HC Deb 13 November 1980 vol 992 cc465-6W
Mr. Michael Brown

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) whether he will make a statement on the application to Government building contracts of the "Declaration of Intent" of the National Joint Council for the Building Industry;

(2) whether he has any plans to withdraw the Government's support for the demolition and dismantling industry register; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Geoffrey Finsberg

The Government do not believe that they should operate controls of this kind. In particular, they impose unnecessary burdens upon small businesses and the self-employed.

The original purpose of the declaration of intent was to discourage the "lump"—those subcontractors who evade their tax and national insurance liabilities, but support of the declaration may also have led to discrimination against legitimate subcontractors, often small firms, to whom the loss of Government business could be a serious blow. The Inland Revenue's tax deduction scheme for subcontractors has gone far towards controlling the abuses associated with the "lump" without harming the interests of responsible firms. The effectiveness of this scheme has made it unnecessary to continue to give positive support to the declaration through the Government's contracting procedures.

The demolition and dismantling industry register was set up to improve industrial relations and promote safety. The Government support these objectives, but not to the extent of imposing unnecessary and discriminatory controls on firms.

Many clients for construction and demolition work will have regarded adherence to the declaration and membership of the register as useful indications of good practice and general reliability. The Property Services Agency will continue to have regard to these factors in considering applications for membership of the approved list, but they will no longer be normal preconditions of membership. All demolition work will, however, continue to be subject to inspection under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act. In addition, demolition firms applying to join the approved list will continue to be required to confirm that they will observe the safety provisions of British standard code of practice 94, "Demolition".