HC Deb 29 March 1976 vol 908 cc878-80
12. Mr. Anderson

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what further discussions he has had with building societies about their lending policies in Wales

Mr. Alec Jones

Regular discussions already take place between the Government and building societies on a Great Britain basis. I shall be ready at any time to supplement these with separate discussions on any specific Welsh problems if the need arises.

Mr. Anderson

Is my hon. Friend really satisfied with the response of building societies to his efforts to make them more flexible in their policies, particularly in relation to less creditworthy people and less attractive properties, of which we have so many in the Principality?

Mr. Alec Jones

I want to do all I can to make money available for people who wish to buy houses, particularly older houses. That is why we have a working party, on which the Welsh Office has representatives, involving building societies and local authority representatives, to try to establish this proper sort of relationship. However, I must say that I was considerably concerned to find that not all local authorities have been trying to make use of the £5 million made available by building societies.

Mr. Kinnock

When it comes to lending on older houses, especially those in need of improvement, and when they are being bought by wage earners, and particularly lower wage earners, of whom there are many in Wales, are not building societies pretty hopeless and lacking in enterprise? Is my hon. Friend aware that in one other respect they lack enterprise, and that is in lending to people who require additional finance to improve their homes? Are not the Government ready to do something extra about that?

Mr. Alec Jones

In addition to the £12 million which my right hon. and learned Friend has already announced for local authority lending for house purchase, there must be added amounts taken from the £2.5 million and the £4 million of the Chancellor's aid to the construction industry, making some £16 million available for house purchase and improvement at the end of this year.

Mr. D. E. Thomas

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the building societies were not able to fill the gap caused by the Government's ban on local authority lending last year? Will he not agree that the expansion of local authority lending is the answer here?

Mr. Alec Jones

As I said in reply to a previous question, if we are to maintain the highest possible level of new house building, there has to be some restriction in other fields of housing expenditure. This is something which we decided as a matter of top priority in view of the 51,000 people in Wales waiting for housing at this moment.

Mr. Cledwyn Hughes

My hon. Friend has just made a serious statement. He said that a number of local authorities in Wales have shown a lack of interest in their approach to the allocation of resources, namely, £5 million. Will he tell the House what steps he and his right hon. and learned Friend are taking to stimulate these local authorities into taking greater interest? Otherwise, hon. Members will wish to know what local authorities they are. It would be help-full if we did know in order that we could press them to take action in this very important matter.

Mr. Alec Jones

I do not think that even from the outset of the announcement of the £5 million have I suggested that it it would completely replace the restrictions we were obliged to introduce in the middle of last year. But I was disappointed to find that some local authorities had not even attempted to make approaches to building societies to see whether some money would be available. My hon. Friend the Member for Flint, East (Mr. Jones) and I will be holding a series of meetings with local authorities throughout Wales in order that this and other matters can be discussed.