§ 10.40 p.m.
§ Lord Dean of Beswick rose to ask Her Majesty's Government what progress has been made so far towards the architectural and economic restoration of Manchester city centre following the recent bombing, 1499 and whether they will pay compensation for acts of terrorism in Great Britain on the same basis as in Northern Ireland.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, while the recent outrage in the city of Manchester features in the Question, it is not only about Manchester. For people who are bombed out of their businesses and houses in Manchester I wish to obtain recompense based on the format used in Northern Ireland. The latter is far more generous.
§ If it had not been for the success of the security forces a few weeks ago in managing to raid a bomb manufacturing cell in the London suburbs, where I understand about 18 bombs were primed ready to be planted, we might have been talking of a multiplicity of bombs like the one in Manchester.
§ Before I go further, I must apologise as the noble Lords, Lord Barnett and Lord Fitt, will not be speaking in the debate. The noble Lord, Lord Barnett, is busy and has had a hard day and the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, is not well. However, he indicated to me that he fully supports the concept of my Question and what my noble friends Lady Dean and Lord Monkswell are trying to do.
§ I must make it clear that I speak as an individual, looking at the situation as I evaluate it. I have been to the site of the explosion and was shown round by Mr. Challenger from the department of the City Architect, Mr. King. I am grateful to Mr. Challenger who showed me in detail the tremendous amount of damage. In my youth I was on fire-watching duty in Deansgate, Manchester, but I never saw surface damage like that inflicted by the bomb. Bombs from aircraft penetrate, explode and leave a crater, but this was almost total surface damage, scything everything in front of it. The prompt action of the police and fire brigade was magnificent, shifting 80,000 people in a short time out of an area 800 metres or half a mile in diameter. My daughter was working 50 yards the other side of the wall from the site of the bomb.
I also wish to express my appreciation to Mr. Alistair Burt, the Minister, who today sent me a brief on what is happening in Manchester. We are not so much concerned at present with the long term and the rebuilding of Manchester, which is of great interest; we are more concerned about the 600 small traders who Mr. Burt says are at risk. He states:
The immediate priority has been to ensure that these small traders have easy access to the support they need".
§ I do not believe that is the case. It is probably on record—and the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, will deal with this matter—that Manchester City Council is saying that it wants immediate funds to deal with the situation.
§ I know of at least two individual cases. The first relates to a small jeweller who employs five people. He is not allowed back into his business. A safety element may enter into it; but he does not even know what has happened to his stock. That case can be multiplied in relation to certain properties that are affected: the Arndale Centre, the Corn Exchange and the Royal Exchange. The second two were badly hit. I hope the Minister will listen carefully to the points that we 1500 make, and that he will not read from a pre-prepared brief which sets out what is perceived to be the situation in Manchester at present. We might have a slightly different perception, even though our goal is the same.
Why have I decided to take this course in relation to Manchester and—God forbid—other cities that may suffer these bombings? On 17th July I tabled a Written Question in the following terms. I asked Her Majesty's Government,
How much financial compensation has so far been paid in respect of terrorist activities in Northern Ireland and Great Britain respectively".—[Official Report, 17/7/96; col. WA 62.]
I received the following information:
Responsibility for compensation in Northern Ireland has been delegated to the Compensation Agency under its chief executive. Mr. Dennis Stanley. I have asked him to arrange for a reply to be given … There is no comparable scheme for Great Britain".
§ I eventually received an answer from the Compensation Agency. It stated that during the years 1978–79 to 1995–96, £500 million was paid in Northern Ireland by the Government in compensation for bomb damage. I was told that no figures were available for the years 1971–78, which were much more violent than the years quoted. I therefore believe it is safe to say that we are talking about £1 billion or thereabouts.
§ It is not good enough to tell Mancunians that they have to put their hands in their pockets when Northern Ireland receives that sort of compensation. I make no attempt to diminish what is happening in Northern Ireland, but as I believe we are part of the same country, it is a bit thick to treat Manchester and possibly—as I said, God forbid—other cities in this country in that way while more generous amounts are being paid in Northern Ireland.
§ I received some other information which is widely known, but which ought to be more widely known; namely, that, in addition, other sums of money are being paid in Northern Ireland in connection with terrorist damage. That means that payments to Northern Ireland represent a debt of £3 billion a year to the rest of the UK. That might sound all right—and perhaps no one would want to interfere with it—but it is not widely known in this country. People will start to wake up and ask why we should pay when we cannot get money to put right an act of violence perpetrated in this country that was spawned in Northern Ireland.
§ The leader of my party came to Manchester a week last Thursday and gave certain undertakings that would bear on Manchester. He said that the case would be looked at sympathetically. But, first, we have to win the election in order to implement that; secondly, as I understand it, we are talking in terms of £500 or £600 million to repair the physical damage caused. I do not know where that is going to be conjured up from because the local authorities in Manchester have been told that there is no extra money for anything. That is unfair on a city like Manchester which throughout its history has been a generous and stable city and has accepted immigrants from all over the world of any creed and any colour. They have been welcomed in Manchester and have settled into the community, and have, in fact, played an important part in developing that city into the fine city that it is.1501
§ As regards the Government taking the view that Manchester City Council should provide a lot of money, I remind the House that Manchester is now a city of only 400,000 people. It had well over half a million when I was the leader. It also has an ageing population. So how the hell can Manchester suddenly conjure up huge sums of money to rebuild the city centre that has been destroyed, quite deliberately, through no fault of its own?
