Mr John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): I wish Ministers well with their Bill. One of its central purposes is one I strongly support—the idea that we need to build more homes.
It has been a tragedy that in this century there has been a big reduction in the proportion of people in our country who can afford to own their own home and feel that they can get access to home ownership—something that previous generations thought was more normal and easier to achieve. One of things we must do is build more. Like the hon. Member for Erith and Thamesmead (Teresa Pearce), I look forward to the housing White Paper, because many of the things that we need to do have nothing to do with legislation but are about money, permissions, and using what law we already have to ensure that our industry can serve the needs of all the people.
I also support the Bill’s second big aim, which has to be balanced against the priority of creating many more affordable homes for sale and, where needed, for rent— namely the priority that local communities must be part of the process. We are asking local communities to go to a great deal of effort, to work on the local plan as a principal planning authority and to work on neighbourhood plans village by village. They will only do so willingly if they feel their work will be taken seriously.
I represent parts of two local authority areas, West Berkshire and Wokingham Borough. Both have had a very good record over the past few decades on making sure that a lot of new housing is built in the area to help with the national need. In particular, at the moment Wokingham has four very large sites, with between 2,500 and 3,500 new homes on each, as its contribution to the national effort. Wokingham wants to make sure that the Minister’s fine words earlier will be taken into account and be part of the system—that when the local community has done the decent thing and made sure there is plenty of land available for building, an inspector does not come along and say that more homes will be built somewhere else, because some developer is gaming the system. I was very reassured that the Minister is well aware of that problem.
Where local authorities co-operate, and local communities are prepared to take responsibility and make those judgments, Ministers, their officials and the inspectors must understand that those authorities and communities should be taken seriously and, in most cases, their views should be upheld. I hope that as the Bill progresses Ministers will take on board the fact that there is huge support on the Government Benches for more homes and for local planning, but that we sometimes think inspectors still do not get it and developers are very clever, meaning that we end up with homes in places where we do not want them, which gives the whole policy a bad name.