House Of Lords
Wednesday, 30th November, 1983.
The House met at half-past two of the clock: The LORD CHANCELLOR on the Woolsack.
Prayers—Read by the Lord Bishop of Carlisle.
The Right Honourable Sir Derek Colclough Walker-Smith, Baronet, QC, having been created Baron Broxbourne, of Broxbourne in the County of Hertfordshire, for life—Was, in his robes, introduced between the Lord O'Hagan and the Lord Thorneycroft.
Lord Ashton of Hyde—Sat first in Parliament after the death of his father.
The Marquess of Townshend—Took the Oath.
British Subjects Overseas: Postal Voting
My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.
The Question was as follows:
To ask Her Majesty's Government how many British subjects are serving abroad in the armed forces, the diplomatic service, or in other official capacities; what proportion actually cast votes at the last general election; and whether they can in future be enabled to vote by post.
My Lords, there are approximately 92,900 members of the United Kingdom armed forces, 3,100 members of Her Majesty's diplomatic service, and 6,040 other officials, including 340 British Council employees, serving or posted outside the United Kingdom. These figures may include some citizens of the Republic of Ireland. The number of service voters who vote at a particular election is not recorded. The Government are seeking the views of the political parties represented in another place about enabling all absent voters, including service voters, to vote by post.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for that encouraging Answer. Is the noble Lord aware that, due to the inadequacy of the proxy system, a very small proportion of those people serving abroad in fact voted? I hope that he will continue to put forward the idea of postal votes for them.
My Lords, I do not have an exact figure for those who voted in the last election, but I am aware of the concern expressed by my noble friend and, as I say, it is our intention to take this on board very shortly.
My Lords, can my noble friend tell me whether primary legislation will be necessary to achieve this object, or is it purely a matter of administration?
My Lords, we would expect legislation to be necessary, and, the pressures of parliamentary time permitting, we would hope to legislate in the next Session.
My Lords, though obviously I would wish to assist any voters to record their vote, is it not a fact that extension of postal voting for these categories would possibly entail a change in the timetable for the election? Is it not also the fact that since 1945 no postal votes have ever been allowed to any person living overseas? Can the Minister say whether this is a single issue that is being considered, or is it in a general package of amendments to the Representation of the People Acts?
My Lords, as regards the noble Lord's first supplementary question, we judge that there is time within the existing timetable for the acting returning officer at a parliamentary election to issue a postal ballot paper, and for it to be returned from most parts of western Europe before the close of the poll. Wider issues are, I think, for the discussions that I have already described. As I have told your Lordships, it is intended that this should be part of a piece of legislation which is under review.
My Lords, does the noble Lord recollect that in the referendum on the EEC we made arrangements for members of the armed forces serving overseas to vote, quite apart from the postal vote? That worked very well indeed. Will he look at that precedent'?
My Lords, we will look at all precedents and, in particular, that one.
My Lords, may I ask my noble friend whether this will refer to those working in a business capacity in Europe, and also those working in the Church?
My Lords, the Question relates only to those classes of person referred to by my noble friend, but our review is concerned with enabling all absent voters, including service voters, to vote by post.
My Lords, in the light of the information that we have about western Europe, what about the soldiers serving in the Falklands? Will they be able to vote?
My Lords, our concern extends to all members of Her Majesty's forces and the other categories described by my noble friend. The logistics of this matter will be closely considered in devising what is to be done.
Grenada: Casualty Figures
My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.
The Question was as follows:
To ask Her Majesty's Government how many citizens of the Commonwealth were killed and injured in the American invasion and occupation of Grenada.
:My Lords, the United States authorities have told us that 45 Grenadians were killed and 280 wounded. No citizens of Commonwealth countries other than Grenada were killed or injured.
My Lords, may I thank the noble Baroness for that Answer. Is she aware that many varying figures have been given as to the killed and wounded citizens of both Commonwealth and other countries? Is she satisfied that this invasion of Grenada, which was claimed to be to save life, has actually saved more lives than it has cost?
My Lords, in answer to the first supplementary question, I have given the figures which were provided by the United States in Washington, and to the best of my knowledge and belief they are the best, up-to-date and correct figures that we have. On the second point, it is not for me to speak for the American Government: but one of the reasons given for the action they took was to save the lives of American citizens in Grenada.
My Lords, is it possible to guess how many of our Commonwealth citizens were saved and their property preserved by the rescue action taken by the Americans? Will we take proper steps to express our gratitude?
My Lords, it is a very dangerous thing to guess at anything on an occasion such as this. We have said that we wish to see a return to democracy in Grenada, and we hope that that process is now taking place.
My Lords, may I ask my noble friend the Minister whether she would not agree that in the granting of independence to any nation it is always difficult for Britain to decide the right time, and that in the case of the invasion of Grenada this was a rescue of the Grenadian people from an intolerable situation?
My Lords, we did not take the view at the time of the invasion that it would be justified for us to participate in military action. We took this decision in the light of our exchanges with Caribbean Governments and the United States and the decision of CARICOM in favour of political and economic measures against Grenada.
My Lords, I see the word "invasion" is on the Order Paper. Was this an invasion: and, if so. how could it be? According to everything that I have ever heard an invasion is an incursion into another country, either military or otherwise, against the wishes of its inhabitants or its Government. Can the noble Baroness tell me whether this was against the wishes of the inhabitants of Grenada? They seem to have been very happy about it. Was it against the wishes of the Government of Grenada? If so, was this the murderous army which had just murdered the Prime Minister and seven of his colleagues? That so-called Government was not recognised even by Cuba or Russia. Was not the only part of government remaining the Governor General, who called for help?
My Lords, I do not intend to dispute the terminology here. The fact was that the Organisation of East Caribbean States asked the United States to intervene in Grenada.
My Lords, is the noble Baroness able to give the House any information about the proposal for a Commonwealth peace-keeping force in Grenada? If such a proposal comes forward, will Her Majesty's Government be prepared to participate in such a proposal? I am asking this in the hope of some constructive rather than destructive questions.
:My Lords, I thank the noble and learned Lord for that. In the communique which the Commonwealth leaders issued at the end of their meeting in New Delhi yesterday they have asked the Commonwealth Secretary General to undertake a special study of the needs of small states. We stand ready to assist as appropriate.
My Lords, as this invasion took place against the wishes of Her Majesty's Government, what protest has Her Majesty's Government made to the Government of the United States concerning the matter? What claims for compensation have been put forward on behalf of the dependants of the Grenadians who have been killed?
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, is well aware of the stand that we took on the resolution of the United Nations when we abstained. My reply to his second point is that that would be a matter for the Grenadian authorities.
My Lords, in view of the question that has been asked, I wonder whether the Minister can tell us how many Grenadians were killed or wounded when the People's Revolutionary Army turned its guns on the populace prior to killing the Prime Minister, three Cabinet Ministers and two trade union leaders?
My Lords, I regret that I do not have those figures available. If I can get them I shall write to the noble lord.
My Lords, will the noble Baroness care to pay tribute to those of our Commonwealth partners, notably Jamaica, Barbados and Dominica, who have helped to restore freedom and the rule of law to the people of Grenada?
My Lords, I am well aware that contributions towards the forces in Grenada were sent from a number of Caribbean countrics of the Commonwealth, which was their right. Her Majesty's Government are pleased that there will soon be a return to democracy in Grenada.
:My Lords, have the Government noted the declaration yesterday by the Commonwealth Ministers' Conference welcoming a civilian Government, demanding the withdrawal of all foreign troops, an early election and a contribution by Governments for the restructure of Grenada? Have the Government reached any decision about such aid?
My Lords, the United States have said that combat troops are due to leave Grenada by Christmas. On the second point, the noble Lord will he aware of the answer that my right honourable friend Mr. Raison gave in another place on 28th November indicating that we have agreed to provide a total of three quarters of a million pounds in grants to help meet immediate development needs, including help with police training, and with training and advice.
My Lords, I am sure that the noble Baroness the Minister feels as deeply saddened as the rest of us by the loss of life in this Commonwealth country and I should like to ask her to express that regret on behalf of the Government and of Parliament. In view of this loss of life among Commonwealth citizens, may I ask whether her attention has been drawn to a report in the American Time Magazine which states that the White House was,
"looking for any opportunity that came along where we could take a direct punch at the other side's nose"—
My Lords, I continue:
"with a maximum chance of success and minimum"—
My Lords, has the attention of the noble Baroness been drawn to this question, and does the Government equate this with the American claim that they went in to Grenada in order to save American lives?
My Lords, it is not for me to comment on an article which appears in an American magazine. Her Majesty's Government have accepted the explanation that the Americans gave for their intervention in Grenada as being the correct one.
Mr Keith Carmichael
My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order paper.
The Question was as follows:
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether, in view of the serious danger to the health of Mr. Keith Carmichael and the risk of permanent damage to his spine arising from the lack of medical treatment in the prison where he is held on remand in Aiyadh, Saudi Arabia, they will make representation to the Saudi authorities that he should be released on bail, for the purpose of obtaining treatment in the United Kingdom.
My Lords, representations were made by my right honourable and learned friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary to the Saudi Foreign Minister during Prince Saud's recent visit here, and later by our Ambassador in Jedda, requesting the release and repatriation of Mr. Carmichael for further medical examination and treatment in the United Kingdom. Saudi legal procedures have no provision for bail as such, although a person held for debt can be released from custody if a guarantor is found to stand surety for all claims against that person. In Mr. Carmichael's case it has not been possible to find such a guarantor. There has been no official response to our representations from the Saudi authorities so far but Prince Saud did promise to do what he could to speed up the legal process. There is evidence that this is indeed happening. We shall continue to press the Saudi authorities to resolve this case as quickly as possible.
My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that we are most grateful for the help that she has given to Mr. Keith Carmichael and, particularly, for the representations that have been made at the highest possible level that he should be allowed to come back to Britain for medical treatment? Has she studied the report by the consultant traumatologist, who said that Mr. Keith Carmichael was suffering from a compression fracture of the spine which caused him excrutiating pain? If it is not possible to arrange for Mr. Carmichael's repatriation immediately, could he not at least continue to be treated by the consultant in whom he has some confidence, and could he not be allowed the physiotherapy on a daily basis which the consultant has said is necessary if Mr. Carmichael is not to suffer permanent incapacity in his future life?
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for the acknowledgement of the help that has been given by our embassy in Saudi Arabia. On the question of the present state of Mr. Carmichael's health, we are of course concerned. That is why we have continued to make representations about his case.
My Lords, will the noble Baroness the Minister say how often the British consul is allowed to visit prisoners, when the British consul last visited prisoners and whether the embassy is giving the highest priority to the need to get medical attention for the prisoners?
My Lords, the embassy first gained access to Mr. Carmichael in prison on 31st January 1982. On my calculation of the numbers of dates, he was visited on 13 occasions in 1982 and has been visited on 20 occasions in 1983. A call was made to the prison, but Mr. Carmichael was in hospital.
My Lords, has a report upon the case been sought from the director of the curiously called Civil Rights Centre, where Mr. Carmichael is held? May I ask a further general question? Is the noble Baroness aware that reduction in our consular representation overseas has meant in some cases that British nationals kept in prisons overseas are not getting the assistance that they require?
My Lords, if I may take the noble and learned Lord's last point first, I think that it will be quite clear from what I have already given in answer to his noble friend who put the preceding supplementary question that the embassy have taken a great deal of care in this particular case, and that we continue to make representations. In reply to the first point that he raised, I think it very important that in making representations to the Saudi Government we leave it to the embassy to advance Mr. Carmichael's case in whatever way they judge is the most likely to produce results.
My Lords, can the noble Baroness tell the House how many United Kingdom citizens are held currently in Saudi gaols? Has she any information on how many of these are sick; and is she confident that they are as a whole being given the necessary medical attention?
My Lords, I cannot answer the noble Lord's supplementary question without notice. I have no reason for supposing, if there are a number of other British citizens imprisoned in Saudi Arabia, that they do not have the same attention from the embassy as has Mr. Carmichael.
My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that there is a feeling that American citizens in Saudi gaols requiring medical attention have received somewhat better treatment than our own prisoners, and that one such person was recently transferred to the King Faisal specialist hospital for treatment? Could we not make additional representations that Mr. Carmichael be treated in that hospital where proper orthopaedic facilities are available?
:My Lords, I really do not feel that I can add anything to what I have said with regard to the representations that we should make. In cases like this, I think that those who are in the embassy on the spot are in the best position to judge what is the right procedure. I would advise that we should leave it to them, bearing in mind all that the noble Lord has said about this case.
Greece: Mr Francis Noel-Baker's Estate
My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.
The Question was as follows:
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the Prime Minister will, on her visit to Athens, raise with the Greek Government the question of the protection afforded to the property of British residents in Greece; and whether she will ask the British Ambassador to visit or send a representative to visit Mr. Francis Noel-Baker's 150 year-old home at Ackmettaga in Euboea and report to her.
My Lords, we have no reason to believe that the measures taken by the Greek authorities, who are responsible for the maintenance of public order, are insufficient. Her Majesty's Ambassador at Athens is in close touch with Mr. Francis Noel-Baker about his estate and continues to be ready to offer whatever help he properly can.
My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that Mr. Francis Noel-Baker, who is listening now, would not agree to that Answer, that our Ambassador has frequently been invited to come and see, for instance, the desecration of the family graves of British people, the Noel-Baker family, some of whom died in the service of Greece; that the people who desecrated those graves are perfectly well known but that no kind of action has been taken against them; and that this is only a small item in the catalogue of things that have happened? Can we be assured that the Prime Minister will take steps to see that she is properly informed as to what has happened when she visits, and will raise the matter? After all, is it not a fact that one of the rights enjoyed by British subjects since the great days of Lord Palmerston is to be protected by our Diplomatic Service wherever their rights are infringed anywhere—
As in Grenada?
Surely this is a good example.
My Lords, I should like to assure the noble Lord, Lord Paget, that Her Majesty's Ambassador in Athens, and his staff, have kept in close touch with the Noel-Bakers during the past few years and have given all the help they possibly can. They have frequently taken up particular points with Greek Ministers and with officials.
My Lords, may I ask the noble Baroness whether she will consider this again? The Noel-Baker family have given great service to Greece in the past. I have personally stayed on the estate and have seen the work that they have done on the estate and with the villages. I think a little word from her might stop the harassment that they are receiving at the present moment.
My Lords, I fully understand and appreciate the point put by the noble Baroness, Lady Vickers. I myself saw Mr. and Mrs. Noel-Baker earlier this year; and, as I have said, it is our intention to be as helpful to the Noel-Bakers as we can. But I do not think it would be right or appropriate for us to dictate to our ambassador what he feels he should do in these circumstances. I have no doubt that he will take note of the points that have been raised at Question Time here today.
My Lords, in view of the rights enjoyed by British citizens overseas, does the noble Baroness recall, in relation to the final part of the supplementary question put by the noble Lord, Lord Paget of Northampton, that, another place having first supported Lord Palmerston in the representations he made on behalf of Don Pacifico, later on he concluded he was wrong in that regard?
:My Lords, I am very interested in what the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, has said about history in the 19th century, but I think we have to remember that we are in 1983 now.
My Lords, may I return to the fundamental point? We can be assured, I take it, that on her visit the Prime Minister will make it clear to the Greek Government that we are concerned about this?
My Lords, it is for my right honourable friend the Prime Minister to determine what points she takes up during her visit to Greece, and it would not be right for me to pre-empt anything she might consider in that regard.
My Lords, at a convenient moment after 3.30 this afternoon my noble friend Lord Elton will, with the leave of the House, repeat a Statement that is to be made in another place on public disorder in Warrington.With the leave of the House, in the normal way I should like to say a brief word about the timing of the two Short Debates this afternoon standing in the names of the noble Lord, Lord Pitt of Hampstead, and the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi. Following the principle that the mover should be entitled to approximately 15 minutes and that the Minister should rise to reply no later than 20 minutes before the scheduled end of the debate, may I suggest that other speakers in today's first debate, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Pitt of Hampstead, should limit their speeches to a maximum of 14 minutes. Perhaps I should emphasise that this is a maximum and that there is no obligation on any noble Lord to take any more of this rather generous ration than he strictly needs. As regards the second debate, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, I am afraid that the maximum there must be six minutes, and if any noble Lord should extend his speech beyond the confines of that he really will be doingso at the expense of later speakers in the debate.
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord a question arising out of his statement just now? In the event of noble Lords not taking up their full ration of time in the first debate, will it be added to the time available for the second debate?
My Lords, I am afraid that is not so. Under Standing Orders, each debate has a maximum of two and a half hours, and it is not five hours for the two.
Cable And Broadcasting Bill Hl
My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Elton, I beg to introduce a Bill to provide for the establishment and functions of a Cable Authority and to make other provision with respect to cable programme services; to amend the Broadcasting Act 1981 and to make further provision with respect to broadcasting services; and for connected purposes. I beg to move that this Bill be now read a first time.
Moved, That the Bill be now read a first time.—( Baroness Trumpington.)
On Question, Bill read a first time, and to be printed.
rose to call attention to the deplorable state of the nation's housing stock, particularly that of post-war housing, and to the measures necessary to deal with the problem; and to move for Papers.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. I regard this subject as of the utmost importance, and it is my view that it is one which has been seriously neglected during the last few years. The Government's English housing conditions survey of 1981 showed that there were 1,116,000 dwellings which were unfit to live in, and a further 1,312,000 in need of repairs, each costing £4,500 or more. It is estimated that there are 1.1 million dwellings, both fit and unfit, requiring repairs costing more than £7,000 per dwelling. There are 1.48 million dwellings lacking basic amenities; and overall it is estimated that there are 4.3 million dwellings in serious disrepair. The Association of Metropolitan Authorities estimates that each year 40,000 dwellings become unfit and 100,000 dwellings deteriorate into serious disrepair. It is estimated that the cost of bringing the stock into good repair may be about £30 billion.
The number of unfit dwellings has remained at over 1 million for 15 years. I also wish to point out that the £4,500 figure for repairs represents a 44 per cent. increase on the figure in the 1976 Government survey. Thus, despite the payment of over 1 million renovation grants between 1971 and 1981, and the clearance or closure of nearly half a million dwellings, unfitness has remained at the same level, and the rate of deterioration of the stock continues to add to the number of properties in serious disrepair.
The rate of clearance of houses in England has now fallen below 20,000 a year, and at that rate it will take 900 years to replace the stock. In the year to June 1982, 71,000 families in England were classified as homeless, and since that figure does not include single people who are homeless and who have no statutory right to be housed under the Homeless Persons Act, and those deemed to be intentionally homeless, as well as the thousands who turn for advice to various housing advice centres, the degree of homelessness is very much greater than the figure would suggest. There are over 1 million people on local authority waiting lists.
Now let us take a look at the situation in London. where there are 241,000 homes which are unfit for human habitation. There are 478,000 houses in serious disrepair and 219,000 houses which lack basic amenities. We are talking about London, the nation's capital. In total, one dwelling in four in London is unsatisfactory; that is, some 640,000 houses. About 130,000 householders and their families live in overcrowded conditions and nearly 200,000 share their accommodation with another household, many of them involuntarily. There were 20,000 families accepted as homeless in the year 1982–83—I ask your Lordships to remember that the year I quoted for England was to June 1982, which is the latest figure I have, but the year for London is 1982–83—and ¼million applicants for local authority waiting lists. Again, in the year 1982–83, over 90,000 new applicants were received on the waiting lists held by the London boroughs. Research in the London borough of Brent has indicated that only about 6 per cent. of families on the waiting lists have incomes which would enable them to buy their own homes, and the figure rose to no more than 22 per cent. under the best possible shared ownership arrangement.
As for post-war housing, to which I draw special attention in my Motion, the majority of post-war problems occur in the public sector housing stock, the bulk of it related to non-traditional housing built before 1960 and system-built housing of post-1960. These are the buildings that have led to the problems associated with tower blocks and other high-rise dwellings. My noble friend Lord Dean of Beswick has taken a great personal interest in this problem and I shall leave him to deal with it when he addresses your Lordships.
I am sure your Lordships will agree that the picture I have painted is a grim one. It faces us with a challenge which it is our duty to meet. The obvious solution is to allocate more resources to the preservation, renovation and renewal of our housing stock. Unfortunately, the Government seem to take the opposite view. Investment in housing, as indicated by housing investment programmes, has fallen—not risen—by 45 per cent. since 1979–80 and housing starts have fallen from 225,000 in 1979 to 193,000 in 1982. I should like to remind your Lordships that in 1977 the then Government indicated in their survey that we needed to build 300,000 houses per year. So your Lordships can see how far short we are.
But that is not the worst of the picture. The latest estimate suggests that there are 400,000 unemployed workers in the construction industry. Research at the Building Research Establishment suggests that, for every 1,000 additional homes built, up to 1,500 jobs could result in construction and in the economy as a whole. and that for every 1,000 houses renovated up to 700 jobs could be created by the same process. So the allocation of additional resources to the building and renovating of houses can be a powerful stimulus to the economy, and can help in the reduction of unemployment, at the same time as providing much needed accommodation for the people. Yet on 17th November the Environment Secretary announced further cuts in the housing capital programme for 1984–85.
The continuing cuts in the housing programme can only spell misery for the people; misery for those stuck in Victorian terraces with private landlords, who are sometimes unwilling and often unable to repair or improve their properties; misery for people living in the estimated 180,000 houses in multiple occupation in England and Wales, including some 77,000 retired pensioners. We do well to remember that no fewer than 550 people were killed as a result of fires in multiple occupied houses in the four years 1978–81, and that the risk of death or serious injury in these fire traps is 10 times higher than in self-contained homes.
Then there is misery for the estimated 1½ million retired owner-occupiers living in ageing property on very low incomes. They need help. There is misery, too, for the untold thousands of tenants living in damp, cold and often unsafe conditions in the system-built disasters of the 1960s, which councils simply cannot afford to demolish and replace or to repair, or to strip, on anything like the scale that is necessary, of the huge amounts of asbestos that have recently been discovered.
The Government must re-think their approach to the housing problem. If there cannot be more money allocated to housing, then the present amount must be redistributed. The Treasury has recently estimated that £2,150 million was forgone in mortgage tax relief in 1982–83 and since there are more mortgages in 1983–84 the figure will be higher. If that figure is added to the £2,522 million housing investment allowed for 1984–85. it will provide a handsome sum with which to tackle the housing problem.
I am not suggesting an immediate abolition of mortgage tax relief. However, I am suggesting that mortgage tax relief should be regarded as part of housing expenditure; that, in that form, the expenditure is not going to the area of greatest need and that there should be some reform which will allow the expenditure to go where it is most needed.
In a short debate like this—I had not realised that there would be so few speakers or I might have gone into the subject further—it is not possible to go into details. But I hope that the Government will take this one on board, for it seems to me incredible that, with housing needs as they are, the Government insisted in the last Budget on raising the level of mortgage tax relief to £30,000. It ought to have been reduced from the level at which it stood and restricted in its distribution, the resulting resources being used for home improvements, which is where they are needed. Instead, the Government have done the direct opposite.
I notice that I have used up my 15 minutes, so I shall come to a halt. However, let me end by saying that I was very impressed by the arrangements recently made between the Greater London Council and the Abbey National Building Society for work in this field. I hope that the Government will take on board this aspect and seek to extend co-operation between local authorities and the building societies in order to increase the resources available for the work.
As I said at the beginning, to me this issue is of the utmost importance. I implore the Government to treat it as seriously as it deserves. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.
My Lords, the House is indeed indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Pitt of Hampstead, for giving us the opportunity to discuss this urgent problem of housing. The House will also look forward to hearing the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Cornwallis.In this short debate I want to put forward just a few complementary propositions on the housing problem. The noble Lord, Lord Pitt of Hampstead, has given us the figures. However we measure it, our housing problem is vast. I am not going to repeat the figures, but in addition to the totals, the stock itself is in an appalling state and is getting worse. The picture which has been painted by the noble Lord represents, in terms of human suffering and deprivation, something which we simply cannot shrug off. That situation was well described by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, in the early pages of his excellent report on the disorders in Brixton. In the report he states:
That wording was well selected, for housing was identified as an important factor in creating the climate in which disorders are likely to take place. The noble and learned Lord pointed out that the national dwelling and housing survey of 1977–78 showed a shortage of about 20,000 dwellings in Lambeth when compared with the number of households requiring a separate dwelling. The council's waiting list was then 18,000, 12,000 households lived in overcrowded conditions, and a further 8,000-plus lacked one or more amenities. That was the background to the climate in which the disorders took place. This is a frightening social problem, made worse, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, points out, by local authority indecision—and, he could have added, avoidable delays in local authority procedures and systems. This is not an isolated case. It is replicated all over the country. But I say without hesitation that we cannot afford a social policy of this kind which breeds hopelessness and despair and puts the whole basis of our society at risk. The second proposition is that this is no time for the Government to cut down the allocation of money for housing—money both for building new houses and for rehabilitation. It must be totally wrong-headed, for both social and economic reasons, to reduce cash in this field. At the very least, such a policy will accelerate the decline and decay of the inner cities when so many of us are trying to help with their improvement. It is not an easy job. The Daily Telegraph of Friday last, 25th November, reported that the Treasury was cutting nearly £450 million—a reduction of 20 per cent.—from its contribution to the amount which councils in England and Wales will be able to spend on housing next year. That really is lunacy. Far from the allocation being reduced, there should be positive plans for increasing the amount spent on housing by local authorities, central Government and the private sector if we are to make any impression on the backlog which has been building up in recent years. What is more, each year that we fail to make adequate provision means that the bill becomes more costly, and our money provides less. This must be the height of stupidity and short-sightedness. The money must be spent wisely and not wasted—as it has been, I am afraid, by Labour and Conservative councils and Governments—on high-rise blocks, mid-rise blocks, deck access blocks and walk-up blocks, all of which have proved to be quite disastrous. Many of these mistakes could have been avoided, or at least not repeated, if at the design stage the future tenants had been properly consulted as to their wishes and needs. The third complementary proposition is that increased capital spending on house construction and rehabilitation makes excellent economic sense when a country is in recession, not only because it helps the unemployment situation, as the noble Lord, Lord Pitt of Hampstead, said, but also because selective capital investment stimulates the demand for goods manufactured in British factories. This helps our order books. New demand is set up for steel, bricks, cement, glass, porcelain ware, furnishings, furniture, and all the other items which go to make up new or rehabilitated housing. The first proposition, therefore, is that bad housing causes severe social stress, which can lead to violence and disorders; but even if it does not, it should not be tolerated in a civilised society. The second proposition is that the longer there is inadequate provision for tackling building and rehabilitation, the more it will cost in the future. The third proposition is that the spending of capital on housing should be increased, and not reduced, as an aid to increasing the order books of British manufacturers. This is no new proposal. We have put it forward on numerous occasions since at least 1980. Over that period, prices have risen by 25 per cent. This alone should illuminate the need for bringing a new dimension into our social and economic priorities."The general picture of housing provision both in Lambeth as a whole and Brixton in particular is one of considerable stress".
Messenger Newspaper Group: Picketing
My Lords, with the leave of the House, I will now repeat a Statement being made in another place by my right honourable and learned friend the Home Secretary. The Statement is as follows:"With permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a statement about the picketing outside the premises of the Messenger Group of Newspapers in Warrington last night and in the early hours of this morning. "I understand from the Chief Constable of Cheshire that between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. last night the number of pickets increased rapidly from 500 to about 4,000 people. Their purpose was clear. It was not to communicate information. It was not persuasion. It was not even demonstration. It was to prevent by physical force and weight of numbers newspapers being taken out of the premises. "Many of the pickets had travelled from far afield; many came prepared for, and used, violence against the police. A number were armed with offensive weapons, such as iron bars. "At the height of the operation, the Chief Constable deployed over twelve hundred men, from his own force and those of Greater Manchester, Merseyside and Lancashire. As a result, the vehicle carrying the newspapers was able to leave the premises at the time planned at 5 a.m. this morning, and did so. The pickets began to disperse from about 6 a.m. "During the course of the disturbances, police officers were attacked and missiles were thrown at them. Twenty-three officers were injured and three have been detained in hospital. I am glad to inform the House that at present none appears to have been seriously injured. Thirteen pickets are recorded as having been injured, one of whom remains in hospital. Again I understand his condition is not serious. "A total of 86 people were arrested for a range of public order offences and offences of assault and obstruction. "I have conveyed to the Chief Constable my great appreciation of the police operation. and the way in which his officers and those of the other forces dealt with an immensely difficult situation. It is a great tribute to them that the lawful right to move the newspapers was upheld. I have asked that my concern and sympathy should be passed on to the injured officers, as I did in the case of those who incurred injuries last week. "I understand that the number of pickets has now declined to about 150. But there are threats that large numbers will try tonight to repeat the events of last night and this morning. "The Chief Constable has responsibility for maintaining the rule of law and devising and executing the appropriate plans for doing so. I have made it crystal clear to him that if there is any assistance he requires from me, it will be readily available, and he will have my complete support for the exercise of his very considerable powers to the full extent that is required to deal with the situation. "Mr. Speaker, there is and can be no excuse for violence and the attempt by intimidating weight of numbers to negate the lawful rights of other people. Irrespective of the merits of the industrial dispute, what has happened here amounts to breaches of what has always been the criminal law. The place and pretext for its breach makes no difference whatsoever. Violence at the picket line is as indefensible as violence at a football match or anywhere else. "Action of the kind we saw last night cannot and will not be tolerated. I hope that the House as a whole will join me in condemning what occurred, and the mass picketing which was its cause, and giving every support to the police in preventing or dealing with a recurrence". My Lords, that concludes the Statement.
:My Lords. we are grateful to the noble Lord for repeating the Statement. In response to what the Home Secretary has said, I may say that the confrontation which led to violence of the kind which broke out in Warrington last night and which led inevitably and regrettably to both police and pickets being injured must be greatly deplored.Is the noble Lord aware that if a law in this country is shown to be a bad law then the course to be followed is to use all constitutional means to change or repeal it at the earliest opportunity? Did he note that in the report leaked yesterday, and reported in today's issue of the Guardian, the Master of the Rolls said (and I quote) that,
Does that not indicate that the Government should take a new look at trade union legislation generally and at their current proposals, which have led to tensions and which are against the public interest? Is it not essential that this damaging dispute should be brought to an end as quickly as possible—and does the Minister take that view? Can he say what steps are being taken, therefore, to speed the conciliation process and further to involve ACAS in the dispute? With regard to the allegations which have been made that the police—with whose difficult and thankless task we all sympathise—extensively damaged the NGA's communications van and that individuals were beaten and assaulted, can we assume that an investigation will he held and that a report will be made as soon as possible on those allegations? Finally, do the Government themselves propose to take any specific action to help to achieve a long-term settlement of this unhappy dispute?"the legal system was not in practice even-handed as between employers and unions; current functions put the courts almost entirely in the business of restricting or penalising the latter, and not remedying their grievances"?
:My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that we on these Benches wish to say in the most unqualified terms (unlike the statement that has just been made by the Leader of the Opposition) that we warmly approve of the action of the police last night, and we wish the Chief Constable of Cheshire to be told on our behalf—and. I am sure, on behalf of the overwhelming majority of the House—of our warm support for the bravery and courage of many of the police officers concerned, who were so viciously abused last night?Is the noble Lord not aware that a very serious situation is developing in which, notwithstanding the violence which took place last night, the organisers are now encouraging other trade unionists, and many who are not members of any trade union, to go to Warrington for a further serious disturbance this evening? Is he not aware also that the full moral responsibility for any injuries which may be caused as a result of these disturbances tonight will lay with those who are so irresponsibly urging people to go to Warrington?
My Lords, I should like to thank both noble Lords for their comments and queries about the Statement from another place which I repeated. I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, endorses the belief of all your Lordships that it is better to proceed by constitutional methods and not by unconstitutional methods. It is right to proceed by argument at Westminster and not by intimidation at Warrington when it comes to changing the law.As to the question of legislation, I do not consider that a Statement on the outbreak of public disorder at Warrington is the occasion for a forum on the ethics of trade union legislation. But I can tell the noble Lord that the legislation we have is just, and is seen as being just by the country as a whole; and what is going on at Warrington is seen and thought by the whole nation to be unjust, and something that should be stopped—and that is what we propose to do. If there are allegations of brutality by the police, it is strange that there have been no complaints of that nature made under the proper procedure to the Chief Constables concerned, and I hope that those who are aware of any such circumstances will make those complaints. I cannot comment on events which have not been reported reliably to me. We wish to have this matter disposed of swiftly. There is the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service available for that purpose. The Government themselves should not be drawn into this dispute; the parties to the dispute are at liberty to go to the service. I should like particularly to welcome the supportive remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, from the Benches on which he sits. I agree with him entirely as to where moral responsibility for all the ills flowing from this disgraceful episode properly lies.
My Lords, on a slightly different point about this whole matter, is it not ignominious to the legitimate local weekly press that such organs should be called "newspapers" universally when they are in fact giveaway sheets? Is the noble Lord not aware that in my own area they have already killed off the Stowmarket Chronicle and its associated papers, and that they will probably do the same to the Bury St. Edmunds Free Press quite soon? Would not the NGA's time have been better employed if they had blacked right from the start giveaway newspapers, which every jobbing printer throughout the country seems busy producing? They give blanket coverage of a whole ward or village by sending out school-leavers, who would be otherwise unemployed, to distribute them free. What are the NGA doing? They are hitting at the point where the press is most vulnerable—in Fleet Street, and in Gray's Inn Road—and messing about with idiotic people in Warrington.
My Lords, the noble Marquess will realise that the Statement is about the preservation of law and order in Warrington, and is not about the editorial standards of local newspapers throughout the country. I entirely agree with him that the NGA would have been better employed in almost any way other than they have been.
:My Lords, can the noble Lord say whether any of the pickets have been charged with being in possession of firearms?
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, is referring to a particular instance reported in the press this morning which may have been misleading. I understand that during the arrest of a man in the night for a breach of the peace a 45 automatic replica pistol fell to the ground. The man made no attempt to display or use it, and claimed that it was a collector's item which he had brought with him to sell.
My Lords, can it be brought to the notice of those who make special transport arrangements for people to travel sometimes long distances for this kind of intimidating picketing that they themselves may be in breach of the criminal law if they do so knowingly?
:My Lords, I am very much aware of the position to which my noble friend rightly draws our attention. We are prepared so to do.
:My Lords, could the noble Lord say whether the use of water cannon might not have saved many police, and, indeed, pickets, from injury?
My Lords, operational decisions on the equipment to be used in any particular instance must rest with the Chief Constable.
:My Lords, would not my noble friend the Minister agree that, really, the merits of this dispute are now of very little consequence, and that what is of consequence is the challenge to parliamentary democracy and the maintenance of the rule of law? Is this not a time when we should all, in all quarters of the House, whatever political persuasions we have, draw on our reserves of goodwill and common sense to stand up for the maintenance of law?
My Lords, I entirely sympathise with what my noble friend has said. That is indeed what is at issue. This country is governed under a democracy, and democracy proceeds by persuasion and the views of the majority. Where a minority does not agree with the law it is not open to that minority, under a democracy, to overthrow the law by violence or by any other means except through the ballot box and by persuasive argument. I think the whole of your Lordships' House ought to endorse that on every possible occasion.
:My Lords, would the noble Lord agree that the use of the adjective "spontaneous" in connection with the presence of many hundreds, if not thousands, of pickets who assembled at Warrington is entirely specious and misleading, and would require redefinition of the meaning of the word in the English dictionary?
My Lords, I do not actually know of any individual, though I am told there is one, who is prepared to regard these events as having been spontaneous. Certainly the Government do not.
My Lords, with regard to the question of travel arrangements, it was suggested yesterday that perhaps a special train was being run, presumably by British Rail, to take pickets to Warrington. Did that in fact happen, and, if it did, is it going to be repeated?
My Lords, I understand that it did not happen, and, therefore, whatever happened, it cannot be repeated.
My Lords, returning to the housing debate which was initiated by my noble friend Lord Pitt, I should like first of all to thank him for introducing such a pressing and urgent Motion, and also to say how much I am looking forward to hearing the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Cornwallis. My noble friend's account of the conditions which exist and the actions taken by Government do not constitute a happy story. Unfortunately, there is no rosy tale to tell. I thought the noble Lord, Lord Byers, backed this extraordinarily well, and with great expedition.It is true that past Labour Governments have not been blameless, but the extent of the problem, particularly in the public sector, was never as clear then as it is today. Even when, under Labour's housing cutbacks, housing starts were at their lowest figure in the late 1970s, capital expenditure on housing was nevertheless twice as much in real terms as it is today—certainly nowhere near the low figure of housing starts in 1981. When the Government talk about an increase in housing starts we have to remember that in recent years it is from a very grim and low base. My noble friend has indicated some of the extent of the problem, particularly in London, and also the cost of restoration and repair. These costs can only increase. Meanwhile, millions of families in all sectors will be forced to continue to live in ever more intolerable and squalid conditions. I think we must look at this in the context of the Government's whole housing policy. The Government's recent initiatives in housing expenditure did bloom in the autumn of last year. After three years of reduction in capital resources, local authorities and housing associations were suddenly encouraged to spend and spend. The devastating results of the English Houses Condition Survey referred to by my noble friend prompted the Government to increase dramatically their expenditure on improvement grants—an initiative carried forward into the current financial year. and a very welcome initiative it was. In October 1982 local authorities were asked to submit capital projects for rapid approval in an attempt to shift the underspending which arose because of the receipts from council house sales. In addition, expenditure on the enterprising block by block improvement of our older housing stock, known now as "enveloping", was pioneered by the City of Birmingham. What has happened to these important initiatives? Local authorities and housing associations at this time responded as rapidly as they could. Indeed, housing association expenditure increased in 1983–84, and local authority expenditure rose to £2,400 million in 1982–83, reaching at least £2,700 million this year. Programmes of housing improvement and repair in the public sector expanded rapidly, and over £2,000 million is already committed for 1984–85. The estimates suggest that expenditure will again be at least £2,700 million this year. Last month, approximately 500,000 people were involved at various stages in the improvement grants system, due to heavy Government advertising. As a result of this potent encouragement to spend, under-spending has been virtually eliminated for this year. The problem now, as I see it, is that it seems likely that, if the predicted level of expenditure is reached, the Government's own capital cash limits on housing will be breached. The last time that happened, in 1980–81, there was a Government freeze on further expenditure over a four-month period. Is that likely to happen again? Another freeze would be catastrophic. I should like to hear from the Minister when he replies whether that would be one of the alternatives if the cash limits are breached, which in fact I think they will have to be if any housing increase is to take place. Last month the Government sacrificed their sacred cow by announcing an end to the improvement grant increases and the money to pay for them. This means more job losses and again more housing deterioration. In his Autumn Statement, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced a cut in housing expenditure of nearly £500 million. I would support, without repeating it, everything the noble Lord, Lord Byers, said about this. We cannot afford to reduce housing expenditure. We cannot afford not to increase it, and the future is very grim unless there is going to be some increase. The extra £60 million for the enveloping schemes, which have been found to be the best way of dealing with the inner city areas, is being cut as well. The 1984–85 housing investment programme allocations to local authorities and the housing associations are about the same in cash terms, as I am sure the Minister is going to tell us. But for local authorities it is 45 per cent. less in real terms than they were receiving in 1979–80. That is really the important figure. Clearly, resources are wholly insufficient to deal with the magnitude of the structural and the human housing problems with which we are faced today. Housing investment is not just a question of investing in housing—which is important enough—but an essential part of our economic recovery. The country is starved of investment for its infrastructure. We have heard the CBI, the well-known Group of Eight, which is comprised of private builders and developers, and others pressing these arguments for capital expenditure for many years now. There are 400,000 construction workers unemployed, and there are 4 million dwellings needing at least £2,500 or more spent on repairs to each of them. My noble friend Lord Pitt of Hampstead gave us the research figures that showed how it would energise the industry and reduce unemployment if more capital were put into housing. It costs at least £5,000 a year to keep someone who is unemployed, including the tax forgone. That seems an extraordinary way to run our society, spending billions of pounds to keep people out of work when we could be energising the whole of our economy by putting more money into the construction industry as a whole. That applies to the public and the private sectors. The Government's stop-go-stop approach to older housing mirrors their lack of a forceful and just housing policy. Recent announcements in another place suggest that all our housing needs can be met by owner-occupation, with local authorities and housing associations providing mainly for the disabled and the elderly. I need only take your Lordships' minds back to the Housing Act 1980, when many of us fought hard, from all sides of the House, to get an amendment which extended the exceptions to the right to buy and gave more flexibility for local authorities to build houses for the elderly to rent. In fact, what has happened? Where appeals have been made to the Secretary of State, 90 per cent. have been turned down. So the amount of accommodation for the elderly has shrunk and its place has been taken by houses to sell. The responsibility of the house-owner or occupier is to ensure that the physical conditions in the dwellings are up to a reasonable standard, as laid down by the Government. At its face value, that makes common sense and sounds reasonable. That is all very well, but some people simply cannot cope. Study after study has shown that the worst physical conditions, in numerical terms, are now concentrated in the owner-occupied sector, where people forced into low income occupations have to suffer appalling housing conditions because they are unable to match the gap between the cost of repair and improvement and their own income levels. In the Oxford Times last week, instances were given of people who, relying on a survey, had purchased houses from the council—some years ago, it is true—who are now being faced with repair bills of £12,000 but who cannot get any help from the local authority because it does not have the money to help them. They are unable to find the money to repair their own houses. It is true that the numbers on the waiting lists may be open to some question, with people not taking their names off the list or, occasionally, a doubling up. But the national level has risen in recent years from around 1.2 million households to 1.5 million. Whatever the arguments on the periphery are on whether that is a precise number or not, the fact remains that the waiting lists have increased. As my noble friend pointed out, homelessness is so severe, particularly in London, that literally hundreds and hundreds of families are waiting in bed and breakfast accommodation queues for a local authority tenancy. That is another way in which one is literally throwing away money to no good end. We are keeping people in accommodation that is uncomfortable and unsuitable for families which is costing the local authorities a fortune but is not putting any permanent investment into housing stock. It also means that fewer people can be taken off the housing list because the authorities must first deal with the homeless. The Government's policies are socially divisive. My noble friend referred to the tax relief on mortgages being raised to £30,000. At the same time, the Minister for Housing makes statements to the Housing Consultative Council suggesting that subsidies to the local authority sector should gradually be eliminated. We are developing a housing "two nations" for ourselves. One nation is represented by the well-housed owner-occupier, able to afford repairs to his or her home. The other is the "welfare" sector of the local authority tenants, who are becoming further concentrated in the least attractive accommodation as the best estates are sold under the right to buy and as the public sector housing diminishes and deteriorates. Of course, where it is possible and the stock of housing is available, people should have the right to buy their own homes, but this means that there should be a quid pro quo and authorities should have the opportunity and the resources to build sufficient houses to rent and to repair those that they have before they fall into such decay that they need to be demolished instead of being left to stand as unlivable-in eyesores. I believe that there is action which can be taken rapidly to improve the condition of our older housing and those houses constructed in a defective manner. First, there should be a thorough review by the Government of repairs needed for older housing. I should like to have confirmation from the Minister that there will still be a house condition survey in 1986 which will be carried out in accordance with the practice of the past 15 years. A reinstatement of the improvement grant initiative until the end of 1984–85 will make a tremendous difference to this problem at the comparatively low figure of £250 million. The further funding of the block-by-block envelope scheme for terraced houses should be increased, not cut, with a cash limit of even, say, £100 million, because that is the only policy which has been shown to be really effective in improving particular types of inner city area. The Building Research Establishment should be commissioned as a matter of urgency to undertake a thorough assessment of all the problems associated with house-building defects, which we are hearing about almost week after week in various statements. In my view, we need to move away from a tenure-based ideological approach to the basic and previously agreed position that everyone has a right to a home of an acceptable standard, regardless of income. In other words, back to Beveridge! We need policies to match the real needs of people living in older property. To meet those requirements, a proper level of resources for repair and new building is essential for both public and private sectors. We cannot get round that basic point. The aim should be, and must be, what the Labour Party has always stood for: the basic right to a decent home for everyone.
My Lords, the statistics which the noble Lord, Lord Pitt of Hampstead, has brought forward are very alarming and we must all be aware of the great personal distress which follows on the tail of such statistics. The suggestions which I make to your Lordships this afternoon have already been lightly touched upon by the noble Lord, Lord Pitt of Hampstead, and if they are in some detail, that is perhaps because this is not an easy subject on which to make a non-controversial speech.If we are to remedy the situation to which the noble Lord referred, we must surely have replacement housing available to accommodate those displaced by the need to refurbish or redevelop substandard accommodation. In this context, I draw the attention of your Lordships to the existing schemes, to which again the noble Lord has referred, operated by the Abbey National Building Society, by the Town and Country Building Society and perhaps by others. As a director of the Town and Country Building Society, I must, of course, declare an interest. These schemes are operated on parallel lines. To date, that of the Abbey National has been directed almost exclusively towards local authorities and public bodies, whereas our own operations have so far been with industrial companies. Both schemes require the involvement of a housing association outside the Housing Corporation. Briefly, the freeholders in our present involvement—Blue Circle Industries—have the property valued at open market values. They make a project management and development agreement with a housing association and pay the planning application costs. The housing association carries out the feasibility study and the negotiations with the planners and the building society, bank or other financial institution. In this context, the National Westminster Bank has already expressed interest in the schemes. The financial institution will lend up to 80 per cent. of the projected development cost, with the property value hopefully providing the remaining 20 per cent. The property must then be pledged to the lender. The loan is repaid from the sale of the houses and the freeholder, for the property, at an agreed figure per house afterwards. These schemes have many advantages. They require no public money. Planners seem to like dealing with housing associations. A housing association is a non-profit-making body and therefore tends to produce low-cost housing. No money is laid out in advance, other than the planning application and study costs, until all the planning approvals are through and the contractor chosen and on site. The money can then be drawn down, but the bulk of it can be returned to the money market to help defray interest charges until required for stage payments. Interest charges are therefore kept to a minimum. There has been no overbidding by a developer and therefore there is not the pressure on the planners to agree to something that they do not want in a sensitive inner city area. It avoids the problems of planning refusal to a purchaser and the consequent freezing of the land until circumstances change. These schemes often release redundant and difficult sites that would otherwise lie idle. The disadvantage is that the freeholder may not obtain quite so much for his property as he would at auction or by tender. The snag is the difficulty of persuading local authorities to release their land or substandard property instead of hoping that one day they will be able to develop it themselves. During the debates on the Agricultural Holdings Bill many noble Lords emphasised that we could not manufacture more land. It is very important, therefore, that we make the best use of that which we have and most particularly in the urban areas. These schemes can help us to redevelop within our urban boundaries and, hopefully, relieve the pressure on greenfield sites. At present we have two sites under construction, one in discussion with the planners and four more in discussion with Blue Circle and another public company. The Abbey National has seven sites in various stages of development. The noble Lord, Lord Pitt of Hampstead, made special reference to London. I am sure he would he interested to know that three of those sites are in Tower Hamlets, Bermondsey and Fulham. In these schemes of the Abbey National, approximately 30 per cent. of the houses built go to rental accommodation. We are also well aware, as the noble Lord, Lord Byers, has said, of the contribution which the construction industry makes through its domino effect on other industries. It adds to the provision of employment and creates extensive extra work in many factories of diverse nature. I suggest that by greater use of schemes such as those I have described we could increase our housing stock, refurbish and replace substandard housing and provide more houses for rent at a reasonable cost. Three hundred and seven years ago my ancestor was tried in your Lordships' House for manslaughter. I should not for one moment suggest that making one's maiden speech is an equivalent situation or ordeal. On that previous occasion your Lordships' predecessors acquitted my forebear. From what I know of it, I believe that the verdict was somewhat generous. I hope that this afternoon I have not strained your Lordships' indulgence to the point where your verdict may not be a similar one.
My Lords, I feel particularly privileged to have the honour of congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Cornwallis, on his maiden speech. Not only was it informative and wise, but it had that little touch of wit at the end which was quite delightful. The noble Lord has certainly acquitted himself very well indeed this afternoon. I am sure we all hope that we shall hear him many more times in this House.I was also delighted that the noble Lord drew attention to the part that the building societies and housing associations are playing, particularly in the rehabilitation of our housing stock. I use the word "stock". It is not, I think, a good word. In today's debate we have necessarily heard a lot of figures, but we must never forget that this afternoon we are talking about a human problem involving homes and people. As the noble Lord said, we are talking about people who suffer a lot of misery because of their wretched housing. I think that "misery" was the word that the noble Lord used. Many of your Lordships must have seen this misery while working on housing matters and among people. Many of us have seen leaking roofs with pails and pans having to be placed on the bedroom floor; or a room may be so small that the bed cannot be moved out of the way and a pan has to be placed on the bed at night under the leaking roof. Rotten window frames let in rain and cold. We are all concerned about insulation and keeping places warm, but there is no possible chance to keep a house warm where wind comes in through the windows and ill-fitting doors. Some houses have no constant hot water. I cannot think how a woman can bring up a family without constant hot water. It is an absolute misery. There is no other word to use. When there is really bad housing, I cannot see how there can be harmony in the home. What is a home without harmony? This is what we are talking about: people and people's lives. We must have the figures. but we also must think of the individual family in the house and relate what we are saying to their needs. I am exceedingly keen—if I may use that word in this House—on improvement grants. They are being used to do a very good job indeed, but progress is too slow. An enormous number of houses need to be dealt with. According to the last figures I saw, only 100,000 had been dealt with; but something is better than nothing. However, as I say, progress is much too slow. A great number of councils have been, and are, making an enormous drive on the improvement grant front. They have set up teams of workers to go from house to house in an area, canvassing the grants, and giving every possible service, such as free architectural advice on how to plan the improvement. The teams work with building societies, which are also more than helpful. Now we have a situation where the Government are to curtail and cut the grants. When the need is so very great, that is an unthinkable thing for a Government to do. The help provided by improvement grants to owners, landlords and tenants is exceedingly great. I just pray that the Government will have another think on the improvement grant front. If I may, I should like to speak for a few moments about a particular city in this country of ours, the city of Leeds, which I recently visited in my capacity as a member of the board of a housing association. I was—to put it mildly—horrified at what I saw going on. Leeds still has a tremendous number of back-to-back houses still remaining. They tell me there are approximately 20,000. Immediately after the war I thought this country was going to make a great drive at getting rid of the back-to-back houses. I do not know what the position is in other cities, but in Leeds there are 20,000 such houses still remaining and 16,000 of them need substantial repair and improvement. These to me are houses that ought to be demolished. This is what worries me. They are back-to-back; they have no yard and nothing outside; one house backs on to another house and they face the pavement front on. You cannot put a bicycle outside, for, as I have said, there is no yard or anything. Where does a woman dry her washing? There is this problem in Leeds. I get all this information from my housing association. I think the houses ought to be pulled down as fast as possible. What are we doing? We are spending public money on these particular houses. A thousand of them still lack one or more of the basic amenities and even in these days between 200 and 300 still have an outside WC. Not having a yard, as I have said, it is an outside WC situated down the road in a little row shared with other people: a privy. But I am told not so privy as the WCs in disrepair. This is a scandal and must not be allowed to go on. These houses, as I said earlier, must be demolished. Now to come to what is being done as a result of improvement grants. There are two exercises: there are improvement grants for houses for rent, and improvement grants for houses for sale. They come under different regulations. I should like to inform your Lordships, as briefly as I am able to, how they work. At current levels, to buy and improve a back-to-back house in Leeds costs, I am told, approximately between £18,000 and £20,000. This section is for renting. The taxpayer in this case makes a grant of about £16,000. My query for this kind of house is: is it sensible housekeeping for the nation to he spending £16,000 to improve these houses? I am told that the local authority does not have enough money in its HIPs to undertake the clearance which it must to rehouse, rebuild and rehouse again in the rebuilt houses; turning the site over, I presume, would be the sensible thing to do. They just cannot do that; there is not enough money. To spend £16,000 on a house is a lot of money for something which is going to last, I hope, for just a few years. To turn to the rehabilitation of houses for sale, I know full well that the particular position I am going to describe does not apply just to Leeds. I have seen it, read about it and had to try to deal with it in other areas of the country. It is a financial problem. A grant for rehabilitation for sale is a different situation. Let us go back to the Leeds position. The purchase price is much the same as houses for rent. When the houses are for sale, there is a grant of £7,500 maximum: so to buy a house costs £15,000, but the improvement grant is limited to £7,500. As I have said, a house sells for between £18,000 and £20,000. But the rehabilitated house sells for only £15,000, so one can only repair it to a very much lower standard. That is what I am getting at. I went to see one such house where I am convinced that it had been improved as well as was humanly possible. You have a front door and you open it and it goes straight into the living room; there is no lobby to keep the draught out, and there is not a very clement climate in Leeds. The stairs are at the back of the living room; there is no door and the draught goes straight up the stairs. There is a bathroom and one bedroom on the first floor and just a bedroom and a landing on the next floor. There is nowhere for a bicycle; there is nowhere for a pram. There was not enough money to build a porch on the house. When the houses were selling for a little less perhaps 18 months or so ago, you could put a porch on. Now you cannot do so. It is absurd to be doing this work and selling the property as a basically bare product: a back-to-back house. We have done the best we can with the money that we are allowed, and I ask the Government to have a look at this problem and see whether the grant can be increased or some other arrangement made. I am told we are not even allowed to have swings and roundabouts: possibly saving on one house and using the saving on another house; each house has to stand on its own. Is it not really quite absurd? I hope the Government will look at the situation. I am sorry to have dwelt on a specific case but it is an illustration of the kind of thing which is going on and which really does need looking at. Industrialised housing is really hated—there is not any other word to use. Tenants just will not live in them; some of them cannot bear it. I would say that if it can be rescued some of it might be rescued; but a basic tenet there is to consult with the tenants and convince them that you mean you are consulting; that you mean you are listening to what they say, will take notice of it, and will act on it. Some of the industrialised housing will have to be pulled down; there is no other answer. I suggest to the Government that in those cases they might consider writing off the debt.
