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y is that we must have a right to staircase for the purchaser and a right of pre-emption for the local authority or housing association.If my right hon. Friend will assure the House today that he will takthe Bill away and find a solution to fit those two conflicting objectives, there will be no point in going through the charade of aDivision. Instead, we should allow the matter to progress to the other place and bring it back to this House when we consider their Lordships amendments Mr. Gerald Bermingham (St. Helens, South) : I shall be extremely brief. Having listened to the right hon, Gentleman, it occurred to me that £100,000 would buy a nice flat in north London, three semi-detached houses in a good area of Sheffield, or four or five houses in a reasonable suburb of St. Helens. Is that low-cost housing? Is that what the Secretary of State is saying? I looked at his figures and decided that they were those of a cowboy, not of a sensible Department.
Low-cost housing should be a multiple of annual income. For example, if an agricultural worker earns £8,000 or £9,000 a year, low-cost housing should cost two or three times his annual income--about £30, 000. The Secretary of State does not seem to live in the world of reality. It is all very nice for those who live in Sussex and Surrey, but an awful lot of people do not live in such places. Many people want to be housed and own their own houses but do not have the income to sustain the Mickey Mouse figures given by the Secretary of State in this first fly leaflet in the House tonight.
In his new clause, the right hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Mr. Jopling) is trying to show that people in rural areas have a right to a home and a roof over their heads. I hope that he will have the guts to press the matter to a Division and that the House will have the courage to support him.
Mr. Robert Key (Salisbury) : This has been a partial debate on a subject which is close to the hearts of many of my right hon. and hon. Friends. My right hon. Friend the Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Mr. Jopling) was at his most understanding and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State at his most logical.
The hon. Member for Hammersmith (Mr. Soley), however, was spine-chilling-- for the 30 seconds or so before one stopped to think about what he was saying. I, for one, will not be lectured about how we in the countryside live by people who dwell in towns and pop out every now and again at weekends. The debate has shown a profound lack of understanding on the part of Opposition Members, who have done nothing but barrack us tonight, about what the countryside is all about. I would take on the chin, however, some of the criticism that my hon. Friends and I will have received in that notable and august publication, The Field, which for the past six months has been running a campaign saying that we do not understand the countryside any more. By the same token, it illustrates the appalling lack of understanding of the Opposition.
The debate has been partial because it has only scratched the surface of the problems of rural housing. It has touched on only one point to do with rural housing--a particular aspect of the way in which housing associations are beginning to help. I wish to draw my right hon. and hon. Friends' attention to the remarkable change that has occurred in the past year or two.
Column 1041Planning policy guidance circulars Nos. 3 and 7, issued by the Department of the Environment, reflect a complete change of tone in the Government's approach to rural development and a change in their approach to planning matters in the countryside. We have been told by the Department--if only people would listen to it--that the days of crowding the countryside with inappropriate, unattractive, badly designed, high-density housing are over. I have taken councillors in my constituency to task because they have not even read the Department's planning circulars.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on his policy on rural housing, which allows land to be made available for development which would not be released unless it was to be used for social housing. That is a great step forward. We have only to read the figures relating to the housing associations and the Housing Corporation's budget to realise that my right hon. Friend understands countryside problems. There has been a change of attitude by so many developers. I represent a beautiful constituency which I often describe as being between the devil and the deep blue sea--the devil of Swindon, which is the fastest growing conurbation in Europe, and the deep blue sea of Poole, a beautiful place which is also growing rapidly. My constituency is pincered between those two towns and as a result there are enormous pressures.
The way in which developers view the possibilities of making huge profits has changed, especially in the past six or seven months. There is plenty of evidence to support that statement. I have been approached by builders, who I have put in touch with the district council. They have produced many schemes for low-cost housing, including do-it-yourself housing and bare minimum housing, where the developer buys up the old unprofitable plots such as railway sidings and "Gas lane", for example--the House will know that I mean--and then produces first-time housing. That is a reality. It is a long time since the hon. Member for Hammersmith trotted off into the country. That must be so, or he would understand that what I am saying is the truth.
Farmers and country landowners have shown a deep level of understanding of their responsibility to preserve the fabric of our villages. That is why the Country Landowners Association, for example, is so active in trying to persuade its members to have regard to schemes based on low-cost land which can be developed for social housing. Those are the considerations that should be borne in mind. Despite the astonishing barracking from the Opposition, I urge my right hon. Friends not to be bounced into voting against the Government on this. I urge them instead to take a long-term view and to listen my my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. We must ensure, of course, that he delivers the goods. That is the right way forward.
Mrs. Teresa Gorman (Billericay) : I shall not detain the House because I know that it wishes to make progress. There are two causes of the problem that is outlined in the new clause that have not yet been mentioned in the debate. The first cause is the Rent Acts and the second is planning controls. It is not true that people in rural areas, or anywhere else, all want to buy their own housing. Many people with low incomes would prefer to rent but there is
Column 1042no rented property market to speak of because we have destroyed it through the Rent Acts. The market will not be restored until we repeal that legislation.
It appears that 85 per cent. of land in the south-east of England, the most crowded part of the country, is held out of housing use. It is held instead for farming or it comes within the green belt. In other areas the amount of land that is held out of use for housing is even greater. There is no real shortage of land but a shortage has been created artificially. Ludicrously high prices are fetched for land that is to be built upon, and that is why the housing supply in rural areas for those on low incomes has almost dried up. I ask my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to address himself to this problem.
Mr. Christopher Hawkins (High Peak) rose--
Mr. Hawkins : I am on my hon. Friend's side of the House. The problem in my constituency, High Peak, and in many others is not a shortage of rented accommodation due to the Rent Acts or to council house sales. The problem is that there is a shortage of housing of all kinds in villages. Houses that are put up for sale are bought as second homes. [Interruption.] I do not object to people having second homes. They are bought by people from outside who want the good life. That is fair enough ; why should they not be able to buy second homes? However, the planning controls prevent the construction of new homes for local people. Farm workers and the sons and daughters of people who live in villages cannot therefore acquire their own homes in their own villages.
Mrs. Gorman : I am sorry that my hon. Friend persuaded me to give way because I find that he is not on my side at all. He has, however, aired one of the fallacies. People move out of London because they cannot afford to rent or buy homes in London. They have to move into the country, and that creates the shortage. People have to become commuters, which adds to traffic congestion and all the other problems. I hope that my right hon. Friend will deal with the points I have raised.
Mr. Ridley : With the leave of the House, may I make it clear that the figures that I have circulated are purely illustrative. One can use any figure or fraction of a figure that one likes, but sometimes it is useful to use the decimal system, based on 100.
Many hon. Members have referred to the planning constraints. They include the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Mr. Jopling). They were quite right to point out that the constraint on low-cost housing in the national parks and other areas is largely a planning constraint because of the beauty of those areas. Planning authorities will not grant planning permission to provide sufficient housing. The hon. Member for Hammersmith (Mr. Soley) is wrong. That is not what we are talking about tonight. We are talking about a very limited stock of houses because the policy has been to stop more houses being built by means of a very restrictive planning policy.
Column 1043There is a different problem in other parts of the country. We shall not solve the problem in the Lake District, however many houses we can afford to build, because sites will not be made available for them.
As for the example given by my hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery), when a resident buys a share of a house he buys a share of the market value of that house. When he pays the last 40 per cent. he pays it at the value of £100,000, the price at which the house was transferred. The housing association that receives the payments at each stage probably puts them into another investment. The improvement in value- -my hon. Friend's point--is reflected in the housing association's receipts. Therefore, the problem to which he referred does not arise. If the price of a house goes well above the market price in a particular area, the Housing Corporation will be able to top it up. I do not think that my hon. Friend's arithmetic should deter the House from doing what I have suggested.
The scheme that I have suggested is appropriate where shared ownership is a problem because of the shortage of housing in areas where planning permission cannot come to the rescue. In many rural areas, planning permission through the new low-cost housing needs guidance will come to the rescue and housing associations will be able to come to the rescue, too. We are talking about a limited part of the country where local authorities have the right of pre-emption in national parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty and certain other designated areas. Local authorities or housing associations have the right of pre-emption where planning constraints prevent extra building.
My suggestion has the best of three worlds--it preserves those areas from excessive building ; it secures a permanent stock of low-cost housing to enable local people to begin to climb the housing ladder ; and it enables people to end up 100 per cent. owners instead of 62.5 per cent. second- class citizens.
Mr. Jopling : I have listened with great care to the arguments of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. In his first speech, he sought to shoot down my argument that houses would return more quickly to the housing pool, allowing people to start once more on the first steps of part- ownership, if there were a ceiling of 62.5 per cent. rather than 100 per cent. I am sure that I heard him correctly when he said that a person who reached the stage of owning 62.5 per cent. of a house would not have enough money to buy another one to work up to 100 per cent. I profoundly disagree.
