HC Deb 27 January 1953 vol 510 cc837-9
39. Miss Ward

asked the Minister of Works what steps he has taken to ensure an ample supply of bricks in the hands of builders so that no housing scheme is held up in the County of Northumberland.

Mr. Eccles

Production of bricks in Northumberland is increasing, but a large number will have to be imported from outside the county. Taking the Northern Region as a whole, I expect the deficiency in 1953 to be made up by substantial deliveries of fletton and other types of bricks from other regions, and by imports from abroad.

Miss Ward

Am I assured by my right hon. Friend that there will be no hold-up at all in any of the housing schemes in Northumberland on account of shortage of bricks? Could he say anything about the quality, because I understand that some bricks leave the kilns practically red hot?

Mr. Eccles

The Minister of Works neither makes nor sells bricks. [An HON. MEMBER: "He drops them."] I can give my hon. Friend no definite assurance; it depends on a number of factors quite outside my control, but we do our best and, on the whole, I think the situation is not bad. As to complaints about quality, if they are brought to me I will look into them.

Mr. Tom Brown

Will the right hon. Gentleman instruct one of his regional officers in the North-West to visit some of the brickworks in Lancaster and the north side of Preston where they are wheeling bricks into stock while many men are unemployed who could be producing bricks if they would buy bricks there?

Mr. Eccles

I do not think the hon. Member is quite well-informed. I was in Lancashire the other day talking to brick makers who have made large contracts to sell bricks to Northumberland and the North-East Coast. My information is that they are not stocking to any extent in Lancashire.

Mr. Brown

Has the Minister not already received a letter from me concerning brickworks wheeling bricks into stock? They cannot get rid of their bricks because of the price.

Mr. Eccles

I shall have to look into that.

Mr. D. Jones

Is it not the case that though the Minister does not make bricks he sometimes drops one, as he did at Middlesbrough on 29th May?

Mr. Coldrick

Is it not a fact that bricks are being stocked in some brickworks because the price is out of all proportion to those in other places? That is precisely the position in Bristol, where the Minister is trying to get local authorities to use local bricks.

Mr. Eccles

It is true that prices of bricks differ. Naturally if a local authority can get the cheapest brick it tries to do so, but it is not really in the interests of the housing programme that everyone should specify the cheapest brick and only the cheapest brick.

40. Mr. Gibson

asked the Minister of Works the stocks of building bricks on January, 1952, and November, 1952; whether he is aware of the concern expressed by brick manufacturers at the reduced stock position; and what steps he proposes to take to improve the supply of bricks for house building.

Mr. Eccles

Experience has shown that as the brickyards receive more orders they make more bricks and it is not the brickmakers who are concerned about the low level of stocks. These were 184 million at 1st January, 126 million at 30th November and 144 million at 31st December. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government and I believe that prompt ordering and prompt payment, and buying where possible locally produced bricks, are the best measures to secure an adequate supply.

Mr. Gibson

Is the Minister aware that these figures which he has given are very different from the figures for brick stocks as published in the Digest of Statistics, which is a Government publication, but that in any case they show a considerable drop? Is he further aware that the Midland Federation of Brick Manufacturers have themselves pressed him to conduct an inquiry into the question of brick production, and have suggested that in view of the shortage of bricks it may be necessary for the Government to import foreign bricks into this country in order to maintain their housing programme? Does the Minister consider that good business efficiency in the matter?

Mr. Eccles

The difference in the stock figures may lie in the fact that I was referring only to building bricks and not to all kinds of bricks. We are getting on very well with brick production, which in December was 544 million against 486 million in December a year ago.

44. Captain Pilkington

asked the Minister of Works what steps he is taking to overcome the present shortage of facing bricks in the Poole area.

Mr. Eccles

Production of facing bricks in the Poole area will rise again when the seasonal works in the neighbourhood come into production in a few weeks. Meantime, my officers will do their best to assist in any specific complaint made to them of a shortage where work is held up.

Captain Pilkington

In view of the long waiting list for housing in the Poole area, and in view of the fact that one-third of the local unemployment is in the building industry, will my right hon. Friend do everything he can to expedite production of these bricks?

Mr. Eccles

My hon. and gallant Friend will help me if he can use his influence to persuade local architects and builders to order local bricks.