HC Deb 31 March 1971 vol 814 cc1480-1
14. Mrs. Renée Short

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what steps he is taking to reduce the cost of housebuilding.

Mr. Amery

The abolition of the Land Commission and the betterment levy; our policy on firm price tendering; the halving of S.E.T.; the easing of bank credit; and the reduction of corporation tax, as announced by my right hon. Friend yesterday.

These things and other Government measures to control inflation and stimulate growth should all help to contain building costs.

Mrs. Short

If the right hon. Gentleman believes that he will believe anything. None of those things will help either the building industry or the building of new homes. Is he aware that there has been a catastrophic fall in the construction industry of about 7 per cent. and that his right hon. Friend's Budget yesterday did nothing to help the building industry? Is he aware that the major requirement is a reduction in Bank Rate? Does he appreciate that that is what will bring down house prices but that nothing was done about it in the Budget? Will he make representations to his right hon. Friend to deal with this now?

Mr. Amery

In reply to the hon. Lady's speech I can only say that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition said in 1964: We shall cheapen the cost of housing by our interest rates policy. The result was that over the period of the last Administration the average cost of a council house rose from £2,186 to £3,110.

Mr. Costain

Will the Minister completely ignore the remarks of the hon. Lady the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Renée Short)? Does he realise that the facts he has announced will reduce the cost of house building? Why is he so modest? Why does he not take credit for his own mortgage proposals, which also help in this matter?

Mr. Amery

I hope that I shall never be guilty of the discourtesy of ignoring the hon. Lady's remarks, but I am bound to say that I pay a good deal more attention to what my hon. Friend has just said.

Mr. Crosland

We much enjoyed the right hon. Gentleman's humorous answer, as we always enjoy his aptitude for totally irrelevant quotations. Would he be good enough to tell the House by how much the halving of S.E.T. will reduce the cost of a house, and, secondly, will he be so good as to tell the House what measures he proposes to take to persuade house builders to pass on the reduction?

Mr. Amery

The cost of S.E.T. on a council house has been estimated by the previous Administration and by this Administration at £120. This would be half of that—£60—and that is already very substantial.

Mr. William Hamilton

Don't forget, Albert; £60 off.