§ I have said most of what I want to say, and I do not want to go into other statistics tonight because they are pretty long on time. One of the main reasons I decided to table this Question tonight is that it will be the last chance to speak on this matter before Parliament rises for three months. I am grateful to my colleagues on these Benches, and to the noble Lord, Lord McNally, who have decided to stay at this hour to give some support to what I believe is indisputably a genuine case. I have some information, regarding the compensation office of the Northern Ireland Office. The information makes quite clear that in Northern Ireland compensation is payable by the state—not by insurance, but by the state—under the Criminal Damage (Compensation)(Northern Ireland) Order 1977, in respect of loss arising from any one of four categories of damage to property. That means bombing, personal injury and so on.
§ I do not see why our submission on behalf of Manchester—following the outrage it has suffered—should not be considered. Only a few weeks before the outrage Irish games were held in Manchester with enormous success. However, this is how the terrorists repay that. I believe Manchester's case is indisputable. I hope the Minister will convey our views to the Secretary of State or, if necessary, to the Prime Minister, and that Manchester will receive justice and be dealt with in a fair way.
§ 10.53 p.m.
§ Baroness Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde
My Lords, I would like to thank my noble friend Lord Dean of Beswick for putting his Question down this evening. I know that we have all the talk about the oxygen to terrorists, but there is another side of the coin—that of a major city facing an atrocity being, quite frankly, forgotten when the issue is not debated here in Parliament. The IRA bomb was a cynical, evil act. It was a miracle beyond comprehension that in that city, on that Saturday, with 80,000 people in the vicinity, not one was killed. I gather it was the largest bomb ever on the United Kingdom mainland, and in the words of the Manchester Evening News, the area is like a Beirut war zone. How right it is. This IRA activity was an act of war against the citizens of Manchester and against the British Government and the British people: 1,200 buildings over a quarter of a mile radius were either completely wrecked or severely damaged.
With that destruction of the city of Manchester, it would be grossly unfair to the people to allow their plight to become a political point-scoring exercise between the parties. It has not become that and this 1502 debate is not intended to be that either. I should like to say that very loudly and clearly. The people of Manchester deserve better than that.
However, there are questions that need to be asked and, I hope, answered by the Minister this evening. There are two issues: the immediate issue and the medium and longer-term issue. I am a Mancunian and proud of it. Mancunians are proud people, independent and determined. In some ways that is manifested by the fact that none of us taking part in the debate this evening has been approached by people in Manchester to raise the issue in Parliament. We are doing it as individuals in our own right because of what we feel.
Over their history the people of Manchester have faced great adversity with much courage, not least during the Blitz on Manchester in the Second World War. This IRA atrocity has seen the emergence of that kind of courage again. The city council, its workforce, the emergency services, the fire services, the police, the employees of small businesses affected, the Chamber of Commerce, large and small businesses and the voluntary organisations—even the Prince's Trust, in which I declare an interest as a trustee—have all come together; and Manchester's own newspaper, the Manchester Evening News, has come behind them to support the people of Manchester.
§ Lord Dean of Beswick
My Lords, does the noble Baroness agree with me that the Manchester Evening News has led a very prominent campaign so far? We hope that it will continue; otherwise, the pressure may die down.
§ Baroness Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde
My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his intervention. I come from the newspaper industry. I have an in-bred feeling for campaigning newspapers and there are not enough of them today. In this situation we have seen the Manchester Evening News becoming a campaigning newspaper. I smile at the sight of the noble Lord the Deputy Speaker this evening. We have shared some experiences of the newspaper industry in the past, not all of them positive.
Manchester needs help to help itself in this situation. This is a national issue, not a city issue or concerned with one small geographical area. I suggest in perhaps the gentlest way that the help that Manchester needs has not been recognised by the Government. That is one of the reasons for the debate this evening. That help is needed especially by small traders. Of course, visits by the Deputy Prime Minister are very welcome indeed. I applaud those visits. But the gloss soon disappears and the people of Manchester realise that the wonderful announcement of £20 million in support that has been found for them is, in fact, merely relocated money. I gather that it is not new money but comes from the European Fund allocation for the area of Greater Manchester, Cheshire and Lancashire over the 1996–97 period.
That £20 million is just 4 per cent. of the assessed £500 million needed to rebuild Manchester in the medium and longer term. My concern is that it is not new money and because it is not new money, the 1503 schemes calling for that money, money which they were allocated, are now losing out. Will Manchester be rebuilt at the expense of money that was to be spent in Hulme, an area which desperately needs regeneration? I gather that the £20 million comes from the fund for meeting and maintaining the long-term regeneration tasks ahead in that area.
So when the Minister responds to this debate, could he tell us what schemes have had the money relocated from them? Also, what assistance will be given from new money? Of course, we welcome the city centre task force that has been established, which is very broadly based. But that first key issue in rebuilding Manchester is crucial and I ask the Minister to give an assurance this evening, if he is able, and if not to come back to us afterwards.
If that relocated £20 million has added to it the private funds which no doubt will be available—or maybe PFI initiatives—and the insurance money that will be available through the normal insurance measures, particularly from the large companies, and we find that there is still a shortfall, will the Minister give an assurance this evening that money will be found to help the people of Manchester in the rebuilding process?
Another problem that concerns the city is that it made an application for a scheme that I have only learnt about this week, I confess, the Bellwin Scheme. Apparently the Bellwin Scheme provides emergency financial assistance for local authorities. The problem is that, even if Manchester gets the maximum, the maximum is only 85 per cent. and it will still have to find £1.5 million. Could the Minister tell me whether that shortfall will be made up by the Government?
My noble friend referred to small businesses. He is so right. It is the small businesses that are the most vulnerable in all this. The large businesses such as Marks & Spencer and Mothercare have been absolutely marvellous to the city of Manchester and its people and have responded very well. But it is the small businesses which are really feeling it.
