Housing and Planning Bill: through to the next round

The Housing and Planning Bill is a flagship policy for the Conservatives, with many experts citing the extension of the right-to-buy policy, which will enable housing association tenants to purchase their rented properties, as a key factor behind the Conservative’s surprise General Election victory in May 2015.

On Tuesday, the Bill was passed by 309 votes to 216 after a long debate in the House of Commons. Critics, however, say it could mean the loss of 190,000 council houses, as local authorities up and down the country face being forced to sell their housing stock to overseas investors and buy-to-let landlords.

The debate, which some argued should have been postponed because of the junior doctors’ strike, featured a few notable moments, such as a clash between London Mayoral candidates, Sadiq Khan and Zac Goldsmith.

Mr Khan launched a scathing attack on the Government’s plans, arguing that any money raised from right-to-buy should be invested in the same areas in which the houses were sold, otherwise more places would be, hollowed out and turned into the preserve of the very rich.” Mr Khan introduced an amendment to that effort that was defeated by 297 votes to 212.

His mayoral opponent, Zac Goldsmith, fared more positively in the debate. Praising the Government’s proposals, he said, I think the right policy will enable hundreds of thousands of people to achieve home ownership, who otherwise would not have been able to do so”, and suggested councils should ensure two affordable homes be built for every high-value council house sold, a suggestion that was incorporated into the final Bill. This goes to show that friends in high places can be very useful when wanting to get something done…

As well as being notable for a clash between two high-profile political opponents, Tuesday’s debate was also constitutionally historical, as the first vote under the new English votes for English laws” system, which essentially bars MPs representing Scottish constituencies from voting on matters affecting England and Wales.  The SNP were quick to oppose this idea, saying that these changes were driving Scotland out of the door.”

The Housing and Planning Bill will now go to the House of Lords to be scrutinised and for amendments to be suggested to the Commons, a process likely to take a few months. Once this is complete, David Cameron and the Conservatives will be able to claim one of their first manifesto victories of the Parliament.

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