§ 7.57 p.m.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. I can do no better in introducing the Bill than to refer not to the original Bill of 1966, which is couched in parliamentary language, but to the grant administration guidelines which are issued by the Home Office for the benefit of those wishing to take advantage of the provisions of Section 10 of the Local Government Act 1966. The grant administration guidelines state:To achieve a truly multi-racial society all citizens, irrespective of ethnic origin, must be able to participate fully and freely in the life of the nation while retaining their own cultural identity".1294 Those were admirable statements when they were first made in 1966, and repeated in 1990, and they remain admirable statements today.
Unfortunately, the 1966 Bill was drafted in somewhat different circumstances. It was drafted at a time when the most pressing problems of ethnic minorities in this country were faced by those coming to this country from the new Commonwealth. Therefore, the Bill was drafted in such a way that the grants were given, to quote again from the grant administration guidelines,to local authorities who, in the opinion of the Secretary of State, have to meet the special needs of a significant number of people of Commonwealth origin".There can be no doubt that since the legislation was first produced in 1966 there has been a real need for the provisions of Section 11 of the 1966 Act. Taking only the period since 1979 there have been approximately 20,000 people coming to this country who fall within the objectives as I have quoted them of the grant administration guidelines. It is an unfortunate fact that the Act as drafted does not provide for them because they come not only from the new Commonwealth, but from Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Ethiopia, Zaire, Angola, Vietnam, Hong Kong and also from many Latin-American countries.
The provisions of Section 11 are very valuable. They provide that the Home Office will cover 75 per cent, of the staffing costs of projects under this section, while the local authorities will provide the remaining 25 per cent, and also the necessary running costs. The result is that in the past financial year there are about 800 projects in operation and the funding covers the equivalent of approximately 10,000 staff. Eighty-seven per cent, of the projects are in education. They cover provision for teaching English to the speakers of other languages, parental involvement in education, adult basic skills and literacy and numeracy. They provide not only for schools but also for further and higher education. In addition to the work in schools there is provision for projects by social services departments, in economic development and housing. In London and under the London boroughs grant scheme, there is also provision for voluntary projects.
This is not the only provision which is made to encourage the admirable objectives which I have already cited. There is also an ethnic minority grant which is made available through the training and enterprise councils; again, with admirable objectives, but unfortunately in the past year the budget was only £4 million. There are also grants under Section 210 of the Education Reform Act mainly intended for travellers. That again amounts to only £1.7 million in the last financial year.
Noble Lords who took part in the debates on the asylum and immigration control Bills will know that there are ad hoc grants for those coming, for example, from Vietnam and Yugoslavia. When the Asylum Bill was being considered in your Lordships' House, there was considerable debate about the needs of asylum seekers. I remind the House that it became clear at the time that there are approximately 2,500 asylum seekers in London at any one time, which puts 1295 considerable pressure not just on the education services of the London boroughs, but also on the social and housing services.
There is a considerable need for special finance to deal with quite short-term problems: for example, those who come from the former Yugoslavia and who wish to go back there as soon as the killing in their own part of the country ends. There are also those who come from the lands occupied by the Serbs who wish to go back to their country and who have no intention of settling here for any length of time. There are other funds for the purpose, but they are nothing like as extensive as they need to be to meet the problems.
What is the funding of the Section 11 provision? In 1992–93 the grants made amounted to £129 million. Unfortunately, the Government have announced a progressive decline in grants with the intention that they will go down to £110 million in 1994–95 and to £97 million in 1995–96. That equates to an 18 per cent, loss in service in real terms. When the noble Viscount replies I hope that he will be able to give some indication that, with the extension of the powers under Section 11 which are proposed in this Bill, further thought will be given to the future funding of Section 11 grants.
It must be the case that if the eligibility for grants is extended beyond the new Commonwealth to all the other countries which I have quoted, and indeed to any others which may arise in future, the need for those grants is not going to decrease. The decrease in funding which is proposed by the Government will be seen to be particularly inappropriate. I hope that the Minister will be able to give us some indication that there is at any rate the possibility that there will be further thought given to this subject.
This is a relatively small Bill, but it is of great importance to those to whom it applies. The work which has taken place for nearly 30 years under Section 11 of the 1966 Act has proved valuable. It is appropriate that it should be updated to meet the needs of the people who are now coming to this country as well as those who were coming here when the legislation was first enacted. It is important that any legislation should not be at the expense of the original recipients of the grants which were made available under the 1966 Act. Therefore it is important that, if the House agrees, as I hope it will, to see this Bill through, the Government will be able to give adequate assurances about funding.
This Bill was introduced in another place by my honourable friend Mr. Neil Gerrard, the Member for Walthamstow, which is the borough which adjoins my own borough of Haringey. He knows from his own borough of Waltham Forest as I know from my own borough of Haringey, how keen are the needs for funding to meet the needs of ethnic minorities in many parts of London and not only for those from the new Commonwealth. He knows as I do that this amending legislation, however short and simple, can meet real needs which were not evident in 1966. I commend this Bill to the House.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time. —(Lord McIntosh of Haringey.)1296
§ 8.8 p.m.
