HL Deb 22 May 1991 vol 529 cc269-312

4.57 p.m.

Baroness Seear rose to call attention to the social and economic consequences of the continuing neglect of the inner cities, and the need for new policies based on partnership between public, private and voluntary sectors to promote regeneration; and to move for Papers.

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, perhaps I may say how delighted and honoured I am that the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury has chosen this debate on which to make his maiden speech and how much we all look forward to benefiting from his remarks to us.

Throughout history and across the globe, people have voted with their feet in favour of cities. They are attracted to the bright lights and to the possibilities of interesting living. Indeed, the word "city" links with our idea of civilisation. Throughout time the greatest developments of the human spirit have come from cities. One can think of the names of great cities: Alexandria, Athens, Rome, Jerusalem, Vienna, Paris and even London. Civilisation has developed in those places and people have rejoiced in the benefits which have come from it. It should still be the same today. Cities are intrinsically good places in which to live.

That makes it all the worse that today we are talking about our inner cities as serious problems. No part of a city should be a problem. Yet it is undoubtedly true that that is what inner cities are. We need to do something urgently. I am not denying that over the past 10 years, when we first started talking about the problems of the inner cities, a number of initiatives have been taken and attempts launched to deal with the problems. The attempts have been so numerous that it would be impossible to mention them all this afternoon. In many cases they have not been particularly well co-ordinated. Quite a lot of money has been put into the schemes and a large number of well-meaning people have attempted to improve conditions.

I am not denying that progress has been made in some places: there has been progress. Nonetheless, the outcome of all the work that has been done recently has left us still with an acute problem inside the inner cities. Today, just as 10 years ago—I am not trying to produce exact and comparable figures because they do not exist—unemployment in the inner cities is far higher than in the country as a whole. Homelessness and deplorable standards of housing are far worse in the inner cities than in the country as a whole. Crime rates are far higher. In the great majority of cases educational opportunities for children born in inner cities are far inferior to those for children in the rest of the country. That cannot be a record of which we can be proud if we are claiming that we have attempted to do something about the problem over the last 10 years.

Some of the inner cities have reached such a deplorable state that, as an internationally known expert on the subject put it not long ago, they are places where the Rottweilers go around in pairs. That being so, surely we have to accept that new initiatives are required if we are to break out of this tragic and despicable situation.

The debate is timely, for we read only this morning that the Government are launching, I believe tomorrow, a new inner city initiative. We do not know yet what it will contain. No doubt the articles and the information of which we have been informed have pressed the Government and convinced them that further action is now necessary. We look forward with great expectation and modified hope that what the Government will now bring forward will produce better results than we have had in the past. One must continue to hope. I notice that noble Lords on the Opposition Front Bench shake their head. But one must never give up hope.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

Wait and see.

Bareness Seear

We need to learn from the experience of the past 10 years. It is absolutely essential that any developments in the inner cities and any attempts to improve the position must be based on the understanding that the people resident there have to support the efforts. They have to feel that the developments are what they themselves want and are prepared to support, that their ideas and proposals are seriously considered and that they are directly and personally involved in any changes. Surely that is one of the lessons we have learnt—namely, that anything which is imposed from the outside, even with nominal consultation and some degree of nominal agreement, is not the same as finding ways in which people living in the areas can themselves say what they want done and participate in seeing that it is done.

We also have to recognise that the policy of trickle-down simply has not worked; the idea that, if the rest of the community improves and has a higher standard of living, growth rates get better and prosperity grows, somehow or other out of that will come comparable improvements in the inner city areas. That has not happened. It is part of the over-simplification of the market theory that it can just be left to the market, ignoring the many obstacles that stop the market working, apart from anything else. That policy stops the market having the results that we wish for in the inner cities. Let us abandon any idea that the problems can be left to the policy of trickle-down.

If that is so, it means that there must be organised and accepted ways of channelling more resources into the inner cities to be used in a way which is acceptable and approved by the people in those areas. The need for more resources is inevitable. It cannot be said that it can be left alone and that developments will nevertheless follow if special action is not taken. Special action has to be taken.

It will be said that such action has been taken in the past. Up to a point that is so, but not successfully. We need organised local development agencies in order to supervise and channel the resources that can be made available for the development of the inner cities. They should be along the lines of what is available in Scotland and Wales for development in those larger regions. An organisation of that kind is necessary if the inner cities are to recover.

The organisation must concern itself with the much more successful development of the partnership which we all talk about as being essential and to which we all pay lip service—the partnership between the statutory, private and voluntary sectors. They must work together under the direction of a development agency in order to resurrect the inner cities. They must work closely with organisations that already exist in the inner cities, particularly those which have been set up by he people who live in them. I also suggest neighbourhood councils of one kind or another which can be connected to the work of development agencies.

There has to be a real partnership. That has not existed in the past. If partnership means anything, the partners have to be able to trust each other. All the partners should be consulted, including the private and voluntary sectors, whether they really have trust in the partnership with the public sector at the present time. Often the greatest difficulty experienced by the private and voluntary sectors is in knowing which government department they can go to and on whose word they can rely. A one-stop shop in the government departments would be tremendously helpful. At present one department gives one story, the inquiry is passed on to another and one does not know where one stands in trying to get a scheme going.

Even more important is this. When there is support from a government department and from the statutory sector, it is necessary to know that it will continue for a reasonable period of time, and a reasonable period of time is not just 12 months. No private sector body or voluntary organisation can pursue plans satisfactorily if at the end of 12 months, or even before that, it cannot be sure that the resources will be renewed. That has been the situation again and again. Long-term contracts are needed, backed by government departments on which reliance can be placed. I know that other speakers today will go into more detail about the position of the private sector.

I wish to speak in particular about the voluntary sector in relation to the inner cities. Short-term contracts have wrought havoc with that sector. If one is to be successful in the inner cities one has to use the voluntary sector, just as the Government have recognised that they have to use non-governmental organisations in overseas work. I refer in particular to the parts of the voluntary sector rooted in the inner cities which are doing work of special importance to the inner cities.

One area of particular importance is the provision of training of the kind that is needed for disadvantaged people in inner city areas. In proportion to other parts of the country, inner cities are heavily loaded with people who in one way or another are disadvantaged: disadvantaged members of ethnic minorities; disadvantaged because of physical disabilities; or disadvantaged because of social disabilities. Those people need special help with training because without training they cannot get jobs and as long as they stay in the inner cities they will be a burden on that area rather than helping in its further development.

However, the voluntary sector organisations which have been providing training—NACRO, APEX and the Rathbone Society —have all had their resources so cut back that they have had to decimate (perhaps that is an exaggeration) or in many cases have had to reduce by half, the people whom they employ to do this work. The schemes that they have launched and which have been working satisfactorily have had to close. That is no way to develop the inner cities. If we accept this collaboration, this partnership, it must be on a long-term basis which can be sustained and which will survive and where all the partners have confidence each in the other. That, frankly, does not exist at the present time.

I am especially asking the Government to look at the position of the voluntary organisations and the work that they are doing in the inner cities. Perhaps it is not too late to reverse the damage that has been done by the cut-back in resources to those organisations. If they mean business with the inner cities they must mean business with the voluntary organisations. That is the major line of advance if we are to get anywhere in the regeneration of the inner cities.

I have talked about special schemes which have to be introduced to help revive the inner cities. These ought only to be temporary arrangements. Our main objective must be to develop inner cities so that they again become—and I mean again—places where people want to live: people from all sectors of the community and of all levels of income and interest. Then there will again be various rich communities in those areas which will provide the finance—a great deal. depends on money—and the leadership to make those cities again a delight to live in. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.

5.12 p.m.

The Archbishop of Canterbury

My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, has drawn attention in her persuasive speech to the serious needs of the inner city. Her command of the facts and her passion in presenting them provide a lesson for any preacher, and I have great admiration for her. As she has already shown, the problems in our inner cities are vast and growing. I feel a passion for this subject since I am a product of the inner city and feel a deep commitment to it. I inherit from my predecessor, the noble Lord, Lord Runcie, a continuing concern to follow up the report Faith in the City which he commissioned. But even more than that, I want to affirm the sheer presence of the Church in the areas we are talking about, the day-by-day ministry of the clergy and their congregations, whose loyalty to their communities and to God bring hope to places which are otherwise depressing.

A day or so after my enthronement at Canterbury just a month ago, one of my family heard the service referred to as the Archbishop's "entombment". I was rather attracted by that description, for Christian ministry must involve cost and death if the hope of resurrection is ever to be preached. But too many people in our inner cities and outer housing estates often feel entombed, trapped in a downward cycle of poverty and deprivation which they seem unable to stop, and which soon leads to life being drained from them. Deprivation leads to lethargy and despair and no Christian can be content with that.

All of us here in this Chamber today share that discontent. In dealing with it I find myself attracted to two words in the Motion of the noble Baroness—partnership and regeneration. Indeed, she has already charted out the direction of my speech. It is right to see any solution to this problem in terms of partnership. In this I promise the full co-operation of my Church. We are there on the ground, sometimes struggling, but not giving up even when the going gets difficult. There has been a shift of resources to help our ministry in recent years through the projects—there are now more than 360 of them—established with the help of the Church Urban Fund.

In these projects central government, local government, ecumenical bodies, voluntary societies and business all co-operate with the local church. These are local initiatives given wider backing to encourage hope in the city. Let me give noble Lords a few examples: there is a drop-in centre for homeless families in North London which cares mainly for Bengali mothers; there has been help in Liverpool for an enterprising church which has opened 10 workshops for small businesses; there is a community kitchen in Rochdale to give heart to an estate bereft of facilities for communal care. One clergyman living on a large housing estate wrote to me: We are a small and fairly impoverished congregation ministering in the midst of a large council estate which is slowly but surely going down the hill. The estate has few community resources; the local council has no money to invest in the area …part of our gospel for our community is to say that this is not a hopeless situation and to work with others in the community to prove this. And we are successful. We have recently been able to appoint a youth and community worker, partly funded by the Church Urban Fund. Here is very real and tangible evidence of our concern for our community—indeed the concern of a wider Church of England". I could go on with other illustrations. None of these many projects does anything but add to our basic commitment to share our faith with others. Indeed, some of them are overtly evangelistic, and all of them exist because of our faith and are a demonstration of it.

All this is good, but none of it can replace the commitment of central government to urban regeneration. There is encouragement in recent government initiatives to alleviate the problem of, for example, single homeless people. Three other examples spring to mind—the "empty property" project which has assisted many other homeless families; the work done by the inner city task forces; and the improvement in people's sense of security which I hope will be brought about by the safer cities initiative. I understand, as the noble Baroness has already said, that tomorrow we will learn of a further initiative in which central government funding will give resources to local authorities towards the most imaginative schemes for urban renewal. I await the details with interest, but this appears to be a move in the right direction of sound and constructive partnership, and that I welcome.

The problems, however, are huge so we have to work together. Recently a colleague informed me of the threatened closure of four important community projects in his district—a Bangladeshi advice centre, an urban farm, a neighbourhood centre and a lively youth club. The loss to that deprived district of these voluntary sector activities is most damaging. It is in just such projects that local pride can be revived. Cut backs can be explained in terms of central government or local government policies, but for the people on the ground cuts are cuts by whatever name and their sense of powerlessness is sadly reinforced.

I am aware that the success of any partnership is inextricably linked with the prosperity of our nation. We have to support enterprise, both economic and social. There is a link between the economic success of our country and the needs of the inner city. However, I want to suggest—and the noble Baroness has already charted this course for me—that in my view the trickle-down theory that the inner cities will benefit from generally increasing prosperity is unsatisfactory. It suggests that the working people of our inner cities are only beneficiaries and not creators of wealth. That is not true. And it has the weakness of suggesting that we do not need a strategy and policy for resourcing our urban priority areas. I submit that we do. The partner ship for which I am calling, and on which I am sure we are all agreed, requires a commitment all round to resource, properly and fairly, local government and voluntary sector initiatives in our inner cities and outer estates.

A second word in the Motion, regeneration, attracts me too because it suggests that we need to work towards a vision for the inner cities. Why should we accept the idea of "the soullessness of the city?" And yet it is so easy to see why such a term comes quickly to our lips because of the depressing surroundings we often meet in the city and the sense of hopelessness and futility we find there. Last week I visited one of our many inner city primary schools, less than a mile from this House. It was a joy to see the bright faces of the children, black and white together. There was such potential and life within them. I was visiting to launch a project called Growing in the City, part of the Church Urban Fund. There might not be many trees or plants in the inner city, but people are certainly growing there—but to what end; what vision is there to inspire them?

Noble Lords may recall that Winston Churchill once referred to our great institutions and buildings as "lengthened shadows of man". He was drawing attention to the spirituality, the sense of dignity and worth given to the spirit of human kind—the sort of thing, I want to suggest, expressed in this fine building, in the traditions of this House and in its history. It may be lard to find poetry, beauty and art in the inner city at the present moment, but the potential is there in our people. We do not have to look far below the graffiti, the squalor and the sense of hopelessness to find courage, dignity and human worth.

It is for that very reason that it is important to stress the need for well directed policies both from the public and the private sectors. The conditions of our urban environment must remain a priority of government policy if the deterioration we see all around us is to be arrested. Any vision will inevitably include the inter-relatedness of our society. We are our brother's and sister's keepers; our society is linked by our persona relationships. We separate at our peril urban, suburban and rural communities because a society like ours can never have any of its parts existing alone without detriment to the rest. Whether we like it or not, those who suffer the trauma of unemployment, homelessness and inadequate facilities are our fellow citizens and they suffer because we have yet to recover a vision for our society which includes them.

Last week, as I arrived at that school in Lambeth, a colleague was taking my robes into a classroom when one of the little children asked him very innocently, "Has God arrived yet, sir?" I am finding such expectations very difficult to meet. But when I heard that, the thought rushed quickly into my mind, "God is already there". Christians always have hope for the city because God is always found in the people.

As I conclude my maiden speech in this House, I want to leave your Lordships with an analogy which I find in our common Bible. The first picture one sees in the Bible is one familiar to us; it is that of humankind in a garden, the epitome of rustic peace, contentment and retirement. Its final picture in the Revelation of St. John is that of a city, the city of God —a city where the spiritual, economic and artistic values of human beings are focused in a single vision. That vision may elude our grasp in this world—it is a vision of the heavenly city—but it may be an encouragement to us all to aim as high as possible. Yes, the challenge is daunting, but partnership is surely the path to regeneration and the way to build a society to which all are privileged to belong and in which all may share its resources.

5.25 p.m.

Lord Joseph

My Lords, I rise with diffidence to speak after the most reverend Primate. I am from the other wing of what is called the Judaeo-Christian culture. There are a few differences in our beliefs—they are few but important—but there is a huge number of beliefs which we share. That is why I feel entitled on behalf of the House to congratulate the most reverend Primate on his maiden speech. Even he, with his charm and with his apparent ease of manner, may have been daunted by addressing this House for the first time—most of us in this House were certainly daunted—but he gave no impression of flinching. He spoke with ease, simply and sincerely. I am sure that the whole House can agree with what he said.

I want in particular to agree that the Church has an enormous part to play in the regeneration of the inner city and indeed in regeneration more widely. I was especially glad to welcome his acceptance of the link between the revival of the poorer parts of the country and national prosperity. However, I wish to argue—I hope that the most reverend Primate will allow me to do so—that sometimes an opinion leader has to say things that are not altogether fashionable if they are to achieve what are undoubtedly his sincere purposes.

Among the unfashionable things that need to be said is, for instance, that international competitiveness is necessary for this country—inner city and everywhere else—if we are to have jobs, let alone prosperity and decent public and social services. At the heart of international profitable competitiveness is rising productivity. There is enormous scope for more productivity. That means good management, not just slogging hard work. There is also the need to recognise that, while some single women embark on bringing children into this world rationally after assessing the consequences, some perhaps do not assess the consequences for them. It may be necessary, though unfashionable, for opinion leaders to urge them to take into account the implications for them and their children of embarking prematurely upon the glory of childbirth rather than waiting until conditions are more favourable. The most reverend Primate spoke with sympathy of single parent households, but some of them may need advice before embarking on that condition.

The noble Baroness, Lady Seear, spoke, as always, with sincerity and with knowledge of the subject. I am glad that she recognised the efforts that have been made over the past decade. Of course there is more to be done. The noble Baroness wanted active involvement by residents. Indeed it would be very desirable, as the most reverend Primate emphasised too. But we all remember what happened when Lyndon Johnson, in his great crusade for the cities in America, tried to secure that active participation. Senator Dan Moynihan wrote a book in which he recognised that Maximum Feasible Misunderstanding had resulted. Active participation is an aspiration devoutly to be wished but it is difficult to achieve.

I wish to recommend to your Lordships who are interested in this subject the report of the Economic and Social Research Council, published in 1981 by that very sensible man, Professor Peter Hall. He and his committee did not identify unique sets of problems that distinguished the inner city. He said that the inner city suffers no more poverty, no more unemployment and no larger numbers of single parent families than many other parts of the country. He was telling us that conditions in the inner city very largely reproduce national conditions. If we are to cure the inner city, we may find that we shall have to tackle the same conditions throughout the country. If noble Lords wish to read that section, they will find it on page 132 of the report. I recommend them to read it.

In the report, Professor Hall very healthily reminds us that in the mid-19th century the inner city was also at the top of the agenda. At that time, the inner city was even more appalling than we picture it now. Those of us who have seen the Gustave Doré prints of the time have a vivid picture of what it must have been like. It was overcrowded and full of intense poverty and wretchedness. However, those inner cities were magnets to the world. For example, in the 1840s Irish peasants poured into Liverpool and Manchester—appalling though conditions were—to escape the famine in Ireland. Essex farm labourers swarmed into London after the agricultural depression of the 1870s, and the Jews, who were received by this noble country after fleeing from Russian persecution in the 1890s, poured into East London.

In those days, inner cities were places of opportunity. They were seed beds of enterprise, innovation and self-improvement. They were intensely competitive. Indeed, there were ladders for those who wished to strive for self-improvement. They were centres of hope; they were not centres of despair, even though there was great wretchedness. These days inner cities are much less crowded, they are less wretched and less poor. There are still ladders, but enterprise and innovation have faltered. Moreover, for worse or better—as surely all of us in this House want to see other countries escape from poverty—there are more formidable competitors overseas than there were in the 19th century.

I should point out at this stage that present conditions make things worse. The House knows that a misjudgment in the late 1980s, when the growing boom was not recognised and moderated early enough, led to a re-ignition of inflation and the need for the high interest rates and, alas, the recession which the Government had to introduce in order to abate inflation. Of course, that makes conditions harder; but it is necessary if we are to return to the earlier state of improving prosperity.

The inner city about which we are talking with understandable gloom today was described in the 18th century by the analyst David Donnison, whom I believe Members on all sides of the House can respect, as "the Good City". I am not confusing that with the City of God. Professor Hall's report states that Donnison leads us to understand that now, because of this weakening of enterprise and innovation and despite the decreased overcrowding, poverty and wretchedness, and all our good intentions, we no longer have "the Good City" so far as concerns our inner cities.

Of course, the Good City in the 19th century had perhaps the benefit of the firmer attitudes of parents, schools and churches which were influenced by contemporary culture. I am not saying that such attitudes were always wholly without error. However, they may have played a part in increasing the degree to which people tended to use the ladders which were available to escape from poverty, whether in the cities or outside of them. With our good intentions, we have tried to improve life; but sometimes, to our mortification, we have seen the unintended ill consequences of our good wishes apparently make things worse.

Let us take for example the new towns. I took part in their creation while working at the relevant department. But what did they do? They created new and thriving centres. But how, and from where, did they get their residents? They got them by tempting the most enterprising, vigorous and competent people away from the cities. Of course we meant well; but did we do well? Only the social historians can give us the answer.

Let us take the further example of slum clearance. I was a great slum clearer in my time. I believe that it was someone called Young, in a book about Bethnal Green, who told us that in fact what we had done was to distribute the extended family. Of course, we felt that it was an absolute moral necessity to put damp-proof courses outside people's living conditions. However, did we have to destroy the slums and the communities where granny lived in the next street? Did we do right? As I said before, only the social historians will be able to tell us.

Then there is the 20th-century attitude towards rent control. It was brought in as a temporary measure in 1917 and it is still with us. Once again, it is a matter of good intentions. But what does it do? It stifles supply and inflates demand. I know very well why it was kept on; it was kept on for fear of the reintroduction of Mr. Rachman. I was the unfortunate Minister who had to defend the Government of Harold Macmillan against an attack by the then Harold Wilson, now the noble Lord, Lord Wilson. He accused Mr. Macmillan and myself of being the subjects of the two portraits on Mr. Rachman's mantelpiece. It was a painful job at the time. However, the real way to get rid of "Rachmans" is to have lots of landlords; in other words, a choice of landlords for tenants. Because we flinch from changing the law about rent control, we condemn millions of people. Who are those people? They are the least prosperous people as regards any choice of housing. Again, I say that we may, with the best of intentions, have gone along the wrong route in respect of inner cities and elsewhere.

Therefore, what must we do for inner cities? Of course, as the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, recognised, and as some of my noble friends will no doubt be emphasising shortly, some of the Government's measures have achieved moderate success. We hope that they make good progress in the future. Indeed, we have all read about the new initiatives which are planned. I am sure that the ladders will continue to tempt the more vigorous people away from the inner cities, thus making the job of securing reinvigoration much harder for the Government.

But what is it that the nation needs? Above all, I believe that there are two things which we need. First, we need more sense as regards where jobs and prosperity are to come from; and, secondly, we need a firmer supporting culture so that people do not make more trouble for themselves and their progeny than is necessary. The first is less hard to provide than the second.

We need more entrepreneurs. I use that word because I have searched unsuccessfully for an alternative. Indeed, I have spent the afternoon hunting through dictionaries, in Partridge, in the slang dictionaries as well as Oxford and Chambers, and all the others, to see whether I might use the phrases "barrow boys" and "barrow girls" in your Lordships' House. I did so because that, writ large, is what an entrepreneur needs to be. After all, what is a barrow boy? I do not mean anything disreputable by using that phrase. I simply mean someone with a keen eye for a market. That is what we need if we are to recover our home market as well as the markets abroad. It is only on that condition that we shall have jobs and prosperity and enough taxable resources to provide decent public and social services. As I said, we need entrepreneurs. However, sad to say, the snobbery against trade and entrepreneurship, though less than it was, is still active in this land.

I note that in Bradford, where there are many ethnic minorities, the Roffey Park Management College is seeking to identify what qualities of entrepreneurship can be taught to those from ethnic minorities who have never tried it before. Of course, it is true that some ethnic minorities need no guidance. I am glad to say that the Indians and the Pakistanis are doing this country, and I hope themselves, much good. Others need leadership and guidance.

We need to accept—this may still be difficult for some people, despite what is happening in Eastern Europe—that capitalism, subject to the law and to competition, although of course not perfect—of course it is not perfect—is the least bad way to serve all our purposes that has yet evolved. Capitalism involves the decentralisation of ownership and decision making, entrepreneurship, higher productivity and innovation. The Government understand that, and Mr. Lilley, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, made a magnificent speech on the subject yesterday. We need more training. The Government are trying to provide it. We need better education. The Government are trying to provide it. We need to be internationally, profitably competitive if we are to have jobs, rising earnings and the resources for good public and social services. We need to sort out—this is difficult —the tax traps, the poverty traps and the why-work? traps in the overlap between the welfare archipelago and the tax net.

