Labour has been accused of acting to ‘end the dream of homeownership’ after peers blocked Government plans to ease EU-era environmental rules to boost housebuilding.
The Government had attempted to relax Brussels-originated ‘nutrient neutrality’ requirements for developers.
They claimed the move would ‘unblock’ more than 100,000 homes between now and 2030 in an £18billion boost to the economy.
But, led by Labour opposition in the Lords, the Government bid was defeated yesterday evening to leave the future of the proposals unclear.
Peers in the House of Lords last night blocked Rishi Sunak’s plans to scrap EU-era environmental rules to boost housebuilding
Michael Gove, the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Secretary, lashed out at Sir Keir Starmer after the House of Lords scuppered ministers’ proposals last night
The Government claimed easing ‘nutrient neutrality’ rules would ‘unblock’ more than 100,000 homes between now and 2030 in an £18billion boost to the British economy
The reform was introduced at a late stage in the passage of the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill through Parliament.
This means it will not return to the House of Commons as part of parliamentary ‘ping-pong’, and so the Government will have to use other legislation to pursue the change.
Current rules mean developers building new homes in protected areas are required to provide mitigations to ensure no new additional nutrients make it into rivers and lakes.
An increase in nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus in waterways can cause algal blooms that deprive other plants and animals of light and oxygen.
The Government has claimed that, although nutrients entering rivers is ‘a real problem’, the contribution made by new homes is ‘very small’.
They proposed to ‘do away’ with nutrient neutrality rules in changes to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill as it passed through the Lords.
Alongside a relaxation of the rules, ministers promised to introduce ‘new environmental measures’ to ‘tackle pollution at source and restore habitats’.
But Labour yesterday condemned the ‘reckless and irresponsible’ proposal and claimed it would increase river pollution and threaten the environment.
This was despite Lisa Nandy, recently removed as shadow levelling up secretary, housing and communities secretary by Sir Keir, having previously signalled Labour would support the plans.
In response to the Government’s defeat by peers last night, Mr Gove said Labour had acted to ‘end the dream of home ownership for thousands of families’.
‘It is hardly surprising that Sir Keir remains so attached to these defective EU legacy laws when he did everything he could to overturn the will of the British people and keep us in the EU,’ he added.
‘Sir Keir Starmer has put short term political calculation ahead of the long term interests of the country. He is the original origami politician – folding at the first sign of pressure. You cannot trust a word he says.’
The Cabinet minister also noted how Sir Keir had previously vowed to back the ‘builders not the blockers’ when it came to boosting Britain’s housing supply.
Mr Gove noted how Sir Keir had previously vowed to back the ‘builders not the blockers’ when it came to boosting Britain’s housing supply
The Cabinet minister blasted Labour following the Government’s defeat in the Lords
Last night, the Lords voted by 192 to 161, majority 31, against scrapping EU-era rules that force developers to mitigate the impact new homes have on river health.
The upper chamber also rejected by 203 votes to 156, majority 47, a move to give ministers wide-ranging powers that critics warned could have allowed the Secretary of State to resurrect the plans by decree.
Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner said: ‘The Tories have utterly failed in their attempt to score cheap political points with a flawed plan, which has now been humiliatingly rejected in the Lords.
‘Labour’s amendment demonstrates our commitment to serious reform and building a consensus for a credible alternative based on evidence, and not at the expense of rivers.
‘We stand ready to sit down with the Government, housebuilders and environmental groups to agree on a workable solution to build the homes we need.
‘If they refuse this opportunity, ministers have only themselves to blame.’
The Prime Minister blasted ‘flip-flopping’ Sir Keir Starmer after Labour moved to block his plans to scrap EU-era environmental rules in a bid to boost housebuilding
Mr Sunak claimed the ‘principles-free’ Labour leader was chasing a ‘cheap political hit’ by moving to defeat the Government in the House of Lords
Ms Rayner and Labour’s shadow environment secretary Steve Reed confirmed their party’s opposition to the Government’s plan in a newspaper article published yesterday.
In an article in The Times, Ms Rayner and Mr Reed wrote: ‘We must build the homes people need while also protecting the environment we live in. The two are not mutually exclusive.
‘The Government’s proposed solution to this challenge is deeply problematic.
‘It would allow councils to ignore environmental regulations and authorise new housing development without mitigation for environmental harm on the basis that the nutrient pollution problem will be solved by other means.
‘Their approach would not only significantly weaken environmental law and increase river pollution but would fatally undermine the emerging market in nutrient pollution reduction that developers are already making use of.’
Rishi Sunak clashed with Sir Keir ahead of last night’s vote during Prime Minister’s Question’s in the Commons on Wednesday afternoon.
The PM told the Labour leader: ‘Today this Government is taking action to reform defective EU laws to unlock over 100,000 homes – boosting our economy, supporting jobs and ensuring that we can realise the aspirations of homeowners.
‘He [Sir Keir] talks about trust – he tried in this House to talk the talk on housebuilding. But at the first sign of a cheap political hit, what did he do? He’s caved in.
‘Rather than make right long-term decisions for the country, he’s taken the easy way out. It is typical of the principles-free, conviction-free type of leadership that he offers.
‘Flip-flopping from being a builder to a blocker, the British public can’t trust a word he says.’
A spokesman for Sir Keir later denied Labour had U-turned on the issue, as they branded the Government’s plans ‘rushed and flawed’.