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Housing in Tourist Destinations

Volume 741: debated on Tuesday 28 November 2023

[Sir Charles Walker in the Chair]

I beg to move,

That this House has considered housing provision in tourist destinations.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Charles. Returning to the Back Benches after two and a half years, I am very grateful that the very first time I apply for a Westminster Hall debate, I get one. I do not know what I have done to deserve it, but I am grateful for the opportunity. I could have chosen to speak about a number of issues affecting my constituents on my first occasion back in Westminster Hall, but housing has to be at the very top of that list.

Housing has long been an issue of concern in Cornwall, but it has without doubt become a crisis in recent years. It is the biggest challenge facing us today, especially in our coastal towns and villages. I am aware that Cornwall is not the only area to face this challenge, and many tourist areas across the UK face similar situations. I am pleased to see so many hon. colleagues present for the debate.

Without question, Cornwall is by far the best part of the United Kingdom. That is why so many visitors descend on us every year, to sample the delights of our duchy. I have always counted myself incredibly fortunate, not only to have been born there but to have lived there my whole life and to get to live for 52 weeks of the year somewhere that many people pay several thousand pounds to spend a couple of weeks each year. Visitors of course provide many economic benefits to Cornwall, but also bring many unintended consequences, with essential parts of our infrastructure being overstretched. The biggest impact that we see from tourism, however, is on our housing.

Let me make it clear at the beginning that this speech is not anti-tourist or anti-tourism. Tourism is vital to the Cornish economy. It is estimated that one in three households in Cornwall gain at least part of their income from tourism, and many thousands of businesses throughout the supply chain rely on visitors. But there has to be a balance, and there is little doubt that in recent years that balance has tipped too far. In providing accommodation for tourism, the impact of the number of second homes and holiday lets is proving damaging to many local communities.

We have seen many instances of local businesses and public services—ranging from hotels to our schools and hospitals—being unable to recruit key staff, with the lack of available housing given as the main reason why they cannot recruit or why people cannot move to start work. The impact is also felt in the cost of housing for local people, whether to rent or buy. With prices pushed up due to the inflated demand caused by tourism, the average price of a house in Cornwall is now £340,000, which is almost 20% higher than the UK average, and yet the typical wage in Cornwall is almost 30% lower than the UK average. The result is that too many local people are simply priced out of the market.

The situation in the rental market is only slightly better, with rents typically being 10% above the UK average outside London. It was therefore good news that the local housing allowance will be unfrozen and increased, as announced by the Chancellor in last week’s autumn statement, and that will be welcome news in Cornwall. The impact of all that is that too many people, especially our young people, have found it impossible to remain in the town or village that they were born and grew up in. Too few properties are available, and they will almost always be unaffordable.

Wider impacts might not be immediately obvious. For example, parish councils are increasingly responsible for more local services. One that contacted me only last week, Mevagissey Parish Council, is an excellent example of one such local council that is trying to do more for its community but is increasingly having to do so with less.

Local councils that do not have the general power of competence are restricted in what they can spend local taxpayers’ money on. If there is no specific statutory authority, the council can use what is called free resource. The free resource is calculated by multiplying a sum per elector by the number of electors, with the sum being set every year by Government. With an increasing number of residential properties being repurposed for holiday homes or second homes, there is a consequential reduction in the number of electors and, hence, a reduction in the free resource limit, meaning that parish councils and communities like Mevagissey are increasingly limited in what they can spend their funds on, leading to cuts in services that are often vital for those communities.

To put that in context, I have some statistics, provided by the Office for National Statistics, on the number of second homes or empty properties in communities in my constituency. In Newquay, the surfing capital of the UK and a very large town for Cornwall, 12% of properties are second homes; in St Goran parish, which is renowned for its Cornish gig club, the figure is 19%; in Mevagissey, the second most productive fishing port in Cornwall, the figure is 24%; and in the river port of Fowey, the figure is 28%. Twenty-eight per cent of properties are second homes in Fowey.

It is difficult for local authorities to calculate the numbers of holiday lets, but the numbers will be significant additions to these figures. As a flavour of the scale of the issue, CPRE estimated last year that short-term holiday listings in Cornwall grew by 661% in the five years to September 2021.

I have met Airbnb, our largest short-term letting accommodation provider, on several occasions to discuss how it, as an industry leader, can operate in a more responsible way, because there is a worrying trend, particularly since the pandemic, of landlords finding it far more profitable to put their properties on the holiday rental market over the summer season, leading to a significant rise in the number of no-fault evictions in March and April each year in our coastal communities. That results in many local people needing to find somewhere to live and often having to move out of the community in which they have been living, with all the upheaval that that brings to family life.

I am grateful to the hon. Member for giving way and for securing this debate. He has been very vocal about short-term lets. He wrote to the Minister recently to ask about the introduction of a use class for short-term lets and associated permitted development rights. We had a consultation, which was open until 7 June this year, on that subject. It is now nearly six months later. Does he agree that six months is more than enough time to consider the results of that consultation?

I am very grateful to the hon. Member for his intervention. I will be coming to that point towards the end of my speech, but I thank him for raising it at this point.

I am confident that the Government’s landmark Renters (Reform) Bill will go some way to addressing this, but we need to look closely at the detail of the Bill to ensure that its measures will have no unintended consequences.

To put all of this in perspective, there are currently 18,989 live listings in Cornwall on Airbnb and other platforms. The vast majority of those properties were built to be someone’s home and are now no longer available for local people to live in. By comparison, in October 2023, there were just 895 available residential listings in Cornwall on Rightmove. Those holiday rentals are overwhelmingly in the coastal communities and tourist hotspots we are discussing. As I said earlier, we are not against holiday lets. Tourism is vital, but there needs to be a balance. We need more housing that is genuinely affordable to local people, particularly for our key workers.

The situation in Cornwall is serious. It is difficult to understate how bad it is. The perfect storm of increased demand, rocketing prices that outstrip average wages and a growing population has led to record numbers of people being on Cornwall’s housing register. Last week, there were 26,136 people waiting to be housed in Cornwall. Then there are those households that are currently without a home: sadly, 857 households in Cornwall are in temporary accommodation, and 438 of them are families with children.

The answer is not just to build more houses. Cornwall Council, under portfolio holder Councillor Olly Monk, has done an excellent job since the Conservatives took the lead in 2021 in accelerating house building: it has built 5,442 houses during that time, 1,322 of which are affordable and earmarked for people with a local connection. But over the past 20 years, Cornwall has had above-national average levels of house building, so our experience shows that we cannot simply build to meet the ever-growing demand. When a market is broken, we need the Government to intervene, and there can be little doubt that the housing market in Cornwall is currently broken.

I applaud the fact that the Government have taken more steps to address the situation than any other Government, often with some enthusiastic support from me and my Cornish MP colleagues. They have taken steps to close the business rate loophole, which allowed second home owners to claim that their properties were holiday lets and therefore qualified for small business rate relief. They thereby paid neither council tax nor business rates and contributed nothing to local services.

The Levelling-up and Regeneration Act 2023, which received Royal Assent at the end of the previous Session of Parliament, makes provision for local authorities to charge double council tax on second homes. People who own second homes and do not rent them out to local people should rightly pay more to make up for the fact that those properties have been removed from primary occupancy. That was the right thing to do, and the Government did it. Cornwall Council is keen to apply the provision as soon as possible because it will bring in an anticipated extra £20 million a year. The register of holiday lets is also welcome, as it will for the first time give local authorities a full and accurate picture of exactly how many properties in the communities they serve are being used as holiday lets. Knowing how many holiday lets there are is the first step towards being able to better manage their number in a community.

