HC Deb 10 July 1972 vol 840 cc1168-9
22. Mr. Cledwyn Hughes

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what guidance is given to local authorities on the payment of improvement grants.

Mr. Gibson-Watt

General advice is given by departmental circulars. The Welsh Office is glad to give individual local authorities guidance on particular points of difficulty.

Mr. Hughes

Is the Minister of State aware that, whatever the merits of this problem, one must deplore the violent and arrogant demonstration which took place in an auction sale at Caernarvon last Friday? Is he further aware that many of us have been concerned about this problem for a very long time and that we do not need a demonstration to draw to our attention the fact, or to instruct us, that the best way of dealing with a matter of this kind is through constitutional means? Will he therefore bring to the notice of local authorities the desirability of ensuring that these grants go to people who need first homes and that grants to people who need holiday homes should be witheld until the demand for first homes in Wales has been met?

Mr. Gibson-Watt

I certainly share the concern referred to by the right hon. Gentleman in the earlier part of his supplementary. As he well knows, the policy being adopted by this Government is the same as that adopted by the Labour Government. I remind the right hon. Gentleman that local authorities give grants to put in only standard amenities, such as a bath and hot and cold water. It is surely right that every dwelling should have these amenities, however infrequently it is used.

Mr. George Thomas

Is the Minister of State aware that the runaway increase in land and property prices has transformed the situation and that it is no use his referring to what happened two years ago. Is he further aware that while all decent-minded Welshmen object to the storm troopers of the Welsh Language Society, none the less they expect the Government to introduce adequate control over the prices of land and property to ensure that local inhabitants are able to compete to buy houses in the locality?

Mr. Gibson-Watt

Yes, Sir. I was made aware of the right hon. Gentleman's views on this matter in his article in the LiverpoolDaily Post this week, but I am not certain that the suggestions which he put forward would solve the problem.

Mr. Goronwy Roberts

May I, as the Member for Caernarvon, strongly endorse what my right hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey (Mr. Cledwyn Hughes) said about the repugnance with which the general population of the area and, indeed, the whole of Wales, regard this kind of demonstration on a matter which most of us feel is in need of reform?

The 1969 Act, which was passed by the previous Government, is an excellent Act but, in the light of experience, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. George Thomas) said, is it not time that the abuse and misuse of these improvement grants were attended to and the money made available to local authorities to purchase improvable houses with a view to their being sold or let to young couples who want to occupy them all the year round?

Mr. Gibson-Watt

I agree with the first part of the right hon. Gentleman's supplementary. With regard to the second part, as I have said on previous occasions from this Box, it is not a straight-forward matter and it is not easy to find an answer that will please everybody.