Michael Gove (Shadow Minister (Housing), Communities and Local Government; Surrey Heath, Conservative)
We have had a good debate this afternoon and passions have been engaged on both sides of the House. That is hardly surprising, because this subject goes to the heart of the central political question of our time—how do we maintain and enhance our citizens' quality of life?
I should like to pay particular tribute not only to the Members who spoke in the limited time available, but to those who intervened, often to powerful effect. I should like to pay particular tribute to my hon. Friends the Members for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton), for Sutton Coldfield (Mr. Mitchell), for Fareham (Mr. Hoban), for Castle Point (Bob Spink), for Lichfield (Michael Fabricant) and for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Soames), all of whom paid eloquent testimony to the way in which the Government's policy denies their communities the types of housing and development that they need.
The motion has attracted support from across the House, and I also want to pay particular tribute to the interventions by Mr. Field and the hon. Members for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin) and for City of Durham (Dr. Blackman-Woods). All three of them emphasised one of the weaknesses at the heart of Government policy. Given the way in which urban green space—gardens—is classified as brownfield land, developers who should be encouraged to move towards genuine areas of desolation cherry-pick garden sites for their housing developments instead. As a result, the admirable aim behind the Government's policy, and our policy, which is to encourage urban regeneration, is undermined by an unfortunate misapplication of an originally well-intentioned policy.
As was pointed out by my hon. Friend Greg Clark, no great legislative change is required—an edict from the Minister for Housing and Planning could change a situation that, unfortunately, leads to the perverse outcomes to which the hon. Member for Sunderland, South and other hon. Members have referred.