HC Deb 02 November 1954 vol 532 cc186-8
12. Mr. H. Nicholls

asked the Minister of Works whether he will make a statement about the future of building licensing.

Mr. Birch

Supplies of building materials have steadily improved during the last three years and productivity in the building and civil engineering industries has risen. Licences are now issued freely in nearly all areas and neither the cost of administering this control nor the inconvenience caused to architects and contractors can any longer be justified. The Government have, therefore, decided to end building licensing and intend to lay an Order in Council before Parliament, proposing the revocation of Defence Regulation 56A on 10th November.

Mr. Nicholls

Is my hon. Friend aware that this final step towards ending austerity will be welcomed by the whole of the building industry? Could he give an assurance that, so far as he can see, the production of materials over the next 12 months will increase sufficiently to meet the extra building which will undoubtedly follow? Could he give an estimate of the saving in cost following his announcement?

Mr. Birch

We do not expect very much increase in building—only a small increase next year—for the simple reason that building licences have been freely granted or promised already for everything that is ready. The record over the years during which we have been in office shows that the demand for building materials has created the supply. We expect that next year there will be at least 100 million more bricks available and 500,000 tons more cement. The administrative savings in my Department will be about £150,000 but there will also be savings to local authorities and in the time of architects and contractors.

Mr. Fernyhough

Does not the Minister think that his announcement is a shocking reflection upon a Government which next year are going to cut the number of houses built for letting to 150,000 and in which the Minister of Education refuses local authorities the right to build the schools they want?

Mr. Birch

The requirements of the housing and school building programmes were taken into account when this matter was studied. I can reassure the hon. Member that our record in both these respects is far better than the record of our predecessors.

Mr. Blenkinsop

Does the Minister's statement mean that the decision to prevent hospital authorities from going ahead with much-needed alterations and new hospital buildings will now be changed, and that they will be able to go ahead as fast as they can?

Mr. Birch

The question of how much should be expended on hospitals is a matter for the Minister of Health.

Mr. Shinwell

Is it the intention of the Government to curtail the housing programme next year?

Mr. Birch

I have answered that. Questions on the housing programme should be addressed to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government.

Mr. Bottomley

Is the Minister satisfied that the proportion of building materials and labour allocated to hospitals, factories and housing is so satisfactory that he can now abolish control?

Mr. Birch

There has been a great increase in productivity in the building industry, and we expect that there will be an extra capacity of £100 million next year.