31 July 1997
No threat to green belt, insists Blair
THE Government has “no intention” of cutting “great swathes through the Green Belt”, the Prime Minister told the Commons today.
Responding to Tory claims that ministers were threatening such areas with massive development, Mr Blair insisted current Labour policy had not changed from the previous Conservative Governments policy on preserving the Green Belt.
Tory Bowen Wells (Hertford and Stortford) had asked the Prime Minister at question time if he agreed with the assessment of a Friends of the Earth representative that Labour had “already begun to betray its green promises”.
Mr Wells demanded, “Will you condemn the proposals of your Housing Minister and Labour-dominated Hertfordshire County Council to build thousands and thousands of houses in the Green Belt?”
Mr Blair retorted: “That is absolute rubbish.
“The reports that there were in the newspapers, that we had announced some great new policy on the Green Belt, when you actually investigate them, in fact they were based on the Green Paper last November published by your Government.”
The Prime Minister insisted: “The policy of this Government actually hasnt changed since the policy of the previous Government.
“So if you are criticising us you are criticising them.”
Tory Laurence Robertson said people in his Tewkesbury constituency had been alarmed by a report in last weeks Sunday Times that Labour was to allow building in “greenfield as opposed to brownfield sites”.
He asked the Prime Minister, “Do you agree that, although it may be cheaper and more convenient to build in greenfield sites, the long-term costs to future generations will be enormous?”
Mr Blair told him Labour had the same target in this area as the previous Tory Government: “It has not changed in any shape or form.
“What has happened is that last November there was a Green Paper published by your Government.
“We are considering the responses to it. There is no intention to cut, as they were saying, `great swathes through the Green Belt.
“We support the idea of the Green Belt.”
Amelia Gentleman, PA News