§ 3.14 p.m.
§ Lord Scarman rose to call attention to the continuing problems of the inner cities and other urban priority areas and to the case for a partnership between authority and the people who live and work in them; and to move for Papers.
§ The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, the depth of the decline and decay of our inner cities and other deprived city areas of the Kingdom is well known and well researched. I shall therefore not spend much time in describing the horrors of that decline 14 and decay. But let us never, at any stage during this afternoon's debate, forget that the shadow of that decline and decay hangs over the nation at large, introducing into what is on the whole a happy and sunny place a very dark and dangerous shadow. Indeed, the menace has to be defeated if we are to retain the quality of our civilisation.
§ With those preliminary words about the horror of the background of this debate, I shall pass to the Motion which I am introducing to the House. I shall invite your Lordships—and I know it is an invitation which will be eagerly accepted—to think constructively about the problem and to suggest, even in mere outline, solutions for consideration by government and others.
§ In putting the Motion forward, I have three immediate objectives. First, I wish to emphasise what I suggest are three paramount needs to be met if we are to achieve a solution. Those three needs are, first, a sufficiency of resources, including finance, to be made available to meet the scale of the problem; secondly, policy to be formulated at a level and in a way appropriate to meet a crisis in our national affairs, which must be taken very seriously and considered at the very highest level; and, thirdly, co-ordinated action by all those concerned to implement that policy. By co-ordinated action I mean partnership—a partnership between central government, local government, private enterprise, the voluntary and the charitable organisations and the people who live and work and try sometimes to play in the inner cities and who suffer directly the disadvantages of which you and I, for the most part, merely speak.
§ The second immediate objective which I hope to achieve by introducing this Motion is to provide the House with an opportunity of discussing those long-term problems. I am delighted to see that this House, as I should expect, takes this subject so seriously that 28 of your Lordships have put your names down to speak in this debate. Three Lords spiritual, led by the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury, will be speaking, and we shall have the benefit of two speeches on behalf of Her Majesty's Government. This must surely indicate, if it was necessary to do so, and I do not think it is, that in many respects this House is the conscience of the nation.
§ There is a further advantage. I hope that I can exercise (what for a lawyer and a Law Lord is very difficult) a little self-denial and abstain from too long a speech. This is difficult because I feel strongly about these matters; it is difficult because I have been trained to jaw, jaw, jaw. But it is a temptation that I shall seek to resist, a habit that in old age I shall seek to discard. At this stage, having mentioned the Lords spiritual and having indicated how glad, I am sure, the nation is that they are here in such strength, perhaps I may say a word or two of praise for the report of the Archibishop's commission, Faith in the City. Whether or not one agrees with its proposals, or with all or any of them, it is the finest face-to-face analysis and description of the problems of the inner city and of the other urban priority areas where those problems exist that we have yet seen. In the long-run, it will take its place, I believe, as a classic description of one of the most serious troubles in British society.15
§ The third objective of the Motion—and I know that this will be achieved—is simply to obtain an indication of the Government's thinking, their strategy and their policy.
§ I want to say a word or two about the history of policy and action in this field. I suggest to your Lordships that we should forbear from a fine slanging match at the expense of either Labour or Conservative governments in their efforts to solve the problem of the inner cities. I shall have certain points to make but, by and large, since 1969 successive governments have been all too aware of this hideous problem on their very doorstep. The trouble with policy and action over the years since 1969 is a typical piece of the British disease. We have not looked at it in principle but we have attacked it pragmatically. We have taken it step-by-step not quite knowing where our steps are leading us.
§ Of course, it was seen in 1969, and it may still be seen, as a local government problem; as a problem to be solved within the confines of local government and local governmental finance. At the start, as many of your Lordships know, there was seen to be a case for channelling into local government hands further funds in support of the rates. The first piece of urban programme as such, known as the traditional urban programme (now phased out, wisely, I think, although it was very important in its time) was completely local and area based. It merely provided for grant aid to local authorities faced with expenditure on special social needs; social needs in the local government context. I doubt whether even today we have got away from what I suggest is the error of regarding the problem of inner city decline as a local government problem or as a problem that can be handled within the confines of local government finance.
§ This error was not wholly overcome in the climacteric Government White Paper of 1977, a paper which made some extremely sensible and very wise proposals of policy and a paper which is not yet out of date. One is interested to see here in the White Paper the use of those terms which I have already used in my introductory remarks. I refer to terms such as unification, co-ordination and partnership. These terms become part of the vocabulary used by those concerned with the problems. The White Paper did indeed propose that there should be a unified approach. That, of course, is my point on co-ordination. It proposed that there should be special partnerships with local authorities. And partnership is part and parcel of the message I am seeking to convey to your Lordships. I am however saying rather more than special partnerships with local authorities, as I have already indicated.
§ The White Paper also proposed—this was a most fruitful proposal—the establishment of partnership areas, programme authorities and designated districts. The other development in 1977–78—I think I have my history right—was the transfer of responsibility for the urban programme, again, rightly, to the Department of the Environment.
§ These were magnificent proposals but they suffered from being exclusively area based. It was partnership with selected local authorities. It was selecting certain 16 authorities—and not others—to be programme authorities. And, like the traditional urban programme which preceded it and co-existed alongside it, the whole thing was seen and action taken within the field of local government. This concept of partnership with selected local authorities is, in a sense, the most revealing indication of what was thought to be the scale of the problem. They thought they were dealing with plague spots. I doubt whether it was then appreciated that this was in fact a national disease that could be fatal.
§ In 1978, the idea of central government using their funds to bring in the private sector, the financial institutions, business and commerce, and so forth, had barely gained any recognition. Partnership at that stage was partnership with local authorities and then only with certain local authorities. Funding was support for the rates where necessary or grants for specified developments in the partnership areas or to programme authorities.
§ In 1979 there was a change of government and the Conservative Government brought with them a new and valuable initiative. That was to use public funds to mobilise private enterprise in the task of dealing with the decline and decay of the inner cities and with the problem of the regeneration which was necessary. Here, for the first time, we had the idea of partnership extending from the government and local authority to the government, local authority and private enterprise. This initiative of the Conservative Government has proved, I think, to be invaluable.
§ Unfortunately it has been weakened, and it has been weakened by being subject to the Conservative Government's national policies on cash limits, cash restriction, and so on. I am not here to discuss the wisdom or otherwise of the national financing policy of Her Majesty's Government. I am here to indicate that when those resources come to be distributed between the various needs of our country—the needs which we are discussing this afternoon; the needs of the inner cities and the other urban priority areas—they will be on a national scale. The remedies and relief should be financed upon that scale. The financial problem should not be studied in a merely local government context.
§ Let us not forget, in this history, the year 1981. That was the year of the riots, particularly in Brixton and Toxteth. I have no doubt that those riots really shocked the government of the day. I think it is fair to say that governments should react to such serious matters as public disorders on that scale. Those riots encouraged Her Majesty's Government and in particular the then Secretary of State for the Department of the Environment to expand the range of opportunities for private involvement and investment in the inner cities. They have, since that time, recast the urban programme.
§ No doubt in this debate we shall hear much about the urban development corporations, urban development grants, urban regeneration grants—which are of course grants direct from central government to private enterprise—enterprise zones and employment task forces. The mere list is confusing and one is still wondering what they are achieving.17
§ I am not here to say that they are achieving nothing—it is probably too early to know—but this is, on paper, an impressive list. It shows that the Government have set up a structure or set of mechanisms designed to tackle the problem as a whole and enlisting over the whole field of this probem the resources of the private sector. So there we are today and not much yet achieved, though something. Where has it fallen down? I am not saying that it is devoid of success or that it is a cynical paper operation. I am saying that it is not as yet as succesful as the nation needs it to be.
§ Briefly, there is first of all a failure, and the real failure is that not yet has the financing of the campaign against inner city decay and decline been taken out of the local government field. We know that today the main financial support in the battle against this decline and decay is through the rate support grant—back among the rates and back among local government finance. We know that the urban programme, with all that plethora of agencies, is intended as a supplement to a programme put through local government channels and subject, inevitably, to a great deal of local government financial restrictions.
§ So much for what I think is the failure. There is an omission. We now have a partnership between central government and, to some extent, local authorities; though I am very apprehensive about the relationship between central government and local authorities. I do not wish to use worrying language, but we must re-establish a confidence between central government and local authorities, particularly in the inner city areas, if we are to achieve anything like the partnership of which I am speaking. The Government seem a long way away at the moment. But there is, on the record and formally, a partnership there. There is a partnership between those two governmental authorities and private enterprise.
§ But where is there any partnership with the people who live in those areas? Where and how are they consulted? Are there any community groups comparable, for example, with the the police community relations committees and liaison bodies to consider housing, facilities for leisure and recreation, and to consider the creation of job opportunities? Believe me, the people who live in those areas have plenty to contribute. I do not think that we shall succeed in resolving these problems in the inner cities unless we extend the partnership of authorities and private enterprise to include the people who live there and for whose benefit these measures are presumably being established.
§ I have already extended by three minutes the time that I intended to take and therefore I will, if I may, come straight to my conclusion. I ask myself in your Lordships' presence and for your consideration: why is partnership with the people so important? There is one simple answer. These people who suffer these disadvantages—a suffering which is greatly enhanced by the existence in many of our inner cities of racial disadvantage and prejudice—are in danger of being alienated from the mainstream of British society. If we allow alienation to develop so that it becomes a sturdy weed in our society I fear for the future of the country. To be more specific, taking the inner cities, unless one 18 involves the people of the inner cities, the more energetic, creative and skilled residents will move away, leaving the place to the less skilled and such. That of course is a way of enhancing decay and decline and certainly not of arresting it.
§ We shall not solve the housing problem—and it is an horrendous problem—unless we involve the people who live in the area and who are to occupy the houses. We shall fail to solve the problems associated with the necessary development for job creation, as well as for leisure and recreational facilities. Unless we consult the people, none of us will know the depth and the dangers of racial discrimination and disadvantage within the inner cities. I agree with the overall conclusion of Faith in the City that in our inner cities there is a situation of grave injustice and grave disadvantage and that if the injustice is not overcome hopelessness will be added to anger and the mix will be explosive.
§ I finish on a personal note. Perhaps because I am retired this year I happen to be president of the United Kingdom Council for the International Year of Shelter for the Homeless, and therefore I have made it my business to see something of homelessness. I said that I would avoid harrowing and distressing descriptions, and so I shall; but let me indicate just two aspects of homelessness—not the most serious—which are prevalent in the inner cities, and I shall end having given your Lordships a complete illustration of the wretchedness that can persist in these areas.
§ Let us consider bed and breakfast accommodation for homeless families, of which there are thousands in London alone, each costing local authorities £200 per week. Alongside these miserable, squalid hostels and hotels stand empty and unused houses that are decaying through lack of maintenance and of use. Why on earth have we not done something about those empty houses? Why have we not set up community groups and arranged for people to repair them so that they can be let for people to live in? No doubt that sounds radical and imaginative but something like that has to be done. Why do we not have a register of those empty houses?
§ Then there is the terrible problem of the capital receipts of local authorities on the sale of council houses. There is a capital fund which is derived from housing, but because of some local government convention, practice or rule—I doubt if it is a rule of etiquette or a rule of law, but it is something which they think is correct practice—that money is not available for investment in housing or for the repair of houses. However, there is a housing repair bill which runs into billions of pounds. That fund is not available. I think that so far Her Majesty's Government have succeeded in providing this year something like £75 million, but we are dealing with a problem which requires billions. Those are just two tiny indications of what is wrong.
§ I leave with your Lordships the hope that this debate will encourage ideas to be put forward which may help the Government and all of us to take steps to save the quality of civilised life in the United Kingdom. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.19
§ 3.47 p.m.
Lord Young of Grafham
My Lords, I am sure that I speak for the whole House in thanking the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, for initiating this debate. He has brought to bear on the deep problems of the inner cities great personal experience, knowledge and commitment. I very much hope that during our deliberations it will be possible to achieve some degree of common ground on what is becoming more and more a universal problem.
The state of the inner city is not unique to the United Kingdom but appears to be an unwelcome by-product of the aftermath of the industrial era. Our inner cities have been deteriorating throughout the second half of the 20th century and there appears to be no easy solution. It is vital to achieve a measure of common ground if we are to build on the progress which is being made and translate our analysis into action.
Our concern during the debate today is with the small urban areas that are marked by a high degree of deprivation. They are found in the North and also, if not as frequently, in the South. These areas are often surrounded by growing wealth and are often near the hearts of our great commercial cities. We do not have to travel far to reach them. Within three miles of your Lordships' House there are at least three such areas which are deserts of unemployment surrounded by an oasis of opportunities. The problems of poor education, bad housing, high unemployment and high levels of crime feed one on the other to produce the deprivation which we call the inner city problem.
Indeed, over the past few weeks we have heard much of the so-called North-South divide. That there is a real divide is beyond dispute, but it is not where the most recent commentators have put it. No, what we suffer from is an urban-suburban-rural divide: on the one side the inner cities and on the other the prosperous suburbs and rural areas. It so happens that more of these deprived inner city areas are in the North, but so are many wealthy areas of our country.
We also find that the most severe problems exist in quite small districts. The solutions for these problems must be localised too. Partnership is vital if by "partnership" we mean that all who are concerned and all who can help can agree on a programme of action which will tackle the real problem. But I confess to some doubts about concentrating the partnership between authority, of almost any description, and the people. I believe that authority is the people. The existence and the strength of authority depend upon the simple fact that it has been given freely by the people. I see as one of the tragedies of our society that people have come to view authority as something separate. They have grown to depend upon authority. Indeed, some people appear to have adopted it almost as an alternative faith. They have relinquished their powers of individual action and even their belief in individual enterprise. But that authority has failed them.
Even worse than that, however, is that in some cases a remote and distant authority has been run at best by so-called professionals or at worst by politicians who came to believe that they knew better than the people who lived and worked in the inner cities and that they alone knew what needed to be done. What better 20 example exists than that stagnant breeding ground of all these troubles—the town planners' dream of the 1950s and 1960s, the municipal madness of the tower blocks and soulless housing estates? What a distortion of the dream of Ebeneezer Howard, and how far from the spirit of the first garden cities.
It is that very combination of a lack of personal responsibility and initiative coupled with social engineering guided by distant professionals that has created the problems of the inner cities.
My noble friend Lord Skelmersdale will talk later about housing and the urban programme. But I should just like to draw a contrast between housing in Britain and in our Continental neighbours. There local authority housing is much less important—3 per cent. of housing in Germany and 14 per cent. in France compared to 27 per cent. here. Is there a relationship between the size of the municipal housing sector and the state of the inner cities? In Europe, the private rented sector and housing associations are much the more important. I believe the way to tackle inner city problems here is much less of this so-called authority, particularly in housing, not more.
I certainly believe that partnership and community are central to tackling the inner city problem. But I want to give power and responsibility to the people of the inner cities and reduce their dependence on so-called authority.
Indeed, the existence of inner cities as they are today follows a period of considerable intervention by state authority, not just the activities of local authorities in providing many services including housing and the activities of planners but also rent control, educational priority areas and a whole panoply of policies. The result is that individuals are left without direct responsibility, but, even worse for their future, companies were displaced by controls and ever-spiralling costs.
Some other central government policies also made the inner cities more vulnerable. The development of new towns moved jobs and mobile workers out of the inner cities. Planning controls, again with well-intentioned motives, prevented the location of new industries in areas such as the East End of London. Planning blight delayed adjustment to change. Wholesale clearance destroyed the social fabric and created not only social disaster areas but often architectural disasters too. The net effect was to shift many job opportunities and many skilled workers and move them out of the inner city; and once away they did not return.
I recall my first task upon entering the Department of Industry in 1979. It was to find a method of restoring all the under the arches accommodation that was such a haven for people who, often livng in the inner areas, started up their own new or small firms—all gone, all destroyed by the planners of the 'fifties and 'sixties. Small wonder that the number of new companies declined and declined until this decade.
I also recall a meeting I had during that period. It was with a number of officials of the GLC. It was a day or two after the putsch that put Mr. Livingstone in power. They were very interested in work that was being done to encourage new small workshops; but not, I was told, in Southwark. There, rates were 21 already so high that no small firm could afford them, let alone the rent. That was back at the start of this decade and today the position is even worse. Has this particular authority helped those who are unemployed in Southwark today?
The problem has not been a lack of policies, nor has it been a lack of money. Central government are spending money on the inner cities—over £700 million this year in the inner city partnership areas alone—on employment, environment and industry programmes. Local authorities are spending vast sums too. How well and how wisely I am content to let the Audit Commission judge. Conflicting policies and priorities were criticised in the report of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman. I agree that we need better partnerships with authority for a start, and better partnerships with central government. We have set better targeting and co-ordination of central government programmes as one of our objectives. That is why the city action teams were set up. I should like to see the objectives of different policies run by different departments targeted more on people as individuals than we manage to achieve today.
I agree with the noble and learned Lord that we need better partnerships between central and local government. Most work quite happily with us. I regret the fact that some, in the name of some obscure political theology, reject the hand of partnership and spurn programmes which we believe can make a major contribution towards tackling the problems of the inner cities.
It is not right that ILEA should have continued to reject TVEI (the technical and vocational education initiative) which would have given it many millions of pounds in each year to provide technical and vocational subjects for the inner city schools. As it is, the very lack of education in many of these schools contributes more to inner city decline than almost anything else.
It hardly helps the situation that Liverpool City Council should reject out of hand government assistance towards the support of voluntary organisations. And I have few words for those authorities which refuse community programme schemes run by voluntary organisations which could renovate housing.
We need better partnerships between local authorities too. Inner cities covered by a number of local councils have lacked a coherent stategy to tackle the problems; sometimes years of neglect and decay have followed. In some areas we have had to decide that the only way to get things moving is to take some powers away from local authorities and to give a new body, urban development corporations, powers over planning and development.
We can all still recall the bitter wrangling by the five boroughs over docklands. The noble Lord, Lord Mellish, will no doubt be able to tell us something of the success of docklands. Does anyone seriously maintain that without the London Docklands Development Corporation we would ever have seen what is perhaps the most exciting redevelopment area probably in the entire world? And few who have visited the Albert Dock complex in Liverpool, soon to be the home of the Tate of the North, or visited the 22 garden festival, will be unaware of the changes being brought about by Merseyside Development Corporation in that city. These successes have led us to announce four more urban development corporations in Trafford Park, Teesside, Tyneside and the Black Country. In other areas we have developed enterprise zones to free people from planning restrictions and red tape. The emphasis in these policies is to bring private enterprises into partnership with government to get things moving on environment and industry.
I agree with the noble and learned Lord that the key to success in tackling inner city problems lies in concentrating on the people who live there and in involving them directly in those decisions. We are pursuing that involvement in a number of different ways. First, we should like to see a greater involvement of tenants in the running of their own estates. We should like to see it through greater home ownership which will help develop pride in the environment. We should like to see greater involvement of parents in the education of their children—for example, by increased representation on governing bodies—and direct involvement in our inner city initiative.
My right honourable friend the Paymaster General has been developing initiatives in eight inner city areas over the past year. They reveal our belief in local involvement and our willingness to experiment in many different ways. The task forces in each area include private sector and public sector secondees. They have built up contacts with voluntary organisations and developed community participation in projects. Some task forces have an advisory group of local people to help guide them in their work.
After just a year of this initiative we are seeing new commitment, enthusiasm and co-operation. Over 60 projects are already organised. The key to these projects is helping people to help themselves. This does not mean that government stand back and say, "Do it all for yourself". It means that government listen to the difficulties which local people say they are facing and act on those difficulties. Then local people can create their own projects and own their own new businesses.
A major problem for people in the inner cities is the difficulty of raising even small sums of capital to start up new businesses in what are seen as problem areas. Special development funds are being set up for each of the eight task force areas. They are the outcome of partnerships between government and the banks.
In St. Paul's, Bristol, a £100,000 venture capital fund has been set up by the task force and has the support of the National Westminster Bank and the Bristol Black Business Association. In Leeds the Yorkshire Bank has combined with us to set up a special development fund for small businesses. We are tackling the complaints of inner city people that they cannot get capital investment for good business loans.
New ventures are also held back by difficulties in arranging insurance cover. The Association of British Insurers and the British Insurance Brokers Association are co-operating with us in setting up new arrangements to help overcome difficulties in the eight task force areas. That close co-operation is another example of the constructive public and private sector partnership which marks this inner city initiative.
23 We are paying particular attention to supporting projects which promote the development of businesses by ethnic minorities. Projects in Birmingham and Bristol have already been set up. A whole range of voluntary organisations are involved in the projects which we are developing. I shall give only a few examples but they illustrate how many organisations are participating with us in this initiative to find new ways to create enterprise.
The Industrial Society's Head Start programme is giving an introduction to business training to 3,000 inner city youngsters in six of our task force areas. We are working with the Cleveland Youth Business Centre to help young entrepreneurs in Middlesbrough. The National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders has set up a special inner cities crime prevention development unit. That unit will work with our task forces on programmes to tackle crime and fear of crime. The range of voluntary agencies, both national and local, which are helping to develop this initiative is immense.
These initiatives are built on a whole series of partnerships. At their heart lies a flexible policy approach which invests in people. It concentrates on developing self-reliance and personal initiative. Individual commitment and responsibility are crucial. The projects and the schemes will fail to make lasting changes unless they are owned by people in the local community. It must be their scheme, their programme and their responsibility for success or failure, not some distant authority which can never fulfil that role. We need to tackle the lack of skill, experience and enterprise which lie at the root of inner city problems with education, training and work experience. We need to encourage new direction, particularly self-employment and small businesses.
I do not say that because I believe each individual has it within him or herself to run a business or even that the way to solve inner city problems is self-employment for all. What I believe is that the self-confidence and dynamism of people who successfully run small businesses would go a long way to improving the inner cities and that many more people could run businesses today than ever contemplate it.
Our aim is to put confidence and pride back into those who live in the inner cities so that they can work there too. We are putting resources in. But just pumping money into projects is not the answer. Pride and confidence do not come from state payments handed down from some greater authority but from being given the skills, the self-awareness and some support to create your own success and your own life style.
The Labour Party sees local authorities as the engines of growth in our economy. John Prescott claimed not long ago:Under Labour, local authorities will be the engine of growth in our economy".The plan drawn up by Southwark Council is a model for Labour Party plans—a model, alas for unemployment. Three-quarters of the jobs created would be people working for the council working for authority. It is not just the costs and knock-on effects on rates and jobs which make that approach 24 unrealistic but that a quarter of Southwark's existing white-collar jobs are currently vacant. What would the rates burden on the inner city then be? The Labour Party's belief is that the quickest way to get people back into work is new local government jobs. I believe that to be the very antithesis of what is really needed to tackle the problem of the inner cities.
I look forward to hearing contributions from noble Lords during the debate. I look forward to hearing the contribution of the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury and wish to pay tribute to the work already done by Faith in the City. Since that report was published the Government have extended their programmes for the long-term unemployed and many in the inner cities will benefit as a result. There was much in the Statement I made in your Lordships' House last week which will provide a real source of help and hope. Tackling the problems of the inner cities needs the participation of many people and the use of many ideas, and I shall study carefully all that is said here today.
I firmly believe that any approach that will have any chance of success must be bottom up and not top down. Participation—and by that I mean local participation—is essential. There must be a sense of ownership by all who partake in schemes, programmes and ultimately in the very new businesses that will start in these areas.
Surely the great lesson of history is that society will only benefit from putting its faith and trust in individuals, giving them personal responsibility and in the end by trusting them. That applies to social progress just as much as economic progress. My tradition has a saying, "Give a man a fish and he will soon be hungry. Teach him to fish and he will never starve". Our aim must be to develop the skills and confidence of those who live in the inner cities. I put my faith in the people.
§ 4.6 p.m.
§ Baroness David
My Lords, we have been waiting for over a year for the opportunity to debate Faith in the City, so highly and rightly praised by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman. It is of particular satisfaction that the noble and learned Lord introduced the debate today not only because of his personal knowledge of inner urban areas because of his report on Brixton but also because he is the UK's president of the International Year of Shelter for the Homeless.
The noble and learned Lord has given the House a broad survey and wise suggestions. He has impressed us all with the seriousness of the situation for the nation as a whole. The problems are now all too well known. It is 10 years since the study of three inner city areas—Birmingham, Liverpool and Lambeth—led to Peter Shore's White Paper, Policy for the Inner Cities, published in June 1977. It was the first public recognition—and this the noble Lord, Lord Young, mentioned—that the new towns policy of removing people and industry from the overcrowded cities to green field sites and expanded older towns like Northampton and Peterborough was leaving behind the least able to cope—the unemployed, the elderly and the less skilled—and that a rapid deterioration in their way of life and their environment had to be halted.
25 The Inner Urban Areas Act 1978 put some of the proposals in the White Paper into legislation. Peter Shore said "The engines of exodus have been reversed". Partnership areas were set up. Fifteen other authorities were earmarked as deserving special help. Grants were to be given for land purchase and help to industry. The present Government have used and extended the powers made available in that Act. I made my maiden speech at the Second Reading of that Bill.
I was amused to see on looking it up that I said that if the arrangements proposed in the Bill did not work as intended, the Government should produce an old towns Act setting up old town development corporations to get things moving. The results hoped for—alas!—have not been enough and we now have two urban development corporations and four more to come. We suspend judgment on how those will work. I hope that there will be participation among local authorities, private enterprise and those development corporations and that they will work.
There is no doubt, as the introduction to Faith in the City says, that:Things have worsened rather than improved since 1977. All the signs are that by a vicious circle of causes and effects the decline of the quality of life in what had been designated as urban priority areas is continuing. The underlying factors are the same: unemployment, decayed housing, substandard educational and medical provision, and social disintegration".Those conditions are caused basically by poverty and poverty means powerlessness.
In one speech there is not time to cover all the factors and I shall concentrate on housing. A home is the most basic need. The report says that decent housing means a place that is warm and in reasonable repair. It also means security, privacy and sufficient space; it is a place where people can grow, make choices and become more whole. Such a home hundreds and thousands of our fellow human beings do not have. There is an overall shortage: 1.2 million people are on local authority waiting lists. Billions of pounds are needed to repair houses in the public sector and even more billions of pounds are needed for those houses in the private sector.
The figures have appeared in report after report, including the DoE's own, and seem to have convinced everyone but the Government of the need for further resources. Increased spending could not only give employment to many in the construction industries but could reduce the ever-increasing sums that hard-pressed local authorities are having to find for bed and breakfast accommodation in hotels. Sixteen London boroughs spent just over £3 million in 1981–82 and nearly £11 million in 1984–85. The figure will be very much higher now. It is an idiotic waste of money and intolerable for those suffering those conditions. As the Archbishop's report says:The word 'hotel' conjures up images of holidays and luxury living; in fact, as we have seen, these places are usually cramped, insanitary and a fire risk".I decided that I must see for myself something of what was happening on the ground to try to save some of the people from that fate, and also to save the waste of resources. Therefore, last Tuesday I went to Brent and I was shown what Brent People's Housing Association was doing in co-operation with both the 26 council and private enterprise. I went first to the large site and office block which Oxford University Press had left a few years ago. It was bought by Brent council, sold to the housing association in 1984 and became the site for an innovative scheme.
The first phase involved the demolition of industrial buildings to provide 91 fair rent two-, three- and four-bedroomed houses, all with their own gardens. They were ready in July last year and they were extremely nice looking, well designed houses. The second phase will transform the six-storey office block into one-, two- and three-bedroomed self-contained flats. There will be a day nursery, laundry and social services office, and a recreation centre. These flats will be ready in the autumn. There will be a resident warden and caretaker. I climbed up to the sixth floor—there will he a lift in the future—where the view of reservoir, playing fields and common land was superb.
The scheme makes financial sense. Keeping 50 families in bed and breakfast costs an estimated £250,000 a year. This conversion will pay for itself in seven years. However, well over £250,000 will be paid to the Treasury in the form of VAT on conversion works. That sum could convert 15 permanent units for rent. Must the homeless subsidise the Treasury? I ask the Minister: can some sense be brought into this? There is a large supply of redundant office or factory accommodation in many urban areas. Given the right conditions, conversion to residential use could be done more often.
I also visited a house in Wembley that had been licensed from the public sector. It had been empty, improved and converted into two flats. I met the charming black mother and baby who lived in one of them. They were thrilled with their home after living for a year in a bed and breakfast hotel, even though their fiat was right next to a very busy railway line. The mother was now near her job and child-minder. We must remember that the homeless are not always jobless.
My third visit was to a flat that had been licensed from the private sector in a big block owned by property developers. The flat had been empty for some time. The owners were not going to renovate it—it was being kept empty—but they were happy to lease it to the housing association for three years and let them put it in order. Again there was a happy tenant. The sad thing was that in two years they would have to move and no one knows how good will be the council accommodation to which they go.
It is doubly ironic that this year will be the 21st anniversary of the first showing of the film "Cathy come Home". We wonder whether Cathy's children will find it any easier than she did.
The imaginative and energetic director of the Brent housing association, John Keene, and Peter Hibbert, the manager of the emergency section, would naturally prefer to be building flats and houses for permanent occupation. However, to move people out of the soulless bed and breakfast hotels, even into temporary homes, makes sound human and financial sense. The projected expenditure in 1986–87 by Brent council on their homeless is just over £3 million net. The gross expenditure, which includes housing and supplementary benefit and charges, is over £6 million.
27 The Brent emergency section provides a service not only for Brent but for the neighbouring boroughs of Ealing, Enfield, Harrow and Westminster.
Not only are the increasing number of homeless to be thought of, but also those in houses in multi-occupation. Over 90 per cent. of these are in urban areas and the big cities. Conditions can be as appalling as those in bed and breakfast hotels. Last Friday the DoE published a major report: the final findings of their national research on HMOs. It confirmed the message of the Archbishop's commission and revealed that, if anything, conditions are much worse than was previously feared. The following are a few key points: 2.6 million people are living in them; 81 per cent. lack satisfactory means of escape from fire; overall conditions are described in the report as "exceedingly squalid" and,an indictment of national and local government housing policies over many years".Members of this House have over the years expressed deep concern about these issues: when the Housing Act 1980 was before the House, and recently when the noble Baroness, Lady Vickers, introduced a short Bill to tackle these needs and give tenants protection. It passed here but there was no time for it in the Commons. Here the Minister said that the Government would wait to see the results of the DoE research before considering legislative steps. They now have the research and the report, and I have warned the Minister that we want to know what they intend. First, will they support Donald Anderson's Bill, having its Second Reading in another place on Friday, 13th February? I hope that that is not an unfortunate date.
