[Mr. Roger Gale in the Chair] — Temporary Housing

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:40 am on 26th November 2008.

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Photo of Grant Shapps Grant Shapps Shadow Minister (Communities and Local Government) (Housing and Planning), Co-Chair, Conservative Party 10:40 am, 26th November 2008

I do not want to get too far off the subject. The simple facts are that, on average, 145,000 homes have been built each year under this Government, compared with 175,000 under the previous Government, meaning that over 10 years about a third of a million fewer homes have been built. If those homes had been built and were in play and in the marketplace, it is reasonable to expect that rents would be lower.

That situation is what we need to get back to, but we cannot do it through top-down targets; we need to do it through bottom-up incentives. That is a fundamental argument at the heart of this debate and every other debate on housing that takes place here in Westminster Hall. Until the Government recognise that they cannot force the targets down on unsuspecting communities without giving them something in return—those communities need to be provided with a carrot or an incentive to build new homes—we will continue in the mess that we find ourselves in today. Labour Members are happy to complain about that mess, but they will not recognise the source or the real reasons behind the catastrophic situation in relation to temporary housing, homelessness and, indeed, the cost of housing overall.

I will end soon because I want to hear the Minister's response, not least how he will build more homes than the Government have managed to do in the last few years. Before I finish, however, I want to ask a number of questions. First, there was an announcement of £750 million—I think that was the figure—in the pre-Budget report the other day. However, there was no description of how that money would be spent, how it would be brought forward and how it would encourage the creation of more housing. I assume that that money has already been allocated in the budget of the Homes and Communities Agency, so perhaps the Minister will take a minute to explain how that money will ease the housing crisis.

Given that we know that there has been less affordable housing built every year in the last 10 years and that the market is likely to crash this year and next, perhaps the Minister will also tell us his estimates of housing numbers in the affordable sector for this year and next.

I was interested in the comments by some hon. Members about secure tenure. There now seems to be a tradition of new Housing Ministers coming in about every three months and making some fairly outrageous statements to some newspaper, only to row back from them a few days later. We remember that Caroline Flint—now Minister for Europe and predecessor of the current Minister for Housing—came in and immediately made statements about throwing people who do not work out of their homes, without realising that the local authority would have to house those families if they were in priority need. Will the Minister explain whether that policy is on or off the table?

Finally, on security of tenure, will the Minister say whether that is an idea put forward by the Minister for Housing, or is it simply an idea from a think-tank?