HC Deb 25 July 1966 vol 732 cc1203-4
32. Mr. Channon

asked the Minister of Public Building and Works what will be the criteria which will govern his decisions in deciding whether to grant or refuse a building licence for buildings between £50,000 and £100,000 in value.

Mr. Prentice

I shall take into consideration the demand on the resources of the industry in the area and the contribution which a project would make to economic development and efficiency, the balance of payments and the implementation of Government policy generally.

Mr. Channon

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that that Answer will not give much enlightenment to the building and construction industries? Would he clear up one important point: can he indicate whether or not there will be any retrospection in this matter, and will he confirm that, in regard to contracts of between £50,000 to £100,000, people will still be able to go ahead with them if the contracts have been entered into by the time the right hon. Gentleman lays the Order before Parliament?

Mr. Prentice

The Order will be laid very shortly after the Royal Assent and it will not be retrospective. On the other hand, I hope that there will not be a rush of people trying to take advantage of that fact. In this, as in all matters affecting the economic crisis, the Government are entitled to rely on people's loyalty.

Mr. Frederic Harris

Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that such decisions, which arise in relation to this and other Questions, entail policy decisions by his Ministry? If so, how does the right hon. Gentleman square that with the remark of his Parliamentary Secretary when replying to an earlier supplementary question, when he said that his Ministry was not responsible for policy decisions?

Mr. Prentice

My hon. Friend was speaking in the context of that particular Question. Of course, my Ministry is responsible for policy over a fairly wide sphere.

Mr. Freeson

Will my right hon. Friend and his colleagues keep their minds open to the possibility of reducing the level of control below £50,000 per project, bearing in mind the comparable controls that are established and maintained for public authority expenditure on building projects?

Mr. Prentice

That would not be possible within the terms of the Bill which is now being considered in another place. Under the terms of that Measure the lower limit is £50,000 and I propose to use the powers I have under that Bill to go down to £50,000, but I could not go down to a lower level.

Mr. Chichester-Clark

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that none of my hon. Friends is suggesting that the building industry should be totally exempt in relation to the economic situation but that Government policies in this matter should be relevant and should not clash with each other, as the aims of the National Plan clash with the two Budgets we have had since April?

Mr. Prentice

I do not agree with the later part of that supplementary question. I welcome the fact that hon. Gentlemen opposite recognise that the building industry cannot be exempted from the economic situation. It is the policy of the Government that the industry should not bear a disproportionate part of the burdens arising from that situation. I think that a fair assessment of the measures announced last week will lead one to the conclusion that the building industry will take some serious knocks, but no more so than the rest of the community, and that our policies have been worked out on a basis which is fair to the industry.

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