The reality is that 3 million low and middle-income families will be worse off as a result of the tax credit changes. If the Prime Minister wants to change his mind on tax credits, he is very welcome to do so. He will have an opportunity at next week’s Opposition day debate, which is on this very subject. I am sure that he will want to take part in that debate and explain why it is such a good idea to make so many people so much worse off.
I have had 3,500 questions on housing in the past few days. I have a question from Matthew. [Interruption.] This might be funny to some Members, but it is not funny to Matthew or to many others. Matthew says:
“I live in a private rented house in London with three other people. Despite earning a salary well over the median wage, buying even the cheapest of properties will be well beyond my reach for years.”
Does the Prime Minister really believe that £450,000 is an affordable price for a new home for someone on an average income to try to aspire to?
The Prime Minister:
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to raise the issue of housing, particularly the affordability of housing in London. I say to Matthew that we are doing everything we can to get councils to build more houses, particularly affordable houses that he can buy. The hon. Gentleman quotes the figure of £450,000, but what we are saying is that that should be the upper limit for a starter home in London. We want to see starter homes in London built at £150,000 and £200,000, so that people like Matthew can stop renting and start buying. What have we done for people like Matthew? We have introduced Help to Buy, so for the first time we are helping people to get their deposit together so that they can buy a new home. We are also giving people like Matthew the right to buy their housing association home. [Interruption.] That is interesting. We hear groans from the Labour party, but the entire housing association movement is now backing our plan and telling people that they will be able to buy their home. I say to the hon. Gentleman: let us work together and get London building to get prices down so that people like Matthew can afford to buy a home of their own.
May I bring the Prime Minister back to reality? The past five years have seen a low level of house building—fewer than half the new buildings that are needed have been built—rapidly rising rents; rising homelessness; and a higher housing benefit bill. Even his friends at the CBI say we need to build at least 240,000 homes per year. Will he now address the problem that local authorities face in accessing funds to undertake the necessary and essential building of council housing? The Government appear to have a growing obsession with selling off publicly owned properties rather than building homes for people who desperately need them so that children can grow up in a safe and secure environment, which is what we all want for all of our children.
The Prime Minister:
Let me deal with all the hon. Gentleman’s points in turn. First, now that the housing association movement is backing the Right to Buy scheme, there will be up to a million extra homeowners, with the money going back into building more homes. Secondly, over the past five years that I have been Prime Minister, we have built more council homes than the previous Labour Government built in 13 years. [Interruption.] That is a bit of reality that the hon. Gentleman might want to digest. The most important point is that if we want to build homes, we need a strong and stable economy. We will not have a strong and stable economy if we adopt the new Labour position, which is borrowing money for ever. I urge Opposition Members who believe in a strong economy, paying down our deficit, and ensuring that we deliver for working people to join us in the Lobby tonight.
It would be very nice if the Prime Minister actually answered the question I asked. [Interruption.]
Order. These proceedings should be conducted in a seemly way, and chuntering from a sedentary position, from either Front Bench, is not helpful. Members must remain calm. Be as good as you can be.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. I am totally calm, I assure you, and I do not intend to engage in any chuntering.
The question I put to the Prime Minister was this: what is he doing to allow local authorities to build the homes that are necessary for people who have no opportunity to buy and who cannot afford to remain in the private rented sector? I realise that this might be complicated, so I would be very happy for him to write to me about it. We could then share the letter with others.