HC Deb 18 March 1940 vol 358 cc1629-30
35. Mr. Vernon Bartlett

asked the First Commissioner of Works what steps are being taken to assure that, wherever possible, ordnance and other Government factories are being constructed with local bricks; and whether he is aware of the growing distress throughout the South-West of England caused by orders given to large outside firms which may quote lower prices but which, at a time when petrol and trucks are badly needed for other national purposes, have to transport their bricks long distances by road or rail?

The First Commissioner of Works (Mr. Ramsbotham)

Under the building contracts let by my Department, it is the responsibility of the contractors, subject to compliance with the specification, to obtain suitable bricks. The contractors naturally buy in what is, when all considerations are taken into account, the cheapest market and, although I have received similar representations, I am at a. loss to suggest a reasonable method of helping brick-making firms who, with all the advantages of proximity to the sites, are unable to succeed in offering supplies on a competitive basis.

Mr. Bartlett

Can nothing be done to make the contractors realise the fact that there will be an enormous increase in unemployment all over the country if these contracts always go to great monopolies?

Mr. Ramsbotham

In the cases which I have seen, I am satisfied that a large number of contracts for bricks have been placed locally. As I said just now, I should find it difficult to prevent contractors buying in the cheapest market.

Mr. Thorne

Is the kind of bricks that are to be used mentioned in these specifications?

Mr. Ramsbotham

Yes, Sir, that certainly is the case. It is often necessary also for particular types of bricks to be used in these works.

Sir Patrick Hannon

Has not my right hon. Friend received complaints from other parts of the country as well as the south-west of England about the difficulties of these contractors, and can he not have this matter put into some kind of perspective by giving local contractors preference in local contracts?

Mr. Ramsbotham

In certain cases particular kinds of brick are necessary, and in certain other cases the local supply of bricks is not sufficient.

Sir Percy Harris

Is not the trouble due to special bricks being specified? Will the right hon. Gentleman consider whether the specifications can be altered?

Mr. Ramsbotham

I will go into the matter.

Mr. Attlee

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind the importance of not wasting transport and the fact that the criterion should not be the profits of a particular contractor but the national interest?

Mr. Ramsbotham

It would be very unfair to compel contractors under lump-sum contracts to buy in the dearest market.

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