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The chancellor makes his annual Mansion House speech

Week in Westminster

Published: 12 June 2015 | Author: Michelle Vosper

The chancellor made his annual Mansion House speech to the City this week. George Osborne announced the government’s intention to sell its £23bn stake in the Royal Bank of Scotland. He said that any delay in the sale could be bad for the economy, despite the fact that it would yield a £7bn loss compared with the initial bailout costs in 2008. Mr Osborne also revealed another part of his “long term economic plan” in his speech, his plan to set in law that future governments in “normal” times “should run a budget surplus to bear down on debt and prepare for an uncertain future”.

Housing was the subject of the first Commons opposition day debate of the parliamentary session. A large number of MPs contributed to this debate, with some using the opportunity to make their maiden speeches.

Introducing the debate, communities secretary Emma Reynolds called the government to take measures to address the housing crisis by building more homes, boosting home ownership and improving the situation for private renters. Ms Reynolds highlighted concerns about the proposed extension of right to buy, saying the government plans were “half baked” and did not contain measures to replace council homes sold off.

SNP work and pensions spokesperson Dr Eilidh Whiteford claimed that austerity had impacted the housing stock by affecting the ability of social landlords to invest in new housing, whilst devolved and local governments were less able to meet housing stock. Dr Whiteford noted that ending the right to buy in Scotland has helped the Scottish government keep a hold of 15,000 council homes. She went on to say, “social hosing remains a foundational piece of the housing jigsaw, possibly more so now than ever, as the spiralling property prices of recent decades have made home ownership increasingly unattainable for people on ordinary incomes.”

Responding to the debate, communities secretary Greg Clark said that the new Housing Bill would help more people across the country to buy their own home and build more homes. He said 275,000 extra affordable homes would be built, while 95,000 new homes would be built on brownfield housing zones by 2020 and a new London land commission would coordinate development in the Capital. He concluded that the government was “for the ladder, not the queue” and supported the aspirations of working people to buy a home A large number of MPs contributed to this debate, with some using the opportunity to make their maiden speeches.

Housing was also the subject of oral questions in the Lords, instigated by Baroness Gardner of Parkes who asked about the government’s plans for consulting on its proposals to extend right to buy to housing association properties. The minister replied that DCLG officials were already engaged with key stakeholders on this issue.

The government right to buy plans were also the subject of some 20+ written questions in the Commons, mostly tabled by Emma Reynolds who asked various questions about how the scheme would operate in practice. The housing minister’s stock answer to most of these questions was:  “The development of the policy is ongoing, and details will be set out in the impact assessment when the Housing Bill is published.”

Nominations for the select committee chairs closed this week. Andrew Tyrie and Clive Betts were unopposed so will automatically assume the chairmanship of the Treasury committee and Communities and Local Government committee respectively. The ballot for the remaining committee chairs will take place on 17 June. The rest of the committee membership will be elected in proportion to the membership of the House of Commons over the next few weeks.

A petition in support of former MP Andrew George’s Affordable Homes Bill introduced in the last parliamentary session has been signed by 1072 individuals. The petition is calling for the bill to be allowed to progress and urges the government to bring forward a money resolution to allow the Bill to make progress.