HC Deb 14 April 1970 vol 799 cc1188-90
5. Mr. Rossi

asked the Minister of Public Building and Works whether he will make a statement on the effects of British Standard Time on the output of the construction industry during the winter 1969–70.

7. Mr. Speed

asked the Minister of Public Building and Works whether he will now make a statement on the Report of his National Consultative Council on the subject of the effect of British Standard Time on the construction industry.

9. Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

asked the Minister of Public Building and Works what further discussions he has had with representatives of the building industry in Scotland regarding the effect on the industry of British Standard Time.

Mr. John Silkin

My National Consultative Council, on which Scottish interests are represented, considered at its last meeting the reports of a survey, undertaken on its behalf by my Department, of the effects of British Standard Time on the construction industry over the past winter. I am placing a copy in the Library of the House.

Mr. Rossi

Would the Minister agree that the evidence shows that B.S.T. cost the building industry £30 million this winter? Is not this a clear indication that this absurd experiment should come to an end?

Mr. Silkin

It is true that this was the estimate thrown up by the survey, but British Standard Time is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, who will, no doubt, be taking this into account, together with any other balancing factors on the other side.

Mr. Speed

Yes, but will the right hon. Gentleman urge his right hon. Friend to do something about this? Is it not also true that B.S.T. has added £90 to the cost of an average three-bed-roomed house?

Mr. Silkin

That second question would depend on the assumption that winter continued for 12 months of the year—[Interruption.] I am much more hopeful than the hon. Gentleman. The actual figure would be nearer £30.

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

If there has been an addition of 3 per cent. to building costs over the United Kingdom as a whole, is it not obvious that the addition in Scotland must have been substantially greater? Can the right hon. Gentleman now assure us, in the light of the reports in the Press recently, that the Government have decided to abandon this ridiculous experiment? Will he do so here and now?

Mr. Silkin

I would hesitate ever to answer for Scotland. As for the experiment, it is an experiment, and my right hon. Friend is perfectly capable of balancing all the factors necessary to reach a decision.

Mr. Heffer

Would my right hon. Friend bear in mind that some hon. Gentlemen on this side, from the very commencement of this proposal, felt that it was an absurdity and could have very serious consequences for the construction industry? Would he, therefore, make it perfectly plain to his right hon. Friend that the time has come to abolish this nonsense altogether?

Mr. Silkin

The survey, of course, concerned the construction industry as a whole and the industry has been fairly united in its views on this. As I have said a number of times, my right hon. Friend must balance a number of considerations and a number of industries.

Mr. Godber

In the light of these questions and answers, would the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind my Private Member's Bill to abolish British Standard Time, and would he consider supporting it when it comes before the House?

Mr. Silkin

I always bear in mind everything that the right hon. Gentleman says, but I do not necessarily undertake to support it.