London. London is a melting pot, and that is something to which the Labour party is committed, as the Conservative party has never been. Conservative Members speak for the suburbs, for bigotry and for people who do not understand what has made London for centuries a magnet for people throughout the world.

Mr. John Bowis (Battersea)

Will the hon. Lady give way?

Ms. Abbott

No; others wish to speak, and I want to complete my few remarks.

When we talk about what London Labour-controlled authorities may have done wrong, we should also bear in mind what they did right. They have helped to keep London an integrated city, a city which, despite all its problems, is remarkable for the way in which people can live side by side.

Conservative Members can repeat their central office list of loony grants until they are blue in the face, but it is always the same list; they never produce new examples. But anyone who lives and works in London will talk about the sad decline of London during the past 12 years. As my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone) said, cab drivers are not natural Labour voters, but they are the first to say how they regret the lack of investment in London's transport, which has led to London's roads seizing up.

Nobody who knows London and who uses London transport—unlike Conservative Members can have failed to notice how London has declined into a shabbier, seedier and sadder place in the past decade. As a proud Londoner, I think that that is very sad indeed. No central office propaganda, no sneers at the London Labour party, can deny the evidence of people's own eyes. Under a Conservative Government, London has suffered from systematic neglect.

Mr. Bowis

Will the hon. Lady give way?

Ms. Abbott

I must complete my remarks, because the Front-Bench spokesmen wish to speak.

It is easy—it is not a temptation which Conservative Members find easy to resist—to sneer at what London local authorities may have done wrong in the past. But I want to take this opportunity to talk about what they have done right in the past. I think it was the Minister who asked what anybody who came into the debate this afternoon might think. Anyone who came into the debate this afternoon and looked at London Conservative Members would see that, without exception, they are middle-aged, grey-faced and grey-suited men. London Labour Members—[HON. MEMBERS: "Where are they?"]—three quarters of London Labour Members were here at the beginning of the debate—represent London in all its variety.

The London Labour party may have its faults, but that is because London has its faults. The London Labour party may be a difficult and turbulent party, but since mediaeval times, London has been a difficult and turbulent city. [Laughter.] The hon. Member for Edmonton may laugh, but we were at school together. I am a grammar school girl made good and he is a grammar school boy gone to the bad—

Mr. Portillo

That is a gross calumny on my hon. Friend the Member for Edmonton (Dr. Twinn). I represent Enfield.

Ms. Abbott

But we are both in a funny way an example of what can happen to the children of people who come to London from far away.

In this debate, I have risen to be a voice from beyond the suburbs, beyond people carping about their rates, beyond people complaining about these blacks and these women, and to talk for the spirit of London. Since mediaeval times, it has been a dangerous, dirty and difficult city, but, above all, it has been a city of contrasts; a city to which people come from all over the world to live side by side.

If there is one crime that Conservative Members have committed, it is not their sad neglect of the city or the public sector, but the fact that they insist on speaking up for parochialism and for the inward-looking. They have never caught the spirit of this great city. For all its faults, the London Labour party has always done that. That is why any strategic authority will have a Labour majority. That is why the London Labour party still, in its variety and with its energy, speaks for London, and we will speak for London still.

6.29 pm
Mr. Frank Dobson (Holborn and St. Pancras)

I am glad to have been in the Chamber for the past 10 minutes to listen to the moving speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Ms. Abbott). She is a black woman who was born in London and can speak movingly about our capital city. I loathed the patronising interruptions and mockery of Conservative Members during her speech.

Apart from that behaviour, this has been a good debate, but, as people say about football matches, it has been a debate of two halves. Opposition Members have made thoughtful contributions, but, with the significant exception of the right hon. Member for Brent, North (Sir R. Boyson)—who has left the Chamber in case I embarrass him—there have not been many thoughtful contributions from the Conservative Benches. They have consisted of the usual old rigmarole of slagging off the Labour party in London.

In his opening speech, the Minister seemed like Dr. Pangloss himself. "All is for the best in the best of all possible worlds" was his message. The only cloud on the horizon in London was the London Labour party, which was causing all the trouble. The Government claim that what the Labour party is saying in the motion could damage London's image abroad. All that we are doing is telling the truth about what is happening in London. Nothing could do more harm to London than a recitation of the facts. No words of mine could compare with the bad impression that foreign visitors may get when they come here occasionally, or the bad impression that Londoners get every day from the evidence of their own eyes: the unswept streets and the uncollected rubbish. [HON. MEMBERS: "In Labour authorities."] It is not Labour authorities.

Mr. Portillo

Westminster is fine.

