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UK: Number of Households

Volume 762: debated on Monday 29 June 2015


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what was the increase in the number of households in England and Wales between 2010 and 2014; and, over that period, what were the number and proportion of households where the head of the household was not born in the United Kingdom.

My Lords, the most recent statistics for England, published on 27 February, include an estimate for England of 22.7 million households in 2014 compared with 21.9 million in 2010. This represents an increase of 0.8 million households, equating to a 3.6% increase over that four-year period. Government data show that, in 2014, 15% of heads of households across England and Wales were born outside the UK.

My Lords, I declare an interest as chairman of Migration Watch. I thank the Minister for her reply, which suggests that we are now forming new households at the rate of about one million every five years. Does the noble Baroness agree that the proportion of new households that have an immigrant head is a major factor in housing demand? Is she aware that, today, the Office for National Statistics has published a table showing that almost all households in the last four years were headed by someone born overseas? Finally, will she make sure that future publications by her department make absolutely clear the impact of immigration on housing, a major concern to the British public?

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for furnishing me with a figure beforehand of an increase of two-thirds. I have asked the ONS to look into this figure and if he is agreeable, I will confirm it in due course. In terms of supply and demand, we are focusing on both those things. We are doing many things to address the demand on housing in this country from overseas, including tightening the rules for family and student visas.

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that the country has benefited from both skilled and, to some extent, unskilled immigration, but that the appropriate measure of the extent to which this is so is not GDP growth but GDP per capita? Judged by that standard, the evidence is somewhat doubtful. Does she further agree that GDP growth reflects nothing but population growth, is of no particular economic advantage and, as the noble Lord, Lord Green, has pointed out, merely adds to the pressure on infrastructure and housing?

There is no doubt that there is pressure on housing demand from all sorts of sources, including immigration. The point that I was trying to make is that we want skilled people to come here to fill some of the skills gaps, but we do not want people simply coming here to look for work without having secured a job.

My Lords, would it not be a far more positive approach to stop blaming immigration for the lack of housing and to start building more homes?

My Lords, we are building more homes. In fact, nearly 800,000 homes have been built in this country since 2009. However, I agree that, yes, we are in danger of blaming immigration for everything.

My Lords, does the Minister agree that the term “head of household” was dropped in relation to the electoral register many years ago because it was often interpreted as meaning men? Secondly, does she agree that in looking at the figures of people who were born overseas, it is important to distinguish the multifarious reasons why people are in that category? For example, until 30 years ago a British mother outside the EU was not able to pass on British citizenship unless the child was born in Britain, whereas a British father could. Can we not have a great deal more accuracy when we are looking at this issue?

My Lords, I agree with the noble Baroness that we tend to look at things in rather a blanket way, that “head of household” suggests a certain person—namely, male—and that the reasons for immigration are many and varied. I am an immigrant myself: my family came here in the 1970s because my father got a job here. One reason may be to flee persecution. The noble Baroness is absolutely right.

My Lords, could the Minister answer my noble friend Lord Lamont’s question about whether GDP per capita is a more sensible measure of growth? In particular, what percentage of GDP growth is accounted for by immigration?

My Lords, I do not have those figures to hand but I am very happy to write to the noble Lord and furnish him with them.

My Lords, are the one-third of hospital doctors who were born overseas considered when heads of household are calculated? Surely that would transform our whole idea of the value of people coming to this country.

The noble Lord makes a very valid point about acknowledging the contribution to this country that immigrants make. As I said in my previous reply, my father came here as a doctor from Ireland. People who come to this country to fill those sorts of highly skilled jobs make a very valuable contribution to our economy.

My Lords, how do the Government think that the sale of housing association homes is going to assist with the housing crisis?

My Lords, the sale of housing association homes is going to assist in the sense that for every one that is sold, a new one is going to be built.

My Lords, on the value of migrants to the health service, does the Minister not think it bizarre that the 2012 Immigration Rules now state that unless nurses from other countries who come to work here earn more than £35,000 a year, after six years they will have to go back home? Is that not, as I say, a bizarre change for the Government to make when we are crying out for nurses both from overseas and from this country?

My Lords, nurses, doctors and other health workers are vital to keeping the NHS going and we would not want to do without them.