asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government if he will now make a statement on his discussions with the building societies and representatives of the building industry about his proposals for restraining building society lending.
I would refer the right hon. Gentleman to the speech which I made on 11th November in the course of the debate on the Address.
Will the Minister answer the question he rather pointedly did not answer in that speech, as to whether or not—aye or no—the building societies have agreed with him to ration or restrict advances where not to do so would take the total of privately built houses above whatever figure the Government desire to fix?
The building societies, as I announced in the communiqué which I published, have now agreed and are working on a working party with me on the financial arrangements we are to make for the joint control of the programme. This is something we shall consult on together. It is true that there is great reluctance on the part of the builders and also, naturally, of the building societies to see any restriction on private building. We are now discussing in a working party the method by which the regulation of the private sector can be achieved without the kind of restriction which they would resent and also with the kind of balance and flexibility which is required.
Does not that answer to my supplementary question simply boil down to "No"?
No, it does not, and it would be very misleading to say so because the building societies and the builders are completely agreed with me on the need to work out a method of cooperation which will achieve a continuous expansion of the industry. It is not unreasonable in the economy, when other people put themselves targets and decide on the general advance which they would need to complete, that we should decide how much we want to do.
Order. I hope that Ministers will make their answers to supplementary questions shorter.