Muthesius did not bank on the terrible record of the coalition Government. Under the previous Labour Government, the number of homeowners rose by 1 million, while under the Tories it has fallen by 200,000. To that, we can add their rank failures on homeownership, private renting, affordable homes, and housing benefit. The profligacy of this Government is startling, with housing benefit now costing over £24 billion a year. I think that Members on both sides of the House would have liked to welcome the Bill as a way to kick-start

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homeownership and to clear up the coalition mess. Instead, however, we have an absolute dog’s dinner of a Bill. It will do little to solve the housing crisis, and I worry that it will potentially exacerbate community relations.

Let me start on the areas of agreement. I welcome policies that extend the opportunity for people to own their own homes. I welcome measures that restrict the operation of rogue landlords and letting agents. I welcome the register of brownfield land. I agree with the hon. Member for South Norfolk (Mr Bacon) that the clauses on self-build and custom house building have much to recommend them. I hope that they will give a boost to an industry that too often loses market share to German competition.

I wish, however, to focus on the extension of the right to buy to housing association tenants. As the House will know, the right to buy was originally a Labour party policy, which was debated in office by both Harold Wilson and Jim Callaghan, and finally enacted by Margaret Thatcher. If such a policy is fully funded and planned appropriately, it could be a powerful tool for social mobility and aspiration, which I welcome. However, under Conservative Governments it has always been mismanaged horribly. The replacement social homes have never materialised. Between 2012 and 2015, some 32,000 homes have been sold, but in their place only 3,500 social houses have been built. The Government have stripped out tens of thousands of homes, with no obligation that the money will be used to fund replacements, let alone in the same area.

Now we have a plan to force councils to sell their housing stock to fund the right-to-buy policy for housing associations—a policy that both the National Housing Federation and the Local Government Association condemn. As ever with the Tories, the sums do not add up. Expecting an auction of expensive council homes to compensate housing associations, to fund a £1 billion brownfield regeneration fund and to build the two-for-one replacement homes is simply not credible.

Then there is the aggressive statism, with 32 new powers being handed to the Secretary of State. I thought that we were entering an era of localism and devolution. Instead, we have the iron fist of the Treasury dictating to councils what they can and cannot do, demanding up-front payments from councils on the expectation of receipts, and undermining the autonomy of housing associations.

Finally, I will touch on the potential impact on community relations. We live in an age of high migration. The Government promised to bring immigration down to the tens of thousands. Instead, we have net inward migration of 300,000 a year. Government statistics show that a significant and increasing number of tenancies for social homes are given to people from outside the United Kingdom. In Stoke-on-Trent, the figure stands at well over one in 10 for housing association homes.

Most of us think that properly managed migration is good for the country, but when public concern is at an all-time high, we cannot ignore the sensitivities. The Secretary of State said that foreign nationals would have to be here and pay tax for longer than three years to qualify for this policy. I do not see how that fits with EU law. There are concerns in my constituency that this policy will entail selling off council housing that was built for the workers of Stoke-on-Trent to fund a discount

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in social housing for those who, rightly or wrongly, are not seen as having made the same contribution to the community and our welfare system. That is not a recipe for strong community cohesion. With the approaching EU referendum intensifying the focus on such issues, the Government must be sensitive to the social effects of their policies.

As I set out at the beginning of my speech, it took a German migrant to explain to the English their love of home life. It would be a great shame if this policy allowed our proud history of cultural exchange and respect to be so unnecessarily undermined on the altar of ideology.

7.2 pm

Chris Green (Bolton West) (Con): Since becoming an MP, the most common issues that constituents have raised with me have been housing and planning. Many of my constituents are concerned about being unable to buy their first property. Like me, they are greatly encouraged by the Government’s Help to Buy scheme, which has helped 240 families in Bolton West to find a home. They are also encouraged by the Government’s commitment to provide starter homes and the emphasis that the Bill places on planning authorities to promote their supply.

Having said that, more often my constituents have highlighted the problems associated with planning, such as the increasing pressure on local services, amenities and transport infrastructure. As the demand for housing increases, we must respond to the challenges that additional housing brings, particularly the challenge faced by our transport infrastructure. Increasingly, my constituency is part of the commuter belt for Manchester, a work destination for other commuters and a place where people from further out in Lancashire come to use the local railway stations for park and ride. That all adds pressure on the local road and rail network which does not seem to have been addressed when each housing project has been designed and built.

The Government’s investment in local transport infrastructure, especially the electrification of the Manchester-to-Preston line, which has stops at Lostock, Horwich and Blackrod, is welcome. We all look forward to seeing the increased capacity that the upgrade will bring. However, increased demand for rail brings its own problems, particularly around the Daisy Hill and Atherton railway stations. They are increasingly well used by commuters, but every day there is a horrendous parking problem around the stations. Not only are the local car parks full, but all the nearby roads are filled with commuter parking, which causes substantial disruption and inconvenience for local residents.

Ten years ago, the proposals for the A5225 Westhoughton bypass were cancelled, much to the dismay of local residents. We have the new houses but not the infrastructure to go with them. Improved transport infrastructure must be introduced in tandem with development. Another example of missing transport infrastructure is junction 7 of the M61. The Horwich locomotive works is due to be redeveloped, with the building of 1,700 new houses. My constituents are very concerned that that will put even more pressure on road infrastructure, so we need this vital link on our local motorway.

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The loco works in my constituency is a prime example of where local concerns must be listened to. The site is brownfield and, on the whole, local residents support its development, which is in line with Government policy. Many of my constituents have contacted me to say that, despite that, they have little confidence that their concerns over health services, recreation, education, transport and the decontamination of industrial land will be dealt with adequately by the local council.

I strongly welcome clause 103, which requires local planning authorities to compile a register of land. I believe that there should be a register of brownfield sites, whether they are suitable or unsuitable for development, to speed up the delivery of housing, while protecting our green spaces. That information would be particularly useful to local action groups, who may use it to campaign on housing developments that are suggested for local areas. Like many people, I was disappointed by the plans to build on Roscoe’s farm in Westhoughton, without first making use of the local brownfield spaces that are available.

Given that only 64% of local planning authorities have adopted a local plan, I am pleased that the Bill seeks to improve that figure. It is vital that local planning authorities make such plans to decide how best to meet housing needs and that they publish them, so that local people are not excluded from the process. A plan-led system is crucial to creating sustainable development in local communities. People in the local community must continue to have a say on decisions that affect them and their families.

7.7 pm

Emma Reynolds (Wolverhampton North East) (Lab): It is a birthday treat for me to speak in this debate, and to get an extra minute. As we get older, we have a tendency to look back on our childhood. Thirty-three years ago, my mom and I were homeless. She applied to the local council in the west midlands as a single parent with a five-year-old child. After a couple of weeks of staying with friends, we were granted a council flat. I will never forget the security and warmth of our new home, nor my mom’s relief that we were no longer homeless.

Fast-forward three decades and if we were in the same situation today, we would be put in a hostel, so-called bed-and-breakfast accommodation or the private rented sector. Many families and children are in that situation. They are often uprooted from their communities, support networks and schools, and placed miles away from families and friends. According to figures released by Shelter only today, more than 100,000 children will be in temporary accommodation this Christmas.

In the early 1980s, council properties were not in short supply. Now, across the country, 1.4 million families are on the waiting list. Councils often do not have properties for homeless families or others who have been on the waiting list for years.

Lyn Brown: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for her story, because the social costs of these policies are not often aired in our debates. I, too, grew up in a council flat. It was safe, secure and stable, and it enabled my sister and I to thrive and to strive. Is not the real crime of this Government’s housing policy that it will deny so many children the very opportunities that our council properties gave us?

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Emma Reynolds: Absolutely. The research shows that if a child is shunted from school to school and from area to area, they are more likely not to fulfil their potential at school and to do badly later in life, and those children who are being forced around the country are in that situation precisely because of an acute shortage of social housing.

Why do we have a shortage? The answer is simple: the failure to replace homes sold through right to buy and the failure to build social housing. I am not ideologically opposed to right to buy—I am not anti-aspiration and I am not against home ownership—but I am ideologically opposed to Tory Governments running down the number of council homes, and that is exactly what this Bill endeavours to do.

Since the introduction of right to buy, we have lost more than 1.5 million council homes, and that takes into account some of those that have been replaced. No Government have found a way to fund the discount and secure the building of new homes to replace homes sold. Worse still, the Tory Governments of the 1980s and 1990s let our council houses fall into rack and ruin. Many had damp kitchens, leaking windows and mouldy bathrooms.

I am proud of the Labour Government’s decent homes programme, which transformed 1.3 million homes and the lives of the families in those homes. Over our time in office we built 500,000 affordable homes, but let us be frank: our Government also failed to replace homes sold through right to buy.

In the last Parliament, the Tories spoke of reinvigorating right to buy, but their real agenda was and, I am afraid, continues to be to run down the stock of social housing. They introduced taxpayer-funded discounts of up to an eye-watering £100,000. They promised one-for-one replacement, but failed to deliver on that promise. Therefore, while the lucky few get a bigger discount, the social housing stock declines, leaving families languishing for years on council waiting lists, and the taxpayer is left to pick up the bill, with housing benefit going through the roof.

This Bill is yet another ideological attack on social housing. It contains provisions to force councils to sell off council homes; to legislate for housing associations to sell off homes; and to remove the requirement for developers to build affordable homes. On the forced sell off, let us be in no doubt that in some inner-city areas this Bill spells disaster for social housing. Frankly, it is also a slap in the face for localism. The Government call these homes “expensive,” but they are not luxurious. They are homes in high-demand areas. Selling them will mean that there will be no social mix in inner London and some other inner cities, and more homeless families will be forced to move miles away from their communities.

This ideological attack on social housing was rushed out during the final weeks of the election campaign. I know that because I was the shadow Housing Minister at the time. In the first weeks of this Parliament, I asked the Government numerous questions about how they were planning to fund the policy. I tabled a question about what estimates they had made of the value of the council homes they were going to force councils to sell and of the number that would become vacant each year. To be frank, the Housing Minister did not have a

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clue—he admitted that he did not know. The truth is that the Government do not have a proper plan to replace homes sold through right to buy.

To add insult to injury, this Government are removing the requirement for developers to build affordable homes. Of course we need homes for first-time buyers, but the requirement to build starter homes will replace the requirement to build affordable homes, which will lead to even fewer badly needed affordable homes.

Successive Governments have failed to get enough homes built to meet demand. The Conservatives say they are the party of home ownership, but home ownership is at a 30-year low. Successive Governments have failed to replace homes sold through right to buy. I support people’s desire to have the security of owning their own home, but we must recognise that there will always be people who cannot afford to buy and who need to rent.

We do not believe that the Government are going to replace the homes one for one. They failed to do so in the last Parliament and I would wager that they will also fail to do so over the next five years. There is nothing aspirational about running down social housing so that families who need it will not be able to rely on it, like my mom and I did more than three decades ago. This ideological attack on social housing is the real agenda behind this Bill and this Government, and that is why I will be voting against it tonight.

7.15 pm

Robert Neill (Bromley and Chislehurst) (Con): It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Wolverhampton North East (Emma Reynolds). I wish her many happy returns. At my age, I have further to look back on my childhood than she has, but I remember growing up in an ordinary London suburb in a modest home that had been bought as a result of the hard work of my Labour-voting, shop steward, dock worker grandfather. That was about aspiration. There was no ideology about it. Those of us who have worked our way up in the world will not take lectures from the Labour party.

Lyn Brown rose

Robert Neill: I will not give way at the moment. I acknowledge the balanced contribution of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton North East, but we will not take lectures from her more ideological colleagues about the importance and value of aspiration.

I also remember from my childhood how the lives of the families of my school friends who lived on neighbouring council properties were transformed by the right to buy when it was introduced by Margaret Thatcher. They were given opportunities and security that they had never had before. It is important that Opposition Members remember that the aspiration for ever to be dependent and to be renting is not the aspiration of the majority of the British people.

