HC Deb 09 December 1982 vol 33 cc604-5W
Mr. Ian Lloyd

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) what investigations have been undertaken by his Department into the general use of mobile access platforms for the repair of public buildings and other similar operations which have hitherto required the use of scaffolding;

(2) whether full consideration was given to the use of labour available under the youth opportunities programme or other similar programmes for the erection of the Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square;

(3) whether he will list the newspapers in which invitations to tender for the erection of the Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square were advertised, the number of firms which replied, the highest and lowest tender, the name of the successful bidder, the contract price agreed and any contract conditions relating to the method of erection;

(4) what survey was conducted by his Department into the methods employed to erect Christmas trees elsewhere; and whether this disclosed a general practice of using scaffolding for both erection and dismantling;

(5) whether it is his intention to use scaffolding to dismantle the tree in Trafalgar Square in due course.

Sir George Young

The type of equipment used for public works is normally left to the contractor, but mobile platforms are extensively used to inspect buildings and in other instances where it is appropriate: for example, where access to high levels is required intermittently or for a short time.

The work on the tree is not suitable for untrained workmen and so the use of labour available under the youth opportunities or similar programmes was not considered. The Department does not normally advertise invitations to tender in newspapers but invites tenders from a selected list of suitable firms. In this case, five firms were invited and four tendered on the basis of using scaffolding; a further five were invited, and three replied, on the basis of using mobile access platforms. It is not the Department's policy to reveal tender prices, but I can say that allowing for the cost of labour all the bids for the use of access platforms were higher than those using scaffolding and that the cheapest tender using a platform cost about twice as much as the successful bid. The highest tender was thirteen times as great. The contract was awarded to D & R Scaffold (London) Ltd.

The tenders showed conclusively that the most economic method on this site is the use of scaffolding. This will be used for the dismantling of the tree. A comparison with different sites would not seem appropriate.