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The new PM, chancellor and housing minister answer MPs' oral questions for the first time

Week in Westminster

Published: 22 July 2016 | Author: Michelle Vosper

Theresa May completed her new government over the weekend. Most important to the industry is the appointment of Croydon Central MP Gavin Barwell as housing and planning minister, and Brighton, Kemptown MP Simon Kirby as economic secretary to the Treasury. No 10 has published a list of the new government in full. No 10 has also revealed that the prime minister has created, and will chair, three new cabinet committees on the economy and industrial strategy; social reform; and on Brexit and trade.

On Monday, Angela Eagle stepped aside in the Labour leadership race, leaving Owen Smith as the sole candidate to challenge Jeremy Corbyn. Hustings are now underway, and the results of the contest will be announced on 24 September, the eve of the Labour Party annual conference.

Starter homes

Starter homes and the £450,000 upper limit in London was one of the issues raised by Jeremy Corbyn during Mrs May’s first prime minister’s questions. She said: “I have sat on these Benches and heard him raise that with my right hon. Friend the Member for Witney [Mr Cameron] on a number of occasions when he was prime minister. Can I just explain this to the leader of the opposition? If he looks at house prices across the country, he will see that they vary. In Liverpool, the average house price is just over £116,000. In London, the average house price is just over £676,000. That is why we have a higher limit for starter homes in London. If he objects to that, he needs to tell his constituents why he is against their having opportunities to get on the housing ladder.”

Both the new housing minister and chancellor also had their first go at answering oral questions for their respective departments this week.

Affordable homes

In answer to questions on affordable homes and house building, housing minister Gavin Barwell confirmed the government is still committed to building a million new homes. He went on to say, “we are looking at a mixed programme, including investment in affordable and intermediate rent, as well as shared ownership and helping people to own their own homes…86% of our constituents want to own their own homes. One of the critical things that we should all be trying to do is help people enjoy the opportunity that nearly all of us as members of Parliament enjoy.”

The government’s house building target was also the subject of a short debate in the House of Lords. On the subject of older people living in unsuitable housing, DCLG minister Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth acknowledged that the government are considering the issues around encouraging people to downsize should they wish.

During oral questions to the Treasury, the new chancellor Philip Hammond was asked by Conservative MP Craig Mackinlay if he would reconsider the 3% additional stamp duty on second properties given “some softening” in the housing market. Mr Hammond replied, “I can certainly commit to looking at the data…my approach to taxation is that it is there for a simply purpose: to raise revenue for the Exchequer. I expect the taxes we put in place to achieve that. “

Today, Mr Hammond has been reported as saying he is prepared to “reset” the government economic policy in the autumn statement should if necessary in the aftermath of Britain’s decision to leave the EU.

The Treasury select committee held meetings on the appointment of Andrew Bailey as chief executive officer of the Financial Conduct Authority, and the appointment of Sam Woods as deputy governor and chief executive of the Prudential Regulation Authority.  The mortgage industry was not discussed during the former. However, the committee did ask Sam Woods a number of questions on their concerns about risk weightings for mortgages, and whether or not challenger banks are being disadvantaged. Mr Woods acknowledged that there is a “genuine issue” and that “it is very important that we try to get a more risk-sensitive standardised formula” in respect of Basel.

And finally...

Following the publication of the headline results of the 2014-15 English Housing Survey at the beginning of the year, the DCLG has now published its series of more detailed reports. These include reports on first-time buyers and potential home owners; private rented sector; housing for older people; and the social rented sector.

Parliament has now risen for the summer and will return for on 5 September two weeks, before rising again for the annual party conferences.