HC Deb 28 April 1986 vol 96 cc647-8
6. Mr. Best

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what provision he has made in the current financial year for improvement of the housing stock and a reduction in the backlog of renovation grants.

Mr. Mark Robinson

Housing allocations for this year total £141.3 million, which is an increase of almost 30 per cent. over last year. Within this total we have made specially targeted supplements of £53 million for improvement of the housing stock and reduction of the grants backlog.

Mr. Best

Does that welcome and generous announcement not show that the Welsh Office is more than playing its part in providing better housing for Wales and that it is now a matter for the local authorities to complement it?

Mr. Robinson

I agree entirely with my hon. Friend. It is now important that local authorities fully spend the allocations which have been made available to them, as it will strengthen their case when we decide resources next year.

Mr. Anderson

Does the Minister agree that it is not only proper to compare this year against last year, but to compare the current allocation with the actual need of our housing stock in the Principality? Given that, is the Minister seriously telling the House that his expert's advice to him is that our housing stock is staying about the same, is it, as people tell us, declining into obsolescence?

Mr. Robinson

We are this year in the process of embarking on the biggest and most extensive house condition survey ever undertaken by the Welsh Office. We shall consider the results of that. I should also point out that the figure of spending of allocations this year compares with the equivalent figure in 1978–79, which was only £51 million at 1986–87 prices. Therefore, I think that it is a favourable improvement.

Sir Raymond Gower

In future consideration of this matter, will my hon. Friend and his right hon. Friend take account of the age of the Welsh housing stock? Does my hon. Friend anticipate a reduction in the great backlog in the various housing authority areas?

Mr. Robinson

That is specifically why we have decided to target certain parts of this year's allocation on the backlog of home improvement grants. Local authorities are aware of that.

Mr. D. E. Thomas

Will the Minister explain to the House and to his hon. Friend the Member for Ynys Môn (Mr. Best) the reason for the very low level of capital allocation for that authority, which stands as low as £29 per head for 1984–85?

Mr. Robinson

The hon. Gentleman should know that we have also made available to Ynys Môn a special allocation to tackle the backlog, and it is aware of that.

Mr. Roy Hughes

Will the Minister realise that during the seven-year period of office of this Government the housing problem throughout Wales has got dramatically worse? When will the Government launch a real major housing drive to build the new dwellings that are required to tackle the massive problem of the huge stock of pre-1919 dwellings which lack even basic amenities? Surely, with this period of heavy unemployment, now is the time for action.

Mr. Robinson

That comes well from the hon. Gentleman. When the Labour party was in power between 1974 and 1979 it spent a mere £57 million on restoring the older housing stock, whereas we have spent £275 million. The Labour party also talks much about the public sector. It spent £86 million in Wales, while we have spent £208 million in the public sector. Therefore, our record stands comparison.