HC Deb 24 January 1940 vol 356 cc579-80
51. Mr. Rhys Davies

asked the Minister of Supply whether he is aware of the complaints of smaller firms in Lancashire and Cheshire that building contracts let by Government Departments, which they could in some cases undertake on the spot, are given to large London contractors; that such London firms doing Government work in these two counties sometimes apply to these local firms for the use of their plant, but decline to sub-let to them any part of the contracts; and will he take steps to rearrange these contracts so as to prevent, as far as possible. increasing unemployment among building trade workers in these areas and the financial ruin of these smaller firms?

Colonel Llewellin

For the speedy and economical erection of factories, which is the type of building with which the Ministry of Supply is concerned, it is essential to employ large firms who have the necessary organisation and capacity. The policy of asking main contractors to consider the employment of local firms when they are placing sub-contracts has been adopted and is already in operation in the two counties referred to. In reply to the third part of the Question, local labour is employed on such contracts so far as is possible.

Mr. Davies

Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that, in spite of suggestions from the Government to that effect, small building firms seldom get sub-lets from big contractors; and if that is so, can he make a stipulation to that effect in future contracts?

Colonel Llewellin

I do not think any such stipulation has appeared in contracts so far, but I will certainly consider whether it can be put in any future contracts.

Mr. R. Gibson

How small is the number of these large firms?

Colonel Llewellin

I should like to have notice of that question.

Mr. Woodburn

Why were firms in the localities not given an opportunity of making an offer and stating whether they could carry out these contracts?

Colonel Llewellin

We want to employ local firms and local labour to the greatest possible extent, but when it is a question of building a factory that will cost from £2,000,000 to £3,000,000 to equip, nobody will think that the small building firm in the neighbourhood could really tackle a job of that sort, and we must, because it is essential for the provision of our Army, give such contracts to people who we think can perform them.

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