The hon. Lady is right to say that we all need to build more homes. I recognise that Governments of both parties have failed in that regard, but the reality is, and history shows, that home ownership peaked at 71% in 2003. That happened under the Labour Government at a time when they were largely following the economic policies of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke). After 2003, as the Labour party moved to the left, it lost economic credibility and

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home ownership declined steadily. The coalition inherited the mess it left behind, which had presented the market with further problems. That is the reality and there is no way Labour can escape that. That is the true history of the matter. This Bill therefore provides a welcome and much-needed boost for the housing supply. The coalition Government made a good start, but we need to do more and my right hon. and hon. Friends in the ministerial team recognise that.

My hon. Friends the Members for Richmond Park (Zac Goldsmith), for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson) and for Wimbledon (Stephen Hammond) referred to the particular issue of the London housing market. As a London MP, I endorse and support everything they said, which is why I will support their proposed amendment. The London housing market is complex and much more varied than anywhere else in the country. In looking at how constructively to introduce the right to buy for social housing tenants in London, we will have to bear in mind the particular pressures on the London market as a result of its land-replacement costs being so much higher than those in the rest of the country.

I get the sense that Ministers understand that, and my hon. Friends and I look forward to working with them to achieve an outcome that increases the total supply in London. That includes what we generally call “affordable housing,” although nowadays that term is sometimes used as a proxy for social rented housing, which is important. Perhaps we also need to consider intermediate forms of tenure, which often relate to the squeezed middle in London who are in employment, working hard and cannot immediately get on to the market, but who will never qualify for subsidised social housing. Getting that mix right is absolutely critical.

On the Bill’s planning and compulsory purchase provisions, the planning changes are welcome, particularly the increased transparency as a result of making available basic financial information about planning applications. That follows on from the work my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I did in government to refine and rationalise the rules on predetermination. We can now have a sensible debate about the pros and cons of planning decisions to be made by communities and elected representatives. That is welcome.

Compulsory purchase might not be as headline grabbing as other parts of the Bill, but it is still important. I welcome the important proposals to make advance payment of compensation easier, but I hope the Government will reconsider the rate to be paid. I know they are considering 1% to 2%, but if a business loses its land through compulsory purchase, it will have to reinvest in its business, which, in most cases, will mean going to the bank for a loan. It would be much more equitable, therefore, to align the level of compensation more closely with the going commercial rate of bank loans. I hope we can consider that.

Another point relates to the useful changes to nationally significant infrastructure projects. I understand that it might sometimes be useful to have housing ancillary to a national infrastructure project—the consultation document talks about workers’ accommodation and so on—but it would be perverse if, as under the current rules, and as a result of a nationally significant infrastructure project, land was compulsorily acquired at current use

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value and the acquiring authority then built and sold houses at the housing value, meaning that the original landowner loses their land without any element of the uplift that comes from the housing development. That seems anomalous and unfair, and I hope the Minister will think about it.

All in all, this is a good and constructive Bill, and I will have no hesitation supporting it in the Lobby tonight. I commend it to the House.

7.21 pm

Sue Hayman (Workington) (Lab): I have several concerns about the proposals in the Bill, mainly around the impact on rural communities such as the one I represent. Some might well be unintended consequences, however, so I ask the Minister to consider them carefully.

There are problems with the lack of detail in the Bill, and I am concerned about the lack of consultation on the implications of some of the changes. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton North East (Emma Reynolds) about the right to buy. I, too, support it in principle, but it is important that it has a positive impact on the housing market, whereas there is a danger that the Bill will have a negative impact. The voluntary right to buy agreement between the National Housing Federation and the Government has removed from parliamentary scrutiny the precise terms of the agreements, leaving it to the Minister to define, while also removing the effective consultation with other affected parties. I am concerned about that.

Housing Associations have been told they will receive full compensation through a grant to make up the difference on any financial loss arising from right to buy, but it is not clear whether any conditions will be attached to the grant or how free they will be to spend the grant in the way they think best meets local need. Much of my constituency is rural, which is why I am interested in the rural aspect, and includes part of the Lake District national park, so I am especially concerned that the Bill does not take into account the particular challenges of delivering and retaining a mixed balance of tenures in rural areas. In an area such as the Lake District national park, ensuring adequate provision of social housing and affordable housing is critical if local people are to stay in the communities where their families live and where many have lived for generations. The cost of housing inside the national park is far higher than outside it, and local people often struggle to compete with the purchasing power of people from wealthier areas looking to buy holiday homes and second homes. The national park has recently been extended, which is only going to compound the situation.

The hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Tim Farron) mentioned the gap between earnings and house prices in rural areas. I understand that the average ratio is 1:8, which means that many of the starter homes discussed will simply not be affordable to the people who need them to live in the local community. This is not just my view. The Country Land and Business Association also has concerns. It has said

“it is vital that the government does not require councils to impose starter homes on rural exemption sites”

because it will not ensure sustainable rural communities with a range of tenures. For me, it is problematic that the reforms in the Bill focus on promoting homeownership through starter homes at the expense of delivering

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affordable social housing for rent. This will have a negative impact on the provision of affordable social homes in rural areas, and it could also have the unintended consequence of wiping out affordable housing in areas such as the national parks. It is critical that any planning obligations provide homes that respond to actual local housing needs. For example, in my constituency, one of the biggest problems is with elderly people’s bungalows, and this was compounded by the bedroom tax. Elderly people in family homes have nowhere to go.

Replacing houses should mean replacing the houses sold with similar properties in the same communities at similar rents. The Bill needs to recognise the planning difficulties of building new properties within a national park. It can take a long time to identify the land and get a planning agreement to build within national park authorities because the process is so much more complex, and because it is so much easier to build outside the national park, people do not apply to build within it. If we are not careful, affordable housing within these communities could disappear and those communities will change for ever.

In my constituency, housing associations are delivering social housing in our rural communities, and they need the support and security necessary to continue doing so. I ask that the Minister carefully considers the impact of these proposals on our rural communities and, particularly given the ONS’s decision last Friday to reclassify the housing association sector, ensures that housing associations have a secure future as independent third sector bodies with a clear role to do as much as they can to use their assets and borrowing capabilities to deliver the affordable housing we need and where we need it.

7.27 pm

Victoria Borwick (Kensington) (Con): I thank the Minister for listening to areas such as Kensington that want to encourage entrepreneurship and business and for continuing to exempt central London areas from the rules on converting commercial premises to residential premises. This recognises that mixed communities are vital in promoting local employment and industry, which is particularly important in north Kensington, which is a business and creative arts hub.

While welcoming the aspirational policies in the Bill and recognising the value and popularity of home ownership, I believe it is important to offer housing prices at different levels. I have been meeting housing associations and colleagues in the borough to discuss the issue in greater depth, but as many others, including my hon. Friends the Members for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson) and for Richmond Park (Zac Goldsmith), have so eloquently argued, there are unique features to central London, particularly high-asset areas such as Kensington, that require special consideration.

I would like to touch on the right-to-buy proposals, which, although aspirational, will require local councils to fund the discount received by the purchaser. This will force councils to sell off high-value vacant properties, or “voids”, rather than being able to offer them to families in temporary accommodation, and will thus further decrease the stock. Housing people in temporary accommodation is expensive and often unsatisfactory, and when a void becomes available, local councils must be able to use the property, via the housing associations, for those on their lists.

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I ask the Minister to consider land values in outliers, such as Kensington and other central London areas, and to appreciate that the levels should be related to local house prices. Many house prices in Kensington exceed £1 million, and it would be extremely expensive for the council to replace any sold stock. The problem of high-asset values is not unique to Kensington, so I support other colleagues in asking the Minister to keep the money raised by London sales in London to help fund London’s housing provision where it is most needed.

I hope that the Minister will give thought to local land values and consider other possible exemptions—regeneration schemes, supported housing, sheltered care, housing specifically designed for the disabled—because although I support this initiative and want to help people into home ownership, it should not be at the expense of the provision of social housing for our most vulnerable.

I would like to touch briefly on the “pay to stay” proposals—again, I welcome the appreciation that those on good incomes should be able to pay a proper rent and put money into the system to help others. However, I am concerned that setting the level at £40,000 might be a disincentive to work, particularly if we consider a couple or young family with each earning perhaps £20,000 a year and starting out on their careers—two newly qualified teachers, for example. They will be expected to fund up to 80% of the market rent in Kensington and Chelsea, and might find themselves penalised, so I ask the Minister to look at tapering the rates, so that the Bill does not impact negatively on those it most wishes to assist.

Turning briefly to the starter homes proposals, we have become accustomed in central London to section 106 arrangements and have often been able to meet some of our housing need as well as assisting with the provision of disabled-accessible properties. While starter home provision will be financially attractive to developers, the homes are likely to be above the price threshold needed to help those starting on the housing ladder—a point that my colleagues made earlier. I urge the Minister to examine the implementation of the starter homes initiative. Although it has been popular outside London, we would want the Mayor and London boroughs to have a range of different models to encourage shared ownership, including First Steps and other provision. I ask the Minister to devolve the decisions to the local councils for them to choose the most appropriate mix of affordable rented and other models of shared ownership.

In common with my colleagues, I welcome the aspirations in the Bill to increase home ownership, and ask the Minister to consider local needs, particularly those in my Kensington constituency.

7.32 pm

Angela Rayner (Ashton-under-Lyne) (Lab): I am pleased to follow the hon. Member for Kensington (Victoria Borwick) and I enjoyed her contribution. I agree with her on the importance of our social housing and of looking after the most vulnerable. Many of my constituents, particularly young people, would love the opportunity to own their own home, but the Bill fundamentally misses the problem, providing another example of how out of touch this Government truly are. The problem facing Oldham and Tameside is not just of home

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ownership—it is the problem of getting a home, any home or a space for people to call their own, enabling them to live, work and raise a family.

One of my concerns is that the current plans to deliver starter homes will be at the expense of affordable and shared-ownership properties that are vital in meeting housing needs in my constituency. Shelter has illustrated that in many areas, including mine, starter homes will not be affordable to low and middle-income households. My constituency, like many across the north of England, has a low-wage economy. Gross average pay in Tameside is £413 per week, which is even lower than the north-west average of £480.

Many Members will share my experience of the increasingly desperate situation faced by constituents trying to secure affordable housing—constituents such as Claire, who works hard bringing up her young children and is just managing to keep her head above water. A deposit for home ownership is just a pipedream for constituents like Claire, when every surplus penny is used to make ends meet, pay the rent and bills and put food on the table.

Claire is just one of many thousands who are on the housing need register in Tameside. She resides in damp and poorly maintained private rented accommodation. She is part of the growing army labelled “generation rent”—a growing army that has helped to line the pockets of private landlords. Housing benefit has now grown to the sum of over £24 billion a year, an increase of £4.4 billion since 2010. The promise made by the Prime Minister to replace like for like each house sold under the right-to-buy scheme has already been broken. Some 1,346 houses were sold under right to buy in the north-west during the last three years, with a meagre 16 right-to-buy replacement homes being built.

The Chancellor has created a perfect storm in a dysfunctional housing market. The combination of the ill-thought-through right-to-buy extension along with the unfunded rent freeze has led to New Charter, a major social housing provider in my constituency, announcing the loss of more than 150 jobs. Last Friday, I met Ian Monroe, chief executive of New Charter, and he informed me that it has had drastically to scale back its plans to build an additional 2,000 desperately needed houses locally. It was New Charter’s intention to build the 2,000 properties over the next four-year period, but the number has now been reduced to just 600. Clearly, this will have a direct impact on people such as Claire and on the local building industry. We will not be able to meet the ever-increasing need and demand for social housing in my area. To put this into context, our local housing waiting list currently stands at around 3,000 applications. New Charter receives on average 80 new applications every single week.

The preferred route of housing tenure being pursued by this Government—that of home ownership—is just not realistic for the majority of my constituents. Please do not get me wrong, though, Madam Deputy Speaker. I welcome aspects of the Bill that restrict the operation of rogue private landlords and letting agents, and I acknowledge of course that not all private landlords are irresponsible sharks. Unfortunately, too many private landlords have a “take the money and run” attitude. Our social landlords, such as New Charter, know that

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providing homes is not just about bricks and mortar; they know it is also about building communities. This Bill does not go far enough to make private renting an affordable, sustainable secure option.

