asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will institute inquires for the purpose of ascertaining to what extent the recent decline in building plans approved by the local authorities is attributable to uncertainties in respect of the scheme of war-risk insurance?
The decline in the cost of building plans approved by local authorities dates from the high level of 1936, and it is clear that the risk of damage in a possible future war can be only one of several factors which have caused the decline. The 1938 figure though lower than in the three previous years was higher than in any year before 1934 and nearly 50 per cent. higher than the average of 1924 to 1929. The figures for individual months are not very important, but in fact the cost of plans approved in February, 1939, was about £2,000,000 greater than in January, 1939, and about £500,000 greater than in February, 1938. In all the circumstances I do not think that any useful purpose would be served by instituting the inquiries suggested by my hon. Friend.
Is it not true to say that the plans which have been approved are largely Government work and not the type of house referred to in the question?
I think the hon. Member's observation is probably true. No doubt that is a material factor influencing the total amount given.
In the interests of the trade generally should not this matter be further considered to see how far encouragement can be given to building and thus to employment?
May I ask whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer is reviewing the policy of the Government in this matter?
It is a matter of importance and is constantly under consideration. The statement I made some time ago was a carefully prepared statement and was itself the result of an elaborate review.