Local Government (Scotland)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:03 pm on 17th January 1983.

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Photo of Mr John Maxton Mr John Maxton , Glasgow Cathcart 9:03 pm, 17th January 1983

That is the sort of appalling waste that could come from this Government's policy. There would be enormous capital expenditure, but Glasgow could not open the collection or keep it open for the public because of the Government cuts.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Craigton and my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Strang) raised the question of what will happen to our great national art organisations, in particular the Scottish National Orchestra and the Scottish Opera, if local authorities do not spend money on them. If Glasgow district council, which now has the responsibility for giving those subsidies to the organisations, has the choice between closing the swimming pool in Castlemilk and giving money to the Scottish National Orchestra or the Scottish Opera, very reluctantly, I would have to say that it should keep the swimming pool in Castlemilk open.

If Glasgow district council were to carry out the Government's instructions about leisure and recreation, that is the choice that they would have to make. The local authorities have told us that if the cuts in leisure and recreation were to be made, every swimming pool and sports hall in Scotland would be closed.

How do the Government relate such a demand to the fact that the Under-Secretary of State, his Department and the previous Under-Secretary of State have been running a campaign called "Fit for Life" in which people are advised to give up smoking, go on a better diet and take up more exercise through organised sport?

The Scottish Sports Council has been running a campaign to give more people an opportunity to take part in sport, yet the Government are demanding that local authorities close recreational facilities. What an appalling indictment that is of a Government who are spending money on campaigns on the one hand and demanding cuts on the other. That makes no sense.

The recreation and leisure cuts do not relate simply to district authorities. Regional authorities may also have to make cuts in the way that community centres and schools are used for evening classes and evening recreational purposes. If the Government had their way, the regional authorities would have to cut their educational budgets. Schools might not be open in the evenings for badminton and other recreational classes. Luckily, of course, our local authorities will refuse to carry out such cuts. They see the enormous suffering that the cuts would cause.

At the same time as the Government are seeking a massive reduction in facilities for leisure and recreation, they are increasing unemployment through their economic policies. They have also increased by 8 per cent. in real terms the amount spent on the police since they took office. They have introduced further powers for the police and new offences. Have their policies led to a great reduction in crime? Today, I received the crime figures for Castlemilk in my constituency. In 1978, 113 crimes of violence were committed in the area and in 1981, the last full year for which we have figures, the number was 180. Crimes of dishonesty in the area in 1978 were 1,634 and in 1981 the figure had risen to 2,046.

The increased spending on law and order has not solved the problem of increasing crime. That is caused by increased unemployment, poorer housing and poorer leisure facilities that leave little else for people to do. Those conditions create crime. Instead of spending increasing sums on law and order and on trying to solve crimes after the event, the Government should spend it on removing the causes of crime.

The Government's actions are frightening—the move to reduce democracy in local government, the latest attempt to do away with free trade unions and the increasing expenditure on law and order and defence. I do not accuse any individual or even the Government as a whole of deliberately doing so, but they are preparing the ground, as any historian knows, for a Fascist state.