Somewhat to my surprise, I have had a lengthy email back to my speculative message to Theresa May. It’s signed by her, or at least on her behalf by somebody in her office. At least they’re going for the personal touch, and I’m at least reassured that she’s not taking her sizeable majority entirely for granted. Her responses on wildlife and climate issues are fine, so far as they go. Of course, I would prefer they went much further, and what she doesn’t say is as notable as what she does say. £7.5 million for nature improvement areas is welcome, but not likely to kick-start a British wildlife revival!
As for her answers on rent and housing, I’m deeply sceptical of the idea that helping buy-to-let landlords purchase even more properties will bring about better standards and lower rents. Wouldn’t encouraging the private rental sector to expand reduce the proportion of homes available to first time buyers, thereby increasing house prices and with them the demand for rental properties, pushing rents still higher? I’m no economist, but I’m not convinced. I’ve been renting in the private sector since 2008 (2003 if you count student accommodation) and if coalition policy has ushered in a clearer system of letting agent fees, I’ve yet to notice. None have yet satisfactorily explained to me how they can justify charging upwards of £400 for photocopying and countersigning a few bits of paper, running some simple background checks and handing over the keys.
I regret not sending the same questions to the other candidates, but I think it might be a bit late now. Anyway, here’s what Theresa had to say:
Thank you for your email.
I am sorry to hear that you have not received any election leaflets. I can assure you that my leaflets are being delivered across the constituency, both hand-delivered and via Royal Mail. I have personally been campaigning throughout the constituency – knocking on doors, delivering leaflets, and taking part in hustings.
I am committed to protecting our natural environment and safeguarding animal and plant health. The UK’s natural environment and our vibrant native ecosystem is one of our most precious inheritances. The Government has published the first Natural Environment White Paper for twenty years and has established a proper strategy, Biodiversity 2020, setting out our plans for protecting ecosystems.
£7.5 million has been provided to establish 12 Nature Improvement Areas across the country. These are large areas that contain more and better-connected habitats, providing space for wildlife to thrive. We are helping create 24,000 acres of priority habitats and supporting the creation of 3,300 acres of woodland. Since the last election we have also planted more than 11 million trees and cleaned up more than 10,000 miles of rivers and waterways – that is greater than the combined length of the Nile and Amazon rivers. Pollution from sewerage works has receded significantly.
I am also pleased that 27 Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) have been created to help better protect our rich marine life. These Zones join over 500 other marine protected areas that already exist in the UK. This means that, in addition to the quarter of English inshore waters that already had protected status, nine per cent of UK waters will now be safer for marine life. The Government is now consulting on designating the second tranche of a further 23 proposed MCZs. The results of the consultation are expected next January. For the next Parliament, the Conservatives have announced ambitious plans to complete a network of marine protected areas, creating a UK Blue Belt of protected sites.
As hosts of the London Conference on the Illegal Wildlife Trade, the Government helped secure the adoption of the London Declaration on Illegal Wildlife Trade and will continue to lead the world in stopping the poaching that kills thousands of rhinos, elephants and tigers each year. We will oppose any resumption of commercial whaling, and seek further measures at the EU and internationally to
end shark-finning. A Conservative Government will press for full ‘endangered species’ status for polar bears and a ban on the international trade in polar bear skins, as well as for greater attention to be paid to the impact of climate change on wildlife and habitats in Polar Regions in the Arctic Council and other international fora.
On this issue of climate change, the UK is taking a leading role on the world stage, working towards a binding global deal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit climate change to manageable levels. UK Ministers led the push to get European leaders to reach agreement on a historic deal to cut greenhouse gas emissions. EU countries agreed a new 2030 energy and climate policy framework that includes a domestic 2030 EU emissions reduction target of at least 40 per cent. This represents a big victory for the UK and it is a vital step towards achieving an international climate agreement at the key Paris conference later this year, where all the world’s leaders will gather. A Conservative Government will push for a strong global climate deal later this year – one that keeps the goal of limiting global warming to two-degrees firmly in reach. At home, we will continue to support the UK Climate Change Act.
In the last five years the Government has worked extremely hard to secure our energy supply, decarbonise our economy, help families with their energy bills and attract the investment needed to renew the UK’s energy infrastructure. We have set up the world’s first Green Investment Bank, trebled renewable energy generation to 19 per cent, brought energy efficiency measures to over one million homes, and committed £1 billion for carbon capture and storage.
In regard to housing, the private rented sector is crucial to providing flexible accommodation but more needs to be done to raise standards and encourage longer-term tenancies. That is why the Government has published a tenants’ charter and a new Code of Practice for property management companies to give tenants more information and improve the standards of rented property. We are cracking down on rogue landlords, and letting agents must now be more transparent about their fees and charges.
The only way to have affordable rents is to build more homes. Through the Build to Rent Fund we are providing finance, along with private sector investment, to build new purpose-built privately rented homes. In total £1 billion of investment of public and private investment will be provided which will deliver 10,000 new homes to rent. We are also offering guarantees to housing providers and investors, enabling them to borrow at cheaper rates and build tens of thousands of new homes, including 30,000 new affordable homes through the Affordable Housing Guarantee scheme.
Rent controls resulted in the size of the private rented sector shrinking from 55 per cent of households in 1939 to just 8 per cent in the late 1980s. Rent controls also meant that many landlords could not afford to improve or maintain their homes. I’m afraid Labour’s plans for rent controls, banning letting agents’ fees for tenants, and blanket local and national landlord licensing schemes would lead to higher rents as landlords pass on extra costs to tenants. It would also undermine investment in housing, making it harder for people to find a good quality, safe and affordable home to rent. Ultimately a reduced supply of rental homes will mean higher rents and less choice for tenants.
I hope this is helpful in providing some further information.
Thank you again for writing.
The Rt Hon Theresa May
Conservative Parliamentary Candidate for Maidenhead