§ 3.34 p.m.
§ Mr. R. Chichester-Clark (Londonderry)
I beg to move,That this House deplores the effect of Her Majesty's Government's policies on the building and construction industries.Our debate this afternoon takes place in the gravest crisis for the building industry since the Second World War. It would be almost impossible to exaggerate the seriousness of the present situation. Reputable builders are going to the wall. Output is slumping and costs are rising—a remarkable combination. Unemployment is appallingly high, without being caused by bad weather.
The mood of builders is becoming ugly. The right hon. Gentleman meets them, so do I, and I have never heard from the rank and file of the industry such an overwhelming combination of disgust and despair as there is among them at present. I do not think that any Government have ever been the object of such contempt from the industry as this one, irrespective of the personal relationships and courtesies which now exist between their leaders and the Minister himself.
When we reach a situation in which the president of the N.F.B.T.E. must take advantage of a purely social occasion, namely, a dinner-dance, on 3rd February, to tell the Minister that the very existence of the industry is imperilled unless prompt action is taken, it emphasises the exceptional severity of the crisis and the unique responsibility of the Government to act at once.
We condemn the Government for a failure of control and guidance at the highest political level. Because the economic conditions created by the Government have caused a collapse of confidence in the industry, the Prime Minister, the Cabinet and the right hon. Gentleman himself, as Labour's fourth Minister of Public Building and Works, must take full responsibility. We also condemn individual Ministers, including the right hon. Gentleman, for their complacency and incompetence and for reducing the booming industry which 35 they took over in 1964 to a state where, to quote its leaders:… the industry is passing through a recession as severe as any since the 'thirties.Even now the Government are distorting the words of outside bodies. On two occasions in the House, on 29th January and 3rd February, the Minister of Housing has had the temerity to suggest that the house-builders seem to be more "optimistic". Yet he knows that their report, published jointly with the report of the N.F.B.T.E., opens with the words:… most of the economic indicators of the contracting industry have been pointing downwards during 1969 and, at the end of the year, there appeared to be little hope of an early improvement in total construction activity.A few lines later, speaking specifically of housing, the report says:It is impossible at this stage to take an optimistic view of the prospects of the industry in 1970. Unless there is an early relaxation of the credit squeeze, housing seems likely to see a further decline of up to 10 per cent. on 1969, mainly in the public sector.And that would be some decline.
So that is the Minister's "optimistic view"? Does he really understand the meaning of words? When I want to know the mood of the industry, I do not listen to the Minister of Housing. I listen to the builders whose livelihood is involved, a livelihood which they see falling into ruins. Some builders have a name for the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Housing. They call him King Log. He sits there, listens to them woodenly and does nothing at the end.
We have six main charges to make against the Minister of Public Building and Works. Our first and gravest charge is that he has done nothing to avert the decline in the state of trade in the industry. For a very long time now the warning signals have been out. We on these benches have not hesitated to make them clear. Ever since the state of trade inquiry of the N.F.B.T.E. in August, 1968, which reflected the builders' views in April of that year, there have been continuous quarterly warnings, both by the builders generally and by the house builders in particular, that order books were falling and that the work load was unsatisfactory.
The latest state of trade inquiry of the N.F.B.T.E. is so serious that the House should take note of its contents. It re- 36 ferred to early January, and the feeling which I have received from the builders since then is that the situation has got worse rather than better. At that time, 663 firms, a fair cross-section of the industry, were questioned. Half of them said that they had fewer inquiries for work than last October, well over half that they had less work in hand, and 375 that they had less work to start. More than halt expect to do less work in 1970 than they did in 1969, despite the fact that 1969 was just about the worst year since the war.
The inquiry revealed that the decline is general throughout the country, although, of course, it goes without saying that the North-West Region is the worst hit. It also rightly makes the point that smaller and medium-sized firms—which are the overwhelming proportion of the industry —are the most seriously affected. The house-builders are exceptionally hard hit. The November-December state of trade inquiry by the Federation found that 226 firms out of 367 had fewer applicants for house purchase than in September with only a pathetic 32 having more, and that 200 had fewer houses under construction. This year will be worse than 1969.
If that is not enough, I will give four other indications to wake up the Minister. The Ministry, in the tiniest Press notice I have ever seen, coyly announced on 23rd January that private house-builders expected to start about 165,000 houses in 1970. If that is the outcome this will be the worst year since 1968, and the fall in starts in 1969 and 1970 will be the worst since the war. Incidentally, private house-building starts have fallen only twice under the "wicked Tories", and then only by small amounts. Under Labour, private housing starts have fallen every year except 1967.
The Royal Institute of British Architects, in a notice of great importance and gravity, on 4th January, showed a 17 per cent. drop in architects' commissions in the third quarter of last year, which was a record decline. Since this is usually a good indicator of the work load 18 months ahead, it reflects the likelihood of a long, hard slump over the next year or more unless action is taken now. This is particularly serious for architects because if they start cutting back that leads to a break-up of design teams and students' training may also suffer. The 37 Ministry's own orders for new construction are also very bad. The fall in November, 1959 was exceptionally sharp with a total decline on 2 per cent., and on housing alone a catastrophic drop of 17 per cent.
Builders' merchants, who are an essential link in the building process, told the Minister on 21st January that the trend is for the decline in work to get worse. All the indications are of a recession each worse than the last and each showing that the position is deteriorating. In these circumstances, what did the right hon. Gentleman do? Last week at Question Time, flushed with pride or, at any rate, flushed—he said that he had called the industry's spokesmen to see him. One would think that he never saw them and that there was something meritorious about saying that now. He did not promise them much. He did not promise a cut in S.E.T., easier credit, help with unemployment, or swift action to stimulate work load.
What the right hon. Gentleman promised was to have a chat with the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He did not say that his predecessor, the Patronage Secretary, made precisely the same promise on 22nd April, 1969, and that nothing came of it—nothing that we could see, at any rate. I attach little importance to a chat with the Chancellor. I was rather surprised to hear that, but it is lamentable that the Chancellor apparently refused to discuss the memorandum which the building industry has put forward with reference to the Budget. This is possibly the first time that has ever happened. We are dealing with an industry which pays 25 per cent. of the total yield of S.E.T., yet the Government refused to discuss it.
If we condemn the Minister for failing to heed these warnings, we condemn him even more for failing to halt the decline in output. The industry's output, both at current and at constant prices, normally rises every year. At current prices, of course, it rises automatically, because they do not exclude inflationary factors. Thus, if labour or materials costs rise, so does current output. So it was quite absurd for the Minister to say on 17th December that current prices output in 1968 was £4,567 million and in 1959 was £2,399 million. Of course it was.
38 The right hon. Gentleman did not say that in 1949 it was £1,250 million; and in 1979 it will be higher than in 1969. So perhaps we could be spared that sort of special pleading this afternoon.
§ Sir Gerald Nabarro (Worcestershire, South)
My hon. Friend said that the building and construction industries combined contributed a quarter of the retained part of selective employment tax. Would he quantify that and confirm that it amounts to one-quarter of £615 million this year and is, therefore, £153¾ million from these industries?
§ Mr. Chichester-Clark
My hon. Friend is very keen on these matters. He will find that I shall come to that figure. I would make it a round figure of £155 million.
§ Mr. Chichester-Clark
Let us look at the real figure of output which is at constant prices and which excludes inflationary factors. Last year, output dropped by about 2 per cent. The last time output fell, in real terms at constant prices, was 1951. Those are facts and the Minister knows them to be true. He must admit it. When output at constant prices falls that means real trouble. Why deny it?
What has been the Government's attitude? On 3rd December, 1968, the Minister's predecessor, the Patronage Secretary, said, with all the statistical authority at his command:The output of the building and construction industries has risen every year. This year"—the right hon. Gentleman meant 1968—it will rise by another 4 per cent., I think, and I expect it to rise next year"—he meant by 1969—by between 4 per cent. and 5 per cent. This happens to be the view that the Department holds, and we have said so to the P.I.B."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd December, 1968 Vol. 774, c. 1230–1.]That was the official prediction from the Minister at the Dispatch Box. Output rises every year, he said. So it does, except under this Government. He said that it would rise in 1969 by between 4 per cent. and 5 per cent., but it actually fell by only 2 per cent. Here was a forecaster. Whence comes there such another? The Patronage Secretary has new responsibilities now, among them, 39 presumably, forecasting majorities in this House. He had better get a new slide rule, or the Prime Minister will be losing sleep after all.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Robert Mellish)
I am not doing so badly at the moment.
§ Mr. Chichester-Clark
The new Minister was better at it.
We condemn the Minister and the Government for the fact that output in the industry has risen more slowly overall under Labour than under the Tories and their costs have risen more sharply. The facts are these and the Minister had to admit them last Tuesday. Production actually rose by 22 points at constant prices in the last five years of Conservative government compared with 7 points under Labour, showing more purposive planning.
Next, I come to costs. I shall be as helpful as I can be to the Government. I will leave out 1959, because they will say that it was an election year. We find that in the first four years of Labour government construction costs rose by 16 points compared with 11 points in the last four years of Tory government. If I added 1959 and 1969, things would appear even worse to the Government. The Government have produced a uniquely appalling combination. Productivity has slowed down and output has actually dropped. Meanwhile, costs have soared. Yet more "purposive" planning.
We condemn the Government for S.E.T. What more can I say about it than that it raises about £155 million per year from the industry, almost 25 per cent. of the total yield? That it adds a crippling 4 per cent. to construction costs? That it puts up the price of a house by about £125 and that a succession of Labour Ministers of Works have done nothing to ease the industry's burden. They have clucked sympathetically, while the tax rate doubled.
The facts have had a serious effect on apprentices, but the Government have done nothing and so the new intake of boys to the industry is dropping seriously. The effect on self-employment has been serious, but they have done nothing. It now costs about £6 per week per man to get a man on to a building site before 40 he lays a brick, yet the Government has done nothing. The £6 is not my figure, but the industry's and the industry has repeated it today. The Minister had better heed the industry, because the industry has to find that £6.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Public Building and Works (Mr. Charles Loughlin)
I should like to put the record straight. The £125 to which the hon. Gentleman refers relates to a house costing £4,750.
§ Mr. Chichester-Clark
No doubt the Minister will continue to make that point to some effect when he replies to the debate. I do not see the purpose of the interruption.
§ Mr. A. P. Costain (Folkestone and Hythe)
I think that it is also fair to point out that before the Socialists came into power that same house cost a little over £3,000.
§ Mr. Chichester-Clark
That is a fair point to make. My hon. Friend has great knowledge of these matters, and I respect his judgment.
We condemn the Minister for his sloth over labour-only subcontracting—the notorious "lump" system. The Phelps Brown Committee reported in July, 1968. During 1968 and 1969 the Minister did nothing. Then, on 28th October, 1969, the Prime Minister promised a Bill to deal with this menace, which he described as "necessary". On 12th November, the Minister promiseddiscussions with all responsible sections of the building industry."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th November, 1969; Vol. 790, c. 388.]I understand that those discussions have not even begun. Perhaps the Minister will tell us whether they have.
I must ask the Minister to stop messing around. The "lump" is ruining the industry. It is bad for workmanship and discipline on sites, it can be unsafe, and it is catastrophic for the trade union movement. The N.F.C.U. is already too weak. So are its constituent members. The new wages settlement—which the Government did not block this time as they did in December, 1968—gives a chance to the N.J.C. to establish some control over real earnings and plus rates. If the unions get any weaker they will be unable to speak for organised labour in this industry.
41 So let us have Phelps Brown before Easter, and, for goodness sake, let us have no more S.E.T. That would be intolerable to the industry. It would also be an outrage if we had it before discussing the Bill and the Phelps Brown Report.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis (West Ham, North)
I think that both sides agree with almost every word about the "lump". But can the hon. Gentleman assure the Government that if they do get on with this and bring in a Bill—and I think that this side of the House would welcome it—then, as far as possible, the two sides will agree, through the usual channels, to give it a speedy passage through the House? The usual argument is that there is not time. As it appears that we are in agreement, we should be able to get it through quickly.
§ Mr. Chichester-Clark
We must see the Bill. But I can assure the hon. Gentleman that we on this side are as keen to see something done as he may be.
We condemn the Government for the deplorable state of unemployment in the industry, which is not, as in the winter of 1962–63, caused by bad weather—do not let us have that excuse today—but by the low work load. There were, at the end of December, well over 115,000 unemployed in the building industryone-fifth of the total unemployed of the country. That is a bad record. I do not know whether the Minister thinks that the discussions which he has promised with the building industry leaders will do them any good now. Unfortunately, many of these people have been lost to the industry for ever.
I wish that I could pass over the brick fiasco in total silence, but I cannot. In 1964, the Prime Minister promised thatLabour would plan the bricks.Since he said that, and since the right hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) called for much more brick output and promised that all the bricks produced would be used, there has been a continuous stop-go situation in the industry. Production is down on 1964, deliveries are down on 1964, bankruptcies are worse than ever, stocks are higher, and morale in the industry is lower than it has ever been. That is how Labour plans the bricks. I do not know whether the Minister would care to get 42 up now and tell us whether the Prime Minister's election promise to "plan the bricks" has been fulfilled or broken. If I were him, I would be rather hard of hearing at this point. So this Labour Government will leave office, just as the last one did, presiding over a slump in the industry of considerable proportions. The situation is so urgent that there must be a change of policy for the industry now.
Apart from the specific pledges on housing made by my hon. Friends the Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker) and the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) which are on record and which I do not want to go into again, let me say what the next Conservative Government will do to save the industry, which needs help quicklyif its efficiency—and indeed, its very existence—is not to be imperilled"—to use the words of the President of the N.F.B.T.E. We will act to relieve the industry of the burden of S.E.T., which, as has been said many times, is a crushing and senseless burden which damages confidence and output.
We will give builders priority bank loans. They have made out their case very well. It is clear from the state of their trade inquiries that credit is a difficulty, if not the crucial difficulty. Without credit, they cannot build. It is as easy as that. We will act to reduce the cost of borrowing money. It is far too dear at present, and is a tremendous shackle on our housing and building programme. We will act speedily to deal with the menace of "the lump."
§ Mr. Eric Lubbock (Orpington)
The hon. Gentleman referred to reducing the cost of borrowing money. I am interested in this. Will there be preferential rates of interest for borrowers in the building industry?
§ Mr. Chichester-Clark
If we are being criticised for making that kind of promise, I can only say that the Prime Minister was not so backward about it, because I recall his making a speech on 16th September, 1964, in which he said:We shall cheapen the cost of housing by our interest rates policy".We will keep our noses out of wage settlements reached by the industry. The scars of the "builders' penny" fiasco and the bitterness that it caused are still with 43 the industry long after the First Secretary has doubtless forgotten it. We will seek to maintain and increase the authority of the N.J.C., not sabotage it by blocking democratically bargained wage settlements.
We will call together the leaders of the industry on both sides to set out a new rehabilitation industry to undertake a coherent and massive drive of house modernisation. We will seek to get the big firms, with all their management skill, to work on this. We will seek to merge the Agrement Board and the Building Research Station. We will examine carefully all the functions, staff and budget of the N.B.A. and see that Government money for research and development is better directed and spent. We will speed up the drive for dimensional co-ordination and we will set an early target date by which the total standardisation of components will be achieved.
We will keep the housing cost yardsticks and the schools cost limits under continuous and realistic review. For example, on Thursday I had an Answer which revealed that building costs had risen by 15 per cent. since July, 1966, during which time the Government have done nothing to raise cost limits for school building. Is it any wonder that the system building part of the industry is operating at only 25 per cent. of capacity?
We will examine ruthlessly the functions and purpose of the Ministry of Works standing advisory committees—all 38 of them—and their 83 Departmental committees and their six joint committees with other Departments to see when they last reported, what they are doing, and whether they should be wound up. Anyone can see that there are obviously far too many committees. We will look particularly carefully at bodies such as the Economic Development Committees on which builders serve. If we find them to be mere talking shops we will shut them down. Builders should get on with building, not making up numbers on Government committees.
We will reduce the demand that there is seemingly in the industry for Government statistics which are being asked of builders. The builders are half strangled with red tape. One big firm recently 44 calculated that it spent 564 man days a year filling up Government forms. At present, there are three ministries requiring figures of employment from the industry, three more want details of earnings, and two others require details of output. It must be possible to break down and perhaps end altogether this tedious time wasting nonsense now.
Above all, we will take steps to win back the confidence of the industry. It will know that it will have a Government who believe in private enterprise and want to see it expand, as it should have expanded over these years. It will have a Government who realise that building, with its 1½ million employees and massive output, is one of the greatest industries in the country. We will, once again, have a Ministry responsible for the industry——
§ Mr. Gordon A. T. Bagier (Sunderland, South) rose——
§ Mr. Chichester-Clark
I am just about to finish.
Finally, we will see that, once again, there is a Department responsible for this industry to which builders can turn and know that some action will come from turning to it. Hon. Members opposite sometimes suggest that the industry we are discussing is slow to meet change. However that may be, there is one change which at present the whole of the building and construction industry will welcome—a change of Government.
§ 4.0 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Public Building and Works (Mr. Charles Loughlin)
My right hon. Friend and I welcome the opportunity to debate the interests of what is the largest single industry in the country. We deplore the terms of the Motion. It seems that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite have made the obvious mistake in the reference to the industry. I do not quibble about this, but I assume that they mean the building and civil engineering industries.
My task is really to set the scene so that the House may have a reasonable debate. I say a "reasonable debate" because I do not think that it is in the interests of the industries to indulge in the sort of exaggerated language which 45 we have had from the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Chichester-Clark). When my right hon. Friend winds up the debate he will dot the i's and cross the t's.
As the terms of the Motion are so wide, I want to make a survey of the industries as a whole. As I expected, the hon. Gentleman concentrated his fire on the housing aspects of the industry. I accept that housing is an important sector, but it really is only one part of the industry. The hon. Gentleman emphasised the impact of certain aspects of Government policy—money supply, high interest rates, and S.E.T. It is true that these aspects of policy has had an impact on the building industry, and no doubt my right hon. Friend will deal with this later on, but they are not the whole of the Government's policies.
It would, I submit, be very difficult totally to isolate one industry from the effects of any Government's general economic policy, and, in any case, taken as a whole the industry has benefited from the policies which this Government have pursued.
First, let us look at the total picture. The hon. Gentleman made some play with the decline, as he called it, in total output in 1969. Output of all new work in 1969—and here I am using constant —1963—prices as the base—is likely to have been worth £2,780 million, or about £235 million more than the Tory election boom of 1964. The fall from 1968's record level was accounted for by housing which, again at constant prices, was worth £1,060 million in 1969, compared with £1,023 million in the election period of 1964, and other sectors of the industries are performing well, as we shall see.
§ Mr. Chichester-Clark
Will the hon. Gentleman answer this question, "Yes" or "No"? Is it, or is it not, a fact that output fell for the first time since 1951, despite the prediction of the former Minister, now the Patronage Secretary, that it would rise?
§ Mr. Loughlin
I think that I have made clear what the position was. I said that I accepted that there had been a decline from the record level of 1968. I shall rub it in for the hon. Gentleman if he likes.
Even though there was this so-called decline from 1968 to 1969—and the hon. 46 Gentleman quoted a figure of 2 per cent.. although the actual figure is not available—in 1969, housing was worth £1,060 million compared with £1,023 million in 1964. If there was a decline, it was a decline not from what the Tories achieved, but from the record figure achieved as a result of the present Government's policies.
§ Mr. Chichester-Clark rose——
§ Mr Loughlin
No. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will allow me to develop my speech. After all, I intervened only once when he was speaking, and that was to get clarification, although some of his hon. Friends did not realise what the clarification was.
There is such a wide variation in the range of prices that it is essential, when referring to the total cost of S.E.T. in relation to a house, to link it with the price of the house.
I want to consider, first, the public non-housing sector. Here we are dealing with roads, schools, public utilities, and other enterprises which provide the infrastructure and future strength of the economy. Let us look at the road programme to see the effect of the Government's policies on civil engineering. We find that the road construction industry is particularly buoyant. Road spending has doubled since 1964–65. This year, more than £330 million will be spent on new and improved roads in Great Britain. There are at present more than 350 miles of motorway under construction. When hon. Gentlemen opposite talk about what their policies did for this industry, they should remember that the 350 miles of motorway under construction are nearly three times as much as were under construction when they were in power. Urban road construction is running at well over £100 million a year.
If we look at this sector as a whole, judged on figures available for the first nine months of 1969 it has been performing as strongly as in the peak year of 1968, when output was running at 7 per cent. higher than in 1967, which, in turn, was 11 per cent. higher than in 1966. The public corporations have admittedly been running at a lower level of investment than before, but this has been fully offset by buoyancy in education, harbour, and sewerage programmes, together with the exceptional performance on roads.
47 Hon. Members will have seen the recent White Paper on Public Expenditure 1968–69 to 1973–74, and this has already been debated in the House. This, for the first time, provides the construction industry with a reasonably firm basis on which to plan to meet demand in the public non-housing sector. I hope that the industry will study it with care. On the basis of the forecasts which it contains, together with the latest figures available from other sources, we forecast for this sector an appreciable increase in demand this year, followed by a further increase in 1971. I have mentioned some promising programmes already—roads, education, harbours and sewerage—and we are also hopeful of the gas industry, air transport, and Post Office programmes.
I come, now, to the private non-housing sector. In speaking of this sector it is always necessary to stress the importance of confidence, and confidence is exactly what private industry now seems to possess. Output of industrial building has been rising steadily since mid-1968. The figure for the first three-quarters of 1969 was 11 per cent. higher than for the corresponding period of 1968. Orders last year were 10 per cent. higher than in 1968.
We now have the results of the investment intentions inquiry made by the Ministry of Technology at the end of last year. These are always interpreted with caution, but we see no reason to doubt the firmness of plans for some time ahead. We expect a worth-while further increase in demand this year. I suggest that this performance has fully vindicated the Government's policy of sustaining controlled growth in essential programmes in spite of the parallel urgency of correcting the external account.
Private non-industrial building is a sector which I know to have caused the architectural profession in particular some concern. We are talking about shops, garages and offices. I admit at once that these have not had the highest priority in our minds when so much else was to be done, although I recognise the importance of certain projects to policies such as urban renewal and the distribution of industry. Figures of output for three-quarters of 1969, however, suggest that an earlier decline is being arrested. Orders for the whole of that year have 48 risen a full 8 per cent. above 1968. Orders for offices and shops have increased substantially, and we may expect some increase in demand both this year and next. So far there seems little to deplore and much to praise in the effect of the Government's policies on the industry.
I turn now to housing. There is no gainsaying that housing is the sector that is disturbing the output of the industry, though in terms of achievement right hon. and hon. Members opposite should remember that the number of completions last year was still markedly higher than in any year up to 1964.
I do not want to repeat the substance of the case that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing has given in recent debates—I hope that hon. Members will remember that this is not a housing debate; it is a debate on the construction and building and civil engineering industries—but I want to emphasise two important ways in which the prospects for the coming year can be improved. The first is the increase in funds which the Government have made available for local authority mortgages from £55 million to £100 million with effect from 1st April. This would enable the purchase of perhaps 20,000 houses by those who could not otherwise afford to purchase them. The second is the facility, under the 1969 Housing Act, for the improvement of old houses, of which I hope that greatly increased use can be made in the coming year. Generous grants for improvement are also available, and loans can be made to householders who cannot afford the remainder of the outlay.
The social importance of this cannot be over-emphasised, and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing is planning to give greater publicity to this scheme. The hon. Member referred to the difficulties of some of the small people in the industry. This is the kind of work particularly well-suited to the small and medium-sized building firm, which is more likely to have been affected by the economic situation from which we are now emerging.
Before I conclude I want to say something about the value of exports to the construction industry, which, particularly at a time like the present, my Department and I personally are actively encouraging. The larger construction 49 firms are making a most useful contribution to the balance of payments, and as a result of their energetic search for work overseas they have been remarkably successful. Thus, total earning from overseas contracts rose from £11.3 million in 1964 to £30.4 million in 1968.
The export of building materials, components and fixments is also rising fast. In 1965, exports totalled about £119 million, since when they have risen by a total of 42 per cent. Last year, the increase was a record of £30 million, to the encouraging total of £170 million.
§ Mr. Costain
I appreciate what the hon. Member says about the building and civil engineering industries doing so much for export. Can he explain why he should be able to praise them and yet they are not allowed to compete for the Queen's Award?
§ Mr. Loughlin
I do not want to spend a great deal of time on that point, but I think that each aspect of the industry will agree that during the time I have been in the Department I have done everything I can, in concert with them, to help exports.
I was referring to the total of exports of £170 million. This may be small in relation to the industry's total consumption of materials in this country, but it is a useful additional outlet which I know the producers are keen to exploit, and the Government are giving them ready help.
Finally, I turn to the total prospect at home for the coming year. Taking all four sectors—public and private, housing and non-housing—together, we fully expect the total level of output to be maintained this year. I recognise that in an industry with such a favourable record of rising output per head the absence of increasing demand entails some surplus of resources, but I would encourage the industry to take the long view of these problems.
It has the assurance of the Government that there are firm plans for a steady growth of investment in the public sector generally, backed up by a number of successful rolling programmes. These are popular with the industry and we are looking at ways of adding to them. There is also the express intention of private industry to continue and expand its investment, much of which will, in 50 accordance with Government policy, benefit the areas where the construction industry needs it most.
I appreciate that many of my hon. Friends are concerned—and I know that this applies to the hon. Member—about the level of unemployment in the construction industries and the future job opportunities. I know that they will accept that with increased productivity, redeployment in the industry can often be difficult. I can assure them that my right hon. Friend and myself are very conscious of the human problems involved in unemployment. They will probably accept that we are as concerned as anyone else. We certainly wish to see building trade operatives in jobs, and we are not ignoring this very real problem.
The industry will need a highly skilled and compact labour force, well abreast of new techniques and equipped to match the best of world practice. It will need management to match. Some firms, not all of them among the giants of the industry, are getting there already, and the results are showing in their profits.
I end as I began, by saying that the prospects for the industries are by no means as bleak as speeches by the Opposition would suggest. The Opposition are doing the industry a disservice in using the kind of exaggerated language that they constantly use. I know that the industries have the ability to respond quickly to an upturn in the economy.
§ Mr. Lubbock rose——
§ Mr. Loughlin
I am sorry. This is a short debate.
The prosperity of the industry is tied with the solution of Britain's economic problems. Now that the economy is improving, affluence will increase and the industry will benefit accordingly. I ask the House to reject the Motion.
§ 4.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Keith Speed (Meriden)
This debate is almost a facsimile of our debate on the motor industry last week. A great industry, the building and construction industry, is facing a crisis, and we have had a stream of placebos from the Minister, just as last week we had a stream of placebos from the Ministry of Technology.
It is all very well for the Parliamentary Secretary to say that the industry should 51 take a long view. I agree with him if he means that by 6th May, 1971, there will have been a change of Government and we shall all be filled with optimism and confidence. However, many of the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Londonderry (Mr. Chichester-Clark) have come from the industry. The situation in which the building industry finds itself has not been dreamed up by members of the Opposition, or by hon. Members opposite who have great knowledge and experience of it.
After nearly five and a half years of this Government, the building industry, the motor industry, the agricultural industry and the teaching profession are facing crises largely as a result of the Government's measures. When we compare the strong but true statement of the N.F.B.T.E. in its annual report that the building industry is facing a recession as severe as any since the 1930s with the remarks which we have heard today from the Government Front Bench, either the N.F.B.T.E. or the Ministry of Public Building and Works is living in cloud-cuckoo-land. The N.F.B.T.E. has to deal with these problems day by day, and should the Ministry. It is difficult to reconcile the extremely complacent remarks of the Parliamentary Secretary with the deep concern voiced by members of the industry.
From this side of the House and, to be fair, from the benches below the Gangway opposite, time and again the Government have been warned about the crisis which the building industry faces. When Ministers at the Ministry of Public Building and Works have answered Questions at Question Time, we have warned them, as we have warned the Minister of Housing and Local Government, about the situation. There have been deputations to the Minister about the matter. In spite of these warnings, the industry now finds itself in its present critical state.
There have been remarks about the false optimism of the right hon. Gentleman who is now the Patronage Secretary. He made encouraging noises in December, 1968, which I remember very well. But the fact remains—and even today the Parliamentary Secretary refused to confirm it in exact terms—that the output of the construction industry last year, at 52 constant prices, fell for the first time since 1951.
What have the Government done to help the industry? We have had selective employment tax, the Land Commission, devaluation, import deposits, high interest rates and the credit squeeze, and, by way of makeweight, the Government have thrown in British Standard Time. This is a fantastic shopping list of things which are supposed to help one of our great industries.
I should like to deal briefly with the bricks situation, because it is essential to the building and construction industry. There are brickworks in my constituency, as there are in many others. The brick situation is extremely interesting. In recent weeks, two large brick companies have closed down—the Marston Valley brickworks and the National Coal Board brickworks at Desford. Elsewhere, production has been dramatically cut back.
It is interesting to note that 1969 was the first time in 10 years that the production of bricks was below 7,000 million. It was the first time for 11 years that deliveries of bricks were below 6,500 million. At the end of 1969, stocks of bricks stood at 871 million, the highest figure for decades with the sole exception of 1966 which, I appreciate, was before the term of office of the Minister but during the period of office of the Government.
With the cut-back in production and the closure of plants, it is interesting to look, perhaps in some detail, at what the Prime Minister said in his famous broadcast on B.B.C. television on 23rd September, 1964. Perhaps it is not appreciated that in the previous Labour Government, between 1945 and 1951, the Prime Minister was concerned with the Ministry of Works. He was one of the predecessors of the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary. He said:Two years ago the brick manufacturers couldn't sell their bricks. This is why we insist on the need for planning, why we insist on the need for steady expansion, so that the industries concerned, the bottleneck industries if you like, can make plans with out help, with our encouragement. to see that they are producing all that's needed, whether for the housing programme, exports, or anything else.The right hon. Gentleman claimed that the Conservative Government had not planned brick production. I outlined 53 earlier the record over the last 10 years on brick production and sales.
The Prime Minister went on to say:But may I say that in 1945, when I was in the Ministry of Works, we had exactly the same problem. We had a housing programme. We had no bricks.Now we have plenty of bricks, but no housing programme. The right hon. Gentleman continued:I had to spend months going round the brick works, going up to the Fletton country to give them the confidence to increase the number of kilns. We shall have to do it again".Would the right hon. Gentleman be prepared to go to the Marston Valley works, to the N.C.B. works, to the Fletton works in the Peterborough and Bedfordshire areas, or to brickworks in my constituency and make the same speech now?
What did the National Plan have to say about the brick problem? In 1965, it forecast that the demand for bricks by this year, 1970, would be 9,400 million. That is 50 per cent. out on the 1969 figure and 50 per cent. out on the figure we are likely to reach this year. A 50 per cent. error of this magnitude—optimism to the extent of 50 per cent.—is disgraceful. We know that the National Plan was dead long ago, together with the Prime Minister's pledge of 500,000 houses.
Brickworks cannot be built overnight. By definition, they have to be built in or near the clay field areas. They take time to build. I used to live near a number of brickworks. To add a personal note, for a time my wife worked with the London Brick Co. My sister-in-law worked with the Marston Valley Brick Co. Fortunately, she is not working with it now because she is raising a family, otherwise she would be out of a job since the works is closing down as a result of the Government's policy.
As in so many other fields, the Government's promises to the electorate and to the industry—many people in the industry believed them in 1964 and even in 1966—have been sadly let down by their dismal performance. This has led to the fact that in 1969 an average of 10.2 per cent. of the men in the industry were unemployed. I suspect that as of this moment—and the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) may have the figures—the situation is even worse. 54 This is human misery for those engaged in the industry and those who had the expectation of getting houses which have not been built. There is frustration for the brickmakers, builders and others looking ahead and hoping that their investment plans will be realised. The industry has been hit very hard indeed largely as a result of the Government's actions and policies.
I agree with the Parliamentary Secretary on one point. I hope that the industry will take a long view, because it is a great and important industry which will be essential in building and rebuilding our towns and cities, motorways, hospitals and schools. But unless there is much more action from the Government, and unless the industry receives promises of action from the Ministry which it has not had today, it will have to wait not more than 14 months, I hope, for the return of a Conservative Government, when it can resume the progress which it was making up to 1964.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Dr. M. S. Miller (Glasgow, Kelvingrove)
It ill behoves hon. Members opposite to put forward Motions criticising the Government for their housing and construction industry progress.
I want to deal mainly with housing, and particularly with housing in Scotland, where, during the five years from October, 1964 to the end of September, 1969, more houses were built than during previous five years. A total of 195,000 were built during that period compared with 142,000 in the previous five years, an increase of 37 per cent.
In each of the past three years a new record for house building has been set up in Scotland. Therefore, contrary to the position in England and Wales, Scotland built more houses last year than in the year before. In 1968, 41,988 were built in Scotland, 33,269 in the public sector and 8,719 in the private sector—and that was a record in itself. But in 1969 this was increased to 42,629–34,302 in the public sector and 8,327 in the private sector.
I am not satisfied even with the pro-press which has been made in housing in Scotland. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] It is all very well for hon. Members opposite to say "Hear, hear", but they reached nothing like the figures 55 which have been reached in the past few years.
I believe that something is wrong with our priorities when one of the richest democratic countries in the world has a housing problem of our magnitude. In Scotland, 250,000 dwellings are more than 85 years old, representing 15 per cent. of the total. Thirteen per cent. of our dwellings have no inside W.C., and in Glasgow the figure is 22 per cent. In Scotland, 21 per cent. of our houses have no fixed bath or shower, while in Glasgow the proportion is 30 per cent.
When we come to overcrowding, we find that almost 10 per cent. of the people of Scotland live at densities of more than 1½ persons per room. The figures for some of the higher densities in England are: Tyneside, 4.3 per cent.; West Yorkshire, 3 per cent.; Merseyside, 4.2 per cent.; and Greater London, 4 per cent. In England and Wales as a whole the figure is 2.5 per cent. In the United Kingdom it is 3.2 per cent., and in Central Clydeside it is almost 15 per cent.
One-third of the houses in the City of Glasgow are sub-standard, and it is a deplorable fact that house-building in Glasgow at this crucial time is actually dropping in numbers. For example, in 1954, 6,700 houses were built in the city, but last year the figure had dropped to 4,780, for the public and private sectors combined. In the private sector in the past four years, an average of only 107 houses per year were built—and this for a city of 1 million people.
What has to be done to try to bring about the adequate and proper rehousing of our people? A priority should be made of modern housing of a high standard. There are three ways in which this problem should be tackled vigorously. First, there is the promotion of new building in the public sector. I suggest that Scotland be divided into regions, each building about 2,000 houses per year. This suggestion could also be applied to areas of England. The administration of public sector houses should be decentralised. Glasgow, for example, has to administer 150,000 municipal houses, which is too big a task for a single local authority to tackle in a centralised way.
Local authorities should receive more than mere encouragement to build houses. 56 There are all kinds of arguments about finance, but they are a little unconvincing. I know that it is a platitude, but we cannot afford not to build houses. It is essential to house the people of our country adequately. I am not all that much concerned about how the finance is secured; the houses must be built, and money should not be a barrier to their adequate provision.
Turning to the private sector, I must declare an interest, because I am an adviser to a construction firm. It is very disappointing that of the expected 12,000 to 13,000 houses per year from the private sector in Scotland we are getting only about 8,000. This perhaps results from the idea long held that Scottish people were not interested in owner-occupation. An Opinion Research Centre poll taken in late 1965 found that in answer to the question, "What type of accommodation would you prefer if you moved from your present house, if you could get it?", 75 per cent. of people in England opted for house ownership while in Scotland the percentage was only 54 per cent. But even that is a much greater proportion than one would have thought.
Encouragement should be given to people to own their own homes, perhaps by some kind of direct subsidy. In Ireland, for example, the Government there provide grants of £275 to purchasers of new houses in some areas—50 per cent. at roof stage and the remainder on completion. There is also a supplementary grant of £206 for low wage earners. When I received these figures about three or four months ago, low wage earners were considered to be people earning under £20 a week.
Between 1919 and 1939, from the end of the First World War to the outbreak of the Second World War, 72 per cent. of the houses built in England and Wales were built in the private sector, while in Scotland the figure was 31 per cent. In the post-war period between 1945 and 1967, in England and Wales, 45 per cent. of houses built were in the private sector and in Scotland only 14 per cent. Scotland has perhaps the dubious distinction of having a lower proportion of owner-occupied houses than any European country west of Russia for which statistics are available, according to Professor J. B. Cullingworth.
I will not bother the House now with the figures of owner-occupation, but they 57 vary from 62 per cent. of the population in the United States to 25 per cent. in Scotland and 44 per cent. in the United Kingdom. There is no good reason for such a significant difference between the number of potential home owners in Scotland compared with those in England and Wales. There should be little difference in the pattern.
A third means of providing adequate housing accommodation is rehabilitation of some of the older houses. Scotland has a very large stock of such dwellings, which are structurally sound but which require to be brought up to modern standards. I am not convinced by the arguments of those who advise that the quickest way of providing houses is to demolish and rebuild. In my experience that method is neither cheaper nor quicker. In the older houses the fabric, the services and the roads are there, which all saves money.
But more important is the fact that at least five years elapse from the time the decision is taken to demolish and rebuild to the first brick being laid. That period can be reduced to half or even less by rehabilitation of properties of various descriptions.
We should be bold and imaginative in this kind of reconstruction. Many hon. and right hon. Members know that in Glasgow and many other parts of Scotland we depend to a large extent on tenement buildings. These buildings present a very dreary and sombre appearance and are very often dilapidated, but the fabric of many of them is sound. Much can be done by bold and imaginative frontage treatment. Paint can be used. A building can be cleaned. One close may be made where formerly there were three. The tenement building can be joined up inside, providing modern facilities within the block. One increases the size of the houses. Obviously, houses are lost in the process, but this method would solve to a very great extent one of our biggest problems.
A fact that my right hon. Friend might like to convey to our right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland is that, particularly in the bigger cities of Scotland, we face a tremendous shortage of temporary accommodation. Key workers, skilled workers, executives, find it almost impossible to obtain accommodation for the two, three, four or five 58 years for which they will require it. The period is too short to justify them buying a house, and it is impossible for them to rent a house from the municipal authorities. Houses should be provided for people coming to Scottish cities. We need people to come to them, we need the flexibility of people moving from city to city, and this cannot be done under the present set-up.
§ Sir Douglas Glover (Ormskirk)
As the hon. Member perhaps knows, I am very interested in building houses exactly on that basis, but does he realise that under the present Government one cannot get any finance to build them?
§ Dr. Miller
I appreciate what the hon. Gentleman says, but I know that there are schemes available in Scotland which local authorities ought to be encouraged to use. The schemes are there. In recent correspondence, my local authority has agreed that there are possibilities present for the rehabilitation of older houses, but the action so far taken has been minimal. Nevertheless, some action is being taken, and I want my right hon. Friend to try to push this kind of solution with the Secretary of State for Scotland.
I was very pleased when figures were given last year showing that for the first time in our history we were spending a higher proportion of the national income on education than on defence. I suggest that we must look at the provision of houses for our people in Scotland in exactly the same light as we look at the provision of education and health facilities. We must avoid too great an obsession with some of our other commitments. Perhaps I tread on difficult ground when I talk of the balance of payments problem, but we must not allow it to become an obsession. If we build up a vast surplus in our overseas trading, it will do us no good if we must have it behind the doors of slums.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Christopher Ward (Swindon)
The Parliamentary Secrtary reminded us that this is not a housing debate. I suppose that he hoped that we would not talk about housing, and I am not at all surprised at his hopes. I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman is no longer in his place, and that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and 59 Local Government has also had to leave us, because he is interested in this question.
The hon. Member for Glasgow, Kelvingrove (Dr. Miller) expressed disquiet about the length of time it takes to build a house. It takes a year or even two years to build a house—it may take a similar period to plan it—so that at no time is the level of completions in the housing market an indication of the state of the building industry. One has to go back to the time when the house was started, or even before.
That means that a high level of completions in 1965 or 1966 would reflect and did reflect, the very high state of confidence prevailing in the building industry in 1963 and 1964. The high figure of housing completions of which hon. and right hon. Members opposite boast about in our housing debates, and have again boasted about today, are the result of the building industry's confidence under a Conservative Government.
Because we are interested in the state of the building industry, I shall not now refer in detail to housing completions, which are very relevant to a housing debate. But let us look at housing starts. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will say whether I am right in saying that the number of houses started in Great Britain rose every year between 1960 and 1964—beginning with 309,000 and finishing with 426,000. Those figures show a remarkable degree of soundly based expansion in the building industry.
It was the momentum that we imparted to the industry during those years which helped to sustain the high level of completions for a few years after that, and which gives the lie to the statement so often made by the party opposite that the high level of completions in 1964 was an election boom. It was not an election boom at all, but a sustained boom which had lasted from 1960. It was a planned increase in housing which could have reached z million by 1970 if hon. and right hon. Members opposite had not come along to spoil things.
I shall not annoy hon. Members opposite by repeating the Prime Minister's pledge to increase the number of houses to ½ million a year, because I know that 60 hon. Members opposite think it funny. It was not thought funny at that time. People believed it, and many voted for the party opposite as a result. Only in retrospect does it seem funny that anyone should have promised anything like that at all. Instead, I want to quote what the Prime Minister said immediately before he gave that pledge—and perhaps the hon. Gentleman does not have this statement burnt on his memory in the same way.
The hon. Gentleman then said:We have embarked therefore on a massive expansion of the housing programme.When the Prime Minister said that he should have known that the housing programme was not expanding at all, because the number of houses started had fallen in every year from 1964 right to the time when he made that statement. The figure in 1964 was 426,000. In 1965, it was 392,000. In 1966, it was 379,000.
The rot set in straight away when right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite came to office and continued when the Prime Minister made that statement. That had been established by the pattern of the Government's policy for the industry.
§ Mr. Ward
I shall come to that very shortly, because one of the Government's policies for the industry was the betterment levy. Hon. Gentlemen opposite will themselves remember that that was intended to reduce the price of land and make it easier for all of us. In fact, it pushed the price up by about £900 a house. It came into force in 1967 and the Government, who had seen these falling housing starts and who were no doubt alarmed by them, told the building industry that it could evade a certain amount of levy by starting houses before a certain date in 1967.
That had the effect of pushing up the number of houses started in 1967 to a very high figure purely because the builders rushed around the country going to every site that they could to dig trenches in order to begin houses. Hon. Gentlemen made statements about it. That is the answer to the question about the 1967 figure. What the Parliamentary Secretary will realise—because he is looking over his right hon. Friend's shoulder at the list 61 —is that the year after 1967, starts dropped again by over 50,000. That shows what a freak year 1967 was.
The betterment levy was not the only thing that the Government produced allegedly to help the building industry. The other thing they produced was selective employment tax. I do not think that they ever said that that would bring down the cost of houses and I do not think that they could have. It put the cost up by about £125 a house. It produced a vast increase in the practice of labour-only subcontracting. It redeployed men, and I was interested to hear the Parliamentary Secretary say that he recognised that the redeployment of labour in the building industry was difficult. I hope that in replying, the Minister will meet the point that selective employment tax was not only intended to redeploy men within an industry, but to redeploy labour between the so-called service industries and the so-called manufacturing industries.
