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With permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a statement on Government help to people living in inner city areas.
We are all only too well aware that people who live in many inner areas of our cities suffer from a wide range of long standing problems. The Government have increased the amount of central Government money spent on employment and training programmes, urban regeneration and industrial assistance in these areas. We have taken a number of measures, including setting up last year city action teams to co-ordinate and target Government effort in the seven inner city partnership areas.
In order to complement and build on that existing work, we have now decided to try out a new approach to the task by intensifying and bringing together the efforts of Government Departments, local government, the private sector and the local community in eight small inner city areas.
This initiative is a further step to improve the targeting and enhance the benefit to local people of the money channelled through existing central Government programmes. They include the employment and training programmes of the MSC, the Department of Trade and Industry's programme of regional and industrial assistance, the Department of the Environment's urban programme, and the Home Office programmes of black business support and grants to support staffing of services to ethnic minority populations.
Within the chosen areas we shall try out new approaches, particularly on training provision, and employment or self-employment opportunities for local residents. That will be tackled through projects and activities of wider but direct benefit to the residents of the areas concerned and their environment. We shall seek to stimulate enterprise and provide a stronger base for the local economy. We shall give special attention to the problems of young people from ethnic minorities where they are particularly disadvantaged.
To test our approach we have selected eight areas which are diverse in their character but whose residents all share problems of deprivation and lack of opportunities. They are not necessarily the eight most deprived areas in our cities, but the people who live in them need more employment opportunities, support for their local business economy, and a better physical environment. We shall introduce our new initiatives in Notting Hill and north Peckham in London, the Chapeltown area of Leeds, north central Middlesbrough, the Highfields area of Leicester, Moss Side in Manchester, St. Paul's in Bristol and Handsworth in Birmingham.
We shall be establishing small task forces in each of those areas. They will work with the local authorities and local community and voluntary organisations. They will quickly seek to attract private sector participation.
We shall seek early discussions with the local authorities concerned about the details of this initiative. We hope to persuade the local authorities to join us and use their own programmes alongside our own in a concentrated and targeted effort to improve work prospects and the quality of life in those areas.
Large sums are already available to the chosen areas under existing Government programmes, but, in order to help the initiative get off the ground, the Government will be supplementing the sums with £8 million of additional money of which £3 million will be found from within my Department's existing provision and £5 million will be found from the reserve.
The initiative will be led by a team of Ministers drawn from the Departments of Employment, Education and Science, Trade and Industry, Environment and the Home Office. My right hon. and noble Friend the Secretary of State for Employment will have overall responsibility for the co-ordination of the initiative. I shall have responsibility for its day-to-day management and supervision with the support of a small central unit. This inner cities initiative will complement and not replace existing Government programmes.
I hope that the House will welcome a bold experiment in concentrating all available efforts and resources in a joint way on the improvement of job expectations and the quality of life of the residents of those small inner city areas.
That is a mouse of a statement compared with the scale of the problem that our inner cities face. There is little new in the statement to encourage our employed inhabitants in our declining inner city areas. It is a measure in line with the policy of the Secretary of State for Employment to improve the Government's image on employment for which over £1 million is being given to an advertising agency. The measure is designed solely to counter the overwhelming impression held by 3–4 million unemployment claimants—the real level is nearer 5 million—that it is being used to improve the Government's image and to show that they are doing something about unemployment when people realise that they do not care a damn about mass unemployment.
The statement confirms the victory of the Secretary of State for Employment over the management of such programmes and the downgrading of the Secretary of State for the Environment who was in charge of the city action programme of which we have heard little. It is a game of musical chairs for which the only new resources are £5 million—a kind of transfer fee for the change of chairmanship.
I can at least welcome the fact that the statement recognises the problems of our inner city areas and the need to co-ordinate—why do we not call it planning?—and use public funds to create jobs. That is Labour's programme for returning our people to work.
Will the Minister confirm that those new resources, if we can call them that, of £5 million will not begin to replace the 28 per cent. cut in real terms since 1981 of inner city grants and the losses of rate support grant in the years that he mentioned in the statement which amount to almost £1·7 billion? Those are in addition to the cuts of 70 per cent. in the housing programmes. All that should be compared with the £5 million that he offers the unemployed in those areas.
