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Tim Farron's Recent Appearances in Parliament

Tim Farron speaking on unaccompanied refugees (Liberal Democrat Newswire)Content supplied and updated by theyworkforyou.com

  • May 25, 2022:
    • Agriculture Sector: Recruitment Support | Westminster Hall debates

      It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Twigg, not least because you are so lenient. I appreciate you giving me the opportunity to speak, given that I was not here at the beginning.

      I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for North East Fife (Wendy Chamberlain) for introducing this debate on the hugely important issue of recruitment in the agricultural sector. If we enjoy the benefits of eating food, if we enjoy the environment, if we think tackling climate change is important, and if we think water management and flood prevention or tourism and hospitality are important, then we should be very grateful to our farmers and those who work in agriculture. We should be determined to protect that industry, not do it harm.

      My great concern is that the average age of a farmer in the United Kingdom is 59. The Government are transitioning from the old common agricultural policy to the new environmental land management scheme, and while there is a golden goodbye programme in that scheme, which many people will take advantage of, there is no golden hello. My concern is that we are seeing people leave the industry, but we are not seeing people coming into it, either from farming or non-farming families.

      The recent closure of Newton Rigg College, an agricultural college outside Penrith for the UK's second-largest farming county, was outrageous and unnecessary. The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in Northern Ireland directly fund agricultural education there. Why could we not do that in the UK, given that we now have that freedom? Why did DEFRA not choose to invest in saving our college in Cumbria, so that we can reach farming families while also recruiting people from other communities to be the farmers of the future? That seems a terrible wasted opportunity, and I call upon the Government to put it right, even at this late stage.

      Young people are not likely to be attracted to agriculture if the opportunity to make a living is badly reduced. The hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) talked about his support for leaving the European Union. Members will know that I did not agree with him on that. Nevertheless, if I was asked to find positives of us being outside the European Union, I would pick getting away from the perverse incentives of the common agricultural policy.

      There is an opportunity for the UK to build a better agricultural policy than the one that we used to have and are moving away from-if we do things right. The intention of the Government to move towards the environment land management scheme, and public money for public goods, is good. I want to be clear that in principle the Liberal Democrats agree with that. My concern is that the transition is being botched, which will damage farming and recruitment into farming, thereby damaging our ability as a country to feed ourselves, care for our environment, and provide the backdrop to the hospitality and tourism industry that is vital to my community and those in the south-west, as well as rural places such as Northumberland and other rural parts of this country.

      I have got about 1,000 farms in my constituency. Every single one of them has lost 20% of its basic payments this year. Of those 1,000 farms, a grand total of 13 will be getting something through the new sustainable farming incentive. What does it mean for recruiting people into farming when they realise that farm incomes are evaporating and new sources of income are not available any time soon? If we care about recruitment into agriculture, surely it makes sense to park the reduction in basic payments while we continue to develop the new environmental scheme, so that we can recruit people into agriculture.

      There is a huge problem in rural communities such as mine. Cumbria is the second biggest agricultural county in England-the biggest is Devon. There has been a 70% drop in the number of private-rented properties available to local people in the past two years. Why? House prices have gone bananas because of a huge increase in demand for holiday lets and an increase in the number of Airbnbs. What has that done? It has squeezed out the working-age population. That is affecting Devon and Cornwall, Somerset, Cumbria, North Yorkshire, Northumberland and other rural communities. That is why action is needed right now.

      In our community, hospitality, tourism and agriculture are absolutely intertwined. So many farms are viable only because they have diversified into the hospitality and tourism market. If I say that last year 63% of hospitality businesses in Cumbria were operating at less than capacity because they could not find enough staff, that gives a sense of the recruitment crisis facing much of rural Britain. It is caused by three basic issues.

      The first is the lack of affordable housing for people to live in. If there is nowhere for the working-age population to live, there is no working-age population and no workforce. That is why, despite the huge demand for tourism businesses last year, there was no availability. People could find a house to stay in for a week, but they could not find anywhere to eat or drink, or any way of having a pleasurable experience on a lake, because no one could recruit any staff.