In leaving building out of the favoured industry areas, surely the policy must have been to redeploy men out of the building industry and into what the Government regard as production. Why should this distinction remain because this redeployment out of building, which we have seen, has resulted in about 115,000 building operatives being out of work at the moment? Presumably they have been redeployed out of building, but have not yet been redeployed into anything else.
The Government's next policy for the building industry was the credit sqeeze. The right hon. Gentleman knows that builders have to borrow money to build houses. Builders do not have vast sums of capital lying around and so, if they have to pay 15 per cent.or 16 per cent. interest on some of the capital they borrow, as they do, that puts up the cost of houses. If they cannot borrow at all then they have to build fewer houses, so the effect of the credit squeeze was once again to strike at the building industry and particularly the house building industry. [interruption.] What wants changing is the Government. There would be a quicker result from that than from anything else.
Lending money, from the bankers' point of view, is a question of priorities, because the Government have told them that some people are to have higher 62 priorities than others. Here again, this is a matter of deliberate Government policy—that house building should have a lower priority than other sectors which are favoured.
The next factor in Government policy was devaluation. Here again, I am not suggesting that this was planned deliberately against the building industry, but it had the effect of putting up the price of a lot of building raw material and the import deposit scheme produced other difficulties for the industry.
Let us return to the housing starts position, because the combined impact of all these Government policies on housing starts was striking. We had reached the 1967 figure which the Parliamentary Secretary was kind enough to ask about and that was 447,000. The following year the figure was 394,000 and last year it was 344,000. The combining by the Government of all their efforts produced a drop of 50.000 starts each year. What will the position be next year? Will the right hon. Gentleman when he replies give his prediction for the number of housing starts next year and say how the Government's policies will affect these?
In the immediate future the prospect for house-builders is bleak because the number of starts made last year reflects the number of houses which can be completed in the near future to help overcome the housing difficulties. With the figures as low as these the prospect is gloomy.
We can go into the medium term from the short term, because the N.F.B.T.E., which makes quarterly surveys of the industry, says this about its January survey:Compared with August/September when the position was already very serious the majority of firms report even fewer enquiries, fewer houses sold and fewer houses under construction. The high number of purchase cancellations also continuesSo next year's starts are likely to be even lower. If we prefer we can take the Parliamentary Secretary's long view of the problem which he wants builders to take. Is there more satisfaction for them from it? Even farther back in the pipeline one can go to the architect whose work reflects the level of activity there will be for 18 months or two years time. Their workload dropped last quarter by more than in any quarter since records started back in 1964. There is a danger, which 63 hon. Gentlemen opposite should recognise, and that is that the decline in the building industry has gone too far for there to be a rapid resumption of work when policies change.
The President of the Royal Institute of British Architects said:Practices cannot react swiftly to economic pressures without endangering their future capability.Only the very largest firm can cut back on staff without breaking up established design teams and once these are disrupted they cannot be quickly built up again.This makes it difficult for the profession to respond effectively to an expanding workload.It is no good the Minister calling meetings of builders to tell them of the position for the "umpteenth" time in a few months. Action is necessary. As an emergency measure, the Government should abolish selective employment tax on the building industry and give them priority for credit so that it can borrow the money it desperately needs to buy the materials to build houses. It may already be too late. It takes two or three years for the industry to pick up momentum again and for completions to start coming off the pipeline.
The Government must not say that they have fallen short only of their own high standards. That was the excuse put forward in the housing debate a short while ago. The Government said that the only thing which they had fallen short of was their own high standards. But the word "standards" must not be used in this context. The Government never achieved any. What the Government fell short of was their promises which were based upon a healthy house building industry when they took office. What they failed to do was to predict accurately the disastrous effect of their policies on the building industry once those policies began to take effect.
It is no good the Government talking about an increased level of activity when all that is happening is that the level of activity is dying down as the momentum of Conservative policies slowly dissipates. Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite should realise that the decline in the building industry has been planned. It has been planned because it results directly from Government policies which 64 have operated and have always been intended to operate on the building industry.
The planned extra cost to the industry of the selective employment tax; the planned shortage of money for the builders in the credit squeeze; the planned unemployment in the industry arising from the selective employment tax, which was always intended to ensure that people would be put out of work in industries it operated on so that they could go to jobs in industries on which it did not operate—because of all these planned policies affecting the industry, there has predictably been a decline.
The conclusion we are forced to is that the Government also planned, or at least were prepared to tolerate, the additional measure of misery among those who are homeless or who are living in sub-standard accommodation and whose plight has not been eased by these policies. This is why we are censuring the Government.
§ Mr. Cyril Bence (Dunbartonshire, East)
It seems from what the hon. Gentleman is saying that for 13 years someone was planning to leave the housing situation in the state in which it was in 1964.
§ Mr. Ward
The number of starts, which was a record, had gone up each year for five consecutive years. Under the hon. Gentleman's Government the number of houses started has gone down every year, except in the betterment levy freak year. The hon. Gentleman was perfectly correct in his intervention. I wish he would make the same remark when the Minister is speaking.
The best hope we can offer to the homeless is that within a few months the policies will be changed—not by right hon. and hon. Members opposite, but by my right hon. Friends and hon. Friends coming to power.
§ 5.2 p.m.
§ Mr. James Boyden (Bishop Auckland)
Obviously hon. Members opposite have not read the warning in today's Daily Telegraph to the right hon. Member for Bexley (Mr. Heath). The Daily Telegraph says that the right hon. Gentlemanmay be right in his determination to keep the initiative but he must ponder the dangers of over-stating any case, however strongToday the case that right hon. and hon. Members opposite are putting forward is not at all strong. The hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Chichester-Clark) was flushed with "phoney" records which I at first thought might have come from the Tory Central Office; but I decided after a little while that they must have come from Alice in Wonderland. I propose to give the House the actual figures.
In 1961 the output of new works was £2,002 million. In 1962 it was £2,034 million. In 1963, which was a bad year, it was £2,008 million. Adding the output for repairs and maintenance, which in those three years was running at over £800 million, the total figures are—£2,845 million for 1961, £2,855 million for 1962, and £2,835 million for 1963.
§ Mr. Chichester-Clark
We concede that the industry is in a much worse state now than it was before the hon. Gentleman left office. On what basis are these figures?
§ Mr. Boyden
These are M.P.B.W. figures. If the hon. Gentleman does not like M.P.B.W. figures, he can have N.E.D.C. figures. The N.E.D.C.says:Changes in output and manpower for 1961–63 were negligible and productivity was constantIf the hon. Gentleman does not believe N.E.D.C., let him believe the builders. I quote two sentences from the annual report of the N.F.B.T.E.:The record in 1963. From the point of view of construction output 1963 can be regarded as a somewhat disappointing year, in that the industry has not been able to achieve the rate of growth adumbrated by N.E.D.C. Indeed, total output for the year may in fact prove to have been marginally lower than in 1962So N.E.D.C., N.F.B.T.E. and M.P.B.W. figures prove that the hon. Gentleman is certainly guilty of inaccuracy.
§ Mr. Costain rose——66
§ Mr. Chichester-Clark rose——
§ Mr. Boyden
I will not give way. I am giving figures now. The figures for the present Government, at 1963 prices, are these. I am giving the whole totals for these years, and I propose to give the totals for the building and construction industry for a solid period so that at least the size of it can be seen.
In 1967 the total output—new work and repairs and maintenance—of the building industry was £3,706 million. In 1968 it was £3,786 million. I have not had access to the very latest figures that the Parliamentary Secretary had, but I have the figures for the first nine months of 1969. I find that my own calculation corresponds very closely to the up-to-date figures. In other words, the provisional figure for 1969 is £3,500 million.
What the Tory Party is arguing about today is a 7 per cent. drop on a 33⅓ per cent. rise. I did it myself on education when Lord Eccles was Minister of Education. The Opposition say that a retardation on the rate of rise is a decline. The fact is that comparing 1961, 1962 and 1963 with the last three years of the Labour Government, there has been a substantial increase under Labour in the total amount of building and construction.
§ Captain Walter Elliot (Carshalton)
Does the hon. Gentleman consider that the figure of 125,000 unemployed in the building industry is a decline or a rise?
§ Mr. Boyden
The hon. and gallant Gentleman is exaggerating. Anyway, the figure for 1963 was ¼million.
§ Mr. Chichester-Clark rose——
§ Mr. Boyden
I will not give way. If the Tory Party want some more figures, I will give indices of production with 1963 as 100. In 1966 on new work it was 121. In 1967 it was 127. In 1968 it was 132. My estimate is that for the current year it is 130.
I want to address some of my remarks to the fact that there has been a slight decline, because I am worried about part of the decline. I want to put the shortfall in its proper perspective. The hon. Gentleman completely distorted the figure, for purely party reasons.
I turn for illustrative purposes to my own Northern Region, where I have been 67 doing a study, assisted by my right hon. Friend the Minister. This shows that the level of activity for the Northern Region for building and construction is very high indeed. The weakness in the activity is in housing. In 1965 and 1966 the total building contracts placed in the first nine months of each year were £132 million, or 6 per cent. of the national cake. During the first nine months of 1967 the total was £172 million. During the first nine months of 1968 it was £166 million. In the first nine months of 1969 it was £153 million, or 6.4 per cent. of the national cake. In other words, the North was getting rather more than it had in 1965 and 1966. The figures I have given are for the first nine months of the year, so that, although they are not annual totals, they are strictly comparable.
The reason for the difference between £153 million in 1969 and £166 million in 1968 is largely the fall in council house building. The figure in the first nine months of 1969 for the placing of contracts has fallen by £15½ million compared with 1968—the first nine months. For the first nine months of 1968.the value of contracts placed was £29 million. The present placings are only £14½ million. One of the reasons, undoubtedly, is that Tory-controlled authorities such as Darlington and Sunderland are cutting back in the placing of contracts.
In fact, as is well known, the number of council houses completed under the Labour Government is infinitely superior to that under the Tory Government. In 1961, there were 112,000 houses completed in Great Britain by local authorities. In 1962, 124,000. In 1963, 118,000. In 1966, there were 170.000 completed. In 1967, 192.000. In 1968, 180,000. In the year which I have been criticising, that is, 1969, there were 124,000 completed in the first nine months, which is not good enough, but it is a great deal better than the Tory output of council houses in 1961, 1962 and 1963.
I give hon. Members opposite a nice easy figure for them to remember. Their deficit on the balance of trade of £800 million is about the same as the extra amount of building activity year by year in this country since there has been a Labour Government. Hon. Members opposite ignore the balance of payments, 68 and they make no comment on the contribution from the building industry. I was pleased that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary referred to it. Here again, the Labour Government's record in the exporting of building materials and fitments is far superior to that of the Conservatives. From 1958 to 1962, the average annual export of building materials was about £60 million. In the first nine months of 1969, it was £120 million. The export of building fitments and components from 1958 to 1962 was about £40 million a year, and in the first nine months of 1969 it was £52 million. In other words, as my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary said, there has been a big leap forward in the export of building materials and building fitments, as well as in the winning of building contracts overseas.
However, I make a plea that my right hon. Friend should make representations to the Chancellor about the credit squeeze. It is not usually realised, I think, that the builders are bankers to the rest of the community to the tune of about £500 million a year. I think that the hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Costain) may bear me out in that. One of the anomalies which needs putting straight is that the builder has to wait for his full amount of money, and the client retains something against faults. Equally, a number of public authorities and private clients do not pay fast enough. There is, therefore, need for a considerable change in the method of paying building bills, and a need for public authorities to pay quickly.
I am glad that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Public Building and Works has insisted that his Department shall pay promptly, and, generally speaking, I hear nothing but praise for the promptness with which the M.B.P.W. pays its bills. But more should be done. I had a letter from my hon. Friend the Minister of State who deals with regional development in which he answered a point I had made in a previous debate about regional credit. He tells me that the banks have instructions to take notice of Government regional policy. I wish that it were spelled out to the banks that builders, and particularly small builders, who are in much more serious difficulty than the big firms, should have much readier access to bank credit.
69 I make the further plea that my right hon. Friend should do more administratively for the small firm. In the days when I was at the Ministry of Public Building and Works, small builders usually had only one successful contract out of seven tenders, but where efficient small builders got together and maintained a central tendering force, with several firms combining together, they managed to bring the ratio down to one in three. I should like my right hon. Friend to look again at this problem to see whether he can do more to improve the efficiency of small-firm tendering. True, there has been a big development in the move over to selective tendering, negotiated tenders, running tenders—call them what one will—so that the amount of wasted tendering is now less than it was, but it is still too high. I should like my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government to make a real drive through the local authorities to cut out much of the open competitive tendering which is a waste to everyone.
Now, another thought which I hope my right hon. Friend will find constructive. I have put down Questions and made a speech about the need for a national building plan so that builders may know where they are. My right hon. Friend has knocked the idea down somewhat, and he says that his Ministry has a plan. Perhaps I have not made myself clear. What is needed is to bring down the national look-forward of the building industry to terms of contracts, identifiable projects. My right hon. Friend tells me that his staff can do that quite easily. The important need is for this then to be turned into a regional plan which fits into the regional activities of the builders.
The areas of M.P.B.W. administration are not suitable for the breaking down of the plan in such a way that local builders can take advantage of it, for the simple reason that the average local builder operates on about a 25-mile radius, and the regional areas and administrative areas are too big. Therefore, I repeat my plea—I hope that my right hon. Friend will take some notice of it—that the Department should draw up a detailed national strategy in the way I suggest, almost firm for two years and fairly firm for the third year, and that this should be broken down to identifiable projects so that builders may plan their work 70 accordingly. He has implied that this is already done, but I can tell him of three sections in which it is not working. There is no plan for water; there is no plan for sewerage construction—the building projects here come forward in quite a chaotic manner, and the look-forward in council housing is equally unsatisfactory.
1 know that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government has been touring the country to try to persuade reluctant authorities to go forward with their housing plans, and I hope that he now has in his office some useful information about that. However, the contribution which I have suggested would add stability to the building industry, stability which it very much needs. I agree with the hon. Gentleman the Member for Londonderry when he points out that building particularly is affected by fluctuations. Anything that can be done to give stability is more important in the building industry than in any other, for the reasons which have been advanced. Planning is a long process. If variations are made in a contract, the consequences can be almost disastrous for builder and client, and very expensive.
While entirely repudiating the bogus figures thrown at us by the Opposition, I make those constructive suggestions for action by my right hon. Friend. Over the years, the Tories have had a bad record in building. Today, they have put a grossly exaggerated case. If this is a foretaste of their pre-election antics, they should sack their architects.
§ 5.19 p.m.
