Direct Labour

Oral Answers to Questions — Public Building and Works – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 3rd December 1968.

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Photo of Mr Hugh Rossi Mr Hugh Rossi , Hornsey 12:00 am, 3rd December 1968

asked the Minister of Public Building and Works what is his policy regarding the employment of building workers by public bodies by direct labour on London building sites; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Mr Anthony Grant Mr Anthony Grant , Harrow Central

asked the Minister of Public Building and Works what is his policy regarding the employment of building workers by public bodies by direct labour; and whether he will make a statement.

Photo of Mr Robert Mellish Mr Robert Mellish , Bermondsey

It is a management responsibility to make the most advantageous arrangements. So far as my own Department is concerned, I consider that there is a place for both directly employed labour and contractors.

Photo of Mr Hugh Rossi Mr Hugh Rossi , Hornsey

Can the Minister state what place he considers the Southwark direct labour department has in view of the fact that it has overspent nearly £1 million on the North Peckham development site, for which the Minister himself is partly responsible?

Photo of Mr Robert Mellish Mr Robert Mellish , Bermondsey

The hon. Member is asking the wrong Minister the wrong question at the wrong time. Otherwise he is in order. He should address his question to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government.

Photo of Mr Archibald Manuel Mr Archibald Manuel , Central Ayrshire

Is my right hon. Friend aware that quite a campaign is being waged on this question by Aims of Industry, which is reflected in the questions being put by hon. Members opposite?

Photo of Mr Robert Mellish Mr Robert Mellish , Bermondsey

I know about Aims of Industry, of course. It is always opposed to direct labour. The tragedy in this argument is that, by imputation, nothing is good about directly employed labour and everything is good about contractors —when the truth is that there is a bit of bad about both.

Photo of Mr Joe Ashton Mr Joe Ashton , Bassetlaw

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the public works department in Sheffield has made a profit of £14 million in the last 12 years and that the Department asked Aims of Industry and Mr. Malcolm Hoppé to investigate their hooks, and that when they did, they found nothing wrong and had to accept that this was genuine profit obtained by tendering in competition with private enterprise?

Photo of Mr Robert Mellish Mr Robert Mellish , Bermondsey

I accept that and I think that it confirms what I said, that there is a great deal of good about directly employed labour, where—this is the key—management is efficient.

Photo of Mr Robin Chichester-Clark Mr Robin Chichester-Clark , County Londonderry

I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that he is the wrong Minister in the wrong place at the wrong time. Why, if he cannot be questioned on this matter, did he make a public statement in The Times on this subject in October?

Photo of Mr Robert Mellish Mr Robert Mellish , Bermondsey

I did not make a public statement on that matter. The question which his hon. Friend asked related to the period when I was a Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and I referred the whole matter to the National Building Agency. That is the only part that I played in that. I am now the Minister of Public Building and Works—and a darned sight better Minister than some of them on that side would be.