On Brexit and Social Housing


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November was a busy month in Parliament.

After a number of evidence sessions, the Brexit Select Committee published two interim reports, the first on the implications of the EU Withdrawal Bill, the second on the progress of the Brexit negotiations.

For the second report, the wording of almost every paragraph was discussed over about 14 hours in four days.

In the end, the DUP and four Brexit Tory MPs voted against both reports.

The chair of the committee, Hilary Benn MP, demonstrated the patience of a saint. I had never written a report by committee and I don’t recommend it.

One of the committee’s concerns is the Irish border and how to avoid a hard border between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland.

The EU will insist that Northern Ireland follows EU regulatory requirements to stop smuggling, but if it means a different regime in Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK, the DUP will object.

The next solution is that the UK follows EU regulatory requirements, but that poses the question of why are we leaving the single market and customs union in the first place?

In the meantime, the government is busy trying to fix a definite leaving date (29th March 2019) by which time all EU law and the jurisdiction of the European Court of justice will cease in this country.

But, at the same time, they are trying to negotiate a transition period during which we will continue to operate under EU rules.

Another contradiction.

This autumn’s budget was meant to be the housing budget.

Yet there was nothing in the budget that addressed the biggest crisis of all: the lack of social housing and the failure to build a lot more.

The figures are stark: in 2011 we built 32.000 new social homes, by 2016 it was just 5000.

The government conflates ‘affordable’ homes with social homes for rent. The two are not the same.

In cities like Bath, soaring house prices mean that 80 per cent of market rate is no longer “affordable”.

But the Conservative-led government promotes home ownership, even though it is now an impossible dream for many.

We need the public sector to build more social homes for rent, and I will not give up taking the government to task on this issue, especially as they have approved the Foxhill redevelopment, which will leave us with less social units than we have now.


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