HL Deb 24 March 1993 vol 544 cc333-68

3.8 p.m.

Lord Bonham-Carter rose to call attention to the condition of those living in the inner cities, with particular reference to ethnic minorities and young people; and to move for Papers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, as a result of tabling this Motion for debate this afternoon I have received a great deal of material from people outside your Lordships' House. I have received a letter from a person who is professionally involved in the issue which we are discussing today. He writes: There is now an emerging underclass, a burgeoning group who are outside the scope of local provision and existing within alternative values, norms and lifestyles. Drug, crime, and alcohol abuse are common features in this scenario and the state, in pushing more young people out of school through exclusions— by that he means expulsions— is not helping the situation … Although race relations in places such as Brixton tends now to be judged on whether or not there are riots, the reality is that there is a potentially desperate situation developing in our inner cities which requires strong leadership and direction along with targeted programmes to help the needy". It is in the context of those words that I will be speaking this afternoon. Perhaps the most serious consequence of the recession—the longest and most profound recession since the war—has been its impact on the young, on the young in the inner cities, and in particular on the young in the inner cities who are members of ethnic minority groups.

When Beatrice Webb was asked what was the most significant change in her long life she replied that it was the disappearance of beggars from our streets. Today the beggars are back. They are back after a decade of extremely rapid economic growth. During that decade of rapid economic growth there was no trickle down effect. On the contrary, on one measurement, between 1979 and 1989 the standard of living of the poorest 10 per cent. dropped by 6 per cent. while the richest 10 per cent. enjoyed an increase of 50 per cent. Such is the nature of the economic miracle we have survived by the skin of our teeth.

Not only was there was no trickle down of wealth, but at the same time there was a massive transfer of wealth to those who were already well-to-do. Accompanying that upward redistribution, benefits were reduced and there was the outright abolition of benefits for groups of teenagers. In addition to those factors the Government were engaged in dismantling a number of employment protection laws. On top of all that, there is the present massive unemployment.

In the light of those circumstances it is hardly surprising that the numbers on low wages have increased. The number of workers below the Council of Europe's decency threshold was 7.8 million in 1979. In 1991 it amounted to 10 million; namely, 47 per cent. of those in employment.

Of all those factors the greatest contributor to poverty is unemployment, which carries with it a whole series of consequences, all destructive. Above all, it is immensely expensive. The Employment Secretary, speaking to the Employment Select Committee recently, estimated that, taking into account extra benefits, loss of income tax and loss of indirect tax, each unemployed person costs the taxpayer £9,000 per annum.

The impact of all those factors—the redistribution of wealth upwards, the removal of the protection of employment laws from the low paid, the absolute increase in the number of low paid, and massive unemployment—has fallen with particular weight on our inner cities and on the resources available to them, and on the young and the ethnic young in particular. Unemployment among those between the ages of 16 and 24 rose from just under 500,000 in 1990 to 914,000 in October 1992; that is, from 8.5 per cent. to 17 per cent. Unemployment among ethnic minorities is generally estimated to be double that among whites. According to the International Labour Organisation, unemployment rates for that age group in June to August 1992 were: whites, 13 per cent.; Afro-Caribbeans, 29 per cent.; Indians, 18 per cent.; Pakistanis 21 per cent.; and Bangladeshis, 26 per cent.

The difference in those figures, ranging from 13 per cent. among whites to 29 per cent. among Afro-Caribbeans, is partly explained by discrimination, for there is indubitably still substantial racial discrimination in our society. It occurs in recruitment, in promotion and in training. For example, in 1987 the Ministry of Defence had no ethnic minority trainees out of a total of 918. By 1989 1 per cent. were from ethnic minorities. In 12 supermarket chains there were 21 ethnic trainees out of a total of 2,685. At the end of youth training in 1992, 50 per cent. of the white trainees found work, 33 per cent. of the Asians and 22 per cent. of the Afro-Caribbeans.

In so far as they reflect the impact of discrimination, those figures reinforce the argument of the Commission for Racial Equality that the provisions of the Race Relations Act should be strengthened. It is an oddity that the antidiscrimination law in Northern Ireland should be so much tougher than the racial discrimination law in this country. One is tempted to conclude that one of the reasons why that is so is that there is more violence in Northern Ireland, but it is a dangerous and horrible conclusion to reach.

The law is not the whole answer, for the figures which I have quoted show a difference within and between the ethnic groups. That is a fact which can be verified statistically. That difference has increased in recent years and reflects a change from the early days of immigration when the spread was much more evenly distributed among the various groups.

There are two approaches to the problem of escaping from the poverty trap and the inner cities. To simplify the position greatly, the route followed by the groups comprising those Asians who came from East Africa and from India has been twofold: first, self-employment, and, secondly, the professions. Both routes outflank the impact of discrimination significantly. Other groups, who have gone into the service industries or manufacturing industry, have found themselves far more vulnerable both to cyclical movements and to overt discrimination. That is a significant difference in the patterns of development which we cannot afford to neglect.

However, there is yet another route out of the poverty trap and out of the inner cities. That depends on government policies and on the resources made available by local and central government to deal with the manifestations of disadvantage. It is when one examines that aspect that one finds oneself disappointed by the results of the Autumn Statement, which led to the running down of Section 11, the urban programme and Safer Cities projects. The impact on local authorities has been drastic and will become more so as it bites.

I ask the House to consider the situation in two local authorities as an example of the situation on the ground. Take, for example, Lambeth on the one hand. Lambeth has 20,000 refugees, not from the new Commonwealth but from Eritrea, Somalia and elsewhere. They are not helped by Section 11. Further, in Lambeth 108 languages are spoken in addition to English. In Lambeth 36,000 people come from minority groups. In Lambeth unemployment is extremely high.

Let us consider Tower Hamlets. It has an extremely high proportion of Bangladeshis. Bangladeshis are the most recent immigrants. They still suffer the disadvantages of newness. It means that language training is essential. The language training programme has been largely financed under Section 11. Under the urban programme I believe that I am right in saying—I speak from memory—that it will lose £1.3 million this year and £1.5 million next year. Tower Hamlets is one of the poorest boroughs in the whole of this country. Such cuts in the resources made available to local authorities to deal with the special problems which face our inner cities are short-sighted. The long-term social consequences will be far greater than any short-term saving.

I understand that it may be difficult to expect any government to restore cuts so recently made. However, at present the Government are reviewing their allocation of resources to local authorities. I plead to them that in the course of that review they consider carefully such indicators of deprivation as homelessness, unemployment, single parent families and refugee or ethnic minority population. Having examined those indicators, I urge that they ensure that resources are made available to the local authorities in which those indicators are high so that the cuts which have been made are minimised and that the resources are made available to deal with the disadvantages and the deprivation with which those local authorities struggle. That seems to me a crucial message which we should drive home in the course of the debate.

I wish to remind the Government that the problem is a serious one which will be with us for many years. We should not forget the lesson of Los Angeles. In Los Angeles a section of the population simply opted out of formal society. It did not vote; it did not participate; it was out of touch with all the established authorities. When those people rioted it came as a bolt from the blue which was totally unforeseen. That is the condition which my correspondent whom I quoted at the beginning of my speech stated might develop in this country: that those people in our inner cities who have been left out of society will take themselves out of society. They may suddenly erupt or, more than at present, they will take to crime, drugs and a wholly antisocial mode of living. It is that condition that we have to combat. We can combat it only by the measures that I have sought to describe; and by a leadership and a determination to tackle the problem which, I promise your Lordships—I believe that all noble Lords will agree—is a matter of great urgency. I beg to move for Papers.

3.24 p.m.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham

My Lords, I am sure that we all thank the noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter, for a moving introduction to a timely debate.

The term "inner cities" conjures up a wasteland where the tide of prosperity has gone out leaving stranded the old, large families on income support, the unemployed, the ethnic minority, the single parent and the young single homeless among the debris of empty factories, derelict sites, boarded-up shops, and cannibalised cars. According to the Home Secretary last November, inner cities are harbouring a growing underclass of the alienated poor, black and young. The Home Secretary identified the problem as the most formidable challenge facing western democracies. That underclass is a separate class, different from us, by implication scrounging from us, and subverting our values. Is that really so, my Lords?

Perhaps it is time in today's debate to try to nail that stereotype. All the evidence is that we are talking not about a class apart but about people who share the values of us all, who are desperately hungry for work, deeply caring about their families, and much distressed about the decaying physical environment. They are indeed often marginal, and physically and economically disconnected from the wider society and economy. But that marginality has been manufactured by us. Those people may be homeless and unemployed, poor, on the edge of the criminal twilight, and almost certainly young and black. But they are homeless because, as young single people they are not able to get a home. They are unemployed because they have given up the search for work when there is none. They are poor because, especially if they are young, they are refused income support. I referred to their being on the edge of criminality. As Sir Peter Imbert said last July, If a map of the most deprived areas in London was superimposed over another showing the worst areas of crime, the areas would correlate closely". Of course we should be tough on crime. But we should he equally tough on the causes of crime for which we all share responsibility. Poverty and crime are linked, but that should be a reason for tackling poverty not the deprived. That poverty and that deprivation in the inner cities is increasing. The Policy Studies Institute report on urban trends last year showed that the gap of deprivation between inner cities and mainland England not only has not narrowed in the past decade but has widened.

Let us take housing. Housing starts in England were down in the past decade by half. In the inner cities they were down by three-quarters. In 1989 London completed 12 million square feet of office space and just 300 local authority houses. Deprived areas have twice as many homeless and eight times as many people in bed and breakfast accommodation. The young single people—the most highly vulnerable—those without parents, coming out of care or serving a probation order cannot be housed by half the local authorities. If such young people are homeless, almost certainly they are jobless.