My Lords, I too should like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Cornwallis, on his maiden speech, which I found particularly interesting. I should like to thank Lord Pitt for bringing this subject to us for debate today. I listened carefully to what he said and I noticed that his view was that unsuitable properties should be cleared as rapidly as possible. The noble Baroness, Lady Denington, held this same view. I have a slight reservation on that in that I was a candidate in Blackburn where I saw those acres of desolation where all the properties had been cleared and nothing was replacing them. They were properties that subsequently were found to be houses which could have been rehabilitated. People could have had good homes; but instead the houses had gone and nothing more could be done. I urge caution in that respect.I was also rather disturbed when the noble Lord, Lord Pitt, talked about mortgage tax relief and stated that he would not go so far as to abolish it, but possibly to reform it, or transfer the funds somewhere else. I consider that quite enough to frighten anyone trying to meet mortgage payments today. Many people have sufficient trouble, and I hope that the Government will assure us that there will be no change in mortgage tax relief. I am all for the present system. I support absolutely the view of the noble Lord, and that of the noble Lord. Lord Cornwallis, that more liaison between the building societies and local authorities is desirable. In the City of Westminster the Abbey National is offering to take over all the mortgages of local authority people who are buying their accommodation. This is freeing funds that can then be put back into the housing account. One small difficulty is that while, when the money is freed, the amount received is gross and the capital receipts from sales of property are, for measuring purposes, taken by the Department of the Environment as gross, credit is allowed only in net terms. The benefit, in terms of re-using the money, is therefore not as great as it could be. Westminster City Council was one authority selected by the Audit Commission of the Department of the Environment for an independent private audit in terms of a value-for-money audit of its housing account. The conclusions were most interesting. One of the most important conclusions was that rather than carry out repairs piecemeal and as required, which is current practice, it is far more economic and satisfactory to have a rolling programme of repairs and to preplan them. That means, for example, that all window frames are repaired at a certain time when it is known that the frames are about to reach the end of their useful life. This is less expensive and proves to be better value for money. Unfortunately, the council is caught in the situation of not having the necessary capital to implement these money-saving schemes. There are difficulties, but I believe that the council will put these ideas into action as soon as possible. Even now, the council is doing its best. There was a most interesting report on the Mozart Street estate, in Paddington, which was a prizewinning scheme about 10 years ago, but which now has great problems. It has become one of those estates where no one wants to live, though structurally the buildings are quite impressive. The council has plans to spend £400,000 on improvements. The design of tower block estates is terribly important. On the Mozart Street estate, it is now considered that the fact that it was built as a co-ordinated whole, with elevated walkways and quick routes from one block to another, is one of the great problems. Muggers and vandals can make their get-away very quickly. People feel vulnerable and unprotected. I consider that the security aspect is most important in the structure of a building. People speak about tower blocks as disasters. There has been mention of industrial building. I feel strongly about personal security for people living in private homes, or in council accommodation. If people are living in an atmosphere that they find hostile and in which they feel themselves to be constantly under threat from those around them, it is a great risk and a great worry. It can be as great a disturbance to people's lives as is the physical deterioration of the building. I notice that in its scheme for the Mozart Street estate, Westminster Council plans to concentrate on 50 flats in a pilot scheme, spending about £200 on each flat to provide it with a door entryphone. I consider that door entryphones have only limited use. Those who have canvassed at the time of elections will know, I am sure, that if you ring all the buttons, someone will always let you in. A door entryphone is therefore only as good as the weakest link on the end of the phone. Much greater personal security is achieved by stronger front doors. Security doors are to be provided. Glass panels beside doors, or within doors, are to be removed, and the doors strengthened. A similar pilot scheme is being carried out by the Greater London Council, which has selected 1,500 properties for the purpose. It actually selected 1,650, but, surprisingly, there are a number of people who refuse to have done any kind of work to improve their property. The cost will be £180,000; that is, £120 per dwelling. It is believed that much greater personal security will be achieved simply by strengthening the panels of the front door. Often, people return home to find that, following a break-in, the locks on the door are completely intact but the door structure itself is completely destroyed. It is therefore believed that the answer is to make stronger the front door, together with window locks. This is to be done. The home security market is a growing market. It is desirable, I believe, to produce schemes that can be adopted quickly and cheaply and that have a potentially wide application. Once the measures that I have described are adopted—I am not talking about the entryphone, which is vulnerable to vandalism or misuse—they do not require any maintenance and attention, and the tenant does not have to rely on other users. They remain value for money for a long time. I should like briefly to refer to two other matters. One of these is the Housing (Homeless Persons) Act 1977, which throws great and unfair responsibility upon some boroughs. I recall my time serving on the London Boroughs Association, when Hounslow constantly complained because it received all the homeless arriving at Heathrow Airport. A similar problem was faced by Westminster City Council and, I think, most of the central London councils. Last year, Westminster had 1,400 vacancies to offer. Of those, 500 went to people covered by homelessness provisions. Only one-third of the 500 had any real claim on Westminster. This meant that the remaining two-thirds were jumping the queue over people who had spent many years on the waiting list. I know that representations have often been made to the department to consider some change. The present situation in regard to homelessness is unfair. It should be a pooled responsibility, rather than the responsibility of the individual borough where people happen to arrive. Those who have a direct claim on the borough should be treated in a different manner. Another problem that has made many people's lives a misery is that of condensation. As at one stage a district housing chairman for the Greater London Council, I have visited housing estates, as, I am sure, has the noble Baroness, Lady Denington. She will have seen conditions just as bad as those that I have witnessed. On the Aveley estate, walls were green, mould was growing, and liquid was dripping. Wedding dresses were spoiled. It was hard to believe that things could be so bad where industrial building systems had been used. Much study has now been carried out into condensation problems. I recognise that dry lining—which is being carried out by Westminster City Council—is helping. I am aware also that Westminster City Council is applying its mind to using available funds to the best advantage. One proposal is to employ individual specialist consultants in various subjects. That means that the council has to meet the bill only once. It uses the service, it receives the report and it can then implement it. For example, it has called in energy consultants in the form of the National Industry Fuel Efficiency Service, who have looked at a large estate and have found that it is totally uneconomic to have one vast centralised heating system. It is most wasteful. Indeed, I know many people living on the Lisson Green estate who cannot stand the heat; they have to keep opening the windows. What could be more wasteful than that? The recommendation is to change over to smaller individual boilers and to allow people to control the quantity of heat that they require. There is the one exception—which I thoroughly support—of the aged persons' dwellings, where they cannot change over the heating system because many old people worry about heating bills and will turn the heating off if they can. However, the condensation problem is a combination of heat suddenly hitting cold surfaces and a lack of ventilation. After all, the building regulations on ventilation are rather stupid because they insist on all these air bricks, and the first thing people do when they move into a flat is to cover up the airbricks with sheets of that self-adhesive plastic, because one person's ventilation is another person's draught. As a result, the condensation problems grow ever greater. Great strides have been made in the way in which local authorities have been applying their minds to improvements, but as time is running short I do not intend to go into it any more. However, one interesting fact is that on the Mozart Street estate £86 per flat per annum is the cost of vandalism to the common parts. That estate comprises 740 flats, and that vandalism represents a loss of £63,640 in a year. That is money which could very well be spent on improving the housing there; money that would be very welcome in the general housing account of that authority. If that is happening on that estate, I am sure that the same thing is occurring in many other places. I cannot conclude without mentioning the private landlord. It is a great shame that the Rent Act 1974 has pretty well abolished the private landlord and has made it almost impossible for people to let private accommodation. This is why so much has been thrown onto the housing associations and the local authorities. I would also comment that the housing associations receive much better finance from the Government than do the local authorities. The housing associations receive a direct grant, whereas the local authorities do not receive a Government grant. They have to finance the housing themselves. It is just permitted expenditure; and when the allowance is made at the end it is simply an allowance on the interest that they have paid. Therefore, it is not as good. However, for many years the private landlord has been pilloried, and now all housing is falling into the same state of disrepair because of this problem. You must have a certain income to be able to afford to carry out the repairs, whether the property is privately-owned or local authority-owned.
My Lords, first may I join the previous two speakers—my noble friend Lady Denington and the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes—in their congratulations, and compliment the noble Lord, Lord Cornwallis, on his very informative maiden speech. I found it very interesting. The noble Lord certainly has specialised knowledge of housing associations and building societies, on which I am sure we shall hear from him again in this Chamber.I should also like to thank my noble friend Lord Pitt for selecting housing as the subject for this Short Debate, for the way in which he delivered his speech and for the mass of statistics that were contained in it, which certainly covered housing in its widest spectrum. In the time at my disposal I propose to address my remarks to industrialised and semi-industrialised building. Housing is, of course, probably the most important requirement of any family if a decent quality of life is to be sustained. I address my remarks to a feature of housing which I believe has emerged as the most serious and urgent housing problem requiring our attention. I am referring to the industrialised and semi-industrialised housing, large stocks of which a considerable number of local authorities have in their housing pools. Earlier this year, in another place, I had a debate on this subject during the proceedings on the Consolidated Fund Bill. In that debate I referred to the fact that the faults which were already showing in these systems (most of them having been built since 1960) were but the tip of an iceberg which was starting to surface with frightening speed. As a nation we have to decide what is to be done about this problem and who is to bear the financial responsibility. Should the responsibility be borne by the builders and designers of the dwellings, or should it be borne by the Government? I place no particular blame on the present Government or the previous one, but I blame their predecessors, of both major political parties, who were responsible for encouraging, sponsoring and, in some cases, promoting these systems. At the time there was considerable opposition from local authorities concerning the use of these systems, but by means of financial arm-twisting and other coercive measures successive Governments imposed their wills, with the subsequent disastrous results, including the extremely serious financial situations which some of these local authorities now face. During the time that I have left I want to illustrate some of these. The main factor in creating the position in which we now find ourselves was the policy of successive Governments, which, to accelerate the house-building programme, turned to system-built houses to top up the then target of 300,000 houses per year and to increase it to 400,000. Although that target was never reached, a considerable number of these properties were built annually. Despite strong objections on a wide scale from local authority representatives, local authorities were cajoled and induced by means of the subsidy system into adopting these forms of building, with the resultant problems. As I have said, I was prominent in local government at that time and I was at the forefront of that opposition, but unfortunately and tragically we lost the argument. The other factor that was used to persuade people to use these systems was that it would be cheaper to build using such systems than to use traditional methods, and it would be faster. Nobody ever proved that it was faster if one took into account the factory time required and the site preparation before the building was constructed. However, the financial outcome was that, taken on a national average, the industrialised house was 20 per cent. dearer than its traditional counterpart. Therefore, not only did local authorities receive a bad deal financially, but they were a saddled, in aesthetic terms, with monstrosities of the worst kind. I was glad to hear the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes, refer to Leeds in her speech. However, Leeds is not all bad. It has its share of bad properties and it has its share of old properties that remain. But basically the area that I represented in Leeds has very few back-to-backs and a lot of good council housing. If one wants to look at the worst aspects of housing in Leeds, one should look at a notorious block of flats (which is similar to the one in London to which the noble Baroness referred) which has deck access with linked walkways. It is completely socially unacceptable, has been built less than 15 years and has now actually been declared to be in a dangerous condition. That is the type of property about which I am particularly concerned. I welcome the financial assistance which the Government are making available to people who have bought houses from their local authorities which were built by prefabricated means. But why stop there? Is it not fair and equitable that this assistance should be extended to local authorities, so that they can carry out their obligations to tenants in similar accommodation? In my debate in another place some months ago I mentioned that the figure of £3 billion was required to deal with this problem. But the AMA have since published a report indicating that a conservative figure ("conservative" with a small "c") is £5 billion, and not £3 billion. That is the dimension of the financial problem that they are facing. I was surprised at the unhelpful answer given by the Minister in this Chamber when I raised the question with him on Monday last. He reiterated the Government's now famous fallback position on housing, that more finance would be available if more council houses were sold. I detect that the Government have only two policies: one is of improvement because they have nearly killed building altogether, and the other is the sale of council houses. It is almost like going to see a doctor who prescribes aspirin for every major illness you get, which is about as effective as the Government's policy will be on housing. Let me issue a warning to people buying this type of house. I do not want to confuse the issue: I am talking now about houses built before 1960. They are mainly prefabricated, slab-concrete houses, We hear from the Conservative Govenment about being a property-owning democracy. and that people are being allowed to purchase these council houses. I can tell your Lordships that people who are buying these nontraditional houses are buying an asset which they will never be able to realise. I can quote a copperbottomed case in Leeds that came to my notice. A family bought one of these houses, known as a Smith-type house—houses which have not, as yet, been found defective; and I say "as yet". They bought it 16 years ago, at full discount. The house is a first-class house. I went round to see it. The lady concerned put the house on the market two years ago at £2,000 less than the valuation recommended by her estate agent. There has not been one offer in two years. I suspect that the Government, in encouraging people to buy council houses at that time, were landing them with a so-called benefit on which they will never he able to realise and of which they will themselves be the last tenants, or certainly the ones who will die in them. That is one part of that particular situation. Let me now turn to the financial consequences involved for the local authorities concerned with the initial problem about which I spoke in my speech—the industrialised and semi-industrialised buildings. I quoted a development in Leeds built 14 years ago which has had considerable sums of money spent on it in the meanwhile. The local authority took the decision to spend sums of money to try to put the property in a safe condition, more socially acceptable, and so that they could keep it in the housing stock. But they were throwing hundreds of thousands of pounds of good money after bad. Therefore, the local authority took the decision, for that and a variety of other reasons, to demolish the property and rehouse the tenants. The financial outcome is that the demolition of this property, because of the 45-year outstanding loan repayment period and other related costs, will, it is calculated, put 22p a week on every council house rent in Leeds for the next 40 years. Almost every other major local authority has considerable numbers of these properties in its housing stock. Certainly Manchester, with the now notorious Bison development, has at least three times as many as Leeds and has, I understand, taken the decision to disgorge them from their stock, with the resultant inevitable financial consequences. What Leeds and Manchester have had to do other local authorities—large cities, London boroughs—will have to take decisions about in the immediate future. The problem is not what to do with the stocks of housing, in my opinion, but when. It is my submission that they have no future in our housing stock and should be demolished as a priority. Bearing in mind the responsibility that previous Governments have in this matter, the cost of this ought to be borne by central Government. My Lords, in the post-war years the architects, planners and builders of this country had a wonderful opportunity to build a new Britain. It must be said that in this facet of local authority housing they have failed abysmally, and the scars will remain for the foreseeable future. In my opinion it would be monstrously unjust to expect other council house tenants, both now and in the future, to pay for these mistakes.
My Lords, from these Benches I too should like to offer our congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Cornwallis, on his excellent maiden speech this afternoon. We too look forward to hearing him taking part in other debates on this and other subjects. I should also like to express our thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Pitt, for giving us this opportunity to talk about housing this afternoon. He is right to call attention to the condition of post-war housing. However, I am equally, if not more, concerned about the pre-1914 and the inter-war housing stocks which are still with us.After the 1960s, the industrial systems of building became commonplace. Local government, with financial assistance from central Government, went overboard for numbers of housing units rather than quality of the building. They boosted the numbers by building more and more flats rather than houses in our great conurbations. With hindsight, past Governments, and city and borough councillors and architects, must accept some of the blame and some of the responsibility for rushing into using untried and untested systems of building. In Peterborough, where I was a board member of the Development Corporation in its early days, we did not wish to rush into building by industrial means. We decided deliberately as a board not to go in for high rise building of flats but to build more and more houses with gardens. We wanted our buildings to last, and we looked for tried and tested building methods, for easy maintenance, and for houses built in pleasant surroundings each with its own garden. We, as a board, attached some importance to what we were creating, and all our rented accommodation was built with a view to long-term saleability. We have had no real building problems, and our houses are now selling fast to satisfied buyers, unlike in a neighbouring new town, Corby, which went in for a lot of industri- alised building which is now being wound up and handed over and has something over 2,000 houses in need of considerable repair. As I said earlier, I am concerned about the severe problems caused by the number of pre-1914 houses still in use, the state of that stock, and its even more rapid deterioration. Also, much of the inter-war housing is now occupied by elderly tenants and owners, many of them on low, fixed incomes and unable to maintain their accommodation properly or to improve it. Reference has been made to the English housing survey of 1981, and the result is certainly frightening. More than two-fifths of the unfit dwellings in 1981 were owner-occupied, and one-third of them were privately rented accommodation. The percentage of all the dwellings found unfit that had been built between the wars increased from 3 per cent. in 1971 to over 10 per cent. in1981. Fortunately, significantly fewer homes, one in 20, now lack basic amenities, but the number of unfit dwellings, as the noble Lord, Lord Pitt, has said, remains broadly constant between 1.1 million and 1.2 million. But disrepair is on the increase, and some 200,000 more houses than in 1976 now need repairs costing over £7,000. If you acknowledge disrepair costing over £2,500 instead of £7,000 to put it right, then 3.9 million dwellings are now in disrepair, and that is something like 22 per cent. of our total housing stock. I accept that figures can be manipulated, but, if you take the number of dwellings in need of repair just to make them wind and weather-proof, then you are talking about something like 5 million dwellings. It is now generally accepted in housing fields that nearly one quarter of our housing stock is unsatisfactory, with the older housing stock being worn out faster than it is being replaced. Experts believe that at the present rate of improvement, it will take 50 years just to deal with the very worst. The noble Lord, Lord Pitt, was talking about centuries to solve the problem. We should remember that nearly one-third of all the houses now standing were built before 1914, many of them to a much lower standard than we expect today. Yet the housing improvement grant is to be cut back to 75 per cent. Maybe, just maybe, there is sound reasoning behind that, but can the Minister tell us when he replies what kind of take-up there was at 90 per cent. improvement grant, and did the higher rate offered encourage older and needier persons to apply for the grant to improve their accommodation? The 1981 survey goes to some length to compare owner occupied housing with the private rented sector. But, as a New Society article pointed out recently, if one compared the owner occupied and public rented stock one would find that 51 per cent. of the homes in serious disrepair; 43 per cent. of unfit properties and 37 per cent. of those lacking basic amenities are owner occupied, while the figure for the public sector is 5 per cent. in serious disrepair, 9 per cent. unfit and 15.7 per cent. lacking basic amenities. These figures have to be treated with caution, and they reflect the dominant position of home ownership. But, one could also use them to argue that owner occupation is not necessarily the universal panacea that this Government believe nor is the record of public housing as bad as is sometimes represented. Most of us at some time in our political life have waxed rhetorical about housing—about the provision of sufficient accommodation, about getting rid of bad housing and housing conditions, about maximising the choice of housing and about getting value for money. However, the present housing construction programme is quite inadequate for our present needs. The Government's policy is to increase owner occupation. On these Benches we are in favour of home ownership, but the low start home buying schemes of shared ownership are having only a marginal effect. Home ownership is not being encouraged by a more plentiful supply of housing, but by selling off council houses by using the carrot of high discounts and the stick of higher rents. The latest CIPFA statistics show that the 24 per cent. increase in capital spending went more to servicing debt than to building houses. Because of the cuts in local authority budgets and the sale of council houses. public renting has become less available, less attractive and much more expensive. Why can we not have all-party agreement on the minimum number of houses which need to be rebuilt or improved to keep pace with new demand and the rate at which existing buildings are becoming substandard? It is time to give some stability to house-building construction. We need to find a means of directing our national resources—not only money, but people, materials and land—towards renewing and preventing deterioration of our housing stocks. Also, we need a reform in housing finance. We need to take a more neutral attitude towards both renters and owners. We need a tax system that will encourage better maintenance and rate of occupation of our housing stock. Above all, we need continuity of programmes and sensible decisions gained through the consensus of all concerned. Anyone closely involved in housing knows that housing finance is a mess. I have no doubt that what we really need is an expert committee to consider housing finance as a whole, to produce a report and strategic and detailed practicable proposals. I, too, am interested in the growing attention of building societies to rented housing. I hope that they will be given every encouragement as financial institutions to work with housing associations to develop and manage rented housing to complement the traditional public sector housing and also to continue to expand on the lines indicated by the noble Lord, Lord Cornwallis. It may require changes in subsidies, but I believe that it could be a positive way to develop and improve our housing. Money alone will not solve the problem, but I urge the Government to review the financing of housing improvement and modernisation. They should consider how best to use whatever money is available to get the best possible return for the nation in terms of houses which can be saved and given a much longer life. It is a top priority, and it ought to be a top priority as the housing survey has shown us.
My Lords, I begin by congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Cornwallis, on his speech this afternoon. A new angle and different point of view was expressed, and we look forward to further contributions from the noble Lord. I should also like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Pitt of Hampstead, for giving us the opportunity to discuss various angles on housing. I shall concentrate on the problem to which he drew our attention; that is, the discovery of defects in council property built within the last 20 years, or less. I shall concentrate mainly on those problems.As my noble friend Lord Dean of Beswick has mentioned, in so many instances the defects will mean demolition of properties. I want to emphasise, with all due respect to the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes, that these are not condensation problems. They are serious defects, where concrete is crumbling, and the safety of the properties must be considered. I can remember so vividly that when I was chairman of Birmingham Housing Committee we built so many system-built properties. My housing officials used to go round following grumbles from tenants about water penetration. On many occasions I said, "Do not tell the tenants that it is condensation because they keep the kettle boiling and do not make the pot of tea quickly enough, or that they are boiling potatoes too fast, so that the steam is not going out of the property".
My Lords, may I—
My Lords, I shall not give way to the noble Baroness. I have 14 minutes, the same as she had. I am not giving way.In the past local authorities have put the blame on Governments for not safeguarding building standards. The present Government are also being criticised by local authorities for not being too helpful towards meeting the cost of remedying faults and defects. I should like to emphasise what my noble friend Lady Denington said. What is of paramount importance is that in some cases tenants are compelled to live in deplorable housing conditions in properties that were built less than 20 years. Great misery is caused. I hope that with his knowledge of medicine, my noble friend Lord Pitt will acknowledge that such conditions can cause ill health among young children. There is damp, and mildew on walls. Recently, when I was in the north of the country researching inner cities. I saw in blocks of flats, flooding that was an inch and a half deep in every room. The local authority is in the strange situation that it cannot find the cause of the faults in order to remedy them. All along the line the tenant is being asked to pay increased rents when, in many cases if we were owner-occupiers we would say that no more mortgage money would be paid until the contractor had made good the faults. Therefore, many of these tenants live in a nightmare, with carpets rotting and wallpaper peeling off the walls, as my noble friend Lady Denington (whose great knowledge of housing we all admire) elicited this afternoon. The tenant is faced with little help initially from the local authority because the local authority recognises that there are major defects in the non-traditional types of dwellings, defects in design and construction, and therefore they are not easy problems for the local authorities to solve. Not only that, but because of the massive bills that will have to be paid the local authority is contesting all along the line with the contractor as to who is going to help to make some of the payments. There, with all this going on, one has the tenant almost in despair at the endless delays while inspection after inspection takes place until the building work to remedy the defects is commenced. In an answer in your Lordships' House to my noble friend Lord Dean, the Minister said that these defects are not known. On reading that reply, all that I can say is that the noble Lord the Minister does not know much about what is going on inside local authorities. I can say to him that near to where I live the tower blocks are being completely renovated on the outside, and scaffolding has been up on two blocks of flats for more than 12 months. I should like to say this afternoon that it might well be a valid exercise for those architects, those designers, those planners and those building contractors, who made handsome profits, to visit some of the dream houses that they were supposed to be providing for those less well off in the community. Let them face the wrath of the tenants! In those areas, that anger is at present vented upon the councillors, who are constantly being asked the question, "What are you going to do about it?" The fault is not theirs; the fault lies mainly with the contractors. As my noble friend Lord Dean has said, during the 1950s circular after circular was issued by the department extolling the use of non-traditional methods of house-building. Local authorities were given capital grants if costs were greater for non-traditional than for traditional, and authorities could also apply for additional allocation if they agreed to build by new methods. As has been said already, local authorities were not entirely convinced of system building—something which they had never used before. I know that local authorities are much maligned by some poeple, but more often than not they are very conservative (with a small "c") when it comes to trying anything very new. During these periods they were perhaps a little hesitantabout them, but they had long waiting lists. I can remember from when I was a chairman of the local authority in Birmingham that with 30,000 to 35,000 families waiting for houses one is concerned. The proof that was given to us was that these would take half the time to build. So, with the full support of the Government, local authorities ventured on what has proved to be a very costly exercise. Furthermore, not only have we a costly exercise but the Minister has only recently asked all local authorities to make a check on their Bison concrete housing. We all know about Bison properties because they were shown on one of the television networks only recently. The Government themselves have decided that grants need to be paid to Airey houses. I would ask the noble Lord who is to reply why grants of 100 per cent. towards the cost of reimbursing owners of Airey houses should be given for repairs that are carried out at their expense, when there is no extra allocation for local authorities within their house improvement programme for dealing with their own tenants who are living in identical properties. My noble friend Lady Birk gave examples of how the improvement grants are operating. She has given us her knowledge of the worst action that we can expect to take place with the cutback of improvement grants. But we are to expect shortly the gloomy views regarding house improvement programmes. At present, local authorities are entitled to reinvest into house improvements half the capital they earn from the sale of houses. It is rumoured—I merely say that it is a rumour, and perhaps the noble Lord who is to reply will counter that rumour—that this half is going to be reduced to one-quarter. With sales of council property already flagging, if this percentage is reduced there is quite obviously less available for major schemes of repair, not only on system building but on the pre-war stock, which is now 50 years old. What is required from the Government, in my view, is a declared intention that they will consider amendment to house improvement allocations to take account of the problems of each local authority with this type of building. It is not only the building costs with which local authorities are faced; it is the remedial work. But in some instances it means rehousing people, it means loss of rents and, as has been said previously, in some cases it means the complete writing off of the 30-year loan charges which are outstanding. We must all be concerned at the large amount of public money that will need to be spent on system building defects; and lessons have to be learned. The Government have a responsibility to make quite sure that our housing stock does not deteriorate further; because, if it does, the future will bring another housing crisis and the need again for a sudden increase in building programmes, possibly with the same disastrous results as we are discussing this afternoon. What is necessary are three-year housing programmes so that local authorities can plan continually. It is folly to expect them to plan on an annual basis. The building industry itself and its component suppliers are faced with heavier financial commitments on the stop-go finance of 12 months' planning. What is recognised by many outside the Government, and by this side of the Chamber, is that it makes economic sense to spend public money on housing. House-building is labour intensive, it uses fewer imports than any other industry and it not only creates jobs but provides homes. In conclusion, I fully accept that many families will have their housing needs met by the private sector but it must not be forgotten that there are families whose only chance of a home is in the public sector. The Government must face the fact that those thousands of families who are unsatisfactorily housed, or those with no homes, the elderly and the disabled, are of equal concern, and in many instances their provision will only be funded by public housing by local authorities, by partnership schemes or by housing associations.
My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down, may I correct her statement referring to my speech? My comment was that I did not intend to discuss the structural defects of industrialised building, not that I was unaware of them.
