Housing and Planning Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:40 pm on 2nd November 2015.

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Photo of Roberta Blackman-Woods Roberta Blackman-Woods Shadow Minister (Housing) 9:40 pm, 2nd November 2015

This has been a very interesting debate on the Bill, with an unofficial London mayoral hustings thrown in for good measure. We can clearly see how important housing is for Members from the fact that 48 Back Benchers took part in this debate. The hon. Members for Hornchurch and Upminster (Dame Angela Watkinson) and for Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner (Mr Hurd), Nick Herbert, Mr Prisk, Mrs Miller, and the hon. Members for Kensington (Victoria Borwick), for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport (Oliver Colvile) and for Kingston and Surbiton (James Berry) made a number of interesting suggestions as to how to make the Bill’s proposals on the private rented sector and starter homes more effective, to negate some of the more centralising aspects of the Bill and to improve the quality of housing that is built. I hope we hear more from them in Committee.

Not surprisingly, given the severity of the housing crisis in London, we heard from a number of London MPs, including my right hon. Friend Sadiq Khan, my hon. Friends the Members for Poplar and Limehouse (Jim Fitzpatrick) and for Dulwich and West Norwood (Helen Hayes), my right hon. Friend Mr Lammy, and my hon. Friends the Members for Mitcham and Morden (Siobhain McDonagh), for Brentford and Isleworth (Ruth Cadbury), and for Islington South and Finsbury (Emily Thornberry). They raised their concerns about how measures in the Bill will not deliver more genuinely affordable homes, will further socially segregate communities and will leave too many Londoners in high-cost, private rented housing with little hope of ever owning a home in the area in which they wish to live.

A number of Members, including my hon. Friends the Members for Sheffield South East (Mr Betts) and for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Steve McCabe), Tim Farron, and my hon. Friends the Members for Stoke-on-Trent Central (Tristram Hunt), for Wolverhampton North East (Emma Reynolds), for Workington (Sue Hayman), for Ashton-under-Lyne (Angela Rayner), for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Justin Madders), for Redcar (Anna Turley), for Great Grimsby (Melanie Onn), for Bootle (Peter Dowd) and for Cambridge (Daniel Zeichner), provided a very effective challenge to what the hon.

Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson) said about housing problems existing only in London. They spoke up strongly on behalf of their constituents, saying that more good quality, genuinely affordable housing in properly planned and mixed communities based on local decision making is needed everywhere and that the Bill represents an attack on social housing and does little to make home ownership a reality for many people on low and middle incomes.

As Members from across the House are well aware, we are facing a housing crisis in this country. We have the lowest level of home building since the 1920s, completions have fallen off a cliff edge since 2010 and the housing benefit bill is ever increasing. We have seen five years of failure from the Government, and on the basis of this Bill I fear that we are about to see five more. Home ownership has fallen every year since 2010, declining by more than 200,000, whereas under Labour the number of homeowners increased by 1 million. Between 1997 and 2010, we built almost 2 million homes. As my right hon. Friend John Healey pointed out, in the year with the lowest number of homes built under Labour, 2009, we still built 125,000 homes. That is still more than were built in the year with the highest number of homes built under the Tories, which was 2014, when there were just 117,000 completions. Last year, the Tories built the fewest affordable homes for more than two decades—fewer than 11,000 homes for social rent compared with 33,000 in Labour’s last year in office.

Spending on housing benefit has risen by £4.4 billion since 2010, because of ever increasing rents. It is the same old Tory story: a 36% increase in homelessness and a massive increase in rough sleeping.