§ Mr. A. P. Costain (Folkestone and Hythe)
The hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Boyden) put across the most remarkable set of figures to which I have ever listened. My hon. Friend the Member for Londonderry (Mr. Chichester-Clark) tried to interrupt him, but he would not be interrupted because his mind was made up and he did not want to be confused with the facts. He even introduced that hairy old horse, the £800 million deficit, which the Prime Minister knows is "phoney" but has repeated it so often that he has even "kidded" hon. Members opposite that there is some truth in it. Then the hon. Gentleman left his Transport House brief and the extraordinary figures, which 71 I cannot reconcile with any figures which I have seen, and came to the facts about the building industry, and we realised that he had had a very creditable career at the Ministry of Public Building and Works.
On 3rd November, 1964, I was fortunate in catching Mr. Speaker's eye in the first debate, which was on the Gracious Speech, which we had under the Socialist Government in the last Parliament. We were promised, in that wonderful twilight period between the two elections, 400,000 houses.I said:I rose to speak for a few moments about a subject on which I can claim some specialist knowledge. I need hardly declare my interest, because everyone knows it … I congratulate the new Minister of Public Building and Works on the magnificent organisation which he is taking over"—and then the Minister laughed, because I went on to say:The Government laugh about this … I can tell the House quite genuinely that the progress of the Ministry under Geoffrey Rippon was outstanding … If anyone has any doubts about that, he should read the technical Press—the Architects' Journal, the Builders' Journal, and so on—when he will find tremendous praise for his work."— [0mciAL REPORT, 3rd November, 1964; Vol. 701, c. 149.]From that day to this, the Parliamentary Secretary and his predecessors have been accusing my hon. Friends and I of exaggerating the situation. Is it not right that, having referred in 1964 to the congratulatory articles in the Press about the work of the former Minister of Public Parliamentary Private Secretary who sits Building and Works—[Laughter.] The in the place which I occupied in those days laughs. Let me take the smile off his face by referring to those journals and to what they said about the building industry. The Financial Times referred to "Builders' plight for Silkin on Thursday "The Guardian said Building aid could shake foundations". It will shake the foundations of this Government if they do not do something about it. The Financial Times also referred to "A bad year for builders". Another article said,How I could knock £700 off a £6,000 HouseThe Guardian said, "Builders plead hardship" The Times said,Architects tell Government of crisis fears.72 Of all the statistics which have been presented, it is the figure of architects' forward work which worries me most.
The Parliamentary Secretary and the previous Parliamentary Secretary have carefully and conveniently forgotten a Measure which came before the House twice, the Building Control Bill. Do hon. Members opposite forget it because their memories are short, or are they ashamed of it, as they should be? It came up during the 1964 Parliament and again during the 1966 Parliament. My hon. Friends and I fought it and pointed out that it would stop the building industry preparing plans for the future. Now we are reaping the harvest. This is one of the reasons why we cannot rapidly turn on the tap in the building industry and reduce the fantastic unemployment figure. I know that the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) shares my concern. Unemployment in the building industry is twice what it was. Over 10 per cent. of the people in the industry are unemployed due to the Government's policy. Even at this late hour, the Government should do something about it.
I spent 40 years in the building industry. I have spent 10 years as a Member of the House. I had five years in government and five years in opposition. For two years I was Parliamentary Private Secretary at the Ministry of Public Building and Works. During that time I saw the industry through somebody else's eyes. I spent half my time explaining the Minister to the industry and the other half explaining the industry to the Minister. I would not attempt to explain the present Minister to the industry.
What is clear from my 40 years' experience of the building industry is that it is the worst possible industry to be a regulator, yet it is the simplest and easiest industry for any Government Department to make a regulator. The tap can be turned off, but the pipe takes a long time to empty and a long time to fill. That is the problem. That the Government wanted to penalise the building industry is illustrated by their refusal to exclude it from selective employment tax. What possible excuse can there be for making slum clearance suffer as a result of the payment of selective employment tax which local authorities and county councils must pay off over 73 60 years while the income from it is squandered by that mob on the benches opposite? It is just bad finance. What possible excuse is there for adding at least £125 to the cost of a house for which a young married couple have saved up and for which they have probably put off their marriage—although they do not do much of that these days?
The figure of £125 in respect of selective employment tax being added to the cost of a house is bandied about. But that is the cost of the tax to the builder. It does not include the cost to industries which supply the builder. It does not include the ls. 9d. extra tax element on the price of petrol. How many people realise that the weight of material which has to be carted for building a house is about six tons? When the extra cost of petrol and taxation for lorries and the import duty on material such as copper, lead and timber which we cannot produce in this country is taken into account, about £250 is added to to the cost of a house. To that sum can be added the interest charges over the period, giving a total of an extra £500 in the cost of a house for a young married couple due to deliberate taxation by the Government. [Interruption.]
I will give way to any hon. Member who cares to rise. When S.E.T. was introduced I asked why I must pay the tax when I build a house to replace property destroyed in slum clearance but do not have to pay if I build myself a yacht. Would any hon. Gentleman tell me whether that is Socialist policy? Perhaps the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton) may know more about this.
§ Mr. Joseph Ashton (Bassetlaw)
Some of us are trying to get into the debate to make a bigger contribution than merely on the question of S.E.T. In goading hon. Members to intervene the hon. Gentleman is merely prolonging the discussion. We would like to speak on building in general.
§ Mr. Costain
I can well understand why hon. Members opposite will not rise to make my point, though they interrupt to try to stop me making it. I am too old a hog for that.
If the Government genuinely feel a need to increase housing and to keep the architects' teams together, if they feel that the building industry must be kept together 74 in such a form that it can help exports, they can make a real contribution with a stroke of the pen before the debate is over. I am sure that the Minister is saving up to the end an announcement that he has persuaded the Chancellor to abolish selective employment tax. If he has not, any words from the Government are but "phoney".
§ 5.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)
In debates like today's I always find rather difficult to follow some hon. Members opposite, because their sudden championship of the building workers and operatives I find a little nauseating. I have worked for 32 years in the industry, unlike the hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Costain), who has been an employer in it. I have never yet met an employer in the industry who has rushed forward to give my people better conditions and terms of employment without our having had to fight and work for them.
The truth is that the building industry has always been in an utterly chaotic condition. Unfortunately, it is still in a chaotic condition. When we talk about the building industry, we are talking about a number of very big employers, a mass of middle-range employers and a further mass of small employers, some having only a ladder and a barrow but calling themselves builders. This chaotic situation has existed for far too long. We must get this into perspective when we talk about the condition and position of the industry. It is no more in a crisis now in that sense than it ever was, though it is in a crisis in another sense which I shall explain in a few moments.
There is far too much even today of the old concept of the ragged-trousered philanthropists. I am sure that the hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe will know what I mean even if no one else does, because he has been one of the employers that has undoubtedly had some sympathy with the employees——
§ Mr. Oscar Murton (Poole) rose——
§ Mr. Heffer
I want to make it clear now that I shall not give way at all. Giving way wastes time. Other hon. Members wish to speak, and if everyone makes a fairly short contribution without giving way more people will be able to take part in the debate. I hope that the 75 hon. Gentleman will get his opportunity to speak.
I want to get down to what I think is the real situation. We have about 115,000 wholly unemployed building operatives.
§ Mr. Heffer
It may well have gone up. The last figure I had was 115,000 wholly unemployed. Including the temporarily stopped, the figure is higher.
§ Mr. Heffer
That is right. I am not defending the figure of unemployment. I have attacked it consistenly in the House, though perhaps hon. Gentlemen opposite have not been here to hear me do so. I have opposed the unemployment in the building and other industries from the first day I entered the House. I make no apologies for this, because to me unemployment is a crime and always has been. It is a crime under a Conservative Government, Labour Government or any other Government. It is wrong that any of our people should be unemployed now, particularly the skilled workers who are not being used and should be used to build the houses, hospitals, schools, roads and so on that we require.
Hon. Members must not be too enthusiastic about the question of unemployment. In 1959 I wrote a pamphlet for the Liverpool Trades Council and Labour Party on the problem of unemployment in the Liverpool area. Under a Conservative Government then the number of unemployed building operatives in the development area was about 4,500. Unfortunately, today it is around 5,500, but in 1959 there was no S.E.T. and not all the terrible burdens that are now apparently on the industry, and which I think should not be on it.
But I want us to get the matter into perspective. Unemployment in the building industry is not a new phenomenon. It has always been the barometer of the country's economic condition. I know from practical experience that when the country has been booming and the economy has been doing well, I and my fellow building operatives were work- 76 ing. When there was a down-turn, when there was a recession in the economy as a whole, some of us have been unemployed, walking the streets looking for employment. That has always been the position.
It is not quite true to say that there is an upturn in our economy. Certainly the balance of payments is right, but that does not mean that we have a totally healthy economy, and we cannot have one whilst we have 125,000 building operatives out of work.
I should like to draw the attention of the House to a statement made by my General Secretary, Mr. George Smith, in an address to the executive committee at the beginning of the year and contained in January's edition of the Woodworkers and Painters Journal. He says:We will continue to press upon the Government that, though this Society has been in the forefront in admitting the need for an increased supply of skilled labour, and in productivity bargaining, it cannot continue to cooperate in either of those fields if the sole result is to lead to the unemployment of its members. However, we are confident that with the high level of needs which currently exists for new houses, schools, hospitals and other buildings, the demand for which can be expanded by suitable Government decisions, there can be more than adequate work available for a fast developing industryOf course this is the position. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary made a very important point when he said that the building and construction industry can respond quickly to an upturn in the economy. In a way, we are arguing with hon. Gentlemen on the Government Front Bench today who are our friends, and who understand the position as well as we understand it. Why did my right hon. Friend himself go to the Treasury to argue about the position? We really ought to have the Treasury represented in the debate. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear"] We really ought to be saying to theChancellor—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear"]—that it is a question of action being taken by the Treasury in order that there shall be an upturn in the economy to get building operatives back. That should be the position, and my hon. Friend knows this very well indeed.
Let me make just two further points. I would have liked to have spoken at greater length, but I want everybody who wants to get into the debate to have 77 a chance to speak, including the hon. Member for Poole (Mr. Murton), and so I shall be brief.
All is not the fault of this Government. Let us look at the housing question for a few moments. Local authorities built up very strong direct works deparment which were building houses consistently, Manchester was a very good example if this; Liverpool also had a good works department; and other local authorities also. [Interruption.] Of course, direct works departments can be as inefficient as private enterprise—just as inefficient, or just as efficient, with the right management; more efficient with the right management.
I am not suggesting that all direct works departments were wholly efficient or that all private enterprise was totally inefficient. Liverpool had a good works department which I, as chairman of that department, helped to build up. Those workers, or many of them, have been dispersed; those departments have been broken down because of doctrinaire attitudes on the part of local Conservative councils, and good building operatives have been thrown out of work quite deliberately. Subcontractors have been brought in, and in many cases are doing far inferior work. Even in my own area only last week, when I was going around, I found paint peeling off the doors—paint only just painted on corporation property by private enterprise sub-contractors.
We could go on for ever discussing this sort of situation, but it brings me to my final point. What we need in the building industry, as in the docks industry, is an end of casualisation. It is about time that building workers knew that once they have begun work in the industry they will have employment consistently and that it will not be constantly interrupted by unemployment. Building workers, most of them, do not get redundancy payments, because they are very fortunate if they work for any firm long enough to qualify for redundancy payments. Wage-related unemployment benefits in the main are not enjoyed by building operatives even now, and that, of course, makes the matter worse. Those 125,000 workers are not getting precisely the same sort of unemployment benefits which other workers get, or would be getting. So what we need today is, 78 firstly, a scheme of decasualisation in the industry. Also we need a public building corporation which can compete with the larger firms and contractors, and ultimately, I hope, take on Government work throughout the country. This, of course, is a long-term measure.
What immediately needs to be done—and I have said it so often in the House that I am getting a little tired of saying it, but I hope that, on this occasion, prior to the Budget, it will not fall on deaf ears—is to ease and ease quickly the credit squeeze, particularly for builders of housing. I hope, too, that there will be an end of S.E.T. in the building industry. It is not a service industry. It never has been a service industry and never can be, in that sense. I also hope that we shall maximise pressure on the local authorities who are reluctant to go ahead with the housing programme.
If these three things are done as immediate aids we can get, if not all of our people back to work, some of our people back to work. In the long term we need a radical reconstruction of the building industry; we need to have a public building corporation; we need to have decent conditions and employment on the basis of one agreement for the industry. That means the bringing in of a Bill to end labour-only in the industry at the earliest possible moment. If we do these things I am confident that this industry will have a great future.
§ 5.47 p.m.
§ Mr. Wallace Lawler (Birmingham, Ladywood)
Figures and statistics, and we have had plenty of them in the debate to date, can be very interesting, and they can be put rhetorically about certain aspects of construction, and can be compelling, but I am much more concerned about, and want to direct what I have to say to, the general concern of people, the ratepayers, who have to pay the very high costs of constructing public buildings today, and of the factory chiefs who are delaying the building of factories because of high costs. I want to look at the grim situation which certainly prevails.
The Parliamentary Secretary spoke about the importance of having a highly skilled and compact building force. This seems to me to be illogical, if I may say so with respect, because when we have 79 unemployment at a figure ascending 120,000 in the building and construction industries alone it is obvious that we are losing, as the builders will tell us, skilled labour and compact labour, and some is lost for ever. It is perfectly obvious, and the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Helfer) made the point, in a way, when he spoke about the uncertainty in the industry, and the fact that employees are sometimes employed in branches of the industry for only a very short rime. Some people with very high skills decide, because of that uncertainty, to leave the industry altogether. Will the Parliamentary Secretary re-examine this, and consider whether it is logical in view of the position which has been allowed to prevail?
It is poor comfort for the Parliamentary Secretary to talk, as he did, about the prospect of still more offices, shops and garages. This is a daunting prospect for the Midlands where, a few years ago, we had to halt the situation which had given us a surplus of offices, which still exists, and a surplus of shops, as some shopkeeper with highly rated and high cost shops know only too well.
§ Mr. Loughlin
I do not want the hon. Gentleman to misconstrue my remarks but, short of controlling the whole of the activity in this sector, it would be difficult to stop it. What I said—as he will see if he reads HANSARD in the morning—was that we had not given a very high order of priority to these projects.
§ Mr. Lawler
I accept what the Parliamentary Secretary says, that not a very high priority has been given, and I want that position to continue. I shall read HANSARD, and I shall read that he suggested that the not quite so high priority will begin to lift in favour of more offices and shops.
§ Mr. Lawler
There is a way to control this which has been employed in the Midlands, and in the local authority with which I have some association. Reference has been made to bricks and also to British Standard Time. It is not without interest to note the recent edict from one leading brickyard that transport drivers need not apply until after 10 a.m. because 80 of the detrimental effect of British Standard Time. I wonder how many wasted hours and how much wasted labour have to be paid for during the hours before 10 a.m., when fleets of vehicles and operators are without alternative forms of employment.