As the Bill stands, it will mean a severe loss of affordable homes for local communities across England. It will centralise significant powers in the hands of the Secretary of State and deprive councils of the capacity to meet the housing needs of their communities. It will prevent local people from having a proper say in the planning process, as other Members have mentioned.

In conclusion, just a couple of weeks ago, I asked the Minister for Housing and Planning to come along to my constituency and listen to the very people who are being hit by the damaging measures implemented on the social housing sector. I have still not had a response to my invitation. Perhaps I will get one today—come on, I will brew up for you! Again, I ask the Minister to meet New Charter’s management and the housing union Unison, which represents its workers. My colleagues and I on the Labour Benches are determined to protect our social housing for the sake of current and future tenants. Labour was and remains the party of mass house building, and we want to see Britain building again.

7.38 pm

Mr Ranil Jayawardena (North East Hampshire) (Con): I am pleased to follow the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Angela Rayner), who talked passionately about her constituents. I want to ensure that Britain is a country where her constituents and mine can all aspire—through good, decent jobs—to buy their own home. That is why I am pleased to rise in broad support of the Bill. I support the initiatives being taken forward on brownfield; I support the desire to streamline compulsory purchase orders; and indeed I support the right to buy. However, the Bill still needs further work and requires greater clarity in a number of areas. I hope, in the short time available to me, to make a few suggestions which I hope the Minister will consider carefully.

I believe that “planning in principle” must not be used inappropriately to overrule councils on greenfield sites. We have said that we want to streamline brownfield development, and that is absolutely right—we must prioritise such development—but councils must be listened to when they devise both local and neighbourhood plans. Moreover, the definition of brownfield lacks clarity. For example, would a town centre site where there is mixed-use building, both retail and residential, be considered to be brownfield if not all the buildings were in use? I believe that the Government are determined to regenerate our town centres to ensure that they are prosperous, vibrant places in which people can live, shop and work, and I support them in that, but we need clearer answers to such questions.

Melanie Onn (Great Grimsby) (Lab): Has the hon. Gentleman given any consideration to the additional cost that might be involved in clearing brownfield sites, especially when industrial use is involved, and to what happens when the value of land is so low that resale does not meet that additional cost?

Mr Jayawardena: I was about to say something about the cost of brownfield remediation. I know that the Government have considered that very carefully, because

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they have announced a £1 billion brownfield regeneration fund. I am a passionate supporter of the fund. I think that it needs to be introduced more quickly, and that councils should be involved in its introduction so that they understand how to gain access to it, but I believe that it is an important initiative that will bring into use brownfield sites—industrial and commercial sites, for instance—that would otherwise not be suitable for housing development, and would lie empty to the detriment of greenfield developments.

As we heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton West (Chris Green), it is important for the deal to include not only remediation but infrastructure. There is not enough in the Bill about how infrastructure can be delivered in step with new development. The Government’s commitment to infrastructure projects is welcome, but I want to be certain that Ministers have considered carefully how those projects will conform with any planning process that is introduced by means of the Bill. As Members have pointed out, the community infrastructure levy will be reduced for brownfield developments, as it will be difficult to make use of brownfield sites with the same level of developer contributions, but it is critical that we do so. I do not want the reduction in the CIL to be a barrier to brownfield development, and I believe that the Government will step in to ensure that the regeneration fund is used for that purpose.

Simon Hoare: I entirely take my hon. Friend’s point about the need to deliver infrastructure in step with new housing development, but local planning authorities are often cautious about what the inspectorate might deem to be onerous conditions. Might not greater clarity about what is and what is not onerous lead the authorities to adopt a more robust approach to setting conditions, and thus to ensure that infrastructure development is delivered apace?

Mr Jayawardena: My hon. Friend is right. Governments do not necessarily have to fund projects; they can help local authorities to deliver the infrastructure that communities need simply by providing that clarity. I am sure that Ministers intend, either in the Bill or in regulations, to set out in clear English what local authorities can and cannot ask for in delivering for their residents.

That leads me neatly to the subject of the brownfield register. Many sites are currently vacant, and it is important for us to bring them into use. Introducing a brownfield register is critical to that, and I welcome wholeheartedly the Government’s enabling action, but I hope that they will adopt an approach that is common to the other parts of the planning process, such as the strategic housing land availability assessment process. Under SHLAA, it does not have to be the landowner who registers a property. It can be registered by any interested party, and the council then weighs that option alongside the others. That would be a helpful step, ensuring that even when land is not in common ownership, suggestions can be made and local authorities, which are democratically elected—and if we believe in localism, we want to give them the power to make decisions—can decide what land is suitable for brownfield development in the future. If that is done properly, it will prevent local authorities from being landed on by other forces, be they neighbours or others, who want to introduce more development

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than is necessary to meet local need in their districts. Local authorities will have an opportunity to shape the future of their areas.

The Government want to make compulsory purchase orders clearer, fairer and faster, and I fully support that initiative. It will help local authorities to use the information that they have identified in the brownfield register, to establish the infrastructure needs in their areas, and to deliver a package of measures that will work for their communities. Again, however, more clarity is required, because it is not yet clear what steps will be removed from the process to make it easier for councils to do just that. They will need support, financial and otherwise, to deal not only with land purchase—which can be arranged through back-to-back deals with developers—but the administrative process of undertaking a compulsory purchase order. That is costly, and takes much time. Streamlining will help, but councils will still need more support.

I also fully support the right-to-buy policy because I think that people should have the chance to own their homes, but I should like the Government to go further. I want the presumption in relation to affordable rented homes in any section 106 agreement on any new development to be replaced by the option for local authorities to say “No, we want affordable homes to buy.” I want the Government to consider paragraph 50 of the national planning policy framework, which still requires local authorities to produce a mix of housing types and tenures. A local authority might say, “We already have enough homes to rent; we want more to buy.” It should be for local authorities to make such decisions. It should also be up to local authorities to ensure that when money is being accrued from the sale of homes, there is potential for off-site provision, because it may well be possible to deliver more homes elsewhere

I support the Bill, but I hope that Ministers will give careful consideration to the points that I have made.

7.47 pm

Ruth Cadbury (Brentford and Isleworth) (Lab): I took careful note of the comments of the hon. Member for North East Hampshire (Mr Jayawardena). He is certainly not the only Conservative Member who has concerns about the Bill. Many Labour Members have made very good speeches, and have also expressed serious concerns.

The Bill brings no hope to the 600 families who are in temporary accommodation in my constituency, the thousands of young people with no hope of owning their homes, and those who cannot even find a place that they can afford to rent in west London. I agree with the excellent comments made by my hon. Friends, but I want to focus on the planning aspects of the Bill. It undermines a planning system which has stood the country well for 70 years, and which was introduced after the free-for-all speculative housing development of the 1930s. Making permanent the requirement for prior approval for change of use in offices, and extending it to industrial space, provides for a free-for-all of the same nature.

My local authority, Hounslow, has an excellent record of delivering housing across all tenures during the last Administration, including 3,000 affordable homes of which 400 are council homes. That was before the prior

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approval was introduced. Many buildings and sites that are no longer appropriate for their old use—factories, offices, and a magistrates court—have been granted change of use for decent-quality housing, with appropriate agreements providing for affordability, decent space standards and decent amenity spaces. So there was no need to bypass local authorities by introducing the prior approval regime to remove the normal oversight on change of use to housing, which the Bill extends permanently.

I received an email from Brentford chamber of commerce asking me to speak up for its members, some 80 of whom have either been forced out, or fear being forced out, of their office premises as a direct result of the prior approval regime. The system has been devastating not only to small office premises in our town centres such as Chiswick and Brentford, but to the retail and catering businesses that depend on the lunchtime trade generated by the people who work in those offices, as it is trade that the residents of the replacement flats do not bring. There are plenty of other brownfield and redundant buildings that could be used—indeed are being used—for housing without devastating the small business community of our town centres.

Since prior approval was introduced in May 2013, it has resulted in a loss or potential loss of 80,000 square metres of office space. Furthermore, while this has resulted in a net gain of 1,251 residential units in the borough, it has meant a potential loss of 512 affordable units. Why? Because if those schemes had gone through the normal planning applications process instead of the prior approval process, they would have had to have provided 40% affordable housing on site, as per the policies in the local plan. The prior approval process means no assessment or negotiation: no assessment of the space standards, parking standards, amenity standards and employment floor space.

The Bill contains welcome clauses on rogue landlords, but ironically it actually legitimises the creation of substandard housing with wholly inadequate space and other standards. I am not opposed to former offices becoming housing—or indeed schools, places of worship and so on—but we should use the planning system. It is open, transparent and accountable. We should use it to enable that to happen, not the clauses in the Bill.

The Bill removes the voices of local people and undermines local democratic control over development. It hands local authority planning powers to the Secretary of State and removes any community engagement. Yes, we need new homes, and we need great places to live, to learn and to play, but the “permission in principle” clause will severely restrict the ability of local authorities, community organisations and the public to comment on, or object to, development on these sites. Furthermore, there has been no public consultation on this provision.

We have no problem with the conversion of employment land and buildings being used to deliver the homes of the future, but not at the cost of vibrant businesses, or at the cost of a proportion of social rented and shared ownership homes, and at the cost of appropriate local oversight.

In conclusion, the Bill is bad for families in temporary accommodation; bad for all those who cannot afford to rent privately, such as the couple I met in my surgery the

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other week; bad for those small and growing businesses in west London, particularly in the town centres where landlords are rushing to change their property into housing; and bad for the shops, cafes and restaurants that depend on the lunchtime trade that those businesses bring. The Bill is bad for employers, such as the chief executive of our local hospital, struggling to recruit and retain qualified staff because of the housing crisis that the Bill will not solve. It is bad for the councils and community organisations shut out of planning decision-making, and it is bad for the communities that need a balance between housing, employment, space for community facilities and amenity space.

7.53 pm

Mr Stewart Jackson (Peterborough) (Con): I draw the attention of the House to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests.

I strongly welcome the Bill. It stands comparison with some of the finest examples of progressive Conservative policies on housing in the past 100 years. It is a radical, yet pragmatic Bill, and it draws on the Government’s success in areas such as Help to Buy and the fact that in the past five years we have delivered 260,000 affordable homes, with 140,000 housing completions in the last financial year. I have a great deal of respect for the right hon. Member for Wentworth and Dearne (John Healey). I read very carefully his piece in The Observer yesterday. It was long on complaint, but very short on coherent, costed and cogent alternative policies. He complains about the 32 new planning and housing powers invested in the Secretary of State, but in the same breath he says that we have a housing crisis in terms of supply, and that we need to deal with it. Well, we are dealing with it and needs must. We also have a manifesto commitment to deliver 1 million starter homes by 2020 and the right to buy for housing associations.

I, for one, make no apologies for being very proud that right to buy in the 1980s delivered the biggest transfer of capital to working people of any policy ever in British political history. I am very proud of what we did.

We have the right policy on starter homes. It was a little bit of an afterthought emerging from the ministerial fiat inserted in March this year into the NPPF guidelines, but now it will be on a proper legislative basis. I welcome the new legal duty on local planning authorities to promote the supply of homes and proper monitoring. I welcome, too, the flexibility between the number of homes and areas, because they will not be the same everywhere. We have discrete housing markets, as my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford West and Abingdon (Nicola Blackwood) said. I would perhaps challenge the Minister to consider the fact that there is, unless I am mistaken, no specific reference in the Bill to the insertion of starter homes in the affordable homes criteria. I might be wrong, but he might need to look at that in terms of the NPPF or in Committee. There may be some discrepancy with section 38(6) of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004, where local planning authorities have to give proper cognisance to their adopted plans.

I support the introduction of a brownfield register. I welcome clauses 102 and 103 and the “permission in principle”, in particular. Only last year, the Campaign to Protect Rural England told us that 975,000 homes could be delivered by virtue of utilising brownfield sites

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properly. We must, however, have a coherent cross-government policy on this issue. The Public Accounts Committee only very recently looked at the failures of the Department to properly co-ordinate and use its methodology to follow through on the provision of land to the actual building of houses.