Many do have insurance; and we are told that the Northern Ireland scheme is not appropriate because in Northern Ireland you cannot get insurance. But in Manchester and elsewhere on the mainland the situation for a number of small businesses is impossible. They are too small. They are crammed together. They cannot get at their stock to replenish and start up as new businesses. We are heading for what would have been a very busy period for them in the lead-up to Christmas. What are they going to do? They are out in the cold. They face genuine hardship. They face relocation costs. They are facing pressure from the banks. I exclude from that the Co-operative Bank which I gather has been very good with loans to these small businesses. But creditors need paying. They do not go away. And then there are suppliers and customers. What do these businesses have to help them in Manchester? They have the Lord Mayor's Emergency Fund.
1504 I would like to read out a letter that was in the Manchester Evening News last night:The Manchester bomb exploded yards from my flower kiosk - I was the closest retailer to the explosive device. Mine is a lock-up kiosk in the middle of Manchester's city centre, and insurance of any kind has always been refused for my premises.I insured myself to some degree by reserving monies to pay for repairs against fire and vandalism, which is presumably why I was refused cover in the first place.So when I need help the most, why do all concerned - the government etc. - try to pretend the problem does not exist, although there is a significant number of business people involved? There remain approximately 100 who could not get insurance or were limited to what was available.Statistics show that over 660 businesses were affected to different degrees. The government's contribution to the Lord Mayor's fund to help small businesses was £50,000. If this payment is split evenly between us all, it's less than £76 each. I generated more VAT each week than this paltry sum".That is quite a telling story. I know the flower kiosk. When I lived in Manchester I used to buy flowers from it every week. It is right in the heart of the city where this bomb exploded. That lady, Mrs. Hayes, represents many small companies.
Of course it is not just the small retailers which are so badly affected. The Royal Exchange Theatre, housed in one of Manchester's landmark buildings, the Royal Exchange, would this year have ended up in a healthy financial position. It is now estimated to be in deficit to £600,000. It could close. Where is it to get the money from? Not only that, but 50 people have been laid off. There are no jobs. The Government gave £50,000, which is exactly the same as the Co-operative Society in Manchester gave. The airport gave £25,000. Marks & Spencer and other businesses gave considerable moneys. One million pounds is pledged to that fund at the moment. Can the noble Lord the Minister give me an assurance that more money will be given by the Government to that emergency fund? It is short-term, pump-priming money which is desperately needed by these small businesses.
I ask the Minister to do all he can to help Manchester. If the Government give a little help, the people of the city will sort themselves out. They do not ask for everything; just a little help—what we used to call a leg-up to get on with things and look after themselves. I hope that during the imminent visit to Manchester of the Prime Minister he is able to announce new money and new support for the city.
When my right honourable friend the Leader of Her Majesty's Opposition visited the city last Friday he said that Manchester would remain high on his agenda. That will be a medium to long-term issue, but I have confidence that he means what he says. When he is in a position to deal with government funds—as we all hope he will be—I am sure that he will keep that commitment to Manchester.
I conclude by quoting from Michael Unger, the editor of the Manchester Evening News. I believe he spoke for all Mancunians when he wrote an open letter to the Prime Minister in the Evening News on 21st June:Simply because no one died we fear that we will become another Westminster statistic and in a few weeks' time be forgotten by the Whitehall civil servants and London politicians, who will inevitably 1505 get bogged down in bureaucratic red tape—arguing over small print, fighting over who pays for what, squabbling over whether or not Europe should help out".I suggest that Manchester deserves better than that. The Government have a responsibility and now the opportunity to ensure that Manchester receives that help. I await with interest the Minister's response to this short but well deserved debate.
§ 11.6 p.m.
§ Lord Monkswell
My Lords, we all owe a debt of gratitude to my noble friend Lord Dean of Beswick for introducing this debate. So far we have heard two eloquent speakers. I cannot hope to emulate that eloquence, but as an adopted Mancunian of 25 years and as someone who was born and bred in London, perhaps I may be allowed to make a few remarks. I should like to make three points: first, I wish to pay tribute to the people of Manchester; secondly, I wish to pay tribute to the city council of Manchester; and, thirdly, I wish to request that we all accept our responsibilities.
In paying tribute to the people of Manchester we need to recognise that they have displayed fortitude and understanding of their situation; they have gone through a terrible ordeal. It is worth pointing out that, following the tragedy a few weeks ago, there was virtually no antagonism towards their fellow citizens who were of Irish extraction. That is an important fact that we need to recognise and it is a tribute to the people of Manchester that they have taken that viewpoint.
We must also recognise and pay tribute to the city council of Manchester, not only for the immediate action that it has taken to help alleviate the difficulties associated with this incident, but also for the policies that it has espoused for many years in terms of anti-discrimination and recognising the multi-cultural nature of our society, particularly in the city of Manchester. Through all its departments and in numerous different ways, the city council recognises the different cultural groups that play their part in the development of the society of Manchester; for example, the Chinese community, the Afro-Caribbean community and, as my noble friend Lord Dean of Beswick pointed out, the Irish community with its celebration of the Irish events only a few weeks before this incident. That emphasis on the multicultural realities of our society has played a very great part in the ability of all Mancunians to pull together in the face of this tragedy.
Speaking for the nation, we in Parliament need to recognise that we have a national responsibility for what has happened. We need to accept that and realise that we must play our part as a nation by ensuring the support that my noble friend Lady Dean identified and recognising the iniquities of the Bellwin formula whereby the national exchequer pays only 85 per cent. of expenditure incurred by a local authority, and that is only expenditure above a fairly high threshold. We need to recognise that.
