Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government

Part of Department for Work and Pensions – in the House of Commons at 6:25 pm on 2nd July 2019.

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Photo of Eddie Hughes Eddie Hughes Conservative, Walsall North 6:25 pm, 2nd July 2019

I deliberately left it late to put in for this debate, Mr Deputy Speaker; I thought that if we were voting, I might get a good audience. I hoped that that audience might include my right hon. Friends the Members for South West Surrey (Mr Hunt) and for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson) so that I could take one of two opportunities. Option A was that I could try out for any ministerial posts available in the next couple of weeks; option B, if I was not that lucky, was maybe to lobby about some of the things I have been particularly interested in.

I am sure you will be aware, Mr Deputy Speaker, that on 26 June last year, the all-party parliamentary group on excellence in the built environment, which I chair, recommended that there should be a new homes ombudsman—better redress for home buyers. Someone buying a new house for a couple of hundred thousand pounds who finds there are problems with it has fewer rights than if they had bought an electric kettle. My all-party group recommended that and, quick as anything—12 months later, almost exactly to the day—the Government launched a consultation on that very topic. I could have saved them the trouble; they could simply read the APPG’s excellent report and we could just get on with it. If all goes really badly for me in future, maybe I can apply for the ombudsman job instead.

It is important for us to think about safety. There is a lot of talk post-Grenfell about ACM materials, but the excellent Nathaniel Barker from Inside Housing did a report recently highlighting that in March last year 44 councils had fire doors that were non-compliant or possibly non-compliant. Twelve months later, half those councils have not changed a single door. How often do we walk in and out of buildings and see that compartmentalisation has been affected because somebody has put through central heating or wiring and affected the integrity of the building? Fire doors might be propped open or their intumescent strip is faulty in some way. Let us not just focus on ACM materials, but also on the relatively simple stuff that we all see every day. Let us make sure that all fire doors in all buildings are compliant. That was an excellent report from Nathaniel.

The Government could also do something a little more simple on improving safety: they could endorse my private Member’s Bill that suggests that there should be carbon monoxide detectors in all new builds and privately or socially rented homes, so that we can protect people.

However, I wanted to spend most of my speech haggling with Matt Western. I agree that Help to Buy is not as effective as it could be, but I disagree about the natural heir to the scheme. In my humble opinion, shared ownership is the future. If we replaced Help to Buy, an extra 15,000 houses could be generated in demand for shared ownership. If someone wants to buy a £230,000 property unaided, they need to be earning about £47,000 a year. If they are buying it through Help to Buy, they need to be earning about £38,000 a year. However, if they buy it through 25% of shared ownership, they could be earning as little as £21,000 a year. For people in my constituency, where the average income is about £27,000 a year and the average property price is £127,000, shared ownership is the future. It is a great way of getting people on to the property ladder. They can access it with relatively low incomes and a relatively low deposit, and it is the best way to establish a home-owning democracy.

That was a whistle-stop tour, Mr Deputy Speaker, but thank you for your time.