HC Deb 17 May 1972 vol 837 cc515-6
20. Mr. Moyle

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he is satisfied with the adequacy of the powers given to the Greater London Council under the London Government Act to increase the housing densities in outer London suburbs: and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Peter Walker

I am awaiting the report of the panel of inquiry into the Greater London Development Plan, which includes a statement of policy by the Greater London Council on residential densities.

Mr. Moyle

Would the right hon. Gentleman agree that in the inner London boroughs we have been waiting for the powers of persuasion to work on the outer London boroughs to increase their densities and help with the housing programmes but that they have had no real practical effect? Is not the inner London housing programme always handicapped by the fact that we have to pull down one house in order to build a new one? Figures recently published by the outer London boroughs of their housing programmes show that their response to pressures from the centre is totally inadequate, given the amount of open land they have in those parts of London.

Mr. Walker

Yes, but in statutory terms the system of the Greater London Plan is the only one available to the GLC. This has now come to its conclusion. I hope to act on it quickly and I will then immediately look at the problem.

Mr. Tebbit

Will my right hon. Friend note that in the London Borough of Waltham Forest, and in particular Chingford in the part I represent, although it is an outer London borough densities are already at least as high as we need and there is not any more building land and it is part of an absurd political campaign on the part of Opposition Members consistently to tramp this one around?

Mr. Walker

Obviously there are variations from one borough to another, but there is a severe housing problem in London which has to be tackled by an overall London authority.

Mr. Crosland

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it is not a political campaign but a campaign to make more houses available to people who do not have a home? Of course I am not blaming this situation on the Secretary of State, but will he tell us what is happening to the various voluntary efforts that are being made by the so-called Action Committee and the London office which the London Boroughs Association is trying to set up and what degree of voluntary co-operation is forthcoming from the outer boroughs?

Mr. Walker

Progress is being made in a number of spheres and I am heartened by the work of the Action Committee. My hon. Friend the Minister of State for Northern Ireland, when he was Under-Secretary of State in my Department made considerable progress with the London boroughs in a number of initiatives. Likewise the release of railway and hospital land has made more land available for housing. The overall study of the Greater London Development Plan and work by the Action Committee will continue.