HC Deb 27 January 1942 vol 377 cc589-90W
Sir L. Lyle

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works and Buildings what steps are being taken to ensure that householders, who suffer much from the after-effects of enemy action, are not deprived of the services of small local builders, who are disappearing under the new official scheme, for the concentration of industry in the building trade?

Mr. Hicks

There is no official scheme for the concentration of business in the building industry, nor am I aware that any substantial numbers of small local builders have gone out of business. In the registration in the autumn there were still 47,925 builders and contractors in existence, and 37,582 specialists, such as painters, glaziers, plumbers, etc. A new census is now being made. If any reduction has occurred since the autumn it is due to military service requirements and to the contraction, which is essential in the interests of the war effort, of all forms of building, public or private. A scheme to ensure the retention in every area of an adequate labour force for all essential repairs and maintenance work has been prepared, but will not be in operation for a little time. No scheme for contraction in the industry will be entered on, without the fullest and earliest discussion with the industry.

Sir R. Gower

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works and Buildings what steps he is taking with reference to the bombed-out householder who has supplied an accepted claim for compensation for repairs and who now finds that the Ministry has eliminated the small builder who undertook to carry out the work for the sum specified, and learns that the local authority is empowered to give the job to some other firm who may charge very much more, especially since it has no interest in working to someone else's estimate, while it will have the monopoly of the work?

Mr. Hicks

The Minister of Works and Buildings has not eliminated any builders, although the contraction of private building work which is essential in the interests of the war effort may have caused some firms to go out of business. I may refer my hon. Friend to the answer to the hon. Member for Bournemouth (Sir L. Lyle), which deals with the same Question. Local authorities do not carry out work of repairs due to bomb damage if the owner of the property prefers to do the work himself. I am not aware that owners have in fact experienced difficulty in employing private contractors, but if the hon. Member will furnish particulars of any cases he has in mind I will have them investigated.