HC Deb 21 July 1970 vol 804 cc211-4
2. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Minister of Public Building and Works if he will introduce legislation to curb the avoidance of tax and insurance payments within the building industry.

11. Mr. Loughlin

asked the Minister of Public Building and Works whether he intends to reintroduce the Construction Industry Contracts Bill, published in the last Parliament.

12. Mr. Heffer

asked the Minister of Public Building and Works whether he will introduce a Bill to deal with labour-only sub-contracting in the construction industry.

15. Mr. Ashton

asked the Minister of Public Building and Works when he proposes to make a statement on his policy on labour-only sub-contracting.

17. Mr. Lipton

asked the Minister of Public Building and Works when he will introduce legislation to end or restrict labour-only sub-contracting.

The Minister of Public Building and Works (Mr. Julian Amery)

I have this matter under consideration and will make a statement in due course.

Mr. Hamilton

Could the Minister explain why he does not see fit to reintroduce the Bill which was brought in by my right hon. Friend the Member for Deptford (Mr. John Silkin), the previous Minister of Public Building and Works? If not, does he intend to introduce legislation this Session?

Mr. Amery

All I have said is that I have the matter under review. The hon. Gentleman will recall that it took the previous Administration some five years to decide to bring in a Bill at all. Therefore, it is only fair that I should ask for a little time.

Mr. Loughlin

The right hon. Gentleman cannot get away with the comment that it took us five years to decide, as he well knows. Dealing with the matter as it stands, is he aware that not only were both sides of the industry desirous that it should be dealt with speedily but that both sides of the House, by agreement, got the Bill through its Committee stage in four sittings? Does not he think that it is time that he took action to deal with this scandal?

Mr. Amery

The hon. Gentleman cannot describe as a scandal a matter which his Administration did not attempt to remedy for five years. I am in consultation with the industry about it. As the hon. Gentleman will remember, we on this side raised a number of reservations in Committee. It is only reasonable that we should give ourselves a little time. We are opposed to the concept of instant government.

Mr. Heffer

Is not it clear that the Minister's answer is absolutely disgraceful? Even accepting that it took five years to introduce the Bill—which is not true, anyway—is not it clear that both sides of the industry have said time after time that this matter must be dealt with quickly, and is not it also clear that the right hon. Gentleman should bring legislation before the House at the earliest possible moment—[Interruption.] Hon. Gentlemen opposite may not regard it as important, but, as a building trade worker, I regard it as very important—

Mr. Speaker

Order. Questions must be brief.

Mr. Heffer

Then may I make the point? Will the Minister give us a clear answer to the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton), and say that legislation will be brought before the House this Session?

Mr. Amery

Until the end of the hon. Gentleman's remarks, I found it difficult to elucidate which question he was asking. He has now made it clear. I have said that I have the matter under review and will make a statement in due course.

Mr. Ashton

Why is it that while on major policy matters, such as sales of arms to South Africa and bringing back the eleven-plus, it is possible to make decisions in three days, the same cannot be done with a small Measure like this?

Mr. Amery

Small Measures are often difficult.

Mr. Lipton

Of course, we all know the right hon. Gentleman's views on private enterprise, but does he not think that, when private enterprise is carried to the extent of a racket, dodging income tax and insurance payments, action should be taken? Can we have an assurance that he will take steps to end this racket some time in the next five years, preferably as soon as possible?

Mr. Amery

The hon. Gentleman's question would be more appropriate when I make my statement.

Mr. Costain

Does my right hon. Friend appreciate that the Measure brought in by the Socialist Government was a steamhammer to crack a nut? Does not he consider that this problem can be overcome by introducing a system of registration similar to 56AB introduced in 1947, without the need for complicated, bureaucratic interference?

Mr. Amery

The considerations raised by my hon. Friend are among those which make me anxious to review the whole matter carefully.

Mr. John Silkin

May I first congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on taking over a very fine Department? Secondly, may I ask him to have consultations with his hon. Friend the Member for Londonderry (Mr. Chichester-Clark), who introduced a Bill into this House in February of this year on the ground that too much time had already gone by?

Mr. Amery

I have already been in touch with my hon. Friend about it and his advice is a matter on which I shall lean.

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