HC Deb 19 April 2000 vol 348 cc963-5
3. Mr. Jon Owen Jones (Cardiff, Central)

What discussions he has had with Assembly Secretaries concerning the implications of the housing Green Paper in Wales. [118434]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. David Hanson)

I discussed the housing Green Paper with the Assembly Secretary for Local Government and Housing, Mr. Peter Law, in our liaison meeting on 10 April.

Mr. Jones

My hon. Friend will be aware that, in many parts of Wales, such as the wards of Cathays, Plasnewydd and Roath in my constituency, and the constituency of the Minister for Competition and Consumer Affairs, there are extremely high densities of houses in multiple occupation. Tenants stay for only a short time, and landlords often do not maintain the houses properly. I welcome the Green Paper's conclusion that it may be possible to introduce a discretionary licensing scheme for local authorities. However, when my hon. Friend holds talks with his colleagues in the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, will he stress that, unless the licensing schemes cover HMOs used as student lets and areas of high demand as well as areas of low demand, they will be of little or no use to my constituency, or to other similar ones elsewhere in the United Kingdom?

Mr. Hanson

I thank my hon. Friend for his comments. He often raises with me and with colleagues in the National Assembly issue of student accommodation. I know that he takes a great interest in the matter. The Government are committed to introducing a mandatory licensing scheme for houses in multiple occupation as soon as there is an opportunity to do so. In the meantime, we are encouraging local authorities to develop local registration schemes.

I take on board the points raised by my hon. Friend, and I will discuss them with my hon. Friend the Minister for Housing and Planning at the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions.

Mr. James Gray (North Wiltshire)

The Labour Government came to power making extravagant boasts about what they would do about housing in Wales and elsewhere. Given that background, why have they spent less in their first three years in power than the previous Conservative Government spent in their final three years?

Mr. Hanson

I shall defend the Government's record on housing against that of the hon. Gentleman's Government any time that he wants. There has been more investment in Wales and elsewhere as a result of the Government's achievements. The Green Paper outlines further steps for tackling neglect of the housing stock during the Conservatives' 18 years.

Mr. John Smith (Vale of Glamorgan)

The Green Paper has been warmly welcomed by every agency in Wales involved in the provision of housing, whether private, public or voluntary. Is my hon. Friend aware that elderly people, of whom there are many in my constituency, have difficulties in looking after their properties once they retire? We welcome the near £30,000 allocated for care and repair, but more resources are required, and I ask my hon. Friend to bring that point to the attention of his colleagues.

Mr. Hanson

I thank my hon. Friend for making those points. The National Assembly recognises the need to improve and maintain housing stock in Wales. The Assembly has announced provision of £48 million to support strategic housing schemes and is undertaking a range of measures to support housing in Wales. The partnership between the Government and the National Assembly is tackling housing issues, and we accept that difficulties remain in many places. That work is a stark contrast with what the Conservative party did while it was in office.

Mr. Paul Burstow (Sutton and Cheam)

In his discussions with the First Secretary, has the Minister raised the implications of the single-room rent restriction? It results in those under 25 getting into debt and often finding it difficult to get decent accommodation and becoming homeless. Will the restriction be repealed, and if so when?

Mr. Hanson

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising that point. Those areas do not fall within my direct responsibilities, but I shall draw his remarks to the attention of my relevant colleague at DETR, and I shall consider those issues in relation to Wales.

Mrs. Betty Williams (Conwy)

Does my hon. Friend recall that, when the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague) was Secretary of State for Wales the number of houses built in Wales fell by more than 3,000 compared with 1994? What are the prospects for housing in Wales in 2000–01?

Mr. Hanson

As a constituency Member of Parliament, I recall that the number of life chance opportunities to receive housing in Wales diminished under the Conservative Administration. As I said to my hon. Friend the Member for Vale of Glamorgan (Mr. Smith), the Assembly has announced provision of an additional £48 million to support strategic housing schemes. In partnership with the British Government, the National Assembly will seek to ensure that more properties are available for rent, and for affordable rents. The Government and the Assembly are committed to tackling the housing backlog that the previous Government allowed to build up.

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