New Housing Supply

Mark Pawsey Excerpts
Monday 5th June 2023

(1 year ago)

Commons Chamber
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David Davis Portrait Mr Davis
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Frankly, I see nothing difficult about that, because I am talking about creating communities that have been designed. When communities are designed, all sorts of social structures are created. I will come back to the detail in a minute, but I do not have a problem with anything that the right hon. Gentleman mentioned.

As I say, the design is done as a single entity. Unlike the chaotic marginal extensions and infills of current development, we can ensure the developments are well designed. We know how to build successful communities— we have plenty of evidence. We know how to design out crime. We know how to separate traffic from pedestrian ways and cycle-to-school routes. If we select locations properly, we can ensure links that facilitate getting to work, shopping and entertainment.

Mark Pawsey Portrait Mark Pawsey (Rugby) (Con)
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I admire my right hon. Friend’s ambition in looking to achieve such large new towns. In my remarks, I will argue that we are probably better off looking at sustainable extensions to existing communities, although I admire his ambition. Does he not recognise that we have tried this with eco-towns, no more than 20 years ago? Not a single one succeeded. There was so much opposition that I fear his laudable aims will not be realised.

David Davis Portrait Mr Davis
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Well, that is the rest of the argument. My aim is to create a well-designed town, which is attractive to live in. I looked around my own part of the world and I thought, “I can see where they would go.” I am not going to say it publicly as I do not want to change the land values, but I could certainly see that.

These developments would be built in areas of comparatively low population. They will not be on top of an existing town, as my hon. Friend describes, so they can, to a large extent, sidestep the nimby problem. Even in cases where there is a hamlet near to a proposed site, considering the size of the surplus, it could be used to buy out those who are objecting, with a small premium on the existing market price, a little bit of help with moving and the payment being tax free. That would minimise the nimby problem.

It is not as though we are short of space for these new developments. As my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Wight (Bob Seely) said, we often hear that the UK is full or that further development risks damaging our beautiful countryside. I am afraid I do not agree with such arguments. My hon. Friend has been in a helicopter more times than I have, so he will know that if he flies from London to York or Hereford to York, or wherever he likes, if he looks out of the window he will see that unless passing over a major conurbation, it is like looking at a golf course. Only 8.7% of England is developed; in Scotland, it would be a tiny fraction.

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Kit Malthouse Portrait Kit Malthouse (North West Hampshire) (Con)
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I will do my best, Madam Deputy Speaker.

I draw Members’ attention to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests, tangential though it may be. I congratulate the hon. Member for Stretford and Urmston (Andrew Western) on his speech, much of the contents of which I agreed with.

Some four years ago, when I was Housing Minister, I decided to hold a housing summit in my largely rural constituency—220 square miles of beautiful rolling Hampshire downland, much of it an area of outstanding natural beauty. About 150, shall we say, more senior members of society showed up for the event in a village hall, and it was obvious from the outset that I was heading for a beating. I began my remarks by posing two questions to the assembled group. I asked them first to put their hands up if they had a child or grandchild over 25 still living at home, and about half of them did so. I then asked them to put their hands up if they had bought their first home in their 20s, and about two thirds of them did so.

Having thus posited the problem, we went on to have quite a civilised conversation about where houses should be going in my constituency and, indeed, in much of the south-east—for these people had come from far and wide. In truth, the message to people who are resistant to or nervous about housing development—even to the small number of verifiable nimbys among us—is that whether they like it or not, the houses are coming. A generation that has been denied access to housing will eventually come of age and be able to vote for councils and councillors, Members of Parliament and Governments, who will deliver what that generation has been denied and put those houses in place.

Mark Pawsey Portrait Mark Pawsey
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How many sites have been allocated following that meeting?

Kit Malthouse Portrait Kit Malthouse
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I am pleased to say that my constituency overall is forecast to take something like 30,000 homes over the next 10 years or so. There are some questions to be asked about where the houses are going and what they are going to look like, but those are fundamentally the only two questions that we have to ask. We are building a lot. Indeed, I hope that over the next 10 years, Andover, the main town in my constituency, will get close to double the size that it has been in the past.

This is not just a problem for those individuals who are denied housing; it is a problem for the nation as a whole. We can see the impact of restrictions on housing and the inability to access housing elsewhere. In the United States, for example, a brain drain is taking place from major coastal cities such as San Francisco, New York and Washington DC as young, highly productive people who cannot access housing are leaving in large numbers. In this country, we might see that spreading to other parts, but because we are a smaller country geographically, we will see other impacts. We have seen lower household formations over the last 20 years than we have before, along with a declining birth rate, and more and more young people are choosing to live and work overseas. The history of human economic achievement has shown us that the closer we gather and crowd together, the more productive and innovative we are, so there is going to be a long-term impact for us overall, economically as well as individually.