We need to recognise, as does the Peter Hall Report —I have read all the aftermath, and it does not change the thesis—that the problems of the inner cities these days are the problems of the country as a whole. Let the inner city again be the Good City. Let it not be just the inner city but the whole country. There are widespread social ills: inadequate parenting at all levels of income; inadequate schooling; a lack of jobs and a lack of role models, especially male role models, in many parts of the land. I wish that politicians and opinion leaders spoke more clearly on some of those subjects. The problems are national as well as inner-city. If we solve them nationally, the inner cities will benefit. We cannot solve them for the inner cities alone. If we do not solve them for the nation, we shall all live in inner cities.

5.41 p.m.

Lord Addington

My Lords, I find myself in my usual position of speaking after my noble friend Lady Seear and therefore having part of my speech made irrelevant because someone far more articulate than I has already covered the subject. The most reverend Primate, in an excellent maiden speech, then covered other sections of my speech, to be followed by the noble Lord, Lord Joseph, who dealt with still further aspects of it. I am reduced to emphasising some of the points made and putting a different perspective on them.

The problem with the inner cities, as the noble Lord, Lord Joseph, pointed out, is that they are a microcosm of our society. There is a concentration of poverty, unemployment and a lack of training in the inner cities. The trickle-down process was mentioned by the most reverend Primate and by my noble friend. It is an odd process. Some traditional working class areas—for want of a better expression—for example, the East End of London, are becoming more prosperous. People are moving into those areas. A nice square that has a Grade II preservation order on it is bought up by outsiders. The inner city is being pushed towards the edges of London. It is being squeezed between the suburbs and the heart of London. I am told that that is happening in other cities as well.

I must express a certain amount of ignorance. I was brought up in the city of Norwich and went to university in the city of Aberdeen. Those cities have fortunately not been hard hit by traditional inner-city problems. London is the only large conurbation of which I have any experience. In times of recession, the inner cities are the hardest hit. The people living there are unfortunately the most vulnerable. They suffer from the lack of training which still dominates our society. That means they cannot obtain jobs. They have no work tradition.

If we are to regenerate those areas, we must concentrate upon the people who live there. After all, a community is made up of individuals. The problems of the individual are ultimately the problems of that society writ large. To achieve regeneration it is essential that the public sector, the private sector and the voluntary sector work together. That is the only way to deal effectively with individuals. One must deal with them all, but unless one remembers that they are individuals the problem will be fractionalised and pushed somewhere else. The person who makes good will move from the inner city. Those who have not succeeded will be left behind.

The noble Lord, Lord Joseph, gave the example of the new towns. Those able to do so left the inner cities, but they left other people behind to stew. The noble Lord said that in more eloquent terms, but that is what happens. The Government must look long and hard at how the voluntary organisations that my noble friend mentioned have been affected. Disadvantaged people are prevalent in the inner cities. If they are left to themselves they will form a sub-culture. The voluntary organisations have been hit hard by the new training policy.

I must declare an interest. Until recently, I worked with the Apex Trust. Its funding was slashed so that it had to lose 50 per cent. of its trainees. They are generally former offenders. They have the most problems. They are invariably educational failures the first time round. They have not succeeded in conventional society and have thus turned to an alternative. That alternative is generally the criminal world or the black economy which may lead to criminal activity.

A training organisation such as the Apex Trust tries to help those people look realistically at their position. The human capacity of bluffing oneself into believing that one can get by is amazing. When I first became involved with the organisation I took part in a counselling session for people on pre-release courses. Many of the people in the room were desperately trying to convince themselves that they did not need any help; they were okay. We talked about how they would disclose their convictions when they applied for a job. I remember someone saying that he would say that he lived in France for about three years and that that was why he had not had a job. He was asked a question in French, and he could not answer. That is an example of how people fail to face up to their problems. They must allow others to help them.

There is always the exceptional individual who can manage on his own, but if we had only to deal with the exceptional individuals, there would be no problem in the first place. They are exceptional because they stand out from those around them. We must help the inadequate people. We must encourage them to confront their problems and then ensure that they are given the right training. They will often require far more back-up and support than other trainees. They are much more difficult to train. They have no work culture and do not understand the self-discipline that work requires. Such a person has been institutionalised to the extent of being told when to get up in the morning, when to go to bed, when to take recreation, when to have leisure time and what to do with it, because of the limited choices. It is virtually impossible overnight for him suddenly to say, "I shall start to regiment myself, I shall turn up at certain times and take a job". Even if such people are offered a job, they do not have the skills. Therefore, we must train people in skills and how to employ them.

Due to the nature of the problem, only specialist organisations can untangle the difficulties with anything like a realistic level of success. Someone may think he is doing well if he arrives within half an hour either way of the start of a class. It is virtually impossible to train him in a conventional setting. We must give specialist help to these individuals.

At the moment the TECs are not in a good position to deal with the problem. The Government must take a long, hard look at their funding of the specialist training centres and try to get them to work. I am totally convinced that to people in this situation a regular job with a form of stability is the first step towards bringing them into the mainstream of society. Until such people are there, even at a low level, we cannot start to help them better themselves with a realistic long-term approach.

The Government must make sure that they provide their share of funding for these courses. They must also provide the private sector with all the support they can. It may only be a co-ordinating role but there must be concentrated long-term planning with, for example, at least help at the start of a project which the private and voluntary sectors may well be able to run afterwards. The Government should put in an essential minimum to make the projects work but they are not flexible in dealing with problems. Employers know about the people they are trying to train and the voluntary sector knows what to aim at so that they are a good combination. The Government may have to channel them together. It is no good hoping that eventually they will join up through the invisible hand of the market-place. Sometimes they will, sometimes they will not. We cannot take a chance on it.

Unless the Government accept this long-term co-ordinating role, then, despite the best intentions, the private and voluntary sectors will never achieve anything like the same degree of success as if the Government took their rightful position at the helm.

5.53 pm.

Lord Wade of Chorlton

My Lords, first, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, for initiating this debate. It gives us an opportunity to express our views and in my remarks I shall draw attention to the benefits that have recently come to Merseyside and Manchester. It is also a privilege to be involved in a debate during which the most reverend Primate made his splendid maiden speech. I congratulate him; it is marvellous to have him with us, and we look forward to hearing from him on many occasions.

The most reverend Primate referred to the spirit of the people. All great cities are created from the spirit of the people and the goodness and greatness that come from them. Noble Lords have already said that recent history has seen the movement of leaders out of cities into other opportunities which have been established for them, with wealth created in other parts of the country and the world. We must also accept that great cities were founded in the last century because of their good communications and the opportunities which at that time brought wealth to them. Those opportunities have now moved to other areas and the wealth has moved with them. The leaders of the cities also moved and left behind people with fewer opportunities who are less able and have less finance to regenerate the areas. Pressure on local authorizes became greater and greater and resources were more difficult to find.

Noble Lords all referred to the need for the Government to become involved and to bring together all the people necessary for the regeneration of cities. I believe that there has been no better opportunity than the development corporations to bring about those improvements. My own experience has been with the Merseyside Development Corporation and the Manchester Development Corporation. I wish to draw attention to the enormous benefits that have been gained from what has taken place.

Merseyside Development Corporation was established in 1981. Its first important achievement was the Garden Festival. That did a great deal to draw people's attention to the new opportunities on Merseyside to bring in money and to create further jobs, as well as to clear much of the derelict and unsightly areas. The results really happened since then, in the late 1980s and during the past year. As a direct result of what the development corporation did, in 1989 and 1990 £81 million in private investment went into the Merseyside development area. That would not have come about unless there had been sufficient confidence for investors to invest their money.

Even this year, 1991, in a more difficult period when we might not have expected any development, £70 million of private money has been invested in the Merseyside area. That is a relatively small drop from the £80 million invested the previous year. As a result, we have 780 new homes.

The noble Baroness, Lady Seear, made the point that one of the important aspects of regeneration is to encourage people to return and live there. If she goes to see the new dockside development, she will find that she can no longer buy an apartment. When the buildings first went up we thought, "These apartments will never sell". Now no one can get one because people saw the opportunity, they thought it was a lovely place to live and the area has been regenerated. It has been a great asset in bringing people back to the city.

In addition, 7,000 training places have been assisted, attracted by the development corporation into the area in the past two years. Over 1,500 new jobs have been created there. These are proper jobs, not ones which will exist only for the short term, but creative jobs where people will be employed in development.

On a more personal note, from time to time I visit the Philharmonic Hall. I was there last Saturday night when a new work which had been commissioned by the Philharmonic and Granada Television was performed. It was about the most awful piece of music that I have heard for a long time. Even so, because it was new, artistic and exciting, the hall was full. Everyone cheered enthusiastically. As the most reverend Primate said, there is a great feeling in these cities of being involved in art, new experiences and being excited about innovations.

As we drove away from the Philharmonic at the end of the performance, feeling that a drink was a great necessity, we found we could not get in anywhere, everywhere was full. The main streets of Liverpool were booming, full of young, well-dressed people, full of excitement. There was no fear, no feeling of threat or that one might get coshed. The centre of Liverpool is a place where anyone can go. Anyone can invest in it with enthusiasm and confidence in the future. This has all come about because of the regeneration that has taken place through the development corporation.

Then we come to Manchester, which is a city that I have known all my life. I have seen sights there of great dereliction; bombed sites have existed since the war. Something needed to be done. The local authority was not carrying out its responsibilities. It had neither the resources nor the ability to bring together all the activities that were needed to make something happen. There had to be a trigger mechanism to stimulate people and give them the confidence to become involved. Manchester Development Corporation has achieved that.

Perhaps I may tell the House some of its achievements: over 670 new homes have been built in the centre of Manchester where people now live. When the corporation started work in 1988, the Government's target was to attract £188 million of private investment in five to seven years. The development corporation attracted £180 million in the first three years. The confidence generated has brought a spin-off to all kinds of areas. The development corporation spent over £4 million on improving the environment. No other body could have provided the money to do that. It has created 2,000 jobs.

Only the other day I went to Salford. I know that there is at least one Member of your Lordships' House present today who has probably been to Salford. However, I do not know of any other noble Lord who often visits Salford. There has been a fantastic change in Salford. It used to be a derelict area of broken-down warehouses and disappointed people. Now it is bursting with new energy, new businesses and people wanting to do all kinds of exciting things. I have just become involved with a group of businessmen who are not just concerned with making money but want to put something back into the area. They wish to provide facilities for people with disabled children, particularly one-parent families. They are now trying to raise £250,000 to enable Dr. Barnardo's to buy a house so that parents with disabled children can go there and meet others in a similar situation. The parents can rest while someone else looks after their children. New opportunities have been created in that area and they have resulted from that trigger mechanism of the Government setting up new initiatives in the area.

I wish to draw the attention of noble Lords to a phenomenon that in my opinion could not have occurred without the intervention of the development corporation. There is a site on the west side of Manchester which used to contain the gas works. The site used to contain the gas works in one part and bombed out, derelict buildings in another part. The noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, knows that site well. The site has remained in a derelict state since the war. No one has been able to tackle it and no one really knew what to do about it. The development corporation heard that the British Council was thinking of relocating out of London. The development corporation persuaded the British Council to relocate to this site. The development corporation helped finance the clearing of the site and facilitated the planning and other regulations that must be fulfilled before the site can be developed. The city council could have taken years to process the planning application but with the intervention of the development corporation the necessary work was done in a matter of months.

