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Volume 981: debated on Wednesday 26 March 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement as to how his policies will affect employment in the building and construction industry in the North-East.

Employment in building and construction will depend on the industry's response to the various measures I am taking to facilitate development.

Does not the Secretary of State realise that unemployment in the building and construction industry already accounts for 17 per cent. of the unemployment in the North-East and that in a recent survey 43 per cent. of the workers wanted to leave the industry because of insecurity? Will he now bring in a crash programme of building and construction work in areas of high unemployment? Would he like to start with the 400 unmade roads in my constituency?

Unmade roads are a matter for my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport. A crash programme of the kind that the hon. Gentleman envisages would lead to increases in public expenditure which would actu- ally exacerbate the very problems to which he has drawn the attention of the House.

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the detrimental effect that local authority direct labour organisations have had on the building industry in the North-East this year?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that question. I am aware of that, and that is why my right hon. Friend the Minister for Local Government and Environmental Services is responsible for taking through the House legislation to control and regulate the activities of direct labour organisations.