Now, how do we deliver those houses? I do not think that anybody believes that we should not be delivering 300,000 houses today. When I was Housing Minister, I had a church totaliser on my whiteboard showing me where those houses were going to come from and how we were going to get there. For me, there are broadly three things that we need to do. The first involves the planning system. It has long been an obsession of wonkery that the planning system needs to be swept away because it is not working, yet local authorities tell us that 92% of applications are approved and that it is functioning. They do, however, express a frustration with it, which is that the system as it is currently configured has become a huge game of poker. Developers, councillors and local people are gambling on what is going to happen, and somebody in a suit, male or female, from Bristol—the planning inspector—will be the final croupier who decides who wins the game of poker. That is just not good enough. As the hon. Member for Stretford and Urmston said, certainty is what produces results.

So for me, the first step is the abolition of the Planning Inspectorate, alongside setting hard targets for local authorities but giving them an absolute right democratically to choose where those houses should go in their area. Hopefully that will be brownfield, and some of it may indeed be garden villages. It is a great sadness to me that the Oxford-Cambridge arc seems to have been abandoned by the Government; I had huge ambitions for that part of the world. If we can create certainty by putting local authorities in charge, with those hard targets, they will know that they have their fate in their own hands and we can just get on and build.

The second element of the planning system that needs to be removed is the viability test. Many developers over-densify and hide behind the viability test. They do the local community out of its rightful contribution from the uplift in value because they show a spreadsheet of whether a development is going to make money or not and they justify adjustments here and there. That is particularly the case in London, where it is simply impossible to overpay for land. The viability test says that anyone who has overpaid for land can just build a 44-storey skyscraper that will pay for their effective overpayment and largesse. If we get rid of the viability test, we would get an actual market for land and it would be possible to overpay. We would then see realistic values and get more land coming through.

Finally, one of the key elements for the acceptance of housing in local areas, alongside the need for the restoration and strengthening of neighbourhood planning, is a strong sense of aesthetics. I certainly see this in my constituency. I have joked in the past that if they would only build thatched cottages in my constituency, we could build thousands of the damned things. Aesthetics matter. When we look at some of our historic towns and cities, we see that they have been scarred by previous generations building rubbish stuff. The houses that were built in the 1960s and ’70s have largely been—or will largely be—bulldozed and replaced. Hardly anything from that era will be deemed to be a conservation area, unlike so much of the mass development created by the Victorians. If we get the aesthetics right, along with providing local people with the certainty that they are in charge of their destiny on housing, acceptability will rise.

Let me give the House an example. Anyone who has the joy of going to Stamford in Lincolnshire—I did not mention to my hon. Friend the Member for Grantham and Stamford (Gareth Davies) that I was going to mention his constituency—can see a game of two halves. They will find developments in the classic tradition that look like Stamford, and people queue round the block to buy those houses. On the other side of town, they will see developments that look like the same old rubbish that is built anywhere else in the UK, and they will scar that beautiful town for many generations to come.

We need a rigid aesthetic code looking at vernacular architecture. We need to put local authorities in charge, rather than having arbitrary decision making by the Planning Inspectorate. We need to get rid of artificially inflated land values through the abolition of the viability test. We also need some hard numbers that will add up to 300,000, or possibly more, as the hon. Member for Stretford and Urmston said. Then I think we would stand a chance of answering the question that we have to answer for the next generation: will their life be better than ours? If we can do all that, the answer may well be yes.

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Mark Pawsey Portrait Mark Pawsey (Rugby) (Con)
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I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis) on securing this important debate, in which I am going to draw on the experiences of my constituency, where we are doing our part to deliver new housing at scale. I also want to talk about the challenges in delivering new homes and in delivering the infrastructure that is needed alongside residential development, and thus the reasons why people often do not like development in the first place.

In Rugby we have an exemplar of high-quality, infrastructure-led development at Houlton, on the eastern side of the town. It is a sustainable urban extension to the town of Rugby, which has been master-planned by the developers Urban&Civic. Once complete, it will boast some 6,000 homes, four schools, a district centre, transport connections by both road and rail, and a variety of leisure, retail and community spaces. Houlton has been developed on a brownfield site, one previously home to the famous Rugby radio mast, which was clearly visible from the M1 motorway.

The Houlton development pays tribute to that history, as the first transatlantic message from the United Kingdom to the United States was broadcast from the site to the town of Houlton in Maine. One interesting fact is that by the time the new community at Houlton in my constituency is complete, its population will be significantly greater than that of its namesake. I understand that it is also a unique example of a place in the UK taking its name from a location in the US, rather than the other way around.

An important part of getting that development under way has been bringing communities along and getting support for the proposals. Back in the noughties, when I was a councillor at Rugby Borough Council, very extensive community engagement was done to understand the concerns of neighbouring communities to this site that we now know as Houlton. Particular engagement was done in Hillmorton and the village of Clifton-upon-Dunsmore to alleviate the concerns that residents nearby might have. Technology was used to provide computerised effects of what the new development would look like, to take out the uncertainty factor and the fear that people had about what they might be having there. That technology has advanced in recent years and it should be used on all occasions to give people a clearer idea of what the development is going to look like.

