HC Deb 14 February 1895 vol 30 cc733-5

I beg to ask the Secretary to the Treasury why Clause 11 (as to sub-letting and payment of wages at the current rate), in the contract for the Parliamentary Debates, contains no provision as to the payment of a penalty in case the Controller shall be of opinion that it has been broken; and, whether he will consult the Law Officers of the Crown with a view to framing a definite and enforceable form of contract, against sub-letting and for the payment of wages at the current rate, to be inserted in all Government contracts?


Clause 13 of the contract already imposes a penalty for the breach of any of its conditions in the shape of an immediate forfeiture of the contract. In addition to this the tenderers were expressly warned that the Controller would "be compelled to consider the question of removing the names of any firms who may fail to comply with the spirit of the resolution from the list of those allowed to undertake work for the Department." As regards the last part of the hon. Member's question, he is no doubt aware that the resolution was aimed against the abuse, arising from sub-letting.

MR. J. H. DALZIEL (Kirkcaldy Burghs)

May I ask if, in giving this contract, the Treasury were aware of the fact that the present contractors intended to sub-let part of the contract?


The Treasury were not aware of that fact. To do it is not contrary to the contract.


I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he thinks it is fair to all the other firms who took the trouble to tender for this contract that the most vital provision should be departed from in the case of this particular firm that got the contract?


In reply to that question, I may state that the Committee which sat upon the question a few years ago passed a resolution in favour of allowing the persons who tendered for "Hansard" to obtain their reports in the best way they could, and, therefore, it was not thought necessary to lay down any rule against sub-letting the reports.


I am sorry to press the right hon. Gentleman, but this is a very important point indeed; I would ask him if the recommendations of the Select Committee did not deal with the point as to taking reports from newspapers. This case of sub-letting deals with the employment of a special staff. Is it not the case that all the firms, with the single exception of this firm that got the contract, tendered on the basis that they would be unable to enter into any sub-letting whatever, and is it not the case that this firm which thus got the contract has departed altogether from the provisions of the tender, and has been allowed to enter into a contract for sub-letting?


I was not aware that it was the intention of this contractor to obtain the reports in the way in which he is said to have done, but it has always been allowed to the contractors to obtain the reports in the best way they could. There is nothing in the contract to prohibit it or to say that they should employ a staff of reporters of their own, or that they should employ reporters in any other way.


What does the clause in the contract mean, then?


The clause against sub-contracting is only in regard to the printing, and there is nothing about the reporting.

MR. C. J. S. DODD (Essex, Maldon)

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman how these reports are being obtained and what the sub-contract is? (Cries of "Order"!") I daresay other hon. Members know, but I do not.


I can inform my hon. Friend that they are obtained, I believe, through the means of The Times reporters. The Times reports, I understand, are very good reports, almost the best reports to be obtained, and I do not know that there is any great objection to it.

MR. J. G. WEIR (Ross and Cromarty)

Were not eight or nine reporters previously engaged to furnish these reports, and are they not now, some of them, paid only a couple of pounds a week?

[No answer was given.]


Am I to understand that the reports of the Irish Members will in future be taken by The Times reporters?


The Times reporters, as I understand will take the report of each gentleman's speech in full, and these reports in extenso, will be sent to the editor of Hansard, who will curtail those speeches to the proper length required?