Laurie Pavitt – 1971 Speech on Housing

Below is the text of the speech made by Laurie Pavitt, the then Labour MP for Willesden West, in the House of Commons on 16 June 1971.

The Adjournment debate provides an opportunity to raise matters which are of deep concern to constituents and which very often involve criticism of the Government. The matter I wish to raise this evening is one of profound and deep concern. However, I wish to begin by asking the hon. Gentleman who is to reply to convey to his Department and his officials the gratitude of a number of the people from my area on the way in which over the last three years they have shown far more understanding of housing problems in Willesden than perhaps has the town hall. I have been most grateful for the help which I have received in this matter. When departmental officials deal with real problems and facts, one can often get from them a greater appreciation of practical solutions than one could hope to get when dealing with the matter in purely political terms.

I wish tonight to raise a problem that affects some 614 families in Willesden, West, who live in an area that was built up in the 1930s which is known as Curzon Crescent, involving several blocks of flats and some houses.

I will try to put the problem into context. My borough probably has the most appalling housing problem in the whole of London. In March 1969, I made a plea in this House in a similar kind of debate dealing with the policy of the Conservative Administration in the town hall at that time. I shall give the House a number of facts and figures. At that time the number of people on the waiting list for accommodation was 6,943. Now, two years later, despite the pressure that was then applied, because the policy at the town hall did not change, the waiting list in my area is now 9,495, over 2,000 more than it was at that time. We operate a points scheme of allocation. In that waiting list there are 2,250 with points for medical disability; 350 are broken families, with children in one place and parents in another; 1,393 are illegally overcrowded. On 27th January, 1970, in answer to a Question from me, the Minister said that the number of designated slums was 554. In answer to another Question on 25th November, 1969, about housing starts, I was told: There is likely to be a shortfall of 1,954 housing starts on Brent’s original 1969 programme which was for 1,978 dwellings … I understand that it will be 24 only.”—OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th November, 1969; Vol. 792, c. 56.] It is that policy which has led to the present devastating situation.

An entirely new phenomenon, because of its size, is the heartbreak of homelessness. A few years ago, the country was disturbed by the television play “Cathy Come Home”. There are 149 Cathys who cannot come home in my area—112 homeless families have been accommodated by the Department of Social Services and 37 by voluntary associations. Now, for the first time, because the problem is becoming unmanageable, 10 families have been boarded out in a guest house at the ratepayers’ expense because there is no room at the inn.

There is nothing wrong with these families. They are normal families who have run into a bad patch and have no roof over their heads. The problem is aggravated because more than 100 houses have been cleared out to make way for a bypass, and in less than three weeks the remaining 17 homeless families who will be then displaced will have to be found homes. Tragedy after tragedy: broken home after broken home. My Friday night surgeries are one mass of marital problems and others arising from the fact that many families are sharing too little accommodation.

On the front page of my local paper, The Willesden Chronicle, last week was an attractive picture of two young children who were left at the council’s office at Brent House on Monday: … council officials have been unable to find their mother … The younger child is aged about six months and was dressed in pink nylon rompers with a yellow woollen coat. The other child, who is aged 18 months to two years, was wearing red and white check rompers, a matching dress and yellow anorak. Thanks to Mr. Eamonn Andrews and his television programme, we were able to trace the mother, but the family is still in need of a home. I pay tribute to Mr. H. Whalley, the Director of Social Services, who must be working day and night on the problem of the homeless.

It is the whole problem of housing to which I direct the Minister’s attention, and particularly the rehabilitation of the council estate of Curzon Crescent. Curzon Crescent was a housing development of the 1930s, but for a variety of reasons it has sunk to the bottom of the heap of housing in my area. It has a predominant number, 47 per cent., of very large families. There are inadequate amenities and the area is unpopular and unloved. At the last survey, 71 per cent. of the residents wanted to get out.

I saw the Minister in 1969, and after negotiations with the local authority the Ministry gave the go-ahead for a solution to this problem which meant refurbishing block by block and bringing the whole thing up to modern standards at a cost of £2.3 million. The crux of the scheme was to bring this run-down area back to being part of the community. We wanted not just modern homes but proper amenities, neighbourhood facilities for children, sports facilities for young people and leisure facilities for the elderly. Most important of all, if we succeed in doing doing this this large area catering for 614 families could become part of the general housing provision of the area and not the end of the road for so many people, a cul de sac that no one wanted to get into in case they could not get out again.