However, the press notice from the DoE is not encouraging. I quote from it:The report indicates that houses in multiple occupation do a useful job in many towns and cities. They provide relatively cheap furnished accommodation and a lack of restriction which is popular with some tenants. But standards in the sample of 550 HMOs surveyed for our research were often low. Some needed major repairs"—two-thirds need major repairs—others lacked amenities"—two-thirds lack amenities.Many needed improvements in their fire escape arrangements".As I have said, 81 per cent. need such improvements.Local authorities already have duties"—but very few—and extensive powers to take action to improve standards in appropriate cases. But the research suggests that practice is patchy".I would say that that is the understatement of the year. The press notice continues:We shall be recruiting an Environmental Health Officer to advise the Department and to help prepare and publicise examples of good practice.".There are 431 authorities with housing responsibilities and I think that one environmental health officer at the department will not do very much good.
The Government's record in housing is, I am afraid, abysmal and also dishonest. I hope that when the Minister responds he will not seek to justify his department by saying that there will be an increase in gross provision for housing of £390 million for 1987–88 as compared with 1986–87. This suggests 28 that housing authorities will have £390 million more to spend next year, but that is not so. First, the Government have increased the amount that they hold back from authorities' accumulated capital receipts from the sale of houses and do not allow the authorities to spend. Secondly, the Government have made the quite unwarranted assumption that capital receipts for the current year will increase, although they are at least as likely to decrease. The net effect of all this has been a reduction of £99 million, or 7 per cent. in cash terms, in the HIP allocations for next year.
However, that is not the end of the story, for there are further substractions to be made from the total HIP allocation of £1,366 million; namely, £75 million for the UHR Unit; £14 million for assistance with the housing defects Act; and £2 million which is being held by the DoE against overspending on the home insulation scheme. The result is that the HIP allocation for 1987–88 is no more than 80 per cent. of the basic allocation for 1985–86.
As regards home insulation, I hear that there are to be sweeping cuts to the scheme which will be presented as new regulations in Parliament during February. Everyone will be excluded from eligibility except those claiming housing benefit or supplementary benefit. On top of those restrictions the DoE has announced a cut of more than 40 per cent. in the total amount of money for the scheme—a reduction from £26 million to £15 million.
Of the 20 million houses in the United Kingdom, 85 per cent. are not insulated to current building regulation standards. More than 2 million still have no loft insulation and I am sure that we can assume that the vast proportion are in our UP areas. Insulation provides jobs that are environmentally useful in their energy-saving capacity and give comfort, warmth and smaller bills to the householder. Saving here is a very false economy. I wonder whether the rumour is true that Mr. David Hunt, the energy Minister, is hardly on speaking terms with Mr. John Patten, the Minister for Housing.
Changing my tack, I should like to say a little on the management of housing, which can make all the difference to the happiness of people living in the houses. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, said that it is the enthusiasm of local people that counts. I believe that the more local people are involved in the choices and decisions to be made, the happier the community will be. One way in which to provide choice is to decentralise management.
Islington is perhaps the most advanced borough as regards decentralisation, and decentralisation not only of its housing services. It had 15 neighbourhood offices by the end of 1986, and nine more will be built or converted to such use by the end of this year. Islington is the first authority in the United Kingdom to provide a network of computerised neighbourhood offices—computerisation being the key to the successful implementation of the policy. Each office has direct links with the mainframe computer installed centrally. The system allows officers to deal immediately with requests for housing repairs, payment of rent and rates, administration of housing benefits, applications for council accommodation and transfer and to advise 29 on environmental health, social services and planning applications.
It is difficult to relate to a bureaucratic central town hall which has little in-depth knowledge about particular areas and their problems. However, people relate to their local community. The ability to cope with rent arrears, voids, relettings and transfers much more quickly leads to much better management and use of housing stock.
The offices are proving very popular. They are friendly, attractive places, more like community centres than places of work, and are designed for people to be able to deal with all of their council business. Islington is decentralising power, not simply localising administration. The neighbourhood forums that it is establishing will have authority to allocate their own budgets for local improvements under the partnership programme. They have already attracted the interest of external agencies such as the metropolitan police who are working with them, and ILEA has indicated that it will do the same.
To my mind that all underlines the importance of devolving and involving. The impersonal has to become the personal if our urban areas are to prosper and to be places where people want to live. I believe that that it is part of the co-ordinated action for which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, asked.
It is interesting that the recent Audit Commission report, which in many ways is very critical of a number of London boroughs, has praise for the decentralisation policy of Islington and believes that it will lead to much greater efficiency. The Archbishop's report in its chapter on urban policy stresses the need for local people to participate. At paragraph 8.74 it says:Not only must they feel that positive things are happening; they must feel part of the process. The powerlessness felt by people in the UPAs must be addressed. Local people must have greater opportunities to participate".Later, at paragraph 8.89 it says:Attempts at devolution and decentralisation have been made by a number of UPA local authorities … To implement such schemes effectively will require patient effort and dedication: yet we consider the establishment of neighbourhood offices to be vital if local government is to improve its service delivery to the UPAs".This is not only the International Year of Shelter for the Homeless. From 21st March it is also the European Year of the Environment, and the United Kingdom committee will mount a national programme focusing on three themes, one of which is the improvement of the urban environment. Sir Peter Harrop is the chairman and in writing of this he refers to:Removing eyesores and reclaiming derelict buildings and land and greening towns and cities".It seems that widely different approaches in different countries faced with different problems have all come to the same conclusion; namely, that environmental measures are a net creator of jobs—I have already spoken of insulation. Those jobs will often use largely unskilled and semi-skilled labour, with a high proportion of the jobs occurring in the inner city areas of high unemployment.
The base case—that is, loft insulation, draughtproofing, wall insulation and heat 30 controls—would create and maintain an average of 50,000 direct and indirect jobs for 10 years. The maximum case—that is, adding a greater depth of loft insulation and double glazing—would create 124,000 jobs. The Association for the Conservation of Energy calculated that the base case could save an average of £400 million per year.
There should be a dramatic move to the greening of the city environment at the same time as the insides of buildings are improved. There could be a rebirth of the idea of garden cities within the UPAs. It is better to have greenery around us than at arm's length in the parks. It could mean an expansion of jobs in gardening, landscape design and so on. In the recent EC competition to find the most beautiful city in Europe, our best was Norwich, in 19th position, and we comprehensively brought up the rear.
The Labour Party is producing a policy document entitled Jobs and Environment, which will make a sound case that environmental policies could create 200,000 jobs. As the report says at paragraph 9.65:We must confront the implications for society of a belief that the manufacture of rubber ducks for export increases economic welfare, but job-creating public expenditure on environmental improvement or caring for the elderly does not".I should like to echo that.
I have said nothing about the recommendations that the report makes to the Church, because it seemed more appropriate that the right reverend Prelates should speak to that. However, I wish to say how very much we welcome the report and how much we hope it will have effect. It is a courageous document. I may well be wrong, but I think of the Cof E having its main sphere of influence on congregations in rural areas and not in the cities, where perhaps the Methodists hold greater sway. However, in the report real insight is shown into the needs of the UPAs and the appalling consequences of inaction. It is a practical document.
I fear that the Government remain complacent and I am afraid that listening to the Minister's speech just now I did not get a feeling that he was getting hold of the problems. He gave a list of what was being done. It did not have much vision. In my view the Government are not yet aware of the disintegration that is not that far off—the loss of hope and morale particularly among the young. The resources that they are putting into the solving of the problems are pathetically inadequate. I hope that this very important debate will at last bring the Government face to face with reality and persuade them to initiate the measures that alone can stave off what I fear could be terrifying consequences ahead.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Lord Bonham-Carter
My Lords, we must all join in thanking the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, for giving us the opportunity today to discuss problems of our inner city areas. I join him in congratulating the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury on the magisterial report which his commission produced. I hope that all of us will not merely read, but also act upon it in so far as we can.
I agree with the comments of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, on finance. It is ludicrous to suppose that the problems facing the inner city areas 31 can be properly solved or even tackled effectively without a major infusion of central government finance. I share also his fears that members of minority groups, most of whom have settled in inner city areas, are in grave danger of alienation from our society.
I listened to the noble Lord, Lord Young's speech with great interest and attention. I found his analysis of the causes of our inner city problems rather peculiar, to say the least. Unless I misunderstood him, he seemed to be saying that the difference between the amount of local authority housing on the Continent and in this country had some bearing on the acuteness or otherwise of the inner city problems in this country. I hope that I am not misinterpreting what he said. The noble Lord seemed also to imply that central government's intervention in local authority housing had been almost uniformly unsuccessful.
§ Lord Young of Graffham
My Lords, if the noble Lord will permit, I drew attention to two points. First, we have far more local authority housing in this country than our Continental neighbours. It is salutary to remember that nearly 80 per cent. of local authority housing is postwar; yet the 80 per cent. that is postwar requires £20 million spent on it, which does not give one much confidence to put money in that direction. That was the main point I was making.
§ Lord Bonham-Carter
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord greatly, but I thought that the implication was, nonetheless, that in some sense this was related to the problems of our inner cities. I can only say that if that was the case, it seems to be misguided. The shanty towns in France must be seen to be believed, and the inner city problems of Naples are unspeakable; just to mention one or two places. It was curious that in talking about the consequences of local authority ownership of housing and of central government and local government planning, the noble Lord did not refer to the United States of America. There is singularly little federal or state planning in the major cities of America. As far as I know, there is a tiny percentage of public housing. The inner city problems of Chicago and New York are the model which we hope to avoid imitating.
The noble Lord also said that it was no good pumping money into projects. That is a repetition of the old criticism of throwing money at problems. It is a funny one to come from the Conservative Party. After all, the private enterprise which it so admires does nothing but pump money into projects. That is exactly what it does. The pumping of money into projects depends on whether you pump it wisely or unwisely; it is not something which in itself should be avoided at all costs.
I am most grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady David, for demolishing the Government's housing policy, to which I need no longer address myself. I must confess that this is not a new topic. Inner city problems have been with us over the centuries from the rookeries in 18th century London, to the Dickensian slums of the 19th century, to the housing crisis of the 1890s which led to the protofascist League of British Brothers. Today, massive unemployment, whatever anyone may say, and the loss of two million 32 jobs, as well as cutback in local authority housing from 107,000 in 1978 to 33,000 in 1985, with no compensating increase in the private sector—to mention but two factors—are the elements which have led to the crisis.
I would draw noble Lords' attention to some passages in the Audit Commission's paper which are highly relevant to what we are discussing. In paragraph 3, it reads:There are very disturbing parallels between the situation in parts of London and that in parts of New York and Chicago … There, a combination of poor housing and education, high crime rates much of it drug-related, large scale immigration and associated racial tensions, an exodus of jobs and the more well off to the suburbs, high youth unemployment … Once such a situation develops, it is extraordinarily difficult to retrieve, as American experience over the last three decades demonstrates".The Audit Commission goes on to point out that many of the factors responsible for creating an underclass, as it calls it, in the United States are, in fact, present in large parts of inner London. There is the decline in opportunities for skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled employment; the number of jobs in manufacturing and construction has fallen between 1982 and 1986 by 126,000. Unemployment was 21 per cent. in Greater London in October, but that means 34 per cent. for men between the ages of 20 and 24 and probably double that for people of Afro-Caribbean descent. Forty per cent. of our families are in council houses, one-fifth of which need renovation; 5,000 families are every night in bed and breakfast accommodation; and so on.
The indicators conform almost precisely with those in Chicago and New York. That is something which should alarm us very much. In the face of this evidence, I was glad to hear that the noble Lord, Lord Young, did not deny that what we have is a Disraelian two nations as well as a geographic two nations—two nations around us in one society, not merely a difference between the standards of living in the North and the South.
Reinforcing the Audit Commission's report is a remarkable report from the Home Affairs Select Committee Bangladeshis in Britain which is also a report about Tower Hamlets—a classic example, if you like, of urban deprivation. Tower Hamlets has always been a borough of immigration. The Huguenots arrived at Spitalfields after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes; the Irish arrived in the 18th century. In the 1870s, Jewish immigrants from eastern Europe settled in Tower Hamlets among other places; and in the 1950s and 1960s the Bangladeshis began to arrive in one of the poorest boroughs in this country. Today, about 20,000 have settled in Tower Hamlets, where there is 29 per cent. unemployment and where four-fifths of the housing stock, that is to say, 50,000 houses, is council property, much of it in need of major rehabilitation, modernisation and repair.
There is a waiting list of 9,000. In 1984–85, there were over 1,200 homeless families, and one can add to that a mismatch between the housing which exists and the housing which is needed. The Bangladeshi community is the most recent of immigrant communities in this country. As a consequence, it consists of a large number of single men, and when families are united, there are large families. What is required is accommodation for single people on the 33 one hand, and large houses for families on the other. Neither is available in the quantity required. As a consequence, in the borough as a whole, there is substantial overcrowding and 10 per cent. of the dwellings have more than one person per room. However, in St. Mary's ward, the ward where most of the Bangladeshis have settled, the percentage is 50 per cent. In addition there is homelessness. The cost of homelessness for a borough of this kind is very substantial.
In 1986–87 the expenditure was £20 million; the gross cost, after recovery, was £13 million. In 1987–88 expenditure is expected to be of the order £30 million. This is not expenditure that the borough can avoid. It has a statutory obligation to house the homeless. There is not sufficient housing. Bed and breakfast is at present the only resource open to it. That is not a kind of expenditure that the authority can control. I would add that of the homeless, 90 per cent. are Bangladeshis.
If you want to produce racial tension, arrange for high unemployment and a shortage of housing in an area of mixed population. It is not surprising that in Tower Hamlets there are, and have been for many years, a disgraceful number of racially-motivated attacks. An account of one was given in the Independent this morning. It took the police far too long to recognise that these attacks were widespread, and it took them far too long to decide to do something about them. It is no good everyone deploring racial hatred but refusing to accept responsibility for the conditions that foment it.
The responsibility, as has been said before, for these conditions in the cities is a responsibility of us all. It is no good pretending that it is simply the responsibility of any single government or of any single party. It is of course the prime responsibility of the present Government, and I hope that they have forgotten that most chilling of political slogans, "There is no alternative". There must be an alternative to letting things continue in boroughs like Tower Hamlets until the forecast made in the Audit Commission is fulfilled.
Central government have a responsibility in these matters for boroughs in the position of Tower Hamlets, and they can help in a whole variety of ways. One is by encouraging better management on the lines suggested in the Audit Commission report; a second by concentrating available resources where they are most urgently required and enabling boroughs like Tower Hamlets to increase expenditure on housing and, above all, on housing improvements. To follow such policies would mean a change in existing government policies. Between 1979 and 1986 capital allocations to local authorities dropped from £1.5 billion to £500 million.
Tower Hamlets is, in addition, ratecapped. Its budget of £123 million was reduced to £121.6 million of which, as I have already said, some £13 million is expenditure on bed and breakfast which it cannot conceivably avoid. It is impossible for boroughs in that position, without substantial resources being made available to them from central government, to answer the needs of their people and to tackle the huge and overwhelming problems, as they seem to people on the spot, which confront them.
34 It is important to mobilise people in support of those policies, and, of course, the kind of partnership that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, suggested between the local authority and the people is only to be encouraged and devoutly to be hoped for. It is possible that the absence of that partnership between local authorities and the people they represent is because the people do not think that they are properly represented by the electoral system at present available to them. I believe that the mobilisation of partnership that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, has suggested might be assisted by a change in the electoral system.
It is an irony that Tower Hamlets and the City of London lie cheek by jowl. The only characteristic that they share is that neither is notably law abiding. Whereas one is extremely poor the other is conspicuously rich. Whereas one has suffered from neglect at the hands of the present Government, the other has basked in the sunshine of their approval until it went a bit too far.
The values that the Government have sedulously propagated, the cult of cupidity, are well expressed in the account of the views of a leading City figure which appeared in the Guardian:He has concentrated on one thing: the performance earnings per share. The aim is simply to make money … the view is that it's society's job to worry about the poor and the old".Need more be said? The two nations lie side by side, the City and Tower Hamlets, and it is not a pretty picture.
§ 4.45 p.m.
The Archbishop of Canterbury
My Lords, I join with others in welcoming this debate and in expressing gratitude to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, for initiating it. I pay tribute to his long-standing commitment to the solution of urban conflict and deprivation. He has brought to that task a powerful combination of lucidity and practical compassion, and the nation owes him a great debt for it.
As the noble and learned Lord showed in his speech, one of his most notable qualities has always been to avoid partisan polemics and to focus instead on human need and what we can do constructively to meet it. It is typical of him therefore that his Motion before us today makes no criticism and offers no blame. It seeks to point a way forward, and I hope that our debate will be conducted in the same spirit. I personally see this debate as an attempt to articulate and respond to a widespread national concern that transcends all boundaries of sectional interest and political affiliation.
In identifying that concern I can now speak with some confidence in view of what has followed the publication of the report of my commission on urban priority areas, Faith in the City. I do not mean the immediate fireworks, which though spectacular were short-lived, but the subsequent year of solid study, discussion and action. The report touched a national nerve. Indeed the title, Faith in the City, has been taken up as a symbol of a shared concern, a desire to be informed and a wish for something to be done. I have myself taken part in constructive discussion of it in the City of London, in universities, in the Weald of 35 Kent, and on a Leicester housing estate with a strong mixture of races and creeds. It has, I know, been taken seriously by many local authorities, including some not exactly renowned for their support of organised religion.
Why is this? Largely, I think, because of one simple conclusion.It is our considered view",say the commission,that the nation is confronted by a grave and fundamental injustice in urban priority areas".So far as I am concerned that statement wholly vindicates the Church's initiative in calling attention to these issues, and I am completely unrepentent in having done so. The report marshalls some impressive and objective figures. I do not intend to repeat them here. But, as a member of the commission put it to me:the problem was not finding the facts; the real challenge for us all is how we respond to them".In essence, Faith in the City paints a convincing and worrying picture of a divided society and one in which divisions are widening. There is, as has been said already, a comfortable Britain where living standards rise, financial institutions and retailing thrive. There is also another Britain where economic decline, physical decay and social disintegration are combining to produce bitterness and apathy. Contrast Surbiton or Sevenoaks with what a clergyman told me of Skelmersdale, where major retailers have withdrawn, some banks closed their branches, several manufacturers have shut down their operations. The projected population was once 80,000; it is now 40,000.
Partly this is a North-South division, as I believe the Government's own publication Social Trends concluded last week. But the two Britains also co-exist on each other's doorsteps, notably here in London. We have had a vivid picture of that. Despite that, they often do not communicate and have little knowledge or experience of each other. Frustration, lack of hope and a sense of powerlessness form an inflammable mixture that can be ignited all too easily. Our society is in real danger if a significant group within it comes to feel that the only way to obtain change is to opt out of the written and unwritten rules and relationships that maintain our social fabric and succumb instead to the forces of unreason and despair. Such a condition runs directly contrary to everything the Church stands for.
Faith in the City addressed 38 recommendations to the Church and 23 to the nation. Noble Lords may properly ask how the Church of England has itself responded. What is it doing in urban priority areas? To put it quite simply: we are there; we intend to stay there and we shall strengthen our resources there. I could give a catalogue of specific actions, but above all we place the leading questions of Faith in the City on the agenda of every part of our Church. Wherever possible they have been shared with other Churches and faith communities.
You do not change the Church by central diktat but by patient discussion at every level and by a multitude of small decisions. I believe the Church has much to offer our inner cities and the soulless outer housing 36 estates which so concerned my commission. But I am not starry-eyed: Faith in the City speaks clearly of a Church which is often clinging on by its fingertips. Committed priests and lay people with much to offer can be ground down by pressures of inappropriate buildings, lack of money and the sheer weight of human need.
Our response has been, first, to embark on a major drive to redistribute the historic resources of the Church so that they are shared more fairly between dioceses. This will benefit urban priority areas. We are also establishing a Church urban fund and the Church Commissioners are seeking powers to give £1 million a year to it. We shall be launching a drive for funds throughout the Church and nation. All this will have the specific and identifiable effect of requiring parishes in the suburbs and rural areas, themselves not without problems, to pay more towards the salaries of their own clergy so that we can give more help to the inner city. I am confident that the Church will accept these costs, but they will be real and sometimes difficult.
If we succeed, the readiness of the Church in comfortable Britain to support these steps has lessons for other institutions as well. If we do not succeed people may well say of us, "Physician, heal thyself".
One of the things that worries me about any debate on our inner cities is the danger of painting the problems in such apocalyptic terms that there is no room left for hope. I do not believe my commission fell into that trap. As they put it themselves:Nothing we say in this Report should be interpreted as evidence against our firm belief in an urban future of which all citizens may be proud.".Like them, I believe that action is possible and I look for all our Churches, strengthened in ways I have described, to play their full part.
I believe we have much to contribute to building the partnerships for which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, called. We have experience; we have a presence; we have increased professionalism in pastoral care and I think we still enjoy a large fund of local good will. Our clergy are often uniquely placed by virtue of their role in the community. Unlike most professional middleclass groups who work with the poor, the clergy also live alongside them, enjoying similar wages and many of their social conditions. And the combination of theology and experience means they do not judge the nation's prosperity by the mortgage rate, taxation level or dividend returns as other influential groups are bound to do.
Our parish system is founded in the idea of a local community, and despite the division and dispersal of communities in our cities the Church remains a force for bringing people together and building neighbourhood partnership. We can operate at a genuinely local level, listening more closely to individuals than is possible for government itself. Moreover, we are known to do this as an independent body owing no allegiance to partisan ideologies, and yet we also have the potential at least to cross all boundaries of class, wealth and race.
There is of course an element of vision in that picture. I am not repentent about that, but I believe that like all powerful visions it is grounded in realism and in building on strengths that already exist. It is the 37 basis on which as a Church leader I have hope for our cities and the future.
But what my commission found demands national action. Like our Victorian forebears, we too are facing "a condition of England" question, though of course it is a United Kingdom question. That is why I believe Faith in the City was right to address recommendations to government and nation as well as to the Church. We confront an urgent situation that will not be resolved simply by throwing money at it, though it must be said that it will not be solved without more money being made available.
It seems to me that many different kinds of resources are called for if our cities are to be won back from what some of them are today, many different kinds of talent and innovation working in harmony—the financier and the architect, the businessman and the philanthropist, the legislator and the planner, the policeman and social worker, the churchman and the educationalist, the landscape artist and the civil engineer. Such an approach has implications for housing, education, health, employment, law and order, and the creation and distribution of wealth. Other noble Lords, including my fellow bishops, will discuss these in more detail. But the length of that catalogue itself shows that no one sector of society can tackle the issues alone. They are not the responsibility of the centre, of local government, of private sector finance. They are the responsibility of all of us.
It is in that spirit that I want to conclude by saying something positive about cities and their renewal. First, I believe that our cities have an intrinsic energy and vigour which has to be rediscovered and worked with, while there is still time. As the report puts it:We confidently assert that the planned resurgence of the British city is both possible and desirable in the immediate future".Secondly, we are a comparatively wealthy society—far wealthier materially than when we built the new towns and did the urban renewal of the 1950s and 1960s. We also have the wealth of our human resources, including those in urban priority areas themselves. We need to apply this wealth. The experience of the 1980s must surely convince us that there is no automatic trickling-down process that ensures that increased wealth will benefit the poor. But I believe that concern for wealth creation and for its fairer distribution do not need to be mutually exclusive.
Thirdly, we have substantial evidence from opinion polls that many people would be prepared to pay more taxes and forgo tax cuts in order to help divert resources to the poor. The response to my commission's report has confirmed this. I believe that if we are to have faith in the city, we must also have some faith in comfortable Britain. I do not regard it as axiomatic that such a Britain is basically selfish, uncaring, greedy and vindictive.
There is a deep fund of good will and altruism which can be tapped. Let me give but two brief examples. In my own archdiocese a group of salubrious seaside towns on the South coast have combined to provide what I was told was really needed in three day centres for the mentally handicapped in London—regular and consistent holiday places for the summer. At the new 38 Homerton Hospital in Hackney, which I visited for a day last week, I found the very best that Bans could give in medicine and medical care was being invested as a contribution to the deprived inner city.
Any cynicism that ignores such work is not only a counsel of despair but is also alarmingly infectious. I do not think it is a false hope to work for a society in which compassion is seen as a strength and not a weakness, and a sense of social responsibility and concern for one's own community is recognised as a proper, even necessary, accompaniment of success.
Finally, we have learnt some lessons, albeit painfully and at a great cost. Others have already spoken of this We now see the need to listen to people in local communities before seeking to help them. We want to do things with people, not for them. There are signs of this in all sectors: government initiatives, decentralisation within local government and imaginative projects supported by commerce and industry.
Our voluntary sector has never been larger or more flourishing. The phrase which has been used—build from the bottom up—is in danger of becoming a cliché, but that is because of repetition, not because it is wrong. For me, such an approach reflects a profoundly Christian understanding about the infinite value and dignity of each individual human being, whatever their outward circumstances. A public policy which starts from that must be grounds for hope.
All of us in this House want to rebuild community and create a stronger sense of fellowship in a deeply divided society. But successful social engineering will not be enough to rekindle this. If I may trespass briefly into the territory of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, we need justice as well as equity and we need to offer rights as well as to provide opportunities. We need to sustain our commitment to a vision of common citizenship and to living as one nation under God.
That is the real thrust of my commission's report. As Professor Donnison has wisely commented:Faith in the City … showed a determination to rebuild what might be called fellowship … or the capacity of the community to take purposeful, humane, collective action … When their more detailed proposals have been forgotten, the Commission's conviction that by working together good people can make the world a better place may prove to be their most lasting gift to us all.
§ 5.3 p.m.
§ Lord Selsdon
My Lords, after that powerful tripod, if I may so describe it, of Church, law and Parliament, I am afraid I stand before you as a complete amateur. I would say that I represent the voluntary sector and for a period of six years I was fortunate enough to hold two appointments; first, from a Conservative Secretary of State for the Environment, Michael Heseltine, and, secondly, from a Socialst Secretary of State for the Environment, Peter Shore. However, in the appointment I had there did not seem to be any political differences at all. It was to chair a body which we affectionately called an "ango" in order that we might have some form of self-perpetuation. It was called the Greater London and South-East Council for Sport and Recreation.
Our brief was to try to recommend things to do and to look after people when they were not working or 39 sleeping, on the consideration that they would probably retire earlier, possibly even start work later and would have more spare time. Over a period of six years we completed report after report on what was wrong. We analysed again and again other people's reports. We used to write and say, depending on who was the editor of the day: "the Government should do this", "the local authority should do this" or "the private sector should do this". We forgot that within our nation we have people who really do care. They are called the voluntary sector. We have those who when they are successful in life wish to give something back. We have those who understand far more than any bureaucracies.
When I gave up this job I found to my amazement that I had been dealing with some fairly bright people. I had been putting forward the concept that private and public money should actually come together to fund and develop recreational and sporting activities. I can tell your Lordships that this was a form of heresy. But when I retired two bodies came to see me. One of them was the London Docklands Development Corporation and the other was my own council. They said, "You have been volunteered". I found myself in a situation where we were proposing to deal with the inner city, to deal with London. I shall come to what Disraeli said about London in a moment—but what a mess it was in!
One forgot there were some 6 or 7 million people involved—2.7 million households and an area of city twice the size of Pans. Those were the basic things. London had declined. As our trade had disappeared, so London had declined. Once upon a time a third of all the trade in the world went through the London docks. Now there is none. Over a 30-year period since the war a million jobs disappeared. There are now 3 million jobs. The rate of unemployment in London has grown almost more quickly than in any other city. London now has the greatest concentration of unemployed in any industrial nation of the world. This is not a recipe but a part of a recipe.
Secondly, we look at ethnic minority groups, and 50 per cent. of all such groups in the United Kingdom are in London. That is effectively the same size as the total population of the city of Birmingham. Within those areas of the ethnic minority groups we have a very high rate of unemployment—an average of 20 per cent. But for some, and particularly for the young black West Indians, it is often two and half times that. In some London boroughs there is unemployment of 60 per cent. That is another part of the recipe. Then we have other aspects which we tend to forget about. In London there are 400,000 disabled, of whom something like 225,000 are registered—roughly the same size as Bristol.
When I was volunteered for this, people said "We need something in London; we need a big centre in London". Studies were done and it was found that we are one of the greatest athletic nations in the world: we hold all middle distance records in the medium scale. We had only an old hangar to run in. We found that little things happened. One day the Sunday Times said, "Get up early in the morning and run round the park for fun"—and 5,000 people did. Others said, 40 "That is not enough: get up even earlier and queue for a long time to run 26 miles through the streets in the rain". And 16,000 people entered the London Marathon. I can think of nothing more painful, but I think 16,000 people enjoyed it.
From this background came an idea which the London Docklands Development Corporation advanced when it had plenty of space, before the tremendous success of the enterprise zone had led to the development of offices right across the board. It gave us a shed. It is a banana shed, but I am not allowed to call it that. It is empty because nobody will produce bananas any more. I am reminded here of the way in which people do not want now to produce things around the world. We created with the help of a wide range of people what I think is the smallest private venture company in the United Kingdom. It has spent 50 per cent. of its share capital and has £1 left.
We created, too, a philosophy which said, "Let us get some money from the public sector but let us not swallow it and consume it. Let us use it and if it works let us try to give it back". Then we asked "How many different people can we get together to work on this concept because it is becoming quite an amusement?". In this area I ended up quietly in Black Rod's office with a note. Your Lordships' House is really the equivalent of a moderate-sized tennis court. Our shed (of the same height) when it is finished will be the equivalent of 30 tennis courts. Within that, we intend to have fun for the people of London.
In putting together our package we come once more to the voluntary sector. The voluntary sector is not to be found in the street. It is within local authorities, within government, within Parliament, within the large corporations and, perhaps most interesting of all, within the police force. It may not be widely realised how many members of the Met do a lot of voluntary work for sport and recreation out on the streets. Every year the Met sponsors the Metropolitan Police five-a-side football match, with 7,000 teams of which 743 are women or girls. We needed somewhere to hold these finals so we needed a shed.
Then, believe it or not, we had a lot of support from one great body, the GLC, which was very keen on doing this. We thought it may be possible to get a Conservative Government into the same structure and organisation as the Left-wing borough of Tower Hamlets, together with the GLC, perhaps together with the Sports Council and perhaps with other aspects of Tower Hamlets and the City—the private sector. I feel embarrassed at the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter, because I work in both the City and the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. After his comments I feel suitably proud. But there is a coming together in these environments.
What we did was with the help of Members of your Lordships' House. There was the noble Lord, Lord Mellish, who will speak shortly, and the noble Lord, Lord Walston, who sold his flat in Albany and moved down to Docklands, because many of us found that in an area where there is regeneration there is also fun, excitement and enthusiasm because there is change. The point is how you kill off the bureaucracy. This is very difficult. You have to approach it from 41 inside. We found the most successful voluntary workers that we had all worked in the public sector. They knew their way through the corridors.
We came to the time where a Conservative Government handed over to us £2 million, the Sports Council handed over to us £500,000 and the London Borough of Tower Hamlets put its own money into the same pot as a Conservative Administration and it did it willingly. More than that, it realised fairly quickly that the success for Docklands was such that before long it would be the richest borough in the country in terms of rates. It then had the misfortune that, because it was being so successful with all the new businesses starting down there, it switched political allegiance. I think there was a majority of two, and it turned out that one of the councillors was under age, which caused tremendous problems, and we found that our supporter, the borough, was hidebound at that time.
We then set sat down and asked whether it would not be right and proper if the private sector put in the same amount. The private sector did not want to know. A few people said that they might give us some charitable donations. They said what a good idea it was and they would sponsor things. But then with the help of individuals—again, volunteers—we set up a strange structure. We said: would it not be nice to have a bank? So the Barclays Bank Group came in, and an American bank, Security Pacific, also came in. The Americans are used to things of this sort; they have them all over the place, with the coming together of the public and the private sectors. An old merchant bank, Arbuthnot Latham, came in. We then thought: would it not be nice to have Lord Weinstock's company, GEC? It came in and invested. Then there were the P & O group, Bovis and lots of individuals.
We then looked at the sporting and entertainment world and I found to my amazement that there were people in the promotions world who, unsung, had raised over £100 million for Band Aid to help the world. There were others such as the trust of His Royal Highness the Prince with some £4 million raised voluntarily to help people in the inner areas.
The problem is that we have this enormous building and we start rebuilding in a month's time. We have £3 million from the public sector and £17 million from the private sector, but we do not have any staff. We have an elderly dog that guards the place and the tremendous good will of lots of people who want to participate. I do not believe that the problem is money. I believe that the problem lies somewhere between the public and the private sectors. There needs to be some form of structure which is called the voluntary organisation.
In Tower Hamlets, you will find an interesting area known as the Mudshoot, where 32 acres of land were converted some time ago. Bees live there, people play and there is a farm with animals. But all the time when the volunteers are there they do not have the powerful organisation and resources to resist progress, to resist the demand for increased intensity of office developments. But in our cities and in the middle of London there are vast waterways. The City could be superb.
I find with considerable happiness that there is now a mood. The mood comes not just from throwing 42 money and from charitable donations. You have to create a climate where people see the chance of prospering. This is what the Government have done by the enterprise zones. I think they did it without realising, but enterprise starts with one and then with two. In these areas, I find great hope.
We hope to move the London Federation of Boy's Clubs down there for its 150th anniversary. It is trying to raise £1.5 million. It may have done it already. It is the 150th anniversary of St. John's Ambulance, which is also there. If you ask a hotelier, "Would you mind placing orders, so that someone can start a new bakery?", he says, "Yes, we will not have an in-house bakery". It is the same with a Chinese laundry. People will respond if they are asked.
There is one thing which I do not think government ever take into account. They always assume that everyone is after their money, as do local authorities. But often it is the good will of government and of ministers that counts more. If government, the Church, the law or the local authorities would ask individuals, there are many who would like to help.
§ 5.16 p.m.
§ Lord Soper
My Lords, of all the elements in the speech of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, for which I am grateful, none is more conspicuous than his penultimate comment that here is an imperative need and that it is our business, as best we can, to seek to provide some measure of encouragement that the need will be met. I believe that this is the function of the debate, and I should like to contribute something towards that end.
I am grateful for the conspicuous appearance of spirituality on the ecclesiastical Benches. I wish that I could command a similar number representing Nonconformity. What I can say to the most reverend Primate is that there has been a welcome, which I think is unprecedented in its nature, in the Nonconformist and other Churches that are not established, for a compendious document which I am still in the process of reading and which, at the same time, is one of the most perceptive and all-embracing presentations of an ever-increasing difficulty, to which your Lordships are invited today to give some care and attention.
I begin by declaring an interest in the simplest sense of those words. For the last 60 years, I have been working in the inner city, and your Lordships will allow me therefore, anticipating any failure on my part, to be humble enough to make no comment that would appear to be dogmatic. I am concerned with many problems to which I cannot yet find the answer, but I have a conspectus over those 60 years of what has been happening in the inner city. I shall delay your Lordships for but a little while to describe it.
I began in the Old Kent Road. On one side was Rivett Street, of grinding poverty. On the other side was a trim and neat area of houses in Glengall Road, committed to what I suppose would be called a lower middle-class gentility, not oppressed by too many problems and apparently fairly stable. That situation did not materially alter, except with the emergence of the welfare state. Of course, it was in cold storage during the second world war. Afterwards there came 43 the changes which I believe are germane to an understanding of what we are discussing.
First, there was the increase in unemployment—progressive and equally dangerous as it progressed. Secondly, there was the coming into the inner city of racial groups, initially in ones and twos and now in tens or hundreds. Thirdly, there was what is conspicuous in the Archbishop's report—an increasing sense of decay. It is to that aspect that I would draw your Lordships' attention. The most conspicuous element that I find in the inner city today is the decay and the consequences that flow from it.
I should like to describe one of the consequences. I was recently sitting on a bus which was caught in a traffic jam near the Elephant and Castle. Through a window, I saw a young boy with a hammer smashing a piece of furniture which was adjacent to a window in a high-rise block of flats, and thereafter smashing the window itself. I suppose that it was an understandable part of the exuberance of youth. However, what bothered me was that there were a great many people passing by who took not the slightest notice. That incident—reinforced by many another episode—struck me as showing that it is the inevitable consequence of decay that one loses a consciousness of improvement and gives it up as a bad job, so that it does not matter what one does with it. I regard that as one of the most impressive and dangerous elements in the inner city today.
In the inner city of today, I believe, the constructive elements of belief and confidence in progress have been eroded by a procession of events which have denied to so many people the opportunity of thinking that things could be better. As I say, they have given it up as a bad job. It is unquestionably true that the Christian Church has in many respects disappeared from the inner city. That is a general statement. There are special examples of magnificent churchmanship and I am not prepared to stand here and have the Church blamed for all the problems in the inner city. However, I am prepared to say, and I conjure your agreement, that there has come into the inner city evidence of anonymity. Nobody now seems to belong, as once many did belong, to the Church.
One fact which, in my judgment and experience, has not been mentioned as it should be, illustrates that point. In earlier days, Sunday school was a cementing influence in home life, vast numbers of parents sending children there while they slept under the News of the World. They were committed to a family life which has disintegrated with the decay. With increased mobility, young people leave the inner city in order to find what they hope will be enjoyment and pleasure elsewhere. In my judgment, this is the outstanding defect in the inner city. Nothing has taken the place of the sense of belonging which, with all its disadvantages, was an element in the city as I knew it when I grew up and as I worked in it for many years.
I do not listen with any continuity to "East Enders". Occasionally, almost by mistake, I switch it on. I believe that it is watched by 23 million people, and I find that a most unfortunate thought. However, what surprises me is that there is not enough attention being paid to the fact that "East Enders" and similar 44 presentations give the impression that, whereas the Church no longer is the focus of public life in a community, the pub is.
I do not believe in an alcohol-orientated civilisation. At the moment, I am not banging the teetotal drum, although I think it does matter in what orchestra that drum happens to be thumped. If one cannot thump it today in the Band of Hope, as I was brought up to believe, one can at least recognise that the assumption that the public house represents a focal point of unity in the civilised life of a community is a monstrous nonsense.
I must delay a little to say a further word on that subject, and I hope that your Lordships will not assume that to be a piece of teetotal arrogance. It is the measure of my 60 years' experience in endeavouring to combat some of the problems to be faced in the inner city. Therefore, the contribution that I seek to make very briefly is this. We have allowed the city, in its inner life, to decay to the point at which most people think it irreparable. I do not. I do not know what will be the shape of the cities of the future. What I do know is that there is a paramount need at the moment to do things in the Church and in the community alike. There is a need to do something to alleviate the situation.
Let me begin with the Church. I was interested for long enough in running a hostel for recovered alcoholics. That was fairly cheap to do, in the sense that the scientists did not know very much about such things and we were dependent upon all sorts of quack medicines which did almost no good. But we were able to give to the alcoholic a sense of belonging and to take him out of the pattern of an irresponsible and stupid life that he had not only elected for himself but to which he attracted a great many other people.
Today an effective measure to deal with the increasing problem of alcohol demands an infusion of capital for scientific and proven methods which were not previously known but which are now a part of the general curriculum of recovery. There are many voluntary associations which desperately need the funding to meet the technical demands of those jobs to which they are committed. I do not believe that there is any lack of vocational sense; I do contend that there are many such organisations today which are impoverished to the point of being ineffective precisely because there is no recognition that what they need is money. They can do a great deal out of their experience. However, they cannot do a great deal without the apparatus and the tools.
Furthermore, as has been advocated in your Lordships' House this afternoon, there is an absolute need for an infusion of public money into the job of making the inner city look better than it does. Only when that money is available and has been expended do I think it is likely that we shall be able to go on to the next step and see to what other commitments we ought to be encouraged as a result of that expenditure of public funds.
It is no good saying that there are already public funds available. Of course there are, but they are not nearly enough. I still repeat, even though it may be over-simplistic, that what we need above all in the voluntary efforts of the Christian Church, of which I 45 have some experience over the last 60 years, is the encouragement that can come from the belief that if we set about these tasks with due understanding and devotion, we shall not be hamstrung by the lack of money to carry them through.
Finally, we are concerned today not only with immediate and proximate programmes. We are concerned with an ultimate conviction, and I shall sit down after I have said a word or two as regards that. Within the Christian faith, we have learned how much we need to enlarge our vocabulary in order to be honest with our doubters and with our declarations of faith. I find no place in the vocabulary of Christianity for the word "privatisation". There is no place whatever.
I believe that privatisation is the very denial of what we may perhaps call socialisation, responsibility, fellowship and the companionship of labour. I do not use the word "socialism" too easily today. There is a current attempt to discredit it altogether, and if your Lordships read yesterday's Sunday papers, you have seen a most discreditable attempt to do that. Christianity, if it is socialistically committed, as I believe it to be, can be regarded not as something which has been practised and found impossible to carry through, but as something which has been found difficult and abandoned.
Simplistically again, I appeal for that kind of community which can be built up in intention long before it comes to fruition in actuality. We are now in so many respects a separated and alienated community, and nowhere is that more present than in the inner cities which have lost touch with the broad sense of belonging to other people. Only in such a new sense of companionship do I believe that that can be affected. That is why privatisation is no help. I do not want people to be told that they must do what they have to do on their own initiative, because so many of them need the inspiration and help of their fellows if they are even to start on a programme of self-reliance.
It is the provision of a decent opportunity to be good which is the prerequisite of any achievement of good in the community as a whole, and not the isolation of the idea of probity and worthwhileness to the individual and the failure to see that in so many respects we are the children of our environment. Only when we begin to change that environment radically can we expect the fruits of our inherent goodness.
That is a matter of theology. I believe it could not be ignored in the conversation to which we are committed today. I have the liveliest hopes that there are more and more people who, listening to what has been said already, will believe that we need a moral readjustment in the kind of society which brings us together in hope and enables us to live together in faith.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Lord Mellish
My Lords, I join the whole House in thanking the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, for his Motion and for the speech he made today. He will forgive me if I say that, as one who listened to him very carefully, I think the most important thing was not what he said but what he did not say. With great 46 respect to him, anyone can put forward a Motion which speaks of,the case for a partnership between authority and the people who live and work in them".We could all put forward such a Motion and know that it would have universal support, but the noble and learned Lord did not tell us how to do it. He did not tell us how it should be achieved. How do we get the partnership of which he spoke?
I put this question to the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury. With every good intention you want to regenerate the inner city area. A body is set up. You work very hard and you get the representatives of the three local authorities concerned to become members of that body. They do and they play their part; and then after they have served their term of office they have to leave the body. The local authorities refuse to nominate successors. What do you do? How do you get partnership? How do you get people claiming to represent those who were elected if they will not even attend? Letters are ignored. In living the life that I have led over the past 10 years, in dealing with what I call the frustrations of our democracy and in being ignored virtually by many of those who claim to know all the answers, I find this not only disappointing but absolutely frustrating. It is against this background that I want to get involved.
One of the speeches that most impressed me was that of the noble Lord, Lord Selsdon. He will not be surprised to hear me say this. He spoke of a section of the community that appeals to me considerably. I refer to the voluntary sector. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, said one thing that was worth listening to so far as I am concerned. He said that the belief that this is a local authority matter is false. I hope that those words hit these Benches hard because that is absolutely right. If anyone believes that everything should be done by the local authorities, as was done in the past, he is stark raving mad.
They are not capable of doing it. Even with all the funds in the world they cannot do it. The larger the housing stock the more difficult it is for them to manage. It is a fact. There is nothing beautiful in something being big. In my humble view the worst mistake that was ever made was when Sir Keith Joseph, the Conservative Minister at the time, reorganised local government. That was the worst thing he ever did. The small local authorities which knew their people and knew what it was all about were made into vast enterprises. The real local touch was destroyed. How can the poor wretched local councillor today get his voice heard when he represents a borough that is three times the size it used to be. That is the reality. I have great affection and respect for the Church. I am not a member of the Church of England but it means much to me; it is my faith, my belief. But I cannot stand pious resolutions. I cannot stand resolutions that have no backing and no reality.
I put this point to the most reverend Primate. It has been mentioned before and I shall repeat it. In docklands we started with eight and a half square miles of dereliction, an absolute disaster area. After the development corporation was set up I went on a tour with the chairman. We went all around the area in a car. When I came back I was almost in tears. There 47 was desolation as far as the eye could see. Because the government of the day were Conservative they immediately earned the antagonism of the three local boroughs. The boroughs would have nothing whatever to do with us because we had been set up by an evil Tory government. That was the start. I was sneered at and jeered at and called a Right-wing Fascist by some of these people because I had the temerity to join it. What was my purpose? My purpose was to regenerate docklands and not to let it go back to what it had been before.
I read the Daily Telegraph today. There are some remarkable articles about docklands in it. One of them is by a character who will be well known certainly to those who work in the East End of London, a character named Jack Dash. I know Jack very well. Listen to what he says:We casual workers, dockers and stevedores—tee, they called us—would hitch lifts on lorries from one dock to another and hang around for three or four hours hoping for work. In the Royal Docks you'd have 600 to 800 men on the stones. They'd be fighting and kicking to be picked, like seagulls battling over scraps. Accidents were frequent. On average, dockers needed medical attention four times a year. When we did get work, it was 10 hours a day, seven days a week. There were often times when everything pawnable was pawned".The one concession he makes to the reorganisation of docklands is that the people today are unlikely to suffer the hardships and humiliations of the past.
My father suffered those. That is why I do not want docklands ever to go back to the days of yesteryear, to be governed by resolutions that are passed which are not realistic. That is why I knew from the very beginning of the story that the only way docklands could survive was to get private enterprise involved. I knew that it was no use waiting for government money. That would never do it. As the noble Lord, Lord Soper, rightly said, government money is not the only answer. You have to get the people involved who will provide the services.
Because I was an MP for 38 years, and a docklands MP at that, I know a bit about these problems—not by passing resolutions but by living, seeing and feeling them. Let us take homelessness. The way to deal with the problem of homelessness is not to start praying. That will not do us any good; it will not do us any harm but it will not do us any good either. I shall tell your Lordships what we have to do. We have to have a body whose whole purpose, whose entire purpose and whose only purpose is to deal with the homeless in London.
I leave this thought with the Government. The GLC could have been that kind of regional authority. We need a body to look after the homeless. That body should have certain powers—the power of acquisition of certain properties, powers with regard to finance, the provision of homes, working with voluntary associations and the churches, the Salvation Army, the Methodists and so on. They are not going to be sneered at and jeered at because they do not happen to belong to a political party. We have to cut out the political argument in all this. That is a way in which the problem of homelessness can be tackled.
The noble Lord, Lord Selsdon, referred to the venture with which he is associated. The voluntary 48 sector is now to provide sporting facilities in docklands. Something like £20 million has been assembled, mainly through the tremendous efforts of the noble Lord in getting the money provided. It will be the finest sports centre in the whole world. There is no doubt about that. It will provide facilities for East London kids. There is no doubt about that either. But there is the time factor. It will take five or six years. During that time you are sneered at, jeered at, criticised and told what you should do, and so on.
I say to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman—and I have always believed this—you do not judge people by what they say; you judge people by what they do. With regard to Brixton, I put this to him—and I know a little about Brixton; not as much as the noble and learned Lord does, but quite a bit. Is it not a fact that the goodwill expected from the local authority in Brixton is not forthcoming? That being so, it is very difficult for him or anybody else to go there and say, "These are the solutions", when the local authority in particular will not do anything about it.
§ Lord Scarman
My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord will allow me to intervene. I do so as the only honourable member of the Brixton Domino and Social Club. We have just opened new premises financed, repaired, renovated and refurbished entirely by the members of that club. The indications of active community life that one finds there, with sheer happiness bubbling over even in this terrible weather, lead me to think that perhaps the noble Lord believes that the rest of us are more bankrupt of ideas than we really are.
§ Lord Mellish
I hope the noble and learned Lord is right. All I know is that Brixton will be judged on its merits. It will be judged on what actions are taken; not what is said but what is done by the local authority.
§ Lord Mellish
My Lords, I have no doubt that the noble and learned Lord is paid for words and that he is good at it. I simply make the point that we judge people by what they do, not what they say. That is why I now turn to what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Selsdon.
I believe that what the noble Lord is now proposing is the sort of realism that the whole of docklands wants to see. What he said about the voluntary sector is right. In the community there are hundreds of decent people who would willingly come forward and back you up. The question is how we get at them. How do we get these people to come forward for what is mentioned in the Motion—a partnership between authority and the people who live and work in [the areas]"?I put this to the noble Lord. I am sure he agrees with me. How do you find the people who live and work in those areas? For example, does he know that the people who live in the Isle of Dogs regard a person who lives in Stratford (which he should know quite well) as a foreigner? Anything that is done for people who do not actually live in the Isle of Dogs is regarded as an affront.
49 We set up a training scheme. Over 60 people, albeit youngsters, are being trained for full-time jobs. They will be guaranteed jobs when they finish their training. But there is no praise for that as they are considered to be foreigners. They come from Barking, from East Ham and some come from Plaistow, but none comes from the Isle of Dogs, and so we are not considered to be doing a good job of work. One cannot win this argument. I put it to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, that someone has to be realistic and tell these people that their argument is not valid.
I say this to the Churches. There is much good will in that area. The churches themselves want to help but they have to understand that they must stand up against what I regard as some very irresponsible criticism by a few people who are not speaking for the whole. However, the churches often seem to side with them and express a view that is hurtful and harmful, especially to those of us who have been trying to improve the situation for a long time.
Finally, I say to the noble Lord, Lord Soper, that because we were concerned with the local people and because we wanted their co-operation, in docklands we appointed a community liaison officer. Seven people applied for the job. One of them was a Methodist lay preacher. He turned up in a dog collar.
§ Lord Mellish
My Lords, he turned up in a dog collar and we were so impressed that we gave him the job, dog collar as well. I can only say that he has been an enormous success. Over 1,000 meetings have been held in one year to try to get the local people involved. But does he get any credit?—Does he, heck. He gets sneered and jeered at by all the professional groups who do not represent the local people. That is what I beg this House to understand. We put forward a simple resolution, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, has done concerning a partnership with the people who live and work in these areas, but it is not as simple as that. You must go out of your way to find out who these people are and then try to get them involved. You must remember that they will be attacked, and the moment they are attacked they resign because, unlike me, they are not prepared to take it.
I end on this note. I believe that there is great hope for the inner cities and for regeneration provided always that when we speak of involving the local people we ensure that we are speaking of the voluntary sector; people who are prepared to come forward in their own specialist and human way to do a job of work. We do not need to plan for the whole city or the whole of the area. There is no need to replan Canary Wharf, to replan this and that, spending all our time abusing democracy, with delay after delay, so that nothing is done by anybody except pray—pray for a great world that never happens. Someone has to get on with the flipping job.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Lord Windlesham
My Lords, this has been a remarkable debate encompassing both the morality 50 and, as we have just heard so eloquently, the practicality of a topical and profound political issue. I shall follow the noble Lord, Lord Mellish, by speaking about one of the practical aspects, although a different one which has not yet been raised in this debate; that is, the extent to which crime, and the fear of crime, disfigures and diminishes the quality of life in the inner cities.
I take as my starting point an extract from a Home Office working paper on Criminal Justice, published in November 1986, which reads as follows:The risk of crime is not evenly spread amongst the community. The British Crime Survey shows that people living in inner city areas face a risk of being burgled between three and six times greater than residents of other neighbourhoods. Though high-risk communities comprise just over a tenth of households in England and Wales, residents of these areas were the victims of a third of the burglaries, a quarter of the car thefts and a third of street crime.The figures are based on the British Crime Survey, the importance of which is that this survey estimates levels of actual offending rather than simply those incidents which are reported to, or recorded by, the police.
Why is it, therefore, that crime is so disproportionately concentrated in the inner city areas? It is a complex question and a difficult one to unravel. Housing policies have a great deal to do with it. I had thought of a short exposition on the natural history of problem housing estates and why it was that these estates—some of them built as recently as the past 10 or 20 years—had become difficult to let and what happened when they became difficult to let. Once estates became unpopular, for a variety of reasons, only those people who were desperate for housing were prepared to accept accommodation in them, and the people who were desperate were the ones who had social problems. Therefore a disproportionate number of one-parent families, of homeless people, ex-offenders, and people with physical or psychiatric disabilities, came to be concentrated in these areas. The so-called good tenants did not like it and they began to move away. Therefore unbalanced and atypical communities grew up in certain estates.
It was not just a matter of housing design, housing conditions, the remoteness of housing management, or the lack of repairs. All of those things existed and were important, but it was also the residents, how they had been allocated and the resulting social composition of the community that contributed to the problems. That is all that needs to be said at the moment, in summary, about a very large subject on which there is a good deal of special knowledge. I do not think there is much controversy attached to the analysis.
One result was that in 1981—the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, did not give a figure but referred to the fact in his own speech—24,000 local authority dwellings in England and Wales had been standing empty for over a year. Many of them were vandalised, often boarded up, and some were occupied by squatters. The number exceeded 24,000 at a time when the demand for housing was so great. By the late 1970s the situation was met by both public and private responses.
The Department of the Environment joined with local housing authorities to launch the priority estates project, which will be familiar to some of your 51 Lordships. Then in 1976 NACRO (which has done such outstanding work on the problem estates) began its work with the crime prevention units. I understand there are now 60 NACRO units working in 40 local authority areas. The president of NACRO, the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, will speak later in the debate, so I shall say no more.
Although there are some differences between the NACRO and other voluntary schemes and the priority estates project, fundamentally they are similar in that they attempt to harness the energy and good will that exists among the residents on rundown and difficult housing estates to participate in managing the estates, planning improvements and, once the improvements have been carried out, maintaining and protecting the property. Crime prevention and reduction are now regarded as essential components of housing policies. As the Motion urges, partnership between authority in its various forms and the people who live in crime-prone urban areas is crucial.
Let us pause to think for a moment what we mean by crime prevention. We need to appreciate that a large volume of crime, particularly in relation to property, is opportunistic. Such crimes take place on the spur of the moment. The opportunity presents itself and is taken. That does not excuse an offender once charged when he appears in court, but it is relevant to the situation in which the offence takes place. That being so, we need to examine how the opportunity arises and to evaluate the situation in which the potential offender finds himself.
Can the situation be altered to his disadvantage, and therefore to the greater protection of the potential victim? Yes, it can. It can be altered for example, by the provision of better lighting and the installation of alarm systems. It can be altered by the presence of caretakers, who at one time were a dying breed on local authority housing estates but who are now being reintroduced, by the installation of entry phones to flats, and by improved physical security, such as better locks, stronger doors, and windows that are bolted. All these measures can reduce the chances of a crime taking place.
Situational crime prevention, as it is called, is based on the premise that some types of crime can be discouraged by the management, design or manipulation of the immediate environment in which they may occur. This approach, backed up by neighbourhood watch schemes and other forms of community action, has already produced results. I regard as one of the most significant developments in criminal policy in recent years the fact that there are now as many as 17,500 separate neighbourhood watch schemes in England and Wales. That was the total in December 1986, but the rate of increase is so rapid that the number may be higher today. It has been a phenomenal growth, the total having more than trebled in 1986. It has largely been a spontaneous movement, encouraged by the police and others, but with the thrust coming from the grass-roots, just as the victims support movement before it, and it has now achieved its own momentum.
The concept of neighbourhood watch has expanded beyond its original emphasis on locks, bolts and 52 alarms, backed up by a system of informal surveillance and reporting to the police. It has now enlarged its appeal with a strengthening of community bonds; more mutually appreciative relationships with the police, and, most important of all, the creation of habits and attitudes which are hostile to crime.
The next step, which is a crucial one in terms of this debate, is to see whether neighbourhood watch, particularly with the added values to which I have just referred, can break out of the fertile soil—the more stable and comfortable areas—in which the schemes have flourished so spectacularly to date, and find out whether it can penetrate the urban housing estates where the need is greatest. It would be a tragedy if this form of community action were to be rejected as an alien transplant in exactly those areas where it is most needed. It would do a great disservice to the residents if they were to be denied opportunities of taking part in such potentially valuable self-help schemes because of animosity between the local authority and the police.
There are some encouraging signs. Recently I visited one of the police divisions in North London in order to discuss crime prevention. In the annual report of N Division of the Metropolitan Police, based at Kings Cross Road, which is placed in libraries and other public buildings, the division recorded in 1985 a reduction in all reported crime in its area of 16 per cent. compared with the previous year. The most prevalent crimes of burglary and auto crime—that is, theft of or from a motor vehicle—were reduced by 22 per cent. and 24 per cent. respectively.
The police attributed the reductions to more uniformed officers patrolling the area and a significant increase in community initiatives, especially neighbourhood watch. By 1st December 1986 the number of watch schemes had grown to 29, taking in some 24,000 people out of a total resident population in the police division of about 90,000. So it seems that a start has been made, and there are some results from which I think one can take encouragement.
There are many other speakers to follow, so I shall conclude with one final observation; namely, that crime prevention is sometimes thought of as being relevant only to property offences, such as burglary and theft. That is where the main emphasis has been placed up to now. It is, however, too restrictive. Crime prevention is also applicable to crimes of violence against the person which commonly occur in certain settings. Violence may be encountered at work; for example, in social security offices, and housing offices and by people who are in direct contact with the public in banks, post offices, building society branches, places of leisure, especially licensed premises, as mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Soper, and late night public transport.
The Standing Conference on Crime Prevention published an important report in November last year by a working group on The Prevention of Violence associated with Licensed Premises. The group was chaired by a magistrate, Mr. Ewart Boddington, who was chairman of the Brewers' Society at the time. It included police and local government representatives as well as licensed trade interests. At about the same time, a report on Crime on the London Underground 53 set out a range of measures that should be taken for the greater protection of those who use the London Underground, especially at night. The report was commissioned by the Department of Transport, and carried out in conjunction with the London Underground, the Home Office, the Metropolitan Police and the British Transport Police.
The relevance of crime prevention is not merely to be judged by its effects, important as those are; it is a demonstration that crime is not inevitable in the inner cities or anywhere else. It is not something to suffered, endured and feared. Nor is crime to be left to the police and the courts to deal with.
Private individuals living in adjacent dwellings can join together to form watch schemes. They can keep an eye on one another's homes and have contact with the local police. In so doing they are not only helping to reduce crime in their own immediate localities; they are fulfilling the timeless role of the good neighbour with all the social and personal satisfactions that that can bring. Thus policies aimed at preventing crime have a value that goes beyond the purely functional one of reducing the incidence of criminal offending. They represent a polarisation of what is good and what is evil in society, and a strengthening of the idea of community.
§ 6.3 p.m.
§ Baroness Fisher of Rednal
My Lords, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, has given us the opportunity this afternoon to contribute towards making the life of the residents of the inner cities an asset rather than a grinding battle against an ever-declining standard of living.
I was interested when the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, told us of some of the categories of people whom local authorities rehouse. It is important for the House to understand that there are other categories which the noble Lord did not mention. Battered wives increasingly form a category of people who become homeless. Noble Lords must recognise that in the main they are helped by local authorities, charitable organisations which have specialist agencies and the Housing Corporation. It is rare for private enterprise to come forward to build a hostel for battered wives or for those coming into care in the community.
We must remember all the time that we are thinking about the inner cities. Those people will in the main be looked after by the local authority, which I hope in the future will receive closer co-operation from the Government. As someone who has spent many years—more years than I care to remember—in local government, it worries me to see the war of words that goes on between local government and the Government, with the Government having the ultimate sanction of cutting expenditure.