Although our debate centres on Manchester, it is not just about Manchester; it is about all the citizens of London and any other of our communities which may suffer in this particular way. I listened earlier to the 1506 debate on the "ins" and "outs" of EMU. I was very interested in a remark made by the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish. He pointed out that the nation state needed to have the fiscal freedom to accommodate economic shocks. This is exactly the sort of occasion when the nation state needs to respond to the economic shocks.
I refer not just to the shock to the economic heart of Manchester, because it is also a very personal and individual matter. My noble friend Lady Dean has already referred to small businesses, the flower seller and the newsagent, who are particularly affected by their inability either to obtain insurance or to afford it. We need to recognise that some of the small traders who operated in the Corn Exchange were operating at the margin of economic survival. It is probable that a number of them could not afford insurance even if they could get it and yet they provided a very important element within the economic heart of the City of Manchester.
We also need to recognise that individuals are affected. My noble friend Lord Dean of Beswick referred to individual's homes being affected. It may not be apparent to many of your Lordships that within the Arndale shopping complex, which was affected by the bomb, there is a major residential tower block. Anyone who goes near the centre of the City of Manchester now can see the blank windows where there is no glass. The people who lived in that tower block are unable to go back. They were allowed back to obtain a few essential items of a personal nature, but they cannot live there. Effectively, those people have lost their homes.
If we think in terms of the businesses which have been dislocated and unable to trade, it is a fact that they will suffer, but what about the employees of those businesses? They are effectively out of a job. I am sorry for the fact that across virtually every industry and aspect of our national life there is insecurity. It faces all of us. In the early 1980s it was manufacturing industry and as the 1990s continue, it is the financial services sector which is affected. Every element of our lives in this country is faced with insecurity. It is rather curious that the only secure operation is the so-called "intelligence community" where, even after the demise of the cold war and the collapse of the Berlin Wall, with the expectation of a peace dividend and the emergence of some element of peace in Northern Ireland, the one group of people which has retained job security is the the so-called "intelligence community". That says a good deal about our responsibility in this matter.
I return to the fact that we are responsible. We must recognise that over the past two years as the peace process has developed in Northern Ireland a bi-partisan, not party political, view has been taken of the situation. On that basis, as a nation we have a responsibility for the unfortunate breakdown of the peace process. Surely, it is wrong to ask individual parts of the community, whether it be Manchester, London—or, heaven forfend, any other small part of the nation—to pay the price for our failure as a nation, bi-partisan in Parliament, to deal with the problems that beset us as a result of the difficulties in Northern Ireland.
1507 We have a responsibility—dare I say it?—not just to the Republican element but to the Unionist element in Northern Ireland to show that we are prepared to listen to and respect their point of view. We must recognise that responsibility.
I hope that the Government, in speaking for the nation and all of us in Parliament, will recognise the particular difficulties now being experienced in Manchester both by individuals and by small and large businesses and will respond to that need. Further, I hope that the Government will develop a facility to respond not just to the people of Manchester, whose needs are greatest at the moment, but, if it arises, to the needs of other communities in our society that may require support and assistance. I make that plea and beg the Government to listen to it.
§ 11.17 p.m.
§ Lord McNally
My Lords, a few months ago I had cause to visit Manchester Town Hall. I spoke to an official of many years standing who asked after the health of the noble Lord, Lord Dean of Beswick. I told him that it was robust. He said that Joe Dean was the best leader that the City Council had ever had. I shall leave it to history to judge whether or not that assessment is accurate. But the debate this evening demonstrates that the noble Lord still has a keen interest in and concern for the City of Manchester. This debate is very timely. It is the last chance that Parliament has for three months to consider this issue.
It is extraordinary that after 25 years of terrorist threat to mainland Britain almost every act of terrorism is treated on an ad hoc basis. There was a curious hiatus of several days before the Government's responses emerged. For example, six days after the event the Manchester Evening News carried an open letter with the heading "Please help". This would be true of any other city that suffered such an attack. It is extraordinary that over 25 years we have not established a national task force funded and ready to go into action so that local authorities, business and individuals can receive immediate counsel and assistance following terrorist attacks. I believe that is important to the individual. But in a certain way it would also diminish the terrorist threat. An element of the terrorist threat is that when an attack occurs one is on one's own. If there was a national response to terrorist attack and an immediate sharing of burdens terrorists would not have the ability to pick off targets city by city and community by community. The noble Lord, Lord Dean, has raised a fundamental issue which has not been raised during the past 25 years.
Let me say where I stand in this matter. I am a native of the North West. In the other place I had the honour to represent Stockport, Manchester's neighbour. I speak this evening from the Liberal Democrat Benches. The Liberal Democrats are the official opposition on Manchester City Council. I shall quote the unanimous statement put out by the city council after the bomb. It states:Speaking on behalf of every member of this council, every one of the 84 Labour councillors and each of the 15 Liberal Democrat councillors, the actions of these terrorists can only be described as despicable and cowardly".1508 It continued:We speak with one voice when, as a City Council, we utterly condemn the actions of these insane fanatics. We speak with one voice when we say that Manchester will fight back".I have said before in this House that those of us with experience of Manchester politics in its most robust form, where there can be keen debate not just between parties but within parties, know that to have that unity of response is some kind of perverted triumph for the IRA. The IRA has not furthered its cause one inch; it has united Manchester in its contempt for it and its methods.
There has been an all-party response. It has already been said how welcome was the visit of the Deputy Prime Minister with all his flamboyance and "can do" approach to matters. As has been said, the Leader of the Opposition and the leader of my party visited Manchester as a demonstration of solidarity. We welcome the establishment of the major international urban design competition.