The tragedy is that, having received support from the Ministry, there has been a lag in getting the scheme implemented. We have a situation where, because we cannot decant families elsewhere, the builders cannot move in. We had the Chalkhill Estate to which we could have decanted people from Curzon Crescent, but, with rents at £13 a week, it was impossible. The whole of the housing programme in my area, including this refurbishing arrangement, has been put back five years. Because we had nowhere for people to go, the slum clearance, redevelopment and general improvement which is so necessary could not proceed.

I should like to quote one of the new councillors, Mrs. Mary Goudie, who has done a marvellous job and is heart and soul behind my constituents in her efforts to transform Curzon Crescent into a place worthy of them. Speaking of the present situation, she said:There is still one family left in Dudley Court. The whole of the top end is like a ghost town, and those who are left are miserable. The children are breaking into the empty flats, and the parents are worried about fires and accidents. This is typical of many areas which we want to redevelop in Willesden. For instance, I was in Melville Road on Sunday and found four houses out of a whole road in which people were still living. This means that we cannot get on with the necessary rebuilding for which sanction has been given. The delay is costly to the ratepayers and it is a bad thing for housing in Willesden.

I do not blame the Minister. I indict the previous council. If it had treated this project with proper backing from the start with contingent support work, Dudley Court would have been started months ago. The present timetable means that Dudley Court will now start in July, 1971, Dover Court in January, 1972, Pendennis Court in July, 1972, and Lulworth Court in January, 1973. The whole of this timetable should have been brought forward so that we should have been seeing the area transformed into a delightful place 18 months from now.

Despite the many deserving areas to which the Minister has to give consideration, I ask him to give high priority to speeding up what we are trying to do in the Curzon Crescent project, to ensure that there is no delay in the Department in reaching decisions on matters put to him by the new Borough Council, which is anxious to solve the problem as quickly as possible, and to confirm that loan sanction on the present projection of costs is assured and that it will be eligible for a grant of 50 per cent.

If we could get 100 new houses taken over by the council capable of housing large families with up to six children, it would be possible to decant people from the area and enable us to get on with the programme so much quicker and get rid of the boarded up derelict places which are a danger to the community.

The borough now has to make up for lost time. The previous council put the programme back at least five years. We need to weld into a neighbourhood entity a community which has been sharply divided into the “haves” of Wembley and the “have nots” of Willesden by the last council.

The symbol of success in our endeavours would be for people to be able to walk into Curzon Crescent with pride and say that it was a pleasure to live there. That has not been possible for a long time. That symbol of success is what I am seeking tonight. It is a matter to which the borough council is pledged. I wish it well in its endeavours.

I am grateful to the Minister for the understanding which he has shown in the past. I hope that he will translate his sympathy into some practical help.

Queen Elizabeth II – 1971 Queen’s Speech

queenelizabethii

Below is the text of the speech made by HM Queen Elizabeth II in the House of Lords on 2 November 1971.

My Lords and Members of the House of Commons,

My Husband and I look forward to our visits to Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, Maldives and the Seychelles.

In their external policies My Government will protect and advance the nation’s interests. They hope, following the successful conclusion of negotiations, shortly to sign an Instrument of Accession to the European Communities after which legislation will be laid before you. It will be their purpose to maintain the North Atlantic Alliance, sustain the Commonwealth association and uphold our other friendships and alliances throughout the world, while continuing their efforts to achieve international agreement on arms control and disarmament.

My Ministers will work for good relations with the Soviet Union and the countries of Eastern Europe; for peace in the Middle East; and for improved relations with the People’s Republic of China. They will co-operate in the new arrangements concerning the defence of Malaysia and Singapore and will seek to promote stability in the Gulf. They will continue to work towards a solution of the problems of East Pakistan and the refugees; an end to the conflict in Indo-China; and a settlement of the Rhodesian problem in accordance with the Five Principles.

My Government intend to increase aid to the developing countries. They will continue to promote the development of the dependent territories and the well-being of their peoples.

My Government will continue to co-operate with other Governments to resolve the current difficulties in international payments and bring about lasting improvements in the international monetary system in the interests of expanding world trade.

My Ministers are determined that violence in Northern Ireland shall be brought to an end. They are no less determined to continue their efforts to establish political conditions in Northern Ireland which ensure for the communities there an active, permanent and guaranteed role in the life and public affairs of the Province.

Members of the House of Commons,

Estimates for the public services will be laid before you.

