Poverty (London)

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 11:21 am on 12th February 2002.

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Photo of Sir Sydney Chapman Sir Sydney Chapman Conservative, Chipping Barnet 11:21 am, 12th February 2002

I am grateful to be called to speak in this short debate. I congratulate Ms Buck on securing it and on her magnificent speech, which deserves a wider audience. She spoke up magnificently for London.

I shall add a few statistics of my own to the range that the hon. Lady provided, but I shall keep my contribution short because of her comprehensive speech. She is right about the existence of great areas of deprivation in our capital city, which may be concealed by overall statistics. Every London borough has poverty and deprivation. Even wards in my borough include deprived areas sitting cheek by jowl with prosperous areas in the leafy suburbs. An integrated approach is necessary to tackle poverty in London and, indeed, throughout the country.

The hon. Lady properly focused on poverty and people but I am convinced that the problem is accentuated if the environment in which people reside is in a disgraceful condition. I do not exaggerate but parts of our inner cities are an environmental disgrace to any nation that calls itself civilised.

Let me begin with the prosperous borough of Kensington and Chelsea, a royal borough. I understand that two of its wards are among the 10 per cent. most deprived in England and they are next to seven wards that are among the least deprived. That underlines how poverty can be found around the corner from prosperous areas.

I want to draw attention to data collected recently by the King's Fund, which created a sick list by finding out where the most unhealthy areas of the country were and by putting together the first ever league of the nation's 120 health authorities. In that league, Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham health authority is 111th and East London and the City health authority is 118th, which means that two of the 10 sickest health authorities can be found in our capital city.

I am always interested to receive correspondence from our Mayor, Ken Livingstone. He sends me a lot, as I expect he does to every Member of Parliament who represents London. Like the hon. Member for Regent's Park and Kensington, North, he drew attention to the Department for Work and Pensions survey. It is from 1998 and there may be new figures, but these are the most recent that I have. The context is that in any list of regions and household disposable income, London comes top, just ahead of the south-east and the east. The survey shows that, once account is taken of housing costs and household composition, average incomes in London are no higher than those in the rest of the United Kingdom, and incomes at the lower end of the distribution are significantly lower. One frightening statistic that it behoves us all to address is that in our capital city, 5.1 per cent. of the white population is unemployed but no less than 13.5 per cent. of the minority ethnic group population is unemployed.