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Housing: Long-Term Plan

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:33 pm on 9th February 2016.

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Photo of Richard Bacon Richard Bacon Conservative, South Norfolk 5:33 pm, 9th February 2016

It is a pleasure to follow Alison Thewliss, because her leader at Westminster, Angus Robertson, was one of the sponsors of my Self-build and Custom Housebuilding Bill, which became law on 26 March 2015.

If Teresa Pearce thinks I am going to talk about self-build and custom house building, I would not want to disappoint her. There are many good reasons for engaging in self-build and custom house building, and I will come to them shortly.

First, however, we have to analyse why so many Opposition Members—I have listened to them drone on for a long time—appear to think that the current housing system is, give or take, more or less, in reasonably good shape and that it just needs a few tweaks, give or take, more or less, to sort it out. The truth is that our housing system—the one we have endured for 50 years— is intellectually, socially and morally bankrupt. It is intellectually bankrupt because the supply of housing does not rise to meet demand—the hon. Member for Erith and Thamesmead could not give me a reason why, but she accepted that that was the case. It is socially bankrupt because not having enough housing is so extraordinarily divisive and limits opportunities. Finally, it is morally bankrupt because it is a disgrace that a rich country such as ours cannot supply enough decent housing for everyone to have somewhere to live, and that, in a country where the vast majority of people want to own their own house, homeownership is going down rather than up. This Government are starting to address these problems with the radical solutions that will make the difference.

Tim Farron, did not talk about self-build at all, although his motion refers to it. Yet that is by far the most radical suggestion in the Housing and Planning Bill, which amends the Self-build and Custom Housebuilding Act to take it further. Under the Act, local authorities will have an obligation that cuts in on 1 April this year to maintain a register of people who want to develop their own self-build project—individuals or groups of individuals. The Bill, which is currently in the other place, will place an obligation on local authorities—I do not think most of them have realised this yet, to be honest—to provide serviced plots commensurate with the demand as evidenced on their registers.