Council Houses (Cost)

Oral Answers to Questions — Housing – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 24th November 1964.

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Photo of Sir Herbert Butcher Sir Herbert Butcher , Holland with Boston 12:00 am, 24th November 1964

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government what calculation he has made of the increase in cost of the average council house as a result of the 15 per cent. import duties imposed on timber and other imported building materials.

Photo of Mr Christopher Chataway Mr Christopher Chataway , Lewisham North

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government what effect on council house prices is expected from the 15 per cent. import surcharge on slates and other building materials.

Photo of Mr John Boyd-Carpenter Mr John Boyd-Carpenter , Kingston upon Thames

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government what is his estimate of the increase in the cost of the average house resulting from the imposition of the 15 per cent. surcharge on imported plywood and planed softwood.

Photo of Mr Nigel Fisher Mr Nigel Fisher , Surbiton

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government how much will be added to the cost of an average 3-bedroom house as a result of the 15 per cent. Import surcharge.

Photo of Mr Robert Mellish Mr Robert Mellish , Bermondsey

I have seen estimates varying from £20 to £50 per house, depending on the method of construction and materials used. The increase in cost will almost all be attributable to timber, and will depend on how much of the timber used has been imported in a planed or manufactured state. My right hon. Friend estimates that the rise in cost of the average two storey, three-bedroom council house will be less than 1 per cent. of the total cost of building it.

Photo of Sir Herbert Butcher Sir Herbert Butcher , Holland with Boston

Can the hon. Gentleman say whether these factors were taken into consideration before this ridiculous 15 per cent. impost was imposed?

Photo of Mr Robert Mellish Mr Robert Mellish , Bermondsey

Any question about the 15 per cent. import surcharge must be directed to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and not to my Department.

Photo of Mr John Boyd-Carpenter Mr John Boyd-Carpenter , Kingston upon Thames

As a great deal of this material has in any event to be imported, what justification, from the point of view of the balance of payments or otherwise, was there for imposing the impost?

Photo of Mr Robert Mellish Mr Robert Mellish , Bermondsey

The right hon. Gentleman should get this into proportion. We have carefully reviewed the question of the amount of timber being used in house building and I understand that the extra cost on a £2,300 house would be approximately £30, although 25 per cent. of the timber is what is called imported rough timber. It would be quite impossible, with the amount of timber coming into the country, to say how much is used for housing when it arrives in its rough state.

Photo of Mr Nigel Fisher Mr Nigel Fisher , Surbiton

As my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) has said, and the hon. Gentleman has acknowledged, that this surcharge will not reduce imports, will have no effect on the balance of payments and will only result in increasing the cost of housing—which is not what the party opposite promised at the election—will the hon. Gentleman consider exempting from the surcharge materials which must be imported anyway?

Photo of Mr Robert Mellish Mr Robert Mellish , Bermondsey

The increased import duties were imposed because my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer found this country and its accounts in such a mess after the Conservative administration. We do not believe that the surcharge will adversely affect the number of houses that will be built.

Photo of Mr Archibald Manuel Mr Archibald Manuel , Central Ayrshire

Is my hon. Friend aware that certain timber merchants increased the price of timber right from the day the surcharge was applied? Is not this wrong? Will he take steps to ascertain that the surcharge is not levied on stocks which were held prior to the Government statement?

Photo of Mr Robert Mellish Mr Robert Mellish , Bermondsey

That is really a different question and should be directed to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Public Building and Works.

Photo of Mr John Boyd-Carpenter Mr John Boyd-Carpenter , Kingston upon Thames

As it is clear from the hon. Gentleman's answer that there will be some increase in the cost of housing without any benefit to our balance of payments position, may I ask him to make representations to the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the removal of the surcharge on vital materials used for housing?

Photo of Sir Herbert Butcher Sir Herbert Butcher , Holland with Boston

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I shall seek to raise this matter on the Adjournment.