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Special Housing Association (Direct Labour)

Volume 526: debated on Tuesday 6 April 1954

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25.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he has considered representations from the Scottish National Building Trades' Federation and the Federation of Civil Engineering Contractors (Scottish Section) that the amount of work undertaken by the Direct Labour Organisation of the Scottish Special Housing Association should be reduced; and what reply has been given.

26.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland why instructions have been given to the Scottish Special Housing Association to reduce the number of houses to be built by direct labour.

My right hon. Friend has considered various representations from the two federations that the amount of work done by the Direct Labour Organisation of the Association should be reduced. The federations have been told that my right hon. Friend, being satisfied that the Direct Labour Organisation was of sufficient strength to serve its present purpose, did not intend it to expand any further.

Why does the Minister say that his right hon. Friend has assured these federations of employers that the Direct Labour Organisation will not be increased? Has he not in fact told them that the amount of work to be done by the Direct Labour Organisation will be reduced?

The answer to the second part of tine question is "No, Sir." The answer to the first part is that we consider that, as the Direct Labour Organisation is already servicing practically all the sites for the Association houses and building about one-fifth, that is sufficient for the present.

Is it not a fact that the Minister gave an assurance to these particular organisations that, as a result of the action taken by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman and his right hon. Friend, the number of houses to be completed by the Direct Labour Organisation will be less this year than it was last year?

Has not the Minister said that the number of houses to be completed by the Direct Labour Organisation will be reduced from 1,366 to 1,185?

What authority have these organisations to call the Government to account for what the Special Housing Association should do?

27.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many houses were completed in 1952–53 by the Direct Labour Organisation of the Scottish Special Housing Association; and how many he estimates will be completed in 1953–54.

In the years ended 31st March, 1953, and 31st March, 1954, the Association's Direct Labour Organisation completed 1,366 and 1,185 houses, respectively.

Is it not a fact that as a result of representations that were made to him about the Scottish Special Housing Association, he said that there would be fewer houses built by direct labour than in the previous year?

The hon. Gentleman should be aware that the programme varies up and down. I think he will find that the number of houses built next year will be above the number completed last year.

Will the right hon. and gallant Gentleman either deny or confirm that he gave an assurance to these two organisations that, as the result of his directive, the number of houses would be less than in any previous year, as he had told the Association to curtail its activities in the direct labour department?

28.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many building trades apprentices who were unable to continue their apprenticeship with private contractors have been taken over by the Scottish Special Housing Association during the past two years.

Can the right hon. and gallant Gentleman indicate whether the apprentices employed by the Association are registered with the National Building Apprentices Training Council? Will he also publicly acknowledge the satisfaction that the Association has given by being able to employ apprentices for whom private contractors had no employment.

29.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he has considered a request from the Scottish National Building Trades' Federation and the Federation of Civil Engineering Con tractors (Scottish Section) for permission to examine the accounts of the Scottish Special Housing Association, with a view to satisfying themselves about the association's claims in respect of the economies effected in site servicing by the Direct Labour Organisation; and what reply has been given.

The federations have been told that the Association's Direct Labour Organisation competes against rates agreed by my right hon. Friend's Department which, he is satisfied, reflect current market rates. My right hon. Friend could not, of course, permit the federations to examine the Association's records to ascertain the detailed basis of the Direct Labour Organisation's estimates and the results.

Is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that the Association's prices are compared by the Department of Health with competitive tenders? Does not the Controller and Auditor-General also examine the Association's books, and should that not satisfy the contractors that the Association operates on a competitive basis?

Do these people assume that because they are Conservatives they can order the Government to bow to them? How will this decision apply to all the other people?

The right hon. Gentleman evidently knows them better than I do. I do not know what their political colour is.

30.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what reply he has sent to the representatives of the Scottish National Building Trades' Federation and the Federation of Civil Engineering Contractors (Scottish Section) that the Direct Labour Organisation of the Scottish Special Housing Association is depriving the civil engineering contracting industry of the work of site servicing and of profits.

The federations have been told that the Direct Labour Organisation's activities do not, in the Government's view, materially affect the volume of work available to private contractors in the building and civil engineering industry.

How on earth could the Joint Under-Secretary inform those federations of employers that the fact that the Direct Labour Organisation could do the site servicing for nearly all the houses does not affect the work of those organisations? Is it not an impertinence on the part of those organisations to seek to influence the Government to curtail the activities of the Direct Labour Organisation?

The hon. Gentleman will know that of about 40,000 houses which we are building in Scotland only 5,000 are being built by the Association. In addition, there is all the other civil engineering work to be contracted for. In those circumstances, the Government do not consider that this Organisation has interfered.

In view of the very unsatisfactory nature of the replies, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment