HC Deb 21 April 1964 vol 693 cc1082-4
22. Mr. Oram

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs what steps he now proposes to take to prevent excessive profits from land speculation consequent upon the publication of plans for development in the South-East Region.

Sir K. Joseph

No further steps are needed because in every case where planned expansion in an area specifically identified in the South-East Study does take place the land needed will be bought in advance as necessary by a public authority just as is done for new towns.

Mr. Oram

Do not these powers to which the Minister referred extend only to new towns and expanded towns? Is it not the case that two-thirds of the development envisaged in the South-East Plan will be outside such new towns and expanded towns? Therefore, is it not necessary to have some idea how to stop speculation in the two-thirds which are not covered at present?

Sir K. Joseph

Yes, but there is a great difference. The one-third is proposed by the South-East Study to be housed in places which are identified and where, therefore, speculation could occur. The remaining two-thirds are left to the local planning authorities with discretion, subject to the Minister's overall final word, to place them in any part of their county which makes sense. Therefore, the speculator, if there be large numbers of such people, and I doubt it—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—I doubt it—are not led by the South-East Study to any identifiable place.

Mr. MacColl

Does not the Minister appreciate that that is the whole mischief? The whole thing becomes a gamble on which way the planning authority will jump. This is one of the major causes of speculation and uncertainty. There will be an attempt to anticipate or even to persuade the planning authority to move in the direction where their interests lie.

Sir K. Joseph

Our main job is to get on with the development of land for houses. We believe this is going on at an accelerating rate under the present procedure. We depart from that only when the Government by their own initiative designate a planned expansion. That is where we use the new town procedure.

Mr. Brockway

Does the right hon. Gentleman recognise that this is going on now, that towns like Slough in the south-east of England are becoming the slaves of great new feudalists, the property combines, and that these are sending up the price of land, which will make impossible his own housing associations or any other housing development designed to provide houses at rents which are within the ability of occupiers to pay?

Sir K. Joseph

The hon. Gentleman is, I know, a keen supporter of the Green Belt. The problem of towns like Slough, which are encircled by it, is one that involves the housing of some of the population who need houses outside the Green Belt in planned expansions. The question that I was asked was about the South-East Study.