That is the right approach, because in the face of a terrorist attack the correct response must be to show a triumph of democracy and a free society. The editor of the Manchester Evening News, Mike Unger, has been quoted once already tonight. I shall quote him again. He said:The IRA bomb has given us a unique opportunity to look at our city afresh. We can have a fabulous environment for our future within the parameters of time, cost and economic reality. Do we really have the desire?Manchester does have that desire, but problems are already emerging and that is why it is important that we in Parliament keep the matter under scrutiny. The vision and the long-term commitment to rebuilding Manchester come up against real, short-term problems. The insurance companies' loss adjusters want quick settlements. They want to know how much they are going to pay and to get the matter off their books. Businesses, both small and large, want to get back into business as quickly as possible. A conflict arises between the vision of rebuilding the centre of Manchester and the pressure to get back to work and make do and mend.
Bridging the gap between the long, cool, hard look, encouraging the visionary response of building a 21st century city and the pressure to return to work needs money. If the Government intend to stand by the objective they set when they said:The Government and the city council, working with other public agencies and the private sector, including land owners most affected by the incident, are determined to ensure that from the devastation a vibrant city centre for the 21st century to rival anywhere in Europe will emerge over the next three years",they must also provide the means.
We support the task force in its aim of getting the right answers, not just a quick fix. Manchester is worthy of support. It has been one of the most successful examples of private sector/public sector partnership, which all parties in the House see as the key to economic regeneration. The International Concert Hall, the Nynex Arena and the National Cycling Centre are examples of Manchester doing the job for itself. But the 1509 terrorist attack puts a whole new burden on that community and on that city which must be shared nationally.
Perhaps the Government could make early decisions in other areas; for example, the sports stadium for East Manchester or the second runway for Manchester International Airport. Early decisions which are within the Government's gift could boost local confidence and promote inward investment. But, most of all, if we are going to create in Manchester a true regional capital to rival the great regional cities of Europe—and that is the prize within our grasp—it is not only sweet words which will be required from the Government but a real commitment and real cash.
Perhaps I may leave the last word to Manchester City Council, which I quoted earlier:This city of Manchester will not be crushed. We have suffered a dent in our confidence, but we are emerging stronger than ever before and with a determination that shows the world that we are a proud and strong city".Those of us who know that strong city would expect no less a response from Manchester and Mancunians. Our opportunity, and the reason this House will continue to monitor and keep an interest in what happens in Manchester, is to build from the disaster a strong Manchester and a city of which we can all be proud.
§ 11.27 p.m.
§ Lord Graham of Edmonton
My Lords, I came into the House this morning at 8.30 and some 15 hours later I am as anxious as anyone else to see my bed. But even if the debate were many hours later I should have wished to remain and make a small contribution.
The noble Lord, Lord Dean, is Manchester through and through. He is a former leader of the council, a position which I held with another large authority. He knows full well exactly what is required. We congratulate him on providing us with the opportunity to debate the matter. He has also provided the Government with an opportunity to respond, perhaps with slight unease, which I have seen in various documents, but with fulsomeness and wholeheartedness to a national disaster. I am sure that the Minister, with his experience of his department and of life, needs no telling from me or anyone else that if he had lived, worked or had a business in the city he would take a view slightly different from the one I might take, although we both know Manchester.
I am not anticipating a bleak response from the Minister because that would be very harsh. The people of Manchester want to know that the Government understand the nature of the problem and will do everything possible to assist them to overcome the disaster. After all, that is the purpose of the debate in this House tonight.
When I carried out my research for the debate, I came across statistics which my fellow Peers and Mancunians all know. However, it is worth putting on the record the extent of the catastrophe which befell the people of Manchester in that very short period on 15th June. I believe that 49,000 square metres of retail shops, 1510 57,000 square metres of offices, two multi-storey car parks and the largest bus terminus were destroyed. Beside that destruction there was a great deal of dislocation.
One of my credentials for speaking in the debate, besides being a Jack of all trades and master of none, is that I have strong connections—I say this very proudly—with the Co-operative Movement, to such an extent that I am prepared to wear this tie this evening! It is the tie of the Lincoln Co-operative Society. It sometimes causes mirth. However, it is a talisman. When I read the brief in relation to the Urban Design Competition, I was interested to see that in trying to encapsulate the city of Manchester it referred to it as:The city that pioneered free trade, economic liberalism and the Co-operative Movement".The Co-op is Manchester and Manchester is the Co-op. Rochdale is the place where the Rochdale pioneers started 150 years ago. Rochdale is now part of what I would call, perhaps clumsily, the Greater Manchester conurbation. The heart of the empire of the Co-operative Movement is in Manchester.
When I think of Manchester, I think of Balloon Street, Miller Street and Danzig Street. I think of places which are on the perimeter of the area where the damage has been caused. But, nevertheless, that is the heart of the economic empire of the Co-operative Movement—the CWS, the CIS, the Co-operative Bank, the Co-operative Retail Services. They are all to be found in that part of Manchester. Everybody in Manchester has no doubt but that it is a "co-operative" city.
One area has been singled out as the study area in which one hopes that the regeneration will take place. The CWS and the CIS are specifically earmarked within that area. I was delighted to hear my noble friend Lady Dean draw attention to the immediate response of the Co-op Bank, and I know that the CWS and others have responded in exactly the same way.
I am also proud to have had a past association with the National Federation of Market Traders. I know that its members are among the group of people who are in a worse situation than those who are working for large businesses. They are desperate for assistance and relief. They will survive. I know that some people who were not properly insured may go to the wall and others may find it difficult to survive. There will be those who suffer. I was in Manchester during the war, which is now some 54 years ago. I was in the area when the bombing took place. I visited the hospitals there at that time. Therefore, I know the spirit of the people of Manchester. They will survive and so will the city.
