Howls of laughter at BBC Question Time as nervous Tory MP supports housing scheme

BBC Question Time audiences were thrown into fits of laughter as Conservative MP Chris Philp tried to defend the government’s new housing scheme and denied that rents could rise with fewer homes

Chris Philp tried to explain the government's housing program
Chris Philp tried to explain the government’s housing program

A Tory MP’s muddled reply about the government’s new housing scheme and why it wouldn’t result in rising rents when fewer homes are available caused fits of laughter from BBC Question Time listeners.

Speaking in Blackpool on Thursday, Boris Johnson laid out plans for social tenants to buy their homes.

However, critics have questioned where the new housing would come from to replace the apartments that have been sold.

The Prime Minister also failed to live up to a pledge to build 300,000 houses a year in England by 2025 – something included in the Conservatives’ 2019 election manifesto.

And during Question Time, one of the listeners took up the topic and asked whether rents would rise if there was less living space.

The man said, “Will extending the purchase right to housing associations create a further shortage of rental housing, driving up rents?”

Mr Philp claimed the new scheme would not result in less housing



Conservative MP Chris Philp, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Technology and Digital Economy, said “no” but left audiences stunned when he explained why there wouldn’t be less housing.

“To answer this question no, it will not be because the number of people stays the same, the number of apartments stays the same, it just changes the type of ownership, so the answer to the question is no,” said Mr Philip.

But presenter Fiona Bruce was quick to jump in, saying: “Hold on a minute, let me understand because the Government ran a pilot on this in the Midlands in 2018 and less than a third of the homes sold have been replaced by that pilot. So where do the people go who then have to be on the list of the social housing association, huh?

Mr Philp tried to clarify: “The point is that the person exercising that right to buy, by definition someone who was on the social housing register, then exercises their right to buy, so the number of people on the social housing register goes down by one.”

Many in the audience seemed unconvinced by the Conservative MP’s response



He appeared to be digging a hole as Ms Bruce said: “But what about all the people on the council housing waiting list, where are they going to live?”

And as the audience started laughing and shaking their heads, Mr Philp said: “But the balance between stocks and people stays the same as everyone goes down one. You then separated from it…”

Ms. Bruce asked the audience, “Am I missing something?” and they yelled back, “No.”

But Mr Philp, who was now smiling, didn’t give up: “You are, you are, because separately from that you obviously need to build more houses to cover the inflow, right, so that makes sense.”

Ms Bruce asked where new housing would come from for other people who need it



It was the catalyst for more general laughter and confused looks from the audience.

“I’m not sure Chris, I’m not sure you’re going to win over the audience here,” Ms. Bruce said.

Mr Philp then went on to say that he agreed with the “general point” of the new government program which means there will be more home ownership.

The prime minister said the government had committed to extending a home-buying scheme known as right-to-buy to housing association tenants.

As part of the program, he said he wanted it “within existing spending plans” and a “one-for-one replacement” for every home sold.

The original question was asked by a man asking if rents would rise under the newly proposed scheme



At the same time, people with universal credit could choose whether their benefit is used for rent or for a mortgage.

Mr Johnson said a change in policy would mean “millions will realize the dream of owning their own home”.

Housing benefit costs the government around £30billion a year, which mostly goes to private landlords, and people with mortgages aren’t eligible for it.

But Mr Johnson didn’t commit to his own manifesto to build 300,000 new homes a year by the mid-2020s during the Blackpool speech, saying: “I can’t give you a cast-iron guarantee that we’ll hit a specific figure specific year.”

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