HC Deb 18 April 1956 vol 551 cc1007-8
47. Mr. Palmer

asked the Lord Privy Seal by what principle particular private industrial firms are selected to collaborate with the Atomic Energy Authority in nuclear energy development for commercial and export purposes.

Mr. R. A. Butler

My noble Friend is informed by the Authority that in normal circumstances they follow the standard Government practice of placing their contracts by tender. Where special circumstances make competitive tender procedure impracticable, or where forms of collaboration otherwise than by contract are involved, firms are selected according to the resources of experience and skilled manpower which they are prepared to devote to their work.

Mr. Palmer

Would the right hon. Gentleman agree that if private industry co-operates in this work, as is probably essential, it is equally essential that there should be a fair field and no favour, and that a particular firm should not be given information obtained originally at public expense to the possible detriment of its present or future competitors?

Mr. Butler

Yes, I am aware of these considerations. I am glad that the hon. Member recognises that there is a case for private industry in this sphere.

Mr. Wade

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that a principle is involved here? For example, is he aware that the selection of certain civil engineering contractors, without asking for tenders or ascertaining whether other firms are willing or able to do the necessary work, has caused some concern that it might be creating a precedent in this new sphere of co-operation between the State and the private sector of industry?

Mr. Butler

I endeavoured to set out the general basis upon which this is all arranged in my statement on 14th March, which was published in the OFFICIAL REPORT.