HC Deb 20 June 2000 vol 352 cc214-65
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Lord)

I must tell the House that Madam Speaker has selected the amendment in the name of the Prime Minister.

7.17 pm
Mr. Archie Norman (Tunbridge Wells)

I beg to move, That this House condemns the apparent intention of Ministers to ignore the recent vote by members of SERPLAN to limit the number of new houses built in the South East and to 'punish' members of SERPLAN for taking that decision; calls on Ministers to abandon their attempts to impose overall figures for new housebuilding on regions of the country; deplores the Government's failure even to meet its own targets for new development on brownfield sites; regrets the continuing decline of towns and cities and, on almost the first anniversary of the Rogers Report, the Government's failure to address the vital issues of urban regeneration, or growing internal migration and the drift from towns and cities to the countryside, or homelessness; and calls upon the Government to halt the decline of the cities, bring forward measures to protect greenfield sites and the Green Belt, and take steps to return more power to local communities to decide planning and housebuilding priorities. First, I am sorry that the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions cannot be with us this evening. I understand that his mother is not well and I am sure that I speak for all hon. Members in saying that we fully understand the reasons for his absence. We wish his mother well and hope that she has a speedy recovery.

Several of my colleagues may believe that the timing of this debate is not ideal but, from the point of view of the residents and councillors in the south-east, it is apposite as the Serplan period of consultation has just concluded. As a result, our debate on an issue that has caused people in the south-east great anxiety and tension will give the Minister for Housing and Planning an opportunity to discard all his speeches in previous Opposition day debates on the matter and put to one side the well-thumbed copies of statements of denial and all the talk of moving away from predict and provide. It will enable him, for the first time, to come clean on how he plans to answer the clear response that the councillors and residents of the south-east have given as part of the Serplan process that he created.

Mr. Brian White (Milton Keynes, North-East)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Norman

No, I want to make progress.

The issue is a formative one for people in this country, not just in the countryside or the south-east, but in the inner cities, the north and the south-west. Conservative Members believe that the Government's policy on house building is a national folly. As my distinguished predecessor, my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood) put it, it is like taking a carpet knife to an old master.—[Official Report, 2 November 1999; Vol. 337, c. 103] The policy perpetuates the vicious circle of migration from the north, the loss of countryside for ever, congestion on our roads and the decline of our inner cities. Quite simply, it is the wrong houses in the wrong places.

Mr. Michal Fabricant (Lichfield)

Does my hon. Friend accept that not only is that happening in the south-east, but people in the west midlands are equally disturbed about the use of the green belt? Does he not think it an outrage that some 5,000 new homes will be built in south Staffordshire, while brownfield sites in the centre of Birmingham, Walsall, Wolverhampton and other towns remain undeveloped?

Mr. Norman

My hon. Friend is absolutely correct and, as ever, is a potent voice for the west midlands.

Against the background of a perpetuating cycle of declining inner cities and the concreting over of the countryside, the Government claim, as the Minister has done in previous debates, that they have decentralised the process; that an extra 200,000 houses can be built in the south-east with no additional use of greenfield sites; that, incredibly, there is no such thing as north-south migration, and that the new housing in the south-east is needed for the sons and daughters of the existing population. Those claims fly in the face of all the facts.

Mr. Martin Salter (Reading, West)

What would the hon. Gentleman say to people in the Thames valley who are looking forward to the extra 200 police officers that are to be provided and to the Police Federation, which is saying that the price of housing is so high that those police officers will not be able to afford to stay in the Thames valley? Does he accept that his party's policy is a recipe for running down our public services, and that we need to provide affordable housing for key public service workers, such as police officers, firefighters and health workers?

Mr. Norman

I simply say to the hon. Gentleman that it is for his constituents to decide how many houses are built in the area. We have the confidence to allow local people to make such decisions because we know that they will be right. I do not know whether he has the same confidence.

The Government have erected a facade of deception, are juggling the numbers and are responsible for overbearing centralisation. Most bizarre of all is their claim to have decentralised and to have moved away from predict and provide. They claim to have moved to a five-year planning horizon, when the local plan for every council in the south-east is worked out on a 10-year basis and we all know that major infrastructure and development projects need a more distant time horizon.

The real process is one of protracted negotiation, and of the Government predicting more houses and pressurising councils to offer up the maximum, as they pressurised Serplan to do. They issue diktats when local councils do not meet central needs. Nowhere is that better illustrated than in the Minister's petulant response to the Serplan consultation and the absurd claims that he made only last week in environment questions that Conservative Members have made this a party political issue. We all know, as he should, that the councillors and residents of the south-east have made this an issue because they deeply resent his overbearing approach.

Some councils made their position clear long before the Serplan process took place. Jane Pitman of Hertfordshire county council said: Anything above what Serplan recommended is unacceptable. Richard Payne of Bedfordshire county council said: In Bedfordshire we have taken heed of Government advice and consulted every district council, parish council and stakeholder with an 80 per cent. response. Almost all of these were totally opposed to the type of increase that the Government is proposing. Those councillors were speaking for local residents long before the Serplan process took place.

All we are saying is that local residents and councillors of the south-east should be listened to first, and if the Minister is at all sincere about moving away from predict and provide, he will respond by telling us that he will take their views into account.

The Minister for Housing and Planning (Mr. Nick Raynsford)

The hon. Gentleman referred to councillors in Bedfordshire who expressed concerns about additional housing requirements some time ago. Can he tell the House whether they objected in 1996, when the right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer), the then Secretary of State for the Environment, required Bedfordshire county council to provide 2,100 extra dwellings?

Mr. Norman

It has been an astonishing feature of the Minister's response, every time that the House has debated this matter, that he refers to past issues. He is now responsible for planning; he devised the Serplan process, and he, not we, said that the Government had moved away from predict and provide. He has come up with the shallow pretence of decentralisation. I could go on quoting local councils for a long time, if he wishes, but he is answerable, and it is for him to tell us whether he will listen to the views of local people and councils. He will have an opportunity to do so in a moment.

Is not the truth that the process has been a charade, and the idea that we have moved to a five-year process of review and monitor is complete nonsense? Councils now preparing their local plan are working on a 10-year basis. The Minister is interested in consultation only as long as the answer is yes, and he is interested in decentralisation only as long as councillors will do what they are told.

I know that the Minister has said that he was misreported but, for the record, will he clearly retract his comments in The Sunday Telegraph and in radio interviews to the effect that Serplan's views would be ignored and that councillors who had objected to his proposals would be punished? Will he apologise to the residents and councillors of the south-east?

Mr. Raynsford

I will not retract those comments because I never made them. I remind the hon. Gentleman that I assured him in the House last week that I was grossly misrepresented in The Sunday Telegraph. I have always said that we will listen to the views of Serplan and others, and I am only sorry that he did not, in the normal custom of the House, accept that assurance and that he has carried on peddling this nonsense.

Mr. Norman

Of course we accept what the Minister has to say, although it is not what The Sunday Telegraph had to say. That is a matter for the Minister and The Sunday Telegraph. However, he has a chance to respond today and to say not only that he was misreported but what he is going to do about this issue. The consultation process is closed. He has a chance to say that he will take all views into account and that he will cease his bullying tactics. He can then demonstrate that he is sincere about decentralisation.

Mrs. Louise Ellman (Liverpool, Riverside)

Will the hon. Gentleman retract, and apologise for, the grossly insulting comments that he made about my constituents in Toxteth during his visit to Liverpool yesterday? Or was he misquoted?

Mr. Norman

I am delighted that the hon. Lady raises that matter because it gives me the chance to point out, as I will demonstrate later, that building executive homes in the south-east perpetuates the migration from the inner cities in the north. When I was in Toxteth and in Kensington, which is also a deprived area in Liverpool, I said that it is a tragedy that over the past few years the Government have put so much money into building fortress-like houses and buildings in deprived areas, that they cannot now afford to provide adequate community policing. That means that the crime level in Liverpool has risen by 3 per cent. in the past year and that during the three years of this Government, the number of policemen on the beat in the city has declined by 160.

Mr. John Gummer (Suffolk, Coastal)

Does my hon. Friend think that it is perfectly reasonable to doubt the Government's bona fides when they say that they will listen to Serplan's complaints, given that they not only refused to listen to Sussex, but turned their back and told Sussex that it should jolly well have as many houses as they said? Sussex took the Government to court, but they went ahead. Why should we believe that they will change their mind now?

Mr. Norman

My right hon. Friend speaks with great authority on the subject, and the Minister will want to respond directly to the point he makes later. This is not just a matter of decentralisation; even on a central view, the Government's policy is wholly wrong.

As the Minister has said, his own projections show that 70 per cent. of the new household requirement for the next 20 years is for single people. Most of them are elderly people, living alone. A further 10 per cent. approximately is for single parents, who are much in need of affordable housing. They want to continue to live in the towns and cities where they have always lived, yet there is no evidence that the process that has been embarked upon of building 50 per cent. or more of the houses on green fields in the south-east will deliver any such result.

Serplan recommended that 40 per cent. of the new housing should be affordable, but the Minister ignored its recommendation in his guidance. Only two months ago, Shelter stated that it was concerned about the inadequate provision for affordable and social housing in that guidance. Only a week ago, homelessness figures were published showing that priority homeless cases are at the highest level for the past four years. Far from providing homes for the elderly and less-well-off, which is the real challenge and real need, the policy will deliver identikit executive homes—the same type and design in Yorkshire as in Kent, in Suffolk as in Cornwall—and it will leave the elderly, the less able and single people behind in the inner cities.

Mr. Peter Bradley (The Wrekin)


Hon. Members

Tory gain.

Mr. Bradley

Looking at some Opposition Members, I think that Tory Regaine would be more to the point, especially in the case of the hon. Member for Lichfield (Mr. Fabricant). What are the right houses and where are the right places for them? If the hon. Gentleman allows local authorities the discretion to take their decisions without national guidance and they refuse to accommodate those houses, what steps would he take to ensure that housing provision was made for those who need it most?

Mr. Norman

The right houses are those that local people decide on under an obligation to provide for local needs. We believe that many local authorities in areas of economic expansion in the north as well as the south will decide to build more houses because they want to fuel expansion for their local employers. We will trust local people to take the right decisions, properly informed by the resources of central Government.

Several hon. Members


Mr. Norman

I shall not give way because I want to deal with the point made by the hon. Member for Liverpool, Riverside (Mrs. Ellman). She made the mistake of referring to migration from the cities of the north and urban renewal. Not only are the wrong type of houses being built, but the process will perpetuate the cycle of urban decline and the loss of green fields. There has been much contention about the facts, and the facts about migration from one region to another are less than clear. The Deputy Prime Minister has stated that he does not believe that migration from the north to the south is an issue. In his statement on the Serplan consultation, he said: Let there be no doubt that demand for additional housing in the south-east is not the result of massive north-south migration, but mainly the result of migration within the south-east, particularly from London to surrounding towns and villages—[Official Report, 7 March 2000; Vol. 345, c. 864.] The figures show that the actual pattern is one of migration, as we all know, from the cities to the countryside, from the north and midlands to London and from London to the south. The arithmetic is complicated. [Interruption.] Before Labour Members jump in, let me share some basic facts with them. Between 1991 and 1997, net migration from the north was 114,000 people. Net migration to the south-east was 132,000, and net migration from London was 32,000 to the south-east in 1997. There is a clear pattern, which we all recognise because we see it on the ground, and those hon. Members who have constituencies in the north will recognise it, too. People are moving out of the cities into the countryside, from the midlands to London and from London to the south-east. It is simply nonsense to say that migration from our cities is not a major problem—it is.

Two thirds of the new houses to be built in the south-east under the Government's policy will be occupied not by single people but by families; not by people who live in the south-east, but by people leaving London. That gives the lie to the Minister's claim that the proposals are about accommodating local people. In The Independent of 13 June, he said: it is about housing for the sons and daughters of existing residents, and people who are essential to the local economy. What complete nonsense. His own projections state that the requirement is not for those sons and daughters; 70 per cent. of it is for single people, most of whom are elderly. We know the track record—executive homes are being built, more than 60 per cent. of which have three bedrooms or more. Sons or daughters indeed.

Does the Minister think that all the new houses in the two new towns in world-class countryside in Devon, in Cambridge and in Ashford, which will treble in size, will be occupied by sons and daughters of the people of Ashford, Cambridge, Plymouth or Exeter? That suggestion is simply ludicrous and untenable. We know that it is not true, and he knows that it is not true. If he thinks that, he must explain how Ashford can treble its population without importing people from London and the north. We all know that it is complete nonsense.

The problem exists not only in the south, but in the cities of the north. I could take hon. Members to areas in the centre of Leeds that are 3 miles from a thriving commercial centre—the boom town of the north—where there are housing estates with empty homes, with 50 per cent. of people unemployed and with little local investment. I could take them to places 10 miles out of Leeds, such as Thorp Arch or Boston Spa, and show them executive homes being built on green fields so that income-generating families can move out of the centre and travel back in their cars to work. Is that sustainable? What has that to do with the Government's transport strategy or inner city regeneration?

We have to accept that, if executive homes are built in the countryside, there will be a declining school roll in the city, or an empty house left behind in the most deprived urban areas. Shops will be boarded up in deprived areas, as I saw in Toxteth only yesterday. Crime rates will rise in the inner city, as I saw in Liverpool only yesterday, and another commuter will have to travel back in from the green fields, adding to congestion.

The defining characteristic of the great cities of Europe—Paris, Dusseldorf, Munich, Amsterdam, Madrid or Barcelona—is that they are residential cities in which families want to live and work. The consequence of Government policy is that it will perpetuate the trend of people migrating from the cities. The hard fact is that until we get entrepreneurs and developers to apply their ingenuity to redeveloping brownfield land first and greenfield land only last, we will never create the accommodation that income-earning people need to stay in this country's great cities.

Mrs. Anne Campbell (Cambridge)

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way, especially as he mentioned my constituency. Does he accept that, if new homes are not built in Cambridge, many of the sons and daughters of local residents will not be able to afford houses there? Is he aware of the work of Professor Christine Whitehead, who has said that Cambridge will be unable to sustain its labour force after the middle of the decade or provide affordable houses for its workers? That has been backed up by staff from Addenbrooke's hospital, who are concerned about the difficulty of recruiting workers into the health service in my region.

Mr. Norman

As the hon. Lady knows, the point about Cambridge, which the Minister will accept, is that the extra houses built there will not only be for sons and daughters of local people, but for people migrating out of Leicester, Birmingham and other parts of the country, and they will leave behind a declining population. She might like to tell us whether she is in favour of redefining the green belt and building on the green belt around Cambridge. Is the Minister in favour of that, too? Is not the truth behind the Government's determination to build so many houses on green fields that the green belt is no longer sacrosanct? Is that not exactly why the Minister now says that the green belt is no longer safe under Labour and needs continual revision and redefining?

Mr. Raynsford

The hon. Gentleman has made another completely false allegation. I have never said that the green belt is not safe under Labour. Will he withdraw that completely unfounded allegation?

Mr. Norman

The Minister says that he has not said that the green belt is not safe under Labour; during his speech, he will have plenty of chances to explain what he meant when he said that the green belt has to be constantly redefined and revised. In Cambridge, in Newcastle and in the south-west we see that the green belt is no longer safe under this Government.

Mr. James Gray (North Wiltshire)

Is my hon. Friend aware that the Labour leader of North Hertfordshire district council, Councillor David Kearns, recently attacked the Government? He said:

We feel very let down. The Government claims to be committed to … the environment and regenerating urban areas … now we have them supporting plans to rape 2,000 acres of Green Belt around Stevenage.
Mr. Norman

My hon. Friend makes a powerful point. The rape of Stevenage and the removal of the green belt around it—one of the Deputy Prime Minister's first acts on coming to power—signalled his intentions for the future very clearly.

