HC Deb 07 February 1902 vol 102 cc661-3
MR. WHITLEY (Halifax)

I bag to ask the Secretary of State for War, if the contractor for the supply of meat to the troops in South Africa after 31st March next is the same Mr. Bergl who, on 22nd May, 1901, was fined £10 for selling meat falsely described, at the Liverpool Police Court.

MR. PIRIE (Aberdeen, N.)

At the same time may I ask the Secretary of State for War, if he is aware that Mr. Bergl, to whom the meat contract has been awarded, has resold his entire interest in it to the Beit Group, consisting of Wernher, Beit, Zeiss, and Marks, for over £100,000; whether the War Office have knowledge of the agreement entered into between Mr. Bergl and the Imperial Supply Company, and, if not, if they will inform themselves on the matter with a view of making a statement in this House, and also as to whether the names of the right hon. C. J. Rhodes and Dr. Jameson are associated with the Company; what inquiries have been made into the antecedents of Mr. Bergl, and if he is aware that he has already been notorious for labelling and selling inferior meat, River Plate as New Zealand, having been eventually prosecuted and convicted for so doing; and, if he is aware that the contract for the supply of meat at Aldershot was given from June to December, 1901, to Mr. Bergl, the contract having bean immediately sublet by him; and, if so, if he can state the reasons which induced the War Office to take the course they did in awarding the contract.


We are not aware of the nature of the arrangement made between Mr. Bergl and the Imperial Supply and Cold Storage Company, though it was understood that Mr. Bergl's tender was made on behalf of a syndicate and would be transferred to a Company. I understood Mr. Bergl was fined £10 last July at Liverpool. I am making inquiries into the circumstances. Mr. Bergl has held contracts for the War Office since 1897, at Colchester, Aldershot, York, and in Scotland, and has contracts now running. No complaints have been made against him during this period. The Aldershot contract from June to December, 1901, was not given to Mr. Bergl—he did not even tender for it. Mr. Bergl's tender—being the lowest offered—was accepted after most careful inquiry as to whether the firms supporting him were financially equal to the undertaking. A deposit of £200,000 has been stipulated for to secure the due performance of the contract.


May I ask whether the contracts with the War Office in this case were continued to this gentleman after his conviction.


It was not a conviction in connection with any contract with the War Office. [Opposition cries of "Oh!"]


No, it was dishonesty elsewhere.

MR. JAMES LOWTHER (Kent, Thanet)

Is it the case that any of these contracts are sublet; and, if so, at what profit?


I have said I do not know what the nature of the arrangement made by Mr. Bergl is. Mr. Bergl tendered for this contract, saying he was doing it on behalf of a syndicate which wanted to form a company. Our business was to secure as far as we could due economy to the public. That we did by taking the lowest tender. We have further to secure that the tender shall be fulfilled to the limit—that all we have stipulated for we shall get. To do that we have taken every power it is possible to take. We have insisted on this large guarantee fund, and Colonel Morgan, who is Director of Supplies to Lord Kitchener, and is now in England, returning shortly to South Africa, will undertake to see that every single particular of the contract is amply fulfilled.


Will the noble Lord procure information as to subletting, and the names of the persons to whom the contracts were sublet?


No, Sir, I do not think we can possibly call upon them for that. Our business was to secure the lowest contract. That we have done. We shall now secure that it is carried out to our fullest satisfaction.


I will move for the information.

MR. BLAKE (Longford, S.)

Can the noble lord state the names of the guarantors?


No, Sir, I cannot at the present moment.


You will, I suppose.


Does not the usual clause against subcontracting apply in this case?


It has to be done to the satisfaction of those concerned in making the contract, and that has been done.

MR. NORMAN: (Wolverhampton, S.)

Will the noble Lord say how many tenders were received for this contract.


Three for the whole contract.

MR. BRYN ROBERTS (Carnarvonshire, Eifion)

After the noble Lord had noticed that Mr. Bergl did not want this contract for himself, but for a company, why did he let the contrast without ascertaining who the company were and who were to execute it?


What does it matter?