The development corporation encouraged the people who work for the British Council to relocate from London to Manchester. We now have a splendid new office building standing in nearly nine acres of ground and a development opportunity worth some £27 million. That has been created on a spot that was formerly a derelict site. Some 350 people who used to work in London and add to the congestion there have moved to Manchester. That must be a benefit to everyone concerned although it may take those people some time to reach the heights of the resident people. However, they will acquire those heights in time no doubt. We have converted what was once a derelict, unhappy place into a site that will boom and grow and will lead to further regeneration.

If we are to regenerate large areas and bring God back into such places, we must realise that God sometimes needs mammon to make a success of such areas. The development corporations have resuscitated potential, people's ingenuity and opportunities in formerly derelict areas. That has also brought God back to those areas.

6.4 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of Manchester

My Lords, we are all deeply grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, for giving us an opportunity to debate this Motion. We are particularly grateful for the emphasis placed on partnership. I wish to speak to that aspect primarily. I apologise most sincerely to the noble Baroness that I was not present at the start of her speech. She is far too efficient to get caught up in a traffic jam of taxis, but I am afraid that happened to me. However, I was present to hear the maiden speech of my noble friend the most reverend Primate. I was delighted to hear that maiden speech. However, if I am too complimentary about it, the danger is that he will accuse me of keeping on the right side of one who is in one sense my boss, or of trying to present the picture that the Church of England is united. That is too much for your Lordships to believe.

I wish to join with the noble Lord, Lord Wade, and others in congratulating the Government on many of the initiatives now being undertaken. I had the opportunity of meeting the Minister responsible for inner cities in my part of the world. We walked round two of the most depressed areas of the city of Manchester and also of Salford. What impressed many of the people the Minister met was that he genuinely listened to them. That shows a change in opinion from 1979 when many people in inner city areas had the impression that the Government were not listening to them. I am glad to see that people now feel differently. I hope that that will continue.

One of my inner city clergymen paid the Government a remarkable tribute when he said that he thought central government were listening to what people had to say more than the city council was. That is the first time that has been said in a long time. We are grateful for some of the things that are happening.

The noble Lord, Lord Wade, drew attention to the remarkable regeneration being achieved by development corporations. I endorse much, but not all, of what he said. I was delighted with the warm tribute the noble Lord paid to Salford, where I live, and the picture he painted of a vibrant community. However, I am afraid that that is only one side of the picture and I shall have to paint the other side in due course.

I dissent from one or two things the noble Lord said about local authorities in the area. The local authorities have not only suffered from a lack of resources but from the lack of a sense of partnership with central government in helping to give them the management skills they need, particularly in crucial areas such as housing. Instead, central government have attempted to cut local authorities out of the process. I believe that that has been a tragic mistake and I am glad to say that it appears that that mistake is being remedied now. We want to see a partnership between central and local government, development corporations and voluntary bodies. We also want a partnership with the people living in the area. If there is one thing that must be stressed above all, it is the need to listen to the people who live in the inner cities.

Regeneration is taking place, but so often the benefits do not trickle down to the people living in some of the most depressed areas of our inner cities. Your Lordships will have to forgive me if I speak primarily about Manchester and Salford or the Lancashire towns in the diocese for which I am responsible. However, I believe my remarks have a general relevance as they are echoed in speeches made about other areas. We are grateful for the remarkable development of Manchester airport, which means so much to the whole of the North West and to Manchester and Salford in particular. We are glad that the Metro-link is going ahead as that will make it easier for people from inner city areas to travel to obtain employment.

There has been regeneration also in east Manchester under a steering group led by the chamber of commerce. That steering group is doing excellent work. AII these signs of regeneration are encouraging, but the problems are immense. Those problems are gravely exacerbated by unemployment. The trouble is that many in the inner cities are simply not sharing in the prosperity which has come to some other parts. In April this year, 30,000 Manchester residents were registered as unemployed and claiming benefit. That represents some 14 per cent. of those who are economically active in the city. However, that kind of overall figure does not give a full impression of what is happening because in certain areas the concentration of unemployment is inevitably much higher. Moss Side and Cheetham Hill are two areas of Manchester that have achieved regrettable notoriety in recent weeks due to the activities of drug gangs. Guns are carried in those areas and dangerous situations are developing.

It is impossible to believe that there is no connection between the way in which the grey economy—believe we are supposed to refer to it as the grey economy and not the black economy has grown up in such areas and the very high incidence of unemployment and poverty. In Manchester, 83,000 people received income support last year.

There are imaginative efforts at regeneration in certain parts of our city. The problem is how they are to be related to other people living in those parts of the inner city where there is so much vandalism, such a high proportion of crime and a situation of which many people in Britain have no idea at all, even though the problems are widespread.

I spoke to the headmistress of one of our inner city schools. She told me that a very high-powered car had been stolen and driven away from the centre of Manchester. It ended up on waste land outside the school. She phoned the police. By the time the police got there the car was burnt out. The youngster who had driven it away was aged 11 and the youngster who had set fire to it was eight. That is outside the comprehension of many people in other parts of our country. It needs to be understood.

Therefore we have to recognise that all the pictures given of what is happening in these areas are inevitably imperfect, including the picture that I am giving now. The situation is patchy. There are signs of hope, regeneration and the kind of vibrant life which the noble Lord, Lord Wade, described. However, there are other signs which are much less happy.

Perhaps I may quote from one of our inner city clergy. I am sorry if my speech appears somewhat church centred, but your Lordships will understand that the professional people living in inner cities are the Anglican and Roman Catholic clergy, and also some clergy from other churches. Hardly anyone else among the professionals lives in those areas. That is one of the features of inner city life.

This is what was said about the Ordsall Salford Quays development, of which the noble Lord, Lord Wade, has painted a good picture: The newest office blocks of Salford Quays now loom over Ordsall, inescapable on the horizon at the head of Dock 9 and down by Trafford Bridge. When the Quays development started, Ordsall folk asked first of all, 'What's in it for us?' It has not meant many jobs; it has meant extortionate, London-level prices for beer … By now many Ordsall people prefer to ignore the Quays, to regard it as an alien intrusion, unfriendly, unwelcoming, 'not for us'. It is a different world, representing different values and lifestyles. You know what a need there is for a Church to he a mediator, a reconciler, in this context, bringing people together. That is what we try to do.

It is very important for those who are engaged in the regeneration of these areas, with all their professional expertise and background, to appreciate that there can be an enormous gap between that regeneration and the people who live there, some of whom feel imprisoned in those areas. The need to listen to those people is immense. That applies to all of us—to central government, to local authorities, the Churches, the police, the press and others.

The noble Lord, Lord Joseph, made one of the most interesting contributions to our debate, as always. I was interested in what he said about the need to speak—he did not use this word but it is perhaps a prophetic word—about lifestyles to people living in the inner cities. Questions of illegitimacy, high levels of smoking, diet and other aspects come into it. The trouble is that people are caught in a cycle. Those who are best equipped to speak to them are not necessarily the people who live in comfortable Britain, who speak from a distance. They will not be heard.

We have to have the greatest sympathy with the difficult job which the police are called to do, with crimes and vandalism pressing upon them. There is a difficult dilemma here. The local people want the police to do their job. They need protection; they need security; they need to be removed from a situation in which they feel prisoners in their houses, especially the elderly, the housebound and children, who are becoming increasingly fearful. The trouble is that when the police adopt high profile methods of policing, that simply increases the rift that often exists between the police and the community, especially young people and young blacks. That is a factor which requires great understanding by the police.

I believe that senior policemen are aware of that, but they have difficulty in implementing policies which listen and consult. There is that awkward dilemma which faces us. Incidentally, I am sure that all of us would wish Mr. David Wilmot well on his appointment as Chief Constable of Greater Manchester, the largest police force outside London, in succession to Sir James Anderton.

The press also need to listen. It has been interesting to hear one or two people from the inner cities say that one of their biggest problems is the press. Why? Because the press are always on the lookout for sensational stories. Stories of the good things happening in inner cities simply do not make news. There was a typical example of that the other day when in inner city Moss Side—and your Lordships know how much that has been in the news—there was a joyful event at the Church of the Ascension which celebrated its 25th anniversary. The most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York came, the Lord Mayor was there and there were people from every section of the life of the city. What appeared in the Manchester Evening News, our leading newspaper? Two column inches headed, "VIPs at Viraj church". More than half the report was about Viraj Mendis, who had lived there for two years. There was not a word about the positive side of what happened on such an occasion. If there were time I could give your Lordships other examples, but I shall refrain from doing so.

A balance is what is needed. I know that the press have a difficult job to do. They are there to report what happens. When there are grim and frightening episodes in the city, of course they have a duty to report them. However, we are asking for a far better balance.

Housing is critical. I shall quote again from an inner city clergyman in Salford: For the last fortnight I have had a family of husband and wife and five children camping out in our parish room here. I discovered them sleeping in a car in a district nearby. The local authority housing department judged that they had made themselves homeless and despite the fact of the mother's pregnancy, was unwilling to offer accommodation. For fourteen days … we pursued vacant properties unsuccessfully. Finally from Church Funds we paid … for a vacant property to let and the family moved in last Saturday. He added that there is nothing unusual in that but that it is made all the more unacceptable by the fact that in that district there are a large number of vacant flats and maisonettes.

The clergyman concerned admits the poor management record of many local authorities in the housing field. However, the point is that we now need housing for poor families. They need money to heat and light their homes and feed and clothe their children. Rather than eliminating the local authority as a provider of low cost housing, we need to ensure that local authorities have properly trained housing staff who see their work as a major social service concerned not only with property but people. That, I believe, is a lesson which perhaps central government have still to learn. I see the noble Lord, Lord Joseph, shaking his head. I shall have an argument with him over a drink afterwards.

The last point that I have time to make to your Lordships now is simply this. The noble Lord, Lord Joseph, has spoken of the need for a supporting culture. How warmly I agree with that. That is why those of us from the Churches give such high importance to the maintenance of congregational life in face of great difficulty, preaching values and teaching them in these inner city situations. However, we are out of touch with large numbers of the people who live there. So we need that supporting culture of social morality in inner city areas.

One of the difficulties is that so many of the natural leaders have departed from these areas over the years. That is one critical difference between the situation today and what the noble Lord, Lord Joseph, described in the 19th century, when they were seen as places of opportunity. There were many more natural leaders living among those communities. We need to develop inner cities in such a way that people are prepared to stay there, whether or not they have a bit of go about them.

I conclude by saying that we must welcome many of the good things which are happening but realise that this is a very patchy picture and all of us have a long way to go.

6.20 p.m.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley

My Lords, I return to these Benches after five years with considerable pleasure for many reasons, not the least of which is the opportunity to take part in this debate. I must take the opportunity to express my gratitude to the Cross-Benchers and their convenor for the hospitality that they gave me when, as a vicar of two parishes, I reckoned that I should probably sit on the Cross Benches, particularly given that those two parishes persistently voted Liberal in local government affairs and that I was not able to come to the House at all for five years. Looking after two parishes in the commuting area does not allow you to come to the House of Lords when there are late-night debates and votes that you wish to attend.

However, after five years serving those parishes. I have returned to talk about a subject which has always been one of my interests and with regard to which I have tried to make an input; namely, the field of poverty. I share that interest with my parishioners. One may think that they are not particularly interested or affected in leafy Kew. But my churches were full of people with guilty consciences because they had things that they wanted to do and they did not know how to do them. When it came to the point, they did what they could. Even in Richmond we have problems of homelessness. There is an organisation there which is largely backed by the churches and looks after the single homeless. Just three weeks before I left, the laity of one of the churches that I served—I mention particularly the laity because, having two churches, I had to go on from one service to another and had to leave them to make the decision—made the nearly unanimous decision to offer hospitality to the tramp or homeless man, whatever one likes to call him, who sought a home in our church porch. We are not one of those churches that can make special arrangements because the demand is not sufficient. However, someone had come to stay; he had been there the year before; and he had come back again. There were problems. Archdeacons are not very keen on that kind of thing, particularly with an interregnum coming up. However, when the parish got down to discussing what they should do, they decided that the only Christian action was to offer hospitality.

