HC Deb 18 December 1963 vol 686 cc1240-1
25. Mr. Lawson

asked the Postmaster-General what plans he has for increasing purchases of telephonic equipment in Scotland in the next few years.

32. Mr. W. Hamilton

asked the Postmaster-General what steps he has taken to ensure that increased orders for telephone equipment are placed with firms in areas designated as growth points or development districts.

Mr. Mawby

The Post Office already gives special treatment to these areas through the scheme under which tenders from firms in development districts are given a measure of encouragement. Our Contracts Department also takes great care, when tenders are sought, to ensure that all suitable firms in development districts are given the opportunity to tender. These measures will continue and my right hon. Friend hopes the firms will take increasing advantage of them.

Mr. Lawson

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that those measures might be quite inadequate to deal with the position because the bulk of the factories or firms making such equipment is concentrated in the South? Does he recall that on an earlier occasion he advised me that only 1 per cent. of Post Office equipment was purchased in Scotland? Will his Department use its very great purchasing power—about £900 million over the next few years—to ensure that development in this respect takes place in the parts of the country where it is most needed?

Mr. Mawby

That is what we are attempting to do, but I think it important to point out that we investigate each year about 1,000 new applications from firms, or trade associations acting on their behalf, to make certain that they know the sort of things that we require, which cover a vast range, and we show them how they can tender for these things. If we feel that an organisation cannot produce the main body of a contract, we break clown its size. We go to a great deal of trouble to ensure that people in these parts are able to tender. If they can show that they are capable of carrying out the order, we go to a great deal of trouble to make sure that they get it, or part of it.

Mr. Hamilton

Can the hon. Gentleman say what consultations take place between his Department and the Secretary of State for Industry, Trade and Regional Development, who has a great responsibility for development in these areas? Also, can he say whether the firms in Scotland which supply this equipment are working to capacity and whether his Department has given them an assurance that, if they expand, further orders from his Department will be forthcoming?

Mr. Mawby

We have said to all these industries that if they can show that they can quote competitive prices we are prepared to give them special consideration, as we do to all industries in the development areas. From what I have said earlier HON. MEMBERS will know that we are doing everything we possibly can to make sure that special consideration is given to any industry in a development area, and that tends to attract other industries to the area as well.