The more one looks at the current situation, the grimmer it becomes. Reference has been made to the ever-soaring price of land and to the long delay between the opening of negotiations for the purchase of land, whether for housing or for other forms of construction, and the receipt of planning permission, during which period the cost of the land rises still higher. I have often found that, having acquired the money and the land, one is confronted with this long road of unfortunate factors which is responsible for the highest ever price of construction.
Before a trowel is lifted and before a brick is laid it costs £6 per week per employee—expenditure which is 100 per cent. non-productive. That is worth reiteration—£6 per week per employee before construction starts. One has to take into account not just the all-time record cost of insurance and selective employment tax, but also the cost of holidays with pay. When these factors are added together and then subdivided, the figure is in excess of £6 per week per employee. Thus, in one stroke, if we take the average of one man per house per year, about £300 is added to the cost of the average house.
I agree with the hon. Member who said that £125 per house, on average, has been added by the iniquitous selective employment tax. To this must be added the taxation on all the ancillary services which are absolutely essential to any builder. People engaged in the construction industry have now to face a new bogy, the additional cost with which they will be faced when the Transport Act comes into operation towards the middle of this year. This will mean another huge uplift on all building prices which cannot be evaded. Just what it will mean to local authority planning, to plans for private construction and to the already overburdened cost of housing is anybody's guess, but no one will deny that this is a grim situation which will get grimmer and which is worthy of anything but laughter.
§ Mr. Tony Gardner (Rushcliffe)
I take the hon. Gentleman's point, but if he is talking about transport costs in the building industry, will he calculate the cost per journey mile of a three-ton lorry and say by how much it will be increased by increases in taxation?
§ Mr. Lawler
I would rather calculate the cost of a transport vehicle to any section of the building construction industry for one week. This is what builders and those operating transport fleets have to face. I would assess it at 12½ per cent., and this is in an industry which has already had nine increases during the last 15 months. That is a direct answer to the question by the hon. Gentleman, and I thank him for raising a point of such importance and value.
Where does this lead? What is the net effect on the construction industry? In housing, as home owners know to their cost, as do those people who would like to be home owners but are denied the opportunity because they cannot find sufficient money, it means higher and higher prices, higher and higher mortgage repayments and higher and higher rents for municipal tenants. It also means that there is an ever-increasing number of people who are deprived of the opportunity of home ownership.
How much effect does this have on the slowing-up of factory building? I have carried out a small survey in the Midlands, and I find that factory owners and private firms who, a year or so ago, had planned to proceed with the much needed building of new factories have been forced to defer their plans in the face of the ever-rising costs. The situation cannot be expected to improve until there is some abatement in interest rates.
The Government have been accused, sometimes unjustly, in recent weeks on many matters, but I find it difficult to believe that even this Government will allow the present situation in the construction industry to continue without their taking some very effective action. The selective employment tax is indefensible as it applies to the building industry, and I join with the hon. Member for Walton and others in hoping that the Government will bring the tax speedily to an end and that the absent Chancellor of the Exchequer will take effective steps to improve the situation.
82 One gathers that there is to be a reexamination of the option mortgage scheme. One item that needs to be looked at, in view of the lamentable failure of the scheme, is the fact that people are refusing to take part in the scheme because they have no option to contract out if their financial or professional situation improves. It is not enough to have a pious hope that the scheme will succeed in moving people towards home ownership.
In addition to the overdue removal of S.E.T., other measures are necessary. To assist the building trade there is a very great need for an easing of the present curb on bank loans. There is also a strong case for the Government to take action to cut the red tape which surrounds local authority planning departments and which so often leads to delay in construction.
There is a case for examining the effects of British Standard Time on the building industry, which has always taken a pride in being an early-morning industry. When I was a boy I was often told by builders that they got on best with their job between the hours of 8 and 11 in the morning. Today it is not so easy to get on with the job that early, especially when materials are not available and cannot be collected because the transport system does not work very efficiently between 8 and 10 in the morning. Could not concessions be granted to builders who employ their own transport fleet, as well as to transport firms working exclusively for the construction industry? Such concessions, particularly in views of the new expenses envisaged by the forthcoming Finance Bill, would be of great assistance to the construction industry.
I hope that a new look can be taken at the possibility of constructing a new and cheaper type of house, but a house embodying all the standards which are so important. I envisage something on the lines of the terraced house which tens of thousands of people ask to be built, providing all the necessary amenities up to a standard that it is so important to ensure. I am assured by leading members of the building industry that such houses could be produced at a lower price than the average home today.
§ 6.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Joseph Ashton (Bassetlaw)
My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton(Mr. Heffer) said that the building industry was governed by the barometer of the Treasury. All we have heard from the Opposition benches this afternoon is that the Treasury should alter the barometer so that the industry can once again revert to its inefficient procedures of the '50s and '60s.
We are dealing with an industry which, when compared with other industries, is one of the most inefficient. There has been a 20 per cent. increase in the number of houses built in the last five years compared with the five-year period 1960–65; there have been 60 per cent. more schools, 50 per cent. more hospitals, and many miles of motorway constructed. The Opposition are not satisfied because we are not getting back to the conditions of the early '60s when we were expending manpower to build petrol stations, bingo halls, large offices in the centre of London—which are still standing empty at the bottom end of Tottenham Court Road—and because, they say, we are not taking the brakes off industry.
There was a situation when people changed houses every two years, not because they needed another house, but simply to keep pace with the tremendous increase in the price of houses at that time. Since 1938–39 the price of houses has gone up 10 or 12 times. A house built in 1939 at a cost of£300 or£400 would today cost well over£4,000. But the wages paid in the building industry now, compared with those paid before the war, have gone up by only six or seven times.
The difficulty arises because the building industry has never had to sell its product. It has relied on traditional methods since the turn of the century. It takes just as long to build a semidetached now as it did 50 or 60 years ago. It is an industry in which some 90 per cent. of contractors have never heard of critical path planning, but try to organise the building of houses through a system of sub-contracts, as one can see on any building site, where half those present seem to be waiting for some other sub-contractor to do his piece of work before anybody else can get on with his work.
84 Before I came to this House, I was chairman of the public works department of Sheffield, which employed 2,000 building trade workers, with£4 million a year turnover. It was one of the best public enterprises that exist in the country. It was a department whose direct labour system was examined by Aims of Industry. That organisation came along to see us and we allowed it to examine our books for a week. But Aims of Industry went away in silence, since it could find nothing to criticise. It was a public works department which made millions of£s profit for the Sheffield housing department, which competed on competitive tenders, and, incidentally, paid S.E.T., which it was compelled to pay since it was thought that otherwise it would be put at an unfair advantage.
The figure of S.E.T. in relation to building costs has been put at 3½ per cent. But it is nowhere near the burden of purchase tax borne by other industries. The hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Mr. Lawler) must know that in Birmingham any increase is production of motor cars will bring an additional burden in the purchase tax charges. But once the building industry is asked to pay a similar tax, even though it is much less, one hears perpetual cries of "poverty", and the plea that it just cannot be done, it cannot be absorbed and is ruining the industry.
We must face the situation of an industry whose costs have risen very highly when other industries have kept their prices down. Let us remember the price of television, cars, and so on, some 10 years ago. There has been a 20 per cent. increase in such commodities, including washing machines and household goods, in that period of 10 years, but over that time the price of houses has doubled. There has been no attempt at all to absorb cost increases. They have merely been passed on to the consumer. It is no wonder that when the Chancellor observes that sort of industry he insists that it must bear its burden of tax or S.E.T.
We have heard much today about who built most houses when and where, but the Opposition have not said from where the initial impetus comes for building houses. They know that the function of a Government in regard to housing is one 85 of coaxing and bribing. The Government can offer a bribe of 4 per cent. interest rates, as we do. We can coax local authorities to build more, as we are trying to do. But, if a local authority says "We are not going to build", as local authorities in Manchester, Liverpool and London say, there is little we can do to make them build more. The hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker) has said that Labour local authorities build less than Tory local authorities, but in 99 cases out of 100 Labour local authorities are in mining areas where there has been a decline of population and Coal Board houses are standing empty.
I have listened for well over three hours to the debate and I hope that the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page), who is to wind up for the Opposition, will answer some of these points. I have listened attentively, and I want to find out three or four things. One is: if the Tories were elected at the next General Election, what would be their housing target? How many thousands of houses do they propose they will build if they get back into office? They keep deadly quiet about that. How many schools are they proposing to build? Do they propose that the present rate shall continue? What about interest rates? Do they say that interest rates for local authorities will be altered or, as has leaked out from time to time, that housing subsidies will be abolished? [An HON. MEMBER: "Ask the Prime Minister."] I cannot ask the Prime Minister what happened at Selsdon Park, for he was not there. We have waited to hear from the Selsdon Park conference how many houses the Tories would build if they were returned to office, but the silence has been deafening!
The hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Costain) complained bitterly about S.E.T. I should expect him to take some drastic action if—God forbid—a Conservative Government were to be elected and they introduced value-added tax. Their proposals for a value-added tax of 10 per cent. or 11 per cent., if it did not excuse the building industry, would place a burden on it very much greater than that of selective employment tax which it is paying now. It is not good enough to criticise; a responsible Opposition would put forward plans 86 showing what they would do if they had the chance. In the present set-up with nothing but the carping criticism that we have had from the Opposition this afternoon, they will never have that chance.
§ 6.13 p.m.
§ Mr. James Allason (Hemel Hempstead)
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Boyden) is not now in his place. He made the sort of speech which brings politics into disrepute, and now he has hopped out. Obviously he does not want to hear the reply by my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) from the Opposition Front Bench.
The hon. Member challenged my hon. Friend the Member for Londonderry (Mr. Chichester-Clark), who compared the figures for 1960 with those for 1964. He said that my hon. Friend's figures were dishonest, and then proceeded to deal with figures for 1961, 1962 and 1963. He did not mention the figures for 1960 and 1964. That was thoroughly dishonest, because there was a very considerable increase indeed in those years. The figures for the construction industry in 1960 were£1,600 million and in 1964£2,400 million, an increase of 50 per cent.
§ Mr. Allason
My hon. Friend dealt with that matter, but the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence) was not here to listen to him. The hon. Member for Bishop Auckland spoke only of the years 1961, 1962 and 1963. The figures having gone up by 1961, in 1962 there was a plateau before the increase which came in 1964. To deny the figures for 1960 and 1964 and accuse my hon. Friend of dishonesty brings politics into disrepute. All hon. Members will remember the dramatic moment on 20th July, 1966, when the Prime Minister coined the phrase "redeployment of industry" as an excuse for unemployment. After his statement he was asked where these people were to be redeployed—into what industries. One of the industries he mentioned was the construction industry. This is yet another of the Prime Minister's pledges which he has failed to honour. The Minister is entitled to go to the Prime Minister and remind him of that 87 statement and say that something must be done to improve employment in this industry.
The Parliamentary Secretary told us that the whole position was being exaggerated. He accused my hon. Friend of using exaggerated language. But my hon. Friend was using the language of the industry, which is by no means exaggerated. The industry, architects and those in the brick industry, are all extremely worried about the situation. Small builders are extremely worried. I am intervening in this debate to express the concern of small builders in my constituency. They are desperately worried about the future. What will be done if we price small builders out of the industry and make it impossible for them to live? We shall not be able then to go to the very big builders and ask them to do small repairs, for they are much too busy doing other jobs. We shall find that we are unable to get necessary repairs done because of the lack of small builders remaining in the industry.
The Minister should make a far greater effort to get employment back into the industry and put it on its feet. When the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) was speaking about shortage of employment in his area I recalled that the Government are spending an enormous amount of money in trying to provide new jobs, some of them in Liverpool. I have heard the figure of£100,000 per job quoted for the Liverpool area.
§ Mr. W. Howie (Luton)
The hon. Member has spoken of the enormous sums of money the Government are spending to ensure employment in the vicinity of the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer). Does the hon. Member suggest that we should spend less, or does he think that things are all right as they are now?
§ Mr. Allason
I wish the hon. Member for Luton (Mr. Howie) had been present for the whole debate. If the Government can afford to spend£100,000 per job they could get 20 or 30 jobs for the same amount of money were they to get the construction industry moving again. My argument is that the money is being wastefully spent. What is needed in the 88 construction industry is priority loans for buildings. I have asked the Minister and the Treasury for this, and the answer has been that the construction industry is at the bottom of the queue. That is a similar argument to the argument about the cost of providing new jobs. The construction industry is clearly at the bottom of the queue. This is the fault of the Minister. The Minister's job is to try to get the construction industry moving again, and I ask him to do it.
§ 6.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Graham Page (Crosby)
I should like to make the conventional declaration of interest in the subject matter of the debate. I am a director of a building society, of a development company and of a civil engineering company.
An article in the Sunday Times yesterday started with the sentence:The post-war building boom is over. Britain's building industry appears to be approaching a slump and large-scale unemployment in its skilled trades.That was not an exaggeration. The speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Londonderry (Mr. Chichester-Clark) was not an exaggeration. The debate has shown that there is truth in the grim situation in which the building and construction industry finds itself and truth in the rather frightening forecasts which we have before us of the future of what the Parliamentary Secretary, quite rightly, called our biggest single industry.
The hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) said that the building industry has always been in a chaotic condition. The hon. Member for Basset-law (Mr. Ashton) spoke on much the same lines. But, even if that were true, it is no excuse for the Government to add disaster to chaos.
The writing on the wall for this industry is in the drop in new work done by the industry during 1969 compared with the rise in the volume of new work over the previous ten years, 1959 to 1968. In the first part of those ten years, under a Conservative Government, the volume of work rose twice as fast as in the latter part, under the Labour Government. But, even under the slower rate of increase, it that had continued, the industry could have expected to be doing about£170 million more work in 1969 than in 1968. I will try not to use too many figures, but I wanted to make a point of that one. 89 Instead of the work increasing by£170 million worth in 1969, it dropped, so far as I can tell from the figures before us, although I admit that we have not got the official figures, by about£60 million compared with 1968.
The Parliamentary Secretary said that this is all due to housing, that in other sectors output has increased, and that we can be optimistic about is increasing in future. The hon. Gentleman pointed to roads, to schools, to industrial buildings, and even to overseas work. I do not think that we can tell the small building contractors or the unemployed skilled building workers to go to Europe or Australia to do their building.
