2. What steps his Department is taking to dispose of surplus public sector land and offices. (77095)
We are leading a cross-Government programme to release surplus public land for up to 100,000 homes.
I am delighted that my right hon. Friend envisages all that surplus land being released, but will he please explain how the finances will flow to provide those houses and say something about social mobility and housing?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right: it is one thing to release brownfield land; it is another to get it built on. That is why we introduced the innovative build now, pay later regime, which will get homes on those sites quickly, with developers paying for them only when the receipts start to come in. That will do a great deal for social mobility, as will the home swap direct scheme, which was launched last week, and which I noted the Opposition criticised.
The Minister will probably guess that I was against the abolition of regional development agencies. Some of us are worried about the arrangements that were made to enable staff to start social enterprises, with generous endowments from the RDA, who then go into competition with existing players in the third sector.
The hon. Gentleman need not be too concerned. We believe that the best way of getting homes built—and the most built—is proper free competition between different providers, different developers and different organisations, which would range from co-ops to registered social landlords and commercial developers. We see no problem with that, and we have gained some sense that it is working. After all, more affordable homes for rent were built in the first year of this Government than at any time since John Major was in power.