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Mr. George Mudie (Leeds, East) : Since coming to the House two years ago, I have attempted to make speeches on inner-city policies and life in inner cities. I had the disadvantage of trying to make those speeches when you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, were in the Chair and you usually drew my attention to the fact that they were on the wrong issue. It is a relief therefore to stand up and know that I shall make the speech that I want to make on the issue and be perfectly in order. I have my fingers crossed.
I appreciate the fact that the Government have found time for the debate. However, it is soured somewhat by the fact that it may have something to do with the elections taking place in May, as the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) said. I hope that that cynicism is misplaced.
The debate was not helped by the 66 minutes of gloating by the Minister when he read a list of schemes and agencies in his long peroration on things that are happening in the inner cities. If the Minister got that brief from his civil servants--he read it well and with humour ; he did the best
Column 587that he could with it--I hope that he does not believe it. I know that he is intelligent ; I am sure that he was not the author of his speech and that he does not believe it.
The Minister spoke for 66 minutes about the wonderful work that has taken place in inner cities over the past 15 years. Sadly, the bitter tone of the exchanges between my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) and several Tory Members may have taken attention away from the facts and figures spelt out by my right hon. Friend. If that happened, it would be a pity. If the Minister believes his brief, and if he believes that, after 15 years, the Government's policies are having an effect and doing the job, that is sad for our constituents.
Inner cities are desperate places. If we had more time, and if the debate were held on another day, hon. Members from urban areas could show that the problem is not isolated. Unfortunately, the problems of deprivation, poverty and insubstantial resources--I do not challenge the substantial amounts that have gone in through inner-city programmes and inner-city agencies--are not isolated in small parts of cities such as Leeds ; they are widespread. Sadly, the Minister does not understand that inner-city programmes are not working. At the heart of any urban policy debate must be the knowledge that many constituents in our major cities suffer from constant poverty. When I talk about constant poverty, I do not mean people who exist on a constant overdraft. Most of my constituents do not have that luxury. When the gas bill or the electricity bill comes in, when the kids need new shoes, when it is time to find dinner money or when a domestic crisis happens, that is a major disaster for the family. People cannot get out of poverty by using an overdraft because they do not have a bank account ; they would not be given a bank account. They have no escape from grinding poverty day in and day out. Every day, people are one step away from disaster.
I beg the Minister, the Government and the House to understand that that is not an exaggeration ; it is a fact of life in all of our major cities. People struggle to bring up families in those circumstances. Such circumstances ensure--this is the key point--that children grow up facing the same experience ; thus, the cycle of deprivation is sustained. That is what is so heartbreaking. I have represented families in my constituency, both as a local councillor and as a Member of Parliament, and I now represent the sons and daughters of those families. I see that cycle of deprivation not only continue but get worse.
If Minister thinks that his policies have been successful, he will accept-- he made the point himself--that, at the heart of the policies, are the economic issues of unemployment and putting people into work so that they can get money to enable them to look after their houses and families.
My constituency does not have the 10 per cent. average unemployment level which is enjoyed nationally. It is 14.9 per cent., but that figure hides obscene variations. There are four wards in my constituency, one of which has mainly owner-occupied properties and a male unemployment rate of 8 per cent. That is an unhappy rate, but it is livable with and is better than the national average.
Among the other three wards, there is 26 per cent. male unemployment in Burmantofts, and in Seacroft--the ward which I represented for more than 20 years--it is 28 per
Column 588cent. The saddest thing, in view of our discussions, is that Harehills--with 7,500 people of an ethnic minority background, mainly Bangladeshi and Pakistani--has a male unemployment level of 30 per cent., or three times the national average. That is after 15 years of the Government's policies.
The Minister firmly believes that the policies are working. Living day in, day out in that area for more than 20 years, I say that they are not working. I do not say that glee, but with sadness because I see friends and neighbours having a sad life. Theirs is not a life which either the Minister or I would welcome.
