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I am glad to be back at the Dispatch Box and returning to the Housing and Planning Bill this afternoon. We are now in the final month of the first year of this Parliament: a Parliament that has seen a majority Conservative Government returned to the House—a Government with a clear mandate to deliver the largest programme of house building for a generation.
It is immensely fitting to be here this afternoon having come from Mr Speaker’s own garden, where construction people have been showing the importance of house building across our country and of bringing in more skills to deliver the homes that we are determined to build. We want to place home ownership within the reach of thousands of people who never dreamt that they could achieve it, and we want to ensure that, in doing so, we make the best use of our social housing so that it continues to support those most in need.
The Bill before us today is a slightly different beast from the one we passed to the other place earlier this year. Today we will discuss rather more than the five or six amendments we traditionally see come from the other House. The vast majority of these I will ask this House to accept.
Debates in both Houses have been productive and resulted in improvements to the Bill. I want to be clear from the start. I have heard many, mainly on the Opposition Benches, say that we should have waited before debating the Bill. That would have meant the Government’s having to sit idly by, ticking forms and double checking that what the public elected us to do was what they actually wanted. We are debating the Bill early in this Parliament so that it can take effect as soon as possible and we can get those new homes built for those who aspire to have them.
Starter homes will now be available to more people, including couples in which one partner is over 40, injured service personnel and bereaved partners of service personnel. There will be better protections for vulnerable people, thereby reducing the risk of properties being incorrectly declared abandoned. Our plan to replace higher-value properties expected to be sold with at least one new property is now explicit in the Bill, meaning we could not be clearer about our intention to increase the number of affordable homes across our country.