HC Deb 08 December 1971 vol 827 cc1285-6
23. Mr. Clinton Davis

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment why he will not introduce legislation to prohibit labour-only sub-contracting in the building industry.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Paul Channon)

Because the industry has amended its working rules to deal with bogus self-employment, and the Government have taken steps to control tax-evasion by the self-employed. Bona-fide labour-only sub-contracting is a long-established and essential part of the building industry.

Mr. Clinton Davis

Is not the hon. Gentleman aware that this is still a device to discourage trade union activity, that it is encouraged by organisations such as Labour Force, that it is a device to avoid national insurance contributions, and that, generally, it is a practice which ought to be thoroughly deplored?

Mr. Channon

The hon. Gentleman will know that earlier this year the National Joint Council for the Building Industry agreed to amend the national working rules on this matter. The Government have taken the measures which I have outlined.

Mr. Kinsey

But would not my hon. Friend care to say a word in defence of labour-only sub-contractors and agree that they have speeded up building and lowered costs, and have given independence to a lot of men who now have control over their own work schedules?

Mr. Channon

As I said in the first place, bona fide labour-only sub-contracting is a long-established and essential part of the building industry. To abolish it would put up prices.

Mr. Loughlin

I recognise that bona fide sub-contracting is acceptable in the building industry, but will the hon. Gentleman tell the House what is the reduction, after the steps which have been taken of which he now boasts, in the number of people engaged as lump workers in the building industry?

Mr. Channon

As the hon. Gentleman knows, the provisions in the Finance Act will not operate until later next year, so it is hardly possible for me to answer that point.