Protection for Homebuyers

Part of Treasury Committee – in Westminster Hall at 1:51 pm on 13th December 2018.

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Photo of Kate Green Kate Green Chair, Committee on Standards, Chair, Committee of Privileges, Chair, Committee of Privileges, Chair, Committee on Standards, Chair, Committee on Standards 1:51 pm, 13th December 2018

I absolutely agree, and I hope the Law Society will take note of that suggestion.

The final suggestion for improvement and reform is for prospective homebuyers to have more up-front information about the property they are purchasing, including whether properties are leasehold or freehold and the implications of buying leasehold property. We have all heard reports of rip-off service charges and ground rents that rise every year affecting leaseholders in our constituencies. The Government need to act to address that scandal. There should be a standardised key facts document, as there is in financial services, such as for mortgages. Also, better information needs to be handed to the consumer once the property has been completed. I hope that the Minister will respond in detail to those suggestions.

Before I conclude, I should say that no debate in this House right now would be complete without a reference to Brexit. Fundamentally, the problems I have described come down to corporate greed, but they have been exacerbated by pressure to build the new homes needed to meet Government targets, which the construction industry is struggling to cope with. Poor quality workmanship has been attributed in part to being forced to rely on inexperienced, unqualified labour.

The Construction Industry Training Board tells me that, in response to the shortage of skilled workers, many developers are relying on EU workers to fill gaps in their sector, including electricians, carpenters and bricklayers. Those are skilled trades, and investment in upskilling the domestic workforce to meet demand is imperative. However, were we simply to turn off the tap on EU labour, the pressures that the industry faces would only increase.

We are still waiting for the Government’s immigration White Paper, although I was pleased to hear the Leader of the House promise in business questions this morning that we would see it next week. There are particular worries in this sector, not least because of the reliance on self-employed labour, yet there is a real lack of information about how the Government’s post-Brexit immigration system will work for self-employed workers. Will there, for example, be the possibility of third-party sponsorship schemes to enable such skilled tradespeople to continue to come in and provide labour in our construction sector? I urge the Minister to press her Home Office colleagues to ensure that the immigration policy that it introduces meets the needs of this crucial sector.

This House cannot sit by while so many of our constituents face such great cost, stress and disappointment when making such a significant investment. The industry needs to get its house in order, and the Government have a responsibility to ensure that it does so. The Minister must tell us exactly what steps she will take to protect our constituents from seeing their dream home become a nightmare. I look forward to her response.