§ 17 and 18. Mr. Rossi
asked the Minister of Public Building and Works (1) what 390 representations he has received from builders about credit difficulties; and what reply he has sent;
(2) whether he will make a statement on his correspondence with the President of the National Federation of Building Trades Employers regarding hank loans for builders.
§ 19. Sir Frank Pearson
asked the Minister of Public Building and Works what representations he has received from the building industry about the present credit squeeze; and if he will make a statement.
§ 33. Mr. Chichester-Clark
asked the Minister of Public Building and Works what representations he has received from the building industry about the difficulties of raising bank loans.
§ Mr. John Silkin
I received a copy of the letter dated 23rd July from the President of the N.F.B.T.E. to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The subject was mentioned when I met the president of the federation informally on 10th September.
§ Mr. Rossi
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many builders, some of them substantial, are facing bankruptcy or, at the very least, are cutting back their house building programmes because of credit restrictions? If Her Majesty's Government are not merely paying lip-service to housing as a major social need, why will they not help the industry, upon which they are so dependent to provide the houses so desperately needed?
§ Mr. Silkin
I do not minimise the very real difficulties facing house builders. But to suggest that the Government are doing nothing about this seems to ignore entirely the statement of my right hon. Friend last week on mortgage finance.
§ Mr. Chichester-Clark
But as the Prime Minister said that house building was to be the Government's first priority, is it wholly unreasonable to suggest that the Government might begin by putting house builders in the priority class for loans?
§ Mr. Silkin
I understand the point and the arguments for it, but house builders, like every member of the community, are Britons first and members of their occupation second. The most important thing is to get the economy straight.
§ Mr. Manuel
Does my right hon. Friend recognise that there is a very strong lobby on this question? Does he also appreciate that substantial profits are still being made in the building industry, not in the building of houses but in more lucrative spheres where the profits seem largest?
§ Mr. Peyton
Are we to understand that the Minister has no word of cheer for the small builder who is under considerable pressure, first, because he cannot get steel from the British Steel Corporation and, second, because he cannot get credit from the bank due to the economic and financial policies of the Government?
§ Mr. Silkin
I do not think the hon. Gentleman heard what I was saying. I said that I understood the difficulties of the small builder, but I also pointed out that this Government were doing something for him. I mentioned, for example, mortgage finance, which was referred to by my right hon. Friend recently. I should also mention the Housing Act, 1969, and the immense amount of work which will be offered under the scheme "Old Houses into New Homes".