asked the Minister of Health how many tons of roofing slates have yet to be taken delivery of by the Department of Building Material Supplies, Edinburgh, and of this tonnage how much has already been paid for by this Department; what is the total tonnage contracted for since the 1st October, 1921; when is it proposed to close the Slate and Tile Section of the Department of Building Material Supplies, Edinburgh; and whether he is aware that the present practice of this Department of forcing the building authorities to use slates supplied by the Department at prices much above market prices is causing great dissatisfaction?
There are 2,274 tons of slates which have been paid for by the Department, but not yet delivered, and of these all but 265 tons have been allocated to particular housing schemes. With regard to slates which have been ordered by the Department on behalf of local authorities, but have not been paid for, I am unable to give an exact figure of the undelivered balance, because, under the arrangements which have been made to facilitate the closing of the Department, these slates are invoiced direct to the local authorities. There are 1,300 tons of these slates which have not been allocated to particular schemes. No slates were contracted for since the 1st October, or indeed for some months before that date. It is proposed to close the Department on the 31st March next, but I am afraid I cannot give a date by which the whole of the slates will have been delivered. As I have already stated, I am taking steps to secure that the Department's commitments are liquidated at the earliest possible moment in order that the local authorities may be left free to make their own arrangements. With regard to the last part of the question, as these slates were ordered for local authorities building schemes, and as the Government has to bear the extra cost, the local authority being only liable for a penny rate, the working-off of these stocks seems to me the most practical course to assume.