HC Deb 30 June 1937 vol 325 cc1952-3
31. Mr. Garro Jones

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air the total amount of Air Ministry contracts executed, and in process of execution, for which no final price has yet been fixed; and whether, having regard to the rise in prices that has occurred since these contracts were entered in the Air Ministry accounts at a provisional price, he can form any estimate of the total amount of Supplementary Estimate or Excess Votes that will be required to make good the discrepancy?

Lieut.-Colonel Muirhead

With, regard to the first part of the question, as no final prices in these cases have been fixed it is not possible to state the total amount. With regard to the second part, I have no cause at present to suppose that any Supplementary Estimate or Excess Vote will be required for the reason stated by the hon. Member.

Mr. Garro Jones

Seeing that these prices were entered in the Air Ministry's accounts on a conservative basis, and that since then there has been a large and known increase in prices, will not this in some way upset the accounts and absorb the margin of the conservative estimate? Is it not possible that this will amount to £2,000,000 or £3,000,000, and will demand some re-estimate by the Air Ministry?

Lieut.-Colonel Muirhead

I think the hon. Member is confusing the fixing of provisional prices and the making of the Air Ministry's Estimates. When the Air Ministry makes its Estimates it has a general idea, of course, in mind, and the Estimates of the ensuing year are made with the possibility of a rise in prices in mind. That is the basis on which the Air Estimates are made. With regard to the fixing of provisional prices, that is of course a detail to be arranged in particular cases, but in a good many cases of instruction to proceed no provisional price has, in fact, been made.

Mr. H. G. Williams

Will the hon. and gallant Member continue to arrange these Estimates on a conservative rather than on a Socialist basis, as the Socialist party always spend more than they intend to?

Mr. Noel-Baker

Can the Under-Secretary tell us the total amount of the provisional prices which have been fixed?

Lieut.-Colonel Muirhead

Not without notice, but I would draw the hon. Member's attention to the fact that there are quite a number of cases in which no provisional price is fixed.

Mr. Benn

Do we understand that the Ministry frames its Estimates so loosely that an increase of prices is still provided for in the excess amount for which they asked?

Lieut.-Colonel Muirhead

We do not frame our Estimates loosely. In framing our Estimates we estimate not merely on the basis of prices which exist at the particular moment, but we take into consideration the possibility of the trend of prices and materials during the year for which the Estimates are made.