Local authorities are concentrating on building for people in special need, but their priority at present remains the renovation of existing stock, both public and private. Under this Government about £500 million has been spent on renovation. The number of homeless has not increased as some Opposition Members seem to suggest.
When will the Minister recognise that the only steps taken by the Government in this vital matter have been negative, such as imposing VAT on home improvements and reducing the amount that local authorities may spend out of receipts from the sale of council houses? How can the Minister be a party to such decisions when housing in Wales is deteriorating so badly, as the Welsh media have vividly illustrated in recent weeks?
Although public sector starts are only 6 per cent. up on last year, I am glad to say that private sector starts are about 25 per cent. up on the same period last year. I am also glad to say that 1,631 starts were made in the relevant quarter.
My hon. Friend is quite right. The private sector is taking the lead in meeting the demand for new housing, and there is considerable demand. We particularly need housing for executives if we are to attract industry to Wales, but there is also considerable activity by the housing associations, which are responsible for more than half the public sector starts to which I have referred.