Does the Minister accept that the statement implies that there is a connection between social disorders and race riots and the extraordinarily high rates of unemployment among the ethnic minorities in those areas? Will the policies advocated earlier in the year by the Home Office —contract compliance and discrimination to provide more training places and jobs for the ethnic minorities in those areas—be pursued by the Government?
How many jobs are likely to be created by that new £5 million, and what criteria led the Minister to choose those areas? Does the Minister accept that his statement that the Government will work with local authorities will be seen as a major change in the Government's attitude, if they were to carry it out? The Government have done more to damage local democracy and reduce local democratic accountability than any other Government.
The statement says that the Minister intends to "persuade" local authorities. That is further proof that the statement is to do with a panicking central Government trying to improve their image when doing nothing to reduce unemployment levels created and deliberately maintained by Government policy.
True to form, the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) has gone straight into knockabout politics and completely ignored the substance of the statement to which he is meant to be addressing himself.
The announcement that the Government have made today will be taken much more seriously in Peckham, Chapeltown, Highfields and the other places that I named. The essential part that the hon. Gentleman has missed is that the new initiative will go alongside all the other initiatives, policies and expenditure of this Government in all their Departments. The urban programme administered by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment has trebled in money terms and doubled in real terms compared with expenditure when the Labour Government were in power. Spending on employment and training measures through the MSC has doubled since we have been in power. A great deal of that expenditure already goes into those inner city areas. We estimate, as best we can, that £670 million of central Government money goes into inner city areas on environmental, dereliction and employment measures alone.
Within those eight small areas, we shall see what better targeting and concentration of effort can produce. We shall get all the agencies of central Government, local government and the local private sector to work together to produce results.
The new money, in addition to at least £75 million going into those areas under central Government programmes, amounts to £8 million only. We are talking about small areas of cities — Peckham, Chapeltown, Handsworth—with a total population in all of them of about 300,000. I have to tell the hon. Gentleman that £1 million in each of those areas over and above the central Government money already going in, which we are going to target more directly, will have a most significant effect. The hon. Gentleman was misled by the impetuous barracking of those behind him who misunderstood what I was saying. He was quite wrong to seize on that point and to stress it.
The hon. Gentleman talked about other matters, some of which have relevance to what we are talking about and others which have not. I do not think it helps in this area to draw the simplistic connection which he does between riots and employment. Indeed, it is an insult to the inhabitants of inner cities to believe that they react in criminal ways to the problems that they all face.
The question of other ways in which we can improve in particular the position of ethnic minority youngsters who are at a disadvantage in the employment market was seriously considered by the Select Committee on Employment, to which I gave evidence yesterday. It is indeed true that there are various measures of positive action which can be taken to improve the job opportunities of those ethnic minorities. A large part of this initiative will be to try to build up black business skills and to give more management training and more opportunities for self-employment among ethnic minority communities. We intend to tackle the task much more seriously than the hon. Gentleman, who seems disposed to criticise it.
I reassure my right hon. and learned Friend that, in spite of the rather churlish reaction of the Opposition this afternoon, his statement will be extremely warmly welcomed by all of the many varied elements in the population in North Kensington. On a personal note, I should like to say how glad I am that the increasingly urgent questions which I and other borough councillors have been pressing on Ministers, drawing attention to the special problems of Notting Hill, have borne fruit in this most imaginative response.
I wish to ask whether the implications of the new policy are that if prominent areas of derelict land or old structures in Kensington are likely to be dramatically changed, the borough council and bodies like the Kensington Society will be taken into full consultation and, indeed, whether the Member himself might also be consulted?
We obviously hope to produce quite significant improvements in that part of the borough, represented by my hon. Friend, which is particularly deprived. A key part of our efforts is to involve as quickly as possible the local authority, the people who live in the deprived part of London which we are trying to help, Notting Hill, and certainly — most importantly — the Member of Parliament. As soon as we set up the task forces, we will get them on to the ground and in touch with the local people whom we are trying to benefit as rapidly as possible.
