Concession stand

Kennedynew4x3_head.jpgRoy Kennedy on the latest round of parliamentary ping-pong on the Housing & Planning Bill

Last night, the government rejected all of the amendments to the Housing and Planning Bill passed last week by Peers, and so we start another round of ping-pong later today.

As the official Opposition in the Lords, Labour always takes our responsibilities seriously, not just to scrutinise legislation effectively but to ask the Commons to think again where we believe something similar can be further improved. That is our job and we will continue to do that.

On all five of the remaining issues on the Bill, further movement would not contravene either Salisbury Addison or any other convention applicable to the role of our unelected House. We must also not forget the appalling state of this legislation when it first arrived from the Commons. And now as we enter stages of consideration, it also worth reflecting on the fact that we have not seen a single draft regulation, preventing Peers from scrutiny of how the Bill will actually be delivered.

Among the live issues are so called ‘Starter Homes’ and the forced sale of ‘high value’ council housing to fund the right to buy for Housing Associations. On the former, we will debate how councils can use local discretion to meet some of the government’s requirements through other forms of affordable home ownership. For example, by making the case to retain enough of the receipts from high value sales in order to build new homes to be let as social housing, when entering into an agreement with the Secretary of State.

One of the stranger things to emerge from the Lords debates is how often Ministers combine talk of support for other housing tenures with a flat refusal to give councils the flexibility to make the local case. The points we will press today are not just reasonable and localist at heart but attempt to tackle the wider housing crisis facing our country.

On the planning aspects of the Bill, the government have refused to move on requiring homes built from April 2018 to meet the carbon compliance standard. A proposal that would both reduce carbon emissions and domestic fuel bills. What makes the Conservative position even more puzzling is that the additional sums of money required to build to this standard is around than £1900 per dwelling. That is a fraction of the cost of doing retro-fit works after the properties have been built and lived in.  

The flooding we have seen in recent years has brought misery to communities and to prevent future problems we need to take measures to ensure new homes have sustainable drainage. Measures are already on the statute book through the Flood and Water Management Act 2010 – passed just as the last Parliament was dissolving. Neither the Coalition however nor the current government have brought Section 32 of that Act into force, despite every water company, a range of environmental charities and some Tory-controlled County Councils calling for action.

So again, we and others from around the House will seek to persuade Ministers that movement on these issues is not only necessary but correct. If successful, it will help further rectify problems within what remains a dreadful Bill.

Lord Roy Kennedy of Southwark is Shadow Housing Minister in the House of Lords. He tweets @LordRoyKennedy

Published 10th May 2016  

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