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Mrs. Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham) : I am sorry that the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) has just left the Chamber because the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, North (Mr.Henderson) gave statistics about the increase in homelessness in Manchester. Perhaps he can explain why Manchester city council, which is Labour controlled, owned 2,269 vacant dwellings on 1 April 1993.
Mr. Henderson : I shall answer. In reply, I am tempted to raise the case of Brent. That takes us back to London, which we are discussing. Brent has the worst record for housing arrears in the country : 34.4 per cent. of the entire rent roll is uncollected by a Conservative council. I shall answer the specific point that the hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs. Gillan) has raised. The reason why Manchester and many other authorities, Conservative and Labour authorities around the country--there are pressure few Conservative councils left, as I am sure that the hon. Lady recognises
Mr. Henderson : She may have a Conservative council. If she has, we look forward to a future contest. The reason why a lot of homes are left empty is that councils have been deprived by central Government of grants to renovate and modernise homes to re-let. Councils have also been prevented by central Government from raising the resources at local level. That is the principal reason why there are empty houses. If we are talking about empty houses, the proportion of Government-controlled empty houses is far higher than that of local authorities. I refer the hon. Lady to Ministry of Defence statistics.
Mr. Henderson : I do not know what kind of problems the hon. Lady has faced when she holds surgeries in Amersham, but when I have held surgeries in the city of Newcastle, people say that they have been allocated a new house, but that there is a delay of three or four weeks ; they ask whether there is something that I can do. When I ask what the problem is, they say that the sink is bust, or that the light fittings have gone, or that the panels in the doors have gone, or that the locks have broken. Such things
Column 562happen in houses over a period of time. They happen in my house and I own my house, not the council. I know the costs of such repairs. Councils will tell hon. Members of the cost of making even minor repairs to houses, but they have been so deprived of resources that many cannot make the minor repairs that they wish to make. I must press on.
Why has that urban decay continued relentlessly ? What is reason for the failure of policy ? Essentially, the Government have not recognised, and will not face the fact that, they cannot have a successful targeted urban policy until they are successful with economic policy generally. With the huge damage caused by the north-south divide in the early 1980s, the two deep recessions of the 1980s and the early 1990s, and the increasing recession in southern parts of the country over the past three or four years, one cannot expect urban policy to make any dent on the problems and areas. It is a question of resources.
One of the problems of the urban policy is that, in many areas, the moneys that territories have received do not compensate for moneys that have been taken away from local authorities over a period of years because of changes in local authority law. There have been quite lengthy speeches and I do not want to prolong mine more than necessary. I would have given the House the advice of Professor Robson, who has advised not only the Labour party on urban policy, but the Government. It was his view after important work conducted in 1993 that much urban aid has not compensated for the damage done by the withdrawal of support.
Successive Ministers for the inner cities have come to the Dispatch Box and there is not a great track record of their staying in post for any length of time. There is hope for the Under-Secretary, because most Ministers eventually go on to better things. The current Chief Secretary to the Treasury who, I understand, the Minister and his boss blamed for the cut in the urban programme moneys next year, said when he was Minister for the inner cities that he believed in an urban programme and that he wanted to see the Government's policy building on the success of those programmes. Of course, he has changed his tune now that he is at the Treasury.
One of the problems with urban policies over the years has been that we have heard reasonably good statements on occasions from Ministers who have come into contact with the problems, but every time that they have gone to the Treasury to ask for resources to do something about those problems, the door has been kicked shut in their face. Organisations that are closely considering the single regeneration budget and the rules that will apply to tap into that have made the same comments. They see structural improvements, but do not see any commitment to the resources that they believe are necessary to make an impact on the problems.