Will the Paymaster General accept the alliance's best wishes for the members of these eight small task forces, especially if they start by sparing hard-working voluntary workers in the inner cities their present interdepartmental paper chase, which is so frustrating to their work?
Can the Paymaster General explain to the House the conspicuous absence of any Treasury Minister from the managing team, bearing in mind that this downward spiral of deprivation is largely due to the application of false Treasury dogma which has now crumbled away under events? The modest sum of £8 million—or £5 million of new money—will very quickly need supplementing.
Lastly, why is there not one mention in the statement of housing accommodation or dwellings, since the right hon. and learned Gentleman knows very well that the inner cities desperately need decent and appropriate housing?
If we find evidence of interdepartmental paper chases, certainly that is one of the first things that we shall have to eliminate. Most importantly, we shall bring together the efforts of all central Government Departments even more closely in the areas concerned, which I think will be of benefit to the residents in particular.
We are obviously not going into the whole business of housing allocation and housing policies in these small areas. However, it is certainly right that in all these areas there is a great need for further improvement in the environment, which includes improvement in living conditions. We wish to continue to improve the environmental setting in a way which benefits local people by providing additional employment, training and work experience for those who live there rather than just improving housing and the environment by employing contractors and people who live in other parts of the city.
Order. I have to bear in mind that there is a further important statement after this and an important debate. I shall allow questions to continue until 4.45 pm, and then I think that we must move on.
Urban deprivation cannot be effectively tackled unless there is a cohesive interdepartmental approach. Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that this statement will therefore be widely welcomed in Bristol in achieving a cohesive interdepartmental approach?
In carrying out these proposals, will my right hon. and learned Friend ensure that the teams encourage self build projects along the lines on which I have written to him in the past?
I am grateful for what my hon. Friend has said. I think that his first point is extremely valid and important. I am, of course, aware of the extremely successful self build project which has been organised in Bristol. I look forward to getting to know it more closely and to seeing whether the example of Bristol can be spread to some of the other cities which we are discussing today.
If the right hon. and learned Gentleman wants to prove that his proposals are not derisory, will he tell us, in the case of each area affected, how much money has been withdrawn in rate support grant compared with the new money, as he calls it, which he now proposes to offer? Will he also take into account that some of us expected that at least there would be a major proposal for assisting the inner city areas, which would be a proper thing to greet with enthusiasm? What about those areas which have had chronic unemployment since 1979 and earlier persisting all through that period which have had money taken away from them? When are we going to have new money to compensate for the cuts in regional aid and the cuts which have greatly added to our unemployment problems and all the other dangers which go with it?
It is certainly the case that a number of local authorities in this initiative, because of the totality of their expenditure on all their programmes covering the entire territory for which they are responsible, have overspent and incurred penalties. There have been many debates in the House because of that. I should have thought, therefore, that those authorities and those who live in the areas would welcome the fact that, in those parts of the authorities which are most particularly deprived, there is now this opportunity to see what can be done, to get more of the central Government programmes co-ordinated with the local government programmes, to add the new money which I have announced and to tackle the problems of these small parts of the authorities concerned.
Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that, when he visits Highfields in my constituency tomorrow night, he will not find the same corrosive pessimism which disfigures the Opposition Benches? He will find energy and optimism; he will find many businesses which have been built and are run and owned by Asians; he will find a large sector of owner-occupation; and he will find many effective youth training schemes and everybody anxious and willing to co-operate with him.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I am particularly grateful for the fact that, as he knows, by coincidence, he has pressed me to visit the Highfields area of Leicester and to meet at least 200 Moslem inhabitants tomorrow evening. That promises to be an extremely good start. I am most encouraged to hear of the reception that he believes I shall get there.
We in Middlesbrough are not interested in bold experiments; we are looking for real job creation. There are 11,401 unemployed claimants in Middlesbrough, and the £8 million over eight areas will represent a very meagre morsel of the national cake. That having been said, this modest initiative will be supported by Middlesbrough district council and Cleveland county council.
