HC Deb 27 April 1972 vol 835 cc1788-847

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Murton.]

4.16 p.m.

Mr. John Silkin (Deptford)

As the House is aware, my hon. and right hon. Friends had originally intended to discuss Bangladesh today but, in view of the statement of the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs earlier this week, we are content to leave the matter for the moment and, because of its urgency, we are raising instead the problem of land and house prices.

Despite intense pressure from the Opposition over many weeks, the Secretary of State for the Environment has been unwilling hitherto to make a statement. However, yesterday, with the storm cloud of this debate hanging over his head, he made a statement—to every newspaper in the country. At least we know what his priorities are—

The Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Peter Walker)

I had no contact with any newspaper or any journalists throughout the whole of yesterday.

Mr. Silkin

Of course I fully accept that, but somebody in the right hon. Gentleman's Department must have. It will be interesting to see, when the Secretary of State intervenes, whether his views accord with the widely reported statements about what he intends to say this afternoon.

This is an urgent problem—and what a problem it is! For most of the young people of our country the possibility of affording even the simplest modern home is receding day by day. I recall—and the Secretary of State will recall—a debate in this House in January, 1970, when he —the then hon. Member for Worcester—attacked the Labour Government by pointing out that in the six years since we had been in office the monthly mortgage repayment over a 25-year period of a loan of 80 per cent. required to buy an average modern house had risen from £18.30 to £32. This, in his view, put house purchase beyond the means of the average industrial worker. The hon. Member for Worcester was going to change all that. He did change it. Today the repayment on an average modern house it not £32 but £48.86. This means that the ordinary industrial worker now has to put down £500 more on deposit for the house and pay nearly £14 a month more than he did when the right hon. Gentleman made his attack—and he is supposed to do all that on an average income that has risen by only £6 a week, a figure quite insufficient to get him that extra mortgage. It is the singular achievement of this Administration that the monthly repayment on an average modern house has risen by as much in under two years as it did in the whole six years of the Labour Government.

A large and overwhelming contributory factor to this rise is the price of housing land, which is going up by an average of £250 per acre per week. I should like to give the House many examples. Many have been given to me. I should like to give the House some very large extracts from the file of my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara), the leading authority on gazumping in this country. I think it will suffice, however, if I give three simple examples of the cost of housing land in this country.

First, London: just a short while ago —it will have gone up since then—less than an acre of housing land was sold at Hampstead for £350,000 per acre. It may be argued that London is different again; the Secretary of State has a special problem in London; but the percentage increase is going up all over the country. According to the Building Societies' Gazette figures, in Bishops Stortford one and a half acres was sold recently for £108,000 and in the area which was always the slowest in the increase of land prices, Norfolk, land recently changed hands at £10,000 an acre—a very large sum indeed for that area.

During the course of that debate in January, 1970, which I spoke about the right hon. Gentleman gave us his prescription—it was a 10-point prescription, as he may recall—for bringing down the price of land and the price of houses. To be fair to him, he was not very long in office before he was applying his remedy. He started with a number of suggestions, which his Government took into account. I want to say what they were because the various matters which I am going to retail have had, it seems to me, only a peripheral effect upon the prices of land and houses. They certainly have not caused them to go up, but equally, they have not radically affected them.

The right hon. Gentleman started with the sale of council houses. This is not the time to argue about the merits or demerits of the sale of council houses. The Secretary of State knows perfectly well that we on this side of the House have our views, and he has his. But we are entitled to ask to what extent it has affected the prices of houses. What one has to realise is that the sale of council houses does not create a new supply of houses but merely substitutes for one form of land tenure, if one is looking at it in terms of the supply of houses, another form of land tenure, so that it has no effect whatever on the overall prices.

Then the right hon. Gentleman mentioned SET. According to the figures he then gave, the average price of a house would have been reduced by £60. He said that if the whole of SET were abolished the price would be reduced by £120. It is not for me to quarrel with him. These are figures which I have used and have had to deal with, so I am not going to quarrel with him on that. I am going to assume—which is a great assumption—that every builder in the country, when SET was halved, proceeded to knock down the price of the house he was building.

Then the right hon. Gentleman talked about stamp duty on mortgage debts. His right hon. Friend is going to extend that, he says, to houses under £10,000. Again we are talking about small sums. Then he talked about flexibility in the option mortgage scheme, mortgage advances, and the greater supply of mortgage funds.

I calculate—the right hon. Gentleman may disagree but he cannot disagree very much—that if one gives him the benefit of all these figures the effect on the price of a house is rather less than £240, and that is a saving that only 40 days of this Government suffice totally to erode. That is the effect of the measures taken by the Government in the past on the basis of the right hon. Gentleman's speech of January, 1970, about what they proposed to do. I shall be interested, as I always am, to hear what the Secretary of State has to say, but I am going to assume that he is not going to differ very much from the Press.

Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Ardwick)

Would my right hon. Friend not agree that one thing that the Government have not done is to implement the report of the Prices and Incomes Board on conveyancing charges, which they have now had in their hands for a whole year?

Mr. Silkin

As a matter of fact, my figure of £240 included a reduction on conveyancing charges of £35, my hon. Friend will be delighted to hear.

To come back to what the Secretary of State is proposing to do, according to the best-informed information in the best-informed Press in the world, he intends to release more land. That is to say, he is going to go to the local authorities and say "You should get rid of the land you hold which you are not essentially and at this moment using and sell it to private developers so that they can get on with the job". But he has tried this before. He tried it a very long time ago in his Circular 10/70 of 14th December, 1970, which is over 18 months ago. He has had some degree of success. I think local authorities are releasing land. I do not know that he is going to get very much more by a further circular, whatever number he may get.

A second proposed change is the speedup of planning permissions; that is to say—and here we shall want to look very carefully indeed into what the right hon. Gentleman may have in mind—it is suggested that if one gives more planning permissions, these almost automatically and in a very short time convert themselves into houses.

I have given the House a few examples of the prices of land in this country. Perhaps I may now give the House, if it will not become too weary, some examples of the planning permission situation at this moment. In advance of houses actually being built—I have taken these areas totally at random—Southend has already given 2,600 more building permissions; Buckinghamshire 3,000 more; Kent 2,750 more; Berkshire 2,760 more. These figures, as the Secretary of State is well aware, come from the Standing Conference of the London and South-East Regional Planning. These are the figures, and this situation is being mirrored all over the country. There is no dearth of planning permits, and it is not this that is the cause of the high rise in prices.

Sir Harmar Nicholls (Peterborough)

The right hon. Gentleman had ministerial responsibility for this over a number of years. Surely he is not telling the House, based on that experience, that he has no knowledge whether delay in issuing permits has any effect on building or the speed of building? Is he saying that?

Mr. Silkin

In courtesy to the House I think I had better not give way after this, but I will answer the hon. Gentleman's point. Of course I am not saying that. I am merely saying that to pretend that there is such an acute planning permission crisis at this moment is totally to misunderstand the situation. Of course procedures may be shortened, but procedures that preserve planning ought to be preserved.

The other suggestion is that the Secretary of State will announce to-day that he is going to nibble at the green belt. That is what I would call it. He may call it doing away with the eyesores in the green belt, or cabbage patches, or whatever words he prefers.

I should like to refer to Circular 1070 again and read what I think were very relevant words at that time, and are still relevant today. When discussing the release of land in paragraph 6 at page 2, the Secretary of State said: The Secretary of State accordingly looks to local planning authorities to make generous additional releases wherever this can be done without detriment to other important planning objectives, e.g. the safeguarding of green belts. Suddenly, after 18 months, to discover eyesores in the green belts would show that there was considerable myosis in December, 1970. I hope that the Secretary of State will kill that suggestion stone dead. All these measures, including the speeding-up of planning permission or nibbling at the green belt, will not cheapen land or housing, but will cheapen planning.

So far I have given examples where the Government have done very little to affect the price of houses and land. I now want to show how the Secretary of State and his colleagues, by their own actions and deeds, have succeeded effectively in changing the price of land. What they have done is to increase it.

I will give two examples. The first example relates to the Housing Finance Bill. During the Committee stage on that Bill my hon. Friend the Member for Alford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun) and my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Aston (Mr. Julius Silverman), in discussing Clause 35, which introduces general decontrol, pointed out that the effect of decontrol would be to increase the rent coming in from decontrolled houses by 250 per cent.—in other words, by 2.5 times. If the rent coming in from a private house is 2½ times what it was then, it does not require a mathematical genius to realise that the value of that property has gone up by the same amount. The capital value of the property has gone up 2½ times because the rent coming in has increased 2½times. Addded to this situation is the hope—and in many cases, unfortunately, the expectation—that a tenanted house will become vacant. That is another factor which tends to increase the price of houses.

Hon. Members with constituencies in London and other great conurbations have seen this process taking place for a long time; it is spreading like a disease. I am at the moment looking at the matter not from the tenants' point of view but from the point of view of the owner of the house who will be receiving a 2½ times increase. The person who buys not only knows that he will get that additional revenue, but hopes that if the house becomes vacant—and he will do his best to see that it does—he will get an extra bonanza. The inevitable effect will be that the value of second-hand and older houses will push up the price of modern houses. This is what the Government have done by their own will. They have run in the face of all common sense, and this has added to the crises and dangers that beset us.

Practically the first thing the Secretary of State did on 27th July, 1970, when assuming office was to come to this House and announce the abolition of the Land Commission. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am glad hon. Members opposite are cheering, but they will not cheer so loudly when they hear the statistics. The right hon. Gentleman said the reason why the Land Commission was being abolished was that it had failed to stabilise land prices. Certainly the Secretary of State has done a marvellous job in stabilising land prices, when we have experienced the biggest increases the country has ever seen!

What is the situation today? According to the Department's own figures, in the first six months of 1970—that is, between the right hon. Gentleman's speech in January, 1970, in which he forecast the abolition of the Land Commission, and the General Election in June—the price of land, as the Land Commission was beginning to get fully into its stride, fell by 4 per cent. [Interruption.] The Secretary of State would have every right to laugh if he could cause a fall of 4 per cent. This was the first fall in land prices for at least 10 years.

If the Secretary of State would like the full figures, I can give them to him; they were issued by his own Department. In the first 12 months immediately following the abolition of the Land Commission the price of land rose by 22 per cent. The Secretary of State can see this from his own Department's figures. The current figure is running at about between 30 and 33½ per cent.—the highest figure ever known.

The problem is not one of the release of land. A Labour Government, instead of doing what the Secretary of State seeks to do, would have tackled the problem in a totally different way. The Land Commission was creating a national bank of land. What the Secretary of State is doing by his suggested release of land from local authorities is merely proposing a large number of small private banks of land, responsible to nobody except their shareholders, whose aim is the collection of profit and is not concerned with the price of land.

It must be emphasised that not every planning permission is converted into house building. A local authority may release land and sell it to a developer with the blessing of the Secretary of State, but it is no guarantee that a house will go up there. I note that Mr. Michael Latham, the Director of the House-Builders Federation, has told developers of land to sell quickly because, he says, one never knows what will happen in future. But they will not sell that land unless the most urgent action is taken and they will not sell it because it is more profitable to hang on to it. If the Secretary of State has not yet learned the lesson of Centre Point, he should attend a seminar on the topic.

Relying on market forces produces a curious contradiction. It becomes more profitable not to use land than to make it fully productive. So far from urging local authorities to release land, the Labour Government, through the Land Commission and the local authorities, would have acquired very much more land so that the price of public building and private building alike could have been held down. What will now happen is that the Government will be driven from expediency to expediency. They will take more and more panic measures, but they will only tinker with the problem.

The people of this country will no longer tolerate patchwork measures, however ingeniously publicised. What they look for now is a root and branch solution. They will not get it from the right hon. Gentleman, from the present Government or from the Conservative Party. They will only get such a solution from a Labour Government.

4.40 p.m.

The Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Peter Walker)

The right hon. Member for Deptford (Mr. John Silkin) will realise by the time I have completed my speech that, alas, many of the subgestions made in the Press and on which he based his speech are not suggestions which have come from my Department.

The right hon. Gentleman gave two basic reasons for the increase in land prices and sought to base a future Labour Government's policy on those reasons. The first is the interference with house prices created by putting private sector houses over to fair rents. It is remarkable to hear a representative of the Labour Party say that, when in the last two years in office of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite 1¼ million houses were put on a fair rent basis—

Mr. John Silkin

It is general decontrol which has forced up prices, as it did in 1957.