Why are we in this position ? The fact that the Government set off under Baroness Thatcher in 1980 rubbishing local councils played a major part. Instead of accepting that national Government do not have the necessary local knowledge of the varied needs of local communities in each city, and that local councils are in a far better position to have that local knowledge and would make ideal partners, the Government disdained that approach. The suspicion arises that that was because the big city councils were mainly Labour controlled. If that is a fact, it is a sad one.
For whatever reason, the Government threw away an opportunity to unite with councils in a common attack on poverty. The Government also continued to be amazed that communities and councils were less than grateful for the funds that were injected through the inner-city programme. The Government failed to realise that the marginal amounts of money that were put in under the urban aid programme were dwarfed by the cuts in rate support grants and in borrowing allocations to the mainstream budgets of councils.
Those two points together--the lack of genuine partnership and the severe cuts in the mainstream budgets--sum up the reasons why the first phase of the urban programme failed. Throughout the 1980s, there was no significant beneficial effect in economic terms in many communities. The Government should have worked with local councils, local people, businesses, police, health authorities, colleges and training and enterprise councils, using their influence and resources.
This is not a cry for more spending. It is a cry for the Government to use the inner city programme to help those organisations to prioritise their mainstream budgets to an agreed and strategic objective which is reviewed and refined each year. Instead, the Government used in it a patronising and marginal way. It did some good, and they started some fine initiatives and some fresh thinking. However, it meant that the majority of the budgets of all those organisations were spent without reference to the objectives of the urban programme. Only the Government have the power, influence and authority to act as a catalyst. Sadly, the vision, anger and hunger to carry out that task were missing.
The policy has moved on, but if lessons have been learnt, the results have not shown that. We have moved to the age of city challenge, in which 57 authorities compete for funds. All 57 use valuable staff and spend valuable money in working on vast schemes for which to obtain money. They raise expectations in communities. There are many losers and few winners.
The Minister did not respond to the sedentary observations that only 31 of the 57 partnership areas have schemes. He did not respond to the fact that, after the second year, no new authorities will be put into the
Column 589programme. The grand city challenge took 11 areas one year, 20 areas the second year and came to the buffers when the Chancellor of the Exchequer decided to save some money.
Mr. Baldry indicated dissent .
Mr. Mudie : The Minister shakes his head. With the greatest respect, the annual report shows that 31 partnership authorities are eligible for city challenge funding. No new authorities will be included this year.
The age of the small scheme is past. Schemes such as a creche to allow single mothers to train, gain employment and keep it and a training scheme to permit unemployed youths to gain skills was dismissed as irrelevant.
City challenge ran for two years. At first, understandably, few authorities were chosen. The scheme has now stopped. The big bang approach to urban poverty had an even more basic fault. My authority in Leeds participated. It worked on a great scheme in central south Leeds. It spent valuable scarce resources on preparing a bid, but it lost. It was commended by the Minister, but it received no money. It will have no money coming in from the urban programme for some considerable time.
Even if Leeds had succeeded, the scheme was in central south Leeds and was irrelevant to my constituency of Leeds, East. It was irrelevant to the 30 per cent. male unemployed in the Harehills area. It may as well have been in Hong Kong for all the use that it would have been to east Leeds. If the Minister cannot get money to Leeds in the first two or three years, and even if a scheme in south Leeds or central Leeds is given money, what happens to the people in west Leeds and east Leeds ? Do they admire the scheme from afar and say how wonderful it is when no help is coming to their communities to help them with their problems ?
I must apologise for racing at this speed, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I am aware that several hon. Members want to speak. We have moved into the second phase of urban development, the big bang phase. Sadly--the matter has been mentioned, but only in passing--the beginning of the second phase has meant the ending of the urban programme and section 11 funding. What is sad about that is that when the matter was raised in the House and when I raised it personally at Question Time, in the first instance the Government denied that the funding had been reduced.