My Lords, the topic which the noble Lord, Lord Pitt of Hampstead, has chosen for debate this afternoon—the state of our housing stock—is obviously of fundamental importance to everyone in the country. Regretfully, one cannot always gauge the importance of a debate by the fact that it has attracted a maiden speaker. Today, though, is an exception. The noble Lord, Lord Cornwallis, gave us the benefit of his wide knowledge of the mortgage market and the building industry. He produced evidence of a most valuable scheme which I shall certainly draw to the attention of my right honourable friends.The noble Lord, Lord Pitt, spoke with all the conviction and deep knowledge of housing matters that he characteristically shows. I welcome the opportunity to say something about the Government's approach and policies. I shall come a little later to the question of post-war housing, on which most of the debate has concentrated, but first I want to set in a wider context the issues that have been raised. First, for most of this century the basis of the housing problem has been one of sheer lack of housing. Today, however, thanks to post-war building programmes, there are about 1.1 million more dwellings than households. Of course, I realise that the true underlying housing situation cannot be gauged simply on the basis of this crude measure of relativity. Certainly we need to take full account, among other matters, of the condition of that stock. But the housing argument has ceased to be simply about the number of dwellings being built. My second point is the tremendous growth in home ownership. Owner-occupation grew steadily during the 1970s, and by June 1983 nearly 62 per cent. of dwellings in England were owner-occupied—an increase of over 5 per cent. since the Government came to power in May 1979. I understand that the official Opposition are coming round to seeing the very real benefits of the right to buy, on which I shall later have a little to say—
My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord can explain what he means by that? I am sure that he did not intend it, but it came over as rather a snide remark. I do not know what he meant about "coming round to it". We have never ever said that there should not be a right to buy. All we are saying is that the right to buy should not be taken to the extreme where we do not have houses to rent for those people who cannot afford to buy.
My Lords, if I have given the impression of being snide, I would say that that was certainly not my intention—at least not quite at that point in my speech. But, as I understand it, in the past when the right-to-buy legislation was first promoted, the Labour Opposition were dead set against it as a concept, whereas now, I believe, they are—perhaps "breaking ranks" is the wrong expression—coming to an acceptance that there is a logic to it, and quite a good one.
My Lords, we were not against the principle, but rather against the legislation itself, with the enormous discount.
My Lords, I think that the record ought to be put right. As an ex-Whip in another place, who dealt with all the housing Bills, I would say that the official standpoint of the Labour Opposition was, and still is, that the prerogative to sell council houses ought to be left with the local authority which owns them, taking into account local need. The local authority ought not to be dictated to.
My Lords, right; so we have got that straight. I still do not think I agree with it, but nonetheless—
You are coming round to it.
Well, my Lords, perhaps there is a lot in the housing field that we should all come round to and over which we should start to accommodate each other. I was talking about the increase in owner-occupation. There is no doubt that this trend reflects a deep-seated preference on the part of the people. It also has important implications for the repair and maintenance of the stock, the primary responsibility for which rests increasingly on the owner-occupier. If home-ownership is one great aspiration, there has also been a steady social pressure for improvements in the standard of housing.As recently as 1971 there were nearly 3.2 million dwellings in England which were either unfit or lacked at least one basic amenity such as a bathroom, or were in serious disrepair, and indeed suffered from some of the very disturbing problems we have been hearing about this afternoon in stories about particular houses and buildings. By 1981, that figure had been reduced to just over 2 million and, of those, 15 per cent. were standing vacant. That is very real progress, and, so far as the general condition of the stock is concerned, I would refute any suggestion that we are facing a crisis. For the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, to refer to 50 years as the period needed to put the housing stock into reasonable condition is, I consider, alarmist.
It is true.
My Lords, how can it be? There is certainly a growing problem of disrepair and I will try in a few moments to describe how the Government propose to tackle it, but first I want to put into proportion the contribution which the public sector makes towards maintaining the private sector stock. With respect, I do not seem to be doing very well at the moment because there seems to be constant barracking and opposition, though, in view of the subject, perhaps I should say I am not surprised!I think, I am about to incur the opprobrium of your Lordships yet again: nonetheless I intend to say this. It is, with respect, facile to suggest, as has been suggested by the Opposition today, that the condition of our housing stock is related simply to the amount of public expenditure made available for home improvement and repair. Why cannot the party opposite understand that the fact that you increase the sums of money to solve a problem does not actually do anything for the root cause? Public expenditure can only prime the pump. In the 1980s we estimate that in the owner- occupied and private rented sectors, privately-financed expenditure on home improvement and repairs, whether by way of loans or cash savings, was some 30 times that financed by the taxpayer and the ratepayer. In all but the very short term, the condition of the housing stock will reflect the overall performance of a country's economy and not just levels of public expenditure on improvement grants and housing subsidy. The noble Lord, Lord Pitt, in introducing this debate, referred to the English House Condition Survey of 1981, and one other noble Lord asked whether it would be published following its normal quinquennial pattern. My understanding is that it will. The condition of the housing stock revealedin that survey reflected years of poor national economic performance. The survey suggested that about one dwelling in 10 was either unfit, lacked amenities or needed repairs costing over £7,000. If the repair level was lowered to £2,500, about one in four was affected, as we have heard. It also showed quite clearly that unsatisfactory conditions are still most likely to be found in properties built before 1919. We have been doing a great deal to meet these challenges. As my honourable friend the Minister for Housing and Construction made clear in a recent debate on housing repair and improvement in another place, since 1979 we have made the home improvement grant system more flexible, more generous and better attuned to the needs of priority groups. We have also provided local authorities with the resources to enable them to give grants in numbers which were unheard of throughout Labour's period of office. Take repair grants: between 1974 and the beginning of 1979 no more than 500 such grants were paid over the whole country. In the first half of 1983, 44,000 such grants were paid, 90 times as many as in the whole 1974–1979 period. We have acted on an unprecedented scale to tackle the problem. Inevitably, however, the noble Lord, Lord Byers, and other noble Lords who have spoken, asked about the HIP allocations for 1984–85. I hoped that when I was answering on Monday I had explained that, but I obviously failed to satisfy the House. As my right honourable friend announced on 24th September, gross provision for housing investment by local authorities in 1984–85 is £2,522 million. From within this gross provision, the total available for Housing Investment Programme allocations is £1,853 million. In addition to those allocations, authorities are also free to reinvest the prescribed portion of their housing capital receipts. There is no doubt that in the past they have not always done it. The noble Baroness, Lady Birk, referred to a potential overspend this year. We shall just have to see what comes about, but my understanding at the moment is that there will not be a general overspend at all. We estimate that authorities will generate £666 million of receipts next year, which will be available for investment over and above their allocations. I was asked about grant expenditure and I can tell the House that total spending on all types of grants was about £90 million in 1978–79, nearly £200 million in 1981–82, £430 million in 1982–83 and it is expected to be exactly the same next year. Of course, it is too early to say what the outturn of the current year will be. It might be sensible if I turn now to the housing built since 1945, and particularly to that built by the public sector. In this modern stock, there have been some serious problems of design, materials and workmanship—more than we all should wish to have seen in comparatively new buildings. It is distressing when blocks of flats built no more than 15 years ago have to be demolished, because their basic design or layout is so unsatisfactory, or because they cannot be repaired at worthwhile cost. But we need to keep a due sense of proportion about these problems. We in the Government and local authorities, tenants, the building professions and the lending institutions must all take care in assessing their implications for the stock as a whole, or I fear that we shall rush into hasty, ill-judged and costly action which is certainly not immediately necessary. The noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, suggested an all-party agreement on spending on housing with figures for replacement agreed by everyone. Would that I could, but I have never really believed in heaven on earth. It would not, of course, work, as no policy can ever be decided in isolation from all the others which come within a Government's programme. It would also have to be decided within the framework of the current Government's economic ethos. About 11 million houses and flats have been built in the United Kingdom since the war and 5 million have been built by private developers. The house building industry has responded to the aspirations of more and more people to own their own homes. I am told that private housing starts for Great Britain are expected to reach a level of 165,000 this year—a figure which was last exceeded only in the days of the previous Conservative Administration in 1973. A small number of failures is only to be expected given the numbers built, but the evidence is that the overwhelming majority will continue in satisfactory condition for many years. The same is true of the majority of the 6 million dwellings built by the public sector since 1945. About 5 million used conventional designs and materials. They provide comfortable accommodation, though no doubt, as living patterns and standards change, some work will be needed to meet the rising expectations of the occupiers. A little over 1 million dwellings of unconventional types and materials were built, mostly by the public sector, to speed house building. There has been a higher incidence of problems with these houses, but again we should keep a sense of balance. We must not damn more than 1 million buildings on the basis of problems with a limited number of the very many distinct types. First, there are the 170,000 houses built of prefabricated reinforced concrete before 1960. When they were built there was no reason to believe that this material would not produce a house comparable to one built on conventional lines. To date, these houses have been excellent homes for very many people. The Building Research Establishment's recent studies show that many will continue to be safe and sound for a considerable number of years. The structural members are, however, subject to gradual deterioration which cannot be halted altogether. In these circumstances, private owners have a special difficulty, because the remaining life of the houses is not sufficient to justify a substantial mortgage and an unmortgageable house is seriously devalued, if not unmarketable. I think it was the noble Baroness, Lady Fisher, who asked about grant-aiding owners of system-built houses where they are facing damage and dereliction due to their specific method of construction. We intend to introduce a Bill as soon as possible to introduce a scheme based on that for Airey house owners, to help qualifying owners of houses sold by public bodies on the basis of values which did not reflect defects, or potential defects, not discoverable by normal survey at the time of sale. The 150,000 prefabricated reinforced concrete houses which remain in public ownership will gradually have to be repaired or replaced, if that is required, but the Building Research Establishment's findings suggest that this is not something which has to happen overnight. It is a medium-term problem which authorities can tackle over a considerable number of years. I am concerned that the House wishes to hound us into panic measures which are not appropriate; into a crash programme of immediate and massive expenditure which, unless special arrangements are made, will eat into the Housing Investment Programme resources which are needed for other purposes. Some expenditure will be needed in the next few years, of course, and I readily admit that. As I said in answer to a supplementary question on Monday, the provision made for housing capital expenditure in 1984–85 has been fixed in the light of that and other needs. We shall also be looking with the local authority associations at the general needs index formula of allocation to assess whether any changes are needed. In the end, the message must be the same as with nontraditional houses built before 1960: assess the problems objectively, do not undertake expenditure before it is needed and do not assume that housing of different, if similar, types, or even other houses of the same type, will automatically suffer from the same problems. All will depend on the cause of the problems. I have had to cover very quickly a great deal of ground with, I agree, several interruptions which have been brought entirely upon myself, and I must apologise if I have not be able to do justice in the time available to the points made by some of those who have spoken. In closing, I want to make two points. First, the role of public policy in maintaining and improving our housing stock lies in giving a lead to and facilitating private investment. Secondly, where public resources are being spent, the point is to make sure that they are used efficiently and to help where the need is greatest. I am absolutely convinced that in some of the cases which we have been hearing about in this debate the need is very great, but I am not convinced that the totality of the problem is as has been described by noble Lords this afternoon.
My Lords, I am really disappointed by the speech of the Minister. The Government continue to be complacent about this issue. It is not that houses have deteriorated because you are not spending enough money now. They are deteriorating and the deterioration will not be checked unless you spend more money than you are spending now. We are not asking for a rush programme. What we are asking for is that expenditure on housing should be increased. Expenditure on housing is steadily being decreased. I hope that when the Minister talks with his colleagues they will think again, because we need a new and different approach.I am very grateful to all those who have taken part in the debate. May I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Cornwallis, on his maiden speech and thank him for the way he explained the building society scheme. I had read about it and was attracted by it, so I was glad to hear about the details. I am grateful also to my noble friends Lord Dean of Beswick and Lady Fisher of Rednal for dealing with industrialised buildings, in particular the post-1960 buildings which are in need of urgent attention. I was sorry that again the Government did not take on board the point made by my noble friend Lord Dean: that the local authorities will be unable to tackle the problem unless the Government give them more help than they are recieving at the moment. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, that all-party agreement is needed on a programme for preserving, renovating and renewing houses. We do not necessarily always have to have a party battle. This problem concerns all people and we ought to be able to agree on the way to deal with it. I am grateful, too, to the noble Lord, Lord Byers, for underlining three important points: that increased capital spending on housing makes good economic sense; that bad housing causes severe social stress; and that the longer you delay improvement the more expensive it becomes. Those are three points which the Government had better take on board. Finally, I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes—an old friend of mine from County Hall—that I am not suggesting that we should merely clear. I have always made it quite clear that we ought to rehabilitate wherever we can and that we should clear where this is necessary. That was my suggested programme. As for the question of mortgage tax relief, everybody runs away from it, but I am not going to do so. Mortgage tax relief is housing expenditure and must be regarded as such. When you do so you recognise that this country is not spending money in the best possible way. Because of that fact I believe there is need for reform. Having made those points. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion for Papers.
Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.
My Lords, before the next debate on the Order Paper is called and before the clock starts, it might be for the convenience of the House if, with the leave of the House, I made a short business statement, repeating part of the statement which I made after Question Time today.There is a long list of speakers in the coming debate. The noble Lord who is to open the debate is, by custom, entitled to 15 minutes. My noble friend who is to reply is entitled to rise to reply 20 minutes before the scheduled end of the debate. This means that the speakers in the body of the debate have a maximum, on average, of six minutes. As I said earlier this afternoon, any noble Lord who exceeds his six minutes will inevitably be doing so at the expense of later speakers in the debate. Just to emphasise what I am saying, may I point out to the House that if any noble Lord, while still on his feet, sees the figure "6" appear on the clock opposite, he will know that he is already running late.
rose to call attention to the situation in the Arts; and to move for Papers.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg leave to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. It is a great privilege to open this short debate, which is the first general arts debate that your Lordships' House has had for some time, and I am glad that so many noble Lords have expressed an interest in it. I shall try to be as brief as possible.
We on these Benches welcome the presence here of the noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, the Minister for the Arts, and we look forward to his reply. The noble Earl has, of course, other important responsibilities as well. First, he is responsible for the Government's Management and Personnel Office, formerly known as the Civil Service Department. This is an important and exacting job and one that until now has usually been the responsibility of the Leader of this House. The noble Earl is, secondly, a Treasury spokesman, and I know how knowledgeable he is on Treasury matters. Thirdly, he is the Minister for the Arts.
Apart from this heavy workload, there must be problems of divided loyalties when the noble Earl's Treasury self has to fight his arts and libraries self. I realise that this is not the noble Earl's fault, but I hope that, one day, he will be allowed to concentrate on his arts responsibilities, for there is surely much to be done.
There is, for example, deep concern about the effect on the arts of the Government's impetuous decision to disband the Greater London Council and the metropolitan authorities. This cannot have been thought through, and the noble Earl is left to try to sort out the muddle. Are the Government confident that the local authorities will be willing or able to increase their support to fill the void caused by the abolition of the metropolitans? Does the Minister think that a district council is going, in these hard pressed times, to fund regional and even national facilities for the ratepayers of other districts? Is there not a danger that the North-East and Merseyside may become cultural deserts, with the closure of major theatres, museums and art galleries?
As the Arts Council said recently in a statement:
"This simply cannot be left to the chance decisions of individual districts and boroughs".
The Walker Gallery in Liverpool and the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle, neither of which could the Government abandon, are to be put under the Tate! This will surely make for administrative difficulties and increase the bias in favour of London at the
expense of the regions. And what is going to happen to the Lady Lever Art Gallery, which is at present run by the Walker?
In the GLC area, the White Paper proposes to put Kenwood and the Geffrye Museum under the Victoria and Albert Museum, which has four outstations already—Apsley House, Ham House, Osterley and the Museum of Childhood at Bethnal Green. Would it not be better for Kenwood to have its own body of trustees and to be funded by central Government, in the same way as the Wallace Collection?
Concerning the Geffrye Museum, the chairman of the advisory committee has said that in the absence of any detail as to how the proposal is to be implemented she feels unable to accept it. The Government have given no indication of the level of resources to be made available to the Geffrye and of its status in relation to the V and A. The present arrangements seem to be working well, so why change them?
I must also ask the Government why it is proposed to put the Horniman Museum and Library under the British Museum. The museum's advisory committee do not want to make any change. There is concern, too, about the future of the Dolmetsch instrumental collection, now in the care of the Horniman. Will the Government confirm that this unique collection will be preserved intact? I should also like to ask the noble Earl what is to happen to Marble Hill House and Ranger's House, both of which the Government seem to have forgotten in their White Paper. I do not blame them. They were probably rather hard pressed to get the White Paper out in time.
I note that the GLC's South Bank complex is to be transferred to an independent board of management, or quango, under the Arts Council. The White Paper says that the complex as a whole, to which the GLC has been granting £4 million a year, should be run on commercially viable lines. What does this mean? Will the Government confirm that there will be no lowering of artistic standards for box office ends?
I should like the Minister to confirm, if he will, that it will not be necessary to close down one of the four independent London orchestras when the GLC finance is removed. The musical life of the metropolis would be the poorer in consequence. What is to happen also to the Northern Sinfonia? There is much concern, too, about the future of the British Film Institute, which receives £340,000 annually from the GLC. Are the Government going to replace that? Will the Minister tell the House how much extra money is to be given to the Arts Council to meet the shortfall in GLC arts funding, which totals over £11 million a year? The Arts Council has just warned that, anyway, there will be a serious crisis if there is not an increase of 20 per cent. in its general grant. The council has said that it will be forced to cut its grants to a number of major organisations.
The recent Priestley scrutiny of the Royal Opera House shows that it is under-funded by some 17 per cent. and will be overdrawn by more than £1 million by the end of the financial year. Shortage of funds means that it is limited to only two new productions a year—half the normal number. As Sir Claus Moser said the other day, we cannot live on a constant diet of "La Bohème".
I hope that the Minister will let the House have his views on the suggestion in the Priestley report for separate Government funding for the four principal companies—the Royal Opera, the Royal Shakespeare Company, The National Theatre and the English National Opera. Those companies have always been funded by the Arts Council, so that they are independent of the state. I understand that the council would be opposed to any change, as it attaches great importance to the arm's-length principle. Are the Government proposing to reduce the Arts Council's responsibilities or to review them? The House needs to be told about the Government's intentions, as this is rather an important matter.
I am greatly concerned as well about the level of central Government funding for the purchase grants of our national museums and galleries. The National Gallery grant, for example, is no longer sufficient in most cases today to buy an outstanding painting—let alone more than one—if it comes on the market. At the time of the last Labour Government there was a radical increase in purchase grants, but since then it appears that there has been no serious rethinking of the situation. There is now a grave discrepancy between the prices of outstanding paintings and the funds available to acquire them.
It is no good the Reviewing Committee holding up an export licence, and the noble Earl going through all the stages of that procedure, if the money cannot be raised. Even for lower priced paintings there are problems. One thinks of Constable's brilliant sketch for the "Corn Field", one of his most famous paintings, which the Tate badly wanted and which was offered by the family in lieu of capital transfer tax and turned down by the Treasury. One thinks also of the enchanting Richard Dadd roundel, "Titania and Oberon", which should have gone to the Birmingham City Museum and Art Gallery, which was keen to have it, and has now gone overseas.
Although I tend to be a free trader in this respect, I believe that both those paintings—and there have been other cases also since the election—are part of our heritage and should have been secured for the nation. I must therefore ask the noble Earl whether the Government have thought about this problem at all, and whether they have any long-term plans to protect Britain's heritage? Are they, for example, considering increasing purchase grants or introducing more fiscal advantage to owners who offer their art treasures in payment of capital taxes? In the United States, there are substantial tax concessions to owners who donate works of art to public galleries and museums. Indeed, they have been able to build up some very splendid collections in consequence.
In this country, moreover, dealers have an inducement to sell abroad from Britain, as there is no VAT on exports. I hope that the Arts Minister will try to persuade his other Treasury self to do something about these problems with his right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
One way of increasing funds is through sponsorship, which at present is running at about £12 million a year. Much more needs to be done to provide encouragement to potential sponsors. The Select Committee of another place recommended that companies should be exempt from tax on a percentage of their pre-tax profits for all donations to the arts. This would give the United Kingdom the same "tax breaks" as in the United States.
Lastly, may I make a plea for the University museums—the Ashmolean at Oxford and the Fitzwilliam at Cambridge—with which I should like to bracket the Dulwich Picture Gallery? These three enjoy an international esteem, yet they receive no central Government money and their funding comes from the educational institutions concerned—from monies made available for educational rather than strictly museum purposes. In these days of financial stringency, those important museums are finding it increasingly difficult to provide adequate facilities and security—and there have had to be staff reductions, closed days, closed areas, and so on.
In Dulwich, which has one of the most important private collections anywhere, the little Rembrandt portrait (a painting of first class importance and of great beauty) has now been stolen again, for the fourth time. In consequence, some rooms have had to be closed and paintings removed from public exhibition.
May I ask the noble Earl the Minister if he will direct his mind to helping those three museums? We have reached the stage where some financial support from central Government is absolutely essential. I am sure that it would be acceptable to the universities concerned, and also to Dulwich, if some of the members of the governing bodies became Government appointments.
The matter is urgent, as the problems at Dulwich will become even more acute when the GLC's annual grant is removed. If the Treasury want a precedent—and I know that they love precedents—they might remember that central Government already contribute substantially to the running costs of the Soane Museum privately founded in London by Sir John Soane, who, incidentally, was the architect of the Dulwich Picture Gallery.
These and other problems, as I said at the outset, are causing increasing concern. I hope that the Government are going to show that they really care about the arts and that they are not going to subject them to short-sighted stringency, instant decisions, and a somewhat philistine approach. I beg to move for Papers.
My Lords, we are all grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, for this opportunity; grateful and, for my part, appalled at the task of tackling the whole of the arts in six minutes. Talk about Renaissance man! I am particularly appalled because I believe that my party has a policy for the wholesale restructuring of the subsidy system which the nation ought to take on board and which this Government in particular could take on board without in any way sacrificing their principles. I hope that the noble Earl the Minister has read it. If he has not read it, I hope that he will do so; I will get a copy to him if he does not have one.The present system does not work. It is not for lack of money. Central Government spending—both Tory and Labour—on the arts has more than doubled in real terms over the past 10 years. Local authority spending—again, of all persuasions—has also increased. That is good. It is not, of course, enough. It is relatively less than most other European countries spend, and, in any case, £12 a head—or less than one-third of the cost of a television licence—does not seem much to spend on all our libraries, museums, art galleries and theatres. I am alarmed, however, at the thought that, despite this increase in public spending, the arts are still in a state of financial crisis. Subsidy, or at least our way of handing out subsidies, has not managed to solve the chronic financial insecurity of the arts. The crisis is, if anything, worse than it was 10 years ago. The Arts Council has warned that if it does not receive another £15 million of public money it will have to embark on another round of drastic cuts. Artists as a whole still remain the least well paid and the most insecure section of our society, even those of them who are in work, and their incomes are continually being whittled away, not just by the loss and the diminution of grants, but also by the loss of part-time teaching jobs caused by education cuts. On top of all that, the proposed abolition of the metropolitan authorities is bound to cause havoc among the many institutions which have previously looked to them for support. We have doubled public spending but the arts are worse off than ever. What has gone wrong? One of the many answers, I believe, is that our very methods of handling subsidies to the arts have done more harm than good. From the very beginning we have not been concerned with the health of the arts professions as a whole—and here I feel I shall have Lord Jenkins on my side—but only with certain favoured sections of them. We have indulged in a rather feudal type of patronage, supporting those organisations which have acquired political and establishment clout and ignoring or undervaluing the rest. I give one solitary example from the many problems that distortion brings: the Royal Shakespeare Company, in competition with the National Theatre, faced a small deficit last year. Did they put their prices up? They did not, because the National Theatre, with a considerably higher grant, had tickets lower priced than theirs. The result is that everyone says the RSC is under funded. Perhaps; or perhaps the National Theatre is over funded. We do not know. Subsidy plucks on subsidy, distortion breeds distortion. It affects the whole chain and hits hardest in the theatre at the provincial and commercial theatres at the bottom of the chain. After 30 years of this, there is some very good theatre, but there are less theatres to go to, and the decisions as to which are to survive are not made by the people, the public, but by the mandarins. If we threaten, through our methods of subsidy, the pluralism of the system, we are not just running ourselves into economic trouble but we are damaging the very cause that we all wish to support, the health of the arts. The economic distortions caused by our methods of doling out subsidy are one important reason why more public spending is constantly required, and the Government should take that to heart. There need not be a great deal more money produced if the subsidy methods are reformed. We should be concerned not simply with the viability of this theatre or that theatre, this or that arts organisation, but with the economic health of the arts system as a whole. This is particularly important at this time, when we are faced with a growing number of people with unstructured time and a genuine increase in leisure, melding with a recession and technical change. Now, above all, we need a strong, vital and pluralistic culture. We have been lucky in Britain, in that many of our artists have been prepared to struggle on under what are often intolerable circumstances. It is time we learnt to respond to their effort. A new deal for the artist is what is needed, and a new deal by way of a restructuring of our arts system. We need a fresh look at the very way in which we support the arts in Britain, or else we shall be back here in 10 years' time holding the same learned, cultured and informed debate, but with nothing achieved at all.
My Lords, I shall be very brief—and I am glad that so many of your Lordships are interested in the arts that we must all be brief. I am a back number, but I hope no one will doubt my lifelong devotion to the arts. Of course, there never has been, and never will be, money enough to satisfy all the demands of those concerned to promote them. What there is will always in the last resort depend not so much on what the Government provide as on what those who are concerned and interested are willing and able by their enthusiasm and their own efforts to put into it in one way and another.As to the Government, the medium through which they assist the arts is in the main the Arts Council. There are, of course, many others—the universities, the galleries and museums, the National Heritage Fund and so on. As to the Arts Council, it is difficult to maintain that the Government are starving the arts. If the product of a cut of 1 per cent. for the Arts Council is insignificant in the context of the national Budget, that, after all, cuts both ways. If 1 per cent. of the Arts Council's budget is insignificant as a saving, it surely is not all that severe as a pruning, and some pruning is both necessary and desirable, to ensure that what is made available is most effectively applied. Looking back over the years, I recollect that when I was appointed in 1960 as chairman of the Arts Council, Sir Kenneth Clark, from whom I took over, said to me, "Everyone tells me that we ought to have double. I am sure that if we had double a great deal of it would be wasted". That was a long time ago and there has since then been swingeing inflation, but, even so, your Lordships will hardly believe that the figure of which he spoke was at that time no more than £1½million, whereas this year the corresponding figure is £93½ million—60 times as much. And we are now told that that is not nearly enough; that it should be £110 million or even as much as 20 per cent. more if the Council is to be enabled to do all that is essentially necessary. The fact is that there will never be nearly enough to enable the Council to do all that they would very properly like to do. All credit to them for their concerns and their ambitions, but there must be some limit, some control. After all, all of us, to use the old phrase, have to cut our coat according to the cloth available. So I conclude that, in the light of the figures that I have given, the suggestion that the Government are starving the arts cannot really be sustained. They provide a not ungenerous figure to the Arts Council to add to what is available to the arts from very many other sources. There is no doubt whatever that the arts in this country now flourish as never before, and that is the important thing. We must all rejoice that it is so, and long may it continue!