Mr. Walker

The argument used was that rents would be allowed to increase over the private sector and that this would affect house prices. Yet it was a Labour Government which positively decided to increase 1¼ million rents in the private sector, because they considered that it was in the interest of improving the quality of housing.

The second factor is the abolition of the Land Commission. I think that the right hon. Gentleman must have had his tongue in his cheek when he used the Land Commission argument. He said that the last six months of the Land Commission were triumphant and that this was the reason why we saw a stabilisation of land prices in that period. I hope that hon. Members on both sides of the House will analyse the total effectiveness of the Land Commission. When we decided to wind it up in June, 1970, after three years of existence, it had gathered together the brilliant total of 2,200 acres of land, of which it had disposed of for development a total of 318 acres. Nearly the whole of what was disposed of was in areas of low housing demand. That was the remarkable triumph of the Land Commission.

As one who debated the Land Commission probably more than anyone else, I may say that we used to watch Mr. Kenneth Robinson, the former right hon. Member for St. Pancras, North, defending the Land Commission and constantly being stabbed in the back by the right hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey). When we saw that sad spectacle week after week, we did not gain the feeling that the Minister then responsible for the Land Commission was altogether enthusiastic about its prospects. Nor was there a passionate fight by the Labour Party when it disappeared. Obviously the country will be interested to hear from the right hon. Member for Deptford that, if re-elected, a Labour Government will restore the Land Commission. I shall be very happy if that forms part of the General Election manifesto of the Labour Party.

There is only one reason why land prices were stabilised in 1970—

Mr. Arthur Lewis (West Ham, North)

Tell us what the Government intend to do.

Mr. Walker

I am sure that one thing that the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) will not want to hear is an analysis of why land prices fell in 1970. Nevertheless, it is important for this debate to understand it.

The reason was that the last Labour Government tackled the problem in effect in terms of reducing and stabilising land prices by reducing substantially the demand for houses. In the period when the right hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland) was responsible, there was a considerable decline in new housing starts. In 1964 247,000 new houses were started in the private sector. That was not a new peak. We reached the peak position in terms of new housing starts in 1967. From 1967, however, the number of new housing starts declined year after year. When I took over responsiblity for housing in June, 1970, I inherited the fastest declining housebuilding programme in Europe. All over the country builders were going bankrupt. The demand for housing had dropped. From a total of 247,000starts in 1964, the last year of the Labour Government saw a drop to 165,000.

Mr. Frank Allaun (Salford, East)

I expected that the right hon. Gentleman would argue that the best way to bring down prices was to build more houses. To some extent, I agree with him. But will he admit that, although more private houses were built last year, far fewer council houses were built and that last month saw the lowest figure in any month for 23 years? The gross total of housing is going up only very slightly. If the right hon. Gentleman wants to build more houses and bring down prices, he ought to do it in the council sector instead of letting it fall as he is doing.

Mr. Walker

The hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun) will be pleased to know that starts in the public sector are increasing. The latest figures are coming out tomorrow. Overall, there is a substantial increase.

The right hon. Member for Deptford quoted the speech in which I referred to the difficulty at that time for an industrial wage earner to purchase a house. Two factors made it difficult. The first was that the building societies were short of funds. When that happens, they tend to demand higher deposits and, for safety, they go for people with higher incomes. Those in the lower income groups are most adversely affected. By a combination of a statutory wage freeze, rising building costs, rising interest charges, and rising land prices, the Labour Government created this tremendous decline in demand.

When I took over responsibility for housing I decided that the most urgent need was for an increased demand in the private sector. To that end I have pursued a combination of measures. The right hon. Gentleman referred to them today. He said that in total they have had a marginal effect on prices. However, it is the sort of marginal effect which promotes increased demand. Since this Government came to office, as a result of our policies the building societies have had plenty of money, local mortgage restrictions have been lifted, and SET has been abolished. In addition, there have been factors like the abolition of the import surcharge on building materials, a substantial reduction in stamp duty, and the revival of the 100 per cent. mortgage scheme and of the mortgage option scheme. What is more, for the first time since there was last a Conservative Government the mortgage interest rate has come down. The result of all these measures has been a considerable increase in demand.

I hope that the House will measure the degree to which we have been successful. Tomorrow we shall publish the March housing figures. They disclose that the number of new starts in the private sector is 79 per cent. higher than in March, 1970, when the right hon. Member for Grimsby was responsible. For the first quarter of this year the figures are 56 per cent. higher than those of the first quarter of 1970.

I know that the result has been an increase in land and house prices. If one stimulates demand to get the housing programme going again at last, there is a moment when the building industry, lacking confidence after three years of decline, waits to see whether the demand exists. When it recognises that actions have been taken to stimulate demand, the building industry starts trying to produce the houses. Builders turn to those pieces of land which are readily available for immediate development, with sewerage facilities and planning permission, and there is bidding between builders to get hold of them. That is why land prices have risen considerably recently.

In terms of land prices, in 1969 the last Government achieved the remarkable double of having a decline in the housebuilding programme and land prices going up 1 per cent. more than they did last year. In 1968 and 1969 together, land prices went up by 40 per cent. Do not let us gain the impression that land price rises are a novelty. The right hon. Member for Deptford knows a great deal about them.

Mr. John Silkin

Over a similar period under the right hon. Gentleman's administration the rise has been 53 per cent.

Mr. Walker

In 1971 the increase was 23 per cent. over 1970. Therefore, the position is that there is a period when, in order to stimulate a fast declining housebuilding programme, this action has taken place.

I want to outline this afternoon what I believe should be the Government's attitude towards the future supply of building land. From suggestions in the newspapers the right hon. Gentleman suggested that I would be announcing today some erosion of the green belt in contradiction of my previous circular. I want to put planning in this country, as I believe right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite do, on a positive basis instead of the negative basis of the past. I do not believe that there is any difference between us.

The Labour Government prepared the "Strategic Plan for the South-East". We published that report and decided to pursue planning strategy on those lines.

At present, developers and builders are pressing, and have conducted a great campaign, for the release of land. They have said that all that is needed is a speedy release of land, that much of the green belt is not up to standard, so why not build on that, and so on.

Traditionally, under Governments of both persuasions, when these pressures have built up—they are not new—the immediate reaction has been to weaken the planning system. Some of our worst ribbon development and urban sprawl is the result of Governments of both persuasions deciding to ease up on planning procedures and action. I do not intend to pursue that policy on this occasion.

It is important, in areas of high pressure, to put planning on a positive basis. Therefore, I should make it clear that there will be no easing up of our planning policies on the green belt and we will not allow bad developments of an urban sprawl nature in areas unsuited for and unserved by public transport facilities and such matters. We intend to pursue —the sooner the developers realise it and turn to those programmes the better—a positive regional planning strategy.

We published the "Strategic Plan for the South-East". Last October I gave approval to and announced the Government's policy on it. Within that strategy enough land is sensibly designated on the basis of good planning criteria to meet the housing and economic expansion needs of the South-East between now and the end of the century. I intend to see that developments take place within that strategy.

We hope later this year to complete a strategy for the Midlands. We have started one for the North-West, and we intend to start one later this year for the North-East. I hope that in the lifetime of this Parliament we shall complete regional planning strategies for the whole country.

Concerning Scotland, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland will later today, in a Written Reply, be outlining some of the measures which he considers necessary in the spheres of land release and of housing problems in general. That is the basis on which I wish to pursue this policy.

In pursuing that policy a number of financial and administrative aspects can be improved to see that it develops at a more successful and faster rate. The first is to give local authorities in areas designated as suitable for growth the financial resources to assemble land for development. A disadvantage which I have detected so far is that a number of very good planning authorities wishing to develop land find the task of assembling and holding on to that land while they assemble it very difficult. This was a task which the Land Commission had as one of its main objectives. In arguing against the Land Commission I always maintained that one of the great weaknesses was that it tended to incite hostility, rather than to obtain agreement, with local authorities, which resented its existence on a national level as it was a job that the local authorities could well do themselves.

I believe that there is now a need to provide loan sanction for local authorities which wish to assemble land in this way. At the moment, if they apply for loan sanction it comes out of their general allocation.

Sir Harmar Nicholls

Concerning the assembly of land by local authorities, I hope that my right hon. Friend will see to it that if owners of land which a local authority wants to assemble are prepared to develop it within the authority's plans it will not be allowed to take it from them compulsorily in order to decide who develops it, rather than the original owners.

Mr. Walker

I will come to that important point later.

Therefore, I am making available to local authorities an additional £80 million to spend on assembling land which can be released in convenient parcels for very early private housing development. It will be a condition that the land is bought—[Interruption.]. I think that in the general interruption from the Opposition Front Bench hon. Gentlemen failed to hear what I said. I am making available to local authorities an additional £80 million to spend on assembling land which can be released in convenient parcels for very early private house development. It will be a condition that the land is bought within the next two years and that, if not already provided with water, sewerage, or other services, it will be serviced so that development can start within three years of the purchase.

Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, North) rose

Mr. Walker

I do not wish to give way.

Mr. McNamara rose

Mr. Walker

I am sorry. The right hon. Member for Deptford (Mr. John Silkin) did not give way, for the good reason that this is a short debate. I have now given way twice.

I believe that this will remove one of the financial and administrative disadvantages which now exist.

Secondly, I shall allow local authorities to capitalise interest charges for up to five years on land which they purchase for private development, provided that the work is put in hand on site.

Thirdly, in view of the crucial importance of sewerage works, which often hold up the development of land which could otherwise be very suitable for building, my Department will grant loan sanctions for these works in connection with land assembly schemes, even in advance of need. This has not been the practice in the past.

In suitable circumstances, I shall be prepared to support local authorities in compulsory purchase applications for land assembly, especially where one landowner is preventing substantial development by holding out on an essential part of the land or where the land is in multiple ownership and in need of comprehensive development. This is for the purpose of going forward with private development. We are finding that there are a number of places where substantial schemes of development which could go ahead in accordance with the South-East planning strategy are delayed by one owner deciding to hold out and, therefore, ruining the whole scheme. It is wrong for major developments of this kind to be held up in this way.

These are all practical measures which the last Government failed to take.

There will be further measures in areas of land pressure. I have decided to allow substantial development to take place in a number of the established new towns in the South-East. We have already agreed basic plans for the development of Harlow. We are also having talks with the local authorities concerned about Bracknell and Stevenage.

By allowing a policy of expansion in the new towns in the South-East, I think we shall achieve two results. First, we shall get a better balance in the new towns between owner-occupation and rented accommodation. In the past, most were developed on a rented accommodation basis only. This will enable us to get a better balance in the new towns.

Secondly, I envisage that as a result of these measures in the new towns we shall make available 5,000 acres of land by 1975—which is exactly twice the amount of land which the Land Commission bought in its three years of existence. I should like to make it clear that in the growth areas of the South-East we shall be pursuing a policy designed to see that, when planning applications are made in accordance with the growth strategy of the "Strategy Plan for the South-East" and, after that, in other regional planning strategies, priority is given to the degree of housing need and the manner in which it will fit into that need.

I am pleased to announce that the work which we commissioned for the study of the development of the dockland area of London will make available a substantial area for development in London. I was grateful to hon. Gentlemen opposite for agreeing that we should carry out a full plan for that area to make sure that there was considerable environmental and amenity improvement in the East End of London. The report of the consultants will not be available until the end of this year, but I have had discussions with them, and they agree that already they have identified a number of areas in the dockland area which will fit into the total development and could be released for housing much earlier. I cannot give details, but hundreds of acres will become available.

Mr. Arthur Lewis rose

Mr. Walker

I know the point which the hon. Gentleman has in mind. I cannot comment in detail, but there are certain areas in which housing development can take place.

Mr. Lewis rose

Mr. Walker

I am sorry, but I cannot give way.

More progress has been made on the release of land held by Government Departments and nationalised industries. Immediately on taking office the Government set up an inquiry, chaired by independent outside people, to look into all the land held by the Ministry of Defence. The inquiry's report will be completed by the end of this year, but the Secretary of State for Defence has agreed that in certain areas, where there is agreement on land that can be released for housing and where there is a housing need, he will try to release certain packages before the inquiry reports at the end of the year.

