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Column 826problems that it faces, particularly in the Tyne and Wear conurbation. The Government's response has been not only inadequate but inequitable.
If the criterion for the distribution of resources was crime, then 200 police officers should be distributed to the Northumbria force from other areas. In the Tyne and Wear area, an officer handles an average of 50 crimes a year--the highest in the country. In Manchester, the figure is 46 and in the Metropolitan police force it is only 27, the lowest in the country. That is possibly because, per capita, Northumbria has the lowest number of officers and the Metropolitan police force has the highest. There are 2.4 officers per 1,000 of population in Northumbria, and 3.9 in London. However, when the Northumbria police authority asked the Home Office for 80 extra officers for 1989-90, it got just 30.
As a further example of the unequal nature of the distribution of resources, when the Government were approached with a request for 59 officers for the specific purpose of policing the Tyne and Wear metro system, they turned the request down. However, London Regional Transport has been loaned 82 officers from the Metropolitan and City of London forces, pending the completion of training of 50 extra British Transport police. I understand that a meeting is to be held on 27 June, in another attempt to convince Ministers of the merits of the Tyne and Wear case. I hope that Ministers will take account of the disparities that I have mentioned and grant this necessary, but in the circumstances modest, request.
A number of important problems need to be tackled urgently if the people of the inner-city areas on Tyneside are to be relieved of their problems, and its economy regenerated. In housing, massive renewal and refurbishment is needed at a time when Government policy has halted council house provision and slashed the housing capital programmes of the local authorities. Last July, Newcastle city council made a realistic bid for approval to borrow £48.3 million for 1989-90, but received permission to borrow only £6 million. Apart from being grossly inadequate to meet the needs of the city, that was even 25 per cent. less that it had been in 1988-89, before inflation is taken into account. That is a measure of the Government's understanding or caring about the housing needs of the inner- city areas, the plight of the homeless and the needs of those with special housing problems.
The same thing has happened in education. In Gateshead, the council's secondary education system is in an unholy mess, largely because of the parochialism that the Government encourage. The Government's answer is to encourage privatisation and to bring in business men to run our schools. Thus, we have the proposal for a city technology college in Gateshead, just to add further confusion and complication to the problems that already exist. That proposal sacrifices our children's future to the short-term needs of business men. This was amply demonstrated by the main sponsor of the new college, Mr. Peter Vardy, a local second-hand car salesman, who said that the purpose of the college would be
"to education children for the needs of business"--
that is, when they are not being indoctrinated into Mr. Vardy's preference in religion. I am sure that all parents who care about their children's education and future will avoid the college like the plague, despite its deliberately alluring title of "King's college", which masks its sinister purpose.
Column 827Our inner cities, particularly in the north- east, need adequate infrastructure and good communications--not least, the provision of a high standard roads network, both within the region and linking us to the rest of the motorway system. Again, the Government, despite the opportunity, failed to come up with the goods when their future proposals, outlined in last week's White Paper, fell short of providing the vision or the urgency required. I hope that the representations that will be made to Ministers from both sides of the House on behalf of the region will be taken fully into account. The Tyne and Wear metro transport system is one of the most modern and efficient in Europe and has brought great benefits to the conurbation. Earlier today, the House agreed to a Bill that will allow for the extension of the system to Newcastle airport--an important and significant extension for the local economy. Again, the system will be relying on the Government for financial support, and I hope that they will look sympathetically on that request. Unemployment remains a massive problem in the northern inner cities, with some wards in my constituency running male unemployment rates in excess of 50 per cent. That provides further evidence of the nonsense spoken by the Secretary of State for Social Services. The Government claim that this problem is reducing, but while some reduction is evident, a major factor in that reduction is the manipulation of the method of calculating unemployment rather than any significant increase in job opportunities. In my inner-city constituency, what decrease there has been, has been at a lower rate than that for the region as a whole.
Those jobs that have been created are generally low-paid, part-time and in the catering and service industries. The days when people could rely on stable, well-paid work in valuable manufacturing industry have gone, as the Government's disastrous neglect of manufacturing led to a slump of previously unknown depths. Only now, as the Chancellor has told us, has it begun to make progress against the level that it was 10 years ago. In the process, we have lost the skills and the expertise of our craftsmen, which at one time were passed on to future generations, but have now been lost for ever in many cases.