In using figures with many noughts on the end, many hon. Members have been talking about much more valuable houses than those that I envisage in the new clause. They are stratospheric prices compared with prices in some of the villages that I know. Bearing in mind that a person who starts as a part-owner and manages to achieve 62.5 per cent. ownership will take advantage of the general increased value of housing, even with the restrictions of clause 52 arrangements and the insistence that only local people can live in the houses--which would depress prices--he will have more than enough, several tens of thousands of pounds at 62.5 per cent., to move into another house where he is free to achieve 100 per cent.
Column 1044ownership. The original house will be available to start another family from a low-income group, whom all of us wish to help. My right hon Friend used another invalid argument. He said that there would be an unfair advantage for council house tenants who could take part in right-to-buy schemes that offer various discounts. Many of these houses, especially those under the management of housing associations, will be available at artificially low levels because of the announcement that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State made in February. I welcome that extremely good statement. This policy, however, will allow certain land to be made available, but only for local occupancy, on the periphery of villages. The limited availability of land will be reflected in house values, to the advantage of the people who have been involved in part-ownership.
I was also struck by the comments of the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) about the effect on small villages with a shortage of houses. We cannot continue to keep building new houses. I referred earlier to a letter from John Sutcliffe, who most hon. Members will remember, of North Housing. He is involved with housing associations across the north of England. He referred in his letter to the village of Castleton on the north Yorkshire moors, which many hon. Members will know. He said :
"You can't go on building without ruining villages like Castleton. You must therefore keep a number of houses for locals without large means either to staircase or rent. Since and so long as we can't, we are failing to meet housing need."
That is exactly the excellent point made by the hon. Member for Berwick- upon-Tweed, which I also tried to make earlier.
When I moved an amendment in Committee on the Housing Bill last year, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State--I hope that he does not mind my saying this--was not terribly keen to accept it, but in the end he did. Since then there has been evidence that, in order to meet the need for better housing opportunities for those on low incomes in rural areas, my right hon. Friend has become much more of an interventionist that I ever thought we could get him to be. I certainly welcome that.
My right hon. Friend's announcements in February were purely interventionism. His suggestion tonight that somebody who staircases from a part ownership up to 100 per cent. ownership can only sell it either to a local authority or a housing association is pure interventionism, which I welcome. I am trying to persuade him to move a little further and deal with a request which, after all, has powerful backing from the Association of District Councils and the National Federation of Housing Associations.
A little earlier the hon. Member for Hammersmith (Mr. Soley) accused me of having knocking knees. I sat in the Whips' seat on the Government Front Bench for far too long to have knocking knees at the prospect of going into one Lobby or another. My knees certainly are not knocking. My concern is that there are not many Opposition Members in the Chamber to support my new clause.
There are few issues in my constituency about which I feel more strongly than the need to provide housing for low-income families in the rural areas where they were born and brought up. My hon. Friend the Member for High Peak (Mr. Hawkins) put his finger on it when he
Column 1045explained that in his constituency local people are more and more being pushed out by people buying second and holiday homes I did not table the new clause simply to air the problem. If my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State cannot help us, I shall reluctantly go into the Lobby and vote against the Government. I assure them that they will hear a great deal more about this matter in another place.
Question put, That the clause be read a Second time :
The House divided : Ayes 144, Noes 171.
Division No. 243] [12.14 am
Abbott, Ms Diane
Archer, Rt Hon Peter
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)
Banks, Tony (Newham NW)
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)
Beith, A. J.
Benn, Rt Hon Tony
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish)
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)
Buckley, George J.
Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley)
Campbell-Savours, D. N.
Clark, Dr David (S Shields)
Clwyd, Mrs Ann
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Cunningham, Dr John
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l)
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth
Emery, Sir Peter
Evans, John (St Helens N)
Field, Frank (Birkenhead)
Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n)
Foot, Rt Hon Michael
Garrett, John (Norwich South)
Golding, Mrs Llin
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE)
Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)
Hughes, John (Coventry NE)
Hughes, Roy (Newport E)
Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Jones, Ieuan (Ynys Mo n)
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
Lestor, Joan (Eccles)
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Macdonald, Calum A.
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Marek, Dr John
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
Morrison, Sir Charles
Pike, Peter L.
Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)
Smith, J. P. (Vale of Glam)
Stradling Thomas, Sir John