§ Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Cope.]
§ Mr. Eric Ogden (Liverpool, West Derby)
The hon. Member for Liverpool, Garston (Mr. Thornton) has already remarked that we have had a long day. The Under-Secretary of State who, I am pleased to know, will be replying to the debate, had probably been expecting, like myself, that the day would be even longer and that the Adjournment debate might not be reached until 3 am or 4 am.
You, Mr. Deputy Speaker, will know that I am usually among the more quiet hon. Members. Yet today I have taken part in the business that occupied the major part of our proceedings and now I invite the House to turn its attention to a matter of great importance to my constituents. I refer to the necessity to give greater attention to the needs of the outer urban areas of our cities.
Adjournment debates usually involve one hon. Member and the Minister, all the questions coming from the hon. Member and as few answers as possible coming from the Minister who has the duty to reply. Sometimes, the debates cover matters of great controversy. Sometimes, they are attempts to make party political capital. I ask the Under-Secretary to confirm that there is no attempt to make political capital out of the issue now under discussion.
The Under-Secretary was good enough to instruct his private office to contact me last week when we learnt that there was the possibility of this debate taking place to ask what I had in mind and to supply information to me that would be useful to both of us. The hon. Gentleman knows, in fact, what is in my mind and my reasons for seeking the debate. My participation in the debate on the Falklands Islands has meant that I have been able to supply his office with information in outline but not in detail. I expect that the hon. Gentleman will have some information to give me. It is possible, however, that he will have to make further inquiries involving the Home Office, the Department of Education and Science and others.
It happens occasionally that an hon. Member will share his Adjournment debate with another hon. Member. I have had detailed consultations with the hon. Member for Liverpool, Edge Hill (Mr. Alton), a Liberal Member, the hon. Member for Liverpool, Scotland Exchange (Mr. Parry), a Labour Member, together with my right hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mrs. Williams) and my hon. Friends the Members for Liverpool, Toxteth (Mr. Crawshaw) and Liverpool, Kirkdale (Mr. Dunn), my SDP colleagues. I also offered to share the debate with the hon. Member for Ormskirk (Mr. Kilroy-Silk) and with the hon. Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Mr. Steen)—the latter, I am delighted to say, being present. This is not a time to score party political points or to start a war between the inner and outer areas of our cities.
The things that have happened to Liverpool have probably happened in cities throughout the land. The city of Liverpool is in a development area. Within the city boundaries there is an inner city partnership. Within that, there is an urban development corporation and slightly off to one side—but attached to it—there is an enterprise zone. Any consideration of Liverpool's structure is rather like trying to peel an onion.
1065 No one can deny that the greatest help possible—both local and national—should be given to the areas in greatest need. I am not trying to take anything from the inner city areas or to gain an advantage for the outer areas at the expense of the inner areas. I shall talk, not about deprivation or despair, but about the growth of resentment, bitterness and anger in the outer areas during the past 12 months or two years.
The apparent concentration of attention on the inner city areas has led to a degree of envy, and even of malice and jealousy in the outer areas. We must take note of that. The hon. Member for Wavertree can confirm that feeling in Merseyside, which is best summed up—perhaps wrongly—by Toxteth. Ministers go to the inner city areas and Toxteth is headline news. Trouble is headlines. Efforts to meet the needs of an inner city area are headlines. My people in Liverpool, West Derby—in Dovecote, Croxteth, Clubmoor or in the hon. Gentleman's area of Broad Green—bluntly, but perhaps wrongly, say that the riot has focused attention on Toxteth and they ask whether they should riot to get some attention. I pass on that warning. Every hon. Member has said that that is not the way to do things. Unless we show that we are paying attention to the needs of the outer areas—and all the facts and statistics show that there is tremendous need—and allay their fears, jealousies and anxieties, we shall do the people of the inner and outer areas no good.
There is to be a new police headquarters in the city of Liverpool. It certainly needs one. However, there are 59,839 electors in my constituency, but we do not have a police station. The panda cars come in from outside and that causes difficulty. The housing action areas seem to be concentrated in the inner, rather than the outer areas. That causes difficulties. On the Hebden road estate, we have been trying to obtain an agreement with the city council, city authorities and the Government so that the old Ministry of Supply houses can be put under a mixture of public and private control, modernised, and made into a community. Because it is in an outer area, it is not receiving the necessary attention.