One problem which arose, which I do not think has been mentioned this evening, related to an interesting part of the substructure of the area that we are discussing; namely, the provision of lavatories. That was the major problem that we had to face. We now see those no doubt admirable new loos in which you have to insert 10 pence. But what happens if you do not have 10 pence? What happens if you are old and incontinent? There is a great shortage in the substructure necessary to support the poor, the needy and the homeless.

The churches are doing a great deal at the voluntary level. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark I understand why he has chosen not to speak; it would have meant a debate dominated by clergymen—is one of the people who has done most in the Hot. se in that respect, and the House will miss him when he shortly retires.

In the voluntary sector, Church Action on Poverty, of which I have been a member for seven or eight years, has this year produced a new initiative, Breaking the Chains of Poverty. CAP does magnificent work, but it is very short of money and cannot see how it will continue. Although there are strict rules about asking questions of maiden speakers, I understand that there are no rules about bringing to maiden speakers' attention the needs of organisations. Church Action on Poverty is in desperate need if it is to continue its valuable work. I am sure that the most reverend Primate will take that aboard.

I wish now to move from the local and voluntary level to the statutory level. I have come back to these Benches in order to wage campaigns as to how this country should be governed, not just to mouth platitudes. As a great many people have said, one of the urgent things to do at the statutory level is to revive a sense of urban pride. In a recent paper on London. Ralf Dahrendorf made some suggestions on that subject. I am delighted to see that the Labour Party has just made a declaration about the return of a Greater London Council in some form or other. I look forward to studying the details, but I am certain that such a step is needed so that local pride and responsibility can be expressed by people who speak for London as a whole.

At a lower level, pride and responsibility come from being involved in small, local areas. The more I look back over my life in politics, the more it seems to me that all the reforms that we have made in local government have been totally wrong, ending with the abolition of the GLC but starting with the amalgamation of the old boroughs, into the new treble-sized boroughs. In the old, smaller boroughs, with their smaller responsibilities and loyalties, one was able to get things done and encourage people to respond. We should perhaps think about that. We must certainly think about the restoration of council housing n some form or another, although perhaps not in the old form. We must certainly encourage co-operatives and ways in which people can look after their own houses, perhaps even build their own houses. To have taken the ability to build houses away from local government was one of the most wicked and disastrous things done in politics in the last few years.

Finally, we cannot get away from the fact that money must be injected although it must not be wasted or frittered away. There must be safeguards. In these days of being kept short. we are learning how to be frugal and to use money in better ways. But time and time again one comes across an initiative which is dying or in danger of being throttled because of lack of money. I give a small example. One of the problems in the diocese of London is that of dealing with the refugees, including Kurds, who are coming in from different parts of the world in small numbers at a time when local councils are cutting back on expenditure and when the teaching of English as a second language is becoming a problem. These people and their children, if they settle here—and they probably have nowhere else to go—will grow up not as part of our society but as strangers speaking strange languages. Money must be put in. The rich must help the poor. No one suggests for a second that this is not a rich country these days. Money must be channelled towards helping the poor.

There has been a certain upbeat attitude in this debate. In some ways that is good because it means optimism and determination. I am afraid however that I do not share that feeling. Cities are and should be great things—I certainly support the observations of the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, about that—but a cancer seems to affect them when they become over large. The solutions are not easy. They are long-term. But unless the problems are tackled head-on in a major way we are doomed to disaster. New York, Calcutta—the great cities of the world—are set fast on the way to disasters such as we have not yet seen. There is no reason why London should follow their path. To avoid it will require determination, love, co-operation and generosity. Unless we have those things, London will go that way too.

6.32 p.m.

The Earl of Shrewsbury

My Lords, I join with other noble Lords to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, for introducing this important debate this afternoon. I also offer my sincere congratulations to the most reverend Primate on his excellent maiden speech which was fascinating to listen to. This is an afternoon for congratulations so may I also congratulate my noble friend on the Front Bench, whose promotion I have just seen on the ticker-tape outside.

I have to declare an interest. I work for a company based in the West Midlands which is actively involved in the regeneration of the Birmingham heartlands in the Black Country. Throughout the world inner city areas suffer from many problems, as do such areas in this country. As my noble friend Lord Joseph said, the problems have been there for many years and although in many cases matters would seem to be improving, there is still a long way to go. A great amount of help has been forthcoming from the Government. I believe that they are to be thoroughly congratulated on doing an excellent job.

However, years of neglect have ensured that the job of regeneration is now much more difficult. It takes a very brave developer indeed to have a go, as it were, at present. My speech is centred on the subject of developing the regeneration of the inner cities. Costs of regeneration have risen steadily over the past few years. Sadly it is very often the case that it is not economically viable for a developer to become involved in such regeneration. Couple with that the problems of static and falling values of property and lack of interest from the end-user and one is faced with a very difficult situation.

In the early 1980s the Government created a number of enterprise zones in rundown urban areas. I believe that it was a superb and thoroughly worthwhile move which in most cases has been highly successful. The lack of planning controls, provision of rate-free periods and other financial incentives have ensured the creation of new jobs in those areas, new working environments and the clearance and use of previously derelict land. I suggest to my noble friend that we need more enterprise zones.

One of the main incentives of developing on enterprise zone land has been the 100 per cent. industrial building allowance scheme, which is presumably very expensive to the Exchequer, but as an incentive to creating jobs is a very certain winner. As I mentioned, the inner city areas with which I am concerned are in the Black Country and the West Midlands. That region suffered very badly indeed from the recession of the early 1980s. I am probably teaching my grandmother to suck eggs, but historically the Black Country economy was chiefly based on engineering products and the production of steel and allied goods, manufactured in the main by small firms. Many of those businesses went to the wall in the 1980s. Many jobs were lost and the consequences were empty factories and other buildings, large areas of derelict land and, I hate to say, 27 per cent. unemployment when it was good.

In 1984 the Government created two enterprise zones in the Dudley area—one at Dudley and one at Brierley Hill—which were and still are being developed by the company for which I work. They are based on the site of an old steel works which, when it went out of business in the early 1980s—I believe in 1981—suddenly threw 10,000 people onto the dole queues. It was disastrous for that area. When the enterprise zone status comes to an end on this particular site (or two sites) in 1994, the projects developed on those sites will have created in excess of 12,000 jobs, adding substantially to the local economy. Owing to the risk taken by these type of partnerships with these kind of developers—I might add in this particular case when nobody else was keen to become involved—and through the foresight of the Government, this area has been vastly upgraded and indeed transformed. It is a major success story.

Moving slightly further afield, an excellent job is being done in the Sandwell area in the Black Country by the Black Country Development Corporation. Earlier I was fascinated to hear my noble friend Lord Wade give his opinion of development corporations. He mentioned that very few noble Lords had probably been to Salford. I happen to be one of those who have been there. Salford Quays is a superb area, quite different from what it was five or six years ago. The BCDC was set up in 1987. It has transformed a previously rundown area and is successfully bringing in new business together with much needed jobs. But it is not easy and nobody would pretend that it could be. I am delighted that Miss Jean Denton who is the deputy chairman of the BCDC will shortly join your Lordships' House. She will bring with her a vast wealth of experience in many fields, not least that of the inner cities. It is in fact sad that she has not yet taken her seat because she would have been someone very welcome to listen to in this debate. So there are success stories in the inner cities, although times at present are difficult.

Turning briefly to other points, there is an infrastructure problem in some of the areas of urban renewal, especially roads. Although the Government have earmarked nearly £1 billion for major local road schemes and developments, such as the Birmingham heartlands spine road, I understand that some other schemes are suffering delays and in particular, the one of which I have knowledge; namely, the Black Country spine road. The delays are partly due to increasing cost which nobody seems able to pin down to one particular amount of money. Sadly, there is often a considerable gap of time as well from the inception to the completion of such road schemes. These particular areas of urban renewal cannot afford to wait. Waiting and delay means less incentive for companies, businesses and indeed individual householders or potential householders to relocate to those areas. Without a proper and efficient infrastructure these areas are simply not able to compete with other areas that are perhaps slightly wealthier and better served. This afternoon I ask my noble friend if possible to make every effort to ensure that those schemes are speeded up.

Secondly, there is a feeling that out-of-town shopping centres are detrimental and not to be encouraged. I believe that the way of thinking is that in the future they should not be encouraged because they threaten the vitality and viability of many inner city areas. That is not true. It might be true in some cases but certainly not in the vast majority of cases. The developments provide jobs. That is what we are talking about—the creation of wealth and the creation of jobs. They boost the local economy by attracting from a wide area shoppers who would not normally spend their hard earned cash in that area. These are clean, safe and pleasant places in which to shop.

Certainly in the enterprise zone at Dudley—I do not have to declare an interest in this because we have sold it—the Merry Hill Centre has created some 5,000 jobs and has transformed a previously ugly and derelict area into something of quality, of which the region is justifiably proud.

Thirdly, I strongly suggest to my noble friend on the Front Bench that a great incentive to the private sector—we are talking about creating partnerships between the public and private sectors and indeed the voluntary sector—would be the availability of 100 per cent. initial building allowances. I believe that it is very important indeed to attract the private sector. But it has to be allowed to make a profit and companies must be seen by their shareholders to be doing something that is viably economic. I believe that they should be taking part in urban renewal. If they are prepared to accept the risks involved—they are considerable—then the provision of something like 100 per cent. IBAs should be their reward.

As my noble friend Lord Wade said, the National Garden festival programme has been a major success. It has breathed new life into areas such as Stoke-on-Trent, Liverpool, Glasgow, and Gateshead. The festival park at Stoke-on-Trent with which I am acquainted is now a vibrant and successful place. The enthusiasm of the Government, Stoke City Council, and indeed the private sector, has played a major role. Long may those initiatives continue.

Finally, I unequivocally support and applaud the initiatives being taken by the Government and other bodies in helping inner city areas to revitalise and renew. Funding is the cornerstone. Although £4 billion of Government support will be available for action For cities' initiatives in 1990–91, I believe that more is needed, together with faster provision of infrastructure and less red tape. Perhaps planning control; could be relaxed. In my neck of the woods undue delay over planning applications has resulted in developers losing money through high interest rates. Sometimes they pull out altogether. That is not a happy situation for anyone. Perhaps I may urge the Government to consider carefully before committing the lion's share of those funds to the South East. There is in fact a corner of this green and pleasant land called the Black Country which is alive and kicking; and it deserves increasing support.

6.41 p.m.

Earl Russell

My Lords, before I say anything else, I should like to congratulate the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury on an excellent maiden speech. The more often we can hear him in the future the happier we shall be.

I welcome back to our Benches the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley. I do so with some hesitation. He has attended on these Benches long before me. He may well feel that he ought to be welcoming me instead. His speech illustrated, as did that of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester, the excellent good health of the Church on behalf of which the most reverend Primate speaks. Its contribution to this debate has been distinguished.

It is a memorable occasion in the history of the House in another way. It marks the retirement of the noble Lord, Lord Denham, from the post of Government Chief Whip. I should like to pay tribute to the noble Lord. The lines which come into my mind are those of Belloc: Those regal Dons! With hearts of gold and lungs of bronze, Who stout and bang and roar and bawl The Absolute across the hall". I am sure that the noble Lord—I know that he loves Belloc even as I do—will take the point.

It is also the occasion of the promotion to Minister of State of the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch. I welcome that very warmly indeed. The noble Baroness and I have enjoyed many debates and will enjoy many more to come. I congratulate her warmly.

In this debate, I confess to the noble Earl, Lord Shrewsbury, that I speak as a Londoner. I cannot help it. However, even the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, will agree that Lancashire cannot have it all its own way.

