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Column 501historic value. Every year that passes makes it more expensive to rebuild such properties and bring them up to a reasonably modern standard.
I hope that the Secretary of State will reconsider the renovation grants regime in order to ensure that it operates in such a way as to achieve a reasonable throughput. It is difficult to explain to constituents, other than by blaming the Government, why they have to wait three, four or five years for such grants. I suppose that those of us in Opposition parties can blame the Government with impunity, but it does not increase one's job satisfaction. I would rather be able to praise the Government on this issue and say that the grants are being made more readily available. It is not fair to blame local authorities. Montgomeryshire district council has been doing its best in this sector.
My next point concerns incomplete private developments. Again, that may be peculiar to areas where private developments are inevitably small, because of rurality, and where the developers are therefore small. My constituency is peppered with private developments which have started with a splendid plan, full of landscaping, trees, good roads, sound drains and everything else that one could wish. Architects are good at preparing such drawings, but they are prepared for builders who, unfortunately, are part of what Customs and Excise call the phoenix syndrome--small developers who go bust and rise from the ashes in a different form on the following day leaving unfinished estates, broken roads, inadequate retention sums, no trees and large bills for the owner-occupiers who are the very people whom we want to encourage to buy properties. That often happens to estates where the properties are relatively cheap and are built to a budget. Local authorities do their best to imposes conditions on developers, but, if one looks around not just my constituency but others and sees the estates that have been in a dreadful state for years, they do not seem to be working well. It would be good if the Government could examine that issue and find a way to ensure that new dereliction on estates does not arise.
I agree with every word that the Secretary of State said about physically and mentally handicapped people and care in the community. There are people who cannot realistically lead an independent life in the community. I will not draw Ministers again on whether there should be nursing or non-nursing care. I am happy to settle for the Secretary of State's unequivocal statement that there will be appropriate care, based, of course, on appropriate advice. There are in Wales patients in hospitals for the mentally handicapped for whom appropriate care is nursing care. I am not satisfied, and neither are their carers or relatives, that those patients will be cared for properly if they are placed in the community in two- person or three-person accommodation with changing staff. I ask the Secretary of State to consider ensuring that where they are needed, communities are provided for groups of a dozen or 15 residents--some of whom may be in or near a persistent vegetative state--in which a high level of care is available, so that the public may be reassured that the weakest members of our society are given the strongest protection. Of all the issues discussed today, that is the most important.
We must care for those who cannot care for themselves. Otherwise, as we know, serious abuse follows. It is not enough to wear sackcloth and ashes after sexual abuse has
Column 502been committed against weak members of society. I hope that I may look forward to the Secretary of State putting his wise words into wise action.
Mr. Walter Sweeney (Vale of Glamorgan) : I am sure that quality, availability and affordability of housing are close to the top of the agenda for all hon. Members, even though we may differ over the appropriate means of achieving those ends. Every week in constituency surgeries I hear about housing problems. They are not a representative cross-section, but, anecdotally, they are relevant. Complainants fall into two categories-- young people, often single mothers, desperately trying to find somewhere to live, and older people desperately seeking a transfer from one council house to another.
Young people in the first category are symptomatic of a breakdown in family values. In an ideal world, they would be living at home as members of stable families, and saving up money before even thinking of having a baby. Unfortunately, young people leave home and form relationships, not necessarily in that order, and the girl in question becomes pregnant and needs somewhere to live.
The second category is the result of council housing estates tending, in general, to be unpopular places to live. Well-intentioned national and local government policies in years past have resulted in growing problems in society--a vicious circle of deprivation. New generations often grow up with no firmly rooted family values, family support or stability in their lives. As a consequence, crime becomes endemic in such areas. Many constituents who come to my surgeries begging for a council transfer do so because their homes or cars have been vandalised.
Last week, I saw a constituent who has five children. Three of them are handicapped--one of them severely so. The social services department allocated that lady a car to enable her to transport the extremely handicapped child. It was set fire to, and shortly after the social services provided a replacement vehicle. Just before her visit, that car also was vandalised by stones being smashed on its roof.
Social housing is necessary for some people, but is not desirable. I long for the day when there will be a shift in the balance. My constituency has 75 per cent. owner-occupancy, nearly 20 per cent. council or housing association occupancy, and just 5 per cent. private rented accommodation. I want the private rented sector to be expanded because that is how to achieve more flexibility in the housing market.