      The lack of affordable housing for a local workforce is a crucial part of the crisis, and the Government's failure to have sensible visa rules is another. If we want to control our borders, great. But why not control them in our interests rather than doing ourselves damage? There is a desperate need for us to use youth mobility visas, for example. We have spoken to the Home Office about them to ensure that we try to do something to arrest the agricultural and hospitality labour shortages.

      Finally, we have huge distances to cover in areas such as ours, with very expensive travel and a lack of affordable and accessible bus services. That is another major reason why there is a problem. There is no doubt that in communities such as mine and in Devon, Cornwall and other rural parts of the United Kingdom, a staffing shortage-a recruitment crisis-is undermining hospitality and tourism and undermining agriculture. If we undermine agriculture, particularly at a time such as this, we run the risk of not being able to feed ourselves as a country, which will make us more dependent on imports from other countries. We will put ourselves in the morally questionable position of fishing in the same markets for grain as the poorest countries in the world, thereby inflating the prices they pay or robbing them of the grain altogether.

      I would argue that the farming policy the Government are now enacting, which is almost deliberately designed to reduce the amount of food that Britain produces and the number of farmers Britain has, is not just strategically stupid but morally abhorrent.

    • Cost of Living: Fiscal Approach - [Derek Twigg in the Chair] | Westminster Hall debates

      It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Twigg. I congratulate the hon. Member for Barnsley Central (Dan Jarvis) on his excellent opening remarks and on securing this debate.

      There is a tide of poverty, terrifyingly large, growing in every single community in our country. I wonder what the point of this place is if we do not seek to meet the needs of people who literally cannot see how they can put food on the table for their children, pay their bills or pay their rent or mortgage. It is a crisis like no other facing this country.

      I will focus my remarks on how that tide of poverty is affecting rural communities such as mine in Cumbria and elsewhere in the country. In my constituency, we have incredibly low unemployment-very low. Pretty much everybody I know, particularly those on low wages, are working multiple jobs. The idea that they can do extra hours or get a better-paid job is a colossal insult to them, as they work tirelessly to provide for their families. The massive majority of people in receipt of universal credit in our communities in Westmoreland, South Lakeland and Eden are in work. They work incredibly hard, but their wages do not keep pace with the rapidly rising cost of living.

      The cost of living in an area such as our is exacerbated by the cost of housing. The average house price in my constituency is about £270,000 and the average household income is about £26,000. Do the maths: nobody on an average income can afford anything like an average home in our community. There is extra pressure, because the pandemic has massively increased the housing need in our area. We have seen the absolute evaporation of the long-term private rented market into the holiday let market. In my community, there has been a 32% rise in one year in the number of homes going into the holiday let sector. What were those holiday lets beforehand? They were people's homes-family homes. People were evicted via section 21s-something the Government said they would abolish in their manifesto-and the availability of properties for those families to live in was diminished.

      In parts of Devon, there has been a 70% reduction in the availability of long-term lets that are affordable to local families. It feels like the lakeland clearances are going on in our community. In Ambleside, a couple, both of whom worked, with children in the local school, were given their marching orders-they were evicted via section 21 from the rented property they had lived in for several years. There was nowhere else available in their community to rent, as everything else had gone to Airbnb or become a second home, so they had to give up their jobs, their children had to be removed from their school, and the family had to move to the next county in order to start all over again. It is miserable, and the consequence for our economy is huge.

      What does it mean for our workforce? In the dales town of Sedbergh, which is a relatively small place, with fewer than 2,000 houses, there were 103 job vacancies as of last week because there is nowhere affordable for anybody on a modest, moderate, average or low income to rent, never mind buy-that is for the birds in the current era. That impacts on business. Some of the poorest people I know in communities such as mine run their own businesses. They pay and keep their staff-they cannot recruit enough staff-and they pay themselves less than the minimum wage. They live on next to nothing; they live in poverty.

      Another huge problem that affects rural communities such as mine is fuel costs. Many of my constituents are not on the mains, so there are no energy price caps, no matter how high and ridiculous the prices are for people who run their property off liquid gas or oil. If someone wants to get the bus just one way from Kendal to Ambleside to get to their job, they have to spend more than an hour's pay. Likewise, fuel costs are much more impactful when people have to travel miles and miles. My hon. Friend the Member for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross (Jamie Stone) also mentioned the huge impact on the care sector. We cannot recruit people to care for people in their homes.