Mr. Andrew Lansley (South Cambridgeshire)

Before my hon. Friend moves on from the green belt and Labour's record on the Cambridge green belt, is he aware that the Labour city council, supported by the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mrs. Campbell), was the authority that pushed for a review of the green belt to free up sites inside the Cambridge green belt for large-scale additional development?

Mr. Norman

My hon. Friend is correct.

Mr. Anthony Steen

(Totnes) rose

Mr. Norman

I want to make progress.

Mr. Steen

Before my hon. Friend moves on, will he give way on that point?

Mr. Norman


Mr. Steen

My hon. Friend has mentioned brownfield sites. Is he aware that the Government's plans for new-build houses depend entirely on building 60 per cent. of new housing on brownfield sites and that not only are the local authorities unhappy about those plans, but that the European Union has ruled that the Government cannot build on brownfield sites if that entails giving a grant to the owners of the land because that would be an unfair subsidy? Is he aware of that problem and do the Government realise that their entire housing policy will be destroyed if that EU ruling is upheld?

Mr. Norman

My hon. Friend is something of an expert on these subjects and I know that he wants to speak later. As ever, he has made an original and different contribution.

The price of building in the south-east will be borne not only by the inner-city areas of the north, but by the taxpayer. The south-east is one of the most congested parts of the country and the infrastructure is simply not available to accommodate the 900,000 new houses that the Minister wants to have built there. Building 900,000 new houses implies not only new housing, but new roads, street lighting, hospitals and schools. We estimate that such a number of new houses also implies 2,000 km of new road at minimum, as they would have to be connected to other areas, as well as 3,250 hospital beds, 300,000 school places and a total price tag of £7.7 billion.

Fiona Mactaggart (Slough)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Norman

No, I want to make progress.

However, there is no provision for that investment and no plan to provide for it. The roads are more congested and the railways more crowded than ever. Investment in roads is declining. In the south-west, there are other problems—my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Mr. Steen) will want to mention those to do with sewerage—and concerns over water resources. The Government have made no provision for the flood plains of Kent and none for renewable energy. That is not environmental sustainability, but environmental vandalism.

Incredibly, the Deputy Prime Minister claims that 200,000 extra houses can be built in the south-east with no extra use of green fields. However, the Government give the impression of simply playing with numbers and ratios. As he said in the Frost interview on Sunday: People think, "Isn't this about spinning and spinning is about misleading people". That is exactly the situation. The Government have claimed that those dwellings can be accommodated through terraced housing and greater density of building. They pray in aid Poundbury, but the hard arithmetic shows that to get an extra 200,000 houses in the south-east the density will have to be 50 houses a hectare greater than that achieved in London itself.

Mr. Raynsford


Mr. Norman

Yes, that means the loss of green spaces in the towns and villages. Yes, it means the return of 1960s and 1970s high-rise.

Mr. Raynsford

Wrong again.

Mr. Norman

The Minister knows that the targets cannot be delivered in the south-east. He knows that the weight of housebuilding is overwhelming. [Interruption.] Instead of shaking his head, when he makes his speech why does not he list the counties and county councils in the south-east that believe that they can achieve 60 per cent. of new building on brownfield sites at that rate of construction over 20 years? Why does not he tell us exactly how that will be achieved and describe the implications of the 60 per cent. figure? What densities will be required to achieve it? Why does not he come clean?

Fiona Mactaggart


Mr. Mike Hancock (Portsmouth, South)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way on that point?

Mr. Norman

No, I am about to conclude.

The challenge for Britain today is to convert existing accommodation for single and elderly people, to rebuild our inner cities, to restore the ownership of neighbourhoods by local people—[Interruption.]—to revitalise local government—[Interruption.] Does the hon. Member for Slough (Fiona Mactaggart) wish to make a point?

The challenge today is to revitalise local government and to protect our countryside, yet instead we have the most centralised policy ever, a determination to ignore local views and steamroller local councils—a policy that will perpetuate the decline of the cities and do nothing to address the needs of the elderly and the less well off. The countryside will be concreted over with identikit executive homes. Quite simply, we will get the wrong houses in the wrong places.

7.47 pm
The Minister for Housing and Planning (Mr. Nick Raynsford)

I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof: welcomes the Government's move away from the previous 'predict and provide' approach to housing provision and the introduction of a 'plan, monitor and manage' policy under the new regional planning policy arrangements, including a target for building 60 per cent. of all new housing on previously developed land and the tightening of planning controls on out of town shopping and ending the profligate use of land; supports the Government's policies on protecting the Green Belt and improving the use of all land and preventing piecemeal greenfield development; believes the Government's planning, housing, transport, countryside protection, welfare and economic policies will achieve more sustainable and equitable patterns of both urban and rural development; welcomes the Government's continued commitment to sustainable growth, safeguarding the countryside and promoting an urban renaissance; supports the targeting of regeneration initiatives in areas of greatest need and the Government's inter-linked policies for revitalising towns and cities and protecting the countryside; and applauds the Government's aim of giving everyone the opportunity of a decent home and recognises that the doubling of housing investment and other social housing reforms introduced by this Government are creating stronger, safer and more sustainable communities. First let me express my appreciation for the thoughtful and kind words of the hon. Member for Tunbridge Wells (Mr. Norman) about the Deputy Prime Minister's mother. The whole House will join us both in wishing her a speedy and full recovery.

The choice of this evening's debate—our sixth on the subject in the past three years—is telling. To focus attention on planning and housing when England's football team kick off in a crucial European championship match implies either extraordinary stupidity or great political acumen. Could it be that the masterminds of Tory central office were unaware of the Euro 2000 timetable when they sought the debate? That is possible, but even I cannot believe they are so crassly incompetent as not to have realised that tonight the nation would be glued to the television screen—not, I hasten to add, to watch the parliamentary channel.

If we give those masterminds the benefit of the doubt and assume that they knew about the England-Romania match, what is the object of the exercise? I suspect that two thoughts were uppermost in their minds. The first was to provide a perfect cover for another lacklustre performance by the hon. Member for Tunbridge Wells, whose legendary ability to empty the House will be excused on grounds of football mania. Secondly, having convincingly lost the past five debates on the subject, the Opposition clearly relish the chance to initiate a debate when no one will take a blind bit of notice of what they say. That way, they can masquerade as a concerned Opposition without having once again to witness their hopelessly inadequate case falling apart in the full glare of publicity.

Several hon. Members


Mr. Raynsford

I give way to the hon. Member for Billericay (Mrs. Gorman).

Mrs. Teresa Gorman (Billericay)

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there are twice as many Conservative as Labour Members present? We regard this subject as significant, whereas we can assume that the vast majority of Labour Members have nothing better to do than gawp at the television.

Mr. Raynsford

The speech of the hon. Member for Tunbridge Wells explains the empty seats only too clearly. Hon. Members were driven away by tedium.

Mr. Fabricant

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it in order for the Government Whip to go around imploring Labour Members to stay in the Chamber?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

That is not a point of order for the Chair. We are considering a serious subject. I suggest that we deal with it seriously. I call Mr. Raynsford.

Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby)


Mr. Raynsford

It is difficult to comply with your request, Mr. Deputy Speaker, if I am interrupted the moment I rise to my feet. However, I shall give way.

Mr. Robathan

First, will the Minister confirm that Government Whips determine the days on which specific business will be considered, and that they allocated today for Opposition business? Secondly, will he confirm that, apart from a few louts and perhaps Labour Members, most people in this country believe that the subject that we are considering is much more important than whether the English football team beat Romania tonight?

Mr. Raynsford

We are holding an Opposition day debate. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman does not realise that the Opposition choose the timing of such debates. His remarks were offensive. I hope that, on reflection, he will realise that it is inappropriate to attempt to compare hon. Members with the louts who have besmirched this country's reputation in Brussels.

In contrast to the Opposition, we relish the opportunity for a thorough and full debate on the subject, and I hope that, by the end of this evening's debate, the England team will have scored as many goals as us.

Any serious analysis of the issue must start with the recognition that we face some tough and serious challenges that require thoughtful and mature political responses. We live on a small island; we are already one of the most densely populated areas in Europe, and we have a clear responsibility to protect our countryside and our environment.

We have an equally clear responsibility to meet the housing needs of our country. They include the needs of the sons and daughters of existing residents who want to continue to live in areas where they were born and grew up, and those of key workers, such as nurses, teachers and police officers, who are essential to vital public services. We must also meet the needs of those who are fundamental to economic success, so that businesses are not prevented from expansion and development by lack of housing for their work force. To pretend that there is an easy way of reconciling the potentially conflicting pressures is facile. So too is the assumption—much promoted by the Opposition since they became an Opposition but different from the line that they took when they were in government—that the problem can be resolved by allowing local councils to put up the shutters and say, "No more housing in our area."

Mr. Nick Gibb (Bognor Regis and Littlehampton)

Will the Minister consider visiting my constituency? He could then visit residents in Pagham, and hear about their fight to stop a development of 700 houses off Hook lane, or residents in Felpham, who face the prospect of 700 houses in their village, or residents in Littlehampton, who face the building of 1,000 houses in Toddington. If he met those people, he would understand the genuine anxiety caused to people in west Sussex by the amount of building that will happen as a result of the Government's policies.

Mr. Raynsford

Most housing that is being built is on sites for which the previous Government granted permission. I was trying to make it clear that those who are worried about the countryside and those who are anxious about the housing needs that I outlined are equally concerned. The issue requires balance and thoughtful and careful policies, not facile, knee-jerk reactions.

Let me quote the words of the last Conservative Secretary of State for the Environment, the right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer), in a chapter he contributed to a volume entitled "Town and Country", which was published in 1998. He began by making a robust defence of his estimate of the demand for 4.4 million homes up to 2016. Though what I assume is a typing error in the book alarmingly suggests that he thought that 4.4 million homes would be required by 2006, I cannot believe that that is the case. He goes on: If we accept that there is a demand for 4.4 million or more new units we could of course simply refuse to allow the demand to be met. The trouble with that answer is that the people who would be hit are those least able to cope with the result, and often the most deserving of a new home. It will not be the richer and more competent members of society, since they can afford to pay the high prices which such a shortage would inevitably produce. It is also quite clear that no government would see this solution as remotely politically possible … How prescient of the right hon. Gentleman to recognise that his party has no prospect of returning to government.

Mr. Gummer

If the Minister had continued with the chapter, he might have noticed that I suggested that the real problem was the location of the houses. Before we build the houses, we say that everybody will live where they want to live. We then build the houses in a specific place. When people move into those houses, we say, "We were right to build them there because that's where they have moved." The Minister should be prepared to ensure that the new homes that are needed are the sort of homes that one-person households want, and that they are not built on greenfield sites, but in our cities and places other than the south-east.

Mr. Raynsford

I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that it is important to ensure that houses are built to meet need. In the chapter that I cited, he rightly highlighted the growth of single-person households. He also said that we should try to build the houses on brownfield sites. That is the Government's policy. His chapter, which was mostly admirable, is far from the policy that Conservative Front-Bench Members espouse. He might reflect on the extent to which the Conservative party in opposition has departed from the right hon. Gentleman's position when in government.

Mr. Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden)

The Minister claimed that the bulk of demand, which he aims to meet, will come from single-person households. Why have the Government agreed to the rape of the green belt in Hitchin to build 10,000 houses if the bulk of the need is for single-person households? Why are the majority of the houses that are being built for families? That is the question that my constituents ask most frequently.

Mr. Raynsford

As the right hon. Gentleman knows from our many exchanges about the issue, Hertfordshire county council took the view that it was better to concentrate the development that was inevitable in Hertfordshire in one area rather than spread it throughout the county. That was the basis for the decision. Although the right hon. Gentleman did not agree with it, it was a local decision.

Mr. Lilley


Mr. Raynsford

If the right hon. Gentleman will bear with me, I am trying to answer his first question. If he waits to see the pattern of development, he will hopefully see the benefits of the policies that we are introducing to ensure mixed developments through a proper mix of housing types and sizes, and affordable and market housing. That is preferable to the proliferation of executive boxes that characterised the planning policies of the Government of whom he was a member.

Mr. Lilley

I shall clarify the position. The decision to which the Minister refers was not a democratic local decision. It was taken by the ruling group of Liberal Democrats and Labour members, with a majority of one. They refused to let the full council consider it; only 14 of the 70-odd councillors in Hertfordshire voted in favour of the measure to which the Government subsequently agreed. Will the Minister now answer the question: why are the houses not for single people—who, according to the Minister, represent the bulk of demand—but for families?

Mr. Raynsford

It is always interesting to hear people justify their departure from democratic decisions with which they do not agree. It is always possible to find ways of disapproving of the majority view. That is not sensible; it is right to accept that the decision was democratic, whether the right hon. Gentleman likes it or not. There are democratic decisions that I do not necessarily like; that is life. We should not try to repudiate decisions that we do not like on the tenuous basis that the right hon. Gentleman outlines.

I was speaking about the article by the right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal. It continued: People who see house prices rocket, and who find that they cannot afford the home which they once expected to buy, will take their political revenge. Quite so. That is why, when the right hon. Gentleman was Secretary of State, he was not prepared to stand aside while local authorities sought to make provision for housing needs that he thought was inadequate. Accordingly, he required Kent county council to increase its provision for housing by 2,900 dwellings in December 1996; he required Berkshire county council to increase its provision for housing by 3,000 dwellings in June 1995; and he required Bedfordshire to increase its provision for housing by 2,100 dwellings in October 1996.

That is what the Conservatives did when they were in government just four or five years ago, and to pretend now that we can do the exact opposite without adverse consequences is facile and utterly unconvincing. Indeed, to pretend that local councils can put up the shutters on new housebuilding without the unhappy results so cogently spelled out by the right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal in his book flies dangerously close to hypocrisy.

However, we should not simply stand aside while housebuilders gobble up acre after acre of greenfield land, as they were allowed to do in the 1980s and early 1990s, when the Conservative party was in power.

Mr. Steen

As I understand it, we are trying to get as many houses as possible built on brownfield sites. I entirely support that. The 17 June edition of Local Government First, which is my regular reading matter, states that the Government's brownfield plans will be hit by a European Union ruling. The article continues: The European Commission has thrown Government efforts to encourage development of former industrial "brownfield" sites into disarray. The suggestion is that if the brownfield land is owned by a company, European money will constitute a subsidy, which will distort the market, and therefore should not be allowed. Will the Government's policy on brownfield sites be thrown into disarray?

Mr. Raynsford

No, our policy will not be thrown into disarray, because we are determined to proceed with it.

The hon. Gentleman will understand that we are in negotiation and discussion about the implications of that European decision, which I will not say we welcomed—obviously not—but we are trying to work constructively, to ensure that our policy objectives can be taken forward.

I spoke about our commitment to ensuring that we had the policies in place to counter the threat of further insensitive, inappropriate and unnecessary greenfield development. That is why we set out a new agenda in planning policy guidance note 3 to ensure that new housing provision is concentrated wherever possible on brownfield sites; it is why we set a 60 per cent. brownfield target; and it is why we introduced a sequential approach—brownfield first, greenfield last.

Mr. Owen Paterson (North Shropshire)

I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. He has been extremely generous. What does he say to the people of Shropshire, where only 40 per cent. of potential sites, including in Telford and The Wrekin, are brownfield? How on earth will the target of 60 per cent. be met?

Mr. Raynsford

Let me say two things to the hon. Gentleman. First, the legacy that we inherited from the previous Government was that no one knew how much brownfield land there was. The purpose of putting in place our national land use database is to identify more of the sites that are potentially available and of which people were not aware. As that exercise continues, I think the hon. Gentleman will be surprised. Anyone can walk around many of our cities and see the numbers of brownfield sites that are not being properly used. Our policy is to identify them.

