HC Deb 06 November 1978 vol 957 cc477-8
1. Mr. Geraint Howells

asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he has any further plans to help the elderly in Wales; and if he will make a statement.

The Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Barry Jones)

We shall be reviewing the provisions of services for the elderly after studying the public response to the discussion document "A Happier Old Age". The needs of the elderly in Wales will be taken fully into account.

Mr. Howells

I am grateful for that reply. Does the Minister agree that the majority of elderly people in Wales prefer to live in their own environment and in their own hamlets or villages when they retire? Is the Minister aware that there is a shortage of houses in many Welsh hamlets and villages? Has he any plans to give financial aid to local authorities so that they can build more council houses in those areas?

Mr. Barry Jones

Housing for the elderly is a matter for the local authorities rather than for central Government. That does not mean that the Department is insensitive to the problem. Two major projects in Dyfed were sanctioned as part of the 1977 construction industry package involving a total of £451,000, albeit in the southern part of Dyfed.

Mr. Roderick

In view of the disparities between the various schemes for concessionary travel in the Principality, will my hon. Friend consider studying seriously the possibility of introducing a national scheme for concessionary bus travel?

Mr. Barry Jones

That is a matter about which I could talk to the Secretary of State for Transport. All such suggestions should be directed initially towards the other Whitehall Departments. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Roderick) is deeply concerned about concessionary fares in Wales. They are funded through the rate support grant settlements and the transport support grant, which funds concessionary fares directly, and that is higher than it is in England.

Sir A. Meyer

Is not the most terrifying worry for old people the rise in prices, particularly fuel prices in the nationalised sector?

Mr. Barry Jones

Government Departments have tried through special schemes to overcome that problem.

Mr. Fred Evans

Is my hon. Friend aware that there is one concrete way in which he can help the aged in Wales which will fall into line with the desires of Age Concern and many of the other organisations that work for pensioners—to establish a chair in geriatric medicine at the Welsh National School of Medicine?

Mr. Barry Jones

I fully agree with my hon. Friend. Hon. Members may recall that the Secretary of State for Wales has offered to endow a chair in geriatrics at the Welsh National School of Medicine through a once for all cash payment. The establishment of such a chair would result in better training for doctors and would lead to greater awareness and understanding of old people in Wales.

Mr. Speaker

We must move faster on the other Questions.

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