First, I thank the Opposition for using one of their days to give Conservative Members a chance to talk about the Government’s excellent work on housing in the past 10 years.
Since 2010, 1.5 million new homes have been built across the country. Last year, as my hon. Friend Brendan Clarke-Smith mentioned, 241,000 homes were built—the highest level for 30 years. It is a fundamental tenet of good and responsible aspirational Government to give people the opportunity to own their own homes. Home ownership is not only good for the individuals concerned but good for the economy more broadly—it creates jobs and stimulates economic growth. This principle must continue to be at the heart of any Government policy.
I must turn, however, to the political motivations for calling this debate today—namely, the Westferry Printworks development. In recent years, Tower Hamlets has become synonymous with inefficiency, poor governance, corruption and financial mismanagement. The direct intervention of the Secretary of State in the affairs of this council is not isolated to this incident. I must therefore put it to the Opposition that the only reason this permission was put to the Secretary of State in the first place was that Labour-run Tower Hamlets refused to make a decision. In 2018, Tower Hamlets Council cancelled five meetings of the strategic development committee—in March, April, May, June and August—and a further meeting in January 2019. This is the committee that should have considered the development. With the necessary levels of accountability, scrutiny and oversight, decisions about housing rightly reside with local authorities and, where they exist, combined authorities. Considerable powers have been devolved to those bodies, and it is the responsibility of local leaders to ensure that where developments are approved, not only do they reflect the wishes of local communities but there is a proper infrastructure to support them.
We should be united across this House in welcoming the largest investment in affordable housing in a decade.