HC Deb 05 July 1972 vol 840 cc529-32
10. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will introduce legislation for the public ownership of building land.

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

No, Sir.

Mr. Hamilton

Can the Minister explain how the Government propose to make sure that the increased profits arising from land speculation accrue to the public purse, since the increase in prices is generally due to public works and developments of one kind and another? Before giving another reply of that curt nature, will he read the speeches made a few years ago by the present Secretary of State for Social Services when he indicated that the public ought to ensure that the profits accruing from land speculation and land development should accrue to the public purse and not to the private speculator?

Mr. Page

A certain amount of the profit is taken in capital gains tax. But the policy of the Government is to bring forward as much land as possible and thereby stabilise the prices, and that is the policy enunciated by my right hon. Friend on 27th April.

Mr. Peter Rees

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the ill-judged introduction of betterment levy by the previous Administration is at least partially responsible for the present increase in land prices?

Mr. Page

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Paget

Why is it that on clearance areas local authorities can pull down the houses and pay outrageously low compensation but cannot get vacant land except at quite outrageous prices and after outrageous delay? This is becoming a scandal.

Mr. Page

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has announced that £80 million of loan sanction funds would be available for the acquisition of land by local authorities.

28. Mr. Carter

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he is satisfied with the amount of land being made available in inner city areas; and if he will make a statement.

The Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr. Julian Amery)

The Government's measures to ensure that sufficient land will be available for housing should help in inner city areas as elsewhere. It is in the first instance for the local planning and housing authorities to decide what land should be used for housing.

Mr. Carter

With sky-rocketing land prices in city centres and scandalous development like that of Centre Point, is not land for purely housing purposes rapidly diminishing? What do the Minister and the Government intend to do to arrest the decline of purely city centres into concrete deserts?

Mr. Amery

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is aware of the package announced by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for making more land available and the facilities being given to local authorities to assemble land. The new slum clearance and rising cost subsidies envisaged under the Housing Finance Bill should also help from the point of view of redeveloping cleared land. The price of land very largely follows the price of houses, and the price of houses has soared in the way it has in response to the effective demand in people's pockets at present.

Mr. Evelyn King

If I were to ask my right hon. Friend by how much the supply of land for building purposes had increased in recent months or in the last year, would he be able to give the figures for particular districts? The House has been demonstrably short of these figures and should have them.

Mr. Amery

I have not got the figures from the differentlocal authorities. I have figures, though not with me, for London, where the Action Group headed by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary has been extremely active and vigorous on Government land that is released for housing. I will write to my hon. Friend about that.

Mr. Lipton

Bearing in mind the shortage of land in the inner city areas, what will the Government do about Centre Point?

Mr. Amery

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has made his position on this matter extremely clear. While I acceptthat the question is broadly related to the amount of land being made available in the inner city areas, perhaps the hon. Member would put down a separate Question.

Mr. Crosland

For my part I support what the Secretary of State is doing about Centre Point, but let us be realistic—

Mr. Skinner

He is doing nothing.

Mr. Crosland

I said let us be realistic.

Mr. Skinner

It is just talk.

Mr. Crosland

At this moment people are being turned out of GLC flats in the Covent Garden area in order to make way either for office building or for additional road widening. Is not the Minister aware that the only way in which he will settle the problem is to respond to the demand by the Opposition in the debate on Piccadilly and Covent Garden that the Government must have a plan first for restricting the amount of office space in inner city areas and, second, for restricting private motor traffic? Without a plan for both these matters there is no possibility of solving the housing shortage.

Mr. Amery

There is very close co-operation between my Department and the GLC in all these matters and I do not believe that there is an absence of good planning. The work of the London Action Group has been extremely helpful and will lead to—[An Hon. Member: "More offices."]—and I scarcely dare to say it—to a solution to the problem in the course of the next few years.