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MPs debate the housing bill and flood issues during first week of 2016

Week in Westminster

Published: 8 January 2016 | Author: Michelle Vosper

MPs debated the Housing and Planning Bill during day one of its Commons report stage this week. An inordinately large number of government amendments, new clauses and schedules were agreed to.

The debate started with consideration of some opposition and backbench amendments in respect of starter homes. Shadow housing minister Roberta Blackman-Woods forced a vote on an amendment that would have resulted in the discount on these properties being made on a permanent basis. Responding, housing minister Brandon Lewis confirm that regulations would contain post sale restrictions on sale and letting so that starter homes could not be sold on the open market for a period of time, likely to be five years,  after the initial purchase. And he defended the idea that purchasers of starter homes should have the same rights as any other homeowner in order to allow upward mobility.

The government introduced a substantial number of new clauses to the Bill to reduce social housing regulation. The minister explained the government’s objective is to deregulate housing associations and move them “back into the private sector”. New government clauses on planning were also added to the legislation. The Bill will have its final report stage and third reading debate on Tuesday 12 January before passing to the House of Lords for consideration.

Answering questions from Jeremy Corbyn on flooding, the prime minister said the government is introducing the Flood Re scheme “so that every single household can get insured”. This is despite the fact that the scheme will not cover properties built since 2009 and will also exclude commercially insured properties (including most leasehold flats and privately rented properties). Later during prime minister’s question time, when Conservative MP Nigel Evans pointed out that Flood Re will not cover houses built since 2009 or any business, David Cameron said that the government were looking at the issue of businesses in respect of the scheme. He said: “What we have heard so far is a number of anecdotal stories, with small businesses saying that it will be difficult to get insurance. Meanwhile, the insurance companies are telling us that they will not turn down any small businesses, so we need to get to the bottom of this. That is absolutely key before we get to the final introduction of Flood Re in April this year”.

Flooding was also the subject of an opposition day debate, during which a number of MPs also raised the issue of Flood Re and its exclusions urging the government to look at this again.

The prime minister made an announcement this week of the direct commissioning of house building on fives sites, up to 40% of which will be starter homes. The government also announced a £1.2million starter home fund to prepare brownfield sites for new homes.

And according to the chancellor, this year is “mission critical” for the economy. Speaking to business leaders in Cardiff, George Osborne warned about “a creeping complacency in the national debate about our economy” highlighting continued risks from abroad and pressing the need to “finish the job”. During his speech, Mr Osborne announced the publication of a consultation on the structure and operation of the National Infrastructure Commission set up last year and led by Lord Adonis.