03 Jun 2019

MPs will offer their reaction to Lords amendments to the Housing and Planning Bill this afternoon, which may take a while given that there have been 13 outright government defeats on the bill, as well as a number of equally significant concessions made by ministers to avoid defeat.

Various issues will be discussed, including planning regulations, estate agents, compulsory purchase and environmental standards for homes and drainage, as well as the rather sensitive ‘pay to stay’ provisions, which require people on higher incomes to pay higher rent, if they want to remain in social housing, and the plan to finance social housing tenants’ right to buy, by selling off high value council properties.

The government’s plan to extend Right to Buy discounts to 1.3 million housing association tenants, which was last week described as “entirely speculative” by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) will also be discussed.

Publishing its findings last week, the PAC highlighted a lack of clarity around how the policy would be funded or what its wider financial impact would be.

PAC chair Meg Hillier said the government should be “embarrassed” by the report’s findings.

“Extending Right to Buy will affect many thousands of people yet the department has failed to provide basic information to support its stated aims. Instead we have heard vague assertions about what it will accomplish and how,” she said.

“The approach to paying for this policy seems to be entirely speculative. On the basis of evidence heard by our committee, there are no costings or workings out. We are not talking about a ‘back of an envelope’ calculation – there is no envelope at all.”

This government Bill was introduced to the House of Commons on 13 October 2015 and completed its stages in the Commons on 12 January 2015.

The Bill then went to the House of Lords for consideration and this was completed on 27 April 2016.

So today MPs will consider the Lords Amendments of the Housing and Planning Bill before voting on the issue.

Intriguingly, this will be the first ping-pong vote held under the new English Votes for English Laws (EVEL) system, which will mean that, to be accepted, any Lords amendment will need a “double majority” of both all MPs present, and of MPs for English constituencies.

Once the Commons and Lords agree on the final version of the Bill, it can receive Royal Assent and become an Act of Parliament.

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