Local Government (Prescribed Expenditure)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:16 pm on 13th March 1985.

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Photo of Mr Barry Jones Mr Barry Jones Shadow Secretary of State 10:16 pm, 13th March 1985

We are glad to have the full support of the sole member of the Alliance who is here this evening. I am grateful for his intervention.

In Wales the capital expenditure of districts on housing is being reduced in real terms by £80 million over two years.

There is a need for more jobs in Wales. Coupled with that is the need to tackle the very serious housing crisis. The House may know that one in five of our men are jobless. Of the 183,000 who are unemployed in Wales at least 18,000 come from the building industry. There are perhaps some 4,000 skilled building workers now jobless and 14,000 unskilled operatives on the dole. It is incredible that with the housing problems our nation faces the Government pay these workers £90 million each year in Wales to languish idle in the dole queues. That must be social and economic nonsense. A properly planned public building and renovation programme within Wales would cut our unemployment totals at a stroke. It would also be the proper, positive response to the calls from local housing authorities and the allied agencies for Government action.

The regulations are a kick in the teeth to people who are entitled to better housing conditions. In many ways, they are the most scandalous of cuts. There is already much underprivilege in Wales. The housing stock is old. Wales suffers a higher than average incidence of houses without basic amenities. House building and house repairs generate jobs. The cuts in expenditure create human misery for those who hope for a decent house and a decent family life. These cuts also foster the likelihood that jobless building workers will remain in the dole queue. The Government remain deaf to the clamour of a growing consensus across party lines that to expand housing provision would be acting in accordance with the principle of social justice. The degradation of housing in Britain is unforgivable, and the Government must carry blame for that. Their record is disgraceful. With the crucial exception of London, these cuts fall upon the most vulnerable of our people who live in the northern part of the British Isles. To deny the Welsh people both work and the right to warm, modern, decent housing borders on the criminal.

If these Ministers cannot do better, they should get out.