§ MR. COGHILL (Newcastle-under-Lyme)
asked the Surveyor General of the Ordnance, Whether the whole of the clothing for the Army which is not made up in the Government factory at Pimlico is put up for tender; and, if so, whether there have been any exceptions to this rule during the last 12 months; whether it is a fact that a three years' contract for clothing has been given to a firm in Ireland without tendering, at a higher rate than the articles would have been supplied at by contractors in England under a contract for the same period; whether the Directors of the Limerick Clothing Factory chiefly, if not entirely, consist of officers in the Army or officials in Government employment; and, whether preference is given to this Company over other contractors; and, if so, whe- 1398 ther the quality of the work done by them is superior to that done by other contractors?
§ MR. JOHN O'CONNOR (Tipperary, S.)
asked, Whether it was not a fact that the tender of the Limerick Company was lower in price than the other competitors; and, whether the prices were not from 15 to 40 per cent lower than the cost for similar work at Pimlico; and, whether the Government Inspector did not declare the Limerick work to be far superior?
§ THE SURVEYOR GENERAL (Mr. NORTHCOTE) (Exeter)
My answer to the Question will, practically, cover the points raised by the hon. Member (Mr. J. O'Connor). The contracts for making Army clothing are, as a rule, put up to competition. In the competition for 1886 the Auxiliary Forces Company, whose factory is at Limerick, secured an order for over 100,000 garments, and their prices in the aggregate were about £1,600 below those of the next lower competitor. This Company's tender, for the articles for which they have received a three years' contract, had, on the whole, been for three years the lowest received; and, in those circumstances, I felt perfectly justified in awarding them a more lasting contract. A recent competition this year has, however, shown that an English firm are now willing to accept even lower prices. They have received orders for 86,000 garments, and further contracts will shortly be offered for competition. The names of the Directors can be furnished to the hon. Member; but I may say that the only Director of the Limerick Company who is known to hold an official position is an Equerry to the Duke of Cambridge, but not an officer in the Army. The action taken with regard to this Company has been justified by their low prices, which have for years in most articles been the lowest offered. With some exceptions, their work has been as good as, as well as cheaper than, that furnished by other contractors; though I do not wish to draw any invidious distinction as to superiority of work between one firm and another.
§ MR. JOHN O'CONNOR
asked if an investigation of the prices of recent tenders had proved that there could be no profit arising out of them?