Photography: Tom Campbell

As leader of the Liberal Democrats, the only party opposing Brexit, Vince Cable believes he’s gaining ground on his two main rivals. But the 75-year-old parliamentary veteran is keen to show his isn’t a party campaigning on a single issue.

The Liberal Democrats have also announced a raft of policies which Cable says will boost housebuilding activity across the UK.

Read the full interview in print and online from Friday, in which Cable talks to building about housing, Heathrow’s third runway and Carillion’s ‘horrific’ collapse. 

Cable on… Heathrow’s third runway

“I think there’s a legitimate set of questions about who’s actually going to pay for it. There are vast disparities between the cost estimates on the runway and on the infrastructure and, until that is clarified, it is very far from clear that we have a sensible, viable project.”


Cable on… The £3.5bn parliament refurbishment

“I tend to be in favour of economical solutions and for having parliament rotated around provincial cities so that we turn this potentially very costly exercise into something positive for democracy. In Tudor times, monarchs used to go around the country and spend a few months in York and a few months in Lancaster. Maybe we should revive that model.”


Cable on… The apprenticeship levy

“The original idea was that employers would be rewarded for training through levy abatement and that those who didn’t train would pay the levy. That hasn’t happened – in fact, good training companies are effectively paying twice. As far as we can see training is falling off a cliff.”


Lib Dem housing policy in brief:

Greenbelt swapping

Freeing up disused parts of the green belt, such as former petrol station sites, for housing in exchange for protecting urban green space such as parks and playing fields

Development agency

An arm’s-length, not-for-profit agency with compulsory purchase powers that buys land at low cost. Land used for agriculture would be acquired minus the “hope value” that inflates prices, aiming to build houses at as low as 40% of market value 

Public sector land

Big landowners such as the Ministry of Defence must release land for housing. Tough Treasury sanctions would be imposed for public sector land banking

Empty homes

Where the housing stock in areas of natural beauty and in London is unoccupied by non-resident owners, there would be greater sanctions such as increasing the 200% council tax on empty homes to 500%

Social housing

Of the 300,000 new homes that are needed a year, 50,000 should be for social housing. This would require removing the cap on local authority borrowing, giving councils discretion to curb the Right to Buy, and removing the affordable housing exemption for small developments