asked the Secretary of State for Wales what is the figure for housing starts in the public sector in Wales for the first quarter of 1985.
Four hundred and twenty-three public sector starts were reported for the first quarter of 1985.
Is the Minister aware that his reply will not bring much comfort or hope to the homeless and the ill-housed in Wales? Will he give figures for public sector housing starts in Brecon and Radnor? Will he also give the figures for that area and for Wales as a whole in the same quarter of 1979?
I cannot give a precise answer about Brecon and Radnor, but if the hon. Gentleman tables a question I shall try to answer it. The majority of local authorities are spending the greater part of their money on renovating houses. That is one reason why they are not spending on new building.
Is the Department encouraging authorities to make provision for the elderly and the disabled and for others with special needs?
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.
Will my hon. Friend welcome the statement, quoted recently in the Western Mail by Mr. Lewis of the House-Builders Federation in Wales, drawing attention to the significant upturn in house building starts and to the fact that 3,000 extra jobs could result from it?
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.
The Minister, with his usual brilliance, has anticipated my question. Will he itemise the number of housing association starts? How does that figure compare with what the housing associations have told him they could do?
The total number of completions by the Housing Corporation and housing associations under this Government is about 10,000. Housing starts in the first quarter were about 200 by local authorities and 200-odd by housing associations.