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Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:19 pm on 1st July 1983.

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Photo of George Young George Young Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Environment) 2:19 pm, 1st July 1983

With the leave of the House, I shall reply to what has been a generally well-informed debate adorned with a number of maiden speeches. The Prime Minister will not have to look far for new ministerial talent from London Members, which should be an incentive for those of us already in the Administration to work even harder.

I commend the hon. Member for Newham, North-East (Mr. Leighton) for his maiden speech from the Dispatch Box, although I must chide him in one respect. Having criticised me for making a long speech, he made an even longer one himself.

The hon. Gentleman and a number of hon. Members mentioned the police. As the House will know, it has been the policy of successive Commissioners, supported by my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary and his predecessors, to increase the number of police officers available for street duties. As a result of the review of force structure, almost 1,000 officers have been redeployed to such duties in recent years. The Commissioner has also said that, through savings in other areas of operation, he proposes to make available a further 650 officers for the same purpose.

The hon. Member for Newham, North-East said that some local authorities were starved of resources in their HIP allocations, but he could not answer the fact that, having bid for allocations, a number of authorities—I mentioned two — failed to spend them. He tried to defend them by saying that they did not have adequate notice, but they received notice at the same time as all the other London boroughs, which managed to achieve far better spending levels with the allocations made available to them.

The first real maiden speech was from my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond and Barnes (Mr. Hanley) who coped like an old hand with a nautical intervention from the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. His constituents have a forceful advocate on the many environmental issues affecting them and we look forward to hearing from him on many future occasions.

The right hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Freeson) opposed our plans for the GLC. I should have thought that if one person in the House wished to see Ken Livingstone's power base removed, it would be the right hon. Gentleman. He must recognise that the GLC's functions have changed since it was set up in 1964. Indeed, he conceded that there was a need for reform, although he did not go as far as we did.

A number of hon. Members asked for proposals from the Government and a reasoned case for the abolition of the GLC. The White Paper will appear in the autumn and will contain a fully reasoned statement of why we think that that is the best decision for London. It will also set out the options for replacement. The Opposition ought perhaps to wait and see the proposals before criticising them.

My hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, Southgate (Mr. Berry) handled me with patience and courtesy when he was my Whip. As his speech showed, his enforced silence for more than four years has been a great loss to the House. We welcome his voice again in our debates on London.

The hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) also made a maiden speech. I recall his speeches from our days together at County hall, and I have to say that age has not mellowed him. Indeed, his was one of the few maiden speeches which did not mention the Member's predecessor. Whatever one thought of Arthur Lewis, he certainly added an extra dimension to life in the House.

The convention that maiden speeches are uncontroversial has clearly been abandoned. Some day, no doubt, the convention that Ministers always say that maiden speeches are excellent whether they think so or not will also be abandoned, but not today. The hon. Member for Newham, North-West made a good speech. Perhaps I may say this, however, that the hon. Gentleman use3 the privilege of the House and of his maiden speech to do to three individuals exactly what he accused the press of doing to him and his colleagues—to attack them when they did not have the right to reply.

My hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson) made a well-informed contribution, concentrating on our proposals for London Transport. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will shortly be bringing forward proposals in a White Paper for a London regional transport authority, and it would not be right for me to go into detail in advance of that. I think, however, that my hon. Friend will find much in those proposals to give him satisfaction. The new arrangements will for the first time seriously tackle the integration of London's commuter railways and the services for which London Transport is responsible, as well as providing London Transport with the stability and policy that it needs and securing much better value for money.

The hon. Member for Woolwich (Mr. Cartwright) made a number of references to the National Health Service. I take up just one topic concerning the replacement of facilities for the mentally handicapped now that Darenth park is being run down. I understand that a 30-place hostel, the Gables, is now open in Greenwich and that another 32-place hostel at Shooters hill is due to be completed in 1984–85.

I have much sympathy with what he hon. Gentleman said about gipsies. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State who, happily, looks after gipsies, rather than me, will be writing to him. I shall take up with the Department of Health and Social Security his plea for the provision of security locks.

My hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Maples) made an excellent maiden speech. He spoke with confidence and understanding and mentioned rates — a subject which Opposition Members carefully avoided. He made a number of positive suggestions for reducing expenditure without reducing essential services. Again, we very much welcome him to our London debates.

The hon. Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Mr. Roberts) spoke about the police and the Colin Roach case. My right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary, in answer to a question tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Mr. Murphy) on 28 June, outlined our strategy on the follow-up to the Colin Roach case. I shall pass on to my right hon. and learned Friend the hon. Gentleman's other remarks about the police.

I am afraid that I missed the next two speeches, but I understand that there was an excellent one from my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Dicks), who spoke with feeling about Heathrow and the need for Government aid to improve the infrastructure for the fifth terminal. He also mentioned the Hayes bypass. He, too, welcomed the proposed abolition of the GLC, and touched on the topical matter of the problems facing many local authorities which went in for system building in the 1960s and 1970s. The Government are giving urgent consideration to the matter, and I very much welcome the knowledge that my hon. Friend brings to it.

I also missed the maiden speech by the hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn). My hon. Friend the Member for Dartford (Mr. Dunn), who is a mild man, provided a few notes for me suggesting that the Government were attacked by the hon. Gentleman for their contemptuous treatment of Islington. I understand that almost every institution in London was attacked by the hon. Gentleman, apart from Islington and County hall. However, Islington council does not help Islington with some of its policies and expenditures. If the hon. Gentleman could direct some of his criticism and attack to Islington council, that might be in the interests of some of his constituents. We welcomed his contribution, and I shall write to him on the question that he posed about the future of the South London hospital for women.