Our town centres and high streets are the beating heart of our communities. Our landmark towns fund, through which we are investing £3.6 billion into more than 100 towns, is just one part of that commitment. We also want to give local communities the freedom to transform their areas for the better—to give boarded-up eyesores on the high street a new lease of life, to give shop owners the flexibility to change the use of their property and to allow families the chance to increase the size of their home as their family grows. Each of these reforms will help small businesses and individuals to sustain jobs and invest in local communities. That is the mission of this Government.
This year marks 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz. It vital that we remember what happened so that we can learn the lessons of the past, so will my right hon. Friend reassure me and the House that the Government remain committed to delivering a national holocaust memorial?
I am delighted that the Leader of the Opposition, the right hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Keir Starmer), has expressed his support for the national holocaust memorial. I hope that now is the moment for Members from all parties in this House and, indeed, in the other place to unite behind the proposal and ensure that the memorial is built as soon as possible.
With millions of people living in homes that are cold, damp and expensive to heat, in the midst of a respiratory illness pandemic, with millions more looking to the Government to give hope for the good jobs of the future and with a climate change crisis as well, what part of cancelling Labour’s zero-carbon homes standard does the Secretary of State think was a good idea? When will he commit his Government to returning to a zero-carbon—not low-carbon but zero-carbon—homes standard?
As we have set out time and again, we are committed to net-zero homes—we do not want to see any new home built in this country that needs expensive retrofitting in future. If anyone thinks that the Labour party is going to deliver that or indeed any other strategy for homes in this country, they will be “sorely disappointed”—those are the words of The Guardian, not myself. The hon. Lady said that it would be years before she was able to bring forward any plans for housing whatsoever. What a sad indictment of the Labour party—the party of Herbert Morrison and Clement Attlee. We are planning to build a million new homes in this country; the Labour party’s plans are as empty and vacuous as a Wendy house blown over in the first gust of autumn wind.
Can I just say that the questions are pretty short and the answers are meant to be pretty short as well? I say to the Secretary of State that I am going to run the whole list of questions.
I will. I would like to see further investment in estates regeneration of the kind that my hon. Friend describes, and he will know that my hon. Friend the Chancellor recently announced £2 billion for the green homes grants to improve homes across the country.
Scotland has had stricter rules on cladding than the rest of the UK for several years now and has different tenancy forums from England, so does the Secretary of State have any idea of the potential consequences of the internal market Bill on Scottish housing regulations and building standards, including those on cladding?
I work closely with the devolved Administrations on housing matters, and I am open to any representation from the Housing Minister in Scotland. As far as I am aware, we have had no representation whatsoever.
The decision to which my hon. Friend refers is now being challenged in court, so it would not be appropriate for me to comment while those proceedings are live. None the less, he makes an extremely important point that people across the country want to see infrastructure flowing with new housing, whether that be hospitals, GP surgeries or schools. I would highlight that, in our planning reforms, our new infrastructure levy will drive more investment in infrastructure—both social infrastructure and physical infrastructure—in the years to come.
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. Of course we are in regular contact with the M9 group of Mayors about the covid-19 response and indeed, as I have said, we have meetings with him and colleagues tomorrow with the Secretary of State. Metro Mayors do occasionally attend Cobra meetings where it is appropriate. In relation to the pandemic, it is particularly important that we recognise the crucial working relationship with Public Health England and the fact that we are led by the chief medical officer. I completely agree with the hon. Gentleman that the importance of close working with metro Mayors up and down the country is absolutely vital.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right that too many homes have been built in this country to poor standards in the recent past. That is why we are now legislating for the new homes ombudsman, and we are already taking action by working with the New Homes Quality Board to raise standards. We will also respond in due course to the Law Commission’s important reports, with which we intend to right the wrongs of leasehold as quickly as possible.
I absolutely agree with the hon. Lady. I pay extreme tribute to the residents, businesses and charitable organisations in New Ferry who have worked so hard to recover and get the town back on its feet over the past three years. I know that she is meeting one of my ministerial colleagues later this week, but as a Local Government Minister I am also at her disposal to discuss this hugely important matter in her constituency.
My hon. Friend and I have agreed on this point for some time. The housing infrastructure fund directs funding to those areas where there is the greatest affordability challenge. That is important, in some respects, but any Government who want to level up must also direct infrastructure investment for housing to other parts of the country as well. I will certainly bear that in mind as we design the successor to the housing infrastructure fund later this year.
As I said, we have provided £4.8 billion to local authorities up and down the country to support them with the cost of the pandemic, and £3.1 billion has been spent in addressing those pressures. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that his council has received £21 million in additional covid funding on top of the increase in core spending power of almost £18 million this year, which of course he supported.
My hon. Friend has been a doughty champion for Blackpool in his time in the House so far. It is absolutely right that Blackpool receives further investment to help it to continue to drive forwards. That is why I am pleased that it is a recipient of funding from the high streets fund and the towns fund. I look forward to announcing the outcome of both this autumn.
It is 232 days since Storm Dennis flooded many, many properties in Rhondda. A quarter of all such properties in the whole UK were in one constituency, Rhondda, and that is wholly disproportionate to the normal funding for the Welsh Assembly. It is 222 days since the Prime Minister promised my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney (Gerald Jones) that the money would be passported through to the local authorities from Westminster to Wales to pay for that. It is 97 days since the Prime Minister wrote to me to say that this was all going to be sorted out. It is 74 days since the Treasury said that it was going to sort this out. Yet we still have not had a single penny. Can the Secretary of State prove to be the best Minister of the lot and sort it out by the end of today?
I am happy to take that up with my right hon. Friends the Chancellor and the Environment Secretary and revert to the hon. Gentleman with a plan.
I do not agree with that analysis of the actions that we have taken as a Government. We are bringing forward the biggest change to building safety regulations in a generation. We have outlined plans for our £1.6 billion fund. Of course there is more that we could do. This is one of the most challenging and difficult issues faced by the Government today, or indeed any Government, and has built up over many generations, but we intend to tackle it and to provide support for those in need.
We are working with the chief medical officer’s team and Public Health England to prepare guidance on how night shelters could be opened safely and in what circumstances, but the hon. Gentleman is obviously right that it is difficult to do so in a covid-compliant manner, so we are working with local councils to consider alternatives so that nobody should be left on the streets in the coldest weather this winter.
I can certainly confirm that. We want to ensure that the green belt is protected so that there are beautiful green spaces for our constituents to enjoy and the identity of villages and communities such as those that my hon. Friend represents is protected and preserved for future generations.
The hon. Member is entirely incorrect. We are determined to build more homes in this country, while protecting and enhancing standards, and absolutely nothing that we do will compromise building safety regulations. Indeed, quite the opposite: we are creating the largest change to building safety standards in my lifetime.
I thank the hon. Lady for her question. Of course she is right that the dedicated schools grant is administered by the DFE, which is responsible for its amount and allocation, but we are certainly working closely with the DFE, the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy and the sector to understand what more can be done to mitigate the immediate risks. I am personally very happy to meet her and her council to have a discussion about what more can be done.
In order to allow the safe exit of hon. Members participating in this item of business and the safe arrival of those participating in the next, I am suspending the House for three minutes.