HC Deb 12 November 1969 vol 791 cc387-8
51. Mr. Gresham Cooke

asked the Minister of Public Building and Works when he proposes to introduce legislation to set up a register of building employers for the purposes of regulating self-employment in the construction industry.

Mr. John Silkin

As announced in the Queen's Speech, proposals for controlling labour-only sub-contracting in the construction industry will be submitted to the House during the current Session, and the House will have an opportunity to debate the form these will take.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

Is this to be a proper Bill? If so, can it be introduced before the Government raise S.E.T. again in the Budget and so make the problem of self-employment worse?

Mr. Silkin

Perhaps I might deal with that portmanteau question in two parts. First, I quote the words of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, who said in the debate on the Gracious Speech that it was "a necessary Bill". As to S.E.T., I think that the hon. Gentleman knows that labour-only sub-contracting was a serious problem even before the tax was introduced.

Mr. Heifer

Can my right hon. Friend say what discussions he is likely to have with the trade unions and the employers before the Bill is published? Incidentally, may I say that the proposed legislation is greatly welcomed by the building trade unions?

Mr. Silkin

I hope to have discussions with all responsible sections of the building industry.

Mr. Chichester-Clark

To underline the necessity for urgent action, can the right hon. Gentleman confirm the recent suggestion of the Public Accounts Committee that the Revenue has lost millions of £s through bogus self-employment? Second, notwithstanding what he said to my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke), can he give an estimate of how much it is due to the imposition of the selective employment tax?

Mr. Silkin

On the first point, no, Sir. We can all make estimates, and I do not think that we would be very much at variance on the question.

On the second point, it would be foolish to deny that S.E.T. is one of the factors in the problem. The only point that I was making was that the problem existed in a crucial form before S.E.T. was introduced.