HC Deb 11 March 1968 vol 760 cc945-6
1. Sir Langford-Holt

asked the Minister of Public Building and Works what is the present annual cost to the building industry of the selective employment tax.

The Minister of Public Building and Works (Mr. Robert Mellish)

The annual S.E.T. payable by the construction industry as a whole is about £80 million.

Sir J. Langford-Holt

After food, shelter is probably the most vital need of human existence. Does not this show that it is ludicrous to place this huge tax upon the building industry at this time?

Mr. Mellish

As the hon. Gentleman knows, the objective of the tax was to try to get labour away from service industries into more productive industries. In the construction industry average employment in 1967 was 2½ per cent. less than in 1966, while output, including repair and maintenance, increased by nearly 4 per cent. It looks as though the tax is working in this instance.

Mr. Chichester-Clark

Is not the most obvious consequence of this an increase in the gangs of self-employed men, which neither side of organised industry wants to see?

Mr. Mellish

The hon. Gentleman will know that a special committee, the Phelps Brown Committee, is looking into this. I hope that it will submit an intelligent report on which we can act.

40. Mr. Robert Cooke

asked the Minister of Public Building and Works what representations he has received from builders regarding the imposition of the Selective Employment Tax; and what reply he has sent.

Mr. Mellish

I have received no recent formal representations from the builders on this subject.

Mr. Cooke

The right hon. Gentleman is aware of how the building industry feels about the matter. Will he keep it under review? I am sure that he does not wish to add to their costs.

Mr. Mellish

Yes. I am always meeting these people, and we get on very well.

Mr. Chichester-Clark

As the Chancellor of the Exchequer said in 1966 that the S.E.T. premium would have an invaluable effect on altering the shape of the construction industry and on speeding up industrialised building, why is it being withdrawn? Did the Minister resist its withdrawal?

Mr. Mellish

I said earlier that I have formal meetings with the builders. They have not brought this matter forward to me and they have made no representations about it. If they hold the point of view which hon. Members opposite suggest, I wish they would come to me and discuss it with me.