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Housing and Planning Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:23 pm on 2nd November 2015.

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Photo of John Healey John Healey Shadow Minister (Communities and Local Government) (Housing and Planning) 4:23 pm, 2nd November 2015

I will send the hon. Gentleman a copy of the Lyons report, which contains exactly the answer to that problem. The problem for him now is this: even where councils and local communities have local plans in place, the Secretary of State is taking powers under this Bill to override those—even when they have been consulted upon, agreed and put in place. That should worry the hon. Gentleman.

The Bill is an extraordinary personal and political retreat for the Secretary of State. He was Mr Localism—the Minister for city deals, the Minister who signed off the radical devolution of housing finances for councils in 2012. Now he is the Minister fronting this Bill with 32 new centralising powers and a legalised cash grab from councils for the Chancellor. He was Mr Moderate Centre Ground—the Conservative Minister with political roots in the old Social Democratic party, and the Minister who managed to strike a widely welcomed balance in the national planning policy framework in 2012 between the rights of local residents and the requirement to build more homes. Now he is the Minister explaining extreme plans that will all but end new affordable housing for social rent and overturn 25 years of planning law to let house builders completely off the hook over new affordable homes and mixed developments.

The Secretary of State was Mr Decency—the well-meaning Minister whom people felt they could deal with and trust. Now he is the Minister who would have known that the Office for National Statistics reclassification of housing associations was on the cards. He ducked the questions that I put to him earlier, but he encouraged housing associations to do the “voluntary” deal anyway. He is the Minister who, as the House has seen this afternoon, has to duck and dive to evade the truth that council and housing association homes sold off under this Bill will not be replaced one for one, like for like, let alone in the local areas in which they are lost.

However, I do have some sympathy for the Secretary of State.