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Mr. Sillars : The hon. Gentleman is quite right. As I said, I was taught under Bob Mellish. That was a rough experience. I was subjected to all the pressures that a Whips Office could bring to bear on a potential rebel. The hon. Gentleman will concede that it did not work. I have known it to work in other cases.
We cannot rely on the individual being able to withstand pressure in the House. If the SLD wished to make formal submissions through the usual channels, it would be useful to have a Speaker's conference on a range of matters, such as how we run the business here and how it affects people outside and our relations with them. We could put forward some ideas. That is part of the reason for arguing about the writ today.
There are two or three circumstances in which vacancies arise. First, there are straight forward resignations such as those of the two chaps who went off to Brussels to become commissioners. Secondly, there is a forced resignation--a Stonehouse-type situation--because matters become impossible or intolerable. Thirdly, there is death, where there is a common principle.
Parties need time to select candidates. I am not naive about that. The people count, but political organisations are the lifeblood of a modern democracy. For all the things that are said about political parties, they are extremely important to a democratic society. Parties must be
Column 190acknowledged and the mechanisms must be given time to operate. There must be nominations and consultations. They differ. The Labour party deals with affiliated organisations which have the right to nominate to the constituency Labour party general committee. I stand open to correction, but that list of nominations is examined by the executive of the general management committee to produce a short list. A new system has been introduced since my days in the Labour party. Names are taken to the national executive of the Labour party and, ultimately, a short list is handed back to the general management committee, which then makes the final decision on who the respective candidate is to be, and he is then endorsed by the national executive. One could complain that that is a somewhat elaborate system, but it is the Labour party's system and it is entitled to it.
The Communist party has a much shorter system. That party is likely to run in the Glasgow, Central by-election. The Scottish Socialist party, a new party in Scotland, has selected a candidate. We do not know enough about that party to know what its selection procedure is. The Tories go through whatever procedure they have. The Scottish National party has another procedure. Potential candidates are interviewed by an election committee. The election committee draws up a short list of candidates, which ultimately goes through our system, and the constituency association chooses a candidate.
It does not matter if it takes the Labour party a week longer than the SNP, or the Tories three days less than the Labour party. Four weeks are adequate. If a vacancy occurs at Christmas, we can make adjustments. On a resignation, a writ could be moved four weeks from the date when the Member resigned from the House of Commons. After a three-week election campaign and seven weeks after resignation, it will be over. Constituents would have had an opportunity to examine the issues, elect their Member of Parliament, and be represented in the House.
The House is only partly important. It is more important to be represented in the huge apparatus that now operates as Government. As you know from your previous and present experience, Mr. Speaker, a great deal of the legislation that goes through the House is not detailed. Most detailed legislation is in the form of statutory instruments. Any hon. Member who has had to deal with the Department of Health, the Department of Social Security, local authorities or regional councils knows how huge the apparatus of Government is. It is important that ordinary people in the street, electors with problems at local, regional and national level, should have an elected representative--it does not matter who he happens to be in the United Kingdom--who has authority to open doors, get answers to questions, find remedies and end injustice for his constituents. Seven weeks are ample.
The case of a death in a constituency is slightly different. One of the most objectionable aspects of the death of Bob McTaggart was the almost instant public press speculation about the coming electoral contest. Within my own family, I had reason to object personally to what happened, as we were placed in a most invidious position. Several hon. Members were placed in such a position. On the night that Bob McTaggart died, one of the television programmes in Scotland passed off his death and spent about 15 minutes analysing what would happen at the by-election. I do not dispute the need for
Column 191conventions, and perhaps there should be a convention with the press that, other than report the fact that someone has died, for at least four days afterwards there should be no other comment, and the family should have time to mourn and grieve without being upset by the kinds of comment that appeared in the press at the time of Bob McTaggart's death. I hope, Mr. Speaker, that you did not mind my digression.
After a death in a constituency, the timetable should take account of the necessary human decencies. I suggest that two weeks should be allowed for the family to mourn and start to pull themselves together. There could be four weeks allowed for the selection procedure, and three weeks for the by- election campaign. Thus the time between the death and a Member taking his seat in this place would be nine weeks, a reasonable time, given that we are talking about a situation in which a family is in emotional difficulty. It is also important that an independent timetable should operate, because of the significance of the by-election process. The hon. Member for Billericay said, during the Richmond by-election writ debate, that by- elections are regarded as a barometer of public opinion on certain issues at a certain time. Often by-elections are the key turning points in politics. Because of the strange, magic chemistry that operates, a by- election in one area is regarded by all pundits and practising politicians as making a key judgment for the whole nation. I am sure that that will be said of the Vale of Glamorgan by-election tomorrow.
Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow) : On a point of order. On 1 February, I opposed the moving of the writ for a by-election at Richmond. I was given the strictest instructions to refer to no other by-election and to limit my remarks to the point of Sir Leon Brittan and the Richmond by-election. Has there been any relaxation of the rules, Mr. Speaker?
Mr. Sillars : I am grateful for that ruling, Mr. Speaker, because I do not intend to stray beyond the permissible boundaries of this debate. The by-election for the hon. Gentleman's own seat of Linlithgow in 1962 was regarded as a turning point. I remember demonstrating outside the playhouse in Ayr when Harold Macmillan told the Conservatives that they had fallen very low in the hon. Gentleman's poll at the time. I do not want to upset the hon. Gentleman, because he is a tenacious man. I do not want to get him started on Leon Brittan, but if he stays long enough he will find that Leon Brittan is likely to figure in some way in the Glasgow, Central by-election issues--and that will be raised, not by me but by a very senior Conservative.
Some by-elections have a special X factor, and we believe that their results are widely important. The Scots are canny people, not given to great emotional splurges.
Column 192That is particularly true of individuals in the west of Scotland. There is a wide belief in Scotland that the Glasgow, Central by-election will be a major test of public opinion. I am not permitted to debate or give my own opinion on the issues involved as that would be out of order. That is a matter for the by-election itself. I have quoted the remarks of the hon. Members for Bolsover and for Billericay. It is certainly permissible on a Friday to refer to various issues that the electorate should address.
Another reason for my moving the writ this afternoon is that these issues command the attention of the people in Glasgow, Central who are regarded by many people as speaking on behalf of the much wider community in Scotland, and I believe that the Labour party would say that it was a community wider than Scotland.
The by-election also represents a very important test of all the political parties, because all the various positions could be wrapped up in the European election. As far as I am aware, all the candidates of the major parties have now been picked. An article in the Glasgow Herald is headed "Candidate chosen", and states :
"An advertising executive from Largs has been selected as the Tory party's candidate for the forthcoming Glasgow, Central by-election. Mr. Alec Alan Hogarth aged 23, who was educated at Stirling university, was the youngest of five candidates shortlisted by the local party association for the by- election caused by the death of Labour's Mr. Bob McTaggart."
His candidature is an interesting factor because the Labour party is strenuously arguing that it will mount a legal challenge to the amount of advertising being carried out. Therefore, the living form of the Tory candidate raises one of the issues that will be before the people of Glasgow, Central. This is an issue that Her Majesty's Opposition want to take up with the Government--whether the Government are properly using money on advertising for objective matters or for party political matters. It is not up to me at this time to comment on that matter, but this highlights the importance of the issues before the people at this by- election.
As I said earlier, a new party, the Scottish Socialist party, has been formed by the former leader of the Labour group on Edinburgh district council, Alex Wood, a man for whom I have a great deal of regard. I hope that members of the Labour party retain for him the same personal regard, despite the fact that they may differ politically. Mr. Wood's party is running on an extraordinary ticket compared to the others. It is arguing that Scotland should not be part of the European Community.
Then there is the Green party. I do not think that anyone doubts that the participation of the Green party--I say this as someone who is not a member of it--is important in the parliamentary democratic process.
There will be fringe candidates as well. An article in The Scotsman of 2 May is headed :
"Former vice girl considers Glasgow's by-election fight". It states :
Lindi St-Claire, the former vice girl who stood as Miss Whiplash in the Richmond by-election, revealed yesterday she is considering standing in Glasgow, Central. Ms. St-Claire, who is campaigning in the Vale of Glamorgan by-election"
Column 193now I have mentioned both the Vale of Glamorgan and Richmond, Yorks by-elections--
"said yesterday that she had dropped the frivolous platform that she had at Richmond and now had a serious manifesto."
We shall have to wait and see what it is. It is important to note that the candidates are now lined up and that new political parties want to see how they get on in the political debate among the people of Glasgow, Central. That is one of the reasons that the House should accept the moving of the writ this afternoon.
I am arguing for a by-election that is separate from the European elections, because such a by-election, standing on its own, lays bare the important issues. It is an open test of public opinion on crucial issues. Local issues are involved, and it is important that a spotlight falls on an area in which there is a by-election because that often draws national attention to something that might be a local issue, but which requires the mobilisation of national or even wider resources to tackle it. In Govan, one local issue that emerged to unite all the candidates--nobody disagreed- -was drugs abuse and the anxiety of mothers and fathers, especially mothers, about the condition of their young people who were denied work and who were often driven into abusing drugs to get by on a day-to-day basis. That issue received national attention, wide action has been taken in the Govan area ; and many people are now paying attention to that problem. I simply want to prove that local issues can arise during a by-election and that the publicity can benefit the local people and their needs.