As the noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter, stated, although the national average of unemployment may be 9 per cent., typically the figure is up to 20 per cent. in inner cities and up to 30 per cent. among young blacks. That is not because those young people will not work. An advertisement for a shelf-packer in Sainsbury's will attract 200 applicants. Of a class of 30 young school leavers in Handsworth, Birmingham, only one is able to go on to a job. As there is little local industry, there are few local training places. Over half the TECs cannot meet the Government guarantees. After training such young people are less likely to find jobs. They give up. We find therefore a quarter of all unemployed 16 and 17 year-olds without work, not at school, not in training and not on income support. Of those young people, 80,000 are destitute. They beg and steal.

What of their well-being, my Lords? Infant mortality in inner cities is 50 per cent. above the national average. While in the remainder of England the pupil teacher ratios improve, they are worsening in the inner cities. Truancy escalates. Fifty per cent. of truants become offenders. In our inner cities we see two or three times the national average of children in care, and double the number of households on income support. By every indicator of social stress—poor health, low educational attainment, homelessness, unemployment, and offending—the situation in the inner cities is bad. It is getting worse, especially for the young and for the black, and it seems unlikely to improve.

Why is that, my Lords? We have had 20 years of programmes targeted on the inner cities and their dreaded underclass. The earliest and best of such schemes was the urban programme launched by the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, in the late 1960s in the wake of the Watts riots and the "rivers of blood" speech. By now the programme works in 57 of the poorest authorities in the country, funding nurseries, language centres and training schemes. It is administered by local authorities, and builds up the social as well as the economic fabric of those communities. However, from 1980 urban development corporations, and from 1981 enterprise zones, switched from rebuilding communities to property-led physical regeneration. That was a disastrous mistake.

The regeneration is led top down by unaccountable quangos of businessmen, free of planning controls, often free of business rates, declaring UDI from their local communities. Their wealth-creating activities were meant, but failed, to trickle down. They created new jobs, but the new jobs mostly came from elsewhere. As the DTI's own research shows, for every three new jobs created in task force areas, two had been displaced from elsewhere.

As to the much vaunted private investment, it collapsed with the end of the property boom. Six UDCs are now in deficit by £66 million and if that had been incurred by local government the authorities would now be surcharged. In Docklands, which has taken £4 in every £10 of urban money, we see house prices beyond the reach of local people. We see 10 per cent. of its property empty and the neighbouring borough of Newham trying to house 1,000 homeless families a year.

To UDCs and enterprise zones have been added estate action schemes, city action teams in 1985 and task forces in 1986 to co-ordinate and cross-cut programmes which were in turn overlaid in 1991 by the Secretary of State's city challenge. We now have in the Housing and Urban Development Bill before the House the urban regeneration agencies which again, like the other initiatives, have been property-based top down, unaccountable, as though the lessons of the last decade had not been understood or learnt.

It is not surprising that in 1989 the Audit Commission condemned the urban programmes as a patchwork quilt of complexity and idiosyncrasies in individual cities: of programme overkill in a strategic vacuum. We have had a hotchpotch of programmes, each financed by cutting the previous one so that the urban programmes—still the best —were halved to fund the UDCs. They and the housing programmes were top sliced to fund city challenge and the regeneration agency was funded from existing initiatives, thus satisfying the Treasury demand for cuts and junior Ministers' hunger to announce new initiatives simultaneously.

To his credit, the Home Secretary recognised this and even when the economy was growing, he said: it was not automatically the case that it will trickle down so that the inner-city resident will get a fair share of it". Government help was needed, he said, but that was only days after the Chancellor's Autumn Statement which cut the urban programme of 1992 to a third by 1995 and scrapped city challenge.

What do we now have on offer? We have an urban programme frozen and its 34,000 jobs (more than the entire mining industry) now at risk; city challenge abandoned; one new UDC proposed for Plymouth; a tightly circumscribed urban regeneration agency replicating all the physical regeneration problems of previous initiatives and a minuscule capital partnership releasing perhaps £20 million. That is the inner city strategy for the next few years. It lifts the heart, does it not? It really will transform the life chances of the young, the black and the poor in our cities, will it not?

What needs to be done? Actually, the Home Secretary himself spelt it out. What we need is a partnership between statutory and voluntary agencies and private companies so that local communities, with government help, can find their own solutions and own them. What does that mean? It means frankly the reverse of virtually all the Government's inner city so-called initiatives of the past decade. We know what inner city residents want; they tell us. They want affordable housing; local employment and training; they want a better physical environment and safer communities. We know too that, as the Home Secretary said, property-led economic regeneration—the fallacy of the last decade—will not trickle down to local people, the unskilled, the young, the black, the disadvantaged, unless the contracts target their labour and customise their training. In other words, it will not trickle down unless we can insert into employment contracts precisely those contract compliance clauses which the Government have banned local authorities from including in the name of competition.

We know too that we need to ensure that personal incomes, income support and the social wage of local authority services should not—as is happening—fall further behind the rest of mainland England. Inner city local authorities, as we know, have to spend more on more people at greater cost with fewer resources. Therefore, the cuts in rate support grants and revenue support grants that they have had are perverse. We know too that to build safer communities we need a range of measures with street lighting, better estate design and community policing. We know all that and we know, above all, that if it is to work, it must be rooted in partnership and be bottom up, based on local plans and initiatives. It must be accountable to local people and owned by them.

If we wanted to invent an agency which had that local knowledge, which had the moral authority to lead partnerships; which had professional, financial, planning, legal and research skills; which had experience of customised training and of land assembly; of building infrastructure; an agency which was democratically accountable to local demands and local communities, which had staying power—and that is important when so many schemes fold when the Government pull out—which was not dependent on the vagaries of the market or the property boom; if we wanted all this, an agency with all those qualities—as inner cities certainly do—what would we do? We would invent local government.

Instead, this Government have marginalised it, fragmented it, undermined it and done nearly their best to abolish it. The unelected quango state now spends more money than elected local government which has been capped, cut, and controlled by central government.

In a different debate we might have been able to celebrate our cities, to enjoy their public space, to welcome civic leadership, to cherish civic pride, to regard our cities as centres of culture, power houses of energy, the source—as a 19th century Liberal would say—of that divine restlessness which fuels our moral, social and economic energy. Instead, we seek in our inner cities only to pacify, discipline and contain—the mark of a decade of failed government policies; the mark of a ghettoised Britain.

3.36 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of Sheffield

My Lords, when I knew that I had the privilege of sharing in the debate I wrote to some of the clergy in my diocese of Sheffield asking what they wanted me to say. I could spend a good deal of my time telling the House. I found what they wrote distressing in what it had to say of wasted young lives; frightening, because of what it had to say about the fear of crime in our inner cities and most of our communities; and deeply moving because of what it said about what was being done to help people, not least by teachers in schools, by those much criticised social workers and, I dare to say, by the clergy and ministers resident in the communities.

However, noble Lords know all that so I shall only read a little of what two people wrote to me. Richard writes: Recently I remember having heard during the clay various people discussing the moral state of the nation and calling on the churches, among others, to give a proper lead. Late that evening, I went across the road to talk with the group of lads in their early twenties who spend their evenings in our Church porch smoking cannabis, consuming large quantities of cider, urinating publicly, and shouting at those who pass by. I recall feeling quite powerless. Certainly the need for a moral lead was more than clear, but these are young people who have already spent time in jail, who are addicted to substances and alcohol, who thieve to feed these addictions, who have never worked, who truanted from school, … young people who, most seriously of all, appear to have no constructive thoughts and hope for the future. I wondered where I or indeed a relatively small inner-city church were to find the time and resources to give the lead that society as a whole is unable to provide. Not so long ago the local youth worker declared that he would no longer run a club or do much other work with these lads aged over 14 since those he was working with were now too destructive and dangerous. Subsequently the club for younger children had to be closed because the older group disrupted it so much". The letter goes on to say: there are signs of hope. A local project to build training workshops … The youth club run by an elderly local couple that persists despite everything. Schools that use Telethon and 'Children in Need' money to fund trips and activities that broaden experience and horizons". That describes one side of Sheffield.

The following letter comes from the other side of Sheffield: Young people: The 'forgotten generation' I call them. I watched a particular group of youngsters though all their 'teens'. They were at Primary School when we arrived—a first class school for teaching and discipline from which the youngsters benefited. However, due to poor home conditions, lack of parental control, broken homes … the youngsters became 'streetwise' at an early age and became prey to the drug teams which led to continuous theft from homes and motor vehicles". He says that media publicity did not help; and continues: And this was not only a rich/poor divide, it was also an age division. The older residents rejected the existence of young people in their midst and, in Parson Cross … like other similar housing areas, the inevitable periodic rioting occurred. I can cite you four examples of boys from the same class of 13 year-olds 7 years ago. All 'wagged' from school as often as they could—parental discipline was at a minimum, and through cuts in local government spending, Truant Officers are now non-existent. Boredom and lounging around made them prime targets for drugs—they having first off-set boredom with 'kicks' from glue and aerosol sniffing. By the age of 17, and for two years, they graduated through cannabis and crack to heroin injecting. At £20 a fix and car radios bring £5 each, the crimes against motor vehicles rocketed. Now one of the young men is serving 2 years for burglary, one has served a jail sentence and, sadly is still a heroin addict, one, thankfully, has a job and the fourth is still unemployed (has never worked) and actually does 2 half-days a week gardening for me for a small remuneration. One other point I would make is there is a real feeling of frustration within the teaching staff in the local schools with the joint dangers of testing results being published and parental choice of school for their children. This is already resulting in a creaming-off of the talented and well-supported children to schools outside the area. If this continues many schools … will, in just a few years, become backwaters of education and who could blame teachers for not wishing to work in such places. There will be only one loser—the young people". I read out that letter to root what I have to say in that sort of reality, which I know is familiar to all noble Lords. But the word that underlies the situation over and over again is "unemployment". We are almost frivolous on both sides of this House in our response to that issue. If we follow the advice of the noble Baroness who just spoke, we shall spend a great deal more money. I do not doubt that it will help. On another occasion I could tell your Lordships how much it would help. But it would not solve the problem of unemployment.

