HC Deb 21 December 1965 vol 722 cc1849-50
27. Mr. Costain

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government in which years since 1959 the total number of houses completed was greater than the number of those under construction in the public sector; and whether he will give similar comparative figures for the private sector.

Mr. Mellish

Since 1959, the number of dwellings under construction at the end of the year in Great Britain in the public sector has always exceeded the number completed in the year. In the private sector completions in the year have always exceeded the number under construction at the end of the year. With permission, I will circulate the figures in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Mr. Costain

Does not this prove that private enterprise houses are built quicker than public enterprise houses? Will not the Minister admit that his policy of restricting private enterprise housing is not helping to solve the housing short- age? Will not he adopt a different approach?

Mr. Mellish

The hon. Member is talking a lot of nonsense, because 91 per cent. of all public authority building is built by private enterprise. One has, therefore, to ask why, when working for public authorities, private enterprise does not work as fast as when it works for itself.

Mr. Lubbock

Since it is clear that for one reason or another builders are taking longer on local authority contracts than they take on private building, will the hon. Gentleman ask local authorities to include a penalty clause in all their contracts and to enforce it rigidly?

Mr. Mellish

I should not like to commit my right hon. Friend to that one. I was trying to answer the rather stupid point made by the hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Costain).

Sir Harmar Nicholls

Is not the Minister aware that on any building site different decisions have to be taken almost every hour of the day and that to have to refer to somebody else for a decision is bound to take longer than making the decision oneself?

Mr. Mellish

That is not my experience—and I have had quite a lot of experience—of public authority building which private enterprise has built.

Following are the figures:

Great Britain Thousands
Public Sector Private Sector
Completed Under construction at end of year Completed Under construction at end of year
1959 126.0 154.0 150.7 112.7
1960 129.2 151.1 168.6 126.8
1961 118.6 155.5 177.5 138.7
1962 130.6 162.5 174.8 149.9
1963 1240 207.1 174.9 174.4
1964 155.6 230.1 218.1 203.8

NOTE: The figures are for all dwellings i.e. flats as well as houses. A much larger proportion of flats are built in the public sector than in the private sector.