Mr. Dobson

I invite the Minister to walk from my constituency in Camden into the neighbouring part of Westminster—provided that the council has not been warned in advance so that it can fix it—and tell me, judging by the state of the streets, which borough he is in. Most of the time he would not be able to tell the difference. It is not the fault of Labour councils that countless homeless people are huddled in shop doorways and public parks. It is not the fault of Labour councils that beggars collect outside the British museum and Buckingham palace. It is not the fault of Labour councils that sick people have to queue for health care in hospital out-patient departments.

When the Labour party speaks out on these matters, it is giving voice to the views of Londoners. We must say it, because the London Tories dare not tell the truth. They apparently will not accept the evidence of their eyes and ears. They will not speak up for London. Most Londoners want to live in this great city. They are proud to be Londoners. Most of them were born and grew up here. Moved here because they wanted to do so. There are attractions to living in a big city. The buzz and bustle, the excitement and, to some extent, the danger of big-city living attract people. Most people in London want to stay, or would want to provided that they were guaranteed a better quality of life.

The demands of Londoners are not outrageous. They want a decent home that they can afford; they want to feel safe when they walk the streets at night, and to sleep safe in their beds. They want good-quality health care for themselves and their families. They want good schools for their children. They want secure jobs with decent pay. They want to travel in clean, cheap, punctual transport. Nearly 50 per cent. of Londoners say that they would like to leave London, not because they are tired of London, but because they are tired of the circumstances in which they are expected to live and because basic services are not available.

In this great city last year, 37,000 of our fellow citizens were officially accepted as homeless.

Mr. John Bowis (Battersea)


Mr. Dobson

I shall not give way, because I do not have time.

In London, 17,000 owner-occupiers had their houses repossessed because they could not afford to make their mortgage repayments. Tonight, 33,000 of our fellow citizens are living in bed-and-breakfast or hostel accommodation. If Conservative Members want to carry the country with them when they talk about improving people's health, they will have to improve the health of the people living in bed-and-breakfast accommodation.

In a report about my constituency, doctors mildly say: It is difficult to maintain hygiene while washing, eating and sleeping in one overcrowded room. Indeed it is. They talk of high levels of gastroenteritis, skin disorders and chest infections. They say that the rates of accidents involving children are high, owing to the combination of a lack of space and hazards, such as kettles, on the floor of the room. The report is not about a third-world city such as Calcutta. It is about London now, and the circumstances in which our fellow citizens are expected to live.

Last year, in this city of 7 million people, only 363 council houses were started. None of them was in Camden, Islington, Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea, Hammersmith and Fulham or Lambeth. Wandsworth—the Tories' favourite place—went literally one better: it started one council house. In 1978, the year before the Government took office, 13,000 council houses were started for people who needed homes. That means that last year only one council house was started for every 36 that were started in 1978.

One reason for that is the cost of land, which is high because it has been driven up by property speculation. Property speculators are driving out our local communities. To convince Conservative Members, I can do no better than to quote what Winston Churchill said in 1910 about property speculators—it was right then, and it is right now: The profits of property speculators rise in direct proportion to the damage they do to the rest of the community. They make their money by pushing up rents. They drive up industrial and commercial rents and company costs.

One of the reasons for rising unemployment in London is that companies cannot afford to pay the rents that property speculators demand. Companies close or leave London, and jobs are lost. Since the Government took office, 400,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost in London. People tend to forget that London used to be the major manufacturing city in Britain. Banks and insurance companies should remember that when they decide on their investment policies. They achieved quicker and cheaper returns by investing in property speculation than by investing in industrial or commercial activity. They have done a vast amount of damage.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould) said, in the past year the number of people unemployed in London has soared from 201,000 to 309,000—even according to the Government's doctored figures. There are 26 out-of-work people for every vacancy. Some of the jobs have been lost in the health service. When the Government took office, there were 140,000 people working full time in the health service in London. The figure is now down to 120,000.

When the number of jobs was decreasing, the Government said that it would not affect patients, but it has. During that period, the hospital waiting lists have increased by a third. Now, more than 134,000 Londoners are waiting for hospital treatment. If it was not staff cuts that led to those waiting lists, it must have been the bed cuts. The number of acute hospital beds has gone down by a third, from 31,000 to 21,000. Fewer staff, fewer beds, longer waiting lists: it is a simple matter.

My hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) has been so effective in exposing the shortcomings of the Government's transport policies that they have made a U-turn—or, at least, they are trying to convince people that they have. We have heard about the Monopolies and Mergers Commission report, and the good old Evening Standard—not usually a Labour paper—says: Tube fares set for huge rises". That is because the Government will not provide the money to invest in London Regional Transport.

In their amendment, all that the Government can say about transport is that the transport system is as extensive as any in Europe". So what? It always was. With equal accuracy they could have said that it is the most expensive, most unreliable, slowest and dirtiest in Europe. The people of London know that, even if Conservative Members deny it.

