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Ministry Of Works

Volume 441: debated on Monday 28 July 1947

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Cement Supplies (South-West Area)


asked the Minister of Works when the various concrete product manufacturers in south Devon may expect to receive an adequate and regular supply of cement.


asked the Minister of Works whether, as shortage of cement deliveries is still holding up housing and other urgent building works in the county of Devon, he will take prompt action to increase supplies in that area.


asked the Minister of Works when he expects sufficient cement will be available in the county of Cornwall in order to proceed with urgent work.

The arrangements for the supply of cement in Cornwall and Devon have been recently discussed with the distributors, and I hope that the changes now being made will accelerate progress in housing and other urgent work.

Does the Minister realise that the situation as regards cement in the south-western counties has been very serious for a long time, that the concrete manufacturers have closed down three times this year, and that if they have no proper priority they cannot play their proper part in the building programme?

The fact that some of these factories were closed down was the reason why we took up the matter.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the impression in the south-west is that they are not getting a fair share of what supplies there are of cement? Will he look into it, and, if he finds that that impression is right, take action in the matter?

I have been looking into the supply to the south-west because of the number of inquiries I have had. I am assured the proportion of cement that goes there is correct, and that the industry is distributing it fairly and squarely.

Could inquiry be made into the use of lime for building? It is very satisfactory, indeed. Cement then could be kept more for the harder jobs for which it is more suitable.

I think it is quite likely that if that were done the available supplies of cement would serve a wider purpose.

Will the right hon. Gentleman see that there is now cement available in Cornwall for the purpose of building houses for the people?

I cannot guarantee that the amount of cement which goes to Cornwall or anywhere else is going to be sufficient to meet the housing needs of the particular area.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that Glasgow is getting only a fragmentary portion of cement——

is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there are bitter complaints by housing authorities that their housing is being held up on this account, and that the supply of cement has been for a very long while far worse in Devon and Cornwall than anywhere else?

As to whether it is worse in Devon or Cornwall than anywhere else, it is a little difficult to say. Housing has been held up, it is true, because of shortage of supplies of materials.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say how much cement is being exported, and to where?

I gave the answer to that question I think, a few days ago. The export of cement is, roughly, about 50,000 tons per month, going mainly to our Colonies for purposes being sponsored by the Colonial Department.


asked the Minister of Works if he will consider the importation of cement into Cornwall from Belgium.

Cement may be imported into the United Kingdom under open general licence, and firms requiring cement can avail themselves of this facility.

Will the right hon. Gentleman make these facilities available and much more widely known, and with much less restriction than at present?

I do not know what facilities I have to make available. The open general licence is there if applied for, and I think my reply will give publicity to it for those concerned.


asked the Minister of Works how much cement has been supplied to the Culdrose Aerodrome within the last month.

During the month of June, 101 tons of cement were supplied to Culdrose Aerodrome.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that more cement is being supplied to this aerodrome than is being supplied for the building of 72 council houses in the same area? Is not the building of houses more important, and cannot they have priority over the aerodrome?

I do not know that I am aware of the fact. It is not a matter of according priorities. We try to serve the needs.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in one week 36 tons of cement went to the aerodrome and only 10 tons of cement for the building of these 72 houses?

Richard Cœur De Lion Statue (Repair)


asked the Minister of Works when it is proposed to repair the bomb damage to the Richard Cœur de Lion statue outside the Palace of Westminster.

The repairs will be started early in August and should be completed by the end of the year.

Westminster Hall (Roof Repairs)


asked the Minister of Works how many workmen are employed in repairing the roof of Westminster Hall; and how long it will take to complete the job.


asked the Minister of Works how soon the scaffolding will be removed from Westminster Hall.

Four carpenters, two scaffolders and two labourers are employed in repairing the roof of Westminster Hall. The work should be finished by about the middle of 1949, and the scaffolding will then be removed.

In view of the fact that the beauty and dignity of this great historic hall are destroyed by this clutter of scaffolding and corrugated iron, would the right hon. Gentleman not consider increasing the labour force, which is totally inadequate, so as to release the hall?

There are in the hall a number of temporary erections which will have to stop there until the completion of the new building for the accommodation of this House. Because of that, I felt it would be a wrong thing to send labour unnecessarily to complete the roof before the other part of the hall could be completed.

The corrugated iron was installed because of complaints I received from hon. Members that, as a result of some of the activities in the roof, things fell upon their heads.

Temporary Office Buildings, Chessington


asked the Minister of Works whether he has consulted the Ministry of Town and Country Planning on the representations made to him by the Surbiton Borough Council in connection with his Department's declared intention to erect temporary office buildings on the Barwell Court Estate, Chessington, inside a green belt area.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this building of Government offices is taking place in an area scheduled as a green belt under the Greater London Plan; is he further aware that it has been opposed by the local authority concerned; and does he not regard it as part of the duty of his Department to set a good and not a bad example in the planned use of land?

Certainly we should set a good example in the planned use of land. The arrangements we have made are temporary; they have been made with the approval of the Ministry of Town and Country Planning, and they are being applied for the purpose of setting free other accommodation—housing accommodation in particular—to be used for the purposes for which it was intended.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the fact that the local authority has not been allowed to use this area for housing, and that apparently it is the policy of his Department to give priority for the building of Government offices?

I would point out that these are temporary buildings, whereas houses should be permanent.

Could the right hon. Gentleman say how many years he expects these offices which he designates as "temporary" to stand?

No, Sir, I could not give an exact answer to that, but I should think 10 years, or something of that sort.

Factory Construction (Barrel Vault Roofing)


asked the Minister of Works whether he is aware that if the system of barrel vault roofing is employed in factory construction about two-fifths of the steel required for a steel-frame roof can be saved; and whether, in view of the present shortage of steel, arrangements will be made to use this type of roofing.

I am aware that barrel vault roofing would effect a saving of steel. There are, however, certain drawbacks to this form of construction for factory buildings, such as the difficulty of providing adequate roof lighting and the need for very extensive shuttering, involving a heavy call on timber. Only a few firms are competent to undertake the work, and I cannot hold out any expectation of a widespread adoption of this method in the near future.

Will my right hon. Friend consider taking the opinions of certain architects who have found this system of considerable value; and would he, if possible, save steel by utilising their experience in this regard?

There is little purpose in saving steel if, as a result of it, we use more timber, which is in equally short supply.

Welsh Slate Inquiry (Recommendations)


asked the Minister of Works what steps are being taken to implement the recommendations of the Welsh Slate Inquiry Report

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply given to him on 3rd March. Since that date my officials have had full discussions with representatives of both sides of the industry. At the same time, I have arranged for an investigation of the plant requirements of the industry by a well-known authority, who is also examining the technical and economic possibilities of amalgamation within the industry.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that some concern is felt on both sides of the industry at the rather long delay in getting to grips with the proper mechanisation and new finance; and can he give an indication how soon a real start will be made in reorganising this very useful industry?

I believe the inquiries of the technical expert are now completed, and I shall be getting a report within a short period.

Slate Supplies, Birmingham


asked the Minister of Works if he is aware that, whilst there are thousands of houses in Birmingham requiring repairs to roofs, slating firms ordering slates from quarries in North Wales are told that orders for 24-inch by 12-inch slates cannot be executed as his Department are directing all slates of this size to Northern Ireland; and if he will remedy this and direct some of these slates to Birmingham.

There has been no such direction of slates to Northern Ireland. There are special arrangements for meeting priority requirements whenever they arise, and my regional materials officers are prepared to give assistance in any urgent case.

Abinger Hill School (Alterations)


asked the Minister of Works if he will state the expenditure which has been licensed for alteration and decorations at Pasturewood House, Abinger Common; what is the purpose of these alterations; and how many men have been employed there during the present month.

Licences involving a total expenditure of £4,000 have been granted for the partial reinstatement of Abinger Hill School, Pasture Wood, following derequisitioning after occupation by the military. Forty-five men are at present engaged on the work.

In view of the housing shortage does not the right hon. Gentleman think that an undue amount of labour and material is being used in the establishment of this Socialist rest home?

So far as I know, the main purpose of these alterations is not necessarily the provision of a Socialist rest home. But if it were, that is of equal importance from the housing point of view, with other housing accommodation.

Is this building to be the "Sidney Webb Memorial Home for Fatigued Fabians"?

I do not know whether it is for fatigued Fabians, but if so it is for people who have earned their rest. Of that I am sure.