HC Deb 07 February 1963 vol 671 cc649-50
17. Mrs. Castle

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department to what extent imported cotton textiles are being purchased for use in Her Majesty's prisons; whether the cotton blankets and sheets so purchased are made from imported cloth; and whether this cloth conforms to the specification laid down for cloths of United Kingdom manufacture.

Mr. Brooke

No cotton blankets or sheets are purchased for use in Her Majesty's prisons. About £100,000 was spent in 1962 on cotton goods for prison establishments in England and Wales; about £30,000 of this was spent on imported goods, £20,000 being on yarn and £10,000 on blue drill cloth for overalls.

Mrs. Castle

Do not those figures, which show that the Prison Commissioners are purchasing about a third of their requirements in the form of imported cloth and yarn, represent a very shocking state of affairs in view of the difficulties at present being experienced by Lancashire? Could the right hon. Gentleman say what steps the Prison Commissioners take to ascertain that the goods they purchase from firms in this country are in fact of United Kingdom manufacture? Will he instruct them to buy their goods from Lancashire?

Mr. Brooke

The Prison Commissioners have to do what other Government Departments do and have always done, whatever Government have been in power, which is to accept the lowest tender provided that the goods are up to specification. I might be in trouble with the Public Accounts Committee if I gave contrary instructions. These contracts are open to any British manufacturer and it will please me greatly if British manufacturers are more successful with their tenders in future.