The Government have claimed that one of the stronger parts of the new policy was that there was flexibility and that there were not 20 schemes from which to choose. They claimed that areas would not have to apply for one scheme or the other and that, if an area was knocked back in scheme three, it would not mean that it was not entitled entry to scheme 11, for example. The Government have pooled the money so that an area could make a bid based on its overall needs and claimed that there would be flexibility. They said that there was special money laid aside for flexibility. I am told by the Association of Metropolitan Authorities and others that there is little money being laid aside which is flexible--perhaps as little
Column 563as £100 million out of £1.6 billion, or £1.4 billion on the reduced figure. Even some of that small amount are moneys that were previously in estate action programme. There is no evidence of either more resources or of flexibility.
The third reason that has caused the failure of urban policies, as my hon. Friends have said, is that the emphasis on property development has been wrong. It does not work. There is not a trickle-down benefit. As I said to the hon. Member for Bromsgrove (Mr. Thomason), even in the London Docklands development corporation area, which the Government would say is the area in the shop window, there is no net creation of jobs. If the Government wanted to demonstrate the success of the policy, one would have thought that they would ensure that, at least in the London docklands, they managed to create in one way or another a net job creation. The reality is that, with all their efforts, they have failed miserably to do that.
Mr. Henderson : That is a vague claim to make in the House. No, I do not accept it. If the hon. Gentleman wants to give me figures on where those jobs have been created and who created them, I should be happy to consider them with the House of Commons Library statisticians, who have given me their figures which show that there has been a reduction in jobs.
Regeneration is about not only jobs, but housing policies. If the Government had wanted to demonstrate that their housing regeneration policies were successful, they would have ensured that it had happened in docklands. Even there, they have not managed to do that, as the figures show. Between 1986 and 1991, the number of people on housing waiting lists in three dockland boroughs rose from 30,000 to 39,000--a 31 per cent. increase. In the same three dockland boroughs between 1981 and 1992, the number of people whom the Government classified as homeless increased from 1,781 to 4,829--an increase in homelessness of 173 per cent.
If the commercial side had been booming and if Canary wharf had been some success, the Government could at least have said that they had not regenerated jobs, that they had not managed to regenerate housing, but that they had a successful commercial property. The Government cannot even claim that. Canary wharf is still about half empty. Estimates range between 40 and 60 per cent. I remember that the predecessor of the Under-Secretary of State, who is now the Secretary of State for Wales, claimed that there would be pilgrims flocking down the River Thames from Marsham street and elsewhere wanting to be housed in Canary wharf.
Mr. Henderson : The Daily Mirror are perhaps the sole pilgrims. The only way in which the Government will be able to persuade the managers of Canary wharf that they can fill it is if they introduce internment for all the architects, the policy advisers and the other people who have wrongly advised them over the years and if they fill
Column 564the top floor with the Tory rebels. That is the only way Canary wharf will ever be a success. It could then be renamed the docklands gulag.
One of the problems is that there has been a lack of co-ordination of transport policy. If public transport is not available, it does not matter which part of the country we are referring to ; urban policy will not be a success. Urban policy depends on involving people with public transport. Many people who live in inner-city areas cannot afford private transport. Even if they could, they would only further congest their city streets, which would make their problems worse.
To some extent, I am pleased that the Government have accepted the view of the Audit Commission by acknowledging that there needs to be a structural change in policies. According to the Audit Commission, in the past, the Government had
"programme overkill in a strategic vacuum."
I hope that the Minister accepts that a radical new approach is required. The Government may have tackled the problem of programme overkill--that is why the Opposition support the new structure--but they have not yet tackled the problem of the strategy for their urban policies.
For the love of me, I cannot understand why the Government will not face up to the need for development agencies in this country. Nearly every other comparable western European country has some kind of regional co-ordinating economically based body to co-ordinate the various efforts to regenerate regions.
People in London, the south-west, Yorkshire, Lancashire, the north-east and elsewhere, and their communities involving business, commerce, education and the public sector, all say that they need a co-ordinating body and a development agency. Such a body is crucial if there is to be real regeneration of our regions.The problems of urban decay in Tyneside cannot be dealt with in wards in Newcastle such as Scotswood and Elswick unless the economic problems of the north-east are tackled. The economic strategy can be successful only in that context.
