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Last Updated: Sunday, 13 May 2007, 16:18 GMT 17:18 UK
Brown outlines 'eco towns' plan
Chancellor Gordon Brown
Mr Brown: Favourite to be prime minister when Tony Blair steps down

Gordon Brown says he wants to see five new "eco towns" created as part of a general increase in house building to meet "pent up" demand for homes.

The chancellor, campaigning to succeed Tony Blair, said he wanted the 100,000 homes in "carbon neutral" communities to be built on old industrial sites.

Mr Brown told the BBC's Sunday AM he wanted to help create a "home-owning, asset-owning, wealth-owning democracy".

He spoke as Labour said the new leader would be unveiled on Sunday 24 June.

You have got to combine the building of housing for ownership with the building of houses for rent in a far more mobile and fluid society
Gordon Brown
Labour chancellor

The party's ruling national executive committee met on Sunday and agreed to the timetable for both the leadership - and deputy leadership - contests.

Nominations for the contests will open on Monday at 1430 BST and close on Thursday at 1230 BST. There will be 10 hustings events before the results are announced at a special one day leadership conference in Manchester.

With Mr Blair having said he would step down as prime minister on 27 June, that means there will be three days when he is PM but someone else - almost certainly Mr Brown - is Labour leader.

Mr Brown will have to attend the hustings even if neither of his possible challengers, left-wing MPs Michael Meacher and John McDonnell, get backing from the 45 Labour MPs needed to enter the contest.

They claim that between them they can meet that figure and have said that the one with the least support will step aside in favour of the other.

Mrs Thatcher

As they continue to seek nominations from Labour MPs the two will debate policy with Mr Brown at a conference on Sunday evening.

Although Mr McDonnell told the BBC's Politics Show he believes he can beat Mr Brown, the two are not generally seen as a realistic threat to Mr Brown's chances.

It's another example of same old Labour, same old spin
George Osborne
Shadow chancellor

Indeed, the chancellor's campaign has begun by targeting voters at large as much as those in Labour and the trade unions who will decide the party's next leader.

He told Sunday AM he wanted to go further than Margaret Thatcher in extending home ownership.

"But I also recognise you have got to combine the building of housing for ownership with the building of houses for rent in a far more mobile and fluid society," he added.

The proposed five "eco towns" could each contain up to 20,000 homes and showed "imagination" in combining the need for homes with helping the environment.

War powers

The ex-MoD base at Oakington in Cambridgeshire, at present an asylum seeker holding centre, is earmarked for the first of the new towns with 10,000 homes.

Councils will be invited to bid to host the other settlements which Mr Brown said would have bus routes, cycle lanes and schools designed in a way to make them carbon neutral communities overall.

But the Conservatives insisted the idea of "carbon neutral" towns were announced last year by a housing minister.

Shadow chancellor George Osborne said: "It's another example of same old Labour, same old spin."

During the interview Mr Brown confirmed his plans to give Parliament more power over things such as decisions to go to war.


But he rejected suggestions that the Iraq war had been a mistake and said he planned to visit the country.

Asked what mistakes had been made since Labour came to power in 1997 Mr Brown said: "I think if you look back over the last ten years, what happened over the Dome was a mistake."

He also said his announcement of a 75p pension rise "could have been done far better".

I feel like Brown has been snuck in through the back door
Luke Frost, Sunderland

And, although he defended it, he acknowledged there were "always lessons to learn" from criticism that he had indulged in spin in the Budget when he announced a headline 2p cut in the basic rate of tax, even though other changes meant many people would not be better off.

On the National Health Service he said "we've still got a lot to do to show people" it is moving "into the modern era... there for people when they need it".

He said he did not think the health service should be given full independence, saying ministers still needed to make funding decisions, but he talked up the local accountability allowed by foundation hospitals.

But for the Conservatives, the shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley said: "Gordon Brown is responsible for Labour's financial mismanagement of the NHS. He failed to make the NHS a priority during his 10 years as chancellor and his rhetoric... is unconvincing."

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