HC Deb 19 April 1926 vol 194 cc825-6

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he can state the amount of money which has been expended on the construction of the Prai wharves in the Malay States; what was the original contract price and what is the final outlay; what is now proposed to do with the wharves; and whether there have been any strictures of the system under which the consulting engineers act as arbitrators between the contractor and the Government and advice the Government although they themselves possess a financial interest in the award?


The original contract amount was for £971,097, but additional works were authorised, bringing the total to £1,015,297. The ultimate figure at which the contractors agreed to complete the work was £1,590,000, the difference being due to a modification in the contract owing to the rise in prices of labour and materials in 1920. The total expenditure at Prai, including railways, acquisition of land, wharves, reclamation and dredging is £2,500,000, approximately. Owing to an unexpected increase in the quantity of dredging necessary to maintain the depths and area prescribed for berthing ocean-going ships, it was decided to abandon maintenance as it was considered that the present trade did not justify the heavy annual charge. It is understood that at the Federal Council meeting on the 8th March the Chief Secretary stated that further professional advice should be sought as to the best course to adopt under the circumstances, and in the meantime the wharves are used for goods dealt with in lighters or small vessels. Criticism has been directed in the Federal Council against the system of remuneration of the consulting engineers, but the system under which the consulting engineers arbitrate on questions arising out of the contract documents is that which is, in fact, customary in works of this class.