The Minister has referred to private sector participation. Is what he proposes dependent upon private sector participation, or will that be additional to the £8 million?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, because I know that Middlesbrough suffers from some of the most acute problems of unemployment in the British Isles. Indeed, Middlesbrough has the highest rate of unemployment in Great Britain outside Northern Ireland. For that reason, we have already tried a large number of things in the area, including starting up job clubs in our Department, and the Cleveland initiative of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment, and we are now adding to that with this experiment in a small area in the north of Middlesbrough with a further £1 million or thereabouts, coupled with a co-ordination of all our efforts and agreed targets. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that it is important to get together as quickly as possible with the council so that we can agree on the objectives which local government and central Government wish particularly to pursue to see whether, by concentrating our efforts on the worst of these problems and starting with the combined effect of the programmes, we can produce some visible improvements.
I join my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, East (Mr. Sayeed) in saying that the whole of Bristol will welcome the initiative. When my right hon. and learned Friend evaluates the experiment—he has described it as such—will he take into account the recent evidence from Bristol city council that deprivation of the sort that is commonly referred to as inner-city deprivation also occurs on outer-city housing estates, such as Southmead and Lawrence Weston in my constituency? Will he look beyond the traditional inner city?
I am sure that my hon. Friend is right. A great deal of deprivation exists on outer-city housing estates around many English and Scottish cities. One must choose where to experiment with new initiatives of this sort. The eight areas that we have chosen are not the eight most deprived inner-city areas, but they have the most diverse individual features. They are a good selection of deprived areas on which to try out the new initiative.
Is the Minister aware that all those in the inner city of Manchester will see the initiative as a pathetic cosmetic exercise which will do nothing to resolve the problems and as merely papering over the cracks? When will the Minister provide the real finance and facilities for local authorities that the Government have stolen from them?
It is possible to make a significant change in any area the size of Moss Side through existing central Government programmes, plus the additional money that I have announced, if we have the good will of those involved in the locality. I trust that on reflection the hon. Gentleman and his council will discuss with us how best to apply these funds.
Will my right hon. and learned Friend accept that I join the hon. Member for Middlesbrough (Mr. Bell) in saying that we shall work together with the district council, although I am banned from it, for the sake of the people of central Middlesbrough whom we both represent? I find £8 million a small sum. Over what period will it be spent? Would not my right hon. and learned Friend have done a better job if, instead of setting up a huge bureaucratic machine, he had found an ex-ICI director, given him £1 million and told him to get on with it?
We are talking about the next financial year. The money, together with existing central Government programmes, will be best expended if we have the co-operation which appears to be forthcoming from Middlesbrough and Cleveland. Private sector participation is important, but my announcement is in no way conditional on private sector involvement. We shall seek to identify as quickly as possible local private sector interests which will be willing to participate and add their efforts. Given the good will in the north-east, we shall not have too much difficulty in finding suitable people to do something about the endemic problems of central and north Middlesbrough.
Is the Paymaster General aware that he demeans himself and his Department by making that derisory non-announcement, which is an insult to the House? Is he aware that the Government's chief contribution would be to restore the cuts in the urban programme and to give partnership status to the London borough of Newham, which would be worth £10 million, which is more than the total of £8 million? Is he aware that the Select Committee will investigate the employment aspect of these matters, and that we shall visit some provincial centres, including Liverpool, this weekend? Does he think that that is constructive? Will he undertake to consider the Select Committee's comments? Will he denounce and rubbish the report when it is produced before he has even thought about it?
I am sure that it is possible to make bids for various areas, and to say that they would benefit more from another initiative than the eight selected areas, but that is not a fruitful approach. We intend to see how we can change the position in those eight areas, which we have chosen precisely because of the diverse nature of their problems. As I told the hon. Gentleman yesterday, I welcome the fact that the Select Committee will visit deprived parts of our cities and make recommendations on the position of ethnic minorities in the labour market. I certainly undertake to consider its proposals with care.
I do not accept the hon. Gentleman's final strictures. The public and the House would have found it extraordinary if a Minister charged with responsibility for employment who is particularly concerned about the problems of the long-term unemployed, as my right hon. and noble Friend the Secretary of State and I have been during the past six months, could not have given a view yesterday about the proposition that £3·5 billion of public spending could somehow solve the problem. My views were restrained, but perfectly fair in the circumstances.
Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the teams' emphasis must be on action and decision, and that Left-wing councils which often dominate deprived inner city areas should not be allowed to lessen the teams' impact, because inaction has often produced the present unhappy results? Does he further agree that the way to deal with inner cities is to give the teams some clout to form something like the docklands board?
I entirely agree with my hon. Friend that what we do, the action we agree upon, and how quickly we can apply ourselves to targeting all our efforts on the biggest problems regarding the environment and work opportunities matter most, especially to those who live in those districts, whom we should have in mind. That is what we intend to do. The docklands development corporation and the docklands board in Liverpool are outstanding examples of the success that can be achieved in restoring and bringing new life to run-down areas. The docklands development corporation was particularly concerned with redeveloping a large area of derelict land, and with bringing it into fresh and productive use. Today we are talking about inner city areas, where there is not the same area of land to be developed, and about how we can target our efforts on fairly concentrated numbers of people.
Finally, I agree that the people who live in those areas will be interested in discussions about action programmes and what we shall do, and will be dismayed by the knockabout knee-jerk reaction from the more Left-wing Opposition Members. I hope that we shall get that out of our systems today so that, when we meet the people on the ground and the councils, they will be altogether more constructive.
Is the Minister aware that £5 million will do nicely for three or four acres of the Handsworth Lozells area of Birmingham, but at £15 a head it is not up to the task? So far as my constituents and I are aware, the contribution so far from the city action team is a big fat zero. If the Paymaster General is taking day-to-day charge of the matter, will he for once involve the elected Members of Parliament who represent the areas? Will he also rely on the local authorities? Will he ensure that he is not misled by many of the self-appointed windbags who maraud our inner cities as so-called community leaders and who have vested interests in ensuring that solutions are not forthcoming?
I offer the Paymaster General one piece of advice and a warning. My advice is that he and his Ministers, not civil servants, would do well to spend some time listening to what general practitioners who work in Handsworth Lozells have to say about their patients. My warning is that my constituents, whether old, young, black or white will not tolerate any more activity and resources, however meagre, unless they carry out the work. They are not prepared to continue to see busloads of outsiders coming to do work that they can do themselves.
I agree with just about every point made by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker), despite the vehemence with which he has made them. I also think that most of the advice that he gave to me is well worth heeding. At present £7 million is being spent in Handsworth under the urban programme. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment has been closely involved in it. The Government intend to complement, not replace, this programme. We hope to work closely with the council, with the elected Member and with the responsible leaders of the local community. We shall listen most carefully to the population and those who know the population well. The general practitioners, cited by the hon. Member for Perry Barr, are an excellent example. I shall seek to follow his guidance and visit the part of Birmingham which he represents. I hope we shall achieve success with the scheme.
We shall seek to identify as quickly as possible some private sector partners and try to get partners in local industry to give us some assistance. One problem which we will find in many of these areas is that there is not a great deal of local private sector activity to give business training, provide the self-employment opportunities, and so on, that are required. We will also have to persuade some of the employers whose premises are in the outer city areas to recruit more actively from the inner city. We shall be seeking to do all that.
The Department of the Environment is closely involved in this programme. I have to tell the hon. Gentleman that rumours that anybody was fighting to sponsor this programme are greatly exaggerated. For those who are intrigued to know why the Department of Employment is in the lead, the best explanation is that we have two members in the Cabinet whilst other Departments have one. These initiatives cover all areas of Government activity, and all Departments will be committed to them.
As the representative of the Charnwood area of Highfields, I welcome what my right hon. and learned Friend has announced today. The people of Leicester have felt forgotten under successive Labour Governments which had, but wasted, the opportunity to give sums of money to the inner cities. Is it not ironic that some of the people of Leicester still vote for the Labour party which does not want to give them any money today?
I agree with my hon. Friend. I know Leicester and I know the Highfields area reasonably well. The area is not as well known to the general public as it might be compared with other slightly more fashionable areas. I agree that it is Leicester's turn, and I hope we will achieve something in that city.