The Government have consulted on giving powers to local councils to require a change of planning permission when homes are taken out of residential use and converted to holiday lets. I know that measure is controversial for some of my colleagues, but for me it is simple: if planning permission was granted to build a house to be somebody’s home and the new owner wishes to change its use to a holiday let, which is essentially a business use, a change of use should be required. We insist on that for all sorts of other businesses, and I believe the same should apply to holiday lets.

Those are all good steps, and I want to put on the record my thanks to the Secretary of State and other Ministers who have listened and taken on board what we have said. The measures, which go towards addressing the issue, have been welcomed in Cornwall, but we need them to be implemented. We cannot allow the situation we have experienced in Cornwall in recent years to be repeated.

Although the measures are not a silver bullet, they provide some answers and enable us to improve the situation significantly. I ask the Minister to provide an update on when we can expect the register of holiday lets and the planning change of use requirements to be implemented, because we need them as soon as possible. I would also be grateful for the Minister’s thoughts on the impact that the situation is having on parish councils. What can be done to assist parish councils, which are losing their ability to support their local communities?

As I have laid out, the situation we face in Cornwall is complex and serious. I welcome the steps the Government are taking, but we need to see them implemented as soon as possible, because we need to be able to intervene. The situation we have seen in Cornwall in recent years can never be repeated. We need to work together to ensure that it improves as soon as possible.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Charles. I congratulate the hon. Member for St Austell and Newquay (Steve Double) on securing this very important debate.

The housing crisis we face is affecting the lives of our constituents every single day. Families are unable to afford to buy, and people’s mortgages are sky-high. For many young people, home ownership has become a distant dream. We simply do not have enough houses for people to live in. Sadly, over the last 13 years too few homes have been built, including social and affordable housing. In fact, only 162,000 social rented homes have been delivered, while the same period has seen the sale or demolition of 332,000 of them.

Developers are too often able to wriggle out of their commitments on social and affordable housing in new developments, reducing numbers even further. This is leaving millions in insecure housing, unable to get on the housing ladder or secure tenures. If we want to address the housing crisis, we have to build more, protect people in long-term rentals and ensure that housing is affordable for everyone. Building more social and affordable housing will be vital to kick-starting the economic growth this country needs. I am pleased that my own party truly understands the urgency of the crisis we are in and has a clear plan to make housing a priority.

When looking at the housing crisis, especially in tourist destinations, we cannot ignore the rapid growth of short-term lets. In the City of Chester, we are proud of our tourism status, and we welcome millions of visitors each year who are vital to our local economy. Chester is a charming city, rich with history and culture. From the historic buildings, Roman walls, and the River Dee to one of the biggest tourist attractions on our doorstep, Chester Zoo, there is so much to offer. I would highly recommend a visit to anyone who has not experienced Chester, but good luck with the trains—but I will not get into that issue.

I am not ashamed to plug our wonderful city, as it really has it all. As we approach Christmas, an especially important time for all local and independent businesses, Chester is filled with visitors experiencing the city’s Christmas charm. In fact, this year Chester has been recognised in multiple “best Christmas shopping destination” and “best Christmas market” lists. It even took the top spot as The Times’ prettiest city for Christmas shopping.

It is important to recognise that short-term lets are a part of the infrastructure of the UK’s visitor economy. Holiday cottages, holiday homestays and self-catering apartments have long catered for the needs of tourists, people travelling for work or those in need of overnight accommodation. However, the guest accommodation sector has changed significantly over the last 15 years in England and across the world. In particular, there has been a major expansion in the number and range of accommodation suppliers operating in the market. At the heart of this change has been the emergence of the sharing economy and the growth of digital platforms. It is important to strike the right balance and address the long and short-term impacts of this expansion.

In Chester and many other communities across the country, short-term lets are eroding the supply of housing in the private rented sector, which in turn is driving up rent prices for hard-pressed families. As someone who knocks on doors in my city, it grieves me to see former social housing, sold under right to buy into the private rented sector, now being used as short-term lets and to know that this supply of accommodation has essentially vanished.

Around a quarter of renters in the UK spend more than 40% of their income on rent, compared with just 5% of renters in Germany. This situation needs to be addressed urgently. Although I have been a Member of Parliament for just short of a year, I followed this issue closely while I was a councillor for the city centre in Chester. I was proud that while I served as council leader we started to build council houses for the first time in 40 years.

In all this time, not enough has been done to prevent the inevitable and address the specific issue of short-term lets. The message is clear: local authorities are struggling to cope with high concentrations of short-term holiday lets. They need to be given the powers to protect the sustainability and cohesion of their communities. The hon. Member for St Austell and Newquay is right: it is hard for local authorities to estimate how many properties have been given over to this use currently.

Will the Minister say what plans the Government have to address the wider housing crisis that my constituents face? What plans do the Government have to address the complex and unique challenges that arise with the rapid expansion of short-term lets in tourism cities such as Chester with a thriving visitor economy?

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairship, Sir Charles. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for St Austell and Newquay (Steve Double) for securing this debate on housing provision in tourist destinations.

Today’s debate is timely. We must ask ourselves: do we have the right balance? I think most people in this room would understand the answer. Do we have the right balance between local people, who want to get on the housing ladder, and property owners who are looking to buy a second or even third home? Do we have the right balance between having enough visitor accommodation options in popular areas and ensuring that local workers have somewhere to live? Finally, do we have the right balance on regulation? Are the Government’s proposals going to make a real difference and make more homes available in tourist destinations? Or will we still be debating this issue in one, two, three or 10 years’ time? We cannot afford to be doing that.

To be clear, I absolutely want to see a thriving tourism industry in my corner of Devon. I am proud to represent East Devon; my home county is a desirable place to live. Many people visit and immediately fall in love with the place. They may choose to come back year after year, staying in a variety of accommodation options, such as bed and breakfasts, seaside hotels and town centre short-term lets. Others visit and choose to lay down their roots there, not least for retirement.

One thing is for sure: visitors can always be sure of a warm Devon welcome. I head up the all-party parliamentary group for hospitality and tourism, and I know from first-hand experience that the industry has put on a brave face this year to continue to provide outstanding service and a warm welcome to visitors. That is why it was very welcome to hear that the Chancellor’s autumn statement announced an extension of 75% business rates relief until 2025.

Devon and Cornwall are dependent on the summer months for tourism income, and the business rates relief extension is very good news after a summer in which visitor numbers were down by a fifth. The seasonality of our tourism has knock-on effects on the local housing market. We are all too familiar with parts of Devon and Cornwall resembling ghost towns in the middle of winter. It is a really sad sight to see, when strolling down the seafront, second homes and summer holiday lets lying empty.

In 2019, 14% of annual visitor spend was in August, with 5% of spending occurring in January. Data from Cornwall Council shows that in some parts of that county 40% of properties are used as second homes. Without question, seasonality and second-home ownership combine into a noticeable problem in the region. Although I fully respect someone’s right to purchase a second home, including those used for short-term holiday lets, it is having a seismic impact on our local housing stock. Homes for local people to long-term rent and buy have simply become unaffordable in some areas. An easy way to assess the problem is to compare the average house price with the average salary of residents. In my constituency, East Devon, that ratio is 12.7; in Tiverton and Honiton, it is 10.6; in North Devon, it is 12.2; and in Totnes, it is 14.3. Bear in mind that the average ratio in England and Wales is 8.9.

