This week dealt a further blow to the Government, as their controversial Housing Bill faced increased scrutiny from the House of Lords. Labour peers in the upper chamber delayed the Bill from passing for a third time, after it was nodded through by MPs in the Commons, proposing a series of amendments.
The Labour party has led the opposition to the Bill, describing the proposals as ‘flawed policy on all fronts’ that will fail to tackle the current housing crisis. Viewed as an affront on delivering genuinely affordable homes, they have heavily criticised plans to rebrand affordable housing and to extend the ‘right to buy’ policy, which will allow local authorities to sell off higher value council homes. Such is the pressure that on Tuesday night the Government was forced to accept a Labour amendment, which would ensure that councils replace any homes they sell, one-for-one.
Unable to command a majority in the House of Commons, Labour has taken to exercise power through the Lords, using the mechanism to block policy and inflicting a series of defeats on the Government by means of a Labour-Lib Dem alliance. But while this strategy serves a purpose, it ultimately will only delay the process. It is likely that the Government will make compromises on certain elements of the Bill, in order to push through with their flagship policies such as the building of more Starter homes, which offer first-time home buyers a 20% discount on new properties.
While the Bill will eventually make it through the House, albeit with significant changes, this recent defeat could not come at a worse time for the Conservatives. Not only are they struggling to forge ahead with a difficult programme of reform but are also contending with political in-fighting, a struggling leadership and the impending EU referendum. The fraught passage of the Housing Bill is simply turning up the heat on an already over-boiling pot.