Budget Resolutions and Economic Situation

Peter Dowd (Bootle) (Lab): On the issue of brownfield sites, my constituency has areas that are heavily contaminated and need significant remediation. Can the Secretary of State advise local authorities and developers where they can get support for that remediation?

Greg Clark: One of the benefits of devolving some of the powers and funds to local authorities is that by combining investment in transport infrastructure, housing and commercial development it is possible to get private sector investment in some of those regeneration projects. The hon. Gentleman has a valid point and, in recognition of the issue, we are establishing a brownfield fund that will help with the remediation of some brownfield land.

We have important themes in the Budget. It is an opportunity for our country to be even bolder over the five years ahead than we have been in the past. I am pleased that the shadow Secretary of State is on record as being a moderniser in her party. She supports a leadership candidate who says that she wants to challenge her party to be bolder. I hope that she will take the opportunity to do that. A vigorous debate on these matters—on housing, on planning and on furthering the devolution agenda—is very much to be commended in this House. Reflecting ruefully on the past five years, I found that I had a fruitful dialogue with leaders of local government, not just with Conservative leaders, such as my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip, but with Labour leaders across the country, too. However, I did not, and they did not, get the support from Labour’s Westminster politicians. I hope that will change this time.

The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent Central, again providing wise words, said that this needs to be a summer of hard truths. That is good advice to the hon. Lady and I hope she will be bold. As the former shadow housing spokesman and now shadow Secretary of State, if she is not going to be bold, who is? Will she support tenants who dream of owning their own home, or not? Will she support our plan to build 200,000 starter homes? Will she back our register of brownfield sites with automatic planning permission so that builders can get on with building and young people can get a home of their own? Will she back our plans to extend home ownership through Help to Buy, right to buy and the starter homes initiative, or will she sit it out, a would-be radical afraid to speak out lest she finds that her leader is an old Labour figure who takes fright at confronting the future?

Britain has come a long way in the past five years, a journey that has taken us from the brink of ruin to the fastest growing advanced economy in the world. Confidence has returned and living standards are rising. Local economies are prospering and house building is on the rise. Businesses are growing and more people are in work than ever before. This progress bears testament to the hard work and sacrifice of the British people. It is their economic recovery and their hard-fought gains will not be squandered. Having come this far, there will be no turning back to the age of irresponsibility that caused so much damage to our country. The Budget sets out a new settlement for Britain to keep our country on the straight path to economic security and prosperity. It will give cities, towns and counties across the country the power to make their own decisions and to galvanise their local economies; it will help local communities to build the homes they need; and it will ensure that social tenants benefit from a fair rent. It is a Budget for working people and for one nation, so that whoever you are and wherever you live, you can benefit from Britain’s progress. I commend it to the House.

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