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May survives awkward PMQs on homelessness

13 December 2017

1:20 PM

13 December 2017

1:20 PM

Both Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May turned up in good form to PMQs today. The Labour leader was unusually nimble with his ripostes, deploying statistics on home ownership straight after the Prime Minister’s mockery of the Labour party’s attitude towards home ownership. But as usual, he didn’t manage to make the homeslessness figures that he made his key theme for his questions into a matter of great discomfort for May. The Prime Minister, for her part, managed to recover from each attack pretty well, arguing that the Conservatives were the party who believed in building more homes so that people could have a roof over their heads.

She did, though, deploy what might politely be called a sleight of hand in response to one question about homes being fit for human habitation. The Prime Minister decided to attack Labour for the number of homes that fell below the Decent Homes standard when the party was in government. This was unfair: Labour introduced the Decent Homes programme for social housing, and a number of councils and housing associations were still completing their work to bring their properties up to that standard when the Conservatives came into government. Moreover, May was responding to a question about private rented homes being fit for human habitation: the Decent Homes standard applies to social rented housing. She did the same when she argued that homelessness peaked under Labour: that there was a peak means that it then fell, whereas it is again rising under the Tories.

The Prime Minister won’t have come away from her exchanges with Jeremy Corbyn worrying about homelessness as a political issue, but what might have worried her more was the question from Anna Soubry about this evening’s vote on Dominic Grieve’s amendment to the EU withdrawal bill. Soubry made very clear that the rebels are still in no mood to back down on this, which suggests that David Davis’s 5.30am letter to Tory MPs may not have worked very well.

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