The recovery of which the Chancellor spoke is not a recovery in manufacturing industry. As has been said, the recovery is from a particularly low base. I worked in an engineering factory on Tyneside for 20 years and in 1979, that factory employed about 6,000 people. Now, it employs about 1,600. It has picked up in recent months and is beginning to improve, but it has a long way to go to get back to 6, 000.
The north-east of England is a marvellous place in which to live, to work and to bring up a family ; I would never wish to work anywhere else. However, our inner-city areas not only share the problems faced by similar areas but also have the disadvantages which I have outlined, which a Government could resolve, with a little will and by letting us help ourselves. No doubt hon. Members will know that many good things are going on in the north-east. They include co-operation between local government and the private sector, which has always been a feature of the area and has brought a great deal of
Column 828benefit. It would continue to do so were it not hampered by the Government's obsession with giving dominance to the private sector, often when it does not want it.
The Chancellor of the Duchy quoted the managing director of The Newcastle Journal saying at a recent dinner held in my constituency that the region was ready to take on the world. Some people will say anything for a free dinner, particularly when those attending the dinner are the people who dish out the rewards. However, he neglected to say that much of what is happening in the north-east is the result of the innovation of local people, the assistance and encouragement that people are given by the local authorities, and the contribution of the local authorities themselves. It has little to do with Government policy, which has hampered rather than encouraged that progress.
I look forward to the day, not too far away now, when we shall have a Government who recognise the legitimate role of all sectors of the community, stop interfering and let us get on with the job. 5.18 pm
Mrs. Maureen Hicks (Wolverhampton, North-East) : For too long, those who live in our inner cities have felt relatively abandoned--second-class citizens making do with second best, for whom no one appears genuinely to care, and invariably finding themselves living within the confines of local Labour authorities whose interest seems to be to keep them imprisoned in an environment of fear and despair. The Opposition's motion is distinctly hypocritical. It took my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to take the bull by the horns in June 1987--thank God she did--and to recognise that for too long successive Governments had ignored the underlying problems in the inner cities which had to be tackled. Why should those who live in the inner cities be denied the quality of life that the rest of us all too easily take for granted? It was a matter of taking up the basic strands of inner city life, injecting leadership--one of the most important criteria of any initiative--finance, enthusiasm and determination to overcome the problems which have contributed to an inferior way of life.
Instead of talking, we should act. I could talk for hours about the Government's successive initiatives. I find it quite incredible that Opposition Members can say that nothing has happened under this Government. The Government have provided new jobs, training, new homes, more homes for rent, better education for all, a rejuvenation of derelict areas in which no one wished to invest, and an improvement in law and order. Within that structure, they have recognised the need for local authorities of whatever political persuasion to endeavour to put politics behind them and to work with the Government and the private sector for the good of local people. Unlike one or two Opposition Members, I can report at first hand that Wolverhampton is a thriving town. In the debate on manufacturing last week, we discussed the huge turnaround in the past seven years. People are flocking to invest in Wolverhampton and to set up new companies. But we have to remember the people who live there, and how much their quality of life depends on jobs and on the environment that is provided for them.
Column 829One of the most important and disturbing problems in Wolverhampton has involved homes and housing. People want housing where they can feel safe and which they can respect. One of the most serious problems in my constituency is the inability of the local Labour council to impose strict housing management, with the result that no matter how much money it spends--whether from ratepayers or taxpayers--the area is left to decline and heads are buried in the sand when it comes to ensuring that tenants abide by the rules of their tenancy, with the result that, all too often, such tenants reduce the quality of life of the people around them. In Low Hill in my constituency, thousands of pounds have been spent doing up council properties, with fantastic results, but the local housing department then allowed gipsy families to conglomerate in those houses and mow down the front garden walls, which had recently been erected, to put their caravans in front of the houses. Sometimes they even tethered animals inside their homes. Yet normal, conscientious people, many of them pensioners, are expected to live alongside such activities. Regrettably, the local council has shown no determination whatever to sort that situation out. The local council talks a lot but does little.
Ms. Dawn Primarolo (Bristol, South) : The hon. Lady said that the council neglected to carry out repairs to council houses. Before accusing the council of neglect, will she tell the House what the budget is for the Wolverhampton housing committee to spend on council house repairs and whether it has declined in the past three years in real terms?
Mrs. Hicks : The hon. Lady must have misheard me. I was not discussing repairs. I was discussing improvements that the council has made. In some cases it has done a marvellous job, but I decry the fact that, having invested money in council houses, it has then abandoned those properties so that no one wants to live in them. I ask the hon. Lady why Wolverhampton council has not collected the £4 million outstanding in rent arrears, which could be further invested for the good of other tenants.
