HC Deb 03 July 1974 vol 876 cc365-8
4. Mr. Ioan Evans

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment when he intends to introduce legislation to bring into public ownership land required for development.

34. Mr. Michael Latham

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he is now in a position to give details of his plans for land nationalisation.

Mr. Crosland

We shall announce our proposals as soon as possible.

Mr. Evans

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. Does he realise that if the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947—which was known as the Silkin Act—had remained on the statute book the huge profits made from land since the time the Tories came to power and put the Town and Country Planning Act 1959 into operation would have been avoided? Does he also realise that it is necessary for legislation to be brought forward urgently to ensure that houses, schools and hospitals are built and industrial sites provided at less cost to the community?

Mr. Crosland

There is no doubt that things would have been very much better today had the Tories not reversed and repealed first the 1947 Act and later the initiative which we took in 1965. With regard to the urgency of this matter, I am well aware of all the considerations to which my hon. Friend alludes and I can promise him that a statement will be made before the end of the year.

Mr. Latham

Does the right hon. Gentleman intend to have the detailed discussion which is essential with the affected industries before or after publication of the Bill containing the proposed legislation?

Mr. Crosland

As the hon. Gentleman knows from his previous employment, we have received memoranda on this subject from the National House Building Council and the House Builder's Federation. I wish to make clear, however, that when we make our proposals we shall not put them in the form of a Green Paper or a consultative document. The policy of the Labour Party when in opposition and of the Government now in power has been made clear, and publication of our proposals will take the form of a positive announcement of Government policy.

Mr. Fernyhough

Does my right hon. Friend appreciate that there is massive support outside the House for legislation of this nature? Does he also appreciate that many of us would like an emergency Bill to be brought forward so that, if necessary, we could test public opinion at the forthcoming General Election in relation to whether Opposition Members are prepared to continue to support racketeering in land, which they have done since 1951?

Mr. Crosland

An emergency Bill as such might present some difficulties to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, but I can promise my right hon. Friend the Member for Jarrow (Mr. Fernyhough) that public ownership of development land will be a major issue at the next General Election.

Mr. Stephen Ross

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that his failure to give an indication of his intention regarding land already carrying planning consent—which particularly involves small builders, to whom the matter is very important—is causing great problems in the building industry? Can we have an advance statement on the right hon. Gentleman's intention in this matter?

Mr. Crosland

I do not want to make an advance statement. I should like as soon as possible to make a much more definitive statement. On the question of uncertainty regarding the land market, I want to bring this to an end as soon as is humanly possible. But I must point out that that uncertainty, such as it is, is not the main inhibiting factor in the housing building programme.

Mr. Rossi

Has any estimate been made of the cost involved in taking development land into public ownership, whether by local authorities or by the central Government? Is it within the right hon. Gentleman's thinking that none of this land should be available for freehold houses in accordance with the Labour Party policy declaration in 1973?

Mr. Crosland

With regard to the freehold question, I can confirm and underline what was said in the Labour Party policy in 1973: that the freehold of an owner-occupier will not be touched in any way by our proposals. I cannot give an estimate regarding the cost of taking development land into public ownership, but I can tell the hon. Gentleman and the House that this will repre- sent the best investment by the community for many years.

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