The city council has a great plan. There is much to be done. I believe that my noble friend said that £500 million may be required to repair the damage and she said that the Lord Mayor's Fund stands at £1 million. People will naturally turn to the council for help. But the council is strapped for cash. It could not have expected this to have happened. No major city in England, Scotland or Wales would have expected to have visited upon it that which is so much part of the scene in Northern Ireland.
1511 My noble friend Lord Dean, a proud Mancunian, is anxious to take this opportunity to invite the Minister, on behalf of the Government, to say what is to happen. The Minister may not know that when the bombing took place my noble friend was scandalised by the fact that neither this House nor the other place had an immediate opportunity to comment on the situation. My noble friend understood as well as I do that there are certain situations which are best not discussed in public at the time; indeed, he has been very patient in that he has not pursued the matter until now. However, he has found his opportunity and he is absolutely right in what he says. The people of Manchester are hoping that the Government will recognise that they need special assistance.
The Question asks for the assistance which is available to those who suffer these terrible terrorist attacks in Northern Ireland to be made available to Manchester. I am not competent in the matter; indeed, the Minister is far more competent in it because he has been well briefed. I should like him, first, to reassure the House that those who suffer in Manchester will be treated in exactly the same way as others who suffer a comparable hurt in another part of the United Kingdom. If that is the case, we are already half-way there.
However, what I have gathered from my research is uncertainty and a lack of clarity and preciseness, together with, not a lack of willingness, but the red tape and bureaucracy which inevitably arise over public expenditure. I understand that. I know that it is not possible for a Minister to wave a wand, put his hand in his pocket or indeed write out a cheque. Ministers have to be careful in that respect. But it would be churlish of them and sad if the Government did not recognise that there are little people who need help. The big people can in the main take care of themselves; indeed, not only will they have insurance and their own plans but they can take advantage of various new opportunities.
The kind of people I know as market traders and in many other spheres are looking to the Government to say that they are willing to be specific in the help they offer. There are 180 businesses out of action, and then there is the Corn Exchange and 70 tenants out in the cold. There is also the Royal Exchange. The Minister will know those places. I certainly recognise them from the time I was in Manchester and its conurbation more than 50 years ago. I have in mind the feeling that has been mentioned more than once that what people want is equity and fair play; and, indeed, a recognition that this could happen anywhere in the country.
I hope that the Minister will assure my friends with a special interest in the matter because they are Manchester people that the city will not get different treatment to that given anywhere else. However, if they come to the conclusion that what they are getting is bad treatment, the Minister will also be telling people in every other major city that if terrorists decide to strike in those cities against the British Government, locally and municipally they are on their own.
As most speakers in the debate tonight have tried to indicate, this is not a partisan issue and it is certainly not a party political issue. What we want from the 1512 Minister is not only sympathy—although we want the tea as well—but something to demonstrate that, even with all the problems facing the Government, there are exceptions that can be made. God forbid that this is one of a series of devastations the like of which we do not want. However, the people of Manchester are hoping to get a response from the Minister tonight which will assure them that it is recognised that they have suffered a hurt that the people of Birmingham, of Bristol and of Newcastle have not suffered. They want the Government to say that Manchester will not only be rebuilt but that it will be recognised as a major regional centre—11 million people live within 80 kilometres of it. We want to see a rebuilding, but, more importantly, some urgency in the matter. I very much hope that the Minister can satisfy my noble friend Lord Dean, who has, as always, done an excellent job for the people of Manchester.
§ 11.40 p.m.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Graham, asked me to call on my life experience. I am afraid I have little enough of that which is relevant. I cannot even claim to be wearing the right tie. I do not think that skating polar bears have anything to do with this evening's subject.
However, I, of course, remember the two City bombs. For much of my life I have worked in the City of London and I can remember both clearly. I do not think that the noble Lord, Lord Graham, would wish the financial arrangements which followed those bombs to be extended to Manchester. I do not believe that the Government were required to put up any money on either of those occasions. I believe that the City found everything itself. Clearly the community of Manchester, and the situation in Manchester, are quite different. Today I wish to concentrate on praising Manchester and all who have reacted so positively and constructively to the bomb and its aftermath: the police who moved thousands from the city centre with very little notice so that there was no panic and no fatalities; the businessmen and women who may have had years of work destroyed but who are starting to re-establish their businesses; the people of Manchester who are determined, as has been said frequently this evening, to carry on their daily lives and not to be intimidated; and the local authority which has co-ordinated so much of the response to the bomb, and has done so extremely well.
We find it hard to imagine what the task force referred to by the noble Lord, Lord McNally, could have done which the city council has not done rather more effectively because of its local knowledge and local abilities. With the Government's help, the council is determined to rebuild the shattered city centre and to improve on what was there before.
Let us review what has been done to date. Perhaps I may first pay tribute to the extraordinary speed with which the city responded. The immediate aftermath of the bomb highlighted the skills of the emergency services and council workers. But in the hours and days that followed work was put swiftly in hand to minimise loss and damage and get the city working again. The Government Office for the North West and the city 1513 council brought together those who would play a vital part in helping small businesses; and the speed of that response was excellent.
The bomb damaged areas have been secured and engineers are gradually opening up more of the centre. Some of the buildings, such as the Corn Exchange, have been badly damaged and reinstatement will not be easy. The immediate priority has been to ensure that small traders have easy access to the support which they need, and can start to trade again as soon as possible. Everyone who spoke this evening has mentioned that point. The Manchester bomb hit small businesses particularly hard. Three of the buildings most badly affected, the Corn Exchange, the Royal Exchange, and the Arndale Centre, between them housed some 600 small traders.
