HC Deb 15 November 1977 vol 939 cc277-9
12. Mr. Michael Latham

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what is the current total of unemployment in the construction industry; and what was the equivalent figure in March 1974.

Mr. John Grant

In August 1977, the latest date for which figures are available, 195,952 workers who had last worked in the construction industry were registered as unemployed. The comparable figure for March 1974 was 113,046.

Mr. Latham

I welcome the limited help in the recent Budget, but will the Minister confirm that the measures announced are likely to make little or no difference to unemployment for the next 12 months and that things may well get worse before they get better?

Mr. Grant

I do not accept that. I think that to describe the help as limited is somewhat churlish. In fact, the Chancellor announced a further £400 million on 26th October, which it is estimated will add about 20,000 jobs in construction and another 10,000 in ancillary industries. So far, during the current year a total of £811 million in assistance has been announced for the construction industry.

Mr. Heffer

Does my hon. Friend agree that the construction industry is the most difficult industry of all, and that there is a higher level of unemployment in it than in any other industry? Is he aware that many of us believe that the measures are not sufficient? To try to be constructive, may I ask whether my hon. Friend will indicate what allocations are being made now to local authorities so that they can be ready to start work when the money is available?

Mr. Grant

I accept that what my hon. Friend said was said in a most constructive spirit, but I cannot answer the question. I think that he will recognise that that is a question for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment.

Mr. Emery

Does the Minister know that the emergency joint committee of the building and civil engineering industries in the South-West estimates that one-third of employers who were in existence 12 months ago will not be able to employ anybody, because they will be bankrupt by next April? Will he therefore ensure that in the allocation of the £400 million in the Chancellor's Budget the South-West gets its full proportion and does not suffer, as is normally the case, by getting much less than the rest of the country?

Mr. Grant

I shall certainly draw the hon. Gentleman's remarks to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment.