Auf Wiedersehen butt: Eric Pickles & the Welsh brickies
Most of his cabinet colleagues may have their eyes focused on Scotland this week but Eric Pickles has still managed to find time to highlight Welsh housing policy.
The communities secretary told MPs that he visited a housing development in the south of England and discovered all the brickies were Welsh.
Asked about the help to buy scheme, he said: "It's not been as successful in Wales. Labour rather botched their introduction of help to buy. I was recently in mid Bedfordshire looking at some houses on a Barratt development and I was very surprised to find that all the brickies came from Wales and the explanation was that because of the way housing is declining in Wales ambitious brickies are coming to England for work."
The Welsh government was not impressed. "These comments are at odds with reality," said a spokesperson. "Recent statistics show that over the past year both construction output and employment in Wales outperformed the UK. Research published by the CITB (Construction Industry Training Board) shows that nearly 18,000 new construction jobs are expected to be created in Wales over the next five years and the sector is set to grow 3.4% annually between now and 2018, outstripping all bar one region in England.
"Our popular £170 million help to buy - Wales scheme is on course to support the purchase of around 5,000 new homes across Wales and has been welcomed by house builders of all sizes, with over 100 builders having signed up to date.
"Building Wales out of the worst economic recession seen for generations is one of this government's top priorities. Our actions are clearly working - with encouraging indications of the construction industry in Wales outperforming most parts of the UK."
It sounds like the English housing minister, Brandon Lewis, can expect a warm welcome when he appears at the RESI 2014 residential property market show at the Celtic Manor resort this Thursday.