The Government must clearly recognise that in a democracy we have local government. There is always criticism in this Chamber about certain sections of local government. I shall not mention them because they are mentioned too frequently here. We must recognise that there are other local authorities with problems. They are attacking them in different ways, and ways on which they can be commended.
54 Birmingham has the largest ethnic population of any local authority, the largest amount of council housing, I suppose, and private sector houses in serious disrepair. I was interested in one thing that the noble Lord, Lord Young, said. I was not interested in much else. I do not want to be rude to him. I was looking forward to the dynamism that we generally have from him. I thought that we were going to have many schemes thrown at us, not just task forces but others that we would have to remember. They are normally the same people doing the same job in the regional offices. However, that is by the way.
I was interested to hear the noble Lord speak about factories under the arches, which are now all forgotten. If he comes to Birmingham I can take him to some factories under the arches which are working well. My noble friend Lord Stallard reminds me that Camden also has enterprise under the arches. Perhaps all is not lost.
I want to disagree fundamentally with what the noble Lord, Lord Mellish, said about co-operation. I say that because Birmingham pioneered what is called enveloping work. The noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, is nodding his head because he has heard me say this before. Birmingham pioneered the scheme, and it is now accepted national policy. Enveloping is when a local authority takes over the whole of one or two streets in its development area. They are housing action areas or general improvement areas. The street is designated.
Two large caravans go into the street. Residents can see in them the plans of what is envisaged. They see that the whole frontage of their houses will be completely refurbished. In Birmingham, one sees a whole street of houses with new roofs. That is generally the main task that needs to be done. The whole of the outside of the property is refurbished. In the main the people living in such houses are private tenants; they are not corporation tenants. The whole street is refurbished with different street furniture. Instead of having cars parked on both sides of the street day and night (because it is an inner city area) the street furniture breaks the street up. That makes it extremely difficult to use the street as a free parking area.
To make these schemes successful a partnership takes place. It starts first with the residents in the area being told exactly what will happen and being asked whether they want to participate. When the outside of the premises is involved nobody objects. The inside of the premises are dealt with under government improvement schemes. This is where more difficulties arise because normally there is insufficient money in the improvement schemes to apply to all the properties of those residents who make application. It is unfortunate that when the Government start upon such schemes as the improvement scheme or heating insulation they apply them for a limited period, everybody surges forward to take advantage of the scheme and the money is quickly used up. Very often it does not go to the most needy.
The improvement grants apply to the inside of the properties with the local authority working closely in conjunction with the residents. Then along come the building contractors. These are not odd job building contracts. It is the large firms which come in to do 55 these major enveloping schemes—Wimpey and that type of builder. All the people who are working on the scheme have to liaise closely together. It is very difficult to live in one's house when it has no roof, especially if the workmen have not made it sufficiently waterproof during the period when there are no slates. There is this constant liaison. In all honesty, there are never any criticisms about this kind of refurbishment. The city has been tackling its urban renewal programme in this way for the last 10 years.
A lot of these schemes will be taking place in the Houndsworth area. I do not want to repeat the unfortunate happening that took place in Houndsworth. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, may be pleased to hear that in that area a training enterprise workshop is being set up by the local authority to give basic skills in building. In the future, in order to give greater opportunities to the local residents who are unemployed, it will be a condition of all capital contracts, such as the major envelope schemes, that a percentage of the labour must be drawn from the areas that are part of the schemes. That is what one calls partnership. I fail to understand the thinking behind the observations of my noble friend Lord Mellish on situations where people cannot co-operate. Quite obviously co-operation breaks down if Government funding does not come quickly enough.
I understand that there is a criticism that Environment Circular 26/84 is inflexible and much too concerned with detail. What began as a simple, straightforward approach to improving the environment by enveloping has now become extremely complicated because of this new circular. I ask the Minister whether he or his department can ensure that subsidy approval is given according to the timescales that are stated in the circular. I understand that there is considerable delay, which not only worries the residents, who are all keyed up for their enveloping schemes to go forward, but is also disastrous for the builders who are waiting to move in.
If we take note of what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, and others have said this afternoon, there is this desperate situation of unfit housing, overcrowded families, lack of facilities and the complete physical degeneration of certain areas. It can be helped only by the Government recognising quite clearly that it is no good saying that private enterprise, the building societies and the banks can do something. The lead must come from the Government with increased financial help. As the noble and learned Lord said, it is not a problem of Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool or any of the boroughs in London, but a national problem. Quite obviously it is a scar on the whole of the country.
We talk about tax cuts. As has already been said by noble Lords, there will be some living in the more affluent parts of towns—and I know that Birminghm has more affluent parts than many cities—who will say that it is important for the city to look good so that they are proud to live there, instead of it being recognised as an area that has inner city problems. I feel that co-operation can be achieved and that it can be helped along a little more by the Goverment.
56 I close with a remark on finance. It is important for us to recognise quite clearly the reductions that take place in local authorities. I have information from Birmingham, which produced this very fine document. I know that it is in the hands of the Minister. It is a 10-year programme and includes all the problems and all the details that could possibly be needed. The civil servants accept that it was well prepared. The authority had a well-argued case in the submission. It submitted a request for £280 million to be spent on capital programmes for the year. The Government have restricted not only Birmingham but all housing authorities to 80 per cent. of the amount allowed this year. In the case of Birmingham, for 1987–88 it is being given £49.77 million, compared with £58.23 million this year. If that is not a cut, I do not know what is. The Minister cannot say that the housing programme is not being cut when one has these figures. I am not making them up. These are figures that have been supplied to me by the local authority.
Perhaps I may finish by quoting the words the authority uses after giving the figures:Without the necessary resources we are losing the battle.".That is referring to the housing department. I say in conclusion that it is the residents in the inner cities who are losing the war.
§ 6.20 p.m.
§ Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge
My Lords, the noble Baroness will forgive me if I do not follow her directly but I shall refer to Birmingham in due course.
I should like to look at a matter which has not been studied very much today. It concerns the work which has been started, what is being done and—something that we are talking about most of the time—what ought to be done. I propose to relay to the House some of the reactions of people actually working in government schemes which are mostly community projects, in some of the inner city areas where the black problems are particularly severe. In this way we can see how the very considerable effort, which, I certainly agree the noble Lord has put into this, is beginning to work. I shall report some views from ACAFESS in Birmingham, which is a black organisation: from NACRO which has, as the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, said, some 60 subsidised community projects; from Community Service Volunteers, who are mainly concerned with black problems and who introduced Ted Watkins to this country, about whom I shall say something later; and from the Apex Trust which specialises in employment for offenders and people in difficulty, and which is also heavily involved in the jobs problem for the black population.
The Secretary of State has said that his approach is based on a "people philosophy" and a confidence and desire of people to improve their own circumstances. At Toynbee he said:You cannot create enterprise through special government programmes, it needs a change of attitude.Of course it does, and that is right and true. However, by offering opportunity, government can change attitudes, and Ted Watkins showed how this could be done in Watts, Los Angeles, after the Watts riots 25 57 years ago. I have spoken to your Lordships about him before but we still have much to learn from him. Through the CSV he has paid a number of visits to this country, has spoken to a number of black communities and in the course of his visits was honoured by a meeting with the Prince of Wales.
In a few sentences, what he did in Watts was to gather together the unemployed and anti-social youngsters who had spent their time throwing stones at the police, and set them tidying up the place. He extracted some money from his union to give them pocket money. He got skilled colleagues to teach them simple building techniques and used them to help rebuild houses in which the community could live. They persuaded the local authority to provide 36,000 trees which they planted themselves. They began to take a pride in what they had done and to be prepared to defend it against vandalism. In fact, they grew up to be citizens with a pride in their home. They then found that even the police were on their side, and the change was complete.
Things are not the same here as they are in America. However, mutatis mutandis, this is the line which I believe the Government should pursue, and there is some evidence that they are trying. However, I fear, as the noble Baroness, Lady Fisher, said, that most of the repair and development in these areas, on which a great deal of money is being spent, has been and is being done by outside contractors rather by local co-operatives. One can see that outside contractors would be the easiest solution; but, as the noble Baroness said, it should at least be a condition of any contract to employ the maximum number of local workers. In Watts the work was organised by a black for the blacks and I think that that had a good deal to do with its success.
Through Ted Watkins and CSV last year my noble friend Lord Hunt and I visited a government-assisted black for the blacks enterprise in Birmingham, which was teaching skills with a view to starting small businesses by and for blacks. We were most impressed by what we saw. Some 60 unemployed blacks were being trained and a number of individual businesses had been started, housed and, so far, were doing well. It was run by a Birmingham-born black called Gus Williams. He was clearly an exceptional leader of men who admitted that it was a great help to have, as he had, a solid Birmingham accent.
I received a letter from him this morning in which he says that the ethnic unemployment in the area is out of all proportion, amounting now to 80 per cent. or so. There is an increasingly large reservoir of young blacks who are becoming extremely alienated not only from the black community but from society as a whole. As long as this persists there is a real risk of riots. However, he thinks that the existing organisations in the area could cope if certain changes were made. He is not quite so clear on the changes that he wishes to be made and so to enable me to go through his letter in detail. However, I shall certainly ask the Minister to get in touch with him because I think that he is on to something fairly serious. First, he says—and somebody else mentioned this earlier—that insurance companies are now doubling and trebling their premiums for small businesses in the area and 58 that drives them out of the inner city. He wants to see the task force on a permanent basis instead of its present temporary funding. It should be responsible to local committees under the overall responsibility of the Minister.
There is a particular problem about night clubs and places of entertainment from which the young blacks find themselves barred (I suppose that that is because they are not wanted, but one can make up one's mind about that) so they start their own illegal shebeen and drinking clubs. In spite of a dramatic increase in the number of black police, of which everybody is in favour, there is still a good deal of racial abuse. I am afraid that most of us from what we have heard, can say that the police do not yet have things right, though they are moving in the right direction.
I turn now to retail what I have gathered from three of the voluntary bodies which I described earlier. As the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, said, NACRO's particular contribution has been concerned with crime prevention in the community projects, and the Apex contribution there has been largely on the jobs side. The petty crime, which the noble Lord described in detail, is ruining the area, as it ruins almost every city area. It is so very much worse for people in these conditions than it is for us in quite modest buildings in Battersea where we have more confidence that we shall not be broken into. The flats are particularly horrifying to go round until they have been tidied up.
However, the people in community projects get together with the local people and set up a steering committee which starts with the residents. They then invite the relevant local agencies, including the police and the Church, and a plan of action is agreed and carried out. As the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, said, it includes mending windows, putting up lights, paying particular attention to multiple occupation housing (which is almost the worst evil there), rewiring flats, and so on.
All these things are affecting the neighbourhood in a very agreeable way. The residents' association becomes busy, effective and popular. All this really works. There is a real change. The places look fresher and cleaner, petty crime reduces and each of the societies I have quoted have impressive figures for "before and after". I shall not bother the House with the figures now, but the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, gave some from one place.
The CSV is almost exclusively concerned with the black problem. It particularly stresses that it is essential for the blacks to feel that they are in control and are doing things for themselves. I must say that in their place I should feel the same. However, difficulties can arise, as anyone who saw last week's BBC2 programme on the "Struggle for Stonebridge" will only too easily understand. Apex, which MSC help, has started workshops in Leeds and Wallasey and, as the noble Baroness said, the local council are staffing one in Birmingham, which is a very good thing. Training centres are being set up in Leeds, Chapeltown, West Birmingham, Hackney, Haringey, Hounslow, Lambeth and Wandsworth.
The experience of these three voluntary bodies, which are covering a likely percentage of the problem area, agree entirely with Gus Williams and his small 59 but rather effective unit. The partnership between the MSC, the voluntary bodies, the residents, local agencies and the police in the chosen areas is the right and probably the only way forward. This is the point which most people have made. We want to be sure that this way forward will be followed. The workers—and this is important—feel that they are doing something useful and effective, but each reports that he could do more given more support. The saddest aspect is that the MSC is now being cut back. One of my informants said that it was a despairing decision.
The community projects about which I have been talking are really beginning to accomplish something and this cannot be the time to cut them back. The 255,000 places have been cut to 245,000, which is demoralising. Added to that, the MSC annual payment of £440 per head has not been increased since 1983, so the community projects have to cut back to meet inflation which, though less than it was, is not nothing over four years.
There is another point on which all are agreed. I think it is one on which so far most speakers in the debate are agreed. The partnership must be at neighbourhood level and not only at borough level. Services must be de-centralised and the people providing the local services must be in charge of what they are doing. Constant attention must be given to insisting on decentralisation and the avoidance of the heavy bureaucratic hand.
There are many difficulties. Voluntary bodies are themselves notoriously tricky to deal with. But it must not be forgotten that almost all the useful innovations in the social services and penal reform have been thought up and begun by voluntary bodies. They may be touchy and obstinate, but they are dedicated and immensely hard working and—useful in this context—anti-racist to a man, or perhaps I should say "to a person". They are people who see something wrong and optimistically think that they can put it right; and they are contemptuous of bureaucratic caution—although not always rightly, I have to confess. The noble Lord must learn not to play for safety but must take some risks and expect some failures.
Even so, I think that I am the first person taking part in the debate today to offer the noble Lord some congratulation on what he has done, so long as it does not stop here. All my reports are hopeful, but wanting more. As these experimental areas seem to be giving hopeful results, he must back his own glimmerings of success by enhancing and spreading what is being done and not fiddle about with a cut here and a reduction there. I believe the problem, particularly as it applies to the blacks—and most people have said this—to be of vital importance to this country. What is going on shows enough hope to warrant much fuller backing, and I hope that the noble Lord will persuade his colleagues to let him give it.
§ 6.32 p.m.
§ Lord Alport
My Lords, it is not simply the formal courtesies of our House which make me wish to thank the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, for 60 initiating the debate, but far more for the role he has played over recent years in alerting public opinion in this country to the dimensions of the major social problem of our times.
It may well be that the noble and learned Lord's report had some influence in causing the Church of England to produce the study of urban decay entitled Faith in the City, to which reference has already been made. What astonished me was the immediate denunciation of that document by leading politicians in the apparent belief that the bishops and the Church have no right to speak on politico-social problems.
Even if Great Britain is no longer a Christian country in the 19th century sense, its community life is based on the Christian ethic. It has been for more than 1,000 years the Church to which the poor and disadvantaged have looked for help and support—to the monasteries in the Middle Ages and to the missionary movements like the Salvation Army in the last century. Not only have bishops and clergy the right to speak out publicly on these issues; they have the undoubted duty to do so.
Faith in the City says:We recommend that the Church and its Bishops should play a full part in the debate about the type of society present economic policies are shaping.".One of the clearest impressions I received when I visited Liverpool last year was that in the most deprived areas and where social and racial tensions were greatest it was the clergy of various denominations who provided the most effective leadership and whose pastoral work was most successful in relaxing those racial tensions. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool, the Catholic Archbishop and bishops and clergy everywhere would be failing in their duty if they did not take a full part in the debate about the type of society present economic policies are shaping, and in that their influence can only be for the good.
What is the shape of that society? It is one in which, according to the Central Statistical Office report outlined in the Daily Telegraph last week, the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. The share of income received by the poorest two-fifths fell from 10 to 6 per cent. and the top fifth's share rose from 44 to 49 per cent. between 1976 and 1984. I am told that at present 15 million are calculated to be living on what is officially the poverty line.
If there is an income divide, there is—whatever my noble friend Lord Young may say—a geographical divide between Northern England and primarily the South-East. Most of the black spots designated in the United Kingdom Regional Development Programme 1986–1990 submitted to the EEC last October are in the North: Merseyside, Humberside, Manchester and Tyneside. Moreover, it is in those areas of high density population that the inner city decline is most marked and it is only paralleled in the South by certain parts of London.
However, there is a third divide. A Leicester University team has just issued the results of a survey of employment opportunities in Sunderland. It says:In Sunderland we discovered whole communities for whom unemployment was the norm and among whom a new 'culture' was emerging".61 It went on:People who have to exist on social security have a different set of values. Morality starts to change. Small-scale thieving is seen as part of everyday life … They become cut off from the world of work … Holding educational qualifications does not significantly increase a person's chances of obtaining employment … The division between the employed and the unemployed is becoming more important than that between the working and middle-class".I am sure from my own observation of the situation in Liverpool that much the same conclusions would be drawn there. It may well be that the same situation is also apparent in the ex-mining villages of South Yorkshire, where high unemployment exists and which I hope to visit in the spring. Deprivation as a result of unemployment is not confined to the inner cities.
The common denominator which links all the great areas of urban deprivation, and some small ones too, the so-called urban priority areas, is large-scale and prolonged unemployment. Last week we heard about the Government's plan to mitigate the problem. I always feel that my noble friend Lord Young is like a man with a leaking rowing boat. As soon as he plugs one hole and does some frantic bailing, the water seeps in somewhere else. What is perhaps significant is the fact that, despite the efforts of the Secretary of State for Employment, the Government's Regional Development Programme assumes that by 1990 unemployment will still be well over 3 million.
Last week the Prime Minister is reported to have said that we shall again enjoy full employment as a result of technological progress. Apart from the fact that technological change has been the major factor in creating unemployment in the last 20 years—for instance, in the agricultural and energy industries—what does that mean? A solution for mass unemployment by the year 2000, by the end of the 21st century, by the next Parliament or when we are all dead?
It is difficult not to conclude that the Government have ceased to believe that, apart from giving the Secretary of State for Employment another bucket with which to bale out the boat, we must put our trust for some solution to the problems of urban regeneration and unemployment in factors over the timing and nature of which we have little or no control.
Faith in the City says:The critical issue is whether there is any serious political will to set in motion a process which will enable those who are at present in poverty and powerlessness to rejoin the life of the nation".Political will is an instrument which can convert ideals and moral values into action. No one supposes that in an era of decline and transition such as we are experiencing at the present moment solutions are easy or success can be assured, but of one thing I am quite certain. Unless we can mobilise the moral willpower of the nation, no government will be able to persuade the affluent majority, the comfortable classes, to accept the sacrifices which any attempt to do more than tinker with this national problem must entail.
I cannot agree for one moment with my noble friend Lord Young that money is not the main problem. I agree with the most reverend Primate that money is needed for this. It is not right to suppose that the reason rates are high in Liverpool and other such 62 areas—which prevents people from investing and setting up their businesses there—is the lack of responsibility, although no doubt there is lack of responsibility, of the local authority. The reason is a very simple one. Local authorities do not have sufficient resources and they have tremendous demands on their resources which they cannot meet without a high level of rates.
The price of allowing situations such as exist in Sunderland and Liverpool to continue is increasing militancy, class alienation and race alienation, leading to lawlessness, to violence, eventually to new forms of repression and to the gradual erosion of the basic morality on which the institutions, the individual freedoms and the unity of the nation have developed over many generations.
I believe that in spite of all the changes which have taken place in this country in my lifetime—here I agree with the most reverend Primate—there is a deep and permanent reservoir of fair-mindedness, good humour and a sense of moral values which can be mobilised to tackle even the most deep-seated and difficult social problems such as those with which we are faced at the present time. The established Church has acknowledged its responsibilities by its commitment to the pastoral work outlined in Faith in the City. Now it is a challenge to the Government and the various political parties whether one or other of them can mobilise the moral will of the nation and transmute it into political will. We may not be able to solve all the problems of unemployment and urban deprivation, but we shall have given to millions of our fellow citizens who live in poverty and powerlessness the hope of a better future and the assurance that those who enjoy power, possessions and influence are at any rate trying to do something about it.
§ 6.43 p.m.
§ Lord Bellwin
My Lords, I too join with those who have spoken in thanking the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, for giving us the opportunity to debate this subject, which always engenders such considerable feelings. Frankly, there is so much to say that the mind boggles; one wonders where to start and how to keep one's observations to a reasonable length, not least because there are so many others who wish to speak. Unlucky, indeed, are those who have to come at the very end of the list, though they often make the best speeches.
My noble friend the Secretary of State, Lord Young, outlined some of the many steps which the Government have taken or are taking to deal with the situation. I listened to him with much interest because in the years when I was responsible for the urban programme many of those initiatives started. Therefore I am gratified to hear that they continue. I watch their progress in the press and elsewhere, and by and large I am happy with that. I have always said that the problems did not arise overnight and they certainly will not go away overnight. If we try to pretend that there is some palliative, that there is some magic wand which can be waved which will make it happen, then we live in a dream world. That is certainly not going to be the case.
63 If I may mention just one scheme as an example, I am encouraged that the urban development grant scheme, with an investment of public money of just over £100 million, has now produced projects actually working on the ground of over £500 million. That points a direction.
I also bear in mind—here I pick up a point which the noble Lord, Lord Soper, touched upon—that there were (and so far as I know there still are) three priorities for allocating funds under the urban programme. When I was responsible for the programme they were, first, economic regeneration, which meant anything that would help to provide jobs and employment; secondly, the physical environment; that is, anything that would make the place look better, that would clean it up, tidy it up, repair it, make it so that it did not have the appearance of dereliction; and, thirdly—your Lordships can have your own views as to which order you prefer—help to voluntary bodies. I can tell you that as part of my job I burnt the midnight oil personally going through the details and approving moneys for thousands—I repeat, thousands—of individual schemes to help voluntary bodies.
It is tempting to make a speech which concentrates solely upon the benefits that come from partnership. Almost all who have spoken have said how desirable that is, and no doubt other speakers will say the same. However, I should like to say something about a factor which I believe to be at least as critical as most of the matters which have been raised—perhaps more critical. I should like to talk about attitudes and priorities. If we do not get those right we shall get nothing right. In my view, these are at their worst where the problems are at their worst. I want to show how wrong policies can exacerbate existing situations and mitigate against their improvement.
It is no coincidence that in those cities where the problems are bad social engineering has a high profile. Here I disagree with my noble friend Lord Alport. In those authorities which have high rates and poor educational achievements, which are known to be obsessed with anti-police postures, with homosexual propagation in the schools, and so on, why would people want to go to live and work and take employment? Why would they do that when there are often many options open to them? We do not help the cities which have those problems if we turn away from such problems and try to pretend that they do not matter.
They matter a great deal. If your Lordships doubt that they matter, go and speak to the people, to the employers, to those whom you would like to establish businesses in Liverpool or in some of the inner London areas. Ask them, "Why don't you go there?" They will tell you. I do not need to do it. Ask any of the estate agents who want to get premises for these people. I pay tribute to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool. Only the other day I read that he too complained that it does not help the people in Liverpool if policies are adopted which turn people away.
We talk about the spending of money. How far is this a priority? If one had said in 1979 that the 64 Government were going to put forward a billion pounds—a thousand million pounds—in grants into inner cities specifically, as opposed to rate support grant, everyone would have said, "Marvellous. At last we are getting some real money". Here we are, seven and a half years later, and £2.2 billion has gone in direct grants of that kind, specifically into selected areas where the problems are at their worst. How much is enough? Has it solved the problems? Of course it has not solved the problems. It has made an important contribution. Go round the areas, as I used to do as part of my job, and you will speak to many local authority people, Labour as well as Conservative, who will say, "Well, that has done a great deal for us". But solve the problems? Certainly not. Your Lordships can have your own views as to how much is enough. I have mine.
If public spending was indeed the answer then why is it that the worst problems, the worst inner city areas, are those where there is the most spending? I hope no one is going to say, "Ah, because that is where the problems are the worst". The fact is that you can go and see authorities in this country—I could take you to them—where similar problems at the beginning were every bit as bad and yet today there is dramatic improvement.
I am so sorry that those who produced the excellent analysis in the Faith in the City document chose not to go to Wandsworth. There they would have seen what, seven or eight years ago, was bad by any standards, and they would have seen the difference that there is today. It is all very well talking about faith in our cities. I have that. I have faith in the cities. I have faith in the people who live in them. I come from them. That is my whole background. What I do not have is faith in the people who run and control so many of them. In that I have no faith.
How can they talk about caring—and this whole debate is about caring—when they refuse to collect rents; when they allow houses to be in dereliction; when they say they have no money; when they allow over 100,000 public houses to be empty? How can they say they have no money to repair them when they spend vast sums of money—millions, and tens and scores and hundreds of millions—on inanities; on things that all of us would say were a waste of public money? It is all about priorities. Do not let us say that we are talking only about small sums of money. Do not say that if you add them all together it would be, as someone said, £20 million. If you allow houses to be empty when you do not collect rents, do you think that it really helps the people who live there if you do not collect the rents?
We are not talking of a million or two here and there. I could name now—they are on the record to be seen by everybody—many of the inner London areas where the problems are at their worst, where you have £10 million or more outstanding in rents. Is it right that we should say that they can do nothing, and that the Government have to provide more when they will not help themselves? The most reverend Primate will forgive me if I say that I was brought up to believe that the Lord did help those who helped themselves. I still believe that is true.
65 I used to be told by noble Lords opposite—I rarely was told by noble Lords on my own side of the House—that high rates did not in fact keep people from opening businesses. Events show, as I have just mentioned, that if you really want to know, go and talk to the people. The recent Audit Commission report—even the expurgated version—referred to what has happened in American cities where local authorities humped up local taxes and businesses and jobs simply left. I have been more than once to south Bronx. I have been to Bedford Stuyvesant and the south side of Chicago. Yes, it is absolute devastation. It is a nightmare scene for all to see. I look at what brought it about, and I see the terrifying likeness in what we are doing here in so many areas.
I have also—and I want to say this because so few people today have touched on a hope note—been to Baltimore, Boston, San Francisco, and to parts of Washington and New York where there has been transformation. Why has there been transformation? It is because the authorities there have cut their local taxes. They have got the public and private sectors together. The Federal Government have joined in. Yes, the partnership that we all talk about has been at work. Today Boston in particular is a transformed city. It is true that many of the jobs there come from the service sector, but I happen to be one of those who think that that is no bad thing at all if we face the realities of what the world is going to be like in the next 20 or 50 years. Yes, there are possibilities and opportunities.
However, we delude ourselves if we believe that it can all be done without change of attitudes. The partnerships of course are basic. They are essential. I am a great advocate and always have been—I suppose I would be, would I not? I introduced the legislation—of the urban development corporations. I am thrilled—and that is the only word—with what they have achieved. The noble Lord, Lord Mellish, could tell your Lordships about it far better than I can, but I am proud to have been one of the architects of that scheme. If it does not do everything in the way everyone would like, all you have to do is look at what was there before, and that tells you the whole of the story. Remember it as it was. There is no one solution. It is not the whole answer. Nor will the other urban development corporations set up be the whole answer, but they are part of it and and they are a contribution and a vital one, too.
The various private sector initiatives, Phoenix, business in the community, inner city enterprises, the hundreds of enterprise agencies now round the country, the Chambers of Commerce and all of them are splendid. I am all for them. No one would say other than that that is the direction. No one of them is going to solve the problem, but collectively the contribution they make is significant.
We need the local authorities to take enlightened planning attitudes, to make land available, to bring in the private house builders, to renovate the old and bad estates; and if they have to have incentives to do it, well, give them incentives to do it, but make things happen. it is not good enough just to bemoan our fate and look at the thousands of empty houses and say, "The Government won't give us more money". There 66 are some actually making it happen, and we should look at them. I am interested in the idea of a national urban development agency. I am for it. It should be government sponsored. It should be run by single-minded people. It should co-ordinate and pull things together. It should have just one task to do, and it should be made to go to work without any delay in time. That is something we really must do.
Finally, I come back to my overriding theme, that I want to see local authorities focusing their spending on where there is real need. They can find the money if they are willing to cut—not services; do not cut services—the cost of provision of services. The Audit Commission give loads of examples. They say that £2 billion more can he saved if we improve our efficiency and cut the cost of provision of services—another £2 billion. How can authorities say, "We have not got the money to repair our houses" when they refuse even to look at the opportunities that exist to get their services provided at a lesser price?
They will not even look, for example, at the private sector taking over some of the services there because it is against their innermost feelings. But there are authorities round the country who are doing it. Why should it cost twice as much to collect refuse in Lambeth as it costs in Wandsworth? There are many more examples such as that I could give your Lordships. Their overall total is massive. The Audit Commission say it is £2 billion. By any standards that is a lot of money.
I want to see—and I finish on this—authorities enticing back the people who have left and encouraging the people who want to stay, and doing it by having priorities for education. Education is what matters to the young married people, and they are the driving force. They are the lifeblood. It is education that is free from political indoctrination, that does not preach homosexual equality with heterosexuality. I have never in my life heard such nonsense as that, but it is there. Bring back into the schools the parents. Involve them all, and stop the nonsenses. Let us have numeracy and literacy once again as the priorities.
I want businesses to be encouraged by keeping rates down. I have given examples of where that works, and works very well. I want local government officers, good officers, to be encouraged to come in and not to feel that they can no longer manage. The examples round the country in the inner cities in the main are there to be seen because that is where the worst of it exists. Good officers will not stay in very many of the local authorities, and without good professional officers the amateurs will be running things. That is why in Lambeth there are over 100 committees and sub-committees. I ask the House to think of it—a population of a quarter of a million people and they have over 100 committees and sub-committees. What are they trying to do? They are trying to do in an amateurish way what the professionals ought to be doing properly.
I want there to be a true commitment to law and order by backing the police and not by harassing them. Does the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, know—I know of his interest in Brixton—that in Lambeth town hall staff have to get permission before they can call in the police or help them with local 67 inquiries? I want the police to be in the schools, becoming friendly with the children and talking to them to let them see that the police are not ogres. That is an investment we could make.
It may all be a pious hope, but if we do not get the attitudes and the priorities right we shall never do it. The noble Lord, Lord Mellish, talked about realities. Yes, it is about realities. The most reverend Primate and Faith in the City of course point us in the right direction. The report was marvellous on analysis, but at the end of the day it has to be about making things happen. Everybody's heart is in the right place in your Lordships' House, but I say again that if we do not make it happen, if we do not do it together, we just live in a dream world.
§ 7.2 p.m.
§ The Earl of Longford
My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, even though he is speaking these days from the Back Benches. He was a part of the life of all of us for a long time. I remember on one occasion I asked him how often he had spoken. He had not been in the House for very long and he said 2,000 times.
