Inner City Areas

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:41 pm on 9th March 1982.

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Photo of Mr Robert Parry Mr Robert Parry , Liverpool Scotland Exchange 9:41 pm, 9th March 1982

I had not intended to speak in this debate, because, like other hon. Members I had expected it to begin at 10 o'clock. Therefore, I do not have available the facts and figures that the hon. Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Mr. Steen) produced. I shall speak for only about 10 minutes, so that the hon. Member for Liverpool, Edge Hill (Mr. Alton), who has also been waiting nearly two hours to speak, has an opportunity to do so.

I wish to deal with two main issues of the problems of inner Liverpool—unemployment and the environment. First, I congratulate the hon. Member for Wavertree on choosing this subject for debate. It is about time that we had the opportunity to debate the massive problems of our inner city areas, and particularly of Liverpool. When the Labour Government were in power the hon. Gentleman and I served on the Committee considering what became the Inner Urban Areas Act 1978. We have shared concern for the inner areas for some years.

In November 1980 I asked the Secretary of State for Employment to give the total unemployment figure for my constituency. I thought that he would not give me the answer, but I was surprised to receive a reply from the Under-Secretary. It showed that 60 per cent. were unemployed—a staggering figure, provided by the Government themselves. That was before the shocking closure of the Tate and Lyle refinery in the Vauxhall part of my constituency, which resulted in the laying off of another 2,000 people and possibly 1,000 in related industries.

I believe that one of the reasons—not the only reason—for the riots not only in Toxteth but in the inner areas of Manchester, Bristol and London was massive unemployment. I should like the Under-Secretary of State to deal with the question of unemployment in inner city areas, not purely with environment and housing issues. When the Secretary of State for the Environment came to Liverpool immediately following the riots he came with the image of "Mr. Wonderful" or superman. He brought all kinds of promises and I believe that all Opposition Members representing Liverpool constituencies will say that we have seen little of the Government's initiative in solving the problems of inner Liverpool. I am convinced that the recent trouble we had in St. Saviour's school is the tip of the iceberg and that there are still problems simmering under the surface not only in Toxteth but in Everton, and Vauxhall, Sandhills.

The Office of Population Censuses and Surveys recently issued papers on the inner areas of Liverpool. They show that four of the wards, Granby, Abercrombie, Everton and Vauxhall, and Sandhills were deprived. There was massive unemployment, bad housing stock, bad schools and bad environment. I raised the issue with the Prime Minister this afternoon, when I said that those four wards were probably four of the most deprived wards in the United Kingdom and possibly Western Europe. We asked the Prime Minister whether she would visit Liverpool and the answer of course, was "No". It is significant that the Prime Minister has been to Liverpool only once, immediately after the Toxteth riots, when she flew in, was there for a few hours and then left. She showed no real interest in returning to see what has happened since the riots.

I thank the hon. Member for Wavertree for giving way to so many interventions. When I raised the matter of the Clayton Square development I said that that is part of the old area of Liverpool, which will be smashed by the developers and the bulldozers. I would argue that it is another case of municipal vandalism and I am glad that the hon. Gentleman said that he would support me in any opposition to the scheme. We have seen too much in the past.

We saw the demolition some years ago of the Cavern, where the Beatles made their name. We feel that Liverpool could be a tourist area, but we have seen so much destroyed by the bulldozers and the planners that I believe it is virtually impossible to resurrect it as a tourist area.

I deal next with the rate support grant and the massive cuts that have been imposed on the city of Liverpool and the county of Merseyside. I am delighted to have read .in the press that the new chairman of the county council, who is in fact a councillor in my constituency, has said that he would be prepared to take on the Government, and that he will not support any policy that will reduce services or result in job losses. I shall support the chairman in fighting the vicious cuts that have been imposed on local authorities. I will end now because I have made my main points in the earlier interventions.