My Lords, I want primarily to talk about the performing arts. I suppose, like the noble Lord, Lord Cottesloe, that I also am a back number, having been chairman of the Arts Council in the mid-70s, but I still have a connection with the arts through the Royal Opera House, of which I am a director, and Glyndebourne and one or two other institutions.Arts such as the opera companies, the ballet, the permanent theatre companies and orchestras have never been for long funded purely by the citizens through the box office and they never will be. The gap between expenditure and box office in America is funded largely through tax concessions; in Europe the figure is about 75 per cent. through the state, and here the public cost is lower but still the funding falls mainly on public funds. In trying to restrain public expenditure the Government stress the role of private patronage, and they are quite right to do so. It is a useful additional resource and helps to diffuse patronage throughout the community. But it can only help at the margins. As an example, last year the Royal Opera House raised from the private sector about £900,000, or 4½ per cent. of its total expenditure. Your Lordships may well think that the Royal Opera House is particularly well placed to raise funds from private sources but the recent scrutiny of the Royal Opera House, as the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, said, came up with the view that to do the job required of it and prevent a serious fall in standards about a 17 per cent. uplift in its grant was necessary. In fact, the Arts Council assessed that need at 21 per cent. If one takes a mean between the two and turns it into cash that is about £ 2 million. That is not impossible to find from the private sector if the Government extend the thoughts of their manifesto beyond the manifesto and introduce realistic tax incentives. But it is quite impossible if all we can look for are modest improvements, which is what the Minister for the Arts suggested in his Blackpool speech. In present conditions, therefore, private patronage is a help but not a solution. Even if it were a financial solution it would not provide the continuity which alone makes excellence a possibility for a national arts company. I know how much store the Prime Minister sets by excellence. She wants Britain to excel. She is interested that we should excel in this sphere and she knows as well as anybody that excellence in the arts, as elsewhere, costs money. I have one other point. The noble Earl, the Minister for the Arts, said at Blackpool, very wisely, that artistic achievement is not continuous, so grant-aiding should not be continuous either. He added that it is dangerous to institutionalise public funding more than is absolutely necessary. The Arts Council appeared, in agreement with that doctrine, to be reviewing the possibility of a significant shift in resources between its clients—a very brave and proper thing to do. At the same time, in the recent Government scrutiny of the Royal Opera House and the Royal Shakespeare Company there appeared the suggestion that these companies were different in kind from other Arts Council clients and that they might be funded directly by the Government. In his Blackpool speech the Minister expressed his dislike of direct funding, and of course he is right. It would diminish the Arts Council, which is our chosen and proven method of funding the arts and which therefore ought not to be diminished, and even worse it would force the Arts Council into having to champion the cause of its remaining clients against those directly funded by the Government, which would be unnecessarily time wasting and divisive. The Minister hinted at a compromise and the only compromise I can imagine would take the form of a block grant made through the Arts Council, earmarked en bloc for certain companies such as the Royal Opera House, the National Theatre, the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Coliseum. but divided between them by the Arts Council according to its assessment of their needs. The argument is that the continued existence of such companies is now accepted and, indeed, insisted upon by the community so that the only decision is how much they need if they are to do the job required of them. I can see the attractions in the introduction of a block grant of this kind. There is a difference in kind between the institutionalised companies and those of which some will come and some will go. It may be that the basic decision of how much money to spend on them is a political as well as an artistic one. Perhaps the Arts Council ought to be relieved of the decision, over which it agonises every year, on cutting the cake between those companies and the rest. But where is the line to be drawn? Ought not Scottish opera and Welsh opera to be among the institutions in the block grant? What is to be the fate of the companies singled out in the Government's consultative paper on the arts for extra Arts Council funding in consequence of the abolition of the GLC and the MCCs? Apart from the National Theatre and the Coliseum there are seven others. Are they to be added to the block grant? If so, I think the list is too big. The dangers of institutionalising public funding needs stricter containment. No doubt the proposal to abolish these authorities was not thought of in terms of the arts, but the consequences to the arts, into which I cannot go because my time is coming to an end, are serious and not to be as lightly dealt with as I believe they have been in a White Paper. My time is almost up and during my last minute I want to revert to the basic issue. To my mind this is a question of quantum. I am not arguing that the Government have been ungenerous, but I am arguing that a little more would make a great deal of difference and that its value to the country would be entirely beyond the sums of money involved. The chairman of the Arts Council said that £20 million would solve his problem. Does the Minister feel that £20 million is really a politically unacceptable quantum leap, as he implied at Blackpool? Are we so philistine that that is politically unacceptable? We are like a company which is in some difficulty and has a treasurer who warns us that we must not spend until we have earned the money. Such a company needs other members of the board to say where creative expenditure is necessary and when it will be effective in improving prospects and assisting growth. It is my belief that arts expenditure will do just that and I ask the noble Earl, the Minister for the Arts, to assign to himself the noble role of proclaiming that undoubted truth.
My Lords, the House of Commons Select Committee came to certain conclusions after a study of the arts. To us, the case for fostering the arts rests on the immediate need to stimulate the constructive and active use of leisure by the many. Arts for all. I do not believe that enough is being done in localities to foster the arts. I think that more could be done, and will be done, because of the impetus that is now set free to do more about art in the provinces.In our district we have 22,000 people. We saw that the deeds, documents and material that should be under supervision by archivists were being drained out of the district. We went to the local authority to see what we could do in the way of getting space for them to be looked after. We found that there was no space available, so we started to build a museum of our own. It took us 10 years to do it. We have now completed it within £3,000 of the total, and the building itself is worth £250,000. We are able to look after it, and this is one of the marriages which can take place between volunteers on the ground and the professionals. We are now employing 10 professionals, six of them full-time and four ordinary part-time. There has been an enormous change during the past 10 years. There is no doubt whatever that progress has been made and that there has been an enormous backing of the arts by the Government in all sorts of ways. We cannot turn the clock back. Arts for all is with us, and will continue to be with us. The day when the amateur was confined to singing and practically nothing else has gone. We have the music schools of Yehudi Menuhin, the Bath and Wells School, the Cheetham Hospital School and the Royal Northern College of Music. We are now creating artists of a quality which is absolutely superb. We have a score of amateur orchestras in the country which compare very well with the professionals. Very few young people will ever be chosen to play professionally, they will play irrespective of what the country or the Government do. Good luck to them. Locally, we are very humble in our efforts. We had 48 brass bands visiting our district in one day—a mecca for the grass roots. The big bands were not against coming to compete with youngsters from the schools. They believe that they can be invigorated and renewed by coming back to grass roots. The noble Lord, Lord Gibson, mentioned opera. May I say this to him? When you destroyed opera for all, you destroyed your grass roots.
My Lords, may I just point out that I did not destroy opera for all?
My Lords, whoever did is immaterial, but it destroyed the grass roots. Young singers came to our district and we could find them an audience of 400. They met and mixed with the public. The people in our district used to follow their careers. The same applies to ballet for all.As president of the North-West Arts Association, may I say this? Whatever alternative is finally arrived at, I urge the Government in the strongest possible terms at least to protect the current level of expenditure on the arts by the metropolitan counties through whatever means are at their disposal. Although I do not hold the view that any particular structure is the only one through which stable and adequate provision can be made, I point out as a matter of fact that arts provision has improved as a result of the creation of the metropolitan counties. I am very deeply concerned that the proposals in their present form do not offer protection for that existing provision, let alone any hope of growth and development. If the amounts that are presently channelled to the arts are reduced, it would be folly. But I think that people can do a lot more for themselves. I only hope that due consideration will he given to the change before it is made. The last boundary alterations led to chaos. I wish the Government well in their efforts to find a better solution to local government than we have now, but I ask them, please, under no circumstances to reduce the grants that we enjoy at present.
My Lords, as has already been said, Parliament has treated the Arts Council well. Its budget has risen significantly over the years, but as the grants increased, a flaw of some social importance appeared. Too much was being spent on too narrow a range of activities. In the early 1970s some modest steps were taken to change course, but now the recession has aggravated that flaw, and in the foreseeable future we shall have more people with time on their hands, whether they are employed or unemployed. For them the spread of the arts widely, and at a rather different level than that with which the Arts Council has been preoccupied, is necessary. I therefore feel that I must urge upon the Minister a major shift in policy.When it started, the Arts Council did not have the resources, and perhaps not the inclination, to spare a thought for work below the level of a sophisticated audience. It did not pay any attention to amateurs. It did not think it its business to become expert in marketing the arts, be they the subsidised arts, or otherwise. Marketing is vital in a society where the social mix—already much improved—is far from satisfactory and the levels of taste for that very reason differ widely. In such conditions it makes more sense to use public money to persuade people to buy contemporary art, or seats at a performance, than to subsidise works which please nobody but the artists and their closest admirers. Why has marketing received comparatively little attention? I suppose that it is because of a superior belief that the demand is inelastic; it would be a waste of resources to try to popularise work for which the general public will never care. Such a view, held by very distinguished persons, was bound to favour the great national companies in the centre of London. Their standards were of the highest. Their audience was thought to be assured. Let us all agree that those great companies must be adequately supported—but not at the cost of dismissing the vast number of people who have not yet learned to appreciate the arts. That is the reason why, when I was the Minister responsible, I had to insist that a much larger slice of the Arts Council's budget was given to the regional arts associations. I also hoped that marketing would become a major concern of the Arts Council and of the Crafts Council. Excellent work has been done in some of the regions: but the latter hope has not been fulfilled. I hope that my noble friend the Minister will act in the belief that today there exists a huge, latent, half-conscious desire to enjoy experience which combines beauty and order—not an immediate demand for the highest forms of art, but for ladders of artistic experience up which old and young can climb as far as their awakening interest will carry them. Therefore, I hope that my noble friend might consider one or two changes. I do not agree with the noble Lord. Lord Gibson, about hiving off the national companies from the Arts Council. It is done with many other national institutions, with good effect on their budgets. A separation would have two effects so far as the Arts Council is concerned. First, it would stop the jealousy which is aroused by comparing the size of the grants to the national companies with those to the regions. But much more importantly, it would release the Arts Council to pay adequate attention to marketing. Secondly, I think that teachers, librarians, and museum curators should be welcomed as partners with the arts administrators and be directly involved in forming policy. If art is to become a necessity of life—which it certainly should do—we shall need the help of all the branches of education. All my suggestions amount to this. The policy of subsidising art for art's sake, which is so dear to many of my best friends, should not be abandoned, but should be supplemented with vigorous action to bring the artist and the public at all levels closer together. Artists are not paying as much attention as they used to to what the public want. Of all those objects on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum, I wonder how many were in the first instance commissioned. I should think the great majority. Can we re-establish some such intimate relationship between the artist and the public? In conclusion, I put it to the Minister that the purpose of art is to make life better for as many people as possible. I hope that my noble friend will go down in history as someone who saw that there exists in Britain an audience for the arts of unsuspected dimensions—men, women and children hungry for the arts, if only the right opportunities were on offer. Our technological society can so easily become a society where only money counts. That was foreseen by Simone Weil, a religious philosopher, and I end by quoting her words:
"Workers will need poetry more than bread".
My Lords, last Wednesday, the Lord President of the Council said:
How right he was, and so I shall be a good boy and not ask the Minister for an increase in the arts grants. What I will do, though, is to say what will happen if we do not get it. The first thing we shall get, as the Priestly report says, is stagnation. The only way to avoid that is to rationalise resources as the universities have been forced to rationalise. The sombre conclusions I reached about rationalisation from my experience in the University of London is this. Every initiative I made from 1968 until 1981 to rationalise was blocked either within the University of London or on the Vice-Chancellors' Committee. Vice-Chancellors and Senates are teak bottomed. No drawing pin or screwdriver can penetrate their determination to hold what they have. No gradual cut has any effect at all. It was not until the Government announced its drastic cuts in 1980 that at last the universities were forced to rationalise, and gradually and with many a hiccough the elephant of the University of London is digesting this unpalatable bun and merging its colleges and schools. Its members would never have touched that bun unless they had been driven to by financial necessity. A Minister for the Arts cannot rationalise because he would at once be accused of politicising the arts. But I was glad to see that Sir William Rees-Mogg had taken a leaf out of the book of the UGC and had asked his major institutions what they would do if they got 25 per cent. less money. May I take one of the arts which I think we ought to look at from the point of view of rationalisation? The Arts Council is now supporting six major ballet companies, one of which, the Royal Ballet, has two companies: the touring and the London company. On the present budget of the council, is such a number of companies justifiable? What will happen if all are to continue is this: standards will fall, and ballet is not a form of art in which third-rate standards are acceptable. Can we afford to keep Sadler's Wells going? It is a deplorable auditorium and it ought to have been closed when ENO went to the Coliseum. Surely some rationalisation is possible between ROH and ENO. How, with no rationalisation, can these two great institutions continue and attract the enormous tourist trade that they get? At this point some noble Lords may be asking me whether I will include in this deplorable suggestion museums and galleries which are funded direct from DES. I will consider them. The costs of museums and galleries are never static. Now, most museums are offering a restricted service and are just keeping their heads above water; though, as I told the noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, at Question Time, the price of an Old Master—and in particular the younger of the Old Masters—is now almost double the amount of the National Gallery purchase grant. What I fear is this: if the Minister were drastically to reduce the purchase grant to finance, say, the new Theatre Museum or the increased expenditure at the Tate owing to the opening of the Turner Gallery, or numbers of other projects that are in the pipeline, he might say to me or my successor, "Well, you have the remedy in your own hands; impose an entry charge; a voluntary, really an involuntary, charge as is levied in the Metropolitan Museum and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Do not expect the Government to impose this charge. Make up the difference if you want to, or even increase your purchase grant by this simple means". I speak as one who moved a Motion some 10 years ago against museum charges when the noble Lord, Lord Eccles, announced that the Government was imposing them. The reason why I am deeply against such charges is because, like some members of the Government, I respect so many of the values which our forefathers, the Victorians, admired; and the Victorians regarded museums and libraries as part of education. As education was free, so, they believed, should museums and libraries be free. So today should the public get these services free of charge. If museums and galleries were driven themselves to impose charges, there is little doubt that there would be a first-class row. What are we to do? Some may argue that, if only the Government would spend less on this or that, the insignificant sum that the Government spend on the arts could he increased. Some of those who work in artistic enterprises say to me that if the nation is prepared to spend so many million pounds on Exocets, why not buy one less and use the savings for the arts? I tell them that that is a naive argument. Every great Government department—health, education, defence—has its basic needs. But there is one part of defence expenditure which is not vital to our national security and that is the present grotesquely heavy expenditure on the Falkland Islands. As one who supported the Government wholeheartedly in their action against the Argentinian invasion, I argue that the Government should now reverse their present policy as enunciated by the noble Baroness, Lady Young, at Question Time last Monday. The Government have got their priorities wrong, and that is why the health service, the social services and the arts are short of funds. But the noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, need not look alarmed: I will not in a short debate take that point further."The truth is that those who press for reductions in public spending in general still have their own favourite projects which they wish to protect or indeed enhance".
My Lords, I want to approach this debate from a regional point of view, and I must say that I find myself in very great sympathy with much that the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, said. I really want to make two points. We have heard of the great theatre companies, the great museums and the great orchestras in London, and I support the principle that London should be a centre of excellence; but I think that if London is to remain the centre of excellence it must draw on the services and the state of the arts in the regions, both the visual arts and the performing arts. I was reminded of this only this past week-end, when I was supporting an art fair in Leeds—a fair which had been organised by artists, by friends of artists and by business, with some support from local government.The idea behind the fair was to give more support to live artists, and to encourage them. One of the sponsors recalled that he had had the good fortune marry years ago, when attending a similar small exhibition, to buy the very first David Hockney. I do not know if there were any equivalents to the David Hockneys sold at this particular fair this past weekend; but the point is that it is only by organising activities at this level and of this nature that we can support and foster new artists and develop the arts to cover a wider group of people. Coming, as I do, from a country famous for its music and choral societies, one cannot help but think of the very many artists who have been fostered in Yorkshire and in some of the other northern counties who have subsequently moved to London to enhance the reputation of the arts and music in London. In this connection one thinks of Janet Baker and the late Kathleen Ferrier, in particular. These two artists, and many others, have been nurtured and enjoyed, as my noble friend Lord Rhodes said, by small audiences; but they have been nurtured and enjoyed by those small audiences so that they could go forward to perform before bigger audiences. They have also been supported by organisations like the Huddersfield Choral Society and the Leeds Festival Chorus, which in themselves have contributed to the excellence of the arts in London. Both these companies have themselves been the cause of having new works commissioned. London may be one of our tourist attractions; it may be the pivot of the arts here. But it depends so much on the excellence and the standard of the arts in the provinces. Incidentally, it would be appreciated by the provinces if there was more reciprocity in this connection: if, for example, more of the exhibitions of art and more of the treasures from some of our museums could come to our regional art centres and museums, it would be much appreciated. I would not want anything to happen to the development of some of the touring companies that have brought new life to the arts in the regions. My second point inevitably relates to funding. I want to underline the fact that funding must be as secure in the provinces as it is here in the capital. I share the concern that has been expressed by some noble Lords over what is going to happen to the funding of the arts if the metropolitan counties are abolished. One can think, for example, of Opera North. I know that this is on the list to be supported, but there is nevertheless great concern in Opera North and among the friends of Opera North as to what is to happen to it in the future. What is to happen to the Northern Sinfonia, that supports Opera North? There are also theatres in the regions which are going to suffer. One can think in particular of the Leeds Playhouse and the Sheffield Crucible—again, both theatres that have contributed to encouraging new artists and new playwrights. One has to give serious consideration to how we can maintain the proper funding not only of the arts in London but also of the arts in the provinces. Perhaps I can just say—and I say it with some shame—that some 20 years ago there was an effort to establish and maintain a Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra. This failed. It failed largely because funding was on an ad hocbasis, bringing together a number of local authorities, and was not backed by regional authority such as one of the great metropolitan counties. I feel that we must have another think as to how we might fund the regions.
My Lords, this is St. Andrew's Day, and in my six minutes I shall try in my remarks to concentrate upon Scotland. As a past member of the Scottish Arts Council during the palmier days of 1970, I have watched with interest the development of enterprises that were begun in that period. Let us hope that they will continue to flourish in the harsher climate of today. The Scottish Arts Council deserves all the support and encouragement that it can be given. This is no time for criticism. Indeed, it deserves congratulations for the way in which it carries out its function in difficult times. Like its sister arts councils, it faces changes in the system of local authority funding, and it is to be hoped that local authority support will be maintained despite the tendency to give arts a low priority, particularly when the local authorities are under pressure.Unlike the Arts Council of Great Britain, we, in Scotland, decided not to embark on regional arts associations. That followed a report entitled The Arts in the Scottish Regions, to which I was a signatory. Our report was based on the belief that Scotland's needs were different from those of England and Wales, varying from small remote communities on the one hand, to the large conurbations of the central belt on the other. We preferred to continue a centralised administration, operating through our own headquarters committees and staff in conjunction with local authorities. Unfortunately, the relative load borne by the local authorities is decreasing. This is a matter of considerable concern to the Scottish Arts Council. The Scottish Arts Council makes increasing efforts to promote activities in the far corners of our cultural wastelands. Our travelling art gallery carries small built-in exhibitions across the moors. Parties of actors, dancers, singers and musicians travel long distances to perform in local halls and, with Scottish Arts Council support, performances by the Mull Little Theatre bring drama to the west coast. Scattered across the rural areas of Scotland, approximately 70 music clubs, arts guild centres and associations each promote an average of six professional events a year. In the larger centres, the bulk of our funding—in fact, 42 per cent.—supports orchestras, a ballet company, and an opera company. It is fair to say that a relatively large part of our population cannot enjoy the amenities of the cities. In order to maintain financial support for the arts, it is vital to foster help from the private sector. On the plus side, we, in Scotland, must acknowledge that during the past year business sponsorship for the arts has grown by 26 per cent. But the main beneficiaries from the increased revenue are the major music organisations, and sponsorship is often for work additional to an organisation's usual pattern of acitivities. In the main, the help is geared to situations involving large audience participation and comes from London-based companies with limited interests in Scotland. In the context of the private sector, perhaps I may touch briefly on a subject that we debated recently; namely, tax concessions to artists, in which, once again, I declare an interest. In his winding up speech, my noble friend the Minister for the Arts, gave a sympathetic ear to proposals put forward by several of your Lordships. Much of the prosperity of all the arts will depend on the initiatives coming from my noble friend and. in particular. those which will encourage support from businesses and private individuals. Sadly, the arts are in tremendous peril and are in desperate need of help from the Government. In this situation, it is vital to publicise the tax-free scheme whereby businesses are encouraged to buy paintings and sculptures for their reception rooms under the proviso that they will help to improve the company's image and profits. Most tax inspectors co-operate, but few firms know about it. With regard to VAT, will my noble friend please exclude the work of all contemporary artists in order to bring them in line with brother and sister writers, and so end an inconsistent anomaly? It is wrong to evade these issues on the grounds that the present taxation system is geared to deeds of covenant—which work well, thanks to the new four-year period—for fear that any moves in a different direction would weaken the system, cost money, and cause extra work. Will my noble friend please tell us where we stand and where there are hopes of change? Rather than push our suggestions into pigeonholes, will he agree to meet us round a table to discuss our proposals in detail? In his valedictory preface to this year's report of the Arts Council of Great Britain, the retiring Secretary-General paid particular attention to one of the council's prime functions, the need to foster understanding of the arts. Much greater efforts are needed to educate the public about all the arts. In my own sphere, there is a need for more guides to take parties. particularly of young people, around exhibitions of contemporary work. This can be best done by the artists themselves. There is a need for more artists in residence to be appointed to technological schools and other places of education. Such a programme would give part-time employment to struggling artists and ensure that more of our younger generation would grow up with new resources. The cost of this programme might well be minimal, and I believe that the effort would be well worth while. In conclusion, I would remind your Lordships that there is an increasing sense of relative deprivation so far as the arts in Scotland are concerned. All this encourages possible moves towards devolution in Scotland. That, in my view, would bring the security of the arts in Scotland into greater jeopardy. I believe that the division of available cake across the border is fair so far as Arts Council funds are concerned, but in certain ways it costs more to carry some of the cake to outlying corners. It is also important to mention central Government support for our national galleries and libraries on a scale which is sufficient to enable them to carry out their functions properly. I understand from the chairman of the Board of Trustees of the National Library of Scotland that his responsibilities are now so large in relation to his resources that the library has had to curtail the opening hours of the reading room. That situation gives grounds for some anxiety about cultural affairs in our capital city and about our ability to foster the enlightened of the Scottish people.
My Lords, I hope that the somewhat farcical amount of time allowed for this debate does not reflect the Government's view of the importance of the arts. I fear that many may take that view.
My Lords, could I just say that the Government did not set the time for this debate.
My Lords, that I appreciate. Speaking from these Benches and in order to get it out of the way, may I say that we do not support direct funding of the four national companies. We think that their assessment must remain with the Arts Council, that to have a privileged and an underprivileged group of clients would be a disaster, and that the arm's length principle must be paramount.However, I would like to speak about a matter to which reference has already been made; namely, the very real crisis of the arts at the moment. That leads inevitably to the question of Government funding. The Minister carries the responsibility for the size and the nature of the subsidy. His success or failure will be measured by his ability to maintain or destroy what is, but only just is, this country's pre-eminent position in this sphere. I wish to urge upon him that his paramount task is to pursue with unremitting vigour the intellectual argument for a substantial shift upwards in the basic figure on which the arts are now founded. The present basic figure has no rational basis. It is simply advanced as a percentage of some historic figure which itself was a percentage of some other sum similarly arrived at. The Minister's proclaimed message now is "Level pegging for the arts". I ask the noble Earl, does he believe that Turner's Fighting Temeraire was born of level pegging and, indeed, did level pegging bring forth King Lear? The Minister's budget is one half of 1 per cent. of total public expenditure, and it is one-fifth of that one-half which goes to fund the arts. Therefore, the basic question that we have to consider is the Arts Council grant. Do we want, or can we afford, to carry on on the basis of level pegging? Every penny spent by the Arts Council is backed by a scrupulous budgeting examination. The Priestley scrutiny has totally justified the financial control of two major Arts Council clients and has found them to be hopelessly under-funded, as, indeed, the Select Committee found in regard to the arts in general. Year after year the Arts Council pointed out to a succession of Ministers and, indeed, to taxpayers, that its clients were mostly under-funded. Why? Year after year these scrupulous figures have been put forward by the Arts Council in relation to its clients, and they are cut down year after year by the Ministry. The result is that slowly, inexorably, arts organisations are grinding down, and so the Arts Council is permanently engaged in deficit funding. I should like to warn the Minister that there is now a widespread feeling of disillusion and even despair and discouragement among the clients of the Arts Council; and, indeed, at 105 Piccadilly. Standards are falling, new works are seen less and less, and touring is becoming a rarity; prices are being put up too high and the arts are increasingly becoming accessible only to the better off. In fact, Priestley's findings apply right across the board. "Write off the deficits, jack up the base rate by 17 per cent.", says Priestley, "or close down the institutions". I urge the Minister to follow the unavoidable logic of Priestley and to ensure that this time the Arts Council receives the absolute minimum that it requires—a rise of 20 per cent. What are the Minister's priorities? As a Conservative, no doubt he is wedded to the concept of value for money. If he is not convinced by the validity of the quality of life argument, then let me put this to him. Where now is our national pride and self-respect best displayed? Would the Minister look around him here in the Palace of Westminster—who will be remembered longest: Barry and Pugin or the noble Lords who have taken part in this debate? It is, in fact, the genius, the imagination, the inventiveness, the ideas, the ideals, the creativity of this nation which will be its salvation. In other words, its culture. It is there that we shall ultimately look for an increase in the gross domestic product. I urge the Minister to think bigger. Why not go boldly for 1 per cent. of public expenditure to go to the comprehensive support of the arts? We will not build a great country on level pegging.
My Lords, I listened with the greatest interest to my noble friend Lord Cottesloe and the figures which he quoted. I well remember when he succeeded the noble Lord, Lord Clark, of Saltwood, as chairman of the Arts Council and the figures which he gave were certainly very striking. As we have only a few minutes at our disposal, I shall merely ask my noble friend Lord Gowrie three questions, of which I have given him notice, on perhaps a rather narrow field concerning the theatre.First, is he aware that the Chichester Festival Theatre, in which I declare an interest as the president of its trust, and which I think can claim to be the third most important theatre in the country after the National and the Royal Shakespeare at the Barbican, has for some years received not one penny from the taxpayer or from the Arts Council? This is the theatre which, in the early 1960s, was directed by the noble Lord, Lord Olivier, and which indeed formed the nucleus of the National Theatre. We have tried to maintain those standards ever since. Secondly, is my noble friend also aware that this theatre, seating 1,350 people, open 47 weeks in the year and playing to approximately I million people a year, is not even thought worthy of an Arts Council subsidy comparable to the 450-seat Royal Court, which now receives over £½ million a year from the Arts Council? The fact remains that, to a great extent, the artistic elements at Chichester have subsidised the festival for years. It is difficult to justify actors on a salary or wage of the kind which an unskilled labourer receives—for that is what they get—and for 52 weeks of the year. Our directors and designers are also poorly paid in comparison with similar theatres. I believe that there is sympathy within the Government to aid the theatre industry by giving certain tax relief to investors—or, if you prefer, "angels". I know that the Government are pledged to encourage sponsorship of the arts, and they are certainly doing so. If banks and other large business concerns can offset sponsorship by putting it through their advertising budgets, surely it would be fair and equitable for the private individual to set his investment against his overall tax burden. A friend of mine who presents plays in the West End of London receives a substantial amount of money for his productions from the United States, and any money lost in these ventures is allowed against the United States citizens' tax. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, also made this point. All that I would ask my noble friend for is his comments on the three points which I have made.
