§ Motion made, and Question proposed, That the sitting be now adjourned.— [Mr. Jim Murphy.]
§ Mr. Andrew Love (Edmonton)
They say that timing is everything in politics, so it is just my luck that this debate should fall between yesterday's statement on the comprehensive spending review and the more detailed statement that the Deputy Prime Minister will be making on Thursday.
The debate is about the spatial development strategy for London, but I share with the Mayor of London the belief that those words are probably the biggest turn-off. I note that the Mayor calls it the London plan. I used all my endeavours to change the title of the debate. The draft London plan was published on 21 June, but it is subject to a three-month consultation, so this is the only opportunity we have to discuss it before the summer recess.
The plan has to rise to the considerable challenges that will face the capital. London is a city of great contrasts. It is a city of extreme wealth and great poverty. It is a city of divisions; it has areas of great opportunity in the centre but also areas of great poverty and blight. London is a world city—it compares with New York and Tokyo—which gives it a reach both global and European, but it is also national and regional. It is a dynamic city; it is changing continuously, perhaps faster than any other part of Britain, or even of Europe. Its population changes. The services that it provides to the country and internationally change, as do its employment structures. London is also a city of great diversity: a third of its population is now estimated to come from one or other of the ethnic minorities, and more than 300 languages are spoken in the capital.
The plan provides two things: an ambitious vision of the London of the future, and alongside that a much more practical land-use strategy, of which the document says:planning has to be realistic, responsive, enabling and work with the grain of the future".Such planning is undoubtedly needed, mainly to guide the public and private investment that will be required during the 15 years of the plan. However, I believe that there is an inherent tension in the plan: whether the practical land-use strategy can deliver the plan's ambitious vision. I shall address that, first by considering the document itself, and secondly by considering what role the Government ought to play in the delivery of the strategy.
We must recognise that the Mayor and the Greater London Authority have few formal powers and even fewer resources to deliver the sort of infrastructure mentioned in the plan. It should therefore be recognised that there must be a partnership with Government; it is they who have the powers and who can provide the 2WH funding not only for the transport infrastructure, housing and regeneration that are the main objects of the plan, but for health and education and for public services generally.
The plan is based on a number of core assumptions, the first of which is population. Currently the population of London is about 7.4 million but if we project from recent population trends we may predict a population of 8.6 million at the end of the 15-year period. The Office for National Statistics carried out a study some years ago that suggested a much lower figure of 7.6 million. However, the most recent research, conducted by the GLA, puts the figure at 8.1 million. That seems a reasonable assumption, although we must be cautious about accepting that figure as time goes on. It would mean an additional population of some 700,000 people—or, as the Mayor likes to put it, a population approximating to that of Leeds.
The second assumption is about employment creation. It is expected that around 630,000 jobs will be created during that period, the vast majority of them—more than 450,000—in the finance and business sectors. Sadly, it is predicted that manufacturing employment will continue to fall from 320,000 to less than 200,000. However, there is some good news in that the high value-added sectors of manufacturing should be maintained.
The report draws on several experiences that have occurred in London over the past 20 years, when the growth in population and jobs was approximately what is expected during the period of the London plan. What happened in London during those 20 years is instructive. There was a dramatic increase in inequality in the capital, including a housing crisis—there was not only rampant house-price inflation such as we have now, but record levels of homelessness, which have continued to be a problem. There were severe capacity constraints in transport as major infrastructure projects stalled, which limited the capital's development potential.
If the plan is to achieve some of its joint objectives, to improve social inclusion and economic sustainability, specific areas must be considered.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cotswold)
The hon. Gentleman is making a thoughtful and useful speech. I agree that there is not enough affordable housing in London, but does he think that the Mayor's target of 50 per cent. affordable or low-cost housing is correct and that it will encourage developers to build all the necessary housing?
§ Mr. Love
Yes, I do. I should point out that the 50 per cent. that is mentioned means 50 per cent. in some parts of London; it is 35 per cent. in others. A detailed study was conducted across London about the acceptability of that target as a standard. It concluded that in most parts of central London 50 per cent. would be a reasonable target, although in other parts, such as my own, a lesser target would be more practical. Later I shall ask whether the Mayor could introduce that target as early as possible.
The report is predicated on several points that address the problems of the past. There must be a radical improvement in the public transport infrastructure; that goes without saying. For example, crossrail 1 is the only way in which we can unlock the potential of the east end, 3WH and reduce social exclusion there. A focus must be put on brownfield developments—that is generally accepted—and every attempt will be made to resist the development of the green belt. There must be greater density of development and a more intensive use of those areas that have not been adequately used in the past. Although I accept those aims in principle, I have several concerns about whether the land-use strategy can adequately deliver the ambitious vision set out in the London plan. These are not objections. Planning issues are a question of balance, with no "yes" or "no" answer.
The obvious question is whether the plan can be achieved and whether it is feasible. We have witnessed population growth and the creation of new jobs, which I hope will result in new infrastructure. Those developments must be accommodated within London's boundaries without encroaching on the green belt. We shall therefore be talking almost exclusively about brownfield development, but we know that there are problems with assembling the land and with remediation strategies, and services must often be provided on such land. That reflects the concerns that the Opposition spokesman mentioned among developers. I suspect that they will also be concerned about greater density and intensity of use; although it is easy to talk about such things in the plan, it will be much harder to deliver them. The first thing that we must do, therefore, is to recognise that the plan must be flexible if we are to get anywhere near achieving its objectives.
The next issue that I want to consider is capacity constraints and, in particular, land availability. The plan predicts the need for 23,000 housing accommodation units each year, yet that figure reflects the constraints on land availability for new housing development. It is predicted that there will be an 8 per cent. increase in the number of pupils, and we shall require schools if we are to educate them. It is suggested that there will need to be about 500,000 sq m of additional office space each year, which must be accommodated. It is also suggested that there will be a 35 per cent. increase in space requirements for hotels and catering during the period of the plan, which must be accommodated. The question is whether the land is available in London to accommodate all those developments and to implement the plan. There are major land availability issues, which we urgently need to tackle.
