HC Deb 21 January 1947 vol 432 cc14-6
19. Mr. Hector Hughes

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if his attention has been drawn to circular 133/1946 which prevents wood joists and wood flooring being used in the construction of dwelling-houses in Scotland; if he is aware that the alternative is concrete flooring, which is cold, fatiguing to stand on and otherwise unsuitable for the North-east of Scotland, and if he will take steps to have this rectified so as to facilitate the building of comfortable houses in Aberdeen.

21. Mr. Henderson Stewart

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is aware of the widespread objection on the part of the local authorities and householders to his Department's insistence upon concrete floors in new houses; why he refuses to permit the use of timber for concrete floors where economies in other parts of the house are effected; whether any alternatives to concrete floors are to be provided; and for how long it is anticipated that the present restrictions will continue.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Buchanan)

No one regrets more than I do the necessity for insisting on concrete ground floors. Faced with an acute shortage of timber, we had either to reduce the amount of softwood per house or to cut down our housing programme. The decision to require the use of concrete ground floors was taken only after the fullest consideration and in the light of the best technical advice, and I am afraid that for the present I can hold out no prospect of any relaxation. I propose, however, to issue to local authorities shortly some guidance on the use of suitable floor coverings for the concrete floor. The shortage of timber is so acute that any economies which can be made in the other parts of the house must be additional to the concrete ground floor, which is regarded as the basic economy. The Government are making every effort to increase the supply of timber, but we must expect the shortage to continue for some time to come.

Mr. Hughes

Is the Minister not able to extend the facilities in some way so as to allow timber floors in some houses?

Mr. Buchanan

I have already endeavoured to answer my hon. and learned Friend. This is the maximum amount of timber we can allow, and no matter how much we try to get round it, there is no way to overcome the serious shortage which exists at the moment.

Mr. Stewart

Is it not unfair that when the Department lays down the maximum amount of timber that may be used, and when an individual local authority has voluntarily reduced that amount, the amount saved cannot be used instead of concrete for the floor? Surely that is most unfair?

Mr. Buchanan

If a local authority could show me that saving, I would propose to ask other local authorities to follow suit, because of the saving of timber that would result. I will put this point to the hon. Gentleman. The allocation for Scotland is something like 13,000 standards for the quarter, and my demand is 21,000. I have therefore to exercise the utmost economy. If local authorities can make do with less timber, that will allow me to get more houses built.

Mr. House

Would the Minister consider, in cases where concrete floors are essential, placing a wooden lath or strip round the edges to which linoleum or carpets can be fixed?

Mr. Buchanan

That is the first time I have heard that suggestion, and I will look into it.

Major Guy Lloyd

It a local authority give a guarantee to the hon. Gentleman's Ministry that they will not use any extra timber than is allowed for a house as a whole, would not the hon. Gentleman give them carte blanche to use it as they like, without interference?

Mr. Buchanan

I am sorry, but I cannot do so, although I would much like to. In the present scarcity, if a local authority could show a decent economy, it would allow more houses to be erected. That is the position, and the decision is a somewhat hard one. I admit that in normal times I would rather agree with the hon. and gallant Gentleman.

Mrs. Jean Mann

Would my hon. Friend consider treating concrete floors with a pitch mastic, which has proved quite satisfactory in similar cases in Scotland?

Mr. Buchanan

Oh, yes, we have considered such suggestions, and they will be encouraged.