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  • Sep 26, 2014:
    • Iraq: Coalition Against ISIL | Business of the House | Commons debates

      The right hon. Gentleman makes a very important point. An important part of all this, alongside the military action that I hope we will endorse today, is the soft approach-the diplomatic record of the United Kingdom in relation to many of the Sunni tribes in the area over

      which ISIL has control. Is it not important to recognise that ISIL, with its use of social media and its very strong media operation, is effectively an opportunist front for what has been a civil war? We cannot negotiate with ISIL, but we must make sure that we negotiate with and talk to the people in the Sunni community within the tribes in that area.

  • Sep 10, 2014:
  • Sep 9, 2014:
  • Sep 8, 2014:
  • Sep 5, 2014:
    • Housing Benefit: Social Rented Housing | Work and Pensions | Written Answers

      To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make an estimate of (a) the amount of savings accruing to the public purse through penalties incurred on housing benefit arising from the under occupancy penalty to date and (b) the amount paid in discretionary housing payments in that time.

    • Affordable Homes Bill | Commons debates

      Absolutely. The reality is homes need to be built from a variety of different sources. If we believe all the statistics-and I am convinced by the evidence put forward by Shelter, the National Housing Federation and others-that show we need something in the region of 300,000 new homes a year, the bulk of which need to be affordable, and if we realise that at the height of the property boom in the 1990s the private sector was building less than 200,000 a year, we realise that this is not just about allowing the market to provide that supply. That is absolutely part of the answer, but we need to allow housing associations and local authorities, as well as private developers, off the leash. We need to allow, for example, housing associations to borrow against the full value of their stock, so they have got access to proper equity, to give them the freedom to make use of all the Government finance initiatives, not just the ones covering existing schemes. If we do not do that, we will continue to have generation after generation that cannot afford to buy their own home.

      Politicians, frankly, have been too over the last two generations to build the homes that our people, particularly our younger people, need. This situation is not their fault: our younger people are working just as hard, if not harder, than they ever did before. However, they cannot afford a home, including in the rented sector very often, because of our collective failure to deliver the homes they deserve.

      The top end of that renting generation is now well into their 40s. The notion that this is a non-voting, non-interested demographic has gone. Politicians have often been too spineless because of the demographic of people. Those who are comfortable are older, more settled and they were, by definition, more likely to vote. Those who are not in that position were by definition less likely to vote. That is changing, and that generation is crying out for people who will step up to the plate and argue their case. Britain's future depends on being able to house our young people-all our people-in an affordable and decent way.

      I commend the Bill of my right hon. Friend, or rather my hon. Friend the Member for St Ives to this House. [Interruption.] Indeed, and he would deserve it. I commend my hon. Friend's proposals on the improvements to the spare room subsidy and his recommendations for tackling the critical lack of affordable housing in this country. I think of my constituency up in the lakes and the dales in south Cumbria where the average house price is

      11 times higher than the average wage. We are losing a quarter of our young people, who move out of the area and never come back because they cannot afford to put down roots. My area is very like my hon. Friend's and many other colleagues' here today: how important it is that we make sure our communities remain multigenerational and we keep our talent and do not force our young people into another generation of poverty and housing need.

      Housing supply is the issue, and it will not be tackled unless we allow housing associations to build the houses they can and they desperately want to, and unless we invest in garden cities, and unless we tackle-my right hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Sir Tony Baldry) referred to this-the critical lack of housing and building skills and labour necessary to build those houses. The Government's apprenticeship programme is an important step in the right direction, but without the skills, we will not be able to build the houses.

      What I want us to see in politics is the ambition that Government can change things. In the face of a critical crisis such as the housing crisis and the lack of supply, it should not be a case of washing our hands and letting the market deliver, or praying that it might; it should be about rolling up our sleeves and making sure it does. My hon. Friend's Bill is an important step in that direction.

    • Affordable Homes Bill | Commons debates

      Absolutely; it was truly shameful. Governments would have to try really hard-as the previous one did-to build fewer social rented properties than Baroness Thatcher. That is quite an achievement, and one they should be thoroughly ashamed of. The current Government have not built enough social rented houses. They are, however, the first Government in over 30 years to have seen any net rise in the number of social rented properties at all.

    • Affordable Homes Bill | Commons debates

      I want to say a few words in support of my hon. Friend the Member for St Ives (Andrew George) and his Bill. He has proudly put forward not just a single-headed, but a double-headed proposal today. We are talking about not only how to tackle some of the injustices and unfairnesses surrounding the spare room subsidy, but how look to the creation of more affordable housing and provide greater levels of stock across the country.

      It is important to recognise that over the last few years we have acknowledged and seen an explosion in the housing benefit bill. That happened for a variety of reasons, but principally because of the rise in the cost of housing. While the Opposition when in government introduced the abolition of the spare room subsidy for the private rented sector, the coalition parties did so for the social rented sector. We understand the reasoning behind it, but we recognise, too, that the burden has fallen on some of the people least able to cope with the cost. We have not collectively, as either a Parliament or a country, tackled the real problem, which is of course the fact that there are simply not enough social rented homes and not enough homes generally.

      I am proud of my hon. Friend the Member for St Ives for bringing this Bill forward, and I am proud of my party for pushing us all collectively to reflect on the proposals before us today. I would like to mention Vikki Slade and Julie Pörksen, who proposed at our conference a year ago that we look again at this policy. Frankly, Members of all parties would do well to admit that, on reflection, things could have been done better. Given that we were put in this economic crisis in the first place, it would be lovely to see from Opposition Members a change of heart and an admission that things did not go as well as they could have done.

      Many people will be talking about the spare room subsidy today, and they are right to do so, but the second part of my hon. Friend's Bill is equally important. The fact is that in 1981, the average deposit for a first-time buyer was 12% of the average income. Today, it is 83%, and nearly 3 million people aged between 18 and 30 are living with their parents, which is likely to go up by another 25% over the next five or six years. We have the lowest levels of home ownership in over a quarter of a century, and if we look at our social rented stock across the country, we see that it has been decimated over 30 years through "right to buy" with no compulsion to replace the properties in any meaningful way.

  • Sep 2, 2014:
  • Sep 1, 2014:
    • Highways Agency | Transport | Written Answers

      To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what estimate he has made of the cost to the public purse of (a) taking the Highways Agency out of public ownership and (b) rebranding the Highways Agency, including (i) the replacement of uniforms and equipment of the staff of the Highways Agency and (ii) the replacement of liveries on the vehicles operated by the Highways Agency.

    • New Businesses: Westmorland | Business, Innovation and Skills | Written Answers

      To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills how many new businesses (a) have been registered in Westmorland and Lonsdale constituency since 2010 and (b) were registered between 2005 and 2010.

    • Disabled Students' Allowances | Business, Innovation and Skills | Written Answers

      To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills pursuant to the Answer of 7 July 2014, Official Report, column 128W, on disabled students' allowances,

      (1) whether his Department will provide supplemental funding to higher education institutions to support students likely to require extra reasonable adjustments as a result of changes to disabled students allowance;

      (2) how much money his Department will save as a result of the proposed changes to the disabled students' allowance.

    • Forests | Environment Food and Rural Affairs | Written Answers

      To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment her Department has made of the annual cost of invasive species to the forestry industry.

  • Jul 22, 2014: