Housing

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:15 pm on 5th May 2004.

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Photo of Andrew Selous Andrew Selous Conservative, South West Bedfordshire 3:15 pm, 5th May 2004

I am thinking of some form of grant, or of a tax penalty if such properties were not developed. I favour a carrot-and-stick approach, although there is no time for me to go into the details—as the hon. Gentleman said in respect of some of his party's policies. However, some such inducement could easily be introduced, and we should explore the possibility.

The notion of extended financial families is somewhat new to me, although it received an airing in the national press last week. In this country, our concept of the family is nuclear, and that is hugely to our detriment. Several national newspapers last week carried stories about families who live their lives together. When we build new houses, why not consider building ones with two kitchens, for example? In that way, grandparents could live in one part of a house and younger people in another, but everyone could retain some privacy. All sorts of advantages in respect of child care and so on could flow from such an arrangement, which also represents an environmentally sensible solution. I urge a little more flexibility in our response to new building.

The debate has touched on demographic change, the euphemism for which is "household formation". I think that we should be more blunt: this country leads the way in Europe in the incidence of relationship breakdown, in all its manifestations. That is a significant driver of demand, and therefore of the housing crisis that we face. We should look much more seriously at relationship support work—a sector into which the Government put only tiny amounts of money. Only £5 million goes to the marriage and relationship support programme. An excellent project for couple mentoring proposed by the organisation Care for the Family was turned down only last week. We must look seriously at this area, as helping people to stay together will reduce housing demand. That is a sensible approach to take.

We should also extended the disabled facilities grants scheme. To pay for that, I would scrap much of the regional apparatus, and the result would be that many more disabled people would be helped to stay in their own homes.

Finally, we need to look seriously at how we can help people in large properties—particularly council tenants—to move to smaller ones. We could provide some sort of financial inducement in that respect, and thus free up the larger properties for families who need them.