A crucial task has been the relocation of many of those businesses. I pay tribute to all who have worked tirelessly and successfully on this. Just a couple of days ago tenants of the Corn Exchange building were offered accommodation in the Coliseum building on Church Street and were told that their new landlords would underwrite the cost of replacing stock. That is typical of the spirit that the city has shown.
Manchester City Council and its local partners, the TEC, the Chamber of Commerce and Manchester Business Link have set up a centre to give support to business. They will disburse grants from the Lord Mayor's Appeal Fund in cases of hardship. The fund has now raised over £900,000 and more is pledged. One hundred and twenty applications have been received and awards totalling £250,000 have been made. There is still a considerable amount of money in that fund to meet cases of individual hardship such as those described by the noble Baroness, Lady Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde.
The noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, mentioned the householders in the Arndale Centre. We agree that there has been hardship, but none is now homeless. Short term accommodation was found in university halls of residence; subsequently alternative flats were found in the city's stock of council houses and in housing association houses. All the people of Manchester are pulling together to make sure that those who have been affected by this bomb are not hurt more than can possibly be helped.
That will take Manchester through the next few weeks. Over the long term, however, Manchester has set its sights high. No one would pretend that the Arndale Centre was a work of art. The cathedral was surrounded by buildings of inferior quality. Now there is an opportunity to take a fresh look and to build again. Manchester, with the encouragement and support of my right honourable friends the Deputy Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for the Environment, is holding an international design competition for the rebuilding of its centre. We hope that the best architects throughout the world will put forward their ideas.
The work done by the newly formed task force will complement the new developments which are re-invigorating Manchester. Buildings such as the arena 1514 and the new concert hall are being developed within the framework of the public/private partnership of City Pride.
The result will be a city centre for the new millennium. Many are determined to be involved in the realisation of this ambition. On 5th July, there was a debate sponsored by the Manchester Evening News—and I am glad to add the Government's congratulations and praise to that great newspaper on all it has done since the bomb, and all that it continues to do—and by the Manchester Civic Society. A whole raft of ideas were put forward by people determined to keep the independent traders who have made the city so vibrant in the past. But they were equally open to new ideas, particularly as regards transport.
The noble Lord, Lord McNally, referred to the conflict of getting back to work and achieving quality in rebuilding. Yes, we agree, but the major retailers are committed to getting the right answer for the long term. The task force will consult widely to involve all sectors of the community. The best urban designers will, we feel, be attracted by the competition.
Mancunians then are rebuilding Manchester. That must be right. It is their city, their future, their delight and their responsibility. They have great personal and financial resources, public and private, with which to effect the rebuilding. But we are not standing idly by. We have made contributions to the Lord Mayor's Fund, provided funds to get the urban design competition under way and provided £21 million of European funding for essential works.
The noble Baroness, Lady Dean, asked whether that was new money. It is new for Manchester; it is not re-allocated from the north-west, it is re-allocated from the rest of the UK. The resources will come from the whole country, not from the region. Given the extent and breadth of resource from which the money has been drawn, I cannot identify specific schemes which will be cut as a result.
The noble Lord, Lord Dean, asked from where the £500 or £600 million that he estimates the repairs will cost will come. We are not yet clear what the total costs will be. Manchester City Council will doubtless tell us in due course. Many buildings have not yet been surveyed.
§ Lord Dean of Beswick
My Lords, we welcome the Minister's resume of what has happened in Manchester. Those of us who know the city knew that that was how it would respond. However, will the Minister cover the main point of the Question? Will the Government urgently consider applying the Northern Ireland criteria for compensation for damage from terrorist bombing activities across the board? Will they now extend those criteria to Manchester in order that people may get on with the job with the same confidence as people in Northern Ireland in those circumstances in the knowledge that what is blown up will be replaced by government money and not their own money? That is all we ask for, equal treatment with Northern Ireland. It is the same country, the same people. Why is there a difference?
1515 If the Government do not answer that Question, when the people whose property was blown up in Manchester start to pay their taxes, they will be paying compensation to people in Northern Ireland. How can that be right in the one nation that the Prime Minister talks about?
My Lords, I shall come to that point shortly. Perhaps I may continue with answering the questions in the pile raised by the noble Lord. It is not yet clear what the clear-up will cost. There is much yet to be surveyed and most costs will be met by insurance companies. The Government have already provided an extra £21 million and will consider bids when costs are known. At the moment we do not know enough to tell what is required and what is missing.
The noble Lord, Lord Dean, is concerned about the Northern Ireland scheme. In the UK, insurance is generally available to cover for terrorist risks, and it is not that expensive. That is not the case in Northern Ireland. That is why separate arrangements are required in Northern Ireland which are not required on the mainland of Great Britain.
The noble Lord, Lord Dean, raises the question of the amount which we in the rest of the United Kingdom pay towards Northern Ireland. Indeed, we do pay a lot of money to Northern Ireland—as we do to Wales, Scotland and doubtless other parts of the United Kingdom. That is what being part of the United Kingdom is about. There are large transfers between one part of the kingdom and another. We should not in any way begrudge them. It is part of being one nation. It does not help to become envious of help that is given to other parts of the United Kingdom. Given the state Northern Ireland is in, it needs considerably more than the rest of the country.
