HC Deb 19 June 1972 vol 839 cc15-7
21. Mr. Cledwyn Hughes

asked the Secretary of State for Wales how many dwellings in Wales in respect of which improvement grants have been paid are second homes; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Gibson-Watt

Local authorities are not required to inform the Welsh Office of the use made of houses for which improvement grants have been paid. Every house improved is a gain to the stock of good housing, but, of course, local authorities can withhold discretionary improvement grants if they so choose.

Mr. Hughes

Is the Minister of State aware that the percentage of part-time second homes for which improvement grants have been given in rural Wales is increasing? Does he agree that the object of these discretionary grants is to increase the provision of permanent homes in the area, and will he remind housing authorities of their duties in these matters and encourage them to acquire some of these cottages to provide homes for people living in the area?

Mr. Gibson-Watt

With respect to the right hon. Gentleman, local authorities know the position very well. They share the view of the Government that it is the stock of houses which we are aiming to improve. Sometimes a holiday cottage becomes a home for retirement and then of course the owner becomes a local resident.

Sir G. Nabarro

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind the large number of Mid-landers, notably from Herefordshire and Worcestershire, who have second homes in Anglesey in places such as Rhosneign, thereby bringing substantial wealth to North Wales? Should not this be encouraged in the interests of the Principality?

Mr. Gibson-Watt

I congratulate my hon. Friend on his pronunciation. I also congratulate him and his friends on seeking out the most beautiful part of the Principality.

Mr. Elystan Morgan

Does not the Minister of State agree that it is ironic that substantial sums of public money should be expended on the provision of second homes when some people are not able to acquire a first home? Does not he appreciate that we take a serious view of his reply that he has no information on this matter and that it is impossible for him to gauge how much money is squandered on the subsidisation of the luxury of a second home? Is he willing to get the figures?

Mr. Gibson-Watt

I am disturbed by the hon. Gentleman's approach to this matter because the attitude of the present Government is the same as the attitude of the previous Government to this problem. I remind him that local authorities can withhold discretionary grants for the improvement of second homes. The grant is given only for putting in standard amenities, such as a bathroom and hot and cold water.