HC Deb 25 July 1966 vol 732 cc1204-5
33. Mr. Sharpies

asked the Minister of Public Building and Works what estimate he has formed of the likely rise in building costs in the public sector over the next six months.

Mr. Prentice

The increase in the cost of labour arising from the Selective Employment Tax could lead to an increase in building costs in the public sector of about 2 per cent. in the next six months. To some extent this increase in costs may, however, be offset by higher productivity and by decreases in the price of imported building materials when the import surcharge is withdrawn.

Mr. Sharpies

Is this likely to be the only rise in costs? Will the Minister now admit that building costs have been rising over the last 12 months faster than at any other time since records have been kept in his Ministry? Does he hope to heat this record?

Mr. Prentice

I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman was in the Chamber when I answered an earlier Question. It was then shown that there had been a rise of some 4 per cent. in building costs over 1965. The hon. Gentleman may be confusing this with the rise in the price of new houses, which was 10 per cent., but due to other factors than building costs. This rather puts his supplementary question out of perspective.

Mr. Gwilym Roberts

Will my right hon. Friend ensure that the Selective Employment Tax is not used as a pretext by many builders to push up their profits?

Mr. Prentice

I hope that they will not do that. I hope that they will make every effort to absorb the extra costs due to this tax and not pass them on to the consumer.