If we follow the advice of this side of the House and put our trust in the passing of the recession and the growing of prosperity, that will help. It might even reduce unemployment from 3 million (dare we say it?) to 1 million. But if we had reduced unemployment to 1 million, it would make no difference at all to the places of which I speak. Young people would still be going to school and leaving school with no expectation of work. For people in those communities work has ceased to be part of their culture. I do not see in the policies of any of us anything that will make work a part of their culture again. I believe that that is a matter of desperate seriousness.

I believe that we are made for work. We become ourselves through working with others. If we are prevented from doing that, we never grow up. That is the mark of those young people whose behaviour is so distressing to themselves and to others. They have not grown up. They have not grown up because they have been deprived of the hope and expectation of work. It has coloured their schooldays. It has coloured their taking part in the various training schemes that are thrown at them. They know, and they expect, that they will not work.

By profession (as noble Lords see) I am a priest and a pastor. By hobby I am a historian. I see why our cities and communities were built. I am particularly aware of that in our mining communities, many of which were built in this century to meet the (believed) infinite need for coal. People came to those places from all over the country to find work. There is no work now. Even before the mines are closed, there is next to no work. In one of the parishes whose vicars wrote to me 7 per cent. of last year's school-leavers are working. There is very little work, yet the people are there. Our great cities—I know particularly Sheffield and Tyneside—were built to provide homes for a massive workforce in heavy industry. It will never be like that again. We built our housing estates without realising that they would have homes but not work. We know, tragically, the results of that situation.

I believe that we have to be infinitely more radical than any of us has dared to be so far, and that our starting point has to be a culture in which people work. It will be a different sort of work to what it was in the past, and will need a different sort of economics. I know that I tread ground where I am particularly out of my depth. But the alternatives are unthinkable—at best, 1 million unemployed, and it could well be 2 million. The recession never came to Sheffield because it had never stopped. That is even more true on Tyneside. Twenty or 30 years ago I went round the housing estates on Tyneside and heard people say: "Of course, we will never work". And they never have.

Somehow or other, the starting point of our response to that situation must not be simply one of offering palliatives—either an end to the recession or schemes for this or that —but a determination to put people first. That means bringing work for "people first". I draw all other conclusions from that starting point. When we see the need that exists for things to be done, and when at the same time we see that we have 3 million unemployed and a desperate need for things to be done to make life in our communities and our lifestyle better, I do not believe that it is totally beyond our ability to say: it is a different world that we live in from that of 50 or 100 years ago. Our starting point needs to be people, and finding ways in which they can find work; ways in which they can learn the disciplines of work and can learn how to grow into adults by working alongside other adults; ways in which we can create a community which is people-based and in which there is work for all.

3.48 p.m.

Lord Elton

My Lords, one cannot in 12 minutes reply to a debate of this sort, particularly as one is only half way through it. But it is clear that, for a start, I shall not be able to make the speech which I brought into this Chamber because so much has been said which has triggered new ideas in my head. I want to refer only passingly to the two opening speeches. The noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter, drew close attention to the difficulties caused by Section 11 changes. I think it fair to balance that by saying that he made no mention of the various programmes such as the Safer Cities projects whose funding will increase from £5.8 million next year to £7.4 million in 1995–96; the capital partnership programme, which will release into the economy up to £1,750,000 from capital sales by local authorities by Christmas this year; or the net increase in the training programme of £125 million. I say that only to try to restore the balance a little. It will be for my noble friends on the Front Bench to deal lethally and finally with the first two speeches in this debate.

I must respond to the right reverend Prelate's stimulating and challenging speech. I come to this debate by a progression through teaching, the Territorial Army and the Home Office to charity and the charitable sector. That has consistently developed my sympathy and given me an insight into the predicament of young people, their relationship with crime and the means by which it may be countered. That is relevant to both the terms of the Motion and the right reverend Prelate's remarks.

As a teacher I met the very young right up to young adults. I saw in them the huge and marvellous potential, which exists in every child brought into this world, to develop into a full, whole and contributing member of society. Later I was to see what happened when the circumstances so ably described by the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, from her Front Bench closed around them. In the Territorial Army first and later in other embodiments I saw again and again that it was possible to take the precious flame which God gave us to live and build with and direct it away from destruction and toward creation.

Nine-tenths of crime is built of frustration. It comes from the need, first to be somebody and to know who you are. The young lad from the Falls Road in Belfast is known as his uncle's nephew, his mother's boy, his sister's brother or even the lad with red hair until he has done something. Then he is the hard man; he knows who he is. If that entails custody—probably even if it does not—he has adopted a role model which, if one does not intervene swiftly, is adopted for life. I am concerned with the intervention in that process of the forces for good in order to divert those young people from the paths of crime and evil which almost universally coincide.

There are many ways to do that. I mentioned the Territorial Army. I remember at the end of a drill night two youths who came off the street to jeer, having nothing else to do. They stayed to become interested. Because they were apparently rebellious, on the edge of criminality and potential thugs on the verge of practising thuggery, they were caught at the right moment. Both those youths had stripes on their arm and were highly efficient NCOs within 18 months. That is an existing structure—or was. I am an unpopular voice in the wilderness crying that we ought to return to a stronger Territorial Army. In a lower voice I sometimes wonder whether we would be better off with National Service as well. That need not necessarily mean military service but service which teaches that there is a purpose in rules and organisation which is beneficial to those who contribute as well as to those who receive. Once young people have been a part of that process, they begin to understand what makes society tick.

But sometimes all they see of society is their desolate friends, who are perhaps younger than those described on the church porch by the right reverend Prelate. We must stop the beautiful young people of childhood turning into the desolate, wasted people of early middle age that he described. If all that young people see around them are derelict buildings, the occasional police car and the spontaneous riot, the only way they can become "persons" is by contributing to that scene and answering the challenge that has been presented to them, whether it be the school rules, the teacher or the police. That is the challenge and that is how one becomes somebody.

I went on in my educational experience to chair an inquiry into discipline in schools for Kenneth Baker when he was Secretary of State for Education. I was able to see the way in which children who saw school and staff as the opposition to be rebelled against, and the means by which one became somebody as outwitting, escaping or destroying, could turn that school into "our place". There was a whole raft of measures—138 recommendations—with which I shall not detain your Lordships. But the central project in which I am now engaged, and to which three groups of pupils and teachers testified in another part of this building earlier today, is the process by which the pupils themselves engage in developing the school rules out of their own felt needs into a simple, workable and easily respected code of behaviour which affects everything they do, be it in the classroom, the playground, the corridor, the sports field, the canteen or the school bus. Pupils who have helped to make the programme are those who make the programme work. School rules are not applied to them; the youngsters apply them to each other. The youth with the spray gun is no longer one of them; he is a public enemy. The same goes for classroom behaviour.

The subject of our debate is inner cities. We are not specifically talking about the schools within them. I only mention with regard to schools in inner cities that among the many schools we visited in this country and abroad some of the best were in the most beaten up city centres and some of the worst were in the leafiest suburbs. So the method of recognising the worth of young people and channelling it into a constructive purpose can work. The right reverend Prelate painted a picture of the dangers of the future. I fear that his picture may not have been black enough. He spoke about places where there has been no employment for many years. We are all aware of the high level of unemployment that exists throughout the country. I am told that at this moment there are means available and affordable in modern technology to render something like 30 per cent. of existing jobs unnecessary. In fact, unless we do something about the situation, we shall be faced in the future with a frighteningly small amount of work.

It goes beyond this debate to discuss whether we should remodel the whole of our working lives, whether we should share work and whether people ought to expect to work a quarter of a day. I shall not address those issues now since this is a debate about the inner cities. But for the interim we have to tackle quickly the black areas in some conurbations where there is a coincidence of high unemployment, disenchantment with society and poor resources. My noble friend will remind your Lordships of the figures that I gave of the Government input, all of which I applaud.

I turn from the macro to the micro and to my particular charity which is called the Divert Trust. It was set up to take on the work done by the Intermediate Treatment Foundation, with which no doubt some noble Lords are familiar. Over the past years it has helped to fund no fewer than 1,400 small local initiatives designed to keep young people out of crime and custody. It aims to intervene before they offend or to rescue them after an offence has been committed which otherwise would put them into custody. It works on the same principle of directing that sacred flame—there is no other adequate way to describe the human spirit in a young person before it becomes tainted with the confused and corrupting motivations of society—into a constructive activity which engages the loyalty, understanding and sympathy of the person concerned.

Very often those schemes are the first experience people have of the close interest taken by an adult human being in their welfare. They come from deprived or broken families. They are probably the last of many children and may be unwanted. They have already made trouble at the reception class and been put at the back of the room. They have become, as it were, an enemy of the school and they come to us through the magistrates' courts and the higher courts. Putting those youngsters into the kind of framework of which I spoke, where they are given challenging things to do under close adult supervision and an understanding of the reason for discipline, actually converts many of them into constructive, contributing members of society.

I am glad to say that the Home Office has given us a grant for core costs, and so has the Department of Health. I hope that the Department of the Environment, which will be obliged to read the debate, will be aware of our application to them. It would be nice if it made a troika and we were able to play this vital role in the areas spoken of by the right reverend Prelate and became the bridge between the great unemployed and the great employable of the future.