The Government's right-to-buy policies have been extremely successful. The hon. Member for Torfaen (Mr. Murphy) did not do the Government justice when he said that there has always been a high percentage of owner-occupancy in Wales and that it would inevitably continue to rise. In fact, it increased from 59 per cent.in March 1979 to 72 per cent. at the end of 1992. That did not happen by accident. The Government applied a variety of useful measures to encourage owner-occupancy. The right to buy, which was strenuously resisted for years by Labour and the Liberal Democrats, enabled more than 90,000 public sector tenants to purchase their homes. In 1993, the Government launched a rent-to-mortgage scheme, which extended the opportunity to own to another 70,000 tenants in Wales who cannot immediately afford the full purchase price. Owners of long leases of flats have been given the right to enfranchise their properties. The
Column 503long decline in the private rented sector has been arrested, thanks to the Housing Act 1988. The hon. Member for Ceredigion and Pembroke, North (Mr. Dafis) was sceptical about whether the private rented sector is growing, but between 1990 and 1992 the number of privately rented dwellings increased by 15,000.
Housing associations have become the main providers of new, affordable housing. Since 1985, public expenditure on housing associations has been supplemented by £177 million of private sector finance. That means that more homes can be built at a time of public expenditure restraint.
I want to sound a note of caution, because the social problems that developed from the expansion of council housing estates may recur in respect of housing association estates. I see that happening already in my constituency. One of my constituents complained recently that, shortly after she purchased a house on a new estate, the developer had difficulty selling the remaining properties because of market conditions. Consequently, a job lot of the properties was sold to a housing association. That lady feels that the misbehaviour of some of the tenants who have moved into those properties has led to a reduction in the value of her house.
Mr. Sweeney : The hon. Gentleman may say that--from a sedentary position--but surely we should be concerned about people who find themselves in the negative-equity trap because of bad behaviour on the estates on which they live. We need to ensure that, in future, huge housing association blocks do not create the same problems.
Dr. Kim Howells (Pontypridd) : The hon. Gentleman's assessment of the position seems fairly insulting to some of us who grew up in excellent houses on council estates, which are fine places in which to grow up. When the Conservative Government took office in 1979, local authorities were suddenly deprived of the ability to maintain such houses. It is a question of maintenance, whether the properties concerned are in the public or the private sector.
My local authority has been forced to send letters warning people that they will have to wait 20 years for maintenance grants. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would like to tell us where the sense or justice is in that. How much better it would be for such groups of houses if enough money were available to renovate and maintain them.
Mr. Sweeney : It is a bit rich for a Labour Member to talk about the maintenance of council houses. For a short time, I lived on the Hulme housing estate, which was mentioned by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. That estate was run by Labour-controlled Manchester city council ; the standard of maintenance seemed to be nil, and half the properties in the block that I inhabited were empty.
Since the present Government have been in office, the number of houses in Wales has increased from 1.1 million to 2.2 million in absolute terms. The problem is matching housing stock to housing needs. I believe that that can best be done through the private sector and market forces. I must declare an interest : I am a landlord, albeit not in
Column 504Wales. I believe, however, that in order to increase occupancy of houses the Government must try harder to encourage landlords to enter the private rented sector.
The Government have rightly allowed those with lodgers to receive the first part of their rental income tax free. Further steps need to be taken to encourage multiple occupation, which is currently inhibited by draconian regulations. I am not convinced that living in bedsits serves the best interests of, for instance, students and young mothers ; I think that such accommodation is basically lonely and anti-social, and brings about misery and the breakdown of family ties. More people should live en famille, with perhaps half a dozen people sharing a house. Students have had wide experience of that way of life, and if such properties are well run and in good condition they can provide landlords with a good return and justify investment.
The Opposition parties could contribute in an important way. They are fond of looking forward to the day--constantly receding--when they may take office. The private rented sector would greatly appreciate a commitment to support and encourage increased provision of private rented accommodation. That would produce a better balance in the housing market and help to guard against shortages.
Mr. Ieuan Wyn Jones (Ynys Mo n) : This has been a good debate and most of the speeches have been constructive. I intend to be generous : hon. Members on both sides of the House have made some excellent points. Although there has been a difference of emphasis, most of what we have heard has been positive. I confess that I found some of the comments of the hon. Member for Vale of Glamorgan (Mr. Sweeney) rather bizarre ; at times, I could not follow his train of thought. I was surprised that he should attack housing associations, which have demonstrated excellent management skills over the years. The hon. Gentleman would like much of the balance to be transferred to the private sector, but many private developers do not possess such skills.
