Ex-minister Peter Luff attacks Cameron's housing plans

Houses under construction Ex-minister Peter Luff has attacked David Cameron's housing plans

Mid Worcestershire's Conservative MP Peter Luff certainly seems to be enjoying what we Westminster watchers call 'the freedom of the back benches'.

No sooner is he relieved of his responsibilities as a Defence Minister in this month's reshuffle than it emerges he has decided to stand down from Parliament at the next election.

But the signs are he may be in no mood to think about going quietly during the remaining two and a half years.

He is one of a number of newly-departed ministers signalling their willingness to criticise the policies of the government in which they so recently served.

Prime Minister, be warned.


It's what happens to governments in the mid-term.

On to the back benches come former ministers mixing and mingling with other MPs who now see their own chances of promotion passing them by.

In Peter Luff's sights are the Prime Minister's plans to put £10 billion into a drive for new housing as part of the government's stimulus package.

MP Peter Luff Former Defence Minister Peter Luff has branded government housing plans 'unsustainable'

David Cameron also aims to simplify what he sees as over-restrictive planning regulations which he believes have been putting the brakes on economic development.

Even before Mr Luff's intervention, the government had been fending off accusations that its controversial National Planning Policy Framework was tantamount to what critics called "a developers' charter".

By this they meant a free-for-all for housing projects which would threaten our precious Green Belt areas.

Now he is opening up a new front in the debate, arguing that a splurge of construction would not really do much for the economy either: "If building houses were the answer to a maiden's prayer when it comes to growth, then Spain and Ireland would be booming, not bust."

Housing shortage

The argument is expected to intensify next week when the annual conference opens in Birmingham of the National Housing Federation, the umbrella organisation representing a wide variety of social landlords including housing associations.

It warns of a chronic shortage in the supply of housing with waiting lists lengthening, and house prices and rents soaring despite the recession.

According to the federation, only 8,600 homes were completed in the West Midlands during 2011/12 compared with over 15,000 in 2006/7.

Housing The National Housing Federation warned of a chronic shortage of new homes

But Mr Luff says the real issue is a shortage of demand for housing.

Whatever the truth of the matter, the politics are fascinating.

On the face of it, if a government wanted to stir up dissension on its back benches and rebellion in the shires, it couldn't do much better than to propose a wave of building which opponents believe breaches the fundamental principles of the planning system.

Or is this just another case of 'not in my back yard'?

One campaigner for a relaxation of the planning regime put it graphically: "We have gone beyond the age of the NIMBY," he told me.

"Now it's the age of the BANANA: build absolutely nothing anywhere near anything!"

Patrick Burns Article written by Patrick Burns Patrick Burns Political editor, Midlands

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  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    Register of members' interests for Mr Peter Luff:
    "Two small residential properties, one in Worcester and one in London, both jointly owned with my wife, from which a registrable income is derived." So, small-time BTL landlord says please don't build any more houses as prices and rents will decrease and what will I do now... same old, same old...

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    The problem was caused by the selling off of council houses by Thatcher, everything that woman did has back fired, the deregulation of the banks and the destruction of our industries, she has a lot to answer for.

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    The obsession with buiding out way out of recession is just a red herring the reason is the big building companies have got to Dave, its about their profit. There is enough land with planning permission about and plenty of brown field sites as I say its about profit and bonuses for his mates.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    The houses should cost 3x salary is harking back to a golden age that did not exist That rule of thumb applied from mid 1970s to early 1990s. Inflation and interest rates were a lot higher then When I bought my first flat I paid £800 per month in mtg payments on a £75000 mtg at 12.5% interest rate For the same price per month you could now have a £150-180k mtg which would be about 6x salary

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    "But Mr Luff says the real issue is a shortage of demand for housing."

    Unlike the banks Mr Luff we happen to know what we should be leant for a house. And that’s 3 times our annual salary- At the moment there is an utter disconnect between wages and house prices - Pick one then please - Up wages massively to allow people to buy or cause a housing crash - They are the only two ways out of this

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    #4 in addition to s106 there are other levies being brought in.

    #3 you have completely missed the point. Prices are high because demand has vastly exceeded supply for many years. Govt says we need to build 240,000 new houses per year. For the last 10 years (probably longer) we have built a lot less. Prices go up - basic economics. Through in low interest rates and it becomes worse

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    A factor in the high cost of housing is the little known stealth tax called schedule 106 where anybody applying for planning approval has to contribute money towards local amenities. A local example is where the developer has had to fund an underpass and subsidise bus routes for 5 years. It is estimated that these schemes under schedule 106 adds £10k to the cost of each house.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    Of course there is a shortage of demand. The underlying issue is that the market is still overpriced when compared to the long term trend. Correct this and people will start to buy again. The current plan of inflating/devaluing our way out of asset bubble will take years.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    The problem is that their is a shortage of demand for housing at the prices that Cameron is trying to force people to pay.

    Since Cameron's debt deferring ponzi schemes New & First Buy were first announced builder shares have more than doubled. They are government sponsored liar loans using our taxes to underwrite losses so people can buy what they cannot afford enabling builders to charge more

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    This article has implications for the whole of England - why isn't there a page or programme anywhere on the BBC to discuss English politics?



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