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Tim Loughton: I agree that the nitty-gritty issues are important to ordinary people in their own environment. Those issues include abandoned cars, fly tipping and the location of mobile phone masts. In their general election manifesto, the Conservative Opposition had detailed policies on all those matters, whereas the Government did not touch on them at all. It is not that we had no view on those matters: rather, we had a very detailed view on each of them.
Joan Ryan: I said that I would return to the issue of crime, but the hon. Gentleman's intervention is a crime against reality. I do not agree with him at all. It is true that abandoned cars, litter, fly tipping, dog fouling, vandalism, graffiti, the antisocial behaviour of travellers and so on are very serious issues in local communities. However, my experience of the general election was that there were really two elections going on. On television, in the media and even locally, the Conservatives seemed to want to talk only about two issuesthe euro and asylum seekers. In contrast, the Governmentand, to be fair to them, the Liberal Democratstalked about other matters as well, most notably public services.
Local people made it clear to anyone who knocked on their doors that they wanted to talk about the issues that I listed earlier and about public services. I know that many other hon. Members had the same experience. People understood that those were the issues that affected their quality of life. They are concerned about what goes on in their street, their stairwell, their car park and their park. They are also worried about whether they have jobs, decent housing, and good health services and schools.
However, the Conservatives did not want to discuss those issues in the election. Their manifesto may have tried to pay lip service to those issues, but lip service was all that it achieved.
Tim Loughton: Will the hon. Lady give way?
Joan Ryan: No, as I want to complete this point. This debate is striking for the absence of an awareness of reality among Opposition Members, and for the fact that they take no responsibility for their inaction when in government. The previous Conservative Government could have had an effect on these matters, but they chose to do nothing. Opposition Members want to jump on a bandwagon by tabling this motion for debate today, but where are they? They take no responsibility for the many problems that exist.
This Labour Government are tackling those problems. They are making some progress, but the problems are deep-seated and have existed through many years of complete disregard and lack of investment by the previous Conservative Government. They will not be solved in a
I want the Government to continue to act. I want more action, and I want it faster. I want resource levels to be maintained and then increased. I do not accept that all the problems arose in the past five years, nor that this Government have done nothing to tackle them. The problems did not arise in the past five years, and the Government have acted to resolve them.
Another matter that has not been mentioned forms part of the ethos of some political parties, but not of the Conservative Opposition.
Mr. David Cameron (Witney): Will the hon. Lady give way?
I wish to speak about consultation, the involvement of local people, and partnership. I was a local councillor from 1990 to 1998, with a Conservative Government in power for most of that time. In effect, "consultation" came to be a dirty word when it came to involving people in local authority and other issues, especially health. I remember all the meetings that were held about establishing an internal market for health. It appeared that local people were being consulted, but no one believed it. On the contrary, local people were being told what was going to happen, and that they could like it or lump it.
That really damaged the involvement of local communities in local and national politics.
Mrs. Laing: Will the hon. Lady give way?
Joan Ryan: I will when I have finished this point. We have paid a heavy price for that. I have heard nothing this afternoon to demonstrate that the Opposition have changed their approach. We have heard nothing about the many local community and voluntary groups which have to engage with local authorities and Government to make progress on these issues. In my constituency, we see such consultation in local strategic partnerships, the involvement of people on governing bodies, neighbourhood watch schemes and in voluntary groups. The Conservative party should take responsibility for the damage that it did to that process.
Mrs. Laing: I am listening carefully to what the hon. Lady is saying about consultation and involvement. Was it not a Conservative Government who were responsible for large numbers of school governors? Was it not a Conservative Government who introduced community health councils to involve the community in the health service? Did not the Labour Government try to get rid of community health councils and ignore the consultation process?
Joan Ryan: The hon. Lady will know that even the national body for community health councils agrees that reform is needed. There is no point Conservative
I fully accept people's right to be travellers and to pursue that lifestyle if they so wish. Problems arise because on many occasionsI am sure that many right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House have experienced thiswhen travellers leave land that is inappropriate for human habitation and has no facilities, they leave behind a dreadful mess. Once they are there, it is very unpleasant for the residents of that area; the travellers are often on their only piece of open space. When they go they leave a mess, and local authorities or the private sector business which owns the car park or land in question is left with the bill for cleaning up after what is essentially antisocial behaviour. Will the Government look more closely at what we can do to assist local authorities and local people in dealing with the issue?
