Local Authority Housing

Oral Answers to Questions — Wales – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 17th June 1996.

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Photo of David Hanson David Hanson , Delyn 12:00 am, 17th June 1996

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales how many houses have been built by local authorities in Wales in each year since 1979; and how many he expects will be built in the current year. [31654]

Photo of Jonathan Evans Jonathan Evans Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Welsh Office)

Information for each year between 1979 and 1994 has been published in "Welsh Housing Statistics No. 15, 1995", a copy of which is in the Library. In 1995, 176 dwellings were completed. A forecast for this year is not available.

Photo of David Hanson David Hanson , Delyn

Does the Minister agree that the figures from 1979 to the current year—a paltry 176 dwellings were built in 1995—show a massive decline in the number of houses being built by local authorities when housing need is rising? The Government are not providing the finance and are not letting local authorities spend capital receipts. My local authority has several million pounds of capital receipts. Why is it not allowed to have a phased increase in capital receipts expenditure to house homeless people in Flintshire?

Photo of Jonathan Evans Jonathan Evans Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Welsh Office)

As the hon. Gentleman should know, during the period to which he referred, the Government provided significant resources for housing associations to develop houses for people who wanted to rent and for people who wanted to take the low-cost home ownership route. Housing associations' success in delivering that programme is outstanding, and he should pay due regard to it. As to his proposition that the Delyn authority should be allowed to use—

Photo of David Hanson David Hanson , Delyn

It is Flintshire.

Photo of Jonathan Evans Jonathan Evans Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Welsh Office)

The hon. Gentleman is the hon. Member for Delyn, and I have the figures for Delyn, which reveal that there are no receipts available to be used in any event. The hon. Gentleman indicated that he referred to the Flintshire authority. One of the difficulties of the hon. Gentleman's proposal is that it may result in houses being provided in areas where there is least need for them. The Government's policy is to ensure that we build social housing where it is needed for the homeless. We did that during the 1980s and we will continue to do it during the 1990s and beyond.

Photo of Elfyn Llwyd Elfyn Llwyd Opposition Whip (Commons)

The Minister will be aware that, a couple of years ago, the Welsh Affairs Committee released a report on affordable housing in Wales. He will know from that report that there is a crying need for social housing throughout Wales. As one who used to be involved with Tai Cymru, he will know that the present trickle of funding will not meet anything like the need. Present policies will do nothing for young people who want to get married and move into their own homes. The present position is disastrous, both in rural areas and in urban areas.

Photo of Jonathan Evans Jonathan Evans Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Welsh Office)

The policies that have been developed by Tai Cymru and rural housing associations have done a significant amount to address some of the sensitivities that were previously ignored by large-scale council housing programmes in rural areas—as the hon. Gentleman will know. He substantially underestimates the volume of the programme that the housing associations are currently delivering. I understand that some 3,500 homes will be delivered in the Principality this year. The hon. Gentleman should be praising, not denigrating, that record.

Photo of Mr Raymond Powell Mr Raymond Powell , Ogmore

I welcome the Minister to his new post. I want him to answer one specific question. Will he tell me, the House and the people I represent why the Government will not allow money that my local authority has in the bank to be spent on housing development to house the people on our waiting lists?

Photo of Jonathan Evans Jonathan Evans Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Welsh Office)

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his recognition in the birthday honours list. He is well aware of the sincerity of that welcome; I have known him for many years.

I have the figures for the hon. Gentleman's authority, which I presume is the Ogwr authority. Funds are, in fact, available for that authority to use. Before the hon. Gentleman demands that they should be increased still further, perhaps he will ask the authority what it is doing to utilise the resources that it can use.

Photo of Mr Win Griffiths Mr Win Griffiths , Bridgend

I, too, congratulate the Minister on his new brief in the Welsh Office, although I must say that I sympathise with him in regard to the rather weak material that he has had with which to answer the question. May I also, on behalf of the Welsh Opposition Front-Bench team, congratulate my hon. Friend and neighbour the Member for Ogmore (Sir R. Powell) on his recent elevation to a knighthood? His family will be especially pleased, and his wife, Lady Marion, deserves her title as much as he deserves his.

Will the Minister confirm that public sector house building has been reduced by about 30 per cent. since 1979, that Tai Cymru's approved development programme has been reduced by about the same amount since 1992–93 and that building by Tai Cymru has never reached the target that it would have liked to have reached? It is not surprising that homelessness in Wales and the number of people living in bedsits have doubled in the past decade. Is the Minister not ashamed of that record?

Photo of Jonathan Evans Jonathan Evans Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Welsh Office)

I am afraid that the real cause of homelessness is the breakdown of relationships rather than a failure on the part of Government to provide new housing. Just since 1989, some £1.1 billion has been invested in Welsh housing associations, producing 25,000 additional homes in Wales. The massive programmes delivered by councils in the days to which the hon. Gentleman refers—those halcyon days to which he seems to want to return, when Labour authorities were actively engaged with Labour Governments in building the Gurnos and Penrhys estates on mountain tops in south Wales—have gone. I believe that they have gone for good, and rightly so.

It is important for us to have new social housing programmes that deliver housing of the sort that people want to live in—very much more sensitive, smaller-scale developments. That is what Housing for Wales has been doing; and I think that the £1.1 billion programme that has been in operation since 1989 is substantial in itself.