      We cannot miss the impact that the Government's fiscal policies are having on farming. This year the Government are taking 20% of farm incomes without replacing them for 98% of the farmers in my community. That has an impact on rural poverty in communities such as mine throughout Cumbria. It also impacts on our ability as a country to produce food, and that means rising food prices for everybody else. It is morally wrong and incredibly stupid.

      Of course the Government should be taxing the energy companies and redistributing that money to ensure that people are not in penury. Of course they should be cutting VAT to help people. The bottom line is that press releases will not pay bills. The Government need to act now.

  • May 24, 2022:
    • Asylum: Housing | Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities | Written Answers

      To ask the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, whether he has had discussions with the Association of British Insurers on reducing insurance premiums for households hosting asylum seekers.

    • Offenders: Giving Back to Communities | Justice | Commons debates

      Offenders are unlikely to be able to give back to their communities if they find themselves homeless on their release from prison, as I have discovered when supporting people in that situation in my own community. Will the Minister undertake to bring to the House a report indicating the extent to which homelessness among ex-offenders is a fact-which it clearly is-along with an action plan to help constituency Members in all parts of the House to support people when they leave prison so that they can lead a stable existence in their communities and therefore give back?

  • May 17, 2022:
    • Investment in UK Infrastructure | Treasury | Commons debates

      After London, the Lake district is the most popular visitor destination in the United Kingdom, with 19 million visitors a year, yet its only direct rail link has a single track from the main line at Oxenholme to Windermere, known as the Lakes line. There is a proposal on the table to effectively dual that line by means of a passing loop at Burneside. Will the Minister agree to meet me and folks from the local authority to ensure that-no pun intended-we can fast-track the dualling of the Lakes line?

  • May 16, 2022:
    • Local Government Finance | Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities | Written Answers

      To ask the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, whether his Department has made an assessment of the impact of inflation and the rise in the National Living Wage on local authority budgets.

    • Making Britain the Best Place to Grow Up and Grow Old | Commons debates

      The Secretary of State talks about skills, which are so important. Does he recognise the real crisis we face with skills in the health service, and particularly the number of people we lack as regards the prevention and treatment of cancer? Will he and his friend the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, who is sat next to him, consider the amendment on the Order Paper in my name, which calls for a strategy to tackle the cancer backlog? More than a third of my constituents with cancer are waiting more than two months for their first treatment.

    • Local Infrastructure | Levelling Up, Housing and Communities | Commons debates

      It is vital that infrastructure is provided before development is allowed. It is also vital that houses that are given planning permission are then used for the purposes agreed on when the permission was granted. I am talking about second home ownership. Homes that are built for local families become second homes, and that leads to communities being hollowed out. Will the Minister look again at bringing in new change of use rules through the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill, so that second homes and holiday lets fall under a separate category of planning use, and homes in Cumbria can remain for local families, and do not become part of ghost towns?

  • May 10, 2022:
    • [1st day] | Debate on the Address | Commons debates

      This really does feel like a Queen's Speech from a Government who have run out of ideas and are not capable of dealing with the very serious times in which they find themselves. It is an awful lot of press releases and no plan. We desperately need a plan.

      I heard reference in the Queen's Speech to Bills that might be introduced to deal with the cost of living crisis. We do not need parliamentary Bills to drive down people's household bills. We need action that could be taken today. The Government could decide to use one of the rare Brexit benefits and reduce VAT today. They could decide in the next day or three to do what we have been calling on them to do for some time-bring about the windfall tax on the energy companies that have made profits that are unearned, unnecessary and unexpected, and give that money to people who desperately need it. They could give it to people across my constituency in Cumbria and across the rest of the country who literally cannot afford to put food on the table and pay their rent, their mortgage and their bills. No amount of smart-alec culture war ruses will pay anybody's children's food bills. This is what we are seeing from a Government who have lost touch with any idea they ever had of what it is to be serious about governing at a serious time.

      As you might imagine, Mr Deputy Speaker, I want to talk specifically about rural communities and particularly issues of agriculture and housing. There is nothing for us in this Queen's Speech-nothing that remembers the rural communities of this country, particularly in England, which have so very obviously been neglected and taken for granted by this Government.