What can the Government do to get the balance right on policy and regulation so that people can get on the housing ladder in tourist destinations? First, I welcome the Government closing tax loopholes for short-term holiday lets. It was a hard-fought campaign by Conservative MPs in the south-west to close the loophole that allowed second-home owners to avoid paying council tax by registering as a holiday rental, signing up for business rates, and then receiving business rates relief. To be business rated, properties will need to be available to let commercially for 140 days a year and actually let commercially for 70 days a year. That levels the playing field.

Secondly, the Government’s proposals for greater regulation include a registration scheme, which would help local authorities to monitor compliance with key health and safety regulations and give them much-needed data on activity in their area. The scheme will not just be another burdensome form-filling exercise for property-owners: the data will be critical in helping local authorities as they look to use new planning powers to restrict the way in which homes can be flipped into short-term lets. The Government consulted on the proposals over the summer but have yet to respond to the consultation. I urge the Minister to press on.

Thirdly, I believe that the Government can go further. When we build new homes, there is a risk that they get snapped up by property investors to rent out as short-term letting accommodation, which is why the Government must not only build new homes in the right places but make sure that they get into the right hands. Councils that can demonstrate a high number of holiday lets and second homes in their area should be able to reserve a percentage of new builds for people with a local, family or economic connection to that area.

At the moment, local planning authorities can impose on new developments a planning condition called a local connection test, but I am not aware of councils readily using that power to make sure that local people get first dibs on new homes specifically in tourist destinations. That is why I would like to see councils being able to reserve a percentage of new builds for people with a local, family or economic connection to the area. Under my proposal, the purchaser would have to meet conditions, such as living or working within 25 miles of the property, being born within 25 miles of the property, or having a care network within 25 miles of the property.

Ultimately, we need to strike a better balance, to help local people to rent or buy a home while also supporting tourism.

As ever, my hon. Friend is making an incredibly eloquent speech, with some important points about balance. One of the things that I hope the Minister will talk about is the need for constituencies such as my hon. Friend’s and mine—especially as mine is an island—to use exceptional circumstances to enable us more easily to design a housing policy that protects our landscape, which we need for quality of life and our visitor economy, while at the same time allowing us to relentlessly prioritise our local housing need. The one thing that we all share, apart from living in very beautiful parts of the UK, is that our tourism economy often means that our GDP per head is lower than it is in other parts of the UK, so it is sometimes more difficult for people to buy.

I thank my hon. Friend for making that point. He represents a beautiful constituency which, as an island, has its own unique issues, and I really respect that.

We need to strike a fairer balance so that local people can work in vital local industries such as tourism and hospitality without having to travel miles to get to work. Without workers behind the bar, in the kitchen or at the high street till, the hospitality and tourism industries simply would not exist in constituencies such as mine. Today’s debate goes to the heart of the sustainability of our communities and the south-west. That is why it is so important that we get the balance right.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Charles, and I congratulate the hon. Member for St Austell and Newquay (Steve Double) on securing this debate. Also, I welcome the new Minister, who is the 16th Housing Minister of this Government; the fact that there is such churn in the Department may well be part of the reason why we are struggling so much.

There is a danger that this debate could descend into the sketch about the four Yorkshiremen, as we all talk about the challenges we face. Nevertheless, I will speak as a York woman—at the centre of that—and say a little about York. We have a thriving tourism industry in our city and we really value it. Last year, 8.9 million visitors came to York. Tourism creates 17,000 jobs in the city and is a vital part of our economy, generating £1.7 billion. The city centre generates £1.2 billion. We know how important tourism is to our post-industrial city; in the last 40 years or so, it has really played an important role in our economy.

As everyone has said, though, tourism has its serious consequences. For York, the situation is descending, as many colleagues have said of other areas, into a dire housing crisis. There are consequences from having significant levels of tourism. We can look, first, at house prices in York, where demand outstrips supply. We know that has a real impact on affordability, the ratio for which is 10.9 in York. Last year, the cost of housing in the city went up 23%, pricing people out of local housing. York has the fourth highest rent in the country behind Oxford, Brighton and London.

Some people cannot get into social housing because we simply do not have the supply. If they have to go into the private rented sector, in the BRMA—the broad rental market area—people get just £650 when they are having to pay £1,045 for a two-bedroom property. Will the Minister ensure that there is a deep dive into what is happening with the BMRA? The price is set around such a broad region, and the lower prices in North Yorkshire mean that York is more of an outlier than the other high-priced areas because of the differential in prices. As a result, people cannot go into the private rented sector, so sadly have to go into hostel accommodation or on to the streets. That has to change.

With such high demand, rent is rising faster than the national average. The average increase was 4.9% in England last year and 6.3% in York. It is becoming more inaccessible to rent or to buy and, as so many colleagues have said, that is partly because of the rise in short-term holiday lets. According to AirDNA, we have more than 2,000 such lets in the city, with a 29% increase between August 2021 and August 2023. As a result, we are struggling. We need to bring in regulation.

It is 891 days since I first raised this issue in the House and we are no further forward. It has been 355 days since I introduced a private Member’s Bill in the previous Session. As we heard, the consultation closed on 7 June but we are still waiting for the outcome. Will the Minister say when the Government will bring forward the response to the consultation and legislate to help constituents like mine?

We have heard about using local revenue to address this issue, but there is also national revenue. We have to make sure that whatever system is introduced is compatible with His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, because many people do not pay tax on their property to the Treasury. Some estimate that as much as £6 billion is missing. There is a lot we can do with £6 billion, so we need to address that deficit.

There is a particular issue with the impact of our visitor economy on housing. Will the Minister—and, indeed, the shadow Minister—consider setting up a taskforce to look at the specific issues that press down on the urban, rural and coastal communities with a prevalent visitor economy to ensure that we can address the issues in such areas? The hon. Member for St Austell and Newquay mentioned the impact on the local economy—people are clearly needed in the jobs but unable to live in the area—and our vital public services are not able to provide the staffing required to serve the local community. We also know about the impact on our communities.

Finally, I want to raise the issue of York’s local plan. We are still waiting for its approval. Next year we will mark 70 years as a city, without a local plan. Developers are taking advantage of the lack of a plan and, as many colleagues have said, building high-value accommodation when we have a real need for social and affordable housing in the city. I ask for that plan be expedited so that we can get on and start developing the housing that the city needs.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Charles. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for St Austell and Newquay (Steve Double) for securing this important debate. As always, I agree entirely with him; our constituencies share so many characteristics—although I do dispute where the best tourist destination is.

North Devon has wonderful beaches, the UK’s only surf reserve, remote moorlands and beautiful countryside. It is unsurprising that there is high demand to live in what the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities called a “very attractive” part of the country. The trend accelerated during and after the pandemic, particularly with the stamp duty incentives that enabled many to purchase additional homes by the coast. We are incredibly proud of our tourism sector, which contributes significantly to our local economy. The hospitality sector contributes £229 million and helps to employ more than 8,000 residents in North Devon.

That is all positive news for our economy, but it takes a toll on our housing market. When I talk to business owners in North Devon, they tell me that one of their biggest challenges is staffing, and that the main reason why is the lack of affordable housing that is available for local people to live in all year round. That sentiment is relayed to me across all sectors. Teachers cannot afford to live in the same areas as the schools they teach in, and with property prices more than 10 times higher than average incomes, health and social care workers in particular have little hope of being able to buy or rent a place to live. Even high-earning professions such as dentistry are affected, as demonstrated by the company mydentist being unable to recruit despite offering a £20,000 golden handshake to entice dentists to move into the area.

