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The returns for June are not yet complete. The number of houses completed in the first five months of the year was 8,724. In present circumstances, I am unable to estimate the number likely to be completed by the end of the year.
I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will admit that that is not a very satisfactory answer. Not being a mathematician myself, could I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he can give any indication of what his answer means in terms of years before the people of Scotland will be re-housed? If the answer is, as I imagine, about 28 years, will he say how that corresponds with the promise given by many Socialist Ministers, including the late Mr. Bevin, that millions of houses would be built in no time?
Is my right hon. Friend aware that yesterday the hon. and gallant Member for Ayr (Sir T. Moore) made an eloquent plea for more slaughterhouses? Will he give us an assurance that slaughterhouses will not have a priority over ordinary houses?
If the right hon. Gentleman cannot estimate the number of houses which will be completed by the end of the year, is not that a complete admission that the planned economy has broken down?
No, Sir. It arises from the fact that, quite plainly, not all these materials are under our control and therefore could not fit into our planned economy. If I am honest with the House, I hope hon. Members opposite will bear with me for being honest.
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is aware that at Symington, Ayrshire, there have been 18 houses under construction for months; that everything has been completed to prepare for their occupancy, except for the necessary joining work, doors, etc., though the necessary timber is lying unused around the sites; and what steps does he propose to take to make these houses ready for immediate occupation.
I am told by the county council that the main cause of delay is the shortage of plasterboard, and that there has also been difficulty in getting enough joiners. The county council are taking steps to ensure that the scheme is fully manned by the contractor, and I have asked my right hon. Friend the Minister of Works to do what he can to accelerate supplies of plasterboard.
While I thank the right hon. Gentleman for that helpful answer, may I ask him to remember that although Symington is a small village and the number of people in it is comparatively unimportant, it is nevertheless rather a tragedy for these people to see the stuff lying about while the houses are not completed? "Houses under construction" does not mean anything to them as long as they have no home to live in.