People are bothered about the fact that when new homes are built, often the roads, schools and health provision come afterwards. At Houlton, the local authority—Rugby Borough Council—Warwickshire County Council and the developer have worked together to bring forward infrastructure at an early stage. Road access, with a link road between the new development and Rugby’s town centre, was delivered very early, with a financial loan from Homes England. That has enabled traffic to flow in and out of Houlton without having to travel through the community of Hillmorton, where people might have reasonably objected to this new development. The developers have brought forward outstanding educational provision, building a secondary school around the historic radio station, the one that broadcast around the world. The design is of such quality that it beat Battersea power station in a competition about the re-use of original buildings.

A primary school was also opened there four or five years ago. When it was built, there was not only respect for the area in which it was built, but sufficient investment to develop something at scale. But one area where we have encountered difficulty in securing the infrastructure that we need is in the development of health services. Here I would like to contrast the difference that I have experienced in dealing with different agencies and bodies. The Department for Education, Homes England and Warwickshire County Council have demonstrated great flexibility in bringing forward the road and education provision. But, regrettably, the health service and the network of bodies, boards and bureaucracies that support it have proved very inflexible. A surgery for eight GPs has been approved as part of Houlton’s district centre, but so far we are nowhere near getting any agreement to bring that facility forward. I hope that, as we continue this vital debate both today and in the future, Ministers will engage with those other bodies to ensure that infrastructure is delivered on time.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and Howden made a good case for garden cities—for additional, totally new communities. However, we have been down that road before and nothing has happened. The sustainable urban extension to existing sites is the only way that we will practically achieve anything like the volume of housing that we need. Of course, expanding an existing community has a wider economic benefit, particularly in respect of our town centres, many of which are struggling, as people are buying more and more online. I was very pleased to hear my right hon. Friend the Member for North West Hampshire (Kit Malthouse) say that one of his communities will be expanded to double its existing size. It will always be easier to expand an existing community.

Central Government have a role to play in encouraging local authorities to take a proactive and pro-sustainable approach to development. If Government fail to properly require planning authorities to build the new homes, we will not see the significant progress that everybody in this Chamber wants to see. We must encourage our local authorities—Rugby has already done this—to develop clear and comprehensive local plans that set out in detail where development should take place. My real concern is that, in withdrawing the targets and making them advisory, we have created a charter whereby development is constantly stymied by the loudest voices who often oppose development.

Oral Answers to Questions

Mark Pawsey Excerpts
Monday 20th February 2023

(1 year, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Mark Pawsey Portrait Mark Pawsey (Rugby) (Con)
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6. What steps his Department is taking to support the provision of land for employment and industrial use by local planning authorities.

Rachel Maclean Portrait The Minister of State, Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (Rachel Maclean)
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National planning policy makes it clear that local plans and decisions should help to create the conditions in which businesses can invest, expand and, most importantly, create jobs and life opportunities. We are consulting on how the national planning policy framework could better support these developments, and we welcome contributions to that consultation.

Mark Pawsey Portrait Mark Pawsey
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And I welcome my hon. Friend to her new position.

The businesses and jobs of the future will need modern premises from which to operate. In my constituency, Rugby Borough Council recently agreed to review its local plan emphasising the provision of more land for employment to help levelling up and to create jobs and opportunities. What further support and incentives can the Department give local authorities such as Rugby which are seeking to do the right thing and enable our businesses to grow?

Rachel Maclean Portrait Rachel Maclean
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I thank my hon. Friend for his kind words. We are delighted to see ambitious local authorities such as Rugby, which he doubtless champions on behalf of his constituents, promoting the development that will help to level up his area. We are therefore creating a new framework to make local plans easier to produce, and they will be given more weight in decision making so that we can create certainty and foster a genuinely plan-led system.

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Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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Let me look into the specifics of any individual case. It should be the case, however—as the conversations that the Under-Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, my hon. Friend the Member for North East Derbyshire (Lee Rowley), has had with lenders show—that there has been a significant diminution in the demand for EWS1 forms. Where they are still being demanded, however, I would like to know more, so I look forward to working with the right hon. Gentleman to find out more about any kinks in the system.

Mark Pawsey Portrait Mark Pawsey (Rugby) (Con)
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On-street parking is a policy of Warwickshire County Council. Does the Secretary of State agree that the council has got it wrong in allowing people who drive internal combustion engines to park all day directly in front of the electric vehicle chargers that it has provided?

Oral Answers to Questions

Mark Pawsey Excerpts
Monday 9th January 2023

(1 year, 5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Dehenna Davison Portrait Dehenna Davison
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I could not have said it better myself.

Mark Pawsey Portrait Mark Pawsey (Rugby) (Con)
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14. What steps his Department is taking to encourage the early provision of infrastructure for residential developments.

