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Signoff: David Taylor

DO YOU ever listen to Radio 4's Face the Fac ts?

In this programme, the pugnacious John Waite doorsteps baddies and shouts embarrassing questions - such as: 'What did you do with the orphans' piggy banks?' as the baddie at tempts to slam the door.

Last Sunday's programme promised to be riveting - it was all about East European immigrants working 'on the lump'. It was a case, said Mr Waite, of history threatening to repeat itself.

He interviewed several Irish former labourers who had come to England in the 1960s and been swallowed up by the labour black market.

Now homeless alcoholics, these sad individuals were a dire warning, said Face the Facts, of what lies in store for the Poles, Hungarians and Croatians who are f looding the UK.

I waited in vain for Mr Waite to do his party trick and confront the evil gangmasters face-to-face. But instead of cornering any individual culprits, the programme instead pointed the finger at a loosely-identified group of ne'er-do-wells: 'subcontractors - or 'subbies' as they are known'.

Academics, union officials and politicians were wheeled out to heap condemnation on these 'subbies' in their 'white vans'. One even alluded to the existence of 'sub-subsubcontractors' - with the clear indicat ion that they must be ut terly depraved.

It's only right that the black market in const ruct ion labou r is explained to a wider audience - it's just a shame that anybody who now confesses to being a building subcontractor risks being labelled a tax-dodger and exploiter of workers.

BETTER news for subcontractors is that somebody has had the extreme good sense to stand up and suggest that it's time the construction industry shuffled off its burden of special tax status and joined the rest of the economy in the real world. For more than 30 years the tax authorities have tried every method of identifying who is genuinely self-employed and who is simply an employee trying to keep their opt ions open.

Along the way, employers and employees have had to jump through all sorts of hoops, filling in forms, completing questionnaires and even sitting in a bare room with spotlights shining in their eyes. All right, I exaggerate slightly, but that's what it can feel like.

Now we are told that the latest tax scheme - the CIS - has done the trick and that more than 90 per cent of contractors pass the compliance test.

This is truly remarkable. By which I do not mean it's remarkable that so many contractors are paying tax - but that HM Revenue & Customs has done something that actually works.

WHAT is 'sustainability'? It's a tough question - and when it comes to Government policy it depends on whether you're John Prescott or Ruth Kelly. Before the unfortunate legover business became public, Mr Prescott was the main champion of sustainable development and his department (the now defunct Department of the Deputy Prime Minister) was largely driven by the 'sustainability agenda'.

But now this part of Mr Prescott's workload has been transferred to Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly and sustainability doesn't seem quite the same, somehow.

One of the first things she did in her new role was to cancel Mr Prescott's Sustainable Communities Summit, scheduled for next February. This event had already run up bills of more than £300,000 in fees and expenses before Ms Kelly pulled the plug. And the decision to scrap the event added another £55,000 in cancellation fees.

It's hard to see where that leaves the 'sustainability agenda'.