HC Deb 22 July 1968 vol 769 cc17-8
21. Mr. Allason

asked the Minister of Public Building and Works what special arrangements he is making to make available finance to small builders unable to obtain overdrafts.

Mr. Mellish

None, Sir.

Mr. Allason

The small builder has an essential part to play in the construction industry, especially for repairs or alterations. If they cannot secure finance, how can the Minister expect them to continue in business? If he wants them to continue in business, will he go to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and do something about it?

Mr. Mellish

In my view, the small builder today has a greater future than he has had for a very long time, owing to this Government's proposals for the improvement of older houses which give him a vast reservoir of work which I hope he will be able to undertake. It must be done via the local authority machine — that is all-important—but I hope that the local authorities will organise it properly for him and that all questions of that kind will be taken up with the local authorities.

My final word on the small builder is this. Let us not have it said that small builders are suddenly going bankrupt in large numbers. There have always been small builders who went bankrupt.

Mr. Barnett

Does not my right hon. Friend find this question rather odd, bearing in mind that small builders have not gone bankrupt only recently but they have as a sector of industry always been top of the annual list of bankruptcies?

Mr. Mellish

That is what I have tried to say. The industry is very much a jungle, and the small and weak animals often get devoured.

Mr. Costain

Does not the Minister realise that work for local authorities which do not pay quickly is most difficult work for small builders? This is a question of finance, not bankruptcy.

Mr. Mellish

Speaking to one of the larger animals in the industry, I accept that as a fair point from the hon. Gentleman. My views about payments by local authorities are well known. Some of them are quite disgraceful, and it is about time they made themselves better clients.