HC Deb 11 April 1983 vol 40 cc537-8
9. Mr. Wigley

asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he is satisfied that adequate resources are available to local authorities in Wales for the purpose of maintaining housing in a good state of repair in both the public and private sectors.

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

Yes. Local authorities were told that in the 1982–83 financial year they could spend on renovation grants without regard to their housing allocations. In the current financial year they will receive additional allocations to cover any renovation expenditure in excess of 50 per cent. of their housing allocations. There is no lack of housing finance, as the fact that local authorities underspent by £35 million in 1981–82 and by an estimated £50 million in 1982–83 demonstrates.

Mr. Wigley

The Under-Secretary is not paying attention to local housing problems in Wales. Is he aware that in Dwyfor the demand for grants for housing repairs has increased by 700 per cent., from £400,000 to £2.8 million? The figure of £400,000 was in the block grant allocation. As a result, adequate finance is not available in Dwyfor. The grant programme for housing repair has been suspended until September. Will the hon. Gentleman examine this problem and ensure that money is made available for Dwyfor?

Mr. Roberts

I have examined the position generally, but I shall have a special look at Dwyfor. Many authorities are refusing to deal with applications for grants, but there is no excuse for that. Throughout Wales authorities are generally underspending on housing. During the first nine months of last year they spent 63 per cent. of their allocations, but only 51 per cent. of the total that they could have spent. I now urge them to try to deal with those applications.

Mr. Anderson

Will the Minister be fair to local authorities and point out that when the Welsh Office told them by letter in October last year that they could spend without regard to allocations, only five months of the year remained? The Welsh Office specifically told the local authorities in that same letter that there was no commitment for the current financial year and that the Public Expenditure Survey Committee indication was that housing expenditure should be 17 per cent. less.

Mr. Roberts

On the contrary, we have told local authorities that all renovation expenditure in 1983–84 that is above 50 per cent. of the housing allocation will be underwritten by additional allocations. That is the true position.

Mr. Grist

Is my hon. Friend aware of the widespread concern in Cardiff—which urgently needs these improvement grants—over the council's reluctance to process applications? What can my hon. Friend do to put a bomb under those involved?

Mr. Roberts

I am doing everything that I possibly can, and that includes what I say in the House. I hope that local authorities will take heed of the encouragement that I am giving them. This subject will feature as an issue in the coming local elections, and I hope that the electors will elect councillors who will ensure that the council carries out Government policy.

Mr. Coleman

Has the Minister seen the report in yesterday's edition of the Sunday People concerning latent defects in council houses sold to tenants under the Government's legislation? Have there been any reports of similar problems in Wales? Will the grants that the Minister has spoken about be made available to tenants who, having bought their council houses, find that they are defective?

Mr. Roberts

The hon. Gentleman will be aware of the statement that we have made concerning defects in Airey houses which have been discovered after their valuation. Of course, a 90 per cent. repair grant is available to occupiers who purchase their homes in ignorance of the problems. The hon. Gentleman will also be aware of the statement on Orlit houses by my hon. Friend the Minister for Housing and Construction. Other reinforced concrete houses that have been purchased in ignorance of defects in them are under consideration.