Secondly, we accept that 60 per cent. cannot be achieved in every part of the country. In some parts we can do better; in others, we cannot. In London, about 84 per cent. of development is on brownfield sites, but across the country as a whole we are committed to a 60 per cent. target, and we will work for that.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke (Rushcliffe)

I am grateful to the Minister. I have attended several of the debates on this topic, as he knows, and I keep hearing reassuring noises to the effect that a brave new policy is being applied. Does he accept, however, that after three years that has made no practical difference whatever to the problems on the ground in Rushcliffe in southern Nottinghamshire? The hon. Gentleman will not reopen a structure plan that allocates the bulk of new housing in the county to Rushcliffe, which is almost entirely rural and suburban and has hardly any brownfield sites, and he has disregarded the applications of the city of Nottingham, which wants to develop more of the centre of Nottingham, and of councils such as Ashfield and Mansfield, which would accept more housing. After three years, the practical effect of the reassuring noises is nil. In such circumstances, consultation on our local plan simply consists of arguments about which green fields must be covered by housing.

Mr. Raynsford

The right hon. and learned Gentleman knows from his experience of government that policies take a certain amount of time to have effect. The right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal changed the policy on out-of-town shopping. The change, which was welcome and which we supported, was introduced in the early 1990s, but it was not truly effective until the late 1990s, because of extant planning permissions. That applies equally to housing.

Total disruption would result from stopping every application and starting again from scratch, which the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke) will recognise is not a practical way forward. We are trying to give local authorities new, tougher guidance in PPG3, under which they are expected to review procedures and to apply the sequential approach.

The hon. Member for Totnes (Mr. Steen) is nodding. We have discussed the matter at length and he recognises that that is the intention. The policy is having an effect already. The right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe is wrong to say that it is having no effect, but it will take time to have the full effect that we expect. We are determined to carry the policy forward.

Mr. Hancock

I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. Can he explain to me and to the rest of the House how he will get his brownfield site policy to work in cities, when many of the cities that he is encouraging to adopt a brownfield site policy have thousands of empty properties going to waste and not being used, many of them standing semi-derelict for several years?

Mr. Raynsford

The hon. Gentleman is right to highlight the problem of empty properties. That is very much part of the brownfield policy. We intend to bring into use wasted sites, land and buildings. We support the Empty Homes Agency and we encourage every local authority to put in place a strategy for bringing empty homes into use. We are exploring a range of options to make that policy more effective.

We know that assets are being wasted which ought to be brought into use, and much more needs to be done in that respect. We have emphasised the importance of urban renaissance and we are putting a strong emphasis on developing areas such as the Thames gateway, where there is huge scope for substantial new development on brownfield sites and in sustainable locations. That is why we have put a new focus on high-quality design to maximise land use. We are looking for mixed developments in which people can live side by side, whether they are buying or renting, with a good element of affordable housing in new developments.

Sir Sydney Chapman (Chipping Barnet)

I thank the Minister for giving way. A central and important issue is to see whether we can provide good-quality housing in greater densities than hitherto. Many of us on both sides of the House who take an interest in these matters were intrigued—there is no other word for it—by the Deputy Prime Minister's speech to the Fabian Society some months ago. In the light of what we have heard about the Government being all talk and no action, should they not by now have introduced more constructive proposals and examples of how their aim can be achieved, for us to judge? If that is a good way ahead, it will go some way towards answering the vexed question of how much greenfield land has to be built on in the next 20 years.

Mr. Raynsford

I agree with the hon. Gentleman, who has a great deal of experience in these matters, that we need to explore practical measures that enable us to implement the brownfield initiative. That is what we are engaged in doing.

We are seeking to set in place new policies, to give local authorities new powers and new information through the national land use database, to identify sites, to bring properties into use, to set up partnerships and arrangements to allow mixed development where that is feasible, and to ensure that there are appropriate powers for land assembly—another important priority of ours—so that we can make a reality of urban regeneration. It is hugely important, and it is part of our priorities.

Mr. Paterson


Mr. Raynsford

I shall give way for the last time, as I must make progress.

Mr. Paterson

I am grateful to the Minister. Will he answer a simple question? If only 40 per cent. of the sites available are brownfield, will fewer houses be built, or will the remaining 20 per cent. be build on greenfield sites?

Mr. Raynsford

The hon. Gentleman obviously has difficulty in understanding the process. If one seeks, as we do, to increase the density of individual development, one can achieve more homes on any given amount of land. That ensures that one makes optimum use of land and stops the wasteful process of the past 20 years or so in which the vast majority of new housing has been built at incredibly low density. More than 50 per cent. of new housing built in this country in the past decade was at a density of less than 20 dwellings per hectare. That involves a profligate use of land, and we need to change that.

Mr. Steen

If the Minister cannot sort out the EU ruling, what will happen? Why does he believe that he can sort it out when subsidies are not allowed under the treaty of Rome? How are we to deal with that?

Mr. Raynsford

I have already answered the hon. Gentleman's question on that. The Government are working to ensure that we have in place appropriate arrangements to enable us to continue with our policy objectives, to which we are committed.

All the initiatives that I have mentioned are being taken forward by the Government to meet our two key objectives, which are to ensure that every member of our society has the prospect of a decent home, and that our countryside is protected from unnecessary and insensitive development.

As I have already said, reconciling those objectives is not easy, but it is essential if we are to meet our economic, social and environmental responsibilities. That is what the Government are determined to do.

The Opposition have made many references to Serplan, and it might therefore be helpful to the House if I spell out the new procedure for establishing regional planning guidance, which the Government have established, and refer to Serplan's role in that process. Let me remind Opposition Members that, when their Government were in power, regional planning guidance was drafted not by the local authorities, not by Serplan, but by the Government. That is what the centralising party did when it was in office. It dictated from the centre, which is what the hon. Member for Tunbridge Wells seems so unhappy about. That was his party's record in government, although Conservative Members appear to have developed a strong case of selective amnesia on this point.

We changed the procedure for developing regional planning guidance. We recognised that there was a case for more meaningful participation by local authorities and their associations, such as Serplan, and all the other regional interests.

Mr. William Cash (Stone)

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Raynsford

I have already told the House that I must make progress, and I fear that the hon. Gentleman will take us into rather unproductive textual analyses of European matters. However, I give way to him.

Mr. Cash

On regional planning, there is an interaction between the Minister's Department and the Department of Trade and Industry, particularly with respect to assisted area status. In my constituency, there is the Grindley Lane investment area. The Government office for the west midlands, in partnership with the local authorities, to which the Minister has just referred, agreed that assisted area status should be granted to a range of villages in my constituency. That was a sweetener for the purposes of providing for the Grindley Lane investment area. Can the Minister explain why, when planning permission for that investment area was turned down, the assisted area status remained? There is now a black hole in a greenbelt area, with no justification whatever.

Mr. Raynsford

I say to the hon. Gentleman, who has only just joined the debate, that his question goes very wide of its subject, which is housing provision and the importance of balancing the need for housing with the need to protect the countryside. As the hon. Gentleman said, the DTI has a crucial role in respect of his question. He will be aware that I am a Minister at the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions.

Mr. Peter Bradley

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Raynsford

I give way for the last time.

Mr. Bradley

My right hon. Friend talks about the need to protect the countryside, and we all acknowledge that need. Will he take this opportunity, to draw a distinction between the party of government and the party of opposition? The latter has set its face against the development of affordable housing for rural communities—the kind of housing that they need if they are to sustain themselves for the next generation.

Mr. Raynsford

I assure my hon. Friend that I have already drawn a number of distinctions between the party of government and the party of opposition, and between the Opposition's mode when they were in government and their mode now that they are in opposition. I reiterate the fact that we are committed to meeting housing needs and to ensuring that people on modest incomes are not deprived of the prospect of a house by stupid policies that create house price inflation and prevent people on modest incomes from finding housing.

May I return to the subject of Serplan, which I was discussing before I was taken on a detour? We changed the procedure for developing regional planning guidance because we recognised that there was a case for more meaningful participation by Serplan and all the other regional interests. Indeed, unlike the procedure under the previous Government, whereby the Government produced draft planning guidance, Serplan produced a first draft of this guidance. The regional planning body will normally be expected to prepare the draft in consultation with other regional stakeholders, although in this case the timetable meant that Serplan could not involve other stakeholders to the extent that we would have liked.

The procedure also allows full public scrutiny of the draft at an examination in public; again, that is a new procedure to allow for more transparent decision making than applied when the Conservative party was in power. It allows the assumptions behind the draft to be tested and allows other points of view to be expressed.

In the case of the south-east, Serplan prepared the initial draft. It was then subjected to an examination in public chaired by Professor Crow. He then submitted his panel's report to the Government and, as everyone will know, the panel came to very different conclusions from those of Serplan.

Under the new procedures, the Government's role comes into play at this stage. We considered both the original Serplan draft and the panel's report, and we then issued for consultation revised regional planning guidance. Of course, many issues are covered in the process—it is not just about housing. However, as housing has been the main focus of controversy, I shall confine my remarks to this part of the process.

Our conclusion, on looking carefully at all the evidence, was that the panel had overestimated the requirements for new housing at approximately 1.1 million homes over the next 20 years. Equally, however, we were clear that the original Serplan draft had underestimated housing requirements—at around 700,000 homes over the 20-year period.

Therefore, our revised regional planning guidance made two important amendments. The first was to move away from the 20-year projections, which were an integral part of the old predict-and-provide approach that we have abandoned. Instead, we have proposed annual rates of house building, with reviews at least every five years. That allows a far more flexible response to changing demand and needs, in line with our plan, monitor and manage approach.

Our second proposal, on the basis of the evidence that we derived from current trends, from the Serplan draft and from the examination in public, was to suggest an annual build rate of 43,000 homes a year in the south-east, with a review at the end of a five-year period or earlier.

Mr. White

Is my right hon. Friend aware that when Serplan was drawing up its original plan, it had an independent analysis of the data, and that the panel came to a higher figure than Serplan originally put forward? The leader of my council has described the figure that Serplan is now quoting as totally irresponsible.

Mr. Raynsford

As my hon. Friend rightly notes, Serplan reached its figure for reasons best known to itself, and did not necessarily follow all the technical advice and guidance that it received. Clearly, it is important to look at the full range of issues when we make proposals that are crucial to the interests of the region, and we shall do that.

Our proposals, along with all our other suggested revisions to regional planning guidance, were published for consultation on 27 March, with a 12-week consultation period that ended yesterday. I am pleased to say that there has been an exceptionally heavy response to the consultation, with some 700 responses received by yesterday. We shall, of course, consider all the responses before we reach decisions. As is well known, Serplan failed on this occasion to reach a consensus about housing requirements. In the past, Serplan, like other bodies representing a range of different local authorities with differing political control, has sought to reach across the party political divide in the best interests of the region as a whole. Sadly, that did not happen on this occasion. We therefore have differing majority and minority views from Serplan. I accept Serplan's vote and we shall consider fully the proposals that come from the majority. However, we will also consider the views of the other authorities, which would normally have been involved fully in the process and been able to sign up to the conclusions. On this occasion, they have not been able to do that. We shall also consider the views of all the other interested parties, such as the regional development agencies, business and voluntary sector interests, environmental groups and those concerned with the full range of housing provision.

The suggestion put about by the Opposition that we will ignore Serplan—repeated in the wording of their motion—is entirely unfounded, as I made clear in the House last week. I am only sorry that the hon. Member for Tunbridge Wells continues to peddle this nonsense, and that he did not have the courtesy to withdraw false and unfounded allegations about my comments.

The hon. Gentleman's allegations are as unfounded as his claim that we intend to cover the countryside in housing. That is pretty rich, coming from a member of a party that was known throughout the 1980s and early 1990s as the greenfield and out-of-town developers' friend. Its record in government was deplorable. Fifty per cent. of all out-of-town development in the post-war period took place in just five years, between 1985 and 1990. The Conservative Government set no recycling target until 1995, and then it was a target of just 50 per cent. Our target is 60 per cent. Thousands of little greenfield boxes are spreading like a rash across the countryside, all at low housing densities and all dependent on the motor car. That was the Conservatives' legacy. We should not forget how much Lady Thatcher hated public transport and wanted to promote the great car economy.

As I have said, the Conservatives have a deplorable record. No one should attach any credibility to their current promises. By contrast, we have clear and credible policies to tackle constructively the real challenges posed by the respective claims of housing and the countryside. I can assure the House that, whatever housing figure we decide is appropriate—we have made no decisions as yet—we will require no more development of new greenfield sites than would have been envisaged under the original Serplan proposal. That is because we have put a clear emphasis on well-designed developments at higher densities, to ensure that we accommodate more people on any given amount of land.

That will not only reduce the profligate waste of greenfield land that is so characteristic of the executive-home developments so beloved by the last Government, but help to ensure the existence of better-designed environments providing for a wide range of needs, for single people as well as families and for those requiring rented accommodation as well as those requiring homes for sale. In that respect as in so many others, we are putting into effect recommendations in Lord Rogers's urban taskforce report. The Opposition may refer parrot-like to the Rogers report, but I suspect that they would not recognise, let alone approve of, any of my noble Friend's policy proposals even if he were to beat them over the head with a copy of his report.

Our approach is intensely practical. It was inspired by the vision of a better future for our cities and our countryside. Ours is an approach that does not neglect the interests of the poor and the disadvantaged. Ours is an approach that will leave Britain with a far better legacy than the one that we inherited from the last Government.

The Opposition's case is threadbare; their record is deplorable; and their motion should be dismissed with the contempt that it deserves.

8.22 pm
Mr. Mike Hancock (Portsmouth, South)

I hope that the Deputy Prime Minister's mother recovers well, and that he and the rest of the family are aiding that recovery as we speak.

I was disappointed that the hon. Member for Tunbridge Wells (Mr. Norman) did not allow me to intervene when he suggested that the Government had to tell the people—that the people needed answers to some of his questions. I was going to ask whether he could answer one of my questions, which has baffled the nearly 2 million people who live in Hampshire. They would be interested to know why the county was singled out for special treatment under 17 years of Tory rule. [HON. MEMBERS: "18."] No; the Tories came up with a policy that changed the plan slightly in their last year of government.

The Tories missed the point when it came to Hampshire. There was hardly a planning application refused by the county council or the district councils that the Government did not back on appeal. Tens of thousands of houses are built on greenfield sites; not a single brownfield site was developed with the Government's support during the time when they were in control.

Mr. White

The exception was when the site in question was in Nicholas Ridley's backyard.

Mr. Hancock

Obviously there were exceptions, but they were small exceptions, and there were not many of them. The price that we paid in Hampshire, as a community, was one that many generations will regret in years to come.

If we are honest, we must look back a bit further even than the Conservative misrule of the years between 1979 and 1997. Coming from Portsmouth as I do, I know at first hand why the situation there deteriorated—why the city chose to build outside. It built the largest council estate in Europe outside the city boundaries; but that decision was made in the aftermath of war. Many of our great cities had to go through the same process, because the only option available to them was to build outside.

We built communities containing greenfield gaps. It became convenient for developers to look at those gaps—gaps between the large council estate outside the city, and the city. They felt that filling the gaps was a developer's dream. Successive Governments fell into the trap of allowing that development—that sprawl—to take place.

If we accept that it was inevitable that the inner-city industries would decline—I think that few would deny that—we must also accept that, in the 1960s and 1970s, we should have planned to ensure that the sites were reused. If that had happened, the rape of the green belt that took place during the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s could have been stopped.