Housing is the root cause of so many problems in North Devon. I will not say it is a magic wand, but if we freed up and delivered new housing supply, it would allow people to live, work and, most importantly, play a part in the community that they grew up in.

I have spoken before about how the planning system does not account for or factor in the challenges that face rural communities, but I want to focus on a particular problem that is acute in tourist destinations: short-term holiday lets and Airbnbs. In North Devon we have seen a 67% drop in the availability of long-term rentals since the end of the pandemic. Swathes of landlords have evicted their tenants from long-term homes to flip them into short-term lets, and they continue to do so. This week it was reported that the rate of section 21 evictions in Devon was higher than last year.

I know that short-term lets and Airbnbs bring a range of benefits to our tourism economy, but they really have affected the availability and affordability of local rental housing and have inevitably inflated house prices. We must rebalance our housing market so that local people can live and work in the area. I know that the issue of short-term lets will involve cross-Department collaboration; to rebalance the long and short-term rental market, we urgently need to look at the taxation inequalities between those two sectors that were introduced by George Osborne and came fully into effect during the pandemic.

I place so much emphasis on short-term lets because they are properties that would otherwise be let to local people for them to live in all year round. At this time of year, so many of them are empty, creating ghost communities. We have started to make strides with the Levelling-up and Regeneration Act 2023, and I welcome the Department for Culture, Media and Sport’s consultation on a registration scheme for short-term lets, which is a crucial first step for communities to have their say on the availability of housing to rent or buy in their local area. However, I join colleagues by asking, as with so many consultations, what is happening now? I know the consultation has been completed, and my understanding is that there was much support for a scheme, which is now long overdue despite being supported by the industry.

Fundamentally, there needs to be an increase in housing overall, but not just any housing. Indeed, I oppose housing targets because North Devon had built to target, but there is still nowhere affordable for anyone to live. The current preferred design for local housing seems to be massive executive homes, which push property prices ever higher. Communities cannot function without carers, teachers, doctors and nurses, yet they are being forced out because there is simply nowhere for them to live. It is not right that families are about to spend their second Christmas in a holiday park because of the lack of homes.

When the Devon housing commission visited, it observed that we have net migration of retired people into North Devon, and the housing that is built also reflects that trend. Indeed, why would people not want to retire somewhere so stunning? But that puts further pressure on public services, which struggle to fill vacancies due to the housing situation. Yes, we need to build more houses, but the crisis is urgent and we need quick solutions.

There are existing derelict buildings that could be converted into housing. There are liveable areas above shops that could be converted into flats, but that has been stopped because of an 84-year flood risk. People need housing now and every option should be looked into, as the situation will only get worse without intervention. Given this opportunity, I commend to the Minister my council’s Ilfracombe proposal. In North Devon, we are at risk of creating a cross between a care home and a holiday park, and we do not have the staff for either. Tourism is essential to our economy, but it cannot be at the expense of local people finding a home. We can and must find a balance.

It is an honour to serve under your guidance this afternoon, Sir Charles. I pay tribute to the hon. Member for St Austell and Newquay (Steve Double) for bringing a really important debate to this place.

The value of tourism is enormous. I am proud to represent the Lake district, the Yorkshire and Westmorland dales and many other beautiful places that do not happen, for the time being, to be in a national park. We are proud of the fact that there are 18 million visitors to our area every year, that 60,000 jobs in Cumbria are created and sustained by tourism and that there is a £3.5 billion economy. There is much to be proud of, and we also take seriously our role as curators and stewards of this beautiful landscape that millions of people come to visit—it is a privilege for us to take on that role.

However, as right hon. Members and hon. Members have pointed out, we cannot ignore the damaging impact that the lack of regulation has on our housing sector. A consequence is the simple fact that, in our communities, the average house prices are 12 times the average incomes, which is the highest rate in the north of England. During the pandemic, 80% of house sales were to the second home market. Over 50% of the homes in the town of Coniston are not lived in full time and, in the villages in the Langdales—Chapel Stile and Elterwater—over 80% of homes are not lived in.

We have seen the number of short-term lets grow significantly, particularly over the last three years, as well as the eating up of homes that were lived in by the workforce. The Government rightly brought in the moratorium on evictions during the pandemic. They then ended it a year later, and within a matter of weeks, we saw an explosion of people being expelled and evicted from their homes under section 21, with those homes becoming Airbnbs. In the first year following the ending of the eviction ban, there was a 32% increase in the number of holiday lets in South Lakeland alone. A massive number became even more massive, and those were homes that people had been living in.

We have seen section 21 being used by landlords to move from long-term let to short-term let. I am very encouraged that Sykes Cottages has agreed that it will take no properties on to its books that have been made available because somebody was evicted in that way. Airbnb and other platforms have not said that, and I challenge them to follow that example.

The human impact has been massive, with families being uprooted and divided. I am thinking of a couple in Ambleside: he was a chef and she was a teaching assistant, and they had two kids—one was in school and one in nursery. They were evicted from their home; their home became an Airbnb; they had to leave the whole area; their kids were taken out of school; and they have to give up their work and find something else in an entirely different place.

As for the impact on hospitality and tourism, 63% of hospitality and tourism businesses in Cumbria cannot meet the capacity of the demand they have, because they simply do not have the staff to do so.

In the care sector, more than around a third of the beds in our hospitals are full of people we cannot get out of hospitals and into care because there are not the carers. Why is that? Because there is nowhere for the carers to live. The knock-on effect on our hospitals, A&Es, ambulance response times and every part of our health service is huge and tangible.

People who have been offered decent jobs in health and education in our communities have to give back their word once they have checked out the local housing market. I was at the wonderful St Martin and St Mary Primary School in Windemere, headed by the fantastic Mr Towe and his great team. They have lost two to three classes because of a reduction in the number of people who live in those communities full time, and they are not the only school that has faced that impact.

The new builds that we see are not really affordable, so what are the answers? We talk about affordable housing, but “affordable housing” often means 80% of the market value. Well, that is great: a £400,000 home rather than a £500,000 home—a fat lot of good that is to my communities. What must we do? We must have the new planning categories, including the one that the Government have promised in order to make short-term lets a separate category of planning use, giving councils and national parks the power to maintain homes for local people. Like other Members on both sides, I want them to crack on and do what they promised by bringing in the new category of planning use.

I also want the Government to do what they have so far failed to agree to do, which is to make second homes a separate category of planning use. I urge the Government to give national parks and local authorities the enforcement power to make sure that they can retain homes for local communities and local families. When we build new homes, let us give our national parks and councils the powers to enforce and to ensure that every single home that is built is affordable for local people and people who will live locally.

We have to remember that these beautiful places exist in a broken housing market, and that we will see ourselves with broken communities as a consequence of that broken market. We lose our young people, and the most tragic thing is that only the very few wealthiest can return. I urge the Minister to act now to save communities like mine.

I thank my hon. Friend and constituency neighbour, the Member for St Austell and Newquay (Steve Double), for securing this important debate. It is brilliant to see him back on the Back Benches adding his voice on this important issue, as he always does behind the scenes. I welcome the Housing Minister to his place. I feel sorry for any Housing Minister because when they go into their post, they know that a swarm of Conservative MPs from Devon and Cornwall is about to descend on them to discuss this issue. I thank him for being there and taking this on.

