§ MR. WEDGWOOD (Newcastle-under-Lyme)
I beg to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty if he will give the number of the manufacturers on the Admiralty list for the supply of china and earthenware; are the tenders for these goods called for annually, and, if so, when, or 75 are they ordered for each warship on fitting out; what firms on the list were asked to tender for the last yearly purchase or the last first class battleship completed; which of these firms actually tendered; had one particular manufacturer's sample moulds to be worked to; and is there any reason to believe that the special sample used restricted competition.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. MCKENNA,) Monmouthshire, N.
There are about fifteen or sixteen firms who quote for the bulk of the articles of this nature. The articles of china and earthenware in the naval service differ considerably in quality for various services, and are divided into four groups. The contracts for three of the groups are made as a rule once in four or five years. For the fourth group, the contract is made annually, as the requirements are large. For three of the groups, all the firms on the list were asked to tender. For one of the groups of special quality, only five firms were invited to tender. Generally speaking, the usual large proportion of firms have responded to the invitations to tender. One of the five firms stated that they were unable to quote to Admiralty patterns. Otherwise, no suggestion of restriction of competition has been made. The Admiralty exhibits patterns, but firms make their own moulds to correspond therewith. One of the reasons for making contracts over a period of years is to enable firms to recoup themselves for any outlay on moulds. The patterns of one firm may be as good as those of another, but uniformity of pattern in this instance is necessary for the naval service to prevent odd sizes and descriptions of officers' table-ware in use. Replacements have to be made over the world, and the keeping of separate stocks of various patterns is not economical or convenient in the circumstances stated. There should be no difficulty in making the Admiralty pattern.
§ MR. SWIFT MACNEILL (Donegal, S.)
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that Nelson was very fond of porcelain and had a special penchant for Wedgwood?