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Week in Westminster - 14 July 2017

Week in Westminster

Published: 17 July 2017 | Author: Michelle Vosper

During the week which marked the first anniversary of her premiership, Theresa May  called on Labour for their support in delivering Brexit and other legislation following the loss of her parliamentary majority.

The Repeal Bill, published yesterday, is a key piece of legislation for the Brexit process. The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill will repeal the European Communities Act 1972, and is designed to convert all existing EU legislation into British law. These laws will then be subject to amendment by the UK Parliament at a later date. The Bill is unlikely to have a smooth passage through Parliament. Labour has vowed to vote against the legislation unless serious changes are made to the proposals suggested in the White Paper, and the SNP are insistent that powers repatriated from the EU must be devolved.

The Secretary of State for Exiting the EU David Davis provided an update on the Brexit talks to EU Select Committee. On transitional arrangements, Mr Davis said the government will attempt to get to a point of decision by the March 2019 deadline so that financial services firms and others have enough time to make changes and avoid a cliff edge scenario. If you would like to see a summary of this evidence session, please let me know.

Meanwhile, the All Party Parliamentary Group for Excellence in the Built Environment has warned that Brexit could prove “disastrous” for the delivery of new homes and infrastructure unless transitional arrangements are put in place. Their report, Building on Brexit, sets out a 12-point plan to deal with the impact of Brexit on skills and for modernising the industry to become more competitive and productive going forward.

Select committee elections

Conservative MP Nicky Morgan has been elected the new chair of the Treasury Select Committee. Her priorities for the Committee, taken from her nomination statement, include: Brexit; tax policy; household debt; “quizzing ministers on economic policy”; and the lack of gender diversity in financial services. Ms Morgan also said she would like to re-open  some of the inquiries cut short because of the General Election, most notably on housing policy and the retail banking market review.

Labour MP Clive Betts returns as Chair of the Communities and Local Government Select Committee. In his nomination statement, Mr Betts highlighted the need to increase housebuilding; securing sustainable, affordable housing; devolution; reform of adult social care funding; and the impact of Brexit on councils’ powers and resources. He also highlighted the need for an urgent review of the Grenfell Tower disaster in terms of building regulations and emergency planning and response.

Housing and mortgages

The Mortgage Interest Regulations 2017 have been laid. On 5 April 2018 Support for Mortgage Interest will be replaced by a loan as part of the Government’s welfare reform agenda. These regulations facilitate this change.

Conservative MP John Redwood introduced a Westminster Hall debate on housing supply. He set out the benefits of home ownership and suggested more effort is needed to get people onto the housing ladder. While Mr Redwood welcomed Government initiatives to drive up construction of new homes and the issue of affordability for first-time buyers, he asked whether these initiatives could be “beefed up and better advertised”. In particular, he suggested more help could be offered through the Help to Buy ISA and that the Help to Buy Equity Loan scheme extended to cover second hand homes. Speaking for the Opposition, Shadow Housing Minister Tony Lloyd MP felt that the Government should give social landlords the opportunity to develop properties “tenure blind” to increase the number of homes they put on the market. Housing and Planning Minister Alok Sharma MP reiterated the Government’s commitment to deliver a million new homes by the end of 2020 and half a million more by the end of 2022. He also referred to the various measures set out in the Government’s Housing White Paper.

There were a number of parliamentary questions on the subject of leasehold this week.

  • Labour MP Justin Madders asked when the consultation on leasehold reform would be published, and what the Government would consider as “acceptable terms” in respect of leasehold property sold under the Help to Buy scheme. The Housing Minister responded that the Government would consult on leasehold reform and the consideration of wider reforms, in the “medium-term”.  On leasehold in respect of Help to Buy, the Minister said the Government is “working with UK Finance, lenders and the leasehold sector to identify abuses and promote more acceptable lease terms”.
  • Labour MP Hilary Benn raised questions asking what steps the Government is taking in respect of the practice of developers selling new houses on a leasehold basis, and on investigating the fairness of charges levied by housebuilders and others on home owners seeking to buy the freehold of their property.  
  • During Business Questions, Conservative MP Craig Tracey called for an urgent debate to explore an industry-wide solution to the “exploitation of leaseholders”.

The proportion of households buying with a mortgage has declined from 42% to 39% over the last two decades, according to the 2015/16 English Housing Survey. The Survey also shows the trend of outright owners increasing - between 2005/06 and 2015/16 the proportion increased from 31% to 34%.

Over at the Welsh Assembly, the Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee has published its Stage 1 report on the Abolition of the Right to Buy and Association Rights (Wales) Bill.

And finally, the think tank ResPublica launched a new report detailing the economic and social benefits that a National Housing Fund would deliver, ensuring that at least 40,000 more homes are built a year.