HC Deb 11 March 1969 vol 779 cc1158-9
27. Mr. Costain

asked the Minister of Public Building and Works if he will make a statement on his proposals for the registration of building labour.

Mr. Mellish

I have no firm proposals about the registration of building operatives. This is, however, a matter which I hope will be considered by all sides of the industries.

Mr. Costain

As this matter has only just started to be considered, is it not regrettable that on 25th February there was a Press leak to the effect that the Minister was in favour of registration?

Mr. Mellish

I had a Press conference in which members of the Press asked me how I saw the future of the industry. Talking ahead and of the Utopia which I will not live to see, I dreamt of the day when building workers and employers were registered and when there were decent conditions, decent hours and decent wages. That is a long way ahead.

Mr. McNamara

Is my right hon. Friend aware that while he is at the Ministry we do not take the same dismal view of the future that he seems to take? Would he not agree that we already have in the holiday credit scheme an ample growth point for achieving the registration of building labour which could be developed and used for this purpose quite speedily?

Mr. Mellish

I am obliged. I am not interested in controls. I should have thought that all progressive employers would welcome a labour force which was registered and a system whereby minimum rates counted as minimum rates and site arguments and problems could be eradicated. If we want to achieve that in an industry of this size we have to have registration. All progressive employers accept that. I do not know why the hon. Gentleman does not.

Mr. Heffer

Is it not time that the casual nature of the building industry was ended once and for all and there was genuine security for building operatives? Would my right hon. Friend bear in mind that there are problems concerning craftsmen who work in a number of industries? Therefore, when this matter is discussed, would he ensure that this problem is taken into account?

Mr. Mellish

Yes. But some of the craft differences, too, have to be settled. If we are to continue the old system of yesteryear in which one man is that much better than another, I do not know that I agree with my hon. Friend. A system of registration is well overdue.

Mr. Frederic Harris

In the right hon. Gentleman's dreams about which he told us just now, did he not leave out one "decent", namely, a decent Government as well?

Mr. Mellish

I can only say that if we get a Tory Government that will be a dream gone bust.

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