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At it again: Duelling MPs in Attack of the Housing Stats Part 1,562

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At it again: Duelling MPs in Attack of the Housing Stats Part 1,562

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Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Central Government and also in Housing

At it again: Duelling MPs in Attack of the Housing Stats Part 1,562 At it again: Duelling MPs in Attack of the Housing Stats Part 1,562

By reporter Max Salsbury - at the cutting edge of British politics (reading Hansard)

Housing Minister Kris Hopkins, his shadow bench equivalent and their friends have enjoyed yet another afternoon's squabble over housebuilding stats. 

The Shadow Housing Minister, Labour's Emma Reynolds, kicked off the fun by acknowledging the "key role" local authorities have in delivering new homes, but was keen to add that it was thanks to the last Labour government's reform of the housing revenue account that councils are "building many more homes than they used to".

Naturally, Reynolds mentioned that Labour councils are "outbuilding Tory councils when it comes to affordable homes".

Carrying on in this fashion for a small age, Reynolds finally made way for Hopkins, for it was he, who immediately announced his "pleasure" for having the opportunity to talk about housing (always good to see in a housing minister).

The MP, who has been the minister for housing for an astonishing 10 months, proudly declared that "more homes have been built since 2007 — a 31% increase in new homes in the last year alone. Planning consents have reached 216,000 in the last year." Short and sweet.

However, the pithy proclamation aroused nothing but suspicion in Alison Seabeck (Labour, Plymouth, Moor View) who asked Hopkins if he'd "explain the basis of the figures he has just provided to show that more homes have been built since 2007? What is the source of that information?"

Employing some hitherto unheard sarcasm, Hopkins replied: "What we do is add up all the numbers of houses that have been built; and more have been built since 2007."

This response roused Clive Betts (Labour, Sheffield South East) who tried to come at the housing minister from a different angle.

"Let me ask the question in a different way" said Betts. "The minister’s predecessor said that the government’s target was to build more homes than were being built before the recession—not in 2010, but before the recession. Will the minister explain in which year of this parliament the government have achieved that target?"

A fair question, and, according to Hopkins, a good one.

Hopkins replied: "The hon. Gentleman raises a good point."

But this was no genuine compliment, but a set-up for yet another trip down housing's memory lane.

"We have gone through a massive crisis since 2007" carried on Hopkins, "and responsibility lay solely at the feet of the government of whom the hon. Gentleman was part. We have been picking up the pieces ever since, and we aspire to deliver the houses that the country needs."

Hopkins continued: "The government’s affordable housing scheme is on track to deliver 170,000 houses as promised, and the houses committed by the previous government are already delivered, demonstrating that we have delivered some 200,000 houses to date. We are so keen to accelerate the number of affordable houses that we are bringing forward our 2015-18 affordable housing programme and we want to deliver those much-needed affordable houses right across the country as soon as possible."

Much-needed homes. It's always 'much-needed homes'. Like 'hardworking families'. Hardworking families need much-needed homes.

Anyway, the House's sole Green, Caroline Lucas (Brighton), decided to join in - with a really pertinent question - or so she thought.

She asked: "If the minister is really so keen to build genuinely affordable housing, why will the government not lift the borrowing cap on local authorities?"

This kind of thing is bread and butter to Hopkins, who turned it all around on the pesky Green.

"It is clear that the hon. Lady’s party does not care about the economy of this country. It is quite happy to add to the deficit that was created by the last administration," replied Hopkins, not actually answering the question but painting the Greens as economic psychotics.

The minister chucked in some stats for good measure: "This government have taken opportunities to raise the housing revenue account cap by some £300 million, and we look forward to seeing those houses being built."

With stats in his blood, Hopkins stepped it up: "More council houses have been built in the last four years, under this government, than were built in the previous 13 years. As a result of the right to buy, some 19,000 hard-working individuals and their families have secured their own homes. That rejuvenated scheme has delivered some 10,000 more homes than was predicted, and we have promised to provide a replacement for every house that is sold. So far, some 3,000 new council houses have been built with right-to-buy receipts."

So many numbers! Who knows where Emma Reynolds was at this point.

And on it went. The minister was quizzed on garden cities, local government power and affordable homes for people on low incomes.

He was, however, largely immovable on his central philosophy: The coalition's housing record is better than Labour's, so there.

At one point he told the House that he was "not going to take any lectures about affordable or social housing". And why should he, being the housing minister and all.

Emma Reynolds suddenly resurfaced, asking, somewhat cryptically, "will the minister give way?".

I might not have understood her but Hopkins seemed to, replying "no, I am going to continue". And continue he did.

But the day was not yet done. Nick Raynsford (Labour, Greenwich and Woolwich) was on his feet, and this time it was personal.

He told Hopkins that his figures are "very wide of the mark" and that his government had "the worst record on housing of any government since the end of the second world war".

Raynsford then fired off a stream of damning stats, culminating with "I am surprised that the minister does not have the honesty and integrity to admit that."

However, it was apparently all too much for even Raynsford himself, who lost his nerve and said "I will withdraw that".

The deputy speaker gave Raynsford a mild reproval and then they all went home for their tea.

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