asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he will provide details of house repair grants paid in (a) the city of Cardiff, and (b) Wales for the financial years 1974 to 1979 and 1979 to 1985, respectively.
Between 1974–75 and 1978–79, expenditure on housing grants of all types in Cardiff totalled £2·7 million. For the period between 1979–80 and 1984–85 the figure was £23·5 million. For Wales, the equivalent figures were £58 million and £283 million. Information about repair grants alone is not held centrally in the form requested by my hon. Friend.
Does my hon. Friend agree that those figures improved staggeringly under the Conservative Government as compared with the Labour Government ? Does he further agree that those sums, with council house sales, represent a massive transfer of public funds into the hands of the lower economic groups in society ?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We as a Government have a marvellous housing record. I can highlight the difference, in terms of expenditure, between the Government and the Opposition. During the last three years, total local authority spending under this Government was about 60 per cent. more than it was during the last three years of the Labour Government. As my hon. Friend has said, the tremendous transfer that council house sales involve is confirmation that we are satisfying the inherent desire of the Welsh electorate to own their own homes.
Will the Minister confirm that the purpose of the new Green Paper is to reduce public expenditure on housing by three quarters ? Given the relative poverty of Wales and the quality of its housing stock, would he not say that Wales should be exempted from the suggestions contained in the Green Paper ?
I do not accept the hon. Gentleman's interpretation of the Green Paper. It does not deal with the amount of housing finance that will be available in future. As I made clear, the purpose of the Green Paper is to target rather better the grant system so that more grants are made available for houses that are in need of improvement and for people who are in need. The object of the loan system is to enable people to improve their homes to a higher standard and to enable them to borrow according to the Green Paper system—that is, from authorities rather than from building societies if they are unable to command credit from the building societies or the banks.
Is my hon. Friend aware that the Opposition are plagiarising not only the council house sales policy of the Conservative part but also our policy on home improvement grants ? Has my hon. Friend read the Opposition's latest policy document in which they pledge themselves to reverse their policy of running down improvement grants, a policy which they so successfully implemented when they were last in office ?
The Opposition can learn a great deal from our example. To revert to the key question which sparked off this discussion, I highlight the fact that in 1978 about 296 grants were given in Cardiff. This has to be compared with 1984, when about 2,745 grants were given in Cardiff. As for the comparative figures for Wales, 5,931 grants were made in 1978, whereas grants totalled 29,978 in 1984. Those figures speak for themselves.
Does the Minister appreciate that his means-tested loan proposals, which are outlined in the Green Paper, are not regarded as a serious attempt to tackle the deteriorating standard of housing in Wales ? It is yet another attempt to take Wales back to the 1930s. If an imaginative scheme is not produced shortly, the worst fears of the chief officers group will be realised.
I challenge the hon. Gentleman to produce a more imaginative scheme than is put forward in the Green Paper. It provides a method to deal with both dereliction and the need for improvement in Wales. As the hon. Gentleman and his right hon. and hon. Friends know, the dereliction and the need for improvement existed long before the Government came to office. It is this Government who have taken this initiative over renovation.