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Ministry Of Works

Volume 437: debated on Monday 5 May 1947

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Building Trades (Operatives' Output)

1 and 5.

asked the Minister of Works (1) what is his estimate of the percentage of output of building trades operatives as compared with 1938;

(2) the average number of bricks laid at the present time and the average number laid in prewar years.

I regret that no reliable figures are available on which a comparison could be made.

Surely, the Minister is aware of the prewar formula of one house per person per year. How does that compare with the results so far achieved?

The accuracy of the prewar formula is something that has to be decided to start with, as I have no reliable information on what it was based.

How can the Minister reconcile his statement with that made by the men's leaders when the wage increase was granted in January, 1946, pledging themselves to increase output to what it was prewar?

That is not the Question I was asked. I was asked to say definitely what has been the percentage of increase. I cannot do that without the necessary information.

Will not the Minister agree that, on such figures as there are, the output at present is far lower than it was in 1938; and will he not further agree that this is primarily due to the Government's policy having got the building industry and the building materials industry out of date?

I do not accept that. First, there has been a great deal of talk about the decrease in what has been done, bet none of that has been proved. Secondly, conditions are different today from what they were before the war.

Will the Minister consult his noble Friend Lord Quibell on this matter?

Requisitioned Agricultural Land (Bbc Stations)


asked the Minister of Works how many acres of agricultural land have been requisitioned since 1939 for B.B.C. stations; and how many of these stations have been given up since VE-Day.

Approximately 1,368 acres of agricultural land have been requisitioned since 1939 for seven B.B.C. stations, of which none has been given up since VE-Day.

Is the Minister satisfied that there 'is no exaggeration in having all this land requisitioned for this purpose and none given back?

Although none has been given back, I am pleased to be able to say that quite a proportion of it is let under licence to graziers.

I have not the figures, but if the hon. and gallant Gentleman cares to write to me, I will let him know.

Building Material Distribution (Information)


asked the Minister of Works whether he is satisfied that the value of the information obtained from the questionnaires on operating costs of building material distributors sent to all builders' merchants by the Independent Committee on Distribution of Building Materials, the appointment of which was announced by him on 24th June last, justifies the expense, time and labour necessarily involved in compiling the required information.

The Committee attached considerable importance to the information which they hope to obtain from this return for the purpose of their inquiry and I see no reason to intervene.

Is this the Committee which leaves the Minister in a state of complete and utter ignorance as to prewar and postwar comparisons?

This Committee has not yet reported, so that it is not responsible for any ignorance there may be on the part of the Minister.

When the Minister says "which they hope to obtain," has he no information as to whether the Committee have yet been able to place any value upon the information supplied to them in answer to these very detailed questionnaires?

I have had no report from the Committee as yet, and I have had no complaint from them as regards the information supplied.

Huts, Erith (Removal)


asked the Minister of Works when the huts on the site of the bungalows which were destroyed by enemy action at King Harolds Way, Erith, are to be removed.

The camp is being vacated today and the clearance of the site will begin immediately.

Requisitioned Dwellings (Use)


asked the Minister of Works in what circumstances his Department requisition domestic dwellings and flats for use as offices when the local authority represent to him that the premises which he proposes to requisition are urgently required for homeless people.

It is not the practice of my Department in the circumstances described to requisition domestic dwellings and flats for use as offices, but certain residential property requisitioned for other purposes is being retained for office use by agreement with the Ministry of Health.

Will the Minister give an assurance that housing accommodation will be first priority, instead of the housing of his staff?

As far as the release of requisitioned property is concerned, we are already giving first priority to the derequisitioning of housing accommodation.

Will the Minister, when these residences are not required further for specific office purposes, see they are used as domestic dwellings, and not handed on to another Department?

That must depend on the circumstances, but so far as premises consisting of less than 12 rooms are concerned, that is the practice at the present moment.

Trafalgar Square Memorials


asked the Minister of Works what progress has been made with the Jellicoe and Beatty memorials.

The House resolved in 1935 and 1936 that memorials should be erected to the late Admirals Lord Jellicoe and Lord Beatty, and my predecessors made considerable progress with a scheme incorporating busts of the Admirals as features of reconstructed fountains in Trafalgar Square. When work was suspended on the outbreak of war, new inner basins of Portland stone had already been erected to the designs of Sir Edwin Lutyens, and shortly after the sculptors, Messrs. Wheeler and McMillan, completed the bronze groups of statuary and the busts, which have since been shown at the Royal Academy. I now propose to carry the scheme to completion. I wish to make one alteration and to place the busts on pedestals against the North wall of the Square. To this the Royal Fine Art Commission have agreed.

Encouraged by the Minister's reply, may I ask him if, in the course of the work, it will be possible to improve the general appearance of Trafalgar Square?

Yes, Sir. In addition to dealing with the busts concerned, I am proposing to try to introduce some colour into the Square by flowering shrubs and plants at the foot of the North wall. I propose, in order to improve the setting of the memorials, and to give unity to the Square, to remove the pedestal of the Gordon statue which is at present there, and to find other accommodation for General Gordon. I am also taking this opportunity of wiring the fountains, so as to melt the possibility of eventual floodlighting, and of installing permanent connections in the Square for sound amplification to be used at public meetings.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that he deserves very high marks for the way in which he has treated the gallant admirals, and for putting King Charles I back on his pedestal?

Will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that His Majesty's Government, having disbanded the Nelson pension, will dot remove the Nelson Column?

When re-arranging Trafalgar Square, will the right hon. "Gentleman give a pair of stirrups to King George IV, who has done without them for a very long time?