HC Deb 08 April 1968 vol 762 cc897-9
63. Mr. Biffen

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government by what percentage the price of houses is estimated to have increased between the second half of 1966 and the corresponding period for 1967; and what is the expected rise during the current year.

Mr. Speaker

The Minister of Housing and Local Government to answer Question 63.

Viscount Lambton

On a point of order. Is it in order to take an Oral Question after a Private Notice Question, which in the order of business in the House can come only after Oral Questions?

Mr. Speaker

If the noble Lord had been here earlier he would have heard me quote the rule. [Interruption.] I apologise if he was here, but I have already quoted the rule which says that Questions which are not asked because of the absence of the Minister may be taken after half-past three.

Viscount Lambton

Can they be taken after Private Notice Questions, which surely naturally conclude the Oral Question period?

Mr. Speaker

They can be taken after half-past three. To fulfil the circumstances which the hon. Gentleman is suggesting, the Minister would have had to be present just after half-past three, before the Private Notice Question was taken.

Mr. Edward M. Taylor

Will the Questions to be answered now include Question 64, which would inevitably have been reached if the Minister had been present?

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Gentleman must be patient and trust the Chair.

The Minister of Housing and Local Government (Mr. Anthony Greenwood)

I hope that the House will accept my most humble and sincere apology for the inconvenience that has been caused.

The average selling price of all new dwellings, for which Building Societies granted mortgages in the second half of 1967, was approximately 6 per cent. above that in the second half of 1966. No confident forecast can be made about the extent to which prices will change in the current year, but I hope that rising productivity will mitigate the effect of higher costs. It is important that prices should be kept down as far as possible.

Mr. Biffen

Is not the right hon. Gentleman's inability to make any kind of forecast, as requested in the second part of the Question, rather disturbing? Would not he agree that many building societies have already indicated their expectation that prices will rise by well over 6 per cent., and are not these circumstances which make it totally impossible for the Government to persist with the statutory fixing of incomes?

Mr. Greenwood

Forecasts of that kind are not always substantiated in practice. I think it much better at this stage not to cause unnecessary alarm and perhaps defeatism in the building industry by indulging in an attempt to forecast something which nobody at the moment can forecast.

Mr. Speaker:

Mr. Edward M. Taylor.

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