Minister backs housing boost

A NEWLY promoted South Yorkshire MP has declared that helping first time buyers and families struggling to make their mortgage payments will be the main priorities in his new job.

Wentworth MP John Healey said: "As a key job in these tough economic times I was delighted when the Prime Minister asked me to become housing minister.

"My first priority is to continue the real help we are offering to people struggling with their mortgage as well as first time buyers trying to get a foot on the housing ladder.

"Equally clear action is needed now to make sure all parts of the country have the high quality and energy efficient homes needed in the years to come."

Mr Healey, who was previously Gordon Brown's local government minister, was forced to defend the Government's 285 million Mortgage Rescue Scheme during his first Commons appearance since his appointment.

His Tory counterpart Grant Shapps attacked the flagship scheme, which he said had helped just two families and, on present trends, would only give support to around a dozen homeowners.

This was despite the fact more than 31,000 homes had been repossessed since the scheme was launched last December.

Mr Healey replied: "We have aimed to act swiftly to support those most affected by the downturn - first of all, people and families at risk of repossession, and of losing the very thing that is at the centre of the stability of their life: their home."

Rotherham MP Denis MacShane highlighted how in the 1950s Harold Macmillan succeeded in building 300,000 homes a year.

He said: "That's not the worst of ambitions because if we build the homes for the people of Britain, they won't vote BNP in Yorkshire and you will become a full member of the Cabinet."

Mr Healey said he was "dead right" and it was clear that council building had a bigger role to play.

As housing minister Mr Healey has the right to attend cabinet meetings and made his first appearance at the Government's top table on Tuesday.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has made housing a priority for his government since becoming leader two years ago, although plans for an eco-town in South Yorkshire have been radically scaled back.

The proposed 15,000-home eco-town at Rossington, near Doncaster, is now scheduled to become a 5,000-home eco-village.

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