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Scandinavian Timber Houses

Volume 499: debated on Tuesday 22 April 1952

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement regarding the scheme for importing Scandinavian timber houses.

The lowest of the quotations which I have received from both foreign and home manufacturers is from the Weir Housing Corporation of Coat-bridge, Scotland. I have, therefore, arranged that this firm will undertake a programme, based on orders from local authorities, for the manufacture and erection of up to 3,000 timber houses in 1952 and 1953. This is the maximum number for which timber can be provided in present circumstances and I have been obliged to scale down the total demands of local authorities accordingly. Nevertheless, these houses should ease the demand for bricks which are scarce.

I am sending a circular to local authorities tonight giving them details of the scheme and am writing to selected authorities offering them allocations under the programme.

While thanking the Minister for his second and wiser thoughts on this problem, may I ask whether he is aware that in the building industry there is great dissatisfaction at the loose way the quantities were prepared to be sent out for tender and, secondly, at the time limit that was placed on contractors for doing their estimating—15 days, which included Christmas and New Year holidays? Generally, the tenders were more in the nature of guess work than honest tendering, and there is a danger that if these—

Order. I must ask hon. Members to keep their supplementary questions short.

Will the right hon. Gentleman pay attention to the drafting of quantities in the future, because the prices being estimated for now are likely to be exceeded when the completed price is fixed?

I shall certainly pay attention to any suggestion which the hon. Member makes.

Does this mean that the scheme for importing timber houses from Scandinavia has been abolished, and secondly, will my right hon. Friend look into the previous complaints made amongst other things by the East Kilbride Development Corporation against bad construction by this firm?

We certainly do not want bad construction. It is the case that we are not importing timber houses but are manufacturing them at home.

While we welcome the Minister's statement that these houses are to be manufactured in Scotland, may I take it that the Government have not closed their minds to importing additional houses if that can be arranged in the proper exchange of trade? If this can be facilitated, is there any objection to importing additional timber houses, which have made a great contribution to overcoming the shortage in Scotland?

I should be very glad to consider any suggestions which the right hon. Gentleman or any other hon. Member has to make on the subject.

Is this the final word that there will be no importation of Scandinavian houses, because a great many contractors are keeping their orders open? Will my right hon. Friend say whether the firm in Coatbridge is the only one that is allowed to tender in future?

It is not the only firm which is allowed to tender. The point is that they produced the lowest tender, and one can get cheaper production by having the whole of this limited programme in the hands of one firm.