HC Deb 12 November 1969 vol 791 cc385-6
10. Mr. Costain

asked the Minister of Public Building and Works what estimate he has made of the effect on building materials of the import deposits scheme; and whether he will make a statement.

Mr. John Silkin

In my view, the scheme has been marginal in its effect on building materials.

Mr. Costain

Is not the right hon. Gentleman being too complacent over this? Does he not appreciate that quite a lot of timber is imported? According to a telephone call I had this morning, it will cost £500,000 more to do this and will add 3 per cent. to the cost of finished timber imports. Cannot he take the matter up with the Treasury with a view to getting the scheme rescinded, because that will help the housing programme and reduce costs?

Mr. Silkin

The evidence before me is not wholly in accord with the hon. Gentleman's argument. I think that I should be in the position of encouraging home-produced materials and savings in the use of imports whenever possible.

Mr. Ashton

Is my right hon. Friend aware that when the import surcharge went on in 1964 the price of houses went up by 2 per cent., but that when it came off in 1965 the price of houses came down by nothing? In effect, builders should have the money in the kitty amply to compensate for anything that the import deposits scheme is costing.

Mr. Silkin

I would not go all the way with my hon. Friend on this. However, it is an extraordinary fact that when charges are made by the Government and later taken off it seems fairly universal that they tend not to come off again.