      Let us look at farming. I make a plea to all hon. Members in the House who do not represent rural constituencies that rural communities should matter to them, for two principal reasons. First, if they eat, they should be grateful to the farmers who live in my constituency-and indeed yours, Mr Deputy Speaker-and who put the food on our table. No country serious about its own security would be in any way reckless about its lack of food security.

      We should also care because our farmers are on the frontline of tackling climate change and providing environmental restoration. Some 70% of England's land mass is farmed, so if we care about tackling climate change and the biodiversity crisis, the reality is that the greenest thing that any Government can do is keep Britain's farmers farming. They are the only people who will make even the greatest plans come to fruition, because the greatest plans in the world will remain just plans in a drawer without farmers to introduce them.

      The Government are making a disastrous mess of the transition from the old farm payment system to the new system. If I had been asked a few years ago to list potential advantages of the UK leaving the European Union, I would have given a very small list, but being outside the common agricultural policy would have been on that list. Yet again, here is a potential benefit that the Government have grasped and are miserably failing on, as they botch the transition from the old basic payment scheme to the new environmental land management schemes.

      In my constituency, every single farmer has lost at least 5% of their basic payments and will lose at least 20% this year. All of the hundreds of farms that I represent are in that position. This year, 13 of the farms that I represent-a tiny proportion, little more than 1%-will be getting anything from the new sustainable farming incentive. The Government's botched transition to the new scheme is costing farmers thousands of pounds a year, with nothing to replace it. So what will happen? Farmers will either go bust or go backwards. We will lose hundreds and hundreds of small to medium-sized family farms right across our country, many of them tenanted, costing us in biodiversity and food production. If they do not go bust, they will go backwards and give up on doing any environmental work whatever; they will just get more stock, because that is the only way that they can keep food on their own table.

      The Government are making not just accidental mistakes with farm transition, but deliberate ones. Parts of the landscape recovery and local nature recovery schemes give a clear incentive for landowners-and, indeed, investment companies that want to become landowners-to get huge tracts of land, evict tenant farmers and get massive cheques from the Government for doing nothing and letting the valleys go to seed. These are outrageous, state-sponsored lakeland clearances; we must not stand for them. There is nothing in this Queen's Speech that gives any clue that the Government understand the damage that they are about to do.

      There is nothing for the uplands. Our upland communities in the Lake district, in the dales and in places such as Cornwall and Devon, Northumberland and North Yorkshire have enormous cultural significance, yet nothing in the farm payment scheme recognises that. The tourism economy of the Lake district and Cumbria is worth £3.5 billion a year under normal circumstances, yet there is nothing to compensate the people who create the backdrop that makes so many people come to visit our beautiful part of the world. That is why I am calling for a cultural landscape payment as part of the new farm payment system: to make sure that we value and reward our upland farmers.

      It is absolutely ridiculous that we have a farm payment scheme-a Government agricultural policy-that has a strategic aim of reducing our capacity to feed ourselves and actively taking land out of food production. That is not only stupid when we are trying to protect ourselves in a grave international situation, but immoral, because it means that we will now be fishing in markets where developing countries are seeking their grain and their commodities. We are pushing up the prices for the poorest people in the world because we have a wrong-headed farm payment system that is taking land out of food production. That is stupid and immoral.

      Let me now say something about housing, and the impact of the last two years on the housing crisis in rural communities. This has become a catastrophe. We have too few houses that are lived in permanently, and communities are dying as a consequence. During the pandemic, 80% of house sales in my community have gone to the second-home market, and at the same time there has been a 32% increase in the number of properties that have gone into the holiday-let market. In Devon, this has meant a 70% reduction in the long-term private rented sector.

      What do those two developments mean? First, there is excessive second-home ownership. No one wants to be beastly about second-home owners-we want to be generous and welcoming to people who wish to spend their time in our communities; it is nothing personal-but the fact is that this has a massive impact on the communities that I am privileged to serve in Cumbria. It means that communities are hollowed out of full-time occupation, so they lose the school, they lose the post office, they lose the pub-they lose community itself. Secondly, there is the huge and very speedy transition from long-term lets to vast numbers of holiday lets. What does that mean? It means that people who have lived in an area for years are expelled -evicted through the section 21 notices that the Government said they would abolish and have not. That was not in the Queen's Speech, and it should have been.

