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Office Development

Volume 82: debated on Wednesday 10 July 1985

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asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement on his policy towards the control of office development in the light of the report on office rents and rates 1973 to 1985, published in May by Debenham, Tewson and Chinnocks, a copy of which has been sent to him.

The Parliamentary under-Secretary of State for the Environment
(Mr. William Waldegrave)

I have read the report with interest.

That was a pathetic answer. Does not an hon. Member who has tabled a question deserve an answer from a Minister? Should the Minister not have taken into consideration the comments by Mr. Peter Evans, the head of research at Debenham, Tewson and Chinnocks, who said that office accommodation is cheaper now than for a long time, and that one cannot claim that the rates burden is causing rent rises because the relationship between the two is not proved, rents not having risen in real terms over the past few years? How does the Minister justify that statement?

I read the report with interest, because it says:

"As found in both the association's report and our survey, commercial rates in the inner London boroughs have risen by one of the lowest margins in the last 10 years and this can be attributed directly to the Government's rate capping controls."
For that and other reasons, I read the report carefully.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the Debenham, Tewson and Chinnocks annual report is crammed with statistics and does not make good bedtime reading? Only one sentence in it could affect and influence the hon. Member for Houghton and Washington (Mr. Boyes)—that which said that many office accommodation owners are moving out of the London area, and perhaps into the hon. Gentleman's constituency. Will not economic measures influence such moves, with offices then going to the provinces?

The move to constituencies such as that of the hon. Member for Houghton and Washington (Mr. Boyes) might be the kind of phenomenon that the report shows, because it shows that because of the rates office accommodation has been tending to move out of areas such as Lambeth and Southwark.