HC Deb 21 January 2004 vol 416 cc1311-2
4. Hywel Williams (Caernarfon) (PC)

What assessment he has made of the likely change in the number of holiday homes in Wales as a result of the Chancellor's proposals regarding changes to self-invested personal pensions schemes. [148353]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Don Touhig)

The Government want to simplify the tax rules governing pensions, and we are consulting on proposals to do that. No assessment has been made of potential implications for holiday homes, but if the hon. Gentleman has a view—I am sure that he does—he may wish to submit his evidence and comments to the consultation, which is open until 5 March.

Hywel Williams

I thank the Minister for that answer. I certainly have a view. The proposal is an outrageous tax perk for the super-rich, as AJ Bell said in the Financial Times. The proposal will be very good for second homes, of which there are 4,500 in the county of Gwynedd. Will the Minister and his colleague, the Secretary of State, resist these outrageous proposals within the Government?

Mr. Touhig

I have made it clear that the matter is under consultation and I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will put his views. There are 15,000 holiday homes in Wales, which account for less than 1.5 per cent. of the total number of homes in Wales. I can tell the hon. Gentleman that there is no proposal for a new incentive to purchase holiday homes for private use, but I urge him to submit his evidence to the consultation.

Albert Owen (Ynys Môn) (Lab)

Holiday homes and second homes cause tension in many communities throughout Wales, including in my constituency of Ynys Môn, predominantly due to the lack of affordable housing in those areas. Does my hon. Friend agree that in addition to increased economic activity, there is a need for planners and developers to set land aside for affordable homes to ensure that we build tolerant and cohesive communities in which local people can work and live—[Interruption]

Mr. Speaker

Order. I appeal to hon. Members for quiet. The House must allow Members to put their questions and Ministers to reply.

Mr. Touhig

My hon. Friend the Member for Ynys Mon (Albert Owen) made some valid points, and it is important that they are part of our discussions on those issues. My colleagues in the Assembly are making available £56 million under a social housing grant to improve the provision of affordable housing. Added to the funding from registered social landlords, we anticipate that that will generate more than £90 million to provide about 1,000 extra homes for rent at low cost. I think that will have an important impact on the area that he represents.