HC Deb 01 November 1966 vol 735 cc232-3
15. Mr. Peter Mills

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government, whether he will now withdraw Ministry of Housing Circular 50/65.

65. Mr. Chichester-Clark

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government whether he will now withdraw Circular 50/65.

Mr. Mellish

No, Sir.

Mr. Mills

Surely this Circular is monstrously unfair and will undermine the confidence of many builders? Will the hon. Gentleman take steps to ensure that where a local authority employs direct labour, one out of three contracts shall be given to competitive tender?

Mr. Mellish

Let us get the question in the right proportion. Ninety-one per cent. of all that is built for public authorities is built by private enterprise. Only 9 per cent. is built by direct labour. The circular which we sent out advised local authorities to put schemes out for competition if they felt any doubt about their cost. They were also warned in the circular that we, as a Ministry, would thoroughly check the estimates they put in. We are quite satisfied that we shall not withdraw the circular.

Mr. Chichester-Clark

Is the Minister aware of the growing anxiety about the activities of the Salford direct labour department, and can we be sure the House will be given all the facts, including the highly critical report of the district auditor?

Mr. Mellish

The hon. Member should have put that Question down if he has things to say about Salford. He should have asked a separate Question about this, and I have no doubt that there are other people in the House qualified to speak on this question.

Mr. Heffer

Is it not true to say that this particular circular in fact puts local authority direct building departments on precisely the same level as those of private enterprise, and therefore this is much fairer than it was in the past?

Mr. Mellish

The one-in-three rule which prevailed until we issued this circular prevented continuity of work in the direct labour departments. Continuity makes for efficiency, particularly now that we are in the field of industrialised building. I do not know why there is so much prejudice on the part of hon. Members against direct labour departments. I should have thought that people would want to wish them well.