§ Lord Bonham-Carter
My Lords, I too welcome the Bill which is before us this evening. I also welcome the Government's support of the Bill. I would like to associate myself with everything which the noble Lord, Lord Mclntosh of Haringey, has said.
I shall not detain your Lordships long in commending the Bill to the House. As the noble Lord, Lord Mclntosh, said, in the course of the passage of the asylum and immigration appeals legislation many of us pointed out that such an extension in the terms of the original Section 11 Bill was necessary to meet the needs which had developed since the 1966 measure had been introduced. I would like to underline the importance of Section 11 over the years in assisting local authorities in helping members of minority communities from different cultures and often with different languages, to adjust themselves to life in this country, for their benefit and also for that of the whole community and of the communities in which they live.
I am confident that this Bill will pass. As the noble Lord, Lord Mclntosh, indicated, it is extremely unfortunate that it should be introduced at a moment when the funds for Section 11 have been cut to the bone. I support the point which he made that, having extended the scope of Section 11 and the scope of the communities to which it can be granted, it is unfortunate that the cuts should have come at this moment.
I urge the Minister who is to speak later to draw to the attention of his colleagues the need, if one wills the extension of Section 11 to other communities, also to will the means. That involves further finance. I hope that the Minister is listening. It is ironical that at the moment when the Government are rightly supporting a Bill to extend Section 11 and to make its assistance available to communities which have previously been unable to make use of it—that is, to those not born in the new Commonwealth and to the children of those who were born in either the new Commonwealth or some other places—they should be cutting down on the resources available for Section 11.
That having been said, I welcome the Bill, which a more enlightened Administration may be able to finance and to use more constructively in future. I join the noble Lord, Lord Mclntosh, in congratulating Mr. Gerrard, the Member for Walthamstow, on introducing this important and useful measure.
§ 8.10 p.m.
My Lords, I too should like to congratulate the honourable Member for Walthamstow on his successful endeavours in piloting this Bill through another place and to express appreciation to the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, for bringing this measure before your Lordships. The Government support the Bill.
For some of us 1966 seems rather distant. For some, it is most likely to evoke memories of that summer's day when the pride of England, wearing unfamiliar red shirts, carried off the soccer World Cup. For some of your Lordships it will evoke memories of the 1966 general election—a further 1297 victory for noble Lords opposite. However, for my part, it evokes the memory of O-level exams and the struggle for good grades.
But to return to the Bill, as the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, reminded your Lordships, the drafting of Section 11 of the Local Government Act 1966, the amendment of which is the subject of the Bill now before this House, is firmly embedded in the circumstances of that time. The settlement of people from the new Commonwealth had given rise to some additional financial commitments for some local authorities. The purpose of Section 11, as your Lordships will readily appreciate, was to provide a mechanism to ensure that funding was targeted so as to reach local authorities which needed it.
Circumstances have changed. In more recent years we have opened our doors to receive people from other— often war-torn—areas of the world. The restriction which Section 11 imposed is no longer relevant, reasonable or helpful. Members of other ethnic minorities also need the kind of help which Section 11 funding supports.
Successive Home Secretaries in recent years have made clear their intention to come forward with legislation to extend the scope of Section 11 when there was a suitable opportunity. There are a range of other issues which would need to be addressed in relation to such legislation. In the meantime, by removing the present reference to "the Commonwealth", this Bill would make a change which would be widely welcomed.
In addition, the Bill would remove two other references rooted in the time when Section 11 was drafted. The first is to immigrants. It implies that the financial assistance which Section 11 can offer is available only to help those who are recently arrived. In practice, needs extend further, to people who are actually born here. In removing the reference to substantial numbers of people, the Bill recognises that there will be needs requiring to be addressed even among the very small ethnic minority groups.
The noble Lords, Lord McIntosh and Lord Bonham-Carter, asked me about funding. We attach importance to measures to tackle the causes of disadvantage which inhibit members of ethnic minorities from playing a full part in the social and economic life of the country. We also value highly the important contribution made by Section 11 teachers and others in this regard. But the economic situation has made it necessary to take very difficult decisions in order to tighten control of public expenditure. We regret that as a result we cannot afford during the next three years the level of expenditure under Section 11 which had been planned earlier.
I take note of the points on funding made by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh. Obviously, I can give him no assurances, but I shall see that the points that he raised are brought to the attention of my right honourable friend the Home Secretary. This is a useful measure. It has won support from all sides in another place and I am sure that your Lordships will support it also.
§ 8.14 p.m.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
My Lords, the Minister sought to sugar the pill by kindly saying that he would draw my remarks on funding to the attention of his right honourable friend, and I must be grateful for that. However, as the noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter, rightly said, it is an irony that at the very time when the Government are recognising the needs of a wider spectrum of ethnic minorities, public finance should not be available in this way for that purpose. Nevertheless, the Bill ought to go through. As has been universally recognised, it is a useful measure and I am glad to have the support of the Government and of the Liberal Democrat Benches for it.
§ On Question, Bill read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.
§ Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.
§ [The Sitting was suspended from 8.16 to 8.20 p.m.]