My Lords and Members of the House of Commons,

At home my Government’s first care will be to increase employment by strengthening the economy and promoting the sound growth of output. Their aim will be to curb inflation, encourage increased efficiency, and maintain a strong balance of payments. In developing their regional policies they will pay close attention to the economic needs of particular areas.

Legislation will be brought before you to promote active competition and fair trading and to extend customers’ protection in the sale of goods. Other measures will provide for extending the Shipbuilding Credit Scheme, for reorganising the structure of the gas industry, for assisting the exploration of our mineral resources, and for encouraging British investment over- seas through the establishment of an insurance scheme.

My Ministers will pursue their proposals for reforming the tax system and will bring forward legislation to establish a value-added tax and to reform company taxation.

My Ministers will continue to encourage the efficient expansion of agriculture and will introduce legislation to simplify administrative procedures and improve agricultural services. They will support the United Nations in preparing for a Conference on the Law of the Sea in 1973.

A Code of Industrial Relations Practice will be presented for your approval and proposals will be made for developing training facilities to meet future manpower needs.

Bills will be brought before you to reform the finance of rented housing and to provide more help for public and private tenants in need.

Powers will be sought to facilitate the reform of pensions schemes in the public services.

The substantial programme of replacement and improvement of primary school buildings will be continued. Steps will be taken to raise the school-leaving age to 16. Grants to direct grant schools will be increased. Provision for higher and further education will be improved and expanded.

Legislation will he introduced to give effect to My Government’s proposals for the reorganisation of local government in England (outside Greater London) and in Wales.

A Bill will be laid before you to reorganise the health services in Scotland.

My Government will pursue with vigour their policies for improving the environment. Legislation will be proposed to increase protection for ancient monuments and to extend the powers of local authorities to protect buildings in conservation areas.

Legislation will be introduced to provide for an alternative service of local radio broadcasting.

My Government acknowledge and share public concern at the growth of violent crime. They will lay before you provisions to strengthen the administration of criminal justice. In particular, provision will be made to enlarge the powers of the courts to award alternative penalties to custodial sentences and to require offenders to make reparation to their victims.

Further measures of law reform will be brought forward and a Bill will be introduced to improve the facilities for giving legal advice and assistance to persons of moderate means.

Other measures will be laid before you.

My Lords and Members of the House of Commons,

I pray that the blessing of Almighty God may rest upon your counsels.

Cecil Parkinson – 1971 Maiden Speech in the House of Commons

Below is the text of the maiden speech made by Cecil Parkinson in the House of Commons on 4th February 1971.

I had wondered, as all new Members wonder, I am sure, just what my experiences in my by-election had to do with the very strange life I have found myself leading since my election. Tonight I realise that one of my experiences was very relevant. Night after night in my by-election campaign I listened to the star speaker from London make my speech. All of a sudden, the chairman called on me and with the tatters of my brilliant speech I then had to entertain an audience for 25 minutes. My experience tonight has brought those memories very vividly back to me.

I entered the House as the representative of Enfield, West after the by-election in November, and I am the newest Member. The constituency of Enfield, West is comprised of the residential part of Enfield, Hadley Wood, which has some very distinguished-looking hon. Members, who I am sorry to say sit on the benches opposite when they are here, the urban district of Potters Bar and South Mimms. It is comprised of beautiful rolling countryside, some of the loveliest parts of what is left of the green belt in the north of London. One of the great ambitions which I as the Member, kin Macleod as my predecessor, and all my constituents have is to make sure, for our sake and the sake of London, that we work very hard to keep that green belt.

There is very little industry in my constituency, as the officials of Transport House who came down for the by-election found out. They arrived with a plan to have a series of factory gate meetings and found to their horror that it would not work. We have only one factory in the constituency, with a single gate, and they felt that 21 appearances by my opponent might injure rather than help his case.

In case hon. Members opposite think that this seems to mean that I am not qualified to speak about anything to do with working people, may I add that I was born and bred in the north of Lancashire, in a very tough part of the country, and I am not talking about things that I have read about when I talk about the plight of pensioners and the working man.

One of Enfield’s greatest distinctions is that it was represented in this House for 20 years by Iain Macleod, one of the great Parliamentarians of this or any century. He was a great man, a great patriot and a great servant of the people of his constituency. Hon. Members will not be offended if I take this opportunity to pay tribute both to his work and that of his wife Eve. Together they worked for more than 20 years for their constituency. I am very proud to have been chosen to succeed him; I am very sad that the opportunity for me to do so ever arose.

