HC Deb 14 February 1973 vol 850 cc1266-8
11. Mr. Clinton Davis

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will call for an interim report of the London Action Group concerning land in outer London boroughs which could be used for local authority housing developments by inner London boroughs; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Channon

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given to a similar Question from him by my hon. Friend on 24th January.—[Vol. 849, c. 151–2.]

Mr. Davis

Is not it an absolute scandal, which could be reflected in a further interim report, that the Tory local authorities of Barnet and Bromley should have directly sabotaged the efforts of inner London local authorities to acquire land in those areas? When will the Minister take powers to ensure that those recalcitrant, anti-social and snobbish Tory local authorities take action to relieve some of the distress in inner London areas?

Mr. Channon

I cannot accept that from the hon. Gentleman. A great deal of progress has been made in London housing. I was very pleased that in spite of the immense impact of the building strike last year the London figures stood up as well as they did. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary is taking the chair of the Action Group, and will report in due course.

Mr. Lipton

Is the Minister aware that the problem of homelessness in London is now so serious that it may be difficult to preserve law and order for much longer? The situation is worse than it has ever been and something effective must be done, because people will just not put up with living for months and years in conditions of misery and squalor.

Mr. Channon

I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman about the serious and tragic nature of homelessness in London. Together with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services I have already had meetings with the Greater London Council and representatives of the London boroughs—including representatives from the hon. Gentleman's borough—to see what can be done to ameliorate the situation. I shall remain in touch with them.

Mr. Freeson

Will the hon. Gentleman tell us the basic suggestions put to him by the London boroughs' representatives at the meeting to which he referred? In view of the great progress he has said is being made in London local authority housing, will he say what acreage has been made available to local authorities as a result of the work of the Action Group? What action has been taken, apart from the provision of information about land availability?

Mr. Channon

The discussion with the London boroughs and the GLC was of a private nature, and I should not reveal what took place without their permission —though I should have no objection to revealing anything which took place. We shall shortly have a report from the Action Group, and no doubt the hon. Gentleman will continue to ask questions about that.

19. Mr. Ralph Howell

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he is satisfied that sufficient building land is available in the county of Norfolk; and what response he has had to his recent circular on this subject.

Mr. Channon

Discussions so far with the Norfolk County Council and building industry representatives suggest that in general the supply is adequate. Further information from the county is being studied by the industry in preparation for another meeting. No formal return under Circular 102/72 has been asked for from Norfolk.

Mr. Howell

Is my hon. Friend aware of the resentment that will be felt in Norfolk at the complacency of that answer? There are 259 villages in the county, and 59 of them are in my constituency. It is possible to get planning permission only in exceptional circumstances. There is a feeling that very little is being done by my hon. Friend's Department to alter the situation.

Mr. Channon

I have read what my hon. Friend had to say in his recent speech on this matter. I refute what he says about complacency. There have been discussions not only with the Norfolk County Council but with the building industry. No one can say that the Depart- ment is complacent. If my hon. Friend likes to pursue this matter further in relation to particular areas of Norfolk I shall be delighted to go into it.