HC Deb 15 July 1942 vol 381 cc1220-1
38. Major Lyons

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works and Planning whether he is aware of the fact that bills of quantities recently issued to potential contractors in respect of certain new works contained some 300 sheets of foolscap paper; and whether, in the interest of economy in staff, handling and paper, he will introduce some simpler and more economical method of estimating for, or carrying out, work of this kind?

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works and Planning (Mr. Hicks)

Yes, Sir. Owing to the urgency of placing contracts for these particular services, it was decided that the most expeditious method of obtaining tenders was to adapt an existing bill of quantities prepared for a recent building of similar type. The length of the bill was partly due to the necessity of providing for alternative methods of hutting construction. In normal cases, bills of quantities based upon the Ministry's Standard Schedule of Prices are used, wherever possible, to secure the economies mentioned by the hon. and gallant Member.

Major Lyons

Do I take it that in future no 300 sheets of foolscap paper will be used where it is possible to do with a great deal less?

Mr. Hicks

I can only say that the greatest economy will be used in the preparation of bills of quantities, but if in order to do things properly another sheet of paper is required, it is far better to use it than to run the risk of having a scandal later over allegations that somebody has been paid too much.

40. Mr. Bossom

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works and Planning whether, in connection with the construction programme now starting, his Ministry is giving contractors complete information in the way of plans and specifications before work is commenced; whether a time and progress schedule is to be prepared for each undertaking; is a close estimate of the number of operatives and labourers required for each job made before contracts are let; and has he ascertained from the Ministry of Labour that the operatives and labourers required will be available when needed?

Mr. Hicks

Yes, Sir, so far as urgency and circumstances permit, contractors are given full information before work is commenced; and it is the practice of my Ministry for a schedule to be prepared for each contract to show labour and materials demands, as well as required progress. The Ministry of Labour and National Service is advised at once of all new works and the labour needed for them.

Mr. Bossom

If that is the case, why are so many of the present contracts being delayed for lack of labour? Where is the hon. Gentleman going to get it from?

Mr. Hicks

I cannot accept that statement.

Mr. Bossom

If I give particulars to the hon. Member to show him that I am correct, will he see that these contracts are finished quickly?

Mr. Hicks

Out of the thousands of jobs which are in hand the hon. Member may be able to give me a few cases where the labour force is not equal to the present demand, but then it would not be necessarily true to say, unless the figures had been adequately checked, that the labour was really necessary in such cases.