Oliver Colvile: Does my hon. Friend recognise that if we are to encourage people to develop brownfield sites, we must ensure that if they have planning permission they should not just sit on it? Should we not consider ensuring that they start paying business rates on land which is potentially to be used for development?

Mr Jackson: I have long been an advocate of a fiscal disincentive from Government to land banking, but the idea of land banking is apparently an urban myth. We need to do more work on that and I hope the Minister will take on board my hon. Friend’s comments.

Mr Bacon: Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr Jackson: On this occasion, I will.

Mr Bacon: Did my hon. Friend notice in the National Audit Office report a reference to 109,500 potential homes from the land that was sold? Does he agree that our constituents do not live in potential homes but actual homes and that they need to be sure that they actually get built?

Mr Jackson: My hon. Friend, in his normal astute and erudite way, puts his finger on it. One lesson was that the methodology was not as robust as it should have been in following through from the allocation of land to the actual construction of houses that people live in.

On tackling slum landlords, I strongly support and endorse part 2 of the Bill. In Peterborough, we have an issue with the degradation of large residential areas by slum landlords, which is very bad news for vulnerable tenants. This provision and the database are very welcome news, along with selective licensing, which is already in place under the Housing Act 2004.

We have scarce resources in government, and we need to focus them in the most efficient and effective way. We need to provide supported housing for people with long-term needs, such as mental illness. We need to look at extra care facilities and we need to keep our bargain or contract with working families who struggle to get on the housing ladder. In order to drive the market, it is vital that we look at removing SME builders from responsibilities and obligations on the community infrastructure levy and on section 106. There has been too much consolidation by large oligopolistic construction companies. We need to bring some of those smaller companies back into the market. I urge the Minister to look again at vacant building credit and to challenge the High Court decision, because this is about getting marginal brownfield site developments that will deliver hundreds and thousands of homes to people. It is a grave disappointment that the Conservative council saw fit to challenge the Department on that issue.

I agree with permitted development rights for the conversion of commercial and office premises to residential development, and there should be greater clarity on that before article 4 is used by some local authorities to prevent such a move. I welcome part 6 of the Bill, and challenge the shadow Minister to say what else could be done

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when 18% of local plans have not been published, 35% are not fully adopted, and one in five local authorities does not have a land supply plan. Needs must—we must tackle these issues. I am not in favour of big government, but I am in favour of more homes for people in my constituency and across the country. I support clause 107 on nationally significant infrastructure projects, but we need more clarity on that.

We must also consider the wider context and the demographic changes that are affecting our country. The number of single person households doubled between 1961 and 2014, and immigration is an important issue. I accept that owner occupation may not be for everyone, and we must look at residential estate investment trusts and give tax breaks to extra care facilities to help with that hugely important issue of adult social care and acute care in hospitals. We must tackle the skills crisis in construction. Two thirds of small construction companies said in August that they turn down work because people do not have the skills—plasterers, carpenters, bricklayers, scaffolders and apprenticeships are important.

We must consider access to capital, infrastructure, brownfield regeneration, complex remediation issues, and bringing on to the market many more intermediate mortgage products so that we support do-it-yourself conveyancing, shared ownership, and other forms of intermediate tenure. Social renting is important in some areas, but we are moving away from that model.

In conclusion, the Bill is much needed and will revolutionise construction, housing, and planning in our country. I will be supporting it tonight.

8.2 pm

Alison Thewliss (Glasgow Central) (SNP): I feel that one story about social rented housing in this country is not being told, because for me social rented housing is a public asset that we should support for that reason.

My Gran and Papa moved into a house in Wishaw in 1963, and they lived there until recently. My Gran is going into a care home, and we are finishing the process of emptying that home. For 52 years that house was their home, but it is a social rented house that belongs to North Lanarkshire Council. It is nice to think that, having had a family through that house, other families will now get to enjoy it and make it their home until it passes to another generation.

My Papa did not believe in owning his own home—he must have been one of those rare people in this country that the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Stephen Hammond) would not recognise, given what he said about his home being his castle and the necessity of owning it. My mum described my Papa as a west of Scotland Presbyterian socialist, which may be why he took that view. Throughout their life in that house, he and my Gran had the opportunity to buy it had they chosen to, but they believed firmly that the house belonged to the greater good and the common good, and that there it should stay.

Many people whom I represent will not have the chance to own their own homes. Some people are very far from that point and might not even have bank accounts, never mind trying to get a mortgage. We need to provide choice for people in cities across our country—choice for people who want to live in a socially rented house. Many of my constituents want the option of a front and back door, rent set at a fair level, and the

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support that a housing association offers. Local authorities and housing associations provide social support to their tenants that the private sector will never provide, whether that is advice on debt and money, benefits, or just somebody who can be asked for help when a repair is required. We should bear in mind those important social functions.

When my Gran was living on her own she had somebody to call if there was an issue with the heating or electricity. Over the years that she lived there, the local authority invested in that house with heating, rewiring, cavity wall installation and new windows. Good social landlords will invest in property, but private landlords will not.

In Govanhill in my constituency, there is an ongoing project to bring housing from private ownership back into housing association ownership because the situation has deteriorated so badly. The houses are falling down because private landlords cannot—and will not—take on that responsibility. There is a social imperative to take back those houses and ensure that they are sustained for future generations. Glasgow tenements are symbolic, and everybody knows them when they think of Glasgow. Over the years, however, they have been lost to private landlords who are charging a fortune for them—money that is going on the housing benefit bill. Those tenements are being lost, and there is a real need for them to come back to the social rented sector.

Housing associations plan and make investments on the basis of the rents they receive. When houses are sold off under the right to buy, housing associations cannot plan for that investment or for things such as new kitchens or bathrooms for their tenants. They receive their tenants’ money as income, and it gets reinvested, but that does not happen in many cases in the private sector.

Housing associations invest because they know that it will be worth it and they have a certainty of income. The Bill includes a 1% reduction in rents, and the head of the National Housing Federation had strong feelings about that when he gave evidence to the Communities and Local Government Committee. It may have been a personal view rather than that of his organisation, but he felt strongly that the Government should not be in the business of telling housing associations what their rents should be, as that should be for local housing associations to decide on the basis of what their tenants want and can afford.

There are many consequences to the right-to-buy policy. Longer waiting lists have been mentioned, and fewer large family homes will be available in local areas. That will force people out of those areas and reduce their diversity and social mix. It also has a knock-on effect on the sustainability of those communities. The pay-to-stay policy and the “high income” of £33,000 was mentioned, but that is not a high income by anyone’s standards, and £40,000 in London does not seem high either.

The explanatory notes state:

“The policy intent is to take ‘household’ income into account when determining whether the high incomes thresholds are met and…the definition of household can be set by the Secretary of State”.

I am worried that in larger family homes where teenagers or those in their early twenties cannot afford to move out, that measure will count against them and they will

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be forced out. Older and younger adults might be living in the same house and then be forced out of the area because young people cannot afford to rent anywhere. That is worrying and there should be more clarity about what “household” should mean when it comes to the detail of that provision. I also have a slight concern about housing associations in urban areas that perhaps are unable to get other land close by—

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order.

8.8 pm

David Mackintosh (Northampton South) (Con): Housing affects us all, and I am sure that, like me, many hon. Members have stories of people who have contacted them because they are concerned about the costs of buying their own home and getting on the housing ladder as their parents and grandparents did, and as they want their children to do.

The Help to Buy scheme that was introduced in the last Parliament enabled 120,000 families to buy their own homes, and I am pleased that 243 families in my constituency benefited from that.

Catherine West: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

David Mackintosh: No.

Northampton is a high-growth area with many new housing developments being built. Earlier this year I visited one of the new developments, and the sales staff told me that 70% of new houses were being sold through the Help to Buy scheme. Clearly that scheme will end next year as the economy improves, but the new Help to Buy ISA being launched next month will provide support to people saving for their first home by providing a Government boost to their deposits. That will help people who work hard and want a home of their own to secure their future at every stage of their life.

These schemes show my party’s commitment to housing and supporting the important aspiration of people to own their own home. This was the party that introduced the right to buy in the 1980s, and I am proud to be a member of the party that is extending the right to buy to housing associations. We can now end the discrimination for housing association tenants who were denied the opportunity to own their own home which, like council properties, have been built by councils yet get transferred over the years. I am pleased that constituents of mine living in housing association properties in Northampton have already been in contact with me to ask for an update on the right-to-buy extension, so I am sorry to hear the Labour party oppose extending the right to buy. We have to wonder whether they are actually against home ownership and the aspirations of people who want to work hard and get on in life.

I am pleased that this measure was achieved through a deal with housing associations, which many people said would not be possible. I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on securing it. I am sure that housing associations will also welcome moves in this Bill to reduce regulations on housing associations.

Helping people to buy their own home is only part of the process; we also need to change the way we build and deliver affordable homes. For too long this has focused on simply providing low-cost rented properties.

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In my view, people really want a home of their own, and so affordable homes need to be just that. The current planning rules prevent starter homes from counting as affordable, and first-time buyers cannot get the 20% discount on a new-build home, but these are the best type of homes for helping people on to the housing ladder.

We also need to ensure that councils can build more council homes and deliver enough homes to meet their local housing need. I know from my time as leader of Northampton Borough Council that for many years councils have not built enough new housing. That puts real strain on the system and does not help relations with tenants. I was pleased to announce the building of 100 new council homes in Northampton during my time as council leader to kick-start a major programme of house building. I know that that will take some time to complete, so I welcome the proposed changes to the planning system, including simplifying and speeding up the neighbourhood planning process. Indeed, I welcome the whole process for neighbourhood planning, including the plans in my constituency in the Castle area and in Duston, where the referendum takes place on Thursday. I wish them all well and congratulate everyone who has played a part in it.

I could talk about many things in this Bill that I support: the proposals to clamp down on rogue landlords; the provisions to provide more housing to help with homelessness; the work on bringing empty homes back into use; and the work on houses of multiple occupancy, which Members have mentioned and I think are linked to criminality and people trafficking. We have heard a lot, too, about the right-to-buy scheme replacing houses like for like. However, in my experience the biggest delay under the reinvigorated scheme was related to planning, so I welcome the changes in this Bill.

Housing is key for all of us. I strongly welcome the Government’s focus on putting this at the forefront of the agenda and look forward to seeing the new revolution of house building and home ownership as we meet this country’s housing need.

8.13 pm

Justin Madders (Ellesmere Port and Neston) (Lab): There seems to be a certain amount of agreement across the House that it is time for a new approach, but there is probably less agreement that this Bill is the answer. In my opinion, this prescription clearly does nothing to tackle the housing crisis. Where it does have an impact, I believe it will make matters worse, not better.

This Bill will continue to boost demand for housing while doing nothing to address supply. It will lead to rents and house prices increasing, and will mean that the dream of home ownership is even further out of reach for many of my constituents. We are told that measures in the Bill are focused on speeding up the planning system, but going faster is no good if it is all in the wrong direction and will lead to more and more planning decisions being taken against the interests of local communities who want not only housing, but the right developments in the right areas. They want green-belt and greenfield land built on as a last resort, once there is no capacity elsewhere, but instead we will have a “greenfield first” approach, with brownfield sites left empty in areas where local people are crying out for development, and

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for those sites that are not brought forward for development, local people will find themselves locked out of the process altogether, destroying any last vestiges of accountability in the planning system.

The planning changes brought about in the last five years have given us the worst of both worlds in Ellesmere Port and Neston. On the outskirts of Little Sutton in Ellesmere Port, developers have run roughshod over the wishes of residents to obtain planning permission for a large number of homes to be built on prime agricultural land. At the same time many brownfield sites closer to the town centre which have the capacity to deliver this number of homes and also bring much-needed investment into our town centre still lie empty. These sites have all had planning permissions in place for a number of years—all predating the permission in Little Sutton—but not one of them has had a spade enter the ground. Not one brick has been laid in anger and there is no realistic prospect of that happening while much richer pickings are available for developers elsewhere. The profit motivation of developers has been allowed to override any considerations about local wishes and, more importantly, about what is actually needed in the local housing market.

We have significant levels of land banking, but there is nothing in this Bill that would compel developers either to build on or to release land in areas where construction could start tomorrow. When I see large tracts of land lying empty in our town where permission is already in place, I see a system that is broken; when I see people in my constituency unable to live in a secure home of their own, I see a failure in the market; and when I read this Bill, I just see more of the same—I see a continued push for a market solution when the market has so clearly failed us.

A brownfield register will not help as we all know where those sites are now, and the obligations of developers under section 106 have already been watered down by the coalition Government to the extent that they are not worth the paper that they are written on. The result of this is that on numerous occasions developers have been able to use planning rules to get out of their obligations to build affordable homes. In the last few years more than 200 much-needed affordable homes have been lost in Ellesmere Port and Neston. Developers have driven a horse and cart through these weakened rules to plead poverty and say that they cannot possibly proceed with developments with affordable housing in them. They say that anything less than a 20% profit margin is impossible to work with, and so greed triumphs over need every time. The result is that their permissions are amended with the affordable housing element removed altogether. When the local authority, Cheshire West and Chester Council, tried to challenge this process the Secretary of State’s inspector came down firmly on the side of the developer, handing local people a big bill for costs in the process. So here we have central Government penalising local councils financially for trying to meet local housing need, showing that the localism agenda this Government like to trumpet is in fact an illusion.

This Bill is just a logical extension of that centralising tendency and the downgrading in importance of affordable housing. Of course we want people to get on the housing ladder, but this Bill will not achieve that aim. There is nothing in this Bill that will compel developers to build homes at a price people can truly afford. What is labelled

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as a starter home in this Bill, at a cost of up to £250,000, is far out of reach for those whom we should be seeking to help. For those on the so-called living wage this pushes the dream of home ownership further away than ever. As we heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Steve McCabe), starter homes will be affordable only for those on the living wage in 2% of local authority areas. We have heard a lot about the Government being for the 1%, so I suppose being there for the 2% is an improvement, but this is not a laughing matter; young people in small market towns like Neston cannot afford to live there because the starter home price in this Bill is already in excess of the average house price in Neston and well in excess of the average house price across the constituency as a whole. The scheme will in fact be counterproductive. The maximum values could quickly become the default position, because the greater the price, the greater the profit. Even if we accept that a focus on starter homes might be the answer, the Bill does not tell us how many will be built. That, too, is left to the Secretary of State to determine. In reality, it will be left to developers to call the shots, and we will once again be relying on the market that has so palpably failed us.

The greatest omission from the Bill is any kind of plan to meet the existing need for social housing. How is my council’s 25-year housing revenue account business plan going to stack up if it has to hand over unspecified amounts to the Government every year, on top of the multimillion pound drop in income that the imposed reductions in social rents will bring? How can it be right that housing associations will be able to enter into a voluntary deal on the right to buy—albeit with a gun held to their head—while the Government are saying to councils, “We’re just going to take money off you and spend it as we wish”? That is an abuse of power, and it shows a high level of contempt and disdain for councils. The Bill is a misjudged, rushed, contemptible, ideological, back-of-a-fag-packet disgrace, and we should vote against it tonight.

8.19 pm

Jake Berry (Rossendale and Darwen) (Con): It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Justin Madders). I know his area relatively well. It is near to where I was brought up, just over the water in the not-so-posh bit in Liverpool. I have been astonished to hear so many Opposition Members speaking against the Government’s proposal to reduce the rent of those living in social housing. Hundreds of my constituents have contacted me to thank me; they can see that the Conservative Government are on their side because they are reducing their rent and putting more money in their pockets.

I broadly welcome the Bill. It is an excellent piece of legislation. In my first speech on returning to Parliament after winning my constituency with an increased majority and an increased share of the vote, I mentioned my concerns about the bones of the right-to-buy policy. I pay tribute to the Minister for Housing and Planning for his engagement with colleagues across the House and across the sector, and for all the work he has done on this. We now have an exceptional change scheme, which is being welcomed by people across the housing industry.

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I was on the board of a housing association, and I refer colleagues to the details of my other property interests in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. I am extremely proud of the social housing industry, and extremely proud to be part of it. I am therefore very pleased that the Government have come forward with this solution, which will enable 1.3 million social tenants to benefit from the right to buy. Ultimately, when we stand up and speak in the House and decide whether to support a Bill, we have to ask ourselves whose side we are on. I come down on the side of the tenants who will benefit from a reduction in their rent and the tenants who want to exercise their right to buy and to realise the dream of owning their own home. I think that Opposition Members will come to regret the position that they have taken on social rents and on the right to buy when they find that hundreds, if not thousands, of people in each of their constituencies are exercising that right to buy.

The Government’s proposals on starter homes deliver on a promise to move from generation rent, which was a problem in the last Parliament, to generation buy. We have to accept that home ownership has fallen; we now have some of the lowest levels since the 1980s. I was doing a bit of research over the weekend, and I looked at the multiples of median incomes in my constituency. They were between three and six times earnings across the constituency. I think that is a pretty high barrier to home ownership, but I then looked at the figures for London, where the multiples of median incomes are up to 32 times earnings. That is a barrier that people cannot cross. That is why it is so important that we have this proposal for 200,000 starter homes, with a reduction of 20% for first-time buyers under the age of 40.

I also welcome the Government’s decision to create the design advisory panel. I have seen good design being sacrificed on the altar of cost on too many occasions, and I hope that the panel will enable us to build high-quality homes, with locally sourced materials, that are sympathetic to the local surroundings and that are fit for not only the first buyers but the second, third and fourth ones, and for generations to come.

I hope that, as the Bill goes through Parliament, we will take the opportunity to discuss other steps that the Government could take to enable first-time buyers and others to get over that high hurdle created by high property values and multiples of median income. I believe, for example, that they should look at shifting the burden of stamp duty from the buyer to the seller. This would ensure that, all the way up the chain, every single person who was buying would get a reduction in stamp duty and that first-time buyers would pay none at all. We talk a lot about the bank of mum and dad, but the vast majority of deposits come from people saving every month, perhaps using the Government’s new Help to Buy ISA. Stamp duty is not a mortgageable cost. I have spoken to people in my constituency, and many of them say that that extra stretch to pay the stamp duty can put them off buying, perhaps for another year. Unfortunately, house prices will have gone up in that period, meaning that they have to save even more. It becomes a sort of perverse positive feedback loop, with their having to save up for the extra stamp duty meaning that they put off buying for many years.

The only people who would lose out from stamp duty being passed up the chain rather than down it are those at the top who want to downsize. In a lot of cases—

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I appreciate that this does not apply to all of them—people who are downsizing have significant built-up equity that they have accrued from buying their present property perhaps 20 or 30 years previously. I hope that as we have this debate about how we can encourage first-time buyers, the Government will look at that proposal.

Finally, let me say that I support all the plans to tackle rogue landlords. In my constituency, an area of low demand, we have a problem with rogue landlords, so some of the provisions in the Bill are most welcome. I just appeal to local authorities across the country, particularly those in my area, to use not only these powers when the Bill is enacted, but some of the powers already in place to tackle rogue and absentee landlords.

This Bill is an excellent piece of legislation. We have come a very long way, and I look forward to supporting it in Parliament throughout all its stages.

8.25 pm

Anna Turley (Redcar) (Lab/Co-op): It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Rossendale and Darwen (Jake Berry), who always looks to defend his constituents well. The points he made about stamp duty are thought-provoking and I appreciate his sharing them with the House.

The need to address the housing crisis in this country has never been greater. Rising demand, a chronic lack of supply and a woeful lack of long-term vision from the Government have ramped up the pressure in every region of the country. I am glad that the Government have brought this Bill to the House for us to examine and that they are finally showing effort to stem the crisis. It is a relief that they have woken up to the urgent need to build more homes, after five years of neglect, when house building fell to some of its lowest peacetime levels on record.

This Bill, however, does nothing to tackle some of the most profound problems the housing sector faces. For so many of my constituents, home ownership must become more affordable and more readily accessible, so that those looking to own a home can take their first step on the ladder. The Government’s attempt at solving that is their “starter homes programme”, which is at the forefront of this Bill. Anybody taking even a cursory look at the detail will reach a glaring conclusion: the homes are simply not affordable to those on ordinary incomes. Shelter has published information to suggest that families on the Government’s new national minimum wage—it is a minimum wage, not a national living wage—will be able to afford a starter home in only 2% of local authority areas. That raises the question: which bracket of the population is the scheme supposed to be assisting? We need genuinely affordable homes, not assistance packages which people who are currently frozen out of housing ownership are not going to be able to get anywhere near.

Although this Bill will do little to make the dream of home ownership a reality for those who want it, my biggest anxiety is that it will deal a fatal blow to social housing. The Bill aggressively promotes starter homes by forcing planning authorities to prioritise them over all other types of housing, such as affordable rented homes and social housing. That approach directly imperils the section 106 obligations of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, measures which in the past decade

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have secured more than 230,000 affordable homes. Any endangerment of those provisions would be nothing short of a tragic loss of what should be referred to as genuinely affordable homes. Coast & Country, a housing association in my constituency, has just signed a deal with Bellway Homes to provide 13 new affordable rented homes on a site in Redcar. Under the measures in this Bill, those homes risk being side-lined. Maintaining a mix where truly affordable homes are part of developments must be a priority in any solution to the housing crisis.

On right to buy, the implementation of the so-called “voluntary” scheme is at best a poorly thought out policy and at worst a direct block to securing social housing. Housing associations have complained that the concept is flawed. We know from the performance of the earlier model that more than 30% of all homes sold in this way are now controlled by private landlords. Like many of my colleagues, I do not have an ideological problem with right to buy, but I fundamentally disagree with the hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson), who calls us “bourgeois lefties”. It is not bourgeois to object to the exploitation of a precious asset—a home—to push up rents and take the aspiration of home ownership further away by reducing supply. That provision will mean higher rents and higher spending on housing benefit, producing the worst outcome for tenants, housing associations and the Exchequer, as well as a catastrophic depletion of social housing stock, which will effectively be lost for ever.

Just as concerning is the costing. How is the voluntary right to buy scheme being funded? As the Institute for Fiscal Studies points out, the scheme has serious up-front costs, because housing associations will have to be compensated for sales below market value. The National Housing Federation estimates that if all of the eligible households decide to take up the scheme, it could cost an astonishing £11.6 billion. Even a casual analysis reveals a serious imbalance between the money going out fully to compensate the housing associations and the money we have been told is going to fund it, which will come from councils selling their most expensive properties as they become available. That scheme is estimated to raise about £4.5 billion.

We are barely six months beyond the election, and already we on the Labour Benches have stopped expecting the Government’s maths to add up. Clearly, ideology trumps economics. Once again, that can be seen in the 1% cut to social rents, which will lead to a £16 million shortfall in the next four years for my housing association in Redcar, thus affecting its broader services, such as tackling antisocial behaviour, supporting financial inclusion, and helping people stay in their homes. All of those services will be cut, shunting more costs on to other aspects of public services. It will also result in considerable job losses to my local housing association, which is one of the best and most secure employers in my constituency, particularly in the current climate.

Finally, I wish to touch on the pay-to-stay mandatory rents for high-income social tenants. This proposal is the latest nonsensical assault on working families that proves just how out of touch this Government are with the reality that thousands of tenants face. If the collective income of a household is £30,000, rents will be increased to market level. For a couple on £15,000 each—not much more than the national minimum wage—the proposal could be a total disincentive to work additional hours

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or seek higher paying employment. I ask the Secretary of State to clarify that point and to avoid the Government yet again taking money out of the pockets of hard-working people.

The Secretary of State started his speech today with a noble description of new housing as more than “bricks and mortar”. He talked about how the homes we build shape the lives and prosperity of the people who live in them. But why should my constituents give him any credit for such a statement when his Government persist with the wretched bedroom tax? [Interruption.] It is all very well for Members on the Government Benches to titter, but thousands of my constituents have been forced out—

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. I call Mr Geoffrey Clifton-Brown.

8.31 pm

Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (The Cotswolds) (Con): Mr Deputy Speaker, may I thank you for your unprecedented ruling that those of us who are latecomers to this debate will get more time? That is very welcome.

Mr Deputy Speaker: Order. May I just say that I did not make any changes to the time limits? I inherited the time levels.

Geoffrey Clifton-Brown: I should have perhaps said “the Chair”. Mr Deputy Speaker, I am grateful to catch your eye in this debate and I am delighted to follow the hon. Member for Redcar (Anna Turley).

This is an innovative Bill. It is a big Bill that will bring about a great change. It builds on this party’s great tradition of supporting those who aspire to own their own home. A Bill that potentially allows more than 1 million people to buy their own home from housing associations must be a good thing. I have listened carefully to many speeches from Opposition Members who have said that they support the right to buy in principle, but then there is a “but”. I cannot understand that, because if they support the right to buy in principle—presumably when a house is owned by the local authority—why do they not support it when a house is owned by a housing association? What difference does it make to tenants? I think this is a good Bill.

I have a difficulty in my constituency in that it probably has the most difficult affordability ratio in the south-west. I sympathise with those areas in London that have an even worse affordability ratio, so I support this Bill’s bringing forward more people able to buy their own houses. Above all, though, I support the provision of more affordable houses. I commend to my hon. Friend the Minister for Housing and Planning a scheme in my constituency where we use section 106 moneys to allow developers to put in trust to the local authorities part of the equity of the house, so that somebody, particularly a first-time buyer, can buy, say, a 60% ownership of the house and then staircase up to 100% ownership when they can afford it. That seems to be an excellent scheme.

Lots of Members have spoken in detail about the housing provisions in the Bill. As a chartered surveyor—I declare my interests in the Register of Members’ Financial

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Interests—I want to talk about parts 6 and 7 of the Bill, which relate to planning and compulsory purchase. Given that 80% of my constituency is designated as an area of outstanding natural beauty, Members will understand that I have a very difficult planning situation. None the less, I commend my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for introducing the national planning policy framework. It has simplified the planning system and it is beginning to work really well. The problem is that it is a plan-led system, and my local authority, the Cotswold District Council, does not have a plan, and it has been using every sort of excuse for why it does not have one. The neighbouring council, Stroud District Council, which I partly represent, is about to get its local plan adopted and I congratulate it. I therefore welcome clause 99, which enables the Secretary of State to address the issue that 36% of local authorities do not have a plan. The problem is if an authority does not have a plan, it is subject to speculative developers. I warmly welcome the provisions on neighbourhood plans and making it easier for local communities to produce a local plan saying what type of developments should occur where in their neighbourhood.

I note that clause 102 changes the conditional and full system of planning consents as regards the technical stage and in-principle planning permissions. In Committee, we will need to tease out what will be allowed for the in-principle development and at the technical stage. For example, will a significant increase in housing be allowed at that stage? Clause 105 allows the Secretary of State to take over the planning function from local authorities when too many appeals have been disallowed. That power is fairly draconian and should be used only in sparing circumstances.

Let me move on to the compulsory purchase provisions. All businesses or individuals should, in every respect, be put back through compensation into the position they would have been in had compulsory purchase powers not been used. I appreciate that that is far-reaching, because anyone who can prove blight should be compensated, but everybody who makes a valid claim should expect a high proportion of their money to be paid in advance—about 80%—so businesses that need to purchase other properties can go out and do so. The Bill addresses the issue of interest rates for late payments in compulsory purchase and specifies a margin over base rate of 2%. The standard national conditions of sale usually presume a margin of 4% over base, which is what I would suggest to the Minister.

I serve on the High Speed Rail (London – West Midlands) Bill Committee and many of the petitioners have said a number of times that if the Government can afford these large infrastructure projects, they can afford to pay generous compensation for those that suffer. I welcome the fact that the Bill consolidates a number of old Acts providing for compulsory purchase powers and I ask the Government to make the provisions generous to those who have been affected by big infrastructure projects. If the Government do that, it will make it easier to build such projects as there will be less controversy.

I warmly welcome the Bill, which contains some very good provisions on housing as well as some good provisions to speed up the planning process. I urge the Minister to ensure that all authorities such as mine get a local plan

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as soon as possible so that they are not subject to builders submitting speculative applications where we do not want houses.

8.37 pm

Melanie Onn (Great Grimsby) (Lab): In north-east Lincolnshire, more than 4,000 people are on the waiting list for a home. Those families need a stable home in which to raise their children. Last year, just 180 properties were built in total in north-east Lincolnshire. If we carry on like that, it will take 24 years to accommodate those 4,000 people. The Bill does not address the underlying cause of the housing crisis in Grimsby.

The Government’s policy of selling off housing association stock without guaranteeing that it will be replaced looks set to make the problem worse. I grew up in a council house and believe that people having the opportunity to own their own home is absolutely right. Very few people have a problem with the principle of right to buy; the problem is with replacements and guaranteeing those replacements. The 4,000 constituents on the housing waiting list in my patch will ask whether the proposals in the Bill will mean that they can move into a suitable home sooner or whether they will be waiting even longer. I fear that they will be waiting longer.

Adapted housing is a particularly big issue in my constituency and I have been contacted by several disabled constituents who are not getting a home with the proper facilities that they need. The waiting list for adapting properties to meet disabled residents’ need is rising year on year and officials are changing the criteria to try to reduce the waiting lists. I am concerned about how many new properties will be built in the coming years. The Government need to set out clearly how the changes they have made to the local authority grants will affect councils’ ability to top up the adaptation grants.

I fear the unintended consequences of the Bill, particularly the impact of the 1% year-on-year cut in social rents. That is great for the people who are living in that accommodation, but it will have a significant negative effect on the services and support currently offered through local housing associations. Our largest affordable housing provider, Shoreline Housing Partnership, has just begun consultation on shedding 17% of the jobs of the people it employs. I cannot believe that putting 43 people out of work in my constituency is part of the so-called long-term economic plan. We are already the constituency with the 17th highest unemployment in the whole country. To echo the points made by the hon. Member for Glasgow Central (Alison Thewliss), this will mean cuts to additional services such as specialist crime prevention, sheltered housing, and tenancy support schemes needed by vulnerable tenants who often live in deprived areas.

The Bill includes measures aimed at encouraging development on brownfield sites, but in Grimsby most of our brownfield sites are situated on marshland. Any new developments on those sites have to be fitted with more expensive foundations and sufficient safeguards to protect against flooding. That means that the cost to housing associations for any replacement housing is 30% higher than regular costs. In addition, the low land and property values mean that accessing housing growth partnership funding is nearly impossible. Are the Government planning to make extra funding available

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to housing associations that need to make up the additional costs to developers? If not, our town will see a reduction in affordable housing as a direct result of the measures in this Bill.

8.41 pm

Seema Kennedy (South Ribble) (Con): I draw the House’s attention to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Melanie Onn). I applaud her passion on behalf of her constituents, but I suspect that our analyses of the Bill will be somewhat different.

I welcome this Bill. There are moral and economic imperatives for it, and it has very ambitious and wide-ranging aims. The Government have rightly identified productivity as

“the challenge of our time”

and have the aim

“that Britain becomes the richest of all the major economies by 2030”.

A major part of solving the productivity puzzle is the need to build more homes that people can afford to live in. I welcome this Government’s commitment to building 1 million homes by 2020. As we have heard from Members in all parts of the House, people want to own their own homes. Indeed, 86% of our fellow countrymen aspire to home ownership. Our population is ageing and growing, with more and more people living on their own. If we want people to be able to have a home of their own, it is absolutely vital that we build more.

This is a very wide-ranging Bill and other Members wish to speak, so I will limit my comments to reform of the planning system, particularly the aspects relating to brownfield sites. That reform was well overdue, as has been rehearsed in this debate, and what happened during the previous Parliament was very welcome. Before I came to this place, I practised as a property lawyer for 15 years, and then in my family’s property business, and I have seen at first-hand the delays that can occur because of the logjams put into the system through planning policies that are not implemented properly.

I am in no way advocating a “no holds barred, build anywhere” planning approach. The Bill’s provisions on planning strike a good balance between realising that we must have local planning, even down to neighbourhood level, and recognising that there are cases where central Government need to act to break logjams in the planning system. We all know places where local authorities do not have a local plan in place and may not have agreed one for many years. That often means that they are then prey to developers in the appeals process. Some councils have local plans that are up to 20 years old and take no account of the changing demographics of an area. It is absolutely essential that we rectify this situation. I welcome the powers in the Bill whereby the Secretary of State can expedite the agreement of local plans. I hope that the Minister can confirm that the new regulations will not unduly stretch the resources of planning departments.

The clauses of particular interest to me are 102 and 103, which relate to brownfield sites, because our business specialised in building on brownfield sites for both residential and commercial properties. It is a difficult process and all of us have recognised that it is a lot more expensive for developers to decontaminate land, rather than building on a green field.

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Jake Berry: My hon. Friend spoke earlier about productivity in the building industry. Given her experience in this area, does she accept that development of brownfield land would create an opportunity for modular construction because of the ability to build on a concrete slab, which minimises the amount of decontamination required? Is this not a great way of driving more productivity in the construction industry, particularly through brownfield developments?

Seema Kennedy: That depends on the land. The hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Melanie Onn) spoke about marshland. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. It depends on the nature of the land, the flooding risk and the sort of contaminants present.

There is a great moral imperative to build on brownfield sites. I have the great fortune to have grown up in, done my building in, and now represent, as Mr Deputy Speaker will agree, part of the most beautiful county in our country—Lancashire. In Lancashire industrial towns lie adjacent to stunning countryside. We want to protect these green spaces. I know from personal experience that it can be done. As I have said, it is time consuming and can be expensive. It depends on the nature of the contamination and what is to be built, but more and more specialist companies are coming down the line with expertise in this area, which means that costs have come down and will continue to do so. The Campaign to Protect Rural England has estimated that nearly a million homes can be built on brownfield land in England. This means that not only will our green belt be protected, but, as the land has already been developed, there will be at least some infrastructure already in place.

I hope the clauses dealing with the system of “permission in principle”, which is similar to the zonal system in the US, will speed up the development of brownfield sites and contribute towards the aim of 1 million homes.

I particularly welcome the requirement for local planning authorities to have a statutory register of land, which should make it easier for developers and builders to identify brownfield sites and also give local people a sense of ownership, and reassurance that while homes are being built locally their beautiful green spaces are being protected. I would be interested to hear from the Minister whether he agrees with the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors that, along with the proposed measures, there should be a brownfield map—my hon. Friend the Member for North East Hampshire (Mr Jayawardena) referred to this—which includes privately owned brownfield land.

It is incumbent on us to speed up house building. If we want more people to own their homes and the prices of homes to go down, the ambitious aims of the Bill will help to achieve that and I will support it as it makes progress through this place.

8.47 pm

Emily Thornberry (Islington South and Finsbury) (Lab): I represent an inner London constituency. It is the most overcrowded in the country. We have very little green space. We love the little bit that we have, but all our development sites are brownfield sites. Despite the coffee bars and the Georgian squares, we have the third worst child poverty statistics in the whole country, and the gap between rich and poor is getting worse. Many of our problems arise from housing. Will the Bill help my constituency? No, it will not.

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The Bill will damage the supply of affordable homes across the country, and in Islington its effects will be particularly severe. Much has been said about forcing local authorities to sell the higher-value homes. I have a great deal to say about that, but in the time available I will not do so today. I have much to say about the effects of a policy whereby an ordinary three-bedroom council flat would cost £520,000.

The Government ask rhetorically why higher earners should live in social housing at subsidised rent, and presumably it could be asked why higher earners should be subsidised to buy. The answer is that without a subsidy it is not affordable, but what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. High earners are defined as households earning £40,000. In some areas where social rent is only 50% below market rent, the hike in rents would be hard to meet, but not necessarily impossible. In Islington, where private rents are more than 200% higher than social rents, this creates a major problem. Shelter has said that London renters need an income of £70,000 to make ends meet. What would happen to a Londoner who lives in a household with an income of between £40,000 and £70,000? What would happen to that group of people?

For example, what would the Chancellor say to a constituent of mine? She is a single parent of three and earns £32,000. Her eldest boy is about to start work at a fast food restaurant on the minimum wage, so he will take home £10,000. What would he counsel her to do—to tell the boy not to work, because otherwise their rent will double? This is not a policy of a party that calls itself the party of the workers. He cannot leave home, because there is no affordable housing available for fit young men, so what should the family do? The Minister should remember that we have 19,000 people on the housing waiting list in my constituency.

