I welcome the hon. Gentleman to his new post. I congratulate him on his appointment to the Conservative Front Bench, and his first appearance at the Dispatch Box. He was not here for our oral questions two weeks ago. We wondered where he was—and I understand that he was masterminding the by-election in Ealing, Southall. I congratulate him on that particular result, too. My guess is that some of his colleagues sitting behind him might wish he had taken his parliamentary responsibilities a little more seriously, and joined us in the House instead.
I look forward to debating the issues with the hon. Gentleman; I know that he has a long-standing interest in housing. He referred to his "No Way To 10k" campaign against additional housing in Welwyn Hatfield. I am sorry that his new appointment has forced him to change his website. Before he took up his new post, two weeks ago, it read:
"We believe you cannot build your way out of a housing crisis."
He has deleted that since, and the website now says:
"whilst building more properties is obviously vital".
That is a rather rapid turnaround in one paragraph, in the space of just a couple of weeks.
The hon. Gentleman raised a few points, and criticised our record. However, to have lifted 1 million children out of bad housing—cold and damp homes—through the decent homes programme is something of which the House should be proud, and of which his party should feel ashamed. His party left more than 1 million children in appalling housing by failing to deliver proper decent homes, and the council housing improvements that were needed.
The hon. Gentleman asked about the Association of British Insurers, which backs the new guidance that was introduced last year, with new, tougher requirements on flooding and planning for flooding He mentioned the Roger Tym report, which was commissioned to inform the planning process. The process needs to be properly informed if sensible decisions are to be taken.
In the end, we must recognise a national collective responsibility to provide for the homes that the future needs. The hon. Gentleman gave us warm words. He said that his party accepted the need for more homes; but will he back 240,000 zero-carbon homes for 2016? Now, across the country, the LGA, house builders, councils and green groups back that target. The challenge for the Conservative party is to back their commitment; otherwise it will be letting down first-time buyers.
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