Local authorities need a new role. The Government have recognised that the ad hoc schemes, the gimmicks, little quangos and perks for their friends on the quangos, have not done the job. They are as likely to fight among themselves as they are to produce a strategy to help an area. Local authorities were created 150 years ago or more to bring together local community issues, to speak on behalf of communities and to make policy accountable to communities. We need that input in respect of urban policy, as we need it in respect of many other policies.
I hope that the Government will accept that it is nonsense to say that we want to regenerate areas and put money in to do this or that and expect local authorities to play a key co-ordination role and then say, "By the way, we're going to cap your budget this year so you can't make any judgment about whether there is an appropriate level of economic resources to tackle the problem."
It is also nonsense to tell local authorities that we want them to co- ordinate industrial development and property development policies in an area, and then say, "By the way, we set the business rates nationally because we don't think that you have any role to negotiate with potential investors in your areas." That is clearly a policy error. I hope that the Minister will be honest enough to accept that
Column 565he cannot have it both ways. He cannot expect co-ordination at local level and to deprive local authorities of the resources they need to make that succesful.
I want to try to bring my remarks to a conclusion, but one cannot ignore the important voluntary sector. It is not designed to be the co-ordinating body ; it cannot prepare the strategic plan for an area. However, I do not believe that the strategic plan for an area can be successful unless the voluntary sector is fully involved and fully supports the proposals.
I want the voluntary sector to develop its welfare advice and provision role. I should like it to develop its sporting and cultural activities, especially among young people in the inner cities. I should like the voluntary sector to become involved in anti-crime action. In particular, I should like the voluntary sector to be recognised as the best means of allowing ethnic minorities in inner-city areas to make their own case for the things that they need to strengthen the communities in which they live. It is important that there should be experimentation in respect of economic regeneration. In that regard, I see a role for community business schemes operated by the voluntary sector.
As has been said in the House before, we need a vision for the future of our cities. We need a vision that gives cities vitality and which identifies cities as places of progress and places which we can look forward to and be proud of in the next millennium. Cities should be people places with shops, restaurants, culture, sport, education and festivals. In Europe, I see cities as places of festival which involve ordinary people. That helps to build the cohesiveness of cities.
People want to live in some cities in Britain. However, as in America, people want to live in too few of our cities. Over a long period, planning policy in this country and in America has generally moved richer people out of cities and left the poorer people in ghettos. Planning policy in Britain, as in America, is now also moving industry out of the cities. We want to avoid the American situation whereby both people and industry have moved out of the cities, leaving craters of destruction.
The Europeans have understood that problem better than we have-- [Interruption.] It is being pointed out from a sedentary position that the Government are beginning to recognise that, as was shown from the Secretary of State's statement last week : better late than never. I wish that the Government had taken notice of what is happening in cities such as Bruges, Vienna, Florence and some of the French cities and the way they have retained their vitality. Cities should be accessible places and that means public transport. They should be safe places where everyone in the community can enjoy social intercourse, walk around and meet their friends. Women should be able to feel safe in our British cities. The reality is that most women will not walk around British cities today. My mother will not go through London. She is not all that elderly, but she is frightened of London. She needs someone to travel with her. It is ridiculous that people in their sixties should be frightened of the inner cities. From the response of Conservative Members, it is clear that their families share that experience.
We need a new approach to our economy, to planning and to local government co-ordination. Above all, we need consistency, cogency and forceful programmes. We need to resource our urban programmes and to complement that with resources that local authorities can gather together.
Column 566We need a programme that can make a difference, which can be radical and which can be part of an integrated strategy. If this debate contributes to that demand and need, we will not have wasted our time today.
Several hon. Members rose
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Geoffrey Lofthouse) : Order. In the limited time available for this debate, many hon. Members hope to catch my eye. If hon. Members who are successful bear that in mind, I will be able to call as many hon. Members as possible.