      These people who are being ejected from their communities are people in work and with children at local schools. They have nowhere else to go in a place like the lakes or the dales, so they have to leave altogether, uprooting their kids and leaving their work. That is outrageous. The impact on our communities is devastating, and the Government are doing pretty much nothing about it.

      One proposal in the Queen's Speech has been floated-for the Government to borrow something of the Welsh Government's proposals to double council tax on second homes. I thought "great" when I first read about that, but now I have seen the detail, and it is rubbish. What will happen is that council tax will be doubled for a second-home owner who never goes to their home. That is a tiny minority of second-home owners. The proposal takes no account of the fact that, for instance, 90% of second homes bought in my constituency are bought for investment and then let out for 70 days a year. What does that mean? It means that this not a second home; the owner is a small business, and this is a holiday let. It means that the small business will pay no council tax and no business rates either, and that people in Kendal, Penrith, Appleby and Ambleside who are going to food banks are subsidising wealthy people with second, third and fourth homes. The Government, who know that for sure, having undoubtedly listened to their own Back Benchers representing rural communities. have chosen to do nothing meaningful to tackle the outrage.

      Let me finally say something about planning. If we want to tackle the second-home crisis, the holiday-let crisis and the affordable-housing crisis, we should change planning law to make second homes and holiday lets different categories of planning use so that national parks and councils can just put a lid on it. That would be the easiest and most straightforward thing to do. Why have the Government not chosen to do it? We talk about building more houses, but the problem in areas such as mine is that while those who build houses will sell them, we are building for demand and not for need, and it is time to build for need.

      Earlier today, I was talking to some of my local councillors-Jenny Boak, Pete Endsor and Sue Sanderson, who represent Grange & Cartmel. Just outside Cartmel, in Haggs Lane, 39 properties are to be built, only eight of them affordable. Why? Because the Government do not give planning authorities the power to say to developers, "Get knotted unless you are going to build for local people and families and make those places affordable." So I am angry, not just on behalf of my community but on behalf of communities across rural areas of our great country, that there is so little, if anything at all, for us in this Queen's Speech.

      It seems to me, looking at it from the inside in Cumbria, that this Conservative Government are doing to rural communities in this decade what a Conservative Government did to urban communities in the north in the 1980s. The difference is that Margaret Thatcher had a plan-I will give her due for that-while this Government, shambolically, through neglect and through taking rural communities for granted, are devastating those communities. They will not be excused for that, and they will not get away with it. We have seen the results of last week's elections in Cumbria and Somerset, and I hope we will soon see the result of an election in Devon. We will see that rural Britain will not be taken for granted.

  • Apr 28, 2022:
  • Apr 27, 2022:
    • Affordable Housing (Devon and Cornwall) - [Stewart Hosie in the Chair] | Westminster Hall debates

      The hon. Gentleman makes an excellent point, and risks my going off on one about viability assessments and so on, and the fact that when conditions are made, they should be applied. We need the Government to back national parks and local authorities, who impose conditions, get through the planning game and put affordability in there, and then developers say, "We have found some rocks in the field. It will cost too much money to do that now." We need to ensure that communities get what they were promised and not otherwise. He makes an excellent point.

      I will be quick in my final remarks. The impact on communities is huge and the impact on the economy is massive. We had a vote the other night on the amendment on health and social care workforces. In communities such as ours, as has been mentioned by right hon. and hon. Members, we have a serious problem. On the whole, these are older communities. My community is about 10 years above the national average age. That means smaller working-age populations. If those people are squeezed out even further, there is no one to run the health service. People will take jobs in the local hospital or care home, check the housing market and then give back word. That happens all the time, as has already been mentioned.

      Cumbria Tourism carried out a survey of members a few months ago and discovered that last year 63% of Lake District hospitality businesses worked below capacity, despite demand being there. Why was that? Because they did not have the staff to meet that demand. That is in part due to the issues that we have raised today. What can we do? Change planning law to make first homes, second homes and holiday lets separate categories of planning use, so that planning authorities and councils can enforce affordability and availability, and ensure there is a limit on the number of second homes and holiday lets in a community. We could allow, as the Welsh Senedd has decided, local authorities to increase council tax above 100% on second homes. Councils would have the choice to do that; they would not have to. As the hon. Member for St Ives (Derek Thomas) mentioned, quite rightly, we should ensure that council tax is paid on every property that is built as a residence.

