HC Deb 23 February 1976 vol 906 cc11-3
10. Sir Raymond Gower

asked the Secretary of State for Wales to what extent and in what areas reductions in Government expenditure are planned for Wales; and if he will make a statement.

13. Mr. Grist

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what effects he anticipates will result in Wales from the Government's announced restraint in public expenditure.

Mr. John Morris

The detailed analysis of future public expenditure in Wales is contained in Tables 3–3 and 3–4 of Cmnd. 6393. We have been able to give high priority to industrial regeneration, to completing the M4, and to maintaining standards in the Health Service.

Sir Raymond Gower

While I applaud and support the decision of the Government in the White Paper to sustain the building of new houses, does the right hon. and learned Gentleman not agree that the failure to provide grants for the maintenance or improvement of the older dwellings means that thousands of houses are now deteriorating and may be beyond repair? Does this not create a vast new problem, which could be prevented?

Mr. Morris

I presume that the hon. Gentleman has followed the Chancellor's recent announcement of the grant of an additional £4 million to Wales to alleviate unemployment, which I shall be spending in order to improve housing stock in Wales. The local authorities will be told shortly how the extra money is to be disbursed.

Mr. Grist

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman say how many civil servants in the Defence Department he thinks will go to Cardiff, in view of the announced cutback? Will he say how many pit closures he expects in Wales, in view of the injunction on the National Coal Board to operate commercially? Does he agree with the prediction in the White Paper about the level of unemployment in the next two years?

Mr. Morris

In reply to the first part of the supplementary question, about 5,000 staff will go to Cardiff, subject to the outcome of the defence review which may have the effect of reducing the number. The coal industry in Wales has received a measure of confidence in recent years. There has been increased recruitment, and substantial investment.

Mr. Roy Hughes

Will my right hon. and learned Friend bear in mind that it will be a question of where the staff are prepared to go? Is he aware that they have indicated that St. Mellons, to say the least, is not popular with them, but that they would be prepared to go to Tredegar Park?

Mr. Morris

I am sure that my hon. Friend, with his usual skill, will make these points to my hon. Friend the Minister of State for Defence in tonight's debate.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

Is not the central fact about the Government's policy that cuts in new programmes are less than the interest on the National Debt, which will amount to 8½ times the Welsh Office budget for 1978–79? Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman explain why the Welsh share of the total United Kingdom expenditure on housing is planned to fall each year up to 1978–79, when it will be 3.4 per cent. compared with 4.6 per cent. last year?

Mr. Morris

After the appalling house building record of the party that the hon. Gentleman supports, when public house building was a disgrace——

Mr. Nicholas Edwards


Mr. Morris

The hon. Member must not get angry. He must contain himself. He is behaving in a ridiculous fashion. All the figures for the future are much higher than those for house building in the last year of the Conservative Government. I am proud of the number of houses built in Wales last year.

Mr. Wigley

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that the vast majority of people in Wales are appalled at the Government's priorities in these matters—axing house building while expenditure on the MRCA is continuing? Is it not time that the Government got their social priorities correct?

Mr. Morris

The hon. Gentleman has obviously not read the White Paper. He has not seen the forecast for the year ahead. He does not know that in the last year in the public sector in Wales we built 142 per cent. more houses than were built in the last year of the Conservative Government.