During the last three years British Railways have released £36 million worth of land, and they are examining their land resources from the point of view of releasing land more quickly and effectively. This consideration of land resources is being carried out in conjunction with my Department.

During the same period the National Coal Board has released 6,000 acres of land. The board is also doing a great deal of work in clearing derelict land, some of which may later be used for good housing purposes. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry will be having further talks with the National Coal Board to see whether it can accelerate the release of land.

Immediately on taking office my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services set up an inquiry into the release of land held by hospital boards, and I am pleased to say that already in one or two areas substantial amounts of land have been released. This process will be accelerated, and I hope that other measures may be taken to encourage hospital boards to release further land.

There has been some reference to a kind of Domesday Book of land resources and availability. When the new local authorities come into being, I should like to see agreement being reached about a whole range of information which should be made available to ratepayers and other interested parties. In the past far too much information about the decision-making machinery of local government has not been readily available to the public. I am sure that both sides of the House agree that information on such matters as planning permission, land upon which planning permission has been given, land held for local authority purposes, and so on, should be made available on an annual basis.

Mr. Anthony Crosland (Grimsby)

When the right hon. Gentleman started talking about the release of land and the additional loan sanctions for local authorities to purchase land, that was confined to private development land. He has subsequently talked—and we are interested in this—about the dockland area and the release of land by public authorities. Will he confirm that that could be for either public or private sector development?

Mr. Walker

Yes. Local authorities apply for compulsory purchase orders for public sector housing, and that will continue. In the past, in trying to obtain the development of their towns or areas they have not used those powers to get private development under way. In the dockland area there will be public sector housing, and probably a blend of the two, which will be in the interests of that part of London.

There is a difference between the parties on this issue of council houses. I disagree with the right hon. Gentleman when he says that the sale of council houses to tenants makes no difference to the general demands on the private sector. I think that it does, and I intend to do everything I can to encourage the sale of council houses. I am pleased to say that last year the number of council houses sold rose from 6,000 to 17,000, and I hope that we shall be able to urge local authorities to be more active in making available to tenants the possibility of purchasing their houses.

On the question of providing information about land, I expect local authorities, with the additional financing facilities that I have made available, to join me, particularly in areas of great housing stress, in a positive approach to obtaining a much longer term land release policy. I have asked them to publish detailed information of the location and state of readiness of land—whether already allocated for housing or not—on which development can start within the next five years. I shall ask for undertakings that they will ensure that substantial amounts of land are provided with ser- vices, where these do not already exist, and made available during the early part of the five years. I shall also seek indications from them within one year from now of the areas to be made available within the next seven to ten years, and I shall press them to make effective use of these new measures.

I believe that we can develop planning on a much more positive basis than ever before. In terms of land use, until now planning has been essentially a negative function. Local authorities have stated where it is not desirable for places to be built, but on a regional basis people have never said where development should take place. Considerable planning powers exist within both the central Government and local government. Although there are many complaints about them, in terms of their application I think that we have better planning machinery than exists in any other country in the world. We can use this planning machinery to develop positive regional policies in terms of land use that will stop ribbon development, urban sprawl and decay of the green belt, which has been typical of our urban development in the last decade.

I have no intention, as a result of the pressure of demand and the, as yet, lack of supply to meet that demand, in any way to deviate from developing this positive approach to planning. I regret the fact that as a result of stimulating demand the price of land and houses has risen, but it would be wrong, because of that, to neglect policies which I am sure are in the long-term interests of this country.

5.7 p.m.

Mr. Edward Rowlands (Merthyr Tydvil)

Although this is the second opportunity that I have had of addressing the House since my return, the first occasion was a brief intervention on a technical matter related to the Housing Finance Bill. This is, therefore, the first chance that I have had of taking part in a general debate. May I, therefore, without begging the indulgence of the House for a second maiden speech—one can be a maiden only once—pay tribute to my predecessor.

I have the privilege of representing one of the greatest constituencies in Britain, and one that has made a great contribution to parliamentary Socialism. My predecessor, Mr. S. O. Davies, was a Member of the House for 34 years. He was a magnificent person, in figure and personality, and even though many of us regretted the 1970 election result in Merthyr Tydfil, we honour him for the way in which he bucked the system. I therefore add my tribute to the many that have been paid to him.

One of the interesting things about having a spell of two years away from the House and then returning to it is to discover that in many ways things are the same, but that in other respects they have changed fundamentally, and nothing has changed more than the right hon. Gentleman's views on housing. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Deptford (Mr. John Silkin) said, more than two years ago the House heard the right hon. Gentleman's arrogant ten-point plan for curing the housing problem in Britain. There was no such certainty this afternoon. There was no such assurance from him. There was distinct unease and worry, and a realisation of the fact that, in spite of all the concessions that he has announced, he is still faced with the problem of high house prices and a housing shortage.

The right hon. Gentleman's announcement of new encouragement to local authorities to acquire land can only be described as the establishment of a local authority land commission. In other words, we are hearing the loud sound of Ministers eating their words. The Government are realising that instead of abolishing the Land Commission, which they did in a moment of doctrinaire pique, they should have given it greater powers.

Mr. Frank Allaun

I agree with my hon. Friend that encouragement to local authorities to take over land is to be welcomed. However, is he aware that this land will be bought not at its existing use value but at its current grossly inflated market price?

Mr. Rowlands

As always, I am in agreement with my hon. Friend on housing matters. Local authorities and public bodies will have to put their heads together to try to overcome this problem. We used to hear how private enterprise would solve the housing problem. The Government are now singing a very different tune.

We are seeing on the part of the right hon. Gentleman one of the biggest conversions since Paul was on the road to Damascus. Nevertheless, one would not have imagined from his remarks that would-be house owners are having to pay enormously inflated prices. The right hon. Gentleman forgot to mention the recent increase of between 25 per cent. and 30 per cent. and the graphic stories that appear daily in the newspapers about people queuing for flats and houses, with prices going up overnight.

In case the right hon. Gentleman lives in a dream world of his own, I will give him some of the housing facts of life. As a result of the recent by-election, I have found it necessary to sell my home and buy another. Let me assure the right hon. Gentleman that what I am about to describe is happening now, in April, 1972.

The whisper goes round that one is thinking of selling one's house. Almost as if would-be house owners have an underground means of communication, the telephone rings and there are knocks at the door from people saying. "Can we have your house? We hear you are selling ".

Within 24 hours of my wife and I deciding to sell, the telephone was ringing non-stop. People are no longer asking the price. That is not relevant these days. It is a question of clinching the deal before someone down the road gazumps them and the price goes up. These are today's housing facts of life which it is clear the right hon. Gentleman does not understand.

What good will the Secretary of State's proposals do to overcome this situation? What good are five-year plans? The problem is here and now. How many more people will be gazumped in the coming year or two, before even his modest proposals take effect? He and the Government have created this situation. Even the right hon. Gentleman cannot blame it on the last Labour Government. The bubble burst in March, 1971, and between then and December, 1971, prices rose by between 25 per cent. and 30 per cent.

Mr. Peter Walker

Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that if I had allowed the decline which I inherited to continue house prices would have dropped?

Mr. Rowlands

The right hon. Gentleman should have intervened in the market, allowed local authorities to acquire land, restricted land prices and prevented land hoarding. The land sharks are benefiting greatly from this boom. I assure the House that building contractors are not the main beneficiaries. They want to get on with the job of building homes.

Much of the trouble lies in the fact that land has been hoarded. There is a bull and bear market in land for housing and the right hon. Gentleman and his policies have done nothing to prevent it. Indeed, they have done everything to encourage it. He must take a direct personal and the Government must take a collective responsibility for the present state of affairs.

What horrifies me is the chance that we shall miss the boat again. The right hon. Gentleman has announced various proposals which may encourage new private house building in the coming 18 months to two years. I suspect that ironically, just as these houses are coming on to the market, building society funds will begin to dry up. There are already indications that by the end of the year building societies may find themselves short of money and unable to finance mortgages.

Imagine the situation if all the wonderful new houses of which the right hon. Gentleman has spoken are available but would-be house owners cannot find mortgages with which to buy them. It is clear from the figures given by the Prime Minister at Question Time that building societies have been financing the inflation that has been occurring. I do not blame them for doing this. Indeed, they have been doing an invaluable service. But imagine the number of extra mortgages they could have made available if inflation of this magnitude had not occurred and the Government had taken steps earlier to stabilise house prices.

In South Wales there are terrible indications that building society funds will start to decline by the end of the year. The Western Mail recently carried a statement by the research officer of the Bristol and West Building Society saying: We are apparently entering a period of declining investment. He added that the experience of his society reflected the national picture.

If that is true, it seems that we shall find ourselves in the nightmarish situation of the building societies having financed one of the greatest inflationary periods in house prices in our history but in the near future unable to make mortgages available because of a shortage of funds. I cannot think of a more terrible situation than young would-be house owners able to find homes but searching in vain for mortgages.

As though heaping irony upon irony, the day after that statement by the research office of the Bristol and West Building Society appeared in the Western Mail, we read a statement from the brick-makers to the effect that insufficient bricks would be available to finance the planned housing boom. I appreciate that that is a good old hoary one, but it illustrates what is happening in the Secretary of State's unplanned society and because of his unplanned housing policies.

This aspect has a Welsh connotation. We, too, have suffered from the rise in house prices, as the Secretary of State for Wales, who is in his place, will confirm. Incidentally, it is regrettable that the right hon. Gentleman has not been attending the debates in Committee on the Housing Finance Bill. I am glad to see him here today.

In some parts of Wales house prices are not going up. Indeed, in some areas it is hard to sell houses because of unemployment and the lack of industrial and economic prospects. This is particularly true of some valley communities. Extreme bitterness is being expressed about the Government's proposed solution to the problem.

On the one hand we had in the Budget the so-called employment transfer scheme designed to encourage people to leave the valleys of Wales for the marvellous, planned regional areas of the country—the South East; Kent, Sussex and the Home Counties—for employment, while on the other hand people living in, for example, parts of my constituency are finding it difficult to sell their houses. Imagine these people pulling up their roots to come to the South East and bidding for a house in the market in, say, Surbiton, having been unable to sell their own houses in for example, Merthyr Tydfil. No employment transfer scheme can finance the difference in cost, or the human and social upheaval, involved in such a transfer and such a policy. Is that the right hon. Gentleman's answer to the housing problems of the South East or to the housing, industrial and economic problems of my constituency?

Above all, the debate shows clearly that there is a direct responsibility resting on the right hon. Gentleman and the Government for the present situation. The present situation has not happened by act of God. It did not happen completely independently of the Government. Direct blame must be attributed to the Government for it. It has caught householders, whether they pay rent to local authorities or whether they wish to buy their own homes. The Government have caught the young householder and the average family in a vicious pincer. On the one hand, the Government squeeze people living in rented accommodation and make them pay higher rents. On the other hand. because of soaring prices those wishing to buy houses of their own must pay fortunes for them.

It was a Conservative research officer who said that as a result of the "fair rents Bill" 35,000 new families were likely to be forced out of council rented accommodation into homes of their own. All that the right hon. Gentleman can say is that we must juggle with the houses we have and that people must buy their own council homes. That policy has nothing to do with the situation householders are in.

The best thing that the right hon. Gentleman can do is to come to the Dispatch Box and announce, first, that he will abandon the appalling Housing Finance Bill—that will at least prevent one section of the housing community from suffering needless and heartless rent increases. Second, he should intervene directly to control land and house prices with a view to ensuring that, when land comes on to the market, whether it is to be built on by local authorities or by private developers, the price of the resulting houses will be brought more under control.

That is what the housing policy should be, but it is not the housing policy of the right hon. Gentleman and the Tory Government.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Miss Harvie Anderson)

Before calling on the next speaker, I wish to remind the House of the great number of right hon. and hon. Members who hope to take part in this very short debate. I hope that they will adjust the length of their speeches accordingly.

5.23 p.m.

Mr. Arthur Jones (Northants, South)

The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Rowlands) is clearly straight from the hustings. If he is trying to recapture a reputation that he had when he was in the House previously, it must be for being the fastest speaker, for he went through his speech at a great rate. I know that that meets your requirement, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The hon. Gentleman has learned little about the housing question and the problems associated with it since he last spoke in the Chamber. There is no immediate solution to the severe escalation which has occurred in land and house prices in the last twelve months.

