§ 12.12 p.m.
§ Report received.579
§ Clause 3 [Loans and grants for establishing common ownership and co-operative enterprises]:
§ Lord EVANS of CLAUGHTON moved Amendment No. 1:
Page 4, line 2, at end insert—
(c) subsections (4) to (7) below,").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move the Amendment which stands in my name to Clause 3, which is the clause that deals with loans and grants for establishing common ownership and co-operative enterprises. I will not rehearse again at length the arguments I tried to put before your Lordships during the Committee stage. However, although I have had helpful correspondence about this from the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, I feel that I should give the matter another airing at this stage, because in my Amendment I have in mind what I believe to be a very important and growing need in inner urban areas; namely, the opportunity of giving assistance for starting up commercial premises associations—in other words, associations dealing with mixed developments of commercial and residential properties, which are not covered by the kinds of organisation referred to in the clause.
§ I find it somewhat depressing that specific proposals for assistance of this kind for those who are trying to keep alive those properties in inner urban areas where there is mixed residential and commercial use, have not been considered worthy of inclusion in this Bill. I think that many of us regret very much the almost complete absence from many inner urban areas of any residential life at all and the fact that the centres of many of our big cities die almost completely when the offices close at 5.30 or 6 o'clock. Attempts have been made, as your Lordships will know, to do something about this: they have been particularly successful in the Barbican area. It seems to me that we need encouragement of organisations such as commercial premises associations to do just this. It cannot be done by housing corporations and it is not being done privately, because the covenants offered by this kind of organisation are not sufficiently impressive for commercial organisations.580
§ I feel I should draw your Lordships' attention to the fact that this, although it is a newish concept, is not a "crank" idea or something that has just been thought up on the spur of the moment. The concept of commercial premises associations has the support of the National Federation of Housing Associations, of Shelter, of the Civic Trust and of many other organisations of that level of importance, and as established as that.
§ I am aware, from the correspondence I have received from the noble Baroness, that the Government are generally sympathetic to the concept I have outlined briefly; but I must underline once again that the fear that by including this kind of organisation in the categories there would be a rush of other worthy organisations through the floodgates, is an exaggeration. For that reason, my Amendment has been worded so tightly that it does not permit of extensions. It has been worded very closely indeed, so that only a strict interpretation is possible, as I think your Lordships will see, as to what comprises a commercial premises association.
§ Finally, I would draw to your Lordships' attention that the power proposed in my Amendment is in any event a discretionary and not a mandatory power. Local authorities would retain their right to refuse to help commercial premises associations if they did not think that they were suitable. Therefore I hope, realising that the Government are sympathetic, that they might be able to express their sympathy in some perhaps more positive way than they have so far felt able to do. I beg to move.
§ 12.17 p.m.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE, DEPARTMENT of the ENVIRONMENT (Baroness Birk)
My Lords, as I promised your Lordships during the Committee stage, I have given further consideration to whether it would be appropriate in this Bill to include the commercial premises associations. As the noble Lord, Lord Evans, has pointed out, I have written to him about it. I still remain of the opinion that the clause should not be extended in the way the Amendment suggests. I did go into it in some considerable detail at Committee stage and therefore, like him, 581 I shall not take up time by rehearsing all the arguments again.
I certainly accept that financial help towards the cost of setting up would be useful to commercial premises associations, but again it would be equally useful to all sorts of other bodies that may wish to take initiatives in the inner cities; and the noble Lord just now, in moving his Amendment, referred to other organisations, but said:such as the commercial premises associations.The Amendment is concerned with commercial premises associations, and what the noble Lord is asking is that in a clause of a Bill which deals with common ownership and co-operative entreprises, this should be put in specifically as an association. I think this is where the problem appears. It is not a question of not having sympathy or the fear of other organisations coming in in the future; but what the noble Lord is asking is about an Act of Parliament, as we hope this Bill will become; that this should be added in a clause of a Bill which, quite specifically, is dealing with common ownership and co-operative enterprises in a fairly wide way.
In addition, I have to repeat that I cannot accept that we should single out in this Bill and in this way, for a specific provision, one novel and, as I explained to him in some detail, as yet unproven form of organisation. In fact, the objects of commercial premises associations, as set out in the Amendment, and also in the correspondence I have had from the noble Lord, are, I find, imprecise. They suggest that the supporters of this type of body, although the motivations and objectives may be very good, are not themselves, I believe, so far entirely sure of the role they should play, certainly in the specific form in which it should be included in legislation. For instance, the objects, as expressed in the proposed subsection (4)(a), make no reference at all to the provision of premises. It is much better that local authorities should assist any type of organisation that seems appropriate to them, and they have powers to do this. They can do this under their general powers, and this would provide a much more flexible approach than inserting a particular form of organisation into this clause.
582 Finally, the commercial premises association will, of course, be eligible for all the grants and loans in the Inner Urban Areas Bill, if they undertake appropriate projects in the designated districts or the special areas. We have had a fairly good discussion on this point at two stages of this Bill, and I hope that the noble Lord, realising that there are alternative opportunities for dealing with the objective which he has in mind, will now withdraw his Amendment.
§ Lord EVANS of CLAUGHTON
My Lords, I do not apologise for raising the matter again. I think that it is of considerable importance and concern to inner urban areas, and those people who are trying to get organisations of this kind off the ground because they have a great potential. The discussion has been quite valuable and, I hope, encouraging to people involved in this kind of matter, and I trust that they are now aware of the opportunities available to them to seek finance in the way that the noble Baroness mentioned just now, and also very kindly mentioned in her letter to me.
I apologise for not having replied to her letter but, unfortunately, for some reason unknown, it was addressed to me in another place, of which I have never been, I am sorry to say—or perhaps pleased to say—a Member. I have only very recently had the letter and that is why I did not reply to her. But in view of what she has said, and also in view of her very helpful letter, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendment No. 2 not moved.]
§ Clause 4 [Declaration of and changes in industrial improvement areas]:
§ 12.23 p.m.
Lord PLANT moved Amendment No. 3:
Page 4, line 20, at end insert ("or commercial improvement areas.")
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving this Amendment I associate with it, because they are precisely the same, Amendments Nos. 5, 6, 12, 16, 18, 19, 22, 24 and 28. The wording is precisely the same, as is the intention. This Amendment has been introduced in order to empower local authorities, in particular— 583 the non-partnership authorities—to promote the improvement and regeneration of run-down commercial areas within the designated districts. As the Bill stands, the power to provide grants for improving amenities, and for improving or converting industrial or commercial buildings, will apply only in industrial improvement areas which, by definition, exclude commercial areas. Yet there must be many inner city commercial areas where these provisions, in addition to the existing powers of local authorities to improve amenities themselves, would be extremely beneficial in making them more attractive to both existing and new firms.
The Amendment is in keeping with the White Paper Policy for the Inner Cities, which states:
The development of services and office employment in the centre of cities and in the inner areas themselves will help to provide employment"—
obviously, employment to residents of the inner cities. However, apart from the changes in the operation of ODP policy, and in the Location of Office Bureau's role, there were, unfortunately, no suggestions in the White Paper as to how commercial employment could be encouraged in the inner cities particularly by local authorities. This preoccupation with employment in manufacturing establishments and with industrial areas, which is carried through into this Bill, appears to have arisen for the following reasons, and I shall just give your Lordships four reasons which I believe are behind this intention.
§ First, it seems to be thought that the decline of commercial areas in the inner cities is a direct and inevitable response to the reduction in population of those areas, and that intervention is futile. Assuming the diagnosis to be correct, I think that some attempt should be made, using the provisions of the Bill, to stem this decline or, at the very least, to ameliorate its physical and psychological effects in the form of derelict and run-down premises and a lack of confidence in such areas. More importantly, the diagnosis that the amount of commercial employment is related directly to the population of an area is only partly true. There are some commercial establishments, and, in particular, many offices, which, like manufacturing establishments, are not in existence 584 to serve the population immediately surrounding them, and are therefore relatively mobile. It is this type of commercial establishment that local authorities need to be able to encourage to stay in, or to move to, their areas and which this Amendment would help.
§ Secondly, it is assumed that commercial establishments, and in particular offices, do not provide any, or enough, suitable employment for the residents of inner city areas, particularly those who are unemployed as a result of the decline in the number of jobs in factories. Yet there is no doubt that, directly or indirectly, commercial establishments will provide some suitable employment; for example, offices generate local demands for electricians, cleaners, catering staff, et cetera. Only the amount provided is in doubt. Surely some extra employment is better than none.
§ Thirdly, there is the associated view that there are enough jobs in the centres of conurbations and major towns for inner city residents who wish to work in offices, shops or other commercial establishments. This is patently only true in London, particularly so far as offices are concerned. Why, otherwise, do the partnership and programme areas cover the main centres of the metropolitan counties and not central London? Yet even in central London, with its thriving commercial centre, there would be benefits in encouraging commerce in local centres of the surrounding inner area. For example, more married women, unable to travel to work in central London, would be able to take up employment in local centres, thus increasing the household income of inner London residents.
§ Finally, the fourth reason why there has been preoccupation with employment in manufacturing establishments, is, I believe, that any commercial property development that is needed in inner areas will be carried out by the private sector. Yet in the majority of the designated districts, the property market has not favoured commercial property development in inner city locations. The possible exceptions relate to office development in the central areas of Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield, and on the boundary of central inner London. The local centres of inner London, the inner areas around the centres of Birming 585 ham, Liverpool, Manchester and the centres of most other designated districts, are not favoured locations for commercial development.
§ The relative importance of the individual powers that would be available in commercial improvement areas, as a result of this Amendment and the other Amendments that I have mentioned, would obviously vary from one location to another. In some, the emphasis might be on providing grants for the landscaping of vacant sites in association with new development; in others, on the conversion of derelict warehouses and factories to offices; in others, again, on the improvement of existing shops and offices. All the provisions of the amended Bill could be instrumental in improving confidence in the run-down commercial areas of the inner cities, and therefore, one hopes, in increasing employment and opportunities in them. This will not happen without intervention by the Government. My Lords, I beg to move.
§ Lord DAVIES of LEEK
My Lords, out of a sense of loyalty, as much as anything else, I have pleasure in supporting what I consider to be a constructive Amendment to this Bill, which may be of use. Commercial improvement is necessary in much of the inner cities. I can give concrete examples, although I shall not bore the House with them. But inner cities are sometimes made derelict because of the high prices of office accommodation. Small commercial enterprises are finding themselves overburdened with the high cost of rent. I had better not name areas, but I could give the example of a small firm whose rent for a small office of two rooms and a half, not very far from the centre of a city was £6,000 a year, plus rates. That cost could not be borne by the entrepreneur of that legitimate commercial enterprise. In any case, high land values and high rents have helped to create deserts of concrete in some of these inner commercial areas. I believe, therefore, that a constructive objective lies behind this Amendment, and it gives me great pleasure to support my noble friend. I shall listen with arrested attention to the answer of my noble friend on the Front Bench.
§ Baroness FAITHFULL
My Lords, may I take this opportunity to speak to 586 this Amendment in respect of small businesses and small commercial enterprises. In the area in which your Lordships' House is situated I understand that it is extraordinarily difficult to find a plumber, or an electrician, or a garage. I know of one small garage in Vauxhall Bridge Road which is having to move out of this area because the lease is up and it cannot find alternative accommodation. In the area in which your Lordships' House is situated it is almost impossible for inhabitants to obtain services, not because the plumber or the small commercial enterprise does not want to be in this area but because (a) they cannot get land and (b) they cannot pay for that land, even if they can obtain it.
§ 12.32 p.m.
§ Baroness BIRK
My Lords, this is an extremely interesting series of Amendments. I sympathise with their aim, in that they are trying to encourage the growth of office employment in inner cities. In moving the Second Reading of this Bill in another place, my right honourable friend stressed the need for all forms of employment in inner city areas, and the changes which have been made to the Bill have, in the main, widened its scope to include all forms of commercial property. Therefore, the Bill is wider in that sense than it was when it was originally drafted. At the same time, I question the need for commercial improvement areas and the practical effect of this Amendment.
Because of the resources available, we have to remember that the scope of the Bill must be fairly limited. The further one expands it, the thinner the butter will be spread on the industrial or commercial bread. The commercial property market is, in general, better developed and more active than the industrial property market. Also, it is quite normal for offices to be modernised and improved during the course of their useful lives. Although the conversion of large factory buildings for use by a number of small firms is comparatively new and certainly needs to be greatly encouraged, it is a completely different kind of operation from that of modernising an office building.
It is much easier, I believe, for commercial firms to assess the likely costs and the viability of a conversion project 587 than it is for industrial firms to carry out the same exercise. The commercial property market can more easily adapt itself to the level of costs and rentals involved. It is true that some of the older office areas may not be very attractive, but the major action which can be taken to improve the environment in these streets—for instance, by re-laying pavements and planting a few trees—already lies within the power of local authorities and would not necessarily be carried out by private firms, anyway. The grants for cleaning buildings will be useful, and they are there. However, I cannot see that any of the provisions in this part of the Bill are particularly relevant to commercial areas. On that basis, therefore, it seems to me to be preferable to leave local authorities to use their general expenditure powers to make such grants selectively, as they think fit.
Again may I emphasise that the principal environmental eyesores in inner cities are those associated with industrial areas. This does not mean that everything is perfect and that things do not need to be done in commercial areas. However, because of a very strict order of priorities we believe that it is in the industrial areas that we need to concentrate our initial efforts—if we may keep it in that context—
§ Baroness BIRK
My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord would allow me to finish my sentence—and try to stabilise employment there. It is in the industrial areas where employment is tending to decline, and we should concentrate our resources there before we turn our attention to the commercial sector which, on the whole, is faring rather better.
§ Lord SANDFORD
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for giving way. May I ask her whether she is right in trying to resist this change in the measure, for these reasons: If the noble Baroness looks at Clause 6(2)(b), she will see that specific provision is made there for the conversion of other buildings—often for the conversion of factories and warehouses concerned with industrial activities into commercial buildings, for the very reason 588 which the noble Lord, Lord Plant, is urging upon us. Therefore, it does not make sense to say that the purpose of providing commercial buildings is not within the compass of the Bill, because there it is in black and white.
§ Baroness BIRK
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Plant is both enlarging the powers and also specifying them more clearly. I have already said that these opportunities are already provided for in the Bill and also in other powers which local authorities have. However, what my noble friend is attempting to do in his Amendments—which I appreciate and sympathise with—is to equate the help given to commercial enterprises with that given to industrial enterprises. All I am saying is that in the present situation, and having regard to what needs to be done in inner areas, we believe that in the first place we should concentrate on the industrial side. The point which the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, has made supports rather than takes away from the case that I am putting forward.
In conclusion, therefore, I must repeat my doubts about both the need and the practical effect of these Amendments. While sympathising with the general thinking which lies behind the Amendments—there is nothing with which one could disagree—I would ask my noble friend to withdraw them.
§ Lord PLANT
My Lords, I find it difficult to withdraw these Amendments, because I have not been convinced by my noble friend's explanation. If it is possible for some help to be given to commercial operations and offices, what is the objection to that help being written into the Bill in the places which I have specified? My noble friend does not disagree with my objectives. If my assumption is correct, I fail to see why my noble friend cannot accept the Amendments.
§ Baroness BIRK
My Lords, I wonder whether my noble friend would give way so that I may answer that point. The Bill covers help to commercil enterprises which are situated in industrial areas, but it does not cover help to commercial enterprises which are situated in residential or solely commercial areas. I do not intend to go over the ground again. It is the concentration on industrial areas and 589 the situation of commercial enterprises within industrial areas that results in this differentatiation.
§ Baroness YOUNG
My Lords, I am sure that the whole House is very grateful for the explanation which has been given by the noble Baroness, but I think she must recognise that we all feel considerable sympathy for the point which has been made by the noble Lord, Lord Plant. In a sense, it is a great misfortune that this point is being debated on Report rather than during the Committee stage, because we can speak only once.
I believe that the first debate that we had in Committee, which was the interpretation of the Long Title of the Bill, was relevant. There were those of us who thought that the definition of "social need" implied something which, as is proving to be the case, simply is not true. The Bill is not about social need; it is in fact about industry, very narrowly defined because the money is limited and it can only be spent on specific objectives. I think the noble Baroness herself has recognised in what she has said that the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Plant, is a valid one, and she is saying that the Bill defines "commercial premises" very narrowly as being commercial premises within an industrial area, as defined in the Bill, and not commercial premises anywhere else in an inner urban area, no matter how derelict or run-down that area may be.
The only valid argument which has been raised here is one simply of cost, and what I think the noble Baroness is saying is that the long and the short of it is that there is so little money with which to do anything at all that we must simply concentrate on the industrial buildings and not extend the Bill in any direction at all. That is a terrible reflection on the state of our economy and our life today because, as the noble Lord, Lord Plant, has rightly said—and he adduced four very good arguments for his linked series of Amendments—the regeneration of commercial premises does an enormous amount of good for inner city life. I do not know what the noble Lord is contemplating doing with regard to this Amendment but before we decide on this I think it would be helpful to know exactly how there might be regeneration of commercial premises in inner city areas which are not covered by the industrial improvement areas of this Bill.
§ Baroness BIRK
My Lords, I wonder whether, with the leave of the House, I might say something on this matter. I have listened carefully to everything that has been said. It is true that this did not come up at Committee stage and it was not even discussed in another place. I should like to take it back to consider the points that have been made, without making any commitment on behalf of the Government, because I think it deserves more consideration that I can give it at this moment.
§ Lord PLANT
My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that statement and I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Lord Derwent)
My Lords, I must point out to the House that, if Amendment No. 4 is agreed to, I shall not be able to call Amendment No. 5.
§ 12.42 p.m.
§ Baroness YOUNG moved Amendment No. 4:
Page 4, line 21, leave out subsection (2) and insert—
("(2) The powers of a designated district authority under sections 5 and 6 of this Act may be exercised in an industrial improvement area by both the council of the district which includes that area and the council of the county or region which includes that district.")
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 4 I should like to speak also to Amendments 17, 25, 26 and 27, all of which are consequential. This is an Amendment for clarification and to avoid any duplication between counties and districts. I tabled it in order to get on the record an answer from the Government on what I think is a rather technical point but one which I consider needs to be clarified. By Clause 4 and the Schedule to this Bill an industrial improvement area can be declared to be such by a designated district authority. For example, if one takes London as a case in point, it can be either by the Greater London Council or the appropriate London borough council. The declaration is to be made by the passing of an appropriate resolution by the authority after consultation with the other designated district authority. The resolution under the Act must specify the date on which it is to take effect and the notice must be pub 591 lished, indicating its effect and naming the places covered by the resolution, and a map of the area to which it relates may be inspected.
§ The effect of Clause 4 and that of the powers in Clauses 5 and 6 can only be exercised by the designated district authority which actually declares the industrial improvement area. So that in the case which I have cited—that is, if both the Greater London Council and a London borough council wish to have the powers of Clauses 4 and 5 in relation to a particular area—then both authorities must, as they are entitled to do under the Bill, go through the resolution, advertising and notification procedures. This seems to be a duplication of effort and expenditure which does not seem to confer any advantage on anybody and has all the appearances of being duplication and a further unnecessary round of bureaucracy. If I am right in these arguments, I wonder whether the noble Baroness could consider this point and see whether there is any opportunity to simplify the procedures and to enable the authorities to do what each would like to do and what we are all agreed ought to be done, without any duplication of effort. I beg to move.
§ Baroness BIRK
My Lords, in the first place, I could not agree more with the noble Baroness that anything we can do to simplify arrangements for implementing the powers in the Bill would be extremely welcome. However, I do not think that the essential philosophy of the improvement area approach lends itself to what she is suggesting. Also I think she is overstating the complexity of the present arrangements, certainly those in this Bill.
It is essential to the success of the industrial improvement area that the local authority should make a clear and public declaration of its intention to become involved in the revival of the area. This is not just a question of obtaining or confirming the new powers provided in this Bill, but of a particular authority looking at the whole range of needs in the areas and the way in which that authority can help. We shall encourage both tiers of local government to co-operate over all the IIAs since both have general powers the use of which will affect the area. If both tiers wish to become fully involved in the area and to make loans and grants, then 592 both should make that clear by passing a resolution and publicising the fact.
We must remember the public and the applicants who are on the other side of the fence in this matter. Otherwise the public would have no means of knowing that the non-declaring authority had any positive interest in the area. There is no need for duplication of effort since the authorities can jointly undertake surveys, prepare plans and issue advertisements, and we shall be happy for them to send joint notification of the area to us, if they agree it between themselves. There are also sound practical reasons for each authority having to make its own particular involvement clear. If it did not do so, how could its officers approve any applications for loans and grants? Powers must be sought consciously by the authority rather than granted to it accidentally by the action of another, which would seem to me to open the way for complicated muddles and mistakes.
The last of the proposed Amendments indicates the complications that might arise when it comes to terminating an IIA. The non-declaring authority should obviously be consulted, but if it did not agree to the termination the IIA would be formally in existence even though neither authority intended to take any action. I can understand the motivation behind this Amendment, but I can assure the noble Baroness that after having given it considerable thought I have decided that it would complicate rather than simplify, and could result in great confusion and also difficulty and indeed unfairness to the public. Therefore, I believe it is right for each authority to make a separate public declaration about the extent of its involvement, and as the noble Baroness indicated that she was seeking to clarify the situation, I take it that she does not intend to press this Amendment.
§ Baroness YOUNG
My Lords, with the leave of the House, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for that explanation as to why she cannot accept this series of linked Amendments. As I indicated at the beginning, this is not a matter which I wish to press, although having listened to some of the arguments I find it difficult to believe that the proposed procedures will make the matter very clear to the public, and I think it will involve quite a lot of duplication. We are, of course, 593 all agreed that people must know what is going on and it is vitally necessary to go through the correct notification and abvertising procedures, but two authorities undertaking surveys and two authorities publishing notices each dealing with bits and pieces of it seems to me to make for confusion rather than clarification. However, as I have indicated, it is not a matter I wish to press. I will read with interest what the noble Baroness has said, and, if necessary, I will write to her further on this matter. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendment No. 5 not moved.]
§ Clause 5 [Loans and grants for improving amentities]:
§ [Amendment No. 6 not moved.]
§ 12.51 p.m.
§ Lord EVANS of CLAUGHTON moved Amendment No. 7:
Page 4, line 36, at end insert—
("() the cleansing or reclamation of wharves or docks;").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 7 standing in my name. In addition to considering this Amendment, I should like to talk generally about Nos. 7, 8 and 9. I have tried to rephrase and divide an omnibus Amendment which I moved to the old Clause 4 when we considered it in Committee. I realised that there had been a misunderstanding between the noble Baroness and myself, and indeed I think many noble Lords were not clear about my intentions. I hope that by splitting the omnibus Amendment which I moved, to bring into the powers of what is now Clause 5, "loans and grants for improving amenities", into the "cleansing or reclamation of wharves and docks", "railway sidings", and then, separately, "shelters for users of public transport", I might be able to persuade the Government that an extension of the categories in this way would not in any way diminish the effectiveness of the clause, nor would it have the effect which the noble Baroness mentioned earlier of spreading the butter too thin.
§ I think it is true to say that in many inner urban areas the most important way in which one can improve amenities, 594 particularly in the ports, is by making available loans or grants for doing something about the dereliction in wharves and docks; of course, generally, not just in ports, but particularly in ports because of the fact that many railways which served the ports have now been abandoned. So particularly in ports, and inner urban areas which had old ports as their main previous purpose for existence, the existence of wharves and docks and railway sidings causes perhaps the most serious dereliction and general amenity problems.
§ I am thinking in particular of the advance in containerisation that has taken place. Much of the main business of ports such as the Mersey is conducted at the estuary, with a container port right at the estuary; therefore, there is almost no use at all made of the South docks in the Mersey, up the river. From articles I have read in The Times and other newspapers, I gather the same problem exists in the upper reaches, or some parts, of the Thames and the Tyne. You will find that whole areas that were previously busy as docks or wharves are now virtually derelict; they present a very unpleasant appearance, and could, with the expenditure of a little money in the form of loans or grants, be made to look attractive, be made to help the inner environment to a very considerable extent.
§ It may be that the noble Baroness may be able to persuade me that these specific additions I seek to make—namely, railway sidings, wharves and docks (railways sidings are, I might add, defined in the Railways Act 1974)—are in fact included in the categories set out in subsection (2) of Clause 5; namely, "the cleansing of watercourses, whether natural or artificial, or the reclamation of land covered with water", and "cleaning or demolition of structures or buildings." But I would need to be reassured of this, because, quite frankly, a very large part of the effectiveness of what this clause seeks to do would be rendered nugatory if loans and grants could not be made for the purpose of improving the appearance of docks, wharves and railway sidings.
§ I do not seek the construction of new railways sidings. I think that was another misunderstanding between the noble Baroness and myself, from the letter I have had. I seek loans and grants for improving the appearance, for amenity 595 treatment. If she can perusade me that this is already incorporated in Clause 5, then fine. If she cannot persuade me, I think it would not do anything to weaken or emasculate the Bill if she were to agree on behalf of the Government that these particular matters could be included.
§ If it is any comfort to the Government, the one Amendment of the three that I would not press very hard—because I have been convinced by the letter the noble Baroness sent to me—is No. 9; that is, "shelters for users of public transport." I could not press that as far as I would press the others. So far as the cleansing and reclamation of wharves and docks is concerned (Amendment No. 7) and railways sidings (Amendment No. 8), I think anyone who has experience of inner urban areas, particularly seaports, would realise how terribly important it is that loans and grants should be available to deal with these areas. I beg to move.
§ Baroness BIRK
My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord for his explanation of the purpose behind this revised version of the Amendment we discussed during Committee. I shall follow his lead and speak to all three, taking them each separately but dealing with them altogether. Taking the first one, the docks and wharves. I think this Amendment is really unnecessary, because docks and wharves are certainly structures, and therefore their cleaning already falls within the provisions of the subsection. Similarly, the phrase "land covered by water" includes docks, and so they are again included in this subsection. So I hope that on that Amendment the noble Lord will accept my assurance that what he is seeking, and quite rightly seeking, is already provided for by this power, and therefore his Amendment is unnecessary. It is actually covered in the Bill. That is Amendment No. 7.
On Amendment No. 8, railway sidings, by clarifying through correspondence what he meant, the noble Lord has been a great help. The idea that assistance should be given for cleaning railway sidings seems slightly strange and I was not sure how one would set about demolishing one. Now I am quite clear that it is not a question of assistance for construction, which would rather put it outside the Bill; if, as I understand now, following what 596 the noble Lord has said today, what he is suggesting is that removal of redundant sidings and the re-use or landscaping of the site might improve the environment, then I am sure that he is right, and I will be happy to consider whether we can bring forward an appropriate Amendment to do this.
On Amendment No. 9 the noble Lord kindly helped me by saying that that was the one that he would not press very hard. I think he is quite right not to do so, because bus shelters are in fact normally erected by local authorities; sometime they are erected by the public transport authority, which is usually closely related to the local authority and might even be an arm of it. So there really does not seem much point in having a provision for money to be transferred from one pocket of local government to another, especially for a very restricted purpose when there are much more general provisions for local authority finance for public transport services. I am aware that this financial procedure goes on both locally and centrally; but in this particular case it seems to me to be rather gilding the lily and adding an unnecessary addition to paper work and bureaucracy, which I think, on the whole, the House would rather reduce than increase. Therefore, following the noble Lord's own line, I hope he will not press that. The railway sidings matter, as I have said, I am happy to have a look at to see whether we can produce an Amendment. As regards the first one, I assure the noble Lord that the matter is already covered.
§ Lord EVANS of CLAUGHTON
My Lords, I am greatly obliged to the noble Baroness for her reply and I am delighted to know—and I am certain that many people outside the House in the type of areas that I have mentioned will be glad to be reassured—that docks and wharves are included in the areas where loans and grants can be made. Therefore, I shall seek to withdraw Amendment No. 7. I shall not pursue Amendments Nos. 8 and 9, but, before I leave the matter, I should like to mention that my concern about shelters for users of public transport was mainly brought about by the fact that many passenger transport authorities, in order to save money no doubt, provide bus shelters through the medium of advertisers. The tendency is that advertisers, instead of putting bus shelters 597 where they are needed, put them where they think the kind of people who buy their wares are most likely to be waiting. That is what lies behind the Amendment. Passenger transport authorities should be more concerned about the people who use the transport and less concerned about whether the shelters will bring in advertising revenue. However, I am very grateful to the noble Baroness and I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment. by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendments Nos. 8 and 9 not moved.]
Lord SANDFORD moved Amendment No. 10:
Page 4, line 40, at end insert ("and the maintenance and improvement of roads and footpaths whether they he adopted highways or not")
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendments Nos. 10, 11 and 13 are like Amendments Nos. 7, 8 and 9, in. that they are all aimed to produce a debate on the elements which were either indicated as being required by the inner area studies; or envisaged in the White Paper, Policy for Inner Cities; or shown by the pioneering Rochdale to be desirable; or incorporated in the Tyne and Wear Bill; or deserve to be considered because the AMA says that it needs them, or because as the noble Lord, Lord Evans of Claughton, has just shown, there is a special need which has not so far been identified. The Amendments between them cover the matters to which I have referred, but Her Majesty's Government seem to have left them out. I think that the House would like to know why they have been left out and if they are not happy with that to try and ensure that they are included before the Bill leaves us.
§ I should like to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, for writing to me about these Amendments which I tabled at an earlier stage, but which we did not discuss. In answer to me she made three points which have been seen by some noble Lords, but not be everyone who is taking part in this debate. First, she makes the point that if we grant powers which are too extensive or too widely used, they would distort regional policy. Secondly. she says that they are powers which are such that they would reduce the distinction between the partnership and programme areas, on the one hand, and the rest of the local authorities, on the other. Thirdly, she says, 598 that they should be directed towards improving areas and not towards subsidising industries' normal costs for purchasing plant and machinery. In so far as I had put down Amendments upon which that last criticism bore, I have not pursued them.
§ However, I must say that I find the first two arguments which the noble Baroness put forward most unconvincing and for three main reasons. First, I do not think that it can be claimed that there is any danger of regional policy being distorted. because the Secretary of State himself controls the designation of the designated areas under Clause 1. Secondly, he also has the power to control the size and designation of the industrial improvement areas—paragraph 2 of the Schedule—so that is entirely within his control. Thirdly, on top of both of those factors, the whole operation of the Bill is subject to the arrangements as described in Clause 7. Therefore, there is no question of opening the sluicegates to things which will upset regional policy and so forth.
§ The noble Baroness went on in her letter to say that there may be a case for local authorities generally to have these greater powers that have been pioneered by Rochdale and secured by Tyne and Wear in their Private Bill. She says that Her Majesty's Government are ready to consider suggestions from the associations for greater power. The Amendments that I have tabled all come from the associations. They come mainly directly from the AMA which is the association chiefly concerned. The noble Baroness then went on to say that this is not a suitable Bill for them. I should like to ask the House to agree with me that this is an eminently suitable Bill for the use of these powers and for testing them in a limited manner entirely under the control of the Secretary of State, before any question arises of considering them for general application, which she admits is a possibility. Those are all general points which apply to Amendments Nos. 10, 11 and 13.
I should now like to come specifically to Amendment No. 10 which deals with
the maintenance and improvement of roads and footpaths whether they be adopted highways or not".
The Government White Paper (Cmnd (6845) at paragraph 54(b) specifically mentions:
…Designing a Bill which will assist owners to carry out improvements to access ".
Certainly the Rochdale experience in Crawford Street reinforces the need for special powers to assist in the improvement of access. However, under Clause 5(2)(e) the Bill provides for grants and loan towards the construction of access roads. I cannot for the life of me see why on earth Her Majesty's Government have changed their minds and have ruled out of court the far less expensive and often more desirable, from an environmental point of view, possibility of giving aid and assistance for improving existing roads and have only allowed for the possibility of constructing new ones. In my view that is quite inappropriate and far too inflexible for an industrial improvement area.
§ In her letter on this point the noble Baroness says that it is not appropriate to have this included because it is part of the regular routine work of the highway authorities to improve and maintain their roads. That may be so, but there are other items which are also routine. Clause 5(2)(c) mentions the cleansing of watercourses and Clause 5(2)(e) mentions the construction of parking spaces and so on. They also are routine matters, but they are included. Therefore, why not include this matter? Furthermore, while we are about it, we need all the flexibility that we can possibly have in an industrial improvement area, so why do we not provide for it to be possible to give assistance as regards roads which are not under the normal responsibility of the highway authorities because they are private roads belonging to some other authority? I beg to move.
§ Lord NORTHFIELD
My Lords, if I have understood him correctly, I understood the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, to be speaking to Amendments Nos. 10, 11 and 13 together. I should like to make a few comments on Amendments Nos. 10 and 11. As regards Amendment No. 10, although I have some sympathy with this Amendment, I wonder whether the noble Lord has considered the possibility that the Amendment could provide a way of enabling pressure to be put on local authorities to work on roads which have not been adopted when, in fact, that ought to be the responsibility of the owners of those unadopted roads to do it 600 for themselves. In other words, it could provide a loophole enabling people to get out of their responsibility, if I may put it that way, and try to pass it smartly on to the local authority. Of course, the responsibility to which I am referring is that of making up, and finally getting adopted, the unadopted roads. I wonder whether the noble Lord has not gone too far and may be amending a major Act of Parliament, as regards the adoption of roads, by slight of hand. However, I am anxious to hear the comments of my noble friend on this matter, but I sense some danger in what the noble Lord is proposing.
As regards Amendment No. 11, may I say how grateful I was to my noble friend for kindly writing to me about the remarks that I made during the Committee stage. However, she did not convince me in her letter about the issues behind Amendment No. 11. I think it is an omission in Clause 5(2) that there are no powers for what is virtually the restoration of buildings. That subsection is all about the construction of fencing or walls, landscaping, cleansing, cleaning or demolition and the construction of parking spaces, which are all very useful amenity improvements. But as I said in Committee, there are redundant buildings—which may not attract a grant in any other way and which may not be suitable for loan in any other way—that may be very useful for amenity purposes. I instanced redundant churches. Equally well, I could have instanced redundant factories.
They do not really come under Clause 6, because that deals with grants for improving them for commercial or industrial use. However, in many cases we have voluntary trusts and groups of local people who will gladly take on some redundant building and adapt it for community purposes. Some such buildings are part of our industrial landscape. They may not be good enough to attract grants as historic buildings, but they are certainly worth preserving and they add to the scene of industrial areas. In many cases I should be very sorry to see them go simply by demolition when there might be the possibility of having them restored, adapted and brought into use—particularly by voluntary groups—for amenity purposes. Therefore, I would strongly press my noble friend to accept Amendment No. 11. It contains a very useful additional 601 power to add to Clause 5, and I hope very much that she will feel able to accept it.
§ Baroness BIRK
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, made some general statements and then went on to deal with the specific Amendments. He was kind enough to quote very fully from my letter to him, which covers a number of the general points in the context that we are discussing. Therefore, I shall speak specifically to the Amendments. Amendment No. 10 deals with maintenance and improvement of roads and footpaths. I must repeat that the purpose of Clause 5 of the Bill is not to subsidise the operating costs of firms within the industrial improvement area, but to encourage and assist with permanent improvements to the fabric and amenities of the area. The maintenance of unadopted roads and footpaths clearly falls outside the aim of the present clause.
I think that there is something in what my noble friend Lord Northfield said—I appreciate that it was not the intention of the noble Lord, Lord Sandford—about the danger of this acting as a very strong disincentive to people to undertake what they should undertake and to pass it on to be looked after in the field of public expenditure. I think that my noble friend covered that point extremely well. Therefore, as a matter of routine I think it would be wrong for a local authority to subsidise a firm's operating costs. Clearly, the maintenance of its premises and the surrounding area constitutes legitimate operating costs. As for the adopted roads and footpaths, which he mentions in his Amendment, they are already the responsibility of the local authority, and in fact do not need to be covered again. Improvements to roads and footpaths, as opposed to maintenance, can often be grant-aided under subsections (2)(e) or (b) as appropriate. As I think I pointed out during the Committee stage or certainly in my letters to noble Lords, landscaping might well include diverting or improving a footpath. The constituent parts of these Amendments, therefore, are either unnecessary or contrary to the principle of this fairly circumscribed Bill—which it had to be in order to do the job it set out to do. Therefore, I am afraid that I cannot accept that.
602 Amendment No. 11 refers to the exterior repair or painting of buildings. Painting and exterior repairs are regarded as routine maintenance, and therefore fall outside the scope of this clause. If repairs are carried out in the course of improving or converting a building, they could be grant-aided under Clause 6. Again, the purpose of this clause is not to subsidise the operating costs of firms. I am sorry to keep repeating this, but I have to do so in order that we are absolutely sure for what purposes the monies available under the Bill can and should be used.
I certainly accept that the external appearance of a building will have a great influence on the overall quality of the environment, but so will many other things which it is quite impossible to cover in the expenditure available. But it is certainly the proper function of any firm to keep its premises in good repair and that includes regular painting. My noble friend Lord Northfield went rather wide when he spoke about the conversion of warehouses which may not be eligible for a grant under the historic building legislation. In that case more than just painting or repairing the outside would be involved; probably a very large construction job and a complete rehabilitation job would be required. This would either come under powers which are to be found in other legislation or under Clause 6 of the Bill.
