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Several hon. Members rose

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord): Order. Before I call the call the next Member, I say to the House that if there were shorter questions, and perhaps shorter answers, many more Members would have a chance to speak.

Mr. Andrew MacKay (Bracknell): Although the Deputy Prime Minister's announcement about brownfield site development in the south-east, particularly in the Thames gateway, will be very warmly welcomed, my constituents in central Berkshire will be amazed that his Government are still foisting so many extra unwanted

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houses on our area, when we have already taken more than our fair share. Cannot our excellent unitary authorities, Bracknell Forest and Wokingham, make the decision without him intervening and putting houses where people do not want them?

The Deputy Prime Minister and First Secretary of State: I am a little confused. My hon. Friend the Member for Reading, West (Mr. Salter) has just said that there is a desperate need for housing in his constituency. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman's constituency is far from my hon. Friend's, yet he tells us that people do not want houses foisted on them. We need to sort out our priorities, which are: houses where they are wanted, at affordable prices, because everybody is entitled to a decent home. That is the challenge.

Dr. Howard Stoate (Dartford): My right hon. Friend's statement will be welcomed by teachers, doctors, nurses and police officers in my constituency, where there are currently recruitment difficulties because of the cost of housing in the area. Will he ensure, however, that when extra houses come on stream in the area, especially in the Thames gateway, extra needs—transport, medical facilities and school facilities—are taken into account as part of the planning process? That will ensure that the houses are part of a sustainable development and that they do not simply add to the pressures on infrastructure.

The Deputy Prime Minister and First Secretary of State: I thank my hon. Friend for his remarks. Again, he has put his finger on a point that is absolutely crucial in the Thames gateway area that he represents. First, one cannot get investment in that area without the essential infrastructure investment to open it up. Following from that, one cannot just build homes; there must schools and hospitals, too. That is a real challenge. Long-term planning is necessary, not only in terms of housing, but in terms of education and health services. We need to put those things together, as I said in my statement. When I make my more comprehensive statement, perhaps we will see that we are agreed on how to achieve that.

Gregory Barker (Bexhill and Battle): The Deputy Prime Minister is right to focus on more affordable homes, on more environmentally sensitively built homes and on better designed homes. Is he aware, however, that the solutions that he has outlined today spell a very black day for local democracy and for local communities? The abolition of county structure plans, particularly in East Sussex, will only raise the fear that he intends to intervene over the top of local communities' heads. Why should those local communities have faith in his centralising socialist solutions, given that he is the same Minister who, five years ago, promised solutions to all our transport difficulties, since when our transport system has descended into chaos?

The Deputy Prime Minister and First Secretary of State: It is generally recognised by all involved—I have had time to read their reports—that there are too many plans in this area. We need to shape it better than we have before, which is why I have made these proposals. The hon. Gentleman's concern for county councils is very touching, in view of the fact that the Conservatives abolished three or four of them, county structure plans or

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not—[Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman may not have done so, but I assume that he belonged to a party in government that did.

I am concerned about matters of planning and people to be consulted. The hon. Gentleman might think that this is a black day for democracy simply because we got rid of the county structure plans, but it is a much brighter day for those people who are looking forward to getting a house and a decent home. That is where our priorities lie.

Peter Bradley (The Wrekin): I welcome the statement and the proposals for affordable housing and accessible jobs in rural communities, which will be welcomed in the rural part of my constituency, where Labour is holding its national rural conference this weekend. I am pleased about the announcement, too, for the urban part of my constituency, and for the millennium village at east Ketley. It is an exemplary scheme. It is mixed tenure to meet all housing needs on a brownfield site, and it is a trail-blazing partnership between English Partnerships and the local authority, including a contribution of some £1 million to schools in my constituency. Will my right hon. Friend assure the House and communities in new towns that this connotes the beginning of a new relationship between English Partnerships and local communities and local government, in which it will help to meet needs and solve problems, to which, in the past, it has all too frequently contributed?

The Deputy Prime Minister and First Secretary of State: I thank my hon. Friend for his kind remarks and for welcoming the millennium village concept at the community buildings in east Ketley. The review with English Partnerships is in its final stages. I envisage a strong and good role for English Partnerships in bringing groups together to ensure that we get the requirements for housing that are proposed in the millennium projects.

Richard Younger-Ross (Teignbridge): I congratulate the Deputy Prime Minister on using the phrase "quality of design" several times in his statement. In that context, will he consider the documents prepared by his Department to ensure that quality of design is writ large throughout them? Will he also consider some of the contradictions that might lower design quality? Local authorities have to be able to set standards of design quality for business zones. Will he introduce general development orders for ports and docks so that they, too, have such standards? Finally, the right hon. Gentleman is going to get rid of the institutionalised bribery and corruption of section 106 agreements and introduce a system of tariffs. What impact will that have?

The Deputy Prime Minister and First Secretary of State: The hon. Gentleman makes an important point about industrial buildings, which we have seized on. We could get much more from such buildings. The designs of industrial buildings in some parts of our towns are a disgrace. They may win architectural awards, but I notice that the architects do not live in them. In such circumstances, it would be useful to combine the two aims. The Peabody Trust is doing some interesting work on that. Building design is important and I want to see more of it. It adds to the confidence of an area. That is why we recently produced a study on the built

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environment. I am keen on that and have already talked to a number of architects and developers to ensure that building design is taken into account.

Mrs. Anne Campbell (Cambridge): I warmly welcome my right hon. Friend's statement, representing, as I do, a constituency in which housing is so expensive that the average university lecturer can no longer afford to live in the city. When he considers the county council structure plans, I urge him not to abandon the one on which Cambridgeshire county council is working. We are in desperate need of more land for housing because of the acute shortages. Much work has been done on the structure plan, and I hope that he will not put a question mark over its future at this stage.

The Deputy Prime Minister and First Secretary of State: To be honest, I am not sure how to respond and will write to my hon. Friend. The matter that she raises could be a transitional problem of working to a certain plan. I want to do what is possible and best rather than laying down a rule that is then rigidly interpreted.

Mr. Henry Bellingham (North-West Norfolk): Does the Deputy Prime Minister recall coming to King's Lynn during the last election to announce the start of a millennium community in South Lynn, part of the Nar-Ouse regeneration area—NORA—scheme? His visit was a great success and helped to bolster my support. Is he aware that the scheme is crucial to regenerating a proud community? It will help to sort out a number of eyesores and land that has been derelict for a long time. Does he realise that part of the land has recently been sold? There is also a question mark over the start date. He is respected in my area. Will he visit us and give the scheme a kick-start?

The Deputy Prime Minister and First Secretary of State: As the hon. Gentleman says, I visited that site. I am pressing hard to get the millennium developments up and running. They are not simply about providing houses. They offer a whole new approach to communities, involving design, environment and sustainability. I am delighted one such project was awarded to King's Lynn. I hope to visit a number of the projects and to take an active role, whether it is in King's Lynn or elsewhere. But does he want me to visit his constituency to improve his contacts, because I could always come down and damage them?

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