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Cameron and Miliband clash on housing at PMQs

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Cameron and Miliband clash on housing at PMQs

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Published by Jon Land for 24dash.com in Central Government and also in Housing

Cameron and Miliband clash on housing at PMQs Cameron and Miliband clash on housing at PMQs

Housing put in a rare appearance at prime minister's questions this week when David Cameron and Ed Miliband clashed over the Labour leader's "use it or lose it" plans to stop developers landbanking.

Mr Cameron had previously called the proposal "nuts" despite housing minister Kris Hopkins and London mayor Boris Johnson both suggesting it may have a part to play in boosting housebuilding.

Ed Miliband said: "There are sites all over the country with planning permission that have the capacity for a quarter of a million houses where nothing is happening, some of which are being hoarded by developers. I am in favour of giving powers to say to developers who hold land without building on it, “use it or lose it.” The prime minister said the policy was nuts. Does he still believe that?"

David Cameron replied: "Housebuilding is picking up: we are seeing a big increase in housing starts and housing completions. Why I think the right hon. Gentleman’s policy is, as he kindly puts it, 'nuts' is that if we say to developers and companies that we will confiscate land unless they build, they will not go ahead with the building in the first place.

"His approach is to put a freeze on the whole of development, rather than to get Britain building, which is what we need to happen."

In response, Miliband accused Cameron of complacency, pointing out that house completions are at their lowest level since 1924.

He added: "I am interested in what he says about the policy, because his own housing minister has said that the policy might make a contribution, and the Mayor of London says: 'We should be able to have a use it or lose it clause…Developers should be under no illusions that they can just sit on their land and wait for prices to go up.' So is the policy nuts or is it the right thing to do?"

The prime minister replied: "What we need to keep going with are the policies of this government, which are seeing housebuilding increase.

"I know that the right hon. gentleman does not like the facts, but nearly 400,000 new homes have been delivered since 2010, housing starts in the last quarter were at their highest level for five years — 89% higher than the trough in 2009 when he was sitting in the cabinet—and there has been a 16% increase in housing starts over the past 12 months compared with the year before.

"His shadow ministers go around opposing our planning reforms, even though they are important to get Britain building, and time and again they criticise proposals such as help to buy that are helping our fellow countrymen and women to realise the dream of home ownership, so here is a question that he needs to answer: if he cares about housebuilding and home ownership, why not make Labour councils get on with selling council houses to hard-working people?"

The Labour leader again hit back suggesting that Labour councils are currently building "far more houses" than Tory local authorities.

He said: "Frankly, I am still no clearer at the end of this exchange what the prime minister thinks about the 'use it or lose it' policy.

"His housing minister says that he supports it, the Mayor of London says he supports it, but the prime minister does not know what he thinks. Here is the reality: he is not doing enough to close the gap between supply and demand.

"The truth is that the number of social housing starts is down, he has shelved his plans for new towns and rents are rising. Does he accept that Britain is building 100,000 fewer homes than we need to meet demand?"

But Cameron had the final say: "Of course we need to build new homes. That is why we have reformed the planning system, which the opposition opposed; it is why we have help to buy, which they oppose; and it is why we are helping in all the ways we are to get Britain building.

"We are seeing the right hon. gentleman having to jump around all over the place: when it started off, deficit reduction was not going to work, but now he cannot make that argument; then we needed plan B, but now he cannot make that argument; next it was about the cost of living, but yesterday we saw inflation fall to 2%.

"What we see is a government who have a long-term economic plan and an opposition who do not have a clue."

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