Lucy Frazer Portrait The Minister of State, Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (Lucy Frazer)
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Providing the right infrastructure at the right time is really important to communities. That is why, in the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill, we are introducing a new infrastructure levy that will more effectively deliver infrastructure such as schools, GP surgeries and roads. It will also give the ability to a local authority to collect that money earlier. We will be publishing a consultation on the new levy shortly.

Mark Pawsey Portrait Mark Pawsey
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There is no better example of providing infrastructure early than Houlton in my Rugby constituency, where 6,000 new homes are being provided. The Minister will be able to see that on her forthcoming visit. The access road went in after just 272 homes. On education, the primary school went in after 79 homes, and the secondary school after just 776. With 1,000 new homes already on the site, the facility that is missing is primary healthcare, and discussions with the local NHS are moving far too slowly. What steps can she take to ensure that vital third item of infrastructure is provided as soon as possible?

Lucy Frazer Portrait Lucy Frazer
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I am pleased to hear about this successful development and look forward to seeing it. Due to the quasi-judicial role of Ministers in the planning system, I cannot comment on specific planning applications. However, as part of the new infrastructure levy, we are very committed to ensuring that the infrastructure delivery strategies, which councils will have to put together, will make it clearer to communities what will be provided. That should include things such as GP surgeries, which should have the integrated care board’s support.

New Developments on Green-belt Land

Mark Pawsey Excerpts
Wednesday 12th October 2022

(1 year, 8 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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Mark Pawsey Portrait Mark Pawsey (Rugby) (Con)
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It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Gary. I congratulate the hon. Member for Coventry North West (Taiwo Owatemi) on bringing forward this debate on issues affecting Coventry, which have an impact on my constituents—particularly those who live in the village of Bulkington, within the ambit of Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council. My constituents there are having to accept a 27.3% increase in the size of their village, with the number of houses moving from 2,794 to 3,558.

That is a massive increase and proportionally much more than other areas are being asked to take, but there is an opportunity to hold back on consent for 196 homes on one site if the Secretary of State grants a moratorium on strategic site approvals in the way the hon. Lady has asked for. I have written two letters to Secretaries of State asking for that to be done. Regrettably, the response was not positive, but I will make the case for action to the Minister today.

The challenge in Bulkington arises because, in 2015, a memorandum of understanding—a duty to co-operate—between Warwick District Council, Coventry City Council and Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council included provision to promote the release of land that was previously in the green belt. This arose from the need for additional housing in the city of Coventry, which, as the hon. Lady drew attention to, arose from the Office for National Statistics population estimates in 2014.

The challenge for Coventry is that it is an established urban area and there remains a shortage of land in that urban area to meet those housing numbers. As a consequence, Warwick was brought into the mix, along with Nuneaton and Bedworth, to provide additional land as part of their duty to co-operate. I support the contention of my right hon. Friend the Member for South Staffordshire (Sir Gavin Williamson) in asking for some clarity on this particular role.

In her remarks, the hon. Member for Coventry North West unfairly criticised Conservative councillors for their approach to these matters. In this case, the issue arose because Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council, which was Labour led at the time, chose to declassify part of its green belt to enable this development to take place. It is important to note that, at the time that that action was taken, it was opposed by the Conservative group on the Council. Significantly, without that declassification, my constituents in Bulkington would not be facing the challenges and problems they currently face.

The hon. Lady referred to the inaccuracy of the numbers, and that was picked up by CPRE, the countryside charity. A review has now taken place and was published in May 2021. It found that the population estimates

“for some cities such as Coventry did seem to be inconsistent with local evidence. This appeared to be the case in some other smaller cities with larger student populations”.

The hon. Lady and I are both proud that Coventry has two universities—Coventry University and the University of Warwick—but that results in some confusion around the number of houses needed.

The hon. Lady pointed out that, in a further development, we now have actual data—the 2021 census figures—and do not need to work off projections. In Coventry’s plan, its population is projected to grow by in excess of 89,000 between 2011 and 2031. The actual growth in the first half of that period, according to the 2021 census, was 28,300. That is substantially less—almost half—of what was projected. That is why the numbers—on which the housing development that the hon. Lady referred to and that is affecting my constituents was based—need to be looked at. If the Coventry population figures had been more accurate, the need for adjacent local authorities to help meet Coventry’s housing need would have been diminished. The development in Bulkington would not need to take place.

So what is our ask? What happens next? Conservative-controlled Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council—the Conservatives have controlled it in recent years—and the people of Bulkington would like the Secretary of State to impose a moratorium on new housing while Coventry City Council and Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council review their local plans. As I mentioned, one site in Bulkington was previously green belt but has now been declassified and has not yet been consented. It is known as HSG7, and it would accommodate 196 homes to the east of the village. Developers currently have a window of opportunity, and we wish to stop that development taking place by asking the Minister to consider the moratorium to which the hon. Member for Coventry North West and I have referred.