The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) pointed out that many private estates in Wales are left after the developers have gone bust. Roads are unmade, weeds spring up and amenity areas become overgrown. The record of some private developers leaves a lot to be desired. No one suggests that a single organisation has all the answers to the problem of housing provision ; a balance must be struck between the requirements of those who are fortunate enough to be able to afford their own homes and those who cannot do so, whatever the circumstances. I accept that, as the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Evans) said, social circumstances sometimes put people on waiting lists, but
Mr. Richards : Will the hon. Gentleman give way ?
Mr. Jones : I will not give way to the hon. Gentleman, because he has not been present for the debate.
I understand the point made by the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor, but it does not remove our responsibility to try to find some answers. I think that the main answer lies in a proper balance between local authorities, housing associations and private developers, which should work together to meet the needs of the people of Wales. If it has done nothing else, the debate has shown
Column 505how important it is for such co-operation to continue. Tomorrow's Hansard will show that, in that regard, it has been excellent. I said that I intended to be generous in my praise for those who have spoken, but I must point out that the Secretary of State was rather uncharitable about my hon. Friend the Member for Ceredigion and Pembroke, North (Mr. Dafis), who made an excellent and well-researched speech.
Mr. Richards : On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. The hon. Member for Ynys Mo n (Mr. Jones) alleged that I had not been present during the debate. That is not true ; I had to leave the Chamber for half an hour to hear a serious complaint from one of the hon. Gentleman's constituents, Mr. Gordon Pritchard, about Ynys Mo n borough council.
Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Janet Fookes) : Hon. Members cannot use debating time to explain why they were or were not in the Chamber. A brief explanation might be all right, but further explanations are not necessary.
Mr. Jones : I think it important for me to respond to points made by hon. Members who have been present throughout the debate and who have made constructive contributions. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Ceredigion and Pembroke, North on the presentation of his speech, its detail and research and the way in which he advanced his arguments.
Dr. Howells : And his good looks!
Mr. Jones : Yes, and his good looks--the most important factor of all.
The Secretary of State seemed to want to give us a lesson in home ownership. The Minister of State, Welsh Office will know that there is a long tradition of home ownership in Wales. The word perchentyaeth is rooted in Welsh culture, history and tradition. The Secretary of State should discuss that with the Minister so that he will understand that we are not averse to home ownership, which we have always valued and which we want to extend.
The Secretary of State referred to Magna Carta. We are fortunate in Wales : we have much information on our history. We know about not only Magna Carta but the laws of Hywel Dda. When the Secretary of State discusses those laws over a cup of tea with the Minister, he will learn that throughout their history Welsh people have attached great importance to home ownership. I am sure that he will recognise that. Perhaps in his reply the Under-Secretary of State for Wales will acknowledge that on behalf of the people of Wales.
The Secretary of State made some interesting points about the role of housing associations and the need for them to encourage low-cost home ownership. We should like him to say a bit more about that on another occasion. His use of the word "encourage" is interesting. If he means that he would like housing associations to move in that direction, that is acceptable ; but if he is saying that the funding for Tai Cymru will have to move in that direction, that is another matter. We are entitled to know whether it is the former or the latter. I hope that the Under-Secretary will answer that question. We have heard some interesting arguments about housing association grant. My hon. Friend the Member for
Column 506Ceredigion and Pembroke, North said that he did not want it to be reduced to less than 62 per cent. I recall that the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor said that he did not want it to be reduced substantially. We did not hear whether the Secretary of State would support such a reduction, so the Under-Secretary must say what the Government have in mind. What proportion of HAG will be paid ? All statistics and surveys show that the three key issues that most affect people's lives are their families, their health and their homes, which are reflected in the problems that hon. Members hear about in their surgeries every week. Housing is the single most important issue to our constituents. That is why we chose the subject for our Opposition day debate.
Housing is important because it meets not only the physical need for shelter from rain and for comfort but the emotional need of well-being and of satisfaction with one's position in life. Will the Government ensure that more people in Wales have such benefits ? We acknowledge that people will own their own homes, and it is acceptable that their proportion has increased, but, as a result of Government policies, some people have no opportunity to own a house of any description and their lives are being blighted. We want the Government to have the priorities that the people of Wales consistently vote for but are never delivered.
The problem is that since 1979 a welter of legislation has been passed. Housing Act after housing Act has sought to deal with the problems. We accept that some of those Acts have worked, but, as always, they have failed some groups of people.
I must confess that I was interested in the Secretary of State's remarks about a Welsh assembly or parliament raising taxes. This Government have raised more taxes than any other in the history of the United Kingdom, so to accuse us of wanting to raise more taxes in a Welsh parliament was pretty rich.