There is an old Shell petrol station site called Parkside Drive. I happen to be a member of a voluntary housing association that has purchased that site. It proposes to erect a block of 30 sheltered homes. Because it is in West Derby, it is not in an housing action area, and falls between the twin stools of being unable to get the necessary help from inside or outside.
The catholic school reorganisation means that in my outer constituency, we shall lose almost one in two of our catholic-aided schools. In the inner areas, things do not seem to be working out like that. There was a local education proposal to reorganise the State school system. Three schools in Liverpool were to be closed. One of them is in my constituency. I refer to Croxteth comprehensive school. The proposals and objections were brought to the Minister's attention. He approved the closure of Croxteth school, but because Paddington comprehensive was in an inner city area, in what is known as a "sensitive zone", it was not closed. Community groups in the outer cities also feel, rightly or wrongly, that groups in the inner areas get more assistance.
A virtual new town is to be built at Croxteth Park in my constituency. The builders are Barrett and Broseley. The houses look nice, but do not lean on the walls too hard and watch the building before you buy. They can be very nice and it is an excellent layout. There are proposals for 1066 schools, shops, sports facilities and other amenities. If those facilities are provided it will be the first time ever, but I doubt whether they will materialise.
I have been asking for the debate for about eight weeks, but the crunch was the announcement that a new sports complex is to be built in Toxteth. The area needs a new complex but so do Garston, Walton, Wavertree and other parts of the outer area. If the £400,000 had been spent to start a sports centre in Toxteth and another in the outer area there would not have been so much resentment. That announcement provoked those in outer areas to say "It is all going into the inner city areas. We are behaving and being quiet. We do not have riots. When will we get some attention?"
It is human nature that the announcement of another £70 million for the inner cities caused resentment in outer areas. I know that the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment is sensitive to these matters. I ask him to make it clear that the outer areas are not being neglected at the expense of the inner areas.
The Government are responsible for many things and when it is felt that those in outer areas are getting nothing, because all the money is going into the inner areas, we have the worst of all worlds. I hope that the Under-Secretary will give assurances that we can take back to our people. We do not want difficulties in the inner areas or the outer areas and we are doing our best to keep things quiet, but we must let those in the outer cities know that they are getting the attention that they need, and that that is the intention of the Government and of hon. Members on both sides of the House.
§ Mr. Anthony Steen (Liverpool, Wavertree)
I am grateful to the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Ogden) for raising a matter that I have been raising in the House for the past year and about which I have written widely. The problems of the cities all over the country is that the populations are in the outer cities. People used to live in the inner cities, but the bulldozers moved in there and the population moved out.
Those left in the inner cities are the least mobile. The areas have more unemployment and hardship, but the number of people is minute, whether in Bradford, Liverpool or Newcastle. However, "inner city" has become a fashionable phrase. Whenever I mention the city, someone comes back with the cliche "You mean the inner city". I say "No, I mean the middle and the outer city—the whole city".
The Government are in danger of repeating the mistake of previous Governments by concentrating resources where the people shout loudest—and they shout loudest where they have been used to being given the most by Governments. Because those in inner cities have become increasingly dependent on central and local government funds, they shout louder and want more, and the Government give them more. As the resources get diverted from the city as a whole, the people in the inner city want more, and the people in the outer city get less.
I support wholeheartedly the hon. Member for West Derby when he said that there is growing resentment in Liverpool—I sounded it out when we had the debate on the Scarman report—and the Government will find growing discontent on the vast soulless council estates which house some of the most deprived people in the country. The Government should not neglect that area 1067 because of the shouting and screaming of people in the inner area, who want more and more. People in the inner city area have got used to the dependency, and they will carry on in that way.
I do not want to enter into a competition between the inner, middle and outer areas, but it is true that the lion's share of the rates tends to be paid by the people who are owner-occupiers in the middle city. They get the least, because they are sandwiched between the inner and the outer. Those people are being neglected—and, if I may say so to my hon. Friend, they happen to be our supporters. They tend to get the worst share.
Government and local government intervention has led to the problem. The Government should encourage people to help themselves and should give them the resources to do the things that central and local government always do for them. Let me give an example. When the Government or local government want to paint a block of council flats, they send in the administrators and they employ the work force. They should not do that. They should say to the tenants' groups, the residents' groups, the community groups "We have £100,000 which we would like to spend on your estate. You are the people who live here. You decide how to spend it. You employ your local work force. You employ the local tradesmen. We will be happy if you are happy". That would be a great success story. The people would do it themselves, local people would be employed, and the community would see the fruits of their labour. However, that does not happen, because Government and local government do not trust the people, and the people therefore become more and more discontented.
