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New Clause 21 — Tax

Part of Road Safety – in the House of Commons at 2:15 pm on 18th May 2011.

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Photo of Heidi Alexander Heidi Alexander Labour, Lewisham East 2:15 pm, 18th May 2011

That is quite a negative view of politics in London. I do not think that my proposal would lead to institutionalised impasse. The proposals on the ability to set up an MDC in any area are incredibly important. The things that an MDC could do, such as granting planning permission for different developments, compulsorily purchasing land and agreeing plans for an area, are significant matters for people who live in the neighbourhood. Local councils and councillors would also have views on those matters. I would hope that all parts of London government could come together and agree whether an MDC was an appropriate vehicle in a local area. I therefore question whether retaining the powers with the Mayor and the Secretary of State in the Bill is true localism. That was my reason for tabling amendment 352.

As the Minister said, amendment 351 to clause 158 proposes the establishment of a new London housing and regeneration board. With the winding up of the London Development Agency and the London part of the Homes and Communities Agency, many powers will be transferred to the Mayor of London. We also see in chapter 3 of part 6 that provision is made for the devolution of local authority housing finance. That will mean an enhanced role for local authorities in providing, commissioning and funding affordable housing in London.

I believe it is vital that local authorities and the London Mayor work together to ensure a joint focus on the delivery of much-needed new affordable homes. My amendment would establish a board within six months of the Bill coming into law, and as I said earlier, at least 50% of members of that board would be local authority representatives. That would be a good way of achieving the joint working that London so desperately needs.

The Minister said that the amendment was unnecessarily prescriptive and asked why we should legislate to set up such a board in London. I cannot let that pass, because in other parts of the Bill, that idea has not prevented the Government from being incredibly prescriptive, whether about arrangements to establish a neighbourhood forum or the process for nominating land as a community asset. The Bill is hugely prescriptive in many ways, and I suggest that on a matter as important as regeneration and the provision of affordable housing, perhaps we could have a bit more prescription to ensure that we achieve what we all want in London.

The provision of new homes in London at a rent that people can afford is one of the most pressing challenges in the capital. It is difficult, because we do not see huge amounts of land lying around in London and it cannot easily be bought cheaply. Also, the Government have brought forward a huge programme of swingeing cuts to capital budgets for house building. We have seen the proposals for the affordable rent model, and there are many important questions to ask about how workable it is in London, particularly in funding the building of three and four-bedroom family homes. Perhaps they can be built, but whether anyone living in London can afford to live in them is another thing altogether.

There are important issues to deal with in the provision of new affordable housing in London, and we have to find a way of getting the Mayor of London, the Greater London authority, the local authorities and local communities to work together to achieve that aim. That is the only way in which progress will be made. It is not about one part of London government blaming another; it is about genuine partnership. I am not making a party political point—yes, politics will come into the discussions that take place between the Mayor and London boroughs, but sometimes the arguments will be between politicians of the same party. I want us to raise the issue above party politics and give it the importance that it deserves.

I urge Members to listen carefully to the rest of the debate and to ask themselves the following questions. Does part 7 of the Bill represent a new era in localism? Does it devolve decisions to the lowest possible level? Does it give more power to London residents and citizens? I do not think that it does, and if Government Members agree with me, I suggest that they join me in the Lobby when we vote on my amendments later, because I intend to press them.