HC Deb 16 February 1977 vol 926 cc483-4
8. Mr. MacGregor

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment by how much the allocation for land acquisitions under the Community Land Scheme in 1977–78 and the two subsequent years has been reduced from the levels previously proposed in Command Paper No. 6393.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Guy Barnett)

Reductions of £35 million in each of the years 1977–78 and 1978–79 were announced by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor on 15th December. A provisional figure for 1979–80 will be contained in part II of the White paper on expenditure published later this month.

Mr. MacGregor

Do not these cuts, which are the result of very limited resources and which are likely to continue for years to come, mean that the Community Land Act simply will not have achieved the objectives that the Government set for it? if the Minister will not abandon the scheme altogether, as he should, will he at least consider raising and widening the limits for excepted development and urge the Chancellor of the Exchequer to reduce the rate of development land tax so that private developers can undertake the rôle that the public sector cannot undertake?

Mr. Barnett

My belief is that these cuts have not had any serious effect on the beginning of the scheme, which is building up steadily but building up well. The local authorities are, at the present stage, building up their staffs and beginning to operate the scheme. I do not think that the fact that the cuts have taken place at this stage is at all damaging to the scheme. It will provide a very good basis for the expansion of the scheme when market conditions are right.

Mr. Blenkinsop

Is my hon. Friend aware that while we welcome the scheme we want to see more use made of it, above all in the North-East in the special development areas where we have been denied the use of it for industrial schemes in a rather worrying way?

Mr. Barnett

I should like to have details from my hon. Friend of schemes where sanction has been denied. Local authorities are encouraged to submit proposals where they find them helpful in their own areas. One of the reasons why the scheme is not building up as fast as one might have expected is the present state of the land market.

Mr. Speed

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that neither house builders nor local authorities share his sanguine view about the scheme?

Mr. Barnett

My sanguine view of the scheme is based on what we believe is likely to arise as soon as economic activity begins to get going.