In my last minute I wish to say that I applaud central government co-operation between departments to intervene in the endless cycle of crime and reoffending and deprivation. But it is not to be expected that all but the core costs can be borne by the voluntary sector. I have become a professional beggar in obtaining extra money and when I do the bidding of departments I say to those I am approaching, "If you set this up, I will give you this little bit of money and that will help you to obtain some more". That is the most effective way of operating. I commend it to your Lordships. I wish that I had another 20 minutes but my time is up. I thank your Lordships for your patience.

4 p.m.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley

My Lords, one of the functions of Parliament and therefore of your Lordships' House is to: Speak up for those who can not speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy". Most Members of your Lordships' House, and certainly those on the episcopal Benches, will recognise that as a quotation from the Book of Proverbs; and it should be the text of the debate.

So far in the debate we have heard an extraordinarily high standard of contributions. No one in this House is unaware of the plight of the inner cities. Our society does its best to see that the problems that have arisen are hidden away in ghettos where they will not offend our fastidious eyes and nostrils. But we do not succeed and I cannot travel to this House from my home in "prosperous" Clapham on any day without dispensing money to beggars. It is very good for my soul but an appalling commentary of the society that we have fashioned since the maligned 1960s.

Our cities are multi-racial societies. It is not true of our country as a whole and we do not necessarily do right if we legislate for the whole country on the basis that we are a multi-cultural, multi-racial society. But it is true of the inner cities and we must face up to that reality.

The party in government has spent a lot of time —and still spends a little time—saying that the solution to the problem is not to throw money at it. In spite of a few excesses by doctrinaire authorities (which could easily have been curbed by sensible measures such as a representative electoral system in local government), I do not believe that anyone ever did throw money at the problem. The workers on the ground have always been far too stretched; they have always had to make every penny count.

But it is clear that unless we find the resources to pay for some changes we shall be landed with an increasing amount of poverty and misery and—which will frighten us far more—an increasing amount of violence and crime. Unfortunately since it is not the subject of the debate we do not have time to enter into discussions regarding the changes in wholesale economy to which the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Sheffield referred. I am certain that we shall have to rethink the whole way in which we run our society. But those of us who are responsible must find some way of applying the resources we have. Though at the moment we may not be a rich society, nevertheless we are a society with a lot of extremely rich people in it.

Generalisations can be repeated ad nauseam but they must go on being repeated until it percolates through that the nausea arises not from the repetition but from the prevalence of the facts that are being repeated. In this debate I wish to draw your Lordships' and the Government's attention to three specific points as a matter of high priority in a sea of other priorities. The other priorities include the ending of the urban programme and the need to provide money to help victims who are supported by victim support schemes. Again in Clapham, where there is a high prevalence of victim support, all the evidence indicates that the victims need financial support to get by. A year ago they probably had something tucked away which they could use to tide them over for a week or so. Now they have nothing and the victim support bodies should be funded more.

Those are the priorities on which I am not concentrating. The first of the three on which I am concentrating is that the social fund must be completely rethought. There must be a supply of grants. Loans will not do. Debt is the problem, not the solution. The grants are needed to rescue families from the worst problems of poverty, particularly the unexpected ones, so that children can be brought up in some decency and not in total squalor.

My second point is the problem of the post-16 year-olds which must be tackled. It will not be simple for it is part of the whole problem of which all speakers so far have spoken. There is work to do. The noble Lord, Lord Elton, may be absolutely right in saying that in a lot of traditional work areas there is more unemployment to come. But one only needs to look around our society to see that labour intensive care is needed—care for human beings and for the environment. There must be care to recognise that we err if we believe that the ordinary man in the street cannot be provided with training and help to provide that core for themselves. We need to care for each other. There is a great deal of that kind of work to be done.

The problem therefore is not in finding work; it is in finding the economic mechanisms to pay for it. Until we do we are rearing a whole generation of teenage prostitutes of both sexes, vandals and thieves. Some noble Lords will have seen the recent report of Barnardos and Youth Aid, which came out yesterday or the day before, regarding the necessity of helping the 16 to 18 year-old group with some basic support which they are supposed to be receiving but are not. I draw your Lordships' attention to those recommendations.

My third point concerns the problem of the integration of the ethnic minorities in our society without which we will breed even more ethnic violence than we have already, and that is not negligible. In particular, we need to increase the amount of Section 11 funding. I shall not go further into that because my noble friend Lord Bonham-Carter more than touched on it. Those in the front line see that more fundamental reforms are needed than just increasing the money, although that is needed also.

Whatever detailed answers the Minister may give to these and other points which noble Lords will be making, the overall impression gained by all of us who are involved with the problems—whether in Church Action on Poverty, in local government or overall policy rethinking, as I think and hope many of us are —is that the Government and the party which supports them are totally unable (of course there are many exceptions) to face up to the needs of the inner cities. They would prefer to pretend that those needs do not exist, and are able to do so to such an extent that many of their supporters believe that they do not exist. They are not prepared to tell society that it must, defend the rights of the poor and needy", if not for reasons of justice and compassion—because those could be said to be the province of the "do-gooders" —then at least in order to prevent a progressive breakdown of society spreading outwards from the inner cities; and that their supporters, and therefore the people of this country, will have to find ways of using the very real resources which we still have to see that this happens. It may mean a major revolution in our economics and in the way we organise our lives, but it is quite clear that we must embark on something of that kind or we shall certainly reap the whirlwind.

4.10 p.m.

Lord Rea

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter, for raising this vitally important subject. He referred several times to the dangers of going down the same road as the United States, but we can already see an inner city picture rather like that in the United States, with an exodus of many of the middle class and the more mobile members of the skilled working class from the inner city to the more salubrious outer city or to new towns. At the same time, many from the North and other areas which were particularly badly hit by the first recession of the 1980s moved into London and other big cities in search of a better life. In the recent recession this migration has not been so evident since unemployment has been as bad, or worse, in the South.

Ethnic minorities moved here in the 1950s and the 1970s when the going was good and they were much needed, but now they and their children are stuck in the inner cities. They do not have the resources or necessarily the wish to get out, the one exception being those extremely enterprising former East African Indians mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter, who are entering the professions and rising up through the social scale. People from other ethnic minorities find it more difficult to get jobs than equivalently qualified white people, as was pointed out fairly clearly by the noble Lord. These young people, both black and white, feel resentful and unwanted.

Training courses are available, though not enough, as pointed out by the Barnardos' Report mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont. The main problem is that those courses which do exist do not automatically lead to jobs. Only a minority of people find jobs at the end of those courses.

Working as a doctor in an inner city practice I am very aware of the feelings of alienation felt by young people, both black and white. Despite the opening of a number of hostels for homeless people in London there are still far too many who are rootless and living in inadequate accommodation. The borough of Camden, where I work, has recently produced a Community Care plan for 1993–94. I should like to quote one or two paragraphs from it. The plan states that in 1991–92 housing department figures showed that, 2,874 new cases were taken on by the Homeless Persons Service. This is a 36 per cent. increase on the previous year. Of these 1,828 were accepted as homeless and in priority need (a 48 per cent. increase over the year.) Camden is not, apparently, the worst borough. Lambeth, Haringey, Hackney and Hammersmith are worse. In Camden there were 1,275 people sleeping rough in the last OPCS count.

The Minister may well say that the position has improved as a result of the emergency accommodation that has been built in London, but I am afraid that "cardboard city" is only too evident to anyone who walks around London with his eyes open. Many officially homeless people get a roof over their heads with the help of local social services and housing departments at great cost to local poll tax and council tax payers, a point made by my noble friend Lady Hollis. Camden has at last managed to end bed-and-breakfast accommodation —that expensive racket which enriched many owners of small and shoddy hotels over the years.

I could quote at length from this excellent report which reveals the enormous problems which Camden faces. One paragraph makes instructive reading. It states: According to a study made by the London Research Centre, while black households account for just 6 per cent. of all Camden households, one in three homeless households is black. In contrast, while white households account for 86 per cent. of all Camden's households, they only constitute 55 per cent. of priority homeless households. These figures may indicate that black households are more likely to become homeless than white ones". The report also points out an increase in the numbers of people with mental health problems presenting themselves as homeless. The mental health unit of Bloomsbury and Islington Health Authority concluded that there may have been as many as 2,000 homeless people in the district in 1991 who suffered from mental health problems. These figures represent only those who had been in contact with services.

If I may, I will jump from the London borough of Camden to the whole of England. In an article in the British Medical Journal of 13th March entitled All the homeless people— where do they all come from?, Julian Leff, professor of psychiatry at the Maudsley Institute, states that in numerous surveys of homeless people in residential settings on both sides of the Atlantic the prevalence of severe mental illness was between 25 per cent. and 45 per cent. Only a small minority of those had ever been in long-stay mental hospitals and most of those who had been discharged as part of the rundown of mental hospitals had been housed in special units. Very few of them became homeless. My experience as a general practitioner confirms that. The article states: One of the economic changes that is leading to increasing homelessness is the disappearance of low cost rented accommodation. People suffering from severe psychiatric illnesses are particularly vulnerable to this change because of their high level of unemployment, low earning power, and lack of social support". Another problem to which, as a GP, I can again testify is the increasing difficulty of admitting acutely ill psychiatric patients to hospital. Professor Leff states: Resulting deficiencies in the treatment of acutely ill patients can place intolerable burdens on their families and increase interpersonal friction, which may culminate in patients leaving home abruptly and being unable or unwilling to find alternative forms of shelter … Instead of assuming that the discharge of patients from psychiatric institutions is to blame we should be studying carefully the pathways that lead mentally ill people into homelessness and destitution". He points out: The fact that severely mentally ill people roam our streets without adequate accommodation and medical care is an inescapable indictment of our society". He concludes: If we are successful in identifying [the reasons for this] the opportunities may exist to prevent a situation that is desperately difficult to cure". Leaving aside those who are mentally ill, many young people are disaffected and angry, as several noble Lords have pointed out. Being mainly quite able-bodied young people they naturally look around for something to do. As the right reverend Prelate pointed out extremely clearly, the promoters of a ready made and totally absorbing lifestyle are only too willing to entice them to their world—that of drug addiction. Here the achievement of a "high" and the subsequent transient relief from all tensions is only part of the game. The quest for drugs and the means to pay for them is virtually a 24-hour activity.