The second ill-thought-through policy is on starter homes. As I understand it, starter homes involve a subsidy of at least 20% for new homes for first-time buyers, and the homes must not cost the starter more than £450,000. How does that apply in the real world of my constituency? Let me explain. In Islington, we build about 1,500 new homes. That is pretty good going as we do not have a lot of space. At the moment, the biggest development is the 1,000 homes being built at City Road Basin, but a one-bedroom flat there will cost £860,000. Is that an appropriate starter home?

What is the answer? Should we have no starter homes—should we ignore a development of such a scale, and say that it should have no affordable homes of any sort—or should we put in a subsidy? The Government intend to put in a subsidy of at least 20%, but to bring the price down below £450,000, the person buying the home would presumably get a 50% discount. That will be pretty lucky for them when they sell it in five years’ time, because they would make a profit of at least £400,000. I must say that I do not criticise the person who would take advantage of that, but is there not a better way of spending money on affordable housing in somewhere such as Islington, which has 19,000 families on the waiting list and the third worst child poverty statistics in the country?

The truth is that in order to pay for a £450,000 flat, we are talking of a household income of about £100,000, with £100,000 of savings for a deposit if the household cannot get a 95% mortgage. The fact is that such people

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are already at the top of the list. They will already be in a position where they could buy a flat, so why are we giving them such huge assistance when we have such a housing crisis? I would be terribly grateful to the Minister if he listened to me, because I am trying to measure the Tory rhetoric against the reality for those whom I represent.

As I now have the time, let me say something about the sell-off of housing in my constituency. Housing associations will be forced to sell their housing. Will that be replaced within my constituency, or will housing associations simply take the money and run and build elsewhere? When my local authority is forced to sell off all new build that is being built in my constituency, what will happen? Will the Minister say how many social housing flats will be left in Islington in five years’ time? Frankly, the only affordable housing in a constituency such as mine is social housing for rent, because prices are so high that no one on an average income could live in an area such as mine without the assistance of social housing.

We have already had the nonsense of the Mayor of London saying that 80% of market rent is affordable; it is not affordable. With the new planning regulations and the priority being given to the new starter homes, the problem now is that no other forms of real affordable housing will be available in my constituency.

Kate Hoey (Vauxhall) (Lab): Does my hon. Friend agree that fully mutual co-ops are a particular strand of all this? I have a very large number of them in my constituency. If they are not exempted from all three really difficult policies, the Bill will, quite honestly, crucify all our co-ops.

Emily Thornberry: I had not thought of that very serious point. I must say that that is another point on which we should get an answer from the Minister.

If the only affordable housing on brownfield sites that we have are these extraordinary starter homes—of up to the amounts that they are selling for, for the sort of people I have identified—for which planning permission must be granted, how is my local authority ever going to get the 19,000 families on the housing list into any form of affordable home? It is no wonder that the housing benefit bill is going to continue to go up in London. In the last five years under the coalition Government, it went up from £5.3 billion to £6.1 billion. How much worse will it get before the Government start taking seriously the idea that affordable homes in central London need to be social rented housing? There is nothing in the Bill that promotes social rented housing—affordable housing for my constituents.

About 40% of my constituents live in social housing. Where will their children go? They were born and brought up in Islington. Should they not be allowed to remain in the communities in which they were born? It is not fair.

This Bill is unfair. It does not look at the reality of inner London and it ought to.

8.55 pm

Damian Collins (Folkestone and Hythe) (Con): I support the Bill, which clearly has one ambition: to increase the supply of homes in this country—homes

2 Nov 2015 : Column 810

that are affordable to buy and affordable to rent. As such, it builds on the legislation that was passed in the last Parliament and seeks to address long-term problems.

As the Secretary of State rightly pointed out, the high point of house building in the last three decades was in 1988 and the low point in 2010. The number of homeowners in this country peaked in 2003 and has declined since. The Labour party presided over that decline for seven years without giving any answers to the problem. It is clear from the debate today that it still has no answers to the problem. On the challenge of affordable homes for social rent, which many Labour Members have touched on, the Labour party has set out no solution in this debate. If there is a vast sum of money that it has found or that it would print to support its policy, we would like to hear about it, but as of yet nothing has been said.

While I support the measures in the Bill, I will talk in the short time I have about the need for a revolution in the design and delivery of affordable homes to buy and rent in this country. I will look at the developing methods for the off-site construction of homes that can then be assembled. It is, if you like, a modern form of prefabrication. The hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden (Siobhain McDonagh) touched on the Y:Cube project in her constituency, which the Minister has visited. I believe that this could be an exciting concept for the future.

I recently met the architectural practice, Rogers Stirk Harbour and Partners, that designed the concept that was launched in Merton in September. It can design and build flats that can be rented out at 65% of market rent. It has a build cost per unit of about £35,000. The units can be rented out at about £150 a week. They are well insulated and well designed, so the energy costs can be as little as £10 a month. That is a massively different proposition from the costs associated with many new homes that are delivered to buy or rent in London and across the country.

The construction costs and times are substantially lower. The practice that developed the concept believes that it can take a new development of 50 flats from planning application through to people living in the block within 11 months. The usual time is more than 30 months for a development using the normal practices and methods. The assembly time for a unit in the factory can be as little as a week and the assembly time on site can be as little as a week as well.

This method clearly has the ability to deliver large numbers of properties at very affordable prices, very quickly. It can also utilise pockets of land, many of which are owned by local authorities, Transport for London or the Government, that are not attractive to commercial developers because of their size. Such flats or houses can be assembled off-site and then constructed on-site very quickly in small areas of land that would be uneconomical or difficult to construct in for traditional builders.

I know that the Minister has looked at this work in London, the site in Lewisham that the practice is looking to develop and at the modular construction concepts that have been developed in Manchester by Urban Splash. Is there more that we could do to incentivise this method of constructing new homes? Could there be further fast-tracking through the planning system to acknowledge the low level of disruption to local residents of constructing homes in this way? Could we look at the use of Government land to support such projects?

2 Nov 2015 : Column 811

One of the great advantages of the off-site manufacturing process that I have looked at is that not only can the homes be brought in very easily, but they can be moved in the future. If the owner of a piece of land is not certain that they can commit to a residential development because it might have a higher commercial value in the future, they might commit to the construction of modular homes for 10 years or so which could be moved to a different location in the future. This very exciting concept could also sit alongside large developments. It is not unusual for a large commercial development scheme to take about 10 years to build, so modular units could also be constructed during part of that time.

These are not just temporary homes. As well as meeting all the building specifications for a normal build, they have an active life of 60 years and are mortgageable. Their purchase price could be as little as £50,000 or £60,000, and that is in London, not to mention elsewhere in the country. I believe they have the potential to revolutionise the delivery of affordable homes and they deserve greater scrutiny.

In the little time I have left, I want to touch on clause 103 and the list of prescribed brownfield sites, which has been addressed by other Members. Could the Government give guidance to local authorities that have brownfield sites with no existing or derelict buildings on them? It could be contaminated industrial land that is just sitting there because there is no requirement for it to be restored. Could land that was formerly used for industrial purposes, is not used for anything now and does not have any existing buildings on it be included on the list of prescribed brownfield sites? If the Minister could give me guidance on that when he winds up or at another time, that would be welcome.

I support the Bill, whose clear purpose is to increase the supply of affordable homes to buy and rent.

9.1 pm

Peter Dowd (Bootle) (Lab): May I say from the outset that I am grateful to Shelter for providing the information that enables me to take part in this debate? Few housing sector organisations have as much experience as Shelter in the matters addressed by the Bill, so it is well worth paying a good deal of attention to what it has to say. I act vicariously without speaking with its authorisation. It is fair to say that Shelter is concerned that, as currently drafted, the Housing and Planning Bill will unintentionally reduce the supply of affordable housing, although I think it is being very generous in its assessment by using the word “unintentional”.

First, I want to address the circumstances of families who face housing difficulties. Families who are unable to buy or access social housing may have no option but to live in the private rented sector, which is in need of urgent reform because it is not fully fit for purpose. The private rented sector is no longer the preserve of students and mobile professionals. There are now 11 million private renters in England, and one in four families in England is renting privately. Rising demand and a lack of supply are driving up the cost of renting. Sadly, a minority of landlords are exploiting the situation and renting out properties that are not in a decent condition.

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Secondly, private renters are paying too much and are living in increasingly worse conditions. England’s private renters are spending a staggering 47% of their income on rent. The comparable figure for those with a mortgage is 23%, while for social tenants it is 32%. Nearly 30% of private rented properties in England would fail the Government’s own decent homes standard, compared with only 20% of owner-occupied properties. Some landlords know that either they will find tenants desperate enough to accept poor conditions, or they will rely on the fact that if tenants complain, local authorities do not always have the power or resource to take action.

The Bill contains proposals to crack down on some rogue landlords, but more can be done. The proposals could be strengthened to give a strong and clear signal to rogue landlords that renting out properties that are in a poor condition will not be tolerated. The message is simple: stop exploiting people’s vulnerability.

Mr George Howarth (Knowsley) (Lab): Does my hon. Friend also accept that a small number of private landlords—this is certainly the case in my constituency and, I suspect, in his—use the private rented sector to launder the proceeds of crime?

Peter Dowd: All sorts of things start to come out of the woodwork when we look at the issues. The Government have to look carefully at the issue raised by my right hon. Friend.

Banning poor landlords from renting out properties is one thing, but breaching a banning order is another and it should be made a criminal offence.

Thirdly, as well as cracking down on rogue landlords, we have an opportunity to take a common sense approach to reform in order to protect renters and improve conditions. As a former chair of Merseyside fire and rescue service for many years, I am acutely aware of the impact of fire deaths and injuries on victims and their families. In 2013-14, there were 49 deaths as a result of electrical fires in homes—an increase on the previous year. The Government have an opportunity to bring that dreadful statistic down by introducing mandatory electrical safety checks. A simple change in the law would require private landlords to carry out electrical safety checks every five years. As has been mentioned earlier, the law already requires carbon monoxide checks. Behind every statistic is a person, a family, a life.

Shelter heard from a private renter who encountered dangerous problems in her flat as soon as she moved in a couple of years ago. She found the property was so dangerous she was at risk of electrocution. She said:

“During my first week living in the flat, I put my foot through the rotten kitchen floorboards. My landlord’s response was to put a bit of plywood over it. In addition to the hole in the rotten kitchen floorboards, I had water coming in through the electric extractor fan in the bathroom ceiling every time it rained. The ceiling around the electric extractor fan was perishing, there were leaks under the kitchen sink, under the bathroom washbasin and from a neighbouring property.”

She was told by the council that it was unambiguously dangerous.

That brings me to my fourth point. With almost half of renters—in my constituency, that amounts to about 3,000 renters—saying they have had problems with poor conditions or disrepair in the last year, we need to empower them to take action against landlords renting

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out unfit properties. My hon. Friend the Member for Westminster North (Ms Buck) has a private Member’s Bill seeking to reform the fitness for human habitation requirement. If her Bill does not succeed, or is talked out like the Hospital Parking Charges (Exemption for Carers) Bill, the Housing and Planning Bill will be another great opportunity to bring in this crucial reform. It would require a landlord to ensure that properties are fit for human habitation at the start of each tenancy and throughout the tenancy. The current systems—the housing health and safety rating system and the statutory repairing obligation—set out what condition a property should be in and what the responsibility of the landlord is, but they rely on overstretched local authorities first investigating the tenant’s complaint and secondly taking the appropriate action.

There are three practical measures the Government could and should introduce: first, change the law so that landlords are required to carry out five-yearly electrical safety checks—to be fair, many landlords already do this as a matter of course; secondly, reform existing law so that all private properties are required to be fit for human habitation—a dreadful demand to have to make in the 21st century; and, thirdly, enhance the rent repayment orders process by removing barriers to renters exercising their right by making landlords bear tenants’ fees.

