HC Deb 21 June 1976 vol 913 cc1085-6
11. Mr. Kinnoc

asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he will make a statement on Government support for local authority mortgages and loans for house purchase and improvement in Wales.

Mr. Barry Jones

The Government continue to support local authority lending for house purchase and improvement. The lending in Wales which it was necessary to suspend temporarily last June has been resumed from 1st April 1976, in accordance with allocations notified in March and totalling £12.7 million in 1976–77. Local authorities have been asked to give priority to lending for improvement, especially in housing action areas.

Mr. Kinnock

Is my hon. Friend aware that, welcome as are some of those comments, the amounts allocated or permitted are somewhat lower than those that the people of Wales and local authorities feel to be necessary to do the job of improvement on the scale that we need in the Principality? Is my hon. Friend satisfied with the procedure whereby mortgage applicants are referred to commercial building societies, and the response that people are getting from building societies, especially with regard to older properties? Or are people being stranded without the kind of finance that they need to buy homes in Wales?

Mr. Barry Jones

This is the first opportunity that we have had to welcome the resumption of lending for council house building. I know that my hon. Friend takes a keen interest in council house building starts, and I can tell him that they were 140 per cent. up last year, compared with the year before, and that this year the news about starts is equally good. Local authority lending in 1976–77 is, pro rata at least, slightly higher than that in England, but I agree that the present level is not as high as we should like.

Mr. D. E. Thomas

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the amount spent on housing policy in Wales has to be seen in the context of the deepening housing crisis, where one home in seven is unfit? Does he also accept that, although the resumption in lending is to be welcomed, the allocation, under Section 105, to the district councils in Wales falls short of what is necessary? However many new starts there are, the situation will worsen in years to come unless we have a crash improvement programme.

Mr. Barry Jones

I am glad the hon. Gentleman accepts that our starts programme is magnificent compared with the paltry record of the Conservative Government. With regard to his other remarks, I remind him that allocations totalling £2 million were made available to housing authorities for lending for improvements out of the funds released by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in November 1975 and March 1976, for the alleviation of unemployment in the construction industry. That is one example of the Government's regard for housing as a prime factor in their policy.