Figures from the Department's report were mentioned which were said to show that the Government were spending on the urban programme and section 11 more money in 1993-94 and 1994-95 than in previous years. But those figures and statistics missed out the fact that no new schemes were to be made eligible for inner city money in the programme. The same goes for section 11 money.
The facts and figures of inner-city life mean that if one is black one has much less chance
Mr. Mudie : Let me finish the sentence. In two minutes, the Minister can get to his feet. Now he has broken me off. People who are black and unemployed know that whatever jobs are handed out, they will definitely be at the back of the queue. The Government stopped the funds to help train Asian people who have English as a second language and allow them to compete for jobs. I do not know how the
Column 590Minister can defend that. I do not know how the Minister can see that as an improvement on the inner-city programme.
Mr. Baldry : I want to clarify one point. Section 11 funding has not finished ; it is one of the 20 programmes that will go into the single regeneration budget. As for urban programmes, we have never made any secret of the fact that they are continuing--for example, the partnership programme is continuing. But we believe that a better way of delivering urban policies is through the single regeneration budget, as I set out in my speech.
Mr. Mudie : As my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, North (Mr. Henderson) said, there is a fear that, as the individual budgets go into the single regeneration agency, decisions will be taken, programmes will be stopped and money will be shuffled. The Minister cannot deny--it is a sad fact and something that the Government should rethink, particularly in view of what is happening in our inner cities--that fresh bids for section 11 should be invited forthwith. It is very sad that bids have stopped.
That is the experience of policies over 15 years. Whatever policies have tried to do, they have demonstrably failed in their main objectives and that is why I condemn the Government's complacency in this area. In case the Minister contests this point and feels that he can continue to bumble along, I will give him the facts.
New forces are at work in our major cities which, if not matched and defeated in the near future, will end for ever--I use the words advisedly-- any chance that any Government have of transforming life for residents of the inner city.I speak of the growth of the illegal drugs trade. While policy has drifted and opportunities have carelessly been lost, those who organise the illegal drugs industry have acted with a speed and ruthlessness that I wish the Minister had maintained and matched.
These people are in our cities in a big way and their presence is being felt by almost everyone in our community. Crime figures boom, as adults and youngsters burgle, steal cars and mug the elderly in order to raise cash to buy drugs. A survey in West Yorkshire interviewed convicted youngsters and found that more than 70 per cent. of the crimes were drug related.
It is clear that the industry offers vast rewards. Even if urban policies had worked and if we were now prepared to educate, skill and employ our youngsters, the fact is that normal employment is beginning to look quaint to a large number of youngsters. They can, and do, earn so much more money in the drugs trade that, even if jobs and training were offered, the rewards there are so great that interest in normal employment is waning.
Hon. Members may say that they will inevitably be caught ; but most experts disagree. I have spoken to the regional drugs squad and the local drugs squad in my area. The local divisional police superintendent has a drugs team and they say that, working hard as they are, the growth in the drugs trade in our inner cities is overwhelming them. These dedicated people can see the facts : not enough resources, care or attention are being devoted to combating this evil industry, which will continue to cause great problems in our cities.
Because of the rewards of the drugs trade and because of the amount of money involved and the need to guard territory, the guns industry is growing in our inner cities.
Column 591This growth is completely and directly linked to the drugs trade, as evil people have seized the opportunity presented to them. I beg the Minister to understand that those loopholes and opportunities must be removed. If they are not, we shall go the American way and our inner cities will be places where one dares not go.
I fear that we have sustained deprivation and a Government who steadfastly refuse to take the problems seriously. A deteriorating situation is becoming potentially explosive because of the arrival and effects of illegal drugs. At the least, the Government should show humility. They should dispassionately order a policy review, examine funding and the lack of results, consult local authorities and associations and bring in every possible agency and Department to work out practical ways to alleviate poverty. Above all, they should skill adults, who are stranded without qualifications, and ensure that inner-city schools have the necessary additional resources to educate youngsters so that the cycle of being unqualified and unskilled is broken.
