Of course, if your welfare policies discourage marriage, you increase the need for housing, as cohabiting couples are five times more likely to split up than married ones. The current rate of family breakdown is both a major national crisis, and a huge driver of the over-consumption of housing-stock, as obviously a couple formerly living together need twice as many dwellings when living apart. So that is another of the many good reasons for David Cameron to highlight the vital importance of marriage, as he has done.
But there is another, more pressing, problem eating up the housing-stock in this country.
Could it be that one of the main reasons Brown is having to ‘go large’ on housing is that the Government he co-premiered from the Treasury for the last decade went ‘supersize’ on immigration? They let in so many that, Migrationwatch calculate there could be as many as 870,000 illegal immigrants in the country (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4733777.stm
I was the first MP to raise this with our new Prime Minister (Hansard Wed 11 July).
‘Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) (Con): What proportion of the 240,000 new houses to be built every year are accounted for by the move towards smaller households, and what proportion are accounted for by net migration? If the Prime Minister cannot give an accurate reply now, I would be grateful if he would write to me later.
The Prime Minister: The biggest increase will be in respect of housing for single people, where there is clearly a deficiency at the moment. The hon. Gentleman should view the figures not as an attempt to create more houses out of the same sites, but as an attempt to increase the number of sites available. I said earlier today that we had identified 500 additional public sector sites where the land can be released and housing can be built. I hope that within that development, the amount and proportion of affordable housing will be very high. This is an attempt to release more land in order to get the housing market moving, and to increase the supply in a way that I believe both sides of the House should welcome.’
As we have come to expect from this Government, he failed to answer my question.Migrationwatch estimates that – there needs to be an increase of ‘about a quarter’ in the number of dwellings provided over the next 20 years. And that is just in London and East, South-East and South-West England – areas which already have the shortest supply of empty homes, the highest house prices and the smallest ration of formerly developed sites.
Not to mention that London and the South-East are already the two most densely populated areas of England. At least the Home Office – which thinks the ceiling for unauthorised (i.e. illegal) immigrants is about 570,000 – is reported to have turned down the proposal by the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) for an amnesty for half a million.
But I can’t help thinking of bolted horses and stable doors.
Edward Leigh MP