Iain Macleod had a great interest, which he shared with his wife, in the welfare of the elderly and disabled, and it is partly because of that that I wish to speak in this debate. None of us on either side of the House can fail to be concerned about the plight of the pensioner. I am sure that we all accept that society has a great obligation to do as much as it can for the pensioner.

This Government, in spite of the rather cavalier way in which the hon. Lady the Member for Hitchin (Mrs. Shirley Williams) dealt with the things they have done already, have, I claim, demonstrated their real concern for the plight of the pensioners through the actions that they have taken already and the assurance we have had from my right hon. Friend—a man who is known to keep his word and who is determined to carry out our pledge. I think we can rest assured that the Government are aware of and are concerned about the plight of the pensioners.

It is entirely right that we should accept a special responsibility for this generation of pensioners, the vast majority of whose careers suffered the economic consequences of two world wars and the world depressions of the 1920s and 1930s. Many of these people would have been at their optimum age at the time when there was not an opportunity to use their talents, and I have never heard any Conservative worker or hon. Member reproach any pensioner about the fact that he is poor. In fact, to make a party point—although I know that I am not supposed to—Conservative workers are too busy working with the meals-on-wheels service and other social work to bother to recriminate with the people they spend so much time trying to help. I thought that that was an unworthy remark by the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Fred Evans), and I am sure that when he thinks about it he will wish to withdraw it.

Every day I get letters and receive visits from pensioners who seek help. It is important at this time for the House not to appear to be trying to turn the pensioners into a sort of political football, for neither side to be trying to steal a march on the other in terms of talk about concern, in terms of trying to prove that if only they were in Government they would be doing more and more. I was surprised to hear the hon. Lady refer to the claim, which is often pointed out by hon. Members opposite, that the Labour Government’s first action when they came to power in 1964 was to increase pensions. One of the shabbiest incidents of those early months was the fact that they promised to increase the pensions but when pressed said that administratively it was not possible. It was Lord George-Brown, at the mini-conference the Labour Party held after the 1964 election, who confessed that it was not administrative problems but financial ones which were delaying the increase and who once again, as so often in his parliamentary career, blew the gaff.

I share the concern of my hon. Friends about the attempt by certain sectional groups to grab the old-age pensioners, for their own particular ends and who appear to be using them. One man in particular who claims that it is his responsibility to extract the maximum for his workers, seems to spend six days a week—this is the only controversial thing I shall say—stirring up inflation in trying to grab more than his share of what is going and on the seventh day organises rallies for the people who will suffer most from his activities of the previous six days. It is perhaps the eleventh Commandment—”Six days shalt thou labour to stoke inflation and on the seventh thou shalt organise and finance rallies for the victims of inflation and shed crocodile tears at the effect of thy previous six days work.” It is neither convincing nor worthy and I hope that it will be dropped. It is worsening a situation for a section of the community who cannot look after themselves, who are defenceless. The last thing they need is to have their hopes falsely raised to be used by people for any ends other than just getting the best deal they can for pensioners.

Apart from joining hon. Members on both sides of the House in the hope that, when my right hon. Friend says that an announcement will be soon, he means very, very soon, I want to make two specific points. One has been made by a number of hon. Members and concerns the earnings rule. I think that this must be relaxed so that those who can and wish to help themselves may do so without, as so often happens now, having to be party to bending the law. I think it is undignified and unworthy that pensioners should be paid a bit under the table, as is done in many instances, because people realise that to pay them any more would cause them to lose some of the pension they have richly earned. I urge the Government not to be put off by this temporary crisis and to press on with long-term plans to encourage earnings-related occupational pension schemes.

I cannot share the sorrow of hon. Members opposite that the Crossman plan was abandoned. I do not think that it was a very sound plan. I think that it had the potential of being highly inflationary. We prefer properly funded diverse occupational schemes. We believe in them for two reasons.

The first is that they are a better hedge against inflation than a promise by the Government to take inflation into account, because Governments always want to underestimate inflation. Secondly, we believe that, by having this diversity, giving people a choice and having a variety of schemes, we are taking away from the State the ability to interfere with and control a vast number of people’s lives. I view with great distaste the fact that at the moment millions of people are forced to rely on the judgments of this House for the amount of their pensions. I look forward to the day when people are members in very large numbers of occupational schemes, properly handled, properly funded and properly resistant to inflation. I look forward to hearing more from the Government about plans for their fall-back scheme, and I hope that it will be treated as a matter of great urgency.