HC Deb 22 March 1973 vol 853 cc656-7
Q5. Mr. Redmond

asked the Prime Minister if he is satisfied with the coordination between the Departments of Environment and Employment regarding action about housing land shortage in view of the availability of building operatives.

Q10. Mr. Adley

asked the Prime Minister if he is satisfied with the co-ordination between the Departments of Environment and Employment concerning arrangements to be made concerning the availability of housing land, in view of the present shortage of building trade operatives.

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. I am satisfied with the arrangements which the Departments have for co-ordinating their responsibilities.

Mr. Redmond

We all await with great interest the announcement on land charges by the Secretary of State, and, above all, we welcome the fall in today's unemployment figure, but does my right hon. Friend agree that the desperate shortage of building workers will make it extremely difficult to get more houses built even if more land is released?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. Regrettably, the construction industry ran down the total number of its employees at the end of the 1960s. [Interruption.] It is true that under the Labour Government they had no work. The Government have increased the number of places available for training, and by the spring of this year the number of places in Government training centres had risen from just under 3,000 to nearly 4,000. At the same time we have seen a doubling in the rate of recruitment of apprentices in the two years since 1970. We are making an effort to secure the skilled labour essential for the construction industry.

Mr. Grimond

Although one cannot deny that there is availability of building operatives in some parts of the country, it is equally true that in other parts of the country, including my own constituency, there is a shortage of building labour. Since mobility of labour is one of the difficulties—and the housing shortage is fundamental to the problem—what steps are the Government taking to deal with the situation?

The Prime Minister

On the question of mobility of labour, we have greatly increased the arrangements in respect of payments to cover the costs of moving families, housing, and so on, in an endeavour to help those who are prepared to move from one part of the country to another. I would be the first to agree that the lack of mobility in certain kinds of labour is a great problem.

Mr. Adley

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the Chancellor of the Exchequer's arrangements will apply to local authorities, hospital boards and other statutory bodies? Does he agree that this is a first step towards abolishing one form of local government secrecy which has done more to hold up the supply of available building land than has any other single factor for many years?

The Prime Minister

I believe that it will provide a valuable incentive, and this is appreciated by the bodies concerned.

Mr. Heffer

Does the Prime Minister agree that one of the greatest factors in the rundown in the numbers of apprenticeships over the last 10 years has been the development of self-employed labour-only workers—otherwise known as "the lump"—in the building industry? Will he not support the Bill which I have presented to Parliament which deals with the question of labour-only sub-contracting and will allow the country to return to the situation of regular apprenticeships at all building firms at every level?

The Prime Minister

I do not entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman about his Bill. Nevertheless, I agree with his general thesis. As he knows, this has been the consequence of certain changes in taxation, again during the 1960s, and all these problems confronting the construction industry are real and deep-seated.