It is not a Labour party myth that people in London are concerned about the education that their children are receiving. Apart from the many mad testing schemes that take up teachers' time—and even the Tories seem to be abandoning them—the Tories are saying that the answer is to go back to basics. I agree with that. There are many basics we need but do not have at present. We need a qualified teacher for every class. That is pretty basic. We need a textbook for every child, a classroom that does not let in the rain, and a nutritious school dinner for every child that needs one. Those are pretty basic needs, too. Incidentally, I remind Conservative Members that, when the present Prime Minister was a Minister at the Department of Social Security, he deprived 35,000 of the poorest children in London of the right to a free school meal. We need one other basic change. We want a Cabinet with members who send their children to the schools that they say are good enough for the children of their constituents.

The Tories keep moaning about crime and, with good reason, crime concerns the people of London. In the 1974 election the present Prime Minister stood in St. Pancras, North, which is now part of my constituency. At that time, he said that the figure for violent crime was too high. Since then it has doubled, and doubled again. There are four violent crimes now for every one in 1974, when he said that there were too many. Since the Government took office, the number of sexual offences in London has doubled, robbery has trebled and criminal damage has trebled. I have been checking and it appears that the only contribution that the Prime Minister made to solving that problem when he was Chief Secretary to the Treasury and then Chancellor of the Exchequer was to refuse to find the funds that the Metropolitan police thought were necessary to combat rising crime in London.

The problems for London in the future are enormous. As my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Ms. Abbott) said so movingly, London is a troublesome place. It has always been a troublesome place. It is crowded and difficult. There are no instant solutions to the problems, and the Labour party does not offer instant solutions to intractable problems. It is nothing to do with money, but, unlike the Government, who perform a stunt every Tuesday and Thursday and have to go back on the stunt the following Tuesday and Thursday, we believe that it is better to think out the answers to problems before suggesting them.

We believe that there are three ways forward for the future of London. The Labour party has national policies with practical answers to practical problems on jobs, training, policing, housing, education, health, transport and crime. We know in advance that they will not all work; nobody's policies have all worked. However, we have to try to work our way through and improve the quality of life in London.

We have learnt lessons, including some from the performance of London Labour councils. We accept some responsibility for what has been going on. We have learnt that it is no good for the Government to say, "This is going to happen, this is a change in the law and here is the money," and then think that the service has automatically been delivered. We know from experience that that is not so. That is why we are proposing a quality commission with powers to check the costing and quality of services provided by local government. In the light of the failure of the social services inspectorate in Staffordshire, this Government, above all, should remember that we want top quality inspectorates looking at all the services.

The issue that has received most attention, at least from Opposition Members, is that we believe that there should be an elected strategic authority for London. Most of the work will always have to be done by the lower tier authorities. The GLC used to perform some of the duties that would be better done by the lower tiers, and that is why I always believed that it should be substantially changed. There are Londonwide problems requiring a Londonwide perspective from an elected body. Some jobs simply cannot be done by 32 or more boroughs. Planning, transport and other strategic issues need to be dealt with by a Londonwide authority.

What we want, and what Londoners have made clear in every poll about London that they want, is an elected voice for London. They want government of the people of London, by the people of London, for the people of London. That is what the people of Birmingham, Glasgow and Sheffield get. They elect councils with civic pride to do something about their great cities. That is what we are promising the people of London. We know that they want it, and the Tories are scared stiff of those alternatives.

6.45 pm
The Minister for Public Transport (Mr. Roger Freeman)

I apologise to the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould) for missing his opening speech. I shall read the record. However, I have been able to listen to the excellent contributions from my hon. Friends and from other hon. Members.

The hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (M r. Dobson) talked about homelessness. I agree that it is a disgrace that people should wish to sleep and have to sleep in the streets of the capital. Members on both sides of the House share that view. That is why the Department of the Environment has initiated a major programme of £180 million over two years. It is also why, over the past two years, the Department of Health has instituted a major programme of housing, both temporary and permanent, for the mentally ill—[Interruption.] Hon. Members may barrack me, but I am trying to make a serious point with which both sides of the House would agree.

Several points were raised on the structure of government in London. There were powerful speeches from my hon. Friends the Members for Streatham (Sir W. Shelton), for Surbiton (Mr. Tracey), my right hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North (Sir R. Boyson) and my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Dr. Goodson-Wickes). They all spoke out strongly for London. Although I intend to address most of my remarks to transport, I shall ensure that their remarks are conveyed to my colleagues at the Department of the Environment.

The hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms. Ruddock) is in her place. In a recent interview as a shadow transport Minister she perhaps let the cat out of the bag. She was asked whether the new authority for London could be a taxing authority. Quite fairly and frankly, she admitted that it could be.

Ms. Harriet Harman (Peckham)

Will the Minister tell my constituents, whose homes and lives are blighted by the shambles over the channel tunnel rail link, when he will decide on the options for that link and whether he will rule out an overland route through south London that would blight for ever an inner city area that is hoping to regenerate? When will he put the people of Peckham out of their misery and decide on an alternative route?

Mr. Freeman

The hon. Lady did not deal with my point that the new authority could be a taxing authority. That is the implication. However, the Government have just received from British Rail its preferred routes and will come to a decision as quickly as possible. We will then publish the preferred route and all the detailed justifications for the selection. If elected to office, the Labour party proposes to take six months to come to a decision. We are committed to reaching a decision as quickly and sensibly as possible.

Ms. Joan Ruddock (Lewisham, Deptford)

The Minister said that I gave an honest answer that such an authority could be a taxing authority. He knows perfectly well that in the Labour party's published document it does not state that it will be a taxing authority. It will take over the precepts that are currently given to the quangos that the Government were forced to set up when they removed the GLC. It is unfair of the Minister to suggest that I have made any mistake or that my comments differ in any way from the views of my party.

Mr. Freeman

I am sure that the hon. Lady does not differ from her party in any way, which is why we note her comments as shadow transport Minister about the taxing implications of the new body.

As the Minister for Public Transport, I emphasise that we all agree—including the spokesman for the Liberal Democrats, the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes)—that for London the transport infrastructure is vital. We want a modern, clean, reliable and safe infrastructure for the underground, for the buses, for Network SouthEast—

Mr. Gould

Is this how it is to be done?

Mr. Freeman

The hon. Member for Dagenham waves the Evening Standard. Let me disabuse him: there is absolutely no truth in the Evening Standard's article, so if I were him, I should fold it up and put it down.

The Monopolies and Mergers Commission's report was published today, after six months, detailed study of the underground. We welcome the report, as it is well written and serious. It reflects the fact that the Victorian and Edwardian structure of the railway has needed, and still needs, substantial maintenance. Demand on London Underground has risen dramatically in the previous five or six years, as my hon. Friends who represent London constituencies know. Demand has increased by 50 per cent., so extra capacity is needed.

The Government have approved two new underground railway lines and are planning a third. We have a 15-year programme involving the Jubilee line, which will cost over £1 billion, the east-west crossrail and the safeguarding of the Chelsea-Hackney route. That is a creditable programme for the extension of the London underground, which will cost more than £3 billion. [Interruption.] Whereas we are planning to support a £3 billion investment programme for London Underground over the next three years—which is double the investment programme of the previous three years—the Opposition will be unable to improve on that programme, because the shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury will not permit any revenue commitments. Their preference for revenue subsidy to reduce the fares on Network SouthEast and on the underground is a non-runner.

As for the capital programme, the Opposition's suggestion is to borrow in the private capital markets. I can tell the shadow Transport Minister that London Underground will not be able to borrow in the private capital markets without a guarantee from Her Majesty's Government—it is not possible. That is part of public sector borrowing and they would end up paying more than the Government pay through the national loans fund. Such a proposal would not run.

In his speech, which I am sorry that I missed, the hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone) said that a comparison of investment by the GLC in the London underground in 1984–85 of £165 million—that is at today's prices—with that for 1990–91 of £442 million showed an increase of two and a half times. However, he argued that the GLC would have liked to spend more but could not. The weakness in that argument—and I have the figures here—is that in the last three years of the GLC's existence, the revenue subsidy was £510 million, but capital investment was £394 million—only 45 per cent. of the total resources available went on investment.

Mr. Livingstone


Mr. Freeman

Let me finish the point.

In the past three years, when the Government have had direct control of London Underground, the figures have been reversed. There were £171 million of revenue subsidy and £843 million of investment: 85 per cent. of the resources went on investment. The hon. Gentleman cannot have it both ways.

Mr. Livingstone

Will the Minister confirm that the reason why the figures are different is that the GLC had complete control of the revenue figure to set as it wished, but the capital figure was subject to central Government control? It was negotiated between GLC officials and Department of Transport officials, and it reflected the Government's priorities. Had the Government allowed us to spend what we wished, we would have built the Jubilee extension to the docklands out of revenue. It would now have been operating with not £1 of debt on public spending.

Mr. Freeman

The hon. Gentleman's argument is bogus. The resources available to the GLC were part of the public sector. The Labour party made the deliberate decision to emphasise revenue subsidy, not investment. The Government have reversed that emphasis, much to the benefit of Londoners.

I shall deal with buses and then with the railways before I conclude. The Conservative party is the party with positive ideas for the future of London buses. We favour the deregulation of London bus services and the privatisation of London Buses Ltd. The management of London Buses want the services to be privatised. We favour deregulation because we want more bus services provided in Greater London—services at different times of the day and of the week.

Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)

That will not happen.

