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Building Work (Business Premises)

Volume 478: debated on Monday 18 September 1950

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asked the Minister of Works if he is aware that, despite the unsatisfactory position of housing in Birmingham, building work on factories, shops, large city stores and projects other than housing is increasing, thereby using up much labour and materials and exercising an adverse effect on house building; and if he will make immediate inquiries into this state of affairs.

During the last four months for which we have figures the number of men engaged on new housing work in Birmingham increased by 21 per cent. compared with 9 per cent. increase in the number engaged on other new projects. Most of the new factory building in the Birmingham area is concerned with products for defence or for the export drive, and the two large stores form part of the approved scheme for the rebuilding of blitzed cities.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that on the list of applicants awaiting houses there are something over 50,000 people, and that there is great resentment that building proceeds on large stores, such as those of Marshall and Snelgrove, second-hand car dealers, C. & A. Modes, etc., which could be left undone yet, and the materials and men used to build houses for the people?

The fact is that the building force on new housing in Birmingham has gone up from 2,500 to over 3,000 in the last four months. It is a great mistake to assume that because people are engaged on other forms of construction they would be suitable for the building of new houses.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this notable increase in the building force available for the building of houses in Birmingham is the result of the Unionist Party's coming to power on the City Council?

I could answer that. Is my right hon. Friend prepared to make a tour of Birmingham in the very near future to see the type of work being done and whether it does delay house building?

But for the sudden and unexpected recall of Parliament I should have been there already. I am hoping to arrange a visit at a very early date.

Would the right hon. Gentleman give the same good advice to his colleague, the Minister of Health?


asked the Minister of Works whether, in view of the need to concentrate building labour and materials in house-building and essential works, he will consider the cancellation of licences already granted for shops and office premises.

No, Sir. Licences are granted very sparingly for new work to shops and office premises, and only where outstanding evidence of need can be shown.

Does my right hon. Friend mean that no matter what change takes place in the economic situation he will consider no withdrawal of the 230-odd licences he has granted for shop and office premises in Brixton? Is he aware that, in fact, in Brixton nobody wants this fantastic folly at the present time?

That is a different question. I certainly did not mean to imply that I am immutable or unchangeable, or whatever the word is. However, having granted the licences it would seem to me crass stupidity to cancel them without adequate reason for doing so.