Lord Tordoff

My Lords, why not?

Earl Russell

My Lords, I am an inner Londoner too; and I am very definitely not tired of life. Considering the mood of London I am sometimes reminded of 1963, although there does not seem to be quite so much faith in the alternatives as there then was. I apologise for introducing a party note into the debate. I shall keep it as brief as I can. It seems to me that party philosophies are a handicap in the debate when considering what needs to be done. London does not seem to run according to free market principles; it needs those of crowd control. One aspect that illustrates that more clearly than anything else is London Transport. That was described by yesterday's Evening Standard as an international disgrace. I do not believe that it was an overstatement.

I am not in general an admirer of graffiti. However, I cannot help remembering one example at Kentish Town tube station. The escalator was of course out of order. London Transport deeply regretted that and assured everyone that every effort was being made to repair it as quickly as possible. Written underneath —and one could almost hear the Hampstead voice —were the words, "I find that difficult to believe". I think that we all do. If one considers international comparisons, it emerges that one cannot run an efficient system of urban public transport without subsidy. London has less than any other major city in the world of which I am aware.

I also agree very strongly with my noble friend Lord Beaumont of Whitley about urban pride. I was interested to notice in this morning's paper that London was unable to put in a bid for a site for the Olympic Games in the year 2000 because the bid is not legal unless it is signed by the city council; and we do not have one. There seems a lack of a sense of the magnificence of a capital city. The Evening Standard complained that we have no one to speak for us in the way that M. Chirac speaks for Paris. I believe that we lose out through that lack.

There is a continual problem of unawareness of London costs. The paper drawn up by the noble Lord, Lord Flowers, on behalf of the University of London seems to have implications which stretch well beyond the universities. London costs are much greater than any of our present funding systems allow for. At my son's school a new headmaster was appointed about 18 months ago. He did not turn up. About six months later it was announced that he had been forced to decline the post because he could not afford a house within reach of the school. If that is happening to the headmaster, no wonder there is a shortage of teachers lower down the scale. I am perpetually being told by my dentist that in inner London dentists simply cannot make a living on the current dental contract. It is the same problem. London costs, especially those of premises, are grossly undercalculated.

There is a real problem of failure to recognise London as a unit. I shall not forget in a hurry the speech of my noble friend Lord Ezra in a debate on London Transport about 18 months ago. He said that if one wishes to get through a proposal for organising transport in London, one has to consult 39 authorities. One might believe that it was a programme devised by John Buchan.

On the other hand, I agree with everything that the noble Lord, Lord Joseph, said about the need for competitive prosperity and a keen eye for a market. We shall not make inner cities live without work. We shall not have work without an effective market. If we believe, as it appears do most noble Lords who have spoken in the debate, that there is an urgent need for ideas to come from the bottom upwards as well as from the top downwards, that means that there must be scope in city centres for small businesses. They respond much more quickly to the immediate needs and interests of an area. Since they are smaller, they can be planned more quickly; they have a smaller turning circle.

Last week I was the guest of the National Federation for Self-Employed and Small Businesses. Although I have spoken on the subject previously, I was surprised by the depth of feeling about the uniform business rate. When one considers what is happening to premises in central London, to shops in South Molton Street and Bond Street, I cannot understand how we can have prosperity in our city centres until the uniform business rate has gone.

However, the best illustration of the difficulty caused by party philosophies is housing. I listened with interest to what the noble Lord, Lord Joseph, said about rent control. I agree with him. I shall listen to what the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, will say about housing. I shall not be surprised if I agree with that too. The basic problem of housing has been that for many years the minimum rent at which the landlord can make a profit was higher than the maximum rent the tenant can afford to pay and still have enough to live on. Each party has been aware of half that story and has made perfectly valid points. Neither has listened to the other. Nothing has been done about closing the gap.

In a private capacity I wish to put forward a suggestion about how that should be done. The landlord should be allowed a tax deduction for the money that he spends on repairing his house. It is in the public interest that houses should be repaired. If they are not we must build more, which will cost even more money.

One of the matters that sticks in my mind is the conclusion of the Milner Holland Report published in 1965. When I read it I thought that it could have been written yesterday, with its emphasis that the need was for a common approach to the problem and for a fully considered development of policy based on an understanding of the whole housing situation and purged of irrelevant prejudice against landlords, tenants or any other groups of the population. The housing problems confronting London as they confronted other great cities would not be resolved by market forces nor by the provision of more housing alone. They were of a long-term, perhaps permanent, nature. The report's conclusion dwells on the need for a partnership between the public and private sectors. That might have been incorporated almost without alteration in the Motion tabled by my noble friend Lady Seear. The report was a non-party voice and my party agrees with it.

The noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, and my noble friend Lord Beaumont of Whitley, drew attention to the need for local authorities to provide housing for rent. The trouble with a free market in housing is that in free markets £1 is equal to £1 and not one person to one person. In providing low-cost housing, the free market will always be in danger of being an inefficient instrument. Whether the traditional council house is the right answer is a different question.

There is concern about all the traditional problems; for instance, the inability to control repairs, anxiety about redecoration and the keeping of dogs. I am aware that that is a controversial subject to mention today and I need not go further. In such a system there is a tendency for the planning to come from the top downwards and not from the bottom upwards. We on these Benches do not feel happy about that situation. The Labour Party has a weakness for thinking from the top downwards. A caricature example of that—

Baroness Hollis of Heigham

Do not quote it!

Earl Russell

My Lords, I am sorry but I shall. I was told about it at dinner only last night. The secretary of a local tenants' association, who is a friend of ours, notified the local councillor that she was calling a meeting which she thought he might wish to attend. He replied, "You can't organise a meeting here. I'm the elected representative!". That is not the spirit that we wish to see. Calling in voluntary groups, as was said by the most reverend Primate, is most important. In that context we should learn something from the confusion there has been this year about the London Boroughs Grants Scheme. There was a cap on the scheme but no one has ever thought whether some local authority spending needs a floor as well. The most that was being argued for, the highest estimate put forward, was for a standstill budget. Some people would not agree even to that. I do not see how with that kind of spirit one can have the kind of partnership that is needed. If people are not prepared to spend any money on a scheme, it will not work. Things have a true cost and if you do not pay that you may as well spend nothing.

6.54 p.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, it is a privilege to be able to speak on this desperately important subject. I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, on introducing the debate and on the way in which she did so. The only comment with which I am bound to disagree related to her optimism about the Statement likely to be made tomorrow. I am not a betting man, but I should not like to put much money on the chance that the amount of extra funding due to he declared will come from new money rather than from a relaunch of the urban programme. When I compare the amount of money likely to be available with, for example, the £330 million spent this year on London Dock lands alone, I believe that it will not be as impressive as she hopes.

I also congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, on her elevation to the rank of Minister of State. I am glad to see that at last the Government have recognised the ability that has been obvious to Members on these Benches since she joined the Government Front Bench. I wish that it would bring with it changes in policy, but I hope at least that her more authoritative position will lead to the elimination of some of the worst absurdities of Department of the Environment policies.

It is a privilege to welcome from these Benches the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury. He is a natural. A reading sometimes given at funerals describe s the deceased as having gone into the next room. The most reverend Primate has come into our room a id he appears to be willing to talk with us rather than at us. He is most welcome and we look forward to hearing from him again.

I wish to follow the example of the noble Lord, Lord Joseph, and begin by telling a story against myself. In the mid-1970s I was appointed by the Greater London Council as vice-chairman of the Spitalfields project in Tower Hamlets. The theory behind 1;he project was this. The confusion in local government as between the Greater London Council, the Inner London Education Authority and Tower Hamlets Borough Council (then Labour controlled) had led to some of the multiple deprivation then evident n Spitalfields. It was believed that if we got together there would somehow be an improvement in the conditions of life for those in the Spitalfields area. It was, and I am afraid that it still is, one of the most deprived areas in London and therefore in the country.

Instead of having meetings with 20 officers, there were 60 officers. Various worthwhile projects were put forward by the joint committee. It pioneered the idea of having directly elected representatives from the community able to vote, sitting alongside the elected councillors. It achieved a number of worthwhile objectives. For instance, it started an adventure playground, dramatically increased the provision for child care and provided the funds for the conversion of the great synagogue into a mosque, which was needed much more by the community. However, after several years of the experiment it was clear from our public meetings that we were only scratching the surface of the problems. What those people needed and what: they were entitled to was better homes at prices that they could afford and jobs paying wages that would enable them to live in decency. They had neither of those. Such initiatives in a limited area, with limited resources, cannot make a sufficient difference to enable us to do anything effective about the inner cities.

I am not against partnership. That was an early example, which was no bad thing. However, it only scratched the surface of the serious economic problems of our inner cities which no amount of new organisations or initiatives from the Government or anybody else can do much more than touch at the fringe.

The theme of what I want to say concerns what we were told in Spitalfields. It is about homes, as the noble Earl, Lord Russell, might have expected, and about jobs. It seems to me that over a considerable period we have been pursuing housing policies for the whole nation which have had a peculiarly damaging effect upon the inner cities. I am talking not only about the provision of new housing. It is common knowledge that the starts and completions of new housing in this country are very much lower than they could be with our physical resources, and indeed than they were at the peak of house building after the war and in more recent years. What houses are being built are not being built for those most in need, and, above all, for those in the inner cities. That means that progressively it is becoming impossible for those who have to work in inner city areas to live there at a price that they can afford.

The example of the headmaster which the noble Earl, Lord Russell, gave is a very good one, but there are thousands and thousands of others. Unless we restore, as he and the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, rightly said, a positive programme of public housing, by which I do not mean council housing in the old way, but public housing, which includes the co-operatives and the housing associations, we shall not have a balanced community in our inner cities where people can live as well as work, because that is a key to a city which is a good city.

A good city is a city which has neighbourhoods; which is not empty at night and full of commuters in the day, or indeed empty during the day, because people have to work elsewhere, and full of people who come back only to watch television at night time. Our housing policy is drastically damaging the prospects of regeneration of the quality of life in our inner cities.

I want to say something too about jobs. The people of Spitalfields, many of them being recent immigrants from Bangladesh, have done a very good job for themselves, and, as the noble Lord, Lord Joseph, rightly said, he hopes for the country as well, in finding jobs. Many of those jobs are in terrible physical conditions and probably at very poor rates of pay. But nevertheless I do not want to criticise the spirit of enterprise which is particularly evident in immigrant communities in our inner cities. That spirit has been a feature of our immigrant communities ever since—looking back at Spitalfields—the Huguenots came over in the 17th century, and probably even earlier than that.

But the provision of jobs by entrepreneurs is again only scratching the surface of the major problem. We are living in a country where unemployment has gone up by nearly 200,000 in the past two months and the Chancellor of the Exchequer is perfectly satisfied with that. We have a Chancellor of the Exchequer who says that this is an acceptable price to pay for bringing down inflation. If that is an acceptable price to pay —and I do not accept for a moment that high unemployment, whether acceptable or not, is a necessary concomitant of low inflation—and if the increase in unemployment which has been happening and which is bound to continue is to be allowed as a matter of government policy, all the talk about initiatives in the inner cities is so much hot air, because we shall be depriving the people in those communities of what they most need.

What I fear about government policy over the past 12 years —and I can criticise it because I have criticised it in my own behaviour in the 1970s—is that it is a series of policy gestures rather than a series of policies. We have things like the enterprise zones, the housing action trusts and the urban development corporations. I am not saying that they have not done good work in many places, and I listened with interest to what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Wade, the noble Earl, Lord Shrewsbury, and others about urban development corporations. But what they are doing, particularly with the enterprise zones, is seeking to highlight the very limited amount of money which the Government are making available for the inner cities by concentrating it in very small areas.

