Part of Orders of the Day — Supply – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 21st June 1978.

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Photo of Mr Michael Heseltine Mr Michael Heseltine Shadow Secretary of State, Shadow Secretary of State for Environment 12:00 am, 21st June 1978

I must obey Mr. Speaker's ruling. I am normally very generous in giving way but, as Mr. Speaker said, there are more than 30 right hon. and hon. Members who wish to contribute to the debate.

I want to look at the Government's policies as they are reflected in both the demand for housing and, on the other side of the coin, the construction industry's ability to provide houses. On both counts, the Government's policies have undoubtedly contributed to the wider problems of the home construction industry. The demand for housing, like the demand for everything else, obviously is a reflection of people's ability to pay. As the real take-home pay of the average industrial worker is 3 per cent. lower than it was in 1973–74, it inevitably follows that the building industry and the demand for new homes have suffered along with all other investment areas.

Until there is a significant return to a rising real standard of living, it is cloud-cuckoo land to pretend that the home construction industry will be singled out for preferment and will see an upsurge in consistent demand for its products. The reality is that the moment there is any significant improvement in demand, as there was in the first quarter of this year, because the house-building programme in recent years has been so much lower than in previous years, there is a rapid increase in prices of the sort which created such panic in the Secretary of State's mind only a few weeks ago.

The Conservatives got houses built on an increasing scale incomparably better. Far more people bought their new homes under the last Conservative Government than this Government have achieved by their administration. That is the fundamental justification for what went on.