I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on being a home owner. I am sure that it will prove to be the best investment that he has ever made. However, the hon. Gentleman has failed to notice that the rate is the same as that which the Labour Government bequeathed. I do not make any point about that, but it is a real problem. The Building Societies' Association has deferred its decision pending the further discussions to which I have referred, and I cannot anticipate the outcome. The right. hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central indicated some of the consequences which may have to be faced. It is a real problem, and I do not dispute it.
On the availability of land, in new towns in the South-East about 500 acres will have been released for private housing before the end of March. I expect 750 acres to be released in the following year and a further 3,750 acres to become available by 1975. Last October local planning authorities were asked to publish information of land available for building in their areas over the next five years. So far 17 authorities have published this information and most of the others aim to do so by the end of March. My hon. Friend the Minister for Housing and Construction intends to have a series of meetings with councils and builders in those areas to discuss the implications of that information.
I do not doubt that more still needs to be done to increase the supply of building land because that is the way ultimately to deal with the stabilisation of prices and to stimulate the housing programme. I shall bring forward further proposals shortly. At the same time I shall be announcing the main outlines of our scheme for a land hoarding charge which my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer referred to in his Budget speech. After my announcement I shall consult the local planning authorities and the house building industry about the details of the scheme.
The object of the scheme is to penalise the speculative hoarding of land with planning permission and to ensure that such land is developed promptly. In the South-East there are planning permissions outstanding for nearly a quarter of a million dwellings. But, unlike a tax on land transactions, the land hoarding charge will neither dry up the supply of land nor increase its price. On the contrary it is designed to bring forward more land for development and so, we hope, to stabilise its price.
It is typical of the Opposition's attitude to criticise this proposal before having details of it. According to the right hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central, nothing less is required than the nationalisation of all building land. In the Opposition's view housing is not a commodity to be bought and sold, and there should be no free market. To say that is to put the whole position out of perspective. Undoubtedly there is a need for public housing. But there is also a demand for home ownership in the private sector. There is also a demand for rented accommodation in both the public and the private sectors. We ought to recognise these varying needs and requirements and try to meet them. So we reject the Opposition's policy entirely, not merely because it is enormously expensive and hopelessly impractical but because it is so completely irrelevant to the housing problems of the nation.