There are also national issues in which the parties can test real live opinion through people casting their vote in the ballot box, as distinct from relying on the opinion of pollsters. Candidates can test local opinions and see whether they can be elected Member of Parliament as a living manifestation of the electorate's endorsement of their views. The other side of the coin is that there could be a manifestation of a rejection on the views of certain political parties.
I hope to persuade the House this afternoon of the need for an early by- election. I see that I have the keen attention of the hon. Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker), and no doubt during the by-election he will want to mount his latest hobby horse, which is the question of a referendum on the Union. As we pass each other in the streets of Glasgow, Central, and as the hon. Gentleman addresses vast numbers of people, he will be able to press home before the electors his idea of a one-question referendum. It will be interesting, and he should be given the opportunity to do so. It is not a position with which I agree, but I cannot comment on that this afternoon other than to note that that is the hon. Gentleman's position and that it should be tested. It could be argued that that is a legitimate proposal--I do not argue that--but one thing that is not in the question is his right to put forward that idea. If I am to persuade the House to favour an early by-election, I must pray in aid the issues and the reasons for having an early test rather than a test on 15 June, when we could be buried in the European elections. I shall start with the local issues, and the best way of doing that is to describe the constituency. That will be handy because I am sure that we shall be inundated with English Members of Parliament who will get on the plane at Heathrow--or
Column 194perhaps Gatwick if they prefer that service- -and land at Glasgow. However, I shall take a bet that some will land in Edinburgh, not knowing quite which airport is which, but ultimately they will reach Glasgow, Central.
In a city in which one is a stranger, it almost impossible to say where its boundaries are and to assess its make-up. My own constituency of Glasgow, Govan--I say "my own" not in any proprietorial sense but to delineate it from Glasgow, Central--abuts that of Glasgow, Central, and it is sometimes hard to see where the boundary is. It must be the same in the city of Liverpool. As a Glasgow Member, I often receive letters from people who think that I am their Member of Parliament, but in fact they live just outside my constituency ; and people in Govan might write to the Member of Parliament in an adjacent constituency, thinking that that hon. Member is their Member of Parliament.
I shall profile the constituency. Everybody should try to hold on to their copy of Hansard, because I shall try to be as accurate and objective as possible. There will be a big run on Hansard by English Tory MPs--I see Conservative Members nodding, and I pleased to note that those Members of Parliament will be coming up to Scotland, because they are in for an education when they come.
The constituency has been put together as a result of various boundary changes. Physically, the bulk lies to the south of the River Clyde, but important parts lie to the north also. Important landmarks in Glasgow are situated in the constituency, such as Langside, Queen's Park, Govanhill, Kinning Park, and Cessnock. These place names will bring back memories for my hon. Friend the Member for Angus, East (Mr. Welsh) who was born in the Govan area and who will remember many of them. There are other famous places, such as Argyle street, one side of Buchanan street and Cowcaddens street. It will be interesting to see various people come up to Glasgow from the English Tory establishment. Since the last by-election, the transformation of Bridgeton Cross has been remarkable, and it will be pleasant to campaign and canvass in such areas. That is the broad geographic outline.
Parts of the constituency have a fairly transient population, mainly because of the numbers of students and nurses who live in them and who move on to other areas after they have finished their training or their studies. Those areas are concentrated around the Victoria infirmary and the Rotten Row maternity hospital. English Members must not read anything into that name ; if they can stay here long enough--but not too long--I shall explain exactly what the Rotten Row maternity hospital is. There is also Duke Street hospital and the Royal infirmary. A whole range of local issues are relevant to the needs of the students and nurses in those areas. Indeed, a whole range of issues locally are affected by policies on the Health Service and a whole range of national issues also emerge, to which I shall come later.
The Crosshill and the Queen's Park areas comprise largely owner-occupied housing stock. That fact will probably excite Conservative Members because they have a strange notion that, if they turn folk into owner-occupiers, those people will become Tory voters. That is part of the social engineering that has been going on for a long time. I do not know about experiences south of the border, because I have not canvassed in England for many years--not since the tragic death of Iain Macleod. Therefore, although I am not an expert on English
Column 195domestic politics, many Tories have told me that, because of the increase in owner-occupation, there has been an increase in the Tory vote. Although Crosshill and Queen's Park comprise owner-occupied housing stock, other areas comprise mainly public sector houses. Although the owner-occupied areas will excite Tory Members, I advise the hon. Member for Walton that the thesis of those hon. Members will be proved wrong north of the border. However, let them come and find out. That is part and parcel of the democratic exercise. Hundreds of people may come up, probably not on the normal shuttle but on a charter flight to Glasgow airport.