The other lesson that we learnt about Spitalfields was that, if we had done something effective about homes and jobs and not simply scratched the surface of the problems, there would rightly have been an outcry from the next bit of Tower Hamlets, the next bit of Hackney, the next bit of Southwark or the next bit of Newham. They would have asked, "Why is it that those areas are being favoured when we are not?"

I am afraid that the lesson of enterprise zones, despite what the noble Earl, Lord Shrewsbury, said, is that you take a very small area, you encourage investment and all that happens is that the investment is drained from the area immediately next-door. What then happens is that, because there are no rates, the rents go up close to the level which they would otherwise have been, and the benefit is to the landlords and not to the economy of the area as a whole. The noble Earl may disagree with that in his own case, but that is the experience of enterprise zones all over. So it is a whole succession of policy gestures which I fear are contrary to any real hope of investment in the inner cities.

The present Secretary of State, in his first incarnation, was a great one for policy gestures; a great one for dressing up, landing in helicopters and striding around parts of the inner cities. Some of it was clearly a great revelation for him and I admire him for it. But if he is to come back in his second incarnation and continue with this substitution of policy gestures for policy, then he will be disappointing—I would say even betraying—the hopes of those who are looking for some more effective action.

The subject of this debate is also concerned with partnership, and I agree with everything that has been said about partnership. I particularly want to draw attention to the role of local authorities in partnership. Partnership, after all, is not just between organisations —voluntary organisations, central government, employers, the business community and so on. It it is also a partnership of people, and it is a partnership of people represented by local authorities.

I want to emphasise the role that local authorities can have and should have in the regeneration of the inner cities. I am not just talking of local authorities participating in partnership work, although I could. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester will know of the Cariocca project in Manchester, where, with the black community, there has been investment by the local authority and with Department of the Environment money in work space for black people. There is the example in Hackney of collaboration with city employers in recruitment; the example in Coventry with co-operation between the council and the clothing manufacturers of the city; the example in Barnsley of business innovation centres, in collaboration with the chamber of commerce and with the European Community. There are many examples of where local authorities can participate in partnerships. But much more important is the role of local authorities and what they should have to contribute in terms of their housing policies; in terms of what they can provide by planning, by the sensible use of land that is available; in terms of the infrastructure that is required, the education, the social services and so on which are necessary for the revival of the inner cities.

What is tragic is the extent to which the role of local authorities has been devalued over the past 12 years as an act of deliberate policy by this Government. Over and over again we have seen powers taken away from local authorities so that they can no longer act, and we have seen resources taken away from them when the Government do not have the guts to take away powers literally.

A classic example was the attempt in the 1989 Local Government and Housing Act to affect local authorities' powers to engage in economic development. The way in which this was presented was that it was now becoming a specific responsibility of local government rather than being forced onto the old Section 137 of the Local Government Act. The practice was that the Government took powers for the first time to say, "If we do, not approve of the economic development that you are undertaking, you cannot do it at all". I suspect that when the money is given tomorrow to local authorities to promote regeneration of the inner cities it will be said, "You can have money but only for projects which the Secretary of State in Marsham Street approves or. In other words, there is no local autonomy whatever left.

It is a noble tradition of the Conservative Party to criticise the two nations which have existed in this country long before the time of Disraeli. What I fear about the policies of this Government is that they are increasing the differences between the two nations. That is particularly to the detriment of our inner cities. In the past 12 years, which has not been a period of economic advancement but rather a vast consumer spending binge for which we shall have to pay in due course, the rich have got richer and the poor have got poorer. That has happened especially in the inner cities. That is why we need a change of government in order to make things better.

7.10 p.m.

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Baroness Blatch)

My Lords, I join with all noble Lords in giving the most reverend Primate a hearty welcome to our Benches. His speech was quite inspiring and we welcome the spiritual dimension in this House.

The most reverend Primate referred to the soullessness of our inner cities. Because we are not prepared to accept such a premise, the Government have positively addressed the problems of the inner cities. I hope that what I say this evening on behalf of the Government will encourage noble Lords. Perhaps I may thank all noble Lords who have been kind enough to congratulate me on my promotion.

I welcome the opportunity presented by the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, to debate this important issue. We were faced today with a substantial subject and I have listened very closely and with a great deal of interest to the comments of all noble Lords. Anxiety has been shown for the problems facing inner city areas and the people who live and work in them. I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak today to reinforce the Government's wholehearted determination to tackle those inner city problems and to outline some of the real progress that is being made.

I fully endorse the emphasis the noble Baroness's Motion puts on the need for: partnership between public, private and voluntary sectors to promote regeneration". That has always been a key factor in the Government's approach to urban regeneration. But I challenge her charge of the, continued neglect of the inner cities". That ignores the very real progress that has been made in many areas. The 1980s were a remarkable decade of achievement in the Government's programme of urban regeneration.

In the past 12 years, this Government have introduced a wide range of measures designed to tackle the needs of the run-down areas of our older towns and cities. We have tackled that head-on, with imagination and flexibility. Inner city policies permeate down through all departments. Our programmes—urban development corporations, city action teams, city grant, inner city task forces and garden festivals among others—reinforce our partnership approach to urban regeneration. I sat on the board of a development corporation in Peterborough. The work carried out by that organisation benefited not only newcomers to Peterborough but substantially benefited the indigenous population, a point made by my noble friend Lord Wade.

Working with local government, the private and voluntary sectors, inner city areas have attracted billions of pounds of private sector investment and thousands of jobs have been created. The transformation of the inner city landscape has been very exciting to watch.

Under the action for cities initiative, the Government are investing some £4 billion per year in the inner cities. There are main programmes such as education, health, housing, transport and so on; but there are many Government incentives specifically administered in the urban areas. Moreover, they are not all DoE programmes.

The Department of Education and Science, for example, provides grant support for open learning centres and to increase the supply of trained youth leaders, and has pioneered city technology colleges. The Department of Employment is pushing ahead with its expanding programme of training and enterprise councils and the employment service provides increased help to unemployed inner city residents through jobclubs, job interview guarantees, and employment training. The Government's proposals for education and training—through developing vocational qualifications, the introduction of diploma awards and training credits—will provide a sound foundation and give increased flexibility for all young people over the age of 16 to take advantage of the training and education opportunities available.

The Home Office has a number of safer cities projects running, and grants have been given to tackle ethnic minority needs in education, social services, enterprise support and other areas; the Department of Trade and Industry has 16 inner city task forces—also with sponsor Ministers—working with local people improving life and work in inner cities.

My own department has a full range of urban programmes, including estate action for run-down council housing; derelict land grant; enterprise and simplified planning zones; as well as the urban programme, city grant and urban development corporations. My noble friend Lord Wade of Chorlton was kind enough to outline some of the benefits of that work. Investment is now running at over £10 billion.

We must recognise and not forget the important role of the Church in these matters and the work of the Church urban fund. That dovetails not only with Government projects but also with local, community and voluntary projects.

All those programmes are designed to promote an active and genuine partnership between all those with an interest in the welfare of their areas. The list of players is impressive from local government, the private and voluntary sectors and the local people.

On the rather cynical remarks made about local government, when I was a member of a board of a development corporation, I saw excellent cooperation between local government and the development corporation. All vested interests in politics were submerged. We had a mission which was taken up by all the players, who included local politicians of all persuasions. The response on the ground has been marvellous; the co-operative action of all the various interests has produced some impressive results. Perhaps I may give some examples.

At the Wavertree Technology Park on Merseyside 60 acres of severe dereliction have been transformed into a highly successful modern hi-tech business park. That partnership between central and local government, and the private sector, in which the Government injected over £6 million in grants, helped to achieve £30 million of private development and investment, bringing 1,500 jobs. Some of the firms there now say that they would rather recruit in Liverpool than anywhere else. They find the workforce reliable and efficient. That is not the familiar and damaging image of Merseyside. Again, my noble friend Lord Wade made that point.

Some of your Lordships may be familiar with the Cruddas Park/Loadman Street initiative in Newcastle, which will transform a run-down area of housing. This project was initiated by The Newcastle Initiative, a team of local business leaders working together with the local major public sector bodies to pursue the revitalisation of the city and its region, and business in the community. The objective of the project is to improve the Cruddas Park and Loadman Street estates socially and economically by working with the community, the private sector and the appropriate private agencies. We should like to see co-ordinated action of this sort in more areas, including the involvement of the private sector.

Teesside, also in the North East, was until recently, an area which was run-down; and perceived by some as without hope. But just look at that area today. It is alive with activity as developers move in to take advantage of the conditions we, through the UDC, have created. A particular project on the old Stockton race course—now to be a site of mixed development —used £27 million of public money to lever in £80 million private sector investment. Confidence remains good.

The Birmingham heartlands initiative, familiar to some of your Lordships I am sure, is a good example of partnership: the city council, private companies and central government coming together to regenerate East Birmingham. It shows that partnership can take different forms and that the Government will back those who join public and private sector together in a strategy for regeneration.

The lace market in Nottingham has been the site of much government and private sector investment in recent years. My department has assisted in its regeneration through both the urban programme and the city grant regimes. The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, said that these are just gestures. They are not gestures, but real achievements. They have transformed landscapes and benefited real people. Under the city grant six schemes have been approved with £3 million of government funding attracting over £13 million of private sector investment. New business and employment opportunities have been created as a result of this co-operation between the Government and the private sector which is leading to the revival in fortunes of this major provincial city.

The urban development corporations' impact on large run-down areas, such as London Docklands, has already been substantial. The Government are investing some £470 million through the 11 UDCs this year. In general, each UDC works with business interests in securing land for development, providing infrastructure and creating a climate in which enterprise can flourish. The most impressive fact about the UDCs is the amount of private investment that they have secured for inner city regeneration. Public sector money amounting to £1.5 billion invested in UDCs since their creation has generated over £10 billion of private investment.

The role of the private sector—firms of all sizes —in inner city regeneration is vital. And I am glad to say that industry and commerce are increasingly becoming involved in the development of their cities. Many firms are supporting local enterprise agencies and seconding personnel to work in the community. They are providing training for unemployed people, work experience for pupils and support for schools and industry compacts. Business leadership teams have been set up in a number of areas. Using their management and business skills, these leaders are working with the public authorities in shaping and inspiring the regeneration of their areas.

Last but not least is the role of the voluntary sector in the partnership equation. The voluntary sector is a vital element in the regeneration package, and has been so for many years. The sector has a unique combination of features which makes it well suited to playing an integral part in inner city revival. Voluntary action is often the first time that many people have a chance to influence the sort of place they live and work in, or the sort of employment skills to which they have access, or their local environment. There are many examples: in building or converting workshops to suit the needs of small local businessmen; in combining training for employment with providing much-needed local services; or environmental improvements.

A number of noble Lords have raised the Question of housing policy in the inner cities. I must commend to the House the work done by my honourable friend Sir George Young, the Minister for Housing in another place. Our ultimate objectives for housing in the inner cities are the same as they are throughout the country: that is, to ensure that decent housing is within the reach of all families, and to promote choice for owner-occupiers and tenants alike.

One difference between the Government and the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, is that we believe that local authorities are not the only providers of local housing. Local authorities are spending around £2 billion a year on the renovation of their own stock, which is nearly double the level of 10 years ago in real terms. Many authorities are also working with housing associations, private landlords and developers to increase the supply of low-cost housing.

We have increased the public resources available to housing associations for developing subsidised housing from £1.1 billion last year to over £2 billion by 1993 and changed their grant arrangement to enable them to attract private investment.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley

My Lords, I do not believe that local council housing is the only way of providing housing. I object that the Government do not believe that it has any part at all to play.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, I profoundly disagree with the statement just made by the noble Lord. I shall repeat it because it is very important. Local authorities are spending £2 billion a year on renovating their own stock. They are still building houses and their grant has increased. The level of grant is nearly double that of 10 years ago in real terms. Many authorities are also working with housing associations.

