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Written Statements

Wednesday 28 January 2015

Business, Innovation and Skills

Competition and Markets Authority: Contingencies Fund Advance

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills (Jo Swinson): The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills wishes to report that a cash advance of £13 million from the Contingencies Fund has been sought for the Competition and Markets Authority (“the CMA”).

The advance is required to meet an urgent cash requirement on existing services pending parliamentary approval of the 2014-15 supplementary estimate. The supplementary estimate seeks an increase in net cash requirement in order to settle material liabilities arising from an increase in the level of existing services and utilisation of a budget cover transfer from BIS to the CMA.

Parliamentary approval for additional resources of £13 million, will be sought in a supplementary estimate for the CMA. Pending that approval, urgent expenditure, estimated at £13 million, will be met by repayable cash advances from the Contingencies Fund.

The advance will be repaid upon Royal Assent of the Supply and Appropriation (Anticipation and Adjustments) Bill.


Construction Update

The Minister for Business and Enterprise (Matthew Hancock): On 15 July 2014 my right hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks (Michael Fallon) announced to the House our plans for the divestment of public sector ownership of the Constructionline scheme by a competitive sale process. I now have pleasure in announcing to the House that the sales process has been successfully completed.

At the time of announcing Government’s divestment of the scheme it was noted that Constructionline had operated to reduce the administrative burden from businesses in the construction industry, in particular small and medium-sized enterprises, and that there were now a number of further opportunities to help business which were best developed by a private sector owner of Constructionline within the competitive market.

I am pleased to note that bidders have recognised and responded positively to those opportunities throughout the competitive bid process and I can announce that Capita will become the new owner of the scheme from today. The receipt for the sale of £35 million is good value for money for the taxpayer.


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Communities and Local Government

Housing Delivery

The Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Brandon Lewis): I would like to update hon. Members on some of the recent actions that the coalition Government are taking on housing delivery, as part of our long-term economic plan.

Helping councils build more homes

The Government are pleased to announce the publication of the report on the independent review into the role of local authorities in housing supply, carried out by Natalie Elphicke and Councillor Keith House: “From statutory provider to housing delivery enabler: Review into the local authority role in housing supply.”

The Government welcome the report, which found that local authorities could do more to play a central role in supporting the provision of new homes, across all housing tenures. As set out in last year’s autumn statement, the Government welcome the core recommendation in the review that councils should become housing delivery enablers. The Government also accept the proposal that they should consult on extending the local government transparency code to cover all housing revenue account land. We also accept other key recommendations including that the Government monitor schemes to support small builders, and consider strengthening advice to encourage more councils to proactively support neighbourhood planning.

Additionally, the review makes a number of interesting recommendations for local authorities to proactively use existing powers, levers and opportunities, including periodically testing value for money from their contracts. Local authorities and local councillors will be able to consider how best to take these proposals forward within their existing resources. The review makes a number of further recommendations that Government consider interesting, including some that need further detailed consideration with partners as appropriate. We will consider these proposals separately in due course.

Ministers would like to put on record their thanks to Natalie Elphicke and Keith House for their dedication and hard work in carrying out this review.

Rewarding councils for house building

On 16 December 2014, we announced provisional new homes bonus allocations for local authorities. The representation period closed on 14 January 2015. We received 12 representations. These have been taken into account in finalising the figures.

We will pay £1.2 billion of new homes bonus to local authorities in England. This includes instalments from the previous four years of the bonus. These allocations bring the total amount of funding awarded under the new homes bonus since it began in April 2011 to £3.4 billion. This total recognises delivery of over 700,000 homes, and over 100,000 empty properties being brought back into use.

The bonus will be paid in respect of 165,000 homes from October 2013 to October 2014 including 155,000 extra homes and 10,000 long-term empty properties brought back into use. The allocations also include an affordable homes enhancement, which totals £15 million in respect

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of 43,000 new affordable homes. The Department is writing to local authorities confirming their final allocations and I am writing to all Members of Parliament and local authority leaders in England.

Building homes on brownfield land

The national planning policy framework makes clear the need to prioritise building on previously-used brownfield land and more than two thirds of all new homes are now built on brownfield sites. But the Government want to go further—and have set a clear ambition to have local development orders in place for new homes on over 90% of suitable brownfield land by 2020.

Today, we are announcing a multi-million pound fund to help deliver 200,000 new homes on brownfield sites across the country. This will enable councils to bring forward brownfield sites of 100 homes or more in their area—making it quicker and easier for developers to get work started.

Planning permissions granted through local development orders will give the green light for new homes to be built on those sites and will let developers get planning permission quickly—getting workers on site quicker and homes that communities want built.

The Government will also publish proposals for the collection, sharing and reporting of information by local authorities on suitable brownfield land. Information would be updated at least annually, and would enable local residents to see the land that is available for new homes in their area—and to challenge councils to get work started.

Strengthening shared ownership

This week we will be publishing, with the Homes and Communities Agency, a technical consultation on proposals to streamline the resale of shared ownership properties. This builds on our commitment in the autumn statement to work with housing associations, lenders and the regulator to identify and lift barriers to extending shared ownership.

All shared ownership homes funded through the affordable homes programme—outside London—include a pre-emption right in the lease which secures the housing provider’s ability to nominate a subsequent purchaser for current and former shared ownership homes.

In some cases, this right of pre-emption has raised barriers to selling on. It can lengthen the selling process; can deter buyers; and lenders can view it as hampering the ability to realise the value of the home for the householder, and hence restrict their lending in this market.

We will be seeking views on a range of options on the pre-emption right; evidence on the operation of the current pre-emption right; other methods used to retain homes within shared ownership at the time of selling on; and how we might streamline the process for selling on shared ownership properties and encourage the market for second-hand shared ownership homes.

Since the end of 2009, we have delivered over 700,000 new homes across England. There is still more to do to, but this illustrates how this Government’s long-term

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economic plan is building more houses, giving more power to local communities, and helping people move on to and up the housing ladder.

Copies of the documents associated with these announcements will be placed in the Library of the House.


Deputy Prime Minister

Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act (Statutory Review)

The Minister for the Constitution (Mr Sam Gyimah): The Government have announced the appointment of Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts to conduct a review of the operation of the regulatory regime governing third parties at the 2015 general election.

The review will report on the operation and effectiveness of the provisions regulating third parties contained within part 6 of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000.

The regulation of third party campaigners was amended by the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act 2014.

When assessing the effectiveness of the current provisions governing third party campaigning within part 6 of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000, the reviewer should consider the following principles:

the need to maintain public trust and confidence in the regulatory regime governing third parties; and

the need to ensure campaigning which seeks to influence voting intentions at elections is undertaken in an open and transparent way.

The review will assess whether third parties understood the regulatory rules, complied with those rules, and where breaches of the rules occurred, whether appropriate enforcement activity has been undertaken by the regulator.

In order to determine the above, the review will consider the following specific matters:

suitability of Electoral Commission guidance and whether it was clear to non-party campaigners what the regulatory rules are and their obligations under the regulatory regime;

appropriateness of the registration thresholds and the effect on the number of third parties registering;

the operation of the new reporting regime in relation to donations to recognised third parties;

the operation of the rules on lead/small campaigner provisions, where a coalition of third parties work together to a common plan; and

effective and proportionate enforcement of the rules by the Electoral Commission to ensure third parties comply with the regulatory regime, and where complaints or breaches occur, these are effectively and appropriately investigated and enforced.

Ministers are required to lay a copy of the reviewer’s report before Parliament before November 2016.