Mr. Hartley Booth (Finchley) : I am grateful to be called, and I congratulate the Government on the success of their policies. I want to point the way forward in respect of several strategies. One is amazed at the Opposition's gall in pouring cold water on the Government's policies and yet proposing almost no policies of their own except to spend more money and perhaps, to be fair, to involve the voluntary sector. In a throw- away remark, the Opposition spokesman, the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, North (Mr. Henderson), even risked the anger of the football- supporting members of the public by pouring scorn on the English football team. We have witnessed amazing gall over the past half hour.
I wish to speak because, for my sins, I have had some experience of these matters. Between 1984 and 1988, I was the Government adviser in Downing street behind the veil of secrecy-- [Interruption.] I hear all sorts of remarks bubbling up from the Opposition Benches at that. I then entered the private sector and was the chief executive of something called British Urban Development. Then I was the founding chairman of BURA--the British Urban Regeneration Association. As it so happens, this week I was elected to the chairmanship of the Tory Back-Bench committee on urban regeneration. Therefore, for my sins, I have had that experience.
It is often thought that the problem of inner-city challenge is one of our time. It is to some extent but it is as old as the hills as well. Those people who have been on holiday to Pompeii have seen the ruins of an ancient city regenerated three times. All the main cities in Europe from London to Rome have been rebuilt through the centuries. Uniquely, the Tories--to some extent, this was illustrated by the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, North--go to all the people, regardless of whether we have councillors or Tory Members in those inner-city areas. We do it as a matter of principle ; we are the party of all the people--the one-nation approach. [Interruption.] There is terrific cynicism, but Tory Members know that that is where we come from. We do not go in there simply to look after our own people.
We also come from a different standpoint ; we come forward because we are committed to tackling inefficiency. There are 800,000 empty housing properties in Britain, many in urban areas--the empty properties in Manchester have already been referred to--and there are 150,000 derelict acres in Britain. That has reduced from 200,000 at the time when I worked in Downing street in the mid-1980s. We care about people.
Column 567Another "dereliction" in inner cities is unemployment--that matter has been raised by several Labour Members. Of course, we are concerned about unemployment. I pay tribute to an hon. Member who unfortunately cannot be here today--my hon. Friend the Member for South Hams (Mr. Steen). He has had 20 years' experience of these matters. In 1980, he wrote "New Life for Old Cities" and in 1990 he wrote "Public Land Utilisation Management Schemes"--PLUMS--which raised many of those points. Unfortunately, he had to be in his constituency today.
It is a mosaic of different factors balancing both people and property. We at least recognise that. Curiously and ironically, it is also a balance between the corporatist approach and the free market approach. It is undeniable that derelict land is tackled partly on a dirigiste policy through development corporations. It must be partly a direction from the centre so as to create the conditions for the market to bubble up. Therefore, we have an irony that is perhaps not noted in other parts of Government policy.
We also have the partnership approach--the Minister led on that--which is so evident and so necessary to bring the strengths of both the private sector and the public sector together. We need imagination, patience and determination, and the Government have that. In a way, it is two concentric circles. We start with the economy, which will create jobs. We must then deal with the environment, transport and the infrastructure, which must lead to housing. We often find that housing--I have seen it in Liverpool-- has been built ahead of the creation of jobs, and people are miserable without employment. We are dealing with crime in the safer-cities approach, and with training and education and health, which is not always recognised as a factor in urban regeneration. All those progress points lead to the economy, where we start our circle. Uniquely, the economy in inner cities is a function of the risk taker and the private sector. In all other parts of the two concentric circles, there must be a partnership. However, the risk taking, the enterprise and the initiative which sparks the economy is the private sector's unique function. At least that is recognised fundamentally by the Government. We do get the climate right. Labour Members have been cynical about our approach. However, we recognise that the economy is the silk worm and the vital organ in the middle of the exercise.
I shall quickly review what we have, because I know that time is short. Hopefully, we may improve our policies. I shall refer to the economy. We have often forgotten to put the economy first, but we have done so in many other respects. We have often had a lack of recognition that people who deal with inner cities have huge ground problems of pollution. Anyone who takes over a British Gas site must deal with phenols of 100 years.
We must recognise that often the assets of many companies are registered with the bank with illusory figures. It is more than the lives of the owners of the companies are worth to revalue the assets, although they may have fallen in value and are blocking a vital piece of redevelopment. Manchester is an obvious case which we must address.
We must also answer the curious question whether urban regeneration is a long or short-term phenomenon. We have got it broadly right. Mostly it must be a long-term
Column 568policy. Baltimore--the example that is held up as the best in the world--began its progress in 1956. Hong Kong would not be the success that it is today if people had taken only a long-term approach to investment in the late 1980s. Therefore, we must recognise short-term policies as well.
In the environment, we need to recognise patient money and patient land--in other words, people should be allowed to use land for redevelopment without money returned today, and in return they must pay back the money in perhaps 20 years' time when the development has succeeded. The Government need to recognise patient money and the whole concept of it. I hope that Lord Walker, with the new partnership initiative English Partnerships that he is leading, will recognise that.
We need new deals with regard to sites of special scientific interest. We must recognise that there are all sorts of ways in which we can improve the environment of inner cities, not only the curmudgeonly go-by-the-book rule. We can benefit the environment in different ways. We need imagination in this respect, but there is no time to go into that now.
We must also accept that grants alone are not always successful. I was involved in proposals in Leicester where we were offered grants from the Department of the Environment. We could not go ahead because the people in my group were unable to see a return on their investment at the end of the day. We may well need--I hope that the Treasury will listen to this--long- term loans that in the short term are not paid back with interest, and I hope that more grants are turned into loans for the sake of the taxpayer.
I shall speak briefly about transport. In the early 1980s, before we got it right--we had been struggling with it for a long time--we did not recognise adequately that transport had to be a priority. I remember asking people in Downing street why the Secretary of State for Transport was not at meetings. That has now been recognised and he now attends them. We have now got the transport infrastructure in docklands right, a matter referred to by the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, North.
In Britain, we recognise that our transport system and the provision of it is much too slow. In Essex, where we were doing an urban regeneration project, we were told that it would take at least eight years to get a spur road off the main road for a particular urban regeneration site. It has been well reported that in France they can get a spur road off a motorway for urban regeneration in six months. The key to it, and what we should recognise and change, is that better compensation is needed, as well as powers for speedier consultation with the local people. Housing is vital, but it must be linked with jobs, crime prevention, local facilities and even energy supply. We need to go beyond the strictures of the planning system to harness the aspirations and desires of the local community. In Pittsburgh, there is an example of involving communities in planning which is called a RHUDAT system. On a Friday evening, before a proposal to regenerate an inner city is made, a local community is taken into a school hall. They sit there on and off all weekend discussing what they want, and they also hear the planner say what is impossible. Between them, they come up with a community solution which helps everyone. It means that the redevelopment will be speedier, and that everyone will get something from the proposals. That sort of community planning goes beyond the strict and, if I may say so, dull rules which we have had since
Column 5691948 in our town and country planning system. That is the imaginative approach which we need for the future for housing and community development.
There are 10 cities in our crime initiative, and we must build on the neighbourhood approach. I hope that that will be developed later this year.
We have had exchanges in the House on training and education. In Germany, what is fascinating is not the overall figures--we can hold our flag high in relation to general provision--but the fact that the German chambers of commerce do not allow small businesses to start unless those involved are qualified in business.
The evidence in Southampton and in various parts of the country is that the success rate of small businesses is far higher when those involved have gone through training before they go to a bank to borrow money and start in business. The rate goes up from about 40 per cent. to nearly 70 per cent. success in small businesses if they go through a training process.
We must look at that, although I hope that we will not go down the stricter German chamber of commerce route which might even have stopped Henry Ford from setting up in Dagenham. It is no secret that Henry Ford was barely literate, but he had the entrepreneurial skills to be the founder of Ford Motors.
