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Mr. Prescott: I have catalogued all the matters covered by statements made in the House because we need a comprehensive approach. The White Paper aims to find a framework. Lord Rogers knows about the transport and housing plans; he knows what we intend to do about brownfield sites. Those matters are part and parcel of our approach to the regeneration of our cities, so it is right for him to say--he is also well aware of what my right hon. Friend the Chancellor said--that the White Paper is a powerful tool for the development and regeneration of our cities.
As for differences between the DETR and the DTI in the development of our policies, clearly there are none. Press reports are not necessarily to be taken as they are presented. I have read the speech given by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. It makes no statement whatever about differences between the north and south. My right hon. Friend referred to the economic differences in our cities; after 18 years under the previous Conservative Administration, that is hardly surprising. We are united. The White Paper is about uniting Departments to ensure that our towns and cities meet the requirements and make improvements.
As for the Tory record on regeneration, during their last year in office, the Tory Government cut back spending on regeneration to £1.3 billion. This year, we are spending £1.5 billion; we are increasing that by 15 per cent. a year for the next three years. The hon. Member for Tunbridge Wells wants to make a comparison, but he does not take into account the amount that we put into new deal programmes and the extra resources allocated for the inner cities. Those amounts need to be added in order to make comparisons about regeneration. When the hon. Gentleman makes that comparison, he will find that the resources that we are giving our towns and cities are substantially higher.
Mr. Andrew F. Bennett (Denton and Reddish): I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the White Paper. Will he pay tribute from the Dispatch Box to all those--local authorities, private companies and individuals--who have already demonstrated in many of our big cities such as Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham and Bristol that urban regeneration can be made a reality, that we can bring people back to the cities and that that movement has already started? Will he tell us, in setting out the signposts
Mr. Prescott: I welcome my hon. Friend's remarks, especially as he is the Chairman of the Environment Sub-Committee. I appreciate the help that the Committee has given us on this matter, particularly the recommendations in its reports; they were most useful when we were considering the White Paper.
I support his comments on urban regeneration; it is an important development. In fairness to the Opposition, some of the urban regeneration schemes started by the previous Administration have been of much benefit to our cities--but the programme is not limited to that. There are distinctive differences between us, but the regeneration programmes have been of considerable benefit; we want to build on the successes and deal with the weaknesses. The White Paper addresses that.
Mr. Don Foster (Bath): Like the hon. Member for Tunbridge Wells (Mr. Norman), I congratulate Lord Rogers. I welcome many of the initiatives in the White Paper, including, for example, improved support for home zones and measures to help walkers and cyclists.
However, my overall impression of the White Paper is that it has sound and fury but signifies not a lot. There seem to be many missed opportunities. For example, why is there no proposal for a greenfield development tax to boost developments on brownfield sites? Help with contaminated land is welcome, but does not go far enough.
Why is there no proposal to reduce VAT on work to bring back into use the scandalously large number--750,000--of empty homes? Why are there no real measures to simplify the plethora of regeneration schemes and budgets--so bewildering that much of the budgeted money does not even get spent?
Mr. Prescott: I am sorry, I did not hear the last part--I was too busy. Did I hear someone say waste of space? I heard the other soundbite, which was that the White Paper gave the overall impression of sound and fury and did not signify a lot; I always thought that that was a description of the Liberal party. There seems to be common accord between the two Front Benches on that point.
I believe that the VAT proposals are a step in the right direction, and that they are the direction in which most people want us to go. The Conservative spokesman also asked why we were not introducing VAT on greenfield sites. The Chancellor has made it clear, and we have made it clear, that these matters are under active consideration. We started with stamp duty. We are now into zero VAT and 5 per cent. VAT. These are justified incentives for people to begin to develop empty properties--and properties of the type in which many single-person households might wish to live. I think that we are taking a step in the right direction. I recognise that Lord Rogers
Mrs. Ann Cryer (Keighley): I welcome all aspects of my right hon. Friend's excellent statement. I especially welcome his repeated commitment to ensure that 60 per cent. of new housing is built on developed land. Will it now be possible for local authorities radically to change existing UDPs? For example, could Bradford council--now Conservative controlled--if it so wished, restore the great swathe of land near Silsden in my constituency to green belt, instead of pushing for hundreds of houses on that site?
Mr. Prescott: I am grateful for that expression of support. We are committed to ensuring that 60 per cent. of new housing is built on brownfield land. We are now in the range of about 53 per cent., getting on for 54 per cent., and moving in the right direction. In addition, the planning changes that we have made will help us to move in the same direction. When I made the new announcement on PPG1, I had that very much in mind.
I am never sure what figure the Opposition propose for new housing built on brownfield land. It was 50 per cent. at one stage, and they only achieved an average 45 per cent. over their time in government. Then it went from 60 per cent. to 70 per cent., and down to two thirds--and I am still not quite sure what it is.
Our policy is absolutely clear. We have said that our figure is 60 per cent. We are on target for it. We are changing the planning regulations to achieve that. That can play a major part in the south as well as the north, by recognising the density of buildings and houses per hectare; we are going to achieve that.
Mr. Graham Brady (Altrincham and Sale, West): Some of the comments that the Deputy Prime Minister made at the opening of his statement are particularly welcome, drawing attention to the importance of playing fields, the importance of encouraging homes in cities and towns rather than outside them--in the countryside in particular--and the importance of keeping the green belt intact.
Trafford borough council is reviewing its unitary development plan and is contemplating development in the green belt and the building of 2,400 houses on farm land outside the Greater Manchester conurbation. It is also contemplating destroying playing fields in Bowdon in my constituency. While councils are reviewing their unitary development plans, as they are currently, will the Deputy Prime Minister inform them of the Government's view that that type of development in green spaces outside towns and cities should be stopped, that the green belt should be protected and that playing fields should not be built on?
Mr. Prescott: I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's comments about the importance of play areas or green spaces--or public realms, as they are often called. They are important, and we should all--local authorities and
We have recommended in PPG3 that unitary development plans make it clear that building on such greenfield sites is not acceptable. As the hon. Gentleman knows, we make recommendations, and if a case comes to me for a planning decision, I have to take such advice into account.