Another area in my constituency is called Heathtown, where, after 16 years of a Labour local authority, people felt like prisoners living in high-rise flats where the lack of housing management resulted in squalid conditions fit only for animals. I have seen it many times. The flats were not fit for people to live in and they were a breeding ground for criminal activity. The local council could not give the flats away to people on the waiting list and had to advertise them outside its own area although it has a long housing waiting list. The Government stepped in, recognising that Labour councillors could not control the housing and offered a much-needed estate management initiative, Estate Action', and an initial injection of £600,000. The local Labour authority now thinks it marvellous that the flats have security doors, video cameras and concierges. The local people assume that it is
Column 830local authority money and, as with so many initiatives, do not realise that it was Government money and Government- inspired. When the Opposition with their hearts on their sleeves talk about the homeless, they do not mention the delaying tactics that Labour councils apply to prevent people from owning their own council homes. On Fridays and Saturdays my surgery is filled not with social security problems but with people who put in to buy their council homes two, three or four years ago but find the local council using delaying tactics to thwart the right to buy. That is a disgrace. Nationally, there are 103,000 empty local authority dwellings, many in inner-city areas. Nearly 22,000 of those are available for immediate letting. In theory, every homeless family could be taken out of bed-and-breakfast accommodation if Labour authorities would let those properties.
Jobs and training figure very largely in the west midlands, where there has been an enormous reduction in unemployment. Wolverhampton has had the benefit of a Government task force which has done a marvellous job getting people into work. One of the problems that we recognise is that people need to be retrained in new skills and others need basic remedial education to help them apply for training places. When I hear Opposition Members talk about the creation of jobs and about training and skill shortages, I find it incredible that in Wolverhampton, where there is high unemployment, the local Labour council has turned down £700,000 for 400 places. That is the sort of initiative that the Labour council takes on employment training.
When I visited a day-care centre for the elderly last week. I met many elderly people who said, "Mrs. Hicks, I hear that your Government is closing down our day centre." When I asked them why that should be so, they said, "We have no more employment training places--what are we to do?" I had to explain to them that their local caring Labour authority was handing back the money for those places and then asking my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment, "Why has the European Commission turned us down for money for training, and why won't our local Member of Parliament, Mrs. Hicks, fight for more money for training?" [Interruption.] I draw from experience in my appraisal of the local Labour council only because of the Opposition motion today. It is far better to talk from experience than simply to waffle.
I want to talk further about the creation of urban development corporations. I was fortunate the other day to go around the London docklands for the first time. I must admit that I had left it too long. It was fantastic. I came back to the House and decided that the whole House should take a day trip to the London docklands because the enthusiasm that I saw there sent me back full of heart. There were so many achievements there such as rebuilding and new factories--
Mrs. Hicks : I can see what was there before, where the area has not been improved. The area had been so run down that people believed that nothing would ever happen. If we can achieve such rejuvenation through the Black Country urban development corporation, which is
Column 831in its early days, it would be extremely encouraging. In the Black Country UDC we have £160 million, which will provide 20,000 jobs, but the Labour party locally says, "If we get back in, we shall do away with all urban development corporations."
I recognise that one of the most disturbing elements of inner-city life concerns law and order. If people do not feel safe in their flats, whether they rent or buy them, that is a disgrace. In Wolverhampton, we have a superb town centre where local people were frightened to shop. They said, "We have a lovely town centre, but we shall avoid it like the plague because it is not safe by day or by night."
Mrs. Hicks : We said, "Let us have video cameras in the town centre," and Wolverhampton was one of the first towns to do so. Local Labour councillors said, "We do not want nasty video cameras because they are an invasion of privacy and a restriction on individuals". [ Hon. Members :-- "Yes, they are."] We have seen the biggest reduction in crime in Wolverhampton and we now have virtually no criminal activity in the town centre. All the other local authorities now say, "Let us follow Wolverhampton's initiative," and who is taking the credit for that? It is the local council.
Mrs. Hicks : I happen to have the figures with me. We have had an 18 per cent. downturn compared with the same period last year. Robberies are down by 52 per cent. in Wolverhampton, house burglaries are down by 24 per cent., criminal damage is down by 16 per cent. and wounding is down by 3 per cent. The only figure to show an increase is for the theft of bicycles, which have increased by 38 per cent. The figures speak for themselves, as they do throughout the west midlands. I was delighted when the Government chose Wolverhampton as one of the first towns to take part in the safer cities' scheme and we worked hard to be chosen. The scheme involves many threads, not just the Government or the police, but junior crime prevention, probation officers and the local community. If inner-city life is to improve, everyone must be involved. We cannot just leave it to the local council or the Government.
Unless we provide sound education to equip young people with skills for the future in a manufacturing area such as mine, we shall have problems as a result of the decreasing work force. We welcome all initiatives to bring industry and schools closer, and I am glad that we have now taken the initiative with the chamber of commerce to establish a compact in some of the schools in my constituency. I also welcome the city technology colleges. One of the first towns that would have had the offer of a CTC was Wolverhampton, but what happened?
Column 832young people in technology, but the council did not want a CTC because it believed that it would be elitist. That is one of the saddest decisions that the council has made.
The Conservative party has shown commitment and vision. Our initiatives speak louder than the hollow words of the Opposition. The Opposition motion is a cheek coming from a party that has not come forward with one policy, but merely destructive opposition to all that we have achieved.
Several Hon. Members rose --
Mr. Charles Kennedy (Ross, Cromarty and Skye) : I will be brief, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and I will not be tempted to follow the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Hicks) down the highways and byways of Wolverhampton although, having spoken just after her in last week's debate on manufacturing, I must say that she makes it sound an interesting place-- all the more interesting for her presence there.
Immediately after the last election, the Prime Minister suddenly declared that there was a problem with Britain's inner cities. She has, of course, long since slunk off from the photo call which followed that pronouncement, while the deeply felt problems of the inner cities persist. Wolverhampton may be a shining exception, but what we are seeing develop in Britain--this is not surprising, given the Government's conscious efforts to Americanise this country in so many ways--is an urban under-class, which has become a common and tragic feature of many north American cities.
That new class grows from a combination of many factors, many of which have been referred to this afternoon, such as poor housing, sub-standard education, soaring crime--much of it drug-related--racial tensions and the exodus of the better-off to the suburbs, with a good portion of the job market going with them. There is high youth unemployment, dependency on state benefits and the break-up of family structures. All those factors combine in different ways to contribute to the problem, and each factor tends to reinforce the others. There is economic decline and that is true of a city such as Glasgow. We have had one by-election recently in Glasgow and another will soon be under way. Glasgow shows the tale of two cities that we see elsewhere. In some areas of Glasgow, there is a high proportion of people who have worked in the traditional industries that have declined and all but gone. Such a massive economic
collapse--especially in the traditional sector--has hastened many of the problems of the inner cities.
I will concentrate on one or two issues and suggest one or two of the policy areas that the Government should be addressing which would help the inner cities. They could help London, which has a pitifully high proportion of exiled young Scots who are homeless, or Glasgow, which has made marvellous strides forward in recent years and is a shining example, I readily concede, of a Labour local authority that has worked fully with the grain of the private sector to the benefit of the local environment. However, problems persist in both places and I want to bring some of them to the Minister's attention.
Column 833When one considers council accommodation in the Greater London area, one sees that nearly 40 per cent. of families live in council accommodation, much of it in poor condition and much of it suffering, as the hon. Member for Bristol, South (Ms. Primarolo) said, from the massive clawbacks inflicted by the Government on local authority capacity to spend money on repairs and improvements. If one looks across the river, one sees an area with a high elderly population and a history of poor health, much of it due to poverty and to bad social conditions, which were most notable in housing, and a dual problem emerges within welfare provision.
Bad housing, the lack of capital spend and the sort of problems referred to by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East about poor management at the local authority end, combine to create a bad social basis which, in itself, is bad for people's health. However, further than that, there is a reluctance on the part of general practitioners to move their practices into inner-city areas because such practices are likely to be small and to draw on a dwindling and elderly population. As that means that the capitation fee is likely to be low, a GP's income will be depressed while the work load will be heavy. I cannot see how the Government's policies on the NHS and on hospitals opting out will in any way assist in any inner- city area that is suffering from such problems.
Surely that policy will result in a concentration of what might be called the more glamorous high-tech operations and a consequent dimunition in the emphasis that is given to basic health care and especially to preventive health care and to recall facilities, not least in women's health, in which, throughout the country but especially in the inner cities, much greater progress must be made. I turn now to crime, which, as I have said, is often drug-related. The crime rate is high and in too many of our inner cities it is rising. The number of serious crimes reported per 1,000 residents in inner London is more than 50 per cent. above the average for metropolitan areas. It has no less than doubled since 1971. On average there is now a violent crime every hour in Britain's capital city. Non- violent crimes, such as theft and burglary, are now so common that, as all hon. Members will know from their own experience and from their friends and contacts in this city, many people do not even bother to report them either because of the lack of time that is given to following them up or clearing them up or because of the probable low success rate that individuals think will be achieved in redress.