The main requirement is to bring the various agencies together and, as a priority, focus their resources on the scandal of neglect. That would bring some hope and offer a future to the forgotten people in our inner cities.
Mr. Richard Tracey (Surbiton) : I am grateful for being able to speak in this debate and glad that I have been able to listen to it. Times have not changed. When I was a Minister at the Department of the Environment, I had to deal with many such problems.
My hon. Friend the Minister cited a long list of what is being done, primarily through the Department of the Environment, and we heard many complaints from Opposition Members about shortfalls and inaccurate targeting of funding.
I do not want to concentrate on matters that involve the Department, because one aspect of inner-city problems worries me above all others. No matter how much money the Government have poured into innovative schemes and enterprises, while people in the inner cities perceive that they are at great risk from crime, burglary, mugging and--even more important--women fear violent assault and rape, I have to wonder whether we have achieved anything.
Perhaps crimes are more a perception than a reality. One of the polling organisations published research this week suggesting that, above all else, people fear being mugged and burgled. I read in my morning newspaper today about some research by Labour-controlled authorities in London, which shows that insurance companies are drawing a red line around London because it is an area of much greater risk for them. Are people in London taking the right precautions to protect themselves against burglaries and car crimes ?
Interestingly, Mr. Michael Grade, of the television industry, apparently told us that people's perception of crime is enhanced and enlivened excessively as a result of television programmes, such as "Crimewatch" and the series showing re-enacted crimes that the film producer Michael Winner has been bringing to our television screens. I do not know whether crime is more a perception than a reality, but I know that we must look for solutions to the problems of inner cities.
Column 592Above all, our police forces must receive full support for their efforts--in London, that means the Metropolitan police--and that support must come from individuals, communities and local councils. We were all pleased to hear of the success of Operation Bumblebee --a Metropolitan police campaign against burglary. Since 1991, when it started, 5,000 arrests have been made and more than 10,000 burglaries have been solved in north London alone. Fifteen thousand fewer houses were burgled in the Metropolitan police area in 1993 than in the previous year. That shows some success, and perhaps some of the perceptions of the British people have not been entirely accurate. Nevertheless, people continue to be frightened.
We have had the initiatives in community co-operation of neighbourhood watch and of the police and community group set up in each borough to tell the police what people desire. We have had home beat policing, to try to bring policemen closer to the home communities, and the Metropolitan police are now conducting an operation called sector policing. Obviously, efforts are being made to combat exaggerated perceptions of the likelihood of crime and to combat crime when it happens.
In combating crime and in making people aware of their community duties, we must start with young people. In the inner-city boroughs of London and, indeed, in the outer London boroughs, junior citizenship schemes have been set up whereby the police work with the councils and schools to ensure that young people understand from the beginning what their duties are. I am very pleased about that. One London borough has introduced its sports development officers on to all the estates. All the areas that suffer the deprivation described by some hon. Members might be able to introduce young people to pursuits that will keep them off the streets and keep them out of crime. All that is helpful.
I know of the work of some of the councils in inner London and I am especially impressed by one. It will not surprise hon. Members that it is Wandsworth borough council, which has tackled-- [Interruption.] -- The hon. Member for Leicester, East (Mr. Vaz) may scoff, but the tackling of those problems often depends on what councils and councillors are prepared to do with their resources, together with the police, teachers and so on in the area.
I have here a file of the various schemes and measures that have been instituted by Wandsworth borough council throughout the borough to combat crime. One or two hon. Members mentioned closed circuit television. It is unfortunate that doubts were expressed in Birmingham city council about closed circuit television and the fact that there might be undue surveillance of people's private actions. Nevertheless, in Wandsworth, with sponsorship from local business, closed circuit television has been introduced in several of the main high streets where the council is well aware, as a result of police research, that there are real problems and threats to the populace. It has introduced mobile closed circuit television operations to cut motor car crime and break-ins to motor cars.
