HC Deb 14 February 1973 vol 850 cc1278-9
28. Mr. Carter

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement on his long-term housing policy.

Mr. Channon

I would refer the hon. Member to the full statement on the Government's housing policy made by my right hon. and learned Friend in the housing debate on Tuesday 6th February.

Mr. Carter

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that that statement and the reply which he has just given are appallingly complacent, in view of the abysmal housing record of this Government and the skyrocketing house prices of last year? If the Government are serious in their intention to solve the housing problem, does he not think it time that they set a target figure for house building big enough to provide a sufficient number of houses to solve the problem of homelessness and to reduce rising house prices, which have gone unchecked for the past 18 months or so?

Mr. Channon

Anyone reading the speech of my right hon. and learned Friend would find it far from complacent. He made clear the Government's view on rising house prices and their housing policy. As for setting targets, I would have thought that the experience of the last Labour Government would lead anyone to the conclusion that it is most unwise to do so.

Mr. James Lamond

Will the hon. Gentleman bear in mind that an important element in his policy must be the securing of an adequate supply of highly skilled labour for the industry? Is he aware that there is evidence of a scarcity of such labour? Does he realise that the number of apprentices entering the industry has fallen drastically in recent years, despite the protestations of the Government that workers in this industry are highly paid? Will he consider that aspect of the shortage?

Mr. Channon

Certainly. I am hoping shortly to have a meeting with the employers and trade unions to discuss this problem.

Mr. Allason

Will my hon. Friend consider this shortage in the light of the fact that a bricklayer is required to spend three years learning his trade when most bricklaying jobs, except for the really complicated ones, could be carried out by a man after six months' training?

Mr. Heffer

You try it!

Mr. Channon

I detect a genuine wish on both sides of the House that progress should be made, and I will convey that feeling to the employers and the unions.

Mr. Crosland

The Minister referred to the speech by the Secretary of State last Tuesday. There must be some error here, because the House certainly missed any constructive parts of that speech. I can recall no positive suggestions. Can the hon. Gentleman remind the House of perhaps three brief points which the Secretary of State made—or two?

Mr. Channon

My right hon. and learned Friend's speech was so full of constructive ideas that it would be a pity to spoil it for the House by attempting to shorten it.