Mr. Freeman

How does the hon. Gentleman know? If the services are deregulated, nobody will destroy the traditional red double-decker London buses. They will remain, but instead of London Regional Transport deciding centrally where the bus routes will run, we shall give the market a chance to decide—and that means the passengers in the hon. Gentleman's constituency.

Mr. Spearing


Mr. Freeman

I shall give way in a moment, but let me finish this point.

We believe that by deregulating the market we shall increase the patronage of London buses and that, therefore, there will be less congestion on London's roads. The Conservative party has taken the initiative with the red routes. My hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Sir H. Rossi) said that that initiative had been so successful that traffic speeds were giving cause for concern. Our policies—not only the red routes and the improvement of Network SouthEast and of London roads, but the deregulation of bus services—are the best recipe for relieving congestion in Greater London.

Mr. Spearing

I am grateful to the Minister for giving way, especially as I was in a Select Committee for some of the debate. He challenged me when I made a sedentary intervention. Will he tell Londoners and the House how full deregulation, which is what the Government's paper recommends, is compatible with a service that provides buses early on a Sunday morning, for example, or at the end of routes which, at the moment, are funded from the surplus in the central area of a route? How will full deregulation under his proposals provide the scale of service that Londoners want?

Mr. Freeman

In the same way that bus services in the provinces are provided where the social routes in the provinces are subsidised. My local county council subsidises bus routes, and that applies to the councils in the constituencies of all my hon. Friends. That will continue. The authority responsible for bus transportation in London will continue to sponsor socially necessary bus routes and services. [Interruption.] I have already answered the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras. Perhaps he did not hear the first time so, for the sake of clarity, I shall tell him again why the Evening Standard is wrong.

We accept that substantial increases in investment in London underground are needed. We have provided for £3 billion of investment over the next three years, which is an increase of 100 per cent. There is no question of huge fare rises for the passengers of London Underground. That is neither acceptable nor appropriate.

My hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Dr. Goodson-Wickes) mentioned Network SouthEast. I am grateful for his support of the principle of privatisation which the Government, when re-elected, will introduce in the next Parliament. Privatisation has three advantages. First, investment constraints are removed. In the private sector, British Rail would be able to borrow what it deemed sensible. The employees of British Rail—140,000 of them—will be able to own shares directly in British Rail. Indeed, their pay will be more directly related to their performance. Thirdly, where appropriate—it is not appropriate for Network SouthEast—I hope that there will be greater competition and therefore a greater improvement in the quality of services.

There are key differences between the approaches of the Opposition and of the Government to transport planning in London. It needs to be properly co-ordinated. I am the Minister responsible for co-ordinating public transportation in London, and it is done well and satisfactorily. The main differences between the Labour party and the Government are, first, that the Labour party believes in centralised planning and centralised control while we believe, as my hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Sir W. Shelton) said, in a decentralised system of planning where the passenger, not a bureaucrat or a politician, makes the decision.

Secondly, we do not believe in politicians deciding on new rail or underground lines. It is for the operators to make the decision and to bring it to the Government for funding. We have done that. Thirdly, the Labour party believes in revenue subsidy while we believe that investment is the key. Lastly, the Opposition can make no further commitment to provide funding to increase the expenditure to which the Government are committed. We have a major programme for London involving £4 billion over the next three years for Network SouthEast and London Underground. The Government will continue in office and bring the benefits of that programme to full fruit for Londoners.

Question put, That the original words stand part of the Question:

The House divided: Ayes 192, Noes 300.

