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

This is a continuation of policy. We used to get about 38 per cent. of new housing on brown-field sites. That figure is now nearer 50 per cent., and I want to increase it to 60 per cent. and beyond. We are talking about percentages. Does the hon. Gentleman not understand the difference between percentages and absolute figures? The policy has been going on for the past 15 years. As usual, he does not know his figures.

I want to answer the questions asked by the hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. Rendel), but I would be much happier to do so if I did not know what is going to happen. I shall tell him what will happen. Liberals in the country will say that the idea is very good, but Liberal Democrats in the towns will say that they do not want the houses. We know exactly what the Liberals will say; it is always like that. I challenged a Liberal Democrat councillor in his own area on the issue when he tried to say that they wanted fewer houses. I said to him, "If you promise in your surgeries to tell every young couple who comes to you for a house that they cannot have one because you, the Liberal Democrat councillor, have stopped the building of houses, I will think about your proposal." Of course, he said, "Oh, no, I won't do that." What he meant was that he blamed the Government either way. That is Liberal policy, and we know that that is what it will be.

Of course I shall go on helping the policies to improve the use of empty homes, create more opportunities for conversion and ensure that people use their homes more effectively to let and the like. When he reads the document, the hon. Member for Newbury will find that most of those things are there covered.