HC Deb 20 February 1978 vol 944 cc990-2
10. Mr. Anderson

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what were the total figures for houses in Wales which were unfit, fit but lacking one or more of the basic amenities and fit but out of repair, respectively, in the surveys for 1968, 1973 and 1976; and what proportion these figures represent of the total housing stock at the said dates.

Mr. John Morris

With permission, I will circulate the detailed figures in the Official Report. The proportion of unsatisfactory housing as defined in the Question fell from 32 per cent. in 1968 to 25 per cent. in 1973, and from 25 per cent. in 1973 to 18 per cent. in 1976.

Mr. Anderson

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that that is a pretty dramatic improvement—a reduction of almost a half in our unfit housing stock within eight years? Nevertheless, the comparative figures with other parts of the United Kingdom are still very worrying indeed. Will he assure the House that, in spite of the very substantial underspend in the last two years, he will continue to make money available?

Mr. Morris

Yes. For the forth-coming year we have accepted the programmes of local authorities and told them to get on with it, knowing that, regrettably, they will not be able to spend the money for the whole of the programmes they have put before me. I shall do my utmost, but it is up to them to ensure that they spend the money that is made available to them.

Mr. Grist

Will the Secretary of State please refrain from attacking local authorities all the time for underspending when it is his office which has made money available very often merely by way of loan consent at the last instance, when local authorities have not been able to take up their allocation?

1968 1973 1976
Unfit houses 92,000 (10.4%) 147,000 (15.0%) 100,000 (9.8%)
Houses fit but lacking one or more of the amenities 190,000 (21.5%) 99,000 (11.8%) 63,000 (6.2%)
Houses fit but out of repair (new category in 1976) 31,000 (3.1%)
282,000 (32.0%) 246,000 (25.0%) *184,000 (18.0%)
* Total adjusted to allow for overlap between the last two categories.
11. Mr. D. E. Thomas

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what percentage of all unfit houses in Great Britain are in Wales.

Mr. John Morris

No precise answer can be given, since Scotland does not use the classification "unfit". Taking, however, the combined totals of unfit houses in England and Wales and houses below a tolerable standard in Scotland, the answer is about 9.5 per cent.

Mr. Thomas

Does not the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that this is an intolerable figure, bearing in mind that Wales's share of the population of Great Britain is only 5 per cent.? Will he confirm that it represents 36 unfit houses per 1,000 population in Wales as compared with only 9 per 1,000 population in South-East England, and that Wales is now getting, in real terms, less than 4 per cent. of the United Kingdom's public expenditure on housing?

Mr. Morris

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman heard what I said in reply to the last two Questions. I explained how the figure for unfitness has gone down dramatically over the last few years. I am the first to concede that there is still

Mr. Morris

I am not attacking anyone. There is no mileage in attacking about past failures. What I want to ensure—this is why the machinery has been set up—is that the position is improved for future years. Regrettably and unhappily, reasons have been advanced for an under-spend in 1976–77. There will also be an underspend this year. Some of the reasons no longer exist. I want to be assured that for the next year we shall not again be in the same position. That is why I have approved in substance the authorities' plans, even though in excess of the money I now have available, knowing that they will not meet the programmes which they have put before me.

Following are the figures:

a good way to go, but, given the flexibility which we have allowed local authorities in the way they spend their allocations, I want to ensure that no money that they are allocated is left unspent. There has been underspending in the last two years, and I want to ensure that local authorities will not underspend on this work in the next year.

Mr. Ioan Evans

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that, since there is a higher proportion of owner-occupation in Wales than in many other parts of the United Kingdom, in dealing with the question of unfit houses comprehensively we may have to review the question of improvement grants?

Mr. Morris

My hon. Friend is right. Last August, we increased the totals as regards the ceilings and rateable values. This is one of the problems, but I feel encouraged by the work of the housing associations, which is why I have given them a significantly increased grant for next year.

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