Sustainable Communities, Housing and Planning

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:21 pm on 18th July 2002.

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Photo of John Prescott John Prescott Deputy Prime Minister, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and Secretary of State for Local Government and the Regions, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee 1:21 pm, 18th July 2002

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his kind remarks. I hope that I will be given more encouragement, given the spirit of the approach. It will be much better if we can get more co-operation, rather than the spirit of some of the earlier exchanges following my statement.

The hon. Gentleman puts his finger on a difficult problem. There are various difficulties. For example, we are putting a great deal of money into areas such as Hull to knock down houses, but at the same time we are trying to get money to build houses in areas where they are needed. It is important to bear that in mind. We must ask whether unwanted houses should be knocked down and about the priorities given to using existing resources.

We appear to be trying to find money to meet the difference between the market price and affordable housing. That is not easy in areas such as the delightful one that the hon. Gentleman represents, where the demand is from people elswhere who want to move to them to retire. That raises the real issue of communities providing housing for those who live in the area. The same may apply in the south-east or in rural areas. People are being told, "I'm sorry, you can't live by your parents; leave the community." That is unacceptable, and it is as true in a rural area as it is in parts of the south-east, and I shall address the matter.

Under the right to buy, property in urban areas is bought at a very discounted price, but it is then sold back to the state at a high price when improvements are sought. That is costing us millions of pounds. We must ask ourselves, what is the proper balance? These are difficult questions, and I have no easy answers. The difference between the price of a house and what is affordable goes right to the heart of these matters. I shall address the question in the coming months and return to the House with what I think is a conclusion.