Finally, I underscore one point about education made by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East, although I do not follow the philosophy of her analysis. It is absolutely essential that teacher morale is improved and that better pay and conditions are achieved for teachers. We should move towards a right to numeracy. That means no non-qualified maths teachers in our schools. Schools should be integrated more closely with their local communities, including the business community. In that context, the compact programme of the much-maligned ILEA must be welcomed.
There is much to be done about inner cities in this country. It must be something of a frustration for the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster that, although this subject became the overriding priority of the Prime Minister after the last election, one suspects that now it does not figure very prominently on her scale of values. Under this Government, that is likely to lead to inner cities
Column 834being relegated once again to the position that they occupied during the first eight years of this Conservative Administration. 5.43 pm
Mr. Nicholas Bennett (Pembroke) : I hope that the hon. Member for Ross, Cromarty and Skye (Mr. Kennedy) will not take it amiss if I do not follow him down the avenue that he took, although I shall mention some of the points that he raised.
When the former Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ruschcliffe (Mr. Clarke), made his statement on inner-city policy last year, in the questions that followed I pointed out that inner-city deprivation does not occur only in the inner cities, because one can find similar deprivation in small towns and rural areas throughout the country. That is certainly true of my constituency, in parts of which unemployment is running at over 20 per cent. In the constituency as a whole unemployment is twice the national rate, even though it has fallen from 7,000 to 4, 000 in the past two and a half years. The largest group of questions with which I deal in my constituency surgeries relates to welfare benefits, which makes me similar to many hon. Members representing inner-city areas.
My experience of this subject goes back to the days when I was a pupil in a 2,000-pupil comprehensive school in south London. Then I saw at first hand some of the major problems that afflict us to this day in inner cities. That was reinforced by my experience when I began teaching in Bermondsey in south-east London, in what was popularly known as a "sink" secondary modern school, and by my eight years as a councillor in an inner London borough.
That experience is borne out every day when I travel to the House, because when I am in London I live in Forest, Hill and travel through the London boroughs of Lewisham, Southwark and Lambeth. As I drive through the Aylesbury estate, which is not a mile and a half from this House, I see boarded-up council properties covered with graffiti ; walls that are falling down ; street furniture, such as traffic lights, that is out of order or that has been knocked on the side because of accidents that happened perhaps six or nine months ago. I see streets that are littered with paper and which have not been swept for months and where the pavements and the road surfaces are broken. Young saplings that have been planted by the local authority have been broken and snapped off. Yet those are the areas with high spending councils that produce high rates bills for their citizens. The issue of "the condition of the people", which is how Disraeli described it 100 years ago, will be a major issue at the next election. The key to the problems in our inner cities lies in the fact that those areas have one thing in common : they are run by Labour local authorities. The problems are not the shame of 10 years of Conservative Government but of 40 or 50 years of municipal Socialism. It is those Labour authorities that have done so much to ruin the environment of their citizens and to ensure that they have very little freedom of manoeuvre or of personal choice and responsibility. The "local state"--to quote a Marxist term--which has been in power in Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham for years, with the exception of three years in the late 1960s, has been responsible for
Column 835taking away people's choice and freedom. It has been responsible for building the large impersonal council estates that have been so badly vandalised.
As I stand at a bus stop that is not two miles from the House, I hear people saying, "Why don't they do something about it?" Those people believe that the local council is responsible for everything. They believe that the amorphous "they" have the duty to ensure that the environment is cleaned up. To a large extent those people are right : "they"--that is, the local authority--have made sure that the local citizens have very little personal power because they live in council houses and must use the local authority schools. They have no choice about the sort of environment in which they live. Such people also have a feeling of desperation because they feel that they cannot do anything to improve their situation themselves. Again, that is to come back to the fact that in those societies people have very little choice or responsibility.
I was most surprised and, indeed, gratified to get support for this thesis from Linda Bellos, the former leader of Lambeth council, who admitted that people in areas such as Lambeth have been
"failed by the education system, failed by the anachronistic rating system and, yes, failed by municipal housing".
