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Home Ownership

Volume 526: debated on Monday 4 April 2011

At the Budget, we announced the Firstbuy scheme, which will be co-funded by the Government and house builders, bring £500 million of investment into the sector and build about 15,000 homes throughout the UK. In England, those figures are £200 million and 10,000. In addition, the Government’s commitment to reducing debt is perhaps the most important thing that we can do to create stability, and recently I held a first-time buyers summit to pull together the sector and ensure that progress is made.

I thank the Minister for his response. Does he agree that the new funding for the Firstbuy scheme will help the construction industry, creating new jobs and increasing the pace of economic growth?

My hon. Friend is absolutely spot on, of course, and the scheme will do both those things. The critical difference between it and the schemes that the previous Government ran is that the person purchasing the house has to provide a deposit. In addition, the amount of money going in from the Government will be reduced to make it much better value for money.

Will the Minister ensure that all the initiatives for first-time purchase and for shared ownership are well publicised in every local authority in England, and that the new homes bonus money can be used, where local authorities agree, for the maximum number of property builds and for the maximum number of people acquiring a property—through shared ownership or outright possession—for the first time?

I am very grateful for that question, not least because I am able to congratulate Southwark on today pulling in £2.6 million from the new homes bonus. That money certainly can be used in precisely the way it is required locally, and whatever the principal concerns are for local people. It is the way to incentivise more house building, and we will make sure that it works effectively alongside the Firstbuy scheme.

The Minister referred to the new scheme as relevant to the replacement of HomeBuy Direct, which as he is aware was the much more generous scheme that he scrapped just 10 months ago. Is this not another example of the Government introducing a new policy to make up for the fact that their previous policy has gone wrong?

The hon. Gentleman has got his facts wrong. HomeBuy Direct continues until 2012, so there is no question of its having come to an end. It was a funded scheme for a specific period which will come to an end at that point, so by launching another scheme that overlaps rather than replaces it, we have, I assume, achieved precisely what he would want.

I make my usual declaration of an indirect interest in the entry in the register for my right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Mr Raynsford).

HomeBuy Direct was a good scheme, and considering that the Minister called it an “expensive flop” I am delighted that the Government have seen fit, albeit somewhat late in the day, to enhance it further and, in many ways, to replicate it. Can he confirm that, as the Financial Times reported, this is nothing more than his admitting that he cannot fix the mortgage market? Has he not, as my hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Toby Perkins) said, just wasted a vital 10 months, leaving hundreds of thousands of first-time buyers—not tens of thousands, given the sort of scheme we are describing—with no hope under this Government of securing their own homes?[Official Report, 9 June 2011, Vol. 529, c. 5-6MC.]

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for allowing me to clear up one thing. It is worth knowing that when I said that the HomeBuy Direct scheme had been an expensive flop, it had been launched 10 months earlier and had helped just five people to secure a home. It is true that the scheme has developed over a period of time and has helped people in between, but as I said in my previous answer—I appreciate that it was given after she had written her question, but none the less it is useful to connect the two—the previous scheme does not end until 2012. We are in 2011, and we have already announced a new scheme.