HC Deb 28 April 1966 vol 727 cc950-2
Q9. Mr. Edward M. Taylor

asked the Prime Minister whether he is satisfied with the machinery which exists to coordinate the policies of the Minister of Public Building and Works and the Minister of Housing and Local Government as regards their respective responsibilities to the building industry; and if he will make a statement.

The Prime Minister

I would ask the hon. Member to await a statement which I hope to make very shortly about the respective responsibilities of my right hon. Friends the Minister of Housing and Local Government and the Minister of Public Building and Works.

Mr. Taylor

I am very glad to hear that, because the Prime Minister will appreciate that we have a run-down in house building and a glut of bricks. Is it not time that we saw some answer to the pledge which was given in the 1964 election to tackle house building like a military operation?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Member can look forward to the statement I shall be making shortly. At present the problem is the long period in finishing a lot of houses started earlier—

Sir G. Nabarro

Under a Tory Government.

The Prime Minister

They do not go back that far—particularly in the field of private enterprise building. It is quite clear that there is very heavy sales resistance developing to some of these private enterprise houses. There is no problem in regard to building society funds as has been alleged.

Mr. Rippon

In preparing his statement, will the Prime Minister bear in mind the growing concern that in the last 18 months all that has occurred in this field has been a blurring of responsibilities, a proliferation of Ministers, and a growth in the number of civil servants? Will he have regard to his own exhortations at Aberdeen on 22nd April and bring about some economies in the use of manpower?

The Prime Minister

One of the big difficulties I am having in trying to set the demarcation is the rather illogical solution that was developed by the previous Government as the result of the empire-building characteristics of the right hon. Gentleman.

Sir D. Renton

Is the Prime Minister aware that there is real anxiety in the brick-making industry about the way in which Government planning has worked over the last 18 months? Will he do his best to alter and improve the present situation as soon as possible?

The Prime Minister

There has been a continuing problem over many years of linking building operations to building material supply. There was a chronic shortage of building materials only 18 months ago which was inhibiting the fulfilment of the housing programme. One of the main operative factors here is the sheer impossibility of honouring any housing target unless we hold back some of the competitive building operations which are drawing off labour at this time. The big problem is the supply of labour and to some extent what I refer to as the sales resistance on the part of new owner-occupiers to the very high prices which are being charged for finished houses.

Mr. Maxwell

Is my right hon. Friend aware that in the brick-making industry in my constituency the companies are advertising for people to work overtime? Is he further aware that the real problem of moving the bricks from the brickyards is lack of transport and lack of labour?

The Prime Minister

All this proves is that there is a very difficult series of problems to solve. They are not new problems. We are doing our best to get the Departmental responsibilities on the right lines.

Mr. Lubbock

While the Prime Minister is considering the responsibilities of these two Ministers, will he also consider the possibility of abolishing the Ministry of Land and Natural Resources?

The Prime Minister

The position is that I announced some time ago that we were transferring to Housing the main functions of the Ministry of Works which relate to housing and also the Ministry of Land and Natural Resources. It would have been illogical to do that without doing the works operation. We are still concerned with the exact demarcation within the Ministry of Works field. Land is now being integrated with the Ministry of Housing, but we should require legislation to settle the position of the individual Ministries.