HC Deb 18 October 1971 vol 823 cc354-5
17. Mr. Goronwy Roberts

asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he will institute an inquiry into the operation of house improvement grants in Wales, in particular the increasing subsidisation in many districts of second homes and houses let for holiday occupation only.

Mr. Gibson-Watt

No, Sir. It would not be right to discourage the improvement of older property, since every house improved adds to the stock of good housing.

Mr. Roberts

Is not the Minister of State aware that there is growing concern among many local authorities in Wales, especially in the so-called amenity areas, that these excellent provisions, which have been welcomed by everyone, are being used not to increase the housing pool for local people who desperately need houses for continuous occupation but to provide cheap holiday accommodation seasonally and for weekends for people who are already provided with homes?

Mr. Gibson-Watt

I know the right hon. Gentleman's particular concern about this, but it would not be easy to make a distinction in law to exclude holiday accommodation and the like, even if that were thought desirable. In any case, where it seems right to do so local authorities can withhold discretionary improvement grants for the improvement of second homes; the power to decide lies entirely with them.

Mr. Kinnock

Is the Minister of State aware that this difficulty in law does not exist? Will he not accept the principle of selectivity—which he is so anxious to embrace in other fields—against the rich on this occasion and make money available for people who require to improve their homes rather than for people who require second homes?

Mr. Gibson-Watt

I cannot add to the original answer that I gave to the right hon. Gentleman. I read with interest the efforts made by Adfer and Cwmdeithas Tai Gwynedd about the problems of local people with no great means who are anxious to have houses of this sort.

Mr. William Edwards

Does not the Minister agree that since most of the complaints about second homes come from local authorities it would be a good idea to draw the attention of local authorities to the fact that they can use their discretion to withhold the money, and cease to complain about it?

Mr. Gibson-Watt

I cannot add to the answer that I have already given to the right hon. Gentleman.