Mr. Andrew Welsh (Angus, East) : My hon. Friend is whetting the appetite of all hon. Members, but, if anything, he is underselling the benefits of Glasgow, Central. It is difficult to say that to my hon. Friend, as his description of the constituency has been so good, but it is the heart of Glasgow. It contains the university, the cathedral and Barony parish, and I thoroughly recommend all hon. Members to visit that constituency. Glasgow is noted as a good-hearted city ; I am sure that everyone will get a great welcome and will learn a great deal about Scotland, and in particular about Glasgow, from such a visit. I am pleased to listen to my hon. Friend's description of that excellent constituency.
Glasgow, Central is an important constituency. Its sociological make-up and housing stock are varied. It is important to deliver several important notes to get a good picture of it. If my hon. Friend the Member for Angus, East gives me time, I shall do justice to it.
In fact, we have plenty of time, as the business on the Order Paper is irrelevant to Scotland. If the Self-governing Schools etc. (Scotland) Bill never got through, no one would be the least bit bothered. Perhaps the Leader of the House considers that it would be a good idea to test the popularity of the Bill at the by-election. The English Tories will come up in chartered planes from Heathrow and no doubt they will be piloted by their six hon. Friends who are sitting on the Committee on that Bill.
Mr. Sillars : Yes, of course. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Tayside, North is no longer with us, as he is a pilot along with everything else. We would have the thrill and pleasure of watching him piloting the plane carrying the English Tory Members. He would fly over Bearsden and such places, which would be fascinating, but I must not be distracted from my speech.
I have already said that Crosshill and Queen's Park are largely made up of owner-occupied homes and that other wards of the constituency are mainly made up of public sector housing. Despite the fact that the Queen's Park and Crosshill wards have such a large proportion of owner-occupied homes, those areas have a high level of unemployment ; that is a local issue which must be addressed. However, unemployment is highest in the central and Carlton wards of the constituency.
Another important consideration is that the constituency is largely made up of the dispersed population from
Column 196the old Gorbals area. All those folk coming up from south of the border will be amazed at the transformation of some parts of Glasgow. They will discover that what they associated with the Gorbals and the Glasgow of the past is unfair.
There are several relatively large ethnic minority concentrations in the wards of the constituency. The largest concentration is in Crosshill, where the new Commonwealth population account for 3.18 per cent. of the total population. Some 4.62 per cent. of the population were born in Pakistan. Part of the population is Chinese, some people come from Pakistan, and there are a number of Moslems in the constituency. The mosque is situated in that constituency ; it is not only the religious heart, but the social heart of the Islamic community in Glasgow.
Another plug for Glasgow--I make no apologies for it--is that this year, the city is again repeating the Mayfest. The festival attracts many people from all over Glasgow and further afield. Glasgow will also be the cultural city of Europe in 1990, which is an acknowledgement of the transformation of some parts of the city. It would be wrong to say that the entire area has been transformed, because we still face enormous problems in the peripheral estates and in some of the inner-city areas. Nevertheless, Glasgow has made a great effort, which has been recognised.
Architecturally, Glasgow is a beautiful city. There are arguments between Glasgow and Edinburgh as to which, architecturally, is the loveliest city and which is the most important city in cultural terms. One of the issues that is likely to arise at the by-election comes from the Tory party. I see that the Chief Whip is looking worried, because he knows that when the Tories produce issues in Scotland they sometimes rebound on them. The Tory group on Glasgow district council wants to depose Edinburgh as the capital city of Scotland. The heart of the administration would be based in Glasgow, Central. The Tories are hard up for Scottish issues, but perhaps that suggestion will become a major debating point.
I have a home in Edinburgh and I have grown to love that city although I come from the west coast of Scotland. People might be tempted to consider the Glasgow Tory suggestion as part of the Edinburgh-Glasgow animosity, but there is an economic reasoning behind such a transfer, which would be relevant to the by-election. If the capital transferred to Glasgow, civil servants would transfer from Edinburgh. If Scotland became a free and independent nation within the European Community, there would be an aggregation of embassies and foreign organisation around its capital. Such a development would create jobs. Therefore, there is more than just the old Glasgow-Edinburgh animosity behind the idea proposed by the Tory leader on the Glasgow district council.
