Direct Labour

Oral Answers to Questions — Public Building and Works – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 1st August 1966.

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Mr. Gresham Cooke:

asked the Minister of Public Building and Works what estimate he has formed of the number of operatives in the building industry directly employed by public authorities.

Photo of Mr James Boyden Mr James Boyden , Bishop Auckland

363,000 construction workers in April 1965, the latest date for which figures are available.

Mr. Gresham Cooke:

As these 363,000 are workers employed by public authorities who will get a refund of the Selective Employment Tax compared with private contractors who have to pay it, and as the productivity of direct labour is only about half that of the private builder, would it not be better Government policy to apply S.E.T. to local authorities?

Photo of Mr James Boyden Mr James Boyden , Bishop Auckland

As far as productivity is concerned, hon. Members opposite always pick the worst cases and never say anything about the good cases. I utterly refute what the hon. Member says. 71,000 of the workers employed by public authorities are engaged on new work, and 292,000 are engaged on repair and maintenance. That means that practically half the repair and maintenance work is done for public authorities by direct labour, and the S.E.T. is most unlikely to affect them.

Photo of Mr Richard Sharples Mr Richard Sharples , Sutton and Cheam

asked the Minister of Public Building and Works what was the gross output per person per annum for the year ended 31st March, 1966, for persons employed in construction by private contractors and what were the figures for persons employed by the direct labour departments of local authorities.

Photo of Mr Reginald Prentice Mr Reginald Prentice , East Ham North

Figures are available only in respect of output per site operative per annum. The figures at current prices are:

Private Contractors £2,965.

Local Authorities £1,575 (provisional estimate) Comparison of these figures is meaningless, not least because local authority direct labour employees, unlike contractors' men, are mainly engaged on maintenance. When local authority direct labour departments and private contractors compete there appears normally to be little difference in tender prices.

Photo of Mr Richard Sharples Mr Richard Sharples , Sutton and Cheam

Will the right hon. Gentleman give the exact figure, which is among the figures available in his Department, of the comparative figures for new construction?

Photo of Mr Reginald Prentice Mr Reginald Prentice , East Ham North

Not without notice, but, as I said, they show generally very little difference, when the conditions are comparable, in their tendering for the same kind of job.