§ The Earl of Longford
It was more than 2,000. When I used to come down to the House in the middle of the afternoon and ask who was speaking it was always the noble Lord, and so something has gone out of my life now that he is no longer here. But he did his bit today. He spoke as a fervent and, if I may say so, a slightly fanatical Conservative. I am glad of that, because I intend to speak as a fervent and slightly fanatical member of the Labour Party. I hesitated in such a dispassionate debate, but the noble Lord has given me an excuse.
I agreed with one thing, and one thing only, that the noble Lord said. We must all congratulate the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman—when I can obtain his attention. When you get two great lawyers talking together you do not expect the conversation to come to an end very quickly, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, reminded us earlier. I think he is putting the blame elsewhere, but I shall not accept that. The noble and learned Lord spoke in just the way the occasion required and we are all grateful to him.
The right reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury also spoke dispassionately. If I may say so with respect, the prayers of all of us are joined with his at this time. I am afraid I cannot speak dispassionately. Whether the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool spoke dispassionately I do not know because I had to miss his speech.
§ The Earl of Longford
I shall have no excuse to miss it now anyway. I start again with the report. I am a great admirer of the report of the Church of England. I have said so elsewhere, even in a book. But I must not begin propounding the merits of a book I have written about the work of the bishops. The report is a noble 68 landmark in the whole social history of our country. It will always be remembered. But I cannot imagine that anybody who is an out-and-out supporter of Mrs. Thatcher could have welcomed it.
Mr. Tebbit had the right idea, though he expressed himself a little intemperately, if I remember rightly, at the time. He did not welcome it at all, because it is impossible to reconcile that report with what I can only call Thatcherite principles. I hope I can use that word without any personal offensiveness. We speak of Gladstonian principles, Asquithian principles—if I may say so in the presence of the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot—and of course Churchillian principles. Therefore I do not see why we cannot speak of Thatcherite principles. I do not think that any student of history will deny that the course of social policy for good or for ill in the last eight years has been dominated by the ideas of Mrs. Thatcher. Therefore I think we can use that word for good or for ill without it appearing to be derogatory.
The Church of England report informs us that too much emphasis has been laid by the present Government on the individual, while it recognises the importance and the vital necessity of the individual. We are told in the Gospels that we must love others as we love ourselves, which means that we have to love ourselves. I do not go quite as far as what I think the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, said, that as long as one looks after oneself one is looking after the nation. Did he not say that? That is the impression I gained.
§ Lord Bellwin
I hope the noble Earl will read Hansard tomorrow. I am sure I shall be vindicated, as I did not say that at all.
§ The Earl of Longford
I apologise if I have misquoted the noble Lord, but I think the general drift of his remarks was of the kind I indicated. I take another principle of the Church of England report, that of equality—I do not say total equality, but more equality. No one supposes Mrs. Thatcher's Government have come out for more equality. But everyone knows that they have promoted inequality. That is known to everyone who understands these statistics. The noble Lord, Lord Young, is puffing out his cheeks. I do not know whether that is approval or disapproval, but it is a striking gesture.
Anybody looking at the figures will see that the rich have got much richer and the poor have become—I do not say poorer, because it would be difficult for any government with the advance of science to make sure that any large section of the public became poorer—relatively poorer. There has been a considerable increase in inequality. No one disputes that and it is part of latterday Conservative doctrine. I shall not say the doctrine of Lord Stockton, Mr. Ted Heath or Mr. Rab Butler. The Thatcherite doctrine is that of wanting more inequality. That is what we are getting. If, heaven forbid, the Conservatives were returned to power, I am sure we should see more and more inequality; and they hope that the whole country will grow richer accordingly. That is the way it has gone in the last few years.
Some years ago Mrs. Thatcher was introduced to the teachings of Adam Smith. I do not know how many 69 noble Lords have been brought up on Adam Smith. In case anyone does not know his Wealth of Nations came out in 1776 and even octogenarians were not alive at that time. His teachings were introduced to Mrs. Thatcher. Adam Smith believed that there was something called the invisible hand. If you looked after yourself—in the way I thought the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, was suggesting—you certainly benefited the country. This invisible hand may or may not have been nonsense then, but it is something of a nonsense now.
In these days much of the economy is controlled by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I am afraid I have no special confidence in the doctrines applied by the present Chancellor, even though he was my pupil a good many years ago. Perhaps I should have had more confidence had he not been my pupil. No one can pretend that he just lets things take their course. He would then hardly earn his salary. He plays a very active part in controlling the economy.
So much for social philosophy. When we come to actuality, everyone speaks with his own brand of knowledge. I must offer mine, which may be less first-hand than some people's but more first-hand than others. Twenty years ago when I left the government I started a centre for young people in Soho. Now it employs some 10 social workers and sees about 3,000 people a year. I have recently retired from the chairmanship of the centre. No one in touch with those young people could possibly doubt that their conditions have worsened over the last 20 years, and particularly over the last few years. The noble Lord, Lord Young, may be awfully pleased with the way things are going, but if he came to talk to some of these people I am afraid the smile would leave his face.
There is a great deal of human tragedy and it is getting worse. We all know about unemployment, but these are not only youngsters from central London. They have come from all over the country and as such they reflect conditions in other great cities such as Birmingham and Liverpool. There is more unemployment. It is harder for them to get accommodation—to no small extent as a result of steps taken by the Government. Accommodation is certainly harder to come by. They are moved on when they have been drawing social security for a certain period. The amount they are able to pay for bed and breakfast is limited, and in various ways less accommodation is available. I shall not dwell on that. The housing position has been discussed brilliantly by the noble Baroness, Lady David, and others. However, I emphasise that the situation is getting worse the whole time.
What can we hope for? We can of course hope for a change of government. We could hope for a change not in the sense of the Conservatives being hurled from power, but of Mrs. Thatcher deciding to retire so that principles closer to those of the then Mr. Macmillan, Mr. Heath or, for all I know, the noble Viscount, Lord Whitelaw, could be applied. It is possible to imagine principles that are not Thatcherite being applied; but that must be left in the lap of the gods.
While Thatcherite principles carry on the only thing I can venture to suggest to the Government is that far more tax incentives should be provided. A start was 70 made last year and I would not like to disparage that. The noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, told us of various forms of voluntary work which had been encouraged by the Government, directly or indirectly. All that is to the good; but far more tax incentives should be offered and they should be more effective and more imaginative so that we can help to make it more profitable and less difficult for businesses to contribute to voluntary bodies. Whatever is done in that direction, no one can relieve the Government of their supreme responsibility for rebuilding the lives of people in the inner cities. I speak from a knowledge of what young people are suffering now.
§ 7.14 p.m.
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, one of the great and unexpected services the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, has done for me has been to give me a first taste of that heady freedom on the Back-Benches to tear up one's speech and say something else. I should like to thank him for that as well as for the very important debate which he has stimulated.
The subject is indeed a big one and engages almost all the elements of government. I encountered aspects of it when I was a junior Minister at the Department of Health and Social Security, both in my own responsibilities and those for which I answered in this House. I encountered it again in the Home Office in both capacities. I was brought up to it again, not in my own responsibility but answering for it, in the Department of the Environment; and for a time I answered for the Department of Education and met it there.
My noble friend Lord Bellwin has addressed the problem of organisation. As he and others of your Lordships who have been in government will know, there is great difficulty co-ordinating a budget between departments. Each department is committed not only to the combined objective of, in this case, the inner cities but is also dedicated to the objective of securing its own Votes for its own programmes. While I would not presume to judge my noble friend's suggestion of an urban development agency on a national level, it is at least something which might be looked at as a means of addressing this particular problem.
What is the problem? The landscape which has been drawn before us is scattered with derelict industrial sites. Its most talented people have left, some of their places remaining vacant, others taken by those who are less talented. Some of them feel, rightly or wrongly—this is rather dangerous—that they are already disadvantaged in ways other than where they live.
The landscape has schools in which the balance has been upset by the decline in the school roll and the decline also, very often, in the general ability of pupils. Pupils, as they approach school-leaving age, begin to feel that there is no point in acquiring skills if there are no jobs to apply them in. Your Lordships may not have that view of education. But the pupils do, and that is what matters.
Some of those young people—an increasing number, I fear—when they come out into society, see no purpose and some perversity in supporting a society in which they see no constructive role for themselves.
71 They see an economy which urges them, through all the media, to acquire things which they can only acquire by theft, burglary or debt. That is the dark side of the coin that we have been shown. I propose only to pick up one or two references because I think your Lordships and others reading Hansard will find a wealth of practical advice and an overall view which it would be an impertinence for me to try to supplement.
However, I would say one thing about breaking into this vicious circle. Let me start with the Home Office, because, for a time, I was responsible for the police. I know what an enormous strain the policing of the inner cities is, not only in the dramatic and open ways which precipitated the noble and learned Lord's most useful and constructive report but also in the policing of the community before then. Where you have a community which is in doubt as to its loyalty to society, as I have described, then the policeman is not only the law enforcer but also the ambassador of society.
Young people who are disaffected in the way I have described, sometimes understandably—I do not condone it, but it is sometimes understandable—want to throw a brick at society. But society is an amorphous thing that you cannot pin down. You can see the social worker; you can see the supplementary benefits officer; you can see the teacher; and above all you can see the policeman, because he wears a uniform. So the embodiment of society is involved in keeping order and at the same time—since it represents society—selling it to the community.
That is a fundamental conflict of roles. My first observation is that it calls for astonishing probity and strength of character. I, for one, salute the achievements of the police. We read about the disasters; but the ongoing slog that has gone into Brixton, Toxteth and so on, for year after year, is admirable. The noble and learned Lord was good enough to pay tribute to it in an earlier debate when I was on the Front Bench, and I thank him for it now.
However, probity, careful recruiting and even initial training are not enough to cope with the problem. If we are to talk about the movement of resources, one small movement I would support is towards the in-service retraining of the long-service, middle-ranking policemen whose attitudes and conduct actually give the flavour to the service because it is followed by the younger ranks and the tradition of the senior. I think that would be useful.
I look then at the children, I have taught for 10 years. I was for a time answerable for the Department of Education, and for two-and-a-half-years had responsibility for education in Northern Ireland. The subject engages my very close sympathy. I see the landscape that I described, the schools that I described and the disaffection that I described. I recall teaching, for a couple of years only, in a slum clearance estate in the Midlands—not as bad as we are discussing, but enough to sap the spirit and to make demands on the morale and emotions of the teacher, as well as on his physique. It seems to me that it is necessary that people should be encouraged to teach in these conditions, because it is not enough to have a love of children. You must also have a secure home and 72 future, and some inducement to go on year after year, so that the schools do not have a turnover of 45 per cent. of staff, as some of them do.
I am as anxious as anyone—more anxious perhaps than the noble Earl, Lord Longford—to take a non-partisan line. I hope however that the Opposition will recognise the collective responsibility of their Bench, and that when we come to the Report stage of the Teachers' Pay and Conditions Bill they will explain why, if they continue to do so, they are resisting tooth and nail the efforts of my right honourable friend, the Secretary of State for Education, to make it possible to give preferential pay to people teaching in difficult places who have the skills especially needed there. That is something to be encouraged.
I shall, I trust, fulfil my promise to myself to be brief. But we are talking about two matters that I must mention. One is housing, which is in itself enough of a subject for an enormous debate. I should like to chime in with the noble and learned Lord and say how absurd it is to have very large numbers of people—100,000, I believe—in bed and breakfast accommodation. I hope that my noble friend on the Front Bench will explain the breakdown of those figures between those who are immediately housed and those who are not. Also, if he has time—otherwise, perhaps he can write to me—could he quantify the amount of that resource which is taken up by people coming from the Irish Republic straight into local authority accommodation here, with no particular filter to come through?
I agree that the existence of 112,000 local authority and 540,000 private sector empty dwellings is far more than is needed, either for turnover or for refurbishments. I should like to applaud, as it is now appropriate to do, the £20 million provided by the Department of the Environment for housing associations. Whatever the effect of last week's debate on rent control initiated by the noble Lord, Lord Harris of High Cross, on your Lordships' opinions regarding abolition of the Rent Act, it was crystal clear that there is enormous need for more good non-local authority housing authorities and that is one way of producing them.
We are debating, tacitly, as it were, not a Motion but the report of the most reverend Primate's commission. So much has been said about it that I think I have to say something. I have no comment to make on the report, or on its theology, except to endorse what has been said about its analysis and the very important contribution it has made to this debate, which of course goes far wider than the proceedings in the Chamber this evening.
I hope that your Lordships who have spent the day talking, generally speaking, about large organisations and large movements will not belittle the work of the Church of England on a smaller level, and particularly the work being done where it really matters, minute to minute, among the very poor and the very distressed. I recall with joy and sorrow a very lovely man who died recently, and who served in his latter years as the Vicar of St. Anne's and All Saints in South Lambeth—John Colchester. I do not know what he would have made of our plans and theories this afternoon. But I know that part of his training as a mature candidate for ordination, having served as an 73 officer in the Indian Army, was to sleep rough among the homeless in a cardboard box under the arches. He never lost his compassionate and vigorous support for those unfortunates from that day to his death.
I heard much when I was Minister responsible for town and country planning about redundant churches—a subject dear to many hearts on the episcopal Benches—the expense of maintaining them and the sacrilege of pulling them down. There is a church at the other end of Waterloo Bridge which is very soundly built and warm, of which the congregation requires only a very small part for a very short time each week. During the last very cold spell of weather, the rest of the church was open through the night—when I visited it—to people who otherwise would have been sleeping rough on the Embankment and at the Festival Hall. That parish, like John Colchester's, is, in fact, under an interregnum, but the remaining clergy and congregation have given a very practical demonstration of the way in which the resources of the Church can be deployed in aid of the poor people whom we are discussing.
I recall that it was—was it not?—in the wake of the report of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, on the riots at Brixton, that a crucial development was the establishment of the Community Police Relations Committee. That was a very difficult thing to do. Let us not forget that the courageous man who took the first step and sat in the chair for its first years was a canon of the Church of England. Let us not forget these people and let us hope that, like the poor, they will always be with us.
§ 7.27 p.m.
The Lord Bishop of Liverpool
My Lords, when I saw from the list of speakers that I was to follow the noble Lord, Lord Elton, I thought that I might say some things about the role which he has so often played in your Lordships' House. Then, after the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, spoke, the noble Earl did so in a manner with which I have no intention of trying to compete, of celebrating the years on the Front Bench. The noble Lord, Lord Elton, has often been in that role, where he has replied with unfailing warmth and courtesy to our debates, not least not long ago in that excellent debate in this House on the inquiry held by the Duke of Edinburgh into housing, when I congratulated him on his speech and he said that he had put away his brief and had spoken from his heart.
I had the privilege of serving for two years on the commission of the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury on urban priority areas. With all our customs of mystique initials, ACUPA has been heard around the place. As members of the commission, we were charged first to go and listen and see for ourselves what both church people and those outside the churches said and experienced in urban priority areas. We were charged to make recommendations to the church and to raise questions of public policy. I am extremely grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, for introducing this debate and indeed for the generous comments he made about our report, Faith in the City.
Because the Church of England has a parish base in every neighbourhood, and because other churches 74 were wonderfully co-operative in every city, we were able to step over many of the barriers which divide groups as perhaps no other body could have done. There was nothing denominational in how we looked or what we saw. We set out as concerned Christians not to identify special problems in the abstract, but to look at how people live today. We were a commission with very mixed experience and we came to a unanimous report after two years.
The commission did a great deal of its work in smaller groups who made many visits. The whole commission paid 48-hour visits to five major cities. We stayed not in hotels but in people's homes within urban priority areas. That made for an immediacy of impressions. For example, I had seen on paper the facts and figures of the sudden collapse over four years of manufacturing industry in the West Midlands. Those facts and figures were brought much closer to reality when I stayed for 48 hours with an unemployed family next door to a vandalised house on an estate outside Wolverhampton.
I make the point that we have often lapsed in this debate into speaking about the inner cities. Perhaps we chose the clumsy phrase "urban priority areas" because we were anxious to say that a major issue is to be found in the great outer estates. Indeed, in Merseyside the numbers of urban priority area people are two to one as regards those living in the outer estates and in the inner city.
This report is about people. A woman in Bow, in East London, told me that the terrible thing about unemployment was that whereas going to work had always been the way in which one joined the adult world, young people now remained with their own age groups only. In the Borough of Knowsley last year, only 5 per cent. of school-leavers went into jobs. A young black man told members of the commission: "I felt put down at school. I felt that I could not excel at academic subjects. My teachers used to tell me not to bother too much with lessons and homework, but to concentrate on sport and athletics".
We saw that putting labels like that on black people, or indeed on white people from unfavoured addresses, is a hidden but powerful influence in excluding far too many people from the good opportunities which the majority of people in Britain take for granted.
Since our report was published, inequality of opportunity has continued to increase, not decrease. In many outer estates, as well as in older inner city areas, large numbers of people face the worst deal, not just in one area of life, but in a destructive and interlocking mix. They have the worst deal in jobs, housing, schools, health care and transport. That spells out a very frustrating experience of poverty.
Faith in the City charts the impact of the fundamental social and economic realities of our time. It charts the impact of unemployment, the crisis of national wealth creation, the polarisation of power and powerlessness, the hardening of dividing lines in the geographical structure of communities and the fragility of great cities in economic terms. Yet at the same time as we saw those dehumanising and dispiriting influences at work, we indeed saw faith in the city. We saw hope kept high against all the odds.
75 We saw models of success different from what the Church usually looks for. Instead of crowded churches from which many go off to their often individualistic and family concerns, we saw many congregations which were smaller and yet had a mighty sense of belonging, of looking outwards into the community and of joining hands in partnership with other churches and community groups. We saw much for the church in comfortable Britain to learn from. We were repeatedly made aware of human talents and intelligence, often trampled on at school and through unemployment.
One of the most heartening responses for the report in Liverpool is what we call the Group for Urban Ministry and Leadership. A good number of parishes are negotiating courses and developing confidence and gifts for Christian discipleship and leadership in people in urban priority areas, both within the Church and in the wider community. The Commissioners' Gallup survey showed a higher proportion of clergy satisfied with their job serving in urban priority areas than in the rest of the country. We affirmed the courage and creativity of wives of clergy who, unlike other professional families, live on the spot. Because they are often blamed by those who have little knowledge of urban priority areas, we affirmed too the resilience of so many at the sharp end—social workers, teachers, police officers and probation officers. We saw what a major role voluntary bodies can play if they can be set free from the wearing and wearisome need to lobby and plead for grants up to the brink of a financial year, with all the added stress that that brings.
On the Commission we repeatedly told each other that we were examining not just what was happening in urban priority areas but also the health of the whole church and the nation. We often quoted to each other St. Paul's words on the body:We are members one of another".The symptoms in these urban priority areas reflect a disease in the whole body.
Relating to the nation, we believed our task to be, as one might say in Biblical terms, that of being a watchman, restating the vision of one body and one nation, and warning those in comfortable Britain of what we had seen and heard. We tried to tell it how it is. We did not think that would be very popular. I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Alport, for his reminder that it is indeed our duty as bishops and clergy to engage with issues which leave so many people poor.
We were charged with raising issues of public policy. We made it clear that there needed to be substantially increased government expenditure. I make no apology for coming back to this issue, for that has to do with priorities in a nation. We cannot decide on how to rate particular priorities until we have had a very careful look at the scale of the needs confronting us. Therefore, the first question about our report ought to be: "Is it true and is the scale what it is said to be?" That question should be asked before arguing with its proposals or dismissing them as naive.
It is often said that you do not solve problems by throwing money at them. The noble Lord the Minister has spoken of "pumping" money. Do we tell that to a 76 family on supplementary benefit whose pipes burst two weeks ago, who have no insurance and who are desperate about how they will ever catch up and get out of debt? Do we tell that to an efficient housing manager whose housing stock has been decaying with a huge backlog of repairs for 20 years? I should not like to say to them, nor to the voluntary bodies whose stresses I have mentioned, that you do not solve problems by throwing money at them.
I believe that Michael Heseltine, who was the first Minister with responsibility for Merseyside, is right in the response which he made first privately to us from Faith in the City, and which he followed with a series of speeches. He has said repeatedly that the scale of resources needed to turn around the decay of the old cities is far beyond the capability of the private sector alone. He says that there needs to be much more substantial help from the public sector to make the conditions right before the private sector will bring in the resources which we so badly need.
At the time of the launch—or perhaps I should say the pre-emptive leak—of the report, Faith in the City, I was confronted on television with a costing which had been made of all the recommendations in the report. The figure was revealed as if no sensible person could possibly argue for it. It turned out to be an increase of 4p in the pound on income tax. Of course no account was taken or could have been taken of the increased earnings resulting from a healthier, more productive, back-at-work and more united nation. But never mind that, my Lords. My response is that if the running sore in the side of the nation of massive unemployment and urban deprivation could be healed for only 4p in the pound on income tax, we should thank God and get on with it. Indeed, 4p in the pound is exactly the amount by which some people are urging the Chancellor to reduce the standard rate in his forthcoming Budget. If that is the choice, can there even be two ways about it? Not only would it be right but also, I am glad to say, opinion polls suggest that higher spending on services for the needy would be more popular than lower taxes.
My noble friend the right reverend Primate was right to say that we have faith in comfortable Britain. We say that voters will not only be won by appeals to their sectional interests. I know that it is argued by some that a cut in the standard rate of income tax would help those of comparatively modest means and they criticise an increase in taxation for hitting them. However, it does not have to be so. For over 20 years we have been moving away from a progressive tax system in which those with larger incomes pay a larger proportion in tax. Another very recent church report, Not Just for the Poor, spelled out carefully how tax rates on the highest incomes have been reduced to 60p in the pound. The more prosperous taxpayers benefit more than the less well off from a wide range of tax reliefs and allowances which have been rightly called the tax allowance welfare state. This has enabled the more prosperous so to reduce their tax liability that only 3.5 per cent. of taxpayers in Britain pay tax above the standard rate.
We were criticised for commending, as it was said, tired policies from the 1960s and 1970s which had not worked. Perhaps I may try to explain what we thought we were doing. What we did was to focus particularly 77 on the Government White Paper of 1977, produced by a Labour Government but following the very thorough inner areas study set up by Peter Walker and affirmed by the Conservative Government in 1979. It revealed a scale of problems created by at least 100 years of history, not simply by the policies of one government. I somewhat regretted that the noble Lord, Lord Young of Graffham, seemed to miss the spirit of this debate in that he responded by attacking socialist policies and explaining how they had caused the problems that we face.
§ Lord Young of Graffham
My Lords, I was not attacking socialist policies; I was attacking, though—and I stand by every single word of it—people who planned out the living areas of our cities into those soulless tower blocks which have contributed so much to this problem. Of that, I repent not one word.
The Lord Bishop of Liverpool
My Lords, I accept that. I felt that the series of remarks the Secretary of State made were about planning, intervention, government resources and that the real help was all to come from self-help. Our argument is that both have to feed each other.
Critics of the report referred to tired policies which had not worked. Perhaps I may draw a parallel from a comment of G. K. Chesterton on Christianity. He said that it was not that Christianity had been tried and had not worked, but that it had been found difficult and never tried. I would say the same about the policies of the 1977 White Paper. They were found difficult and were never tried. Before 1979 the Government were shrinking from the policy it called for which was to bend mainline funding in favour of the cities and to top up with an urban programme for fresh projects. Since 1979 the mainstream funding has been drastically reduced, far outweighing the benefits of the urban programme, which is itself now cut in real terms. We shrank from the cost before 1979 and have subsequently shrunk further from it, because we do not give a high enough priority to healing these very grievous wounds in the body of our nation. The shortsightedness is that in the long-run we pay a far higher cost in welfare benefits, unemployment benefit and the escalating costs of residential care of prison and the growing apparatus of law and order.
We also looked at the 1977 White Paper because it stressed the importance of partnership which has been much mentioned. It set out to find ways of partnership between government departments—much needed in big cities—between public and private sectors, between public and voluntary bodies, between central and local government. Instead of partnership, we have lived through much confrontation. A city like Liverpool has suffered greatly from confrontation for which I believe both Westminster and certainly Liverpool town hall bear some major responsibility. We urgently need to find a more co-operative way forward in all our cities. My Lords, can we not get the partnership arrangements on the road again?
Our report argues that partnership is the key to so much. The inner city partnerships began to lose their way when they were seen simply to be concerned with the icing on the cake instead of being an integral part 78 of a rather different cake. This is the point I made about bending mainline programmes. The real disaster for the cities has been that we have been left with the icing. We have to go on asking: what became of the cake? The cake was the rate support grant. This has diminished and diminished, setting the scene for so much of the bitterness and confrontation of the past three years.
When the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, comes to reply, I hope he will respond to this point. I hope he will recognise the deep frustration which is felt in many parts of your Lordships' House when serious questions about mainline funding are answered by referring to the increase in the urban programme without at the same time giving us the figures of how much the rate support grant has been reduced. We readily acknowledge that the Government have continued very substantially what I might call project funding. We have been told about many of those splendid, positive projects. It is very important to see new initiatives appearing. But Faith in the City raises questions that require a broader and deeper answer. The heart of the problem is this. How do we manage reduced but renewed cities to make them good places to live in for the many people who undoubtedly stay there?
Earlier in our prayers we said Psalm 122. It is about Jerusalem, "built as a city":Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.".At those words I always pray literally for Jerusalem, but also for the cities of our own country. Last night I completed a three day visit to the small deanery of Liverpool. I had been walking the streets of the old inner city for those three days. I am afraid that I did not see peace. One young man, full of questions and energy, talked to my wife about this debate in your Lordships' House. He said, "They wouldn't listen to me". Then he asked, "Do they listen to him?" I am grateful for the way in which your Lordships have listened and how you have entered into the debate concerning Faith in the City. I hope that we may turn the good will there is to Faith in the City into action.
In preparation for this debate I shared my draft of my speech with Alfred Stocks, as distinguished a figure in local government as any in this country, who retired as chief executive of Liverpool last Easter. I want to underline my plea to get partnership on the road again by quoting what he wrote to me. He said:I feel that we are still engaged in a kind of trench warfare as regards urban policy, lobbing points at each other like mortar shells, while the places we care so much about get to look more and more like Flanders every year, with their share of walking wounded staggering aimlessly around. The time has come for armistice and for positive peace making. This means that the parties involved need the space to sit down and map out together just what kind of cities we want in the future".This report is about holding in front of Church and nation the vision of brotherhood and sisterhood of all being able to participate. If we are to make that vision come true we must give quite different priorities to the urban priority areas that we have described; and we shall need a new willingness for partnership in many forms.
§ 7.47 p.m.
§ Lord Sandford
My Lords, it seems to have become fashionable in this debate to start off by saying what 79 one did about it when one was on the Front Bench. But this would take me back 15 years when I was your man in the DoE, when we were commissioning the first inner area studies. By the time they had been completed each one concerned a small area—in Lambeth, Birmingham and Liverpool—and each one was 18 inches high. Heaven knows the weight of study that has gone into this subject since.
My noble friend Lord Elton tempted me to throw away my brief when he mentioned redundant churches. I am responsible for them to the Church Commissioners and gave evidence to the Archbishop's commission on that subject. But I shall not be tempted to go off in that direction; I shall stick to the brief I have given myself. That starts only three years ago when I was writing on behalf of the South-East Regional Planning Conference—that is the 32 boroughs and the 12 Home Counties—to suggest to the Secretary of State that it was time we had an up-to-date regional strategy for the South-East. That culminated last June when he wrote to me. A few paragraphs from that letter set the scene for the topic which we are discussing today. He said:I endorse the three major strategic objectives which you have identified for the Region's development:(a) fostering economic growth":and we have certainly been talking about that—(b) revitalising the older urban areas; and(c) accommodating new development while conserving the countryside".That is not just a policy for London but for the whole of the Home Counties as well. I turn to what he said in more detail about those three items. In paragraph 10 he writes:The challenge for the future is to find ways of accommodating economic growth and development in ways that conserve resources and protect the environment. One way in which this can be achieved is to ensure that the fullest possible use is made of existing infrastructure, buildings and unused land in the less prosperous eastern parts of the Region and in the older urban areas.".Then, more specific to the topics we are discussing today, he adds:Local authorities"—the Secretary of State says this, but not everyone here today has said the same—have a major part to play in reviving these areas, and other older urban areas elsewhere in the Region, through their land and development control policies and through provision of infrastructure and services.I am sorry that the Secretary of State for Employment has left the Chamber because that is in some conflict with what he said at the beginning of our debate.
What I am now quoting are the views of his colleague, the Secretary of State for the Environment, Mr. Nicholas Ridley. Mr. Ridley goes on to say, at paragraph 14:This emphasis on the full use of urban sites and the recycling of urban land will assist the preservation of good agricultural land and conservation of the countryside, maximise the use of existing infrastructure, and provide homes for those who may prefer this type of location with easy access to shops, transport and other facilities, and shorter journeys to work. In this way I would expect a significant proportion of the region's new housing needs to be met in the urban areas including the metropolitan area".That is what the Secretary of State wrote in June.
80 Since then, in September, the South-East planning authorities have issued a further paper RPC 630, setting out how they propose to implement that regional strategy. Last month, only 10 days ago, I sent the Secretary of State a further document RPC 700, in which a working party for the same authorities, led by the chief planning officer of Kent, have indicated in more detail the development potential all the way down the Thames, on either side of the estuary from the docklands. That ends up by listing what the next steps might be. They are:determining strategic priorities in the light of the cost of the schemes; identifying the powers and resources necessary to achieve a promotional and/or environmental impact; the development potential of land not yet allocated; the characteristics of the land readily available for a promotional campaign, including which sites may suit different types of economic activity".Then comes the important point:The preliminary work which has been carried out should assist this process but it would be appropriate, now that the scene has been set for the implementation of a programme of action, for the lead to pass … to [those] whose powers and resources must be engaged to bring it to fruition".When the Secretary of State responds and we respond to him, using those words, we have varying expectations as to what may happen next. If we look at the docklands we see about 2,000 hectares of land—huge amounts of which were derelict a few years ago—a population of 50,000 people and we see that £60 million per annum has been spent since the Urban Development Corporation was set up. If we look at Hackney—an area of about the same size having the highest index of social deprivation anywhere in London and with a population of over three times the size of docklands—we find that it has been supported to the tune of £12 million per annum. That is one-fifth of the docklands support. All of that £12 million has been taken away again in changes in the rate support grant, and through penalty, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool said.
At the same time as the docklands have been getting £60 million a year, Hackney has been losing that same amount in various forms of holdback of housing grant and housing benefit. It is no wonder, therefore, that we see success on one side with the attraction of private finance and, on the other side, the state of affairs in Hackney which everyone knows about.
One way or another we have to deal with this huge decaying sore in eastern and inner London, as we have to do in other great cities elsewhere in the country where the situation is similar. All agree that it must be dealt with. The whole of the South-East, not just the London boroughs affected, but the outer boroughs and the Home Counties, all agree that this is now their priority. These things will not respond, as several noble Lords have said, to a single, isolated initiative like the docklands, successful though that has been; both successful in itself and in showing how to set about it.
The treatment accorded to that area, and to those people, must be extended elswhere, improved and continued at a high level over a number of years with a consistent set of policies behind it. Financial resources on a similar scale to that in the docklands must be invested and consistently applied elsewhere. If that is not done private funds will not be attracted in. The great benefit of spending that scale of public 81 money is, as more than one speaker has said, that that amount of public expenditure attracts four, five or six times the amount of private investment. It is important that public expenditure should be continued for that reason.
However—and this is where we must have a change from what has happened in the docklands—the powers and the resources of the elected local authorities, and the aspirations and the skills of local people, must also be engaged far more efficiently and effectively than they have been in the past. It was good to see the Secretary of State say in his letter to me that that is something which he now recognises.
Of course in boroughs like Southwark, Hackney and several others, there is enormous mismanagement, and the Audit Commission have recently highlighted that. Today's leader in The Times draws attention to that and we have another debate on Wednesday which will go into it so I do not want to spend time on that subject now. However, I recognise that there are some local authorities where the partnership that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, rightly asks for is simply not at present possible or practical. That does not mean to say we need to abandon all hope of ever achieving co-operation and partnership with as many authorities as possible.
Therefore this revitalisation calls not for a bypassing of the local authorities but a far better use of the familiar structures of local government and of the human resources latent even in the deprived communities. It calls for less, not more reliance on novel and complex government schemes and initiatives which have been dreamt up and imposed pell-mell and piecemeal from on high—top down, as the Secretary of State said in his speech. I am glad to hear him recognise that there is so much more merit in the bottom-up approach.
All this then calls for more and better patterns of partnership, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, said, at the outset. That is the key word; not ignoring or despising strengths in our urban communities but building them up and training and harnessing the talents which are latent in them. That is the point on which the report Faith in the City is so clear and strong. But none of that obviates the need, so clearly shown in the docklands, for the sustained, coherent, consistent contribution of large amounts of public funds to attract even more private investment.
In the next few weeks I hope to take a delegation from SERPLAN to the Secretary of State to discuss how best our members, spearheaded by those bordering on the Thames—the London boroughs and the counties of Essex and Kent—can help to implement the prime task of the whole of the South East: the revitalising of the eastern and inner parts of London right down from the docklands to the mouth of the estuary. I am confident that together we can find a few better and fairer ways of tackling this problem in the capital city at the very heart of our nation. This debate will certainly have helped and I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, for it.
§ 8 p.m.
§ Lord Pitt of Hampstead
My Lords, I too should like to thank the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, 82 for giving us the opportunity of showing our faith in the city. I hope that your Lordships will forgive me if I concentrate on London. As my speech progresses it will appear to follow the theme of the previous speaker, but the fact is that I know London best. For 16 years I sat in one of Hackney's seats in County Hall and played a small part in London's administration.
The moment man creates a city he creates problems. That is trite but self-evident. The congregation of large numbers of people in one place generates tensions, which in turn create problems. At every stage in its development a city poses problems for those who live in it, work in it and take part in its administration. London is no exception.
The truth is that although London has a long and ancient history it suffers from the consequences of the 19th century's worship of growth, when size for its own sake was regarded as desirable and urban planning was based on growth. Few questioned that notion and few regarded it as anything but desirable because it seemed the answer to so many problems of that time. Today we are reaping the whirlwind. Our cities are faced not only with the environmental and social problems inherited from that mad rush of over-rapid urban expansion, but in its wake has come the legacy of urban blight and decay and there is an ageing infrastructure that must be made to serve the changing needs of the present day. Moreover, these problems must be tackled at a time when the economic growth on which the prosperity of cities was based no longer exists.
London is experiencing a decline in population. From the 1930s onwards the signs of social stress and the inhuman conditions that were emerging were recognised as characteristic of uncontrolled urban growth. Action was taken which was designed to check urban spread. The establishment of new towns was intended to act as a countermagnet. The London County Council, of which I was a member for the last four years of its existence, played a notable part in this movement. It was reasoned—I think quite rightly—that it would ease the pressures in the large towns and conurbations which had grown up around the cities and provide scope for urban renewal. The policy worked.
Today, however, the situation has changed once again. Since the 1960s, which was a period that coincided with the commencement of my active part in its administration, London has been losing its population. This loss of population was not planned. People have been moving out of London of their own accord—not because there was any planning—in order to find more pleasant living conditions for themselves and their families. That is one of the current headaches, because with people goes wealth; industry chases a diminishing workforce and the process accelerates to leave behind an unemployment problem. Moreover, it is usually the skilled workers who leave and the unskilled and the aged who remain. As London has been bled of its resources, so it has become more difficult to solve the problems of decay and deprivation that have been left behind.
Such an unsatisfactory situation exists in many deprived areas of London, where there is an assortment of associated problems and not just one problem. Not only are there housing problems of the 83 very worst kind in many parts of London but there are also problems of local unemployment, low income, lack of open spaces, educational difficulties, overcrowding and other problems of a social, economic and environmental nature. These problems need to be tackled and we must tackle them together if they are to be overcome. They require the combined efforts of central and local government and need the support of statutory and voluntary organisations.
Of course there should be private and public finance, but as the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, has just shown, there is the need for adequate public finance in order to attract private finance. One starts with the need for a supply of public capital.
Not only has the population of London fallen, there has also been a reduction in employment. One effect of the decline in both population and employment has been that the growing burden of rates necessary to solve London's problems has fallen on a decreasing number of people, firms and organisations which are less prosperous. In a nutshell London's problem is that more money is needed—I stress the word. More money is required to deal with the problems confronting those who are least able to deal with them. London needs large resources to meet the enormous problems which must be faced by those who no longer have the resources themselves to meet them and cannot provide such resources. There is therefore a real need for recognition of the true situation in London and, as I mentioned earlier, for co-operation between central and local government as well as other agencies.
I am trying to be brief because time is passing quickly. As I said earlier, it is not the housing situation alone which is bad. London also has the problem of people travelling long distances to work and the subsequent traffic congestion that is created. There are not only bad environmental conditions but a further problem in that unless one is careful London will grind to a halt. During the years I was at County Hall, we spent all our time trying to prevent that happening.
There is more traffic because we have built more and more offices. People who live outside London come here every day to work. The provision of adequate means of getting to and from work is a big problem. We urgently need a planned population and employment structure to enable London to flourish economically and to provide sufficient resources to improve the environment. That would enable more good homes to be built and would give the people of London the public services and facilities that they need. At the same time we must show concern for the weaker sections of society and those at risk.
Over the centuries London has changed out of all recognition as it has expanded into the world city that it is today. With the physical evidence of change, such as the new pattern of London's skyline, the people have changed. Although London's population is now steadily dipping, newcomers still flow in from other parts of the United Kingdom and abroad, attracted by the wide range of opportunities that London offers.
During the past 40 years there have been settlers from the Caribbean, the Asian sub-continent and Africa. They are the latest stage in a process that has 84 been continuing for centuries. Some parts of London have attracted successive groups of migrants who have overlapped one another and who can still be traced by those curious enough to look for them. The noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter, instanced the history of settlers from the advent of the Huguenots, through the Russian and Polish Jews, to the present generation of Bangladeshis. He drew attention to the danger that could arise from racial discrimination and harassment. I endorse what he said.
Unless the racial discrimination experienced by the ethnic minorities is vigorously combated and overcome, we may suffer a further subdivision of our cities along racial lines, with the increasing alienation of the younger members of those communities and with much unrest. I speak with knowledge of what goes on in such communities. This is an issue which requires a great deal more attention than it is receiving. I pray that we shall take that on board.
London's problems require the combined effort of central and local government and the support of statutory and voluntary agencies. I repeat that because it is important. Unfortunately the Government have taken a doctrinaire approach to the City and are prepared to leave it to market forces. They have rigidly controlled public expenditure. The Government regard private expenditure as good but public expenditure as sinful. The restraint of local government expenditure is their most important goal. Moreover, they have used the control of expenditure on housing—this is most unforgiveable—as the most important weapon in their economic armoury. That is wrong.
The Government are prepared to allow local authorities to spend millions of pounds carrying out their statutory duty of housing the homeless by putting them into bed and breakfast hotels, but they forbid them to use their capital funds to build the houses required. That is a bad policy. The rate support grant, which is central government's contribution to local government expenditure, has been steadily reduced. I am grateful to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool for his remarks on that point. Housing expenditure has been reduced more than any other item of public expenditure.
The Government have adopted a method of controlling local government expenditure by the use of targets and penalties. That has had the effect of escalating rate increases in the most deprived areas. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, for drawing attention to that fact. Having done that, the Government decided to limit the level of rates which those deprived areas could charge. Instead of the resources for those most deprived areas being increased, they have been deliberately reduced. Moreover, in the distribution of the rate support grant there is a bias against London. That has always existed. I spent all my years in London government battling with Labour and Conservative governments over the issue. The present method of distribution has made the situation worse.
The resource allocation working party for National Health Service resources, associated as it is with the continued underfunding of the service, has created more problems for London. The reduction in the resources available to local authorities which are 85 responsible for providing services for care in the community has meant that additional hardships have been imposed on those people less able to bear them. London's plight is serious. It has been made worse by the policies that have been followed by central government and by some local authorities. A realisation of the seriousness of the situation and a change of policy geared to deal with it is urgently required. I hope that our debate will help in that.
I was impressed by the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury and with the commission's report, Faith in the City, but I was disappointed by the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Young. I am sorry that he is not in his place. His speech was disappointing because it suggested that the Government do not understand the problem. I hope that when the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, replies he will help to relieve my present depression.
§ 8.19 p.m.
§ Lord Northfield
My Lords, like the noble Lord, Lord Mellish, I venture to speak as a practitioner on the ground in the subject about which we are talking. That may seem a strange claim by someone who is the chairman of a new town up in Shropshire. In fact the new town of Telford is a vast reclamation project. Telford was a bit of clapped out Britain (UK) Ltd. It had all the signs of the collapse and decay that worries those of us who are interested in the inner cities. The southern two-thirds of the town were blighted by thousands of acres of derelict land and the decaying communities scattered on that land. In 21 years of work pulling that area round we can claim some successes which are relevant to the inner cities and at the same time some lessons learnt.
In Telford we still have 19 per cent. unemployment. It comes from the collapse of all the old, heavy metal industries in the area. We have lost something like one in two of the indigenous heavy industry jobs that were in the area when the new town was designated. But despite the 19 per cent. unemployment and all the initial dereliction—and I say this to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman—we have social peace. There is a lesson here which I think is worth looking at.
For example, we now have vast growth taking place in Telford every day. Everyone can feel the momentum, despite the 19 per cent. unemployment. There are a million square feet of shopping in the city centre. There are new amenities such as a tennis centre, an ice rink, a privately financed 10-cinema complex on the way, and a great training centre for one of the banks, offices, industry and commerce moving into the city centre on a scale that has made us run out of land. We have 7 million square feet of new factories occupied and thriving. In our enterprise zone we have used £55 million of government money—if one takes the full expected expenditure in 10 years of the zone—to draw in at least £210 million of private money; one in four leverage. That is the right way to do it.
We have over 60 foreign companies. We have beautiful campus sites created out of dereliction. They were formerly coal tips. On those campus sites we now have four of the big Japanese companies, for example, each on over 40 acres, ready to expand and provide jobs for a century. That is the extent of the planning for 86 the future. With over 40 acres each that will be a lot of jobs.
Most important of all, in an area which was very poor indeed, very derelict, very decayed and very disheartened, with a collapsed spirit, we now have middle-class housing going up. In an area where one formerly had houses costing a maximum of £20,000 to £25,000 we are now selling middle-class houses costing £80,000 to £100,000. People who chose to live outside are now choosing to come back to live in the area.
Perhaps I may give one figure of importance. If one takes the level of employment in Britain in 1980 as 100, with the same figure of 100 in Telford and the West Midlands, the West Midlands and the UK figures are now 92 and 94. We are 104. That means that we have turned the corner. We are the fastest growing part of the West Midlands, built on a reputation of reclamation, a sense of hope and a sense of momentum which are giving us the dividends that I have been describing.
What are the lessons? First, one cannot do this in little areas. One has to take fairly big areas in order to create the sense of improving a whole community, improving land values and getting the economic spiral turning back the other way. Secondly, one has to have environmental regeneration on a vast scale. We have greened Telford, and many of the unemployed—who the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, may think would be some of the difficult people—are the guardians of the green area. They protest when I have to use green land to build some more factories. They are proud of their environment; they are not anxious to desecrate it even further.
Thirdly, one can do this in partnership with the local authority. My development corporation, although a statutory organisation with great powers, works happily with the local authority. Indeed, as I have told many people many times, the chief executive of the district council sits at my board meetings and speaks almost as a member of it. We therefore work in happy partnership with the local authority. Lastly, one must use government money. It is not often that I disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Young, so totally. He is wrong to keep saying that one does not have to throw money at this problem. One has to throw money and make sure that it brings the leverage of private money afterwards.
§ Lord Young of Graffham
My Lords, I hesitate to interrupt the noble Lord in full flood, but a number of noble Lords this evening have accused me of saying something that I did not say. Let me repeat the words I used. No doubt it can be checked in Hansard tomorrow. I said that the problem has not been a lack of policies, nor has it been a lack of money. I went on to talk about the vast amounts of money which are being spent by government with precious little result. I did not say that one should never throw money at problems—at least not on this occasion.
§ Lord Northfield
My Lords, I apologise to the noble Lord. Like many others I had the wrong impression this afternoon. However, it enables me to reinforce the point. The basis of all this must be government money. I very much take the point made by the noble 87 Lord, Lord Sandford, about Hackney and the docklands, which is a similar comparison. One needs the start-up money from government—and goodness knows how much has gone into the docklands as well as into my own new town. Then one must make sure that it is used in the way that brings the right leverage.
With those lessons, what can we say are the prospects for progress in the future? I for one welcome the arrival of Mr. Nicholas Ridley at the Department of the Environment. He has come with a burning mission about the inner cities. There is no doubt about that from all my talks with him. That is a good thing. He is quite right to say that the new towns must be phased down and that the resources that went into them must go into the inner cities. We have the basis right. He has now taken power for urban regeneration grants, which means money given direct to private enterprise to get things going. Also the powers to have simplified planning zones will make the whole project more easy to work.
I support very strongly his decision to set up four urban development corporations—which are modelled on the powers of the new towns—in the most intractable areas, and he has chosen to use what little money he has for that purpose. However, we must now look at the wider parts of urban Britain which still need some action in order to rescue them from urban decay. I wish to give an example. If I am again not misinterpreting what the noble Lord, Lord Young, said, it perhaps alters some of the pessimism which seemed to go through his speech.
I should like to give the example of what is happening in Birmingham today. There is a very good attempt by the city to start up its own inner city regeneration. It proposes to set up a new development company, an urban development agency. I quote from the prospectus:It will act as a vehicle for the receipt of urban regeneration grants. It will be a private, market-led, profit-seeking, creative development business".This is a Labour authority.It will be … market-led, profit-seeking creative development business.It will be private-sector led and will operate with the active participation of the local authority who will also facilitate the redevelopment".The city has chosen the area of Aston and Nechells as the first part of inner city Birmingham for regeneration. It has the support of the Conservatives on the local authority. It has brought in private operators such as Douglas, the civil engineering contractor, Bryant Holdings the builders, Gallifords civil engineering, George Wimpey the builders, Citibank, Lloyds Bank and Touche Roche. Here is exactly the partnership that we all hope to see as a means of bringing together the private and public sectors in order to begin to get one city on its way towards inner city regeneration.
The first thing that we have to hope is that the antagonism which has built up between the Government and local authorities in recent years will be reduced and that we shall begin to co-operate in an imaginative venture such as that proposed by Birmingham. If in this sort of partnership we can 88 succeed in Birmingham, we can at least begin to sweep away the decay on which the social collapse and the social degeneration about which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, spoke grows and festers.
We must not lose sight of the bigger strategy in the debate. We must move on to the large-scale regeneration of our cities. It is this kind of partnership, in ways in which Birmingham is leading, between the public sector and the private sector which is the means of getting the increase in values and the wide enough application of the principle to enable the sense of a new community to emerge and social peace to take over from social disorder.
In this process we should not consider that we must keep densities at the same level in our cities. It is wrong for people to pretend that we can carry out this work while confining people in the inner cities on the present scale. I was very pleased to hear Mr. Jeff Rooker, the Labour spokesman in another place, say recently that the time had come for us to realise that there has to be a better balance between the city and the surrounding green in future housing developments.
My last point concerns the role of the house builders. As your Lordships may know, I am chairman of a company formed by the big house builders mainly to build new towns in the South of England. However, they are already working very hard indeed in the inner cities. Recently I had to cross swords with His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales when he hinted that the big house builders preferred the easy pastures of greenfield building to helping the inner cities. This is just not true. It was the big builders who asked for the publicly owned Land Register and have been pressing governments to force more of it onto the market.
It is the big builders who have pioneered the reclamation, refurbishment and resale of the rundown and abandoned huge blocks of flats owned by local authorities. Noble Lords should look at Minster Court in Liverpool which has won a design award. It was completely abandoned and derelict. It has been done up by Barratt's and sold at very modest prices to owner-occupiers. Noble Lords should look at Stockbridge Village, which a Labour authority almost begged developers to take away because it did not know what to do with it in terms of the collapse of the public sector housing there. They should look at Regent's Park, at St. Stephen's in Salford and at Priesthill in Glasgow. There are partnerships with housing associations up and down the country to provide properties for rent as well as properties for sale.
The big builders are prepared to do their share and are carrying out these pioneering efforts in the inner cities. I had to tell His Royal Highness that he was wrong to say that inner city decay was in some sense their fault. I do not know whose fault it is, but it certainly is not theirs.
In all the circumstances I have some optimism. I believe that we have now crossed the point where despair is uppermost. We are now at the planning stage as regards bringing all our resources to bear on the inner cities. I believe that if we follow the lessons to which I have pointed and which arise in my own new town, if we look at the possibilities of partnership with the local authorities in the way Birmingham is doing, 89 if we can make that a success and spread it to other areas and if we can show that a little bit of government money attracts a lot of private investment, we shall get even some of the recalcitrant local authorities coming along and saying: "All right, we shall have a go too because we are missing out on something".
Finally, we must look at the possibility of building into the whole of this a partnership with the builders and the developers. My first-hand experience of them is that they too are very anxious indeed to play their full role in finding as much private finance as possible to help the new crusade to rescue our cities.
§ 8.35 p.m.
My Lords, I am pleased to follow the interesting speech of the noble Lord, Lord Northfield. I should like to thank the noble and learned Lord who opened this debate for his understanding speech and to say how worthwhile this debate has been.
We have two very helpful documents in regard to the problem. First, Faith in the City and, secondly, the 1985 Physical and Social Survey of Houses in Multiple Occupation in England and Wales, which was published on Friday. I should like to thank the noble Baroness, Lady David, for mentioning this fact.
The report of the Archbishop's commission says:It is not charity when the powerful help the poor, it is justice".It is very good to have that in mind. On tenancy, the report says that people who live in had housing have to live in a mistake. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark is mentioned as being helpful. The report says:But too often debates in the Lords are not reported and the bishops' voice is unheard outside the Upper Chamber".That is, I believe, only too true.
In 1980 the Bishop of London and the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster issued a joint pastoral letter on helplessness in London. This was read out in all the churches. I wonder whether they could possibly do this again as I think it was very helpful. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Dean of Beswick, will be pleased with the document as he was one of the first to introduce a Bill in the Upper House to try to rectify the difficulties. On 13th February another Bill will be introduced by a Member in the other House, and I wish it success.
On reading the second report one realises that the situation is extremely bad. It is a very strong report, summed up in the words:There are some exceedingly squalid conditions within HMOs, and their existence is an indictment of national and local government policy over many years".For a government report to be so outspoken in its criticism of Government policy is very unusual. The conditions are appalling. The report says that 81 per cent. of houses in multiple occupation lack satisfactory means of fire escape; 80 per cent. are unsatisfactory in at least one respect relating to management, occupancy or amenity provisions and 25 per cent. are unsatisfactory in all three. Sixty-one per cent. have inadequate essential amenities. In 44 per cent. of HMOs, according to the report, management was unsatisfactory while 59 per cent. were in serious 90 disrepair and 10 per cent. were unfit for human habitation. The total cost of disrepair and upgrading, it says, is £3,600 million.
As regards tenants, the report says that 81 per cent. of HMO households are single people; 40 per cent. are under the age of 25; 65 per cent. are under 35; and 35 per cent. are women. But information on ethnic origin is woefully inadequate. Only 40 per cent. of tenants have full time jobs. Mean gross weekly income is £90. One third are on Housing Benefit. Mean weekly rent is £27. The poorest tenants live in the worst conditions. Half do not have a rent book. Seventy three per cent. are not registered on local authority or housing association waiting lists, and 73 per cent. said that it would be difficult to find elsewhere to live. Knowledge of rights is very low. Only 8 per cent. of tenants had ever contacted the council about any problem connected with their house. Ninety per cent. of tenants would prefer to live in self-contained accommodation.Local authority action is very low. Only 36 per cent. of HMOs had notices served on them. 38 per cent. of landlords said their property had not been inspected by the local authority within the last five years".I hope that some action will be taken when the Bill is introduced in the other place on 13th February.
It is very unusual to find a government document containing a conclusion in the terms of paragraph 7.102 which says:The results of the HMOs show that housing conditions within the sector are generally unsatisfactory. There are properties in very poor physical condition; properties without adequate facilities; and properties where the physical safety of tenants is at risk. There are tenants living in poor conditions, some paying high rents for a room in filthy and depressing property, owned by landlords who at best fail to maintain even the very minimum standards of hygiene, cleanliness and safety, and who sometimes actively harass or intimidate their tenants".I shall say no more about that because it provides a great deal of ammunition for the person who will be putting forward the Bill on 13th February.
However, I should like to mention one subject which has not been mentioned so far; namely, hostels. I am very keen on hostels for young people. I started what was known as the London Centre at the request of the police, especially police women who were trying to protect the young women who came down on trains from the North and who were found on St. Pancras or other stations in need of homes and care. We managed to start three centres, two for girls and one for boys. The centres were all small and catered for under 20 people. The first was opened by Princess Anne.
They were very successful and functioned well. However, we had to give them up because we could not get enough money to run them. We tried everything possible. We needed good attendants to look after these young people as well as good people to cook for them. They must be looked after well because otherwise the hostels would be unsatisfactory. We managed to obtain jobs for most of them. Indeed, a couple of marriages took place. The whole venture went very well but unfortunately we were unable to continue due to lack of money.
I am glad to say that two of the hostels were taken over by St. Christopher's which has done a great deal of work in this area and has a great deal more 91 background money than we had. I still take an interest in those hostels and hope that we shall be able to provide help for hostels in the future. I do not know whether your Lordships read the article which appeared the other day, but such hostels are essential for young people in various parts of London, particularly South London, who have nowhere to go at night. We found that when we placed them in a hostel it was easy to get them a job. That is what we want to do. They were not always grand jobs, but they were jobs and gradually these young people became independent and came to grips with the idea of looking after themselves.
We must face the fact that many of these young people cannot continue living with their parents. They are single young people who have difficulties at home but who make good in hostels. I hope that we can do something about this aspect in the future.
Finally, I should like to ask the Minister about inner city housing. The Department of the Environment's Urban Housing Renewal Unit is now called Estate Action. It was set up in June 1985 to work with local authorities to tackle the problems of the rundown council estates. Since that time the unit has visited some 120 local authorities in England and it is developing proposals with them for a range of measures, including joint ventures with private developers local estate based managements on the lines of the priority estates project and community refurbishment schemes.
In August 1986, Estate Action's homeless initiative was launched to help local authorities to take quick, effective action to bring empty council property back into use for homeless people. The first approved scheme was in Newham. That brought 23 council flats back into use. In October £3 million was earmarked for the improvement of 10 rundown estates in Hounslow, Southwark, Sunderland, Salford, Nottingham and Walsall. I believe it is anticipated that 4,000 homes will be improved.
In December £119,000 was made available to refurbish a 1920s block of flats in Islington to provide homes for 15 homeless families. That brought the total number of schemes approved in 1986 to 88, involving £31 million of government support and benefiting about 45,000 homes. I shall be grateful if I can be told whether that is a correct record and whether the scheme is going well.
§ 8.45 p.m.
§ Lord Ardwick
My Lords, the most cheerful and encouraging speech in the debate so far has rather surprisingly come from this side of the House, from my noble friend Lord Northfield. I thought for a moment that he was going to say that what Birmingham thinks today, Manchester must think tomorrow. However, he then went on to tell us that Salford has participated in these benefits, and of course Salford is part of the Manchester-Salford partnership.
The last time that I saw Ardwick there was a large tract that was an abomination of dereliction. Of course 92 this part of the city of Manchester where I spent my boyhood, and from which I take my name, was on its way down even 60 years ago. The first instinct of those who prospered was to move out of its dismal smoke into a leafy suburb on the Cheshire side. In fact, that was the behaviour of all successful people in the whole of the inner city. That was why I rejoiced when the Greater Manchester Council was established. I thought that those people would again have to take responsibility for the city where they earned their wealth.
The squalid Manchester of the 19th century described by Engels and other writers had been much improved. Yet even in my mother's day, one Manchester child in four died in its first year. This was one of the great cities of Europe, the Manchester of the Hallé orchestra and the Guardian, of Owens College and the grammar school; the Manchester which had built a canal to bring oceangoing ships to its docks and had bought a lake in Cumberland from which to pipe its water.
But for the poverty and unemployment and the decline of the cotton trade between the wars, Manchester might have renewed its decaying heart. Instead, it built perhaps the finest garden suburb in the country at Wythenshawe. Therefore, it could not do very much about the interior. However, in the Second World War hope was born again, as it was in other cities, when the Beveridge, Scott, Uthwatt and Barlow reports created a vision of an attainable, post-war, brave new world.
The picture of Manchester as it is today contrasts tragically in my mind with the picture we were given at the end of the war by the city corporation. It was so exciting, so impressive, so hopeful and so elegant that I devoted an entire issue of the Manchester Evening News to drawings of the promised new inner city. We were told that the task was a mammoth one, that one house in three in Manchester would have to come down. Indeed, that part of the promise has been fulfilled: 85,000 houses have been demolished. It is the use made of the vacant land left after those houses have been pulled down which is so appalling.
However, what went wrong in Manchester went similarly wrong in other great industrial cities despite the post-war years of plenty and full employment. The patterns are so similar and extend over such a period that one cannot blame any single council or government, or any single political party at national or local level for the poverty, squalor and deprivation that are being suffered today.
The failure is a national failure—indeed to some extent an international failure—and can be rectified only by a national effort. To bring our inner cities even to a reasonable standard of seemliness is a task far beyond the time limit of a Parliament and one which will require a sustained national will. I think Faith in the City is playing an important part in the recruitment of that will. If I may mention a tiny matter, if you will excuse a professional bias, this report has created a new specialisation in journalism. The newspaper the Independent has an inner cities specialist correspondent who indeed foreshadowed our debate in today's issue.
93 Our sense of post-war failure should not be too acute. We have done many great things since the war. We have built new towns and splendid new schools; we have new and expanded universities; and there has been one miraculous achievement—smoke abatement—which makes a good life in the inner city a real possibility. Yet in a way our failure in the inner cities is in some part a product of our success. The new towns we have built and the overspill development around our cities attracted the young, the strong and the skilled away from the city centres, leaving behind too high a proportion of the old, the weak and the unskilled. As this report makes clear, there has been a philosophic failure. In Britain we have too little regard for the merits of an urban culture and too much for the countryside, which for most of us must mean the half-way house of the suburb.
The garden cities, Britain's contribution to world town planning, are aesthetically pleasing but rather socially stifling with their segregated shopping centres and meeting places and their deliberately created dearth of inns, cafés or anything else which might give some animation to the scene. I speak from experience, having lived in Welwyn Garden City and Hampstead Garden Suburb. Yet the garden city has been the pattern, a perverse pattern in a way, for the bleak suburban corporation estates which people have never really liked and which could not be a pattern for inner city development. For that we have gone to various parts of the Continent, to produce tower blocks and other fortresses likely, as we now know, to produce despair and delinquency. A planner's dream became a resident's nightmare.
A fiendish combination of influences has afflicted the inner cities. Unemployment grew slowly at first and then with a rush after the oil crisis. We are back to the grim 1930s. The 1960s were an era of something called system building which governmental authorities, offering grants, persuaded municipalities to adopt because they were the last word in efficiency and chic. The systems have proved a disaster. To add to our problems we imported a drug culture, and this mixture of drugs, deprivation, permissiveness and increasing inequalities with very high unemployment among the young has been accompanied by an increase of crime and violence, to the distress particularly of the old and the weak.
However, perhaps the most significant phenomenon has been deindustrialisation. The process has meant the removal of large factories and small ones and a decline of the service industries dependent upon them. In addition, all this has an effect on the ethnic problems of which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, has spoken so sensitively and humanely today. To reverse all these influences, this combination of influences, is a mighty task which so many people have said demands the wholehearted and eager co-operation of national and local government, and the recruiting of the energies of people who work in voluntary bodies and indeed of ordinary citizens themselves.
