Diary - moves to increase house building

Another day of debate around the EU Withdrawal Bill. Amendments thrown at it by those who do not want to leave the EU and by those who want to remain in part of the EU. There is no doubt that much of this is aimed at placing obstacles in the Government's path. After the morning routine, I met Lyndon Jones, who represents Calor Gas, that provides  LPG to remote homes and buildings, mainly in rural areas which have no other source of power. Afterwards, I teamed up with Matt Prosser, chief executive of the Tri-Council in Dorset, who had come up to London to discuss the proposed changes to local Government. Fortuitously, DCLG Secretary of State Sajid Javid was making a Statement on his housing White Paper, so Mr Prosser could hear it all first-hand. He told the House that the Government intended to build many more homes. He said they had to deliver between 225,000 and 275,000 a year. Mr Javid said that the right homes had to be built in the right places. "To make this happen, we are going to introduce a new way of assessing housing need. Many councils work tirelessly to engage their communities on the number, design and mix of new housing in their area. But some of them duck difficult decisions and fail to produce plans that actually meet their need." He added that the White Paper contained measures that will help identify sites for development. He reassured those concerned about the Green Belt that the White Paper did not remove any of its protections. He hoped to free-up public sector land more quickly. Importantly, Mr Javid said the design and appearance of any development would be an important factor, a point I raised with him when the Speaker finally called me at the end of the session. Compulsory purchase would be looked at again and local authorities subjected to a new housing delivery test. Slightly nervous about this. Towards the end of the Statement, Mr Javid said the Government had already promised to ban letting agents' fees, but he intended to go further. "We will improve safeguards in the private rented sector, do more to prevent homelessness and help households who are currently priced out of the market. We will tackle the scourge of unfair leasehold terms, which are too often forced on to hard-pressed homebuyers. And we will be working with the rental sector to promote three-year tenancy agreements, giving families the security they need to put down roots in their community." After the Statement, Mr Prosser and I chatted for 20 minutes or so before he had to fly to catch his train. Later in the afternoon, I attended a meeting called by my friend and colleague Sir Henry Bellingham concerning this appalling hounding of soldiers who served in Northern Ireland during the Troubles. It was very well attended, although what was discussed is confidential. This is a wrong that must be put right. Then, later again in the evening, Dorset MPs met with Oliver Letwin to discuss local government reform. Again this was held in private. Final votes came at about 2000 and then home.