I was delighted to hear the hon. Member for South Suffolk (Mr. Yeo) support a green-field development tax, which sounds like a Liberal Democrat policy. Perhaps we shall see another Member crossing the Floor.
Although much of the Secretary of State's statement was, sadly, just a list of things on which he wants to consult, there was one very definite proposal that I—and I am sure my party—welcome: the move towards more of the housing requirement being put into urban areas than has previously been proposed. In making that proposal, he should answer one or two further questions. What, for example, is he going to do with the housing partnership fund? Will that continue to be funded? It has, of course, been one of the main ways in which empty housing has been brought back into use in urban areas up until now.
Despite saying that he wanted to encourage the conversion of houses and offices into flats, has the Secretary of State provided any incentives for doing so? Will he provide any in future? Will all this mean that the efforts to force housing on the shire counties through their structure plans will be changed? Will he give some further advice to the shire counties—those that have produced structure plans and those that are in the process of doing so—on how much housing should be in more urban areas as opposed to green-field sites?