Rebel Tories expect concessions from Sunak to pass smoothing bill | Housing

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Rishi Sunak may be forced to compromise with rebel MPs on the scrapping of housing targets to avoid relying on Labor votes to pass the equalization bill.

It comes as former minister Simon Clarke tried to amend the same bill to allow new onshore wind farms, which he hopes will attract Conservative and Labor support. Onland wind was to be relaxed under Liz Truss but Sunak’s government has kept the ban.

The Prime Minister was forced to withdraw the second day of the equalization law after the significant one rebellion from Tory MPs over planning. This change, led by former minister Theresa Villiers, has the backing of 46 MPs who want to scrap mandatory local housing targets and make them advisory only.

The government pulled a vote on the bill planned for Monday to allow more time to engage with MPs.

Labor has said it would not support the move, but several MPs said Sunak had been paralyzed by the scale of the rebellion. “He can’t push it through because he would lose and have to rely Labor voices,” said one.

“It means that within the first few weeks he’s showing that he doesn’t really have a majority in the party – that’s very dangerous for a prime minister who came to power the way he did.”

Another MP said the rebels had Sunak “by the balls” and would not be bought off – and said they expected significant concessions from the government.

A level building department, Housing and Communities source said there were efforts to find a compromise. “Commitment is of course the most important thing. [Delaying the vote] gives us more time to engage.”

Former minister Maria Miller, who signed the amendment, said it was good that ministers were thinking again, saying the amendment would allow communities like her Basingstoke constituency to “lower the house building to what we need in our society instead of building according to the needs of the region”.

But the apparent willingness to compromise has also angered other parts of the party. Clarke, who was the secretary level under Liz Truss, said the party’s vote would collapse if it did not help people onto the housing ladder.

“If you want to see what the future for Conservatives is when we’re not building homes, look at London,” he said. “Our collapsing vote in the capital is at least partly due to the fact that you cannot argue for popular conservatism if you cannot afford to buy or even rent.

“On the flip side, why can we win in areas like Teesside? It’s at least partly because if you’re a nurse or a teacher you can still afford a decent family home. This isn’t rocket science – it’s economics and politics 101.”

Asked about the planning riots during an appearance before the Commons Treasury committee, Jeremy Hunt said that while any decision would be up to Michael Gove, the level-up secretary, he was keenly aware of the housing difficulties faced by young people.

“I think we need to ask ourselves why it is that the way our planning rules work, often pits communities against the national need to build more houses, and how we can improve that,” the chancellor said.

Clarke’s amendment, tabled on Wednesday, would revise the national planning policy framework to allow the development of new onshore wind farms. Labor sources said they were examining the wording but suggested they were optimistic the party could support the move.

“Allowing onshore wind development to continue where communities want it would be the right thing to do economically, environmentally and in terms of our energy security,” one source said.

“Onshore wind is the cheapest form of energy production and is popular with the public – including a clear majority of 2019 Conservative voters. We should put the decision back in the hands of local people rather than applying what is effectively a blanket ban that was made in Whitehall.”

Labor has said it would double the amount of onshore wind, one of them cheapest and fastest sources of renewable energyand quadruple offshore wind by 2030.

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