It is, of course, a pleasure to follow George Galloway. His speech was a oratorical interlude that demonstrated his perspective on the world and suited his style: blacks, whites and no greys. Although he denies practising yah-boo politics, I am afraid to say that that was pretty much what we heard.
Today, we are concentrating primarily on housing, and I want to make a constructive contribution on the narrow issue of developing the construction industry, trying to kick-start the economy in the process and meeting desperate housing need. I welcome any intervention by the Government, including the Budget announcement on the promotion of home ownership for those seeking, in many cases in desperate circumstances, to get their first toe-hold on the housing ladder. In particular, I want to look at the special circumstances faced by many people living in rural areas.
My own part of the world is, of course, west Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. Cornwall as a whole has seen the number of houses double in the past 40 years, yet housing problems for local people have become significantly worse. What we have learned in Cornwall applies to many other parts of the country that are attractive to wealthy people—we have many such places in Cornwall—who can afford second homes. On its own, building houses is not the problem. In places that are highly desirable to those with large wallets, something more sophisticated is required than merely heaving in a load more houses and turning the place into a developers’ paradise. There is a big mismatch between earnings levels and house prices in our area.