Finally, I have heard comments tonight about brownfield sites. I could draw a circle around my constituency, and that would be a brownfield site. The idea of having a slab of concrete and putting a house on it would horrify most people in my constituency. It is not just about the industrial heritage. Many houses were built in a gerrymandered fashion, and the stuff used for the foundations was the cause of the contamination. We cannot just solve problems with a slab of concrete.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. I have to reduce the time limit to five minutes, and I might have to reduce it further if we have more interventions.

9.8 pm

Oliver Colvile (Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport) (Con): I draw the House’s attention to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. I have a shareholding in a small communications company that I set up before I was elected to this place and which gives advice to, and sometimes opposes, developers, including in respect of public consultation.

I thank the Minister for Housing and Planning, my hon. Friend the Member for Great Yarmouth (Brandon Lewis), and the Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, my hon. Friend the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr Jones), for having visited my constituency in the last year. The Housing and Planning Minister met constituents of mine who were having difficulty with their development—something I will talk about in a moment.

I am also chairman of both the all-party parliamentary group for excellence in the built environment and the APPG for the private rented sector. The built environment APPG is undertaking an inquiry into the quality of design, while the private rented APPG is holding one into energy efficiency. I would like to point out that I am one of the few Conservative Members who represents a totally urban, inner-city constituency.

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I very much welcome the Government’s target to build 200,000 new starter homes over the next five years, but to deliver it we need not only enough brickies, plumbers and electricians in the industry, but a speedier planning system. This means better public consultation and forcing developers to build the new homes fairly quickly once they have been granted planning permission. As I have said, I think that if the development is not brought forward within six months of a brownfield site being granted planning permission, business rates should have to be paid on the site.

Working commercially, I worked on a number projects that failed to get planning permission, partly because the client did not take any notice of what I was saying and also because they did not gain local community support. We need more master planning of developments. Taking local communities with us will, I firmly believe, quicken the granting of planning permission.

I am also a champion of what we are doing on the APPG for the built environment. We are going to have an inquiry into the quality of design, because I have had a number of constituents who have had problems with their new-build homes in my Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport constituency.

Buying a first home is probably the largest investment someone will make in their life. It is the first rung on the housing ladder and being part of the property-owning democracy. People expect the new home to be in tip-top condition and, being new, one would expect the various authorities to have checked it to ensure there will be no problems for a significant amount of time. People do not necessarily think that they need to have it surveyed before handing over the cash, as they expect the local council to have done its job.

Imagine, therefore, discovering a few months or a couple of years later that there are some difficulties. One would certainly not expect to have to produce a list of problems, as one of my constituents did—and it went on for three pages. While I very much welcome the Government’s investment into new-build at Devonport, I have been appalled at the brown stains that are already appearing on the outside walls of these new homes. Earlier today, I met the Royal Institute of British Architects, which wants to have equality of space, so that people can live in developments that have a suitable amount of space. While I was doing a project in the royal borough of Kensington and Chelsea, I was made very aware of the importance of children having space to do homework rather than having to share a kitchen-diner with their siblings.

Let me deal with the private rented sector. It is important to ensure that this sector delivers good quality housing to rent. If people are renting from housing benefit landlords who are not delivering housing of the appropriate quality, those landlords should be struck off the list immediately. In my opinion, this Bill is very much about making sure that we have suitable quality homes for today that will not become the slums of the future.

9.13 pm

Daniel Zeichner (Cambridge) (Lab): We have already heard from my hon. Friends about the negative impact of these proposals on social housing and their illogical nature. These points are well made, and I suspect that some Conservative Members will worry about the dangers ahead. I hope they will ask the Government to think again.

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When the Government published the Bill, they said they wanted to transform generation rent into generation buy, but in reality they are creating generation get-by. For young people, this promises a bleak future, struggling to find a home of their own, and too often having to rely on parents either for a place to stay or for finance. That is bad for those young people, and often puts huge strains on families.

Some of these proposals make good quick-fix headlines, but their long-term effects will do real damage to our housing stock and to communities. Most damaging for cities such as Cambridge is this compulsion on councils to sell off their high-value vacant properties and hand over the revenue to the Treasury. This not only completely undercuts the principle of self-financing and the ability of councils to invest in new housing, but is a disgraceful broken promise to boot.

Cambridge city council spent years painstakingly piloting and then working up a long-term strategy to put their housing finances on a strong, sustainable footing. I know, because I helped persuade my right hon. Friend the Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper)when she was Housing Minister to include Cambridge in the pilot over a decade ago. It took years to come to fruition, because housing finance is fiendishly complex, but it was finally settled, and it enabled Cambridge to develop a business plan stretching over three decades that would provide housing management services, maintain the stock in decent condition, and enable money to be invested in new affordable housing. The Bill, and the cut in rents proposed in the Welfare Reform and Work Bill, are combining to scupper all that hard work. In fact, they are violating what could well be considered to be a formal contract, and I would welcome an explanation from the Minister when he sums up the debate.

Cambridge county council and other authorities bought out their housing debt on the basis of careful forward planning, but that is now in ruins because of a rash, irresponsible change of policy that puts future financial planning in jeopardy—and this from a party that has the nerve to claim financial competence. It is worth noting that, whether the Government are stunning environmental investors with sudden about-turn policy changes on feed-in tariffs or investment institutions which learn that housing associations are now public bodies, their unpredictable actions are tearing up the rule book and leaving budgets, and promises, in tatters. Incidentally, they are also adding some £60 billion to the national debt. This is incompetence on an heroic scale.

Cambridge City Council estimates that the Bill will result directly in the loss of a quarter of our housing stock. Far from securing the city’s housing finances, as was planned, the Bill means that the financial projection is for it to go into deficit. That is where the Government’s so-called long-term economic plan takes us. What does this tell us about the Government’s commitment to localism and long-term thinking? To them, localism seems to mean saying, “You do what you’re told, even if we agreed something completely different last year.” Rather than hammering on with their catchphrases and soundbites, the Government should be hammering walls, and helping local authorities to build the genuinely affordable homes that are so desperately needed in this country.

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Let me end by drawing attention to another pernicious feature of the Bill. The pay-to-stay proposal is about as wrong-headed as any housing policy could be. As will be confirmed by any research and any housing officer, what we need are mixed communities, but that is really hard to achieve. What does this proposal do? It makes it harder. When I look at estates in my city, I see communities strengthened by some wonderful, hard-working local people. I shall not name them, because others know who they are. I do not know how much they earn—nor, interestingly, does the council—but some households in cities such as Cambridge certainly have an annual income of £30,000, and I would pay them to stay. They are worth their weight in gold in their communities, and we should all pay them to stay rather than punishing them and encouraging them to go. What a disastrous policy! And what about the people who put in a few extra hours that take them over the £30,000? They are punished for doing more. This Government are the enemy of aspiration. [Interruption.] Think about it.

I sincerely hope that the Government see sense, rethink, and go back to the drawing board in respect of their housing policy. Of course my hopes are not high, because this is only one part of a much wider set of rotten and dangerous proposals. It is part of a package that is billed as reform, but it is not reform. It is vandalism, it is broken promises, and it is a tawdry way in which to run a Government.

9.18 pm

Mike Wood (Dudley South) (Con): Let me begin by drawing the House’s attention to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests as an elected councillor.

I was pleased to hear the Secretary of State speak about opportunity. Without affordable, decent housing, other opportunities mean little, and there is nothing more natural than people’s aspiration to own a home for themselves and their families. That is why it is so important to my constituents that the Government meet their objective of providing 1 million new homes by 2020.

This is a progressive, genuinely one nation Bill. It will help to increase supply while recognising the importance of our local environments, it will help to bring the possibility of home ownership within the reach of more of our constituents, and it will help to restore equity and fairness to housing and planning systems.

Just as in many hon. Members’ constituencies, my constituency has seen much development in the past 30 years. Situated on the border of the west midlands and Staffordshire, there is always a risk that more demand for housing will mean development into our green belt. That must be resisted. We must also resist the temptation to build on existing gardens, as previous Governments have done. Instead, the key challenge facing the west midlands is how we bring brownfield land into use, particularly contaminated brownfield land. Bringing such land into use, as Ministers will know, is a core part of the proposals for a west midlands combined authority. There is more than 1,600 hectares of vacant brownfield land in the west midlands, which would go a long way to meeting the extra housing capacity our communities need. The Bill will simplify the process of identifying and using available brownfield sites, alongside the £10 million fund available for councils to use brownfield sites to build new starter homes and

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the wider £1 billion brownfield regeneration package. It will increase supply, regenerate communities and safeguard our green belt.

Most hon. Members will remember the joy of the first time they picked up the keys to their home, hearing the lock turning in the door for the first time and making the place their own. Why should our constituents not feel the same way? The measures in the Bill are part of a wider package to promote home ownership and to make it more accessible, whether for social tenants or for young people looking to buy their first home, helping people to save for a deposit or to turn their social rent into payments towards their home.

The Bill will help to get Britain building. It will help to release the supply of land and increase the housing our communities need. The Bill will help the Government to meet their aspiration to build the homes our country needs, including 200,000 starter homes. Most importantly, the Bill will help to realise the aspirations of millions of people up and down our country to own a home of their own. I am proud to support the Bill this evening.

9.22 pm

James Berry (Kingston and Surbiton) (Con): We are all agreed in this House that there is a housing crisis in London. Demand massively outstrips supply and house prices are skyrocketing not just in real terms but in comparison to earnings. In my constituency, the median house price to median earnings ratio has increased from 4.83 in 1997 to 11.86 in 2013. With house prices averaging over £600,000, it is not difficult to see why for young people in Kingston home ownership is not a dream long-deferred, but perhaps a dream denied. We want young people to remain in London as a place to live, not just as a place to commute to for work.

The solution to the housing crisis in London—there was no dispute about this in all the hustings I attended before the election—is to build significantly more houses. The Bill provides an impetus for building starter homes and massively increasing home ownership. It is fair to observe, as Opposition and Government Members have, that not everyone will be able to afford starter houses. That is why the Bill is not an all-encompassing solution to London’s housing crisis. Starter homes have to be seen as part of a mix of new housing provisions, including schemes such as shared ownership and estate regeneration, which we are embarking on in Kingston.

The question is really this: where are we going to build all these houses? I am pleased that the Bill helps local authorities by identifying brownfield sites. In addition, that must go hand in glove with the work of the London Land Commission that the Mayor has tasked with identifying publicly owned land in London. It saddens me, in going around my constituency to my surgeries, to go past disused publicly owned land when we are crying out for affordable housing and land for primary schools. It is about time that Government Departments and quangos got out of the way and released this land that is lying fallow.

Labour Members have expressed concern that the Bill will lead to a reduction in affordable houses in London, so I will put my name to the amendment tabled by my constituency neighbour and the next Mayor of London, my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond Park (Zac Goldsmith), to ensure that that does not happen. The amendment will place a duty on the Secretary of

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State and the Mayor, working with local housing authorities, to achieve at least two units of affordable housing in return for the disposal of each unit of high-value social housing in London. We must ensure that at least two houses are built for every one that is sold, which is why I will be pleased to sign my hon. Friend’s amendment.

Peter Dowd: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

James Berry: I am sorry but I will not.

I reject the amendment tabled by the Liberal Democrats—I see that the eighth of the party that proposed it is no longer here—coming as it does from the party that talks a great game on housing and the vulnerable, but fails to deliver. Take the local authority in my constituency. The area was controlled by a Lib Dem council until 2013, yet it has one of the worst records for house building—including affordable house building—in London. What did the leader of Kingston Council until 2014 say about that: “Hindsight is a wonderful thing.” I think that is a shameful response to the 6,000 people on council house waiting lists in Kingston, and to young people who have grown up or come to my constituency to go to university but can no longer afford to live there. It is typical of a party that is quick to criticise yet slow to accept criticism.

Whatever the Government’s efforts to increase home ownership, it is inevitable that a large number of people will continue to rent. I support the Government’s intention to create a rogue landlord and letting agent database, and for London I encourage further devolution of that database to the Mayor, so that it works hand in glove with his efforts to accredit good landlords. I would like the Government to consider in detail the proposal by my hon. Friend the Member for Hornchurch and Upminster (Dame Angela Watkinson) to have a database for all landlords and letting agents—

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order.