§ Mr. STORRY DEANS
(by Private Notice) asked the Secretary of State for War if it is true that the War Office has placed an order for safety razors or safety razor blades with an American firm or a firm controlled by Americans; and if the Secretary of State for War is aware that there are British firms capable of making safety razors and blades equal to or better than those made elsewhere; what was the reason for giving the order to the firm to whom it was given; and what (if any) was the difference between the price at which the contract was placed and the nearest British tender?
§ The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the WAR OFFICE (Captain King)
A contract for safety razors has been placed by the War Office with Gillette Safety Razor, Limited, which is a British Company not controlled by Americans. Tenders were invited both from British and from foreign firms and samples were asked for. That of the Gillette Safety Razor, Limited, was accepted because the Company quoted a lower price than any other British firm offer- 248 ing a suitable razor. Moreover, the Company has taken over the War Office stock of over 100,000 long-handled razors in exchange for safety razors. This is a great advantage to the soldier and enables the issue of safety razors to be made at once. Two American firms which offered suitable razors quoted lower prices, but preference was given to Gillette Safety Razor, Limited, because they undertook to execute the contract entirely with British labour. The greater part of the contract is to be carried out at the Company's factory at Slough and the rest at their factory in Canada. As regards the last part of the question, it is contrary to practice to disclose details of prices quoted in contract tenders.
§ Mr. DEANS
Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that another company, an English company—a really English company, I mean—offered also to give two safety razors for one long-handled razor? Is he also aware that the Gillette type of razor is an unstropable razor and that it will cost whoever has to pay for it a very much larger sum of money for blades than the English type of safety razor?
§ Captain KING
I do not quite follow the reasoning of the hon. and learned Gentleman with regard to the more British company. The Gillette Safety Razor, Limited, is a company registered in this country, with British capital and with British directors. With regard to the other part of the question, I am not aware that any company offered to give two safety razors for one long-handled one.
§ Mr. CLYNES
May I ask whether an invitation to foreign firms to tender for these contracts is consistent with the Government's appeal to "Buy British goods"?
§ Captain KING
It is necessary, in the interests of the taxpayer, that we should ascertain at what price, either from British or foreign firms, we can obtain these goods. We retain our power to give a preference to British goods.
§ Captain KING
I will certainly make inquiries. I cannot disclose the terms of contracts which are not accepted.
§ Mr. W. THORNE
Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman not aware that the soldier will be expected to be on parade with a clean face; and is it not the case that the safety razor will not shave as closely as the ordinary long-handled razor; and will the soldier, in consequence, be punished for having a dirty face on parade?
§ Major-General Sir FREDERICK SYKES
Were the Board of Trade or the Ministry of Labour consulted on this matter?
§ Mr. HARRIS
What proportion of this order is to be executed in Canada; and will the Canadian deliveries be subject to duty?