I will not bore the House with the previous election result, as I do not believe that the next one will mirror it. What about the people of Glasgow, Central, about whom we should be concerned? The population of the constituency is in a constant state of flux, although the overall size of the population has been relatively static for some years. The population is diverse, as it ranges from the Chinese community of Garnethill, the various ethnic minorities south of the river, the so-called yuppies in the Merchant city, to the homeless men who frequent the city's hostels. It is important to remember that there are many unemployed in the constituency.
Column 197The constituency is also diverse in terms of where the young and the elderly are based. The first-voting age group, the 15 to 24-year-olds, represent 10,700 people, equivalent to 17.37 per cent. of the total population of the constituency. At the last count, there were 28,875 people in the 24 to 64-year-old age group, who account for 46.89 per cent. of the population. The mature section of the population is therefore relatively large. Those people have experienced life, they understand it and they have suffered a lot of knocks. The people who have endured a great deal throughout their lives, those aged 60 to 65 and over, account for 13,570 of the population, or 22.04 per cent. That percentage is higher than that for the city of Glasgow, so the local and national services for the elderly will be important in the by-election.
As I have said, various ethnic minorities are represented in the constituency. Garnethill is home to the Chinese community, and a relatively large number of Asian families live south of the river. Hon. Members who visit Glasgow will be aware that many Chinese people operate businesses in the centre of the city as well as in Glasgow, Central. The Chinese restaurants and take-aways provide an excellent service.
That community is interested in a number of domestic- foreign affairs issues which I am sure will be important to the by-election. I hope that I can prove to the House that, because of the issue which is of great importance to the Chinese community of Glasgow, Central--I shall discuss it later--it is necessary that we have an early by-election. In that way, the community could put its point of view, and elect a representative here who will argue its case strongly. Then there is housing. This is all part of the profile. The public rented sector, including Scottish Homes, as it is now called--we used to call it the Scottish Special Housing Association-- has 14,274 houses, representing 48.3 per cent. of the constituency's housing stock. Owner-occupiers have 9,615 houses, representing 32.51 per cent. of the total. That is higher than the average in some parts of western Scotland. The private rented sector totals 2,705, which is 9.14 per cent. Housing associations have 1,419 houses, representing 4.8 per cent.
There are only 367 sheltered units, representing 1.24 per cent. of the housing stock. That small number is not because of the failure of anyone representing the people to argue for resources to meet the needs of all people. Whatever political differences we may have in the House, we are all aware that constant pressure has been exercised to try to get the number of sheltered houses that our old people require. That will be a big issue in the election.
Next, there are vacant dwellings. I am not saying that the Leader of the House does not know anything about Scottish affairs. I would not insult him in that way. He has to sit through various debates to learn what is happening, but he would be the first to admit that he is not immersed in the detail of the Scottish political scene. He is nodding graciously. I thank him, and I say that in the kindest spirit.
I am glad that the Minister of State is here, because he can confirm that one of the biggest debates between Labour local authorities and the central Tory Administration is about vacant dwellings. The Tory central Administration keeps arguing that the number of vacant dwellings is entirely the fault of the local authority, and the local authority points out frequently that it would
Column 198be better able to manage the housing stock if it had adequate capital and management money available. Again, that will emerge as a big issue.
The 23-year-old advertising executive who is the Conservative candidate will need to bone up on the issue. I am sure that in our candidate and in the Labour candidate he will face folk who are extremely well briefed on the problem of vacant dwellings. As I have said, the owner-occupied sector is relatively large. Most of those dwellings are in the areas that I have specified.
I should like to concentrate for a moment on housing associations. Although they provide a minority of the housing stock, housing associations in Glasgow are unique. They are mostly community-based. They do not have many counterparts south of the border. Most of the housing associations in the Scottish housing association movement are community-based. Not only do they provide homes but they manage them sensibly.
One great benefit of community-based housing associations is that they realise that there has been an exodus of talented people from the core of Glasgow. In Bill Taylor's days--Bill Taylor used to be the eminent leader of the Labour group in Glasgow when it was a city rather than a district council--the policy was to decant people. I think that there were 23 central development areas from which people were decanted to Girvan in Ayrshire, to East Kilbride, to Glenrothes and to Livingston new town. Glasgow lost many talented people through that policy. I think that it was a mistake, but I understand the motivation behind it. There was a great danger of the last of the community leaders going.