The next point on the circle is health. There is a Cabinet Committee called the EDR. When one is inside Government, those initials are like an umbrella. There is security in them--one knows them and likes them. That is fine. But outside Government, they are a barrier to all of us. I had better say that EDR stands for economic development and--I had better get it right --regeneration. [Hon. Members :-- "Well done."] Thank you. I will struggle through the interpretation of the initials.
The committee does not have a representative from the Department of Health. If it is correct that the safety of our cities involves planning to avoid crime, we also need to build health into cities. I commend what the Government have done in urban regeneration since 1979. The development corporations have brought in £30 billion of investment which might not necessarily have gone to Britain. Much of the investment brought into docklands has been made because of a choice of Britain rather than Germany. We should commend those people involved in docklands and in Teesside, such as Mr. Duncan Hall and others, who have been assiduous in bringing investment into Britain through the vehicle provided by the Government of the development corporations.
Enterprise zones have been mentioned. One of the outstanding examples of success that I should illustrate is the way in which Corby was transformed. No fewer than 6,500 people were put out of work there when the steelworks failed in 1981. Within eight years, only 54 out of original 6,500 were still out of work. That was due to the advent of an enterprise zone in harnessing investment. Business initiatives, as my hon. Friend the Minister has mentioned, have been outstanding. One must add that the climate is right in so many other private sector initiatives, such as the Prince's Youth Trust, Business in the Community and others. The Prince's Youth Trust alone helped to start 20,000 businesses, and that is a fantastic performance.
Column 570There has been a survey of the improvement of the condition of houses in inner cities, and there has been a 24 per cent. rise in the condition of houses between 1981 and 1991.
Lastly, there is the level of funding. The figure of £1.4 billion has been spoken about for urban regeneration this year. Cynical Members might recall that, from 1974 to 1975, the Labour party reduced funding for inner cities by nearly 25 per cent. The average level of its commitment to inner cities was £25 million from 1974 to 1979. Even if one is being fair and uprates that to today's figures, it is still only a little over £100 million, compared with £1.4 billion today.
However, there is more than £1.4 billion. If we add Scottish and Welsh selective assistance, employment training money and the housing benefit budget to the figure of £1.4 billion, that brings it up to £4 billion. But that is not the final figure spent on urban regeneration. If one adds education, health, police and the rate support grant to inner cities, one gets a figure of between £8 billion and £12 billion a year.
We have a fine record. Much has been done, and there is much to do. The Government's record is based on people and property, and not on property alone. It is based on economic success, and not museum status. It is not so much "back to basics", but forward to fundamentals.
Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton) : Thousands of my constituents live in deep poverty, and often in despair. Thousands regard it as an achievement--almost a triumph--to get from one day to another. If they had been in the Chamber and had listened to the one hour and six minutes of the cheap, glib speech made by the Minister who has been put up by the Government to speak about their lives, and about their past, present and tremulous future, I do not know whether they would have wept or would have wished to throw stones. When the Minister talks about the continuous regeneration of inner cities and about the "good life" in inner cities, he is, for thousands of my constituents, making a grim joke. Life for my constituents is grim, hard, difficult and often hopeless.
I should like to describe to the House the circumstances of one young man who came to my surgery last month. His name was Mike, and he was a very nice young man indeed. He gets £30 a week income support, and lives in private rented accommodation. The limits on the amount of money that the local authority can contribute towards his rent mean that he has £15 a week rent to pay. He therefore has £15 a week to feed and clothe himself, and to pay for gas, electricity, water and council tax. That is his life today in an inner city which the Minister said was being regenerated by the Government. Like so many people in my constituency, he does not know how to live from day to day.
The Minister spoke about Government policies and of how people could use their cars, the assumption being that people have cars to use. Thirty-two per cent. of the population nationally do not have a car. In the best of the six wards in my constituency, 54.1 per cent. do not have a car. In the Gorton, South ward, 61.6 per cent. have no access to a car. In Longsight, 63.8 per cent. have no access to a car.
