[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Wednesday, 11 July 2007, 20:24 GMT 21:24 UK
Housing dominates Brown's agenda
Gordon Brown
Mr Brown promised to create more affordable housing
Prime Minister Gordon Brown has said he will put housing, health and education at the heart of his parliamentary programme for the next year.

Mr Brown broke with tradition by announcing 23 bills and draft bills to MPs months ahead of the Queen's Speech.

He announced plans for more "affordable housing", raising the school leaving age and changes to work pensions.

But Conservative leader David Cameron dismissed the statement, saying: "We've heard it all before."

Housing targets

The Queen's Speech is normally when prime ministers outline their programme, but Mr Brown said the statement would offer more time for consultation.

GOVERNMENT HOUSING POLICIES
Housing market renewal scheme to restore sustainable communities to parts of the North and Midlands
Home Information Packs being introduced
All social housing must meet the 'decent homes standard'
100,000 homes in "carbon neutral" communities planned for old industrial sites
New HomeBuy scheme enables social tenants, key workers and other first time buyers to buy share of a home

He told MPs: "For over one-and-a-half centuries the annual Gracious Address has been drafted inside government, agreed by the Cabinet but far from the public arena.

"But I believe it is now right in the interests of good and open government and public debate that each year the prime minister make a summer statement to this House so that initial thinking, previously private, can now be the subject of widespread and informed public debate."

Outlining housing and planning bills, he said: "Putting affordable housing within the reach not just of the few but the many is vital both to meeting individual aspirations and a better future for our country."

Mortgages

Up to 100,000 homes could be built on around 550 surplus sites owned by arms of central government such as the Ministry of Defence and the NHS, Mr Brown said.

In total, three million new homes would be built by 2020 - up 250,000 from the previous plan, he said.

green belts

The annual target would be raised from 200,000 to 240,000 new homes in England from 2016.

There would also be a regime on "covered bonds" to help mortgage lenders finance 20 to 25-year fixed-rate mortgages.

On Tuesday, Communities Minister Hazel Blears said house building took "priority" over environmental concerns and said she could not given "categoric assurances" about redrawing the green belt.

The Conservatives said this had "raised the prospect of the government systematically concreting over" it.

But Mr Brown told MPs disused "brownfield" sites would be used for the expanded building programme.

He said an Education and Skills Bill would mean all young people stay in education or training until the age of 18.

'Re-release'

A Pensions Bill would ensure all working people had the right to a workplace pension, and employers would have a duty to contribute to it.

He also proposed a Health and Social Care Bill and a Children in Care Bill.

BBC political editor Nick Robinson
Some close to Brown think that the Tory leader's made a strategic mistake
BBC political editor Nick Robinson

Mr Cameron said: "I know this is meant to be some great constitutional innovation, but I have to say 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 accused Mr Brown of repeating old announcements, adding: "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 country has moved on, but he simply hasn't."

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell said MPs "should be concerned about the quality of legislation as much as about the quantity".


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Why housing has become a political priority





FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

PRODUCTS & SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific