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Volume 560: debated on Monday 18 March 2013

The number of new homes started in the year to April 2012 was 105,090. Overall, the net additions to the housing stock stood at 134,900, the highest level for four years.

I draw attention to my interests in the register.

I remind the Minister that the number of new starts in 2012 was fewer than 100,000. The latest figures from the National House-Building Council show that private sector housing starts were down 13% in the three months to the end of January 2013, and those for affordable housing starts for the same period showed an annual fall of 19%. Do not those figures show a terrible story of the failure of the Government’s housing policy?

I am sorry to disappoint the right hon. Gentleman, who was an experienced Minister performing my role in the last Government, but if we look at completions—homes that families can actually move into —we see that there has been a rise of 8% over the past two years. I would have thought that the Labour party welcomed that.

19. Does the Minister agree that one problem is that developers buy large quantities of land and get planning permission for it, but do not build on it? That means that when the next lot come along and ask for planning permission for more land, they get it because not enough houses are being built. Surely it is time that we had time-limited constraints on planning permission so that developers are required to build on land before the planning permission runs out of time. (148155)

The key issue is that by getting rid of regional spatial strategies and moving towards local plans, under this Government local people and their representatives will have the opportunity to set that agenda. I take my hon. Friend’s point. We want to ensure that planning permissions are used properly.

With the toxic combination of the biggest housing crisis in a generation and a flatlining economy, Britain badly needs a Budget for jobs, homes and growth. We are now told that there is to be the fourth “get Britain building” launch. Will the Minister confirm that the third launch last September of a £10 billion guarantee fund has seen not one brick laid and not one house built? Will he explain why, if his policies are working, housing starts fell by 11% in 2012 to just 98,000? Has the time not come for the Government to stop talking and start building?

As always, the hon. Gentleman provides entertaining rhetoric, but the facts are wrong. The net addition to the housing stock, taking into account new homes and our work on empty homes, which we rarely hear about from the Labour party, is 11%. He needs to rehearse his rhetoric more often.

Order. If the hon. Member for Mid Dorset and North Poole (Annette Brooke) had been standing, I would have called her, but she was not, so perhaps I will not. If she wants to, I will.

22. I was going to stand on the next Question. Will the Minister for Housing consider a mechanism by which the borrowing capacity of an authority that has chosen not to use or is unable to use all its borrowing facilities can be passed to an authority that, in turn, could facilitate arm’s length management organisations to build housing when there is capacity to do so? (148158)

The hon. Lady is slightly ahead of herself. We are considering such issues when we consider the spending review in the round. I will consider her representations carefully.

A recent report by Shelter, “The Rent Trap”, shows that rents are rising across the country by an average of £300, but that people are struggling to pay them because of stagnating wages. Does the Minister accept that the housing shortage is putting up rents?

I accept that the sad loss of 421,000 social homes under the last Labour Government has created, to use the words of the hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Jack Dromey), a deep-seated housing crisis. However, the picture on rents is more mixed than the hon. Lady suggests. In some areas, rents have risen, but the overall evidence suggests that over the past 12 months they have been static.