The right hon. Gentleman also talked about increases in legislation. I was elected to the House in 1987. The number of Acts, including housing Acts, has rocketed since 1979.
Mr. Wigley : My hon. Friend said that some categories of people inevitably faced difficulties. Does he accept that areas also experience difficulties ? In Dwyfor, in my constituency, second homes account for 20 per cent. of the housing stock, and pressure is placed on the rented sector because rents are dictated by the holiday market. That is an important industry, but private rents are too high for people who want to rent. Likewise, people cannot afford to buy because the cost of buying a house is determined by factors outside the local economy. In Dwyfor, Meirionnydd and other areas where tourism is important, there is a need for rented social housing because external factors mean that the market cannot provide.
Mr. Jones : I agree with my hon. Friend, who has long experience of those matters. He has been in the House a number of years and has seen the problems that have occurred in my and other hon. Members' constituencies.
My hon. Friend has reminded me of an important point. The hon. Member for Vale of Glamorgan said that if the value of houses in Wales is lower than in other parts of the United Kingdom, and the amount of grant local authorities were giving was lower, somehow or other equality resulted.
Column 507The hon. Gentleman should remember that the property boom of the 1980s alienated many young Welsh people, who could not get into the property market. Between 1985 and 1988, house prices in Ynys Mo n doubled. Incomes, however, did not double during that period. Having set their heart on a house, young people who had spent years saving up a deposit were faced with despair because they could not afford the mortgage. A couple who had tried to save a small deposit and obtain a 95 per cent. mortgage on a property worth £40,000 in 1985 found that, in 1988, its value had risen to £85,000. Their incomes or salaries were not sufficient for them to afford the house. Pressures have therefore been placed on the planning system and on the provision of housing for social need. I reject the hon. Gentleman's argument that there should not be any room for social housing in Wales. It is crucial that we move on the issue today.
Mr. Sweeney : Will the hon. Gentleman give way ?
Mr. Jones : I appreciate that I have named the hon. Gentleman, but I must finish making my points because we want to wind up the debate quickly.
We have a different housing philosophy in Wales. We want a proper balance. The motion states that the only way in which we can properly meet the housing needs of the Welsh people is to have a parliament of our own in Cardiff.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Gwilym Jones) : We have had an interesting debate. We realise now that boththe Welsh nationalists and the Labour party would take action that would result in a reduction in the amount of social housing being built in Wales, that the Labour party is determined to spend more in this area, but is desperately afraid to say how much, and that both would impose the extra taxation that a Welsh assembly would cost the people of Wales.
Opposition Members talked about the need for specific Welsh policies. I honestly do not know where they have been for the past few years. Have they not taken note of the many initiatives which we have taken forward in Wales precisely to meet the specific housing needs of the people of Wales ? Have they not read "Agenda for Action for Housing in Wales", which was published by my predecessor in November 1991 ? In that document--the first of its kind anywhere in the United Kingdom--we set out our policies, which we have been following over a number of years and which have brought forward real achievements, of which we can all be proud.
The agenda set out three main objectives : to encourage home ownership for the vast majority of the people in Wales so that about 80 per cent. of households can achieve owner occupation by the turn of the century ; to create greater diversity of choice and supply for those who cannot afford or do not want to be home owners ; and to improve both the quality of the housing stock and the lives of the people who live in those homes.
There has been much reference to the high level of unmet need. However, there are no national criteria for housing need or an agreed level of housing need, precisely because it is not possible to define housing need as an
Column 508absolute. Estimates of need for social housing in Wales vary widely and, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said earlier, almost always tend to be overstated.
I was interested in the exchanges between the hon. Member for Ceredigion and Pembroke, North (Mr. Dafis) and my hon. Friend the Member for Clwyd, North-West (Mr. Richards) with regard to homelessness figures. The hon. Gentleman accepted that his figures were probably wrong. The difference between my hon. Friend and the hon. Gentleman meant that the hon. Gentleman could easily be 50 per cent. out. However, that did not seem to matter to him ; they were just figures that he could throw up in the air.
I shall set the record straight for the hon. Gentleman. The latest figure for the number of homelessness cases at March 1994 is 2,628. That can be compared with 2,867 in March 1993. As I know that Opposition Members cannot work it out, it is a reduction of 8.3 per cent. The reduction in the number of homelessness cases should be widely welcomed.