There is also an imbalance in the economic development that the plan proposes for inner and outer London. If we closely examine what is suggested, we find that two thirds of the new jobs that will be created in the period of the plan will be in inner London, and I include Canary wharf in the definition of inner London. Additionally, most of the job losses in manufacturing will occur in outer London, which poses a difficult problem. Housing development will be concentrated in east London in the latter part of the plan, but it will generally occur across the whole of London. That will place additional pressures on the transport infrastructure, and the problems of moving people form outer to inner London will become intolerable without major infrastructure improvements. We need to reconsider the balance between the jobs that are created in inner and outer London.
4WH Another concern is whether the plan can meet the capital's housing needs, and I come to the conundrum mentioned by the hon. Member for Cotswold (Mr. Clifton-Brown). At present, we have a combination of the largest house-price inflation since records began in the late 1980s and the lowest level of house building since 1924. Many reasons are given for that, and some people blame the developers. I do not want to get into a debate about that, but we must recognise that there are problems with site assembly and brownfield land development. Although the plan suggests that there should be 23,000 additional homes with 10,000 of those being affordable units, we need to recognise that that is probably an underestimate of the real need. The Association of London Government figures for what needs to be achieved, and those produced by the commission that the Mayor set up last year, are much higher.
In recognising that the figure of 23,000 is a minimum, we should also recognise the traditional tensions surrounding house building in London—the competition among different local authorities and the tensions between inner and outer London about where affordable housing should be built. All those traditional tensions still exist and if we are to achieve the plan's objective, we need two things. First, we need significant additional resources to build those houses—a statement was made yesterday in relation to that and there is another to come. Secondly, we need a streamlined planning process to deal with the structural difficulties in the London market.
§ Mr. Clifton-Brown
I agree totally with the hon. Gentleman—housing is the key issue for London. Is he aware that the House Builders Federation has estimated that if all the brownfield sites within the M25 were developed, there would be enough land for London's housing needs for the next 10 years? Is not the reason why a lot of those sites are not being developed the fact that they require Government pump-priming to clean them up and remedy them? Is it not a tragedy that we have lost the gap funding from Europe that was so successful in doing just that?
§ Mr. Love
I agree with the hon. Gentleman on gap funding and I hope that the new measures that I understand will be introduced in the near future will deal with the need for that type of Government support to ensure the development of sites that need remediation.
In relation to the first part of the hon. Gentleman's question, although I accept that there are real difficulties with brownfield development, the problem is much more complex. That is not the entire reason why those sites have not been developed. There are many more reasons, not least the unwillingness of the developers to develop what are, in their terms, difficult sites. They would much prefer to develop greenfield sites.
§ Mr. Mark Field (Cities of London and Westminster)
I bring the example closer to home. In the hon. Gentleman's own borough—the London borough of Enfield—there has been high-profile concern during the past half decade in relation to a brownfield development site at the Royal Small Arms factory. He referred earlier to the idea of the planning process being streamlined. How would he envisage. in practical terms, that type of 5WH development being streamlined? Presumably, the aim would be to avoid the long delays that occurred because a number of local residents felt aggrieved by the process.
§ Mr. Love
I could go into the history of that factory site, its sale and the involvement of various agencies, but I shall not. The site lies not in my constituency but in that of my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, North (Joan Ryan), so I defer to her. I say only that the existing planning process is clearly inadequate to develop a site as large as that of that factory, which has such a history, in the time scale necessary if we are to deal with the problems in London.
Another area that causes me concern is the low priority that is given in the plan to manufacturing in London. As I have already mentioned, it states that manufacturing employment will reduce from 320,000 to less than 200,000 during the period of the plan. I am concerned about that, not least because it would reduce the diversity of the London economy and make us even more dependent on the financial services sector than we already are. People should be worried about that.
However, my major concern about this document is that it does not seem to include a strategy to deal with the issue of manufacturing. Yes, overtures are made to the high-tech end of the market, and there are suggestions that that specific part of manufacturing can be maintained by a combination of clustering and proposals to train high-tech workers, but little is said about the rest of the manufacturing sector, which is still significant in some parts of London, including my constituency and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, North. The document is light on tackling the need to find some strategy to sustain manufacturing in the capital.
The Mayor asks in the strategy for a partnership with Government to try to achieve his objectives. Given the level of powers and resources available to him, he needs that partnership, so I support his call for it. He highlights two major areas where concerted action is needed to achieve the objectives of the London plan, one of which is increased public investment. The Chancellor of the Exchequer announced considerable increases in almost every aspect of public investment yesterday in the comprehensive spending review, and I want to touch on a couple.
In relation to affordable housing, we have a target of 10,000 additional dwellings. The approved development programme to achieve that would cost about £500 million or £600 million a year, increasing by approximately 35 per cent. the existing sum spent on the programme. The announcement yesterday suggested that about £6 billion would be spent on housing. As I understand it, that suggests about £1 billion extra for new development, so we are beginning to address the need. I hope that the Deputy Prime Minister's statement on Thursday will go into the matter in much greater detail.
We also need infrastructure investment, especially in schools to deal with increasing pupil population during the period of the plan. That matter was addressed in the comprehensive spending review. However, we are not dealing with the developing acute shortage of skilled labour in the building industry, and nor is the plan. That is a serious problem in the capital for two reasons. First, 6WH it inevitably has led and will lead to cost increases, so all the cost floors included for development in London will need to be thrown out of the window. It will cost us a great deal more to develop a hospital or new housing because of such restrictions. Secondly, the problem will undoubtedly lead to delays. If we want to stop the delays and cost increases, we need to tackle that severe shortage. As is always the case, the problem is much more severe in the capital than anywhere else.
Transport investment is critical. It is almost the crux of the development plan. We must recognise that there is a long lead-in time for such developments. I do not want to go into the subject of the London underground today, because we have done so on numerous occasions. Everyone has their own view of the public-private partnership, and the one issue in relation to it on which all hon. Members are united is the need to get the investment under way as soon as we can. It is two years overdue, and it is needed immediately.
