HC Deb 19 July 1898 vol 62 cc288-9
SIR C. DILKE (Gloucester, Forest of Dean)

I beg to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty if he will state to the House the reason why the Admiralty seldom, if ever, exact penalties from contractors, and thus give to the House that satisfactory explanation which the Committee of Public Accounts inform the House they have failed to obtain from the representative of the Admiralty; and whether he will inform the House if it be intended to continue the insertion in Admiralty contracts of a penalty clause, if there is no intention to exact the penalties should they be incurred?


Penalties are inserted in Admiralty contracts mainly for the purpose of ensuring that no preference is given to other work by contractors, and that due diligence is shown in carrying out the contract. It is not, however, intended that contractors should be mulcted in penalties for delay that has been caused by circumstances which are proved to be outside their control. Each case is considered on its merits, full explanations being demanded, which are considered in connection with the reports made by the Admiralty officers charged with the supervision of the work during its progress, and remissions are only made where the circumstances are sufficient to justify them. It would be most undesirable to discontinue the penalty clause, and thus deprive the Admiralty of a power which I am glad to say it is rarely necessary to use, but which the experience of those concerned in contracts, whether Government or not, clearly shows to be a valuable protection against delay and breaches of contract.


Is not that the answer which the Committee on Public Accounts has already pronounced to be unsatisfactory?


Not that I am aware of.