That was said in a speech at Brunel university on 22 October 1987. At least there is a glimmer of understanding among some members of the Labour party about the reality of the issue.
The London borough of Tower Hamlets reached the stage where 90 per cent. of the housing in the borough was owned by the local authority. People had no opportunity to buy a property or to rent a property from a private landlord if they wished to do so because the local authority had effectively municipalised private housing out of the borough. If one did not come within the criteria for getting a council house, one could not live in the area. It was therefore no surprise that doctors, nurses and teachers were driven away from such boroughs and had to drive into the area from outer London to carry out their work. Many of them gave up the battle and there is now a chronic problem in Tower Hamlets where, according to some surveys, 30 per cent. of the children have to be sent home daily from school because of the lack of teachers.
Mr. Peter Thurnham (Bolton, North-East) : I am pleased that my hon. Friend quoted from the speech by Miss Bellos. I am sorry that the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) was not present to hear it. It is indicative of Opposition Members' interest in the matter that only half a dozen of them are present. Only one Opposition Member--
Mr. Bennett : My hon. Friend makes a good point. Only three Labour Back-Bench Members are present for a debate that they selected. When I was a councillor on the housing committee of the London borough of Lewisham, it was interesting to visit estates in the Surrey docks which we were taking over from the GLC and note the dereliction of the slums that had occurred in about 10 years. I also saw a friend who lived in the Barbican estate, which was built at exactly the
Column 836same time and was of exactly the same model, but it was a model estate. That suggests something about council housing and about the way in which tenants are given little control over their own lives. They are not given a say in management, there are no housing co- operatives and there is no chance to buy properties in some London boroughs. That has an effect.
I listened with interest to an Opposition Member shout about yuppies. It seems extremely odd that a group of young people who have the initiative and enterprise to do something about getting jobs and about improving the houses that they buy should be vilified by Opposition Members as people who should not be emulated. That does not mean that we must praise some people's nasty city barrow boy mentality, but it ill becomes eminent personages to go to Tower Hamlets and tell the Bangladeshis there, "Your problems are caused by yuppie gentrification," when, for the first time, the gentrification of inner-city areas caused by people using their own money to improve those areas has started to bring private capital into areas which for so long have been under municipal control.
The same applies to employment. It is no use Labour Members arguing that London has high unemployment when, at the same time, we know that job opportunities in London are good. The black economy in London is thriving. Given the large number of vacancies, there is no reason why anyone in our capital city who wishes to have a job should be out of work.
Another interesting point is Labour Members' attitude to docklands. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East, I have been to docklands and seen the incredible changes that have taken place since 1981, when the urban development corporation was established by my right hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine). I was a member of the local authority. I remember the seven wasted years of the Docklands Joint Committee, when the five riparian boroughs and the GLC talked but did nothing at all. It is no use the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) saying that they were planning. The people of docklands wanted jobs for the area and new houses built.
Education is the key to trying to improve many inner-city areas. Opposition Members have unjustifiably made much of the Inner London education authority. On examination results, ILEA came 87th in the league. Wigan, which has similar social problems, came ninth. It is interesting to note that Wigan was able to educate its children at half the cost of ILEA. We must make sure that teachers are paid well according to the regions in which they work, the subject that they teach--if there is a shortage of teachers of certain subjects--and performance. I do not want blanket increases for teachers if poor teachers are equally rewarded.
It is no use just talking about crime in inner cities. There is serious crime in inner cities. Much of it involves mindless attacks on strangers by yobboes on buses and trains and in the street. We must examine what is causing it. It has nothing to do with society or Doctor Hienz Kiosks in the Opposition who tell us that we are all guilty. It is to do with
Column 837the personal morality of the people who do the attacking. It comes down to the education and social systems in our schools. We do not give moral education and guidance to our children and tell them when things are right or wrong. Our education services and the Secretary of State for Education and Science should make sure that, in future, the curriculum contains a large element of moral education to try to get those who see no danger or harm in mindless violence to be educated in the values of right and wrong.
Ms. Mildred Gordon (Bow and Poplar) : I must put the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Bennett) right. He talked about Labour authorities. I lived in docklands in the east end for most of my life, and I remember that the Labour council carried out the biggest slum clearance scheme in Europe at a time when Tories were saying, "It is no good giving the workers baths ; they will only put coal in them." The Labour council took people out of hovels. Getting a council flat meant a new life, and that was everybody's ambition. Many of those council flats are still desirable and beautiful today, especially those that were built by the GLC. Many of them are run down, but our rate support grant has been stolen by the Government. We have been rate-capped, and Labour councils, and Tower Hamlets council, are now handicapped by insufficient funds to repair and restore properties. Hon. Members should not deride that slum clearance, at it gave new life to thousands of people.