I probably could have given the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for St Austell and Newquay word for word. This issue is not new for us, but it has been growing over the past 20 years, and it became instantly acute after covid, for many reasons. We were in this room in May when my hon. Friend the Member for Torbay (Kevin Foster) had a similar debate on short-term holiday lets and the planning system. I looked back at my speech from that day and I could probably repeat it again.

This issue became most acute to me after covid when I had a village constituency surgery in St Agnes on the north coast of my constituency. Within two hours, I had had 15 constituents and families through the doors, and every single one was either being evicted or their rent was going up so much that they could not stay. Pretty much all those properties were going to be flipped into Airbnbs. Since then, as a cohort of south-west Conservative MPs, we have been lobbying the Government to make changes in this area to ensure that we do not let this continue to happen.

I am so grateful that we have closed the business rates loophole, which has been referred to, and that the Government have consulted on a register for holiday lets and change of use for planning. Incidentally, we talked to the industry about potentially licensing holiday lets. That would not be practical or supported, so the register is absolutely what everybody wants to see happen. That makes it easy for Government to go down that road.

Earlier this year, I was invited to a parish meeting—not a parish council meeting— in Veryan on the south coast of my constituency, where a development had recently been put in place and another was proposed. The area was not particularly ideal for the village, but it was the only one on offer at the time. The room was absolutely packed with residents. They were not nimbys asking for this not to happen, but residents saying, “Will this development really be for local people? Will we really see local families being able to raise their children in this village?” Incidentally, almost 80% of the neighbouring village of Portloe is made up of second homes. There are 90 properties, and only one child lives in the whole village.

If we do not do something about this situation soon, our communities will be stripped back. Thankfully, in Veryan, they are twisting and turning and doing everything they can to ensure that those properties will be for local families, but it should not be that difficult for them. Parishes are having to put in all sorts of covenants and measures in perpetuity to ensure that a few years down the line, the homes will not get picked up and moved on to Airbnb.

We can do something about this. We are talking about bricks and mortar. In Cornwall, we have loads of bricks and mortar. We are building houses for the future. We have loads of empty properties above shops in our town centres. Let us look at all the properties we have; either something is going to be a home or it is not, and we can start to differentiate. We know how many homes we need, and we know what everyone else wants to use for an investment. We do not have to demonise investment, but we need to differentiate between the two, so that we always have enough family homes for the people who live there.

It is a pleasure to speak in this debate. I thank the hon. Member for St Austell and Newquay (Steve Double) for setting the scene so well and for leading the debate. I know his constituency has roots in tourism—he said that very clearly—so it is great to be here to support him in his plea to the Government for these changes.

Although the rules on planning and local housing authorities differ between the devolved Administrations, and the Minister will not have a key role to play for us in Northern Ireland, I sympathise with the situation facing the constituents of the hon. Member for St Austell and Newquay in relation to housing provision. It is always good to be here to give the Northern Ireland perspective, as I do in all the debates I come to.

In my Strangford constituency, Ards and North Down Borough Council has a key economic goal, which is that tourism provides jobs and creates wage packets for people. The theme for the council is “work, live and play”, because that is what we want—we want people to work in the constituency, live in the constituency and play in the constituency, so that is what we try to achieve.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and with that in mind, Strangford is undoubtedly, without any fear of question, the most beautiful constituency in the whole United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. That is because of Strangford lough. It is because it is an area of outstanding natural beauty and has a site of special scientific interest. It is a gorgeous place to be. Some of the Minister’s colleagues have already made the journey over to my constituency to enjoy it, and they tell me they will be back, so I look forward to that.

Back home, local councils are advised to reflect the local need resulting from the demand for second homes across Northern Ireland. Our main priority is, of course, providing local homes for local people, but there is no doubting the contribution that short-term lettings make to the economy. As the hon. Member for St Austell and Newquay said, companies such as Airbnb have become so popular in providing short stays in many constituencies across the UK, including mine.

In my constituency, we have seen a definite increase in the number of Airbnb-type stays, and the stats prove that. It is mainly in the town of Newtownards, where the transport links to Belfast city centre are fantastic. Down the local peninsula where I live, we have seen the installation of small home lets in villages such as Ballyhalbert, which overlooks Burr Point, the most easterly part of Northern Ireland and, I think, of all of Ireland. In addition, there is a wonderful B&B in the village of Ballywalter, where I was brought up, right beside the beach, near lots of local family-run shops. These are things that attract. That is why people want to buy their houses there, stay there and play there.

It is worth noting that all tourist accommodation in Northern Ireland must be certified by Tourism NI, which is an independent non-departmental public body of the Department for the Economy. Even though he is not the Minister responsible for it, it would be great to know for the benefit of residents back home whether he has had any discussions with the Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland on ensuring that there is proper regulation of the impact that short lets are having on local constituents’ ability to get private housing. It is important when we have these debates that we share what we know with other regions of the United Kingdom.

Northern Ireland differs from the rest of the United Kingdom in our social housing allocation. In England, most local authorities include residency requirements in their housing allocation schemes. The housing selection scheme in Northern Ireland does not refer to local connection, enabling residents needing urgent rehoming a slightly better chance, as they can be considered anywhere across the Province.

The hon. Member for East Devon (Simon Jupp) talked about the need to find a happy medium, and how true that is. We must ensure that local people have better access to affordable housing in their communities and can live there but also that local economies can thrive within the tourist industry. Local councils must be given the necessary powers to monitor these situations, and the proposed planning provisions would support sustainable communities, supporting local people, local businesses and local services.

It is clear that the Government have taken steps to address these issues in England, but it would be great to know that communication is under way to assess the situation further afield in the devolved nations and to share ideas, strategies and planning laws, so that we take a united approach in ensuring local housing provision for people in all constituencies of this great United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. We are always better together.

I appreciate the warning, Sir Charles; I would never want to interrupt the flow of the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon). I commend my hon. Friend the Member for St Austell and Newquay (Steve Double) for securing the debate. It is great to have him back on the Back Benches, continuing his battles for West Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, Devon and the rest of the south-west.

There is a reason why the areas that we live in and represent become tourist destinations: they are beautiful. Most—I think over 80%—of my constituency is designated in some way or another. People flock down to it. I know that it is the most beautiful part of the country, because I get messages from colleagues all year round telling me that they are down in my patch or have just been there.

It is inevitable, because of the places we represent, that tourists will turn up, and they are welcome. Jobs are created because of the services they need and tourists support rural businesses. Many of our rural shops would probably struggle if tourists did not support them when they visit. Tourists’ contribution to the economy is important, and there is the effect on construction. We have also seen, particularly since covid, that tourists become residents. They purchase property because they enjoy what they see and discover that they can work from home, so they come and live in our beautiful part of the world. Again, that brings jobs and investment and supports rural businesses and construction.

This is not a new thing. I did my apprenticeship 35 years ago as a Cornish mason. I am probably the only one in this place who is a Cornish mason—I am not a freemason; I used to charge. We used to work with slate, stone and obviously the wet trades. Most of my winters were spent working to support the tourist industry or working for people who had purchased properties and were planning to move down. This issue is not new, but it does carry consequences, which we all know of and have heard about this afternoon. It is true that successive Governments have largely allowed free market principles to determine the destiny of these communities. I am glad that this Government are recognising that the situation cannot carry on and intervention is needed.

As we heard, our communities have been hollowed out. Pubs, schools, post offices and shops have closed. The lights are turned off in the winter; that is common in some villages in the area I represent. More importantly and more concerningly, older, vulnerable people become even more isolated and alone—that is really tragic, and if Members are interested in that, I have a debate on the subject next week. The Government have introduced various ways to deals with this issue, including Help to Buy, stamp duty premiums and levelling up and regeneration, which we have heard about a lot today.

