asked the Secretary to the Overseas Trade Department whether the building contract for the British Empire Exhibition has been given to a firm called McAlpine; whether tenders were invited and if the tender of Messrs. McAlpine was the lowest sent in; whether the contract with Messrs. McAlpine covers the whole amount of building required for the exhibition; and it he will say what is the total sum that will be payable to Messrs. McAlpine under the contract?
The building contract for the British Empire Exhibition has been placed with Messrs. Sir Robert McAlpine & Sons by the Executive Council of the British Empire Exhibition. The responsibility for the organisation and management of the British Empire Exhibition is in the hands of the Executive Council of the Exhibition, and such matters as are referred to in the hon. Member's question fall entirely within their purview.
I rather hesitate to go into any detail as to the contract, because the responsibility for the exhibition is in the hands of the Executive Council. The Government is in exactly the same position as the other guarantors. I understand that it is not possible to invite tenders in a case of this kind, because you cannot give specific plans on which to tender. That, I think, is the recognised fact in connection with all exhibition buildings of that class, but I understand that other firms were consulted, and the Executive Council decided that the offer they accepted was a suitable one.
Can the hon. Gentleman answer that part of the question in which I ask what was the total amount payable under the contract, and can he say, from the information he has obtained, why this firm was favoured in giving the contract and no tenders were invited?
No, Sir. I have no reason to suppose, and indeed I am certain it is not the case, that any firm was unduly favoured. The Executive Council, whose money is at stake in this matter and who represent the large financial and commercial interests which, in common with Isis Majesty's Government, are guaranteeing this exhibition, in the exercise of their discretion made the contract which they considered was proper, and I certainly, on behalf of that body, although I do not represent them, should dissent from any suggestion that they were influenced by any unworthy motive.
Are we to understand that it is the opinion of the Government that with work of this nature, for exhibitions or any other purpose, it is not usual to put it up to public tender?