HC Deb 08 February 1971 vol 811 cc13-4
20. Mr. Boyden

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many building firms went bankrupt in 1970.

Sir J. Eden

Figures for the whole year 1970 arc not yet available. For the first nine months the number of Receiving Orders and Orders of Administration (under Section 130 of the Bankruptcy Act, 1914) made in England and Wales in respect of sole traders and firms in the construction industry was 729. In the same period there were 199 compulsory and 401 creditors' voluntary liquidations of companies in this industry.

Mr. Boyden

Is this not a most unsatisfactory position? Would the Minister not tell his right hon. Friend, who is responsible for building, that much more needs to be done about the building industry than just holding contractors to two-year firm contracts?

Sir J. Eden

The number of bankruptcies in the construction industry from 1965 to 1969 has been increasing on average at about 10 per cent. per year.

Mr. Chichester-Clark

Is my hon. Friend aware that by far the largest single contributory factor on this matter was the imposition of selective employment tax? That, of course, was not imposed by the present Government. Is he further aware that the building industry produces a quarter of the total yield of that tax?

Sir J. Eden

Yes, Sir. I am aware of both those facts. This is one of the reasons that we have made the firm pledge to get rid of S.E.T.

Mr. J. T. Price

Is not the hon. Gentleman aware that bankruptcies and winding-up orders in the building and construction industry are not a recent phenomenon, that many builders go into the speculative building of houses with nominal capital and, having completed a particular scheme, then get out with the aid of any kind of legal instrument so as not to be in the position of having to face the complaints of house purchasers who are duped by unsound companies? When will the Government tackle the spurious builders who make a mockery as between purchaser and vendor?

Sir J. Eden

I am aware that bankruptcies in the construction industry have been going on for some time. There were some 957 in 1969. But as for the other matters, they are more a question for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment.