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Volume 448: debated on Tuesday 4 July 2006

Rising housing demand is driven by demographic change, which includes the fact that more people live alone, and by the needs of the economy. If we do not respond to rising housing demand, we will see first-time buyers priced out of the market, rising overcrowding and pressures on recruitment for businesses and public services, which is why we support the provision of new homes.

I am grateful for that answer. Rising demand is driven not only by smaller house sizes, smaller family sizes and longer lives—we welcome that—but by international migration, which accounts for 30 per cent. of rising demand. Is not it cruel and heartless to hand out work permits to people who have no realistic prospect of finding accommodation when they get to this country and who compete, when they arrive, with our most vulnerable fellow citizens for that rare accommodation?

Obviously the hon. Gentleman is right to say that one has to take a sensible approach to immigration and housing policy. However, we must recognise that immigration supports our economy. Migrant workers contribute around 10 per cent. of Government tax receipts and account for only 8 per cent. of Government spending. They are critical to the economy. Of course we must ensure that appropriate housing is in place. I emphasise that 72 per cent. of household growth is accounted for by single households. We need to ensure that we build more new homes to meet the overall needs of the economy, and our changing and increasing population.

My hon. Friend knows that housing demand is perhaps at its most acute among the homeless. She will also know that in December she announced £88 million of assistance to local authorities with homelessness projects. However, does she know that on 7 February the Conservative cabinet member for housing in Birmingham claimed, in response to a question from his son, who is also a Conservative councillor in Birmingham, that the city had received “not one single penny” from that fund? He has repeated that on two or three subsequent occasions, even saying that my hon. Friend should apologise to the people of Birmingham. Is he telling the truth?

Order. The hon. Gentleman is an experienced Member. He should know that supplementaries should be brief. [Interruption.] Sometimes I have seen the hon. Member for Wallasey (Angela Eagle) take her time over her supplementaries, too. The point is that I went over the time to call the hon. Gentleman, and I therefore expected a brief question. I would appreciate it if the hon. Lady did not tell me how to chair the proceedings. She would not know where to start.

My answer is brief. In December 2005, Birmingham city council was allocated £650,000 of homelessness grant for 2006-07. It has been given an indicative allocation for the same amount for 2007-08. Those are the facts.