My Lords, art is long, life is short—and so is this debate. I must therefore confine myself to two simple points. The first is the position of the provinces. I do not want to take a single penny away from London. It is the centres of excellence in London which provide so much inspiration for their fellow artists in the provinces. I am thinking principally of the city where I was brought up—Manchester. In my youth it was a city rich in culture, and it was a culture created and maintained by an affluent and cosmopolitan middle-class.Engels had put the surplus value of his textile business into Karl Marx, but the other Germans helped to create the HalléOrchestra. The profits of Horniman's tea went into Miss Horniman's Gaiety Theatre, the first repertory theatre in Britain. The profits of Beecham's pills enabled Sir Thomas to bring the British National Opera Company to Manchester at regular intervals. The top D'Oyly Carte Company came, and so did the Comedie-Francaise. Great actors came before taking their plays into London. Cochran tried out his reviews in Manchester, and we saw Bitter Sweet and Cavalcade by Noel Coward before London was given a chance to see them. And all around us were the most avant-garde amateur dramatic societies rejoicing in surrealism, expressionism and constructivism, and all the other fads of the day. I do not think that Manchester is any richer in culture today than it was half a century ago. Indeed, I doubt whether it is as rich—and this despite public subsidies. Because if there remains a cultivated middle-class it is thinner on the ground than it used to be. Most of its members are the salaried employees of great corporations, and not private entrepreneurs, as they used to be, with liberty to dispose of their own capital gains in the endowment of the arts and the sustenance of charities. This is the big social change which has weakened the provinces and made subsidy necessary. Manchester arts have to depend to a considerable extent on public funds; and their dependence is threatened, as noble Lords have pointed out, by the Government's decision to get rid of one important patron, the Greater Manchester City Council, although special provision is made for two or three of the Manchester institutions, One of these institutions, one of the glories of Manchester, is the Royal Exchange Theatre. I have seen some remarkable productions there, first-class productions, in the highest of the highest metropolitan standards. The whole theatre is in a building which recalls Manchester's lost pre-eminence in textiles; and it seems to have that happily excited social atmosphere which the Old Vic used to have and which the National Theatre is almost achieving now. Yet the Royal Exchange Theatre is dependent on various sources, which includes an annual grant of over £300,000 from the metropolitan county.
:My Lords, like the Hallé Orchestra, the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester is also listed in the White Paper.
Yes, it is listed, my Lords. If the noble Earl is assuring me that all the money which will be lost with the disappearance of the metropolitan council will be funded from a central source, I shall be relieved and I think a number of Manchester people will, too.
The Minister nods his head.
If that is the case, then I am very glad because any kind of idea that great national and international companies are going to sponsor provincial enterprises and give them the security that they have is just not on.There have been pleas for an increase in the general expenditure on the arts, yet what seems a big sum absolutely is a small sum when seen as a percentage of what we spend on education. But there is always a fear of the philistines in public bodies. Governments always fear that if they go too far they will get on the wrong side of public opinion. Why should they spend all that money on a minority interest?—for it is still only a minority that looks at pictures, goes to museums. concerts and theatres. It is not easy to find utilitarian arguments. We have to fall back on the excellent argument that we heard a moment or two ago. I am saying this because I was horrified to read something in the Standard last night. The words were:
"Most subsidies to the arts are a transfer of resources from the working-classes, both metropolitan and provincial, to the London upper and upper middle-classes.
This was not written by some "yobo": these are the words of Mr. Brian Walden, former Oxford scholar and president of the Oxford Union. They are not the words one would expect from somebody who has enjoyed a privileged and subsidised education. and who runs now the best minority feature—but very much a minority feature—in the whole of television."Why the hell should some striving bloke in Accrington subsidise the price of an opera ticket for a London client of a multinational company? That is the reality behind the windbaggery of the arts lobby."
My Lords, I should like to take up just a couple of points raised in the debate. There is no doubt that there is some concern about the Government's proposals for the provincial museums after the abolition of the metropolitan county councils. One point I should like to make is that it is vitally important for museums, such as the Laing in Newcastle, near to which I live, and the Walker in Liverpool, that they should retain and further develop their own characters. If they are run from London by trustees of the Tate, surely some of the local character will be lost. There is a real worry about this from the museums' point of view, and I think it is a sensible worry. It would be unsatisfactory if such a thing happened. From conversations I have had, it is clear that both the London museums and the provincial museums are not entirely happy with those suggestions. Fortunately, however, my noble friend the Minister has made it clear that he is still very much open to suggestions. I should like to ask him whether he has considered the possibility of establishing for the provincial museums a system such as exists, for example, in regard to the Wallace Collection. The trustee system has served our museums very well, and I realise that there would be many initial problems to overcome. Clearly this is not the moment to discuss them but I hope that we shall hear from the Minister on that point.The second point—or perhaps plea—is about the continuing crisis in the Oxford and Cambridge museums, of which the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, made mention. The other day I met Professor Jaffe, who told me that if the last round of cuts had been evenly distributed, the Fitzwilliam would have been brought to the verge of closure, and that further cuts would be catastrophic. It is sad, but it is a fact that the universities can no longer cope with funding these museums. The Fitzwilliam has had to close its doors on one day a week, and of course the V and A has, too; there may be other examples. Somehow the doors of our museums, for all our reasons that are being discussed here today, must be kept open. I hope that my noble friend will exercise all his undoubted skills to make sure that that happens.
My Lords, I rise to echo the disquiet that many speakers today have expressed about what will happen to the arts in the event of the abolition of the GLC and of the metropolitan councils. I must needs declare an interest because I work for the GLC. I am its director of recreation and arts, but I hope your Lordships will believe that my personal employment prospects are of no importance whatever besides the crisis for the arts which I foresee looming for London. I shall speak only of London because that is what I know most about. But I see the Government's proposals as expressed in the White Paper as representing a serious blow to the arts in London. I cannot bring myself to think that it is a deliberate blow: I believe it to be unthinking.What do these proposals amount to? First, there are mentioned in the report nine bodies which the Government clearly intend to maintain or go some way to save. Predictably, they are institutions of such stature and such celebrity that their collapse would be a scandal which no Government would welcome. Even there, there is no guarantee whatever that the level of funding now provided by the GLC will be provided by the Government. It is worth noting that over the last six years in real terms the Arts Council's funds have increased by 22 per cent.; that in real termsis measured by the retail price index. The GLC's funds have increased by 144 per cent. in that time. Before anyone jumps to the conclusion that this points merely to the profligacy of local government and to the good financial management of central Government, I think we should all remember that the arts in this country have never been well funded. We are fortunate in our arts and we have always been miserably ungenerous to them. A few simple figures will suffice. I calculate that the French Government are exactly 10 times as generous to the arts as we are. It is true that in recent times Mr. Mitterrand at one blow doubled the arts budget of France. I conceive that it is possible that Mr. Mitterrand is not the noble Earl's ideal of political wisdom, but this stroke I commend to him firmly. Berlin has a famous and brilliant orchestra. It is subsidised to the extent of 10 London orchestras funded at a rate which manages to keep them just at survival level. As for the most expensive art of all, opera, the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, manages to find 38 per cent. of a very considerable grant from the box office. La Scala manages 17 per cent., the Staatsoper in Vienna 16 per cent. and the Deutschoper in Berlin 15 per cent. Their subsidies are stupendous by comparison with ours. Let us not deceive ourselves that we have ever been generous with the arts. Dusseldorf alone has an opera house worth £30 million a year and that is equal to two English National Operas. What else is contained in the Government's proposals? I thought I saw a moment of wonder because I noticed that the Government have acknowledged that the South Bank arts complex is powerful, indivisible, and vitally necessary to London. Imagine my dismay when I read that it was to be run as nearly as possible on commercial lines. The distinguished bodies that inhabit that South Bank already receive over £10 million in subsidy. Let nobody suppose that by increasing the seat prices one can reduce that. If one did that it would have two effects only; the first, would be to narrow the social scale of people who went there and the second would be to reduce the number of people who went there. There would be no financial benefit whatever. Is it to be sponsorship? I invite your Lordships to look around. Anyone who has been to the Festival Hall will know that half the concerts there are already sponsored. There is scarcely a concert without the name of a great insurance company, a great bank or a great commercial company of some sort upon it. The BFI gets subsidy for its work in the National Film Theatre. The Hayward Gallery is sponsored. That cannot be the answer. What of the museums? The Geffrye and the Horniman are supposed to be passed on elsewhere. I cannot for the life of me understand why. At the moment they are administered by the ILEA, but as the Government proposes a central education authority, I cannot think why it does not continue to run them. As the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, asked, what will happen to Ranger's House and Marble Hill, that most perfect of Palladian villas? There are so many unanswered questions. But most important of all is what will happen to the other 400 bodies that the GLC funds?—400 no less. The recipe is simply to pass the lot to the boroughs. We know that the boroughs will not be able to bear this financial burden because there is rate capping over the horizon no less than before. If they were able, would all of them be willing? If we look at the pattern of borough funding of the arts over London, we can see that it ranges from 20 pence per head of population to over £2. There is no rationale behind it. Boroughs cannot be relied upon to pick up this tab. I ask myself why it is that this recipe has been adopted by the Government. They could have suggested another quango. They could have suggested passing the necessary money to the Arts Council or to the Greater London Arts Association or a combination of both. But they did not. They said. "Let the boroughs take over all the arts in London except the nine". Could it be because only in the boroughs is there a remnant of democratic principle left in the administration of this money? But if to preserve that element of democracy it means chaos and ruin for the arts, that cannot be sensible. In conclusion, surely what is needed is an authority that can strategically balance the needs of the arts across London and have some democratic accountability for the money it levies. At the moment the GLC manages to do that and I cannot for the life of me think why we should not be allowed to continue so to do.
My Lords. I have been gravely deceived by this debate. I thought it was to be about the situation in the arts. I had hoped that I would have some up-to-date news on the position of poets as the trumpets who sing to battle as the unacknowledged legislators of the world; but no such thing. The debate has been entirely about the economics of the arts and not about the arts themselves.There are those who think that this is a necessary and complete connection between the two. Thirty years ago Wyndham Lewis wrote:
There is no doubt that inflation has continued since Wyndham Lewis's time. I am not sure how many noble Lords would support the strict relationship which he thought applied between the quality of art and public funding for it, or, indeed, the inflation rate. But there is a connection and it is a connection that is important to this debate as well. The fundamental thing that we must look to avoid in our approach both to the quality of art and to the funding of art is elitism. I want to suggest to the House that it is élitism which will be encouraged by the actions of the Government in the abolition of the GLC and the metropolitan counties. Élitism is partly a matter of the traditional stance of those better off in this world who actually do not like the idea that arts or anything else should be available to ordinary people. The demand for improved road provision came when the working classes started to have motor-cars and interfered with the pleasant motoring which the upper classes had known in the 1930s. The present troubles which affect the National Health Service exist because ordinary people are demanding the standards of health which, until recently, were only available to the few. In the arts this is typified by Constant Lambert describing the appalling popularity of music. Many people do not like the idea that arts should be more available to more people. I thought the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, very eloquently supported the view that as well as quality we should be talking about marketing and access. What is the answer to this problem of élitism in the arts? I suggest that there is no single answer and there is certainly no answer which will create better art. The present debate taking place in and about the literature panel of the Arts Council is evidence of that. There are those who say that funding for literature should be funding for authors of approved works of literature or of works of literature which may become approved. I take the view, and I think that the noble Viscount. Lord Eccles, would do so as well, that that is the wrong approach; that the approach should be on the marketing of literature and improved access to literature; in other words, any resources available for literature should go to help readers and not to make elitist decisions about who is good and who is not good, and which authors are worthy of direct funding. But there is, if not a single answer, an approach which I commend to your Lordships. That is the approach of pluralism both in art itself and in funding of arts. That is the sense in which I think it is important that we should not, for the political reasons of abolition of the GLC and the metropolitan counties, lose the pluralism and the concentration on access which the GLC, in particular, has given over the last few years. There are many people—and I speak in the hearing of the Director of Recreations and Arts of the GLC and the chairman of the GLC's arts committee—who make fun of many of the individual grants which the GLC has given to community arts and to ethnic arts. No doubt, in the nature of things, there will be examples where that making of fun can be justified. But the fact is that the GLC gives grants to something over 300 artistic bodies in the course of the year and only 2 per cent. of those bodies—I think it is eight, in fact—get any assistance whatsoever from central Government. The GLC is therefore performing a function in making the arts more generally available—and not just new kinds of arts, but making traditional arts available as in the case of orchestral concerts in the canteen of the Ford Works at Dagenham. It is performing a function which central Government cannot, of its nature, perform. The abolition of the GLC, without some democratically controlled, publicly accountable, locally accountable, alternative, as the noble Lord, Lord Birkett, has made clear, would be a disaster for the arts in London. I urge the Government to think about these aspects of the problem as well as about the narrow political concern."If the cost of living must forever rise, it is equally a law of this time that the cultural standard must fall. As you get a pound of coffee rising in price, you may be sure that, at the same time, the quality of painting or music is taking a drop downhill of the same amount".
My Lords, I should like to follow those noble Lords who have spoken about the theatre and, more specifically, I should like to make two points on the subject of the problems of the regional repertory theatres. I have to declare an interest in that, like the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, I am president of the Redgrave Theatre Trust. The Redgrave is a small provincial theatre at Farnham in Surrey. It has a resident company, mounts 15 productions each year and plays to an average 70 per cent. audience for 52 weeks a year. It is a very imaginative theatre. For instance, two years ago the Redgrave staged the first professional production of "Cavalcade" since the original to coincide with the 50th anniversary. This production included some 300 amateurs, in addition to the resident company, drawn from 80 amateur dramatic societies within the catchment area. In fact, it put the Redgrave Theatre not only on the national scene but on the international scene.Of course, we receive grants from the Arts Council and from the local authorities, especially Waverley, in whose area Redgrave exists. We are most grateful for that support. But inevitably there is an air of uncertainty about the future which is causing concern. If the grants were diminished, the Redgrave would survive because it has generated enthusiasm and support locally. But what it would do would be to alter the programme to some three or four productions only and it would also reduce the variety of the productions, which at present range from Ayckbourn to Shaw to Shakespeare, and include at least one full-scale musical a year. Without this support, it would be a poor bill of fare indeed. Perhaps a more important aspect is that the regional repertory theatres in general are the training ground both for the commercial theatre in the West End and for the national subsidised theatre, both of which, as has been mentioned, are major tourist attractions. It is also a source of talent for television, which has an even bigger appetite. Stars may be created by the media but great actors come only from the live theatre. There are no great actors who have not started their lives in repertory theatre. Indeed, that includes two noble Lords who are Members of your Lordships' House. The regional repertory theatres provide the seed corn for the future and not only in terms of performers but also concerning the technical aspects such as stage management and design. Repertory theatres also provide an essential opening for new plays and for new playwrights. It is, as I have said, the home and seed corn for the future of drama on the world stage. Regional repertory theatres provide careers for many areas and disciplines within this world of arts, and I believe are worthy of continued recognition and support.
My Lords, I propose to confine my few remarks to one of the arts which has not so far been mentioned in your Lordships' debate; that is the art of film. The art of film, despite its very remarkable achievement in this country, curiously enough remains somewhat the Cinderella of the arts in vivid contrast to the position in other film-making countries where leading film makers are regarded as foremost among the creative artists of their time. It is, however, accepted I think in this country as well as in others that there are a certain number of films which require support to get off the ground. This is especially the case where young or completely unknown talent is concerned. Although a great deal has been spoken about subsidies this evening, I am not speaking about subsidies in this connection but rather of help by way of redistribution of the available resources.If one looks at the Eady money as a system, one can see that that is exactly what it does. It relies upon a levy upon the box office receipts. This system has been in operation since 1948. Now it is threatened, or appears to be threatened; and that is what I wish to refer to. We all recognise the weakness of the Eady money. Its actual quantum has been reduced very considerably owing to the decline in cinema attendances over the years, but in particular the burden of paying the Eady money falls entirely on the exhibitors' element, the cinema owners. And, as is generally recognised, it is they in their sector who are least able to bear this burden. I think it would be universally accepted that we have in this country an extraordinary abundance of young talent. Speaking if I may, as the chairman of the National Film and Television School, I think I am in a fairly good position to assess the extraordinarily high talent that exists and how strongly motivated are those able young people to contribute to what has been generally recognised over the last year or two as a renaissance in the film world. The difficulty is that once young talent is recognised, that is all right; they may then find support in the commercial market. The real problem is how to make that talent visible to the commercial sector. This is where there is need for a commercial judgment which is geared to evaluate and encourage new talent. With this function, we have at the moment the National Film Finance Corporation—the NFFC. This has been doing an extremely good job with the very limited resources available to it by way of a slice of the Eady money. I suggest that the Government are at the threshold of the rebirth of what has recently been a sagging industry. At this moment they can either make or break that industry. I verily believe that it is their desire to make it; but what I fear is that if some of the present thinking should prevail, even with the best intentions in the world, the effect will be to break, rather than make the industry. Undoubtedly, the film world is, and always has been, hopelessly divided on practically every issue; but at the moment there is almost total unanimity that the elimination of the Eady money, together with the elimination of the National Film Finance Corporation, would leave an absolutely unfillable hiatus, and there would be no avenue to enable young talent to be recognised and so ensure the future of this great art and industry. I could give numerous examples of the manner in which the NFFC has contributed in this way, but time does not permit. All I can really say is that there is a certain irony in the fact that the survival of the film industry can he assured without costing the Treasury a penny. It simply needs understanding and political will, and no party issue whatever is involved. Everyone, surely, has a stake in the future of this great industry, with its immense international prestige and substantial export market. All important figures in the film industry have recently joined together to urge upon the Government that they should not extinguish both the Eady money and the NFFC and put nothing in their places. If they do that, they will at the same time extinguish the hopes and aspirations of our greatest need, which is the availability of abundant young creative talent, and they will simply drive them elsewhere—to Hollywood, Australia, or wherever it may be. I believe that the Government genuinely desire to see a flourishing and creative industry, but I share the fears of those who think that those good intentions may be translated into a devastating blow. I can only add that I hope the noble Lord the Minister will be able to say something which will put aside the gloomy note on which. unfortunately, I feel constrained to conclude.
My Lords, because of shortage of time I must confine my few remarks to the future of the Kenwood Collection, in which I naturally take a grandfilial interest. Since 1951 the gallery has been administered, first, by the LCC, and then by its successor, the GLC. I have no criticisms of the way in which the councils have looked after it, but only praise for their choice of the three successive and admirable curators who have been in charge during the 32 years of the councils' responsibilities.It had been proposed that, on the disappearance of the GLC, the gallery should be funded by central Government—which is quite right—but only through the Victoria and Albert Museum. If I may say so, I can think of no better, nor more benevolent whale, if Kenwood must indeed he swallowed up. But the Victoria and Albert already has Apsley House, Osterley, Bethnal Green, and Ham House on its plate—since such a civilised whale can surely be said to eat off a plate. The Friends of Kenwood have suggested to the Minister that because the gallery is anyway to be funded by central Government, it should be through a board of trustees of its own. I therefore went with the chairman of the Friends to see the Minister last week. He gave us a most sympathetic hearing, but naturally without giving any commitment at this stage. If it should be objected that Kenwood is smaller than most national museums, I would point out that it is probably larger in acreage than the Wallace Collection, and, while the values of collections are rather imponderable, the latest evaluation shows Kenwood's at £16 million. The attendances at Kenwood have always been larger than those at the Wallace Collection, in spite of the distance of Hampstead from central London. We think that there could he economies to be made by the change, especially by eliminating the roundabout running of Marble Hill and Ranger's House from Kenwood. Geography and commonsense would seem to indicate the merging of Marble Hill with Ham House away to the west, just across the river, with only the width of the river in between—and linked by an agreeable ferry service, I am told, on instant call. Ranger's House is away to the east, near Greenwich, and could be linked with the Maritime Museum. In any case, for decisions to have to go up from Kenwood to the Victoria and Albert, rather than be settled by trustees on the spot is surely circuitous and a waste of time. Incidentally, many suitable people have offered to serve as trustees. It is perhaps appropriate to mention that Kenwood is very much a living gallery. A loan exhibition of an 18th century painter is held there every year. Acquisitions are made with the help of the Friends and the National Art-Collections Fund. Variety and initiative are shown in the gallery's policy, which independence would surely foster. I should like to thank the Minister for the hearing that he gave us last week, and to express the hope that he will make the decision that is sought by the many friends of Kenwood.
My Lords, I, too, should like to talk about film because I am a humble worker therein and have been one for 25 years; and film is very topical nowadays. This debate is indeed concerned with the situation in the arts, and my noble friend will be pleased to hear that I shall not be troubling him for funding: at least, not directly. Film is very interesting now. A good revival of British films is taking place, and indeed the whole matter is under review by Kenneth Baker. It has got its nasty side—the video nasties—but they are really only 38 in number and quite out of all proportion to the 35,000 thoroughly decent films that one can now hire.What I want to say in a nutshell is this. Film is an art form of ever-increasing sophistication, watched by ever-increasing numbers of people, but they spend an ever-decreasing amount of money to watch film. Therefore our industry is artistically healthy, but financially not so hot. What I mean by "sophistication" is this. Over the last 30 years film has undergone a process of compression and elision. For instance, put very simply, some 30 years back it took us 12 separate camera set-ups to move an actor from, say, Bristol to Dover; and now we can do it in two. Even a great film like "The Third Man", which seemed so fast, compulsive and mysterious in 1949 when it was made, is now a slow and rather obvious film. But not so "Smiley's People". That is a film of the '80s—succinct, powerful and mysterious. The whole science has developed greatly. Also, it has developed technically. I would not have believed it possible that there could be a film lens small enough to travel up the human fallopian tube, but that shot has been taken. It could not have been envisaged 30 years ago. Nor, indeed, could the Wagnerian legend of "Star Wars", with mind-boggling space-age monsters and gadgetry, and a sound track magnificent in its complexity. There are no longer three sound tracks; it is no longer a case of dialogue, music and effects; it is a glorious entity. Perhaps the ultimate is "Koyaanisqatsi". That is an abstract film of dazzling brilliance with an interesting score by Philip Glass. It has no story whatsoever, but it seems to be all the stronger for that. So what I am really saying is that we are progressing, and I believe that it is a very healthy industry, artistically. But now I switch to the audiences. As I said, they are paying much less. In fact, they are paying £46 to the BBC, they are paying 25p per head for a video, and, of course, nothing to ITV. With so much quality film available in their own homes, it does indeed stand to reason that they will not go out to the cinema. Indeed, the average person goes out to it only one-and-a-half times a year. Yet it is only these cinemagoers who contribute to future British film production in the way of the Eady levy. I believe that the levy produces £1½ million for the National Film Finance Corporation. That is a very small sum, but it is indeed useful for young directors. For example, I believe that "Gregory's Girl" cost only £½ million, as did "Local Hero", which I believe my noble friend saw recently at the Inn on the Park. The sum off £1½ million for Eady is not only not enough, but I would say that it was illogically raised from what I call the dinosaur's belly of the Odeon in Bognor Regis. I have faith in the artistic integrity of British film and its young directors, and, far from abolishing Eady, far from abolishing the National Film Finance Corporation, I would say extend Eady to all film outlets, including those 1,600 films shown each year on television which, at the moment, cost nothing to view. I would also introduce a levy on blank tapes. This is happening in Sweden. where I gather it works quite well. In that way the National Film Finance Corporation or the British Film Corporation (call it what you will) would have a meaningful income of perhaps £25 million a year; and I dare say that the British Film Institute's income could be raised in the same way, which is perhaps more relevant to my noble friend. In that way—and I honestly believe only in that way—the splendid progression over the past 30 years of the art of the British film will continue.
