Part of Topical Debate – in the House of Commons at 1:07 pm on 19th June 2008.

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Photo of Lembit Öpik Lembit Öpik Shadow Minister (Housing), Department for Communities and Local Government 1:07 pm, 19th June 2008

I am pleased that we heard more from the Minister than we have heard before about the strategy behind the eco-towns. I shall say more about that shortly, but first let me praise Grant Shapps for his entertaining, interesting and passionate speech. He is a good speaker and a good friend, and indeed a fellow pilot. I think that, in the interests of consistency, he and I should be the first private pilots in Britain to power our aircraft entirely on biofuels. In the spirit of friendship I shall let him go first, and if his aircraft works properly I shall follow suit.

What concerns me slightly is that although the Conservatives are good at complaining, they are not very clear about what they would do themselves. Perhaps we shall hear more from the hon. Gentleman's colleagues when they catch your eye, Madam Deputy Speaker.

As Patrick Hall suggested, by referring to "eco-towns" the Government risk being accused of gimmickry—reasonably, in my view. Every new house that we build should be eco-friendly. The Minister was honest when she said that the aim of the eco-town strategy was really to address the housing shortage and promote economic growth. I agree with that but, as has already been said, if we are to have a carbon-neutral Britain we must recognise that the overwhelming majority of homes that will be inhabited in 2050 have already been built. I assume the Minister meant—and I think it a useful clarification—that what are being called eco-towns are, in effect, primarily an effort by the Government to use innovative technology to deal with the housing crisis.

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