§ Lord NORTHFIELD
My Lords, if I may interrupt my noble friend, I did not understand her when she has twice said that this could be covered by Clause 6. As I read Clause 6—and I hope she will correct me if I am wrong—I thought it covered industrial and commercial buildings intended for, or already being used for, commercial or industrial purposes. My whole point concerns when they are going to be converted for amenity use, and I do not think that that point is covered by Clause 6.
§ Baroness BIRK
My Lords, as I have said, I am talking in the context of their conversion and use for industrial purposes. As I pointed out in my letter to my noble friend, in the Bill we are concerned with industrial use, which—in spite of what the noble Baroness keeps saying—certainly has its social connotation; because if a 603 warehouse or building is made fit for industrial use, it not only fulfils an industrial purpose but certainly adds to the social environment because it is in use, is in good repair, looks very much better and adds to the quality of life of the locality as opposed to something that is not made fit.
I find this very difficult, but my own personal sympathy will always be to extend things to cover amenity areas. But we are dealing with a Bill which is revitalising and encouraging industrialisation in the inner areas. The fact that it is important that the environmental concept and an environmental dimension should come with it is different from saying that one should be using this particular money for converting any of these structures for purely amenity purposes.
The Amendment refers to regular painting and ties that up with the fact that the clause covers cleaning. We distinguish this from cleaning, which can be a major task and one which is not always normally regarded as essential to maintaining the fabric of a building in a sound condition, but which both improves the look of the building and does not affect the fact that the building is being converted or used for industrial use. It is for that reason that cleaning is included in grants under Clause 5 and so improves both the industrial and the environmental areas. I really cannot see why a local authority should, as a regular matter, assist in the external repair and painting of an industrial or commercial premises. It is for that reason that, unfortunately, I must resist this Amendment as well.
Then we come to the last Amendment, No. 13, which deals with the preparing or improving of sites or the extension of existing buildings. This Amendment would extend in a singificant way the scope of a grant of up to £1,000 for every job preserved or created in an industrial improvement area. All the way through the Bill, despite what the noble Lord said, we are careful to distinguish between the partnership areas, which are those in most urgent need of financial help, and the other designated areas.
It would allow such grants to be given for site preparation works for new industrial or commercial buildings, and we do 604 not see the industrial improvement areas as areas where there will he construction of new industrial or commercial buildings on a large scale. Rather we see in them that the emphasis will be on the retention and re-use of existing buildings. The relevance of this proposal to the grant-aided site preparation cost is doubtful, but it would be wrong to include the Amendment in the Bill for another reason. The Bill carefully gives to partnership areas which have the most severe problems—and which I have already mentioned—and the greatest need, the greatest powers to assist industry. Among these extra powers for the partnership areas are those of Clause 9 which w ill allow interest-free loans to be given for site preparation purposes. This Amendment would cut across that careful gradation of powers and would be contrary to the whole approach of the Bill.
This resistance to these Amendments is not on the basis that these are not worthy things to be done. However, within a Bill of this kind one could go on for ever including, extending, and expanding on things which of course we should all on all sides of the House like to see done but which would make the whole Bill and the whole scope of the Bill very much larger than either was intended or can possibly be allowed for out of resources at the present time. It is for these reasons that, in order to save the time of the House, I have, as other noble Lords have, dealt with the three Amendments together, and would ask that the noble Lord does not press them.
§ 1.23 p.m.
§ Baroness YOUNG
My Lords, I think that the whole House will find that a disappointing reply. I am not sure that we should all fight at our most hard on all three of these Amendments. However, may we return to Amendment No. 11, which I think is a matter on which we all agreed. I am bound to say, after listening to the noble Baroness, that I did not quite understand her reply. I have much more sympathy for the points she made on Amendment No. 10—I can see the force of Lord Northfield's argument on that—and on the new Amendment No. 13. On Amendment No. 11 it seemed to me that the noble Baroness was using one argument to defend the Bill and another 605 argument on the same point to explain why we could not have Amendment No. 11.
I do not claim to be an expert on the cleaning of buildings or indeed on their external repair, but I have enough knowledge about the cleaning of buildings— I am thinking particularly of Oxford colleges—to know that it is always said that the cleaning of buildings actually improves them in the sense that getting the grime off strenghtens them and makes a great deal of difference. That, of course, is allowed. But the external repair, which again is something which goes on over a long period of time as an old building begins to decay, is something excluded from this particular matter.
The noble Baroness argued that, once this was written in, everybody would be queueing up for a grant and there would be no end to it all. The whole of Clause 5 is permissive, so if the local authority thinks it ought not to do it, it need not do it. I just find it difficult to understand why Clause 5(2)(d), or indeed 5(2)(b), should be in the Bill, and it is impossible to have this proposed new subsection (f). It does not seem to me that it is committing a local authority to great expenditure. It is allowing a local discretion where it thinks it right, and I find it difficult to see that a different principle is being adduced.
§ Lord SANDFORD
My Lords, earlier on in this debate there was a mild criticism of the noble Baroness and her Department from the noble Lord, Lord Evans, in respect of correspondence between us. It is only fair for me now to say that when we have special benefits they should be mentioned, and only just now a little bird dropped a note beside me headed "Lord Sandford" which bore a remarkable resemblance to what the noble Baroness has just been saying to us, and I am grateful for it. I think it may be because the Department has not always remembered that Ministers have changed round. Nevertheless, it is very helpful to know what is coming in the debate just before it comes.
In respect of Amendment No. 10 I do not think that the noble Baroness has answered my main point, which is why it is appropriate to have in the Bill provision for powers to aid in the contruction of new accesses, which is certainly a function of 606 the highway authority, and not for improvements, which in many cases would be a much more desirable activity. However, I shall not press the point because I do not think it is as strong as the next one. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 1.26 p.m.
§ Lord SANDFORD moved Amendment No. 11:
Page 4, line 40, at end insert—
("(f) the exterior repair or painting of buildings").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, may I congratulate the noble Baroness on adopting a very useful dodge for getting a chance of speaking twice on the same Amendment during Report stage, because of course she is now entitled to speak to this Amendment again if she wants to. I shall very much welcome it if she does. What I was saying was by way of preliminary to all three Amendments, but I should like to speak to this one specifically in addition.
§ Baroness BIRK
My Lords, is not the noble Lord doing exactly the same thing? He moved them, and spoke to them all. I was trying to help. I do not want to speak to them again at all, and I should be happy if he would follow the same lines.
§ Lord SANDFORD
My Lords, I shall not speak at all extensively, but it is an Amendment which I think has a great deal more force than Amendment No. 10, as the noble Lord, Lord Northfield, and my noble friend Lady Young, have said. Take, for instance—and the noble Baroness will have seen this herself—this huge factory in Rochdale which is largely disused and is in a derelict area and has an enormous chimney. One cannot possibly say that it is the routine maintenance work of the very small firm which occupies a small proportion of that factory to be responsible for its repair, painting and maintenance. But, for the sake of the area as a whole, it was important that the whole building was put into good shape and made to look nice. Rochdale, using a great deal of drive, imagination, and ingenuity, persuaded ICI Paints Division to do it for them. But we cannot proceed throughout all the industrial improvement areas by adopting dodges of that kind.
607 It seems to me entirely appropriate that this power should be provided for in the Bill so that when there are not generous firms like ICI around, who can be persuaded to do this, the local authorities can use their proper powers. This was a matter wihch was incorporated specifically in the Tyne and Wear Act at Section 56(2)(b), and I really do not see any reason why cleaning and demolition should be in the Bill while painting or repairing, which are equally appropriate measures but less drastic and possibly cheaper, should not be in the Bill. Therefore, I beg to move Amendment No. 11.
