HC Deb 17 March 1982 vol 20 cc353-4
18. Mr. Anthony Grant

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will facilitate the employment by local authorities of private contractors for refuse collection, waste disposal, cleansing and ancillary services; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. King

My colleagues and I will continue to encourage local authorities to examine the scope for using private contractors for these and other services. I understand that there has been a significant increase in the number of authorities actively considering that option, as the benefits are becoming more widely appreciated.

Mr. Grant

Is my right hon. Friend aware that his answer is good news for the local authorites that have increased the use of private contractors? Will he ensure that all the information about the comparative costs of direct labour and private enterprise is made available to elected councillors on local authorities that have not yet had the good sense to use private enterprise, so that empire-building officials cannot pull the wool over their eyes?

Mr. King

The message is now much more widely understood. The obvious savings and possible economies in a number of areas are widely convassed, and I believe that that will lead to a much greater take-up, A considerable number of authorities are inviting tenders from outside contractors for a range of different council activities.

Mr. Skinner

Is the Minister aware that in Southend, which was one of the first local authorities to try privatisation, Exclusive Cleaning Ltd., which succeeded in getting the contract, has a director who is a leading Tory councillor in St. Albans, and that the firm did not submit the lowest tender, which came from Southend's direct labour force? Is he further aware that, in the tender, Exclusive Cleaning Ltd. agreed to take on additional houses for £15 per 100, but when it got the contract it changed that to £15 for each house? Does he also know that the matter is before the district auditor, because of the massive losses arising from the acceptance of the contract by the Tory-controlled council? Will the Minister therefore issue a circular pointing out the dangers of accepting such a contract?

Mr. King

One would like to think that the hon. Gentleman's question was motivated by genuine interest in the most effective way to provide a service in Southend. The hon. Gentleman's distorted version of the facts does not tally with my understanding. I understand that Southend council is satisfied that substantial savings are being made. What is more, the people in Southend are pleased with the vast improvement in the service.