HL Deb 07 March 1977 vol 380 cc844-7

2.43 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what provisions have been made for adequate information to be given from booths at, or in the vicinity of, railway stations to young people arriving in London, in respect of accommodation or other facilities and guidance available to them.


My Lords, no such provision has been made. The voluntary organisations most closely concerned with these young people are currently considering the best way of using the additional money which has been offered by the Home Office Voluntary Services Unit for improving the advisory services available to young people, but no decisions have yet been reached.


My Lords, is my noble friend aware of the fact that voluntary organisations, in particular CHAR, are deeply concerned about the lack of these booths? Is he aware that, although CHAR was advised that it could make direct approaches to the railways, it is getting no response at all? Does my noble friend not realise that, from the point of view of helping those who arrive in London without any advice, this is an extremely important matter, and furthermore that the alternatives that have been suggested do not cope with the situation?


My Lords, the organisation to which my noble friend refers is one of the organisations which was recently represented at a meeting with the appropriate people at the Home Office—the Department for which I am answering today. The position is that British Rail maintained their refusal to allow an information bureau on the concourse of Euston Station. There then arose their offer of having East Lodge, which is some considerable distance from the concourse, and it is questionable whether a booth there would serve any useful purpose. We acknowledge that the voluntary organisations are well informed on what needs to be done in the area. They themselves are anxious that the best possible use should be made of the additional money offered by the Voluntary Services Unit, and they are looking at the best possible ways not only to use it but to provide the various services which are needed.

Baroness VICKERS

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that the International Travellers' Aid ran booths at Victoria, Liverpool Street, and other stations for many years to help au pair girls and other travellers? If the noble Lord cannot get any action taken on these stations, if the noble Lord agrees I could have a poster put up at the English Tourist Board's offices near platform 14 giving the full information as to where the hostels are and where people may apply. Perhaps this may be helpful as an interim measure.


My Lords, we are concerned with the attitude of British Rail at the present moment, and I have given your Lordships the attitude so far as Euston is concerned. We should have to ask ourselves whether a notice in the English Tourist Board's office would be likely to be seen by young boys and girls coming into London.


My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that many of the young people referred to in the Question come to London for the purpose of prostitution? Is it expected that the proposed booths should give guidance to these young people on that matter?


My Lords, there are seven or eight voluntary organisations operating in the West End of London who do a really magnificent task in collecting young boys and girls. They not only advise them and counsel them, but find places where they can live. It is a question of extending that work, and that is why my right honourable friend has asked them to consider ways and means of improving the service which they are giving at present.


My Lords, following on the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, is not the real trouble that a number of very undesirable touts at Euston Station and at Victoria Coach Station are recruiting for prostitution young people who have come to London simply to get away from their families?


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord because that is probably the prime consideration which is being considered, and has been considered, for some time; it is a question of how best to deal with that situation.


My Lords, have not British Rail some responsibility? Have they not accepted payment for the tickets bought by these young people who come to London? With regard to Euston, to which reference has been made, is it not the case that the advisory service is at Friends House in Euston Road, which is quite some distance from the station? Is it not possible to have notices at Euston Station which would provide at least guidance for these young people on how to get to Friends House?


My Lords, we are aware of the existence of Friends House. It is also being currently considered whether something can be done by way of posters. It may be that a site would have to be hired; I just do not know about that. This is certainly being considered at the moment. With regard to the first point raised by my noble friend about the moral responsibility of British Rail, perhaps he would send British Rail a copy of today's debate in Hansard.


My Lords, can my noble friend say whether or not any consideration has been given to the use of the telephone as an alternative to the establishment of an information booth? Could not a situation be created whereby youngsters could ring a particular number and secure all the information they require? Has any consideration been given to that idea?


My Lords, I can honestly say that that is also a matter which has been mentioned and is being considered. One has to be certain that, if one has this kind of telephonic system, it is not going to break down in a comparitively short period of time. There is a considerable amount of vandalism concerning telephone kiosks; and, somehow, one should make the system, so far as possible, foolproof. Dispensers containing leaflets have also been suggested, but this idea has been examined and found to be not suitable for the purpose that it is desired to serve.


My Lords, in view of all that has been asked and answered and while appreciating my noble friend's good intentions, may I ask him whether it is not essential that he should listen to the various voluntary organisaions which have been practising in this field for so many years, should adopt what is the most effective way of handling this situation and should see to it that the railways provide booths where information similar to that which is given to people coming from abroad can be made available?


My Lords, if my noble friend reads Hansard tomorrow, I think he will find that I have said on two occasions today that there has been discussion between the various voluntary organisations and the Department for which I am speaking today. They have been asked and are considering how these facilities can be best provided, if at all. We recognise their wide experience in this field, and this is why we are having discussions with them.

The LORD PRIVY SEAL (Lord Peart)

My Lords, I think that perhaps noble Lords would like to get on to the next Question.