Planning Controls

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:32 pm on 16th May 1988.

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Photo of Mr Clive Soley Mr Clive Soley , Hammersmith 6:32 pm, 16th May 1988

I am glad that the hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Mr. Chapman) won the ballot and chose this subject. The hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Wiggin) closed by saying that he would attempt to keep the issue in the public eye until the Government do something about it. I assure him that he will have my absolute support.

I say that for two important reasons. Sadly, the hon. Member for Chipping Barnet ducked one of them—the whole question of demographic change—in his motion. I make no apology for saying that the second has to do with the political changes that that implies. That is why the Conservative party is so troubled by the change, which is doing to the Tory party what previous demographic changes did to us. Conservative Members must think through the consequences of that in order to understand what is happening.

The desperate crisis in housing in this country relates to the planning problem. The crisis has come upon us largely because the present Secretary of State and his predecessor, the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Hesletine), who sets himself up in opposition to him, created it between them. Both of them undermined local authorities' ability to provide and plan effectively. The right hon. Member for Henley has the audacity to attack the present Secretary of State for setting loose the Frankenstein's monster that he designed.

Conservative Members claim that they are innocent of any responsibility, but the right hon. Member for Henley was the Secretary of State who ordered Berkshire, his own county, to increase the housing supply by 8,000. Furthermore, although he now says that civil servants in the Ministry of Defence should go north, he was the Secretary of State who cancelled the previous Labour Government's order to move the Property Services Agency up to Middlesbrough, which would have meant 3,000 jobs going to the Middlesbrough area.

The present Secretary of State has nothing to write home about either. He is another disaster area. Consider what is happening in Hammersmith. The Hammersmith Broadway development is one of the largest developments in an inner-city area. The appeal against it is already won. The inspector says that it is not appropriate and that there is not enough housing. What does the Secretary of State do? He overrules that decision, even though the developer and London Regional Transport, which proposed the plan, have agreed that it is not appropriate. Everyone agrees that the development is not appropriate but the Secretary of State steps in and overrules the decision, and one of the options that would have provided low-cost housing to take the strain off the areas about which Conservative Members complain. I certainly complain about my area, which has 10,000 people on the housing waiting list and 700 people in bed and breakfasts. When we left office there were none in bed and breakfast and only 4,000 on the waiting list and I thought that was bad enough. The Conservative party has created a nightmare.