We have discussed crossrail 1 for 10 years. It is vital for the future of the capital, yet we failed to get the relevant Bill through Parliament. As well as the Government, Parliament needs to give priority and its full backing to the development. The plan suggests that crossrail 1 should be completed by 2010. If we are to open up brownfield development in the east end of London, a substantial commitment from the Government is needed. I was pleased to see additional resources for the 10-year transport plan announced in the comprehensive spending review.
The Mayor said that change was needed in the mechanism used to implement development, not only in London but throughout the country. The existing system, with minor changes, has been in place since 1948 and is long overdue for reform. In December 2001, the Government issued a Green Paper, the objective of which was to streamline the planning process, and the subsequent consultation exercise went on until the end of March 2002. In the words of the London plan document, we need to "promote vigorous development." I was pleased to hear the Chancellor announce yesterday that the Deputy Prime Minister will introduce some reforms of the planning system. I suspect that the Minister will be unable to say anything about that today, but any early indications that he can give us would be welcome.
We should also consider whether we need a special sort of development body to deliver the plan. My impetus in securing the debate was that almost everyone recognises that local authorities have not proved to be the most effective bodies to get development under way. That is especially true where a development area covers more than one local authority area. At the same time, our experience of development corporations has not been that good. The word "remote" comes to mind when one thinks of the London Docklands development corporation, which almost totally ignored the population of the area in which it was carrying out development. If one reads the recent National Audit Office report on the Teesside development corporation, one sees that the chief executive ran the corporation as if it was his fiefdom, ignoring his board of trustees and everyone else. Ultimately, he did not deliver the strategy. Therefore, the development corporation model is not very good either.
7WH I noticed that in his statement on the comprehensive spending review, the Chancellor announced the creation of business planning zones, which he said wouldensure development and create jobs in high unemployment areas."—[Official Report, 15 July 2002; Vol. 389, c. 21.]Therefore, I ask the Minister whether he can tell us anything today about how the zones will operate and, more importantly, whether he would like to set up a pathfinder for those zones in some area or areas of London.
§ Mr. Edward Davey (Kingston and Surbiton)
I am glad that the hon. Gentleman raised that point. Surely that proposal goes in a different direction from the plan before us. As I understand it, the number of planning rules and guidance in those zones would be reduced, whereas the plan tries to set a raft of new guidance.
§ Mr. Love
I am not sure that I can comment on that because I do not know how the business zones will operate. The hon. Gentleman is obviously privy to more information than I am. Of course we want to streamline the planning process, but that should not be done at the expense of the needs of the local community in the zone. While we speed up the process and change the planning regime, we must take account of the local community as part and parcel of the process.
The Mayor has suggested several changes to the planning regime that would increase his influence over development in greater London. Without going into all the issues about planning gain and affordable housing, I commend those changes as a mechanism by which we can help to achieve the plan's objectives.
This is a good plan. It is very ambitious—one could be critical and say that it is too ambitious but I am not sure that one can be too ambitious for a capital city. It is informed by London's city-wide government and the leadership of the Mayor, and is based on the statutory consultation process, which is welcome, giving a London-wide accountability that did not previously exist. Its vision is that of the partnership that we can offer the Mayor and the Greater London Authority, and I hope that it will deliver a successful and sustainable city that is much more socially inclusive. If we can achieve that, we shall have done a great deal not only for our capital city but for our constituents.
§ 10 am
§ Richard Ottaway (Croydon, South)
I congratulate the hon. Member for Edmonton (Mr. Love) not only on having secured the debate but on the rational way in which he delivered his thoughts. That was in distinct contrast to our previous London debate, which demonstrated the split between various factions of the Labour party.
The strategic development plan proposed by the Mayor reflects the fact that London is largely a victim of its success. It is a case of motherhood and apple pie; nobody can argue with the thrust of the points that are made. There is a need for sustainable management of the economy and its growth—London is growing rapidly—for regeneration, transport and schools. We need to tackle poverty and social exclusion and to improve the quality of the environment.
8WH The only part of the report that refers to my constituency—if anybody in the Mayor's office ever reads such documents—mentions the need to develop the science park at Cane Hill and its being hampered by the lack of transport links. As the hon. Member for Hampstead and Highgate (Glenda Jackson) will know—she approved the link before she handed the matter to the Mayor—the only reason why the links are not being developed is that the Mayor is not doing it, so there is some inconsistency in parts of the report.
I should like to touch on three controversial areas, which are the test of the Greater London Authority Act 1999. They are development, the need for social housing and planning reforms, to which the hon. Member for Edmonton alluded.
I turn first to office space development. There is a need, as the report says, for some 600,000 new office spaces in London. It is proposed that they will largely be in high-rise blocks. The Canary wharf development and the way in which it is being integrated is a good thing; those who say that we shall have another 75 Canary wharfs are probably exaggerating, as politicians tend to do. Companies clearly like that type of block and, provided that we watch out for bad architecture—the skyline of London is something that everyone will be lumbered with and the vistas should be protected—I shall have no difficulty with more such developments.
One point that touches on the effectiveness of the Act is that much of the discussion between the Mayor and the developers has taken place in private. That is not acceptable. The Mayor's excuse is that, as he alone is the planning authority—to that extent he is right—why should he not conduct discussions in private? They should be conducted in public because then there could be no controversy about the link between the Mayor and the developer when he gives permission for large blocks. The Government should consider amending the Act or the regulations to reflect that point, otherwise questions of corruption can creep in, even if completely unfounded.
The hon. Member for Edmonton dwelt on the need for affordable housing. Discussion about the need in London tends to focus on public sector workers. There is a need for housing for the low paid, whether they are in the public or the private sector. There is a graduated scale of demand, depending on income. We all agree that there is a need for more land. So far, the Government's response has been weak. I suspect that that will change when the Deputy Prime Minister makes his statement—at least I hope so.
The Government's starter home initiative was inadequate and needs to be beefed up. We also need hundreds of thousands of more affordable houses. The difficulty is that the plan is not in the Mayor's brief. As the hon. Member for Hampstead and Highgate will know, it was made clear during consideration of the Bill that it was not envisaged that it would be. That is why the Bill did not give him the powers. He has half a power—a negative power: he can direct a local authority to refuse permission for a development that does not have adequate social housing, but he cannot do anything about it. What is happening now is what we always said would happen: the boroughs and the Mayor have different ideas. The question arises of who decides London's requirements: is it the Mayor, or the boroughs?
