HC Deb 07 March 1890 vol 342 cc259-60
MR. LAWSON (St. Pancras, W.)

I bog to ask the First Commissioner of Works whether, in October last, tenders wore invited for certain works of re-gilding, polishing, and upholding chairs, sofas, &c. in the Foreign Office, on the following terms: The work to be done on the premises of the firm contracting, by competent workmen, that it was not to be sublet, and to be subject to critical inspection after completion and before approval and acceptance; whether certain chairs were removed from the Foreign Office for inspection, prior to the competing firms generally seeing the work and giving in their estimates, thereby affording an advantage to those who may alone have seen them; and whether the tender of the firm of Messrs. Jinks and Wood, of Berners Street, was accepted; and, if so, whether he is aware that, with reference to the re-gilding of the chairs, the terms of the contract have been evaded by that portion of the work having been sublet to a firm accused of paying the lowest prices, and by them again sublet to individual workers at competitive rates of payment; if so, whether he will take such precautionary stops as will prevent the recurrence of such practices in the future?


The answer to the first paragraph is in the affirmative. As to the second paragraph, it is true that some chairs were removed from the Foreign Office before tenders were invited for their repair, not so as to give an advantage to any special firms, but in order to take the advice of Messrs. Holland, who had originally supplied the chairs, as to the best way of dealing with them. The chairs were not shown to Messrs. Jinks and Wood, of Berners Street, the firm who got the contract, until after the tenders had been invited. As to the third paragraph, Messrs. Jinks and Wood have written to me as follows:— The gilding was done in our down workshops, under our personal supervision, by competent workmen regularly employed by our firm, who were paid weekly wages at the ordinary rates recognised as fair in the trade; they say also that the charge of subletting at competitive rates is entirely without foundation, the work having been given out as day work, not piece work, in the regular [...] speech in workmen, who were onl[...] do a fair day's work for [...] pay. I may add that the work [...] from time to time, inspected at Messrs. Jinks and Wood's workshops by officers from my Department.