Tim Loughton: I agree with the hon. Lady, but will she acknowledge that in 1998, the then Home Secretarynow the Foreign Secretaryby way of regulation enabled travellers of whatever description to encamp on derelict land in the ownership of local authorities, resulting in a 16-month encampment in my constituency? The change in the regulations for which her party was responsible led to an extraordinary increase in the problems of travellers in Sussex and the rest of the country.
Joan Ryan: That is not the casethere was no change in regulation. I suggest that the hon. Gentleman goes back to the Library for some more detail.
Consultation partnerships are important because they empower people. The hon. Gentleman mentioned fly tipping, which in many ways has the same outcome for local residents as visiting travellers. Will the Government consider what measures can be taken to combat this problem? I fear that it is on the increase; it is a scourge and a blight, and local authorities need support in dealing with it. It is a big issue for legitimate local businesses that manage their waste properly. They fear for the future of their business because of the state of the area in which they operate when fly tipping takes place.
My local authority has put in place many initiatives that have made a big difference to local people's quality of life. Enfield council, in partnership with local residents, the police and business, has won almost £2.1 million in Government backing to help tackle crime and the fear of crime. Despite all that has been said, the British crime survey shows that there has been a 7 per cent. drop in crime. There is an issue surrounding street crime and mobile phone crime, which the Government have acknowledged as much as the Conservative party, but there has been a drop in crime overall. It is important to make that point.
Enfield is one of the safest London boroughs. However, we can never afford to be complacent, nor would we want to be. It does not help to scaremonger. People can walk around the streets of Enfield 99 per cent. of the time and be perfectly safe, but the fear of crime is much greater than the likelihood of it happening. Although I support visible policing and believe that there should be more of it, it is also about intelligent policing. That is vital.
Enfield has benefited from an increase of almost 15 per cent. in police numbers from this April, which is very welcome. The £2.1 million from the Government for our CCTV monitoring station will make a tremendous difference in catching criminals and acting as a deterrent. I pay tribute to my local authority in being successful in its bid and to the Government for making the money available so that my local authority could bid for it.
Ponders End and Edmonton have received more than £4 million this year for our neighbourhood renewal programme. That, too, is making a tremendous difference. The way that money will be spent is in direct response to residents' involvement and wishes. It will be aimed at improving quality of life.
On employment, my constituency lost 9,000 manufacturing jobs between 1992 and 1997. That is a huge number. I acknowledge that there are difficulties in the manufacturing sector, but that is not to say that manufacturing cannot succeed, because it can and does. The difference that the Government have made to Enfield is that we now have the lowest unemployment rate for 25 years, and youth unemployment is down by some 83 per cent. That is something to celebrate.
There is a scheme in Enfield that combines housing and jobs. It is a partnership that deals with the catch-22 situation for young people who lack relevant experience and qualifications and are unable to secure that vital first job. The partnership is between Enfield council, the Young Builders Trust and the Lee housing association. Young people build their own homes; they learn construction skills while they do so and, at the end of the process, they have the opportunity to take up a tenancy. They also have the skills to acquire a job. That is an innovative scheme; people could learn a lot from it and I recommend it to my right hon. Friend the Minister. He is noddinghe is clearly aware of such schemes. That came about following a successful bid to the Housing Corporation. More of these schemes are needed.
In conclusion, it is good that we have debates about these issues with regard to London and the south-east. Although issues such as litter, dog fouling, and the state of stairwells and pavements have been treated with derision by Opposition Members in the past, they are very important to our constituents. It is a shame that the Conservatives are Johnny-come-latelys on these issues, but it is no surprise. It is easy for them to pick up these issues now that they are in oppositionthey did not bother to do anything about them when they had many years of opportunity to do sobecause they do not have to take responsibility for anything whatever.