Brown plans three million new homes

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Indy Politics

Gordon Brown has put affordable housing at the top of his Government's agenda by announcing plans to build three million new homes by 2020.

He told MPs that the number of new homes to be provided each year would be raised by 40,000 to 240,000 a year. He included three housing Bills as he broke with tradition by issuing a draft Queen's Speech for his first full parliamentary session as Prime Minister starting on 6 November. His aim was to consult the public before final decisions are made, maintain the new government's momentum and highlight the Tories' lack of policy until they complete their review.

Mr Brown made clear he wanted to use a counter-terrorism Bill to increase the 28-day limit for which suspected terrorists can be held without charge. He said he wanted to reach a consensus but there is little sign of one emerging.

His pledge to build more homes, notably for first-time buyers, is bound to generate controversy. He promised to "protect robustly" the green belt but left the door open to some limited building in it, saying that "principally brownfield land" would be used for the new programme. At present, 75 per cent of new housing is built on brownfield sites. Any intrusion into the green belt would create a headache for the Tories. David Cameron has warned his party it may need to drop its opposition to new housing there but many MPs and grassroots activists oppose the idea.

In a Commons statement, Mr Brown said: "Putting affordable housing within the reach of not just the few, but the many, is vital both to meeting individual aspirations and to securing a better future for the country."

A new housing agency will aim to bring public sector land into use for housebuilding. Some 100,000 new homes may be built on more than 550 government-owned sites, including NHS and Ministry of Defence land, while councils are under pressure to give up brownfield sites for another 60,000.

Councils warned that more land alone would not solve the housing crisis. Sir Simon Milton, chairman of the Local Government Association, said: "The problem has never been purely land supply, but more the lack of funding for the roads, schools and hospitals which are needed to turn soulless developments into vibrant communities."

Another Bill will streamline planning procedures. Mr Brown included in his programme a planning gain tax on developers to divert profits from land sales to local authorities but appears to be cooling on the idea and will drop it if developers come forward with alternative proposals.

Mr Cameron dismissed the package as "more of the same", saying: "Most of what the Prime Minister announced sounds rather like the Queen's Speech last year, the year before and the year before that." He added: "For 10 years, he has plotted and schemed for the top job, but all we have got is a sort of re-release of the 1997 manifesto."

The Tories claimed all 23 measures in the programme had been announced before - six in White Papers, two in Green Papers, five as draft Bills, four in statements, five in consultation exercises and one as a full Bill.

But Mr Brown got the better of Mr Cameron in their second weekly joust at Prime Minister's Questions, appearing better briefed and less nervous than at his debut last week. Mr Brown declared he would carry on being "PM" while the Tory leader "could go on with his PR" and taunted Mr Cameron over what he described as his U-turns on policy.

The two leaders clashed over the NHS. Mr Cameron called for a moratorium on closures of accident and emergency units while the Government's review took place, but Mr Brown accused him of running a "scare campaign".

Sir Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Democrat leader, said the "quality not quantity" of Bills mattered. He added that Labour's mantra had gone from being "education, education, education" to "legislation, legislation, legislation".

In the Queen's Speech...

Housing And Regeneration Bill

Will set up a new homes agency to ensure more affordable new housing for sale and rent on mixed tenure estates, improve council and housing association provision and make better use of surplus public sector land. "Eco-towns" to be developed. To be backed up by a Planning Reform Bill to streamline planning procedures.

Counter Terrorism Bill

Expected to extend 28-day limit for which suspected terrorists can be held without charge; will allow them to be questioned after they have been charged; increase penalties for terrorist-related offences and bring in foreign travel orders to allow convicted terrorists to be banned from travelling abroad. May also allow the use of phone-tap evidence when terrorist cases go to court.

Education And Skills Bill

Will raise to 18 the minimum age at which young people can leave education and training; impose duties on young people and parents to ensure they participate and set up an enforcement process and system of penalties. Other measures will boost skills training.

Health And Social Care Bill

To set up Ofcare, an integrated health and social care regulator; to strengthen clinical governance after the Harold Shipman case and safeguard patient safety by a new registration scheme for providers.

Climate Change Bill

Will set "ambitious targets" to cut CO2 emissions by 60 per cent by 2050 from 1990 levels; set binding five-year "carbon budgets" on emissions and set up a committee to monitor progress and advise the Government.

Energy Bill

Will pave the way for a new generation of nuclear power stations by ensuring that private-sector companies that build or operate them meet the cost of decommissioning and their full share of waste management costs. Measures to boost use of renewable energy.

European Communities Bill

Will be introduced if EU leaders agree a new governing mini-treaty to create an EU president and foreign affairs chief and extend majority voting in the Council of Ministers.

Pensions Bill

Will set up a personal accounts scheme, with mandatory contributions by employers, aimed at the seven million people not making enough provision for their retirement. Workers will be automatically enrolled, but will be able to opt out.

Constitutional Reform Bill

Implementing measures announced by Mr Brown last week to enhance the power of Parliament. The Government will also "develop reforms for a substantially or wholly elected second chamber".

Unclaimed Assets Bill

Deposits in bank and building society accounts which have been untouched for 15 years to be used for good causes.

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