Mayor of London says he ‘cannot see logic’ in home secretary’s claim that immigrants have pushed up property prices
Boris Johnson has criticised the home secretary, Theresa May, for blaming an influx of immigrants for pushing up property prices and adding to Britain’s housing crisis.
The Conservative mayor of London also reiterated his calls for David Cameron to renegotiate Britain’s relationship with the European Union and hold a national referendum.
Johnson’s latest interventions on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday will be seen as further evidence that the mayor, widely seen as the most popular Conservative politician in Britain, is happy to put pressure on the coalition government even if it is perceived as meddling by Downing Street.
Addressing May’s claim this week that a third of new housing need had been caused by immigration and that without it house prices could be 10% lower over a 20-year period, Johnson said: “I don’t think it is sensible to say to keep down property values we should keep people out, or investors out, in order to allow property values to decline.
“That would lead to a fall in the equity of everyone and, for the life of me, I cannot see the logic,” he said.
“We should crack down on illegal immigration and, yes, Labour failed to get hold of the problem.
“But the number one issue amongst Indian businessmen [considering investing in Britain] is: ‘Are you hostile to us coming to London?'”
Johnson said he could not understand May’s comments, made on 12 December, when she told reporters: “More than one-third of all new housing demand in Britain is caused by immigration. And there is evidence that without the demand caused by mass immigration, house prices could be 10% lower over a 20-year period.”
It is believed that May’s assessment was based on a report for the House of Lords, prepared by Prof Stephen Nickell, which claimed that over 20 years house prices would be 13% higher with net migration of 190,000 a year than if there was no immigration.
In a wide-ranging interview with Marr, Johnson repeated statements made earlier this month and called for the public to be given the chance to vote on EU membership after a renegotiation of Britain’s deal.
“We have not had a popular vote since 1975 on a European question. I would like to be able to campaign for the single market and be able to withdraw from a lot of the nonsensical policies,” he said.
Johnson said that while he would prefer Britain to remain in the EU, it should be prepared to walk away if it was unable to negotiate a new relationship. “I don’t think that is necessarily the end of the world,” he said.
He said he wanted this to happen before the next general election in 2015, although he did not expect it to happen.
“I think it would be a good idea if they did it before 2015. It would be fantastic. I can’t see them doing it before 2015,” he said.
“Don’t forget that 15 years ago the entire CBI, British industry, the City – everybody – was prophesying that there would be gigantic mutant rats swarming out of the gutters in the sewer to gnaw the last emaciated faces of the remaining British bankers if we didn’t go into the euro.”
Britain’s EU membership has been forced up the political agenda by Tory backbenchers who are pressing for an EU referendum and the continuing rise of the United Kingdom Independence party.
Johnson also called for a halt to criticisms of multinational companies such as Starbucks, Amazon and Google for minimising their tax bills in Britain.
“You cannot exactly blame the finance directors of these companies for doing their jobs. Their salaries, their livelihoods are dependent upon minimising their tax exposure,” he said.