I have also been most impressed by the way in which progressively, as a result of forming a crime prevention policy review panel, Wandsworth borough council has considered designing out crime in alleyways and in the remote areas away from the streets and away from the main movement of the public. It has thereby cut many of the easy escape routes that criminals would have had. It has also introduced better lighting in car parks and in side streets.
Column 593Those measures have proved to the criminal fraternity that there is no point in trying to continue their criminal activities and they have proved to the local people that they are safer than they may have believed.
The proof is contained in the statistics that the officers of that inner- city council have given me. The crime rate per person in Wandsworth is almost 30 per cent. lower than the inner London average and continues to be the lowest in inner London. Comparing Wandsworth--as we so often do in the House and outside--with its neighbour, the borough of Lambeth, we find that Wandsworth has 31 per cent. less crime per person. Compared with 10 other inner London boroughs, Wandsworth had the lowest rate of burglary and violence against the person. Lambeth had 182 per cent. more crimes against the person, 112 per cent. more robberies and 40 per cent. more burglaries.
It is clear that councillors, together with the community, must tackle the threat of crime and the criminal fraternity if those idle hands are not to get away with their activities. Before we consider putting more money into programmes, we have a duty to ensure that we protect our people, as the London borough of Wandsworth has succeeded in doing.
Ms Diane Abbott (Hackney, North and Stoke Newington) : I am proud to represent the London borough of Hackney in the House of Commons. It is possible to be too negative about our inner cities. Since the 19th century, my borough has contributed a stream of distinguished people to this country's public and business life--people such as Herbert Morrison, architect of the London county council and a great post-war Labour statesman, and Sam Cohen, father of Lady Porter, the distinguished Tory statesperson.
It is appropriate to point out the many remarkable aspects of inner city life. I live in a borough where, by and large, people from Africa, Ireland and Asia live happily side by side with people from one of the largest Hasidic Jewish communities in Europe. Although we have seen an unfortunate rise in racist violence and fascist activity, we should pay tribute to the fact that in most inner cities it is remarkable how people of different religion, faith and colour live happily as neighbours.
There is also an enormous amount of energy and activity in our inner cities. Politicians often ignore the amount of effort, energy and voluntary labour that people put into their community groups, churches, mosques and temples. I should like to strike a different note than has been struck hitherto and say that, despite everything, people in inner cities are not just surviving but managing to achieve. However, they are doing so despite the Government and their programmes, not because of them.
To listen to Tory Members discuss inner cities is to hear them at their worst. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) pointed out, Tory Members neither live in nor represent those areas. Their knowledge of inner cities is largely gleaned from central office handouts and their glimpses of poverty are from the back windows of their town houses. To hear Tory Members discuss inner cities is to hear them give way to the worse kind of ignorance and prejudice.
We have heard a lot about schemes and much political point scoring, but the central reality for those of us who live and work in the inner city is the massive level of unemployment. In Hackney, North and Stoke Newington
Column 594we have the sixth highest level of unemployment in the country. Unemployment is not about figures or manipulating statistics. The very high levels of unemployment in inner cities mean absolute poverty, from which many of our other problems flow.
Unemployment, particularly for men, means a tragic loss of identity. My father was a welder. He was a skilled man who served an apprenticeship and, in turn, had his own apprentices. For ordinary working men in inner cities, their trade, craft and job was part of their identity. In committing our young people to joblessness and throwing older men out of work--men in their 40s who become unemployed in districts like Hackney will never work again--the Government are not merely condemning them and their families to poverty, but stripping away the identity of the men. That point is not often made, but it is at the heart of many of the disorder problems in our inner cities.
