HC Deb 17 December 1986 vol 107 cc1186-8
2. Mr. Nicholls

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what was the cost of vandalism and graffiti to local authority buildings and those for which his Department has responsibility during 1985; and if he will make a statement.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Christopher Chope)

No central statistics are held by my Department on the cost of damage caused by vandalism and graffiti to local authority and Government buildings.

Mr. Nicholls

Does my hon. Friend accept that, even if there is no central information, the problem is considerable? Is he aware that a number of existing techniques could be used to great effect? Is he satisfied that the local authorities which might be able to benefit by the use of those techniques even know about them, and does he think that his Department could have a role to play in disseminating that sort of information?

Mr. Chope

I am not satisfied that all the techniques are well known to local authorities, but I understand that a firm in my hon. Friend's constituency called Graffiti Management Ltd. is keen to evaluate existing ways of removing graffiti and to test new ones. I wish it success.

Mr. Cartwright

Will the Minister accept evidence from constituencies such as mine that the incidence of vandalism, on council estates in particular, can be substantially reduced by effective neighbourhood watch schemes? If that is so, is it not monstrous that some local authorities should deliberately obstruct the development of those schemes? Will he encourage them to see the error of their ways?

Mr. Chope

I wholeheartedly agree with the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Heddle

Can my hon. Friend confirm that some Labour authorities are refusing to remove certain graffiti, on the ground that it is sexist or racist? More seriously, will my hon. Friend confirm that the more people who buy flats in local authority owned blocks, the more pride they will have in their own environment and, furthermore, the more that tenants become involved in the government of their own environment the greater respect they will have for the common parts, such as the lift or the staircase?

Mr. Chope

I agree with my hon. Friend. I understand that Camden council, for example, discriminates against certain sorts of graffiti. A ratepayer telephoned recently to ask for the removal of the slogan, "Kilroy was here." He was told that it would not be possible to have that removed. He then inquired further and was told that if the graffiti had said, "Kilroy was queer" the council would remove it.

Mr. Dubs

Does the Minister recall that on 24 November his Department issued a press release announcing certain improvement grants to tackle graffiti and other matters? Is he aware that a grant of £105,000 was in that package for Wandsworth Plain estate in Wandsworth? Was he aware when the press release was issued that Wandsworth council had already disposed of that estate?

Mr. Chope

I do not have the detailed information on that. However, one thing is certain: the quality of the Wandsworth Plain estate is much higher than it has ever been.

Mr. Squire

Does my hon. Friend have any information to suggest that there has been an improvement in either the grammar or the spelling of graffiti since the Government came to office? In particular, can he draw any distinctions between graffiti in Labour education authority and Conservative education authority areas?

Mr. Chope

We shall have to consider seriously making inquiries and gathering statistics on that. Ultimately it depends on the quality of the local education authority.

Mr. John Fraser

When will the Minister raise his standards above that of the graffiti artist? Bearing in mind how much money is spent on things such as early warning systems and so on, how much money are the Government spending to find a simple antidote to the aerosol can and the felt tipped pen which disfigure so much of our public property and public transport, and much of which is abusive in racial and sexist terms to the general public? What are the Government spending on that which is an affront to many right-minded people?

Mr. Chope

When looking around the country, particularly in Southampton, some of the most offensive graffiti just says, 'Militant." As I understand it, that is something that Labour Members are prepared to support.