Tales of exploits of housebreaking, shoplifting and blatant trickery are swapped with glee. Many drug abusers are major or minor pushers themselves. An average drug addict has to find between £60 to £100 daily to finance his habit. It has been mentioned on many occasions in this House that that is very costly to society. Possibly up to £1.5 billion-worth of goods per annum are being stolen to pay for the drugs, although the drug users themselves get only a minute part of that sum—something like 10 per cent. From my own experience I am convinced that most of the recent increase in crime, especially in our district of London, is drug related.

We are seeing unemployment, homelessness, racial discrimination, untreated mental illness, drug addiction and crime increasing and becoming major problems in our inner cities. It is quite easy to cry disaster. However, I believe that every noble Lord who has spoken so far has also tried to be constructive. I shall point to possible solutions which I consider important in rank order.

First, as I believe all noble Lords have said, is job creation. Then we need more low-cost housing. Councils should be allowed to spend the full amount which they have received on council house sales in order to build low-cost, socially necessary housing (although some of the inner London boroughs have not gained very much from the sale of their properties: they are not necessarily very popular properties; so they need more help than other boroughs, as my noble friend mentioned).

There should be more imaginatively-run drug treatment and rehabilitation centres and not fewer, as would seem to be happening if the Community Care (Residential Accommodation) Bill is enacted as it stands. There should also be better mental health services. If those matters are tackled vigorously the crime rate will fall dramatically and a spirit of hope might start to return to our cities.

4.22 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of Bristol

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter, for giving us the opportunity of considering the conditions in which people live in our inner cities and, not least, those concerned with young people and the ethnic minorities. Noble Lords have already heard a very full analysis of the situation and it is complex indeed. My friend the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Sheffield indicated that unemployment is a serious matter requiring imaginative solutions.

I would like to take the time of the House to look at the context in which many of our young people live and especially those who are part of our ethnic minorities. Housing is one of the most important factors concerned with crime, family, health and the social unrest which many of us perceive and live with. We know what has happened since the Second World War: the high-rise flats, the fortress complexes, the quality of housing which has not lived up to our expectations.

Many people have tried to solve those particular problems. Many of our inner cities have houses from the 19th and early 20th centuries which, because they are large—and we now have poor families living in them—deteriorate quickly. They are often put on the market and bought by people who pay prices far beyond those which local people can afford. The houses improve, but the poor no longer have the housing which made them part of that local community.

Perhaps I may share with the House the situation in the City of Bristol, not least concerned with homelessness. The noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter, said that the beggars are back. But behind the begging lies a considerable amount of hidden homelessness. Bristol has over 2,000 people every year who go to the day centre run by the Cyrenians. Something like 850 are under the age of 26 and of those about 200 are women. Most of them are homeless, not only technically but practically as well.

In the 1991 census the figure for Bristol was 142 people sleeping rough and yet the Shelter and Cyrenian figures suggest that it was well over 600. That is a large number of people who have no home at all and who are effectively undermining, and being undermined by, the kind of community in which they live.

As regards the ethnic minorities, certainly in the past in Bristol their homelessness has been hidden because there has been greater community acceptance of those who are without homes. They have been absorbed into families already there. But in the past year double the number of those belonging to the ethnic minorities have applied to the local authority for housing. The housing associations have received a similar increase. The problem is getting worse.

In fact, Bristol City Council told me that over the past two years the number of people claiming to be homeless and applying for some help has risen by over 10 per cent. The picture is not of a situation which is getting better, but of one that is getting worse.

I return to the comment made by the noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter, pointing to the possibility that Los Angeles might arrive on our front doorstep. I have to tell the House that it arrived in Bristol last July. The Hartcliffe riots were in part concerned with a lack of hope, work and poor accommodation. A local government official said that every examination of the causes and issues led back to the need to build up family and child care. He said that good housing is an essential component of that programme.

I believe that that is perhaps our highest priority —the provision of good, affordable housing. As far as I can tell, government figures and those given by housing associations, local authorities and those involved in the housing charities, all suggest that we need at least 100,000 new housing units every year for the rest of this decade to even begin to try to solve those particular problems. If that is true—I see no reason why it is not—then perhaps we need have an imaginative redistribution of our wealth and priorities.

I am told that some of the largest increases in unemployment have something to do with the building industry. Work, unemployment, resources and housing go together. If we are really serious about the nature of our inner cities, our housing estates and the problems which we all face, and if we really want to do something about them, it requires a change of will not only on the part of government but also by local authorities and the public at large.

I believe there is a will, in fact I know that there is a will, in which an imaginative partnership between central government, local authorities—and the large number of voluntary organisations to which people give their time because they are concerned about homelessness—can find a way to address some of those problems and perhaps find some solutions.

I am amazed to find that in the Avon Housing Forum over 80 organisations (in the main voluntary) are trying to deal with the issue of homelessness, poor accommodation, and help for young people and the ethnic minorities. There is no lack of good will, but there is a lack of our prioritising and deciding where our resources need to be placed. In a country which prides itself on being civilised, I hope that this House will agree that the poor have a right to a home which does not depend on their ability to pay. I believe that the time has come for decent, secure housing to be accepted as a fundamental right for all our citizens. That, combined with a concern for unemployment, may begin to address some of the desperate problems which we see in our inner cities.

4.29 p.m.

Lord McNair

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friends for calling for this debate and particularly grateful to my noble friend Lord Bonham-Carter for his lucid, detailed and moving introduction. The title of the debate does not specify the United Kingdom so, with the permission of the House, I intend to devote a large part of my speech to the situation in Germany. I hope that noble Lords will take as read in what I have to say my agreement with the description of the situation in our inner cities given by most previous speakers. Conditions in Germany are different from those in this country. However, they may show what could happen if attitudes are allowed to harden further. The problems facing ethnic minorities are Europe-wide.

What concerns me is that the effect of increased intolerance towards ethnic and religious minorities in several European countries could spill over into the United Kingdom and that the despair in our inner cities could give rise to expressions of anger and frustration which might have been prevented by the sort of timely action many speakers have suggested. I am particularly worried that individuals (making up a disaffected under-class, as described by the American Professor Murray and by many noble Lords today) will, out of despair, opt out and exist in a twilight world of drugs, crime and educational failure.

We are concerned, as a party, that legislation on equal opportunities in this country is not matched by similar legislation in other countries of the European Community nor indeed by any European legislation. Community directives cover much valuable ground and also quite a bit of absolute nonsense but, as far as I know, the possibility of a directive on equal opportunities has not been given serious consideration. This defect should be remedied with all possible speed to give direction to those countries where the concept of equal rights has evidently not taken root, even at the official level.

The anti-discrimination legislation in this country is far from perfect; nor is it perfectly applied in practice. However, it does set the tone for what is acceptable in national and local government and in private enterprise. However, racial attacks (or fear of them) and overt discrimination are all too common in the United Kingdom despite our having had legislation in place for a number of years. They are part of the daily experience of too many of those who make up our ethnic minorities. What is needed is some kind of charter for minorities which would be expressed in both national legislation and as an EC directive. That would, of course, only be a beginning, but it is a necessary beginning.

It appears that we may be emerging from a particularly deep recession. However, if the Government simply bask in the reflected glory of a cyclical rise in economic activity and do nothing about the severe problems relating to our economic structure which, my noble friends and other noble Lords have spoken about in recent months, then it is clear that the upturn will simply lead to a rise in imports (as we saw last week) and to overheating of the service sector. To create long-term jobs for all our people it is necessary that the Government are effective and successful in rebuilding our manufacturing industry, for nothing less than that is required.

Our long-term economic stability is also vital to the democratic process here and in Europe. If we are successful in this, our standing and our voice in Europe will be enhanced. And it is vital that we make that voice heard as a voice of reason and a voice of powerful moderation.

The rise of xenophobia and neo-Nazi activity in Germany is probably the most disturbing threat to racial harmony in Europe. I am chairman of a newly formed Commission to Investigate Racial and Religious Discrimination which has been established to look into all such cases brought to its attention. It is focusing on Germany in the first instance, although all countries will receive its attention in due course. It has many cases under investigation already.

Another horrid aspect of the behaviour in Germany is the savage treatment meted out to disabled people by fascist thugs. The idea of lebens unwertes leben—a life not worthing living—is so alien to our way of thinking that we may have difficulty in confronting the evil that is becoming manifest in Germany. If we do not confront it, I fear that the extremist elements in present-day Germany will drag Europe into a new barbarism. The situation in Germany is dynamic, whereas, although dangerous and potentially explosive, the situation in this country is more stable.

There are dangerous signs that elements within the present administration in Germany are giving tacit support to the extreme right-wing elements that seem to be making the running today. The renowned German writer, Günter Grass, in a recent full-page article in the European newspaper, accused the government of Chancellor Kohl of bending with whatever political wind was blowing at the time. The present German wind of change is blowing in a dangerous direction and threatens to become a tornado which tears apart the political fabric of Europe which we have been painstakingly working to construct since the end of the war.

