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CBI boss fed up at criticism of house builders'profits

NEWS

THE HEAD of bosses group the CBI has defended profits posted by Britain's house builders.

Director general Digby Jones said he was fed up with the criticism being aimed at house builders following recent attacks by deputy prime minister John Prescott.

He told a fringe meeting on the Barker Review at the Labour Party conference on Tuesday: 'I don't like this chat around Whitehall that house building company profits are to be discouraged.

'We are getting close with some in Government - one minister in particular - to saying that profit is a dirty word. I am delighted when I hear of major house builders making record profits. If they don't they won't be able to invest in landbanks.'

Mr Jones didn't name him, but it is believed his remarks were a reference to recent comments by Mr Prescott.

One delegate said: 'We're back to the brain game with Prescott.He's saying why aren't we building more affordable housing with the money we make. I didn't realise that was our soul job.'

At the same meeting Wilson Bowden chief executive Ian Robertson added:'You've got to look at this business as a cycle.We haven't always made the kind of margins we are making today.Our remit is to make money in a way to sustain the business.'

Mr Prescott is confident contractors can build and sell new homes for £60,000 and still make a profit.

The challenge was laid down during his speech to the conference on Sunday when Mr Prescott outlined plans to improve the flow of affordable housing.

Mr Prescott wants to release more public sector-owned land for building on.

The Government would keep a stake in the land while the buyer would pay for the actual bricks and mortar.

He said: 'Instead of selling land to the highest bidder, I want to work with builders to deliver high quality homes at affordable prices.

'If we take land costs out of the equation, I believe it should be possible to build a high-quality home for around £60,000.

'I want to challenge our construction industry to achieve that.'