No, I am sorry.
Initially, I broadly welcomed the Government’s schemes to encourage people to buy new builds and to assist people with mortgage deposits. With the demise of building societies, banks have a virtual monopoly on mortgages. The percentage that is required for a deposit has been rising steadily, especially for first-time buyers. That has created an environment in which people who are more than able to pay for a mortgage cannot get one because the tens of thousands of pounds that they need for a deposit are unachievable.
However, I then started to consider the broader picture and the details of the schemes. First, it has been revealed that the Government’s mortgage scheme will not exclude people who are buying a second home. What about a third or a fourth home? How does that help people who are starting out? Not only are the Government pressing ahead with tax cuts for millionaires, it now seems that the mortgage scheme will help people, no matter how high their income, to buy a subsidised second home worth up to £600,000. Secondly, what interest rate will be charged, or will it be an interest-free loan? Thirdly, is it right that the taxpayer will effectively be underwriting the banks? The state will be facilitating banks to make profits on these mortgages.
My main question is, where are all the new homes for people to buy? The Government’s schemes mean that more people will be trying to buy the same number of houses. That will just push up the cost of a house unless more homes are built. The Government announced an extra £225 million for affordable house building, but according to the OBR only £125 million will be spent before 2015. That figure is dwarfed by the £4 billion cut in the funding for affordable housing that the Chancellor made in his first Budget. That stopped a very successful affordable housing scheme in Rotherham that was run by Transform South Yorkshire.
House building is at its lowest rate since the 1920s and the situation is getting worse. Housing starts fell by 11% in 2012 to below 100,000. The impact of that is that the Government have put 80,000 construction workers out of work and construction output has fallen by 8.2%.
Labour has proposed some practical measures to address that problem. We called on the Chancellor to use the money raised from the 4G mobile auction to build thousands of affordable homes to stimulate the economy and tackle the housing crisis. To improve the housing stock, we recommended that VAT on home repairs, maintenance and improvements should be cut to just 5%. To help young people who want to get on to the property ladder, the CBI’s proposal of a housing individual savings account should be considered. We also advocate giving first-time buyers a stamp duty holiday on properties worth up to £250,000. Finally, I support Labour’s recommendation to bring forward long-term infrastructure investment in schools, roads and transport to get construction workers back to work and to strengthen our economy.
Those measures would boost growth, get builders back to work building the homes that we need, and create apprenticeships for young people. I urge the Government to look more closely at the details of their schemes and to find ways to build more affordable homes and genuinely help first-time buyers. We need action now to get Britain building and to kick-start our economy.