HC Deb 05 May 1970 vol 801 cc173-4
4. Mr. Biggs-Davison

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government what action he takes to satisfy himself that the cost of repair and maintenance work carried out by local authority direct-labour departments is reasonably competitive with contractors' prices.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Housing and Local Government (Mr. Denis Howell)

It is for local authorities to satisfy themselves on these matters, having regard to the nature of the work, the availability of suitable private contractors, and other factors.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

Would it not be helpful to efficiency and economy, however, if the Minister recommended to local authorities that they might put out a representative section of maintenance and repair work to contractors?

Mr. Howell

It might be useful in the case of direct labour to take prices by competitive tender. We accept that, but there are factors which suggest that, in many fields of activity, direct labour is not only more efficient but produces better quality.

Mr. Heffer

Is my hon. Friend aware that, in Liverpool, where certain direct-labour work has been turned over to private enterprise contractors, the quality of the painting and other maintenance work has deteriorated rapidly? Is it not clear that we need the direct-labour departments to ensure that people get both good quality and a reasonable cost?

Mr. Howell

I have no personal experience of Liverpool, but I know that, in Birmingham, there are more complaints about the quality of work on this sort of operation than almost anything else affecting tenants.

Mr. Speaker

Mr. Rossi, Question No. 5.

Mr. Rossi

Would the hon. Gentleman agree that, in the last year or so—[HON. MEMBERS "Order."]—

Mr. Speaker

Order. Mr. Rossi, Question No. 5.