§ Lord Dean of Beswick
My Lords, I thank the Minister for giving way. I do not want to open a debate on Northern Ireland; I merely quoted figures. Is the Minister aware that last year Northern Ireland was in receipt of £5 billion from central government and its net contribution to central government was £2 billion? Is he further aware that that is totally different from the position in relation to England, Scotland and Wales? It does not bear comparison. If it were one nation, the amount would be a lot less. I do not want that. All we are asking for is equal treatment in this particular situation in Manchester, based on the Northern Ireland criteria. It is not a lot to ask. It is a matter of justice. I am not a lawyer, but I question whether the case would stand examination in the European Court.
My Lords, I am sure that it would. Manchester, thank goodness, is not yet in the state that Northern Ireland is in, and I pray God that it never will be. Northern Ireland needs and deserves the help that we give it. One can start playing these games as to which parts of the United Kingdom pay money net and which parts of the United Kingdom receive money net. It is not helpful. We are one United Kingdom, and we look after our own.
1516 We will examine other requests for funding as Manchester puts them to us. The noble Lord, Lord Graham, quite clearly understands that money is tight. We will be as sympathetic to Manchester's case as we can be. In the meantime, the sums of money I mentioned show that we are supporting Manchester in its efforts.
I am aware that Mr. Tony Blair has also visited Manchester. He said, as I understand it, that he would do what we are doing. I do not understand what he has said to promise anything more than we have done and said we will do. And that does not surprise me. We share a determination in this country to make sure that Manchester can flourish as it should.
§ Lord Monkswell
My Lords, I thank the Minister for giving way. Can I take it from his remarks that the Government would consider the needs of Manchester as they develop and as investigations go on? Are we to take it that they would not be bound by the so-called Bellwin formula in providing for the needs of Manchester, and that some other, presumably more sensible, criterion would be adopted by central government to meet the needs of Manchester?
My Lords, the Bellwin formula only covers the first week or so of activity. That is a small and separate discussion with which I do not want to weary the House this evening. We are talking about much larger sums that Manchester will need to rebuild and revitalise itself. As I said, we remain committed to listening to Manchester City Council, which has done a wonderful job so far, when it tells us what it needs, and what for, and to being as constructive as we can.
§ Lord Graham of Edmonton
My Lords, perhaps the Minister will allow me just one intervention. I am very heartened by his remarks about the Government's intention to work with Manchester to help rebuild its city. That is the "macro" aspect of the situation. We are all concerned. I am sure that the people of Manchester and those who spoke for them will accept that is about as far as we can go: to wait for the true cost, and wait to see what can be offset against it by insurance, etc.
However, we are also concerned about little people, some of whom are, sadly, not insured. The Minister might say that is a great pity but others are insured and their insurance companies have paid out; they have paid the premiums and they are entitled to compensation. But let us look at the reality. These are little people. We might be prudent; we might have taken out insurance, but the sad fact is that these people have been dealt a body blow. They have to get their stock replaced; they have to find premises; and they have to get ready now for the Christmas trade.
When the Minister says that he will listen very carefully to what Manchester tells him it needs, would he also say that that includes a request from Manchester City Council for the Government to deal 1517 sympathetically, and I say compassionately, with individuals and individual businesses that have suffered detriment as a result of this bomb?
My Lords, we clearly cannot have a policy of compensating people who are not insured, otherwise the whole insurance market would collapse and no one would pay premiums. It is important that a fund like the Lord Mayor's fund exists so that local people can take local decisions to look after individuals and small businesses that have been caught up in the destruction. Those have to be local decisions. As I said earlier, this is a part of the operation which appears at the moment to be going well, and the response appears to be adequate and, in general, proportionate. Of course, I will admit to not knowing nearly as much of the detail as noble Lords who have spoken this evening.
§ Baroness Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde
The Minister must be tired continually standing up and sitting down, so I thank him for giving way.
I raised the issue of the Lord Mayor's emergency fund, which covers the people we are talking about now, to which £1 million has been pledged. I gather from people in Manchester who are members of that wide-ranging committee that they estimate that they will need twice that amount. They need just £1 million, which is not a lot of money, in order to ease the burden of these small businesses, many of which were not insured, not because they did not try, but because they could not obtain insurance. I refer to the lady in the flower kiosk.
My Lords, that case will come to us, perhaps through the city council. That is not information which I have before me. Doubtless, it will reach us in due course.
In looking constructively at the case which Manchester puts to us for further funding, we are continuing the close links between Government and the City of Manchester which have been established over the last decade. We may have our differences politically with the council, but as the redevelopment of Hulme and Castlefields, and our support for Manchester's City Pride initiative show, we want Manchester to succeed as much as local people do.
1518 The noble Lord, Lord McNally, asked questions on the stadium and the second runway at the airport. Concerning the stadium, we understand that Manchester is well placed in the current consideration of options for the stadium, but that is a matter for the Sports Council, and I cannot offer him any commitment on that. So far as the runway is concerned, there was clearly a major planning inquiry and the report has not yet been received from the inspector. That, as the noble Lord will understand, is something on which we have to pass judgement, and again, therefore, there is nothing further that I can say on that this evening.
We would say the same to any other of our great cities as we are saying to Manchester, for if they are not successful the country as a whole will not be successful. Manchester is a proud city. We have seen much of its resilience and fighting spirit in recent weeks. The noble Baroness, Lady Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, called it courage, which is a pretty good summing up. That is plain for all to see as Manchester and the Mancunians recover from the devastation and forge a city for the next century.
The noble Baroness, Lady Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, was worried lest we forget Manchester. I consider that to be inconceivable for this Government, and inconceivable for me personally as every time I enter my son's bedroom I see Manchester all over the walls. With such sons and daughters, adopted or otherwise, of which we have spoken this evening, forgetting Manchester is totally out of the question.