Taking those other sectors—roads, schools and industrial buildings—there has indeed been a switch, as I interpret the figures, of about£45 million worth of work into that type of work during 1969 to cope with the drop in housing. But neither building operatives nor building firms are interchangeable between roads and house building or between civil engineering and shops or offices or industrial buildings. This is the difficulty facing the industry. We must look at the complete programme of new work; it has stopped increasing and has started decreasing significantly—very significantly compared with the promises that we used to see in the National Plan upon which the Labour Party sought to catch the votes in the 1966 General Election. If we had believed the National Plan we ought to have been having about£1,000 million more new work in 1969 than was in fact on the hooks of the building and constructiton industry for that year. After all, it is a comparatively short time since the National Plan was abandoned.
The Parliamentary Secretary now asks us to look at, and be optimistic about the plans in the new White Paper on Public Expenditure. To start with, the White Paper is on public expenditure only. It is trying to tell the industry what may happen in the public sector. But can the industry and the country as a whole put any greater reliance on this recent White Paper on Public Expenditure than on the ill-famed National Plan?
I am not so sure of the truth of what the Parliamentary Secretary said—indeed, it was endorsed by the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton—about this being an 90 industry which can respond quickly to an upward trend in demand. The building and construction industry has to plan ahead for two or even three years to be successful in its work. The tempestuous changes and reversals of Government policy have sent the structure of the industry's planning crashing to the ground in the last year. Ministerial statements, only a few months ago, indicated that we would have a 4 per cent. increase in 1969. It has turned out to be a 2 per cent. decrease—6 per cent. wrong. It sounds a small figure, 6 per cent. wrong, but looking at the turnover it means£180 million worth of work. So the Minister's predecessor was wrong to the extent of about£180 million—good compared with the National Plan, which was wrong by about£1,000 million.
The hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Boyden) asked for further plans from the Government. But would a further plan be any good to the industry after what has happened?
§ Mr. Page
I support what the hon. Gentleman said about carrying out the recommendations of the Phelps Brown Committee. It referred to regional planning and division of the programme into regions. It might be useful to have that. But, looking at the past record, I do not know that we can rely on it from this Government.
I advise the Minister never to enter for that competition on Sunday afternoons on the televison, "The Golden Shot". If his predecessor and the Government were so far off target, I do not think he will ever hit the target of the golden shot.
To express the crisis in millions of pounds is impersonal and fails to describe the real human factor. Out of every 100 people employed in this country six are building workers. Out of every 100 people unemployed at present 20 are building workers. This really is a serious situation. Whether it is 115,000 or 125,000 it is that number of men out of work.
My hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Costain) expressed this clearly in his speech. I think that the whole House was sympathetic to the impressive manner in which the hon. 91 Member for Liverpool, Walton put the case for the unemployed. He and I share the same concern over the high figures of unemployed in this industry in the North West.
Employers are suffering as much as employees. The Minister will remember that the President of the N.F.B.T.E., in proposing his toast at the annual dinner early this month, said:Many building firms (including some efficient and respected members of our Federation) have passed the point of no return this time. Some have been forced to close down; others—frustrated and disillusioned—have done so voluntarily.We are told that of the small building firms 810 closed down during last year. Bankruptcies have been at a very high rate in the building trade over the past year My hon. Friend the Member for Meriden (Mr. Speed) drew attention to the difficulties faced by the brickworks. Again to give figures, I understand that 13 brickworks closed down in a matter of 13 weeks, and many others have gone on short time.
The building material producers are working at about half capacity, and so are some of the industrialised building factories—those which have not already closed down. The fact is that thousands of firms in the building and civil engineering industry, and the firms which produce the materials for them, are struggling to keep their heads above water. The Government throw them no lifeline. Instead, they hang more and more millstones round their necks. There is the£155 million levy which is called S.E.T. I call it a levy. It is not what we understand to be a tax out of profits or income. That is one of the millstones.
The Minister said the other day that it added only a little less than 4 per cent. to construction costs. My arithmetic makes it more than 5 per cent. of the turnover of the industry, and that is quite a substantial slice of the takings when one remembers that corporation tax, the industrial training board levy, import deposits, and betterment levy have been taken out of those takings.
Builders are being strangled by these levies and deposits which have nothing whatever to do with the profits they are making. They do not even have anything to do with the receipt of the money from their work. They are capital levies. The 92 cost of S.E.T. is£125 for every building craftsman plus£25 which has to be paid for the I.T.B. levy. That is about£3 a week. I do not use the£6 a week figure because that includes normal taxation. Abnormal taxation accounts for about 50 per cent. of that figure of£6.
§ Mr. Heffer
I follow the hon. Gentleman in what he is saying about S.E.T. Is he saying that his party is opposed to the levy for industrial training? Surely this is one of the most important things which have been introduced to make sure that there is a fair distribution of apprenticeship training throughout the industry?
§ Mr. Page
If the hon. Gentleman had waited a moment I should have made that comment. I was complaining about that levy because the industry is being asked to pay for the overdraft accumulated by the board by a bit of mismanagement, and I do not think that that deficit should be collected from the industry in one year. It is a substantial and irritating amount for the builders to have to pay.
On top of that the industry, quite rightly, has to meet the agreed increase in wages, which will result in about a 26 per cent. increase in the cost of labour on the job, an incerase of about 12 per cent. in steel prices, and an increase of about 13s. 6d. a ton in the cost of cement. The cost of petrol was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe. It also has to meet the cost of lower efficiency due to British Standard Time. These are all difficulties which the industry is facing without the Government's interference by the collection of these levies.
With all those increased costs and harsh levies falling on the industry, the builder is still subject to the credit squeeze, and he cannot claim any priority for his bank finance to carry him through this desperate period. His only source for credit is the builders' merchant, and builders' merchants cannot go on for ever being merchant bankers. Already they are carrying about£90 million of credit for the builders. Like the architects, who are hit by the worst depression in work for many years, the builders' merchants are an early warning system to this industry. Who can blame them if they refuse to take on any further the job which the Government have refused to allow the banks to take on?
93 What, then, should be done? My hon. Friend the Member for Londonderry gave a formidable list of items which would be undertaken as a matter of Conservative policy. I want to group the actions which I believe can be taken by the Government without any further delay. This, after all, is what the debate is about. It is about what we believe the Government have done to damage the industry, and, if the debate is to be of any use, it should put before the Government the sort of steps which they can take now to correct the disaster facing the industry.
First, as many hon. Members have said, the construction industry should be put into the priority class for bank loans. Why should it be so favoured? I think that the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland made the case on this. He said that builders are bankers to the extent of£500 million a year. Indeed, one-fifth of the industry's annual turnover is normally outstanding in the form of unpaid accounts. The Government are one of the worst payers—not necessarily the right hon. Gentleman's Department, but other Departments of the Government. This should be studied very closely.
§ Mr. Page
I shall give the hon. Gentleman evidence of it but not across the Table because the Ministers of other Departments are not here to answer for themselves. I can support it with facts and figures on Ministry of Health contracts, and I know of others. Apart from the complaint about the Government being bad payers, I am sure the Minister will agree that the industry carries a heavy burden in the form of outstanding accounts.
Second, the industry should not have to pay the S.E.T., import duties, and betterment levy. Those are impositions which are levied whether the builder has received payment for his work or not, and whether he has made any profit out of it or not. That is why they bear so hardly on the industry.
Third, compulsory non-productive time should he cut drastically. I know that every business has to collect taxes for the Government. Every business has to give information to the Government by filling in forms. Every business has to learn all the new laws which we pass 94 through this place controlling their trade and business. I am complaining not so much about that but that the building and construction industry is a particular victim of the need to supply information, statistics on trade, factory regulations, redundancy payments, and so on. The builder has to be his own form-filling lawyer. That is not a very productive effort.
But even more important—and these are two specific points that I want to make—there is the fustratingly unproductive waiting period, first, for the private enterprise builder in planning procedures and, second, for the local authority in the cost yardstick procedures. It is essential, on the planning procedures, that there should be a quicker release by local planning authorities of land for building. Not every builder has a job to be getting on with while he is waiting for planning permission on the next one. In so many cases he is delayed for three to six months in getting on with the job. Surely we can devise better planning procedures than that.
The local authority cost yardstick procedure, which was introduced by this Government in 1967, is having the result of delaying a local authority by as much as three months in its preparations to start building. I beg the Minister to look at this procedure again. I do not think that it is necessary for the papers to lie on a desk in the Ministry for all that time to enable the Ministry to decide what shall be the cost yardstick, or what shall be the right figure at which to go ahead and put the job out to tender. This is what happens before the local authority is entitled to go out to tender, and it is a waste of three months' time.
The output of the building and construction industry could be increased by as much as one-fifth in every year by cutting out that compulsory desk dawdlling in both central and local government.
Those are the three constructive steps to be taken—priority for loans, relief from impositions, and cuts in unproductive time. There are other things which we on this side have put forward from time to time to help the customer to buy, and thus provide the market for the industry. I have tried to restrict my proposals today to the direct action by the Government on the industry.
95 I want to conclude with the words of the President of the National Federation of Building Trades Employers, again when proposing the toast to the Minister. He said:It is my duty, Minister, to warn Her Majesty's Government that it bears a serious responsibility to establish quickly a much more encouraging future for the building industry. The Government will have to remember here that its decisions on building greatly affect the lives of millions of people in this country—not only those in the industry itself. I look to you, Sir, for your unqualified support. I hope that I shall not look in vain.I hope that this House will not look in vain today.
§ 6.40 p.m.
§ The Minister of Public Building and Works (Mr. John Silkin)
This has been a wide-ranging and interesting debate. Some long-term solutions have been suggested which are well worthy of study. Short-term points have been made, some polemically. I thought that the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. ChichesterClark) was in a particularly Don Quixote mood. He charged every windmill in sight, and a number that were out of sight. There were moments when I could not help feeling that anybody who did not know him might have thought that he was electioneering. Perish the thought!
Broadly speaking, the major points that have been made during the debate fell under one or two headings. The first was the effect upon the industry of the Government's economic and fiscal measures. To say that the economic and fiscal measures of Her Majesty's Government have had an effect upon the industry is to state the obvious. The problem has been related not only to the industry but to the whole country—the problem of converting a deficit of£800 million—[Interruption.] Oh, yes! And I shall go on saying it, because it is right. A deficit of£800 million has been converted into a surplus running at the rate of£500 million—and, incidentally, I hope that hon. Members opposite were as cheered as my hon. Friends and I were to hear the latest trade figures.
§ Sir Arthur Vere Harvey (Macclesfield)
Whenever the Government are in a jam they fall back on something that happened six years ago which, in fact, did not happen. My right hon. Friend the 96 Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) made it clear where the trouble really is.
§ Mr. Silkin
The right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) took six years to think up an excuse. That is an excessively long time, even for hon. Members opposite.
I was trying to explain what the situation was. Apparently hon. Members are unaware that there was an economic crisis. I can assure them that there was. That crisis started with a deficit that we have succeeded in changing to a surplus of£500 million. If we consider that building and construction industries in that context the matter becomes rather more clear. Just as every industry except those immediately concerned with exports was to some extent hit by the economic measures that we introduced, so, inevitably, was the building industry. It is part of the whole community.
Builders are no less patriotic than other members of the community. All of them have always understood it. Of course, the builders would like priority bank-lending. Who would not? But they also understood that it was necessary, in the interests of the community and the economy as a whole, that credit should be restricted. To say—as one hon. Member opposite did—that they are at the bottom of the queue is to be somewhat extravagant. They are in the neutral zone. Bank advances to builders in 1969 were approximately the same—in fact I think they were a little up—on the year previously. The variation was very small. I was pointing out that they were not at the bottom of the queue.
Those hon. Members who have said that high interest rates played their part in the difficulties experienced in the building industry were correct. Of course they did; there was no question about that. But I have to think in terms of a wider situation. The right hon. and learned Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon) put the situation firmly into proportion in 1962, when he was Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing. He said:It is…a fallacy to believe that low interest rates quite unrelated to the economic situation of the country would mean lower prices.—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd May, 1962; Vol. 658, c. 1041.]97 The principle is correct. We must relate it to the economic situation of the country. It is no part of this Government's intention to keep our rates high for any longer than is necessary to protect the reserves and maintain the right monetary conditions.
Many hon. Members opposite, including the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page), have mentioned the import deposit scheme. I have been informed that its effect is marginal. The industry is continually increasing its use of home-produced materials. From time to time it is suggested to me—and I totally agree—that we should increase the amount of home-produced materials and cut down our imports. That has been a large part of the whole consideration.
Many hon. Members also referred to the question of increasing costs. During the years comparisons have been made between the period when the Conservatives were in office, when it is said that costs were arising at about 3 per cent., and the period of the Labour Government, when costs are said to have risen by 4 per cent. I accept those figures. There is a difference of 1 per cent. in the increase in costs. Various reasons have been put forward for that. One is the effect of the selective employment tax. That allegation has been made very frequently by hon. Members opposite, and it was made finally and very forcefully by the hon. Member for Crosby and by my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer).
It has been pointed out that S.E.T. adds nearly 4 per cent. to construction costs. Here again, we have to ask what are the alternatives. [An HON. MEMBER: "Take it away!"] That is a possible alternative. But in its place we have to put something else.
On 29th January the hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker) said that if the Conservatives brought in a value-added tax it would not discriminate against house-building. I am delighted to hear it. The hon. Member did not say that house-building would be exempted from the tax. That fact was forcefully made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton). It is true that if a value-added tax ran at the same rate as it appears to be running in other countries where it is imposed, 98 so far from builders being better off with that tax instead of S.E.T. they might find themselves worse off. In any case, the tax applies to only one section of the industry; another section—that which is concerned with manufacturing materials—is exempt from S.E.T. at the moment but would pay under a value-added tax—[Interruption.] It is an idea being floated among the hon. Members' Friends. That section would then be forced to pay it, and we would have an idea of what the effect must be on the cost of building.
Basically, all hon. Gentlemen were saying that, apart from house-building, the industry was doing reasonably well, and I believe that it is. [HoN. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Yes, it is. It is only in house-building that the output has fallen recently. If S.E.T. were to go and a value-added tax were to come in, another factor would enter the equation—that is, that the prospective house purchaser would have to pay more for other goods. There would be a loss in demand which would affect him and his ability to pay.
§ Mr. Allason
Is the Minister aware that the intention is that there would be no value-added tax on house-building and house purchase?
§ Mr. Silkin
The hon. Member should listen. The intention expressed by his hon. Friend the Member for Worcester was that there would be no discrimination—everybody would be discriminated against, in other words. He did not say that this industry would be exempt.
I have said before, on the important question of costs, that if one takes 1963 figures as 100 and deals in constant prices one finds that United Kingdom costs today are 118 and those of West Germany are 115, so it is doing three points better than we are. But there is a very different picture in other countries. The figure for France is 118, for the U.S.A. 118, for Belgium 127 and for the Netherlands 128.