I greatly welcome the steps my right hon. Friend has announced today. I know that my right hon. Friend is determined to see that they are implemented. Their implementation is an essential ingredient in what is proposed. Successive Governments have continually exhorted planning authorities, mainly county councils, to release land for development. I hope that there are common objectives in central government and local government to ensure proper planning and adequate infrastructure for residential development. Counties are understandably and rightly parochial and concerned to ensure that they are not overwhelmed with development and that they can progress their planned release of land over a number of years.

There is a contradiction which I think my right hon. Friend is trying to bridge between the policies hitherto followed by county councils, in the main, and policies required by the central Government if they are to achieve an expanding housing programme. This is a proper balance of political objectives. In the United Kingdom we expect in our administrative arrangements that there shall be an effective balancing of interests.

My right hon. Friend did not put the emphasis that I hoped that he would on the tardy planning procedures with which we must now contend. Planning decisions are made far too slowly. There are frustrating delays, for perhaps good reasons, it is said, but one often doubts that when one examines the case closely. It takes far too long for appeals to be submitted, for the appellate procedure to be gone through, and for the Minister's decision to be given. It takes about three years to process a planning application.

If a county council or a planning authority does not like the Minister's decision, it can delay an application for a very long time on the detailed consents which must follow an outline planning approval following appeal procedures.

Mr. Frank Allaun

Is it not true that vast numbers of housing permissions have been granted by local authorities, but they have not been used by builders, although the builders could use them if they wanted to do so?

Mr. Jones

I do not believe that there is substantial hoarding of land by developers. In view of the high interest rates which must be paid, what developer would pay the present high cost of land and then hold the land for longer than he absolutely must? Developers must phase their programmes over three to five years, so as to have continuity of development and employment for staff. In these circumstances, it is not right to criticise the holding of land for the three to five years involved in a rolling programme.

My right hon. Friend has suggested methods by which the housing programme can be speeded up. No additional legislation is suggested. We have not used the existing powers as effectively as we might have done in recent years. We could speed up development in new towns, and my right hon. Friend gave an assurance that this would be so. Where there is the likelihood of new town procedures, we should seek to make quick work of those as well. The Greater London Council is talking about two or three new towns. As to town expansion schemes, there must be a far greater recognition of the urgency of the situation on the part of the professionals in planning and the architects in the public service.

I draw a comparison between the towns and cities, on the one hand, and the counties, on the other. The towns and cities have for many years adopted just the procedures that my right hon. Friend has said he now proposes to urge on the counties. The towns and large cities have aggregated land. They have gone into the land market and bought at current market prices. They have paid higher prices for land nearer the centre of town and lower prices for agricultural land on the outskirts of towns. As towns have grown, this land has been brought into development.

I have advocated for years that the counties should have applied this system. They should have enabled themselves to help the housing authorities in the urban and rural councils to have land available for council use and private development schemes. There is not the expertise in the county councils. There has not been a willingness to adopt the positive planning approach that county planning committees and county councils should bring to this problem.

Here I welcome what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said. We must end the negative approach to planning. Those who see the potential to develop must be given a positive permission to develop by the planning authorities. This could perfectly well be done but not immediately. This is why I say to the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil that although he urges immediate action of one sort or another, some of the things he said were irresponsible. I come from a brick making part of the country where factories were being closed down two or three years ago, in the last days of the Labour Government, because of inadequate building programmes. It takes time to bring brick factories back into production. Those that closed and thought they would never open again now have smoking chimneys, a sign that bricks are being produced.

I am glad that the Minister is placing the emphasis and responsibility for bringing land forward on the county councils as planning authorities and I am glad that the resources are to be made available to finance the assembling of land and the provision of the infrastructure required. The towns and cities have been doing this for years without the need for loan consent from central Government. They have used their own capital fund for the acquisition, replenishing their capital fund when it is right for the land to be developed. In recommending this solution my right hon. Friend has looked at the success of this type of policy in the cities and he has now determined to introduce the system into the counties. I hope there will be a ready response.

The authorities will need to adopt a different attitude to planning development and planning applications. They will need to strengthen their staffs and to bring in the expertise which many of the cities already possess. Perhaps all this will flow from the Government's proposals for local government reform. Under those proposals the cities will go into the counties as top-tier authorities and this is where the cities can help to implement my right hon. Friend's proposals.

We want therefore to see co-operation on the basis that my right hon. Friend has suggested between central Government and the planning authorities, a rolling programme for 10 or 15 years. This must be our long-term objective. I hope that we shall see, as I believe we shall, a greater readiness by the authorities to enter into joint schemes with developers. Developers are able and willing to met the costs of infrastructure and the installation of public services for development. If this were required of them as part of the planning consent, it would have the effect of damping down the present high level of land prices. The obligation to meet the costs of servicing land, which are extra to the high values at which land is changing hands, would reduce the high levels of land prices.

I am sure that we need a positive, purposeful and continuing demand upon planning authorities and I am glad that this was the intention indicated in my right hon. Friend's closing remarks.

5.35 p.m.

Mr. Frederick Willey (Sunderland, North)

May I respond to your appeal, Mr. Deputy Speaker, by confining myself to the scandal of land prices? The scandal has reached such proportions that it is prejudicing the Government's housing programme. The Financial Times says it "threatens to damage the revival of private house building". The Federation of Master Builders says that" small builders are being forced off the market", and we know that small builders build half the houses. The National Federation of Building Trades Employers says that it could "lead to a housing slump". That is the situation we are facing.

I could add to what my right hon. Friend the Member for Deptford (Mr. John Silkin) said by giving examples of what is happening in the country. From a casual reading of the Press I have found examples of single plots of land selling at from between £12,500 and £20,000. I notice that in South Hampshire the average price per acre of building land is £40,000. I came across the case of five acres in Ashwell that went for £260,000 and that is in rural Hertfordshire where we are assured there are planning permissions sufficient for four years' building.

Nearer my constituency, in the North-East, 15 acres at Darras Hall in Northumberland, went for £265,000. More fantastic still, on the industrial Tyne at Felling, next door to Jarrow, 55 acres of poor grazing land went for £632,000. Like the Minister for the Local Government and Development, my favourite weekend reading is the "Ham and High". I would just like to add a comment to what my right hon. Friend said of the case in which half an acre in Hampstead went for £215,000.

It would be as well to spend a minute on the history of the case. The land was bought by a former hon. Member, Mr. Alan Brown, in 1967 for £37,500. He sold it towards the end of last year for £107,000, making about £70,000 profit. Three months later it was sold again for £215,000. In three months, without doing a thing, the purchasers made a profit of £108,000. That land was sold at the remarkable price of £400,000 an acre. But within weeks of this incident other land in Hampstead was sold for £500,000 an acre. It was wanted by the churches for a youth club, but they were unlucky. They were outbid. After that there was another example in Swiss Cottage where land was sold at the fantastic rate of £700,000 an acre.

In Hampstead Garden Suburb recently two single plots have been sold, one for £28,000, and the other for £29,000, for land alone. One had planning permission for a single house with seven rooms. So, as in the case my right hon. Friend mentioned, this is an example of land being sold at such a rate that the land-cost per room is over £4,000. Nothing like this has ever happened before, and it demonstrates the fantastic profiteering that has been occurring in land sales. The question is: how has it come about?

We have to go back to the debate that we had on the dissolution of the Land Commission. The Government said that they had stabilised prices and would reduce them. It seemed reasonable enough, because they were abolishing the betterment levy. I remind the House what I said. I said theirs was a policy which would: bring about the frustration of decent planning, which will set land speculators deliberately to worsen land scarcity, and which will bring back disturbance and anger at the scandal of land prices".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th December, 1970; Vol. 808, c. 1422.] Why have I been proved absolutely right and the Government absolutely wrong? It is certainly nothing to do with an increase in the volume of private house building. This certainly cannot explain the dramatic change-round in land prices which occurred in 1970. When a Government spokesman said in February last year that since the abolition of the Land Commission and the betterment levy land prices had been stabilised, this was absolutely contrary to the facts. We have had the figures published by the Government which show a very different state of affairs. The Secretary of State did not even refer to them. As my right hon. Friend pointed out, they showed that in the first half of 1970 land prices had fallen by four points. In the second half of 1970 land prices rose by nine points. That demonstrates that not only were the Government spokesmen inaccurate but the facts were the converse of what they said. Probably one of the explanations of their present difficulties is that the Government do not know what they are doing. The situation is worse than that, because at the time we were given such statements in the House the Government had said, to quote from their own official publication: In the first half of 1970 the increase in land prices had come to an end. That is what the Government, not their Front Bench spokesman, officially announced in their own publication. Under the Land Commission, the Government told us, the increase in land prices had come to an end. We know that there has been an unprecedented escalation since the abolition of the Land Commission and the betterment levy.

At Question Time yesterday the right hon. Gentleman was equally misleading. He must know that in the latter half of 1969 the rise in land prices was already flattening out and, as I have said, in the first half of 1970 prices were actually falling. Moreover, when we talk about land prices we must take the betterment levy into account.

Mr. John Silkin

For the record, it is right to say that the Secretary of State was wrong even on his figures.

Mr. Willey

I cannot recollect any figures in which the right hon. Gentleman appeared to be right, and it is incumbent upon me to bring to the notice of the House the correct figures.

When we talk about land prices, we must take into account the betterment levy, and this is pure gain. Taking it into account, we find that there was a decrease in land prices throughout that period. This is particularly important if we consider the Land Commission itself, because it bought net of levy. There was a remarkable decrease in land prices for the land bought by the Land Commission over those years. It was a drastic reduction.

This brings me back to 1970, which is important, because in that year the Land Commission had under contract or consideration the purchase of £100 million-worth of land at drastically reduced prices. That had an effect upon land prices in the first half of 1970.

Now let us take last year, when there is no question about the Government's responsibility. There was an all-time record increase in land prices. We do not yet have the final official figures for 1971, but the right hon. Gentleman concedes that this is so. Meanwhile, however, we have the Estates Gazette figures, and I am sure the Minister will pay respect to them. The figures published in the Estates Gazette are the auction prices for land sold for house building with planning consent. It takes those prices because they are available, and it records them as truly representative of open market values which can be verified. I do not want to overburden the House with figures, and I shall confine myself to London, taking the average—median—prices, reduced to single plot process so that they are not confused by any question of the density of development. The figures are for 1965–1966, 1969–1970 and 1971, and they admirably serve the purposes of this debate.

For Outer London, the belt 21–40 miles around London, in 1965–66 the figure was £1,525. In 1969–70, it was £2,400. The right hon. Gentleman can say that in spite of the fact that prices were falling in 1970, nevertheless over that five-year period the price per plot rose by £875. Now let us take the 1971 figure. It was not £2,400 but £4,178. In that single year there was an increase of £1,778, twice as much as the increase over the preceding five years.

Let us take Inner London, the area within a radius of 20 miles. The figure for 1965–66 was £1,825. For 1969–70 it was £2,400. In the five years, whatever I may say about 1970, whatever I may say to the Minister about the inaccuracy of his figures because the levy did not apply to three of those five years, and allowing for all that—I must concede that in those five years there was an increase of £575. Now let us take the figure for 1971. It was not £2,400 but £5,416. Thus in a single year it shows an increase of £3,016. Prices have more than doubled in that year; the increase is nearly six times the previous five years. This is fantastic, and it is not surprising that there is a hullabaloo about land prices. They are staggering increases. The figures demonstrate the irresponsibility of the right hon. Gentleman.

What should the right hon. Gentleman have done when he took office in 1970? He should have done two things. First, surprisingly enough, he should have announced that he would raise the betterment levy to 45 per cent. in six months time. It was a very simple device for bringing land on to the market. Even the critics at the time of the publication of the White Paper conceded that there could be no more simple device for bringing land forward. The other thing the right hon. Gentleman should have done was to ask the Land Commission to speed up the acquisition programme for land, which it had then at last begun to carry out.