Local Enterprise Partnerships

Mark Pawsey Excerpts
Wednesday 16th March 2022

(2 years, 3 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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Sally-Ann Hart Portrait Sally-Ann Hart
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The hon. Member for Slough (Mr Dhesi) makes a good point about partnership working, but I cannot comment on the western Heathrow link as I do not know enough about it.

Turning to skills, LEPs have significant success in the sector, in particular through skills advisory panels. Business feeds directly into that SAP data and relies on the cross-co-operation and capacity of LEPs to gather and deliver that level of information at scale. No other organisation does that locally and it connects directly with the aims of the Government’s proposed unit for future skills. LEPs also co-fund the Careers and Enterprise Company’s enterprise adviser network, which has brought nearly 3,000 business volunteers into schools to support and stimulate vital career choices for students. The convening role of the LEPs has boosted the benefits, scale and reach of that partnership, enabling more business stakeholders to connect directly with local schools.

Furthermore, LEPs work in cross-partnership to deliver solid results for their skills boot camps and institutes of technology, addressing skills needed in green technology, the heavy goods vehicle and logistics sector, digital, advanced manufacturing and the construction sector. Again, that helps to deliver on another White Paper ambition to resolve acute national and local skills shortages.

Only last week, the Higher Education Commission launched its latest report on innovation, again highlighting the central role that LEPs can play in driving innovation across our regions. More broadly, LEPs have played a critical role in supporting our local small and medium-sized enterprises through the pandemic and the recovery, too. That is absolutely right in East Sussex.

Mark Pawsey Portrait Mark Pawsey (Rugby) (Con)
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I was delighted to hear my hon. Friend refer to the work of the Coventry and Warwickshire LEP in supporting suppliers of the electric vehicle supply chain. She talked about SMEs, and the Coventry and Warwickshire LEP has supported 5,500 businesses, organising a whole range of roundtables. Is not the great strength of LEPs that they bring private sector expertise into an area that was originally only for the public sector?

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Neil O'Brien Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (Neil O'Brien)
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It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Rees. I start by thanking my hon. Friend the Member for Hastings and Rye (Sally-Ann Hart) for securing this important debate. It has been inspirational to hear the many varied things that LEPs are doing across the country: in the south-east, Thames valley, Coventry, Warwickshire, Buckinghamshire, Gloucestershire, and D2N2 in Northamptonshire and the south midlands. They are doing everything from heritage to digital skills and, indeed, fusion power. They have a very exciting agenda and are playing an important role.

The short answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Hastings and Rye is that, through the White Paper, LEPs now have certainty about their overall role in the future and how they will fit together with mayoral combined authorities. LEPs will continue to exist where there are no MCAs; where MCAs exist, they can be folded in as the business sounding board where they are co-terminus. Where there is a part-in and part-out LEP, we will respond to whatever the desires of local partners are. They will also shortly have the funding certainty that a number have Members have asked about, because we will be writing to them very shortly.

The longer version of the answer to the great questions that colleagues have asked today is that LEPs have played a very important role in unlocking local economic potential and growth over recent years. Using the convening power that so many Members have talked about, partnerships have forged lasting and productive relationships between business, education and local government. At the same time, they have brought that crucial private sector perspective into local decision making, and indeed into combined authorities. They have delivered major capital investment schemes, some of which have been mentioned today, such as the £12 billion local growth fund and the £900 million Getting Building fund.

LEPs have been really instrumental in supporting businesses through the twin challenges of leaving the EU and responding to the pandemic. As if that were not enough, a lot of businesses are now turning to their LEP and growth hub for guidance and support regarding the current situation with the Russian invasion of Ukraine. As my hon. Friend the Member for Hastings and Rye said, that is just part of what is driving the 1.6 million visits that she talked about.

Over the past two-year period we have seen LEPs implement a series of actions to strengthen their governance and accountability, and it has made a big difference. In the most recent assurance review we found that every one of the 38 LEPs met our expectations on strategic impact and delivery, and all but one met our expectations on governance. The National Audit Office has noted the progress that LEPs have made over time. In its 2019 report, the NAO highlighted the marked improvement in LEPs’ financial transparency between 2016 and 2019. My hon. Friend the Member for Northampton South (Andrew Lewer) touched on the marked progress we have seen on the removal of boundary issues between LEPs—an issue that the Government recognise can blur accountability and transparency. Although there is further to go, the majority of those boundary issues have now been dealt with.

I want to thank the people working in LEPs who might watch this debate or read the transcript, because the Government place a huge value on the contribution that they have made and will continue to make to their local economy. We are grateful to the talented, busy people who serve on LEPs for giving their skills, knowledge and expertise to the community and to improve the functioning of LEPs over time. We look forward to the next stage in our partnership with LEPs.

In some areas of the country, such as the Liverpool city region, West Yorkshire and Greater London, business leaders are effectively integrated into local decision-making structures through combined authorities and the GLA. As Members know, LEP partnerships extend beyond their immediate combined authorities. In a LEP census in 2016, nine out of 10 LEPs reported that they have full engagement with businesses of all sizes and LEPs reported engagement with higher education bodies, so it is not just about the interface with local politicians.