We cannot touch on the problems of inner cities without mentioning housing. Housing issues form a major part of the work load of every inner-city Member of Parliament. Of the thousands of cases that I deal with every year, 60 per cent. are housing cases. The Government's record on housing is abysmal, particularly in the inner cities. The number of new houses built under the Tory
Government--whether in the private or public sector or by the housing corporations--has dropped year by year.
Conservative Members are quick to jump up and talk about housing associations, but those associations cannot provide for the housing needs of the inner cities. They can help and make an important contribution, but the high private sector rents mean that there has to be a thriving public housing sector in inner cities to meet the needs of constituents. Housing associations may work in the shire counties and in the suburbs, but they neither claim to meet, nor are capable of meeting, the housing needs of inner cities. The Government have failed to give people in inner cities decent homes. That is one of the most tragic aspects of the Government's record. When the Government give money to housing associations, they force them to pursue high-rent policies, so when housing associations build developments in inner cities the rents are so high that the only way for ordinary people to be able to live in them is to claim housing benefit.
Another big issue in inner cities is that of single-parent mothers. The Government's attack on single-parent mothers in our great cities of London, Manchester and Birmingham has been distressing and degrading. Despite the Government's propaganda, smears and attacks, most single-parent mothers in our great cities did not choose to become so--they are widows and divorcees. Given the chance, most of them would work and look after their children. Attacking women who are doing their best to bring up their families does not help the inner cities.
Conservative Members talked about education and training. One of the biggest blows to education standards in London was the abolition of the Inner London education authority, which meant the loss of the finance available for education in London. It also meant that poor districts, such as mine in Hackney, lost the redistributive effect of the Inner London education authority. Services such as the youth service, special needs education and nurseries have also suffered. Inner-city residents in London have suffered from the loss of a voice in the shape of the Greater London council.
Column 595I wish to concentrate now on the role of black and Asian business people in cities. Black and Asian business people, often without Government grants, have done more to preserve the fabric of life in inner cities and to regenerate the inner cities than any of the Government's bogus public relations schemes. They do not get grants and support. Above all, they do not get recognition.
For the past few months, I have organised a network of black business women in London. The businesses include hair care, financial services, shipping, retail and many other areas. These women, young and middle-aged, have their own businesses and they are trying to help themselves. They tell me that what they want above all from the Government is not pity or tokenism, but recognition and practical support, especially in terms of finance and the lending policies of our great banks.
Ministers have talked about the Isle of Dogs as a triumph of Government policy. They have talked about Canary wharf as the symbol of all that the Government are doing for the inner cities. Yes, the Isle of Dogs is a symbol of all that the Government are doing for the inner cities. What do we have on the Isle of Dogs ? There are glittering office developments, but the local population suffers absolute levels of poverty, unemployment and deprivation, to the extent that they have voted for the British National party. In that sense, in the public poverty amid private splendour and the rise of the National Front, one can indeed see the emblem of Government policies for the inner cities.
It is easy to get into political point scoring when we debate the inner cities. Conservative Members never resist the temptation to talk about the inhabitants of the inner cities as though we were all objects of social concern--drug dealers, single mothers scrounging off social security or some sort of subculture. My message to the House this morning is that the people who live in the inner cities are men and women just as Conservative Members are. What they want is respect, recognition, jobs for the men and for young people leaving school in their communities and, above all, an end to bogus schemes which focus on the public relations effect. They want the beginning of Government policies that will genuinely and materially raise the living standards of people such as those whom I am privileged to live among and represent in Hackney, North and Stoke Newington.
Mrs. Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham) : I welcome the speech by my hon. Friend the Minister. It will give great heart to my constituents in Chesham and Amersham, especially as it appears that the Government now recognise one of the problems that face my citizens and shopkeepers in Chesham--the erosion of the high streets of our towns and cities by the development of out-of-town shopping centres. In this context, I welcome planning policy guidance note 13 from the Department of the Environment which at last appears to recognise the problem. I look forward to seeing how the Government will move forward to tackle our dying high streets, both in the inner cities and in towns such as Chesham.
The hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, North (Mr. Henderson) sought to find an explanation of strategy in my hon. Friend the Minister's speech. I felt that the strategy
Column 596was clearly pointed out by my hon. Friend. I looked for the alternative strategy in the hon. Gentleman's speech, but I could not find it. I hope that when he sums up we shall hear some of Labour's positive proposals.
The hon. Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) started well and I was delighted to hear that she intended to make a positive speech on the inner cities. Indeed, I agreed with many of her points. However, she could not resist the temptation of casting aspersions on Conservative Members. I may represent a beautiful constituency, but I have spent the past 20 years living and working in London, our largest city, and it has been a great privilege. I do not walk round the streets of London with my eyes closed to the problems or to the improvements.
The right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) cast aspersions on my running back to my leafy constituency. In fact, I nipped out of the Chamber only for a couple of minutes, whereas the right hon. Gentleman seems to have deserted us completely. I nipped out of the Chamber to check up on a few statistics. I am privileged to have had the honour to fight the Euro-constituency of Greater Manchester Central, and I keep an eye on what happens in Manchester. I was right because since January 1993 in all the Greater Manchester constituencies there has been a positive downward trend in unemployment. As the right hon. Gentleman painted his sad picture of some of his constituents, I thought that he would have had the grace to acknowledge that.
I should like to mention two topics, the first of which is directly connected with my constituency. It is a beautiful area not far from London- -close enough to run the danger of mainly inner-city problems being exported to my towns and villages. I refer particularly to the export of crime and the development of the awayday criminal. One cannot look at the inner cities and their problems or successes in isolation : one must also consider the impact on our rural communities. Sadly, crime has always been a feature of urban areas, but, as our successes against the criminal fraternity are notched up, the probability of the perpetrators seeking new pastures rises. In Chesham over the past few years we have, sadly, seen the advent of the vicious crime of ram raiding and a number of shops have been affected more than once. Closed-circuit television has reduced crime in some inner-city areas and we want that facility in Chesham as soon as possible, not only to deter potential thieves and villains but to catch them and show them that those who dare will lose in Chesham. It is quite something to listen to Opposition Members talking about crime and accusing Conservative Members of being soft on it. On the issue of closed-circuit television, I discovered that in Birmingham Labour tried to block the extension of the city watch programme. Last year a Labour councillor was
"extremely worried about the intrusion of sophisticated surveillance equipment into public life."
My law-abiding citizens are not worried about the intrusion of such equipment : they want it because they want to stop the criminal.
The displacement of crime from urban areas to the countryside is being dealt with, and I hope that this will continue, by our very able police forces who are
Column 597developing ways to combat the travelling criminal. Good examples of an effective response can be found in schemes such as country watch and farm watch which are based on a two-way flow of information between the rural communities and the police forces.
There are now more than 370 farm watch schemes in England and Wales helping to combat a whole range of crimes from the theft of equipment and vehicles to sheep rustling and poaching. Robbery and burglary, the classic urban crimes, have undoubtedly increased in the past decade. Our village post offices and shops and more isolated properties present a soft target to the criminal. Regional crime squads are increasingly targeting criminals who travel across boundaries and the Government must give them great support. One of the great success stories, which has been touched on only briefly by one of my colleagues, is the Prince's Youth Business Trust which aims to help people between the ages of 18 and 29. It focuses particularly on the long-term unemployed from the inner cities and ethnic minorities, those with disabilities and young offenders. I hope that no hon. Member will disagree with the view that the Prince's Youth Business Trust provides a superb opportunity for inner-city youngsters.
I should like to mention one such young person. I had the privilege to visit a recent exhibition at which I met the 20,000th entrepreneur, a young woman from Sheffield called Joy Taylor, who is setting up the Westbourne shiatsu practice. Twenty thousand young people have been helped by the Prince's Youth Business Trust and I know that not only the Prince of Wales but the Government will help many more. I hope that the Government will continue to support that scheme to help our young people in the inner cities.
