HC Deb 28 June 1965 vol 715 cc12-3
21. Mr. J. E. B. Hill

asked the Minister of Public Building and Works whether he is aware that there is currently a shortage of cement in Norfolk; and what steps he is taking to maintain supplies.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Public Building and Works (Mr. James Boyden)

A marginal gap between supply and demand is affecting cement supplies in most parts of the country. I have no evidence to suggest that the situation in Norfolk is exceptional.

My right hon. Friend has met the producers and they are increasing supplies from home capacity and will also continue to import cement until home supplies match demand.

Mr. Hill

As the cement industry has a brilliant record of expansion and is ahead of its E.D.C. target, and as imports of cement now seem to be becoming scarce, what is the right hon. Gentleman doing to provide for more economical use by revising building regulations so as to secure a more efficient use of cement?

Mr. Boyden

The reviewed building regulations are to come shortly. Deliveries of cement in 1964 were 22 per cent. higher than before and 5 per cent. higher in the first part of 1965 than in the corresponding period of 1964. New production is coming during the course of this year and in 1966 and very large orders are being placed abroad and are being brought in gradually this year.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Will my hon. Friend keep in mind that there is a serious shortage of cement in the southwest of Scotland? Will he give that problem his attention? It is holding up housing schemes to a considerable extent.

Mr. Boyden

It has not only my attention but the attention of my right hon. Friend, of cement makers, and of a considerable number of Members of Parliament. We are doing all we can to see that supplies are kept up.

Mr. Sharples

Can the hon. Gentleman give the quantities imported and tell us where they were imported from?

Mr. Boyden

This year 600,000 tons are being imported at more than twice the cost of British cement. The difficulty at the moment is shipping.

Mr. Urwin

In view of the investments now taking place and estimated to take place in the next few years, how long will it be before the shortage is overcome?

Mr. Boyden

We hope that it will be overcome very soon but I cannot be a prophet in this matter. The cement people themselves have given estimates and things have not turned out according to their estimation.

Mr. David Steel

The hon. Gentleman referred to a meeting with the cement manufacturers. What steps are being taken to ensure that supplies which are agreed should be maintained for local authority housing are being so maintained? Is the hon. Gentleman aware that I had two letters this morning from building firms in my constituency which are having to lay off men in local authority housing because of the shortage?

Mr. Boyden

The manufacturers gave an undertaking that they would give priority to housing and public building generally. They are trying, but the position at the moment is not as easy as it might be.