I realise that great efforts are being made by the democratic elements in Germany to mobilise public opinion in the direction of tolerance and racial harmony. There have been huge marches against the neo-Nazis: I warmly applaud that. I hope that Her Majesty's Government are making it clear to the German Government how very important we feel it is that democracy and tolerance should overcome reaction and discrimination.

The noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, replying to the debate on Wednesday, 17th March, on the rise of crime and support for the police and the courts, observed that civilisation is a very thin veneer which can easily be stripped off exposing only raw humanity.

His words apply as equally to the threatened position of racial and religious minorities in Germany as they do to the fabric of our own society.

In case anyone were to get the impression that I am simply having a go at Germany, let me make it clear that I understand its problems in respect of additions to the ethnic minority population. Apart from the economic difficulties which affect us as well as Germany and which have caused large-scale unemployment, Germany has to face the problems of reunification and the influx of refugees. I do not think that we could face such an increase in population with equanimity.

However, it is a sad but inescapable fact that the German Government are not providing sufficient moral leadership in the present situation. The resulting moral and political vacuum is being filled by the skinheads with nice haircuts. They and their mentors, the old Nazis who have been biding their time, are taking advantage of the situation to turn the clock back to the thirties. In the process they are corrupting and exploiting a generation of German youth.

Returning to this country and looking at another aspect of life for people in the inner cities, I was startled by figures I obtained from SELCA, the South East London Commissioning Agency, which is made up of three former health districts covering the London boroughs of Lambeth, Lewisham and Southwark. In 1991 there were 12,342 births in that area and 6,900 abortions. In other words, 36 per cent. of all pregnancies in the area during that year ended in abortion. I think that it is probably also safe to say that not all the pregnancies that did not result in abortion were planned and wanted.

That statistic horrified me. First, although not being vehemently anti-abortion, I do regard each abortion as a tragedy for the individuals and for society. Secondly, it suggests a failure of practical sex education. Thirdly, an abortion necessarily results from unprotected sex and that has obvious consequences for the spread of HIV infection.

Too much moral education that is and has been imparted to young people is in the form of, "Don't". It is easily shown that if you tell someone not to do something, you fix their attention on that course of action. What is needed is a commonsense, positive and, for today's world, secular moral code which is taught to our children, to young adults, before they become parents, and most definitely to those in penal institutions. Following and living by such a code, which would indicate the way to a happy and fulfilling life, would enable people to acquire or regain their self-respect and, genuinely respecting themselves, they would develop respect for others. That would in time apply universally. It would be a first step to righting many wrongs and to giving people who felt that they had no hope of a satisfying and productive life a means of creating the life which they wanted for themselves and their families.

In a pluralistic society with many different faiths or none at all it is clear that the different theologies cannot all be right in a literal sense and that each expresses a different version of a universal human aspiration to goodness, wholeness and spiritual progress.

4.40 p.m.

Lord Pitt of Hampstead

My Lords, I too thank the noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter, for giving us the opportunity to discuss the condition of the inner cities. The condition of people living in the inner cities is affected by the policies of central and local government. The Government's economic policy, with its attendant high unemployment, has made life difficult for people in this country. That is particularly so in our inner cities. I was thrilled to hear the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Sheffield appeal to the Government to take seriously the issue of unemployment.

A recent research paper published by the House of Commons Library showed that the 25 constituencies with the highest rate of unemployment were in the inner cities. With unemployment comes deprivation, and it is true that those same constituencies dominate the table relating to homelessness and households in temporary accommodation. They are low on the list of housing completions and a high percentage of their population is in receipt of income support. The pupil/teacher ratio in primary schools in those areas is bad and continues to worsen. Perinatal and infant mortality are higher in many London boroughs than in the rest of the country. The standardised death rates are also higher. That has been the case for the past 15 years in spite of all the Government's initiatives. The noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, referred to those initiatives so I shall not burden your Lordships with them.

We are obviously dealing with a serious, deep-seated problem which requires maximum effort on all sides. That calls for strong motivation from the key players: the leaders, the people who are responsible for dealing with such matters. The problem requires local participation, support, and flexibility so that different methods can be adopted in different areas. Of course, it also requires private and public partnership and public investment in housing and infrastructure. All those initiatives are required if inner city regeneration is to take place.

The Government's latest initiative is the urban regeneration agency. Will the Minister tell us how long it will take for the new initiatives to have effect? What measures will be introduced in the meantime? Will the urban regeneration agency, acting within its brief, be able to find solutions to other aspects of inner city problems such as health and education?

It is in those surroundings that many ethnic minority citizens live. Let us remember that they came here during the war to join the Armed Forces. Some came to work in the factories which produced the sinews of war. After the war there was a shortage of workers and so workers were recruited from the West Indies. London Transport had a recruiting office in Barbados. That meant that the newcomers had jobs and the issue of unemployment did not arise.

However, the problem was housing; it was in securing housing accommodation that the ethnic minorities suffered most discrimination.

Originally they helped themselves by forming partnerships which enabled them to buy houses that they shared. But of course the houses, like the jobs, were those which the natives did not want. In those days local authority housing was difficult to secure because the authorities worked on the principle of first come, first served, and the newcomers were low on the waiting list. They were, therefore, a prey to unscrupulous landlords. They were also discriminated against by the funding agencies and estate agents and were able to buy or to rent properties only in certain areas. The situation has improved, but we must remember that those people were housed on the less attractive estates and still have unsatisfactory accommodation.

The Government's home ownership policy has benefited those who were allocated houses when housed by the local authority. However, it has not benefited those who were allocated flats because often they were on run-down estates and their purchase would be a liability rather than an asset. The Government's policy of restricting council house building has created difficulties for those on the waiting list hoping that their time will come. Those citizens have, just as they did in the beginning, endeavoured to help themselves and have joined the housing association movement. There are now several black-led housing associations.

The Government's policy of restricting the expenditure of local authorities has been most detrimental. It is a sad thought that the local authorities which have the highest degree of deprivation are capped. That has meant that the help which they would have given to the communities in need, and to the young to help with training and other important services, has been severely restricted. Many community services are suffering because of that restriction on local authority expenditure. I am speaking from knowledge. I am president of an organisation called Open Door, which is exactly what it says. It keeps an open door for youngsters in need of psychiatric help and counselling. They can walk in and receive help from psychiatrists and psychiatric social workers. The service received funding from the local authority as well as the local health authority. However, the local authority has been forced to reduce its funding and that has caused the service of Open Door to be reduced, thus reducing the help that was being given to the youngsters.

There are many such projects which were previously funded by local authorities which are suffering in that way. Now there is mass unemployment and of course members of ethnic minority groups are high on the unemployment list. Therefore, they lead the plea for Government action to relieve unemployment.

They would certainly benefit from a house-building programme as many of them were employed in the building industry. That is an area in which the Government can stimulate the economy, relieve homelessness, reduce unemployment and improve the general situation. The Government owe it to the community to concern themselves more with unemployment than they seem to be doing. I wish to join the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Sheffield in pleading with the Government to make full employment a goal which they will strive with might and main to secure.

4.52 p.m.

Baroness Seear

My Lords, in choosing this subject for debate, it was not our intention to embark on a party political knock-about. We are all aware that this is a subject about which we are all concerned. It is a subject on which, despite the concern—we recognise that the Government have put forward a number of schemes with very good intentions—we are not succeeding. We all know that we are not succeeding. I thought that this would be a subject on which we could have an all-party discussion and, perhaps, all-party agreement about what should be done. It is in that spirit that I make my speech.

Although real efforts have been made, in many ways matters are getting worse and not better. Until there is an outbreak of violence or some dramatic incident, people do not bring the problems to the forefront of political discussions because they are too difficult. We do not know what to do and we try to hide it. As my noble friend Lord Bonham-Carter said, that is exactly what was done in Los Angeles. It is all too easy to look at other issues—and there are plenty of them—and to ignore this issue until it forces itself upon our attentions in a particularly undesirable way.

I wish to concentrate particularly upon ethnic minority problems in inner city areas. Although many other issues arise, in most of our inner cities, although not all, there are concentrations of a variety of ethnic minorities. Undoubtedly their problems are particularly grave and particularly difficult to deal with.

Although I live in Lambeth, it came as a great surprise to me—and I remind your Lordships of it —that in the Lambeth area 108 languages are spoken in addition to English. It is a horrifying thought. I do not say that it accounts for the distinguished muddles which arise there but it must contribute to them in no small degree. I am a great supporter of local authorities, but if the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, lived in Lambeth, she would not be quite so keen on leaving it all to local authorities.

Ethnic minorities have exceptional difficulties. As many other noble Lords have said, there should be a partnership between all the authorities and all the people who have an opportunity to make some sort of contribution.

The problems of ethnic minorities are getting worse rather than better. They get worse when the economy gets worse as a whole because people at the bottom of the pile are always those who suffer most when conditions get worse. That is what has happened. I shall return later to the question of unemployment to which I attach the greatest importance.

However, it is not only a problem of unemployment. Harassment—and I still call it that—is getting worse and not better. The Commission for Racial Equality reports an increase in the number of attacks on racial groups. Although we have not had the outstanding and conspicuous kind of extreme Right-wing anti-racist activity that there has been in other parts of continental Europe, we have our own very nasty Right-wing groups, far away from the policies of the present Government, which have been responsible for nasty incidents of harassment.

