FactCheck: foundations further undermined
You may remember last month the FactCheck team homed in on the housing minister Grant Shapps’ grand designs. You can see their ruminations here.
Now Labour’s accusing him of misleading parliament, and potentially even breaking the ministerial code.
Just to recap, the controversy centres on Mr Shapps’ repeated claims that more of us should be helping to solve the housing crisis by building our own homes.
Around 14,000 new homes were self-built in the UK last year, fewer than in most developed countries. But the housing minister argued many more of us could don our hard hats, claiming that a three to four bedroom house could be thrown up for a mere £150,000.
Leave aside for a minute how on earth people can construct their own des res and hold down a job at the same time. The bigger problem is that Shapps’ calculations omit the cost of buying the land.
That might not be a problem somewhere like Northern Ireland, where the average plot would set you back £50,000, but in London you’d need to spend a massive £430,000 for a standard 1/15th of a hectare.
Shadow housing minister Jack Dromey told me today: “All ministers have an obligation to tell the truth, using statistics in a way that informs debate and does not mislead the public. Time and again, Grant Shapps has failed in his duty to be frank about the facts of the growing housing crisis on his watch.”
And he’s written to the boss of the UK Statistics Authority asking him to weigh in.
Labour’s also accused Mr Shapps of fiddling the figures on rough sleeping and affordable housing. The housing minister was having none of it, though, retorting that the last government’s regeneration schemes “did more to destroy our nation’s homes since the Luftwaffe bombs of WWII”.
We’ll be returning to this shortly.