HC Deb 08 December 1986 vol 107 cc4-6
3. Mr. Alex Carlile

asked the Secretary of State for Wales how many new council houses he expects will be built in Wales in 1987–88.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Mark Robinson)

No reliable estimates are available. Local authorities are free to determine their own priorities for housing investment within the resources available to them.

Mr. Carlile

Does the Minister agree that the current level of council house building in Wales is abominably low? Bearing in mind that 40 per cent. of council house applicants are single people without other accommodation of a reasonable sort, will he tell us what specific measures he will take to ensure that accommodation is made available for single people and for young couples who are just embarking on their life together?

Mr. Robinson

Local authorities are responsible for the matters that the hon. and learned Gentleman raises, but they are not the only public sector bodies responsible for housing provision. Public sector starts as a whole were 17 per cent. higher in 1985 than in 1984.

Mr. Gwilym Jones

Does my hon. Friend accept that, from whatever Left-wing party it comes, merely throwing more taxpayers' money at the problem will never be the real answer? Is not, instead, the example of Cardiff city council, in partnership with a housing association and free enterprise finance, a classic example of the right way forward?

Mr. Robinson

I agree entirely with my hon. Friend. Only last week I was pleased to announce an increase in provision of 22 per cent. to the Housing Corporation. In terms of throwing money at the public sector housing stock, I am pleased to say that we have increased gross provision for 1987–88 by 19 per cent., or a total of £154 million.

Mr. Anderson

Surely the Minister must be aware that council house waiting lists are shooting up in Wales for the demographic reason that there is an increase in those in the 20 to 30-year-old group? Does he say that only housing associations should be involved? My city council, for example, will have no completions on the general list next year. Is that what the hon. Gentleman wants? Surely if he looks at the facts, he must avoid his ideological distaste for local authority housing and see a role for both local authorities and housing associations in providing general housing.

Mr. Robinson

The question whether any local authority has any public sector housing starts in a given financial year depends on the priorities of that local authority.

Mr. Raffan

Will my hon. Friend tell the House how many Welsh local authorities are selling land to private builders for the provision of starter homes, how many authorities are entering licensing or partnership schemes with private builders, and what the Welsh Office is doing to encourage more to do so?

Mr. Robinson

Private sector starts rose by almost 30 per cent. in 1985, and we have seen an increase in the provision available for new housing in the Principality over the past year.

Mr. Wigley

How on earth can the Minister expect local authorities to build houses when his Government refuse to give them the capital allocations to do that and refuse them permission to use the capital that they have from the sale of council houses? Is he not misleading the House when he says that there has been an increase of 17 per cent. in public housing—yes, up to 1,400 houses—when there were 4,000 in 1979 and 9,000 in 1975? Is that not a record to be ashamed of?

Mr. Robinson

I do not know where the hon. Gentleman has been for the past week, because I have just given local authorities a huge increase in housing expenditure.

Mr. Barry Jones

Is it not the case that housing allocations return the total only to 1984–85 levels and that Ministers are involved in an electoral ruse because Wales has a housing crisis for which the Government have no strategic answer whatever?

Mr. Robinson

The hon. Gentleman forgets that in 1984–85 we made a special allocation to improve the private sector housing stock. That was a special allocation for one year only. I must point out that the allocations that we have made this year are equal to the level that we had in 1984–85.

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