HC Deb 01 May 1972 vol 836 cc6-9
8. Mr. Rowlands

asked the Secretary of State for Wales whether he will institute a survey into land prices for housing development in Wales; and whether he will make a statement.

19. Mr. McBride

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what estimate he has made of the increase in building land prices in South Wales in the period 31st March, 1970, to 31st March, 1972; and what proportion of the increased cost of building a house in South Wales is attributable to the increase in the price of building land.

Mr. Peter Thomas

Information on which to base a reliable estimate of increases in land prices for a sub-region is not available. I am considering whether it is practicable to improve our information, but I am very doubtful of the reliability or usefulness of figures purporting to show changes in land prices within a limited area.

Mr. Rowlands

Does not the Secretary of State care about the fact that land prices have been soaring in most parts of South Wales in the last year and a half? Does he not realise that both local authorities and private housebuilders have been rooked by the land hoarders and the land sharks that we have in Wales, as elsewhere? Is he aware that the price of land in South-East Wales has risen from about £5,000 to £15,000 an acre for housing, and that this rise is inevitably passed on in increased housing costs? Does not the right hon. and learned Gentleman intend to do more than just say that he will think about it? Will he not get on and try to do something about controlling land prices?

Mr. Peter Thomas

I certainly care about the increase in prices. There is no evidence, in fact, that the price of building land offered for sale has markedly risen for Wales as a whole—[Interruption.]—for Wales as a whole, in the last two years, but undoubtedly prices have risen sharply in certain areas, particularly, as a result of demand having been stimulated, in South-East Glamorgan and Cardiff. To help meet this situation, I am applying, as appropriate to Wales, the major measures announced last week by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment.

Mr. McBride

Is it not scandalous that the right hon. and learned Gentleman should reply that he cannot say that land price information is available? Is he further aware that the increase in land prices in the Swansea area is scandalous, and should be stopped? Is he aware that registration fees are being taken from my constituents at Ynysforgan, the date agreed and the price determined but that the house is not forthcoming at that price? Is he further aware that, in a case about which I could furnish him information, a deposit of £420 was taken in August last and that last week the prospective purchaser was told that he could not now have the house? Is he aware that land prices are being used as an excuse for this practice, and that interest-free loans are being taken from people? Should not this scandalous practice be stopped?

Mr. Peter Thomas

The hon. Gentleman asked me whether it was not scandalous that I could not give figures for a particular area or for Wales as a whole. Regional figures of changes from year to year are of limited usefulness, and, indeed, could be positively misleading. They must be based on actual sales, and the amount and quality of land sold in a particular area is bound to vary from year to year. I accept that there is a problem of land prices, in particular prices in Cardiff and South-East Glamorgan, but those cannot be put together and averaged to provide a meaningful figure for the whole of Wales. We recognise that there is a land problem in those areas and are adopting policies to solve it, but misleading figures would not help us to do that.

Mr. Gower

Has my right hon. and learned Friend noted that in numerous cases in South Wales, as elsewhere, houses which have just been purchased are almost immediately resold by the purchasers at a greatly enhanced figure, which suggests that the real problem is the insatiable demand for houses, backed by the enormous amount of mortgage money available?

Mr. Peter Thomas

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment explained the position in the debate last Thursday. There has been a stimulation of demand recently, and therefore an increased demand on available building land.

Mr. George Thomas

Is the Secretary of State aware that there will be surprise and disappointment in Wales that he does not show a greater sense of urgency in this matter? Land prices are galloping up all over Wales and I am very surprised that the right hon. and learned Gentleman has been unable to find the evidence of it. If he paid another visit to the Principality I am sure that local authorities would provide him with the evidence.

Mr. Peter Thomas

Let me first say how pleased I am to see the right hon. Gentleman back in his place, particularly after his recent bereavement.

The right hon. Gentleman asked whether I should not have a greater sense of urgency. I suggest that what I have told the House—that I am applying as appropriate to Wales the major measures which were announced last week by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment—indicates that I realise that there is a sense of urgency in the matter.

Mr. Rowlands

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the right hon. and learned Gentleman's replies, I beg to give notice that I shall seek to raise the matter on the Adjournment.