HC Deb 19 April 1995 vol 258 cc206-7
14. Mr. Clifton-Brown

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what action he has taken within his Department to support his sponsorship of the construction industry. [17918]

Mr. Robert B. Jones

My Department enhanced its capacity and focus for the sponsorship of the construction industry at the end of 1993.

Among other things we have: established with the industry the construction procurement group to help to reduce the UK's trade deficit in construction products; set up the construction benchmarking challenge under which my Department provides financial assistance towards the establishment of four benchmarking clubs; boosted the practical help that we give to UK construction companies which wish to pursue business overseas. Ministers led six trade missions in 1994 covering 11 countries; and, most importantly, my Department co-sponsored with the industry Sir Michael Latham's report, "Constructing the team", on the procurement and contractual arrangements of the UK construction industry. My Department has also helped set up the Construction Industry Board to implement the recommendations of the report.

Mr. Clifton-Brown

I warmly welcome my hon. Friend's reply and the help that he has given to the construction industry. He will be aware that the Latham report published last year was warmly welcomed by the industry. One of the main recommendations of the report was a construction contracts Bill to oversee standard contract conditions and payment terms. When will the consultation paper for that Bill be published so that we can get that much-needed measure on the statute book?

Mr. Jones

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, and I congratulate him on being the first Member of Parliament in nine months to ask an oral question on the construction industry. That issue is extremely important for the whole industry and we will make sure, provided that there is consensus in the industry, that legislation is brought forward. I shall keep my hon. Friend informed.

Mr. Robert Ainsworth

Does the Minister accept that there is wide consensus on the Latham proposals for legislation and for the construction industry Bill? Can the. Minister make a commitment to bring forward such legislation? What discussions has he had with colleagues in other Departments—particularly the Department of Trade and Industry—on whether they also will support legislation?

Mr. Jones

We consult all interested parties. At the moment, there is consensus in the industry and the Government have made it clear that we will be prepared to countenance legislation, provided that there is consensus on its form and impact.