I hope that the Minister will respond both on the outer city problem and on the need to give people power over their own community and the opportunity to help themselves in the shape of self-help and community endeavour.
§ 12.3 am
§ The Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Giles Shaw)
I congratulate the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Ogden) on initiating this Adjournment debate. He has had a particularly good day. He made a major contribution to the debate on the Falkland Islands and he therefore deserves our double congratulation. The fact that his generosity has extended to my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Mr. Steen) is only to be expected. Our late-night debates on inner urban areas would not be the same without my hon. Friend, whose antics at all times of night prevent even the bulls from dozing.
It is my task to respond to the problems raised primarily by the hon. Member for West Derby. We are talking about the problems of Gillmoss, Croxteth, Clubmoor and Dovecot. Those are the people who matter to the hon. Member for West Derby, and he is right to voice their view that they have not obtained a fair share of what they see coming in to help solve the problems of Merseyside.
I remind the hon. Gentleman—I know that I have reminded my hon. Friend—that the solution to the problem must be common and the benefits must be common. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has 1068 been designated as the Minister to take special responsibility, not for Toxteth or Croxteth, not for any individual part of Liverpool city, but for Merseyside.
The hon. Member for West Derby would also agree that my right hon. Friend's group which is assisting him in this regard is not the Liverpool task force or the Knowsley task force but the Merseyside task force, and it is that concept of seeking to bring a total focus to bear on the problem that the Government judge to be the only sensible way of approaching it.
That is not to suggest that there are not within the large conurbation and county of Merseyside individual problems of a peculiar and discrete kind. I have to accept that there are those who believe that their problem at any given moment is the greatest. My hon. Friend the Member for Wavertree regularly maintains pressure on the Government concerning the problem of the bulldozer in Clayton Square, yet there are some who believe that the redevelopment of Clayton Square is of major advantage to the citizens not only in the immediate vicinity but in the total area. So we have that comparison between trying to deal with the individual pockets of very severe hardship and trying to benefit the area as a whole.
I wish to make some general points. The Government have given considerable priority to tackling the general problems. Despite the general need to curb public spending, we have increased the urban programme to £270 million, the highest ever in real terms. This excludes the funds available to the London and Merseyside UDCs which, as the hon. Member for West Derby knows, have special funds themselves.
The urban programme money is the major source for dealing with these problems. The Labour Government likewise decided to concentrate their efforts and the available resources on the areas with greatest needs, and that surely should be our general approach to the problem.
We have tried to cater for those areas by giving them particular preference through the traditional urban programme—subject, of course, to the authorities concerned coming forward with suitable schemes.
For 1982–83, we have made a substantial increase in the resources available for new projects in the area of Merseyside—nearly £15 million worth of new projects. For Knowsley, which is not within the hon. Gentleman's constituency but pretty close to it, we have approved 12 new schemes to a total value of over £ 1 million, in addition to the 42 schemes that we are already funding.
The hon. Member has argued that some of the outer areas of Liverpool district are as deserving of aid as the inner areas over which the partnership operates, and I must agree with him on that, but with the funds at our disposal we have to seek to put right those problems which by common consent are the greatest and cry out for the earliest possible solution.
I shall mention some of the key indicators used to determine partnership status. The Liverpool inner city special area has shown consistently greater need than the remaining outer area. This is not the whole story, and the hon. Member for West Derby made that very clear. There are pockets of very severe deprivation in the outer areas of the district. For example, if we compare the ward with the highest percentage of young male unemployment in West Derby with the nearest equivalent in the Toxteth ward, we find that Granby ward, in Toxteth, has 47 per cent. of young men between the ages of 16 and 24 out of work. The comparable figure for Gillmoss ward in West 1069 Derby is 45 per cent.—practically identical. I have to accept the hon. Gentleman's point. But if we compare the whole of Toxteth with the whole of West Derby, we find that 38 per cent. of young men are unemployed in West Derby and that forms 22 per cent. of the population as a whole. But the figures for Toxteth are 41 per cent. and 27 per cent. respectively. These may not sound great in terms of percentages, but the greater need is there.