Along came the community-based housing association movement. It retained the leaders because it gave them something to work at ; with their talents and abilities, they could rebuild and regenerate their areas. It gave a new confidence to Bridgeton and Dalmarnock and places in Shettleston. Because there are housing associations in those areas, it means that there will be sophisticated interrogation at public meetings by members of the management committees, not only on housing but on more general matters. There is Bridgeton and Dalmarnock housing association, Govanhill housing association, the West of Scotland housing association and the Glasgow Jewish housing association.
Housing is bound to be a central issue, on which people will come to a decision in regard to the policies of the different parties.
Mr. Andrew Welsh : My hon. Friend has been comprehensive in his look at Glasgow, Central. Obviously he has done a great deal of research. Am I correct in thinking that Glasgow, Central contains Glasgow's oldest house, Provand's Lordship, which is centuries old? That house has stood for a long time. I am sure that in the election people will be thinking about other problems apart from Glasgow's heritage. They will be concerned about modern problems of housing such as homelessness and dampness.
My hon. Friend has mentioned housing associations. Does he agree that, as well as looking at Glasgow's past, we should consider its present? If we consult the records, we find that the constituency also contains the notorious wynds of Glasgow, where there were terrible housing conditions in the last century. Looking to the 21st century, I hope that housing in Glasgow, Central will be in the mind of everyone connected with the by- election. Perhaps
Column 199my hon. Friend would consider modern issues such as homelessness and dampness, and the house condition survey, which might help us all to be better informed as we approach the by-election.
Mr. Sillars : I hope to have time to touch on such matters. In regard to Provand's Lordship, I am worried that the Government may want to privatise it. It is becoming quite an attraction in the centre of the city. A great effort is being made to upgrade the area. Renovation is going on across the way at Glasgow cathedral. It is the sort of thing that the Scottish Tories--no, I think that even the Scottish Tories would not want to privatise it. I am anticipating that the planeloads of English Tories coming north of the border, the No Turning Back group, the ideologues, will look at Glasgow, Central and ask, "What can we privatise?" I am worried about some of the key landmarks of Glasgow.
Of course, it is a free country. We cannot prevent them coming up. It might be better if we did not talk about some of the historic landmarks. Then they may pass them by and not realise how important they are. They may not realise the value attached to them and they may never dream of suggesting privatisation--not to the Minister of State but to the Parliamentary Under- Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth), one of the ideological group whose anchor is south of the border. Perhaps that is another reason for getting the by-election over as quickly as possible, so that we can get these planeloads of Tories up, round the streets and back on the plane. Then we will not be subject to the possible devastation of the privatisation ideology.
I am coming to the house condition survey. There is no way that I could persuade the House to accept the motion if I did not get through to it the fact that housing is a key issue, which requires representation at its fullest. It certainly had that from the previous Member. An analysis has been published recently of the housing survey of Glasgow. I do not intend to read the whole survey ; that is not necessary to give the House a full flavour of the problems that we face. The survey was published in 1987. It points to the fact that 20,000 of the private housing stock are below a tolerable standard. That is 19 per cent. of the total stock. Despite that, the Scottish Office's initial allocation for 1989-90 for the private sector is £40.5 million, £10 million less than in 1988-89 and less than half of the £91 million requested by the city of Glasgow to try to tackle the problem of deteriorating housing stock in the private sector.
As my hon. Friends know full well, a number of people can own a house, but with the mortgage rates these days, they do not generate enough income to maintain the house to the standard required, and they occasionally need help from the public purse. The majority of the houses that are below a tolerable standard are to be found on the west and south sides of the Glasgow district council area. Therefore, they are partly in the Glasgow, Central constituency. The homes of owner-occupiers aged over 75, and privately rented houses in multiple occupation, are in considerably worse repair. That is the problem that my hon. Friend the Member for Angus, East wanted me to address. The Government's recent proposals to introduce means testing for grant aid would mean that many households will fail to qualify for aid. With the state of disrepair of
Column 200some houses on the south side of the city-- which embraces Glasgow, Central--that is bound to be an important issue in the campaign. The right to work and to have a job--the unemployment level-- is fundamental to working-class life. In the central area, unemployment among men is 32.8 per cent., among women it is 10.9 per cent., making a total of 23.7 per cent. In the Kingston area, there is 30.4 per cent. unemployment among men, 14.2 per cent. among women, making a total of 23.7 per cent. In Queen's Park ad Crosshill, which are the major owner-occupied areas, 18.7 per cent. of men are unemployed and 10.6 per cent. of women, making a total of 15.4 per cent. unemployment.
These are horrendous figures, which show the level of stress and strain that people in Glasgow, Central, who are working-class, are under day to day. Those people need relief and remedies as soon as possible. They need their problems brought to the fore and debated in this by-election, and to have a Member of Parliament to represent their demands for remedial measures from the Government.