The problem about housing is that too many builders carry inadequate land stocks. I was very much concerned about this when we set up the Land Commission. We gave a two years' supply of land free of betterment levy. I was concerned about the position that would arise when that supply ran out. Unfortunately, I did not persuade my right hon. and hon. Friends. We have only to look at the Land Commission Report to see the situation. I instructed the Land Commission to build up its stock rapidly, have land available, on Crown hold terms if necessary, to hold the price. If that had been done, we should have been able to hold the prices and we should not have had the exceptional bump which came with the impact of the betterment levy, but which within six months had been contained. The increase was slackening, and already by 1970 there was a fall in prices.

The present escalation is causing hardship to all. I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to stop being doctrinaire. When the dust of the debate settles I hope that he will seriously consider the situation and think about house prices first. I agree with my right hon. Friend that it is a very complex question, affected by such matters as the Housing Finance Bill, but the first thing he must determine is the influences affecting house prices. He must do that, because he must recognise that it is within the limit of the final prospective house price that the landowner and the builder struggle for their share of the profit. It is clear that, with the return of the Government in 1970, what has happened was bound to happen, not as a matter of deliberate policy but arising from the circumstances, in that the landowner was then strengthened against the builder and the struggle between them has led to this escalation of house prices.

I said that I would concentrate on land prices. This is a very special market. It is an artificial market. It is a market in a very infectious climate. That is why I talk about land speculators, people with a vested interest in creating an atmosphere of escalating land prices. I am glad that I am not now alone in this. Mr. Michael Latham, Director of the House Builders' Federation, is also complaining of the land speculation. When the right hon. Gentleman abolished the betterment levy and gave a £22 million tax-free bonanza, which the speculators are enjoying this year, with £31 million next year, he brought back the speculators in a hurry. They had been beginning to lose interest in the land market. He brought them back by the abolition of the betterment levy and the tax-free hand-out which largely goes to relatively few people.

The right hon. Gentleman admits that it is an artificial market and that he is therefore turning his attention to planning. I do not know where we are on planning. He sounded placatory but we know what the Minister for Local Government and Development has said. It would be regrettable if we had any dilution of planning, because that is no solution. I say to my right hon. Friend the Member for Deptford that the country owes a great debt of gratitude to his father. When one thinks of the pressures for development, one realises that the country would have been a very different place if we had not held resolutely to planning. The right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues exercise quasi-judicial functions and we ought to be assured that they will continue to exercise them. But it is regrettable also because it is ineffective. It is a clumsy attempt to overawe the authorities but it will not succeed.

We therefore have to turn to compulsory purchase. Compulsory purchase as such is no longer an issue. The Government do not mind any body exercising compulsory purchase as long as it is not a responsible national authority. They would like compulsory purchase to be exercised ruthlessly by local authorities, but the answer is that the local authorities are not properly financed in spite of loan sanctions and the rest, nor are they properly structured. Any developer will tell the Government, as I was told, that a local authority must put its own proper affairs first. If it is looking for land to develop, it must think of its own needs first. Anyway, it is useless to think of this as a solution before we carry out local government reform.

The position at the moment is that we all concede that there is a case without question for compulsory purchase for public authority housing. Some of us complain that it is unfortunate that the local authorities have to buy at market prices determined by the private sector, but, subject to that, the necessity of compulsory purchase is conceded by everyone. If I made any original contribution with the Land Commission, it was the proposition that, as all building development is controlled by public planning authorities, then if compulsory purchase is valid for public development it is equally valid for private development. That is the argument the Government have to answer if they will not take further steps to make compulsory purchase available for private development.

I look upon housing as a social service. For example, I am concerned generally about development that takes place in Sunderland, and compulsory purchase ought to back that development across the hoard. The simple issue is really one of choice. Do we choose to support the developer and the builder, or the landowner and the speculator? Unfortunately, in the situation which has arisen, the developer is often also the speculator. He holds on to land because it is more profitable to hold on to it in the present market than to develop it. Just as Mr. Hyams holds on to Centre Point, unoccupied land is being held because its price appreciation gives a greater profit than its use.

We have to break this circle. I do not think that it can be left to unwilling, unenthusiastic local authorities. We need a national authority to bring forward development. I do not care whether it is called a land commission, or a land bank, as the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) used to call it, or a national agency, as the Secretary of State for Social Services called it, or whether it is a complex of regional authorities, as is sometimes suggested.

But I say to the right hon. Gentleman that when he is tackling the problem he should very much beware of one very real difficulty, the acute shortage of specialised professional manpower. Subject to that, let him concede that we need such an agency to bring land forward and devise the best way it can be done. In all this, we have to hold fast to the life-line of planning—and this is what disturbed me about what the Minister for Local Government and Development was reported to have said. We do not want to replace planning but strengthen and reinforce it by having an executive arm to implement it.

The Government, I believe, are doctrinaire about this. The right hon. Gentleman sneers at the public authorities but that does not lie in the mouth of a Government who nationalised Rolls-Royce. Right hon. Gentlemen sneer at lame ducks, but the Government are now dishing out millions of pounds to any lame duck which quacks loudly enough. Let us be realistic about this problem and the distress it is causing to countless married people. Let us have an effective solution. I am sure that it can be done. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will forget party political prejudice and tackle the job.

5.58 p.m.

Mr. Idris Owen (Stockport, North)

I have listened with interest to the considerable experience of the right hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey), and I would not quarrel with the fact that he is drawing attention to the very serious escalation of land prices. But it is a question of cause and effect. He concentrated most of his remarks on effect and never got down to the basic cause. It is justifiable to have this debate and to stress the seriousness of the situation, but it ill becomes the Opposition to criticise the Government for the situation when the architects of the 1960s prepared the plans for the 1970s. They left behind them a desperate land shortage. That is not surprising because, when all is said and done, the emphasis of the last Government was predominantly on the provision of council houses. It was not unnatural that this was their principal consideration when allocating land.

The local authorities have never been starved; it was the private sector that was starved. As the emphasis moved from the public to the private sector, it soon became apparent that land was desperately needed. That is why it is now being suggested that we should invite local authorities to disgorge some of their land for home ownership. It is not right to criticise on this basis because up to 1970 the forward planning of land allocation was in the hands of the then Government, today's Opposition. If there is a shortage of land for home building, it must lie at their door.

The right hon. Member for Sunderland said that land was desperately needed. I can only give a cautious welcome to my right hon. Friend's remarks because in the past my hopes and those of my constituents have been dashed by events. However well-intentioned our objectives have been, we never seem to be able to translate those intentions into actions. The proposals are positive. At least we are not relying on polite requests to the authorities or upon blandishments. We are instructing them to review their planning. We are asking them to release, for sound planning objectives, as much land as can be found.

The only problem is that planning authorities have never been renowned for speedy action, and this is causing some grave doubts. However much the Minister may cajole these departments, I do not think that they will move rapidly enough to resolve the immediate problem. I can give an example of this. The regional leader of the housebuilding industry in the North-West was invited as a result of representations by one of my hon. Friends to the offices of the Department of the Environment in the North-West to discuss the subject of land planning. He was encouraged to believe that there was a certain desire to form a working party to investigate the land needs of the region. It could be seen that the Minister had been active in encouraging more positive action. This representative came away from that meeting feeling most encouraged. He was told before he left that the Department. having received the maximum co-operation from the industry, would discuss the subject with the planning authorities. That meeting took place in January, but nothing further has yet been heard. Three months have been wasted.

I am satisfied that the Government are aware of the desperate situation, as are hon. Members opposite. I am not satisfied that the planning authorities are aware of it. Until we are able to convince those who have control of planning that there is a desperate shortage our hopes and aspirations for producing more homes at lower prices will come to nothing. In my constituency since the issue of Circular 10/70 land prices have escalated by 100 per cent. Local authorities were very sluggish and took very little action.

I know that there are acres of land with planning permission, but often they are in places where people do not want to live, and this is the problem. It is always possible for a planning officer to say that planning permission exists for, say, 7,000 units. If they are in areas where there is no demand they may never be built. It is in the stress areas where the demand lies, and unless we are prepared drastically to take action here all our efforts will be fruitless. I do not see the solution lying in compulsory acquisition, because once the local authority or a State organisation introduces compulsory acquisition or a buying agency it has to allocate the land. How will a State corporation or buying agency do this? Only by public tender, which brings us back to square one.

If there is an inadequacy of land, prices will continue to soar irrespective of the selling agency. Why are the speculators involved in hoarding land? Many of the speculators are trust companies. Prudential Assurance is investing in land. Why do they speculate? They speculate in anticipation of the price of land rocketing. It is a good investment. Prices rocket only as the supply dries up. There is not yet an adequate amount of land being released for home building. The sooner we recognise that the sooner we shall make some progress. I urge my right hon. Friend to give serious consideration to this matter of pushing hard at the door of the planning authorities, because that is where the solution lies.

6.7 p.m.

Mr. Charles Loughlin (Gloucestershire, West)

I will try to be brief, although it is difficult to condense all that I want to say. I congratulate the hon. Member for Stockport, North (Mr. Idris Owen) upon carrying out the tradition of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. Since they have been in Government, whether the problem has been one of inflation, land prices or house prices, their policy has been to blame someone else for their sins of commission or omission. I was disappointed in the Minister today because he did not face up to the situation.

I will not give examples of the exorbitant land prices because we have had sufficient. It is recognised that we have had a catastrophic increase in land prices in 1970 and particularly in 1972. One consequence—and many others are involved—is that we have reached a situation in almost every part of the country when a semi-detached house of about 880 superficial square feet is getting beyond the reach of the man earning in excess of the average wage rates. These are the factors that we must grasp.

Thousands of youngsters each weekend go from estate agent to estate agent trying to buy a house because they either want to get married or have just married. They may have seen an advertisement for a house in the newspaper or in the box outside the estate agent's premises, but when they go into the office they find it is sold.

I did a lot of research on this subject yesterday. It is said on good authority that it is impossible to find a new semidetached house in London for less than £10,000 and that in London and the South-East the average cost of land is £40,000 an acre. In my part of the world, which is by no means a high-price area, for £4,000 one can buy nothing but a slum. I use the figure of £4,000 because it assumes that the purchaser has some money to put down as a deposit. Building societies lend money on the basis that one monthly repayment equals one weekly income, and on a 25–year term the repayments for £4,000 would be £31.25 monthly.

Throughout the length and breadth of Britain there are homeless families. The men may work all the week and earn more than the average weekly wage, yet they cannot afford to buy a house. We are coming to the situation of the 1930s, when a lad who got married lived in two rooms with Mum. I have never known two women who were able to work in the same kitchen, and in human terms this is a factor to be borne in mind.

I shall want to examine carefully what the Minister said, but his proposals at first sight seem to be of advantage only on the periphery. I appreciate that there must be a speeding-up of planning procedures. I have many times written to the Minister for Local Government and Development and to the Secretary of State asking for the speeding-up of procedures for large developments.

The hon. Member for Northants, South (Mr. Arthur Jones) spoke about county council planning authorities. If I may put in a "commercial" here, I wish the Minister would have a chat with Gloucestershire County Council, whose planning department tries to apply urban development principles in a rural area and time and time again for no apparent reason refuses to allow the erection of a house on a piece of land that has been in the possession of family for donkey's years. It is no use suggesting an appeal to the Minister, because people in a working-class area are frightened to death of appealing to the Minister. Even when I see appeals through for them there is great difficulty.

If the Minister's proposals help to improve the situation, I shall be very glad. But with land prices escalating—and they have not yet reached the peak by any means—and people being priced out of the house market we must act quickly. This is an emergency situation.

I have asked the Minister at Question Time about the number of permissions granted, but he has said that this figure is not available. I ask him to find out the number of planning permissions issued over the last five years, how many of those planning permissions are outstanding and where. It is possible to build 10 million houses to no effect; they must be in the areas where they are needed. I think it will be found that a great many planning permissions granted on a first five-year basis are still outstanding. I can understand a rolling programme being required in some circumstances, but the retention of land for which planning permission has been granted for the sole purpose of getting the peak price in the market is intolerable.

The Minister for Local Government and Development (Mr. Graham Page)

If he will allow me, I will give the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Loughlin) that figure now. Our information is that planning permissions for 150,000 dwellings have been granted and not been taken up.

Mr. Loughlin

That is nearly half the number of dwellings that the Government will produce in any given year; 150,000 dwellings would make an enormous impact.

I will make one or two proposals. As a temporary measure I suggest the freezing of land prices at the price at which the land was purchased; this is ascertainable. This provision could be contained in a Bill which could be retrospective to today, just as the Housing Finance Bill is retrospective to 1st April this year. Compensation could be provided for interest payments on the purchase money.

I suggest a limit on the time in which planning permissions can be taken up. The limit is now five years and it is renewable, but I would bring it down to three years. I suggest a development tax on outstanding planning permissions, progressive for each year the permission is still outstanding. This would cause those people who were holding on to land for the purpose of getting the biggest profit to release it, because I would ensure that that tax would more than compensate for the x percentage increase over the last five years.

I would then encourage local authorities to do what Hillingdon Borough Council has been doing in a scheme which it developed in concern with Wimpeys. Wimpeys have built 77 houses for Hillingdon, which is a London borough, and the local authority is selling them to its residents at £2,500 below the market value. But the speculators cannot get in because if these houses are sold within five years they must be sold back to the council or the council's nominees, and if they are sold after the five years the council will have to be paid the £2,500 differential, which is the amount below market value.

If we want to get councils to do something and if they have banks of land, I would prefer them to build local authority houses, but if we want to build private-enterprise houses this is the way to do it, not by assembling a bank of land and then selling it to the developer, because the developer is only out to get what he can out of it. It will still help the building trade because the building trade can build the houses.

I should like the Government to examine the possibility of three schemes of which they have full knowledge. What I should like them to examine first—and I think this should be examined as a combination scheme—is the excess mortgage guarantee system of 100 per cent. together with the legal costs for people who cannot afford a deposit, and in particular those youngsters with very good prospects. This would give an opportunity to a fairly large band of people who cannot buy a house simply because they have not got the money for a deposit. In connection with that, I would ask that they examine again the possibility of mortgages under this comprehensive scheme being based upon 45 years and not 25 years as at the present time.

I should like them to examine the possibility of the introduction of the reverse payments system whereby the person pays a small amount at the beginning and gradually increases his payments over five years or so.

What we have to remember in this debate is that our task is not merely to say that the demand for houses is too high. We can say it is too high, we can say it is because the building societies have too much money, we can say that if we have an improved scheme we are merely creating further demand; but our task is to create the conditions in which people can have houses. If we can find the money for so many things it is absolutely incumbent upon any Government to have as one of their first priorities the provision of a home for every citizen in this land, so that he has the opportunity to take care of his wife and his family without being a burden to anyone else and without having to rely on anyone else. I believe that most people want to buy their houses. It is our task to create the conditions in which they can do so.

6.25 p.m.

Mr. Peter Trew (Dartford)

I agree entirely with the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Loughlin)when he says that we want to create conditions in which more people can buy their homes, but I disagree with his methods. To introduce more controls would defeat his very object. To my mind what we want to do is restore a normal market and bring supply and demand back into equilibrium. At this moment it is no secret that demand greatly exceeds supply, but I believe that this is so for a number of special reasons which are occurring in conjunction at this moment. In the first place, the housebuilding industry was in a state of prolonged stagnation during the lifetime of the last Labour Government. If that Government had succeeded in maintaining the rate of private housing starts which they inherited in 1964 there would today be 300,000 more houses in private ownership in the United Kingdom and consequently far less pressure on the housing market.

Another factor which has had an effect is the birth rate bulge after the war. In the years 1946 to 1949 about an additional 400,000 children were born who are now aged between 23 and 26. Many of them are now coming into the housing market. And there is another factor, which was referred to recently by two building society chairmen. During the years 1966 to 1970 incomes rose by 57 per cent. During those years house prices rose by 53 per cent. By September last year the rise in house prices had caught up with the rise in incomes. It is perfectly true that at this moment house prices are rising faster than incomes are rising, but one reason for this is that the mortgage interest rate went down at the beginning of this year and this had the effect of increasing the buying capacity of a man on a given income. However, it is a matter of common sense that house prices cannot for long increase faster than incomes increase because if they do many purchasers will go out of the market altogether and demand for houses will decrease.

There are other reasons why I believe that this present unhealthy and frenzied demand will not continue. The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Rowlands) said as much. This housing boom cannot last. There are indications now that building society funds are beginning to become depleted and that must have an effect on reducing demand. But the other thing happening is that more houses are being built. In 1971 housing starts were 42,000 up on 1970 and for the three months ending in February this year the starts was up 32 per cent. on the same period last year. The number of people getting building society mortgages is increasing; it was 654,000 in 1971 compared with only 540,000 the year before. One very important factor is that of the people who got mortgages last year, 31 per cent. were families on incomes of £30 a week or less.

The remedy for the present problem is a simple one; it is more houses. The measures that my right hon. Friend announced this afternoon are all relevant to that single aim. I have never made any secret of the fact that I thought that the sole merit of the Land Commission was its power to assemble sites for private development. I said as much on the Second Reading debate on the abolition of the Land Commission, but I said then and I say again now that it was not necessary to have a Land Commission for that purpose because local authorities already have these powers. What my right hon. Friend has done this afternoon as I see it is to undertake to give local authorities the money and the moral support to carry out these functions.

The other thing he has done is make it clear to developers that over a period of five to 10 years land will be available, and this will be an important psychological factor in taking demand out of the market.

I end by saying what I have said before—that the solution of this problem is to step up the rate of private housebuilding. The record of the last Conservative Government was outstanding in that respect and the record of this Government will be equally outstanding.

6.30 p.m.

Mr. Michael Stewart (Fulham)

It is not in dispute that house prices and land prices are leaping. The hon. Member for Dartford (Mr. Trew) foresaw an end to the boom. That may or may not be so. But some of the evil social consequences this situation will produce will go on even after such a boom has come to an end.

A young man hoping to get married, set up home and buy a house sees the prospect of being able to afford to do so steadily diminishing. People whose incomes are such that they cannot hope to buy a house—and their number is increasing—must remain as either private or council tenants. They see little prospect of their having better or more spacious accommodation. The only certainty is that before long they will have to pay higher rents.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the scale, people who are well enough off to own several houses have not only a roof over their heads but a valuable investment, the value of which is shooting up, without any effort on their part; and, still more, those with the funds to buy houses and quickly sell them and the expertise to know how to do this are doing very well in a manner which does not add a penny to the total welfare of the community.

The pattern, then, is that if a person is more fortunate in matters of housing and ownership than his average fellow citizen he is given a leg up. If he is less fortunate he is given a kick down. This is frequently the pattern under Conservative Governments. It was the pattern of the Rent Act, 1957, which hit the poor tenant and, incidentally, the poor landlord while enriching the wealthy landlord and making it easier for those already well housed to become even better housed. That is why I say that the social consequences will persist even if—and we cannot be sure of this—the boom is short lived.

I suppose we must accept that at a time when all prices are rising there will be some rises in house prices, but there is no doubt that several measures taken by the Government have aggravated this situation. I mention two. First, when they first took office they set to work to dismantle the Labour Government's regional policy. That would inevitably produce the feeling that, with the regional policy pulled to bits, there would be an increasing number of people seeking employment and homes in London, in the conurbations and in the South-East. This was bound to reflect itself in house prices and land prices.

The Government have learned a little since them, and not long ago we were all cheering the announcement of the reversal of their ill-considered regional policy and a return to something like the Labour Government's. If I understood the Secretary of State correctly today, there appears to have been a similar reversal of policy and the Government must be regretting that they went to so much bother to abolish the Land Commission. However, there is more joy …in Heaven over one sinner that repenteth …". The trouble is that the process of first sinning and repenting about 18 months later is very expensive to the public welfare.

The other measure is the Housing Finance Bill which, for a number of private landlords, will add quite substantially to the value of their property. Moreover, it will add to what other people think the value of their property will be and so push the inflationary spiral upwards. If the Government want to help, they can, having stumbled at last on something like the right path in regional policy, pursue that more vigorously and drop the Housing Finance Bill.

I mention three auxiliary measures which the Government might take. First they could give a generous helping hand to my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) with his gazumping Bill. My hon. Friend will agree that it is not a major Measure but a valuable auxiliary. Secondly, the Government could encourage local authorities to do what the local authority in my constituency, in the Borough of Hammersmith, proposes to do, namely, compulsory purchase private houses standing empty for more than six months to discourage the practice of people hanging on in the hope of finding somebody who will pay another £500 or £1,000 for the house.

Thirdly, the Government could introduce legislation to the effect that once a person had bought a house he could not sell it for a period, possibly three or four years, unless he gave the local authority first refusal at the valuer's price. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I expected that that would worry hon. Members opposite. I shall be told that this will make people think twice before buying a house. It will not make the man who genuinely wants a home and who is prepared to pay a fair price think twice. The person who will think twice is the person who is thinking of buying it not to use as a home but to make a profit out of it. It will remove that kind of person from the market to the advantage of those who want to buy houses for their proper use.

This is where we have our values wrong. There is far too much thinking of houses as primarily instruments for earning profits for their owners and not for their proper use, which is as homes. The Housing Finance Bill will encourage that wrong way of looking at the purpose of houses.

I should like to say a few words about land prices. It is inevitable in a growing industrial society such as ours that the value of land will rise, not only because people want to be housed more generously, but because the community, if civilised, will want to make more generous provision for schools, hospitals and other projects which consume land. The heart of the matter is: how can we ensure that the increased value of land goes into the public purse and not into private pockets? The community was advised about this more than 40 years ago in a minority Report of the Balfour Commission on Industry and Trade in which it was pointed out that a great deal of land would be needed in coming decades for public purposes and that it would be wise to get to work and acquire it as soon as one reasonably could.

It is right to do this to make sure that the increased value of land, which is the community's creation and not a private individual creation, goes into the public purse, for two reasons. First, the well-known fact of people making enormous sums of money for which they have done nothing whatever is a public scandal, and we cannot go on telling people who earn their livings to exercise restraint in their wage claims if they see this kind of thing reported in the newspapers day after day.

Secondly, like all modern States, we live in a society in which we need more and more public revenue. The problem—and it is increasing—is how we are to provide services at the level which a civilised society wants and expects without making the burden of rates and taxes too great. Part of the answer is to increase the public domain, the sources of revenue to the nation from sources other than rates and taxes. If we had set to work a generation ago to bring land into public ownership, many of our problems of public finance would be much easier. But it is never too late to begin, because the value of land will go on rising.

I take the view that, apart from such land as is needed for owner-occupation, the more land there is owned by a public authority, whether national or local, the better. That will make it easier to finance public services properly, it will remove the public scandal in the distribution of wealth and it will move our general social policy away from the divisive policy I described at the beginning of my remarks and in the direction of social justice.

6.40 p.m.

Mr. Sydney Chapman (Birmingham. Hands worth)

I wish to make a brief contribution to put three proposals which I hope my hon. Friend will see as a positive and constructive contribution in seeking to alleviate the problem of rising land and house prices—a problem that is recognised by hon. Members in all parts of the House.

On the need for speeding up planning procedures, I am relieved that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment does not propose radically to alter the structure of planning procedures. Would he pay attention to giving better guidelines to local planning authorities about the sort of densities he would like to see when local planning authorities consider planning applications?

I know that my hon. Friend Government and Development is concerned about taking away planning matters from local planning authorities, but he is the final arbiter of planning decisions and much more definition could be given to permissible densities.

I support the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton shire, South (Mr. Arthur Jones) about schemes being held up. I know from professional experience that some schemes are being held up when there is no need for it.

I would emphasise the need for an acre-by-acre survey of land for building, often called the Domesday Book. I am thinking of this in terms of the countryside in particular. We all want to preserve the green belt policy and this is in the interests of people who live in towns and cities as much as in the interests of those fortunate enough to live in the countryside. I am speaking of the countryside as a whole not just about the green belt areas.

Some villages are dying socially because no planning permissions are being allowed. This means that the young families in those villages have to move to towns, and rich business men are buying derelict cottages for fantastic amounts. This is a bad thing. If all villages were beautiful, then such a tight planning policy would be understandable. But all villages are not beautiful. Therefore, I believe that we should make an acre-by-acre survey in these areas. Looking at the matter in a quite amateur way, I believe that we could obtain an additional 500,000 building plots in our countryside without in any way violating the principle of the green belt policy. I hope that my hon. Friend will give serious consideration to this aspect of the matter.

I should like to refer briefly to the introduction of time limits on planning permissions. The Labour Government in Section 66 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1968—now consolidated into Section 41 of the 1971 Act—first introduced the idea of time limits or expiries on planning applications. In short, any development must begin within five years of the granting of planning permission. If there is a problem involving the hoarding of land by builders, speculators and developers—I believe that a certain amount of hoarding does take place, but that this has been exaggerated—I would suggest that we should reduce the expiry from five years to three years as a first resort in trying to deal with the problem. It might be said that if they do not build within the required period nothing can be done about the situation since if this led to withdrawal of planning permission the land would not be developed. However, as a last resort planning authorities could use powers of compulsory purchase if they think that owners or developers have not made out a good case for delaying a building project or developing the land.

Finally the problem we face today of rising land prices is in part due to the revival of private housebuilding and building for home ownership after a stifing period at the end of the 1960s. In this respect, and in conclusion, may I say that I welcome the Government's initiative as outlined in the measures mentioned by my right hon. Friend today.

6.47 p.m.

Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston-upon-Hull, North)

We listened with amazement to the Secretary of State's decision to grant an extra £80 million as a land bank. With land prices increasing as they are, this will cover only 2,000 acres at £40,000 per acre, which will contribute very little to solving the overall problem.

The real problem in terms of land lies in the failure of the Government's general policy to attract investment to industry and to keep down unemployment. If we did not face so much inflation, industrial stagnation and high unemployment, there would not be so much money spent in chasing every piece of land that becomes available.

The Housing Finance Bill will cause a great deal of trouble, and indeed is causing trouble now. During the brief period of office of a Tory council in my area, council rents rose massively and estate agents said that it was the pressure of those rents increasing which in turn forced up the prices of houses in Hull generally. This even led to abuses in terms of the renting of substandard property which was waiting to be cleared. The provisions of the Bill will force up the rents of private properties. This, in turn, will increase capital values of properties and people will seek to sell. An abominable situation will be created by the Bill.

I turn finally to gazumping. It is true to say that this is not a major issue and that neither my own Bill nor any other Measure will solve the problem of rising prices, but the Government have a duty to do something to alleviate the misery of thousands of people. Not only young married couples are affected by the problem, but middle-aged couples—particularly people who have saved to buy a retirement bungalow. This is what happens when a speculator, who has already paid his building material costs and knows that his labour costs are covered, hangs on to a property for two or three months to make a much higher profit on the deal. The Government have a duty to deal with this situation, the proportions of which are thrown up daily in Members' mail bags and are constantly emphasised on television and in the Press.

Last November the Government were exhorted by The Times to introduce some new measure to deal with the situation—as we did when we came into office in 1964 by introducing our temporary Rent Act to deal with Rachmanism, while we were looking at the long-term procedure. A measure of that kind would be of massive assistance to hundreds of people and at the same time would help to curb wage inflation and all the other kindred abuses. The cost of housing a family takes up so much of a household's budget that any increase leads to the sort of demands which we have seen, for example, from the railway workers. This leads to strikes and creates a situation which can lead only to divisiveness. This situation must be dealt with.

6.49 p.m.

The Minister for Local Government and Development (Mr. Graham Page)

It has been recognised throughout the debate by all who have spoken that our present difficulties arise out of the substantial increase in the demand for owner occupation. One example to illustrate this situation lies in the fact that in 1969 loans by building societies amounted to 460,000, whereas this year and last year they numbered 650,000. This is a good thermometer of demand.

I doubt whether anybody would advocate any direct or deliberate damping down of the demand. At the end of 1969 and the beginning of 1970 the demand was damped down as was the rise in prices, but this had little to do with the Land Commission at that time. It flowed from the general policy of the Labour Government in that money for house purchase was not available in the banks and building societies. In the last few months we have been partially meeting the demand for homes by increasing the supply. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment gave figures of housing starts for the first quarter of this year as compared with the same period last year. There is an increase of 26 per cent. on the starts of last year, and that is a very substantial figure.

We must go further to meet the demand by increasing the supply within sound planning policy. I do not think that any hon. Member has asked us to adopt any panic policy, except perhaps the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) who said that we should pass some emergency legislation. There have been one or two other solutions from the back benches opposite to restore and even to raise betterment levy. We were urged to take direct control of the price of land. The right hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. Michael Stewart) wanted to give local authorities an option over all houses, and then he suggested that we should put land into public ownership.

All these suggestions would only be restrictive of the supply, and it is an increase in the supply that we must seek. The only solution offered by the right hon. Member for Deptford (Mr. John Silkin) was the exhumation of the cold and rigid body of the Land Commission—

Mr. John Silkin

The Minister never fully attends to anything that I say. It is a great tragedy. I said that the best way of solving the problem was to get rid of this Government and that the other way was to get rid of the Housing Finance Bill.

Mr. Page

Very well. But those are the negatives. His positive solution was to return to the Land Commission. I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman says that I do not pay attention to what he says. I sit at his knee in Committee and listen patiently and pay great attention to what he says. However, there was nothing in his speech today to help the situation.

We had one or two substantial suggestions from the back benches on both sides of the House. One constructive speech came from the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Loughlin), who suggested a number of planning permissions. Local authorities can do that already. What is set out in the Act as five years can be altered by planning authorities. The hon. Gentleman suggested a tax on the holding of planning permissions. I could not agree with that. Then he said that local authorities should be encouraged to sell under market value. That is already being done by local authorities like Newham. It is being considered by other London boroughs. It is also being done by Luton. The hon. Gentleman suggested 100 per cent. mortgages over 45 years and an increasing instalment system. However, this would not be relevant to our immediate problem because it would increase demand. But it is a matter which ought to be considered fully.

My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Mr. Sydney Chapman) put forward similar suggestions, including a time limit on planning permissions, better guidelines on densities, which I will look into, and an acre-by-acre survey of land for building, which is an item which comes into the points set out by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State.

Piecemeal planning permissions are not a good enough solution to our present problem. Piecemeal development will not give us the right solution. Only planned development on a substantial scale will meet the present difficulty. Land authorities are capable of doing this. They have the powers. If we remove some of the financial restrictions upon local authorities, I think that they can carry out the job well. That is the point of the £80 million worth of loan sanctions that we are prepared to give for land acquisition by local authorities for the proper development of land.

Some hon. Members thought that we were discussing grants. We are not. We are merely permitting the local authority to borrow that amount of money so that they can carry out comprehensive planning and the comprehensive servicing of land. So many times one asks a local authority why there is no planning permission for a piece of land or, if planning permission has been granted, why the land is not being developed. The answer always is that it is not serviced, that there are no sewers and roads, and the local authority is not prepared to devote sufficient of its borrowing capacity to the development. We wish to help in that by allowing the borrowing of that money. Many local authorities are already very successful at this. I hope that we shall be building success upon success, not to overawe local authorities as someone put it, but to assist them in this type of comprehensive development.

It will also assist them if they are permitted during the period of development to capitalise the interest for five years until the investment in the servicing of the land returns to them in rate able values. This has been the difficulty that local authorities have found in laying out the money and having to pay the interest. Capitalising the interest will assist them. The granting of loan sanctions for sewerage works in connection with land assembly schemes and making those grants in advance of needs is another way in which we can help.

It follows that we wish these procedures to be open government and that local authorities shall publish detailed information of the location and state of readiness of land on which development could take place within a short period, we have said within the next five years. To assist in identifying this land we are at present carrying on regional discussions with local authorities, developers and land owners.

My hon. Friend the Member for Stockport, North (Mr. Idris Owen) said that he did not think local authorities could move rapidly enough in this. This is the way in which we hope to speed up their planning functions. We shall have discussions with them to find out what is holding up development in any area. As has been announced today, we already have the working parties on partnerships between local authorities, developers and landowners. In addition, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said, we are examining the possibility of residential development in the centre of towns. This is a vital part of the policy. We have neglected the centres of towns for residential development too long. If the Government can assist in this we shall endeavour to do so.

Those are points which the local authorities can do for themselves. What the Government can also do is release a large amount of land in the new towns for further development. My right hon. Friend referred to the figure of an extra 5,000 acres for the new towns much of which could be released immediately and developed.

Mr. Norman Tebbit (Epping)

Can my hon. Friend say how many homes that will represent either in the new towns as a whole or, more particularly, in my own new town of Harlow? This news is most welcome. We have been waiting for years for other Governments to get on with it.

Mr. Page

There are 1,000 acres in Harlow. It is difficult to say how many houses that means. It depends upon the density in each area. I would not attempt to lay down even an average density over the whole 5,000 acres. It is for the new towns themselves to decide what densities to apply.

I was about to mention the action that we are taking with other Departments and the nationalised industries to discover surplus land. Measures to speed up planning work in my own Department are in hand. I take the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Northants, South (Mr. Arthur Jones) that the planning procedures are tardy in many cases.

An abandonment of the old development plan procedure and rapid progress with the new planning procedures of structure and local plans will help to speed planning control. If we work on firm, up-to-date modern development plans, planning control can be speeded up.

That leads me to the action which both central and local government can take together. We shall take special steps to join local authorities in bringing forward land for development in growth areas indicated in the regional strategies.

The right hon. Member for Fulham said that we had abandoned regional policies. Indeed, on the planning of land, we have built up those regional policies between the economic planning councils and the Standing Conference of Local Authorities. We hope to go forward with these regional planning strategies as a basis for positive planning. Behind our whole policy lies a positive form of planning. I believe that we have now put forward a thoroughly practical, not a panic, policy, which will achieve the ends which right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House desire.

Mr. William Hamilton (Fife, West)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I understood that this was to be a United Kingdom debate. The Scottish Ministers concerned have been so interested that not one of them has attended throughout the debate, apart from the Secretary of State for Scotland who was present for a few minutes in the course of the opening speech. I have been present throughout the debate. I have been the only Scottish Member on this side who has sought to intervene in the debate. The Secretary of State for the Environment said that a Scottish policy would be announced in a Written Answer to a planted Question in HANSARD tomorrow. I suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, that it is simply not good enough to have a United Kingdom debate in which the Scottish voice is not heard from either the Front or the back benches.

Mr. Speaker

I am sorry that I have not been able to call more hon. Members. It is not my fault.

Mr. William Hamilton rose

Mr. Walter Harrison (Wakefield) rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.

Question put accordingly, That this House do now adjourn:—

The House divided: Ayes 267, Noes 302.