Our role in meeting housing need is to set the broad policy framework and encourage local authorities to employ the wide range of options available to address housing need and to make the best use of the resources available to them. Local authorities have a statutory duty to assess housing need in their areas. They are the appropriate organisations to prepare local housing assessments which will provide the context for housing associations and other agencies to plan their strategies and programmes, as well as help to inform the distribution of resources. These assessments provide the basis for authorities' strategic and operational plans, taking account of likely available resources as well as priorities between competing needs and the best use of resources in meeting objectives that are essential for the effective delivery of housing services.
I suppose that I should thank the hon. Member for Ceredigion and Pembroke, North for the congratulations that he inadvertently gave the Government on their housing record. He specifically congratulated the housing associations in Wales on what they have achieved. However, it is the Government who have massively supported and enabled the housing associations to go forward and achieve all that they have done. In 1989, the Government established Housing for Wales to build on the enthusiasm of housing associations in Wales and to work in partnership with local authorities.
Since Tai Cymru was established, total investment in Welsh housing associations, including that for the current financial year, is in excess of £1 billion, producing almost 22,000 necessary new homes in Wales. In the current financial year, the total resources for Housing for Wales will be about £200 million, which should enable more than 4,000 new homes to be completed.
I remind hon. Members that the introduction of mixed funding has enabled 50 per cent. more homes to be built than under the old system. Housing for Wales is now the main provider of new social rented housing in Wales. It works closely with local authorities, which recognise the benefits that the new mixed funding regime can bring. I am pleased to say that local authorities have transferred almost £70 million to Welsh housing associations in the past five years to provide additional social housing.
The hon. Member for Ynys Mo n (Mr. Jones) asked me about next year's housing association grant rate. I completely reject the wild prediction made by the hon. Member for Torfaen (Mr. Murphy). He should know, as I
Column 509am sure all Opposition Members know, that the question of the housing association grant rate will be considered, as it is always considered, during the normal round of the public expenditure survey.
We will carefully consider all the questions that need to be addressed : whether we should be subsidising bricks and mortar or helping families ; and whether we should be providing cheap rents for all, or providing more homes, exactly as my hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Evans) spelt out. All of us would recognise that it is unreasonable to subsidise people who can afford to pay, because that means that people who are deserving will be deprived of necessary housing.
I am pleased to report that strategic housing agreements between Housing for Wales and nine local authorities have been signed since the initiative was introduced in 1991-92. I see that as helping to cement the partnerships and take further forward the excellent relationship that exists between Housing for Wales and local authorities.
We also recognise that an active private rented sector offering a variety of accommodation and tenures is necessary for those who cannot or do not wish to buy their own homes. I found it somewhat ironic that the hon. Member for Torfaen sought to remind us that he was a history graduate. His history seems to have stopped at some time in the past. He certainly does not have much recollection of current affairs. He tried to claim that he was in favour of a variety of housing tenures, including the right for people to rent from the private sector. What his history should have told him is that his party voted against the Housing Act 1988, which did so much to expand the opportunities for the private rented sector.
The number of private rented dwellings in Wales increased from 80, 000 in 1990 to 95,000 in 1992. For Opposition Members who cannot do arithmetic, that is an increase of 19 per cent. That is a substantial and worthwhile contribution to expanding the sum of housing available for the people of Wales. We are not content with that. We are going forward with the rent-a- room scheme which was introduced in 1992. Householders no longer have to pay income tax on rent from a lodger if the gross annual rent is less than £3,250. That is a further worthwhile contribution to expanding the sum of housing available in Wales.
Naturally and rightly, my hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnor referred to the needs of housing in rural Wales. To assist authorities to meet particular rural housing pressures, we created the rural housing reserve in 1991-92. Investment over the past three years has totalled nearly £16 million, leading to the production of some 700 homes. In the current financial year, £4 million is available which, together with investment through Housing for Wales, is expected to produce 1,150 homes. Rural authorities also benefit from other central reserves, including renewal, rented private sector and homelessness reserves. I need not remind my hon. Friend that Housing for Wales devotes at least one quarter of its resources to rural housing. Between 1989-90 and 1993-94, investment totalled nearly £240 million, producing nearly 4,700 new homes.
Our final "Agenda for Action" objective is to improve the quality of the housing stock and, of course, of the lives of the people who live in those homes. Much reference has been made to renovation in the debate. I thank the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) for what he said about the provisions to which my right hon. Friend the
Column 510Secretary of State referred for the mentally handicapped under community care. This is not the time to expand on that, but we have published our new guidance for the Welsh mental handicap strategy. I think that the hon. and learned Gentleman will find in it exactly the provision that he is looking for and which we are all looking for. It is important that we continue to try to ensure that the right care and choice are available to mentally handicapped individuals and their carers.