The bigger geographical scale—beyond the council scale—which a number of hon. Members have pointed to, gives LEPs a unique vantage point to bring people together on lots of different subjects. For example, one of the reasons why we use and resource them is to develop local industrial strategies, which have flowed into such things as innovation accelerators. Where innovation accelerators exist, we hope that LEPs and the equivalent bodies in the devolved areas will play a role in shaping what they do.

There are lots of other such examples but today, in 2022, the local growth landscape looks very different from when LEPs were first launched. We have seen the introduction of combined authority Mayors and a number of funds, such as the towns fund, which involves local stakeholders potentially at a sub-local authority level, bringing together lots of partners in the most deprived half of towns. For example, through the local growth fund and the forthcoming shared prosperity fund, we are empowering those in lower-tier local government. Of course, LEPs still play a crucial role in all the different things that they are running and their wider role is also a crucial part of the local growth story.

We are in the process of continuing on the journey of growth in the number of mayoral combined authorities. In the White Paper, we talked about nine new areas that have started talks with Government, including a combined authority deal for York and North Yorkshire and widening the geography of the north-east deal, as well as deepening the deals that have been done for the west midlands and Greater Manchester. Even as we do that, LEPs will continue to have a crucial role outside the areas where there are not electively accountable mayoral-type figures operating across a strategic geography. As my hon. Friend the Member for Hastings and Rye said, in many parts of the country there will be no other body on that kind of scale with that kind of strategic overview of the wider economy, straddling a number of different local authorities.

Following the LEP review, which has concluded, we have clarity about the end state that we want to get to and why we want to continue to have LEPs: for that convening role, the private sector expertise, and the ability to broker lots of different local stakeholders and drive forward a wider strategic vision for the area. That is why we have chosen to keep LEPs and why I pay tribute to them today.

We appreciate the urgent need for certainty of the kind that various hon. Members have raised. We are working to provide that clarity to LEPs at the earliest opportunity. I am sure that Members will appreciate some of the wider pressures that the Government are facing, given the international situation. It has been useful to have this debate today and to be able to express my thanks and pay tribute to the work of LEPs. We will be in touch with our colleagues in LEPs in the very near future.

Mark Pawsey Portrait Mark Pawsey
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One strength of LEPs is that the functional geography was delivered by the LEPs themselves. It was left to people in their own areas to determine what makes a sound economic unit. Does my hon. Friend intend to retain that autonomy within the LEPs, so that we keep that geography rather than relying on historical local government boundaries?

Neil O'Brien Portrait Neil O'Brien
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Yes. My hon. Friend has given me a good opportunity to recognise that there is, I think—from my conversations with Coventry and Warwickshire—a strong desire to continue to work together. Without prejudging the outcome of anything, we have said that we will respond to what local places want to do where LEPs straddle areas, being partly in an MCA and partly outside. I am conscious, from all my conversations with those involved in Coventry and Warwickshire, that they have found it useful to work together. I was very impressed by the list of projects that my hon. Friend reeled off that they were leading in Coventry and Warwickshire. We are absolutely conscious of what local people want—yes, absolutely. Let me end by saying that we will continue to respond to what local places want and how they want to work together to drive forward their local economy and get more good jobs in all these different parts of the country.

Employment Rights

Mark Pawsey Excerpts
Tuesday 8th June 2021

(3 years ago)

Commons Chamber
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Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
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I have noticed that I can shrink my long list of responsibilities in the ministerial portfolio down to Minister for unintended consequences. I do not want to have a series of legislation, which is a blunt instrument, as if it is tackling a binary tool. That would have unintended consequences for people’s jobs and livelihoods. We want to have a flexible economy so that we get both right.

Mark Pawsey Portrait Mark Pawsey (Rugby) (Con) [V]
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I welcome the way in which the Minister is today extending the rights of the most important asset of any business, which is people. I am sure he will agree how essential it is to ensure that flexibilities enable workers to work the hours that suit them best, while also allowing employers to respond to the changing demands of their customers.

Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
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My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We need flexibility in the workplace, including so-called zero-hours contracts, for example. We know that the majority of people who work on zero-hours contracts like the flexibility. However, we want to ensure that we can clamp down on things like exclusivity contracts, which is why we banned those. It is important to get the balance right.

Post Office Update

Mark Pawsey Excerpts
Wednesday 19th May 2021

(3 years, 1 month ago)

Commons Chamber
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Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
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I thank the hon. Gentleman, who has been persistent in standing up for postmasters.

The situation has been going on for 20 years—a long, long time—and it is so important that we get to the bottom of it. Clearly, we have already been speaking to the Treasury, which has supported the Post Office in a historical shortfall scheme, and we will continue to do so. It is so important that people get fair redress and compensation and that we put the Post Office on a good footing for the future. Although this issue has been going for 20 years, I should say that Post Office Ltd now, under chief executive Nick Read, is determined to look positively to the future while standing up and supporting us in getting the answers about those last two decades.