I represent a docklands constituency. It is high on the list of indices that measure poverty and deprivation. I have the plans of the Docklands Joint Committee, which knew what the area wanted and needed, and it was very different from what the Government have imposed upon it. The Docklands Joint Committee was made up of representatives from the GLC, the Department of the Environment and local boroughs--a good mix of local and national bodies. Its overall objective was to use the opportunity provided by the availability of parts of docklands for development to redress housing, social, environmental, employment, economic and communications difficulties. The boroughs provided freedom for similar improvements throughout east and inner London. We have something very different with the London Docklands development corporation, a neo-colonial quango answerable to nobody but the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for the Environment. That body was imposed upon us. The LDDC's aims were different. It was to regenerate the land, not the community, as the Secretary of State for the Environment has said. Its actions have been detrimental to the community. The availability of that large area of vacant land was an historical opportunity to solve the London housing crisis once and for all. That opportunity has been thrown away.
Let us examine council house building figures since the Government have been in office. The number of council new build completions in east London in 1979 was 4,250. The latest figures available for 1986-87 is 430--a tenth of what it was before. New build completions are grinding to a halt. In 1979, there were 3,613 new build starts. There were 490 in 1986-87.
Conservative Members say that there are too many council houses and that people need to buy their own houses. That is not what local people think. They think
Column 838that they need more council housing, not less. There are over 10, 000 people on the waiting list. They, those on the transfer list and the homeless think that we in the east end need more council housing, but the Government do not listen to what we say, because it does not suit them and their speculator friends to do so. The number of right-to-buy sales in the five years from 1980-81 to 1985-86 were 16, 200. In the last year of that period, the number reduced to 2,716, and it is falling.
Many elderly people and pensioners have told me that they do not want to buy their houses at their time of life. They cannot afford it with the little bit of money that they have left. They would rather enjoy themselves and have some security with a little money in the bank. However, they are afraid that the Government's policy means that their council estates will be sold to private housing organisations. They are afraid that they will lose tenure and eventually be forced out. They have been forced into buying. Many people have told me that they wished that they could return to being council tenants because they had encountered problems with their properties. For example, people have found asbestos flaking off beneath wallpaper when they have decorated. The local authority claims that it cannot help because it has no money. The Government will not give the local authority money to help, claiming the council must find the money from its own pool. A hell of a lot of people in east London are in a dreadful mess.
People are also finding that the service and other charges are higher than they had thought they would be. They cannot afford those charges as inflation rises. We must remember that 10 per cent. of those who are registered as homeless are mortgage defaulters and that figure should not be taken lightly. Buying a house is not the answer to everyone's dream, although for those who can afford it, it may be desirable.
In 1978 there were 3,601 homeless people in the area. In 1986-87 that figure had risen to 9,037. We should bear in mind that childless couples and single people are not included in that figure. Similarly, it does not include people sleeping in cardboard boxes or on other people's floors. In 1983 in the east London boroughs, there were 438 people in bed-and- breakfast accommodation. In 1988, there were 1,550. Those figures are an indictment of the Government's policies. The LDDC has brought in speculators who have built many houses. However, the local population cannot afford them. Very few properties built in my constituency were ever in the affordable bracket. Only the houses built by Barratts at Glengall place and by Comben on the Mudshute were relatively affordable. Local residents were supposed to be given priority for lower-priced houses, but there was a great deal of fiddling by unwelcome speculators.
Thames Television inquired into the fiddling and found that one group of business men had bought 15 properties. In other cases, properties were bought and resold without being occupied. People bought rent books to show a local address. There were 10 dubious sales at the Caledonian wharf, which were actually stopped. Some of the Cascades flats were bought and offered for resale while the scheme was still just a hole in the ground.
We need consider only how the price of those apartments and houses has risen to see that this was not housing for local people, but simply an opportunity for the speculators to get rich. In 1985, a two-bedroom flat in
Column 839London Yard on the Isle of Dogs cost £58,191--much more than local people could afford. In 1988, it cost £160,000. In 1984 a one-bedroom flat on Clippers quay, also on the Isle of Dogs, cost £40,000. In 1986, it cost £109,000. A two- bedroomed flat which cost £39,495 rose in three years to £199,995. A three-bedroomed house, which is what most families want, rose from £60,000 to £175,000. In large part, that housing was bought by speculators and resold, or bought by people from outside the area who had large incomes and large pockets.
