HC Deb 09 March 1981 vol 1000 cc609-10
14. Mr. Michael Morris

asked the Secretary of State for Industry what progress his Department is making in ensuring that the specifications for all public-sector contracts are based on existing and commonly used British Standards.

Mr. MacGregor

The Department stresses the importance of writing contract specifications by reference to British Standards in the course of its dealings with public sector bodies. I believe that progress in this direction is being made, although such practices can change only gradually, and there will be many purchases for which British Standards are not available.

Mr. Morris

I understand that there was a meeting recently with the Department of the Environment to ensure that public sector contracts in local government and the development corporations were to be within the confines of British Standards. Rather than believing and hoping, what monitoring will the Department do to ensure that where British Standards are available they will be the basis of future contracts?

Mr. MacGregor

The Department has recently consulted the NEDO sector working party in order to assess the progress made since it first reported to the Warner committee on this subject. A more systematic assessment—probably by NEDO—will be needed before we have enough information to plan positive remedial action, but my hon. Friend may be assured that monitoring is taking place.

Mr. Palmer

Will the Minister look into the possibility that the present activities and standards of the British Standards Institution are inadequate for modern needs? Does not that need looking into?

Mr. MacGregor

As the hon. Gentleman will know, the responsibility for the British Standards Institution belongs to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade. I shall ensure that the hon. Gentleman's remarks are passed on to him.

Mr. Bowen Wells

Does my hon. Friend agree that a lot of the trouble arises when British Standards specifications are written in consultation, or largely in consultation, with monopoly purchasers such as the CEGB and the area boards? That is an example that I urge my hon. Friend to look into. For example, the transformers which accord with British Standards cannot be sold overseas because they are so specialised to the British monopoly buyer.

Mr. MacGregor

I shall certainly look into the point.

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