9WH On Second Reading, the Deputy Prime Minister said:The strategic plan will be based on the boroughs' views".—[Official Report, 14 December 1998; Vol. 322, c. 633.]The position shifted slightly when the guidance came out, which stated:The Government expects the Mayor and the boroughs to work collaboratively in the development and review of UDPs".Newham, which is in the east end of London where most of the development is happening, is resistant to social housing. It would rather have people on middle-class incomes bringing a lot of revenue into the borough. There is therefore a stalemate. The developers are resistant to having 50 per cent. social housing in a development, and will wait until the next Mayor or the next elections, as will the boroughs. The result is that nothing will happen.
§ Mr. Clifton-Brown
My hon. Friend is making a good point. Will he contrast what is happening in London—the lack of any real action to tackle the severe problems that London faces with social housing and transport—with the powers of the Mayor of New York and with what Mayor Giuliani managed to achieve in New York to revitalise it?
§ Richard Ottaway
My hon. Friend makes a good point. The difference between the governments of New York and London is that the Mayor of New York has more powers. However, that was a conscious decision by our Government. I suspect that they thought that Mr. Livingstone might end up as Mayor, and wanted to keep the ball and chain on his leg. I agree with them, which is where I must disagree with the hon. Member for Edmonton, who suggested that the Mayor be given more powers. In fact, the Mayor wants to have a say in section 106 agreements. I urge the Minister not to go down that road. If the Government went down that road, the Mayor of London would become the housing authority for London. That would emasculate the London boroughs, which is not what the people of London want. During consideration of the Bill, we were warned that that would happen. This sort of issue is a test of the legislation.
§ Mr. Edward Davey
Does the hon. Gentleman believe that the Mayor is going down that route because his financial powers in other areas have been severely limited? Surely it would be more rational to allow more financial decentralisation and, as he says, to prevent the Mayor from getting his sticky fingers on greater planning powers?
§ Richard Ottaway
I agree. That is why the Conservative party proposed during consideration of the Bill that the London Assembly comprise representatives of London boroughs, rather than being a bridge between the people and the Mayor, which it is at the moment. We are being proved right as the legislation is tested.
The hon. Member for Edmonton made the point that none of it will happen unless the infrastructure is put in place. We need more transport infrastructure, we need crossrail, and a variety of other projects. I detect signs that the Government are hesitating before announcing more transport infrastructure projects because London 10WH is working pretty well as it is. The economic prosperity being created by London is dramatic; it is fizzing at the moment. There is enough regional imbalance already. If more money is put into more projects in London and it becomes even wealthier there will be a greater imbalance. I suspect that the Government, as ever, will try to find something between the two positions and come up with a third way.
The comprehensive spending review statements will be the real test. There is an opportunity for the Government, but it is essential to resolve the conflict between the Mayor and the boroughs and the boroughs and the Government. If the Government make it clear exactly how the decisions are made—the process of doing so—the plan will be even more effective.
§ Glenda Jackson (Hampstead and Highgate)
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Edmonton (Mr. Love) on securing the debate and on relieving the burden of delivering the undoubtedly necessary statistics in the Mayor's London plan from the shoulders of every other contributor to the debate. He made it interesting, too.
I question whether my hon. Friend was entirely right in averring that he had chosen the wrong time for the debate in the light of the Chancellor's statement yesterday and the statement from the Deputy Prime Minister on Thursday, which we await with bated breath. I have little doubt that the Minister will draw the Deputy Prime Minister's attention to this debate. A great deal in politics can happen in a day, as well as in a week.
I declare an interest inasmuch as I am a member of the Mayor's advisory cabinet on rough sleeping and homelessness. I want to touch briefly on the points made by the hon. Member for Croydon, South (Richard Ottaway), who said that no one could argue with the London plan because it was essentially about motherhood and apple pie. I remind him that during the passage of the Greater London Authority Act, the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues argued ferociously against a mayoralty even being instituted.
The hon. Gentleman mentioned issues relating to planning, housing, transport and more money for London. In the days of the Conservative Government, I distinctly remember that planning was completely outside the remit of local communities. It seemed that the Secretary of State with responsibility for planning under the Conservative Government simply rubber stamped every major development in the teeth of furious opposition—certainly in my constituency—on certain big developments. They did absolutely nothing to support social housing. They were the architects of many issues on which London now has to carry the burden: not only the lack of affordable housing but the destruction of communities.
In respect of money for transport infrastructure, the Conservative Government's response to the difficulties of creating a properly integrated public transport system for London was simply to sell it off, usually to the detriment of taxpayers, who until privatisation, certainly as far as surface rail is concerned, owned that infrastructure. The Conservative Government proposed to sell off London Underground, too. The argument is 11WH about how London can create sustainable development, based on one of the Labour Government's great pluses: giving the people of London a direct voice in who is democratically accountable for London as a whole.
My hon. Friend the Member for Edmonton put his finger on the issue that must be clarified if the plan is to succeed. I agree with him that the plan, which is based on the most comprehensive consultation, not only of those directly elected to the Greater London Authority, but of the population of London as a whole, deserves Government support and partnership. Achieving the plan's targets will depend on partnership with central Government and with the London boroughs. My hon. Friend referred to a conflict between inner and outer London boroughs over employment prospects, but the borough structures themselves might be a problem for the sustainable development of London, which also depends on the economy of the United Kingdom plc.
People far more expert than I have demonstrated that the creation of a job in London is directly linked to the creation of two other jobs in the wider national hinterland. Apart from being the capital city of this great nation—and a great city by virtue of its variety and energy—London is the engine room for the sustainable development of the United Kingdom as a whole. It is vital not just for Londoners, but for everyone who lives and works in this country that the Mayor's plan works. However, it will not work without commitment and agreement to the plan's overriding essentials and to creating a desperately needed infrastructure. We now have the opportunity to see it happen through central and local government, the voluntary sector, the private sector and others working together.
