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Mr. John Greenway (Ryedale): My right hon. Friend mentions our constituents, but does he have in mind also the interests of our councillors? Does he believe that if

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councillors reflect the view of local people who do not want large developments in their area, those developments should not go ahead?

Mr. Redwood: My hon. Friend has foreseen something that I shall propose later in my speech. As part of our common-sense revolution--which is much needed in this country after two years of this miserable Government--we believe that local authorities in prosperous, low-unemployment areas, such as that for which my hon. Friend speaks, should be able to say no to more housing. We believe that they know best, and that there is no reason to swamp those areas with further house building that they do not want.

Mr. Paul Truswell (Pudsey): If the Conservative party is such a staunch defender of the green belt, why has Rawdon Conservative club in my constituency so vigorously pursued a planning application to build in a special landscape area within the local green belt? Is it because the Tories' attitude to the green belt is dependent on whether they are chasing votes or chasing cash?

Mr. Redwood: The hon. Gentleman must try better than that. If he had been listening to my remarks, he would have heard me say that I believe in local determination, based on local opinions. I am sure that local councillors can come to a better solution than Ministers.

Mr. Truswell: Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Redwood: No. The hon. Gentleman had his chance, and he made a mess of it. He does not get a second chance.

The positions set out by Ministers before and after the election have been so different from the reality that people will feel let down and disappointed. On 25 January 1997--a few weeks before the general election--the Minister for the Environment, then the shadow spokesman on these matters, said:

How did he have the gall to say that, when he now sits as a Minister in a Department that is contemplating 1.1 million new homes in the south-east, compared with the 670,000 that local authorities think, at a pinch, could be fitted in? That is a massive increase, which the Government are taking seriously and may well recommend.

Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cotswold): Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Minister for the Environment has a third home in my constituency, and that he wanted to fell trees in an area of outstanding natural beauty to make way for a tennis court for himself?

Mr. Redwood: I have often heard of "from chainsaw to chainstore", but I have never heard of "from chainsaw to tennis court for a Minister". That does not surprise me, as we have seen the Minister make so many lunatic assertions. [Hon. Members: "Where is he?"] Where is he, indeed? This is his subject. At the Labour party conference recently, he recommended a major change in

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Government policy to prevent other people from buying second homes, as he has done. Has that suggestion been roundly condemned by Ministers, or is it still on the agenda? It seemed a bit much for a man who is called "Three Mansions Meacher" by the tabloid press to recommend that others should not even have the option of buying a second home in certain areas.

Dr. Howard Stoate (Dartford): Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that there is a demographic change in this country, whereby families are getting smaller, and therefore there will be far greater need for households in the future? If so, where are those people going to live if he thinks we should not be building new homes anywhere?

Mr. Redwood: There may well be some increase in households. That is why we are recommending more building on brownfield sites, and the redevelopment of city centres. The Government have forecast that more young people will want to form their own household at an earlier age. That may well happen, and if they have the income to do so, good luck to them.

Very often, those young people would rather live in a town or city centre. They want to go out on a Saturday evening to the pubs and clubs, and they want to return long after the trains and buses have stopped. They cannot drive home to a suburban location because of the drink-and-drive laws. It would be much better if housing was made available in the centres of towns and cities at prices they could afford. Many of them are priced out of London, where house prices are high.

We need to bring on more brownfield development, as the Conservatives were doing through the massive redevelopment of the London docklands. [Interruption.] The Minister for Housing and Planning roars with laughter. He knows he is on a weak point here. Some 24,000 new dwellings were constructed in the London docklands during our period in office and just beyond, as a result of a massive brownfield project.

Mr. Oliver Heald (North-East Hertfordshire): Does my right hon. Friend agree that all too often, as has happened in Hertfordshire, although the need is assessed on the basis of arguments about young people leaving home, what is built is not homes for young people, but three or four-bedroomed detached houses? In Hertfordshire, we are now having to contemplate the idea of 2,000 acres of green belt being destroyed, and a massive new target being imposed on top of that, which will destroy the character of my constituency. That is an outrage.

Mr. Redwood: I agree with my hon. Friend.

When he was first appointed, the Secretary of State said that he would get rid of "predict and provide". Yet now we see his inspectors and advisers continuing that system, and predicting far more demand than was ever predicted under the Conservatives. We are close to hearing a statement from the right hon. Gentleman that he will insist on all those homes being provided. He has not got away from predict and provide at all. The soundbite says that he has, but the reality is the opposite.

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The right hon. Gentleman is not even here today, because he does not think it important enough to come to the House and debate the issue.

The Minister for Housing and Planning (Mr. Nick Raynsford) rose--

Mr. Redwood: The Minister will say that because of due process, he cannot yet tell us what the Government will do in the south-east--but I say that due process would allow the Secretary of State to tell us today, or whenever he wished, that 1.1 million was an absurd prediction for the south-east and that he wanted a better answer. I would back the Minister and the Secretary of State if they came to the House to kill predict and provide once and for all, and to give us a better policy. We are ready for that today. Where is the Secretary of State?

Mr. Raynsford: As I explained to the right hon. Gentleman when we met half an hour ago, the Deputy Prime Minister is attending an important international conference on carrying forward this country's Kyoto commitments on the environment. I am sorry that he has chosen to ignore what I told him and to cast an undeserved slur on my right hon. Friend. I hope that he will now withdraw that slur.

Mr. Redwood: I cast no slur; I said that I thought that the Secretary of State should be here because we regard the subject of the debate as the most important green issue facing the country. He could do something about it today if he were here, because we would back him. With his huge ministerial team at the Department, he could have taken part in the earlier session, and then returned from Germany on an appropriate flight. His Minister for the Environment, a senior figure, could have stayed to deal with such issues, to which he might have been better suited than issues concerning housing and people with three homes.

Ms Claire Ward (Watford): The right hon. Gentleman has a selective memory. Under the previous Government, the target for brownfield development was 50 per cent., and only 42 per cent. was achieved. Under the present Government it is at least 60 per cent.

Mr. Redwood: The hon. Lady has obviously not read the report on the south-east in which Government inspectors say that only half the total will be built on brownfield sites, and that the Government intend both to increase the total and to reduce the proportion to be built on brownfield sites, compared with their aspirations. They forecast a massive surge of new housing in the south-east, well above the targets set under the Conservatives, and also above the targets that we thought the present Government would set when they were operating according to a different percentage for greenfield sites.

Mr. Ian Bruce (South Dorset): Has my right hon. Friend been able to get to the bottom of the Government policy that says that although they want more and more houses to be built, they totally refuse to sanction any of the bypasses that their housing policy makes necessary? The Government know that Labour-controlled Weymouth and Portland borough council has been trying to get a

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bypass in connection with the Dorchester relief road since shortly after the war, yet they will not even tell us whether the idea has been put forward to the Treasury.

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