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Mr. Adrian Sanders (Torbay) (LD):
This is laudable, but there are such disparities in land values that it
becomes a drop in the ocean. When will the Government do something about taxing land values to even up the opportunities to build the houses that meet local housing needs?
Ruth Kelly: The hon. Gentleman is right to say that there is a strong theoretical abstract tax argument, because taxing land values is a decent way of raising money in a way that is fair to lots of people. He will know, too, that there is a priority and an imperative from Government to have infrastructure development which supports housing in all its forms so that we do not build housing in isolation from thinking about economic prosperity and links to our towns and cities. That is why the Department for Communities and Local Government, together with the Treasury, is working to develop a planning gain supplement that will be based on land values and on the planning permission associated with that, so that we can use some of this resource to support the necessary infrastructure needs.
Mr. John Gummer (Suffolk, Coastal) (Con): Does the right hon. Lady agree that affordability concerns not only the purchase price but running the house afterwards? How many of the £60,000 houses meet the target of a 40 per cent. reduction in energy use and a 40 per cent. reduction in water use; and how much reduction is there overall if, as I believe, none of them meets that target?
Ruth Kelly: The environmental standards that have applied during the two years that this competition has been running have increased throughout that time. The houses that are being built now are of a higher standard than those that were built two years ago, and we are constantly raising the bar. The next phase of the design for manufacture competition will specifically ask bidders and developers to come forward with plans not only for homes that meet the 40 per cent. reduction but for carbon-neutral homes. Our ambition is that, through the way in which homes are built and developers think about constructing them, homes will become much more eco-friendly so that we can meet our carbon reduction emissions targets. However, we will of course continue to do more.
The Minister for Housing and Planning (Yvette Cooper): The Department has received a range of representations as part of the consultation on the new planning policy statement 3, which was published in draft last year.
During the Commons debate in the summer, the Minister was sympathetic when many of us said that our constituents believe that brownfield sites should be ex-commercial sites, not the gardens of houses and bungalows, which when built on as so-called brownfield sites completely change the nature
of residential areas. In the light of her sympathetic comments, what progress has she made in redefining brownfield sites?
Yvette Cooper: As we said during the debate, we need to build more houses across the country. We also need safeguards against inappropriate development. Many councils have already used those, but we are already strengthening them as part of the draft policy statement that was published last year. We must recognise that, as the hon. Gentleman will know, the definition of brownfield land was introduced in the mid 1980s. I quote:
It is difficult to imagine how urban gardens could have been separated out in terms of available technology and cost.
It talks about it being a statistical definition. That quote is from the hon. Gentlemans partys campaign document, so it is perhaps inappropriate for him to call for us to change the statistical definition.
Dr. Phyllis Starkey (Milton Keynes, South-West) (Lab): Development on brownfield sites is often more difficult because of the former uses of those sites. May I draw the Ministers attention to the excellent development occurring in my constituency at Warburton on the old railway engineering works, where the historic buildings are being conserved? A difficult site with only one access has been developed and 300 houses have been provided at a high environmental standard. Will my hon. Friend ensure that those lessons are spread?
Yvette Cooper: My hon. Friend is right. There are some excellent examples of development on brownfield land to high environmental standards but also with affordable housing. English Partnerships often plays a leading role in working with local authorities to bring former industrial and commercial sites back into use so that we can build new homes for the future.
The Minister for Housing and Planning (Yvette Cooper): Since 1997, about 235,000 new social homes have been provided, funded by the Government and by planning gain. The majority have been built by housing associations.
Bob Russell: The Minister has not answered my question, which related to council houses. Will she confirm that, after nine years of a Labour Government, only about 4,000 council houses have been built? Even the Thatcher Government built 350,000 council houses. Why are this Labour Government so hostile towards council housing? Why will they not follow the Labour partys conference policy to restore the building of council houses?
Yvette Cooper: Let us be clear: local councils can build houses. They can use their own resources, prudential borrowing, private finance initiative schemes and section 106 agreements. We provide most of the Government funding for new social housing through housing associations because they can lever in an extra 40 per cent. of borrowing, which means that they can build 40 per cent. more homes with the same amount of money. That represents better value for the extra money that we put in. We are also looking at ways of giving councils more flexibility to carry out more building. In regard to the hon. Gentlemans comparison with the early 1990s, construction and land costs were lower at that time. However, that was because the Tory Government of the time had pushed the housing market into a deep and damaging recession. I do not think that that is a housing policy worth returning to.
