HC Deb 22 March 1920 vol 127 cc33-4
40. Sir R. THOMAS

had given notice of the following Question:—To ask the Prime Minister whether he is now prepared, having regard to the ever-increasing prices of building materials, to regard the building of workmen's dwellings as a war measure and effectively control the prices of materials and the distribution of materials; and whether he is aware that building contractors are afraid of entering into contracts, owing to prices continually soaring, with the result that in a great number of districts building schemes have been indefinitely postponed, and that this state of affairs is creating great social unrest?


Before the right hon. Gentleman answers this question, is it not a fact that the increased price of building materials has been caused by the rise in the cost of manufacture?

The MINISTER of HEALTH (Dr. Addison)

My right hon. Friend has asked me to reply to this question. As regards the first part, the whole question of the costs and profits made in the production of building materials is now being inquired into by a committee appointed under the Profiteering Act by my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade. As to the last part of the question, the form of contract being entered into by local authorities provides for adjustments in respect of rise or fall in the cost of material, and I am not aware of building schemes being indefinitely postponed on account of rising prices of materials.


When will the findings of this committee be published?


I hope very soon.


Does the right hon. Gentleman know that since July last year the price of materials has increased enormously, that, for example, the price of turpentine has increased by 100 per cent., and that since 1914 the price of that commodity has increased by 494 per cent., and that the price of slates—


Ministers cannot be expected to carry all those figures in their heads.


In view of the fact that it costs now £100 to purchase the timber which £30 purchased before the War, is it desirable that the Government should sell their stocks of timber to private timber speculators?


I do not know anything about speculation. No one would rejoice more than I if the price of building materials fell.


Could we not have a system of priority with regard to building materials such as we had during the War in the Ministry of Munitions?


Large quantities of building materials have been purchased on account for the purposes of housing. To that extent there is priority; otherwise not.