The truth is that a secure home is one of the most important things we can deliver for our constituents. The stress levels of families, as well as their health, their children’s education and family wellbeing are all impacted by whether they have a secure and affordable home. That is the only reason why we are all here this afternoon. Ensuring the right balance of local homes and holiday accommodation brings with it many benefits, as we work to strengthen local communities and create places to live, work and raise a family.

Those of us representing tourist areas face a challenge, but that challenge offers huge opportunities to restore communities who feel left behind. Ramping up house building in the right places to meet local need is a really important way of addressing skills shortages and supporting pubs, schools, post offices and so on. Perhaps the Minister would like to have a word with planning departments, which seem to stand in the way of our seeing houses built in parts of the land that are ideal for supporting rural communities. Maybe he could encourage them to help rather than hinder the building of the right homes in the right places to support those communities.

Building homes ramps up skills and enables young people to stay in the local area and be part of their community, having a secure, well-paid job. Historic England has just released an important study about where the skills shortages are across every constituency, focusing particularly on existing homes and how we resolve those shortages. We must also fix rural service funding. If we fix the funding of rural areas, recognising that tourism demands certain services that other places perhaps do not need, putting pressure on the NHS, policing and so on, we can begin to build good, strong communities.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Charles. I congratulate the hon. Member for St Austell and Newquay (Steve Double) on securing this important debate. I understand that this issue particularly impacts his constituency, a hub of tourism. I quite enjoyed hearing the Cornwall MPs arguing about which part of Cornwall is the best. I have to admit that I have never visited Cornwall, but I do have a brother who lives in Plymouth, so I am sure I will be in that part of the world soon.

Short-term lets and rentals are a devolved matter for Holyrood to legislate on, and the UK Government would benefit greatly from replicating the Scottish Government’s strides in establishing a licence system for short-term lets, which I will outline in greater detail later. The hon. Members for York Central (Rachael Maskell) and for St Ives (Derek Thomas) were correct in raising not only the essential role of short-term lets in the tourist economy—both in their individual constituencies and across the four nations—but the need to balance that against the impact on local people.

Scotland’s growing tourism sector is a success story. For a variety of different reasons, many of those who visit my beautiful country choose short-term lets over traditional hotels as their preferred accommodation. Sir Charles, if you will indulge me, as a proud Scot—and the only Scot in the room, as far as I am aware—I will outline how popular Scotland is as a tourist destination. I will also raise the differences in people’s attitudes post pandemic, because we also have to consider the impact post pandemic when we talk about this issue.

In 2022, Scotland saw a strong rebound in international travel. A total of 3.2 million visits were made to Scotland by international visitors, who stayed for 29.7 million nights and spent £3,151 million. Scotland is not only attracting people from across the globe; it is fair to say that, since the pandemic, people’s attitudes towards holidays, including short breaks, have changed significantly. Whereas European cities were seen as the go-to for holiday destinations before, people across the rest of the UK now see Scotland as a destination. In 2022, they took 13.5 million overnight trips in Scotland, with 40.9 million nights and £3.4 billion spent overall.

I take this opportunity to place on the record my thanks to the VisitScotland team for all they do to advocate Scotland and to promote it as a tourist destination. The team has found five segments of tourists who are most likely to visit Scotland and the type of accommodation they would stay in. The five are adventure-seekers, who are folk who would be looking to climb our stunning Munros; curious travellers, who are folk who want to take in the deep history of Scotland; engaged sightseers, who are folk who like to wander around our many beautiful wee villages; food-loving culturalists, who are folk who want to try our uniquely Scottish foods—from potato scones, to Cullen skink, to my personal favourite, Irn-Bru; and natural advocates, who are folk who enjoy being outdoors and exploring, for example, the numerous parks Scotland has to offer. VisitScotland has found that the people in the first four groups are most likely to stay in hotels, whereas most natural advocates are likely to stay in self-catering accommodation and short-term lets. For various reasons, hotels are not always an option for some types of tourists, and it is important that legislation reflects that, so that people are not priced out of their local communities.

Like the hon. Member for St Austell and Newquay, I am not anti-tourist—the SNP is not anti-tourist—but it is important that protections are in place. I was taken aback when he said that 12% of homes in the UK lie empty as second homes. I was particularly interested to hear the hon. Member for East Devon (Simon Jupp) raise concerns about seasonality and homes lying empty during the winter months. The hon. Member for North Devon (Selaine Saxby) also raised that concern and spoke about there being ghost communities at this time of year.

I am delighted that so many people want to visit Scotland, even if they do sometimes struggle to understand our accent. But with so many people visiting, the demand for accommodation has also increased. Although, that demand has traditionally been met by hotels, we are seeing a huge rise in the number of short-term lets. Although that has, of course, brought economic benefit to communities, it has also placed immense pressures on local housing provision, and the issues have been raised by the hon. Members for North Devon, for Strangford (Jim Shannon), and for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Tim Farron). The hon. Member for Truro and Falmouth (Cherilyn Mackrory) talked about a parish meeting and raised concerns about a village with only one child and with folk being priced out.

For both rural and urban communities, the rapid rise of platforms such as Airbnb has meant that families are often priced out of areas they call home. In Scotland, this was particularly prevalent in our highlands and islands communities, but also for those seeking to get on to the property ladder in cities such as Edinburgh. Following three public consultations, the Scottish Parliament passed legislation in January 2022 introducing a licensing scheme for short-term lets. From October this year, it has become mandatory for all short-term lets to be registered with the local authority. The legislation gave local authorities the power to designate control areas to manage high concentrations of short-term lets. Within such areas, a host needs to seek planning permission to change the use of a home.

Separately, the Scottish Government will continue to look at the tax treatment of short-term lets. Alongside implementing greater control over which properties become short-term lets, they have introduced licensing safeguards for electrical standards and gas certificate compliance to provide assurances for guests. Those measures, which bring short-term lets in line with other accommodation, such as hotels and caravan parks, ensure that such businesses are well managed.

Scottish Government Ministers also met short-term let businesses from across Scotland to ensure that the views of the sector were heard and integrated in planning policy. The progress made by the Scottish Government in this area sees increased devolution to local councils, allowing them to better react to the needs of local people. The powers have been successfully implemented in Edinburgh, which introduced the first control area designed to manage the high number of short-term lets. Devolving these powers to the local level puts power in the hands of local authorities so that they can strike a balance between meeting the needs of communities and promoting tourism. The licensing scheme also brings in additional revenue for councils, allowing them to fund the management of the scheme.

Striking that balance is so important. The domino effect is that tourism is a significant sector in Scotland and a major employer, representing 7% of all workers. However, despite successful growth, the industry still faces many challenges. Scotland continues to struggle with the disastrous impacts of Brexit, with the industry facing worker shortages. We will continue to push for immigration powers to be devolved to Scotland, and we echo the calls made by UKHospitality Scotland and the Scottish Tourism Alliance to set up a special Scottish visa for hospitality staff to help meet that demand.

The licensing scheme brought forward in Scotland offers a model that maintains the benefits that short-term lets bring, while protecting the needs of local communities that would otherwise be displaced by the increased prevalence of short-term lets. I look forward to the Minister’s response, and I highly encourage the UK Government to follow the Scottish Government’s lead in this regard.