      The simple fact is that a wealthy person, with a second home on the Lizard peninsula or in the Lake District, is subsidised by somebody on the breadline and going to the food bank in the same community because they have let their second home for 70 days a year. That means they pay no council tax and, as a small business, pay no business rate. That is an outrage from the Exchequer's point of view. It is also morally outrageous, that people barely getting by are subsidising wealthy people who can afford two, three, four or more homes.

      We also need to ensure that section 21 evictions are abolished, as the Government promised in their manifesto. We need to decide the point at which a second home has become a holiday let, and raise the bar from 70 nights to more than 100 nights. It could be made consistent with the HMRC requirement of 105 nights a year to qualify as a holiday let.

      My final point is this. I agree with pretty much everything everyone has said in the debate so far. We have been raising the matter for years. I remember raising it with the junior planning Minister a few years ago, a gentleman who is now Chancellor of the Exchequer. I am concerned that we make these points, which are obviously an issue, showing the need to tackle the lack of affordable housing in rural communities, yet the Government still refuse to take the action needed to deliver for those communities.

      I hope that in a spirit of solidarity and hunting as a pack, we might persuade the Minister to listen and take the action that rural communities need.

    • Affordable Housing (Devon and Cornwall) - [Stewart Hosie in the Chair] | Westminster Hall debates

      Yes. That is massively important, because if a community supports a development, it is more likely to happen. I regret that we do not enforce zero carbon homes and that we still permit the inflation of the value of land through the massively outdated and hugely damaging Land Compensation Act 1961, which inflates the price of houses. Those issues could be tackled by giving local authorities and communities more power, and if better, more beautiful and greener houses are built.

    • Affordable Housing (Devon and Cornwall) - [Stewart Hosie in the Chair] | Westminster Hall debates

      It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hosie, and I offer massive congratulations to the hon. Member for North Devon (Selaine Saxby) on securing a really important debate. I apologise to colleagues, but I am a Member of Parliament for a western county-[Laughter.]

      More seriously, I think we need to hunt as a pack because the issues that affect Devon and Cornwall affect Northumberland, North Yorkshire, Somerset, Wiltshire, Cumbria, Shropshire and other places as well. The hon. Member for North Devon was right to say that we should be sparing in our use of the word "crisis", but she was right to use it in this case, because there is no doubt that rural communities like ours are under huge pressure. They were before the pandemic, but the pandemic has turbocharged a problem that already existed.

      I want to echo something that the right hon. Member for Exeter (Mr Bradshaw) said earlier. The word "affordable" has become almost meaningless in how it is applied. In Devon, Cornwall or Cumbria, a house for sale at £200,000 is not affordable. The reality is that when average household incomes are in the £20,000s and average house prices are at least £250,000, that is a broken system and a broken market. I believe in a free market but I would intervene and referee to try to make it fairer. We are all trying to encourage the Government to take that seriously.

      We represent desirable and beautiful places, with great, welcoming communities. We must get the tone spot-on, as we are not saying to people who visit or make their homes in our communities, or even have second homes in our communities, that they are not welcome. We are welcoming, British people-that is what we are. Our communities and economies thrive because of the tourism that underpins them, but we cannot ignore the fact that excessive second home ownership and holiday lets, excessive house prices in general, and a lack of availability of affordable homes for families who are either local or want to become local, are serious problems. We have a broken market, and we have to intervene to fix that.

      The impact of excessive second home ownership is the death of communities. When a village or a town lacks the number of permanent residents needed to allow it to support a school, a pub, a post office or a bus route, its community becomes sad and dies as it no longer has any functional existence. No one wants to come on holiday to a dead community. We want to protect those communities so that they are alive and living.

      I talked about the pandemic turbocharging an existing problem, but during the pandemic estate agents in my patch reported that anything between 50% and 80% of all house sales in the lakes were in the second home sector, showing a steady attrition of the already reducing permanent housing stock.