§ Lord NORTHFIELD
My Lords, if we are all taking advantage of the possibility of two speeches, may I say a few words to my noble friend. She is being slightly restrictive in the definition of amenities. That is what it is really all about. She is saying that Clause 5 covers only clearing up the external landscape. We are saying that there is some need to preserve some of the industrial heritage as well when it has become disused and might be used for good social purposes, and we regard that as amenity. That is the difference between us. Under the Amendment a voluntary group, for example, could have help with the exterior repair of such a building. This is a very small extension of the definition of "amenity" and I
§ hope my noble friend will agree to look at the matter before Third Reading, rather than force us into a difficult position today.
§ Baroness BIRK
It is unfortunate, my Lords, in that this time-saving thing has worked the other way. This is simply trying to make sure that local authorities are not given the financial responsibility of having to do things, or being asked to do things, which firms themselves should undertake, and it is really in the interest of everyone concerned, ratepayers and taxpayers. That is what it is all about and the distinction between cleaning buildings and painting them is very real.
§ Lord SANDFORD
My Lords, my only answer to that is that there would be nothing in the clause, if amended, which would oblige a local authority to make a loan available or pay a grant; it would be entirely within their discretion. If they thought a firm should do the job itself, they would not pay a grant. I feel I must press the Amendment.
§ 1.31 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 11) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 42; Not-Contents, 23.607
|Alexander of Tunis, E.||Emmet of Amberley, B.||Rankeillour, L.|
|Alport, L.||Evans of Claughton, L.||Redesdale, L.|
|Balerno, L.||Faithfull, B.||St. Aldwyn, E.|
|Balfour of Inchrye, L.||Ferrers, E.||Sandford, L.|
|Banks, L.||Fortescue, E.||Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.|
|Byers, L.||Greenway, L.||Teviot, L.|
|Carr of Hadley, L.||Lucas of Chilworth, L.||Trefgarne, L. [Teller.]|
|Carrington, L.||Mancroft, L.||Tweeddale, M.|
|Clancarty, E.||Massereene and Ferrard, V.||Vickers, B.|
|Clitheroe, L.||Mowbray and Stourton, L. [Teller.]||Vivian, L.|
|Colville of Culross, V.||Ward of North Tyneside, B.|
|Crathorne, L.||O'Hagan, L.||Wigoder, L.|
|Derwent, L.||O'Neill of the Maine, L.||Winstanley, L.|
|Ellenborough, L.||Penrhyn, L.||Young, B.|
|Birk, B.||Harris of Greenwich, L.||Stedman, B.|
|Collison, L.||Henderson, L.||Stewart of Alvechurch, B.|
|David, B.||Leatherland, L.||Strabolgi, L.|
|Davies of Leek, L.||Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.||Wallace of Coslany, L. [Teller.]|
|Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L.||McGregor of Durris, L.||Wells-Pestell, L. [Teller.]|
|Evans of Hungershall, L.||Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.||Wigg, L.|
|Gaitskell, B.||Sainsbury, L.||Wynne-Jones, L.|
|Hale, L.||Segal, L.|
|Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment agreed to accordingly.|
§ Clause 6 [Grants for converting or improving building]:
§ [Amendments Nos. 12 and 13 not moved.]
§ 1.39 p.m.
Baroness YOUNG moved Amendment No. 14:
Page 5, line 20, leave out ("£1,000 ") and insert ("£1,500").
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I can speak briefly to this Amendment because we discussed it in Committee, and I tabled it again because considerable sympathy was expressed for it at that stage by many noble Lords. On reading the Hansard report of those proceedings I felt that the noble Baroness had not produced a sufficiently clear reason for inserting in the clause £1,000 and not £1,500.
§ The issue is simple. The clause covers grants for converting and improving buldings. It will apply to an old factory which is to be converted or improved for industrial use. The two subsections (3)(a) and (3)(b) are alternatives and the amount of the grant is to be whichever is the lesser. I believe—and I had considerable support for this view in Committee—that £1,000 is too low to allow a job to be created and that the going rate, as the noble Lord, Lord Northfield, eloquently pointed out—and I have had further evidence of this since the last stage of the Bill—is a much higher sum that that. It costs between £3,000 and £5,000 to create a job. One-half of £3,000 would be approximately £1,500. To put into the Bill a sum that is already too low means that we would fail to have the jobs created or the old factories improved because the sums of money would never be sufficient to do it. This is a serious matter. I hope that the noble Baroness will reconsider her reply and feel that there is here something worth doing to achieve an objective that we all wish to see achieved.
§ Baroness BIRK
My Lords, most of what I intended to say is going over the same ground that I covered in Committee. Due to the lateness of the hour I shall not go over that again. I assure the noble Baroness and your Lordships that I have looked at this point again very carefully, because I was obviously struck by the comments made by other noble Lords in different parts of the House. However, 610 I think that there has been a certain amount of confusion. The figure has been carefully costed. I have had it checked again. That is the correct costing. There is power in the Bill already for the Secretary of State to increase the amount if it is shown to be necessary, but we must go on the figures at the present time, otherwise we should ourselves be helping along an inflationary situation.
Where I think there has been some misunderstanding is that the figure relates only to the cost of the building works. Therefore it cannot be directly compared with the figures often quoted in the context of regional policy for the cost of creating a job. This is what the figure in the Bill is concerned with. The Bill is only concerned with the cost of creating accommodation for a job. This is the difference. In speaking to one or two noble Lords, who are not unfortunately in the Chamber at the moment, I discovered that they had misinterpreted this provision. Let me say that there is no criticism. It is easy to misinterpret points in a Bill—in any piece of legislation.
This figure has been carefully costed. I have looked at it again because I was struck by the comments made by noble Lords. But if it is looked at in the context of the cost of creating accommodation for a job, then I think it falls much more into place. That fact, taken together with the power in the Bill—I have already pointed out that the Secretary of State has power to increase the amount—leads me to think that the amount should be left in the Bill as it is at the moment.
§ Baroness YOUNG
My Lords, I am grateful for that comment by the noble Baroness. It seems very strange that it was not made earlier on and that we have introduced a completely new fact into it. I think, in under the circumstances, and in view of the lateness of the hour, that I shall not press this Amendment, as I had originally intended to do. However, I will read carefully what the noble Baroness said. I give notice that if this is not a matter which I have fully understood or about which I am absolutely clear, I shall return to it on Third Reading. However, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.611
§ 1.45 p.m.
Lord SANDFORD moved Amendment No. 15:
After Clause 15 insert the following new clause:
§ Grants to national voluntary bodies
§ (".The Secretary of State may, with the consent of the Treasury make grants for assisting persons engaged in promoting or assisting schemes and research relating to, and dissemination of information in respect of, the enhancement of the physical environment and the promotion of employment in designated districts").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, this topic of central Government grants to national and regional voluntary bodies has arisen at both previous stages of the Bill and, in my view, very properly so, as we are all agreed that it is essential to find a formula which successfully harnesses to the full the voluntary effort and enterprise that the major national charities can guide and deploy through their local affiliates in the inner areas of our cities.