It is a pleasure to see you in the Chair, Sir Charles. I start by congratulating the hon. Member for St Austell and Newquay (Steve Double) on securing the debate. I also welcome the Housing Minister to his role. Reference has been made to the rapidity of changes in the identity of the Housing Minister. One wonders whether, with such a rapid turnover in the occupants of the Housing Department, it should be sponsored by Airbnb.

The hon. Member for St Austell and Newquay set out very well the challenges facing his constituency: the pressure on the housing market, the issues with recruitment, and the stark disparity between the average house price and the average wage in Cornwall. He was right to welcome the increase in local housing allowance and to mention the pressure placed on parish councils—all local authorities will recognise that.

My hon. Friend the Member for City of Chester (Samantha Dixon) showed what an excellent Member of Parliament she is and what an excellent council leader she was in bringing back council housing. She now has a third role as an excellent advocate for the Chester tourist board, because she spoke glowingly about the wonderful attractions in Chester. However, she really identified the nub of the issue, which is how right to buy has turned into private rented sector lets, which have turned into short-term lets. That is really at the root of the problems we are discussing. As an MP with a neighbouring constituency, I can see that the pressures Chester is experiencing are having an impact on the wider housing market.

The hon. Member for East Devon (Simon Jupp) spoke about the balance that needs to be struck between the competing demands in his area. That is absolutely the right way to look at this issue.

It was a pleasure to hear from my hon. Friend the Member for York Central (Rachael Maskell). She spoke in stark terms about the pressures in York, with a 23% increase in house prices and the fourth highest rents in the country. However, she also talked about a £6 billion tax deficit—money that is not reaching the Exchequer—and I am sure my colleagues in the shadow Treasury team will be looking at that with interest. She also made the important point that this is a cross-departmental issue and that a taskforce approach should be considered. I will certainly take that point back to others in the team.

Cross-departmental approaches were also raised by the hon. Member for North Devon (Selaine Saxby), so it is absolutely clear that there is more than one tool in the arsenal that we can use. She also mentioned the pressures this issue puts on education and dentistry, and I think we all recognise the pressures that those parts of the public sector face.

The hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Tim Farron) talked about average house prices in his constituency being 12 times average incomes. I think we can all see why it is absolutely impossible for young people, in particular, to get on the housing ladder when they face these issues. The hon. Member was also right to raise the impact these issues have on recruitment in the hospitality and care sectors.

The hon. Members for Truro and Falmouth (Cherilyn Mackrory), for Strangford (Jim Shannon) and for St Ives (Derek Thomas) also all spoke with great passion and sincerity about the issues this subject brings up. To summarise the crux of those issues, it is clear that the housing problems in tourist hotspots have spiralled over the last decade and that the Government have not got a handle on the situation. As a result, local people are facing deep problems in accessing affordable housing.

Those who live year round in some of the most beautiful parts of the country are being squeezed out by the owners of second homes and the proliferation of short-term lets. People who have grown up in an area, who work there and who are the bedrock of the community now feel secondary to those who spend just a portion of their time there. I think we can all see how that direction of travel has hollowed out communities, and the consequences that can flow from that.

Having said that, as other Members have said, there is clearly a balance to be struck—one I think we all appreciate. Tourism is crucial to local economies, and indeed to regional and national economies, and many local communities rely on an influx of visitors to keep their economies going. In some places, tourism is the No.1 income generator, and we cannot ignore that. The availability of accommodation is also an important element in attracting people to visit a particular destination.

However, I reiterate that a balance has to be struck. For these destinations to thrive, there needs to be a community that underpins the hospitality at attractions; otherwise, who will be there to run the services that both visitors and locals rely on? Unfortunately, I think that that balance has got out of kilter in recent years, and the consequences that flow from that have been set out today.

Demand for housing has spiralled in many tourist destinations across the country. It was reported that, in the south-west alone, 3,000 new holiday and second homes were listed during the pandemic, while the number of homes listed for normal letting halved and rents increased significantly. In Wales during that period, there was a 5% increase in the number of holiday lets, with average rents rising from £155 to £181 a week. As a consequence, house prices in those areas have spiked.

The ONS reported in September 2021 that house prices were rising at three times the national rate in some of these areas—places such as Conwy, north Devon and Richmondshire have experienced increases of more than 20%, continuing trends that had begun in the pandemic. A report published today by the CPRE shows that demand for short-term lettings grew by 661% in Cornwall in the five years to September 2021, and by 1,231% in South Lakeland between 2016 and 2020. Nationally, the number of short-term lets has increased by more than 1,000% since 2015. This is not just one part of the country; it is north, south, east and west—every place that has significant tourism activity is seeing the same. For many people in many parts of the country, the cost of purchasing a home is already out of reach; in these tourist areas, that dream is even more unobtainable for too many people.

This issue stretches far beyond the challenge of actual home ownership. In Cornwall, for example, 15,000 families are on waiting lists for social housing, which, coincidentally, is the number of properties being marketed as holiday lets. In South Lakeland, roughly half the families in need of social housing could be accommodated in the properties that are made exclusively available for holiday lets. In Cumbria more widely, the 4% decline in privately rented properties has coincided with a 14% increase in social housing waiting lists since 2016. In Devon, it is clear that short-term lets are making problems worse, with 4,000 homes taken out of the private rented sector, but 11,000 added to the short-term lets sector since 2016. Those damning statistics lay bare the impact of what happens when the balance is out of kilter. Does the Minister accept that there is a clear link between the number of private rented properties and short-term lets?

It is beyond doubt that the deregulated nature of the short-term letting sector is deeply problematic. There needs to be an overhaul of the regulatory framework. We would also argue that there is now a watertight case for giving local authorities that are struggling to cope with this issue the necessary powers to protect the sustainability and cohesion of their communities.

Reforms have been attempted on a small scale, but nothing substantial has been done to get to grips with the problem. For example, Members have talked about the consultation conducted and completed in June, and I am sure all Members will want to hear from the Minister about when it will be published. But this piecemeal, foot-dragging approach is patently not enough to tackle the deep problems faced in our communities. The Government are still opposed to, for example, the introduction of a discretionary licensing scheme of the kind the Opposition have proposed on numerous occasions. We believe that such a scheme would be part of the solution to tackling this issue.

We welcome the consultation on the new planning use class, just as we welcome the commitment to introduce a new discretionary registration scheme. However, there is a sting in the tail—giving with one hand but taking away with the other—because the new consultation also invites views on introducing new permitted development rights that would in fact make it easier to convert dwelling houses into short-term lets. Perhaps the Minister can explain the rationale for including that in the consultation and how it will help with the problems we have been discussing. I encourage hon. Members to see what investors are saying about that part of the consultation. They are happy with the consultation overall because it is light-touch and it will make it incredibly attractive and easy for them to continue to convert properties into short-term lets.

The time has gone to recognise that this is an issue; the time has gone for sticking-plaster solutions. Communities urgently require a response that is up to the scale of the problem they face. We urge the Government to accelerate the introduction of the discretionary registration scheme and to legislate for the introduction of a new planning use class for short-term lets without delay. Nothing less than a full array of planning and non-planning tools is needed to appropriately regulate the number of short-term holiday lets. If this Government will not get on with it, they should step aside and leave it to a Government that will.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Charles. I start by congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for St Austell and Newquay (Steve Double) on securing this important debate. I know that colleagues in Cornwall and Devon have returned to this issue time and time again and that there are very strong views about it. As clear advocates of their constituencies, they have highlighted the issues they see in their individual areas. I particularly thank my hon. Friend the Member for St Austell and Newquay for all the work he has done with colleagues, both today and more broadly, to highlight this issue.

