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WESTMINSTER WATCH

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MP criticises policy on housing transfers ...
MP criticises policy on housing transfers

A Labour backbencher has attacked the government's policy on housing stock transfers.

During question time, Alan Simpson called for a change in rules over council stock being transferred to housing associations.

The Nottingham South MP said: 'In 1991, under a Conservative government with no particular love of the public sector, councils were still able to build a grand total of 16,550 houses.

'In the last complete year for which we have figures we find we only allowed councils to build 361 council houses.

'To complicate matters, the rules force local authorities to sell off one set of council tenants [homes] to fund the housing improvements of another.'

Later Bradford North MP Terry Rooney said in his council 82% of tenants said they wanted to stay in house.

'The Tory/Liberal alliance decided to go for stock transfers, spending£750,000 on putting one side of the case,' he said.

'This amounts to political electioneering. Both sides of the argument should be put to allow tenants to make an informed decision.'

Block votes bid thwarted by MP

A bid to revive controversial changes in voting procedures for council polls in London has been filibustered by a Labour MP in the House of Commons.

The City Corporation wants to increase voting rights of businesses in the Square Mile.

In a three-hour debate on the City of London (Ward Elections) Bill, John McDonnell allowed one of the 100 amendments to be put to the vote.

Though the debate was then adjourned, it marked the first time the proposed legislation had even reached that stage.

Labour opponents of the bill have branded it an attempt to introduce undemocratic block votes and the legislation failed to complete its passage in the last Parliament.

The bill's promoter Tory MP Sir George Young said it had been changed in a bid to appease its critics in Parliament.

MPs slam 'anti-car' charges

London's congestion charging plans came under cross-party fire as Labour and Tory MPs demanded a public inquiry into London mayor Ken Livingstone's scheme.

Labour's former sports minister Kate Hoey warned of a 'kind of vendetta against cars'.

'I would like to see the whole thing dropped before it's too late and we have done enormous harm to the role of mayor of London,' she said.

Former Tory frontbencher Richard Ottaway called for a public inquiry, condemning the move as 'a classic piece of anti-car, socialist envy'.

EP frustrates strategic aims

English Partnerships often frustrates plans for regeneration, the House of Commons has heard.

Labour MP Peter Bradley claimed his local authority, Telford & Wrekin Council, and other new towns often have to work around the body to achieve strategic aims.

'It is a constant source of frustration and grievance to councillors and communities alike,' he said.

Mr Bradley claimed English Partnerships takes its cue not from

the government's commitment to urban regeneration and social inclusion, but from the previous Conservative government 'edict' that it should 'dispose of land as efficiently as possible and with the maximum return to the Treasury'.

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