Mark Pawsey Portrait Mark Pawsey (Rugby) (Con)
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I was a member of the Select Committee that in March last year heard really distressing accounts from Post Office staff, including constituents of my hon. Friends who were wrongly convicted of discrepancies, and we heard about the devastating effect on their lives. I am really pleased that the Minister, the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister have heard about that for themselves, and I really welcome today’s action. I also heard from Binley Wood’s sub-postmaster, Shailesh Patel, who tells me that he has increasing amounts of hours’ work for reducing commissions. What steps can Minister take to ensure that the Post Office properly looks after its staff who perform such a valuable role in our local communities?

Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
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I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend about the role that post offices play in communities, which is all based on postmasters. I speak regularly to the chief executive and other people in Post Office Ltd and fair remuneration for postmasters is absolutely at the heart of our discussions to ensure that they keep adding social value.

Affordable and Safe Housing for All

Mark Pawsey Excerpts
Tuesday 18th May 2021

(3 years, 1 month ago)

Commons Chamber
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Robert Jenrick Portrait Robert Jenrick
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My hon. Friend has not seen the Bill yet. When he does, I hope he will be reassured and converted into an enthusiastic supporter of it. He and I are going to meet in the coming days, and I hope I will be able to reassure him that this is not about casting aside the good, but about reforming and building on it so that we can have the planning system we all deserve.

The principles behind our planning reform are simple. This will be good news for smaller developers, and everything that we do is designed to assist them. It will move the last paper-based system into the digital age, with interactive maps at our fingertips. It will get more local people—more than the 3% who currently engage with plan making—actively engaged and interested in what a local plan is. It will return planning to the social and moral mission that it began as, inspiring plans for the future of a local area, not simply paper-pushing and development management.

Mark Pawsey Portrait Mark Pawsey (Rugby) (Con)
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It is entirely right that we support small and medium-sized builders to get houses delivered, but at one end we will need more system building—houses that are prepared in a manufacturing plant and then assembled—to get to the 300,000. What support is the Secretary of State providing for that sector, and what innovation can he tell us about?

--- Later in debate ---
Mark Pawsey Portrait Mark Pawsey (Rugby) (Con)
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I welcome the Gracious Speech: setting out how this Government will boost jobs, drive growth and innovation, and increase opportunity for everyone, with the significant objective of levelling up our country such that young people will not need to move in order to improve their life chances. Today’s focus is on housing and it is relevant to consider what is happening in my constituency, which has a strong record of delivery, with a total net increase in the number of homes between 2012 and 2020 of 4,464. That is 25% higher than the figure for the country as a whole. If the rest of the country had delivered new homes at the same rate as Rugby, we would be much closer to achieving the objective of 300,000 new homes a year.

‘ That has been achieved through Rugby Borough Council, as the planning authority, having been a long-term proponent of plan making as a method of development control for many years. It was a shock to me, as a member of the Select Committee on Communities and Local Government between 2010 and 2015, to learn that not all planning authorities have an emphasis on plan making. Even today, only half of all areas have an up-to-date local plan, and I welcome the Government’s proposals to change that.

Rugby has identified zones of development on predominantly brownfield land and has delivered a good mix of housing. An exemplar of new housing at pace is at Houlton, where the council, working closely with Urban & Civic as the master developer, has delivered a great example of how a detailed plan makes better development. It is a template for identifying a parcel of land, as suggested by the Bill, and taking it through to a development site, with associated infrastructure. We have had the early delivery of a link road and of our schools—the primary is already open and the secondary is due to open in September—and plans for community assets are at the plan making stage. That should be looked at by others.

I welcome the White Paper on planning reform. The system is outdated and ineffective. It goes back to the 1940s and is largely unchanged from what I studied at university in the 1970s. I support the proposals for growth and renewal, and protection zones, and I want to empower local authorities to be able to lead on developments. I want plan making to be focused on, exactly as Rugby has done, but there needs to be substantial democratic involvement and we need to consider the role of the planning committee in making certain that we get good-quality development. Good, effective engagement will be the key to success.

On speeding up housing delivery, I hear with concern proposals to levy council tax on approved but unbuilt houses. I fully agree that there need to be proposals to deter land banking. Presumably, any such proposal would apply only to new consents and not the 1 million homes approved but not yet built. It would be a fundamental change to the basis on which applications would be granted. It might provide an incentive to build out before applying for further consents, but housing markets operate in peaks and troughs, and circumstances change. Market conditions two years after an approval might be very different from those at the time an application was made.

I believe that proposal would encourage developers simply to delay putting in their applications until they are absolutely ready to build. It would almost certainly reduce the number of outstanding consents, but it would put huge pressure on council planning departments, with applications coming in en masse in good times and little activity at lower times. There is already no incentive for a developer to sit on a planning approval, because it has already cost him a great deal of money to get where he is today. We do need to change our planning system and get homes suitable for all our residents.