Mr. William Hague (Richmond, Yorks) (Con) (Urgent Question): To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs to make a full statement on the implications of and proposed response to North Koreas first test of a nuclear device.
The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Margaret Beckett): On 9 October, the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea Foreign Ministry announced that it had conducted an underground nuclear test at 02.36 United Kingdom time. That an explosion of sufficient magnitude occurred is not in question, but the exact nature of the explosion has not yet been independently verified by the identification of radioactive particles. However, given North Koreas stated intention last week to conduct such a test, the international community is proceeding on the basis that this was indeed a nuclear test, as the DPRK has said.
The world has been united in its condemnation of North Koreas action, which was carried out in direct defiance of the will of the international community. Comments made by world leaders, nuclear experts and international organisations have highlighted North Koreas isolation. North Koreas nuclear test jeopardises regional stability in north-east Asia and poses a clear threat to international peace and security. It contravenes North Koreas commitments under the non-proliferation treaty, breaches the 1991 joint declaration of South Korea and North Korea on the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, and ignores United Nations Security Council resolution 1695.
The Security Council is continuing its discussions today on how to respond to the North Korean nuclear test. As I have said, the international community has been unanimous in its condemnation of the DPRKs actions. The United Kingdom will be pushing for a robust response, given the clear threat posed to international peace and security by the test. The Security Council is considering a sanctions package covering a range of measures, including measures designed to impact on the areas of most immediate concern to the international community: the DPRKs nuclear and missile capabilities.
Immediately following the test, the Prime Minister and I both issued statements making it clear that North Koreas actions were highly irresponsible and provocative. We have also called the DPRKs ambassador in London to the Foreign Office to make clear our views. Since then, I have discussed the situation with various Foreign Ministers, including the Chinese Foreign Minister Li, the Japanese Foreign Minister Aso and the Secretary of State of the United States, Condoleezza Rice. Those contacts are continuing, and will continue in the hours and days ahead.
May I express to the Foreign Secretary the strong support of the Opposition for the declared policy of the Government to seek a robust response under chapter VII of the United Nations charter, including the imposition of legally binding sanctions?
Is it not worth reminding the House and the nation of the generous offers made to North Korea during the six-party talks, including on power generation and security guarantees?
I have three broad questions for the Foreign Secretary. The first is on sanctions. Last night, the United States proposed sanctions that would include a trade ban on military and luxury items, the power to inspect all cargo entering or leaving North Korea, and freezing assets connected with its weapons programmes. Japan appears to have proposed, in addition, that North Korean ships and planes should be banned from foreign ports and airports. Will the Foreign Secretary tell the House whether the Government support all those proposals, or whether there are any that they do not support? Will the Government be calling for any further measures not mentioned by the United States and Japan? Can she say when she expects the Security Council to reach a decision? If a decision is made under Chapter VII and ignored by North Korea, does she expect further steps to follow?
The second set of questions concerns proliferation. Given that we must bear in mind the fact that this is a country that has never developed a weapons system that it has not eventually sold to the highest bidder, what is the Foreign Secretarys assessment of the danger that nuclear technology originating from North Korea could find its way into the hands of transnational terrorists, or states supporting them? What assessment has been made of North Koreas ability to arm its missiles with a nuclear warhead, and to which of its missiles would that apply? Does the Foreign Secretary agree that that means we must expand the proliferation security initiative with the aim of identifying and stopping sources of nuclear trafficking? Would the sanctions being proposed at the United Nations change in any way the powers to search ships under the initiative? How will the efforts to intercept illicit cargoes from North Korea be made more effective?
The third set of questions concerns the unity of the Security Council. There is clearly a growing perception in the world that the price of stealing ones way into the nuclear club is bearable. That is a perception that we cannot afford to allow to continue. Is it not the case that the Security Council members who have been united in their condemnation of North Korea must now be united in their actions? Does the Foreign Secretary agree that it is of the utmost importance to preserve the unity of the UN in the coming daysI am sure that she doesbut that if sanctions are to be effective, they will obviously require the full support of North Koreas neighbours? Can she say any more about any assurances that she has received during her discussions with the Chinese Foreign Minister about Chinas approach to the issue? What contacts has she had with her counterparts in Russia and South Korea regarding sanctions, and has this any implications for South Koreas development of the industrial complex at Kaesong, over the North Korean border?
This latest development is clearly part of an alarming trend towards nuclear proliferation, which we must do everything possible to halt. While our immediate goal must be to confront and contain North Korea and oblige it to return to its obligations and
negotiations, must we not now commit ourselves to reviving and strengthening the non-proliferation treaty as a whole, and dealing resolutely with those such as North Korea and Iran that attempt to breach it?