The city cannot sustain itself if the people necessary to its sustainability find it impossible to rent or to buy a decent home. In fact, that is over-egging the pudding: nowadays it is increasingly difficult to find any home at all. We face the absurd paradox of the worst housing in the country being the most expensive—often for the public purse, which is a clear waste of money. We are doing nothing to maintain our national housing stock and nothing to broaden the aspirations of London's people. In the main, we are leaving them in unsuitable accommodation in unacceptable surroundings.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Edmonton pointed out, London's wealth, which is not exclusively financial, is not evenly spread throughout the city. My constituency, which comprises one of the two parliamentary seats in the borough of Camden, is invariably misrepresented in the popular press as being exclusively populated by millionaires living in leafy roads who do nothing except sip champagne and chatter. In fact, my constituency includes two of the most deprived wards in the United Kingdom and the constituency of my right hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) has two more. Pockets of severe deprivation can be found throughout the whole of greater London.
§ Ms Karen Buck (Regent's Park and Kensington, North)
Does my hon. Friend share my concern that, although the Government have been successful across the country in tackling the crisis of child poverty, child poverty in London has not reduced? That must be 12WH tackled by using all the measures outlined in the plan. The housing crisis, the inability of families to enter employment because of the housing benefit trap, the high cost of child care and so forth have made it difficult for families to move out of child poverty at the same rate as elsewhere.
§ Glenda Jackson
I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who leads me neatly on to my next point. Undoubtedly, 40 per cent. of London's children live on or below the poverty line. We have heard much about the wealth of this great city. Indeed, I have contributed to that idea in my speech. However, the Association of London Government has issued interesting and detailed briefing papers highlighting its concern that London may lose out at the time of the next standard spending assessment review if the Government change the structures that they are examining in the desperate and entirely laudable attempt to make the process fairer. We may lose the finance that is necessary not only to move forward the Mayor's plan, but simply to keep London ticking over.
The streets of London are not paved with gold, but it is undoubtedly possible to increase the capacity of people who live in the city to make a larger contribution to its economy and the country. They will be only too willing to do that if the proper infrastructures are in place to enable them so to do. I urge the Government to approach seriously and across the range the partnership to which my hon. Friend the Member for Edmonton and I have referred.
The Mayor, the GLA and, indeed, the hon. Member for Croydon, South have pointed out that the Mayor has no direct responsibility for the delivery of housing, inasmuch as he has no powers or money to build. However, I argue strongly against any diminution of the Mayor's powers over the planning process with regard to the contribution of affordable social housing.
We know from the Mayor's housing commission that the city should be building simply to catch up and to take more than 50,000 families out of temporary housing and more than 8,000 out of bed-and-breakfast accommodation. We should also be building to tackle hidden homelessness in London, which is estimated to affect 106,000 to 160,000 people, many of whom are among the most frail and vulnerable of our citizens.
Simply to put those people in some form of decent housing, we should be building at the rate of 28,000 properties a year for the next decade. If we are to put some slack in the housing system, we should be building 46,000 properties a year. However, that will not be possible, given the scarcity of available land in London. The concentration will have to be on brownfield sites, unless the Mayor, working in partnership with the boroughs, has the power to insist that 50 per cent. of developments consist of affordable social housing.
The hon. Member for Croydon, South referred to the Government's approach to starter packs. There has been movement by Government to attempt to tackle the difficulties experienced by nurses, teachers and police officers in trying to find somewhere affordable to live in London. I can understand why the Government did what they did, but it achieves nothing. All it does is pour money into what is clearly a seller's market. We must put more properties into the equation or we will see ever 13WH greater inflation of rents and house prices, and an ever greater reduction in the number of people on whom the city depends day in, day out, because they cannot find somewhere to live.
That is one group of workers whom the Mayor and Government have defined as key workers, but other key workers in London do not feature in the starter packs. The people who sweep the streets, who push trolleys round our hospitals, who clean our hospitals, doctors' surgeries and schools, and the groundsmen in schools need to live in this city, too.
I hope that the Government will enter into the partnership that the Mayor has called for to deliver on his London plan. I hope that they will look kindly on the financial necessities for delivery of the plan, not least on housing, but also on the transport infrastructure. The Government have made a commitment to invest in transport over the next decade, but what is even more vital to London than the money, curiously, is the prioritisation of which scheme will start first. Otherwise, we will waste more years, and costs will inevitably increase before any project gets under way because of parochial arguments about what is necessary in certain parts of this capital city.
That brings me back to my central point. The Labour Government's great step forward in creating a mayoralty and the Greater London Authority was an acknowledgement that London, in certain basic essentials, must be viewed as one city. We had to move from the situation that had prevailed for too long in which borough was set against borough. I referred earlier to the mess in planning under the Conservative Government. It was acknowledged that because boroughs desperately needed money and work opportunities for their people, planners would hold them over a barrel and say that if they did not give them permission for a particular development, they would move five miles down the road where another local authority would. That situation had to stop. We are suffering from that inability to recognise the long-term planning and development needs of London.
The mayoral plan sets out a framework that can deliver a sustainable, developing and infinitely fairer, healthier and more equitable capital city. As I have said, the Mayor and the GLA cannot deliver the plan on their own and will need partnership from central Government. The boroughs will also need to work in partnership and be open minded, as will all other parts of London life that can make a positive contribution, including the public, private and voluntary sectors.
This is a great city, which can be infinitely greater. Its greatness has always depended on the energy, creativity and commitment of the people who live and work here. Far too many of them are still excluded from making their proper contribution, and we owe a duty to them to ensure that the Mayor's plan can and will deliver.
§ Mr. Mark Field (Cities of London and Westminster)
I congratulate the hon. Member for Edmonton (Mr. Love) on securing this important debate. We go back some five or six years. Hon. Members may have wondered earlier how I could talk about the intricacies of the London borough of Enfield. The reason is not only that I am a bit of a political anorak, but that I was a candidate—sadly unsuccessful—in the 1997 election in Enfield, North.
14WH I remember meeting the hon. Gentleman when he was a mere prospective parliamentary candidate. It struck me then how firmly he felt about the importance of housing and homelessness issues. During the year that I have been in the House, he has become a leading light in discussing the issues, although he is sometimes a thorn in the side of his own party. It was not a great surprise that a debate on a development strategy for London would concentrate on the issues in the draft London plan and effective housing.