Many young people with high salaries took on heavy mortgages. Some of them are now unhappy with what is happening. They find that life under the dictatorship of the LDDC is not so great. Some of the houses are jerry built. I have been told of an estate where the land is subsiding and water has come flooding in. I have heard of cases where a property was purchased for a great deal of money in a quiet court, but one flat was turned into a wine bar and residents had to suffer the noise of car doors banging late at night. Similarly, people complain of noise from across the river from the Victoria deep water metal crushing depot. I have also heard that some roads are covered in mud when it rains. Bus drivers have told me that some of the roads on the Isle of Dogs are becoming dangerous because of some of the developers' sloppy work.
As the market drops, I believe that Canary wharf could become a great ghost edifice like some of those in New York. It is meant to be the biggest office development in Europe. It will create huge wind funnels. My area does not need that development.
Housing action trusts were another of the Government's policies for inner cities. We are all aware of the east enders' reactions to HATs. All the apartment houses down the Mile End road had huge banners hanging from them attacking and denouncing HATs. The tenants did not want them and they made that quite clear to the Minister when he met them at mass meetings. The Government had to retreat on HATs. The tenants were ready to blockade themselves in their own homes to stop anyone entering.
The tenants knew that, under HATs, after several years their estates would be sold to speculators, their rents would no longer be affordable and they would lose tenure. I went into places which had water streaming down the walls, yet even those tenants preferred to stick with the local authority rather than have a HAT. They did not trust the Government.
The pick-a-landlord scheme is also causing terror in areas like the east end. People feel secure with the local authority. They can vote for it and they can vote it out. They can bring pressure to bear. They can speak their minds to local councillors. However, the Government's schemes will remove their democratic right and control over housing. Tory Members who talk about Government proposals giving tenants' control are talking through their HATs. That is all nonsense.
The east enders have seen two bodies which they respected and supported destroyed by the Government--the Greater London Council and the Inner London education authority. An opinion poll showed that 90 per cent. of Londoners did not want ILEA abolished, but the Government disregarded them. How can the Government claim that they are a democratic Government?
Column 840County hall, our city hall, which belongs to the community, will be sold off, probably to become hotels and expensive apartment houses so that rich people can enjoy the river. Londonders will lose all rights to that building. That is typical of the Government's approach to the inner cities. They take away all the best places.
I warn people from other towns who have been told that they are going to have an urban development corporation that the LDDC, which is supposed to be the jewel in the Government's crown and the model UDC, has pinched pieces of land along the river, canals and bridlepaths. It has pinched the most pleasant places which go to rich people and local people do not get a look in. The children of local people are forced to move far away. That is bad for the community, especially for an aging community.
Housing has been for a very long time the most urgent problem in the inner cities and in east London in particular. Jobs are also very important. Before I made my maiden speech in the House two years ago, I carried out investigations and discovered that, despite all the public money which has been poured into the LDDC--money which was never available for the plans of the Joint Docklands Committee and the local authorities--there has been a net loss of jobs. A month ago I asked another series of questions and found, rather to my surprise, that there was a slightly bigger net loss of jobs, despite everything that has happened in the past two years.
Health care is important in an area with a rising population. Unlike the rest of the country, in Tower Hamlets there has been an explosion in the birth rate, bringing housing and health problems in its train. Two weeks ago, I held a meeting with general practitioners from Tower Hamlets in this building and they were unanimously against the Government's proposals for the Health Service. They have been denounced as greedy, as liars, but in fact they are devoted people. One has to be devoted to choose to work in east London.
At that meeting I took 12 pages of notes on why they knew--not felt--that the Government's proposals would damage the doctor-patient relationship, damage the interests of doctors, particularly in the smaller rundown practices that they are trying to build up, and damage the interests of their patients. They feel that people will have to make long journeys for operations and that there will be no continuity of provision, because, whereas a district health authority may make a contract with Wolverhampton for hip replacement operations one year, the next year somewhere else may be cheaper. For the first time, there will be a money limitation on drug provision. That is already frightening people who require a lot of drugs.
Everyone is worried about the London hospital. That has always been a community hospital, deeply integrated with the local community, but it is now expressing an interest in opting out. Neither the doctors nor the community health council were consulted. The London hospital has expressed an interest in opting out without consultation.