Division No. 156] [7.01 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane Beckett, Margaret
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley, N.) Benn, Rt Hon Tony
Allen, Graham Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish)
Anderson, Donald Benton, Joseph
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Bermingham, Gerald
Armstrong, Hilary Blair, Tony
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Boateng, Paul
Ashton, Joe Boyes, Roland
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Bradley, Keith
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE) Bray, Dr Jeremy
Barron, Kevin Brown, Gordon (D'mline E)
Battle, John Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E)
Brown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith) Janner, Greville
Buckley, George J. Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Caborn, Richard Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Callaghan, Jim Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil
Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley) Lamond, James
Campbell-Savours, D. N. Leadbitter, Ted
Canavan, Dennis Leighton, Ron
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Lewis, Terry
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W) Livingstone, Ken
Clelland, David Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Cohen, Harry Loyden, Eddie
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) McAllion, John
Cook, Robin (Livingston) McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)
Corbett, Robin McKelvey, William
Corbyn, Jeremy McLeish, Henry
Cousins, Jim McMaster, Gordon
Cox, Tom McNamara, Kevin
Crowther, Stan Madden, Max
Cryer, Bob Mahon, Mrs Alice
Cummings, John Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Cunliffe, Lawrence Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Cunningham, Dr John Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)
Dalyell, Tam Martlew, Eric
Darling, Alistair Meacher, Michael
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Meale, Alan
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly) Michael, Alun
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l) Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Dewar, Donald Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)
Dixon, Don Moonie, Dr Lewis
Dobson, Frank Morgan, Rhodri
Doran, Frank Morley, Elliot
Duffy, A. E. P. Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
Dunnachie, Jimmy Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth Mowlam, Marjorie
Eadie, Alexander Murphy, Paul
Eastham, Ken Nellist, Dave
Edwards, Huw Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Evans, John (St Helens N) O'Brien, William
Fatchett, Derek O'Hara, Edward
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n) Patchett, Terry
Fisher, Mark Pendry, Tom
Flannery, Martin Pike, Peter L.
Flynn, Paul Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Foot, Rt Hon Michael Prescott, John
Foster, Derek Primarolo, Dawn
Foulkes, George Quin, Ms Joyce
Fraser, John Radice, Giles
Fyfe, Maria Randall, Stuart
Galloway, George Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn
Garrett, John (Norwich South) Reid, Dr John
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John Richardson, Jo
Golding, Mrs Llin Robinson, Geoffrey
Gordon, Mildred Rogers, Allan
Gould, Bryan Rooker, Jeff
Graham, Thomas Rooney, Terence
Grant, Bernie (Tottenham) Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S) Rowlands, Ted
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) Ruddock, Joan
Grocott, Bruce Sedgemore, Brian
Hain, Peter Sheerman, Barry
Harman, Ms Harriet Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Haynes, Frank Short, Clare
Heal, Mrs Sylvia Skinner, Dennis
Healey, Rt Hon Denis Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Henderson, Doug Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)
Hinchliffe, David Smith, Rt Hon J. (Monk'ds E)
Hoey, Ms Kate (Vauxhall) Smith, J. P. (Vale of Glam)
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth) Soley, Clive
Hood, Jimmy Spearing, Nigel
Howarth, George (Knowsley N) Steinberg, Gerry
Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd) Stott, Roger
Hoyle, Doug Strang, Gavin
Hughes, John (Coventry NE) Straw, Jack
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Hughes, Roy (Newport E) Thomas, Dr Dafydd Elis
Illsley, Eric Turner, Dennis
Ingram, Adam Vaz, Keith
Walley, Joan Worthington, Tony
Warden, Gareth (Gowsr) Wray, Jimmy
Williams, Rt Hon Alan
Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then) Tellers for the Ayes:
Wilson, Brian Mr. Thomas McAvoy and
Winnick, David Mr. Robert Wareing.
Adley, Robert Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Aitken, Jonathan Dover, Den
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Dunn, Bob
Alton, David Durant, Sir Anthony
Amos, Alan Dykes, Hugh
Arbuthnot, James Eggar, Tim
Arnold, Sir Thomas Emery, Sir Peter
Ashby, David Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Evennett, David
Aspinwall, Jack Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas
Atkins, Robert Fallon, Michael
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley) Favell, Tony
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Fearn, Ronald
Baldry, Tony Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Fookes, Dame Janet
Batiste, Spencer Forman, Nigel
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Beggs, Roy Forth, Eric
Beith, A. J. Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Bellingham, Henry Fox, Sir Marcus
Bendall, Vivian Franks, Cecil
Benyon, W. Freeman, Roger
Bevan, David Gilroy French, Douglas
Biffen, Rt Hon John Fry, Peter
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Gale, Roger
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Gardiner, Sir George
Bottomley, Peter Garel-Jones, Tristan
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Gill, Christopher
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Bowis, John Glyn, Dr Sir Alan
Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes Goodhart, Sir Philip
Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard Goodlad, Alastair
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Brazier, Julian Gorst, John
Bright, Graham Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's) Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Browne, John (Winchester) Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Bruce, Ian (Dorset South) Griffiths, Sir Eldon (Bury St E')
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)
Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon Alick Grist, Ian
Budgen, Nicholas Ground, Patrick
Burns, Simon Grylls, Michael
Burt, Alistair Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn
Butler, Chris Hague, William
Butterfill, John Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom)
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Carlisle, John, (Luton N) Hampson, Dr Keith
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Hannam, John
Carr, Michael Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')
Carrington, Matthew Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)
Carttiss, Michael Harris, David
Cash, William Haselhurst, Alan
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Hawkins, Christopher
Chapman, Sydney Hayes, Jerry
Chope, Christopher Hayward, Robert
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Heathcoat-Amory, David
Clark, Rt Hon Sir William Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)
Conway, Derek Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE)
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest) Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Hill, James
Cope, Rt Hon John Hind, Kenneth
Cormack, Patrick Hordern, Sir Peter
Couchman, James Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Cran, James Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)
Currie, Mrs Edwina Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)
Curry, David Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)
Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g) Howells, Geraint
Davis, David (Boothferry) Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)
Day, Stephen Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Devlin, Tim Irvine, Michael
Dickens, Geoffrey Irving, Sir Charles
Dicks, Terry Jack, Michael
Janman, Tim Price, Sir David
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey Raison, Rt Hon Sir Timothy
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Redwood, John
Jones, Robert B (Herts W) Rhodes James, Robert
Kennedy, Charles Riddick, Graham
Key, Robert Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm
King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield) Roberts, Sir Wyn (Conwy)
King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater) Rossi, Sir Hugh
Kirkhope, Timothy Rost, Peter
Kirkwood, Archy Ryder, Rt Hon Richard
Knapman, Roger Sackville, Hon Tom
Knight, Greg (Derby North) Sainsbury, Hon Tim
Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston) Sayeed, Jonathan
Knox, David Shaw, David (Dover)
Lamont, Rt Hon Norman Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Lang, Rt Hon Ian Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Latham, Michael Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)
Lawrence, Ivan Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh) Shersby, Michael
Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark Sims, Roger
Lester, Jim (Broxtowe) Skeet, Sir Trevor
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Livsey, Richard Soames, Hon Nicholas
Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant) Speller, Tony
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
McCrindle, Sir Robert Squire, Robin
Macfarlane, Sir Neil Stanbrook, Ivor
MacGregor, Rt Hon John Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire) Steen, Anthony
Maclennan, Robert Stern, Michael
McNair-Wilson, Sir Michael Stevens, Lewis
McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Madel, David Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)
Major, Rt Hon John Stewart, Rt Hon Ian (Herts N)
Malins, Humfrey Sumberg, David
Maples, John Summerson, Hugo
Marlow, Tony Tapsell, Sir Peter
Marshall, John (Hendon S) Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel) Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick Temple-Morris, Peter
Mellor, Rt Hon David Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute) Thurnham, Peter
Miller, Sir Hal Townend, John (Bridlington)
Mills, Iain Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling) Tracey, Richard
Mitchell, Sir David Tredinnick, David
Monro, Sir Hector Trimble, David
Montgomery, Sir Fergus Trippier, David
Morrison, Sir Charles Trotter, Neville
Morrison, Rt Hon Sir Peter Twinn, Dr Ian
Moss, Malcolm Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Moynihan, Hon Colin Viggers, Peter
Mudd, David Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Neale, Sir Gerrard Walker, Bill (T'side North)
Needham, Richard Walker, Rt Hon P. (W'cester)
Nelson, Anthony Wallace, James
Neubert, Sir Michael Waller, Gary
Newton, Rt Hon Tony Walters, Sir Dennis
Nicholls, Patrick Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Watts, John
Nicholson, Emma (Devon West) Wells, Bowen
Norris, Steve Wheeler, Sir John
Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley Whitney, Ray
Oppenheim, Phillip Widdecombe, Ann
Page, Richard Wiggin, Jerry
Paice, James Wilkinson, John
Patnick, Irvine Winterton, Mrs Ann
Patten, Rt Hon Chris (Bath) Winterton, Nicholas
Patten, Rt Hon John Wolfson, Mark
Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Wood, Timothy
Pawsey, James Woodcock, Dr. Mike
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Yeo, Tim
Porter, Barry (Wirral S)
Porter, David (Waveney) Tellers for the Noes:
Portillo, Michael Mr. David Lightbown, and
Powell, William (Corby) Mr. John M. Taylor.

