Sir Michael Latham’s call (9 March, page 36) for Gordon Brown to re-establish a Department of the Environment (DoE) under one ministerial responsibility is sensible, which is why it won’t happen.
Latham says the loss of the DoE came in 2001, but he is wrong – it was being dismantled even during the 1990s. Governments outsourced the work and now depend on an army of consultants.
Setting up a DoE devoted to building might make construction easier, but at what price? The £4 trillion value of Britain’s private housing stock might suffer a correction since a DoE producing 413,000 homes would make housing affordable again. Commercial property portfolios would collapse if planning approvals were to flow.
That is why Latham’s call will be ignored by the man keeping construction diffused throughout government. And no serious politician will argue otherwise, because they all know that the market is mostly in trading existing buildings, not making new ones. These days, it’s better to be the minister for culture or Northern Ireland than the one responsible for collapsing property markets.
It is a pity Latham didn’t suggest strengthening the DoE as ministry for easing production in 1994, after the speculative property market crashed last time.
Ian Abley, audacity