Building Industry (Costs and Output)

Oral Answers to Questions — Scotland – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 2nd February 1972.

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Photo of Mr Ronald Murray Mr Ronald Murray , Edinburgh Leith 12:00 am, 2nd February 1972

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will recommend the establishment of a Royal Commission to inquire into the high cost of building and the low output of the building industry in Scotland.

Photo of Mr George Younger Mr George Younger , Ayr

My right hon. Friend will continue to encourage the Scottish building industry to sustain the improvements it has been making in quality and productivity. I do not believe that a Royal Commission could assist this process.

Photo of Mr Ronald Murray Mr Ronald Murray , Edinburgh Leith

As the Government do not propose to recommend a Royal Commission, may I assume that they have considered the Sidwell Report on Scottish house-building? What action do they propose to take on it?

Photo of Mr George Younger Mr George Younger , Ayr

The Sidwell Report has been under continuous consideration by my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for the Environment and the Secretary of State for Employment and myself since it was published. It has also been under review by the Scottish Housing Advisory Committee. Many steps have been taken to try to help the building industry to improve its practices and thereby solve some of the problems brought to light by Professor Sidwell.

Photo of Mr Michael Hutchison Mr Michael Hutchison , Edinburgh South

Is my hon. Friend satisfied that the building trade is adhering to all the regulations? There are some pretty dicey buildings going up, so far as I can see.

Photo of Mr George Younger Mr George Younger , Ayr

As far as I can find out, the building trade is adhering to the building regulations. Professor Sidwell was of the opinion that some of the regulations contributed to higher costs, and we are examining this possibility.

Photo of Mr John Robertson Mr John Robertson , Paisley

Is the Minister aware that the cost of house-building in Scotland is a very important, almost critical, question? If the Government want to increase home ownership, they should realise that the relationship between ordinary wages and building costs is very important. Unless we can bring the cost of construction down to the English level, the hon. Gentleman will never solve any of the housing problems in Scotland. Will he not treat the matter as one of urgency?

Photo of Mr George Younger Mr George Younger , Ayr

I agree that the matter is very important. Since the Sidwell Report was published we have taken a number of specific actions, including consideration by the Scottish Apprenticeship and Training Council of the possibility of adjusting training programmes; research by my Department into the relative value of certain traditional construction practices; research by the Building Research Station to the same aspects; consideration by the Building Standards Advisory Committee of the Sidwell criticism affecting the regulations; and a survey of Scottish productivity characteristics, in co-operation with the industry.

Photo of Mr William Ross Mr William Ross , Kilmarnock

Is the Minister aware that not only are some pretty dicey buildings going up but that the prices of those dicey buildings are high and are rocketing? May I commend to him that he should make a study in his own constituency, comparing the prices demanded now with those asked a year ago? If the hon. Gentleman is not alarmed about the matter, is he aware that those seeking to buy those houses are very concerned?

Photo of Mr George Younger Mr George Younger , Ayr

The rise in prices causes great concern. I only wish that the right hon. Gentleman had thought about that when he introduced selective employment tax.