There are three more good reasons why we are in the mess we are in today. The three issues involved were the direct responsibility of the Conservative Administration who ruled the country in those years. First, there was the right to buy, and the selling of good council houses with no proper replacement policy. It was nonsensical to allow local authorities to dispose of property, believing that the solution would be provided by the powerful Housing Corporation and housing associations when those bodies would manifestly never be able to deliver what was required. They were not capable, financially or practically, of delivering what local authorities have been able to deliver. Opportunities have been lost, and some of the problems that we now face in inner cities result directly from that policy.

Secondly, there was the Conservative Government's failure to continue one of the success stories that they inherited from Labour when they came to power in 1979. The general improvement programme was built around the aim of rejuvenating properties, many nearly 100 years old, which would be guaranteed a 25-year life span. It brought life back to the cities. I remember campaigning in my ward to stop the bulldozers. The campaign was successful: 30 years on, people are still living in those houses and enjoying having a back garden and a front door with neighbours alongside them, in a friendly community. Those benefits have been denied to thousands of others whose houses were cleared under the slum clearance policy.

Sadly—and neglectfully, in my view—the Tory Government dropped that programme. They allowed the process of improvement to be retarded, and presided over the adoption of a!negative approach. Only developers with ready cash could obtain grants; young first-time buyers were dissuaded from taking on the challenge of improving older inner-city houses.

The third factor—which caused most of our problems in inner cities such as the one in which I live—was the fact that the Government, for all the right educational reasons, allowed polytechnics and further education colleges to become universities, and allowed them to encourage a massive increase in the number of students without providing the resources that were necessary for students to be housed. Consequently, there was another bonanza for landlords in inner-city areas. They could now consider a flat-fronted, three-bedroomed terrace property in the centre of Portsmouth. Following the relaxation of the rule that no more than three unrelated adults should live in one property—"three" became "six"—in cities throughout the country, six students per house are paying £50 a week for a room. The owner of the property would be buying a five-bedroomed house on a greenfield site, while still making a handsome £1,200 a month and being able to pay two mortgages.

In different ways, the Tories encouraged the development of those three problems, and the Government failed to recognise the enormous damage that they were doing. Between 1979 and 1997, local authorities sold nearly 2 million properties. In how many cases were the properties needed to meet the needs of local communities in inner cities, built by those capable of building them?

Local authorities were the one agency that was denied the opportunity. They were not allowed even to repair their housing stock properly. The country now faces nearly £17 billion-worth of repairs just to bring up to standard housing that is still owned by local authorities, while billions of capital receipts were left in the bank and we were not able to use them.

What did Serplan try to do? The Minister slightly hedged his bets when he suggested that the Government had looked at the figures carefully. I think that most people would say that they looked at the original figures, looked at the Crow report and split the difference. Within a very few points, the figure is the mean difference between the two figures. It is not wrong for people to look rather cynically at that issue.

Mr. Steen

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I hesitate to raise a point of order, but I have just been in the Lobby and the hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon (Dr. Harris) has been using a mobile phone there. I wonder whether there is a view on whether mobile phones should be used in our Lobby.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst)

I think that a ruling has been given on that recently. It is certainly nothing to do with the occupant of the Chair in the course of a debate. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to take the matter further, I suggest that he does so in a letter to the Speaker, but I think that there has been a recent relaxation of the rules.

Mr. Hancock

Serplan was bitter in a way because it felt that its view, the local view, had not been taken seriously. The only action that it could take to resist what was going on was to express a view that the figures were flawed and that it would come up with a figure that justifiably could be satisfied within the communities that it represented.

I am a former member of Serplan. I know from long back that its chairmanship and membership have always been taken seriously. Serplan has always performed credibly, no matter who was running it. It was looked at as one of the prime movers in getting planning right, but Serplan can succeed only if the Government listen to it with an open mind and give it the opportunity to put its message across in such a way that it can be respected, with its view talked through purposefully. Sadly, that dimension is gone. It needs to be rebuilt.

Serplan is about local accountability. It is about local people getting elected and representing local views. Is the Minister serious in what he is presenting to the House in the Green Paper? The Government themselves talk about the need to ensure that local people make those decisions. There can be few bigger decisions that local communities make than the number of people they want to live around them. We must look at whether the figures stack up.

As I said in my intervention on the Minister, when he was courteous enough to allow me in, it is no good arguing a good case for the use of brownfield sites in inner-city areas if, at the same time, the nation as a whole has nearly 750,000 empty houses. Sadly, I did not read much in the Green Paper to lead me with a lot of enthusiasm to believe that that situation was going to be easily accommodated. It is not.

The figures do not apply to just one place. There are nearly as many empty houses in the south-east as there are in the west midlands or in the north-west. There are even more of them in London. One wonders why house prices are so high in areas with so many empty houses, yet it appears that house prices continue to escalate.

In the south-east alone, there are 94,000 empty properties. That in itself is a national disgrace. We should not allow a single greenfield site to be developed until a proper battle plan is drawn up that addresses that issue. It cannot be right. Most reasonable people whom we represent, of whatever persuasion, cannot be convinced that there is a way forward when we fail to address that issue.

Mr. Kerry Pollard (St. Albans)

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that many of those houses are empty because they are in transit between either being sold or bought, or because they are being re-let?

Mr. Hancock

I do not accept that because I know that the figures stay remarkably static; the figures for property that has been empty for more than six months or for more than a year remain remarkably static. Local authorities have thousands of empty properties. The national figure for local authority houses is enormous—82,000 in total.

Dr. Alan Whitehead (Southampton, Test)

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that, in the south-east of England and in many other parts of the country, a substantial problem relates to the speed at which houses physically can be passed on when being sold in the private sector? That to some extent relates to the transactions on house sale and purchase, but it also relates to the rate at which probate goes through. Does he accept that that should be looked into?

Mr. Hancock

Of course, that is a sensible suggestion. I agree entirely that there are problems associated with the way in which property is passed on, but, when we analyse that, we find that it affects a small percentage. The percentage of properties empty for more than a year far exceeds that. I do not believe that legal procedures are holding up all that. When I have examined such matters in my city, that has not been borne out.

Mr. Phil Hope (Corby)

I draw the hon. Gentleman's attention to the fact that the ratio of housing in this country to, say, housing in Romania is about 2:1; I understand that that is currently the position.

Mr. Hancock

I do not think that that will help the debate too much, but it is probably an interesting conversation piece that the hon. Gentleman uses from time to time. However, I do not believe that it will develop his argument much here, or support the Minister' s.

Mr. Peter Bradley

The hon. Gentleman makes some serious points about vacant accommodation, but is he suggesting that it is his party's policy that houses in private ownership should be subject to compulsory purchase order powers to introduce them into the housing market? That is the implication of what he is saying.

Mr. Hancock

I think that there are lots of ways in which we can help the situation. There is a problem. I listened with great interest the previous time that we debated the matter, just before the Green Paper was published. The Minister said with great anticipation that there was something coming. Now that it has arrived, I do not believe that it was worth the wait. A lot still needs to be done. I am sorry if the Minister feels unhappy with that statement, but I was hoping for more positive help to get empty property back into use.

I have just been told that England are now 2–1 up, which is pleasant news. I missed the other point because I thought that it was 1–1.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I think that I might express the view of the whole House if I say that the hon. Gentleman should pay more attention to the debate that is taking place, in which many other Members wish to participate.

Mr. Hancock

I understand that. I know that feeling of waiting only too well.

The Liberal Democrats have tried to persuade the Government to see the error of their ways. My colleagues tried to persuade the Tories, but could not win that argument during their time in power. Like all Members, we want proper respect for the environment and a balance to be found between urban development and protection of the green belt. That goes without saying.

We believe that we must restrict the sprawl and come up with measures that can address that. Liberal Democrats have said time and again, inside and outside the House, that we want a firming-up of the guidance about cleaning up contaminated land. It cannot go on being said that we can develop brownfield sites in preference to greenfield sites if there is no one around to pick up the tab for cleaning up the sites. Too many inner-city sites are badly contaminated. It can be done only if the Government are prepared to intervene and to help with that process.

We need greenfield taxes on developers' excess profits. Such taxes need to deliver an alternative. We also need to find a proper way in which to get older properties back into use. That can be done simply by levelling off value added tax. In one stroke, we would gain an enormous benefit if we reduced VAT on improvements to around 7 to 8 per cent. That would be reasonable.

Although we could all talk about past experiences, as I said, in the south-east, we have had some pretty bitter ones. The Government's proposals will not solve the problem, and Liberal Democrat Members do not believe that they will even start to meet the real need. If we are to get away from past practice, we shall have to have some radical re-thinking. We need some positive thought about how local authorities can really play a part—not only in the planning process, but, once again, in delivering housing that people want.

If we really do want to use inner-city areas, we shall have to ensure that matching resources are provided to boost education and health provision in them. If we do not do that, the Secretary of State, in exercising his responsibility for planning applications, will have a very difficult job in refusing developers' proposals for greenfield development. Increasing demand will not be restrained if that provision is not made. We need positive thinking, which has been lacking. We also need real leadership.

I hope that some good will come from the Green Paper. I also hope that the Minister is listening very closely not only to hon. Members, but, especially on this issue, to those who have a vested interest in the subject—local authorities and local people.

8.41 pm
Mr. Paul Clark (Gillingham)

I am glad to be able to contribute to a debate that is important not only for people in the south-east, but for people across the country. The debate is not only about numbers; it is about people's lives. Despite the claims made by some Opposition Members, the debate is also about our children's future—their ability to live and to work where they wish.

The hon. Member for Portsmouth, South (Mr. Hancock) mentioned the need for real leadership. I have no doubt that, if the Government had not shown real leadership and looked to the future, they would have been accused of irresponsibility and of abrogating their responsibility to the House and to the people of the United Kingdom. It is only right that every Government should plan for the future, to determine how people are living their lives, where they want to live and how developments should proceed.

The previous Tory Government attempted such planning when they were in office. I was a local councillor in the then borough of Gillingham at that time, when we had to live with the Tory construction plan. As I do not want to be accused of putting words into anyone's mouth, or of attempting to mislead anyone, I shall quote from that plan, which was adopted in late 1996, early 1997. It stated: Current regional guidance … sets a regional housing provision— for the south-east— of 57,000 dwellings per annum— until 2011. It went on to say that Kent's share of that regional housing provision would be 5,800 dwellings per annum.

The plan justified the 57,000 figure for various reasons, such as projected future average rates of net migration— which is population movement into the county of Kent, and the changing relationship between population and households. The plan rightly stated that the average household size in Kent was decreasing from 2.85 in 1971 to a projected 2.26 in 2011. It went on to cite as reasons for declining household size factors such as smaller family size, earlier household formation (young people leaving home and forming separate households sooner), increasing longevity and high divorce/separation rates. If I recall correctly, those were the precise arguments that my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister advanced in his statement to the House on 7 March, when he was introducing new planning policy guidance 3. He said: I emphasise that 70 per cent. of new households over the next 20 years will be single person households. Some will be youngsters setting up home. Some will be people living independently of their families. Some will be elderly people living longer … Many will need well designed, well located homes for rent or to buy that are affordable and that give them a range of choice and a better quality of life. We must therefore plan for those changes.—[Official Report, 7 March 2000; Vol. 345, c. 863.] Those were the same reasons that were given in 1996. They are the same reasons that we must consider today when considering how to plan for the future of our counties and regions.

When I was a local councillor, I argued against developments in Gillingham's own backyard and in other parts of Kent. I recognise, as I am sure that every other hon. Member does, the feelings of weakness and powerlessness that one feels when confronted with speculative planning applications that are ultimately approved despite the desires and wishes of democratically elected local authorities. I saw plots of land behind housing developments disappear because another 15 homes could be squeezed into them.

I genuinely believe that the new planning guidance has gone a long way in helping to strengthen the position of locally elected councillors who, at the sharp end of the issue, are trying to put into practice the policies necessary to meet the requirements and desires of local communities. The strength of that policy lies in the sequential approach that is at the heart of PPG3—the presumption in favour of using recycled land and buildings before greenfield sites. The sequential approach entails consideration first of urban brownfield sites, then of urban extensions, and then of new settlements in good transport corridors. Additionally, local authorities are now able to review land allocations, to ensure that they measure up to the new PPG3 approach.

The south-east is certainly not uniform, but—from Guildford to Gillingham, and from Sheppey to Southampton—contains blatant differences and variations. According to all the deprivation statistics, north Kent, where my constituency is located, has a number of the top 10 per cent. most deprived wards and a per capita gross domestic product that is 7 per cent. below the Kent average—which itself is lower than the United Kingdom average.

Against that economic background, there is a clear need to meet the requirements of those who are already living in Kent. We must, of course, also promote inward investment, to create more jobs and prosperity for those who are already living in Kent.

The right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine), when he was in government, recognised the need to build homes and to create communities, including jobs and social infrastructure. He recognised that the east London corridor, which is now called the Thames gateway, provided a prime example of a place where the type of policies being pursued by the current Government could deliver homes, thereby easing pressure on other areas. Every planning document on Kent—including the Tories' Kent structure plan and all the documents published by the current and the previous Government—has recognised that opportunity. Serplan has long recognised that potential. That sequential approach means that the brownfield sites that are in abundance in the area of the south-east to which I refer can be used to ease pressures elsewhere, while at the same time meeting the Government's guidance of 60 per cent. or more. We can bring in sites that are totally derelict, with a history of industrial use but now of no use to anyone. That can be done through concerted effort.

Local decision making is the key—I am sure that no one would disagree with that—but it has to be done within a strategic framework. Back in 1995–96, the Tory Government imposed an increase of 2,500 in the number of dwellings required by Kent, despite opposition from elected local representatives. The strategic guidelines have to be put into place at a local level, and that is what happening today with the backing of the planning framework that has been introduced.

We are deciding the strategic sites locally. The hon. Member for Portsmouth, South (Mr. Hancock) mentioned some of the hurdles to creating those sites. There is further to go to overcome those hurdles, but we are prioritising them locally and planning the resources required. The issue is land for building communities, to provide homes, jobs and the social infrastructure required. Classic examples exist where such work has already happened.

I have already noticed that house prices are increasing in north Kent as the infrastructure is put in place. I have no doubt that, if we continue to provide the jobs and redevelopment required, but without the housing, we will end up short of homes for key workers and others. The policies outlined by the Opposition would be a complete disaster for economic regeneration in north Kent.

8.52 pm
Mr. Anthony Steen (Totnes)

Nearly a year ago, I instigated the first debate on the Rogers report, "Towards an Urban Renaissance", and it appears that, whenever I speak, the Minister is wisely in his place to ensure that everything that I say accords with his views. In that debate, I congratulated Lord Rogers and the urban taskforce on their report, not least because it came to many similar conclusions to those that I had reached 17 years earlier in my book, "New Life for Old Cities". However, the Rogers report clearly showed the immense task facing this country. It was committed to reverse urban decline and decay, to make cities vibrant and alive and to attract young people to the inner cities.

During that debate, I made a prediction. I said that the Rogers report is a wish list of things that cannot be achieved without the political will. We will need to find a political will that must go beyond one Minister and one Department, however good their work may be. This country has produced fine reports over the years, but sadly little has changed. I had hoped that the challenging report by Lord Rogers would usher in a new era of urban regeneration, but I feared that it would not. To date, although the Government have an interesting list of initiatives that they have taken—I thank the Minister for replying to my written question on 16 May—that is only a start and there is a long way to go.

When I came seventh in the ballot for private Members' Bills, I concluded that the most useful thing that I could do to accelerate and expedite the recommendations in the Rogers report was to introduce the Urban Regeneration and Countryside Protection Bill, which had simple aims and would have been of benefit to Lord Rogers and his recommendations. Those simple aims were to identify brownfield land, place a statutory duty on Government, local and national, to utilise that land, and to ensure that any housing development did not place an undue strain on existing local infrastructure. The term infrastructure I defined as including health, education and recreational facilities, as well as transport and sewage.

