Labour is the party of homeownership, Sir Keir Starmer claimed as he sought to rubbish the Government’s record on housebuilding and Rishi Sunak’s plans to protect mortgage holders.
The Labour leader claimed the Prime Minister was not doing enough to help borrowers with rising mortgage rates, describing Mr Sunak’s position as “housing crisis, what crisis?”
As the two leaders clashed at Prime Minister’s Questions, Sir Keir interrogated the Government’s record on housebuilding, claiming it had collapsed since Mr Sunak scrapped mandatory targets.
He asked the Prime Minister how the Conservatives can “ever look the British people in the eye again, and claim to be the party of homeownership”.
Sir Keir told the Commons: “You can tell from his answer… his body language, he has actually given up. He has given up. And his failure isn’t just shuttering the dream of those who desperately want to own their own home, it’s also hitting those who already have a mortgage.
The Labour leader went on: “At least he isn’t claiming they are the party of homeownership anymore, because we are.
“The Prime Minister says he is ‘100% on it’, but his definition of 100% on it is to gently ask the banks to do the right thing.”
Mr Sunak last week attempted to quell worries about rising interest rates and inflation, also telling mortgage holders “it’s going to be OK”.
Sir Keir criticised the voluntary measures in the new mortgage charter, telling MPs: “His softly-softly approach, refusing to put mandatory measures in place, risks leaving a million households without support.
“How many will have to lose their homes before he will stand up for the people his party have pushed into economic misery?”
The Prime Minister replied: “The vast majority of the mortgage market is now covered by the new mortgage charter that the Chancellor has brought in.
“That is delivering practical help to mortgage holders, allowing them to extend their terms, switch to interest-only mortgages, and actually saving them hundreds of pounds a month.
“So instead of scaring them, actually there is now practical support in place.”
He insisted that the Government had overseen the “highest number of first-time buyers in 20 years”, adding: “That is twice the number that the Labour Party ever managed.”
Sir Keir responded: “It is sort of ‘housing crisis, what crisis?’ with this Prime Minister.
“He must be the only person in the country who thinks that enough houses have been built in the last 13 years.
“Whether it is those who dream of getting the keys to their first home or those already with mortgages, the ambitions of families across the country have been crushed by his failing Tory government.
“Housebuilding at its lowest rate since the war because he can’t stand up to his own party, a Tory mortgage bombshell because they trashed the economy, millions left without support because he won’t make lenders put families first.
“Rather than lecturing the rest of the country on holding their nerve, why doesn’t he try and locate his?”
The Prime Minister replied: “As always, he hasn’t taken the time to understand the detail of what we are doing.”
After listing measures the Government had taken to give support to homeowners, including the new mortgage charter, Mr Sunak added: “The simple truth is, that is what I said I would do and that is what we have delivered and that is the difference between us.
“I deliver what I promise, he just breaks his.”
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