HC Deb 22 November 1982 vol 32 cc563-4
1. Mr. Knox

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what is the latest available estimate of the underspend on housing in Wales during the current financial year.

The Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Wyn Roberts)

The local authority expenditure returns for the first two quarters show an underspend of around £80 million. However, following conversations with the local authorities, we hope that that figure might be substantially reduced.

Mr. Knox

Is my hon. Friend satisfied that the matter will be resolved in a manner that is acceptable to his Department?

Mr. Roberts

As I said, we hope that we can considerably reduce that underspend. The uprating of renovation grants in the Budget, and the announcement that higher rates will be available next year, coupled with the fact that excess expenditure under that head this year will be covered by increased allocations, should encourage local authorities to be more enterprising in their use of resources. In addition, we are encouraging enveloping schemes of repair in housing action areas and low-cost home ownership schemes. However, it is a matter for local authority action.

Mr. Wigley

Will the Minister confirm that there is some difference of opinion between the Welsh Office and local authority treasurers in Wales as to the suitability of using the money for new build or further capital purposes rather than first repaying the outstanding debts on loans that were taken up when assets were first bought? What is the advice of the Welsh Office on that issue?

Mr. Roberts

We are fully aware, as I am sure the hon. Gentleman and local authorities are, of housing needs in Wales. The latest survey reveals that that need is acute. I understand that local authorities are carrying forward their capital allocations, redeeming debts, or investing the money in order to use the interest to keep rent levels down. My advice and that of my officials is clear. The money should be used for housing purposes.

Mr. Alec Jones

Will the Minister confirm that he told the Council for the Principality that, on his conservative estimate, we should need to build new dwellings at the rate of about 12,000 per annum in Wales? Will the Minister also confirm that the Labour Government achieved that figure, while this Government have not achieved such a figure in any single year of office?

Mr. Roberts

The current underspend is nothing new and it means that money is available. Not only is there money available for new build now, but there was money available last year, when there was an underspend of some £35 million. Labour authorities are as guilty as any others of not meeting the housing needs that we have spelt out.

Back to