I understand that Chapeltown in Leeds is in the constituency of the Secretary of State for Education and Science. Will the Paymaster General ask his right hon. Friend whether it would be better to supply more money for schools, housing and jobs? That is what is needed in Chapeltown. As desirable as this programme may be in a small way. it will not touch the problem.
My hon. Friend the Minister of State, Department of Education and Science will be a member of the team of Ministers directing efforts in Chapeltown and elsewhere. I agree that, in all those areas, one has to look at the combination of problems from which they suffer. We are not redirecting efforts from any other area. This initiative will supplement all the other considerable efforts that we are making in the inner cities.
Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that over the past 10 years the consistent experience of the Small Business Bureau has been that the two great problems for small business have been training in management skills and access to capital? Will my right hon. and learned Friend make sure that the problems, which are even worse for the ethnic minorities, are tackled with vigour? Will he perhaps make use of the loan guarantee schemes to reassure the banks, which seem incredibly reluctant to lend to would-be entrepreneurs from the ethnic minorities?
We already have the Home Office black business initiatives. We have recently set up three enterprise agencies in areas with high concentrations of ethnic minorities to create business opportunities there. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Employment has written to the banks to draw their attention to what we are trying to do. I shall certainly take on board the well-judged points of my hon. Friend in our efforts in these eight areas.
Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman really believe that the initiative that he has announced today will be of any great benefit to the areas mentioned? Can he explain why the inner city areas of Newcastle and Gateshead are not on his list? Does it mean that we are in some way being penalised or neglected? Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman tell me how the latest Government initiative in my constituency, the city action teams—CATS as they are affectionately known—has improved the city since they came to the area? Is he aware that what we need in the inner city is not CATS but MICE — more inner city expenditure?
None of the proposals that I have announced today is in any way at the expense of other parts of the country. It is a new initiative with additional resources for the eight small areas I have named. The city action teams will continue. They cover much larger areas, and they have achieved a great deal of success in coordinating the activities of central Government Departments across those areas. The team in Newcastle has been one of the most successful of the seven city action teams that we have. It does not help at all to seek to denigrate that team because we have chosen Middlesbrough, not Newcastle, for this initiative.
I congratulate my right hon. and learned Friend on his initiative. Can he explain why Bradford was originally on the short list but is not included in the statement today? There are authorities in the statement that have contributed, through their own council policy, to the economic decline from which they now suffer. Bradford has a long record of responsible government and constructive use of Government money.
There are always invidious problems when choices have to be made. Our selection of Chapeltown in Leeds does not mean that we minimise the problems of Bradford. If one is trying out a new initiative of this kind, one makes the best progress if one forces oneself to make a selection of eight areas and tackles the problems on a manageable scale. Of course, we shall see how successful it is and consider the lessons for other areas.
Is the Paymaster General prepared to admit that the paltry sums that he has offered must be less than what he first asked for from the Treasury? Would he care to say what those initial sums were and by how much he had to divide to arrive at the sum he has now offered?
Secondly, on mixed ventures between the public and the private sectors, is he aware that the Greater London Enterprise Board has created jobs for one tenth of the cost of the London Docklands Development Board? The sum involved is £1 million. If the scheme succeeds, will he offer each and every other similarly deprived ward in the country £1 million, including those in Lambeth?
The last part of the question is somewhat inconsistent with the first. The sum of money which is directed to such small areas is significant when one looks at the total population. It is no good getting up and airily waving that aside. I have heard these claims for the Greater London Enterprise Board before, but I find that they are not substantiated. I believe that that enterprise board has a patchy record in making any real contribution to the economy of London.
One of the reasons why this statement is especially welcome on this side of the House is that we are all aware of the vast sums of money that have been spent already in some of these areas. Much of that money has been subsequently wasted. My right hon. and learned Friend is helping with the targeting of that money so that it is properly spent.
Will my right hon. and learned Friend and his colleagues address themselves to one of the worst problems—law and order? Will he look into the legacy of Lord Scarman which we discovered from the press today was responsible for two rapes and one murder in Brixton last summer?