The hon. Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Justin Madders) talked about the role of Housing Minister being sponsored by a certain company, and I liked the role so much that I came back a second time. I recall some of the discussions I had when I was first in this position, and the issue before us was one of the bigger ones raised by colleagues who are in the room today. In my first debate back in this role, it is a pleasure to be able to talk about it and to understand the continuing challenges faced in not just the south-west but other parts of the country. Colleagues have seen first hand, and have heard from constituents about, the benefits of tourism but also the challenges that come with it. I pay tribute to all the work they do.

As my hon. Friend the Member for East Devon (Simon Jupp) rightly highlighted, there is a balance to strike. First, in responding on behalf of the Government, I acknowledge, as all hon. Members have done, the benefits of tourism. It is an economic, social and cultural asset, and it is hugely valuable for parts of the country such as not only Cornwall and Devon, but mine in North East Derbyshire. It employs 1.7 million people and contributed nearly £74 billion, pre-pandemic. Up to one in five jobs in Cornwall is supported by it, and that is one of the reasons why we need to get this right—so that people who work in the sector can live. My hon. Friend the Member for North Devon (Selaine Saxby) highlighted the staffing challenges.

To enjoy the tourism offer, people need somewhere to stay and to rest. This is not a new issue, but it has come into sharper relief in the past 10 or 15 years, particularly with the rise in digital platforms and the sharing economy. That change has accentuated the offer in many parts of the country, but it has also created significant challenges, which were outlined.

Tourism has brought benefits, but we know and have heard about the challenges and the impact on communities, including the growing number of lets, which limits the availability of housing for people permanently resident in the community, and the reduction in the permanent population. That translates into problems for families and neighbourhoods, and issues with public services. Those are problems of popularity, of desire, and of people wanting to experience and enjoy the benefits of such areas, but as colleagues have indicated, they are still problems, on which it is reasonable and proportionate to take action.

As I am sure hon. Members will appreciate, the same issues do not apply in all parts of the country. We have to be cautious in how we approach this issue, to ensure that we deal appropriately with the different challenges and opportunities found in the south-west and in the city of Chester, which the hon. Member for City of Chester (Samantha Dixon) highlighted. Areas such as mine might not face the same kind of tourist issues as other areas, despite it being even prettier than Cornwall, Devon, and Strangford—a point that I will take up separately with the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon).

Hon. Friends and colleagues have asked me to talk about our work in Government, but it has been described already, so I will not go through it in extraordinary detail. As has been outlined, my colleagues in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport have consulted on a registration scheme that we intend to introduce under the Levelling-up and Regeneration Act 2023, which received Royal Assent a short time ago. That is a tool to provide local authorities with stronger evidence. It was consulted on earlier this year, with more than 2,500 responses received. We are part of the way through analysing those receipts, and the Government will respond as soon as we can. I assure the House that I have heard what Members say about the importance of moving quickly, and I will pass that back to colleagues in my Department, and in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

I am usually delighted to give way, but given the limited time, I will demur in this instance. On the consultation on use-class changes and short-term lets, I have heard clearly that there is a desire for clarity and speed. We are moving as quickly as we can. The hon. Member for Airdrie and Shotts (Ms Qaisar) highlighted the Scottish example, which I will refrain from commenting on, apart from to emphasise that it took four years and a delay to get to that point. I do not anticipate ours being a four-year journey, but we need to ensure that we do this correctly, and work through the issue in the depth that it deserves. I assure hon. Members that we will try to do that in the time we have available. Given that I have made up a little time, I am happy to hear the hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Tim Farron).

The Minister is a good man. During my enjoyable time on the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill Committee, his predecessor guaranteed to me that the change in planning use class for short-term lets would come in this April. Can he deliver on that promise?

I am happy to talk about that separately. I will try to move that as quickly as I can, recognising that we have had a large number of consultation responses, which we are working through as quickly as we can.

In the few minutes I have left, I turn to some of the points made. My hon. Friend the Member for St Austell and Newquay, who secured the debate, raised a concern about the implications for parish councils. I am grateful to him for doing so, both in the debate and a short time before. I spoke with officials in advance of the debate, and we are unsure about some of the challenges that are experienced. I am very happy to receive direct information on that from the parish council in Mevagissey—I tried to pronounce that; I hope that gives me some credit. If the parish council gets a power of competence, as it can, it should be able to spend the money that it talks about in a more flexible way. I am happy to speak to my hon. Friend about that, if that is helpful.

My hon. Friend the Member for East Devon rightly talked about balance, and the importance of the broader tourist ecosystem, as did my hon. Friend the Member for North Devon. The hon. Member for York Central (Rachael Maskell) talked about a taskforce, but I think we have clarity about the challenges, at least as far as I can see from this initial debate with colleagues who are impacted by tourism. The need now is to move at the greatest pace to hopefully bring in measures that we have said we are looking at.

My hon. Friend the Member for Truro and Falmouth (Cherilyn Mackrory) highlighted some of the more extreme instances of these issues; in particular, she mentioned the single child in Portloe, who is now in school. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Strangford for the Northern Ireland perspective, as ever. This is day 11 in this job, and I have not yet spoken specifically to colleagues in Northern Ireland, but I look forward to doing so through our inter-ministerial groups.

My hon. Friend the Member for St Ives (Derek Thomas) talked about the importance of building housing, and the opportunities to build it in the right place. That is absolutely at the core of what we are trying to do in the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities: to build more housing, but in the right place. Where there are opportunities in rural areas as well as urban ones, we should take them.

Finally, given the comments from the hon. Members for Ellesmere Port and Neston, and for City of Chester, let me gently ensure some balance in this debate, in the short time that I have left. I understand that we have challenges around housing, but taking a broader perspective, home ownership has started to rise again in this country for the first time in many years. It is important for that to be recognised and anticipated. Three of the years with the greatest house building in this country have been in the last five years. We also have the largest number of first-time buyers in many years. There is always more to do—I would not want to suggest otherwise, particularly in this debate, when there are specific, localised issues that need to be dealt with—but that needs to be placed in the wider context of the progress that is being made.

I conclude by saying again how grateful I am for the opportunity to debate this important issue, and I recognise the challenge in individual areas. We have to get the balance right, and recognise that there are many different circumstances, as well as areas that are impacted and those that are not. The impact may be felt in differently in different parts of the country. I acknowledge and recognise the points made, the challenge that has been set for us to move as quickly as possible, and the opportunity to make progress on this issue, for the benefit of all the areas represented in the debate.

I thank all colleagues here, from right across the country, for contributing to this debate. It is clear that the challenges we all face in tourist areas are very similar. There is a very clear message for the Minister and the Government about the situation we face and the need for action.

I welcome the Minister’s response. On the consultation on planning for change of use, I absolutely understand the need to get the proposals right, but I am pleased that he has clearly got the message not to take too long getting it right. He is absolutely right: a when it comes to planning regulations, a one-size-fits-all approach across the country is probably not right. We need something flexible enough to address the needs of specific areas, rather than a blanket approach.

To conclude, all I ask is that the people I represent, who were born and grew up in some of the most beautiful and popular parts of the country, have the right to continue to live in their community—to buy or rent a house in the place that has been their home, as they deserve. That is what we seek to achieve. At the moment, too many are not able to do that; we simply want the Government to continue to act, so that future generations can do that.

Motion lapsed (Standing Order No. 10(6)).