The hon. Member for Hampstead and Highgate (Glenda Jackson) said that London is a wonderful place in which to live, and I agree. All London Members recognise London's brilliance, history and vibrancy and the fact that it is a melting pot for people from different cultures and for the young and the old. Equally, it cannot be denied that London has deep-seated problems, and I hope that we can play our part in solving them. We must confess that the role of the 74 London Members is limited. A London Mayor is in place, and we must ensure that we do not obstruct what he is trying to do.
I welcome the publication of a visionary strategic plan for London. This might make me sound a little like my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke) discussing the Maastricht treaty, but I must confess that I have not read the document throughout. I suspect that reading the draft plan in order to contribute to the consultation process will take up a disproportionate amount of my summer recess. Nevertheless, it makes important comments on the sustainability agenda and transport, in particular crossrail.
§ Mr. Gareth Thomas (Harrow, West)
Will the hon. Gentleman take time during the summer recess to go through the Mayor's development strategy in detail and consider it in the light of a possible bid to host the Olympic games in 2012 or 2016, something that I have long believed London should do? In considering that will he recognise that one of the reasons for making such a bid is to help stimulate the investment in infrastructure and affordable housing that London so desperately needs and that were features of both the Commonwealth games bid in Manchester and the Sydney Olympic games bid?
§ Mr. Field
I fully accept those comments. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will he talking to his constituency neighbour, the hon. Member for Brent, North (Mr. Gardiner). Perhaps looking at these large-scale sporting complexes has not been the Government's greatest hour. An Olympic bid for London may be a bit further away than 2012 or 2016.
I shall keep my comments brief, as I know we have to move towards the winding-up speech. I want to make a few points about affordable housing. The policy of 50 per cent. affordable housing in central London, which has been calibrated on the basis of 35 per cent. affordable housing and 15 per cent. for key workers, may have unintended consequences. If we have a tightly prescriptive policy from the Mayor on affordable housing, developers may think that it is not financially 15WH viable to go ahead and build, particularly in central London. We will suffer because of a lack of flexibility on rules in that regard.
§ Mr. Field
I am sorry, but I have to finish in a moment or two.
It is questionable whether this very ambitious agenda, or indeed any part of it, can be driven through by the current incumbent of the mayoralty. Like many other London Members I receive a positive blizzard of publications almost daily from the GLA and from Transport for London, the headcount of which has leapt from 2,257 to over 3,100 in the past year alone. Much of it is virtually irrelevant propaganda on an array of policy areas outside the work of the Mayor and the GLA and is produced by the Mayor's policy unit.
I hope that the Minister will have something to say about ensuring that there is no centralisation by Government on a number of the planning aspects that several hon. Members have dealt with today. We need to put our trust in Londoners. My concern is that if we have a regional government whose raison d'être is to have a large-scale planning power, the 33 London boroughs will suffer. Effectively, planning decisions will be made up on high and will not be responsive to the interests and needs of local people in all the villages that make up London as a whole.
§ Mr. Edward Davey (Kingston and Surbiton)
I congratulate the hon. Member for Edmonton (Mr. Love) on the main thrust of his speech, which highlighted the fact that the London plan is predicated on the idea that the land will be available for all the building, both office and residential, that it envisages. Scarcity of land goes to the heart of the debate. I will focus on that, but I should first like to welcome the Minister to his new position. Some of us were very disappointed that he spent such a long time in the Trappist world of the Whips Office. We look forward to his contributions to the parliamentary dictionary over the next few weeks and months.
I welcome the plan and the debate. It is important that we have such a plan for London. For far too long development in the capital has been chaotic and has had no overarching strategy. To that extent the plan is a welcome contribution to a debate that we have been unable to have for a decade or two. Hon. Members have not so far stressed the fact that this is now a legal document. When boroughs consider their planning applications and review their unitary development plans, the plan will be a material consideration. It will affect the lives of our constituents. It is very important that we and our boroughs debate it. Clearly, if it survives all the consultation and becomes a formal London plan, it will have a significant effect on planning across the capital.
As other hon. Members have said, the plan has many good aspects, such as the focus on affordable housing, which must be right and is in many ways the major challenge facing the capital. The focus on east London 16WH and development in the east in that regard is very important. That part of our great city has more land available and there is an urgent need to develop it. The Mayor adopts a cross-party belief that much development can take place there.
I welcome an innovative part of the plan, the blue ribbon network. During the proceedings of the Greater London Authority Bill, we debated the various strategies that the Mayor would be statutorily required to produce. The Liberal Democrats argued that he should be required to produce a strategy for the River Thames. Many of the thousand or so amendments that we tabled to that Bill were not successful but I am delighted that the Mayor has taken the kernel of that idea and expanded it to incorporate all the waterways and watercourses across the capital. That is very exciting.
However, I have some concerns about the plan. I am gravely concerned about its underlying assumptions, about some of the delivery mechanisms that the plan skates over and about some of the omissions, particularly the impact on the suburbs—areas such as my own—and the impact of orbital transport networks, which are becoming a theme of Transport for London. On behalf of hon. Members whose constituencies would be affected, I am also concerned that the plan does not state more clearly that a third runway at Heathrow is a bad idea.
I also worry that much of the research underpinning the document has not yet been published. I hope that the Mayor will publish it quickly so that it is available during the consulation period and the examination in public next year. Chapter one of the plan paints four scenarios. The Mayor has gone for what is described as the high-demand, high-supply scenario. I am concerned that the plan is predicated on that; other scenarios may turn out to be correct. We obviously hope that it will not be the case but, for example, growth in the capital may not be as strong as the plan suggests.
Those scenarios are built on the presumption that London is in equilibrium but it is not. We have much demand but insufficient supply, particularly in the infrastructure. We need supply to catch up with the demand. I am concerned about the general view from the Mayor's office that we will take as much growth as can be thrown at us, and about the idea that population growth can and should be absorbed. That is not a sensible way of planning. Some population growth may need to be encouraged in other parts of the country. The Mayor should take a leadership role in saying that he will work with other regions and areas to try to ensure that growth, particularly population growth, is more widely spread. Saying, "We will predict and provide" is not necessarily the right assumption on which to base the plan.