I am not taking sides, because I am not allowed to do so during this debate. However, I do not think that anybody would disagree that these are pretty horrendous figures, which paint a social picture of considerable anxiety to every decent human being in our society. Glasgow, Central has high employment, but it has major employers. No doubt it will be important for all the candidates to go round these major employers ; no doubt the candidates will wish to talk to them about the possibility of increasing unemployment. I shall quote a few of them to show that I am not talking about fly-by-night companies. They include Britoil plc, the South of Scotland electricity board, which is a candidate for privatisation, so an important issue at the by-election will be to discover what the score will be for employment with that company after privatisation, Scottish Gas, Craig Nicol Ltd., Sunblest Bakeries (GLW) Ltd., S. Meadow Ltd., J. Gelfor Ltd., D. C. Thomson and Company Ltd., A. Goldberg and Sons, Lewis's Ltd., Marks and Spencer plc, Boots the Chemist Ltd., British Home Stores Ltd., the Littlewoods Organisation Ltd., Gardner Merchant Ltd., the Albany hotel, the Hospitality inn, the Ingram hotel, British Rail, Denholm Ship Management Ltd., the Post Office, British Telecom, the Clydesdale Bank plc, the Royal Bank of Scotland plc, the Commercial Union Assurance Company Ltd., Scottish Boiler and General Assurance Company Ltd., the Scottish Mutual Assurance Society, Arthur Young, the Ministry of Defence, the procurator fiscal's offices, the Greater Glasgow health board. I assure you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that I do not wish to try your patience, and have therefore quoted only a sample of the major employers in the constituency. Each of the employers in that list employ at least 200 people. The following employers employ over a thousand or several thousand. These are the district and regional councils, the Greater Glasgow health board, the university of Strathclyde, education in general, the retail industry in general, Britoil plc, Scottish Gas, British Rail, the various bus stations and British Telecom.
Mrs. Margaret Ewing : Most of the employers that my hon. Friend mentioned appeared to be in the service sector. Does he agree that one of the major problems facing us in Scotland is to restore our manufacturing base which has been so severely cut during the past 10 years
Column 201under this Administration? Many people, particularly in Glasgow, want to go into the manufacturing industry. Having said that, the service industries are important. My hon. Friend mentioned education and the university of Strathclyde. Surely the voters in that area who are employed by such organisations would want to pass a clear comment on the content of the legislation currently being dealt with in Committee, on which the Government are attempting to curtail debate.
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean) : Order. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Sillars) is going into detail about his constituency. I should like to hear a little bit more about how he relates that information to having a by-election now.
Mr. Sillars : There is no problem for me in doing that. I am pointing out that, from this profile, we can quite easily pick out the kind of issues that demand immediate public attention and action through the election machinery that operates in this country. For example, the whole of the Glasgow, Central constituency falls in the Greater Glasgow health board area, and contains several hospitals. I understand your anxiety about the parameters of this debate, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but what I have to say will settle your mind. There are several hospitals within the boundaries. These include the Victoria infirmary, Duke street hospital, the Royal Samaritan hospital for women, the Royal infirmary, which is a teaching hospital, and the Rotten Row maternity hospital ; and the health board is a major employer in the area. That evidence makes it pretty clear that local issues, such as the privatisation of domestic services in the hospitals will be raging issues in Glasgow, Central. There is no question of that. I found that, at the Southern General hospital in my constituency, a big issue was whether the catering and cleaning services--which are manned by low-paid workers, many of them widows--should be privatised.
It is not your fault, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but one matter of which you are not aware is that there is much tension between the community of Glasgow and those who run the Greater Glasgow health board. I hope that the Under- Secretary of State is listening to this. There is more than a deep suspicion that the Tories have loaded the membership of the Greater Glasgow health board with hard-faced Tories, who are out to privatise everything that they can get their hands on inside the Health Service in Glasgow.
We have had representations down here from the trade union movement about the number of trade unionists who have been knocked off board after board. The representation of the working-class people of Glasgow on the Greater Glasgow health board is a disgrace. That is bound to be a major issue.
Another factor of which you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, will not be aware, but which should be registered as one reason for the by-election, is that the general manager of the Greater Glasgow health board is not the most liked character throughout the city of Glasgow. The authoritarian way in which he runs the Greater Glasgow health board is deeply offensive to the communities throughout Glasgow. Nobody will be able to prevent it from being a big issue in the by-election campaign.
