HC Deb 07 July 1924 vol 175 cc1761-3
33. Sir K. WOOD

asked the Prime Minister whether he is aware of a recent case in the Law Courts in which it was disclosed that payments had been made by a Government contractor to another firm, for the purpose of preventing competition in regard to certain Government contracts; and whether, seeing that this case indicates the necessity for some action, to ensure generally that there shall be bona fide competition to obtain Government contracts, he will appoint a committee of inquiry to investigate this subject?


My attention has been called to the case in question. As far as Government printing contracts are concerned—and the case referred to was of this character—a Departmental Committee is at present inquiring into the whole question of State printing, in connection with which the extent of the competition for Government printing contracts is an important consideration. I understand that the Committee have already taken evidence on the matter, and the relevance in this connection of the disclosures in the recent law suit will, I doubt not, be apparent to them.


In inquiring into the allegations referred to in this case, will the evidence be taken on oath, and is the hon. Gentleman aware that the present management of the other company referred to has already welcomed an inquiry of that sort and has offered to place any information at the disposal of the Government, but that it is particularly anxious that the evidence should be on oath?


I could not offhand make a statement about the form in which the evidence will be taken, but I can assure the House that this matter will come to the notice of the Committee, and after consultation with the Committee, I hope to be able to tell the House, if I am asked, what will be done and what form the inquiry will take.


Will the hon. Gentleman answer a further question on the subject if I put it down for, say, Thursday next or this day week?




Has the hon. Gentleman any evidence of any character which shows that this sort of practice has been at all prevalent, or anything in the possession of the Government to show that this is an isolated case?


I would rather not reply to that question, because I think it is very much better to await the consultation with the Committee, whose inquiry, after all, does cover this ground.


Is the hon Gentleman aware that the reference to this Committee was to inquire into the Government printing establishment, and did not cover the proceedings of the Stationery Office and the making of contracts outside?


I do not think—although I know the hon. and gallant Member for Burton (Colonel Gretton) is Chairman of the Committee—that the matter was so restricted, and in any case I think it is in fact proceeding beyond the restriction which the hon. and gallant Gentleman has just described.