As the hon. Member for Edmonton said, the more optimistic plans for affordable housing do not relate to land availability. Interestingly, the plan uses target figures from a recent housing land capacity study, drawn up in close co-operation with the boroughs, which was more pessimistic than the plan. That raises serious questions. Much extra research, which has not yet been published, has been undertaken to try to work out whether more land can be used. In table 3A1, the plan suggests that my borough will be able to find another 6,710 homes by 2106. I know my constituency 17WH very well, and that will be enormously challenging, although it is a relatively modest target compared with those in other boroughs. It is worrying that some of the targets do not seem to be linked to where land is available.
I am concerned about the details of the plan. Norbiton is a deprived ward in my constituency, but from reading the plan, one would imagine that Kingston's needs were non-existent. It mentions one or two areas in the south sub-region that require regeneration, but, apparently, not one single area in Kingston requires regeneration. I invite the Mayor and his advisers to visit the Cambridge Road estate and Cambridge gardens, where he will see the need for regeneration. I hope that he will amend the plan so that Norbiton ward becomes a high priority for regeneration.
The plan does not clearly set out how it will deliver some of its aspirational objectives. It says too little about how the Mayor will work with boroughs, such as the royal borough of Kingston upon Thames. Such partnerships will be crucial because the Mayor does not have the money or power to achieve the plan's objectives by himself and he needs to engage more. That is a major omission. The Mayor should be working with borough planning departments, which are under-resourced, in spite of the excellent work carried out by officials in those departments. The Mayor could play a significant role in supporting and strengthening those departments.
In conclusion, I welcome the plan. There is much to be debated before its final adoption, and I hope that the House will have the opportunity to revisit the subject, perhaps for an even longer debate.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cotswold)
I am grateful to the hon. Member for Edmonton (Mr. Love) for introducing the debate in a calm and sensible way. In fact, all the speeches so far have been constructive. The problem is that this is such a big subject that we can only skirt around it in an hour and a half. We would all like to devote more time to the issue.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Field) made a good point. The Mayor's plan is visionary; the question is whether it can be implemented, given what powers he has. My hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South (Richard Ottaway) made that point very clearly.
The hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Mr. Davey) slightly wrong; this is not a legal document, as yet. As the hon. Member for Edmonton said, the plan has been put out for consultation until 30 September, whereafter there will be a public examination until early 2003, followed by a recommendation to the Secretary of State in late 2003. Thereafter, hopefully, we shall begin to see some action.
It is vital to the future of the country to ensure that London retains its world status as a vibrant city, so it is important that we should think about these matters and slightly worrying that a survey by William Mercer for the BBC puts London 34th in its ranking of world countries. The top four cities were Vancouver, Zurich, Vienna and Bern. The reason given for placing London so far down the list was that quality of life there is 18WH deteriorating. In particular, the survey cited traffic and congestion, to which list I would add crime. Interestingly, the lowest ranked city was Brazzaville, in Congo, which Mr. Mercer perceptively says came bottom of the list because of the civil war in the region.
Some interesting statistics were quoted in the report, some of which were referred to by the hon. Member for Edmonton. When I first said that London's population would rise by 700,000 over the next two decades, the equivalent of the population of a city such as Leeds, hon. Members derided me. I am interested to hear that hon. Members now accept that there will be a huge growth in population in London in the next two decades. Contrary to what some hon. Members said, I think that it will be a good thing, as it will keep the city vibrant. About 516,000 people will be of working age. More importantly, more than 500,000 will be of school age. Unlike the populations of many countries and cities, the population of London is getting younger on average, which we must consider in the facilities that we provide and in planning the city.
As the hon. Member for Edmonton said, it is reckoned that the population will grow from 7.4 million to 8.1 million people. The economy supports a wider area with about 18 million people, so the city is extremely big in world terms. There is huge disparity in wealth, as the hon. Member for Hampstead and Highgate (Glenda. Jackson) said, which is clearly in no one's interests. We aim to bring the level of some of the most deprived areas, such as parts of her constituency, up towards that of the best.
I was interested to see that the Mayor predicted in his plan that the highest levels of housing growth would be in deprived areas. For example, Tower Hamlets will have an extra 2,070 dwellings, Southwark 1,480 and Lambeth 1,450. However, as I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster is aware the City of London will have only 110. Richmond, which is near the constituency represented by the hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton, will have 270, and Bexley 280.
That may not be sufficient to meet London's severe housing problems. After crime and transport, housing may be the third biggest problem and challenge; all problems are challenges. I welcome the Mayor's statement that we will have an extra 23,000 homes in London, which is a 22 per cent. increase and a challenging target. However, as I said in my intervention on the hon. Member for Edmonton, I have questions about the Mayor's 50 per cent. target, because 50 per cent. of nothing is nothing. It would be far better to get the houses built with perhaps a lesser proportion of social housing. We all accept that we need social housing, but we need housing—full stop.
The hon. Member for Edmonton was right to refer to points that were made in an article in The Observer that I have previously quoted in this Chamber, which states that the 2000 figure of 161,000 homes is the lowest for house building since 1924, excluding the war years. It is too low. We need to work on some of the brownfield sites mentioned by the House Builders Federation. I repeat that it estimates that if we developed all the brownfield sites within the M25 corridor, there would be enough housing land provision in London for the next 10 years.
19WH We are not making the progress in housing that we should. The hon. Member for Hampstead and Highgate rightly drew attention to the appalling waste of human resources that is putting people in bed-and-breakfast accommodation. I think that the figure she gave was 8,000 people in London alone. It is a tragedy. and we should do something about it. We need to build good-quality housing in London in the right places.
The debate has skirted around the fact that we need to consider the planning system carefully. The Government have proposals to make on planning in the autumn. I hope that they have been properly thought out. The Mayor has proposed to aggregate all planning gain together. His desire for that power begins to worry me. Would it be used properly? The Government have made proposals on tariffs, which also concern me. If we are not careful, they will simply amount to a development land tax, yet another tax on developers.
