§ 7. Mr. Wigley
asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he is satisfied with the effect of Government policy on the availability and conditions of public sector rented housing in Wales.
§ Mr. Wyn Roberts
No Minister can ever be satisfied so long as there is inadequate housing anywhere in Wales. But, unavoidably, housing has had to bear its share of the necessary reductions in public expenditure. We have tried to ensure that local authorities and housing associations have a sufficient allocation in 1981–82 to enable them to undertake worthwhile programmes. Moreover, local authorities now have wide discretion to use their total capital allocations as they see fit. But, of course, the provision of public sector rented accommodation is but one approach to meeting housing needs.
§ Mr. Wigley
Is the Minister aware that the net effects of the Government's housing policies on Arfon borough council tenants is that their rents are being increased from an average of £8.50 a week to £12.50 a week, an increase of £4 or 47 per cent.? Does he think that it is realistic for the Government to pursue a policy of 6 per cent. increase in wages when they are pursuing policies as devastating as this in terms of hardship for the rent payers of Arfon? Will he now investigate the effects of Government policy on rented council accommodation, and have a moratorium on these increases until he has done so?
§ Mr. Roberts
The hon. Gentleman will know that, had the last Government kept increases in rent in line with increases in earnings, we should not have had to suggest these large increases that are taking place now. He will also be aware that council tenants can be helped by rent rebate schemes and also by supplementary benefit. He will be aware that about 45 per cent. of council tenants in this country are assisted by these schemes.
§ Mr. Anderson
Does the Minister take any pride in the fact that last year fewer houses were built in Wales than in any year since 1936? If he is satisfied about the position of council housing, will he have a word with all the directors of housing in the Welsh districts? Is he aware that they have estimated that by 1984, we shall need an average of 21,000 extra houses a year? Last year, only about 7,000 starts were made. Is the Minister satisfied with that?
§ Mr. Roberts
I am not aware that the hon. Gentleman was quite so vociferous when the Labour Party was in office. Let me remind the hon. Gentleman of some of the figures. In 1975, 8,336 houses were built. In 1979, 4,351 houses were built. That is a drop of nearly 50 per cent.
§ Dr. Roger Thomas
Is the Minister aware that with the baby boom and the massive attendances at ante-natal clinics there are record numbers of married couples with small children on waiting lists?
§ Mr. Roberts
Of course, I am aware of the housing problem. Indeed, I referred to it in my original reply. We do not—I stress"do not"—believe that the answer is necessarily to be found in new build. The answer lies in making better use of the existing housing stock. The Housing Act 1980 enables local authorities to make better use of their existing stocks.