HC Deb 03 February 1970 vol 795 cc197-8
14. Mr. Gwilym Roberts

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government if he will set up a departmental committee to examine the contribution which factory-built prefabricated homes can make to reducing the housing shortage; and if he will consult other Ministers concerned, with a view to the provision of grants for further research aimed at developing high-class prefabricated homes suitable for factory mass production.

Mr. Freeson

The contribution factory-built prefabricated homes can make to meeting housing need is well known and my right hon. Friend has recently urged local authorities to consider the advantages which can flow from their use. Moreover a number of industrialised systems are now well established. Research by the Department is therefore being concentrated on components rather than on new systems, in view of the advantages offered by greater standardisation of these components.

Mr. Roberts

Would my hon. Friend not agree that this sector is still the Cinderella of the housebuilding programme, that the level of research is still far too low, and that, as a result, the nature of the prefabricated houses produced is often abysmal? Would he not accept that, if we are to solve the housing problem in the foreseeable future, prefabricated housing must make a major contribution and that to achieve this there must be more centralisation of research?

Mr. Freeson

There is a good deal of continuing research in this field, and we have no intention of running down this level. I and my right hon. Friend accept that there is so far insufficient use of system building in this country and that there is great scope here for enlarging the housing drive. I do not accept that, in this field, one finds particularly worse designs and construction than in others. On the contrary, in this field there has been and continues to be a great improvement.

Mr. Sharples

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that one can have an expansion in industrialised building only where there is an expanding housebuilding programme, and that that condition does not exist at present?

Mr. Freeson

The prospects of enlarging the housebuilding drive are closely tied to using better methods and introducing greater productivity techniques into the industry which produces the houses. I should have thought that that was obvious.