PMQs: Jeremy Corbyn Was Right About Housebuilding

07/09/2016 15:03 | Updated 07 September 2016
Mikhail Metzel via Getty Images

At PMQs today Theresa May made two claims about housebuilding - both immediately and hotly contested by Jeremy Corbyn.

The first was that housebuilding had “been up under the conservative government, compared to Labour”. (Corbyn said it was, on the contrary, “45,000 a year less”).

The second was a claim that the Tories had delivered on a promise to “one-to-one replace” council houses that would be sold under Right to Buy. Corbyn said they had only replaced one in five. 

So who was right?

Let’s take the first claim first. Here are some figures on housebuilding taken from the Department of Local Government’s website. They look at houses completed in Britain every year.


On average, 193,000 houses were built every year under Labour. Under Tory rule the average dropped to 151,000. So points to Corbyn - he was (roughly) correct.

Footnote goes to May. The recession has dominated much of the Tories’ tenure - which probably had far more of an impact on housebuilding than government policy.  

And if you leave out private enterprise, and just look at the social housing the government has built, it’s quite another story. Around 12,00 local authority/housing association homes were built a year under Labour; 16,000 have been built every year under the conservatives. Perhaps this is what May meant?

And he was sort-of right about council houses

According to government figures, the Tories have only replaced around one in 10 council homes sold. (38,479 have been sold since 2012, 4,594 homes have been started). So Corbyn seems right -  in fact more than he knows.

But the Tories wriggle out of it, technically. Examine the government’s 2012 promise a little closer, and you’ll see they only promised to start a council home within three years of selling one. They have also since made clear that they will only count “additional” sales - the houses which have been sold only as a result of the 2012 discount. (Hard thing to model.)

The government say were 3054 additional houses sold in 2012, and that in the three-year period after that, there were 4,594 starts, which puts them in the clear. “We are more than delivering one for one” said the Prime Minister’s spokeswoman.


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