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Budget Resolutions - Income Tax (Charge)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:27 pm on 1st November 2018.

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Photo of Ed Miliband Ed Miliband Labour, Doncaster North 1:27 pm, 1st November 2018

I am glad to follow Justine Greening. I want to focus on housing, which was where she ended her remarks. In particular, I want to focus on what the Secretary of State said in his opening speech, which is that this is the biggest domestic policy priority for the Government.

We should begin with a moment of candour. If we are looking across the piece at policy failures of Governments of both parties, we can see that this is the biggest single failure over the last generation. I am proud of some of the things that the previous Labour Government did, but we did not build enough homes, and this Government have not done so either.

I am serving on a social housing commission run by Shelter. It comprises residents of Grenfell Tower and people from across the political spectrum, such as Baroness Warsi and Lord O’Neill from the other place, and is precisely designed to try to fashion a new cross-party consensus on these issues.

Reading the Budget, I was encouraged by some of the measures in it. It mentions the broken housing market, to which the Secretary of State also referred today. I must confess that I am old enough to remember when such talk was part of living in a Marxist universe, but it is genuinely good that things have changed. It is a positive step that the Government have lifted the local authority borrowing cap, and indeed that they are providing housing associations with some money to build. They say that their measure on council house building will mean that 10,000 council homes are built each year, and that the housing association measure will lead to 13,000 being built over three years. The question at the heart of any analysis of this Budget on housing is: is that enough? I argue that it is not nearly enough.

Let me provide some context to this. The Secretary of State said that he wanted to be like Macmillan. Indeed, I think all of us can praise what Harold Macmillan’s Government did. Let me tell the House about the scale of building in that era. The 1951 to 1955 Government built an average of 193,000 social homes each and every year. That is more than this Government have built in the last seven years. Each and every year, the 1955 to 1964 Government built 116,000 homes, the 1964 to 1970 Government built 143,000 homes, and the 1970 to 1979 era saw the building of 116,000 homes. We are way off that.