My Lords, I must first say that, as the noble Earl, the Minister, is due to rise at 7.55, your Lordships, by your modesty and your brevity, have been kind enough to leave me rather more than my ration of six minutes in which to attempt the rather impossible task of endeavouring to sum up the debate from this side of the House. However, since I have a little more time than I thought I was going to have, I shall have a shot at it.I hope that the Minister will give very close attention to what he has heard here this evening and, if he is not disposed to give to the eloquence of my noble friend all the absolute assent that we might hope—because he will reasonably say that matters coming from this side of the House perhaps carry a party political aspect to them—I hope that he will give special attention to what he has heard from his own side of the House and from the other Benches. I hope that he will pay close attention to what the noble Lord, Lord Crathorne, and the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, said. I also hope that he will have listened very carefully to what the noble Lord, Lord Birkett, said from the Cross-Benches, and that he will not entirely dismiss the eloquence of my noble friends on this side of the House. I was very interested to hear the noble Lord, Lord Moyne, say that he was received so well by the Minister recently. I am to have the privilege of visiting the Minister myself on Monday. He has been kind enough to receive a delegation which I am leading from the Theatres Advisory Council and I am encouraged by what the noble Lord has said. We shall not be dealing with the political aspects of the matter on that occasion. The Theatres Advisory Council is essentially a non-party organisation and, for that reason, we shall be endeavouring to deal with the details of the problem, to take up specific issues and to ask for changes in the areas where the Government have indicated that they are prepared to look at changes. In their document, which is headed The Abolition of the Greater London Council and the Metropolitan County Councils: The Government's Proposals Jar the Arts, they say that they:
Your Lordships will notice that the Government are not inviting any comment at all on their general proposition; that is what they propose to do. All they wish to hear from us are comments on matters of detail. The general proposition they are adhering to. Tonight, I want to talk on the general issue, as on Monday I shall be dealing with the detail. I have no doubt that the Government's intentions towards the arts are as good as anyone's, but, as with so many other things, the trouble is that the Government's dogma and doctrine defeat and destroy their good intentions. That ought not to be so, but this is a highly dogmatic and doctrinal Government. I say that it ought not to be so, because the GLC and the metropolitan county councils were created by a Conservative Government. It seems to me that Sir Keith Joseph, when in 1962 he told the House of Commons that,"invite views and comments on the proposals set out in paragraphs 6 to 10".
was speaking more in accordance with what I understand to be Conservative Party philosophy than are the Government today. I am no expert on that, but, as I shall show in a moment, I have read something about it and it seems to me that Sir Keith's view was more in line with what was traditionally expected from a Conservative Government than are the present proposals. The Government are about to seek to destroy these authorities which were created by their own party. I remember sitting up all night, when I was a member of the London County Council, trying to stop them from creating the GLC. I believed—and I still believe—the LCC to be an excellent authority and I did not want to see the expansion to this larger body. Perhaps I am wrong, but it seems to me that the Government, in not seeking any democratic substitute at all, but seeking to abolish democracy altogether, are acting against the principles of Conservatism as much as against the principles of Socialism. Indeed, they are acting against the principles of parliamentary democracy in itself, because parliamentary democracy does not say that all power shall rest in the centre. Centralism is not part of the Conservative philosophy as I understand it, and I am very sorry that the Tory party is travelling in that direction now. There are those who believe that the noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, has produced the document entitled The Abolition of the Greater London Council and the Metropolitan County Councils of his own free will. I find that difficult to believe, because I am convinced that the noble Earl is not malevolent or stupid. Indeed, I have some evidence to the contrary—and here I must declare an interest. Recently, as director of the Theatres Trust, I asked the noble Earl to increase the tiny grant which enables that body to exist upon a shoestring in order to help to preserve the fabric of theatres—the bricks and mortar—and keep theatres as theatres. That is what this body tries to do. We did not get what we asked for. Who does? But our precious £10,000 has been increased to £11,000, which will enable us to survive for another year and, more important, keep the theatres' shoes on their feet. We shall try, anyway. So what has persuaded this well-intentioned Minister to issue a document which he must know is without rhyme or reason and which, if put into effect, would sound the death knell for much artistic activity all over the country? The noble Earl may say that this is a consultative document. But the intention is firm. Only the details are for discussion. It stems from the Government's White Paper, called Streamlining the Cities. In my opinion, it should have been entitled Castrating the Cities. The Minister says that he will look to the borough and district councils to carry out the arts responsibilities, but he must know that in some cases they have not the intention to do so and in others they have not the power. In many cases they have neither the facilities nor the resources—and certainly not the money. Many small organisations will therefore slip through this process and are bound to collapse. Great harm is bound to be done all over the country. Many of the major achievements in the arts are attributable to the metropolitan councils. Their creation was to that extent attributable to Conservative genius. Let us be generous and make it clear that they have created something which they are now about to destroy. This would be a very great shame indeed. Instead of going to local authorities, who cannot possibly handle them, the Government have picked out some organisations and said, "We know, of course, that local authorities cannot handle these bodies, but we shall give special responsibility to the Arts Council to take them over". Well, now, what are they doing? They are removing local responsibility for these activities. It is a responsibility which ought to be locally exercised. The Manchester Exchange Theatre will not be as good an organisation if it is wholly financed by the Arts Council as it is if it has got some Manchester money in it. At the moment it receives £300,000-worth of Manchester money, which is better for the Manchester Exchange Theatre than central Government money. That, I should have thought, was part of Tory Party philosophy. I must share with the Minister the extra few minutes we have available, and certainly I must not exceed my own time, but, when I read The Case for Conservatism, written many years ago by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, the basis of the Conservative Party's philosophy appeared to me to be democracy, devolution and pluralism. The proposals are against all three propositions. They ought to be taken back and looked at again. I hope that tonight the Minister will say that he is going to do so."all other needs affecting the whole of Greater London should he made the responsibility of a directly elected Greater London Council",
My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, not only for the pertinent matters he raised and the cogent way in which he raised them, but also for attracting so many speakers to a short debate. I propose to make a few general remarks about the principal themes which have come up this evening and then deal as best I can in the time available with specific points directed at me. If I fail, I beg the indulgence of the House, since so far I seem to have escaped short debates. I shall of course write to noble Lords, if need be.The big issues facing the world of the arts in Britain, and, indeed, facing my Ministry, are money: the overall level of support for arts bodies and organisations—and the effects of local government reorganisation. Obviously the two are linked. The noble Lord who opened the debate raised them and most noble Lords have touched upon them. Before touching on them myself, could I warn the House, however, against the tendency—increasingly prevalent in the world of arts organisations—to identify their world, which is loosely summed up in the phrase "the arts", with artistic activity generally. I am very glad that from the other side of the House the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey (himself abolished by the GLC, as it were) appeared to recognise this. Please remember that central Government and local government spending on the arts is only a part of the arts estate. At home and abroad, British people are writing books and plays, and winning Nobel prizes for them—all honour and gratitude to Mr. Golding. They are publishing, selling and performing in them. The same applies to music and film, mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Hampstead, and my noble friend Lord Mersey. And all honour to David Puttnam and Sir Richard Attenborough and their colleagues for winning Hollywood Oscars for Britain two years in succession. The same goes for our painting and sculpture. The same goes for dance and the other performing arts. All the major newspapers cover the arts. Radio and television are deeply involved, as patrons and promoters. When we compare central Government spending on the arts in this country with spending on the arts in other countries (as, quite fairly, the noble Lord, Lord Birkett, did in his speech) we must remember that the BBC spends about £100 million a year on arts and entertainment, and the various commercial stations not much less. We do have God's plenty, as Dryden said of Chaucer's poetry. All this is in addition to central Government spending, with which I am concerned. I am concerned with only a small part of the estate, but an important part—the manor, if you like. I am determined to keep the building in good repair, but, if I am to add to it, the outlying farms, as elsewhere in the economy, will have to generate some more income. This said, let me come back to the pervading issue of money. As a matter of general philosophy and of intention, I do not dissent from the view that the arts are less well funded in Britain by comparison with some other European countries. That is one of the reasons why I endorse not merely with loyalty but with passion the central aim of the Government's economic policy, which is to improve Britain's economic performance on a sustained and sustainable basis. That is why I make no apologies for identifying (as the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, upbraided me for identifying) most firmly with the Treasury approach. Improved performance can only be good for the arts, and not much that is good can be achieved or sustained without it. Improved performance depends on there being limitations on public spending, including some limitations on public spending on the arts, whose needs are not finite and could without much strain absorb pretty well whatever resources were directed at them. I also urge the noble Lord, Lord Hutchinson of Lullington, not to confuse the interests of individual artists with the interests of arts organisations, overwhelmingly as these are concentrated in the cost intensive field (as they have to be) of the performing arts. Nevertheless, within these overall limitations definite improvements have been achieved and can he achieved. As a Government we are committed to maintaining the level of support for the arts, if we can, as well as to making efforts to supplement this income from other sources. Several noble Lords, notably the noble Lord, Lord Gibson, and my noble friend Lord Haig, mentioned sponsorship in this connection. I am glad to say that business sponsorship should touch £15 million this year, as against about £½ million six or seven years ago. This growth must continue. I have strengthened my own very small and stretched department in order to help such bodies as the Association for Business Sponsorship of the Arts. Our promissory note to the electorate, our manifesto, said:
I welcome what the noble Lord, Lord Rhodes, said in this connection about local self-help. As Minister, I do not promise more than that—much as I should like the acclaim which would go with it. But I do not promise less. I, too, can be teak-bottomed, like Lord Annan's vice-chancellors. But I do ask to be judged by actions rather than promises, so let us look at what has been achieved so far. The Government have decided to increase our previously-planned provision (set out in last year's White Paper) for the arts, museums and libraries programme for next year, 1984–85. The 1984–85 provision will now be £595 million—a rounded £10 million higher than the previous plans for next year. This includes a modest (as in present circumstances it should be) but I would hope welcome real increase in the central Government element. It allows for a small upward revision of the existing plans for local authority current expenditure on libraries and museums next year. I also hope to make an additional increase of provision to meet some of the needs of the opera companies, as indicated by the Priestley report on the Royal Opera House and the Royal Shakespeare Company, as well as the Royal Shakespeare Company itself. Of course, this sum will also be modest; and, of course, needs outstrip resources in this as in other fields. Nevertheless, this is real progress in every sense. A number of noble Lords have in this context raised the issue of direct funding, notably my noble friend Lord Eccles. My general inclination is against direct funding of the performing arts. The long-held principle in the United Kingdom is for arm's length contact between the Minister and the bodies he funds, through, for instance, the Arts Council. But as the Priestley report suggests, there is equally a case for looking rather separately at our major companies of international standing and for allocating our grants to them on an earmarked basis within the Arts Council's total grant. This is one of the issues I shall shortly be considering. I am not yet ready to announce the detailed allocations of my revised central Government programme for next year, and I must resist the temptations of the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, to do so. I hope to do so before Christmas. Meanwhile, it would not be prudent to assume that whatever percentage increase between 1983–84 and 1984–85 applies to my programme as a whole will be distributed exactly equally among all the bodies. I must take account of, and make a judgment about, the incidence of needs and priorities. As to the fiscal matters raised by the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, and others—notably my noble friend Lord Haig—we debated those matters very fully a few days ago, and I hope that my reply to that debate will answer also for this evening. I am afraid that I must say to my noble friend Lord Haig that I cannot hold out much hope of changes on VAT. Mention has been made of this year's 1 per cent. cut in arts funding. In August this year cuts of about 2 per cent. were made in all areas of public spending to correct a threatened overrun. I have to say that subsequent events seem to me to have wholly vindicated the Chancellor's proposal, but it was very tough going at the time. I strongly resist suggestions (mainly, I am happy to say, made outside this House) that I failed to protect my arts clients. Of course I appreciate the very real problems which an unexpected cut of any kind caused them. But I was at least able to protect them by restricting the cut to 1 per cent.—nasty, but nicer than 2 per cent. I was able to do that by postponing the building start of the Theatre Museum until after April 1984, when next year's money comes in. I was able to protect the interests of the Theatre Museum by finding a generous private donor—an angel in every sense of the word—and I am glad to say that the building contracts should be let in the next few days. I have made mistakes as a Minister, and will doubtless make others, but this, in my view, was not one of them. The Arts Council passed on the 1 per cent. cut to all its clients. There has been substantial complaint about this—and I sympathise, sincerely and not in the manner of the walrus, with the complaining. Nevertheless, I have not heard of any company or other body getting into unredeemable financial difficulties as a result of the cut. I have sought to make amends, too, by returning, as I have said, to last year's baseline as the starting-point for our plans for next year's spending. Before I leave this point, I want to say that I have seen it reported that the finance director of the Arts Council believes that the Government behaved "dishonourably" in respect of this cut. If that is the case, the charge is ridiculous. All projected public spending is always conditional. It is conditional on the availability of resources. If resources are not available, or if other needs arise, Parliament is the arbiter of change. Of course, I sympathise with the desire of arts organisations to know where they are and plan accordingly and sensibly. I like to know where I am myself. But we are all circumscribed by the total economy, both national and international, and it is surely absurd to pretend we are not. This criticism made, I wholeheartedly welcome the Arts Council's recognition, in their recent letter to clients, that the bodies they support are on leasehold, not freehold. It is inevitable that if new calls are to be met, or some clients are to get more money, other clients should be looked at in terms of their record or their need. Even with greater levels of funding overall there will inevitably be disappointments, inequities and rows. I come now to the issue of the abolition of the Greater London Council and the metropolitan county councils, and its possible effect on arts funding. This point was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, and by other noble Lords, notably the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood; the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick; and my noble friends Lord Crathorne and Lord Moyne, in respect of the Kenwood Museum. As our consultative document makes clear, we will look to local borough and district councils to assume most arts responsibilities. This policy is causing widespread anxiety among arts bodies and museums presently funded in whole or in part by the GLC and the MCCs. It would be wrong of me not to acknowledge those anxieties. All proposals for change can make individuals and organisations anxious, but it would be wrong of me not to acknowledge the fact all the same. I can give some reassurance, although I do so cautiously as in my political experience reassurances also give rise to anxieties. What people want first is the status quo guaranteed permanently; and, second, improvements to the status quo permanently guaranteed. As most artists, if not most arts organisations, would recognise, this is not the stuff of mortal kind. But with this caution, I can give some reassurance. In the first place, local government reorganisation is not a complicated method of economising on arts funding by central Government. And central Government will continue to make resources available to local authorities even if adjustments in the method of distributing RSG are made. In the second place, the consultation paper is just that. My proposals are not immutable, and my consultation paper really does mean a genuine openness to other views and proposals. It also recognises clearly that it would be unfair to expect one or even several district or borough councils to provide the resources for national bodies, such as the South Bank complex in London or the Hallé Orchestra in Manchester—and what a more considerable achievement that orchestra is than the works of Engels! When you take into account withdrawal of the costs of listed bodies, and the fund increases for district and borough councils due to the abolition of upper-tier authorities, you will see that there is no reason why the situation should not be better rather than worse. In the third place, the shortfall to be made up after reorganisation by borough and district councils is not insuperable. In London, for example—and this point was concentrated upon in the interesting speech of the noble Lord, Lord Birkett—the amount currently spent in this year by the GLC on arts activities which will not be designated from central Government support will be about one-sixth of the GLC arts budget for the year. I am convinced that this gap, and greater gaps elsewhere, can be filled by a plurality of funding. Local government, central Government, box offices, sponsorship and patronage all have a part to play. I welcome the support given to this pluralism by my noble friend Lord Cottesloe. With goodwill, with recognition that arts activities are cost-effective in terms of employment and creating an attractive infrastructure, with increasing awareness that the arts are more of an industry than a service, plurality of purpose can be translated into a plurality of necessary funds. There is no reason why not; no diminution of central Government funding or goodwill. Local authorities who take their arts responsibilities seriously will find us eager to help in every way that we can. In conclusion, I must say that it may well be that some arts institutions affected by these changes, however worthy in themselves, will not persuade local authorities to fund them, of local electorates of their necessity. There are penalties as well as benefits in increasing local democratic accountability, and I would remind the House that in this the arts affected by reorganisation are in no different case from arts bodies in the rest of Britain. I do not accept that Cardiff Bristol, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Norwich, Oxford, Cambridge, Nottingham or Plymouth are cultural deserts. There is no inherent reason, given the level and variety of resouces proposed, why areas unlike those affected by the changes should not similarly resist erosion. I have listened most carefully to the debate. It is part of the general consultative process which does not end until the end of January. I will then take some time in weighing up the consultations before coming to conclusions; and I am sure that your Lordships will wish to return to this again."We shall keep up the level of Government support, including a fair share for the regions".
My Lords, I should like to thank all noble Lords from all parts of the House who have taken part in the debate, and also the Minister for his very full reply. I must say that I have never known such a full consensus of opinion in any arts debate as there has been in this one. We are very grateful to the noble Earl for his full reply, which we shall study. I was slightly disappointed by one omission. He referred in passing to Oxford and Cambridge, but he said nothing about the university museums, nor about Dulwich, which I thought was one of the main points in my speech.All I am asking for at the moment is that perhaps he will direct his mind—his very brilliant mind, if I may say so—to this problem, because I think that this is something which needs attention. It is very important, in particular from the security point of view. Perhaps he will get in touch with me, and I shall be very happy to go to see him to talk about it. With that, my Lords, I again thank all noble Lords for their contributions, and I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.
Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.
Amusement Machines Bill Hl
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. At the outset I would wish to express my gratitude to the noble Lords on the Benches opposite and on the Cross-Benches, who, since this Bill was ordered to be printed, have evinced considerable interest and have also drawn to my attention certain drafting effects which impinge upon the principle of the Bill. Taking those into account, it is proposed that the incidence of the Bill should be confined to 5p and 10p machines, which is the legal limit under the Gaming Act. These are machines to which, under this Bill, certain provisions of the Gaming Act will no longer continue to apply.The very broad picture is that at present in an average amusement arcade the Gaming Act applies to about 60 per cent. of the machines, while it does not apply to 40 per cent. of the video type, or electronic, machines. Under the revised definition as proposed by the Bill, in the average amusement arcade the Gaming Act would apply to about 40 per cent. of the machines—those which take less than 5p—and this Bill would apply to about 60 per cent. of the machines. Of course there is no such thing as the average amusement arcade. I merely attempt to draw with a broad brush on a wide canvas the kind of perspective needed to show the incidence of the Bill. Therefore the proposal is to carry appropriate amendments at Committee stage to limit the incidence of the Bill in that way by inserting in the definition clause—Clause 1(2)—the qualifying words,
That would have a consequential effect on Clause 1(4), where similar words would have to be inserted before the proviso. In the result within the range of the five and 10 new pence machines, but not below, the incidence of Section 34 and Schedule 9 of the Gaming Act will be ousted. Thus a single effective system of licensing and control of the five and 10 new pence machines may be provided and enforced—and I say "enforced", because there is no effective enforcement at the moment—by the local authority where such machines are on premises to which the public have access. If the public does not have access to the premises, the provisions of the Bill cannot bite in any event. Apart from the mandatory requirement to seek to ensure that access is proscribed to those under 16, unless accompanied by a guardian or parent, a wide discretion is conferred on local authorities to impose conditions. That is contained in Clause 2(1) of the Bill. This relates to the conduct of business on the premises, including hours of opening and closing, supervisory staff in attendance, adequate illumination, and such like. Under Clause 2(2) the local authority is also given a very wide discretion to grant, refuse, or revoke a licence for breach of condition. As regards grant or refusal, community considerations, such as the interests of the neighbourhood, the sufficiency of machines in the locality and the character of the applicant or the operator may all be taken into account. That is not the case today. In such regard the exercise of the administrative discretion by the local authority under Clause 2 will be subject, of course, to judical review which would prevent, as a matter of public administrative law, an unreasonable exercise of the discretion. As to enforcement, under Clause 3 the local authority may institute proceedings in a court of summary jurisdiction, which both as regards conviction and sentence will be subject to all the usual appellate procedures. On drafting there is some tidying up to be done to make it plain that the licence referred to in Clause 1(1) relates to the premises—attaches to the premises—and to remove Section 32 from Clause 1(4). As the noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken, pointed out to me—and I am so grateful to him—that was included in error, and I confess it. Transitional provisions must be introduced by way of new subsections (5) and (6) in Clause 1 to avoid oppression or hardship to commercial interests. Those who have carried on business for at least two years prior to the commencement of the Bill after it becomes an Act should not be subject to the imposition of conditions under Clause 2(2)(b) as to the number and lay-out of machines, or Clause 2(2)(a) and (b) in regard to grounds of refusal based on detrimental effect to the neighbourhood and sufficiency of machines in the locality. Also if the local authority grants the licence—it has a discretion to do so—it must not take these matters into account. But if it grants the licence, it must be a licence for two years. Such is the proposal to avoid hardship or oppression. There is also, of course, on the tidying up exercise, a new Clause 4 which must be introduced to cover appropriate financial provision to enable the Secretary of State to defray expenses out of money provided by Parliament, to vary the limit of the prescribed fee referred to in Clause 1, and to enable fees to be paid into the Exchequer. The definition of "amusement machines" is new. By amendment, to which I have spoken, it would include the 5 and 10 new pence gaming machines, to which Part III of the Gaming Act 1968 already applies, and also the new video machines to which that Act does not apply but if, and only if, the public have access. I give a brief word of explanation. The siting of a single machine on premises to which the public have access would require a licence for such premises. The effect of the definition is also to exclude machines which provide no element of advantage other than the mere pleasure of the single operation. In this I have not followed the contrary concept in Section 34(3)(d) of the Gaming Act. As to the merits, I have no interest whatever to declare other than my personal concern; a concern which since I tabled a Question for answer in your Lordships' House has been reflected by urban local authorities, the national and provincial press, the police, churches, voluntary associations, the National Council on Gaming, and Gamblers Anonymous which says that one in five of its clients are young teenage addicts. under the age of 16. They are addicts of these arcades. On 26th October when the Question came before your Lordships' House, this concern which I felt, and which was felt by all these institutions, was reflected on the floor of your Lordships' House by the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, the noble Lord, Lord Kennet—who was particularly concerned about the planning aspect—the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich, among others. The right reverend Prelate asked the Minister whether he was aware that,"of the value in aggregate of five new pence or more for a single operation of the machine".
That was the way, at that time, that the right reverend Prelate expressed his concern. The concern is twofold. First, it is concern for those under the age of 16 who stand like zombies before these newfound gods, some of whom are tempted to petty crime and others to casual sex to find the ready cash with which to feed their addiction. In this context, although licensed premises are excluded from the Bill, is it not fair to point out that as regards enforcement there does not appear to have been too much difficulty in enforcing the age condition on access to premises where intoxicating liquor is sold to the public? The second aspect of concern—to which the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, spoke: the planning aspect—is concern for the community which in this regard is truly ill-served because planning law is only concerned with change of use. Already the Minister, on appeal, has overturned some 30 cases where the local authority has refused planning permission for amusement arcades. Indeed, there is one applicant who has won appeals in respect of 11 amusement centres in London against strong local opposition. In several cases there was already an amusement arcade in the same street which had already been a source of trouble. At the time of the question my noble friend Lord Elton. the Minister, said."the National Council for Social Aid, which is one of the General Synod Councils of the Church of England, is producing a new document concerning gambling? Moreover, in an advance copy there is reference to the indiscriminate spread of gaming machines and the deliberate appeal to excitment and excess".—[Official Report, 26/10/83; col. 251.]
On the evidence of the concern evinced from all sides of your Lordships' House on a previous occasion is there not a strong prima facie case? Moreover, my noble friend conceded specifically at col. 252 that there was dissatisfaction with planning control. I conclude by saying that if this measure of concern should be shared by your Lordships' tonight either as regards the protection of the interests of the young or the protection of the interests of the community—or, perhaps, the protection of both because in practice the interests do tend to merge—then surely if only as a matter of principle the Bill is worthy of further consideration in your Lordships' House. I beg to move."the first thing to do is to decide whether legislation is needed".—[Official Report, 26/10/83: col. 252.]
Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.—( Lord Campbell of Alloway.)
My Lords, in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, for introducing this very important Bill and for his extremely clear presentation of it. I am sure I speak for all your Lordships. I should also like to ask your Lordships' indulgence towards any error I might commit in this my first appearance at the Dispatch Box on this side of the House.First, may I say that we on these Benches are most certainly in favour of the general principle behind the Bill. We think there is a very genuine concern at the lack of control within local authorities over this new phenomenon which has entered into life in many areas of the country. Indeed, as the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, pointed out, and the Minister will no doubt recollect, my noble friend Lady David, during the passage of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill last year, put forward amendments both in Committee and on Report aimed at giving local authorities some power to control these premises. The amendment which my noble friend put forward in Committee was designed to give district councils power to licence such places. The noble Lord, Lord Belstead, responded by saying:
He therefore clearly thought that it was premature to take any action at that time. In response to a further amendment tabled by my noble friend Lady David on Report which gave local authorities the power to specify a minimum age of entry to such premises, my noble friend was told by the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Elton, that although he did not think this amendment was a proper way of dealing with the problem, nevertheless,"Crazes sweep the country from time to time and it is possible that playing on video machines may be one of those crazes".
That is what the noble Lord, Lord Elton, said in that debate. Eighteen months later the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, is asking the Government to look at this matter again. I think that it can be said without any shadow of doubt that the amusement machine craze then sweeping the country is still doing so—in fact, even more so than before. Furthermore, it could be maintained that the later vehicle referred to by the Minister at that time could be seen to be the Bill which today is before us. I can only conclude that the Government's two objections to doing something about the problem must now in some way be overruled. The noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, made a very clear presentation of his Bill to which I can in no way add. I should merely like to make a few general points and to concentrate mostly on the aspect of the Bill which affects young people. I am a mother of three. Two of my children are in adolescence and a third is about to enter it. I have learned that it is not only wrong but highly counter-productive to stop young people doing things unless those things are understood by them to be unequivocally contrary to their interests. It can even he said that, if we block off too many things, they will in some way find something even worse to do. I feel very strongly that one of the dangers in our present society is that sometimes young people are made to feel alienated from their parents and their parents' generation. They feel that adults tend to show insufficient sympathy and understanding for the very real pressures and tensions which affect them in today's world. This makes me look at this Bill very much in the light of whether its provisions are truly in the interests of young people and can indeed be proved to be so. As the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, said, local authorities base their fears regarding the welfare of young people on the following grounds. They are concerned that, while local councils have powers to control the deployment of amusement prize machines in premises such as cafés and public houses where they are no more than an incidental feature, they have no powers to control premises used wholly or mainly for providing amusements. The chief complaint is that these latter premises tend to become the resorts of prostitutes, adolescents who are liable to be picked up for immoral purposes, and truanting school children. As the Minister knows, the Royal Commission on Gambling, reporting as long ago as 1978, suggested a wide range of improvements which could be made if local authorities were given the power to carry them out. The Association of Metropolitan Authorities is now most concerned that nothing has been done to bring these recommendations into operation, especially as such premises have been proliferating in the present climate of unemployment. As I said, while this craze goes on unabated, the recommendations that the AMA would like to see considered concern the hours of operation of the premises, as the noble Lord said, the provision of music, the supervision of the premises, the dishonest operation of machines, illumination, display of notices and, finally, the admission of children. It has become absolutely clear that children are spending an increasing amount of money on these machines. Those are some of the very legitimate worries of the authorities. They are truly not against anything that could be described as harmless fun in today's technological world, but they see it to be in the interests of the local community whom they serve that they should be given some power of control over these premises. I fear that I am not a great authority on these amusement centres. I have had some experience through my son, who between the ages of 10 and 15 was a very great expert. We were in France at that time. He felt a positive compulsion towards these arcades, which the French in their inimitable way call "jardins de loisirs", which gives them a special connotation. He became extremely adept at playing the machines. I do know that, as far as small boys go, these machines have a veritably hypnotic influence. I felt that before speaking this evening I should make a brief and rapid examination for myself. Over the weekend I visited a few of these amusement arcades in London. Out of the three or four that I visited. certainly more than half of the occupants were clearly under 16 years of age. Equally clearly they were playing the machines with extreme intentness and skill. It was also obvious that. given enough time, these young players could get through an enormous amount of money. However in the last of the establishments I visited, which was in West London, to my great surprise, there were no children at all. I inquired as to the history of this centre and was told that initially there had been a great outcry in the neighbourhood when the news broke that a centre was to open. It was indeed mainly parents who were opposed to it. They feared that it would lead not only to their children spending a great deal of money but also to their truanting from school. Consequently, the local authority planning committee turned down the application to set up the amusement centre, but subsequently this decision was reversed by the Department of the Environment. However, I am glad to say that it all ended very happily. The premises were set up. The local council environmental health department laid down conditions—the same conditions that were required by their local community. They included one that children under 16 should not be allowed in. The owners of the premises subsequently conformed to those requirements. There have since been no children in the centre and no problem. The proprietor confided in me that evening that he much preferred children not to be allowed to enter his premises. On another aspect, I tried to elicit a little information from those concerned and responsible for children in schools and youth clubs. I asked them what they considered to be the risks and disadvantages to children of free entry into amusement centres. They expressed the following concerns. First, it has been shown that playing these machines becomes an addictive habit, leading to compulsive gambling. I heard one example that one out of five of the members of Gamblers Anonymous is aged between 12 and 16. I do not know whether this is true but it is what I have heard. Secondly, they were concerned that children can get through an enormous amount of money with adverse consequences such as stealing and so on, and that their addiction to these places can lead to truancy. As to the profit side of this affair, I inquired from a social club which is open only during licensing hours and was told that a net profit of £320 per week was made out of its one machine. Of one thing we can be sure: these machines provide immense scope for profit and no doubt for tax avoidance as well. This brief examination led me to conclude, first, that the craze for playing these machines is not over; it is probably even increasing. Secondly, the existence of high profit margins will ensure that these machines will always be available. When a profit on those lines can be made, the machines will certainly not disappear. Thirdly, in spite of the lack of concrete provision, it is possible to implement the wishes of the local community at the present time if there is consultation as to what the conditions should be. Fourthly, after all—and this is the other side of the argument—in these days in our permissive society playing with space invaders and machines that operate with only 2p pieces could be regarded as relatively harmless. As I said at the beginning, if you block one avenue for young people the risk is that they find another which is a more dangerous one. The proposed powers, however, as I understand them, will apply also to seasonal seaside amusement arcades which provide holiday entertainment and this I do find of concern. I find it difficult to think of Brighton and Blackpool and many other places where the family goes, and I find it difficult to imagine that children will have to ask someone to accompany them to put in their 2p piece when they are on holiday. There is the side of it which I think the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, put very well: there is this mixture of machines in the same premises and it would seem a pity to bar the very harmless, or relatively harmless, occupations that these children have, though protecting them from the more serious ones. While I agree that there are other laws which protect minors from addiction, such as that of alcohol and so on, and so it would be only consistent to legislate also to protect such minors from becoming addicted to gambling and to the other risks from it, I do, however, have a slight trepidation that this Bill in its present form might go too far, and, as I said, while protecting some young people who need protection, might spoil what can only be described as relatively harmless fun for many others. I know the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, has kindly said that he is very much open to changes in the Committee stage of this Bill. I will conclude by saying that we welcome very much on this side the principles contained in this Bill and we believe that the Bill provides the Government with a very good vehicle as the noble Lord, Lord Elton, said 18 months ago; and this could be used for deciding on what controls local authorities should have which would at the same time allay the fears and anxieties of parents and all those concerned with the welfare of young people while maintaining some kind of entertainment for all those young people who, after all, see things in a very different way from the people of our generation. Those space invaders are very much part of their own generation, so I would like to support this Bill and I very much look forward to the Committee stage."the Government were aware of the desire of local authorities for increased powers in connection with the grant of permits for amusement places and the local authorities have made some constructive suggestions that are being considered. I think I can safely say that if those representations are persuasive and if their purpose is workable the Government would be quite well disposed to doing something in a later vehicle".
