HC Deb 18 February 1924 vol 169 cc1278-80
3. Lieut.- Colonel HOWARD - BURY

asked the Under-Secretary of State for India whether his attention has been drawn to the fact that the Indian Stores Department have accepted the tender of a German firm from Hanover for the supply of locomotives for the State-managed railways in India; and whether, in view of the great unemployment that exists to-day in the iron and steel trades in this country, he will take steps, either by amending the East India Loans Act or by other measures, to ensure that contracts for the Indian State railways are placed with British firms?


asked the Under-Secretary of State for India whether he is aware that the Government of India has placed an order for five locomotives required for the Indian State railways with a German firm; whether, seeing that a tender received from a British firm was very slightly higher than that of its foreign competitor, and in view of the pressing necessity for the provision of work for British workmen, he proposes to adopt measures to ensure that such orders may in future be placed in this country?


asked the Under-Secretary of State for India whether he is aware that the Indian State railways are placing, or have placed, an order for five tank locomotives with a German firm, the Hannoversche Maschinenbau Aktion-Gesellschaft; and if he will take steps to amend the Indians Loan Act so as to prevent the occurrence of such action in future?


As the House is aware, the purchase of stores for the Indian Government is no longer undertaken by the India Office. Such purchases are made by the High Commissioner for India, who is directly responsible to the Government of India, and in accordance with Resolutions adopted by both Chambers of the Indian Legislature and accepted by the Government of India these purchases are, in the interests of the Indian taxpayer, made in the best market. That is to say, the High Commissioner, under his instructions follows the ordinary business principle of accepting the lowest satisfactory tender, regard being paid to quality, reliability, inspection facilities and promptness of 'delivery. I have ascertained from the High Commissioner that an order for five locomotives has recently been placed with a German firm, the lowest British tender being about 25 per cent. higher than that accepted. I am also informed that as a matter of fact British manufacturers are, under the competitive conditions laid down, able to secure the great bulk of the orders placed. My Noble Friend does not consider that it would be equitable to limit the discretion of the Government of India in this matter either by an amendment of the East India Loans Act or otherwise.


Is the hon. Gentleman not aware that last Session, when the East India Loans Act was passed, the Noble Lord opposite (Earl Winterton) successfully resisted on behalf of the late Government an Amendment such as is suggested in the question?


Yes, I am aware of that.

14. Mr. REMER

asked the Under-Secretary of State for India whether he is aware that large orders are being placed by the Indian railways on the Continent; whether these purchases are being made out of loans guaranteed by the British Government designed to relieve our unemployed; and whether he will take powers to insert in all future loans a condition to our guarantee that purchases must be given to British contractors?


No, Sir. During the last two years only a very small proportion of the orders for material required by the Indian State Railways has been placed on the Continent. As regards the second part of the question, no purchase of Indian railway material by the Government of India is being made from the proceeds of loans guaranteed by His Majesty's Government. The third part of the question does not, therefore, arise.


What is the "small proportion" to which the hon. Gentleman refers?


I believe that during last year about 97 per cent. of the orders were placed with British contractors.


In view of the unsatisfactory answer that has been given, I beg to give notice that I will refer to the matter on the Adjournment to-morrow night.