The need for new homes continues, as does our commitment to delivering 1 million of them by 2020. We are keeping markets under review, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I will meet the major house builders this week.
I congratulate the Minister on his appointment. Uncertainty breeds uncertainty, and the problems faced before and after the referendum have resulted in the market value of many building companies falling by as much as 40% because of uncertainty about the future. I welcome the meeting that he is going to have this week with building companies. Will he agree to report back early to this House on what steps we can take to secure confidence on new build in the housing market?
I am certainly happy to undertake to do that. I have two points to make. First, the right hon. Gentleman will have seen the steps that the Bank of England has taken to reassure markets following the referendum. Secondly, I draw his attention to a statement by Peter Andrew, the deputy chairman of the Home Builders Federation, who said on
“House builders remain confident in the underlying level of demand for housing and will continue to deliver the homes the country needs.”
Given the demand-and-supply equation for housing in this country, the Minister is correct to assume that there will still be strong growth in housing. Does he agree that it is very important that neighbourhood plans play their part in future planning policy and that they should, therefore, be strengthened? Would he like to take this opportunity to confirm that he will continue to support the strengthening of those plans in the forthcoming Bill?
I am very happy to reiterate my support for that. It is worth noting that early figures show that neighbourhood plans provide about 10% more homes than local plans, so there is real evidence that giving communities a real say in the future of how their areas develop leads to more homes being developed, and we will legislate during this Session.
On house building, new research from the House of Commons Library shows that, in the six years under last week’s Prime Minister, fewer new homes were built in this country than under any Prime Minister since the 1920s, including 14% fewer than under Gordon Brown, despite the downturn; 21% fewer than under Tony Blair; and 35% fewer than under Margaret Thatcher. The new Housing Minister and Secretary of State are not responsible for their predecessors’ mistakes, but they are responsible for what happens now, particularly in the light of the EU referendum. After six years of failure on housing under Conservative Ministers, what changes can we now expect to see?
The right hon. Gentleman was one of my predecessors, and under him new house building was at the lowest level since the 1920s. Obviously, we had to recover from that position. Net new dwellings last year were at the same level as the average over the whole period of the Labour Government. I point the right hon. Gentleman to one statistic: in the year to March 2016, 265,000 homes were given planning permission, which is the highest figure on record.