HC Deb 23 May 1977 vol 932 cc993-5
6. Mr. Kinnock

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what representations he has received from workers and employees in the building industry in Wales concerning the need to stimulate spending and employment in building and construction.

Mr. Alec Jones

I have met the National Federation of Building Trade Employers and the Union of Construction and Allied Trades and I share the concern expressed by the Joint Advisory Committee for the Building and Construction Industry in Wales. My right hon. and learned Friend was, therefore, pleased to announce last Wednesday an addition of £5¾ million over the next two years to the expenditure programmes within his responsibility. This will all be spent on construction projects.

Mr. Kinnock

I am grateful for that answer, especially for the extra finances to flow into building and construction and for the review taking place of housing expenditure among local authorities. Does my hon. Friend agree that in order to stimulate the sort of improvement and the employment that we need a great deal more finance will have to be allocated to combat unemployment and to ensure that the pace of improvement of housing stock and the development of new houses set by previous Labour Governments is well and truly sustained by this Government?

Mr. Alec Jones

I agree that there are man spheres of public life in which it would be desirable to increase public expenditure if we had earned the money before we spent it. Within the capital resources available we have sought to allow each local authority to take its own decisions—namely, whether it will spend money on building new houses or on improving them.

Mr. Wyn Roberts

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the £5 million contribution over two years is minimal and will have little effect? Has he looked into the effect on unemployment of the denial of the 714 certificate to small builders, very often on the ground that they have been unemployed at some time over the past three years?

Mr. Alec Jones

There has been a lengthy debate in the House on 714 certificates. When I met the National Federation of Building Trade Employers in Cardiff I took up this issue and was able to ensure that certificates would be granted to those who up to that time had found some difficulty in obtaining them. The £5¾ million is an extra £5¾ million. I am sure that when the allocations are made known—they will be announced within the next few days—many parts of Wales will consider the £5¾ million extremely valuable.

Mr. Wigley

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the £5¾ million, while welcome in itself, is a very small sum compared with the cutbacks that the Government announced some time ago? Does he not think it outrageous that at a time when 15,000 construction workers are unemployed in Wales there should be 60,000 families waiting for council houses and a seriously deteriorating situation in respect of house repairs? What action are the Government going to take?

Mr. Alec Jones

In answer to a question last week I announced the setting up of a working party to consider expenditure on housing in Wales. The need for the working party to be set up was that last year many housing authorities in Wales, for various reasons, were unable to spend the moneys that we had allocated to them. I understand the hon. Gentleman's desire to throw stones at the Government, but sometimes the stones need to be thrown much closer to home.

Mr. Anderson

Clearly the new and welcome £5¾ million will have some effect on employment. Has any estimate been made of the employment effects of a certain scale of investment?

Mr. Alec Jones

I should have to have notice of that question. However, my right hon. and learned Friend is anxious to ensure that the extra £5¾ million is spent on projects that will aid the construction industry in Wales.

Forward to