HC Deb 28 February 1977 vol 927 cc12-3
11. Mr. Grist

asked the Secretary of State for Wales how many house improvement grants he expects to be made in Wales during the present calendar year; and to what extent these grants are adjusted to take account of inflation.

Mr. Alec Jones

Between 7,000 and 8,000. An adjustment was made in December 1974, when the eligible expense limit was increased by 60 per cent. over the limit that had previously applied. It is being kept under review.

Mr. Grist

Does the Minister agree that since 1974 costs have risen sharply and, therefore, there is a strong case for increasing the value of these improvement grants? Indeed, with the virtual cessation of local authority mortgages for older houses improvement grants become even more important, particularly in city centres and especially for younger couples.

Mr. Alec Jones

I certainly agree that it is important to carry on this sort of improvement work. That is why we have given local authorities a block allocation this year so that they can transfer funds from building new houses to the improvement sector if they judge that this is in accordance with the needs of their localities.

Mr. Ioan Evans

Does my hon. Friend agree that the improvement grant scheme in recent years has played an important part in maintaining the housing sector? As there are now a great many construction workers who are unemployed, and as we are now getting out of our economic difficulties, may I ask my hon. Friend to introduce a scheme of public works and use the housing improvement grant as a method of employing these workers?

Mr. Alec Jones

All I can say is that we have made our housing allocation to local authorities for next year. It must be left to them to make a decision about how they should spend it. My hon. Friend is probably aware that in September I offered local authorities in Wales some extra money for this purpose and that more than half the authorities turned it down.