My Lords, I am happy to rise in support of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, in moving the Second Reading of this Bill. It is also a great pleasure for me to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Ewart-Biggs, whose concern with the welfare of young people of our country is so well known to all of us in your Lordships' House.I have not been, as I think is probably the case with most of your Lordships, directly concerned with these machines; nor have I been directly concerned with the interests of young people, except that apart from my service abroad which took up most of my adult life, I have been involved with various youth organisations and I am also now concerned with a voluntary committee of friendship for overseas students which has students from something like 65 different nationalities. I have on occasions met—admittedly it was some years ago—young people who have been, as the noble Baroness said, and as the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, said in reply, wholly addicted to these compulsive gambling machines; but I felt that, before I had the temerity to speak in your Lordships' House on a subject which was largely alien to me, I should try to inform myself about it. The other evening I went round no fewer than five amusement arcades in Soho, which is, we are told, the centre of vice in London; and one might assume they were quite typical. It may surprise your Lordships to hear that my experiences were not those of the noble Baroness, Lady Ewart-Biggs. In all those five amusement arcades that I visited, four or five things were quite clear to me. First, they were well supervised; second, each one—and I looked at this very carefully—had a notice clearly saying:
— 18, my Lords, not 16—"Entry is strictly forbidden to persons under 18"
In fact, the people I met in these arcades were all in the (what shall I say?) 18–30 age group. Indeed. I found some quite elderly men there; I even found one old woman there although, of course, it is an almost wholly male addiction—98 per cent. were men, I would say. There were certainly no youngsters. In all five arcades I visited there were two boys who might perhaps have been 17, but one could pass them off as 18. That was my second impression. My third impression was that most of the people in those arcades came from the ethnic minorities—in whom I am particularly interested, as some of your Lordships know. In one arcade—of course, it shall be nameless—I counted 18 people, of whom no fewer than 16 were from the Far East: Japan perhaps; Hong Kong, China and so on; and there was also a scattering of West Indians and Africans; only two Britons, one of whom was a friend of one of the African boys. That experience was paralleled to a large extent, in the other arcades. My fourth impression was that there were no unsavoury characters hanging around; no paederasts waiting to pounce. There might have been one or two people of perhaps dubious reputation outside the doors but not inside. As for compulsive gambling, one saw people enjoying themselves, but I did not see anyone going on and on until he had spent every single penny in his pocket. I am quite prepared to admit that my experience may not he typical. I adduce these arguments not because I want to speak against the noble Lord's Bill: on the contrary, I feel in many ways it is admirable. But I do feel from my very limited experience—and I emphasise again it is very limited and perhaps not typical—that there must be a great variety in the operation and control of these machines, as to who uses them, and as to the effect they have. In supporting this Bill, therefore, I would ask the noble Lord to bear that in mind."unless accompanied by a parent or guardian".
My Lords, my interest in slot machines originated from countless visits to the Palace Pier in Brighton when I was a young person well under the age of 16, and when I could win 6d for a stake of a penny at a game called "The Little Stockbroker". My interests were maintained through my membership of your Lordships' Standing Committee on the Gaming Bill of 1968, as it then was, in conjunction with which, of course, this Bill has to be considered, and which then went into enormous detail of every aspect covered by the Bill.My interest was maintained this afternoon when, like the noble Viscount and my noble friend on the Front Bench, I went to pay a visit myself to an amusement arcade in Leicester Square, where I too found that persons under the age of 18 were not admitted. On inquiry, I was told that this was the policy of the management; that they did not like having young people there and that they made it a strict rule and enforced it so far as they could. But there are, of course, amusement arcades all over the country where very young children go. I agree completely with, and support, the main provision of this Bill—and the noble Lord is to be congratulated on introducing it—that would proscribe the visit of young children under the age of 16 to premises in which certain machines are played. I have been a bit confused since the debate started because the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, and my noble friend spoke as though games of the space invader type, the video games, the games that take skill to operate, came within the ambit of this Bill. That has certainly not been my reading of it, and if I am mistaken I hope that the noble Lord will interrupt me. It is clear to me that under Clause 1(2) the operation of the Bill is confined to what we used to call gaming machines—
My Lords, at the noble Lord's invitation, and only for clarification, the new video machines are included within the definition of this Bill unless they are of the type where you put in the token or money for a single operation and there is no further free play. If you have a video machine and you are just looking at it as a single operation for pleasure, that is not included within the definition of the Bill. If you can get a free play, then it is.
My Lords, yes. I appreciate that if your use of sufficient skill gives you the opportunity to play another game free, then it comes under the Bill. But if it is confined to machines where you put in your 10p, you have five or 10 minutes' amusement and then you put in another 10p, it is not covered.
That is correct.
My Lords, I am not at all sure that I would not prefer it if all such video machines were covered, whether or not you had the opportunity of a free game. The noble Lord was kind enough to give me advance notice that he intended to introduce an amendment that would confine the operation of this Bill to machines accepting 5p and 10p stakes only; in other words that if the machine accepts 1p or 2p, it will not be covered. If it does not, it will then remain subject to the conditions of Part III of the Gaming Act and Schedule 9 to the Gaming Act, because Section 34 will not apply to it.That will have two rather unexpected consequences. One is that if you have low-stake machines taking 1p or 2p, you have to go through all the rigmarole of Schedule 9 to the Gaming Act and come under the control of the Gaming Act, whereas if the stakes are higher, if they are 5p and 10p, they would come under the scope of the Bill. But it would also mean that if there are at present premises with machines that will take stakes of 1p, 2p, 5p or 10p, a licence will be needed under the Bill for the 5p and 10p machines and they will be subject to the conditions of this Bill, whereas a permit under Schedule 9 will be required in respect of the 1p and 2p machines. It seems to me that, under those circumstances, a proprietor, rather than having to apply for a permit and a licence, would simply eliminate the low-stake machines, which are the lesser evil, and confine himself to the 5p and 10p ones. The deletion of the application of Section 34 to this Bill means that the maximum stakes and maximum winnings laid down by that section will no longer apply to gaming machines taking a stake of 5p and 10p. Originally, when I was working on the Bill before it was an Act, the maximum prize was a shilling, and that was gradually raised to £1. That is not enforced. In the arcade that I visited this afternoon, the maximum prize at all the machines was £2, which is twice the legal limit. But, as the Bill stands, no maximum stake and no maximum winnings per game are laid down. I feel that it is not clear whether the local authority is empowered to set such maxima under its right to regulate the conduct of the business in the appropriate clause. I cannot find it. It is under Clause 2.
:It is Clause 2(1)(b), my Lords.
Under Clause 2(1)(b) the local authority is empowered to regulate the conduct of business. But it is not clear whether local authorities have the right to decide, as they must have, what the maximum stakes and winnings should be. I suggest that these should be the same as those contained within Section 34 of the Gaming Act; namely, a maximum stake of 10p and a maximum monetary prize of £1.I draw attention to the fact that pubs are excluded from the operation of the Bill, but they will, of course, remain subject to the permits required under Section 34 of the Gaming Act and will therefore remain subject to the maximum stakes and winnings laid down in Section 34. It is about time that these maxima were applied. This Bill will remove gaming machines from the Gaming Act and the very complicated regulations laid down under it. Schedule 9, which deals with licensing, occupies six closely written pages. There is machinery for appeals, different rules for Scotland, and so on. All of that is now covered by a couple of short clauses. I think that possibly under the Bill there is an oversimplification of the procedures to obtain a licence. Finally, I should like to draw attention to the fact that at present a permit under the Gaming Act, which is what these premises require, which used to cost 25 shillings for three years, now costs only £8.50 for three years, and that there is a very substantial difference between £8.50, which is what is paid at present, and a fee which "shall not exceed £500", which is mentioned in the Bill. I support the Bill. I think that it needs amendment, and I hope to be able to help in amending it.
My Lords, I shall not detain your Lordships for very long. I came here tonight to support my noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway, who is also a colleague of mine in various other matters. It delights me to be able to congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Ewart-Biggs, on a very fine first performance at the Dispatch Box. I am afraid that I have not done my homework as she has done and as have my noble friends Lord Buckmaster and Lord Kilbracken. However, I declare an interest. I am chairman of a charity—the Gordon House Association—which, with the help of the Home Office, maintains a hostel in South London for compulsive gamblers. It is in that capacity that I speak tonight, having heard this awful statistic which has come from Gamblers Anonymous of one in five of, as it were, the new entry to gambling being under the age of 16.I should like to say just a few words about Gordon House. It is supported by, among others, the Casino Association itself. That association gives us very substantial support and we are very grateful for that support. The gamblers who go to that hostel are compulsive; and, once a compulsive gambler, one never ceases to be a compulsive gambler. To my mind, the gaming machines in the amusement arcades are leading to an addiction among the young which, unless we are very careful, will make many of them compulsive gamblers. In fact, I should like to see the age limit increased from under 16 to under 18, but perhaps that is not possible. However, I certainly think that these places must be licensed and I give my whole support to the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, in getting this Bill through.
My Lords, it may be helpful if I intervene at this stage to explain the Government's attitude to this Bill and the issues with which it seeks to deal. I should like to start by welcoming the noble Baroness, Lady Ewart-Biggs, to the Front Bench and Dispatch Box opposite, over which I hope I shall gaze at her with no greater hostility on future nights than I have tonight. She is always able to smooth the path of her arguments with charm, and I assure her that it was not necessary on this occasion to promote me to an unmerited Earldom in order to secure a friendly reception for what she had to say.My noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway has given us the opportunity to debate an issue about which there is undoubted concern in several quarters. For that opportunity, I am very grateful. But I must confess to a shadow of doubt as to whether using a Bill for this purpose and at this time is absolutely appropriate. Your Lordships may remember that, in reply to a recent Question from my noble friend, I explained that we were looking at the whole subject of controls over amusement arcades and I referred to our proposed consultation and consideration; this so disarmed and encouraged him that he did not press me further, and I rather thought that he was content to let us proceed with due determination on that course. To legislate ahead of consultation seems to me to carry with it dangers which I am sure my noble friend and all noble Lords would wish to avoid. However, your Lordships' House does now have an opportunity to express a view on this whole question and the Government will give full weight to the points made in this debate in the course of their wider consideration. It may be helpful to the House if I try to explain the background to this subject, the present position, the issues raised and the way ahead as we see it. Although my noble friend's Bill deals with amusement machines as such, it is rather their concentration in amusement arcades which has led to a number of local authorities pressing for changes in the law so as to give them greater control over arcades. This pressure has arisen from local authorities whose decisions to refuse planning permission for arcades have been overturned on appeal by Department of the Environment inspectors. These authorities are concerned at the limitations on planning control and the cost implications when their decisions are overturned on appeal. This in turn has led to pressure for a system of licensing control over amusement arcades and similar premises on the lines of Schedule 3 to the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982 relating to the licensing of sex shops. The initiative on this has been taken by the Amusement Arcades Action Group which has been formed by four London boroughs—Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea, Croydon and Wandsworth. An official of the Home Office attended the conference organised by the action group in September. Since then there has been a meeting between officials of the action group and those of the Home Office. Further meetings are expected to take place, but, at that meeting, it was agreed that the action group would submit details of the problems posed by amusement arcades to the Home Office and that my right honourable friend the Minister of State would then meet representatives of the action group. When we have received details from the action group and considered them, a meeting with my right honourable friend will be arranged. I understand that my noble friend has had some contacts with the action group That, my Lords, is how the issues have arisen and is the position that has been reached. Before I go on, I think I ought to pause to explain the position on planning controls, in which the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, and others have expressed an interest. The difficulty with planning controls is that they are not by nature apt to the kind of control which we are speaking of today. The planning system is designed to control the development and use of land, and is obliged to concentrate upon land-use issues. Thus, in considering a planning application for an amusement centre, the local authority may properly take into account issues such as noise, disturbance or pedestrian traffic and congestion. But they are not able to deal with matters which are not land-use matters, such as the moral arguments which noble Lords have heard put forward this evening. Issues of this kind would need to be the subject of some other specific control—rather than the town and country planning system. The role of the Secretary of State for the Environment and his inspectors is of course governed by this fundamental limitation of planning control. With regard to amusement centres in particular, Development Control Policy Note 11 sets out certain national guidelines, pointing out, for example, the importance of considerations of road safety, noise and appearance, and advising that amusement centres are usually best sited in areas of mixed commercial development. This note is currently being reviewed. The local plans applying to any area may have its own policies relating to the siting of amusement centres. The Secretary of State and his inspectors, however, are obliged to consider every appeal on its own merits, and, if no good planning reasons can be adduced for turning down a particular proposal, they will be obliged to allow it. Turning now to machines; there are three types. The first are those which offer no inducement to play other than the expected pleasure of beating either your opponent or the machine itself. They are, I suppose, the linear descendants of the old pinball machines that flash staggering totals onto an illuminated screen at the end of a spring-loaded bagatelle board and which still survive. Of these, one type—space invaders—has become so popular that its name has almost passed into the language. The second offers as a further inducement a prize of some sort—usually in cash, or tokens that can be used as cash in the place where the machine is kept. This category of machine is still intended to rely upon the attractions of the game itself as the main incentive to play. These machines are, I suppose, the linear descendants of those infuriating little cranes with which as a child, I tried, with complete lack of success, to extract an aniseed ball or a plastic boat from a heap of dusty goodies in a big glass case. On such machines the prize is added to give a little zest to the pleasure of playing. These machines are therefore called Amusement with Prizes Machines—AWP for short. The size of the prizes is regulated under Section 34 of the Gaming Act 1968 in order to ensure that the value of the prizes shelled out by the machines shall not increase to a size that would change the nature of their attraction. The maximum values stated in the regulation are reviewed by the Gaming Board every three years in order to keep them roughly in line with the value of money. In fact, a review has just been completed in the normal course of events, and an order, laid before Parliament by coincidence today, will increase the prize limit for AWP machines from £1 to £1.50 for a money prize, and from £2 to £3 for a non-money prize. The third category of machine is the kind which decants a prize of substantial value on fairly infrequent occasions. They are amongst the machines that used very appropriately to be called one-armed bandits, though electronic developments have rendered some of them limbless. The maximum prize may be prescribed by regulation. As these machines are permitted only in premises licensed for gaming and in registered clubs and miners' welfare institutes, they can be discounted for the purpose of this debate. As things now stand a person who wishes to install an AWP machine in any premises must have a permit issued by the district council or London borough, except that, for public houses, the issuing authority is the committee of the licensing justices. The law draws a distinction between premises used wholly or mainly for providing amusements, such as funfairs, seaside piers or amusement arcades, and premises where the amusements are incidental on the other hand, to the main purpose of the premises, such as cafés, shops and take-away restaurants. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken, had his education in the former type. The relevant legislation empowers a local authority to pass a resolution either that particular classes of premises of the type where the machine would be incidental to the primary purpose should not be granted permits, or that it will limit the maximum number of machines permitted in a particular class of premises. Although this sweeping power is subject to appeal to the Crown Court, if a resolution is in force the court is bound by its terms. No such power exists in respect of premises used wholly or mainly for providing amusements. This means that an appeal against the refusal of a permit in such a case may be decided on its merits. If a local authority has refused a permit arbitrarily or has had regard to improper considerations, an appeal against the decision may succeed. A person who wishes to install video machines or other non-gaming amusement machines only, whether in a cafe, amusement arcade or elsewhere, does not require a permit. These machines do not come within the scope of the gambling laws. The complaint made about amusement arcades, the machines located in them and the problems they are said to cause, vary. Some relate to amenity and environmental considerations; others to social or moral issues; and some to crime or gambling addiction. It is said that there are too many arcades, that they affect the character of the locality in which they are sited, especially if they are located close to schools, churches or other premises with which they are not compatible. They are also said to be a focus for noise and disorder because of their attraction to young people, who tend to congregate in the vicinity of arcades. The attraction of arcades to children is put forward as one of the major causes for concern. The tendency of arcades to attract children is said to encourage truancy and delinquency and to expose them to the influence of undesirable and criminal elements who might frequent such premises. Some children are said to steal money either from their parents or elsewhere in order to play the machines. This leads to a further problem for it is said that children become addicted to these machines and that their addiction may encourage them to gamble in other ways. I know the noble Lord, Lord Spens, will be interested in that. I have to say, however, that there is not much hard evidence that amusement arcades pose serious problems for the police or that they have other seriously harmful social consequences. An independent study conducted in 1974—if I can begin at that point—on behalf of the Churches Council on Gambling looked at the social effects of amusement arcades because it was then being said they were a major cause of truancy and child theft. The council found that there was no evidence to support the view that the availability of arcade facilities was linked in any degree with juvenile crime or delinquency, especially theft. Nor could arcades be held to be a major cause of truancy. The study did not disregard the risks inherent in such premises but considered that these should be seen in perspective. Although there was no evidence that children got into bad company at arcades, there was a need for vigilance and co-operation between the local authorities and the police. Local authorities were consulted in the course of the study about the need for amending legislation but no solid case was made out. Where local authorities did want change, this was to enable them to impose age restrictions. Some authorities had reached a voluntary agreement with the operators; a trend the study considered should be encouraged. It concluded that overall the legislation (which is still current) struck a sensible balance between control and the operation of a legitimate commercial activity. My noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway referred to a later report by the National Council for Social Aid, mentioned also by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich. The report is called Christians and Gambling. It devotes only about three paragraphs to gaming machines, but none the less we welcome this informed contribution not only to this question but to the wider question of gambling. In a review of gambling literature published in 1978 it is stated that there was no evidence that arcades or leisure centres constituted any material danger to their customers so far as their primary purpose and service was concerned. I hope your Lordships will notice that. Since then, however, the advent of new technology has resulted in the phenomenon of the video amusement machine, and particularly space invaders. These games together with computer games have become an integral part of the modern leisure industry not only in amusement arcades but in the home. There was some publicity a few months ago—and noble Lords have referred to it—for a report by Gamblers Anonymous that was considering setting up a junior section to deal with children aged 12 to 17 because of its concern at the time and money some children were devoting to machines. More recently. the chairman of the National Council on Gambling has conducted a pilot survey in secondary schools into pupil participation in gambling and we await the publication of his findings with interest. The noble Baroness, Lady Ewart-Biggs, said that a fondness for video games was a danger. In excess such a fondness may have its dangers as many otherwise harmless preoccupations. But a fondness for video games can offer advantages as well as dangers. In August, the Department of Education and Science published a paper called Micro-Computers and Mathematics in Schools. It was written by one of Her Majesty's Inspectors and says that the use of computer games of the kind found in amusement arcades has a place in schools. Games programs often involve techniques well beyond O-level computer studies courses. They provide strong initial motivation—some of your Lordships would say too strong—and are a route to more academic activities. These examples of recent activity and research in this area are interesting, informative and sometimes disturbing, depending on one's point of view. But they do not point clearly in any one direction. Even the experience of the noble Viscount, Lord Buckmaster, casts a very different light on it from that of the noble Baroness, Lady Ewart-Biggs. I am surprised that I did not bump into both of them and several others of your Lordships on my own recent reconnaissances. The Government recognise the concern that has been expressed and we have a genuinely open mind on this whole question. But, before considering whether there should be tighter controls, it would be necessary— and I am sure the House would agree on this—to be satisfied that arcades and machines posed a threat or danger to those who played them, to other members of society, or were otherwise harmful. The fact that some young people who play these machines—and enjoy doing so—may cause a nuisance would not, in itself, provide a sound basis for tighter controls. Nor should we forget that some arcades, especially at seaside resorts, are provided primarily for children. The problems of an inner-city area such as Westminster (which includes Soho) are very different from those of a holiday town. I recognise the concern of many people about what happens to young people in amusement arcades. But I am not at all certain that the events which concern them derive from the nature of the machines rather than from the nature of the other people frequenting the arcades. The attraction to these people—the predators, if you like, on the young—is simply the fact that the young are apt to congregate there. Now the fact is that the young are going to congregate somewhere, whatever we do, and to legislate against amusement arcades, or against amusement or gambling machines, is likely merely to move the problem on to somewhere else, somewhere that may be less well lit and less frequented than the places we are now talking about. If that is the likely result of legislation we want to be very sure that the new attractions and the new location will be preferable to the old and not a good deal worse. If they were to prove worse our efforts would have been misdirected. And that means that we do need more information about the nature and extent of the problem, the supposed inadequacies of the present law, and the likely effect of any changes, whether they could be enforced and at what cost. We also need to consider how far it should be the Government that intervene in this even if intervention is required. There is no certainty that tighter controls would solve this problem; it might simply move it elsewhere. Problems that happen in arcades can perhaps be dealt with by enforcement of other legislation depending upon the priorities and resources of the police. What we are concerned with are the problems actually caused by amusement arcades and machines. This poses difficulties in relation to video and amusement-only machines which are not at present controlled and which can be played freely even at home or at school. A trip to the toy department of any store will show what I mean. I want to draw to a conclusion. My noble friend was admirably brief as well as clear in his introduction. His Bill is, I fear, technically defective and I doubt whether the amendments that he has so far suggested would suffice to put it right. I will not go into a catalogue of examples for this is not a Committee stage, but I would say that from the Long Title it would seem that the intention is to license machines, as defined in the Bill; but from the Bill it is not clear whether it is the machines, the premises in which they must be located, or the occupier of those premises that is being licensed. Second, definition is always difficult and it seems to me that what is proposed here might well cover all manner of things, including pay telephones and juke boxes; but I have little doubt that that could be put right. There is always a danger that legislation enacted in haste may be regretted at leisure. I have explained the Government's recognition of the concern over this whole subject and the serious consideration that is being given to it. Those who are pressing for tighter controls recognise that they must produce evidence to support their case, that wider interests must be consulted and that, if the case for tighter controls is established, the precise need must be precisely met in the drafting. I am sure that my noble friend's sagacity, together with the careful help of the noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken, would achieve that at any later stage. My noble friend's Bill has provided us with an opportunity to debate the issue, but he is entering a field that has been very imperfectly explored, and it is certainly not yet clear that we have anything like enough knowledge of it to enable us to come to an agreed decision on exactly what to do about it. The Government are not dragging their feet on this matter; we have already begun to take account of the views of interested parties. Consultation and inquiry are essential, both to establish that legislation is needed and to secure that, if it is needed, it is sound, effective and fair. I very much hope, therefore, that my noble friend will not feel compelled to try to perfect his own piece of legislation ahead of this essential process. Indeed, he may well feel that the best course would be not to proceed with it at this stage. We would not wish to obstruct him if he decides otherwise, but our own view is that it would be preferable if he were to withdraw it now so that he might return to the fray better armed a little later.
My Lords, I shall seek to be very brief. I wish to thank all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate, and I would very much wish to congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Ewart-Biggs, on her eloquent, informed and very moving "maiden" at the Dispatch Box. We hope to hear much more from her from that particular quarter in future. I very much thank her for her support. Her point about barring harmless machines is, with respect to her, in fact met, because they are only barred if there is, as I would describe it, a harmful machine. But certainly this is a matter that could be looked at further at Committee stage.The noble Viscount, Lord Buckmaster, made a telling point about variety, and it is because of this variety that this wide discretion is given to the local authority under Clause 2 of the Bill. As regards the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken, it is not the intention to have a situation of dual licence for the premises; and, in answer to my noble friend Lord Elton, yes, it is a licence for the premises. If only 1p and 2p machines are concerned the Bill has no incidence and the provisions of the Gaming Act obtain, and it is all quite straightforward; but if a single 5p or 10p machine is on the premises then the provisions of the Gaming Act are ousted and the provisions of this Bill would obtain.
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord a question?
My Lords, of course.
What is the situation if there are both 2p and 5p machines on the same premises?
My Lords, I have tried to deal with that twice. I wonder how I can explain it better. If you have a 5p machine or a 10p machine on the premises—one machine—then you require a licence for those premises, irrespective of whether there are 2p machines or 1p machines, too. That is the proposal under the Bill as it is intended to amend it. Of course, these are matters which require consideration at Committee stage, and I fully take the point that your Lordships might take a different view; but that is the proposal.On the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken, about enforcement, it is not really within my competence to comment on want of enforcement, and the Bill really is not concerned with that. On another point made by the noble Lord—and I am extremely grateful to him—I agree that the monetary value for means of operation of these machines is not sufficiently included with making conditions as to conduct of business. That would require the introduction of an amendment at Committee stage to Clause 2(1)(b). I am most grateful to the noble Lord. As to the simplified system of licensing, the present system is not only hopelessly complex but totally ineffective for any purpose whatever, practically incomprehensible and very wasteful. The simplified system proposed by this Bill was proposed to meet a simple need; the need to prevent addiction of the young and the need to provide for the interests of the community. But, again, consideration could be given to that at a later stage. I wish to thank the noble Lord, Lord Spens, for his humanitarian speech on a broad plane and his obvious concern for the addiction of the young—a concern reflected from so many quarters, as I have already mentioned—apparently a concern as regards which my noble friend Lord Elton wants hard evidence. We can come to that in due course, because, before dealing with what my noble friend Lord Elton said, I wish to thank him for his dextrous and sympathetic handling of a subject which appears to have been somewhat of an unwelcome baby dumped on his departmental doorstep. All that I wish to say at this hour is that, with the greatest respect to him, I could not have heard the case for vast profit to be earned by amusement arcade operators argued better in a Chancery Court. It was superb. But the problem of how to deal with what is an addiction of the young. how to prevent it, is something for which there was no real proposal other than the rather defeatist approach of, "Well, move the addicts on. They can go on somewhere else". That is not the approach of those of us who support this Bill. Our problem, our concern, is not to move them on somewhere else, but to prevent them from becoming addicts.
On Question, Bill read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.
House adjourned at twenty-six minutes before ten o'clock.