Lord Sefton of Garston

My Lords, is it not true that Liverpool Corporation wanted to build 3,000 houses for rent, but that the Government's financial strictures gave rise to all of Merseyside's financial problems?

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, the specific point made by the noble Lord detracts from the main point that I am making; namely, that it is a combination of local authority provision, housing association provision, private sector provision and the voluntary sector. They are all involved in the provision of housing. We are talking about the number of houses that are built irrespective of who makes the basic provision.

Lord Sefton of Garston

My Lords, if I detracted from the noble Baroness's main point, then I apologise. I was merely asking a question. Does the Minister not know that Liverpool Corporation embarked on a programme of building 3,000 houses, which were badly needed, but that Government restrictions put the corporation in a situation where financial problems arose which became almost insurmountable?

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, the noble Lord makes a very specific point about Liverpool. I do not have time to go into the specific detail. Liverpool is not an authority known for low spending.

Lord Sefton of Garston

My Lords, that is not a very nice answer. Will the Minister write to me when she has details of the problem?

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, of course I shall write to the noble Lord. Together, these measures will permit a sustained increase in output by housing associations from 27,000 last year to around 40,000 by 1993–94, Deregulation of the private rented sector is also helping to make more properties available for rent, eating pressures across the market as a whole.

Of course, many of the worst housing problems are concentrated in the inner cities. We are addressing the problem through a series of measures. We are targeting capital resources and housing revenue account subsidy more effectively on the authorities with the greatest needs, including inner city areas. Three-quarters of local authorities' capital spending power derives from allocations based on assessed need, compared with one-third under the old system. A system of targeted management and maintenance allowances was introduced for this year. The ring-fencing of the housing revenue account—stopping cross-subsidy from local taxpayers—has also put pressure on local authority housing managers to improve their management and level of service and efficiency.

In addition, estate action schemes, worth £268 million in 1991–92, are revitalising run-down council estates, many in inner city areas. Housing action trusts can focus resources and expertise on some run-down areas of predominantly local authority housing where the problems are beyond the capabilities of the authority. The first trust, announced last month, is to be in Hull. A proposal for Waltham Forest is under active consideration.

The need to reduce homelessness underlies all our housing policies. An extra £300 million is available over two years to local authorities and housing associations in London and the South East for measures to reduce the use of bed and breakfast accommodation. This is, of course, in addition to mainstream housing capital investment approaching £4 billion this year. The programme aims to provide about 16,000 new lettings for homeless families through bringing empty properties back into use and cash incentives schemes to help existing tenants to buy a property in the private sector.

We are also spending more than £100 million over three years to provide more accommodation for homeless people in London, and to support voluntary organisations throughout England who offer homeless, and potentially homeless, people advice and practical help. Our current initiative is already having considerable impact. The number of young and not so young people sleeping rough in the main areas of central London have halved from a figure of 1,000 in January to fewer than 500 at present.

I could not possibly do justice to the debate by addressing all the individual points raised by noble Lords, but I shall attempt to address some of the main points that have been raised. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester was quite rightly concerned about Manchester. He made sure that we understood not just the positive but the downside of some of the problems in that area. Perhaps I may reassure him about Moss Side. The Government are well seized of the difficulties in that area. The right reverend Prelate probably knows that a great deal of activity has been initiated by the Home Office, my own department and the Department of Education and Science. My understanding is that the safe cities' programme is addressing some of the problems relating to drugs in that area.

I understand that over 1,300 crime prevention measures have been initiated and some of the signs are promising. However, the problems are horrendous for that particular part of Manchester, and I refer now to Salford Quays, which I have visited. I accept much of what the right reverend Prelate said, but he referred to a gap. The development has been a marvellously exciting project. Manchester—and Salford in particular—would be a poorer place without that development. It would not be as equipped as it is now to face some of the problems of the recession. It is our firm belief that economic buoyancy is an essential prerequisite for the well-being and health of people in the area.

The right reverend Prelate referred to a family camping out in a church in Salford and to the problems of that family. I cannot comment as I do not know the details; but if the local authority made the judgment and determined that the family was intentionally homeless, I have to assume that the family must have left some accommodation voluntarily. We must make sure that our advice is more appropriate to help young people and families in that situation.

The noble Lord, Lord Addington, was rightly concerned about training needs, particularly those of special interest groups. Again, I do not have a specific answer to that question. The statements made in the House earlier this week, together with the way in which the TECs are now co-ordinating, not just across education and the public sector, but with the voluntary organisations, means that it is their responsibility to co-ordinate appropriate solutions for the training of people with special needs. However, I shall address that point in writing to the noble Lord.

The noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, referred to the statutory level and said that his particular interest was the revival of suburban and, I think he said, urban pride. That has been a particular preoccupation with my Secretary of State since he took office. He has a reputation, going back more than a decade, of being concerned about bringing back pride, especially to our inner cities. I do not believe that the mother of all GLCs—which I believe is the new proposal to resurrect London government—is a solution to that particular problem.

My noble friend Lord Joseph is always a stimulating speaker. I should like to spend a great deal more time answering his points but, sadly, I do not have the time. He made some very special points about the moral and spiritual well being of the nation and the ways in which appropriate role models could be encouraged and activated to become involved in practical ways to resolve some of the problems in the community. He and I both know of an organisation called Crossroads where mature people who have had families and who, happily, have been free of social problems are bringing those talents and that experience to bear on families who can use their advice and help. There is scope for another debate on much of what my noble friend said.

The noble Earl, Lord Russell, referred to a local tenant who wished to call a meeting but who was met with a rather resistant and inexplicable attitude from a local councillor. That was my experience when I visited some council flats in Southwark. I was depressed at the enormous unspent energies of the people who lived in the flats and who wanted to become involved. They said, "Our councillors do not want us to become involved". Again, I believe there is much scope for improvement there.

The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, said that targeting resources deprived non-targeted areas of resources. Resources are finite, and if they are spread too thinly then clearly they do not have as much effect. If there is to be any sustainable help, the Government believe that we must target and tackle the worst areas in a way that has an impact, and under a rolling programme which addresses all the problems of those areas.

The noble Baroness, Lady Seear, referred to the need for one-stop shops. I can be encouraging there. Government city action teams in our major cities provide such a service. Their role is to co-ordinate Government departments and programmes at local level. In Whitehall we also have the action for cities co-ordination unit, which is based in my department and which serves as a focal point for those wishing to understand the programmes available. We have a presence in Birmingham, Bradford, Bristol, Coventry, Doncaster, Granby, Hartlepool, Leeds, Manchester, Middlesbrough, Spitalfields, North Peckham, North Kensington —I could go on. The point is an important one. We wanted to find a way of bringing all those elements together, and that is an attempt to do just that.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester said that the inner cities have not enjoyed the recent prosperity seen in other parts of the country. Again, I do not believe that that is entirely true. For example, on Teesside in the North East, the UDC would claim that its area has backed the market and that demand has not fallen off during the recession. Indeed it has continued to grow stronger. The economy is cyclical and it differs as between regions. However, economic buoyancy benefits everybody.

I am happy to say to my noble friend Lord Shrewsbury that the Black Country is alive and kicking. Like him, I too will welcome Jean Denton to these Benches. She is a good friend. She will be a welcome addition to the House.

In response to the specific point about the Black Country spine road, I have to say that a six kilometre route through the heart of the UDA would link the M.5 to the M.6. It was developed by Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton Councils, and funded by a 100 per cent. Department of Transport grant. There has been an escalation of costs from £140 million in 1989 to £245 million in 1990. Therein lies the problem. However, it is being grappled with. We are aware of the concern and we are actively pursuing a way forward with the DoE and the Department of Transport.

Let me assure the House that we are not claiming that the battle has been won. The conditions today in some parts of our cities—and they are not all in the inner cities—are still unacceptable. A major challenge we face in the 1990s is to bring new hope to those pockets of deprivation that still remain after the successes of the 1980s.

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State has made it clear that what he wants to see in future is locally-led solutions, based on a local vision of the way forward for a city or town. Authorities should be encouraged to bring forward plans for redevelopment of areas where there are particular problems or opportunities, drawn up in consultation with the private sector and with local communities. The best and most imaginative of those plans should be rewarded by a commitment of Government resources. The Government are at present looking at ways of encouraging developments along these lines as part of their stock-take of inner cities policies, and a Statement is imminent.

My Lords, there is much to be done—we are not complacent. This Government's achievements are considerable—we have brought about huge physical change, new economic activity and renewed confidence within the depressed areas such as Docklands, Manchester, the garden festival sites and other areas. Despite what some noble Lords have said today, for the first time in decades conditions in our cities are getting better. Recent years have demonstrated that any area—whatever the condition of dereliction—can be revived. We must never be without hope. We have the techniques to do it; there is nothing permanent about decline. We now have a strong foundation of successful policies to build on. An essential ingredient will be to unite the local authorities, local industry and commerce, the academic institutions, the voluntary sector and the individual citizen in common cause to bring alive and enrich our inner cities.

I end with reference to the most reverend Primate who referred to the essential elements of the vision spiritual, economic and artistic. We shall not duck that challenge. We shall, in a spirit of partnership, take it head-on with vigour and with imagination.

7.39 p.m.

Baroness Seear

My Lords, my first job is to thank all the speakers who have taken part in what has been a useful and worthwhile debate. It has been good to have speakers from the Conservative Benches. On some previous occasions when we have had a Liberal Democrat inspired debate they have been conspicuous by their absence. It is sad that on this occasion, with the exception of the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, it was Labour speakers who were conspicuous by their absence. That was surprising in view of the nature of the subject and surprising too because the debate has shown that there is a great deal of agreement about the seriousness of the problem and about what needs to be done. If only we could get beyond the wrangling of parties we could bring about a great deal of determined and agreed planning.

I have to say to the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, that I think the lady doth protest too much. I was timing her speech and I was waiting for her to tell us that not everything in the garden is lovely. At the end of her speech she admitted that there is still a little way to go. Perhaps the difference between us is that we think that that way is rather longer, harder and more expensive than she is able at this stage to admit. We shall know by tomorrow. Despite the words of warning from the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, I still hope that tomorrow will bring a gleam of new hope.

The emphasis has been on partnership, which is right. I am sorry that I did not get a better response from the noble Baroness about the plight of the voluntary organisations. Perhaps she does not realise how strongly they feel nor how let down they feel. I should like to make another plug for the importance of continuity. The plans that are put forward and agreed -may not be perfect but it may be better to continue; with a plan that is less than perfect than to chop and change and alter and thus make people feel that they cannot think ahead because they do not know what tomorrow will bring.

That is all I want to say about the debate. It remains for me to make one or two more agreeable comments. First and foremost, perhaps I may say again how fortunate we have been to hear the maiden speech of the most reverend Primate and to say how helpful and understanding he was in what he said. I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, on her promotion. I shall avoid the party point that I might have made. It is always good to see a woman gain promotion. There is still some vestige of truth in the old saying that a woman has to be half as good again as a man in order to reach the same position. I am not making any comment on her male colleagues when I say that. However, I think it can be said in this case. The noble Baroness works very hard. Perhaps I may say to her that she will have to be extremely careful that her colleagues do not turn her into a beast of burden. I notice that whenever there is a job to be done the noble Baroness is trotted out to do it. Women put up with too much, Lady Blatch!

Finally, it is a great pleasure to welcome back the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont. I still do not understand why he thought that because he had two parishes he could not sit on the Liberal Democrat Benches. I really do think that the Churches should not be ashamed to declare their political affiliations. No one has ever been worried about the fact that the noble Lord, Lord Soper, sits determinedly on the Labour Benches. I have seen one or two Anglicans sitting on the Tory Benches. However, a late repentance is better than none. We are glad to see the noble Lord back. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.