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Amendment of the Law

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:18 pm on 24th March 2014.

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Photo of Hilary Benn Hilary Benn Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government 5:18 pm, 24th March 2014

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his kind words. If he will bear with me, I shall directly address his point about where the houses should go in a moment.

We need to build more homes. Everybody recognises that. That is why, for example, we called for a help to build fund supported by Treasury guarantees to assist small and medium-sized builders in accessing finance to build some of those homes. I welcome the fact that the Government have listened and set up a builders’ finance fund, but history teaches us that we need to do more if we are successfully to change the way in which the market works.

Let me reflect on that for a moment. In the 1930s, when we reached the highest level of private house building ever achieved in the UK, the top 10 house building companies had a market share of 6% or 7%. In 1988, firms completing fewer than 500 units a year produced about two thirds of UK housing but by 2012 that had fallen to less than a third. In other words, as the number of small and medium-sized builders has declined and the big firms have grown larger, it has become easier for the more dominant firms to buy up the land. That is why small and medium-sized builders and custom builders say that it is hard for them to get access to land, so I agree that it is about helping them with finance, but it is also about enabling them to get the soil they need to build on.

The Secretary of State spoke about self-build and the House will remember that the former Housing Minister, now the chair of the Conservative party, promised a self-build revolution and pledged to double––double––the self-build sector. But the facts show that, last year, far from doubling the size of the sector, the number of self-build homes fell to the lowest level for 30 years. That is some revolution.