My hon. Friend has put his finger on one important matter that we are seeking to implement in this initiative. We will seek to target more effectively the large sums of money already expended in these areas. I shall draw my hon. Friend's second point to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department — — [HON. MEMBERS: "Condemn it."] I believe my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department would defend the practices and experience of the police in the inner city areas. I do not think it is right for my hon. Friend to make a rather sweeping attack on the efforts and achievements of the police.
Mr. Eric Heifer:
Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that I am from an area where there is a task force? The proposals that the right hon. and learned Gentleman has put forward today on behalf of the Government will be regarded by my constituents as a sick joke. He must be aware that, despite the cosmetic activities of a task force, there has been no real creation of jobs in the area. Liverpool 8 has one of the highest levels of unemployment in the country. The constituency which covers Liverpool 8 is at the top of the league in unemployment. Is it not clear that the time has come for the Government to get down to the task of creating employment in those areas, and not to come forward with this ridiculous load of nonsense this afternoon?
Merseyside has an urban development corporation working in the south docks, it had a garden festival and it has the Merseyside task force spending £21 million on Merseyside. Like most Ministers in this Government, I have visited it frequently. I would not minimise the grave problems in and around Merseyside, but I ask the hon. Gentleman not to have a blinkered view. If he ever has an opportunity to visit Middlesbrough, Highfields, Handsworth, Peckham or Notting Hill, he will find grave problems there as well. We are justified in trying out initiatives in those areas.
Is the Paymaster General aware that his statement is long on good intentions but woefully short on financial commitment? Although it is right to use scarce public resources as a lever to attract more private investment, how are the task forces to avoid the mistakes of previous programmes which have merely created well-paid jobs for people commuting into the inner cities and precious few job opportunities for people who live in the inner cities?
The hon. Gentleman can assert that there is a lack of resources, but I have already said that £670 million-worth of Government money already goes to inner cities. We are talking about how to add to that. I believe that we have had an effect.
The hon. Gentleman's latter point was deeply relevant. It is no good having an inner city programme which spends money on buildings in the inner city if the employment generated is generated for building workers from the suburbs and further afield. Our main focus will be on benefiting residents —the people who live in the deprived areas—and seeing what we can do to improve their environment and job prospects.
Manchester council has got itself into penalty as a result of overspending on the totality of its programmes throughout the city. If the hon. Gentleman claims that that has caused difficulties in Moss Side, I should have thought that he would have welcomed our coming into Moss Side seeking his agreement and that of the local authority to target Government programmes better and to add money.
Why did the Government choose Notting Hill instead of the adjacent area of Kensal Rise and Harlesden, where inner city problems are more acute, as the Minister's colleague the hon. Member for Ealing, Acton (Sir G. Young) knows? The housing problem is more acute there than in any other London borough and the concentration of ethnic minorities is higher than anywhere else in London. Was Notting Hill chosen because the right hon. and learned Gentleman wanted to help the borough and the Member of Parliament? Has my area been penalised because its Member of Parliament comes from this side of the House?
The hon. Gentleman cannot assert that. If he looks at the list of Members of Parliament whose constituencies are affected by the proposals, he will find, not surprisingly, that far more of them come from his side of the House than mine. I assure the hon. Member that we selected the areas first and only then discovered the Members of Parliament we would have to approach and work with. I can understand his disappointment on the part of Kensal Green. We had to make a choice. I concede that he is probably on sounder ground wishing that we had included Kensal Green than following the line of some of his hon. Friends, including some who will benefit, who try to pretend that the scheme is of no earthly use in Moss Side.
Order. I think that I can almost anticipate the points of order. I have already allowed the statement to run on nearly 10 minutes more than I originally planned because I fully understand its importance. However, with the best will in the world, I cannot get everybody in on every statement. I will follow my usual pattern and ensure that those hon. Members who were not called today will get preference on another day.
Not in any way, Mr. Speaker. Does not this situation illustrate vividly the difficulties that you are put in by the Secretary of State for Employment being a member of the House of Lords and therefore utterly unaccountable to the House and to hon. Members whose areas will not get one penny out of this meagre announcement? We are unable to ask why we have been left off the list. It is an outrage—