HC Deb 12 November 1969 vol 791 cc388-9
16. Mr. Gresham Cooke

asked the Minister of Public Building and Works whether he will make a statement on the current level of orders for new construction.

31. Mr. Woodnutt

asked the Minister of Public Building and Works whether he will make a statement on the level of output in the construction industry during 1969.

Mr. John Silkin

So far this year new orders have been declining. I expect the decline in output in 1969 to be about 3 per cent. from the 1968 level.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

Is not the Minister disappointed with the August figures, which showed a drop in new house building of 17 per cent.? Is not that due to the disgraceful performance of the Labour-controlled boroughs, which have dropped new housing starts by 42 percent.? [HON. MEMBERS "Rubbish!"]

Mr. Silkin

It is always disappointing to see a drop in housing. But I feel encouraged, as I am sure the hon. Gentleman does, by the knowledge that the Labour Government have produced in four years as many houses as his right hon. and hon. Friends produced in their last five years in office.

Mr. Heffer

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, as there are more Conservative-controlled local authorities in this country, it is logical that a far greater number of Conservative-controlled local authorities have not gone ahead with the housing programme? Does he also agree that one factor in the drop in house building has been the breaking up of first-class direct labour departments that were controlled by Labour-controlled local authorities?

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Robert Mellish)

Hear, hear ! Good stuff !

Mr. Silkin

I do not deny the importance of both these factors. But at the same time, looking to the future, I hope that house building will recover and will soon be in the record area that it has always been under this Government.

Mr. Chichester-Clark

But in order, if nothing else, to engender a little optimism, is the right hon. Gentleman prepared to deny predictions that have been made that output in the construction industry will fall this year for the first time, except for one freak year, since 1951?

Mr. Manuel

What is the reason for that?

Mr. Silkin

It would not be wise to confirm or deny the question of house building, if that is what the hon. Gentleman is talking about. But if he means output generally, I think that it will be in the region of about 3 per cent. less than last year.