Our legislation makes it illegal to incite racial hatred. I ask the Minister whether he is satisfied that the law is being used in as tough a manner as it should be used against those people who are responsible for racial harassment. I know that the Government do not support that kind of activity, but if they would make that much clearer and demonstrate by pressure that the law should be used in those cases, it would benefit us al! and would reassure members of ethnic minorities that the law applies equally to people with white skins as to those with black skins when the law is broken, particularly in that extremely detestable way.

While we are still on the subject of the law, there have been disquieting reports carried out by reputable organisations which have shown great differences between the convictions and sentences of people of ethnic minorities as opposed to white members of the community. There are also differences between different courts. There could be good reasons why different courts handle cases in different ways. However, studies have shown that in some courts the fact that a convicted person has a black face tends to lead to a tougher sentence than if that person had a white face. I have no doubt that the Minister has read some of those reports and I should be interested to hear his comments on them. I ask whether any steps can be taken to ensure that justice is even-handed between people from ethnic minorities and the white people of this country.

Undoubtedly in my mind the question of unemployment is central. If young men in particular do not have jobs, they have nothing to do and they become totally bored. That is a recipe for them finding their way into crime. I have been on the receiving end of that. I am quite certain that on some of the occasions on which I have been burgled, it has been done for the sheer hell of it so that the culprits can go back to their friends to boast about their exploits. They do not take much. I believe that they are looking for money but they are also looking for excitement. They are bored stiff. It is extremely exciting to commit a burglary. I have not committed a burglary myself but If can understand that one can get quite a kick from it. Youngsters commit those crimes because they have nothing else to do. High levels of unemployment rates among youngsters of ethnic minorities in our inner cities is almost certain to lead to a large increase in crime. Therefore, if one used the most hard-nosed kind of argument, it would save money if we could train those youngsters in such a way that they could obtain jobs rather than being diverted into criminal activities.

The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, who is not present in the Chamber today, once remarked when talking on the subject—and he has had considerable experience on the Parole Board—that in his experience everyone needed adventure in their lives. He, after all, is an expert on adventure. He was convinced. I am sure that he is right: people do need adventure. The best adventure you can have if you are out of work in an inner city, and living in an overcrowded house, is to commit a burglary. Surely we can do better than that.

But if we are to give people jobs, we must start in the schools. I wish to stress the point most strongly that inner-city schools in places like Tower Hamlets need the best teachers. High starting ratios and additional help is required if they are to provide the sort of education that will give members of ethnic minorities a reasonable chance of competing in the labour market. In many cases it is more difficult to get staff for such schools; in fact, where they need more they have less. The starting ratios are worse rather than better. That is the exact opposite of what it ought to be.

I move on now from schools to training opportunities and, therefore, to jobs. Some of the TECs are monitoring their intake as regards training opportunities for ethnic minorities, but many of them are not. It is quite clear that discrimination is taking place in the employment field. The TECs are in a very good position to find out what is happening. If they want to ensure that there is no discrimination first, in training opportunities and then in placing——indeed., if we all want to see that there is none —surely it is not too much to ask that the TECs should monitor what happens in relation to ethnic minorities both as regards getting a place on training schemes and, more importantly, obtaining jobs after completing such schemes. Surely the TECs can make inquiries and insist that the people with whom they deal and contract for training programmes also monitor what is going on.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Sheffield said that he did not think there was enough work to go around. We live in a very hungry world which, in many places, lacks the things which most of us take as being the obvious necessities of life. We are not running out of work; we are running out of people trained to do the work and the ability to pay for it. If we are to hold our own in this country, and if we are going to be able to pay for all the services that we want —that is, better educational opportunities, better housing in inner cities and all the other things that we need which all take money—we need the best possible training.

I believe that members of the ethnic minorities are capable of taking that training. As we all know from our own experience, many of them are certainly capable of setting up very successful small businesses. The TECs could also contribute in that respect. They could monitor the situation and let us know what is happening in the setting up of small businesses by members of ethnic minorities to fill some of the many needs that we all have. We are not running out of work; indeed, we are a long way from that position as regards services. There is a whole range of things that need to be done in this country and elsewhere. Section 11 is very important. It will enable local authorities to make their contribution. However I should like to concentrate on what the TECs can do.

This is not a party matter; it is a matter about which we are all concerned. When outbreaks take place in Liverpool, London and Bristol, we are all horrified and appalled. Then everything subsides and, although we think back, we really do very little about it. The purpose of today's debate is to stress that this should be high on the agenda of the issues with which we deal. It is a very good investment to put money into ensuring that such horrors do not occur in the inner cities and into giving people from ethnic minorities a chance. After all, we did not bring the people from foreign countries here for love; we brought them here because we needed them to do the work that we did not want to do ourselves. Surely the other side of that coin is that we should give them a reasonable chance to continue to contribute.

5.5 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment (Lord Strathclyde)

My Lords, I begin by thanking the noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter, for bringing to the attention of the House the important issues concerning the condition of our inner cities. We have heard some thought-provoking speeches on a wide range of issues affecting the quality of life in cities. I listened carefully and with great interest to the points made by all noble Lords. Although it will clearly be difficult for me to deal with all the comments made about individual schemes, I am pleased to have the opportunity to reinforce the Government's commitment to tackling the problems of the inner cities.

Since the House last debated the issue of inner cities, there have been many achievements in regenerating those areas. I shall cite just one example. In the North East, Teesside and Tyneside have been transformed from districts without hope to areas of optimism and opportunity. Similar examples can be found across the country. But the Government are not complacent. There is, indeed, much more to be done. The problems of the inner cities are diverse and interrelated—from derelict land to low educational achievement, poor housing and health, high unemployment, crime, and so on. The end result is that local people feel helpless. They lose pride in their cities to the extent that they lose respect in themselves and in their environment. Graffiti and litter are but indicators of that fact.

The noble Baroness, Lady Seear, said that the debate was not party political. I agree with those intentions and the realisation that such problems need to be tackled across a broad front. The Government are alive to those problems and are committed to tackling them in a co-ordinated and integrated way. However, most people recognise that the Government cannot achieve regeneration on their own. The overriding key to success is partnership—real partnership, which includes local authorities, commerce and local people, indeed all those with an interest in the health and vitality of our inner cities. I am therefore delighted to echo the sentiments of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Bristol, the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, and even those of the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis.

Solutions cannot be imposed from the top. We have to be sure that our approach has the support of local communities and businesses. To ignore that risks failure. That is why partnership is so important—and it is partnership across the board. The noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, accused the Government of destroying local government. That, of course, is not true. We want responsible local government. What was responsible about Lambeth or about Liverpool in the past? I understand that there are enough empty council properties in Labour-controlled London boroughs to house all the capital's homeless; indeed, there are probably enough to house all the homeless people in the country. However, I do not have that statistic to hand.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham

My Lords, will the Minister please give way?

Lord Strathclyde

No, my Lords; this is a timed debate and I will not give way. I have only just started my remarks. At central government level the philosophy of partnership is embodied in the Action for Cities initiative which ensures the co-ordination of all major programmes and policies which have a bearing on inner cities. At the local level city action teams provide the mechanism for co-ordinating government action in all the major cities and ensure effective targeting of resources.

I refer especially to City Challenge. Such was the success of its first round, it is now entering the second. It has used the stimulus of competition to encourage local authorities to enter into new partnerships and develop innovative approaches to tackle social deprivation and support regeneration. I can tell the noble Baroness that we have not scrapped City Challenge. There is to be no competition this year. But my colleagues and I are impressed by the achievements of the pacemakers. We are convinced that that success will be repeated in round two. We are currently taking stock of the lessons learned. When the results of the 1991 census are available, we shall give thorough consideration to a round three in the not too distant future.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, said that the Government's support to inner cities had been cut. That is not so. Following the Autumn Statement the planned spending on my department's urban group of programmes was increased by £90 million for 1993–94. Total spending in these areas will be over £1 billion next year. Indeed, resources to the inner cities have increased fourfold in real terms since 1979 and by 43 per cent. since 1987. The noble Baroness, Lady Seear, said that this should not be a party political debate. I shall therefore not add to those points.

The success of the urban development corporations and other programmes provides a wealth of experience and a valuable foundation on which to take forward our proposals for an urban regeneration agency which are contained in the Housing and Urban Development Bill currently before your Lordships' House. I invite the noble Lord, Lord Pitt, to join us in those debates when we discuss that agency.

Getting our inner cities back to work is clearly a crucial aspect of improving the quality of life. Preparing people for work starts at a young age. We have a range of programmes in place, from education in schools, to training schemes, to job creation itself. Over a third of Employment Service unemployed placings are of inner city residents. Performance-related funding encourages the TECs to train ethnic minorities. People needing English language training have immediate eligibility for employment training. Obviously, job creation is essentially a private sector function but the Government set the framework for business expansion and development. We recognise that businesses in inner city areas are faced with increased difficulties and may require additional help to succeed. The loan guarantee scheme helps new or expanding small businesses by providing an additional source of finance when efforts to obtain conventional finance have proved fruitless. Regional enterprise grants and regional selective assistance may also be available to help inner city firms.

The noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter, in his introductory speech said that unemployment rates among ethnic minorities were higher than unemployment rates among white people. It is true that unemployment rates among ethnic minorities have risen more than those in the white population. However, that reflects the nature of the rise in unemployment. The greatest rise in unemployment rates have occurred in the regions and in the age groups where ethnic minorities are concentrated. Many people from ethnic minorities are employed in low skill jobs which are among the first to be shed in a recession. However, more people from ethnic minorities are now staying on in education. English language proficiency and literacy also play a major part. There may have been some discrimination in the selection for jobs and in the selection for promotion and training but increasing numbers of employers are recognising the value of providing equality of opportunity. That is a trend we hope will continue and that we must encourage.

