asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he is satisfied with the rate at which land is being released for housing development and that all local authorities are following his policy of giving priority to the claims of house developers over other plans; and if he will make a statement.
The indications are that local authorities generally are responding, but I would like to see them make further efforts wherever possible. They are expected to apply the new guidelines set out in Circular No. 122/73 in determining planning applications for housing.
Has my right hon and learned Friend seen the complaints which I have sent to his Department, which have been put to me by my constituents, that some Labour-controlled local authorities are objecting to planning applications and putting in plans of their own with the political motive of preventing housing starts? Will he accept that I do not include the Bolton County Council in my strictures?
I accept my hon. Friend's reservation. I have no doubt that some criticisms are made. My colleagues will consider them on their merits. Generally, I think that local authorities are responding. They know that the way to bring down the price of land for housing is to make it more generally available.
Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that it is essential to reduce the price of building land by ensuring that supply considerably exceeds demand? Does he accept that we will never get the situation right unless there are far more acres chasing fewer buyers? Is he aware that local authorities are not responding as he has been encouraged to believe? Far too many local authorities are being pressurised by their local representatives as a result of pressure being put upon them by people who have—
Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware—[Interruption.] Is it not a fact—[HON. MEMBERS: "It is a confession"]—that in many of the peripheral areas of the stress areas there is a considerable amount of land available which is not being released when in the town centres building is taking place with pocket-handkerchief gardens?
I do not dissent from my hon. Friend's general proposition about the need to make land available. The chairman of the Labour Government's Land Commission said that the only way to bring down the price of building land was to make more land available for building. That is true. It may be that some local authorities are not responding as well as we might wish. We will continue to bring some pressure upon them. As I have said, I hope that they will make further efforts.
Is not the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that the answer lies in having the nerve to accept the Labour Party's policy of taking building land into public ownership? If he will not do that, will he be good enough to talk to his noble Friend the Secretary of State for Defence and find out how much land he can release in many of the London boroughs? Does he accept that that is a way of trying to deal with the grievous problem of homelessness as well as the massive housing problem?