§ 12. Mr. Wigley
asked the Secretary of State for Wales how many new dwellings were completed in Wales in (a) the public sector and (b) the private sector in the latest full year for which figures are available; and how this compares with the completions achieved in the best year, in each sector, respectively, since 1945.
§ Mr. Wyn Roberts
In 1982, 2,672 new dwellings were completed in the public sector and 4,781 in the private sector. The "best years" were 1953 in the public sector and 1973 in the private sector when 13,312 and 10,957 dwellings respectively were completed.
§ Mr. Wigley
Does the Minister accept that the 1982 figures are disastrous? Since the war there have been seven years in which over 10,000 houses have been built in the 555 public sector and two years in which over 10,000 were built in the private sector. There was one year in which over 20,000 houses in total were built. How can the hon. Gentleman justify his Government's housing policy for Wales when we compare it with the successes of the past?
§ Mr. Roberts
The hon. Gentleman must realise that there has been a general decline in house building over the past decade. The public sector has been declining since 1975 and the private sector since 1973. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that it is not because of lack of money that houses are not being built. Local authorities were underspent to the tune of £35 million in 1981–82. The first nine months of 1982–83 show that the authorities spent only 51 per cent. of the sum that they could have spent in the year. In 1983–84 they will be given 23 per cent. more than they are likely to spend this year.
§ Mr. Anderson
Will the Minister compare those figures with the demand and need in Wales as measured by the figures that he gave to the conference of local government housing officials at Llandrindod Wells, which were in the range of 20,000 dwellings per annum? Does not the shortfall from such need lead only to greater homelessness and anxiety among our people in Wales?
§ Mr. Roberts
The hon. Gentleman is at least as aware as I am that the local authorities have a serious and grave responsibility in this matter. A number of Welsh local authorities have chosen not to use their capital receipts on new capital expenditure and have large amounts of money in hand. I can perhaps assist the House by giving a little news on the bright side, which is that there has been a substantial increase in housing starts over the 1981 figure in both the public and private sector, amounting to 33.7 per cent. overall, taking the public and private sector together. [Interruption.] I am surprised that Opposition Members are not glad to hear this.