I would maintain that the costs of construction in this country compare very favourably with those of most other industrial nations. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about the Common Market?"] That matter lies outside the scope of this debate. I was trying to provide ammunition for my hon. Friends and not for hon. Gentlemen opposite.
99 The other part of the debate concerned house-building. My hon. Friend the Member for Walton, a building worker throughout his career, spoke very movingly about unemployment, which naturally concerns him. I share his concern, and my colleagues and I will watch this with great vigilance. It is a difficult situation, but I will try to explain how we hope to deal with the problem in the near future.
I have dealt with the effect of the economy on the whole building industry. As for house-building, the measures which will be most effective in the near future and will have some bearing on the problem of unemployment are, first, that from the end of next month to the end of March, 1971, there will be an additional£45 million of local authority mortgages made available. This will obviously increase the demand for new homes and stimulate house-building. It is a practical method of seeing that where there is a deficit on our own high performance, that deficit shall be assisted.
The second method of assisting new homes is the ability of building societies to use S.A.Y.E. I hope that, as the months go by, this will add considerably to their funds. The next important piece of assistance is the Housing Act, 1969. This provides new grants for the improvement of old homes and loans towards the balance. As my hon. Friend explained, the Minister of Housing will be giving greater publicity to this scheme. Certainly it will have its effect on employment in the months and years ahead.
One thing which slightly surprised me was the hon. Member for Londonderry relating interest rates to housing. It made me wonder whether he was aware of the Housing Subsidies Act of 1967. which effectually reduces the rate of borrowing for local authorities on completed new houses to 4 per cent. or so.
So much for the question of housing. It is part of the general picture of building and construction. Right hon. and hon. Members opposite deplore the policies of
the Government in this respect, but they talk about the rate of house building as though there had been a tremendous decline. The noble Lord, Lord Brooke, when Minister of Housing, said on 20th March, 1961—[Interruption.] What he was saying was meant to be true for all time. He said:
at the present rate of building of 300,000 houses a year in Great Britain, the building industry is already fully strained.
He made the point that a substantial increase in house building would inevitably lead to cuts in other building work, particularly, he said, hospitals, schools and roads.
§ What has actually happened is that for every£100 in constant figures which hon. Members opposite were spending on hospitals, schools and roads, this Government are spending£140. In the comparable periods right hon. and hon. Members opposite built 1,743,691 houses, and we have built 2,026,299, an increase of 282,608 over the figure in their period, at a time when we were spending£40 more for every£100 which they had spent on these very projects which the then Minister said we could not do.
There is one other significant contribution to that debate on 20th March, 1961—from the hon. Member for Crosby. He said:
When one looks at the figures over the past 10 years, and certainly over the past eight years, one finds that on the average they have been very good. I want to see them better."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th March, 1961; Vol. 637, c. 75, 151.]
Average completions during the eight years, which the hon. Gentleman quoted, came to 297,000. Average completions in the last five years of Labour Government came to 390,000. We are all very glad that the hon. Member's wishes should have been granted, but it took a Labour Government to grant them. I ask the House to reject this Motion.
That this House deplores the effect of Her Majesty's Government's policies on the building and construction industries.
§ The House divided: Ayes 240, Noes 303.105
|Division No. 64.]||AYES||[7.0 p.m.|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n)||Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Awdry, Daniel||Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay)|
|Amery, Rt. Hn. Julian||Baker, Kenneth (Acton)||Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos. & Fhm)|
|Archer, Jeffrey (Louth)||Baker, W. H. K. (Banff)||Berry, Hn. Anthony|
|Astor John||Balniel, Lord||Biffen, John|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Osborn, John (Hallam)|
|Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere||Page, Graham (Crosby)|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Hastings, Stephen||Page, John (Harrow, W.)|
|Blaker, Peter||Hawkins, Paul||Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)|
|Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.)||Hay, John||Peel, John|
|Body, Richard||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Percival, Ian|
|Bossom, Sir Clive||Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward||Peyton, John|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John||Heseltine, Michael||Pike, Miss Mervyn|
|Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward||Higgins, Terence L.||Pink, R. Bonner|
|Braine, Bernard||Hiley, Joseph||Pounder, Rafton|
|Brewis, John||Hill, J. E. B.||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch|
|Brinton, Sir Tatton||Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt. -Col. Sir Walter||Holland, Philip||Prior, J. M. L.|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Hooson, Emlyn||Pym, Francis|
|Bruce-Gardyne, J.||Hordern, Peter||Quennell, Miss J. M.|
|Bryan, Paul||Hornby, Richard||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick(Angus,N&M)||Hunt, John||Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter|
|Buck, Antony (Colchester)||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Bullus, Sir Eric||Iremonger, T. L.||Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David|
|Burden, F. A.||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Campbell, B. (Oldham, W.)||Jennings, J. C. (Burton)||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas|
|Campbell, Cordon (Moray & Nairn)||Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead)||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Carlisle, Mark||Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)||Robson Brown, Sir William|
|Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert||Jopling, Michael||Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)|
|Chataway, Christopher||Kaberry, Sir Donald||Royle, Anthony|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Kerby, Capt. Henry||Russell, Sir Ronald|
|Clark, Henry||Kershaw, Anthony||St. John-Stevas, Norman|
|Clegg, Walter||Kirk, Peter||Sandys, Rt. Hn. D.|
|Cooke, Robert||Kitson, Timothy||Scott, Nicholas|
|Cooper-Key, Sir Neill||Knight, Mrs. Jill||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|Corfield, F. V.||Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Sharples, Richard|
|Costain, A. P.||Lane, David||Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)|
|Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)||Langford-Holt, Sir John||Silvester, Frederick|
|Crouch, David||Lawler, Wallace||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Crowder, F. P.||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mingtor|
|Cunningham, Sir Knox||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Smith, John (London & W'minster)|
|Currie, G. B. H.||Lloyd,Rt.Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'nC'dfield)||Speed, Keith|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)||Steel, David (Roxburgh)|
|Dance, James||Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Selwyn (Wirral)||Stodart, Anthony|
|Dean, Paul||Longden, Gilbert||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.|
|Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford)||Lubbock, Eric||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||McAdden, Sir Stephen||Tapsell, Peter|
|Dodds-Parker, Douglas||Mac Arthur, Ian||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Doughty, Charles||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)|
|Drayson, G. B.||Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain||Temple, John M.|
|du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward||McMaster, Stanley||Thorpe, Rt. Hn. Jeremy|
|Eden, Sir John||Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham)||Tilney, John|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carthalton)||McNair-Wilson, Michael||Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.|
|Emery, Peter||McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest)||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Errington, Sir Eric||Maddan, Martin||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John|
|Farr, John||Maginnis, John E.||Vickers, Dame Joan|
|Fisher, Nigel||Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest||Waddington, David|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Marten, Nei.||Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)|
|Fortescue, Tim||Maude, Angus||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek|
|Foster, Sir John||Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald||Wall, Patrick|
|Fraser,Rt.Hn.Hugh(St'fford & Stone)||Mawby, Ray||Walters, Dennis|
|Fry, Peter||Ward, Christopher (Swindon)|
|Galbraith, Hn. T. G.||Maxwell-Hyslon, R. J.||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Gibson-Watt, David||Mills, Peter (Torrington)||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)||Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Glover, Sir Douglas||Miscampbell, Norman||Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William|
|Goodhart, Philip||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Wiggin, A. W.|
|Goodhew, Victor||Monro, Hector||Williams, Donald (Dudley)|
|Gower, Raymond||Montgomery, Fergus||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Grant, Anthony||More, Jasper||Winstanley, Dr. M. P.|
|Grant-Ferris, Sir Robert||Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Grieve, Percy||Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm.||Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Gurden, Harold||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||Worsley, Marcus|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Wright, Esmond|
|Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Mutton, Oscar||Wylie, N. R.|
|Hamilton, Lord (Fermanagh)||Nabarro, Sir Gerald|
|Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Nicholls, Sir Harmar||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)||Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael||Mr. R. W. Elliott and|
|Harris, Reader (Heston)||Onslow, Cranley||Mr. Reginald Eyre.|
|Harrison, Brian (Maldon)||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.|
|Abse, Leo||Anderson, Donald||Ashton, Joe (Bassetlaw)|
|Albu, Austen||Archer, Peter (R'wley Regis & Tipt'n)||Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.)|
|Alldritt, Walter||Armstrong, Ernest||Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham)|
|Allen, Scholefield||Ashley, Jack||Bacon, Rt. Hn. Alice|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Freeson, Reginald||MacMillan, Malcolm (Western Isles)|
|Barnes, Michael||Galpern, Sir Myer||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)|
|Barnett, Joel||Gardner, Tony||McNamara, J. Kevin|
|Beaney, Alan||Garrett, W. E.||MacPherson, Malcolm|
|Bence, Cyril||Ginsburg, David||Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)|
|Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Golding, John||Mahon, Simon (Bootle)|
|Bennett, James (G'gow, Bridgeton)||Cordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C.||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth)||Mallalieu,J.P. W. (Huddersfield,E.)|
|Binns, John||Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Manuel, Archie|
|Bishop, E. S.||Gregory, Arnold||Mapp, Charles|
|Blackburn, F.||Grey, Charles (Durham)||Marks, Kenneth|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside)||Marquand, David|
|Boardman, H. (Leigh)||Griffiths, Will (Exchange)||Marsh, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Booth, Albert||Gunter, Rt. Hn. R. J.||Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy|
|Boston, Terence||Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)||Maxwell, Robert|
|Boyden, James||Hamling, William||Mayhew, Christopher|
|Bradley, Tom||Hannan, William||Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Harper, Joseph||Mendelson, John|
|Brooks, Edwin||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Mikardo, Ian|
|Broughton, Sir Alfred||Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith||Millan, Bruce|
|Brown, Rt. Hn. George (Belper)||Haseldine, Norman||Miller, Dr. M. S.|
|Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)||Hattersley, Roy||Milne, Edward (Blyth)|
|Brown,Bob(N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,W.)||Hazell, Bert||Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)|
|Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury)||Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis||Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)|
|Buchan, Norman||Heffer, Eric S.||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)|
|Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)||Henig, Stanley||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret||Morris, John (Aberavon)|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Hilton, W. S.||Movie, Roland|
|Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James||Hooley, Frank||Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Cant, R. B.||Horner, John||Murray, Albert|
|Carmichael, Neil||Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Neal, Harold|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||Newens, Stan|
|Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara||Howie, W.||Norwood, Christopher|
|Chapman, Donald||Hoy, Rt. Hn. James||Oakes, Gordon|
|Coe, Denis||Huckfield, Leslie||Ogden, Eric|
|Coleman, Donald||Hughes, Roy (Newport)||O'Halloran, Michael|
|Concannon, J. D.||Hunter, Adam||O'Malley, Brian|
|Conlan, Bernard||Hynd, John||Oram, Bert|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Irvine, Rt. Hn. Sir Arthur||Orbach, Maurice|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh)||Oswald, Thomas|
|Cronin, John||Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak)||Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)|
|Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Janner, Sir Barnett||Padley, Walter|
|Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard||Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Paget, R. T.|
|Darling, Rt. Hn. George||Jeger, George (Goole)||Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles|
|Davidson, Arthur (Accrington)||Jeger,Mrs.Lena(H'b'n&St.P'cras,S.)||Park, Trevor|
|Davies, E. Hudson (Conway)||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Parker, John (Dagenham)|
|Davies, C. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)||Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)|
|Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford)||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)|
|Davies, Rt. Hn. Harold (Leek)||Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)||Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Pentland, Norman|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Jones,Rt.Hn.Sir Elwyn(W.Ham,S.)||Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)|
|de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)|
|Delargy, Hugh||Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West)||Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg|
|Dell, Rt. Hn. Edmund||Kelley, Richard||Price, Christopher (Perry Barr)|
|Dempsey, James||Kenyon, Clifford||Price, Thomas (Westhoughton)|
|Dewar, Donald||Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham)||Price, William (Rugby)|
|Diamond, Rt. Hn. John||Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central)||Probert, Arthur|
|Dickens, James||Kerr, Russell (Feltham)||Rankin, John|
|Doig, Peter||Latham, Arthur||Rees, Merlyn|
|Driberg, Tom||Lawson, George||Rhodes, Geoffrey|
|Dunn, James A.||Leadbitter, Ted||Richard, Ivor|
|Dunnett, Jack||Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter)||Lee, Rt. Hn. Jennie (Cannock)||Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy|
|Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'c)||Lee, John (Reading)||Roberts, Gwilym (Bedfordshire, S.)|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Lestor, Miss Joan||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|Edwards, William (Merioneth)||Lever, Rt. Hn. Harold (Cheetham)||Robinson, Rt.Hn.Kenneth(St.P'c'as)|
|Ellis, John||Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.)||Rodgers, William (Stockton)|
|English, Michael||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Roebuck, Roy|
|Ennals, David||Lipton, Marcus||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||Lomas, Kenneth||Ross, Rt. Hn. William|
|Evans, Fred (Caerphilly)||Loughlin, Charles||Rowlands, E.|
|Evans, loan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley)||Luard, Evan|
|Faulds, Andrew||Ryan, John|
|Fernyhough, E.||Lyon, Alexander W. (York)||Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.)|
|Finch, Harold||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Sheldon, Robert|
|Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||McBride, Neil||Shinwell, Rt. Hn. E.|
|Fletcher,Rt.Hn.SirEric(Islington,E.)||McCann, John||Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)|
|Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)||MacColl, James||Short, Rt.Hn. Edward(N'c'We-u-Tyne)|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||MacDermot, Niall||Short, Mrs. Renée(W'hampton,N.E.)|
|Foley, Maurice||Macdonald, A. H.||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)|
|Foot, Rt. Hn. Sir Dingle (Ipswich)||McElhone, Frank||Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||McGuire, Michael||Silverman, Julius|
|Ford, Ben||McKay, Mrs. Margaret||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Forrester, John||Mackie, John||Slater, Joseph|
|Fraser, John (Norwood)||Mackintosh, John P.||Small, William|
|Spriggs, Leslie||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)|
|Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire,W.)||Wallace, George||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael||Watkins, David (Consett)||Willis, Rt. Hn. George|
|Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John||Weitzman, David||Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)|
|Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.||Wellbeloved, James||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)||Winnick, David|
|Taverne, Dick||Whitaker, Ben||Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.|
|Thomas, Rt. Hn. George||White, Mrs. Eirene||Woof, Robert|
|Thomson, Rt. Hn. George||Whitlock, William||Wyatt, Woodrow|
|Thornton, Ernest||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Tomney, Frank||Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Tuck, Raphael||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)||Mr. James Hamilton and|
|Urwin, T. W.||Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)||Mr. R. F. H. Dobson.|
|Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)||Williams. Clifford (Abertillery)|