BBC Question Time: Flustered Tory MP backs housing program – Howls of laughter

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BBC Question Time viewers were left laughing as Chris Philp, Conservative MP, attempted to defend the government’s housing scheme and deny that rents can rise with fewer homes.

A Tory MP’s muddled reply over the government’s new housing scheme and why it would not lead to rents rising with fewer homes available, led to fits of laughter from the BBC Question Time audience.

Boris Johnson, a social tenant who wants to purchase their home, presented his plans at a speech in Blackpool last Thursday.

Critics have also asked where the new accommodation would come from to replace the existing housing.

The prime minister has also failed not to make the promise to build 300,000 homes per year in England by 2020 – something that was included in the 2019 Conservative general elections manifesto.

Question Time was a discussion in which a participant asked whether rents would go up if there were less housing.

The man stated: “Will extending the right to buy to housing associations provide a further shortage of rented accommodation and therefore push up rents?”

Conservative MP Chris Philp, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Tech and Digital Economy said “no” but left the audience baffled by his explanation of why there wouldn’t be less housing available.

“To answer that question no it won’t because the number of people remains the same, the number of homes remains the same, it is just changing the tenure type so the answer to the question is no,” said Mr Philp.

But presenter Fiona Bruce quickly jumped in saying: “Hang on a minute, just let me understand that because the government has done a pilot of this in the Midlands in 2018 and less than a third of the homes that were sold were replaced as a result of that pilot. So where do people who then need to go on the social housing association list, how do they?”

Mr Philp tried to clarify: “The point is that the person who exercises that right to buy, by definition somebody who was on the social housing register, they then exercise their right to buy, so the number of people on the social housing register goes down by one.”

He seemed to be digging his own hole with Ms Bruce’s words: “But what about all the people on the social housing waiting list where are they going to live.”

As the audience began to laugh, Philp stated: “But the balance between stock and people stays the same as each goes down by one. You then separately to that…”

Ms Bruce asked the audience to: “Am I missing something?”They retorted: “No.”

But Mr Philp, by now smiling, wasn’t giving up: “You are, you are, because separately to that you obviously have to build more homes to meet the inflow, right, so that makes sense.”

It was the cue for more general laughter and bewildered looks from the audience.

“I’m not sure Chris, I’m not sure you are convincing the audience here,” said Ms Bruce.

Mr Philp then moved on to saying that he agreed with the “general point” of the new government scheme which means that there will be more home ownership.

The prime minister has said the government was committed to extending a home-buying scheme, known as right to buy, to housing association tenants.

As part of the scheme he said that he wanted to have it “within existing spending plans” and have a “one-for-one replacement” of each home sold.

At the same time people on universal credit could choose whether their benefit goes on rent or towards a mortgage.

Mr Johnson said a change of policies would mean “millions realise the dream of home ownership”.

Housing benefits cost the government around £30 billion a year which mainly goes to private landlords and people with mortgages are not entitled to it.

But Mr Johnson failed to commit to his own manifesto pledge to build 300,000 new homes a year by the mid 2020s, during the Blackpool speech, saying: “I can’t give you a cast iron guarantee that we will get to a particular number in a particular year.”