HC Deb 24 March 2004 vol 419 cc865-6
1. Mr. Elfyn Llwyd (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy) (PC)

What representations he has received on the provision of affordable housing in Wales; and what discussions he has had on this with the First Secretary of the National Assembly for Wales.

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

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales and I receive representations from time to time on this subject. It and other matters are discussed regularly with Ministers in the National Assembly.

Mr. Llwyd

I thank the Minister for that less than illuminating reply. He will know that in the debate in the Welsh Grand Committee this morning there was considerable consensus on the problems of affordable housing in Wales. Is he prepared to meet colleagues and me, as well as Members from other political parties, to discuss that important issue and see whether we can come up with answers to this serious problem?

Mr. Touhig

I welcome the comments that the hon. Gentleman made to me in the Welsh Grand Committee and, I believe, his support for what the Government are trying to do as a result of the Barker report, which was published last week. The Government have already introduced an exemption from stamp duty on property transactions under £150,000 in designated areas, which benefits 363 disadvantaged areas in Wales. The Planning and Compulsory Purchase Bill, when enacted, will require local planning authorities to take on board community views when they prepare local development plans. A number of initiatives are in the pipeline, but it would be beneficial to have a widespread discussion about how to overcome that difficulty in Wales.

Mr. Huw Edwards (Monmouth) (Lab)

Does my hon. Friend appreciate the fact that in a constituency such as mine the cost of housing is high, and every effort should be made to encourage housing associations to help people who do not necessarily want to rent to part-rent, part-buy. Such initiatives by, for example, the Gwerin housing association are most welcome. Can my hon. Friend speak with the First Minister to see how such schemes can be encouraged?

Mr. Touhig

I welcome the point that my hon. Friend makes, and commend the homebuy scheme produced by the National Assembly. There is no limit on the proportion of resources that local authorities can spend on homebuy schemes, and rural authorities have allocated £2.6 million to them this year. Such initiatives are important, because we must try to make sure that more people can access affordable housing; and I believe that they will be beneficial.

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