HC Deb 23 February 1976 vol 906 cc13-5
11. Mr. Cledwyn Hughes

asked the Secretary of State for Wales whether he is satisfied with progress in public sector house building in Wales; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Alec Jones

The public sector figure of 8,336 dwellings completed in 1975 represents a substantial improvement on the 1974 miserable figure of 3,674. The local authority contribution of 7,332 houses is their best performance since 1968 and is 140 per cent. up on 1974. This is particularly gratifying in view of the appalling record of house building that we inherited just two years ago, and we are grateful to all concerned.

Mr. Hughes

In these admittedly difficult economic times, does my hon. Friend agree that the people of Wales will welcome the figures he has just given? Does he agree that nothing will do more to assist in alleviating the unemployment problem than expansion in the construction industry? Can he indicate how these figures apply in the Anglesey and Gwynedd areas, where unemployment is unacceptably high?

Mr. Alec Jones

These are not just figures; they represent homes for people who would otherwise not have them. I know the interest that my right hon. Friend has taken in the island of Anglesey and I am sure that he will be pleased to know that in 1974 the local authority on Anglesey built 67 houses, while in 1975 it built 122—nearly double the previous year's figures. I am sure that he will be equally pleased to hear that the schemes in prospect suggest good news for the coming year.

Mr. Wyn Roberts

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the 9,471 improvement grants given last year represent only about one-third of the total in 1973 and 1972? In view of the reply given by the Secretary of State to the last Question, may we look forward to a return to the 1972 and 1973 figures?

Mr. Alec Jones

I am certainly aware of the lower take-up of improvement grants. I am surprised that the hon. Member has such a short memory, though I always appreciated that he had a convenient one. The decision to reduce improvement grants from 75 per cent. to 50 per cent. was made by his Government before they left office. We increased that figure for a certain number of people for an extended period.