When we turn to other indicators of social need, we find that the discrepancy between inner and outer areas is greater. The percentage of households lacking basic amenities in West Derby is 3.2 per cent.-705 households. In Toxteth it is 11–4 per cent.-3,008 households. The percentage of one-parent families in West Derby is 8.3 per cent.-1,851 households. In Toxteth it is 10.1 per cent.-2,681 households.
My aim—I know that the hon. Gentleman understands this—is not to deny the seriousness of any of the problems of single-parent families or of those living in households that lack the basic amenities. Wherever such dwellings or units of accommodation occur, that is deprivation. However, I suggest to the hon. Member for West Derby and to my hon. Friend the Member for Wavertree that the sheer concentration of the problem in the inner wards appears statistically to be greater.
§ Mr. Ogden
Will the hon. Gentleman take into account the fact that, of every 10 houses that become vacant in city corporation housing development in West Derby or Wavertree, only two of those newly empty homes are available for the people who live in the area? The other eight are allocated to people who are brought in from outside.
§ Mr. Shaw
I take that to mean that it is a policy operated by the housing authority. That is not a matter for Government, but I sincerely hope that the influence the hon. Gentleman has brought to bear by focusing on that aspect will lead to the policy being changed.
Despite the accent on inner city areas, both the Government and the local authorities concerned are sensitive to the needs of the outer areas. Partnership authorities can, and do, allocate resources to outer areas. The Liverpool partnership spends about 5 per cent. of its resources outside the special area. Apart from the resources that are actually spent in the outer areas, it is important to recognise that many of the schemes that are developed in the inner city areas are designed to serve the outer area as well.
The hon. Gentleman's closing remarks concerned the sports centre in Toxteth. Those facilities are not purely for the people of Toxteth. The hon. Gentleman must understand that. The pound for pound scheme to improve sports facilities in Merseyside is available in Toxteth. Under the scheme, the Government, through the Sports Council, will match, to a limit of £1 million, money raised by sporting interests or from other private sources.
§ Mr. Steen
The trouble is that people will not travel from the outer to the inner areas. They cannot afford to, 1070 because the fares are so expensive. They fear for their safety because the street lighting is so bad. Perhaps most important of all, the population in Liverpool is not in the inner city. The Minister's statistics apply only to a Sir all number of people. The population has moved to the outer areas.
§ Mr. Shaw
That is not what the figures show. I cannot allow my hon. Friend to get away with the absurd suggestion that 3,000 households that are substandard represents a smaller percentage than the 705 households I quoted for the other authority. There are pockets of severe deprivation in the inner areas where people live.
My hon. Friend is right that the general drift of the population is out of the heart of the city centres, just as he is right to say that that drift must be reversed. But it would be an absurdity to argue that making any major change to improve the quality of life within a city inner urban area will not have an overspill and benefit the areas immediately adjacent to it.
Larger developments in Liverpool, an improvement up the Mersey, and a new centre for industrial and commercial life within the city area, will in due time bring a restoration of urban dwelling as well as urban employment. I understand my hon. Friend's deep devotion to the project.
I want to make it clear to the hon. Member for West Derby that we believe that these facilities will be used by people who come from all over Liverpool. The same is true of the other sports halls, whether the sports hall at Prescot or the big Boundary Road sports hall in St. Helens. He may know that £31,000 is going towards improvements to the Chain Lane community centre in St. Helens and £10,000 towards the installation of a kick-about area at the St. George of England school in Bootle. These will benefit the immediate areas around them. They will, equally, accumulate to benefit the area as a whole.
The hon. Gentleman raised specific problems concerning his constituency. He referred to the Flebden Road housing estate. With 134 ex-Ministry of Supply two-storey dwellings, I can well understand that. I have to agree with him that the Hebden Road estate is a difficult problem. Its continued underuse represents a waste of valuable housing resources, and action is urgently needed. My information is that a solution is currently under consideration that will provide an imaginative scheme combining both public and private sector action in refurbishing the estate. We hope to be able to announce a decision shortly.
If the authority decides that it wishes to build a primary school at Croxteth Park, there are sufficient funds for a start to be made on the building of a school in the area—
§ The Question having been proposed after Ten o'clock and the debate having continued for half an hour, MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.
§ Adjourned at fifteen minutes past Twelve o'clock.