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My right hon. Friend and I are as one on that matter. He will recall that the Government have consulted on this and on other issues related to parking, and that the consultation period has recently ended. We hope to make an announcement in the very near future.
New measures in the Budget will also help to support the building of a further 200,000 new homes for hard-working people, on top of the work we have already done to kick-start house building. New house building and construction output in England is now at its highest level since 2008, and new housing construction orders are at their highest levels since 2007. More than 170,000 affordable homes have been delivered since 2010, and £20 billion has been invested in affordable housing over the spending review period.
More council housing has been built under this coalition Government than in all the 13 years of the previous Government. I honestly do not understand why Labour Governments do not build council houses. Since the last quarter of the last century, the two really big builders of houses have been the Thatcher Administration and this coalition Government.
The number of first-time buyers is at its highest since 2007, and mortgage arrears at their lowest since the Bank of England’s figures began in 2007. The number of empty homes is at its lowest rate since records began and, in the last year, new housing registrations rose by 30% in England and by a massive 60% in London. In fact, the number of new homes registered in London last year was the highest since electronic records began more than 26 years ago.
By contrast, new home registrations fell in Labour-run Wales. House builders have shifted their business across the border to England because of the Welsh Government’s anti-business policies. This is due to Labour’s extra red tape, and to its botched implementation of home ownership schemes. By contrast, thanks to this Government, more than 17,000 people have already bought a home through Help to Buy. Overwhelmingly, these are first-time buyers, and they are mainly outside London and the south-east. This shows how we are supporting all parts of the country, north and south. Help to Buy is a key part of our long-term economic plan, giving thousands more people the security and independence that comes from owning their own home.
The Budget’s pension reforms will offer freedom of choice for people who work hard. It would be helpful if the right hon. Member for Leeds Central could clarify whether the Opposition support these reforms, or whether some ambiguity still exists. Our pension reforms, such as allowing the newly retired to pay off their mortgage and be liberated from the banks, will also lead to greater security in old age. I do not agree with the doom-mongers who say that this will somehow lead to a problem with buy to let. This Government are dramatically expanding the opportunities for institutional investment in the private rented sector, through guarantees and our build to rent schemes. These offer the opportunity for savers to invest in new built rented accommodation and to receive long-term, stable returns from the property market.