Orders of the Day — Building Control Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 8th December 1965.

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Photo of Sir Albert Costain Sir Albert Costain , Folkestone and Hythe 12:00 am, 8th December 1965

I thank the hon. Member for coming to the aid of the Minister. He seems to know more about the Bill than does his right hon Friend.

We have here some fundamental points which must be settled. In the winding-up speech, can we be given answers to them? I will address six of them to the Minister. They are not legal points but practical points. If an owner wishes to build a building which is covered by the Bill, must he go to the licensing authority or to the planning authority? In other words, which is the chicken and which is the egg? If he gets a licence, can he assume that he will get planning permission?

If the Minister turns down an application for a licence, will he give his reasons for rejecting it? I suggest that he should. If he does, the architectural profession, which is very worried about this matter, will know the sort of building that finds favour in the Minister's sight and will know what kind of building to try to persuade their clients to have. If the Minister does not give his reasons for rejection, we shall simply find ourselves back in the dark ages.

If the Minister will not give his reasons, will he give general guidance? He has stated that he has given consent for certain jobs already because he found that the Bill would bite even harder than he thought. He has, therefore, already jumped the gun. The Minister said that he would not disclose the buildings for which he had given consent, but, being a gentleman, he told the House today of one of the jobs for which he had given a licence. That in itself will give an indication of his thinking. There is no reason, however, for him to be coy about it. He would not be doing any real harm. We want to get the industry properly phased.

If the Minister proposes that a licence shall be valid for only six months, he will set the industry back. The architects in his own Department, the good lot that they are, can tell him that he must allow more than six months to start a job costing over £100,000, otherwise we will again have the nonsense of clients telling the contractor that he must start the job immediately or they will lose their licence. Much inefficiency is caused in the building industry if a job starts before its time.

There are many points which I should like to make, but time presses on. I would just like in conclusion to say to the Minister that this Bill has been brought about by exaggeration of the position. The Socialist Government once again have, for political expediency, exaggerated a straightforward and every-day industrial problem, the problem of a crisis of confidence. This is exactly the same thing as they did in a bigger way over the balance of payments. They broke down the confidence of other nations at a cost to us of £1,000 million and a 7 per cent. Bank rate.

This is a Bill to introduce controls. Controls do nothing to improve the efficiency of the industry. They will not divert labour or materials as the Minister wants. They will cause a great deal of unrest and unemployment—in the architects' department where they are planning their future programme—and it will eventually come down to the sites themselves, and could eventually, if this squeeze is kept on to its limits, finish up with unemployment in an industry which is trying to fill social needs of this country.