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Brexit bill published, but housing white paper yet to make an appearance

Week in Westminster

Published: 27 January 2017 | Author: Michelle Vosper

On Tuesday the Supreme Court delivered its verdict that the UK government does indeed need the approval of MPs and peers to leave the European Union. In light of this decision, on Thursday the government published the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill designed to secure parliamentary approval for triggering Article 50 and commence the Brexit process. The government wants the Common stages of the Bill concluded before the parliamentary recess on 9 February.



The Commons timetable looks like this:

Second reading (day 1) Tuesday 31 January
Second reading (day 2) Wednesday 1 February
Committee stage (day 1) Monday 6 February
Committee stage (day 2) Tuesday 7 February
Committee stage (conclusion) and remaining stages Wednesday 8 February

National policy for the built environment

Peers debated the report of an ad hoc Lords select committee on national policy for the built environment. References to the publication of the housing white paper were made during this debate. In response, DCLG minister Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth said: “we are expecting it shortly, although not necessarily next week, which I think is unlikely. We hope to have it before the report [of the Neighbourhood Planning Bill] and I am certainly pressing for that.” Report stage of the Neighbourhood Planning Bill will not take place until after Parliament returns from recess on 20 February.

Housing white paper

The Communities secretary Sajid Javid also spoke about the housing white paper this week in a speech to the Local Government Association. He said the government’s plan for getting homes built would be published “shortly” and alluded to the delay being because they wanted to get it right to ensure it makes the “biggest impact on the housing shortage” as possible. He went on to say:

“It wouldn’t be right for me to reveal everything that’s in the white paper before it’s published. But I will say this much. I’m not going to be tinkering around the edges. The white paper will set out serious, lasting, long-term reforms that will boost housing supply immediately and for many years to come. I know you’ve heard that before. But this white paper isn’t just about changing guidelines or passing legislation or cutting red tape. It’s about a whole new mind set. A whole new attitude to house building at all levels – in central government, in the building industry and, yes, in local government too.”

Some commentators are now reporting 6 February as the possible publication date…

Support for Mortgage Interest

From April 2018, government will provide Support for Mortgage Interest via a loan rather than as a benefit. In answer to a parliamentary question, the minister responsible for welfare delivery Caroline Nokes confirmed that the recovery of loans, which will not have to be repaid until the property is sold, “will be limited to the amount of available equity. Where this is insufficient to enable the loan to be fully recovered, the outstanding balance will be written off.”

And finally...

Michelle O’Neil has been announced as the new leader of Sinn Fein replacing Martin McGuiness who decided not to stand for the upcoming Northern Ireland Assembly elections. Should Sinn Fein or the Democratic Unionists return as the two biggest parties after the elections on 2 March, Ms O’Neil will be faced with another round of negotiations to restore the share of power at Stormont. The Assembly had its last sitting day ahead of the election this week.