There is one development in particular, announced last week in the Budget Statement, about which I am particularly excited and that is the community action scheme. I suspect that the scheme is fully in line with the views of my noble friend Lord Elton on national service. It will give 60,000 people who have been unemployed for more than a year the opportunity to use their time constructively by doing work of benefit to the local community. The programme offers endless possibilities for the inner cities by enabling the long-term unemployed to keep in touch with the labour market while giving them a worthwhile and valued role in the community. The range of projects that could benefit is enormous. Renovation of housing and environmental improvements are obvious examples but there are many others in the care sector; for example, supporting people caring for elderly relatives. The programme is to start this summer. There will be plenty of local publicity so that unemployed people know what is on offer. That is an example of the Government's commitment to addressing the needs of those people who would benefit from such action.

I shall now deal briefly with education. I am conscious that the subject was discussed at some length yesterday and therefore I shall not spend much time on it. The reforms are designed to remove barriers to achievement, including those that result from low expectations, prejudice and discrimination. Greater involvement in school government by parents and the local community, greater objectivity in assessment, and emphasis on values in education will all support genuine equality of opportunity.

Many noble Lords, including the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Bristol, referred to poor housing conditions in certain parts of our inner cities. Improving housing conditions is undoubtedly essential for enhancing the quality of urban life. Many inner city areas are characterised by the predominance of local authority housing and we believe it important to continue to invest in such council housing as effectively as possible. I must inform the noble Lord, Lord Rea, that housing benefit, which is available to poorer tenants and pays up to 100 per cent. of eligible rent, has doubled in real terms since 1979 to just short of £5 billion in 1991–92.

We are doing much through the housing investment programme and large-scale schemes such as Estate Action and housing action trusts which help tackle some of our more difficult estates. Throughout the country we are spending some £330 million on 360 Estate Action schemes this year. Many of those are in inner city areas. Next year we plan to spend a further £350 million enabling another 160 new schemes to start.

Estate Action schemes enable money to be invested to turn rundown housing into areas where people can again be proud to live. Over the past couple of years Estate Action has become a key vehicle for the regeneration of our towns and cities. We have moved the programme forward from piecemeal changes. Our emphasis now is to target the larger estates which require a comprehensive and strategic approach. I am sure that I have the support of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Bristol when I say that we are determined to widen the choice for all tenants, including those from the ethnic minorities, giving them greater opportunities to be involved in the management of their homes and the running of their estates. We also need to ensure the best possible performance by local authorities in managing their housing stock. I am sure that many housing problems can be attributed in no small measure to the inadequacies of local authority management over a number of years. If all local housing authorities could achieve the standard of the best, we could substantially improve overall housing performance and reduce housing waiting lists.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Sheffield made an important and thoughtful speech. The right reverend Prelate, together with many other noble Lords, voiced his concerns about crime in inner cities, and in particular youth crime. I wish to take this opportunity to reassure the House that the Government are concerned about this matter and are acting to deal with crime and to remove the fear of crime that is experienced by all too many inner city residents, the young and the elderly alike. However, there is no single cause of crime. Many people have disadvantages but do not offend. Crime has risen in times of low unemployment. There is no excuse for crime and there should be no support for crime from this House, or for the theory that crime is acceptable because the perpetrator is unemployed. That is not to say it is not important to find jobs for offenders. A wide range of schemes exists at various levels in prisons and in the probation service to improve offenders' skills and their self-confidence.

I must tell the right reverend Prelate that the Home Office programme development unit is funding a number of projects aimed at preventing criminality. Among those projects a multi-agency group in Sheffield proposes to establish a range of school and community based skill development programmes to address the links between schools, family, social learning and delinquency.

The noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, asked about support for the victims of crime. I can assure him that the needs of victims of crime are given a high priority. In 1990 we published the victims' charter, and we increased the budget for victim support to £8.4 million next year with schemes covering 98 per cent. of the country. I can also tell the noble Lord that £144 million was paid out last year in compensation to victims.

The noble Lord, Lord Rea, and the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, mentioned serious racial attacks. There are several government initiatives to tackle racially motivated crime. They include issuing guidance to forces on the response to such crimes; promoting the multi-agency approach; funding a pilot multi-agency project in Newham; producing a booklet in several languages; and ensuring that the issue is seen as a top priority by the police.

The noble Baroness asked about discrimination in the criminal justice system. Those engaged in the administration of criminal justice have a duty to avoid discriminating against anyone on the basis of race, gender or any other improper ground. Section 95 of the Criminal Justice Act 1991 requires the Home Secretary to publish information annually to assist practitioners in the fulfilment of their duty. Ministers are currently considering how best to extend ethnic monitoring through the criminal justice system.

We do not shy away from our responsibilities to provide an effective framework for the prevention of criminality—the police, the courts and the treatment of offenders themselves. The proposed introduction of the new secure training order for sentencing the small hard core of persistent juvenile offenders is just one of our latest initiatives to consolidate that framework. However, the whole community must play its part by being good neighbours and responsible parents.

I turn now to Section 11 funding, which was a concern of the noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter, and the noble Baroness, Lady Seear. I fully appreciate their anxieties about the reduction of funding under Section 11 of the Local Government Act 1966, which supports the cost to local authorities of employing additional staff, mainly in teaching. The Government very much value the important work which has been, and continues to be, carried out by teachers and others supported by the grant. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary is anxious to encourage constructive dialogue with local authorities on how the substantial funding which remains under Section 11 can best be deployed for the benefit of ethnic minorities. We are anxious to be as flexible as possible in administering the grant. I hope that that comforts the noble Lord, Lord Pitt.

Noble Lords have expressed anxiety about the new arrangements for the urban programme. I am happy to repeat earlier assurances that there is no question of the urban programme being cut off. We announced last November that after the end of this month no new projects will be approved under the programme. However, projects already approved will continue to be funded for the agreed period. For voluntary sector projects that could be up to another four years. For example, in 1993–94 there will be a substantial programme, amounting to £156 million, to fund continuing commitments.

I have explained that we now have a range of measures in place to continue the regeneration process initiated at the end of the 1960s by the urban programme. Some £20 million has already been agreed in principle as the urban partnership fund element of the new capital partnership programme. The fund will support over 80 projects in 46 urban priority areas in 1993–94. That money will boost the amounts available to local authorities as a result of the relaxation of capital receipts rules which were announced in the Autumn Statement.

I am conscious of anxieties about funding for revenue projects. As I explained, City Challenge resources have been substantially increased and over £1 billion will be available to the 31 areas for their five-year programmes. In those areas, comprehensive, targeted regeneration programmes will benefit all sectors of the community. Most of the City Challenge areas have ethnic minority communities, and all have young people. Through City Challenge, local partnerships are aiming to improve the areas and bring lasting benefits to those who live and work in them. That means expanding the work of the urban programme in developing the potential and capacity of inner city areas and ensuring that all sectors of the community share the new opportunities and work together to tackle current problems, including housing conditions and juvenile crime, both of which have been the subject of much debate today.

In closing my speech I stress the Government's commitment to regenerating rundown inner cities and outer estates. We have put in place initiatives and programmes which, through proper targeting, will encourage sustainable renewal. Partnership, imagination and innovation are the key, stimulated by the challenge of competition. By tapping the rich resources of local communities and involving their young people we can give the inner cities a chance to shape their own futures.

I am grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part in the debate. I believe that it has been constructive. The Government will continue to play their part in that partnership by providing the necessary framework for social and environmental regeneration and, most importantly, economic recovery and growth.

Baroness Seear

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down perhaps I may say that I did not hear him answer my point about pressing the TECs to monitor. That is very important. They are the people who can deliver the training. We want to know whether it is being delivered on a proper basis.

Lord Strathclyde

My Lords, I made the point that the TECs have an incentive to look after the needs of ethnic minorities. Whether that is monitoring I am not sure. I shall certainly make inquiries and write to the noble Baroness.

5.25 p.m.

Lord Bonham-Carter

My Lords, I should like to take this opportunity to thank all noble Lords who participated in the debate. I agree with my noble friend Lady Seear that the purpose of the debate was to try to raise the problems of inner cities, and in particular of the young and ethnic minorities, higher on the political agenda. Those problems are all too easily forgotten or buried.

This is not the occasion on which to respond to the noble Lord's reply to my initial speech. However, debates of this kind tend to make it appear that ethnic minorities are in some way a problem. I have frequently tried to disabuse people of that interpretation. Indeed, in the debates on the asylum Bill I tried to point out, and I reiterate, that one has only to look around this House and the country generally to see what we have gained from immigration in the past and what we are gaining in the present.

Today's debate has centred around the three central issues of employment, housing and education. Those are the three critical issues upon which any discussion of this matter must concentrate. That means, however, that policies to deal with the problems arising in our inner cities have to be co-ordinated because at least three Ministries are involved. It has always been the responsibility of the Home Office, as the lead department, to co-ordinate policies concerning race relations. Since the earliest days the Home Office has steadfastly refused to do so. It is high time that it got down to it and co-ordinated policies in that field instead of doing nothing until there is a riot.

I believe that the debate has been useful. I should like to reiterate my thanks. However, one point still worries me. Education and schooling are crucial in this matter. Local authorities such as Tower Hamlets are dependent upon Section 11 funding for educational schemes and English language training. That is critical. If that funding is to be cut, I should like to have an assurance at some time that new funds will be made available for the schemes and for helping in the education of the ethnic minorities—who in this case are immigrants because in Tower Hamlets it is Bangladeshis who are the newcomers. It is essential that those funds should not disappear and that those services should not be withdrawn.

Leadership, determination and resources are required from the Government. We hope that the resources will be applied in the right places at the right time. Meanwhile, I beg leave to withdraw my Motion for Papers.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.