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New Homes

Volume 651: debated on Monday 10 December 2018

The latest figures show that over 222,000 new homes were delivered in England last year—clear progress towards our ambition of delivering 300,000 a year by the mid-2020s. This brings the total number delivered since 2010 to more than 1.3 million.

House building in Scotland has plummeted under the Scottish National party, which, since 2015, has also slashed UK-wide schemes like Help to Buy. What steps is my hon. Friend taking to work with the devolved Administration to make sure that UK-wide schemes are accessible to my constituents so that they do not miss out?

As my hon. Friend will know, my writ does not run north of the border. However, I note that in the autumn Budget of 2017, the Scottish Government received Barnett consequentials of almost £1 billion as a result of increased allocations to MHCLG for Help to Buy. I urge him and his colleagues north of the border to keep campaigning—to keep the pressure up—because Help to Buy is enormously popular and is helping many tens of thousands of first-time buyers, in particular, on to the housing ladder. At the very least, they should join him in campaigning for a Conservative victory in the Scottish elections in 2021 to make sure that people will get the homes they need.

Home ownership has been on a gradual decline for some time—the hon. Gentleman is quite right—under Governments of all types. The main reason, frankly, that it has declined very significantly is that Labour crashed the economy in 2007-08, as he well knows. The coalition Government and this Government inherited a housing crisis of enormous proportions. After the crash, net additions to the housing stock fell to a low of 134,000. We have thankfully now got it up to 222,000, with more yet to do, and made an enormous financial, technical and practical commitment to the housing market and to building the homes that the country needs, unlike Labour, which was so complacent that it ran us into a brick wall.

Unemployment in Hemel Hempstead is at the lowest level it has ever been since the new town was built, so we would think that there would be more right to buy in the case of the 18,000 council houses that we still have in the stock. Unfortunately, though, because there is a £77,000 limit on the amount of discount we can get, people working in the local community—nurses and firemen—cannot afford mortgages as the properties are very highly priced. Can we look at the £77,000 limit, particularly in the south-east, because it just not does work for right to buy?

As my right hon. Friend will know, home ownership is extremely important to the Government, as it is to him. Affordability is an issue in areas such as his, on the fringe of the capital. We have kept right-to-buy discount under review, and it was reinvigorated back in 2012, to address the issue that he raises. I urge him to speak to his local council, to explore other ways within the affordable housing envelope to address that issue. If he had been at questions last time, he would have heard a very good question from my hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Kevin Hollinrake) about discounted market sales, which may well be a route to ownership for many people.

Will the Minister meet me to discuss funding new affordable homes in rural communities such as mine in Cumbria by allowing councils to increase council tax on second homes? Excessive second home ownership robs our communities of a permanent population. A second homes tax could help to fund affordable homes for local families and keep our communities alive.

It would give me enormous pleasure to meet the hon. Gentleman to discuss that matter. As he will know, we have been looking at that in some detail, and the Under-Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond (Yorks) (Rishi Sunak), tells me that we are consulting on tightening up some of the loopholes, particularly around business rates and council tax. I recognise that in some parts of the country—not least my own—second homes can be an issue, and I would be happy to meet the hon. Gentleman to discuss that.

I would like to draw the attention of the hon. Member for Ochil and South Perthshire (Luke Graham) to an article in Inside Housing by Jules Birch called “England could learn a few things from Scotland when it comes to affordable housing”. Since 2007, the SNP Scottish Government have delivered 78,000 affordable homes, including more than 50,000 for social rent, because we have made it a priority. As this Government have fallen so far short of every target they have set, may I encourage the Minister to meet Kevin Stewart, the Scottish Government’s Housing Minister, to ask what he has done to achieve housing targets?

I am always happy to meet anybody who will help us to build more of the homes that Britain needs, and if someone from the SNP can spare some time from stoking grievance to meet constructively, I would be more than happy to do so. As I said, we are making an enormous effort to raise the output of the house building industry of all types of home, both public and private, in this country. We have managed to get up to 222,000 new homes, which is the largest expansion in house building for many decades—it is the highest level of output in all but one of the last 31 years. We are making good progress towards our target of 300,000 new homes a year of all types, including affordable, private and social.