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Mr. Redwood: My hon. Friend is right; that is one of the absurdities of Government policy. If more were built in the cities, the units of accommodation would be close to bus routes and train stations, and there would be more chance of the people who lived in them making more journeys by public transport. Building on green fields means building homes in the middle of nowhere, where there are no stations or bus routes, so all the families who live there will be dependent on the car. Then the Government dare to cut all the road schemes that could make some sense out of their damaging policies.

Mr. Nicholas Soames (Mid-Sussex): My right hon. Friend will be aware that both at Rio and Kyoto, the British Government signed up to the principle of sustainable development. Does he agree that the decision taken by the Deputy Prime Minister to override his inspectors' decision in West Sussex, and vastly increase the number of houses to be built there, is contrary to all the principles to which Her Majesty's Government signed up? Will he ensure that they are held to account to honour their obligations?

Mr. Redwood: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making that point; he is absolutely right. Holding the Government to account is what we are trying to do in the debate; I hope that my hon. Friends will be able to catch your eye, Madam Speaker, so that we can make some progress.

The Government have already let down many local communities; 10,000 new houses are to be foisted on an area of green fields between Stevenage and Hemel Hempstead; 2,500 houses are to be built on green fields just outside Newcastle, despite the fact that there are 4,000 empty homes in the city itself. There are to be 90,000 new homes for Devon; they are not wanted, and will be difficult to accommodate in that beautiful part of our countryside.

The Government have overturned inspectors' advice against greenfield development near Sutton Coldfield. That really beggars belief. For once, the inspectors get it right, but the Secretary of State turned down their advice.

Mr. Hilton Dawson (Lancaster and Wyre): The right hon. Gentleman makes some important points about greenfield housing development. Will he, therefore, contact Conservative-controlled Wyre borough council and encourage it to support my contention that, for the next 21 years, we need no further greenfield housing development in the Wyre district?

Mr. Redwood: I am delighted that the hon. Gentleman is off-message, and that he agrees with our campaign for green fields. I am sure that he is a quite persuasive local Member; he must contact his council and ensure that he speaks for it and for the local community when he takes such an unusually brave approach against his own Front-Bench colleagues. However, I hope that he will persuade his Front-Bench colleagues that they should think again, because England is up in anger over the forces that are being unleashed by the Government's planning policies.

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Even the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Committee was critical of the Government. I was pleased that it dismissed the evidence of the Minister for Housing and Planning as vacuous and disingenuous. I should not dream of being so rude, but that comment was made by a Labour-dominated Select Committee, whose members had heard the Minister for themselves. They realised that his posturing on greenbelt and greenfield issues was just that, and that he would undermine the green belt and wreck the green fields.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett (Denton and Reddish): May I make it absolutely clear that the Select Committee's remarks had nothing to do with the greenfield issue? They related to the provision of social housing. If the right hon. Gentleman is so keen on the policy that he promotes, how will he ensure that families, who have traditionally lived in city areas, are able to find accommodation so that their children and grandchildren can remain there in future?

Mr. Redwood: I am glad that the hon. Gentleman agrees that the Select Committee said that the Minister had made vacuous remarks. I thought that the whole point of the report was that some of those houses would have to be built on green fields. My case rests with all those who read the report. Of course, we want a range of provision--through public and private activity--so that people can have decent homes. That is why we want vigorous promotion of brownfield development, and inner-city and town development of the type that I shall describe.

Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham): I am grateful to my right hon. Friend, because his words will certainly strike a chord in my constituency and elsewhere. Is he aware that the people of Buckinghamshire in general, and Mr. Nick Nash, the leader of the Haddenham protection society in my constituency, in particular, are in open revolt against the recommendation of the Crow panel to dump another 92,000 homes on our county? They are simply not prepared to allow vast tracts of beautiful Buckinghamshire countryside to submit to the concrete mixer. They believe that any Secretary of State who could accept such ludicrous proposals must have taken leave of his senses.

Mr. Redwood: As always, my hon. Friend understates his case; I quite agree with him.

We want the Government to come up with some answers on urban regeneration. Some time ago, they commissioned a report--

Mr. Andrew Love (Edmonton): Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Redwood: I must make some progress; many hon. Members want to speak in the debate.

The Government commissioned a report, and the Opposition welcome it; we think that it contains many good measures, although we do not agree with all its 105 recommendations. However, we agree with some of the larger ones. I have constantly asked the Government to tell us which recommendations they agree with, and what they intend to do about them. I hope that the Minister will have done his homework--albeit belatedly--and will

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come up with some answers today. Do the Government agree with the suggestion in the Rogers report, "Towards an Urban Renaissance", that they should

    "limit greenfield land releases and channel development into redeveloping urban, brownfield sites."?

It would be a good start if they stated that they want to do that, and dismissed the inspectors who want them to do the opposite.

Mr. Michael Fabricant (Lichfield): Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Redwood: I must make some progress.

Do Ministers agree that the Government should


    "introduce an empty property strategy in every borough",

especially in Labour boroughs, which are rather bad at that sort of thing? Do they agree that they should

    "harmonise VAT on new build and residential conversions"

preferably at zero per cent.? That would be welcome to people who are trying to do up properties in urban areas. Do Ministers believe in introducing

    "Urban Priority Areas where regeneration can be undertaken by dedicated companies, assisted by streamlined planning decisions, easier land acquisition, tax incentives and additional resources"?

Do they agree that they should

    "make the need for an urban renaissance a key objective in allocating public expenditure across government"?

Do they want to

    "establish a Renaissance Fund for local groups to improve their own neighbourhoods"?

Those are some of the meatier recommendations in the report, which met with a deafening silence from the Government. We are now giving them Opposition time in which to make their intentions clearer.

The kernel of Lord Rogers's report is interesting, sharing language with the Opposition's motion. The report states that

The report then goes on to make suggestions in that respect.

Sir Peter Emery (East Devon): My right hon. Friend mentioned Devon in passing. The recommendations for Devon, if followed through by the Labour Government, would mean the population of that county increasing by 27 per cent. The spread of the concrete jungle to such a beautiful part of the west country is entirely unacceptable and cannot be allowed to happen.

Mr. Redwood: I agree. Not only is it unacceptable in Devon, but such a process is unacceptable to the exporting towns, cities and regions, because such areas need

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talented, dynamic people who have decent incomes, and the opportunity to create jobs and set up businesses. We must not allow too many of those people to drift from the cities to the green fields because we have failed the cities and let them down.

Something must be done and that is why we have launched 10 green pledges to make a real difference. I shall not take up the House's time setting out all 10 of our important pledges, because I know that my hon. Friends are impatient to make their own speeches. However, as part of our common-sense revolution, we believe that local people should make local decisions through their local councils, where it makes sense to do so because unemployment is low and the green fields are at risk. That is a pledge that we offer to local communities.

We believe that regenerating towns and cities is fundamental, hence our extreme disappointment at the cuts in regeneration budgets that we witnessed during the first two years of the Labour Government. We see in their plans for the period after the next election that the Government intend to increase public expenditure on those items, if they are still in office and if they choose to see those plans through. However, why did the Minister cut regeneration expenditure in the first couple of years? Does he realise that that expenditure was £1,415 million in the last year of the Conservative Government and £1,291 million in 1998-99?

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