Housing and Planning Policies

Part of Opposition Day – in the House of Commons at 4:18 pm on 22nd June 1988.

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Photo of Hon. Nicholas Ridley Hon. Nicholas Ridley , Cirencester and Tewkesbury 4:18 pm, 22nd June 1988

I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof: congratulates the Government on its housing and planning policies which have helped more people than ever before to own their own homes and, while protecting the extending the approved Green Belts, have created the conditions for a return of prosperity across the whole country; welcomes the proposals in the Housing Bill to widen the choice of housing available for rent; notes with satisfaction the planned increases in the Housing Corporation's programme and the additional resources being allocated to local authorities to tackle immediate problems of homelessness, bringing to£74 million the additional resources made available over the last six months; and urges local authorities to use these and other resources to end the use of bed-and-breakfast accommodation for families as quickly as possible. The hon. Member for Hammersmith (Mr. Soley) started with a strange description of the Government's economic policy. It was new to me and I did not recognise it. He then made some spirited attacks upon my right hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine), who I wish were in his place to defend himself. I shall justify many of my right hon. Friend's actions during his period of office, when the relevant points are reached in this debate.

One point I should like to clear up immediately concerns the hon. Gentleman's reference to a report in today's Evening Standard, that swingeing penalties will be imposed on those who appeal in the green belt. I do not know the source of that information, but from my reading of the article, my guess is that the report refers to the fact that already costs can be awarded against those who appeal vexatiously or frivolously, especially in the green belt. We have frequently given warnings that we will award costs when we believe that such action is justified in relation to the circular. We have nothing further in mind at the present time.

By linking housing and planning policies in today's motion, the Opposition enable me to make an important point, and it is one with which I hope that the hon.

Member for Hammersmith agrees. Our ability to ensure that everyone has access to a decent home, particularly in distressed parts of the country, depends to a large extent on our willingness to release at least some land for house building through the planning process. That is a factor affecting house prices too. I agree that there is a link between the restrictive planning policies we have been pursuing and homelessness, higher house prices, and the land shortage that causes those increased prices and shortages—affecting in particular local people in rural areas as well as those in the cities.

Many have questioned that link, pointing out—as did the hon. Member for Hammersmith—that new private sector houses are seldom within the reach of the low-income families. However, there is a cascade effect. The more houses we build as people move up the housing ladder, the more houses become available and affordable to households at the bottom of that ladder, whether they be owner-occupiers or tenants. That is the way more housing becomes available.