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.
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.
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?
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.
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?