The proposals made by the United States and Japan are under consideration as we speak: the Security Council has just begun its meeting. For our part, we are content to see any and all of the measures presented so far on the table. We think it extremely wise to have a full range of measures for consideration in the Security Council, so that people can assess them and decide whether they wish to adopt all or some of them, but also so that it is clear what range of measures is potentially available to the Security Council on this or, indeed, any future occasion.
The right hon. Gentleman asked me what would happen if North Korea ignored an expressed decision by the Security Council. That is exactly why I think it right to look at the full range of measures. It is not at all clear yet what decision the Security Council will make. As the right hon. Gentleman may have heardit has been commented on in the news mediathe Security Council meeting yesterday was extremely brief. That was partly because some members did not have instructions from their domestic Governments, but it is thought that there is no question about the opposition to what North Korea is doing. However, what the detail of peoples willingness to take action in the immediate future will be is not yet clear.
The right hon. Gentleman raised, quite correctly, the issue of proliferation. That is exactly why the international community as a whole is so alarmed about this development. It is not just the issue of North Korea itself; it is the fact that, as the right hon. Gentleman said, it has shown a propensity to distribute weapons in the past.
We are not in a position to answer some of the detailed questions that the right hon. Gentleman asked about arming missiles and so forth, not least because not enough is yet known about the nature and weight, for example, of a potential device. However, he is right to stress both the need for unity in the international communitywhich we will try to sustainand the need to look again at the issue of the non-proliferation treaty in this light.
Conversations that I have had with the South Korean Foreign Minister indicate that that country is consulting widely and in great depth about the exact course of action that it will pursue. I cannot, therefore, answer the right hon. Gentlemans specific question yet, but I am sure that it is one of the issues that South Korea will be considering, given the breadth of the process that it is undertaking.
Dr. Gavin Strang (Edinburgh, East) (Lab):
I recognise that this is one of those occasions when the whole House will applaud the actions that my right hon. Friend has taken and will strongly support the efforts being made in the Security Council to secure effective additional chapter VII sanctions, involving, as the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks
(Mr. Hague) said, the authority to inspect all cargo going into and out of North Korea. Does she agree that China, as the main superpower, has a real responsibility to support sanctions for the benefits of its own people and the wider world and to make sure that they are effective?
Margaret Beckett: I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. It is clear from the conversation that I had with the Chinese Foreign Minister that the Government of China are, as he would expect, gravely concerned. It is also clear that the Government of China are very mindful of the implications for the neighbourhood of any steps that might be taken, and are anxious, as are we all, not to do anything to make the situation worse. Balancing these issues is not likely to be easy, which is one of the reasons why I cannot answer the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague) as to when the Security Council might come to a decision. At this moment it is too early to tell.
Mr. Michael Moore (Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk) (LD): We join the unanimity across the House in condemning the nuclear test by North Korea. It is a dangerous development, not just for the region but for the world as a whole. We also firmly support the efforts in the Security Council to drive through tough sanctions against the regime. We join with others on both sides of the House in stressing the need for China and Russia to recognise their responsibilities and to support these measures. However, does the Foreign Secretary recognise that agreement will be much harder to achieve while there is even the prospect of military action by the United States, which would be absolutely catastrophic? Does she agree with the former United States Senator Sam Nunn, who said that this appalling situation represents a massive failure of United Statesand, by extension, Britishforeign policy, which has been disastrously sidetracked in Iraq while failing to deal with the terrible prospect of nuclear weapons in North Korea?
Margaret Beckett: No, I do not agree that any stance taken up to now has in some way encouraged North Korea. It is clear that this is a course of action that North Korea has been pursuing, for its own mysterious reasons, for a long time. I do not speak in this House for the foreign policy of the United States, and I am not entirely sure that the hon. Gentlemans quotation of Senator Nunn was 100 per cent. accurate. But I reject the notion that this is in some way a result of neglect or a foreign policy failure by this Government, the Government of the United States or anyone in the international community. This is a North Korean failurehome-grown.
Mr. Doug Henderson (Newcastle upon Tyne, North) (Lab): I welcome the initiatives that my right hon. Friend has taken, particularly her contact with the Chinese Government. Does she agree that if the purpose of UN sanctions is movement from North Korea and not its isolation, it is essential that we have China on board in any UN decision? Will she pursue that course of action?
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