Division No. 158.] AYES [7.2 p.m.
Abse, Leo Dunnett, Jack Kaufman, Gerald
Albu, Austen Eadie, Alex Kelley, Richard
Allaun, Frank Salford, E.) Edelman, Maurice Kerr, Russell
Archer, Peter (Rowley Regis) Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Kinnock, Neil
Armstrong, Ernest Edwards, William (Merioneth) Lambie, David
Ashley, Jack Ellis, Tom Lamond, James
Ashton, Joe English, Michael Latham, Arthur
Atkinson, Norman Evans, Fred Lawson, George
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Ewing, Henry Leadbltter, Ted
Barnes, Michael Faulds, Andrew Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Fernyhough, Rt. Hn. E. Leonard Dick
Barnett, Joel (Heywood andRoyton) Fisher, Mrs. Doris(B'ham,Ladywood) Lestor, Miss Joan
Baxter, William Fitch, Alan (Wigan) Lever, Rt. Hn. Harold
Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood Fitt, Gerard (Belfast, W.) Lipton Marcus
Bennett, James (Glasgow, Bridgeton) Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston) Lomas, Kenneth
Bidwell, Sydney Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Loughlin, Charles
Bishop, E. S. Foley, Maurice Lyon, Alexander W. (York)
Blenkinsop, Arthur Foot, Michael Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson
Boardman, H. (Leigh) Ford, Ben McBride, Neil
Booth, Albert Forrester, John McCartney, Hugh
Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur Fraser, John (Norwood) McElhone, Frank
Bradley, Tom Freeson, Reginald McGuire, Michael
Broughton, Sir Alfred Galpern, Sir Myer Mackenzie, Gregor
Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,W.) Garrett, W. E.
Brown, Ronald (Shoredltch & F'bury) Gilbert, Dr. John Mackie, John
Buchan, Norman Ginsburg, David (Dewsbury) Mackintosh, John P.
Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn) Golding, John Maclennan, Robert
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C. McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)
Campbell, l. (Dunbartonshire, W.) Gourlay, Harry McNamara, J. Kevin
Cant, R. B. Grant, George (Morpeth) Mahon, Simon (Bootle)
Carmichael, Neil Grant, John D. (Islington, E.) Mallalieu, J. p. W. (Huddersfield, E.)
Carter, Ray (Birmingh'm, Northfield) Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside) Marks, Kenneth
Carter-Jones, Lewis (Eccles) Grimond, Rt. Hn. J. Marquand, David
Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara Hamilton, William (Fife, W.) Marsden, F.
Clark, David (Colne Valley) Hamling, William Marshall, Dr. Edmund
Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.) Hardy, Peter Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy
Cohen, Stanley Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Mayhew, Christopher
Coleman, Donald Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith Meacher, Michael
Concannon, J. D. Hattersley, Roy Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert
Conlan, Bernard Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis Mendelson, John
Corbet, Mrs. Freda Heffer, Eric S. Mikardo, Ian
Cox, Thomas (Wandsworth, C.) Horam, John Millan, Bruce
Crawshaw, Richard Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas Miller, Dr. M. S.
Cronin, John Howell, Denis (Small Heath) Milne, Edward
Crosland, Rl. Hn. Anthony Huckfield, Leslie Mitchell, R. C. (S'hampton, Itchen)
Crossman, Rt. Kn. Richard Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey) Molloy, William
Cunningham, G. (Islington, S.W.) Hughes, Mark (Durham) Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)
Cunningham, Dr. J. A. (Whitehaven) Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen, N.) Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)
Dalyell, Tarn Hughes, Roy (Newport) Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)
Davidson, Arthur Hunter, Adam Morris, Rt. Hn. John (Aberavon)
Davies, Denzil (Llanelly) Irvine,Rt.Hn.SirArthur(Edge Hill) Moyle, Roland
Davles, Ifor (Gower) Janner, Greville Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Davis, Clinton (Hackney, C.) Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas Murray, Ronald King
Davis, Terry (Bromsgrove) Jeger, Mrs. Lena Oakes, Gordon
Deaklns, Eric Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Ogden, Eric
de Freltas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford) O'Halloran, Michael
Delargy, H. J. John, Brynmor OMalley, Brian
Dell, Rt. Hn. Edmund Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.) Cram, Bert
Dempsey, James Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull,W.) Orbach, Maurice
Dolg, Peter Johnson, Walter (Derby, S.) Orme, Stanley
Dormand, J. D. Jones, Barry (Flint, E.) Oswald, Thomas
Douglas, Dick (Stirlingshire, E.) Jones, Dan (Burnley) Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, Sutton)
Douglas-Mann, Bruce Jones,Rt.Hn.Sir Elwyn(W.Ham,S.) Padley, Walter
Driberg, Tom Jones, Gwynoro (Carmarthen) Paget, R. T.
Duffy, A. E. P. Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, W.) Palmer, Arthur
Dunn, James A. Judd, Frank Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles
Parry, Robert (Liverpool, Exchange) Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich) Varley, Eric G.
Pendry, Tom Sillars, James Wainwright, Edwin
Pentland, Norman Silverman, Julius Walden, Brian (B'm'ham, All Saints)
Perry, Ernest G. Skinner, Dennis Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg. Small, William Wallace, George
Price, J. T. (Westhoughton) Smith, John (Lanarkshire, N.) Watkins, David
Price, William (Rugby) Spearing, Nigel Weitzman, David
Probert, Arthur Spriggs, Leslie Wellbeloved, James
Rankin, John Stallard, A. W. Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Reed, D. (Sedgefleld) Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael (Fulham) White, James (Glasgow, Pollok)
Rees, Merlyn (Leeds, S.) Stoddart, David (Swindon) Whitehead, Philip
Rhodes, Geoffrey Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John Whitlock, William
Richard, Ivor Strang, Gavin Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Roberts, Albert (Normanton) Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R. Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)
Robertson, John (Paisley) Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)
Roderick, Caerwyn E.(Br'c'n&R'dnor) Swain, Thomas Williams, W. T. (Warrington)
Rodgers, William (Stockton-on-Tees) Taverne, Dick Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)
Roper, John Thomas,Rt.Hn.George (Cardiff.W.) Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)
Ross, Rt. Hn. William (Kllmarnock) Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery) Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Rowlands, Edward Thomson, Rt. Hn. G. (Dundee, E.) Woof, Robert
Sandelson, Neville Tinn, James
Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-under-Lyne) Tomney, Frank TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney) Torney, Tom Mr. Joseph Harper and
Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton, N.E.) Tuck, Raphael Mr. James Hamilton.
Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford) Urwin, T. W.
Adley, Robert Costain, A. P. Hannam, John (Exeter)
Alison, Michael (Barkslon Ash) Critchley, Julian Harrison, Brian (Maldon)
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead) Crouch, David Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)
Amery, Rt. Hn. Julian Crowder, F. P. Haselhurst, Alan
Archer, Jeffrey (Louth) Davies, Rt. Hn. John (Knutsford) Hastings, Stephen
Astor, John d'Avigdor-Goldsmld, Sir Henry Havers, Michael
Atkins, Humphrey d'Avigdor-Goldsmid.MaJ.-Gen. James Hawkins, Paul
Awdry, Daniel Dean, Paul Hay, John
Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone) Deedee, Rt. Hn. W. F. Hayhoe, Barney
Balniel, Lord Dlgby, Simon Wingfield Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward
Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony Dixon, Piers Heseltine, Michael
Batsford, Brian Dodds-Parker, Douglas Hicks, Robert
Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton Douglas-Home, Rt. Hn. Sir Alec Higgins, Terence L.
Bell, Ronald Drayson, G. B. Hill, John E. B. (Norfolk, S.)
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay) du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward. Hill, James (Southampton, Test)
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosporl) Dykes, Hugh Holland, Philip
Benyon, W. Eden, Sir john Holt, Miss Mary
Berry, Hn. Anthony Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke) Hordern, Peter
Bitten, John Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) Hornby, Richard
Biggs-Davison, John Elliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne.N.) Hornsby-Smith,Rt.Hn.Dame Patricia
Blaker, Peter Emery Peter Howe, Hn. Sir Geoffrey (Relgate)
Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.) Eyre, Reginald Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N.)
Body, Richard Farr, John Hunt, John
Boscawen, Robert Fenner, Mrs. Peggy Fidler, Michael Hutchison, Michael Clark
Bossom, Sir Clive Finsberg, Geoffrey (Hampstead) Iremonger, T. L. Irvine,
Bowden, Andrew Fisher, Nigel (Surbiton) Bryant Godman (Rye)
Braine, Bernard Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Jenkln, Patrick (Woodford)
Bray, Ronald Fookes, Miss Janet Jennings, J. C. (Burton)
Brewis, John Fortescue, Tim Jessel, Toby
Brinton, Sir Tatton Foster, Sir John Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead)
Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher Fowler,Norman Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Fox, Marcus Jopling, Michael
Bruce-Gardyne, J. Fraser,Rt.Hn.Hugh(Stllord a Stone) Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith
Bryan, Paul Fry, Peter Kaberry, Sir Donald
Buchanan-Smith, Alick(Angus,N&M) Galbralth, Hn. T. G. Kellett-Bowman, Mrs. Elaine
Buck, Antony Gardner, Edward Kershaw, Anthony
Bullus, Sir Eric Gibson-Watt, David Kllfedder, James
Burden, F. A. Gllmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.) Kimball, Marcus
Butler, Adam (Bosworth) Gllmour, Sir John (Fife, E.) King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)
Campbell,Rt.Hn.G. (Moray&Nairn) Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B. King, Tom (Bridgwater)
Carlisle, Mark Goodhart, Philip Kinsey, J. R.
Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert Goodhew, Victor Kirk, Peter
Channon, Paul Gorst, John Kitson, Timothy
Chapman, Sydney Grant, Anthony (Harrow, C.) Knight, Mrs. Jill
Chataway, Rt. Hn. Christopher Gray, Hamish Knox, David
Chichester-Clark, R. Green, Alan Lambton, Antony
Churchill, W. S. Grieve, Percy Lane, David
Clark, William (Surrey, E.) Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds) Langford-Holt, Sir John
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Grylls, Michael Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry
Cockeram, Eric Gummer, Selwyn Le Marchant, Spencer
Cooke, Robert Gurden, Harold Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)
Coombs, Derek Hall, Miss Joan (Keighley) Lloyd, Rt.Hn. Geoffrey(Sut'nC'dflelu,
Cooper, A. E. Hall, John (Wycombe) Lloyd, Ian (P'lsm'th, Langstone)
Corfield, Rt. Hn. Frederick Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Longden, Gilbert
Cormack, Patrick Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Loverldge, John
Luce, R. N. Parkinson, Cecil Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.
McAdden, Sir Stephen Peel, John Stokes, John
MacArthur, Ian Percival, Ian Stuttaford, Dr. Tom
McCrlndle, R. A. Peyton, Rt. Hn. John Sutcliffe, John
McLaren, Martin Pike, Miss Mervyn Tapsell, Peter
Maclean, Sir Fitzroy Pink, R. Bonner Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
McMaster, Stanley Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)
McNair-Wilson, Michael Price, David (Eastlelgh) Taylor, Robert (Croydon, N.W.)
McNair-Wilson, Patrick (NewForest) Prior, Rt. Hn. J. M. L. Tebblt, Norman
Maddan, Martin Proudfoot, Wilfred Temple, John M.
Madel, David Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis Thatcher, Rt. Hn. Mrs. Margaret
Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest Quennell, Miss J. M. Thomas, John Stradllng (Monmouth)
Marten, Neil Raison, Timothy Thomas, Rt. Hn. Peter (Hendon, S.)
Mather, Carol Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)
Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter Tilney, John
Mawby, Ray Redmond, Robert Trafford, Dr. Anthony
Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J. Reed, Laurance (Bolton, E.) Trew, Peter
Meyer, Sir Anthony Rees, Peter (Dover) Tugendhat, Christopher
Mills, Peter (Torrington) Rees-Davies, W. R. Turton, Rt. Hn. Sir Robin
Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.) Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David van Straubenzee, W. R.
Mitchell,Lt.-Col.(Aberdeenshire,W) Ridley, Hn. Nicholas Vaughan, Dr. Gerard
Mitchell, David (Basingstoke) Ridsdale, Julian Vickers, Dame Joan
Moate, Roger Roberts, Michael (Cardiff, N.) Waddington, David
Molyneaux, James Roberts, Wyn (Conway) Walder, David (Clitheroe)
Money, Ernie Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks) Walker, Rt. Hn. Peter (Worcester)
Monks, Mrs. Connie Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey) Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek
Monro, Hector Rost, Peter Wall, Patrick
Montgomery Fergus Royle, Anthony Walters, Dennis
More, Jasper Russell, Sir Ronald Ward, Dame Irene
Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm. St. John-Stevas, Norman Warren, Kenneth
Sandys, Rt. Hn. D.
Morrison, Charles Scott, Nicholas Wells, Jonn (Maidstone)
Mudd, David Scott-Hopkins, James Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William
Murton Oscar Roger (Gravesend)
Sharpies, Richard Wiggin, Jerry
Nabarro, Sir Gerald Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby) Wilkinson, John
Neave, Airey Shelton, William (Clapham) Winterton, Nicholas
Nicholls, Sir Harmar Simeons, Charles Wolriae-Gordon Patrick
Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael Skeet, T. H. H. Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard
Normanton, Tom Smith, Dudley (W'wlck & L'mington) Woodhouse, Hn. Christopher
Nott, John Soref, Harold Woodnutt, Mark
Onslow, Cranley Speed, Keith Worsley, Marcus
Spence, John Wylie, Rt. Hn. N. R.
Orr, Capt. L. P. S. Sproat, lain Younger, Hn. George
Osborn, John Stainton, Keith
Owen, Idris (Stockport, N.) Stanbrook, Ivor TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Page, Graham (Crosby) Stewart-Smith, Geoffrey (Belper) Mr. Bernard Weatherill and
Page, John (Harrow, W.) Stodart, Anthony (Edinburgh, W.) Mr. Walter Clegg.

Question accordingly negatived.

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