HC Deb 20 June 1966 vol 730 cc18-9
26. Mr. Marten

asked the Minister of Public Building and Works what estimate he has formed of the growth in the building and construction industry over the next 12 months of sub-contractors operating on a labour-only basis.

Mr. Prentice

There is as yet no evidence on which to base any estimate.

Mr. Marten

As the Selective Employment Tax is bound to increase the labour-only basis of work, is not the Minister aware that many of us on this side of the House are extremely worried about the effects of the tax on the safety of workers in the industry? Will he not call for a report from the Ministry of Labour on the effects of Government policy on the safety aspects?

Mr. Prentice

I think that the hon. Gentleman would wish me to distinguish between labour-only sub-contracting in which there is a contract of employment between the workers and the contractor, and the rather bogus form of self-employment which has been growing and which may grow further as a result of the S.E.T. This is something which my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour and I are watching very carefully. My right hon. Friend has had discussions with his National Joint Advisory Council and I discussed the matter with the unions at their conference at Skegness a few days ago. The unions and the employers have condemned, as we would all condemn, any attempt to pretend that people are self-employed in order that they can dodge such things as taxation, National Insurance contributions, redundancy payments, training levies and things of that sort.

Mr. Urwin

Will my right hon. Friend take every possible precaution to ensure that builders do not avoid the Selective Employment Tax by relying on increased labour-only sub-contracting?

Mr. Prentice

As I have said, we shall keep a close watch on this and so will my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour. We are concerned about the dangers in the growth of this practice and we shall keep it very closely under review.