HC Deb 12 December 1983 vol 50 cc661-2
7. Dr. Marek

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what factors he is taking into account in fixing the local authority housing investment programme allocations for 1984–85.

10. Mr. Ron Davies

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what will be the total allocation of capital finance to Welsh local authorities for housing purposes for the year 1984–85.

Mr. Wyn Roberts

Local authorities were informed earlier this month that their allocations for 1984–85 would not be less than 80 per cent. of this year's allocation; that is about £111 million. My right hon. Friend told the consultative council last week that further sums would be available, and he will be announcing the actual allocations before the House rises for the Christmas recess. In deciding them, the factors he is taking into account include the rate at which authorities are achieving council house sales as well as their likely expenditure in 1983–84, following the request that expenditure should be contained to the level committed by 2 December.

Dr. Marek

Did not the Minister say some three weeks ago that the priority local authorities gave to new build was entirely a matter for them? If so, will he give local authorities in Wales permission to build new council houses to satisfy the long and ever-increasing waiting lists in the Principality?

Mr. Roberts

It is very much a matter for local authorities to decide their priorities. During the past six years some £299 million has been spent on new build, £134 million on repairs to council stock and only £110 million on renovation grants.

Mr. Ron Davies

Does the Minister agree that when he stands at the Dispatch Box and makes such a statement, he is really announcing a further 20 per cent. cut in housing expenditure in Wales? Does he realise that that cut, which is in addition to the 50 per cent. reduction in housing expenditure from 1979 to date, is presenting local authorities in Wales with a crisis? In my local authority area of Rhymney Valley, more than 2,000 people are on the waiting list, but only 36 houses will be built next year. Does the Minister think that he should be proud of that record?

Mr. Roberts

I have made no announcement today about a 20 per cent. cut for next year. In fact, I have just told the House that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has said that there will be further moneys available in addition to the 80 per cent. of this year's allocation.

The hon. Gentleman must be aware that there has been a decline in new build for a number of years, including the years when the Labour Government were in office.

Mr. Mark Robinson

Does my hon. Friend agree that if local authorities had been a little keener to co-operate with Government policy during the past few years, we might not today be facing the sort of crisis that we are supposed to be facing?

Mr. Roberts

I do not think that we are in a crisis. The position that we face is similar to that which we faced when we were urging local authorities to sell council houses. It took them a long time to reconcile themselves to that. Council house sales have now proved extremely popular and are a source of considerable additional finance to local authorities for purposes such as renovation grants.

Mr. Ioan Evans

Is the Minister aware that the tough curbs imposed on public housing investment the autumn statement will have a serious effect on capital expenditure in Wales well beyond the 1984–85 financial year? While he is discussing housing matters with the local authorities, will he look into the problem of housing benefit, bearing in mind that it has been estimated that more than 270,000 pensioners in the United Kingdom will lose their housing benefit completely? How many will lose it in Wales?

Mr. Roberts

The question is not about housing benefit, but about housing investment programmes. The autumn statement is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer.