HC Deb 25 July 1966 vol 732 cc1200-3
31. Mr. Goodhart

asked the Minister of Public Building and Works in which year since the cessation of hostilities in 1945 the stocks of bricks have exceeded 860 million at the end of the month of May.

Mr. Boyden

In 1966.

Mr. Goodhart

Does the Minister appreciate that one of the reasons for this unprecedented pile-up of bricks is the rapid and record increase in the price of new houses? Does he appreciate that Selective Employment Tax and the new clamp-down on the economy last week will make the position and the pile-up much worse?

Mr. Boyden

I do not accept the hon. Gentleman's reasons for this. The situation is serious, but the long-term prospects are brighter.

Mr. Freeson

Would my hon. Friend hear in mind the fact that one of the reasons for the rapid rise in recent years in the cost of individual houses is not caused necessarily by the cost price of constructing houses, because there has been gross inflation in the profit levels within the prices being charged?

Mr. Boyden

Yes, Sir, and, of course, the Government are giving top priority to the construction of houses. This remains our policy and has been ever since we were elected.

34. Mr. Sharpies

asked the Minister of Public Building and Works what assurances he has given to the brick manufacturers that the present stockpile of bricks will be cleared by the end of 1966,

Mr. Boyden

None, Sir.

Mr. Sharpies

What target has been given to the brickmakers for 1966? Does this exceed the target which was set by his predecessor for 1965?

Mr. Boyden

No target has been set. I remind the hon. Gentleman that there is not uniform gloom about getting rid of stocks. For example, in Scotland stocks have been reduced from 52 million in April to 31 million at the end of June. In the northern region stocks were 37 million in April and are now 29 million.

35. Mr. Braine

asked the Minister of Public Building and Works what representations he has received from the director of the National Federation of Clay Industries regarding the effect on brick stockpiles of the uncertainties arising from the Land Commission Bill now before Parliament; and whether he will make a statement.

Mr. Boyden

This was not raised by the Federation when it met my right hon. Friend in May.

Mr. Braine

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware of statements by the industry's spokesman that this year's crisis of over-production, due to the Government's bad forecasting, will be followed next year by a fall in production and the possible closing of many works? Will he ensure that an effort is made very soon to give more hope of a realistic forecast to this much harassed industry?

Mr. Boyden

One of the best ways of handling the problem is by the sort of discussions which have been going on. My right hon. Friend is in touch with the brickmaking industry. Officials are in touch. I myself have seen several deputations.

41. Mr. Channon

asked the Minister of Public Building and Works what representations he has received from the National Federation of Clay Industries regarding the present production and stock of bricks; and what replies he has sent.

Mr. Boyden

When my right hon. Friend met the Federation in May they discussed the reasons for the present levels of production and stocks. My right hon. Friend explained the Government's plans for expanding the housing programme.

Mr. Channon

Is not the Parliamentary Secretary aware that very recently the National Federation of Clay Industries has shown how deeply concerned and worried it is about the present stocking position of bricks? What steps do the Government propose to take to ensure that these stocks will be cleared and that the present glut of bricks will not turn into a shortage next year, which would inevitably mean that the housing programme would fall even further short of the present level?

Mr. Boyden

The brickmaking industry is not united on the methods to be adopted, because, for one thing, the Federation includes only non-fletton brickmakers. The fletton brickmakers are in another federation. Neither party can really agree on a policy.

Mr. Chichester-Clark

What kind of reassurance will the Minister be able to give to the brickmakers about next year's production now that we are told that there are enough bricks to build a 30 ft. wall made of bricks from John o' Groats to Land's End with some to spare for another down the middle?

Mr. Boyden

The hon. Gentleman and others opposite always seem to think that bricks mean houses. I never observed the same enthusiasm for coal producers when the coal miners were stocking coal.