48. Mr. C. I. Orr-Ewing
asked the Lord President of the Council what methods were used in selecting five small firms to undertake the catering for the South Bank Exhibition: and why the Susan Throstle Café, Bexhill, was chosen.
§ The Lord President of the Council (Mr. Herbert Morrison)
The catering concessions available in the South Bank Exhibition were advertised in the catering trade Press. Forty firms submitted tenders. The concessionaires were then chosen from a short list of those which the Festival Office considered could undertake the work satisfactorily. I see no reason why competent firms should be disqualified merely because they are small, but in fact one of the successful tenderers controls 16 catering establishments in the north of England and another has large catering concessions in the south.
1932 As regards the second part of the Question, the firm specifically mentioned has a concession for a restaurant seating 200 people, and is regarded as fully qualified to operate such a concession.
Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that the public are best served by the lowest costs, and that these are achieved by using firms in the area of the Exhibition? Would he not agree that lower distribution and managerial costs must be reflected in the price of the product?
§ Mr. Morrison
No, I do not think that that follows. These concessions were advertised, and I think it would be quite wrong if we said that because the Exhibition is in London, only London firms would be considered. If the bias of the Question is in favour of the elimination of the little man, I can only say that is a sentiment which does not appeal to the Labour Party.
Would the Lord President tell us whether the Refreshment Department of the House of Commons put in a tender?
§ Mrs. Jean Mann
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Festival committee first approached the biggest caterers in London, that their terms were unacceptable and that, with regret, the committee then resorted to advertising amongst the smaller firms?
§ Mr. Morrison
I resisted any prejudice against the north, and I must now resist any prejudice against London.