Since the current home renovation grant was introduced in 1990, almost £850 million has been made available for home renovation in Wales. That includes for this year £149 million for mandatory renovation grants alone. That is £3.5 million more than last year. It should enable Welsh local authorities to complete some 9,600 grants. I was interested to note the suggestion of the hon. Member for Ceredigion and Pembroke, North that we should bring clearance and demolition back on to the agenda. While I accept that that is not entirely irrelevant, I feel that we have moved on from the days of widespread clearance, and rightly so, exactly in the way, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said, that we have put behind us the grey architecture and slab concrete of the socialist past. In addition to the renovation grants, £26.3 million has been made available to local authorities in each of the past two years for disabled facilities and discretionary grants. The current funding arrangements for disabled facilities grants enable local authorities to consider all housing options, including transfers to more suitable accommodation, in responding to the needs of disabled people.
Dr. Howells : Will the Minister give way ?
Mr. Jones : I fear I do not have time. I was just about to refer to the hon. Member for Torfaen, who complained that we were not spending enough. Just as his party would not say at the last election, the hon. Gentleman would not say how much he would spend. He brought out that canard about capital receipts, which he then pledged himself to make available. I wonder whether the hon. Member for Dunfermline, East (Mr. Brown) will be upset when he sees that in the record. I well know the claims that Welsh Labour councils have made that that would mean spending of at least £177 million. It might help the hon. Member for Torfaen, if he rushes off to see his hon. Friend, to say that the local councils will have only £23.7 million to spend from their capital receipts.
I remind the House that grants are also available to landlords to repair and improve or convert houses or buildings into flats and accommodation. We can boast a good record on area-based renewal schemes in Wales : 13 renewal schemes have been declared, and there are more in the pipeline. Resources of more than £17 million will be available in the current year for area-based schemes.
One matter was conspicuous by its absence from the speeches of Opposition Members. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State rightly concentrated on the fact that the vast majority of people in Wales aspire to home ownership. That is demonstrated by the high take-up of the right-to-buy initiative. More than 100,000 council tenants have exercised the right to buy since 1979. Surveys keep telling us that 80 per cent. or more of the people of Wales want to own their own homes. Opposition Members hardly referred to that at all. Where was the welcome for the progress that has been made in increasing home ownership
Column 511from 59 per cent. in 1979 to 71 per cent. now ? We recognise and we will continue to respond to the aspirations of the people of Wales for a higher level of home ownership, and we will deliver. One other idea was conspicuous by its absence in the debate. The hon. Member for Ceredigion and Pembroke, North was remarkably brief in referring to an assembly for Wales, although I know that the hon. Member for Ynys Mo n went on at slightly more length about it. That ancient, discredited policy from the 1970s has been trotted out as the great idea of all the Opposition policies. Yet we know by the token references that Opposition Members have made to it this evening that they are doing nothing more than going through the motions. Wales is now better housed. Major sums are being provided for new social ownership and maintenance of existing housing. There are more opportunities for ownership, which is the exact and clear aspiration of the people of Wales. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced today an exciting expansion of the transferable discount scheme in Wales. We are making great progress. At the same time, we continue to ensure that there will be choice--real choice, unlike what the Opposition offer. I am confident that we shall go forward. We shall continue to go forward. The last thing that we in Wales need is that ultimate quango--a Welsh assembly. It has been roundly rejected by the people of Wales before and it will be rejected again if it is ever put to the test.
Question put, That the original words stand part of the Question :--
The House divided : Ayes 26, Noes 153.
Division No. 290] [7.16 pm
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)
Campbell-Savours, D. N.
Carlile, Alexander (Montgomry)
Clwyd, Mrs Ann
Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)
Jones, Ieuan Wyn (Ynys Mo n)
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O)
Tellers for the Ayes :
Mrs. Margaret Ewing and
Mr. Elfyn Llwyd.
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey)
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby)
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)
Atkinson, David (Bour'mouth E)
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley)
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset North)
Banks, Robert (Harrogate)
Beresford, Sir Paul
Biffen, Rt Hon John
Blackburn, Dr John G.
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas
Bottomley, Peter (Eltham)
Bowden, Sir Andrew
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thorpes)
Browning, Mrs. Angela
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)
Carlisle, John (Luton North)
Carlisle, Sir Kenneth (Lincoln)
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ruclif)