Nick Boles started his first fringe as a minister this evening by saying that after years of trying to make controversial points at party conference events, he wasn’t going to say anything interesting. The new planning minister’s attempt at being boring wasn’t thoroughly successful: Boles’ version of being dull and unreportable is still more fascinating than some politicians will ever manage.
He opened his speech to the IPPR event by praising the good intentions of the Labour government in building more homes. But there was one fatal flaw in that plan, he said:
‘The last government had many good intentions in this area. They made life a lot more difficult for themselves in combining their desire to build more housing with their desire to completely open borders and open immigration. That made the already very difficult challenge much more difficult.’
Boles didn’t enlarge on this comment at all, but the implication was clear: that in promising to bring annual net migration down to the tens of thousands, the Conservatives will make the housing challenge a lot less fraught than it currently is. Obviously that relies on the Home Office actually meeting this target, which isn’t a certainty by any means.
When it came to questions, many councillors in the audience were keen for assurances on greenfield development. But Boles wasn’t particularly forthcoming. He told the room that we live in an age where there is ‘much much much less money’, and that this was ‘not going to change in your lifetime or my lifetime’. It would be ‘simply irresponsible’ to prevent greenfield development, he said: ‘If you do that the rate of housebuilding would fall.’Tags: Conservative conference 2012, Conservatives, Nick Boles, Planning, UK politics