On Second Reading, on 24 March, the Government welcomed my Bill but said that they could not support it for two reasons. They claimed that it was too broad in focus, with aims that were too general, and that many of the clauses had been covered by points in the PPG3 guidance to local authorities. However, that was before the Government came up against something of a brick wall with Serplan. Lord Hanningfield, the chairman of Serplan and the leader of Essex county council, stated that the scale of development proposed by the Deputy Prime Minister would place an intolerable strain on the region's infrastructure. The Government do not appear to have paid much attention to that, but they should reflect on what has been said. If, say, transportation links were to become overloaded in the south-east, what would happen in other areas?

When we talk about planning, we always concentrate on the south-east, but there are other areas. What will happen in the south-west, where 395,000 new homes have to be built by 2011? The south-east, as we all know, has the best transport links in the country. If they will be at breaking point under the strain of the new proposed housing numbers, what will happen in the south-west? It will inevitably face gridlock.

The Government's numbers will be challenged all over the country by regional planning bodies unless they specify how the proposed scale of new development will be sustainable. Serplan's comments reflect a wider problem with the entire planning and urban regeneration process. Everything revolves around numbers. The Conservative Government whom I supported said that 4.4 million new homes were required. This Government have reduced that to 3.8 million. The prevailing view is that it does not matter whether it is 4.4 million or 3.8 million, because the houses will not be built by 2011.

The Government have changed the slogan. "Predict and provide" is now to be considered evil, and the replacement is "plan, monitor and manage". Nobody knows what difference there is between the two. It is just a lovely spin—plan, monitor and manage—a sort of slogan that one whispers to one's planning officer and he says, "Oh, yes, of course that will be all right," whereas the old predict and provide was obviously wrong and flawed. It is just part of the new Labour spin. It is attractive, but we should know what it means, and it means very little.

The entire process still centres around the allocation of numbers, and not the infrastructure provision. That is why my Bill was rather important and still is. The Urban Regeneration and Countryside Protection Bill, which the Government allowed a full day's debate on 24 March and which is still in the list, would ensure, if they adopted it, that infrastructure was the key factor in deciding whether housing allocation could be achieved. It would ensure a bottom-up approach, with local councils deciding not only where the numbers should go, but what the numbers should be, based on the ability of the local infrastructure to sustain development.

Even if the Government had not made the wrong decision in talking my Bill out, they have made another mistake. I have raised it already, and I shall stress it, because it is so crucial. They have run into difficulty with the European Union over urban regeneration. That matter should be addressed in the winding-up speech.

Local Government First, which I dealt with in my intervention, reported that the EU Commission had ordered the Government to stop giving grants to assist companies in clearing up contaminated brownfield land earmarked for redevelopment. The Government failed to mention that when the issue was debated in Westminster Hall on 13 June. Did the Minister make no mention of such a problem because it is new, or was it in existence on 13 June? If it is a problem, and the Government cannot overcome it, their aim of having 60 per cent. brownfield redevelopment by 2008 will be completely in disarray. Contaminated land often lies in the heart of our cities, in the old industrial urban areas, the very areas that need to be revived if we are to witness an urban renaissance.

I am a little puzzled as to why Europe has got into this, because I have the good fortune to be a member of the European Scrutiny Committee. This year alone, we have passed directives allowing the French and German Governments to subsidise their coal and steel industries. I cannot understand how the Commission allows the payment of vast subsidies to those industries in those countries, yet rules that it is illegal for our Government to make a modest contribution to help regenerate rundown, contaminated land. Perhaps the Government could say a little more about what they hope to achieve. It has been somewhat glossed over in this debate, but it is a crucial issue, because it will put a coach and horses through the Government's policy.

At the beginning of my speech, I referred back to my speech of a year ago. Those hon. Members who were present may remember that it was a bit of a tour de force. I stated that the political will for urban regeneration must go beyond one Minister and one Department. The Chancellor has not got the message yet. Perhaps the Minister could say something to him. If he cared for urban regeneration, he would not allow VAT, which he fails to impose on new build, to be added to renovation material used to renew the urban decline of houses, flats and warehouses in the inner city. It cannot make sense to talk about urban regeneration but leave out the sticks and the carrots. At present, the sticks and the carrots are in the wrong place. One gets a stick if one renovates in the inner city; one gets a carrot if one builds on greenfield sites. That cannot be right.

Given the Government's inertia on urban regeneration and other problems, I earnestly suggest that the Minister look at my Bill again. If he did, it might give his entire programme of urban regeneration a kick start. This country would be far better if my Bill had become an Act of Parliament by the time we rose this summer.

9.3 pm

Ms Glenda Jackson (Hampstead and Highgate)

I do not remember hearing the previous tour de force of the hon. Member for Totnes (Mr. Steen). After his contribution this evening, I must say with all due respect that I am extremely grateful that the Government will be concentrating on meeting future housing need through their Bill and not through the hon. Gentleman's proposals.

This has become an extremely interesting debate, now that the baying brigade of the Opposition have left. It should be noted that the issue is of such importance to the Opposition that there are precisely three of their Back-Benchers sitting in the Chamber. The serious contributions to the debate have come from my hon. Friend the Minister, my other hon. Friends who have spoken and the Liberal Democrat spokesman, the hon. Member for Portsmouth, South (Mr. Hancock).

I represent an inner-London constituency. After I was returned to the House in 1992, I was shocked by an explosion of homelessness in this capital city during the previous Government's maladministration of housing. People in every metropolitan area had nowhere to sleep other than pavements. Thousands of homes were repossessed because of the inequity of the previous Government's economic policies. There was not one iota of commitment to acknowledging that housing is a national resource.

The previous Administration argued for leaving the matter to the vagaries of the market—"You cannot buck the market"—I believe was one of the phrases used. We were in the centre of a great car economy, we were told. When the Labour Government came to office, they were confronted with a shambles. Huge and diverse problems surrounded the maintenance of the housing stock in the south-east and throughout the United Kingdom.

This debate concentrates on the Government's proposals for the south-east. The Green Paper makes a great step forward by acknowledging that housing is a national resource that must be maintained and developed nationally. However, this is a small island, as my hon. Friend the Minister said. We cannot expand our physical borders so we must therefore maintain our green belt. If we are serious about urban regeneration, and I believe that we are, we must ensure that public spaces in cities such as London are maintained.

We must create greater densities, but that will inevitably require infinitely better insulation and sound proofing in the buildings that are put up. There must also be close integration with transport bodies to encourage the sort of social infrastructures that can make cities vibrant, thrilling and exciting places to live.

Our inner cities decayed under the previous Administration. Crime took over deserted city centres, all sense of community disappeared and social structures broke down. I was amazed to hear Conservative Members argue against planning proposals in their constituencies. They must know that permissions for those proposals were granted by the previous Administration. For example, major developments were proposed in my constituency. My local authority, my constituents and I argued against them ferociously, on the ground that they would bring no benefit to communities in the area, but they were rubber stamped by the then Secretary of State for the Environment. They went ahead with no regard for the genuine needs of people living in an inner-London borough.

The present Government have made a major step change in their approach to this country's future housing needs, especially in the south-east. My one criticism of the proposals is that they do not emphasise that single-occupancy dwellings should not be single-bedroom dwellings. We should not consider building any property that does not have two bedrooms at least. Our population is ageing, and we know that most elderly people prefer to live out their lives in their own homes. It is entirely reasonable to suppose that, as people become frail, they may require the attentions of carers or other family members, because they will not want to go into a hospital or nursing home.

We must begin to look at the immediate housing needs in the south-east and throughout the country, but we must also look to the long term, so that we can have a truly flexible housing stock. Houses must be able to meet the needs of individuals and young couples on the one hand, and on the other, the needs of elderly couples or individuals who require care.

I strongly endorse the Government's proposals. For a glowing example of what can be achieved by building on brownfield sites, one need look no further than the Greenwich peninsula. I want not to discuss the millennium dome, but to concentrate on those aspects of development on the peninsula that demonstrate what can be achieved through the Government's approach.

Ms Karen Buck (Regent's Park and Kensington, North)

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way and allowing me to give another example of the benefits of the Government's approach. A major development in Paddington will involve 1,000 homes and 30,000 jobs. It is an excellent example of inner-city regeneration and has been backed by £13.5 million of Government money under the single regeneration budget. It has also been designated an education action zone. That shows that the Government are able and willing to bring together all the components needed to make inner-city regeneration work. However, it is one of the last brownfield sites available in central London. Conservative Members are saying that they do not care about the housing need in the city that is not met because they are closing all other options.

Ms Jackson

My hon. Friend is entirely right. What has become abundantly clear from the lamentable contributions of Conservative Members is that they have no care for the provision of housing in urban areas and no concern for the provision of housing in rural areas. It is this Government who have increased the green belt in three short years. In the 18 seemingly unending years of the previous Administration, we saw depredation after depredation when it came to the green belt.

Mr. Graham Brady (Altrincham and Sale, West)

Does the hon. Lady accept that there is no point in increasing the total square mileage of green belt for as long as the green belt itself is eroded and moves outwards from the cities? The kind of regeneration in the city centres that the hon. Lady and I would both like to see simply will not happen if the Government continue to allow the green belt to be eroded at the fringe where it meets the city boundaries.

Ms Jackson

With respect to the hon. Gentleman, let me say that the Government have no intention of allowing an erosion of the green belt. If he is thinking about what happened under the previous Administration, that happened because they failed significantly to make our cities desirable places in which to live. They did nothing about affordable housing—people fled to rural areas to find somewhere decent to live. It is interesting that the hon. Member for Tunbridge Wells (Mr. Norman) seemed to blame people who had been driven out of city centres into rural areas for taking away the opportunity for the sons and daughters of the people already living in rural areas to find affordable properties in which to live. That is an interesting volte face from the party which claims to speak exclusively for rural communities.

As I was saying, the reclamation of the Greenwich peninsula which was, I would argue, one of the most polluted sites in Europe, is proof of what can be achieved. The millennium village is a benchmark of what can be achieved, and what, under this Government, will be achieved. Its properties are being built and will be maintained, using the most environmentally friendly techniques. One would never know, from standing outside a property, whether someone had bought it or rented it. The village contains facilities such as schools and a park; the environment is not only pleasant to live in but will attract people into the area; and thousands of jobs have been created.

It is, surely, a basic human right to have our own space in which to live and a door that can be closed to ensure our privacy and, equally, that we keep outside that part of the world which, at a particular moment, we do not wish to see.

The previous Administration failed lamentably to tackle housing issues. This Government have produced a Green Paper that can lead to the results that people want. It is a scandal and a disgrace that there are still people in this country who have nowhere to live but a pavement or a shop doorway. This Government will bring about the changes that the country needs for the future. The contribution of Conservative Members this evening has been lamentable, matched only by their practices in this area when they were a lamentable Government.

9.13 pm
Mr. Andrew Lansley (South Cambridgeshire)

I am grateful to have the opportunity to contribute to the debate and to follow the hon. Member for Hampstead and Highgate (Ms Jackson). May I remind her that last Friday, Shelter was talking about an increase of 45 per cent. in the number of registered homeless since the Government came into office?

I would not have sought to contribute to the debate except for the simple fact that when I wanted to bring a deputation of representatives of local authorities in the Cambridge sub-region to see the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions, the hon. Member for Stretford and Urmston (Ms Hughes), her response was to decline to receive such a deputation. She said that she considered that to receive such a deputation would not add to our understanding. That will not be well understood by people who live in the Cambridge sub-region, perhaps not even by the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mrs. Campbell).

The Under-Secretary and other Ministers at the Department need to understand that this would not set a precedent for other areas. Cambridge and the area around it have some special factors that have been expressly dealt with in regional planning guidance. The Minister knows that I have taken an exceptionally close interest in this matter, including attending both of the days during which this was the subject of an examination in public before the panel. He will know also that the response from the Government to the panel's report and the representations from the standing committee of East Anglia local authorities departed substantially from the panel's recommendations in relation to the Cambridge sub-region, and that the recommendations that Ministers have issued by way of draft regional planning guidance impact probably to a much greater extent in determining the shape of the structure plan in Cambridgeshire than would be the case in almost any other county in the south-east regional planning committee's or SCEALA's region.

The housing projections for Cambridgeshire that were published by the Department last year for 2000–21 showed an increase of 33.8 per cent. over the period from 1996 to 2021. That is a higher increase than in any other county. We recognise in the Cambridge sub-region that we are wrestling with virtually unprecedented levels of development pressure, both economic and housing. The two sectors are intimately related. The Minister will know—I would have hoped that his ministerial colleague would have been prepared to discuss matters with local representatives before finalising regional planning guidance—that there are still substantial reservations about the proposals in the draft RPG.

I will put the reservations simply in four terms. First, SCEALA and the local authorities in East Anglia have put forward a set of proposals that the Government have largely accepted in contradiction to Serplan. They have largely accepted SCEALA's forecasts, but not in relation to the Cambridge sub-region. Working exhaustively on the basis of environmental sustainability and capacity, local authorities saw 4,000 homes per year as a maximum figure. The Government, however, are considering 4,000 as a minimum, and in five or 10 years hence it is conceivable that that figure will be substantially exceeded.

Secondly, there are considerable reservations about the balance, even within Cambridgeshire, that the Government are seeking. They are proposing that 70 per cent. of new houses will be within the Cambridge sub-region in due course. At the present level of building, 2,000 homes a year are being constructed in the area. The implication of the Government's proposals are that more than 2,800 homes a year can be built in the sub-region.

There is no question of people in Cambridge or the surrounding districts saying that they are simply full, putting up the shutters and resisting economic development where it is desirable. However, there is a limit. The necessity of striking a balance between the quantum of economic development and environmental sustainability in the Cambridge region demands a different balance from the one towards which the Government seem to be heading. To increase by 40 per cent. or more the rate of housebuilding in the Cambridge sub-region will be regarded as complete folly. Indeed, it will be regarded as impracticable when we consider the speed at which planning permissions are generated and processed and building is able to take place in the region. Against that background, an increase of 40 per cent. would be almost impossible.

The third serious reservation is that the RPG makes references in explanatory text to the infrastructure consequences of economic and housing development on the proposed scale. However, it does not tie Government policy commitments to the achievement of specific housing target figures. Residents of the Cambridge sub-region will wonder what sort of Government could, in the middle of 1998, take the A 14 out of the roads programme—a road that is instrumental in the cluster development between Huntingdon and Cambridge, and all the cluster economic development in high-tech industries that the Government so much wish Cambridge to accommodate. They press upon Cambridge large additions to the housing stock, but at the same time remove from their investment programme the infrastructure development that is essential to achieve such large increases in housing stock.

The fourth serious reservation is that the Government talk about the importance of green field and green belt, and the protection that should be given to the green belt. The Minister said, "Brown field first, green field last." However, when we come to the sequence of the location of housing that the Government set out in the draft RPG, we see in the five-point sequence that No. 2 states that development should be on the periphery of the built-up area of Cambridge, subject to any review of the green belt. In the minds of the former Labour administration of the city council—the Liberal Democrats shared the same view—businesses should be pushed out, large areas of green belt taken over and substantial housing built on it.

Mrs. Anne Campbell

It was not only Labour and the Liberal Democrats that supported a review of the green belt. Cambridge Futures, South-Cambridgeshire Partnership, and almost everyone who has done any serious study of the matter supported it too. Is the hon. Gentleman not being totally irresponsible in imagining that the houses can be built without a review of the green belt in Cambridge?

Mr. Lansley

My point, which I should have thought that the hon. Lady would understand, was not that there should be no review of the green belt. Indeed, a review is integral to any structure plan review and any unitary development plan. That has happened before, and it would have happened again.