Ms Glenda Jackson (Hampstead and Highgate) : We seem to have come full circle in the debate with the speech of the hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs. Gillan). The Minister opened the debate with a somewhat bland and, I thought, self-serving speech and the hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham certainly moved away from the central purpose of our debate of defining the main problem of most inner-city urban areas--overwhelming, grinding and continuous poverty.
In response to the comments of the hon. Lady, may I point out that, in Newcastle, the installation of closed-circuit television was strongly supported by the Labour authority. When I visited the Home Secretary with my hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Mrs. Roche) to urge him to authorise closed-circuit television in one of the shopping centres in my hon. Friend's constituency that had been the victim of IRA bombing, his response was negative in the extreme.
I do not want to get stuck in the party-political elements that I believe have disfigured certain parts of our debate. The central issue was touched on most tellingly by my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman), by the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) and by my hon. Friends the Members for Leeds, East (Mr. Mudie) and for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott).
It is sometimes thought that my constituency, as I have had occasion to say before in the House, is entirely populated by millionaires and is therefore excluded from
Column 598the difficulties from which inner London areas suffer. Nothing could be further from the truth. My constituency suffers from most of the classic inner-city problems. For example, the latest unemployment figures show that 13.7 per cent. of my constituents are without a job, which is almost 40 per cent. higher than the national average of 9.9 per cent. That figure has more than doubled in some of the wards in my constituency. In one ward, male unemployment is 31 per cent. The average unemployment rate of Northern Ireland is 13.5 per cent., so that the rate in my constituency is considerably higher.
Housing is also a major problem. In Camden, 1,518 families are without a home--4,300 people, of whom almost 2,000 are children. The hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland mentioned the diseases that poverty is reintroducing into our societies--he cited rickets and tuberculosis--which is undoubtedly the case. The incidence of rickets is being suffered most severely, certainly in London, among those families who are trapped in appalling bed-and-breakfast housing conditions. That too seems to be an area in which the Government are throwing money down the drain. It costs £14,000 a year to keep families in bed-and-breakfast accommodation in this city. How many flats or maisonettes could be built for that money ?
Crime has also increased in my constituency. There were 22,070 crimes recorded in the past year, which is one crime every 20 minutes and a rise of 8 per cent. on the figure for the past year. Nevertheless, my constituents are to lose 22 police officers in the rescheduling of policing for London. The figures that I have given can be matched 1,000 times over for the whole of London.
I should like to refer briefly to two figures from the 1994 advice on strategic planning for London compiled by the London planning advisory committee, which is an all-party organisation, so that there can be no accusations from Conservative Members that I am indulging in party politics. Its document states :
"London has suffered 52 per cent. of net national decline in employment since 1988. Between 1981-1989, employment in services grew by 8 per cent., though this has been eroded steadily in the last four years. Manufacturing employment, meanwhile, fell by almost 50 per cent. between 1981 and 1991.
Services now make up 85 per cent. of total employment while manufacturing only makes up 11 per cent."
We cannot survive in this city solely on the basis of employment provided by service industries. In the main, service industries offer part-time jobs which are invariably low paid. I hope that the Government will seriously consider the need to reintroduce manufacturing industries into this capital city.
The LPAC document also states :
"Government, . . . should acknowledge that, on the basis of provisional estimates, there are 560,000 households in housing need in London, of which 380,000 are unlikely to be able to meet their needs through the private market. Guidance should therefore include policies to secure a substantial increase in the availability of affordable housing between 1992 and 2006".
I cannot believe that that housing need will be met if the Government only put forward schemes which, by their very nature, are competitive. There will admittedly be winners, but there will also be an increasing number of losers.
It is essential that we should try to restore in the people who live in our inner cities a sense that we value them as individuals. They must be aware that they are not dismissable and that they will not be discounted. They must know that their lives and communities have a value