Column 571The young man Mike, of whom I spoke, lives on income support. In the ward in which he lives, 33.7 per cent. of the population live on income support.
Mr. Baldry : If the right hon. Gentleman reads my speech in Hansard , he may realise that he has misunderstood what I said. I said that we should ensure that places of work, shopping and other city activities should be accessible to people who do not have cars. I said that we should not build a structure entirely dependent on people having access to cars. So I am at one with the right hon. Gentleman's constituents.
Mr. Kaufman : I only wish that my constituents had places of work to go to. I shall deal with that matter in a moment. I only wish that my constituents had money to spend in shops. The Minister, coming from Banbury, simply does not understand what life is like in the inner city of Manchester and in my constituency, which is an inner-city constituency.
Let us consider the sort of people who live in the inner city. They are not the thrusting entrepreneurs about whom the hon. Member for Finchley (Mr. Booth) talked. In my constituency we have a huge number of lone parents struggling along. The national percentage of lone parents is 3.7 per cent. In the Longsight ward of my constituency, it is 9.8 per cent. In Gorton, South, it is 10.9 per cent. In my constituency as a whole, it is 8.4 per cent.
Let us examine the poverty of those families. Of children in primary schools in my constituency who take school meals, more than a third qualify for free school meals. Of children in secondary schools who take school meals, more than half qualify for free school meals. Hon. Members should bear in mind the fact that it is difficult to qualify for a free school meal.
Let us consider housing benefit, which is not sufficient to help my constituent Mike. In Manchester, 46 per cent. of households have to depend on housing benefit. That is the highest percentage in the country. In the Gorton, North ward of my constituency, 63.5 per cent. of the people have to depend on housing benefit.
Conservative Members may well ask why my constituent Mike, like so many other of my constituents, lives on benefit and why he does not get a job. He would love to get a job. It would be a transformation of his life. But in the Longsight ward unemployment is 18.3 per cent. Male unemployment is 25.5 per cent. In the ward in which that young man lives, unemployment among 16 to 19-year-olds is 48.9 per cent. Some people leave school and after years have no job and no prospect of getting a job.
In the Fallowfield ward, male youth unemployment is 46.4 per cent. In the Rusholme ward, it is 38.1 per cent. Among young women unemployment is often as bad or almost as bad. In the Rusholme ward, female youth unemployment is 42 per cent. It is 37 per cent. in Longsight and 32.5 per cent. in Fallowfield.
When people hear about the problem that Mike faces with his rent, they may ask why he does not move away from the private landlord who is ripping him off. Of course, some people are completely without a home. Homelessness has become the biggest industry in my constituency. My constituency was once one of the major
Column 572engineering centres of the country. I recently went to the York railway museum and saw a superb locomotive manufactured at the works in Gorton.
In Manchester, between 1984 and 1991, we lost a third of all our manufacturing jobs : the number has fallen from 47,000 to 32,000. Our biggest industry is homelessness. I live next door to a block of 35 flats which are now used solely by homeless people. The owner is paid by the council tax payer and the taxpayer £468,000 a year for making the property available for the homeless. People are becoming millionaires on homelessness. Yet if that money was spent not on homelessness but on building houses, we could get 15 brand new three-bedroom houses out of the money being chucked away to make the owners of that property and so many other owners of property rich.
Mr. Kaufman : The hon. Lady was chucked away from Manchester in 1989 by a majority of 39,000. I do not believe that she is qualified to intervene on the subject of Manchester, particularly as she presumably intends to trot out the Conservative central office statistic about empty properties in Manchester. I shall deal with that simply, without her smirking about it.
As Conservatives Members know, the housing revenue account of the city of Manchester is ring-fenced. Repairs and maintenance have to be paid for out of the rents of council tenants. We are unable to made the necessary repairs to make the empty houses habitable. I visit them regularly. I go round my constituency. I do not have to visit my constituency ; I live in it. I live in the inner city ; I visit my friends and my neighbours. I do not come to Manchester briefly as a parliamentary candidate and then pop back to Buckinghamshire.