      Holiday lets are vital and underpin any tourism economy, but if there are too many, where do they come from? In one year during the pandemic, there was a 32% rise in the number of holiday lets in my district council area. They are not being magicked from nowhere, but, as the hon. Member for North Devon rightly pointed out, arise from long-term lets where the landlord has ejected tenants using a section 21 eviction, and they then typically end up on Airbnb and similar places.

      In my area, and I imagine Devon and Cornwall are very similar, we have high levels of employment and low levels of unemployment. Typically, we see couples, both of whom have jobs, with children at local schools, having to leave those jobs and take the children out of their schools in order to move to somewhere urban that is just about affordable, perhaps 50 miles away. That kills local communities, is tragic for the individuals and families concerned, and is a massive blow to the life of that community.

      That point is worth bearing in mind when we look at new-build homes, wherever we live. There is a danger that we have got into the mindset that fewer planning regulations are better for creating more homes; that is not true. Planning authorities, whether they be national parks or local authorities, have to have the power to direct what kind of homes are built, in order to make them more likely to happen. In this country, we are constantly building to meet demand, but not building to meet need, which is what creates opposition to new development.

      In most communities like mine, the people are the opposite of nimbys. They are desperate for new homes, but for homes that people need. Of course, a nice new-build four or five-bedroom property in Cornwall, Devon or Cumbria will sell and someone will buy it, but it is not what that community needs. We need planning laws that make sure that the homes that are built are green, sustainable, affordable and underpin the local community and economy.

  • Apr 26, 2022:
  • Apr 21, 2022:
    • Referral of Prime Minister to Committee of Privileges | Commons debates

      The hon. Lady makes an excellent point. It is deeply offensive. One reason why the story has not gone away is that some of the defences are even more offensive. Some Government Members-a minority, I will absolutely state-have said that teachers were up to it, nurses were up to it, and that everybody broke the rules. I did not, I am pretty sure that most people in the Chamber did not, I know that most of my constituents did not and I know that those in the caring professions, in particular, absolutely did not. In one sense, they did it gladly because we were loving our neighbour and doing the right thing by protecting people, not because of slavish obedience to authoritarianism. I am a liberal; I do not like these laws or rules, but I knew that they were necessary to protect lives. So did the Prime Minister, yet he broke them.

      As I think we have a little bit of time-I will not go on for long, I promise-I want to address the issues of forgiveness that have been discussed. As a Christian, I want to reflect on those. I was deeply affected by the speech made by the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr Baker), and by the comments of some other Members, about the extent to which we should be seeking to forgive the Prime Minister.

      I do not know how contrite the Prime Minister is. I do not know how sincere his repentance, or his apology. Only two beings know the answer to that question, and I will not make any assumption that I know it, because I am definitely not one of them. I will say this, however. I believe-and this is one of the most radical and offensive things about Christianity-that forgiveness is available for everything and for everyone. However, even forgiven sins bear consequences. My reading from The Bible last night was Luke 6:27-"Love your enemies." I am careful not to think of Members on the other side of the House, or members of any other party, as enemies. They are sometimes a colleague and sometimes an opponent, but they are not my enemy. There are times, though, when you disagree with someone so very much-as I do with the Prime Minister on so many issues-that you can, in your mind, make them an enemy, and I need to repent of that. Am I bitter, and seeking my vengeance on the Prime Minister? No, and it would be wrong if I did.

      What I think we need to remember is this: in forgiving somebody, we must not let them stain the reputation of this place and of our politics. To say sorry is one thing, but we should remember the story of Zacchaeus. As Jesus comes into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, Zacchaeus, a tax collector who has ripped off his kith and kin for many years and is a great sinner, repents-great-but then he also makes recompense. He does more than just say sorry; he gives back four times what he has taken.

      I think we need to remember that accepting an apology does not mean that there is not a consequence. The Prime Minister has not borne the consequence. What does not bearing that consequence mean? It sets the bar for what is acceptable in our public life at a subterranean level. What a shocking example this is for all of us here, for all those who might follow us, and for everyone else in the country. It tells us that it is possible to do things that are not honest, and to set rules for others and choose not to follow them, because you are somehow better than the people whom you lead. That is not acceptable, and it is not right.

