HC Deb 05 April 1967 vol 744 cc237-8
39. Mr. Dewar

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he will set up an inquiry into the causes of the apparent high prices of houses in the private sector in Scotland.

Dr. Dickson Mabon

My right hon. Friend is watching the position carefully, and if it seemed necessary he would ask the Scottish Housing Advisory Committee to take its previous investigation of this matter further.

Mr. Dewar

Would not my hon. Friend agree that there is quite a degree of evidence to suggest that house prices in Scotland are very high despite the undoubted lower site values and lower labour costs? In view of the considerable importance of housing in the industrial regeneration of Scotland and in attracting new industry to Scotland, is not there a strong case for keeping a close eye on this matter?

Dr. Mabon

That is why we had the initial investigation. I accept that the initial investigation is not completely satisfactory. A number of points remain outstanding. This is why my right hon. Friend is most concerned about this and why, if he feels it necessary, he will ask the Scottish Housing Advisory Committee to carry it further. The Working Party between the Scottish Office and the builders in Scotland is keeping this matter under review, although the builders naturally sometimes take a different view from that of my right hon. Friend.

Mr. G. Campbell

Does the reluctance of the Minister of State to have an inquiry now arise because he is only too well aware that it is measures such as the Selective Employment Tax and the import surcharge which have mainly contributed to rising prices? Will he inquire into costs in the public sector, because few houses are sold here and therefore the prices are not relevant?

Dr. Mabon

I cannot agree with the hon. Gentleman's second observation. I am sure that on reflection he must agree that, no matter who is the purchaser of the house, whether it is the occupier or the local authority, my hon. Friend's criticisms in that regard are perfectly valid. I do not accept the assertion that my right hon. Friend is reluctant to hold an inquiry and I would not accept that the two points mentioned were pertinent or solid factors in determining standard prices. There is some merit in pursuing parallel inquiries, in England, particularly south-east England, and Scotland to see why there is this difference in costs.

Mr. Speaker

I hope that answers, too, can be reasonably brief.