My point, and I hope that the hon. Lady may yet agree with it, is that when Ministers lay down the sequence of the location of development in the Cambridge sub-region, they should, if they are to be true to their word—brown field first, green field last—make the green belt the fifth item, not the second, on the list. It may be difficult for Ministers to reconcile that with their wish to put housing on the periphery of built-up areas, but the desire to do so on a large scale in Cambridge must be secondary to protecting the setting of Cambridge, which was the original intention of green belt policy.

I am seriously worried. Ministers seem to be contradicting their own policy of protection for the green belt. They also contradict their policy of seeking to support economic development in the Cambridge sub-region by not committing themselves to the investment in the infrastructure and the support for public services necessary to deliver that development. They also contradict their policy by directing a large proportion of total housing in Cambridgeshire towards the part of the region in which the least amount of brownfield land is available for development.

The confusion surrounding the Government's policy would be somewhat clarified if, when discussing policy for the Cambridge sub-region, they had the simple good grace to meet us to talk about it.

9.22 pm
Mr. Kerry Pollard (St. Albans)

I am delighted to speak in the debate. In a previous incarnation, I was a director of a housing association and chairman of the local housing committee. I have a great interest in housing issues.

There has been much mention from Conservative Members about the whole south-east being covered in concrete. I recall a debate a year or so ago on the minimum wage in which they claimed that there would be mass unemployment as a result of it. Mass unemployment did not happen; nor will the concreting of the south-east.

The south-east has an acute shortage of housing, which the Government are sensibly trying to address. It is not an easy problem to solve. Land is in short supply and is expensive. Available land must be used to create the maximum number of high-quality homes. That means higher densities than in previous years, and we must maximise use of brownfield sites. Both those ideas are at the heart of what the Government are trying to do—and achieving.

In my constituency, 1,750 people are on the waiting list—half of them single. We have £10 million in reserve receipts. Last year's capital programme amounted to £3.5 million, and there is a £6 million programme this year. That extra spending, although welcome, does not begin to address the housing shortage. St. Albans has among the highest house prices in the land—a typical two-up, two-down terrace costs £265,000. My daughter and her partner bought a very small flat a few months ago for £115,000. Nobody on the average wage can purchase anything in St. Albans. Professional people—nurses, doctors, police officers—are unable to afford anything. As the Member of Parliament—paid two and a half times the national average—I could not afford a modest three-bedroom semi.

All that demonstrates that my constituency has much greater housing need than almost anywhere else. Not only those on the waiting list, the homeless and single people, but a great swathe of professional people cannot afford to live in St. Albans.

We have a demonstrable housing need, reserve receipts and buoyant council house sales. Together with that, we have two brownfield sites in the city centre that will be the subject of planning applications within the next few months. My ambition for those sites is that we should include a large proportion of social housing and some key worker housing as well as some houses for sale. One site belongs to Railtrack, whose representatives I, and others, have met recently to further that ambition.

We have used up our allocation of grant; those brownfield sites have come along and they will be built on. We have the chance to construct a significant number of social housing units, a modest number of key worker units, but we have only a limited time in which to act.

Those schemes have all the elements that our Government are trying to achieve; they will provide brownfield, city-centre, high-density, high-standard, social housing and key worker housing. The achievement of our ambition for the sites requires funding either by grant or by allowing a receipts holiday on capital receipts. Such sites become available only infrequently. When they do so, the opportunity to build homes that are affordable to rent and to buy must be taken.

We hear little of practical use from the Conservatives about housing our people. Our Government are trying to solve a housing shortage that has been around for years; we are maximising the use of brownfield sites and using higher densities than has been the recent practice while ensuring that top-quality homes are built to house our people.

9.26 pm
Mr. Graham Brady (Altrincham and Sale, West)

I am pleased to be able to contribute to the debate; I am grateful to the hon. Member for St. Albans (Mr. Pollard) for making such a brief speech, as that has given me the opportunity to speak.

The Minister's contribution at the beginning of the debate was rather disappointing—mainly because of what he did not say and because of the issues that he did not address. He talked about many aspirations without offering any concrete—if that is not an unfortunate, although unintended pun—examples of how and when they would be achieved.

The Minister referred to a 60 per cent. target for building on brownfield sites and said that it would take time. We hear that statement more and more often from the Government: everything that they need to do will take time. They have had three years, but they have still made no progress. It is somewhat frustrating when they plead for more time on every issue.

My hon. Friend the Member for Tunbridge Wells (Mr. Norman) told us how the Government's policy reinforces and encourages the continuing migration of people from the north to the south. We have heard about the Government's lax approach to the green belt.

I was pleased to see the hon. Member for Hampstead and Highgate (Ms Jackson) in the Chamber, not least because I understand that she has just accepted a position in the old Labour administration of the hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone) at the London mayoralty. She made an interesting, enjoyable and well-presented contribution to the debate, but she did not tackle the real nub of the greenbelt problem. If the green belt is constantly redefined—if its perimeter cannot be relied on—it does not matter how much Governments expand a total area of green belt from time to time; the green belt's effect as a brake on urban sprawl and thus as a spur to development in cities will have been sacrificed. As that is occurring under this Government, it was hardly surprising that the Minister failed to talk about the decline of cities, nor that he did not really address the problems in our urban areas.

Perhaps one reason why the Minister did not deal with the matter is that he is all too aware that the Labour Government are spending less than the previous Conservative Government on regeneration in our cities.

Ms Buck

May I draw the hon. Gentleman's attention to the housing investment figures for areas such as my constituency? Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster are both inner-city authorities. In Kensington and Chelsea in 1995, the housing investment grant fell by 21 per cent. In 1995–96, it fell by 3 per cent. During the past year, it increased by 35 per cent. In Westminster, it fell by 25 per cent. in 1995, but this year it has increased by 64 per cent.

Mr. Brady

The Labour party is increasingly worried—rightly so—about what it likes to regard as its heartlands, so it should be concerned not about the figures read out by the hon. Lady but about the 20 per cent. cut in the Housing Corporation grant in the north-west, which is causing real pain and concern in areas where Labour is most vulnerable.

My figures on expenditure in rural areas are from a Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions report for the year 2000—which shows that in their first four years, the present Administration will spend £400 million less on urban regeneration than the previous Government in their final four years. The Government have little to say about regeneration in terms of planning policies—having allowed the green belt to be eroded—or expenditure.

I do not pretend that the previous Government had all the answers but the present Administration are falling into precisely the same trap of concentrating on major capital investment projects. The Lowry centre in Salford is a tremendous inner-city development and the Minister for Housing and Planning has the dome in his constituency. He likes to brush over it but he might think some of the developments surrounding the dome will be helpful. Under the previous Government, Salford quays in Manchester was redeveloped and the metrolink was introduced—both fantastic and successful projects.

Key to bringing life to inner cities, however, is not major capital projects. My hon. Friend the Member for Tunbridge Wells mentioned the core importance of bringing families back to inner cities. Some parts of our cities have no difficulty attracting young, single households. Manchester city centre's first £1 million apartment was sold recently and there is one on the market now for £2 million. But all too often, young families feel compelled to move out of city centres because they are worried about crime and standards of educational provision.

The Government's response to crime has been to cut the number of police officers across the country. Manchester has 150 fewer police officers than when the Government took office—when in the past year alone, recorded crime in Greater Manchester increased by 10,000 incidents. At a time when crime is rising, police resources are falling—a vicious circle that counteracts positive steps to bring more life to city centres.

I give the Government credit for sensible policies at the margins of educational provision. When we debate the Learning and Skills Bill, we will have the opportunity to consider the proposal for city academies—state-funded, privately owned, partially selective schools that the Government believe will begin to raise standards. Why will that policy be applied only where a school has failed and closed, when that option should be proactively pursued, to help raise standards in inner cities? Ministers think that 10 per cent. selection in city academies will raise standards but cling to the belief that anything above that figure—certainly 100 per cent. selection in grammar schools—will reduce standards.

There is no coherence to Government policies. As my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Mr. Steen) so ably put it, predict and provide has given way to a new slogan but the practice is too similar to before. There is no radical attempt to tackle the real problems and difficulties faced by cities, acknowledge the importance of the green belt or address planning issues that exacerbate a concentration of development in the south instead of areas that need it more. The Government ask for more time but on the basis of their performance to date, there is no reason for allowing them to have it.

9.34 pm
Mr. Brian White (Milton Keynes, North-East)

I do not have much time, so I shall be brief. However, if this were such an important debate for the Conservative party, why did so few Tory Back Benchers from the south-east speak? In fact, none of them did.

One of the policies put forward by Conservative Members tonight suggests that the concept of developer roulette will continue. It is the system whereby developers put in planning application after planning application after planning application and they need to be successful only once. However, a community must win every time to protect itself. Their policy does nothing to address that. It is a lose-lose situation for communities.

It is interesting to note that all the Tory shires complain loudly, but my hon. Friend the Minister might be interested to know that, behind closed doors, the same Tory shires that shout the loudest are doing secret deals to protect their area from development and to move it into neighbouring areas. That continues the pattern of how several Tory shires have operated for some years.

The way in which the concept of the green belt has been mixed with that of green fields continues the way in which the Tories have tackled the debate over the past two or three years. They have not gone beyond the issue of what is green belt and what is green field. In addition, they never achieved the target that they set in government.

One of the things that worries me about the vote by Serplan is that a deliberate plan for less than one home per household means deliberately planning for homelessness and overcrowding, with all the social consequences that they bring. It means to plan deliberately for a shortage of labour in areas of economic growth and it means a reduction in housing choice. That is the message that has come from the Tories tonight.

I was going to discuss the regional planning guidance and consider what the Tories have done. On every issue—whether it is the sequential approach, the land take or urban capacity—they have not yet gone behind the issue of sloganising. Nothing demonstrated that more than the speech of the hon. Member for Tunbridge Wells (Mr. Norman).

One key point that must be borne in mind is that we must protect the green lungs of cities. We must ensure that there are trees and that playing fields are not lost as a result of the increased use of land on brownfield sites.

Major development in the south-east is possible only in a few areas. Unfortunately, one of them is around the brickfields between Aylesbury and Bedford. I recognise that market forces will put pressure on Milton Keynes to have major development. The Government have taken the right approach in recognising that and in planning for the future. To take the Tory approach is to take the ostrich approach and just to hope that such development will not happen. If we did that, we would face the problems again.

Tonight in Milton Keynes, 800 families are in temporary accommodation, and that does not count the people who cannot get on to the list. Tory policies would do nothing to address the needs of those families.

One way in which the problems can be dealt with is through the role that English Partnerships and other Government agencies can play. They have started well, but there is much more that they can do. The Tories suggest that, because new jobs create pressure for growth, we should take the high unemployment and stagnation route. That is the approach that the Tories took in the early 1980s when we had high unemployment and areas were left to rot. We know the consequences of that.

I conclude with a plea to the Government. The regional planning guidance is a good start for the south-east. It lays the foundations for sustainable development, but I hope that the Government recognise that many more things need to be done. The tough choices that the housing Green Paper highlighted are ones that we need to tackle. Issues such as housing benefit need to be sorted out if we are to get more people out of poverty. The Government must be prepared to intervene more and to set more rules for house building. I welcome what the Government are doing and I hope that they take the tough choices that the housing Green Paper identified.

9.39 pm
Mr. Nigel Waterson (Eastbourne)

This has been an interesting debate, but perhaps not as interesting to some hon. Members as the noises off of a particular football match. The last I heard was that it was not going too well from our point of view. The opening speech of the Minister for Housing and Planning was obviously affected by that event; he certainly referred to it. His combination of clumsy abuse and chanting his usual mantras from the terraces, as it were, seemed entirely in keeping with the match that has been going on at the same time as this debate.

As usual, the Minister started off with a bit of clumsy abuse about my hon. Friend the Member for Tunbridge Wells (Mr. Norman), before making a complaint about the number of debates that we are having on the subject and quoting in extenso from my right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer). The Minister's speeches follow a predictable pattern, and today's was no exception.

The real issue is whether there is any truth at all in the Government's mantra that the old predict and provide policy is gone, only to be replaced by a new policy. I shall return to the Minister's speech, especially his discussion of the Serplan controversy. The hon. Member for Portsmouth, South (Mr. Hancock), who spoke for the Liberal Democrats, gave a rather long history lesson, but he shared our concerns about Serplan. As is usual and traditional for Liberal Democrats, he distributed his abuse equally between the Government and the official Opposition.

The hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Clark) spoke about the need for leadership and made a powerful case for changing the planning system. However, like most Labour speakers, he seemed allergic to speaking about anything in this context post-1997. My hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Mr. Steen) brought his usual authority to the subject; spoke movingly about his private Member's Bill; and made an especially important point about the recent EU ruling, which I hope the Under-Secretary will deal with in her winding-up speech.

The hon. Member for Hampstead and Highgate (Ms Jackson) complained about the previous Government. However, as a former Transport Minister, she must surely bear some of the blame for the current state of standstill Britain.

My hon. Friend the Member for South Cambridgeshire (Mr. Lansley) talked knowledgeably about pressures in his own region and his reservations about the way in which the whole planning process affects his area. He also talked about the lack of joined-up thinking which, on the one hand, encourages cluster developments in and around Cambridge but, on the other, cuts important road links from the roads programme.

The hon. Member for St. Albans (Mr. Pollard) spoke graphically about the pressures on property prices and availability in his own constituency.

My hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale, West (Mr. Brady) reminded us of the importance of protecting the green belt and pointed out that the present Government are spending less on urban regeneration than the previous Government. He also spoke about the need to encourage families back into the inner cities.

Finally, the hon. Member for Milton Keynes, North-East (Mr. White) made unfair criticisms of the Serplan process. I have visited his constituency, with his knowledge, and do not think that he should assume that all his constituents welcome with open arms any new development in his constituency, as he apparently does. There must be a limit, even for Milton Keynes, and some of the hon. Gentleman's constituents have views that are different from his.

Since the election, Ministers, especially the Minister for Housing and Planning, have made a lot of noise about the alleged end of predict and provide. It turns out that that is just meaningless rhetoric. As we have heard, after carefully weighing all the evidence, Serplan came up with a figure. Professor Crow then came up with a much higher figure. Ministers have tried to present themselves as heroes by pulling out of the air a so-called compromise figure which, following further careful consideration, Serplan voted against before confirming its earlier figure. The result, as we have seen, is near hysteria from Ministers.

I do not want to intrude in the running battle between the Minister and some sections of the media. However, on any view, it would be fair to say that the Minister expressed his unhappiness with the result of the Serplan vote only the other day. He told us a great deal about Serplan and how the Government have allegedly improved the procedure for what he called more meaningful participation. However, all the Government have done is split the difference, in effect. There were one or two tell-tale comments in the Minister's speech. For example, I have written down his remark that Serplan came to its decision for reasons best known to it. That suggests that he is preparing the ground for taking not a blind bit of notice of what Serplan thinks.

The Minister talked about Serplan's failure to reach a consensus. Although he will accept the vote, he will also take account of minority views. Perhaps he would prefer to make the vote the best of three. I assume that if the Conservative party had taken a similar attitude the day after the general election, he would have accepted that as well. Even though Serplan represents grass roots feeling and opinion across the region and even though there was a clear vote and a clear majority the other day, the truth is that, despite all the rhetoric, he clearly has no intention of considering himself bound in any way by Serplan's conclusions.

In a recent interview, the Minister said of our policies: Ordinary people would be priced out of the market … Well, I have news for him. They are already being priced out of the market thanks to the Government's policies. Whatever happened to joined-up government? We do not hear much about that these days. Has he seen today's Financial Times report on Professor Huggins of the centre for advanced studies at Cardiff university, who has made a study of regional policy? For example, he has decided that training and enterprise councils in the north and the midlands "underperform the average". He says that neither these nor the new regional development agencies will make much difference. He also believes: A clear pattern is emerging whereby current policy intervention rolled-out from London is undoubtedly having the effect of widening regional disparities. Is that not the point of what my hon. Friend the Member for Tunbridge Wells said?