Covid-19: Hospitality Industry

Mark Pawsey Excerpts
Wednesday 24th March 2021

(3 years, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Mark Pawsey Portrait Mark Pawsey (Rugby) (Con)
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May I draw the House’s attention to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests? My hon. Friend the Member for North Devon (Selaine Saxby) has eloquently set out the substantial measures that the Government have put in place to support the hospitality industry, but where a sector is affected, there is also a massive impact on its supply chain. Over the past eight months, consumers have purchased their food in supermarkets. They have moved from out-of-home to in-home consumption, and supermarkets have done well, especially those selling foods, wines and beers that were previously available only at people’s local pub or restaurant.

There is an assumption that suppliers to the hospitality industry have been able to pivot to create products for the retail sector, but that is not the case. Many product lines are dedicated to hospitality, which has led to many suppliers losing stock through its going out of date and being wasted. Large quantities of cask ales have been poured away. Even when goods are not date-sensitive there are seasonal stocks, and suppliers have found that capital has been tied up in stock in warehouse space.

Wholesale suppliers work in high-volume, low-margin businesses with high fixed costs, meaning that a small fall in sales has a disproportionate impact on profitability. Many suppliers also have the challenge of customers who are unable to pay. Cash sales from one period are often used to pay suppliers for goods delivered in the previous period, and to that extent, many suppliers to the hospitality sector are acting as banks and funding their customers. Suppliers are unable to take action if a hospitality business simply does not have the cash.

I do not call for specific support for suppliers. The best outcome for suppliers is for their customers, and the hospitality sector, to get trading again. The road map out of lockdown gives us the date of 12 April for reopening outdoor hospitality, but that will be available only to limited outlets, such as those with pub gardens or big areas of pavement space in front of them. Therefore, 17 May, when indoor hospitality opens, will be a much more significant date. We know from previous experience that hospitality businesses can put in place measures to keep customers safe. They still have screens, which are often still in place, and they are ready with supplies of sanitiser and wipes.

The key date of 21 June is when all restrictions will be lifted. Some are calling for the dates to come forward. I think that certainty is more important than doing it early. All businesses need time to get their plans in place, so let us give them that certainty. I ran a business, and I do not see how it is possible to manage a business without knowing when the customers will be there to receive the goods. The hospitality sector is looking forward to getting back to business, serving its customers, getting staff back into work, helping to get the economy moving again, rebuilding its supply chain and bringing people together, which it can do in a safe and secure manner.

Oral Answers to Questions

Mark Pawsey Excerpts
Monday 22nd February 2021

(3 years, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Robert Jenrick Portrait Robert Jenrick
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I am delighted to hear the hon. Gentleman’s and the Opposition’s new-found enthusiasm for business and supporting the wealth creators in this country. Of course, it was just over a year ago that they were supporting the overthrow of capitalism. The Leader of the Opposition’s relaunch last week was not quite the Beveridge moment that it was billed as, but we will keep on supporting small businesses on the high street. The Chancellor has done that very successfully over the course of this year in difficult circumstances, with the business rates holiday, the cut in VAT and the support for business grants. We are going to be doing more, as the hon. Gentleman said, with the £4 billion levelling-up fund, which builds on the success of the £3.6 billion towns fund. That will ensure that communities across the country—but particularly those that are furthest away from the labour market, have the highest levels of deprivation and have not seen the levels of Government investment that we would wish hitherto—get the funding that they need to move forward into the year.

Mark Pawsey Portrait Mark Pawsey (Rugby) (Con)
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What steps he is taking to increase the supply of new homes.

Robert Jenrick Portrait The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government (Robert Jenrick)
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The first word in “Build back better” is, of course, “build”, and one of the key priorities for my Department throughout the pandemic has been to ensure that house building continues and the housing market stays open. This Government have gone to great lengths to keep the housing industry open, in turn sustaining hundreds of thousands of people’s jobs and livelihoods. House building and the whole ecosystem that it supports, from show homes to home maintenance, have been able to continue during the pandemic and to do so safely. This was shown in the third quarter statistics last year, where housing starts were up 111% on the first quarter and completions were up 185%. At the same time, we are seeing the biggest investment in affordable homes for a decade, delivering much needed new homes on brownfield land through our £7.1 billion national home building fund.

Mark Pawsey Portrait Mark Pawsey [V]
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I wonder whether the Secretary of State has seen the reports in The Times today showing high levels of interest in new houses with open space. That is certainly the case at Houlton in my constituency, where the master developer of a 6,000-home site, Urban&Civic, has put green space and a sense of community at its heart, and surpassed its target with 513 occupations in the last three months and a further 310 homes currently under construction. Does he agree that the provision of high-quality open space should be a key part of all housing developments, and will he come to Houlton to see the great work that is being done there, as soon as he is able to do so?