HC Deb 01 May 1950 vol 474 cc1388-90
19. Mr. Gibson

asked the Minister of Works whether, in view of the increase during the past year of 3 per cent. in the number of building workers employed on projects other than housing, he will take steps, in consultation with the Minister of Health, to secure that this 3 per cent. of building labour is steered into the construction of new permanent houses, especially in view of the increased allocation of capital expenditure on housing during the next three years

Mr. Stokes

About half the building labour strength is engaged on house construction or repairs to housing, the actual number of new houses showing a slight increase compared with a year ago. My hon. Friend may rest assured that the control over building work will be such as to permit of whatever adjustment may be necessary to ensure fulfilment of the new programme.

Mr. Bossom

Would the Minister divide that answer, which he has lumped together? Is it not a fact that only about 26 per cent. of building trade operatives are now working on housing and that before the war there were between 33 and 34 per cent.?

Mr. Stokes

I think the hon. Gentleman is wrong. It is just about the same as before and there has been quite a steady though slight increase in the number of people engaged on new housing.

Mr. Gibson

In view of the reply which my right hon. Friend gave me last week, that there is 3 per cent. more building trade labour employed on other than housing work, does it not automatically follow that there must be fewer employed on housing work? Will my right hon. Friend do something to correct that?

Mr. Stokes

With great respect, I think my hon. Friend is confusing percentages with figures. There is a great difference. The actual number employed on new housing has increased though, I agree, only slightly. The shift has been from repairs and maintenance to the building of schools and other important buildings, but the actual number engaged on new housing is appreciably in advance of what it was a year ago.

Mr. Duncan Sandys

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is widespread dissatisfaction in all parts of this House and in the country at the lack, of effort which is being put into permanent house building?— [HON. MEMBERS: " No."] Would he consider, at an early date, explaining to the House what are the principles which govern the allocation of building resources to the various classes of building projects?

Mr. Stokes

If the right hon. Gentleman is referring to labour resources, I can reassure the House that the allocation is quite adequate for the house building programme, and that it is sufficient to continue the programme which is at present envisaged by the Government.

Mr. Sandys

Which is entirely inadequate.

25. Mrs. Middleton

asked the Minister of Works what steps he proposes to take to stop the drift of building and civil engineering labour from housing and urgent reconstruction projects to less essential repair and maintenance work; and whether he is assured that the £100 limit for unlicensed repair and maintenance work is not being grossly exceeded in many instances

Mr. Stokes

I am not aware of any drift of building and civil engineering labour from housing and urgent reconstruction projects. On the contrary, the numbers employed on the erection of new houses and on site preparation have tended to increase in the last year, and there has been a reduction in those engaged on repair and maintenance work. I have no reason to suppose that the £100 limit for unlicensed work is being grossly exceeded, but if the hon. Lady has any particulars I will have them immediately examined.

Mrs. Middleton

Is not my right hon. Friend aware that in some cases local authorities are finding it impossible to build up to their allocation of houses because of the drift away of labour? Is he prepared to take steps to stop that?

Mr. Stokes

Yes, I am prepared to take action if somebody will furnish me with the facts. The facts as I know them are that this labour is not interchangeable. It is a great mistake to suppose that the labour engaged on repair and maintenance is necessarily interchangeable with that for the building of new houses. This percentage difference makes no sense whatever unless people who quote it are properly informed as to the division of labour in the building trade.

Sir H. Williams

Why is it that with the same labour force now as there was in 1938, the Government are building only about half the number of houses?

Mr. Stokes

I do not think that is the case.

Mr. A. Edward Davies

How does my right hon. Friend assure himself that the proper amount of labour is engaged on housing and is not being diverted to this non-licensed work?

Mr. Stokes

I am in constant touch with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health, and his programme is being fully fulfilled. There really is nothing to worry about on this score, so far as I am aware.

Mrs. Middleton

Can my right hon. Friend tell me whether there is any estimate of the amount of non-licensed work which is being done?

Mr. Stokes

Yes, but my hon. Friend will have to put the question down before I can answer it.