HC Deb 19 June 1967 vol 748 c1092
2. Mr. Hilton

asked the Minister of Public Building and Works if he will take steps to replace the table on value of output for construction, which is produced by his Department, with a table which more accurately reflects production and productivity with the construction industry.

Mr. Prentice

No, Sir. The present table gives figures at constant—1958—prices and thus reflects changes in the actual volume of construction. Efforts to improve its accuracy are always being made. My Department does not publish figures of productivity as indications of short-term changes might be misleading.

Mr. Hilton

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that his reply on 12th December was that these figures included profits for contractors, and that if profits rise we shall have the farcical situation in which output will also appear to rise? Should not there be an attempt, even if it concerns only planning construction activities of the E.D.C.s, to provide them with a table which accurately indicates output?

Mr. Prentice

My hon. Friend has drawn attention to the problem affecting not only construction statistics but industrial statistics generally. It is true that when demand is buoyant profits are rising and the figures appear to be better than they are in fact, whereas in periods when conditions are getting worse the figures appear to be worse than they are. Constant efforts are made to try to improve the accuracy of our figures. I shall be glad to discuss the whole problem with my hon. Friend.

Mr. Costain

What evidence has the right hon Gentleman that profits are rising in the building industry?

Mr. Prentice

I did not indicate that they were.