Household Projections

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:51 pm on 25th November 1996.

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Photo of John Gummer John Gummer Secretary of State for Environment 4:51 pm, 25th November 1996

The hon. Gentleman dares to ask from his seat who represents Greenwich. I shall tell him about the London borough of Greenwich that he dares to speak about. It has done nothing to attract people. All it has done is make it more and more difficult for people to live there comfortably and happily.

I shall now deal with one or two of the sensible suggestions made by the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras. On open land, I have committed myself to protecting playing fields in the planning system throughout the country. I will tell the hon. Gentleman who my biggest enemies are in trying to do that—Labour councils, which have been trying to build on playing fields. One after another, they come forward with their schemes for building on playing fields and ask me, "Can we please build just here—not next door, just here, no more, but this one?" I can tell the hon. Gentleman that I turn them down.

I have been one of the foremost supporters of parks, through "Greening of the Cities", and so on. I am also pleased that, for the first time, large sums of money are going into the regeneration of our parks, not least from the lottery and the national heritage memorial fund. The hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras suggested that I am not building houses. Governments do not build houses; houses are built by the private sector and housing associations.

I turn to the question of money going into the city centres. Due to the capital challenge programme and environmental policies generally, we have brought in vast sums of money from the private sector that the Labour party could not begin to tap, and never wanted to. It pretends that such money does not go to city centres. The regeneration of the country will depend on partnership between Government, business, local government and voluntary organisations. That is what we are promoting.

We want a debate that goes far above and beyond the kind of petty comments that the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras made up on the train from Nottingham. [Laughter.] He was going to make such comments no matter what I said in my statement. Even if I had mentioned figures of 70 or 80 per cent., he would have said the same. He should get on with the discussion, and leave the silly comments to the Liberal Democrats. They are the ones who have a different policy from one constituency to the next. He should leave them to lower the debate, and raise his sights.