      What is also not right is to hide behind the suffering of the people in Ukraine as an excuse not to take action now. It is fundamentally weak for some Conservative Members to say that we must wait until some indeterminate time when that suffering might be over to take the action that needs to be taken. The simple fact is that Ukraine is a reason why the Prime Minister should go, and should go now, because we are in a state of paralysis. We know that every decision he takes is coloured by his desire to survive, and affects our own position as a country. We are diverted by this ongoing soap opera, this saga, this sorry state of affairs.

      The sad conclusion I have reached is that we now have a Conservative party that is too ashamed of the Prime Minister to defend him, but too weak to remove him. Today is the day when the Conservatives need to discover their backbone.

    • Referral of Prime Minister to Committee of Privileges | Commons debates

      I am grateful to the Father of the House for that clarification. My point absolutely stands: this is only a local election issue-and it is-because the Conservative party has not delivered the justice that it was in its hands to deliver.

      My patch has an interesting history. It was Conservative for 100 years until we won it in 2005. We had some great wins and some narrow wins, and there is one ward that we have never won, even in my best years-although perhaps they are ahead of me, who knows? I was knocking on doors in that ward and met a couple who had sometimes voted Conservative, had normally voted UK Independence party and had voted Brexit party but had never voted for us. They told me that they were going to vote for us in the local elections because it was the only way they could think of to deliver justice. They felt weak and powerless because of a man with whom they agreed on many issues who they felt could no longer lead the country because of that lack of integrity.

      We are two years on from when many of those things took place. Our memories can play tricks on us, we move on and we do not live in the moment of those times. They were not pleasant, and we choose to forget them to a degree, don't we? However, it is important that we do not forget what that meant, not just for the elderly couple I spoke to on Sunday, but for many others-for hundreds of people that we know. For weeks on end, I wrote letters of commiseration to people who had lost loved ones. We all did that. There were people who could not be with a dying parent or a dying child. There were people who spent Christmas alone, and for many of them it was their last Christmas. It was so hard to explain to young children why their birthday parties could not take place. We went through all sorts of privations.

      Gill Haigh, the chief exec of Cumbria Tourism, and I argued to stop people visiting the Lake district, even though we knew it was ruining our economy, because we believed in the health, safety and wellbeing of the people who would have come and of those who work in the community. Sacrifices were made and the Prime Minister made laws that we agreed with and that were important. Why? To save lives, to protect the NHS, to do the right British thing and look after one another, and to love our neighbour. Yet within hours, it appears, the ink drying on his edicts, he was habitually breaking them. There is no question but that this was and is a resignation matter.

    • Referral of Prime Minister to Committee of Privileges | Commons debates

      I start by wishing Her Majesty a very happy birthday, not just because it is the right thing for us to do, but because we reflect on a lifetime of service and the kind of leadership that we all aspire to emulate, putting duty and self-sacrifice before everything else for the country that she so obviously loves and has served so well for many decades.

      It looks as though the motion will go through today, as it should. What a shame we are even having this debate; as some Members have mentioned, it feels like a waste of time. We should be talking about the cost of living and how we can help our constituents to make ends meet and to afford the rent, mortgage, bills and to put food on the table. We should be talking about the outrageous onslaught on Ukraine by the evil, murderous tyrant Putin and how we can support the Ukrainian people. So many other issues are equally important to each of our communities, yet here we are talking about this issue because we have a Prime Minister who will not take responsibility. That is deeply sad.

      We have heard many offensive things over the past few months. The most offensive is, "People have moved on. Can't you just get over it?" I had Easter Sunday off. I went to church in the morning and then a few of us went for a beer at a café at Levens Hall in my patch. It was very sunny, as it always is in the Lake district, as Members all know-that might be knowingly misleading the House, actually. Anyway, it was a lovely day and we sat outside. An elderly couple came up to me, and the gentleman said to me, "My wife's sister died in June of 2020. She died alone, we could not visit her. Please don't let him get away with it." That is a reminder that what we are talking about, as much as anything else, is justice being done.

      Earlier on, the Father of the House was the first of a number of people to say that we should not be talking about this as a local election issue as somehow that diminishes it.