asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if his recent meeting with the conveners of local authority housing committees has enabled him to identify the difficulties which are impeding progress in house building and what steps he is taking to speed up the output of houses.
The meetings my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State has had with housing authority conveners have revealed that the recent low level of approvals and starts was no more than a temporary phase. The progress they expect to achieve in the coming months should ensure that the numbers of houses approved and started in the full year will be satisfactory.
Can my right hon. Friend give to the House now the May figures and say whether those figures justify the girlish hysteria that came from the other side of the House in the recent debate on housing, based on one quarter's figures?
Yes. Tenders approved in the most recent month show 2,671 houses approved compared with 1,544 in April. The number started was 3,014. So already we see that the trend has been reversed.
Referring to Question No. 56, could my right hon. Friend say whether any attempt was made to identify the causes which were impeding progress, and can he assure us that these have been completely removed?
As to the causes, one was the weather, and, although I cannot make any promise about it, I hope that cause has been removed. There certainly has been some improvement. There arises the question of availability of land which in some areas is scarce. We have taken steps to ensure that we shall know well in advance what the demands in Scotland will be, and that is why we have undertaken these five year programmes. There are some indications of pressure on the planning staffs of local authorities. It may be that they have been held up because we are concentrating on five year plans. There is some indication that in some of the finishing trades there may be difficulty, and we are taking this matter up with the building industry and with the National Building Agency.