In Brief

Budget 2017: Philip Hammond pledges to build 300,000 homes a year

But the Chancellor was criticised for saying ‘there are no unemployed people in the UK’

The Chancellor has announced plans to build 300,000 new homes a year, the equivalent of a city the size of Leeds - but the news was overshadowed by his claim that there are no unemployed people in Britain.

 The housing scheme will be announced in Wednesday's Budget, which will take the shortage of housing as one of its themes. The BBC says Philip Hammond is “under pressure to ease the difficulties faced by first-time buyers trying to get a deposit”.

In an interview with The Sunday Times, Hammond said he would commit billions of pounds of extra investment and create new powers and planning rules to ensure construction companies start work on sites that already have planning permission.

To highlight Britain’s “broken” market for developed land, the Chancellor said there were 270,000 unbuilt planning permissions in London alone.

Senior government sources speaking to The Sunday Times said the Treasury will set aside about £5bn for housing schemes while underwriting tens of billions of pounds worth of loans.

However, this still falls well short of the £50bn called for by the Communities Secretary Sajid Javid to start a house-building revolution.

No unemployed people?

Hammond’s announcement was quickly overshadowed by a row over comments he made which seemed to suggest there were no unemployed people in the UK.

Speaking to the BBC’s Andrew Marr, Hammond said “there are no unemployed people” while discussing the threat to jobs posed by technological change.

When later pressed to clarify his remarks, he said the Government was “getting people into work at a remarkable rate” and that it had not forgotten the 1.4 million unemployed people in the UK.

In a later interview with ITV’s Robert Peston, he said: “The point I was making is previous waves of technological change have not resulted in millions of people being long-term unemployed.”

Yet this did not stop a huge backlash from members of the public and opposition politicians, who said the remark indicted how out of touch the Government is. The incident reinforced “Hammond’s reputation as a tin-eared technocrat”, says Politico.

Alan Travis in The Guardian said the gaffe is damaging because it feeds into two widely-held beliefs: “that the Tories don’t care about the unemployed and that the Chancellor may be good at the figures but has no wider political vision”.

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