HC Deb 07 March 1979 vol 963 cc1246-7
14. Mr. Tebbit

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what benefits are expected to flow to the construction industry from the 1979 inquiry into purchases of building materials.

Mr. Freeson

Manufacturers and contractors will benefit from the better understanding of the construction market which the inquiry will provide, and from the improved price and cost indices my Department will be able to produce.

Mr. Tebbit

In view of the structure of the industry and the large number of very small firms on the building and construction side, does the Minister agree that it would have been much easier to get the same information out of an inquiry into sales of building materials rather than one into purchases of building materials?

Mr. Freeson

I take the point that the hon. Gentleman has raised, and in fact it was considered, but, without going into detail at Question Time, the position is that the interplay of buying and selling inside the industry led us to the conclusion that the best way of establishing information would be by going to the consumer, that is to say, the purchaser of materials. In designing the system we excluded large numbers of the small building firms. We have not included in the surveys any firm, for example, employing fewer than 20 people. Very large numbers have been excluded.

Mr. Heffer

My right hon. Friend will no doubt have read the Labour Party report on the building materials industry. As a number of monopolies control the industry, has not the time come to move in and bring them under control in order to reduce the price of materials in the industry?

Mr. Freeson

The only case to my knowledge which has been the subject of report in recent times concerns the cement producers. I am not aware of any others, but in any deliberations that we undertake in this direction I shall take account of any other information we receive.