HC Deb 21 March 1895 vol 31 cc1552-3
MR. J. KEIR HARDIE (West Ham, S.)

I beg to ask the Secretary to the Treasury whether a contract extending over three years, and valued at £300,000 per annum, for supplying uniforms for the Postal Service, has been given to a contractor at Newcastle-under-Lyne; whether the contract was formerly held by a London firm; and under what circumstances it has been transferred to Newcastle?

MR. E. H. PICKERSGILL (Bethnal Green)

I beg to ask the Postmaster General, whether the whole of the clothing contracts for the Metropolitan service of the Post Office, which have been held for many years by a London firm, have now been given to a firm in Staffordshire; whether he is aware that a large number of persons will thus be thrown out of employment; and what were the amounts of the tenders for each contract respectively made by the London firm and by the firm to which the contracts were given? I also beg to ask a supplementary question of which I have given private notice. Are the contractors to whom the Post Office clothing contracts have been given the same firm which about three years ago took the contract for the Metropolitan Police clothing, and after trying to carry it out for a few months, asked and obtained leave from the Home Office to give up the contract; and what steps the Postmaster General has taken to assure himself that the contractors are responsible persons and able to carry out the present contract?


I purposely directed that separate tenders for making up the cloth garments for Post Office uniforms should be invited for the Metropolitan area and for six other districts, so that as far as possible the work should be localised and that manufacturers in every part of the country might have the opportunity of tendering for their own districts. The tenders which I received from the successful Staffordshire firm were the lowest in the case of each district in Great Britain for which the tenders were invited. I had no alternative, therefore, but to give this firm the contract. But I may point out that the amount involved is not £300,000 a year but £300,000 in three years, or £100,000 a year; and that of this £100,000 no less than £75,000 represents the cost of the cloth which is supplied by the Department to the firm, and £10,000 the cost of trimming, &c. The real sum involved, therefore, is not £300,000, but £15,000 a year, which covers the wages paid and the contractor's profit. There was a considerable difference in the case of each of the tenders between the successful firm and the London firm which previously held the contract, but it would not be in accordance with the accepted practice to state the amount of each tender. I am afraid that the consequence must be to throw a certain number of persons in London out of employment, but I hope that some of them may be able to follow the work. As regards the incident mentioned in the Supplementary Question I am informed that it took place not three years ago but about eight years ago, when the firm was in a smaller way of business; and I am assured that they are fully able to carry out the present contract.

MR. W. ALLEN (Newcastle-under-Lyme)

asked whether it was not a fact that the tender of the Newcastle firm was lower than that of others for this contract; whether their work had not given satisfaction on previous occasions; and whether they did not pay as high rates of wages in all cases, and in some higher, than other firms tendering?


I do not know what the rates of pay at Newcastle-under-Lyme are, but there is the fair-wages clause in the contract.


May I ask whether, in giving out the contracts, allowance was made for the different rate of wages prevailing in Newcastle-under-Lyme as compared with London?


I have no knowledge of the rate of wages. The fair wage clause was introduced.


As this is a United Kingdom, is there any objection to receiving tenders from any part of the country.


There is no objection to tenders from the part of the United Kingdom which the hon. Member represents. A tender from an Irish firm for the supply for Ireland was accepted on the ground that it was as low as any other tender.

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