It is a year since the Rogers report was published, yet what progress has been made towards a so-called urban renaissance? On that as on almost every other aspect of the responsibilities of the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, Ministers have been rolled over by the Treasury—on urban regeneration, on housing repairs and renovation, on the VAT regime for development and on new infrastructure for those areas where the Government want to impose all the new housing. What are they doing about streamlining the planning system so that it is quicker and cheaper and reflects more closely the views of local people? Conservative Members think that the whole planning system needs a thorough overhaul.

The Minister and Lord Falconer have one thing in common—their fondness for talking about ordinary people. However, we are not talking about Labour Members who are whisked from one luxury residence to another in the back of a chauffeur-driven Jag. We are talking about people who have worked hard all their lives and moved to an area whose natural beauty attracted them, or perhaps about those who were born in such an area and have lived there all their lives. No doubt Ministers would disparagingly refer to their concerns as nimbyism, but I prefer to regard them as positive parochialism. Those people are right to be worried because they know that, often, services in their locality are already stretched to breaking point and not getting better under the Government. They know that schools, health services and transport infrastructure—let alone natural resources such as water—are under pressure.

Interestingly, when the Deputy Prime Minister was interviewed on "Breakfast with Frost" the other day, he said, "What they want is an intelligent discussion, but take the Tories: they have gone to their Tory friends in Serplan and said, 'Vote against this because we want to make it an election issue.' Well, if they want to say there should be more executive homes at the expense of perhaps decent houses"—[Interruption.] Ah, the Minister for Local Government and the Regions has joined us. I recognise the timbre of her voice.

The Deputy Prime Minister concluded, "I am on the side of the many, not the few." The message for most people is, "The many not the few will be coming very soon to a greenfield site near you." I say to the Minister for Housing and Planning that he, the Minister for Local Government and the Regions and the Deputy Prime Minister will not be at the controls when the bulldozers move in to concrete over the countryside, but they may as well be. I promise them that those who have to live with the consequences of the Government's broken promises and their own broken dreams will know whom to blame. They will exact their revenge on Labour Members and Labour councillors who have failed to stand up for their local communities. I urge my right hon. and hon. Friends to support the motion.

9.49 pm
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Ms Beverley Hughes)

We have discussed important issues tonight. It is a shame that their seriousness has not been matched by Opposition Members' contributions. As we have heard, this is the sixth time that the Opposition have chosen this topic for debate. I do not mind that because it is important. However, the Opposition's response does not get better; they do not improve with practice. As my hon. Friend the Member for Milton Keynes, North-East (Mr. White) said, they have failed to produce a serious political response.

Opposition Members mistakenly perceive the debate as an opportunity for making cheap political gain. Tonight, as in the past, they have said nothing of substance about the way in which we should tackle some of the most difficult problems for people in our cities, towns and countryside. Some of Conservative Members' language has been contemptible. To speak about the rape of Stevenage and the rape of the green belt not only diminishes what rape means to victims, but is clearly designed to inflame and sensationalise the issue.

Let me take hon. Members back to first principles. Most people would agree with my hon. Friend the Minister's three fundamental propositions: everyone should have the chance of a decent home; our cities and towns should be renewed and revitalised; and our countryside should be protected. However, anyone who gives those propositions any thought can immediately appreciate that marrying those objectives creates dilemmas.

The dilemmas are different in different regions and types of area: urban and rural, inner city and country town. In some instances, the objectives are in conflict. For example, in the south-east, there is enormous pressure to provide more housing for people and to protect the countryside. That dilemma cannot be resolved simply by ignoring one or other of the objectives, as Opposition Members suggest. It cannot be resolved by the Opposition's over-simplified, cynical response. As my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham (Mr. Clark) said, the problem is not simply one of numbers. To adopt the Opposition's suggestions would cause immense difficulty now and in the future for many ordinary people who would not be able to find housing near their families or near their work. That has implications for the region's economy.

Previous Labour Governments developed the planning system to enable the countryside to be protected and to get away from sprawl. That careful, planned approach should be contrasted with the effects of 18 years of Tory rule in the south-east and in our cities, where communities had no protection from the types of development that were promoted. The market ruled, as my hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead and Highgate (Ms Jackson) explained so clearly. Developers were led to believe that whatever they wanted would be granted. Poorly integrated road building and the break-up of public transport encouraged people to commute long distances by car. Out-of-town shopping—the hon. Member for Tunbridge Wells (Mr. Norman) knows all about that—was allowed to happen willy-nilly, and undermined existing town centres.

Conservative policies led to neglect of the cities and the drain of people away from inner cities. Opposition Members have clearly forgotten that virtually all the development on greenfield sites that is currently happening in the south-east was written into local plans and granted permission under the previous Government.

My hon. Friend the Member for St. Albans (Mr. Pollard) highlighted the importance of housing density. Renewing our cities, providing homes in areas such as the south-east and protecting our countryside call for greater efficiency in the use of land. Local authorities are beginning to take notice, and developments that are in line with our policy are beginning to be made. Building in the south-east has been at one of the lowest densities in the country: 22 houses per hectare, compared with an English average of 27 houses per hectare. In our cities also, higher-quality design of higher-density mixed housing is the key to improving the quality of urban housing and bringing people back to our city centres.

I take issue with the hon. Member for Tunbridge Wells on his continued contention that there is a flight from the north to the south. Opposition Members continue to fuel the fear that the south-east is being flooded with people from the north. That is a myth. It is not true.

The hon. Gentleman placed great credence in The Sunday Telegraph when it misquoted my hon. Friend the Minister for Housing and Planning. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would like to know what The Sunday Telegraph says about that issue. The same article, referring to new housing in the south-east, states: So are all the new closes and cul-de-sacs being filled with migrants from Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle? Not at all. The majority of new housing estates are being occupied by people who were already living in the region. The article continues: And what is driving the need for new houses is the growth in the number of single households, fuelled by climbing divorce rates and our ageing population. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will take note of The Sunday Telegraph.

Migration is a two-way process. People are moving into and out of the north as well as the south. The limited evidence available suggests that the so-called north-south shift is probably more a matter of low net migration into the northern regions.

Housing density is a key element of our revised PPG3. That is in stark contrast to the contributions of the Opposition. Ours is a consistent package approach involving greater choice for households of different sizes, greater affordability—we did not hear much about that from the Opposition—and mixed developments. It also entails lower land take; less profligate use of land; a sequential approach so that brown fields are developed first and green fields last; delivery of a national 60 per cent. recycling target and higher quality of housing development.

Mr. Lansley

Will the hon. Lady respond to a point that I made in the debate? If she is committed to brown field first and green field last, why in a five-point sequence for the Cambridge sub-region is green belt No. 2?

Ms Hughes

The hon. Gentleman well knows the reason. Much of the capacity in that area is on brownfield sites. That is the reason for the No. 2 priority.

The pressures in the south-east and in our towns and cities have not come about because of this Government. The pressures have accumulated largely because of the disastrous policies of the previous Government, who abandoned our cities, approved a dramatic rise in the number of out-of-town shopping centres, let the housing market do as it pleased and squandered greenfield land.

The Opposition now argue that local authorities should be able to veto all new housing development in their area. If further proof is needed why Tory local authorities in particular should not be the sole arbiters of housing need, it is the behaviour of those authorities with respect to Serplan. They have abdicated responsibility and caved in to the political diktat of the hon. Member for Tunbridge Wells.

The difference between the approaches of the Government and the Opposition could not be greater. We recognise that there are real tensions arising from real issues that will affect the social and economic well-being of people throughout the country. The Opposition are not prepared to recognise those tensions and the fact that a balance must be struck. To do otherwise would deny many people the chance of a home in the future, deny essential workers the ability of live near their work, fail to focus housing in towns and cities, add to the problems of traffic congestion and jeopardise local communities. We are determined to meet those challenges head on, and not duck them like the Opposition. Ours is a serious approach, which we will take forward.

Mr. James Arbuthnot (North-East Hampshire)

rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.

Question put, That the original words stand part of the Question:—

The House divided: Ayes 175, Noes 326.

Division No.236] [10 pm
Allan, Richard Hammond, Philip
Amess, David Hancock, Mike
Ancram, Rt Hon Michael Harvey, Nick
Arbuthnot, Rt Hon James Hawkins, Nick
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Hayes, John
Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E) Heald, Oliver
Baldry, Tony Heath, David (Somerton & Frome)
Ballard, Jackie Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David
Beggs, Roy Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas
Bell, Martin (Tatton) Horam, John
Bercow, John Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Beresford, Sir Paul Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)
Blunt, Crispin Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Body, Sir Richard Hunter, Andrew
Boswell, Tim Jack, Rt Hon Michael
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W) Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs Virginia Jenkin, Bernard
Brady, Graham Keetch, Paul
Brake, Tom Key, Robert
Brand, Dr Peter Kirkwood, Archy
Brazier, Julian Laing, Mrs Eleanor
Breed, Colin Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Lansley, Andrew
Browning, Mrs Angela Leigh, Edward
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset) Letwin, Oliver
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)
Burns, Simon Lidington, David
Butterfill, John Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Cable, Dr Vincent Livsey, Richard
Campbell, Rt Hon Menzies Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)
(NEFife) Uwyd, Elfyn
Cash, William Loughton, Tim
Chapman, Sir Sydney Luff, Peter
(Chipping Barnet) Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Chidgey, David MacGregor, Rt Hon John
Chope, Christopher McIntosh, Miss Anne
Clark, Dr Michael (Rayleigh) MacKay, Rt Hon Andrew
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth Maclean, Rt Hon David
(Rushcliffe) McLoughlin, Patrick
Clifton‱Brown, Geoffrey Madel, Sir David
Collins, Tim Malins, Humfrey
Cormack, Sir Patrick Maples, John
Cran, James Mates, Michael
Curry, Rt Hon David Maude, Rt Hon Francis
Davey, Edward (Kingston) Mawhinney, Rt Hon Sir Brian
Davies, Quentin (Grantham) May, Mrs Theresa
Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice) Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)
Duncan Smith, Iain Moore, Michael
Evans, Nigel Moss, Malcolm
Faber, David Nicholls, Patrick
Fabricant, Michael Norman, Archie
Fallon, Michael Oaten, Mark
Flight, Howard O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury)
Forth, Rt Hon Eric Ottaway, Richard
Foster, Don (Bath) Page, Richard
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman Paice, James
Fox, Dr Liam Paterson, Owen
Fraser, Christopher Portillo, Rt Hon Michael
Gale, Roger Prior, David
Garnier, Edward Randall, John
George, Andrew (St Ives) Redwood, Rt Hon John
Gibb, Nick Robathan, Andrew
Gidley, Sandra Robertson, Laurence
Gillan, Mrs Cheryl Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Gorman, Mrs Teresa Rowe, Andrew (Faversham)
Gray, James Ruffley, David
Green, Damian Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Grieve, Dominic St Aubyn, Nick
Gummer, Rt Hon John Sanders, Adrian
Hague, Rt Hon William Sayeed, Jonathan
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian
Shepherd, Richard Tyler, Paul
Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk) Tyrie, Andrew
Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns) Wallace, James
Soames, Nicholas Walter, Robert
Spelman, Mrs Caroline Waterson, Nigel
Spicer, Sir Michael Webb, Steve
Spring, Richard Whitney, Sir Raymond
Steen, Anthony Whittingdale, John
Streeter, Gary Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
Stunell, Andrew Wilkinson, John
Swayne, Desmond Willetts, David
Syms, Robert Willis, Phil
Tapsell, Sir Peter Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Taylor, Ian (EsherS, Walton) Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Taylor, John M (Solihull) Yeo, Tim
Taylor, Matthew (Truro) Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Taylor, Sir Teddy
Thomas, Simon (Ceredigbn) Tellers for the Ayes:
Tonge, Dr Jenny Mr. Stephen Day and
Tredinnick, David Mr. Peter Atkinson.
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N) Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Ainger, Nick Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)
Allen, Graham Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale) Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)
Armstrong, Rt Hon Ms Hilary Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Ashton, Joe Clelland, David
Atherton, Ms Candy Clwyd, Ann
Atkins, Charlotte Coaker, Vernon
Banks, Tony Coffey, Ms Ann
Barnes, Harry Cohen, Harry
Barron, Kevin Coleman, Iain
Bayley, Hugh Colman, Tony
Beard, Nigel Connarty, Michael
Begg, Miss Anne Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Benn, Hilary (Leeds C) Corbett, Robin
Benn, Rt Hon Tony (Chesterfield) Corbyn, Jeremy
Bennett, Andrew F Corston, Jean
Benton, Joe Cousins, Jim
Bermingham, Gerald Cranston, Ross
Berry, Roger Crausby, David
Best, Harold Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)
Betts, Clive Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Blackman, Liz Cummings, John
Blears, Ms Hazel Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr Jack
Blizzard, Bob (Copeland)
Blunkett, Rt Hon David Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Boateng, Rt Hon Paul Curtis-Thomas, Mrs Claire
Borrow, David Dalyell, Tarn
Bradley, Keith (Withington) Darling, Rt Hon Alistair
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin) Darvill, Keith
Bradshaw, Ben Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Brinton, Mrs Helen Davidson, Ian
Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E) Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Brown, Russell (Dumfries) Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Buck, Ms Karen Davis, Rt Hon Terry
Burden, Richard (B'ham Hodge H)
Burgon, Colin Dawson, Hilton
Butler, Mrs Christine Dean, Mrs Janet
Byers, Rt Hon Stephen Denham, John
Caborn, Rt Hon Richard Dismore, Andrew
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) Dobbin, Jim
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) Donohoe, Brian H
Campbell-Savours, Dale Dowd, Jim
Cann, Jamie Drew, David
Caplin, Ivor Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Casale, Roger Edwards, Huw
Caton, Martin Efford, Clive
Cawsey, Ian Ellman, Mrs Louise
Chapman, Ben (WirralS) Ennis, Jeff
Chaytor, David Field, Rt Hon Frank
Clapham, Michael Fitzpatrick, Jim
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields) Fitzsimons, Mrs Lorna
Clark, Dr Lynda Flint, Caroline
(Edinburgh Pentlands) Flynn, Paul
Follett, Barbara Linton, Martin
Foster, Rt Hon Derek Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings) Lock, David
Foster, Michael J (Worcester) Love, Andrew
Fyfe, Maria McAvoy, Thomas
Galloway, George McCabe, Steve
George, Bruce (Walsall S) McCafferty, Ms Chris
Gerrard, Neil McCartney, Rt Hon Ian
Gibson, Dr Ian (Makerfield)
Gilroy, Mrs Linda McDonagh, Siobhain
Godman, Dr Norman A Macdonald, Calum
Godsiff, Roger McDonnell, John
Goggins, Paul McFall, John
Gordon, Mrs Eileen McGuire, Mrs Anne
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E) McIsaac, Shona
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) McKenna, Mrs Rosemary
Grocott, Bruce McNulty, Tony
Grogan, John MacShane, Denis
Gunnell, John Mactaggart, Fiona
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale) McWalter, Tony
Hall, Patrick (Bedford) McWilliam, John
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE) Mahon, Mrs Alice
Hanson, David Mallaber, Judy
Harman, Rt Hon Ms Harriet Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury)
Heal, Mrs Sylvia Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Healey, John Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N) Marshall-Andrews, Robert
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich) Martlew, Eric
Hepburn, Stephen Meacher, Rt Hon Michael
Heppell, John Meale, Alan
Hesford, Stephen Merron, Gillian
Hill, Keith Michael, Rt Hon Alun
Hinchliffe, David Michie, Bill (Shefld Heeley)
Hood, Jimmy Miller, Andrew
Hoon, Rt Hon Geoffrey Mitchell, Austin
Hope, Phil Moffatt, Laura
Hopkins, Kelvin Moonie, Dr Lewis
Howarth, Alan (Newport E) Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)
Howarth, George (Knowsley N) Motley, Elliot
Howells, Dr Kim Morris, Rt Hon Ms Estelle
Hoyle, Lindsay (B'harn Yardley)
Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford) Morris, Rt Hon Sir John
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N) (Aberavon)
Humble, Mrs Joan Mountford, Kali
Hurst, Alan Mowlam, Rt Hon Marjorie
Hutton, John Mudie, George
Iddon, Dr Brian Mullin, Chris
Ingram, Rt Hon Adam Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead) Murphy, Rt Hon Paul (Torfaen)
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough) Naysmith, Dr Doug
Jenkins, Brian Norris, Dan
Johnson, Miss Melanie O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
(Welwyn Hatfield) O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
Jones, Rt Hon Barry (Alyn) O'Hara, Eddie
Jones, Helen (Warrington N) Olner, Bill
Jones, Ms Jenny Osbome, Ms Sandra
(Wolverh'ton SW) Palmer, Dr Nick
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C) Pearson, Ian
Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak) Pendry, Tom
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S) Perham, Ms Linda
Keeble, Ms Sally Pickthall, Colin
Kemp, Fraser Pike, Peter L
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree) Plaskitt, James
Khabra, Piara S Pollard, Kerry
Kidney, David Pond, Chris
Kilfoyle, Peter Pope, Greg
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth) Pound, Stephen
Kumar, Dr Ashok Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Ladyman, Dr Stephen Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Lawrence, Mrs Jackie Prescott, Rt Hon John
Laxton, Bob Primarolo, Dawn
Lepper, David Prosser, Gwyn
Leslie, Christopher Purchase, Ken
Levitt, Tom Quin, Rt Hon Ms Joyce
Lewis, Ivan (BuryS) Quinn, Lawrie
Lewis, Terry (Worsley) Rapson, Syd
Raynsford, Nick Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann
Reed, Andrew (Loughboivugh) (Dewsbury)
Reid, Rt Hon Dr John (Hamilton N) Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Roche, Mrs Barbara Taylor, David (NWLeics)
Rooker, Rt Hon Jeff Temple-Morris, Peter
Rooney, Terry Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W) Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Roy, Frank Timms, Stephen
Ruane, Chris Tipping, Paddy
Russell, Ms Christine (Chester) Touhig, Don
Ryan, Ms Joan Trickett, Jon
Salter, Martin Truswell, Paul
Sarwar, Mohammad Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Savidge, Malcolm Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
Sawford Phil Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
Sedgemore, Brian Turner. Neil (Wigan)
Shaw, Jonathan Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Sheerman, Barry Tynan, Bill
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert Vis.Dr Rudi
Shipley, Ms Debra Wareing, Robert N
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S) Watts, David
Singh, Marsha White, Brian
Skinner, Dennis Whitehead, Dr Alan
Smith, Angela (Basildon) Williams, Rt Hon Alan
Smith Miss Geraldine (Morecambe & Lunesdale)
(Swansea W)
Smith, Jacqui(Reddrtch) Williams, Alan W (E Camarthen)
Smrth, John (Glamorgan) wills, Michael
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent) Wilson Brian
Southworth, Ms Helen Winnick, David
Squire, Ms Rachel Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Steinberg, Gerry Wood Mike
Stevenson, George Woodward, Shaun
Stewart, David (Inverness E) Worthington, Tony
Stewart, Ian (Eccles) Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Stinchcombe, Paul Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)
Stoate, Dr Howard
Stringer, Graham Tellers for the Noes:
Stuart, Ms Gisela Mr. Robert Ainsworth and
Sutcliffe, Gerry Mr. David Jamieson.

