asked the Secretary of State for Wales what is the latest available estimate of the cost to the central Government of (a) construction of new local authority housing in Wales, and (b) the repairs and maintenance of local authority housing in Wales for the current financial year; and how these figures compare with corresponding ones for 1974–75.
£21·98 million is to be provided by the Welsh Office towards the cost of construction of new local authority housing in 1975–76. The Housing Rents and Subsidies Act 1975 does not provide for subsidising repairs and maintenance incurred in 1975–76.For 1974–75 central Government housing subsidies, for local authority new house construction and repairs and maintenance, are estimated at about £17 million. It is not possible to apportion this between the two headings.
Is the Minister aware that there are considerable misgivings in many parts of Wales about a cut-back in the amount of money available for the maintenance and repair of council properties, and that in my constituency this has had, a severe effect on schemes that were to go ahead? Can he assure us that if a cutback has to take place at all, it will be no greater than the 17 per cent. cutback referred to by the Secretary of State on 16th June in a debate on housing, and that every effort will be made to ensure that the areas that most need the money will get the money that is available?
The problem of improving old houses which have been acquired by local authorities is a considerable one which causes concern throughout Wales, to my right hon. and learned Friend and to myself. One reason why the circular was issued was to enable us to stop the present position, to examine it and to see what we can do to improve the especially difficult areas.
Can the Minister tell us whether the figure for new houses constructed includes houses which were originally intended to be for private ownership and which have been acquired by various authorities? If so, can he tell us whether those are broadly on the same price levels or cost the same to local authorities as those which they plan in the normal way?
No. The £21·9 million is the amount provided for the cost of construction of new houses.
Can the Minister assure us that the £21·9 million will result in the Government reaching their target for housing construction? Is he aware that the housing situation is now desperate and that complaints are coming in from all parts of the Principality?
I am certainly aware of the housing problem in Wales. Perhaps the best reply I can give to the hon. Gentleman is to indicate to him that public sector starts for the first four months of 1975 were 3,398, which is a considerable improvement on the corresponding period last year when only 1,979 were started. If the Conservative Party, when in office had done a little more, we might not be in such a bad situation as we are today.