HC Deb 22 March 2000 vol 346 cc961-2
1. Mr. Elfyn Llwyd (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy)

When he last met the First Secretary of the National Assembly for Wales to discuss allocation of funds for housing in Wales within the block grant. [114262]

The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Paul Murphy)

I meet the First Secretary regularly. We discuss a range of issues.

Mr. Llwyd

I thank the Secretary of State for that helpful answer. No doubt he worked very hard on that one.

The Local Government Bill contains somewhat compelling incentives to transfer existing housing stock to registered social landlords, but is it the Government's policy to force councils to continue with those transfers, even when it is not financially viable or helpful to them?

Mr. Murphy

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that those matters are ultimately for the Assembly to consider, but, of course, they have been considered in England and, as far as I am aware, in Scotland, too. Options are available. There is no compulsion because there is a variety of ways in which to deal with housing: responsibility can be given by a local authority to an arm's-length company or to a registered social landlord, or the matter can be dealt with in some other way.

Mr. Barry Jones (Alyn and Deeside)

There is some anxiety in my constituency among Flintshire county councillors, notably Ron Hill and Ron Hampson, who want decaying council estates that were built after world war two to be endowed with new windows, central heating and new doors to make them warm, damp free, modern and up to the standards of this century. Will my right hon. Friend have a quiet word with the First Secretary to express the wish that some of those estates be modernised urgently? If he sees him, can he ask him again for £25 million in Airbus grant?

Mr. Murphy

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for his remarks. He may rest assured that I readily convey his remarks and those of other right hon. and hon. Friends to the First Secretary when I meet him. I agree with my right hon. Friend and the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Mr. Llwyd): housing is an important matter for our communities, especially as a large amount of housing stock is ageing. It is a question of being able to look at priorities and planning for the future.

Mr. Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley)

Does the Secretary of State agree that, for every pound that is spent on the new Assembly building, a pound less can be spent on housing? In that vein, will he join me in congratulating the new First Secretary on breaking from the old First Secretary and announcing today that he is suspending any development on the new building pending another review? That is a good start, but the block grant for spending on public services can be further protected if the Secretary of State persuades the First Secretary to scrap any replacement for what already exists and works adequately.

Mr. Murphy

It would be beyond my powers or responsibilities to tell the First Secretary or the Assembly what to do. It is for the Assembly to decide how to spend its money. I understand that the First Secretary is reviewing the whole position of the new building in Cardiff. I am sure that he is doing that with prudence in mind.

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