Manchester City Council's own reports tell a sad story composed of facts and figures. The newpapers on which I have worked use more emotional language.
94 For once they are justified. A writer in the Observer, for example, has described the district of Hulme as:A vast concrete encampment of seven storey crescents lying back to back … in the middle a wilderness of miles of other housing estates. The buildings are riddled with all the faults of the common housing estate—system built from start to finish—there are cracks, leaks, mould, condensation—tenants could not afford the electric underfloor heating and got cut off. This dreadful place, a disgrace and a danger to any city, must qualify for demolition under the Government's projected study.Then there is Fort Ardwick, as the locals call it, which that writer said was as bad as Hulme, while Fort Beswick, another concrete monstrosity, bearing the name of my noble friend, has already been demolished. Fort Beswick, a Guardian writer said, was a dead loss from the beginning, and she interviewed a tenant who told of his ordeal plagued by cockroaches, maggots, bugs and fleas and a black and green fungus in every corner. This writer puts graphically—though I think with exaggeration—Manchester's dilemma:It can't afford to build anything new. It can't look after what it's got. It can't even house people on the waiting list because it has so many decants to house, and it can only do that slowly as existing places become vacant".The policy reversals that would be needed to restore our cities were put with force in the White Paper of which we have heard so much today, the White Paper of 1977. Two years afterwards the Conservatives became the government and have been in power ever since. This generation of Conservatives do not bear responsibility for causing the present plight of the cities, but one is entitled to ask what they are doing to reduce it and what they plan to do. I may say that we have had a good deal of ingenious schemes, useful schemes that the Government are undertaking. What one worries about is the scale of their effort compared with the immensity of the task. Manchester's housing repairs alone would cost something like £700 million.
I should like to quote some facts from an official account of policy objectives for the inner area of the Manchester-Salford partnership. Unemployment among men stands at 33 per cent. in Manchester and nearly 34 per cent. in Salford, but in Hulme the rate is 58 per cent. About one-third of the unemployed have been out of work for two years or more. Unemployment is up by 130 per cent. since 1979. Forty per cent. of Manchester's unemployed are under 25 years old. In inner Manchester 375 acres of land are still derelict. There are 21,000 system built tower block dwellings in the inner area of Manchester and Salford which have tremendous structural, managerial and social problems. There is a great deal of work for Lord Northfield's friends to do.
The number of people on supplementary benefit has increased by 50 per cent. since 1979. Death rates for people in the inner city under the age of 65 are over 75 per cent. higher than the national average. In some areas today the infant mortality rate is more than twice the national average. Both the Association of Municipal Authorities report and Faith in the City mirror the view expressed by the Town and Country Planning Association that overall conditions in Britain's inner city areas have deteriorated at an accelerating rate.
There are obvious tensions between the city and the Government, tensions which one must regret, tensions 95 which must be overcome. There is no room for doctrinaire views to be taken either by the Government or by the people who are running local government. The council complain that the city action team initiatives do not comprise a concerted strategy and they argue that the urban programme alone cannot tackle urban deprivation. Resources are needed from every government. I quote:The urban programme is less than 2 per cent. of all expenditure by local authorities, and since the real value of total exchequer grants to local authorities was cut by over 12 per cent. between 1979 and 1985 these cuts have been far in excess of any expenditure under the urban programme".I shall leave my noble colleague on the Front Bench to go further into this report, if he so wills. He was once the leader of Manchester City Council and he shares my affection for our poor old city. With all its vicissitudes I cannot believe that it has lost the traditional courage and will that it has always had to face and conquer adversity. But, as I have said, the complete solution is beyond local effort and requires the continued, long-term generous collaboration of the Government.
I should like to give a final and gloomy quotation from the annual report 1985–86 of the Manchester and Salford Inner City Partnership:Despite all the activities of local authorities, central government and the private sector, the situation on the ground in the inner city is still deteriorating. Levels of unemployment are increasing (job losses outstrip those created through the urban programme activity). Environmental improvement does not keep pace with industrial dereliction and the services are unable to cope with manifestations of increasing poverty.
§ 9.1 p.m.
§ The Lord Bishop of Ripon
My Lords, the diocese of Ripon, of which I am bishop, has within it great extremes of rural and urban neighbourhoods. At one extreme are the high moorlands of the Yorkshire Pennines, as wild and remote as anything in England. It is possible to live over 20 miles from a secondary school and nearly 40 miles from the local hospital. Coming down from the moors one encounters, first, the villages and market towns of James Herriot country; then the commuter villages near the great urban areas; and finally the suburbs, residential neighbourhoods and estates and the inner city wards of the city of Leeds at the opposite extreme from the remote and distant hills.
The two extremes feel like two different worlds, yet it is the same dynamic which determines the characteristics of each of them; a dynamic in which each one of us is caught and for which each one of us in small part is responsible. At the one extreme the inner city is emptying as people press out towards the suburbs, from the suburbs to the surrounding countryside, perhaps eventually to the ideal of a dales holiday or a retirement home.
At the rural extreme the rise of house prices, the emphasis upon conservation and restriction of housing and industry results in families having to leave the Dales to find employment and housing elsewhere. The average age rises, children leave, schools are closed, 96 transport facilities are withdrawn, post offices and shops struggle to survive. Unemployment in rural Richmond in North Yorkshire is, at nearly 14 per cent., higher than the average of Leeds. At the rural extreme the deprivation is clear, but it is even more clear at the inner city extreme.
In the inner city the scale of numbers involved is different. A village may have perhaps 20 or 30 pensioners living on their own. The City and Holbeck ward of Leeds has over 2,000 such pensioners, a quarter of all the households in the ward, and nearly 1,000 of them are over 75. Moreover, the intensity of deprivation differs. It is the experience of multiple deprivation which gives quite a different feel to inner city and housing estate life. That combination of low pay and unemployment, poor housing and high crime rate and a high proportion of single elderly and single parent households gives to life in an urban priority area its distinctive ethos.
The problems of these areas are in the end experienced by individuals; people coping with a multiplicity of difficulties, any one of which would daunt those of us who live in other areas. In the end I am left marvelling at the resilience of the human spirit which enables people to survive, cope and enjoy life in such circumstances.
Above all there is the sense of powerlessness which these factors induce—the feeling that one does not know where to turn for help, one has no power of choice, no say in decisions that are made and no way of changing one's life. Those who can leave, as Faith in the City pointed out, are the younger men or couples with more skills, more confidence and higher incomes. It is the old, the poor, the unskilled, the single-parent families, the sick and the unemployed who are the more likely to be found in these urban priority areas. That is why these communities are so graphically called the communities of the left behind.
The report of the Archbishop's commission on urban priority areas describes their characteristics. A more local version of the report entitled Faith in Leeds gives in considerable detail the figures, the statistics, which make it evident that for all its great sense of civic pride Leeds is a divided city. Of the 33 wards in the metropolitan district of Leeds 12 are wholly or partly urban priority areas. Here live some 200,000 people, 28 per cent. of the district's population. Among that 28 per cent. are to be found 75 per cent. of the city's housing needing repair, 60 per cent. of its unemployed, 60 per cent. of its supplementary benefit claimants and 55 per cent. of the crimes reported, and here also live two-thirds of the Asian and Afro-Caribbean people of Leeds, the bulk of them in four wards where the levels of unemployment and overcrowding are particularly high. It is a striking and convincing portrait of division and polarisation.
This local report, Faith in Leeds, has been produced by the churches of the city working together. The churches are possibly the only group with the overview of the whole city and the support throughout it necessary to the production of such a report. To understand its thrust it is necessary to read it. To those who criticised Faith in the City my first question was 97 always, "Have you read it?". A reviewer of Faith in the City, Paul Hodson of the urban unit of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, referred to it as a report,whose clarity and detail amazed me, and whose honesty sometimes made me shiver. If only for the quality of the authors' writing, read the whole report".Those who have read it have, I believe, been convinced by the portrait that it paints, and many of them—certainly in my part of the world—from all backgrounds have been asking what kind of response can be made. The Motion before the House underlines the importance of partnership in such a response, and I believe that the churches are well placed to share in such a partnership.
First, they share simply by being present—present in the form of a local priest or minister who lives in the area and is often the only professional person to do so; present in the form of a building and a worshipping community. Faith in Leeds speaks of the creation of living, breathing and loving communities; of faith at the local church level as the foundation of all other responses which the churches might make. Such local worshipping communities need financial resources which for the poorer neighbourhoods have to be found in part from outside. As the most reverend Primate has already commented, the Church has found ways of doing this both at national and diocesan level.
The presence of a worshipping congregation, however small, can affect the life of a neighbourhood. One of the consequences of feeling powerless is a lack of confidence in tackling situations. A committed group of people with a professional figure among them can recover confidence in themselves and share that confidence with others. In the recent cold spell one such congregation on a housing estate in Leeds found sufficient confidence, because of its community life and a professional in its midst, to knock on doors, discover needs, approach the local authority officials and to provide meals for those unable to cook them and facilities for shelter and drying out for those whose homes were damaged by burst pipes. The neighbourhood received a lift from a small group that had sufficient confidence to engage in this operation.
A further contribution that the churches have to make is in the use of their buildings. Many churches are now coming to realise that their buildings are a great resource not merely for worship but for the neighbourhood. I can think of building after building in my diocese now converted for use partly as a worship centre but partly also as a community building. Two new buildings in Leeds have been constructed, one with an advice centre and one with sheltered housing as part of the building. This is another way in which the churches play their part in urban priority areas.
A further contribution is in the share which churches play in projects. I listened earlier to the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Mellish, who talked of pious resolutions and their emptiness. He also talked about the way in which we are judged by what we do and not by what we say. It seems to me as I look at the Church, certainly in my own part of the 98 world, that plenty is being done. In almost every parish I can point to some activity in which the Church is sharing. That is an example of partnership, partnership not only between authority and locality but partnership between different authorities.
The noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, referred earlier to the project in Seacroft inspired by the national charity Apex. The workers in this organisation are ex-offenders who would otherwise almost certainly be without employment. The work they do in repairing furniture, furnishings and other items is for the benefit of pensioners and other special categories on the estate. The project began when the local vicar offered his church hall as a facility within which it could take place. As a result a community project has developed where pensioners come to this workshop twice a week to view the work being done. A bingo session is offered to them; there are parties for pensioners and parties for children. The consequences for the neighbourhood are considerable—less loneliness, less crime and a greater sense of belonging to the neighbourhood. That was all brought about by a partnership among different kinds of authority within which the Church played its part.
I think again of a project in Bramley, Cats Mill, in which an old mill was purchased and is now used for a variety of events—community theatre, space for small businesses, a local restaurant and a community centre for the whole of Bramley. It is of considerable significance and gives a lift to the whole area. The vision for this was provided again by the local vicar and the whole initiative is Church inspired although helped considerably by charities and trusts.
The cost of such programmes is considerable, but it is worth pointing out that the costs of not undertaking them is often as great. The cost of unemployment benefit, together with the hidden costs to the social services, the health service, the police force, the prisons and the judicial authorities may outweigh the actual costs of a project. That is without taking into account the priceless advantage of people who are given a purpose and satisfaction in place of despair and disintegration.
What is now needed in place of this rather haphazard approach at present evident is, as many noble Lords have already said, a co-ordinated approach to urban policy so that all those concerned with urban priority areas—public and private sector, central government, local authorities and voluntary bodies—can work together to produce a strategy which is effective in responding to the needs of people living in these areas. We have experience already of what works. We can build on good practice. I hear time and again the cry that what we now need are the resources to enable us to do that building. At the same time we do not want a situation in which resources from elsewhere—as, for instance, the rate support grant—are removed, thus undermining work which is already being done.
Change is possible and situations can be altered. People want to feel that their neighbourhoods are worth living in. One such neighbourhood—that of South Seacroft—has produced figures to show that over an 18-month period the number of people 99 wanting to move into it has risen by some 38 per cent. from about 450 to nearly 650. People can be made to feel differently about their neighbourhoods. The causes of that change are probably manifold—repair work on houses, the installation of proper central heating, the policy of moving management and maintenance staff on to estates and the Apex project 100 already mentioned. All these things can give people a sense that they can have a worthwhile life in a worthwhile neighbourhood. Given the political will, the sensitive awareness of needs and skill in meeting them with adequate resources and partnership, people's lives and neighbourhoods in our urban priority areas can be changed.
§ 9.15 p.m.
§ Baroness Gardner of Parkes
My Lords, I should like to thank the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, for giving us the opportunity today of this debate which is of great interest to so many of us. I know how delighted most of the Members of your Lordships' House will be that we have reached the point where I am the last Back-Bench speaker in what has been a very long debate.
My interest in this matter stems from the 18 years from 1968 to 1986. Just last year I finished as an elected member of London's local or regional authority. During that time I have seen many changes in London. Some policy decisions made before this time had a very dramatic effect and in the long term they have proved to have disastrous consequences, especially for inner London.
It was as a result of a regional authority decision that we saw the deliberate forcing out of London of so-called nonconforming industry. This took employment out of London. I can clearly recall cases as varied as firms of musical instrument makers and a small ice-cream factory. They were both classified as nonconforming industry and undesirable in London—the very kinds of things that we are now dying to have back here.
Later the Location of Offices Bureau was too successful in moving businesses out of London. Always job opportunities and frequently skilled people went with those firms. In particular, the loss of manufacturing jobs within London has been disastrous because of the effect on young male unemployment in London today. In London, surveys have shown that there is a mis-match of people's skills and job vacancies. There are high numbers of job vacancies and applications by employers for staff often receive the reply that no one is available or that there is no hope of finding anyone for a particular job. I have had such replies myself, and I have heard about them from others.
The education system of inner London has failed the people of this capital. It has its good points in terms of special schools—I would not complain about that—but it is not ensuring, let alone enabling, each school-leaver to have the basic education in reading and writing that is essential for them to cope with the new jobs now becoming available. In the most deprived area of London 35 per cent. of the 15 year-olds who ought to be at school are truanting. Those are the current figures from the report of the Audit Commission.
The education system also fails in developing an interest in a wide range of jobs. Tourism is a major industry in London now, and the restaurant trade is an important part of that. But how many young men born in London become waiters? Outside London, English waiters and waitresses are the norm, but not so in London. Some prejudice seems to exist against applying for these jobs and others in the service industries. With high youth unemployment, there is a need to look to today's jobs, to approach them with a constructive attitude and to throw away those old-fashioned ideas of "Upstairs, Downstairs".
102 In the area where I have my dental practice the major employers were in printing and bespoke tailoring. Recent years have seen a great shakeout in both those industries, and there were many redundancies. However, after some years of stagnation new industry is moving in now. The area is improving, the buildings are being upgraded and many new firms are doing well. There is an enthusiasm and a feeling of confidence that were lacking for years.
In that area two different types of local authority housing were built just next to my surgery. The first were high-rise tower blocks—the concrete type—and the later ones consisted of four-storey brick buildings, each comprising two maisonettes, the lower with a garden and the upper with a terrace. The tenants in the later units are very happy and the gardens are a mass of spring and summer colour in this part of London's inner city. The tower blocks have extensive underground garages which no one dares to use because the risk is too great for car or driver. The council officer sent on duty to those taller blocks must always wear a safety helmet as he faces a real hazard of empty bottles being thrown at him from high windows.
Clearly these different environments have had an effect on the people in such housing, but there is an excessively and unnecessarily violent reaction to the well-built flats in the tall blocks. These could never be described as hard to let properties. They are in an excellent position and many of the people in homeless accommodation would seize the opportunity if they were offered flats of this type.
Homelessness in London is a major problem and I wonder what research has been done into where the London homeless come from. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Elton, mentioned this point. Most inner London authorities now find themselves in a situation where they have no hope of rehousing anyone from their normal council housing list, because every bit of accommodation that becomes available goes to homeless people who then jump the queue.
In June 1986, in Bayswater hotels there were 1,182 homeless families. They were sent from boroughs all over London simply because that is where the rooms were available. Brent had 156, Camden 220, Tower Hamlets 300. Westminster 315, Haringey 56, Lambeth 35, Newham 25, Hackney 25; and there were an unidentified 50. These figures have come to me not through homeless accommodation sources, but because the London Tourist Convention is rather worried about the loss of the 1,182 rooms as that was the least expensive end of accommodation which they were relying upon for visitors.
But that proportion of homeless families is simply the tip of the iceberg. Those are the number that cannot even be accommodated in whatever homeless accommodation exists within their own boroughs and they are being moved into what is tourist accommodation. I might add that the accommodation is of a far better standard than that described by the noble Baroness, Lady David.
Where do these people come from? Is it the breakdown of family life or the urge to move to 103 London? The city, after all, seems large and exciting. There certainly is a loss of the family as we know it and knew it. In inner London, 31 per cent. of children born in 1984 were to single parent families. In Lambeth, the figure was 42 per cent. Over one-quarter of all those aged 18 or less live in a household where there is only one parent. Because we are a free society people have the right to live where they choose. There are other parts of this country where there is surplus housing. Surely it would be better to bring up a child in a house with a garden out of London than to live, sometimes for a long time, in unsuitable bed and breakfast accommodation.
The noble Baroness, Lady David, made the point that not all the homeless are unemployed, and I think that is true. But many are unemployed and where a family is in receipt of full financial support from the DHSS and has no job prospects in London it must be wise to consider moving to a more attractive place. I appreciate that we do not and would not direct anyone to a particular place to live, but I wonder: is there any central register of available surplus accommodation, and are local authorities in inner cities able to suggest such alternatives?
There is an amazingly high turnover of occupancy in London. I think Members of this House may be surprised to know that of the 1,600,000 consumers in the London Electricity Board area, 350,000 change every year. That is a turnover of 21 per cent. and it is an indication of how difficult it would be for London local authorities to maintain registers for the newly proposed domestic rates or for their replacement.
The noble Lord, Lord Pitt, passed a remark about the rates in London and how the burden is falling more and more on those who are left behind. But the fact is that inner London domestic ratepayers only meet 17 per cent. of the cost of services, and commercial ratepayers meet 49 per cent. of the cost of those same services. Therefore the costs have fallen very heavily upon the commercial ratepayers in London.
The decline in the Church itself must be a factor in the breakdown of the family. I notice that in the very frank report Faith in the City it is stated on page 33, speaking of attendances per parish, that the lowest attendances are in council estates and in inner city residential areas. There seems to be a relationship, therefore, between the strength of the Church and these areas. On page 73 it also mentions that the survival of the Church itself may be threatened in some areas. I therefore welcomed the statements of the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury, who told us of plans to make funds available from other sources to help the more deprived areas. I am sure that that will be appreciated.
Paragraph 4.2 of the report states:Although we were encouraged by the positive view of UPA ministry taken by respondents to our Clergy Survey, we have to report that many people we spoke to claimed that unless the Church of England acts quickly and decisively it will cease to exist in any effective form in many UPAs".The report continues:We were reminded by others that this warning was not a new one, and that the parochial system has a remarkable capacity for ensuring survival against the odds".104 Perhaps we can leave that concern to the right reverand Prelates to deal with.
The breakdown of the family is, I believe, one of the major causes of today's problems. Years ago my surgery was surrounded by small terraced houses 300 years old, often with only one cold water tap on the bottom floor. The buildings were bad—perhaps one could say they were very bad—but the community spirit was strong and I believe that that meant much more than the physical surroundings. Greater affluence and better buildings have not retained the valuable neighbourhood feeling that the noble Lord, Lord Soper, referred to so clearly.
There is also a great move now for care in the community, and this is throwing a tremendous burden on to local authorities. It is extremely difficult because the resources are not adequate for such community care. There is a great tendency for all governments to pass legislation in vast quantities giving more and more statutory responsibilities to all local authorities but never providing the means that match the extra responsibilities.
The Audit Commission's Occasional Paper No. 2, which I referred to earlier, draws our attention to the management problems of the eight most deprived London Boroughs, five of them in inner London. It is a very revealing document and it makes clear that efficiency in local government can mean almost 20 per cent. difference in rent collection; 20 weeks to re-let a property or, if minor repairs are required, over 26 weeks; and further interesting facts such as that jobbing roof repairs in London cost 70 per cent. more than they do outside London. Page 11 of that report, which I will not go into, contains proposals for improvement.
This debate calls for a partnership between local authorities and the people who live and work in inner cities. Government will to see improvement is probably the easiest to obtain. Finding members of the local community who are prepared to join in and give their time to such a partnership is not easy. However, it can be done. In many cases it is necessary to have a paid organiser to find recruits and co-ordinate efforts of local people until their level of interest and involvement is raised to a point where a community feeling is generated and they can carry on spontaneously. The right reverend Prelate who spoke shortly before me mentioned this in his speech.
The noble Lord, Lord Mellish, told us of the community liaison officer in the docklands. We have all seen the great success of the LDDC. There, public grant of £289 million has been accompanied by private money to the extent of £1.5 billion and 8,000 new jobs have been created. I have seen the Beckton wasteland which was under my planning control at county hall now turned into an area full of delightful family homes.
The Audit Commission's paper makes a number of excellent recommendations about councillors. It recommends a single flat-rate allowance for all members for the totality of their work to discourage unnecessary committees and meetings. I support that 105 view very strongly. We heard earlier how some councils have proliferated to 100 committees and multiple sub-committees.
At the moment local councillors receive an attendance allowance of £12.70 for up to four hours or £16.70 maximum a day, which is taxable. It is understandable that some are putting in more and more meetings in order to bring that level of remuneration up. It is not appropriate that members who are saddled with huge financial responsibilities should be given what is really a derisory sum for such hard work. It is interesting to hear, as I do from many London councillors, that outer London boroughs are finding very little extra work post-GLC but inner London councils are finding an enormous added burden.
I do not accept all the recommendations of the Audit Commission. It recommends fewer elected members. It compares London with Atlanta, which is not a fair comparison because in the United States local government is mostly well paid. It would be quite different to have well paid elected members there full time. We have always believed in getting our local government through elected councillors on the cheap. Although this has worked well in the past, it is becoming more difficult. The Audit Commission confirms that there is a dearth of experienced councillors, and especially in the deprived boroughs less than 20 per cent. of the councillors had been in office for more than four years.
I listened to all the earlier speeches in the debate and I was impressed by the plea of the noble Lord, Lord Soper, for a return to family values; by the very practical grass-roots comments of the noble Lord, Lord Mellish; and by the awareness of the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, that communities in the inner city must develop support schemes to protect themselves and one another. Those who live in the inner cities imprisoned in their own homes by fear—and I refer particularly to the elderly—will be freed by feeling secure, safe to travel and safe to go out into the community. Above all, we must develop the necessary interest and will. What we have to overcome is that apathetic feeling of giving up which has been referred to in this debate. If we can generate enough of the enthusiasm and hope that the noble Lord, Lord Selsdon, gave us today, this partnership will work.
§ 9.33 p.m.
The Viscount of Falkland
My Lords, when I first began to give thought to what I would say in your Lordships' debate today my mind went back to a chill morning at the end of last year when I made my way up to Muswell Hill to take part in the memorial service to Police Constable Blakelock. It was a surprise engagement. I was replacing somebody much more important than I. I was to represent my party on the platform on that sombre occasion.
The family and the people on the platform met in a small cafe. I was immediately struck by the decency of the bereaved family of Police Constable Blakelock. There is little you can say to people in that state of shock, even though it had been some time since that tragedy. When we were on the platform the police bands played hymns and a very cold wind blew 106 through our clothes. I thought to myself, I have lived 51 years and what a pass this country has come to. Surely the end has been reached. This was the first time I had been brought face to face with the tragedies of our inner cities and the violence and the unreasoning hate which are now evident and are now a danger in our society.
I pondered on these matters. After the service I met police officers, local government officials, ambulance drivers and all kinds of other people, and we had a drink together. I learnt something of the problems of the breakdown of community life in the area which led to that horrific tragedy. I considered that for some time. If community life has broken down to the extent that people have this blind, unreasoning hate so that it is impossible to police them and to get the co-operation one normally expects in a community with self-policing, a feeling of responsibility and a feeling that you belong, something radical and innovative has to be done. That is what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, is calling for today. He is calling for suggestions, but it is difficult to make them.
When I was driving back from that sombre occasion I wondered how the situation had arisen. It was not always like this. How did it build up? What happened to the post-war vision which even I knew about as a boy? We were to have a brave new world, a country with equality, a new classless society, the welfare state and a new feeling that everyone would participate. That was a praiseworthy dream which went wrong, no doubt frustrated by all kinds of external causes. Profound world economic changes forced us, I suppose, to take a more pragmatic view, a more short-term view, and many of those initial aims were lost. With that perhaps began the decline of our communities, particularly those in the inner cities. At all events, there was a remarkable misappraisal and a remarkable misunderstanding of what community life is about. I think that there is a remarkable misunderstanding in the country today though not in your Lordships' House. We have heard today, particularly from the Bishops' Bench, an enormous understanding of what a community means and how it works. The question is how we get back to it.
There were unprecedented population dispersals in the 1950s—some 3 million people between the 1950s and the 1970s. Much of that movement was out from the city centres to the surburbs or the new towns and most of it from the upper end of the socio-economic scale, which left a residue of poor people. We talk in modern terms, but these were poor, disadvantaged people. They were joined by the immigrant groups, who have been described so eloquently by my noble friend Lord Bonham-Carter, and there was an alienation of people who came into communities which were breaking down anyway and who found no place for themselves.
Therefore, we had this movement and the breakdown of communities. But, I suggest it was not only in the inner cities. There was also a breakdown of community feeling outside the cities, in the areas to which people had moved. This applies even in the prosperous South-East, which we glibly compare with the North. Although there are great differences I believe that community life has to some extent broken down in the prosperous areas from where commuters 107 travel every day to London, leaving behind shopping centres and families without much real community life. That was the situation I began to contemplate.
Just before Christmas I had the opportunity of visiting Manchester, my interest having been aroused. I spoke to the chamber of commerce in that area and I was taken on a tour of the city. I knew Manchester quite well in the early 1970s and I was appalled to find the desolation that now exists. There is a lack of energy and a dispirited look in the faces of the people in that town. My guide explained to me why that exists.
I refer also to Liverpool, which I knew very well when I worked for a shipping company. It is now a forbidding place to visit. It is forbidding because of its ill-kept multi-storey buildings. There does not seem to be any rush hour, and there is huge unemployment, most of which seems to be in the public sector. Moreover, since I was there in the early 1970s there has been the very unusual and noticeable loss of edge from the sense of humour of the Liverpudlian which was legendary in our country.
Some of the problems of the 1950s, the misunderstandings and misconceptions of that time, as the Minister pointed out, stemmed from the madness of the high rise blocks, which were dehumanising and provided a high technology environment which was totally miscalculated. Those high rise blocks were supposed to be cheap, easy to maintain, designed to save land and to have all sorts of other benefits. On each of those criteria they failed. Above all they failed in the community because, funnily enough, they went up in the air. I found that in Battersea where I live. In a community, as in olden times, the highest buildings of the town or city are the church and the civic buildings, because they represent the religious and civic rituals of the community that in some way reflect its objective moral values.
I think that sentiment was totally left out of the calculations of the planners. Exacerbated by the influx of ethnic minority groups and the poor, disadvantaged people who remain in the cities, this situation has produced problems such as resulted in the terrifying tragedy of which I was reminded on Muswell Hill that cold morning.
It is difficult for us to think of any solution. The noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, talked about attitudes and I agree with him absolutely that new attitudes are required. He did not amplify that suggestion any further or suggest how we should achieve these new attitudes. I suggest that it will be by radical and creative thinking on an enormous scale.
If I may be allowed to take up the invitation of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, to offer suggestions, I suggest that we need a totally new view of post-industrial land for a start. Perhaps we could take one, two or possibly three well-chosen cities and make an effort to take the whole or part of each city and recreate a community in an environment in which people could work and live within reasonable distance of that work, make a place where people could recognise landmarks and feel that the buildings were on a human scale. This idea may not be fashionable today or concurrent with modern taste but I think that people need something to which they can relate and 108 that has gone from our urban life. We must replace it, regardless of expense.
I am not interested in a cross-Channel tunnel or tax cuts but I am concerned about what happens to people, to my children and to the environment in which they live. How can one live in this country surrounded by the possibilities of violence such as we have seen in recent times? What one identifies in such areas of uncontrollable growth in crime is that there do not seem to be any voluntary controls or standards. I find that situation to some extent in the area in which I live, although it is getting better.
I should like to praise the police in my area of south London because in the past year or so they have begun to walk around in pairs, talk to people in the corner shops and make themselves known in the community. Such is their policy and it encourages me to see it. The police have made a positive effort in Wandsworth, which is my area of London, to make a constructive attempt to enter into the life of the community and I think that is an encouraging sign.
It is easy where I live because there is no immediate danger of the kind of conflict that we have seen in other areas. There are great dangers because crime causes a further exodus from the cities. Those people who can get out will get out. We are then left with more and more disadvantaged people. The problem escalates. We cannot hope that it will just go away. Urgent new research is needed. I do not know how that is set up. I do not know whether it starts with committees, Royal Commissions or in some other way.
I was slightly dispirited by the drift of the Minister's speech. I agreed with his points about the causes of our problems. However, one gets the feeling that the Government are preoccupied with success. He mentioned success several times. He mentioned individual success. Our community is full of people who will never be successful but they are still people and part of our society. The people in the inner cities are those who need enormous help to get back into the mainstream of society. That was the drift of the Church's excellent work, Faith in the City. That was an enormous step forward.
There are some hopeful signs. However, I should like the Government to make a more positive statement and show more positive good will, because we need good will at every level. I was encouraged by the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Elton, who with his customary eloquence, free from the constraints of briefs and so on, gave us some positive ideas. He mentioned John Colchester in his box. It is helpful to be told that there are people who are prepared to spend time under the arches with deprived people. He is right. Teachers should be encouraged to go into deprived areas. Those are the actions which create the new attitudes about which the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, was talking.
That is my humble contribution to the invitation given by the noble and learned Lord. We need new research programmes regardless of cost, because the costs are minimal when compared with what is expended on other useless enterprises. I do not wish to harp on the Channel tunnel, but when we have problems of this magnitude to talk of such expenditure 109 on something which few people want is an insult to one's intelligence.
The debate has been exceptional. I feel it a great privilege to have taken part in it. It would be invidious to pick out any of the points that have been made because they have all been so good. I was struck by the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Northfield, on density. Density is a two-way thing, is it not? Density is a problem, as they found in France. I believe that the Peyrfitte Committee in France found that any city of over 250,000 people produces an extraordinary escalation of social pathology. There was five or six times the average amount of crime in some areas. In France they have tried to keep the population levels in cities below that figure.
We must not forget, however, that density also creates cultural and economic energy. Density and the height of buildings are two important factors. To reduce the size of cities too much takes away the advantages of a city that works well—cultural activities, professional services and other opportunities which it is uneconomic to provide elsewhere.
I understand that the main drift of Faith in the City is that we must find the will to bring the disadvantaged and the poor back to the mainstream of life and that the only way that we can do that is by radical and innovative action and a concerted effort by all involved. That includes bringing in the people themselves. We ought to seek the views of anyone who can help with this problem. Otherwise this country will not be the place in which we want to live.
With the kind of turmoil in the cities that we have today, there is also a great danger of infiltration into cities of people who have a reason to make the agitation there worse. This is very dangerous. We have seen violence and agitation in the cities. It has happened too cleanly and too automatically. There is also a great danger of subversion. I hope that we can build on the optimism which I hope I have brought to a rather desolate picture and produce some radical and innovative steps in the future.
§ 9.50 p.m.
§ Lord Dean of Beswick
My Lords, I should like to commence by expressing my appreciation to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, for moving this Motion and to the lucid and compassionate way in which he brought his talents and his attention to what I am sure many noble Lords will agree is one of the most difficult social problems facing us as a nation. I should also like to express my appreciation to the right reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury for initiating his report and for the tremendous amount of research that has gone into it in order to make people aware of the damage being done on an increasing scale in our big cities and large conurbations.
Certain noble Lords have today called for further research. However, the problems are well identified in the report. It is a little regrettable that the report was in a sense attacked almost before the ink was dry on it. Those who did that have lived to regret it because it was an objective document and not from a political source. I know that noble Lords in general welcome this report and the chance to debate it. There is no 110 question that matters can be allowed to continue as they are. There have to be some new initiatives otherwise our inner cities and inner London will die.
I speak as perhaps one of the last people to join your Lordships' House who spent the majority of his life, until I became an MP, living in an inner city. I took the name Beswick because in the 1950s the Beswick area of Manchester and Moss Side were the two most heavily populated areas of Europe. What makes me disheartened—and I have brought this point to the notice of your Lordships before—is the despair that is now reaching those areas. My industrial experience is of a later date than that of my noble friend who spoke previously. The noble Lord, Lord Ardwick, lived in almost the same area but not at the same time. When I started work in the 1930s trade was on the upswing and the massive engineering factories in Manchester were starting to become active once again. The war was foreseen. In the late 1930s, and just after the war, if one drew a 10-mile radius around Manchester one encompassed more engineering works and engineering employees than any other area in Europe, including the Ruhr. That included Trafford Park, where there were 25,000 people employed in one factory.
However, my Lords, what is happening now? The total area is desolate. What frightens me—and again I have said this before—is that people who normally turn to what I call the responsible political parties are now turning to extreme policies. Unfortunately, we have seen this happening on an increasing scale. They have been warned about this. I do not suppose for one moment that I would agree with all that the present city council in Manchester are doing. However, had I stayed as its leader, I do not think that I could have done anything different, given the scale of the cuts that have been inflicted.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool talked of rate support grant cuts. We know the rate support grant is the main lifeline of a local authority. An authority raises its own rates by poundage; but when this Government took office, 61 per cent. of the RSG was met by government funding. It is now down to 44 per cent. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Young, mentioned the fact that this year the Government were pumping £700 million into the economy in various inner city enterprises. If the rate support grant that was being paid in 1979 was continued, local authorities between them would have had to share a total of not £17 million but £17 billion. That is the scale of what has been taken from them.
The same issue arises in relation to housing. The total public sector housing bill as funded by the Government has been cut by nearly 40 per cent. I must refer to a small part of the report dealing with housing. On page 197 under the heading "Poverty, Employment and Work", it says:It is the poor who have borne the brunt of the recession, both the unemployed and the working poor. Yet it is the poor who are seen by some as 'social security scroungers', or a burden on the country, preventing economic recovery. This is a cruel example of blaming the victim.Much of the rise in welfare spending is a direct consequence of specific government policies. For example, between 1978/79 and 1983/84 central government housing subsidies to council tenants were reduced by 60 per cent.".111 Since 1979 council house rents have increased by 150 per cent. At the time I made the point in another place that what was happening was that the increasing number of people were qualifying for benefit, but an increasing burden was falling on the 50 per cent. of council house tenants who had to meet the full blast of that particular increase.
My noble friend Lady Fisher spoke about the housing investment programme, and this is another denominator. Your Lordships will know that in this House I persistently question the Government's funding of housing investment programmes. The funding has been progressively reduced each year, despite debates in your Lordships' House prior to this on housing, the Duke of Edinburgh's Commission, etc., showing the need for more funding. However, once again this year it is less in real terms and considerably less in percentage terms.
My noble friend Lord Northfield, and other noble Lords, spoke of the new towns. I do not say this in any detrimental manner, but I wonder how many of your Lordships understand the magnitude of the job which faced the big cities in this country after the war. I happened to be involved, and in a small way I helped to run the City of Manchester. I was an elected member, not as an officer, and I helped to start the demolition of 80,000-odd houses. However, because of reducing densities, Liverpool and Manchester had to decant a quarter of a million people from their borders. One of the unfair burdens was that they did not receive the generous treatment given by successive governments to new town developments. Liverpool and Manchester were not allowed to develop to that standard.
I should like to refer to one particular item which graphically illustrates the difference between the new towns and the city councils; namely, landscaping. The maximum that Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield and the London boroughs were allowed to spend on landscaping was £15 per house; but the new towns were allowed to spend five times that amount. People then wonder why we did not do so well in the cities regarding landscaping.
Let me deal with the monstrosities that were built. I hope that I misunderstood the Minister, but I thought that he was trying to apportion blame to particular governments. It was not long ago that in this Chamber—and I think that the noble Lord, Lord Elton, who is present, was Minister at the time—I said that I did not blame the Conservative Government for the monstrosities any more than I blamed the Labour Government, because they were both guilty. The sad fact is that in order to achieve numbers, there was a diminution in quality. However, there was not a diminution in price. Industrialised and semi-industrialised building was forced upon local government by arm-twisting. My noble friend Lord Ardwick referred to a fort. It was I, who as a young councillor coined that word. When I saw the buildings, I said, "Good God! We have a fort in Beswick; all we are short of is Beau Geste!" The newspapers picked it up. The damage was so predictable.
There has been mention of the development in Hulme. The Hulme-Moss Side development in 112 Manchester was the biggest single continuous slum clearance in Europe. It was too big for our city architect so we brought in a firm called Wilson & Womersley who had an international reputation for designing new towns and universities. I hope that I am not mistaken but they were certainly involved in those type of activities. They designed the four crescent-shaped blocks. It was beyond belief. They said that they were like the beautiful crescent development in Bath. We reached a situation where when we supplied transport and took elderly people to vote we had to take them back to their own doors because they could not find their way home on their own. It is unfair to attribute that situation to any particular government because successive Conservative and Labour Governments followed that particular line of thought despite the warnings of local authorities.
§ Lord Young of Graffham
If the noble Lord reads my speech tomorrow in Hansard he will see that I carefully blamed not one government, but the system.
§ Lord Dean of Beswick
I accept what the Minister says. However, my Lords, what is the answer? It is not only housing that is the problem. When my original factory closed down, I was able, by virtue of the fact that I was a skilled engineer, to travel across Manchester and find another job. I doubt whether I could do that now; I doubt whether the opportunity would be present if I was still in that area. However, that was the situation at the time. There is no possibility of people switching employment because there is no employment.
I must point out to the Secretary of State that while I accept that there is something very desirable in training youngsters for two years for a job, there could be nothing crueller than to inflict upon them the delusion that there is the guarantee of a job at the end of their training. When I heard it said that two years' training may guarantee a job for life I thought that it was the ultimate in ridiculous nonsense.
What worries me is that I and people like me moved only about three miles from that particular area, but it made a world of difference. It was a totally different environment. I was above it. However, because I was the secretary of the Labour club in the area, I used to spend my political life there and I could see it slowly swealing away and nobody bothered.
Like other speakers—some on the Government side—I say to the Government that there is no point in their pursuing any policy unless they accept the fact that large sums of government money will be made available to act as a catalyst to the private sector causing them to act—to use the words of the noble and learned Lord who opened the debate—on a partnership basis. I also have to say this: while I accept there may be some case for enterprise areas and urban development corporations, one needs to be a little careful about that if one is excluding local authorities.
I am here because I lost an election. In opening the debate the noble and learned Lord made reference to the fact that this is perhaps the best forum for this particular type of debate. He may well be right. Your Lordships' House is something of a contradiction, because there are Members of your Lordships' House 113 from every sector of the community. It might be said that I come off the lower shelf, but I am not ashamed of that. But the noble Lord has not been elected here. He took an elected Member's name from somewhere else.
The noble Lord mentioned the name of Mr. Livingstone. I do not think I have ever spoken to Mr. Livingstone although we are members of the same party, and I do not support most of the policies that he, as Councillor Livingstone, initiated across the river. In fact, I was surprised when I knew he had left office and left £170 million in the kitty. If I had been running Manchester, as any sensible person would in any other authority I would have spent that money on services. It would not have been left to anybody else.
The Government have to realise that some 35 per cent. to 40 per cent. of the electorate vote in local elections. They vote for councillors. If a government thinks that because the voters do not elect the council the government like, they will act in an autocratic manner and impose an urban development corporation, that is a very dangerous precedent indeed. In the distant fututre the situation may swing the other way and people may just as well disregard the fact that certain councils have turned Conservative.
I remember during the lifetime of the last Labour Government a small education authority in Manchester, Tameside, took on the Government and won its case. The Labour Government accepted the victory of Tameside. They did not immediately bring in a Bill to change the law to what they thought the position was before the case started; they accepted the verdict of the court. So it is a very difficult situation that we face. I do not see the urban development corporation as a total entity. One has to have regard to the local authority irrespective of who it is.
It may be that by a strange coincidence I have implied criticism of the present Manchester City Council. But I did not elect them; the citizens of Manchester elected them. It is strange that over the past few years the Conservative Party—who were always a substantial body in the Manchester City Council, and for four years from 1967 to 1971 were actually in control—are now almost completely non-existent. I wonder why that is. Those who are running Manchester City Council did not vote themselves in; the electors did so. One has to be very careful in a non-democratic forum such as this when saying what people who have voted somebody into office should do. I do not think it would do our reputation good in the long run to be seen to be interfering in that.
Whenever I have been asked to speak on democracy I have always said that democracy is marvellous, but it is better when you are winning than losing. You have to accept the fact that you are going to lose. I suspect that the Government are not acting in accordance with those beliefs. There is no doubt at all under the existing Government centralisation has become more the order of the day, and it is bad. It is bad for the people, who then begin to understand that they have nobody to complain to because they are not in control of the situation.
I have spoken about unemployment. I have made my way out of the centre of the city of Manchester; but what worries me is that other people are still trapped 114 there. The point was made that the younger ones who are still there and able to work are carrying a tremendously unfair burden looking after an ageing population. That is not something that, as a society, we ought to be proud of, because it is an awful situation to be placed in. I cannot see it improving unless there is a dramatic rethink of the condition as a whole.
I take the view that the City of London is the heart of the nation and that the main conurbations are the vital glands in the nation as a corporate body, and they are grinding to a halt. These are not my figures. They are available to anybody who wishes to get them from government sources. Through the cuts that have been imposed the Government stand to be accused of switching off a large part of the life support machine that the inner city of London and the other conurbations require to keep them going.
§ 10.12 p.m.
§ Lord Skelmersdale
My Lords, this has been a thoroughly useful and thought-provoking debate, just as one would expect from one introduced by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman. It was remarkably apolitical until we heard the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Dean. I estimate that if I covered all noble Lords they would get rather less than a minute each, so with your Lordships' permission I shall not. Your Lordships' speeches have brought out the fact that the problems of our inner city areas are complex and deep rooted. I must say that I very nearly packed up and went home when I heard the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Mellish. I hope that what I have to say will be relevant to parts at least of every speech.
§ Lord Mellish
My Lords, will the noble Lord allow me? Why did he want to pack up? Did the noble Lord think that I had finished the argument, or what?
§ Lord Skelmersdale
I meant, my Lords, that I was able to rip out great sections of things that I should have liked to say.
§ Lord Skelmersdale
My Lords, now that we have disposed of that particular matter, I agree with the noble and learned Lord that too many of our urban areas are disfigured by the results of the misdirected solutions of past years. It was the most reverend Primate who mentioned Skelmersdale. This was a new town on a greenfield site and one, not surprisingly, that I have visited on several occasions. The government of the day tried to persuade businesses to go to a place they did not want to go to in the first place. Some businesses were attracted, it is true, but it was the first place where those who did go sought to make cuts when they rationalised in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Not only businesses but all too often the solutions of the past left people out of the equation and substituted social engineering for free will and enterprise. I believe that this came to an end at roughly the time that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, was engaged in writing his report on the tragic and shameful riots 115 in Brixton. We are now, I equally believe, reversing this process by extending home ownership; by encouraging retraining and self-employment; by making our children's education more relevant to their needs in the world of work; by re-emphasising the need for effective law and order; by encouraging the people of our cities to play a full part in building their communities; and by giving them tenant power in management of their local authority estates. I agree straight away that there is still a long way to go.
I can tell the noble Lords, Lord Alport and Lord Dean, that although I sometimes dislike things that are said by other people—Faith in the City not excluded—I would defend to the death their right to say them. You cannot build brick without straw, and the straw of employment is training. Of course there is unemployment in our old industrial centres, which by definition are mostly in the North. But I should also include such places in the South as the Medway towns, Bristol, which I know rather better, and Cardiff.
It is there, wherever these decayed inner cities are, that restructuring has been needed, as my noble friend Lord Young said in his opening speech. Furthermore, the oft-maligned rate support grant redistributes about £1 billion a year from rich London and the South-East, as it is often described, to the North and the Midlands. The message of Faith in the City, which most noble Lords have had at least in the back of their minds in their contributions to this debate, is that we must not allow prosperity to pass by our inner cities and their residents. That is why we are taking positive action to restore the competitiveness of these areas.
My noble friend Lord Selsdon is quite right. We shall not do this by injecting vast amounts of public money into these areas in the hope that this of itself will pull these areas round. Nor shall we achieve regeneration by directing firms where they do not wish to go. I cannot agree with the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, that firms need to be obliged to take a certain percentage of local labour, yet this suggestion was made at the very time when the Government are committed to acting on restrictive practices in local authority contracts. These approaches have not worked in the past and I cannot see with the benefit of history how they can be expected to work in the future.
§ Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge
My Lords, the Secretary of State made it perfectly clear time and again—and we all agreed with him—that it is essential that people should feel they are doing these things for themselves. That is the point. If you have contractors in and outside people doing the work, that is completely lost. What the noble Lord has said is absolutely wrong.
§ Lord Skelmersdale
Right, my Lords. Perhaps the noble Lord will in future not describe me as a grey Minister who never puts his head over the parapet.
As Faith in the City reports:The real need is for a thriving local economy to be developed which can offer employment".My noble friend Lord Young outlined what his department is doing to bring this about. This approach 116 is at the root of our employment policy and the range of urban initiatives we have developed since 1979.
I only wish that our efforts to secure urban regeneration and the cost-effective use of resources were matched by those of local authorities. The Faith in the City report says that the reports of the,Audit Commission provide sufficient evidence that there is wastefulness and extravagance in the way some (not all) urban authorities meet local needs. Clearly this needs remedying".That I must point out was written well before the Audit Commission report which was published last week and which we shall consider as part of our debate on Wednesday.
Your Lordships can hardly have missed it. The Audit Commission's recently published report draws attention to the wasteful and incompetent way in which eight boroughs in London are conducting their affairs. They happen to be Labour-controlled, but as an independent body of the highest professional standing the commission is impartial, and the Government would have been equally condemnatory had these councils been controlled by any other party or even hung. Nonetheless, it is inevitable that political capital will be made out of it.
The commission, though, is above politics. Its responsibilities are for the audit of local government acounts and for helping authorities to achieve better value for money. Its words are studied and careful; yet the picture which emerges from this report is one of gross inefficiency and appalling mismanagement seriously compounding the problems which these inner city areas already face.
Tonight is not the time to go into details. Suffice it to say that the auditors have already drawn the attention of councillors in these boroughs to the serious problems and identified specific opportunities for efficiency and improvements amounting to about £100 million per year. That is £100 million per year to reduce the need for borrowing or to spend on better services. This money is currently being wasted on gross inefficiency. As the commission says, firms will not invest where they lack confidence in the local authority's management, and more public funds will not generate returns. There simply will be more waste.
I listened, not for the first time, with rapt attention to my noble friend Lord Bellwin describing the American experience in some but not all of their inner city areas. I have not been there but I can hazard a guess that they are the areas where the "can do" attitude is most strongly developed. That is what we must somehow generate in Liverpool and other inner city areas.
I was interested to hear the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, say that it is a failure—I think I got his words correctly—that financing has not yet been taken out of the local government field. My noble friend Lord Bellwin and the noble Lord, Lord Mellish, referred to the urban development corporations. Next week I shall be introducing in your Lordships' House the order setting out the first of four new urban development corporations; that in Trafford Park. Nothing shows so vividly what can be done to bring back life to an area than the transformation of London's docklands. Through the London Dockland Development Corporation we have restored to 117 productive use nearly 900 acres of derelict land. We have built nearly 4,000 houses and flats, and another 3,000 are on the stocks. And, my Lords, that is being done without the local authorities; so perhaps there is a lesson here.
Returning to those houses, 40 per cent. are for local people, who, as the noble Lord, Lord Mellish, regularly points out, are almost begging to be able to live there. This proves the point that unless you can motivate people, not one penny of public investment will do the slightest good. So the Government have done exactly the right thing by investing about £275 million of public money in the area along with, arguably, the best leverage of any scheme anywhere in the country. Private investment so far is some £1,600 million.
No one would pretend that the transformation of the London docklands can be reproduced everywhere up and down the land, but there are lessons to be learned from its success that can be applied elsewhere. It is vital to win the confidence and co-operation of industry and commerce in reviving urban areas. With their help, morale can be boosted and investments attracted to the point at which success is self-sustaining. That is an objective of the new town corporations.
It need not take massive spending to achieve this goal. In Birmingham's jewellery quarter and in Nottingham's lace market, for example, the Government have helped local authorities to turn round rundown commercial areas into thriving business communities, largely by improving the environment and helping firms to upgrade their own premises. Companies quickly respond to this sort of small-scale initiative. This is done principally, but not entirely, as we know, by using the urban programme which is designed to direct specific grant to benefit the local authority, to improve the local environment and to encourage self-help.
No, my Lords, the urban programme has not been cut; I can assure the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool about that. It has in fact doubled in real terms since 1978–79. I can also tell the noble and learned Lord that it is not being phased out. It is true, however, that the management of the programme has been radically overhauled over the last two years. Each project requires performance indicators, measurement of financial and other inputs and financial and other outputs. And targets must be set.
Emphasis has shifted to supporting projects that require capital rather than current expenditure, that are part of a coherent local strategy and that are combined together so that different aspects of an area's problems are tackled simultaneously. As the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Ripon will know, such projects adapt that most valuable of resources, the church buildings, to what our Victorian ancestors would have called perhaps less conventional uses.
I believe that the urban programme is now one of the best managed Whitehall spending programmes. About 12,000 projects are supported at any one time and there is an annual turnover of about 3,000. This year, 1986–87, the urban programme is providing 26,800 jobs, 1,680 new industrial starter units, 29,000 training places through as many as 12,000 projects in 118 nearly 80 areas. This is a success story in anybody's book.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool, the noble Lord, Lord Pitt, and the noble Lord, Lord Dean, argued that increased special funding for inner cities was more than offset by cuts in rate support. I suggest that this is not borne out by the facts. The metropolitan areas stand—
§ Lord Dean of Beswick
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for giving way. Is the Minister saying that a cut of £17 billion since 1979 has had no effect on the inner cities?
§ Lord Skelmersdale
My Lords, I ask the noble Lord please to wait for the argument before he starts to criticise what I am saying. The metropolitan areas stand to receive £240 million more rate support grant next year and London £100 million more than in the current year. The share of grant going to inner cities has also increased. Authorities with urban programme partnership and programme status get 24 per cent. of national block grant compared with a steady 20 per cent. between 1981–82 and 1985–86. It is not just in terms of rate support grant that the Government assist deprived areas. Taking one example, central government assistance to Merseyside is running at over £1 billion a year.
The right reverend Prelate said that urban problems will not be resolved without more money, and that is exactly why we have increased resources in real terms through, for example, urban development grant, derelict land, urban development corporations, and, the most exciting one of all, the Housing Corporation, which has had a real increase of 9 per cent. since 1979. Two-thirds of Housing Corporation support is now given to housing associations in hard-pressed urban areas, which is exactly what this debate would call for.
The noble Baroness, Lady David, asked me not to mention the additional £390 million for local authority housing next year, but I simply must disappoint her. The planned level of local authority capital spending on housing for 1987–88 is £2.92 billion, which is £390 million more than the corresponding figure for 1986–87. That is a genuine increase—
§ Baroness David
My Lords, will they actually have all that to spend or is it, as I am told from every side, that they will have 80 per cent. of what they had in 1985?
§ Lord Skelmersdale
My Lords, when the noble Baroness says that the HIP programme for this coming financial year is 80 per cent. of what it was last year, she is absolutely right. But the point I was making was that the total amount of spend on local authority housing is going up by £390 million and that is an undeniable fact.
Various noble Lords mentioned support for the voluntary sector, which has increased greatly through a range of government programmes. For example, under the urban programme nearly £80 million will go this year to support projects run by voluntary groups for the benefit of local people. This reflects one of the Government's urban policy objectives, which is to 119 strengthen the social fabric of the inner city and reduce individuals' dependence on public services. We have to help people to help themselves. In passing, I make the point that I cannot envisage the day when any government of any political persuasion are told that they have overprovided for the voluntary sector.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool, in a wide-ranging speech, said that improving our inner cities is not just a question of bricks and mortar. It is about winning the hearts and minds of the people who live there. We would all agree with that. This is particularly true for those members of the community who, for one reason or another, and often a combination of reasons, are at a disadvantage in the jobs and housing market. Racial disadvantage still exists to a marked degree in our cities and in all walks of life. Rooting out prejudice is a long-term task and not one that can be accomplished solely by legislation or by introducing new programmes.
Nonetheless, I am proud of an amendment that your Lordships put into last years' Housing and Planning Act to outlaw racial discrimination in the planning system. We are considering how we can extend this into the field of housing. That amendment was based on a simple government policy—to enable all groups in our inner cities to compete on an equal footing and to give individuals a stake in their community. This means supporting the efforts of voluntary groups which do a great deal, often unsung, to promote self-help in our inner cities.
The noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, reminded me of my own visit to Broadwater Farm some eight months before PC Blakelock's tragic death to see community work in action—the local rent office, the youth common room, the community shops and so on. I think it is a salutary tale for us all that events there proved that all this is not always enough. It is a salutary lesson indeed.
Several noble Lords referred to the problem of homelessness. People become homeless for a variety of reasons, but there is no doubt that it is a particular problem in some of our inner cities—particularly London. Although we all know the story of Dick Whittington, London's streets are not paved with gold. It is by no means automatic that a job will be forthcoming. Indeed, without the skills that are in demand, it is unlikely, to say the very least.
My noble friend Lord Elton, and indeed other noble Lords, asked about the breakdown of the figures for homelessness. I had the honour to make a speech recently in your Lordships' House when I described that matter fairly fully. But I should say that a survey of homelessness in the third quarter of 1986 discovered from 56,450 inquiries that 6,480 were in bed and breakfast accommodation. That is about 11.5 per cent. However, I suspect that further research will discover that this is a smaller percentage than is actually suggested.
I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter, totally misunderstood the central Thrust of the speech of my noble friend Lord Young. We shall only solve the housing and homelessness problems by seeing to it that public expenditure on housing by local authorities and housing associations is realistic and targeted and 120 that all finance, whether public, private or charitable, is properly used. The Audit Commission has again brought out the considerable improvements in the management of housing stock which could be undertaken by local authorities.
We have to encourage local authorities to carry out their responsibilities effectively by concentrating and maximising their resources. It must be wrong that rent arrears in England stood at over £200 million in the middle of last year—5.7 per cent. of the annual rent collectable. Arrears of this magnitude are an affront to the homeless.
§ Lord Bonham-Carter
My Lords, if the noble Lord reads paragraphs 57 and 58 of the occasional paper of the Audit Commission, he will that find that, while it recommends that the better management of local authorities is a matter of great importance, capital expenditure by government—central expenditure—is essential if the problems of local authorities with homelessness and other housing problems are to be solved.
§ Lord Skelmersdale
My Lords, I am not denying that; I have tried very hard not to deny it. What I am saying and have been saying all along is that what we should look at is not the expenditure of one sector or another. We should look at the total expenditure being made. That comprises the whole mass, and I do not think that we can look at any particular part in isolation.
I must conclude shortly, but the noble Baroness, Lady David, took us to task on our first reactions as a result of the department's survey on the homeless.
§ Lord Skelmersdale
The noble Baroness is quite right. She took us to task for saying that we shall be recruiting an environmental health officer to advise the department and to help prepare and publicise examples of good practise, suggesting that that was the only environmental health officer in the country.
§ Lord Skelmersdale
That is what it suggested to me. There are, as the noble Baroness pointed out, 431 local authorities in this country and they all employ environmental health officers. The complaint has been that the Government have not understood what environmental health officers are telling them. Who better to advise government than one of their own fraternity, so to speak? It is absolutely right that we should employ one such officer.
The problems of our inner cities did not spring up overnight, nor can they be instantly tackled. We have to develop a series of carefully targeted initiatives such as I have described to bring back life to urban areas by attracting industry and commerce and reviving people's morale. Events like the garden festivals in Liverpool and Stoke and on a smaller scale the Notting Hill carnival show that urban areas possess the vivacity and dynamism which are a prerequisite of regeneration.
121 But grand designs and unbridled spending are not the answers. Equally, as His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh said, you cannot go on a bender and not expect a hangover. We are still living with the effects of that hangover—the so-called comprehensive planning experiments of the 1960s and 1970s. As my noble friend Lord Bellwin said, we shall not cure them overnight. Thank goodness we have got away from the nanny state and have put people back into the equation.
§ Lord Scarman
My Lords, after the political exchanges of the past 35 to 40 minutes I am returning thankfully to intone a quiet lullaby in the presence of the Lords spiritual before I go to bed.
When I opened this debate I said that I hoped it would provide your Lordships with an opportunity to put forward suggestions and constructive ideas for resolving this very difficult problem. I have sat throughout the whole of the debate and have heard everything except one remark by the noble Earl, Lord Longford, when most unfortunately I was being detained in conversation by a member of his own party, a former Lord Chancellor. With the exception of that one comment—and I shall seek through the usual channels to find out what it was—I have heard everything, at least everything that my somewhat impaired hearing enables me to hear or to choose what to hear and what not to hear.
I must say that your Lordships have leapt splendidly to the opportunity of expressing suggestions and ideas for solving this problem. Not only should we all be grateful for a debate as interesting as this but I think that there will be much in the Official Report of this debate to interest the citizens of our country, all those—and there are very many—who are interested in getting a solution to the problem of urban decline and decay.
The other hope that I expressed was that we should get some indication of government policy in the long-term and government actions and proposals. We have has substantial speeches from the noble Lords, Lord Young of Graffham and Lord Skelmersdale, and we are able now to consider, perhaps critically, at our leisure how the Government see the problem and how they are dealing with it. The debate, therefore, has been a successful one. It has certainly been a long debate.
I was hoping that at one point we might have in this Chamber a majority present of Lords spiritual, but we never quite got there. I had hoped that the dinner hour might take away the more wordly laymen and leave the Lords spiritual, me and the noble Lord on the Woolsack, but that did not happen. However, the presence of the Lords spiritual has been of great symbolic importance. They, by their presence here, have represented the pastoral care of the Church for the people of the inner cities. I happen to know that pastoral care is a reality in the inner cities. Christian churches and the leaders of other religions are ceaselessly at work trying in their way, pastorally, to build up that community of people which so many speakers have emphasised.
The Church has a great function to play. The voluntary organisations have a great role to play; and 122 I think that the House was particularly impressed by the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Selsdon. They are the local leaders who can build or rebuild the communities that we want. I do not see why the teaching profession should not make it a dedicated purpose to live more or less in the places where they teach and to take part in the social life of the families whose children they teach. I do not see why the professional people, the business people, should not live there and play a social part.
In order to get such a community going, great resources and great skill and thought have to be developed by central government, local government and private enterprise towards the physical restructuring of the inner cities, improving their appearance and their efficiency. It is indeed a complex problem, rebuilding a community in an old, decaying but often beloved neighbourhood. It can be done if we have the partnership of which the Motion speaks and of which all your Lordships, irrespective of party or view, temporal and spiritual, have acclaimed as the ultimate necessity, even though, as the noble Lord, Lord Mellish, pointed out with a little acid reality, one has to give some detail as to how one is to get it.
I have given an indication as to how that might be done. It does mean a co-operative element by everyone. We are concerned with places, but only because in those places there are people. It is people with whom we are concerned. It is the quality of the community of those people which will ultimately be the salvation, if it is to come at all, of our inner cities. As Faith in the City says, who can tell what Brixton or Toxteth will be like in 30 or 50 years?
One thing is certain. We will make no progress unless people in the inner cities get our confidence and our support. I do not think it is necessary, after so exhaustive a debate, for me to move for Papers. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.
§ House adjourned at fifteen minutes before eleven o'clock.