Question accordingly negatived.

Question, That the proposed words be there added, put forthwith pursuant to Standing Order No. 30 (Questions on amendments):

The House divided: Ayes 250, Noes 26.

Division No. 157] [7.16 pm
Adley, Robert Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Aitken, Jonathan Forth, Eric
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Amos, Alan Fox, Sir Marcus
Arbuthnot, James Franks, Cecil
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Freeman, Roger
Arnold, Sir Thomas French, Douglas
Ashby, David Fry, Peter
Aspinwall, Jack Gale, Roger
Atkins, Robert Gardiner, Sir George
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley) Gill, Christopher
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Glyn, Dr Sir Alan
Batiste, Spencer Goodhart, Sir Philip
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Goodlad, Alastair
Bellingham, Henry Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Benyon, W. Gorst, John
Biffen, Rt Hon John Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Boswell, Tim Griffiths, Sir Eldon (Bury St E')
Bottomley, Peter Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Grist, Ian
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Ground, Patrick
Bowis, John Grylls, Michael
Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn
Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard Hague, William
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom)
Brazier, Julian Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Bright, Graham Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's) Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)
Browne, John (Winchester) Harris, David
Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon Alick Haselhurst, Alan
Budgen, Nicholas Hawkins, Christopher
Burns, Simon Hayward, Robert
Burt, Alistair Heathcoat-Amory, David
Butler, Chris Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)
Butterfill, John Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE)
Carlisle, John, (Luton N) Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Hill, James
Carrington, Matthew Hind, Kenneth
Carttiss, Michael Hordern, Sir Peter
Cash, William Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)
Chapman, Sydney Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)
Chope, Christopher Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Irvine, Michael
Clark, Rt Hon Sir William Irving, Sir Charles
Conway, Derek Jack, Michael
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest) Janman, Tim
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Cope, Rt Hon John Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Cormack, Patrick Jones, Robert B (Herts W)
Couchman, James Key, Robert
Cran, James King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)
Currie, Mrs Edwina King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)
Curry, David Kirkhope, Timothy
Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g) Knapman, Roger
Davis, David (Boothferry) Knight, Greg (Derby North)
Day, Stephen Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)
Dicks, Terry Knox, David
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Lamont, Rt Hon Norman
Dover, Den Lang, Rt Hon Ian
Dunn, Bob Latham, Michael
Durant, Sir Anthony Lawrence, Ivan
Eggar, Tim Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd) Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)
Evennett, David Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Fallon, Michael Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)
Favell, Tony Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight) Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)
Fookes, Dame Janet Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Riddick, Graham
McCrindle, Sir Robert Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm
Macfarlane, Sir Neil Roberts, Sir Wyn (Conwy)
MacGregor, Rt Hon John Rossi, Sir Hugh
MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire) Rost, Peter
McNair-Wilson, Sir Michael Ryder, Rt Hon Richard
McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick Sackville, Hon Tom
Madel, David Sainsbury, Hon Tim
Malins, Humfrey Sayeed, Jonathan
Marlow, Tony Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas
Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel) Shaw, David (Dover)
Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)
Mellor, Rt Hon David Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Miller, Sir Hal Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Mills, Iain Shersby, Michael
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling) Sims, Roger
Mitchell, Sir David Skeet, Sir Trevor
Monro, Sir Hector Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Montgomery, Sir Fergus Soames, Hon Nicholas
Morrison, Sir Charles Speller, Tony
Morrison, Rt Hon Sir Peter Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)
Moss, Malcolm Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Moynihan, Hon Colin Squire, Robin
Mudd, David Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Neale, Sir Gerrard Steen, Anthony
Needham, Richard Stern, Michael
Nelson, Anthony Stevens, Lewis
Neubert, Sir Michael Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Newton, Rt Hon Tony Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)
Nicholls, Patrick Stewart, Rt Hon Ian (Herts N)
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Summerson, Hugo
Nicholson, Emma (Devon West) Tapsell, Sir Peter
Norris, Steve Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Oppenheim, Phillip Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Paice, James Temple-Morris, Peter
Patnick, Irvine Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Patten, Rt Hon Chris (Bath) Thurnham, Peter
Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Pawsey, James Tracey, Richard
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Trippier, David
Porter, Barry (Wirral S) Trotter, Neville
Porter, David (Waveney) Viggers, Peter
Portillo, Michael Walker, Bill (T'side North)
Powell, William (Corby) Waller, Gary
Raison, Rt Hon Sir Timothy Walters, Sir Dennis
Rhodes James, Robert Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Watts, John Wolfson, Mark
Wells, Bowen Wood, Timothy
Wheeler, Sir John Woodcock, Dr. Mike
Whitney, Ray Yeo, Tim
Widdecombe, Ann
Wiggin, Jerry Tellers for the Ayes:
Winterton, Mrs Ann Mr. David Lightbown and
Winterton, Nicholas Mr. John M. Taylor.
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Livsey, Richard
Beggs, Roy Maclennan, Robert
Beith, A. J. Madden, Max
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Martlew, Eric
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute)
Campbell-Savours, D. N. Salmond, Alex
Carr, Michael Skinner, Dennis
Cox, Tom Thomas, Dr Dafydd Elis
Cryer, Bob Trimble, David
Fearn, Ronald Welsh, Andrew (Angus E)
Howells, Geraint
Hughes, Simon (Southwark) Tellers for the Noes:
Jones, leuan (Ynys Môn) Mr. James Wallace and
Kennedy, Charles Mr. Archy Kirkwood.
Livingstone, Ken

Question accordingly agreed to.

Mr. Deputy Speaker forthwith declared the main Question, as amended, to be agreed to.

Resolved, That this House deplores the habit of the Labour Party to run down London in a way which, if taken seriously, would damage its image abroad, deter foreign investors and bring glee to London's competitor cities overeas; emphasises that London is one of the world's finest cities with cultural and business attractions which have few rivals, a transport system as extensive as any in Europe and international hub airports which are the envy of others; welcomes the decision of the Government to relieve London of the unnecessary and highly wasteful Greater London Council; deplores Labour's plans to establish a still more wasteful London-wide body with powers to control the police which even the Greater London Council did not have; welcomes the Government's enmormous investment programme in public transport and in infrastructure in Docklands; and salutes the Government's achievements of the last 12 years which have raised Britain's reputation abroad and with it that of her capital city.