Prime minister Rishi Sunak was forced to delay long-awaited planning reforms after Conservative MPs threatened to rebel on Tuesday night (22 November), according to the Telegraph.
As many as 50 Conservative MPs, including eight former cabinet ministers, signed an amendment to the Levelling-Up and Regeneration Bill which would have abolished the targets.
MPs were set to vote on the prime minister’s plans for mandatory, centrally-set targets to build 300,000 homes a year next Monday.
However, the government pulled the vote last night claiming the decision had been taken due to a packed parliamentary timetable.
The Telegraph reported that opposition parties said the real reason for the “shambles” was that Sunak was “scared” of his own backbenchers.
The Levelling-Up and Regeneration Bill, which was introduced by Michael Gove earlier this year under Boris Johnson’s leadership, will still be debated in the Commons today.
The debate that was due to take place next Monday will now be delayed to allow time for further discussion.
A government source told the Telegraph that the debate “may slip a bit due to a congested parliamentary timetable with the Finance Bill votes next week”.
“We will continue to engage constructively with colleagues over the next few weeks to ensure we build more of the right homes in the right places,” the source said, adding that he expected the debate to come “before Christmas”.
Labour had already said it would not be supporting the rebel amendment.
MPs who have signed the amendment are from all wings of the party, including Sir Iain Duncan-Smith, Theresa Villiers, John Redwood, Dame Maria Miller, Damian Green, Chris Grayling, Priti Patel and Esther McVey.
The amendment would have meant that house-building targets “may only be advisory and not mandatory” and so “accordingly such targets should not be taken into account in determining planning applications”.
It added that the national planning rulebook “must not impose an obligation on local planning authorities to ensure that sufficient housing development sites are available over five years or any other given period”.
Earlier this year and during his first stint as housing secretary, Gove highlighted the country’s “significant housing challenges” such as a historic lack of supply compared to the level of population growth.
He also suggested that it’s “unlikely” that the government would consistently hit the 300,000 target year on year.