Question accordingly negatived.

Question, That the proposed words be there added, put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 31 (Questiions on amendments):—

The House divided: Ayes 323, Noes 167.

Division No. 237] [10.15 pm
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N) Blears, Ms Hazel
Ainger, Nick Blizzard, Bob
Allen, Graham Boateng, Rt Hon Paul
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale) Borrow, David
Armstrong, Rt Hon Ms Hilary Bradley, Keith (Withington)
Ashton, Joe Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Atherton, Ms Candy Bradshaw, Ben
Atkins, Charlotte Brinton, Mrs Helen
Banks, Tony Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E)
Barnes, Harry Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Barron, Kevin Buck, Ms Karen
Bayley, Hugh Burden, Richard
Beard, Nigel Burgon, Colin
Begg, Miss Anne Butler, Mrs Christine
Benn, Hilary (Leeds C) Byers, Rt Hon Stephen
Benn, Rt Hon Tony (Chesterfield) Coborn, Rt Hon Richard
Bennett, Andrew F Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Benton, Joe Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Bermingham, Gerald Campbell-Savours, Dale
Berry, Roger Cann, Jamie
Best, Harold Caplin, Ivor
Betts, Clive Casale, Roger
Blackman, Liz Caton, Martin
Cawsey, Ian Grogan, John
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S) Gunnell, John
Chaytor, David Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Clapham, Michael Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields) Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Clark, Dr Lynda Hanson, David
(Edinburgh Pentlands) Harman, Rt Hon Ms Harriet
Clark, Paul (Gillingham) Heal, Mrs Sylvia
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S) Healey, John
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian) Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge) Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S) Hepburn, Stephen
Clelland, David Heppell, John
Clwyd, Ann Hesford, Stephen
Coaker, Vernon Hill, Keith
Coffey, Ms Ann Hinchliffe, David
Cohen, Harry Hood, Jimmy
Coleman, lain Hoon, Rt Hon Geoffrey
Colman, Tony Hope, Phil
Connarty, Michael Hopkins, Kelvin
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Howarth, Alan (Newport E)
Corbett, Robin Howarth, George (KnowsleyN)
Corbyn, Jeremy Howells, Dr Kim
Corston, Jean Hoyle, Lindsay
Cousins, Jim Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)
Cranston, Ross Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Crausby, David Humble, Mrs Joan
Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley) Hurst, Alan
Cryer, John (Hornchurch) Hutton, John
Cummings, John Iddon, Dr Brian
Cunningham, Jim (CcVtry S) Ingram, Rt Hon Adam
Curtis-Thomas, Mrs Claire Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)
Dalyell, Tarn Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Darling, Rt Hon Alistair Jenkins, Brian
Darvill, Keith Johnson, Miss Melanie
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W) (Welwyn Hatheld)
Davidson, Ian Jones, Rt Hon Barry (Alyn)
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Uanelli) Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C) Jones, Ms Jenny
Davis, Rt Hon Terry (Wolverh'ton SW)
(B'ham Hodge H) Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Dawson, Hilton Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)
Dean, Mrs Janet Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Denham, John Keeble, Ms Sally
Dismore, Andrew Kemp, Fraser
Dobbin, Jim Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Donohoe, Brian H Khabra, Piara S
Dowd, Jim Kidney, David
Drew, David Kilfoyle, Peter
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston) King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)
Edwards, Huw Kumar, Dr Ashok
Efford, Clive Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Ellman, Mrs Louise Lawrence, Mrs Jackie
Ennis, Jeff Laxton, Bob
Field, Rt Hon Frank Lepper, David
Filzpatrick, Jim Leslie, Christopher
Fitzsimons, Mrs Loma Levitt, Tom
Flint, Caroline Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Flynn, Paul Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Follett, Barbara Linton, Martin
Foster, Rt Hon Derek Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings) Lock, David
Foster, Michael J (Worcester) Love, Andrew
Fyfe, Maria McAvoy, Thomas
Galloway, George McCabe, Steve
George, Bruce (Walsall S) McCafferty, Ms Chris
Gerrard, Neil McCartney, Rt Hon Ian
Gibson, Dr Ian (Makerfield)
Gilroy, Mrs Linda McDonagh, Siobhain
Godman, Dr Norman A Macdonald, Calum
Godsiff, Roger McDonnell, John
Goggins, Paul McFall, John
Gordon, Mrs Eileen McGuire, Mrs Anne
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E) McIsaac, Shona
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) McKenna, Mrs Rosemary
Grocott, Bruce McNulty, Tony
MacShane, Denis Ryan, Ms Joan
Mactaggart, Fiona Salter, Martin
McWalter, Tony Sarwar, Mohammad
McWilliam, John Savidge, Malcolm
Mahon, Mrs Alice Sawford, Phil
Mallaber, Judy Sedgemore, Brian
Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury) Shaw, Jonathan
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Sheerman, Barry
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Shipley, Ms Debra
Marshall-Andrews, Robert Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Martlew, Eric Singh, Marsha
Meacher, Rt Hon Michael Skinner, Dennis
Meale, Alan Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Merron, Gillian Smith, Miss Geraldine
Michael, Rt Hon Alun (Morecambe & Lunesdale)
Michie, Bill (Shefld Heeley) Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Miller, Andrew Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Mitchell, Austin Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Moffatt, Laura Southworth, Ms Helen
Moonie, Dr Lewis Squire, Ms Rachel
Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N) Steinberg, Gerry
Mortey, Elliot Stevenson, George
Morris, Rt Hon Ms Estelle Stewart, David (Inverness E)
(B'ham Yardley) Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Morris, Rt Hon Sir John Stinchcombe, Paul
(Aberavon) Stoate, Dr Howard
Mountford, Kali Stringer, Graham
Mowlam, Rt Hon Marjorie Stuart, Ms Gisela
Mudie, George Sutcliffe, Gerry
Mullin, Chris Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck) (Dewsbury)
Murphy, Rt Hon Paul (Torfaen) Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Naysmrth, Dr Doug Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Norris, Dan Temple-Morris, Peter
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton) Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks) Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
O'Hara, Eddie Timms, Stephen
Olner, Bill Tipping, Paddy
Osbome, Ms Sandra Touhig, Don
Palmer, Dr Nick Trickett Jon
Pearson Ian Truswell, Paul
Pendry Tom Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton)
Perham Ms Linda Turner, Dennis (Kemptown)
pfcS Colin Turner, Dr Desmond (NW Norfolk)
Pike, Pete L Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Plaskitt, James Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Pollard Kerry Vis, Dr Rudi
Pond, Chris Wareing, Robert N
Pound, Stephen Watts, David
Pound, Stephen White, Brian
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E) Whitehead, Dr Alan
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle) Wicks, Malcolm
Prescott, Rt Hon John Williams, Rt Hon Alan
Primarolo, Dawn (Swansea W)
Prosser, Gwyn Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Purchase, Ken Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Quin, Rt Hon Ms Joyce Wills, Michael
Quinn, Lawrie Wilson, Brian
Rapson, Syd Winnick, David
Raynsford, Nick Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Reed, Andrew (Loughborough) Wood, Mike
Reid, Rt Hon Dr John (Hamilton N) Woodward, Shaun
Roche, Mrs Barbara Worthington, Tony
Rooker, Rt Hon Jeff Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Rooney, Terry Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Roy, Frank Tellers for the Ayes:
Ruane, Chris Mr. David Jatnieson and
Russell, Ms Christine (Chester) Mr. Robert Ainsworth.
Allan, Richard Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E)
Amess, David Baldry, Tony
Ancram, Rt Hon Michael Ballard, Jackie
Arbuthnot, Rt Hon James Beggs, Roy
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Bell, Martin (Tatton)
Bercow, John Kirkwood, Archy
Beresford, Sir Paul Laing, Mrs Eleanor
Blunt, Crispin Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Body, Sir Richard Lansley, Andrew
Boswell, Tim Leigh, Edward
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W) Letwin, Oliver
Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs Virginia Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)
Brady, Graham Lidington, David
Brake, Tom Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Brand, Dr Peter Livsey, Richard
Brazier, Julian Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)
Breed, Colin Llwyd, Elfyn
Browning, Mrs Angela Loughton, Tim
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset) Luff, Peter
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Burns, Simon MacGregor, Rt Hon John
Butterfill, John McIntosh, Miss Anne
Cable, Dr Vincent MacKay, Rt Hon Andrew
Campbell, Rt Hon Menzies Maclean, Rt Hon David
(NEn Fife) McLoughlin, Patrick
Chapman, Sir Sydney Madel, Sir David
(Chipping Barnet) Malins, Humfrey
Chidgey, David Maples, John
Chope, Christopher Mates, Michael
Clark, Dr Michael (Rayleigh) Maude, Rt Hon Francis
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth Mawhinney, Rt Hon Sir Brian
(Rushcliffe) May, Mrs Theresa
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)
Collins, Tim Moore, Michael
Cormack, Sir Patrick Moss, Malcolm
Cran, James Nicholls, Patrick
Curry, Rt Hon David Norman, Archie
Davey, Edward (Kingston) Oaten, Mark
Davies, Quentin (Grantham) O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury)
Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice) Ottaway, Richard
Duncan Smith, Iain Page, Richard
Evans, Nigel Paice, James
Faber, David Paterson, Owen
Fabricant, Michael Portillo, Rt Hon Michael
Fallon, Michael Prior, David
Flight, Howard Randall, John
Forth, Rt Hon Eric Redwood, Rt Hon John
Foster, Don (Bath) Rendel, David
Fox, Dr Liam Robathan, Andrew
Fraser, Christopher Robertson, Laurence
Gale, Roger Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Garnier, Edward Ruffley, David
George, Andrew (St Ives) Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Gibb, Nick St Aubyn, Nick
Gidley, Sandra Sanders, Adrian
Gillan, Mrs Cheryl Sayeed, Jonathan
Gorman, Mrs Teresa Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian
Gray, James Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)
Green, Damian Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
Grieve, Dominic Soames, Nicholas
Gummer, Rt Hon John Spelman, Mrs Caroline
Hague, Rt Hon William Spicer, Sir Michael
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie Spring, Richard
Hammond, Philip Steen, Anthony
Hancock, Mike Streeter, Gary
Harvey, Nick Stunell, Andrew
Hawkins, Nick Swayne, Desmond
Hayes, John Syms, Robert
Heald, Oliver Tapsell, Sir Peter
Heath, David (Somerton & Frome) Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)
Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Horam, John Thomas, Simon (Ceredigion)
Howard, Rt Hon Michael Tonge, Dr Jenny
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot) Tredinnick, David
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N) Tyler, Paul
Jack, Rt Hon Michael Tyrie, Andrew
Jackson, Robert (Wantage) Wallace, James
Jenkin, Bernard Walter, Robert
Keetch, Paul Waterson, Nigel
Key, Robert Webb, Steve
Whitney, Sir Raymond Yeo, Tim
Whittingdale, John Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Willetts, David
Willis, Phil Tellers for the Noes:
Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton) Mr. Stephen Day and
Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield) Mr. Peter Atkinson.

Question accordingly agreed to.

MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER forthwith declared the main Question, as amended, to be agreed to.


That this House welcomes the Government's move away from the previous 'predict and provide' approach to housing provision and the introduction of a 'plan, monitor and manage' policy under the new regional planning policy arrangements, including a target for building 60 per cent. of all new housing on previously developed land and the tightening of planning controls on out of town shopping and ending the profligate use of land; supports the Government's policies on protecting the Green Belt and improving the use of all land and preventing piecemeal greenfield development; believes the Government's planning, housing, transport, countryside protection, welfare and economic policies will achieve more sustainable and equitable patterns of both urban and rural development; welcomes the Government's continued commitment to sustainable growth, safeguarding the countryside and promoting an urban renaissance; supports the targeting of regeneration initiatives in areas of greatest need and the Government's inter-linked policies for revitalising towns and cities and protecting the countryside; and applauds the Government's aim of giving everyone the opportunity of a decent home and recognises that the doubling of housing investment and other social housing reforms introduced by this Government are creating stronger, safer and more sustainable communities.