§ In the previous debate three main points emerged. First of all, the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, confirmed that her right honourable friend the Secretary of State had no lack of powers to grant-aid national and local voluntary bodies capable of contributing to environmental improvement. That was a useful reassurance. The second point that emerged was that in the last and the last but one financial year, although he had these powers, he made far less use of them to grant-aid national and regional voluntary bodies than, for instance, did the Secretary of State for the Department of Health and Social Security. As between the last two years, when the Department of Health and Social Security increased their grants to national and local voluntary bodies to the extent of doubling them, the Secretary of State for the Department of the Enviornment virtually had no increase at all. That seems to us to be an extraordinary way of preparing and girding up the loins of the national voluntary bodies to play their full part in helping to solve the problems of the inner cities. The third point that emerged on the last occasion was that the noble Baroness said that her right honourable friend the Secretary of State and the National Council of Social Service were to meet the following week; and this they must have done. One object of the Amendment is to provide an oppor 612 tunity for the noble Baroness to give us the upshot of that meeting. That is one of the reasons why I have tabled this Amendment, although your Lordships will see that it is slightly revised and, I hope, improved.
§ We want to continue the debate for two further reasons: first, so that the noble Baroness may give us a fuller explanation of why her right honourable friend is not yet more strongly supporting the national and regional environmental bodies which need to act, and act urgently and skilfully, in the kind of way that my Amendments suggest, if the local voluntary bodies are to make their effective response in each local situation. I am sure she will see that it is not possible to do that unless some research and development work for this rather special kind of work in the inner cities is done for them at the centre.
§ My third reason for putting down the Amendment again is to secure that another place can debate the same point when the Amendment goes back to it, and to do so in the light of the more up-to-date information about the grant-aiding of voluntary bodies in the current financial year. This is now available. have a Question for Written Answer on the Order Paper, dated 22nd June, designed to elicit this information. I quite understand that the Department or the Home Office—if that is the Department which is collating it—have not been able to provide it in time for this debate. That would have been useful and valuable. However, it is much more important that another place debates the matter because it is more appropriate for it to debate financial matters. It was too early in the current financial year for the other place to do that when the Bill was before it, and the third aim of the Amendment is to enable it to do so now. I beg to move.
§ 1.50 p.m.
§ Baroness BIRK
My Lords, as the noble Lord pointed out, we have been over this ground before, and the rôle of the voluntary bodies was also discussed at considerable length when the Bill was considered in another place. I believe that the noble Lord accepts that we already have the ability to make the kind of grant provided for in the new clause, and to that extent 613 the clause is unnecessary, but I accept that he is using it as a means to have a brief discussion. Furthermore, as I am sure he is also aware, it is outside the scope of the Money Resolution on the Bill.
I immediately accept that national voluntary bodies can help in the development of local voluntary effort, certainly in environmental and economic improvement. Indeed, I believe that it is absolutely essential, both in funding and in participation, that voluntary bodies should be playing a consistently active part and that whatever State funding or organisation there is, it is essential for the wellbeing of the whole of our society that the voluntary movement should be playing an effective rôle.
As a footnote to that, I should say that to try to make too clear a distinction between grants given by various Departments—for instance, by the DHSS, the Home Office, or my own Department—can end up in a splitting of charitable hairs, which would be a great pity. The grants being given by the DHSS are helping people, and therefore are helping in a wider environmental sense. A similar position applies with grants given by other Departments. So I do not think that this always works out in quite a fair split. My Department already grants aid to a number of national bodies whose activities span the whole range of its environmental concerns. The noble Lord recently cited the figure of £650,000 for direct grants by the Department in 1976/77. That included grants totalling £250,000 to road safety organisations, but now these are the responsibility of the Department of Transport, and so there is a book-keeping transfer involved. If the remaining £400,000 is compared to present day grant total, it is clear that there has been a marked increase in the support being given to national voluntary bodies, and in the current financial year over £600,000 is being made available. The Keep Britain Tidy Group, which makes an enormous contribution to the entire environmental scene, alone has had its grant raised from £170,000 to £275,000. Furthermore, my Department has taken the initiative in the making of grants to bodies concerned with the problems of homelessness which involve a considerable amount of money.
614 In addition, more national and regional voluntary organisations are receiving financial help, and these include a number which co-ordinate or support local voluntary effort in the inner cities. In the present financial climate it is of course impossible to meet all the competing demands for Government funding. I have in mind the kind of demands which, if one went around the whole of this House, it would be found we are all making. I think it is evident that even with the constraint on resources, the Government are making a significant contribution to the work being done by the national voluntary bodies. However, we must bear in mind that the main thrust of the voluntary movement in tackling the problem in the inner cities is, in the Government's view, at the local level. It is there that the greatest impact must be made, and is being made, through the participation of voluntary bodies in the partnership and programme areas. In the recently announced allocation of resources to local authorities under the urban programme, 38 per cent. of the money was for 180 projects run by voluntary bodies which the local authorities wished to support; and the total estimated cost was about £3.8 million.
I shall personally continue to press for the fullest possible support for voluntary bodies in this field. The meeting which my right honourable friend the Secretary of State had with the representatives of the National Council of Social Service provided a very useful exchange of views, not so much on the question of money, but on that of participation. As the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, is probably aware, my right honourable friend has agreed to address the council's conference very shortly. This kind of face-to-face meeting and exchange of views between the voluntary organisation and the Department is important.
If I understood the noble Lord aright, he does not intend to press the Amendment at this stage. He wished to raise various points and, quite rightly, have on the record what he had to say, as well as the Government's attitude. In summing up I wish to say that the Government are fully aware of the invaluable work done by the voluntary bodies, and they will do all within their capacity not only to continue the funding, but to increase it 615 wherever possible. With this I include the work and the areas of participation undertaken by the local authorities, which I realise are not part of the Amendment but are closely connected with it.
§ Lord SANDFORD
My Lords, the House will be most grateful to the noble Baroness for that rather fuller statement about the policy and philosophy of herself and her right honourable friend on the voluntary bodies. We particularly welcome the agreement reached with the NCSS to-have a further meeting on 14th July. As we have every reason to expect a fairly full Answer to my Question for Written Answer on this matter, it would be better to await that before we pursue any of the points that the noble Baroness was making by way of justification of the lack of grant aid from her Department to voluntary bodies. We can return to that when we have the figures.
I was expecting not to have to press the Amendment, because I had been hoping that the noble Baroness would agree that if the other place are to debate it, it must of course be in the Bill. So for that reason I had hoped that she would accept it. The noble Baroness said that she doubted whether the Amendment fell within the Money Resolution. That is not for me or her to decide; it is a matter for another place. I have here a copy of the Money Resolution. It reads:That, for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to make provision as respects inner urban areas in Great Britain in which there exists special social need and to amend Section 8 of the Local Employment Act 1972, it is expedient to authorise the payment out of moneys provided by Parliament of any increase attributable to the said Act of the present Session in the sums so ayable under any other Act".An Amendment which begins:The Secretary of State may, with the consent of the Treasury make grants…seems to me to fall entirely within the Money Resolution; but that is a matter for another place. I hope that the noble Baroness will accept the Amendment for the reasons that I have indicated, which are primarily to secure a debate in another place.
§ Lord SANDFORD
I hope that I do not have to press the Amendment; I am moving it. I hope that the noble Baroness will accept it.
§ Baroness BIRK
No, my Lords; I am afraid that I will not accept the Amendment, for the reasons I gave. I hope that the noble Lord does not intend to press it, but if he does, I do not intend to put myself or my noble friends into a position in which we appear to be opposing the interests of the voluntary sector. Therefore if he wishes to divide the House, I shall abstain, and ask my noble friends, if they feel that way, to do the same thing.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ [Amendments Nos. 16 to 28 not moved.]
§ Baroness LLEWELYN-DAVIES of HASTOE
My Lords, with the leave of the House, I think it might be as well if I moved that the House do now adjourn during pleasure for five minutes. My noble friend Lord Harris of Greenwich is in the House, and will be here within that time.
§ Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House adjourned during pleasure.
§ House resumed.