I want the Government to go forward with inner-city regeneration. During the Conservatives' 18 years in government, we had some superb regeneration schemes. However, the Government's policy on urban regeneration seems fragmented, with many different schemes, many budgets underspent, and money not getting to the areas that it should. I want large enough parcels of land aggregated together so that we can have some really imaginative urban regeneration schemes.
There is not enough time in the debate to discuss all London's severe problems. It is an important world city, and it is vital to the success and continued growth of the economy that we ensure that all Government Departments use their powers to work in partnership with the Mayor. We have not discussed the fact that all Government Departments are involved in London's problems, which are not limited to crime, transport, housing or urban regeneration. The Department for Education and Skills and the Department of Health have a vital part to play in the future of London. I look forward to what the Minister has to say about finding solutions to the problems.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. Tony McNulty)
I, too, congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Edmonton (Mr. Love) on not only securing the debate but the manner in which he opened it. His comments were profound and thoughtful and showed a strong grasp of all the subjects in the plan. I hope that the Mayor takes his comments as seriously as they were intended, and as the first of many responses in the consultation process.
Without seeking in any way to add a partisan note to our deliberations, I heard more of substance from my hon. Friend in his half-hour speech than I heard in any of the speeches made by members of the official Opposition. That is a shame, given the significance of the plan and of London as a city—rather than a country, as the hon. Member for Cotswold (Mr. Clifton-Brown) had it. I would be surprised if London came 34th in a list of countries.
My hon. Friend the Member for Edmonton bemoaned his sense of timing. He was right to do so, in light of the fact that there was a statement on the 20WH comprehensive spending review yesterday and my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister will give his response on Thursday. We are about to respond to the consultation process for the Green Paper on planning, and we have a statutory duty to respond to the Mayor's plan by 30 September.
Sadly, my comments will be couched within my hon. Friend's distressingly bad sense of timing. I hope the debate is the first of many on the plan and its surrounding issues, but it may have an entirely different tenor by next week, let alone by October or November. However, he was right to draw attention to the issues.
We welcome the plan, although there seems to be some confusion in the Chamber about its status. Essentially, it is the successor document to the strategic planning advice for London. It is the strategic planning framework and, when it is adopted, all boroughs will have to use it as a touchstone for the development of their community development plans or local development frameworks. By definition, it is part of a hierarchy of plans. From the comments of some hon. Members, one might get the idea that the Mayor is planning a land grab and that he will be a monolithic superpower in terms of planning for London, but that is far from the case.
At the risk of entering the realm of semantics, the plan is not a legal document—the hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Mr. Davey) was wrong. From its publication, it represents a material consideration in the planning process. In that sense, whether it is legal is a significant point.
I do not have time to make the speech that I had intended to make or to reply to all hon. Members' remarks, but I shall throw out a few ditties. I take seriously the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Edmonton about the balance between outer and inner London in the document. For my sins, I served on the London planning advisory committee, which was the body responsible for strategic advice between the demise of the Greater London council and the rise of the Greater London Authority. There was an ongoing debate about not only north, south, east and west London but inner and outer London.
One thing underlay all hon. Members' comments. It is time for government from the boroughs upwards and for central Government downwards to treat London as one living, organic entity, a city in which what happens in one part has a profound impact on other parts. The notion—both simplistic and complacent—that if we utilise every single brownfield site inside the M25, London's housing problems will be solved has been repeated a couple of times. It is nonsense. It gives the impression that all that is inside the M25 ring, which in some places is 25 to 30 miles from the GLA's boundaries, is a land bank of pristine, clean brownfield sites just waiting to be turned into housing by nice, magnanimous developers. Even the developers recognise that that is profoundly wrong. It is equally wrong to cast doom and gloom by suggesting that every site is so poisonous and contaminated that the poor developers cannot do anything with it without Government assistance.
The hierarchy of land use that is the core of the plan has been at the core of planning since the 1980s and 1990s: brownfield, urban fringe, then greenfield, which 21WH itself has various degrees. Urban fringes and greenfield may be used, and it is misleading to suggest that there is a massive stock of brown field inside the M25 and that the problem will be solved if it is utilised. A recent report—I am not sure whether it was commissioned by the Government or by the GLA—said that to solve some, if not all, of our difficulties, we should look upwards. If the plan suggests anything it is that a portfolio of solutions to housing, planning and developmental issues in London is needed.
We should go to our local shopping centres and see how much single-storey, ground-level development there is. A recent report said that we could secure close to 25,000 units simply by building upwards—perhaps above railway stations, certainly above petrol stations. That has happened in the centre of London to some extent. At this stage in London's growth, single-level developments are a woefully inefficient use of the precious commodity of land. That is not the whole answer, but part of it.
I take the point of my hon. Friend the Member for Edmonton about manufacturing in general, rather than the specifics of the plan, but it is not enough; throughout London, despite the plan, a UDP, local development framework-led planning process remains. We should exhort each authority, whether it is in inner or outer London, to consider every single designation of land. Elected members must now say to the borough valuer who has been marketing a particular site for 25 years with B1 or B8 use—it may be the only bit of the precious manufacturing base left in his outer London borough—that he should take a step back and be creative. He could say that it should be given over either to mixed use or to housing. Every borough must review the land use of each of its sites during the consultation, using the plan as a touchstone. Residents deserve no less.
It has been a good debate, despite my earlier partisan comments. In part it has been a nice déjà vu. Many who are present lived and breathed with me and others in a dusky Committee on the Greater London Authority Bill. The hon. Member for Croydon, South (Richard Ottaway) was there and he has not changed at all. It is still all doom and gloom and the GLA Act is nonsense. I shall look again at our proceedings for the exhaustive amendments tabled by the hon. Gentleman to develop a Rudy Giuliani figure for London—I suspect that there was none. In three months, Opposition Members were for the Mayor, against the Mayor, half for and half against. In the end they were not sure at all but would have preferred group leaders on a borough-wide basis, and then they were not sure about the Assembly either.
The important point is that the London plan is an important contribution to our deliberations. Whatever people think of its author or anything else, it matters for the future of London and it will inform the planning context. I look forward to being party to the Government's response, and I urge every London Member and every hon. Member who has London's interests at heart to read it thoroughly and to respond to it.