Column 202Drugs are a problem in Glasgow, Central, as they were in Govan. There are a number of neighbourhood watch schemes. That may sound like a good arrangement. Hon. Members may assume that crime will not be a big issue in the by-election, and wonder why that factor should influence a decision to hold an early election. The tragedy is, however, that most of the neighbourhood watch schemes are located in the Merchant city area, where new developments are taking place. There are no such schemes in the rest of the constituency, and there is considerable anxiety in those areas about the level of crime experienced under the present Government. Later, I shall quote figures relating to law reform which demonstrate the enormous increase in activity in sheriff courts and high courts since the Government came to power.
Let me point out to the Minister, who is a Scottish advocate, that the neighbourhood watch scheme is bound to be an issue. I know a bit about such schemes because I have a flat in the Merchant city area, where the scheme does not always work.
Mr. Ron Brown : Is not the real crime that committed against the Scottish working people, who have suffered tremendously under Thatcherism and will suffer again as this Parliament evolves? North of the border there is a feeling that politics belongs to the people, not just to politicians : that Socialism is a matter of fighting back, of resolving issues on the basis of community and of saying, in effect, "We can defeat this lot," because we are stronger outside than we are here. We can play games here, but we must emphasise our strength outside.
The Labour party must recognise the Scottish dimension. It must recognise that the Scottish working class is waking up and will take the fight south of the border, especially on the poll tax. Basic rights must be fought for, and civil disobedience may be necessary to defend those rights.
I was about to explain that I have practical experience of the neighbourhood watch scheme. I thought--I am sure that the electors of Glasgow, Central who have no such scheme think this as well--that it provided almost 24-hour cover. At about 1 am one night, the doorbell rang : I opened the window and looked out. Below stood three scruffy lads in jerkins, jeans and baseball boots.
I thought, "Here we have three vandals." I was about to operate the neighbourhood watch scheme by crossing the landing and telling my neighbours that there were three vandals outside pressing door bells. However, I asked, "Who are you?" And they said, "We are the police."
Mr. Sillars : If the hon. Lady waits long enough perhaps she will vote with me in the Lobby, because I am getting her wound up to support me. I am pleased that she has decided to intervene, and if she wants to get to her feet, I shall be more than happy to give way.
The "three vandals" turned out to be three policemen telling me that my car had just been "done" in the back court. There are defects in the neighbourhood watch scheme. I do not say that that is one of the major reasons for an early by-election, however ; I am coming to those.
One such factor is education. Glasgow, Central is an unusual constituency, in that it contains many schools and other prestigious educational institutions, including several institutions of further and higher education--for instance, Strathclyde university, the central college of commerce, the college of building and printing, the college of nautical studies, the college of food technology, the college of technology and Langside college. The students at the university and colleges mostly live in the constituency or just outside it, and a number of the university residences are in Clyde street.
This morning Scottish Members of Parliament--including, I hope, Tory Members--were lobbied by students who had come down from Scotland about, among other things, student loans. Student loans are an important issue for many Glasgow, Central electors. Those in favour of them should have a chance to go out on to the streets and into the student unions, and to knock on the doors of student residences to try to persuade students to support the Tory candidate, who supports loans. Those of us who disagree are entitled to argue in the opposite way and to have our views tested. The concentration of prestigious educational institutions in the area means that there is also a concentration of students and a good representation of student opinion which is not found in, for example, the next-door constituency of Govan.
Another important factor is the amount of development taking place in the area. The conversion of warehousing into housing, for instance, is a major issue, and I am told that the sheriff court is being converted into a fashion centre.
There is also a foreign policy issue which is important to the people of Glasgow as a whole and to the people of Glasgow, Central in particular--the naming of Nelson Mandela square. The name is a symbol of the affinity between the people of Glasgow and Nelson Mandela, who has been gaoled for over 25 years by the white racialist regime in South Africa. It is a bone of contention between the majority of citizens and the minority in the business community, who sometimes do not like receiving letters addressed to "Nelson Mandela square". That, however, will not decide all the voting in the by-election. An issue that affects the business community in its central setting is the St. Enoch's development. When I was a boy, my father worked for British Rail as an engine driver, in the days of steam. For a while I too worked on the railway, as a young cleaner fireman, and one of my great ambitions was to travel between Ayr and St. Enoch's as the fireman on a passenger locomotive. That happened to me only once, but St. Enoch's station used to be a great landmark in central Glasgow.
The days of steam, of course, are gone ; the railway system has been reallocated and reorganised, and St. Enoch's is now a new and major development. It has been described as the world's largest greenhouse : it will be 100 ft high and nearly 800 ft long--a marvellous sight. When