Mrs. Gillan : The right hon. Gentleman has chosen to reduce the debate to a personal level. I should like to point out that I nursed Manchester, Central Euro-constituency for 18 months and had a home in that constituency for six months of that period. Will the right hon. Gentleman comment on the fact that the Labour-controlled council in Manchester ordered an independent inquiry into its housing accounts after several multi-million pound mistakes were uncovered ? The report in January 1991 said that the council had concealed that major subsidy miscalculations and accounting errors had been made.
Mr. Kaufman : I congratulate the hon. Lady on living for six whole months in the city of Manchester. My constituents have to spend their whole lives there, putting up with the policies of the Government. I do not intend to defend any errors made by Manchester city council. The hon. Lady might know that the severest critic of the council in my constituency is me. I send it hundreds of letters every month on problems relating to my constituency. However, the hon. Lady should know that Manchester city council is hamstrung in helping my constituents because of the policies of the Government, whose little bit of briefing the hon. Lady has just read out.
In 1990-91, the housing investment allocation made by the Government to Manchester was £47,657,000. For the current year, it has been reduced to £25,227,000. That is in current terms, not real terms. We are not able to deal with the problem. In 1980--the final year of the housing investment programme allocation of the Labour Government--913 council houses were completed in
Column 573Manchester. Last year, we completed six and started none. It is impossible for someone such as my constituent Mike to find somewhere in the public sector to live.
It is also an impossible situation for people suffering overcrowding. Having read out her briefing note, the hon. Lady has scooted out of the Chamber--no doubt to return to her leafy constituency of Buckinghamshire, after her brief acquaintance with Manchester. [Interruption.] I will not have Conservative Members of Parliament for prosperous home county constituencies getting up and reading from a Tory party briefing which has been thrust into their hands, getting it on to the record and then leaving the Chamber, not to intervene in the debate any further. I will not have it, and I will not be jeered at by Conservative Members.
Mr. Baldry : The right hon. Gentleman should understand that the comments he is receiving from this side of the House are due to the fact that none of us can believe that a senior Privy Councillor of this House is behaving in such a churlish way.
Mr. Kaufman : A senior Privy Councillor of this House is concerned about the poverty, despair and degradation of his constituents who send him here. They do not send me here as a Privy Councillor ; my constituents send me here to speak on their behalf because they need a voice in this place in the light of what the Government are doing to them.
In my constituency we have five times the national level of overcrowding. The lack of housing amenities dwarfs the national statistics. In the main, my constituents cannot afford to become owner-occupiers. Against the national level of 67 per cent. owner-occupation, in the Fallowfield ward we have a level of 35.9 per cent. and in Longsight it is 37.4 per cent. My constituents cannot afford to buy houses and there are no local authority houses available for rent.
If my constituents have housing, they have to deal with the health problems. There are terrible problems relating to infestation by cockroaches and rats, and problems arising from the concentration of lead in drinking water. Such problems have repercussions on people's health. In my constituency, 9 per cent. of births are low-weight births compared with a national average of 6.9 per cent. In my constituency, there is 4.5 per cent. post neo-natal mortality--that is, the deaths of children from the age of 28 days to one year--compared with 3 per cent. nationally.
Because of the state of the national health service, children in my constituency suffer more than double the national level of tooth decay, missing teeth and other dental problems. Heart disease among my constituents is far above the national average and the Manchester health authorities have demonstrated that psychological distress is far above the national level--particularly for women.
They are the problems facing my constituents which are exacerbated by Government policy. Children attend schools that are very different from the idealised pictures painted by the Government. The Department for Education publishes league tables ; I wish it would publish league tables about the state of repair of educational buildings in constituencies.
In Manchester, we need to spend, at the most basic objective level, £10 million per year on day-to-day repairs and maintenance of schools. The Government are allowing us to spend only one quarter of that amount-- £2.6 million.