Contract Prices.

Oral Answers to Questions — Post Office. – in the House of Commons on 1st November 1937.

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Photo of Mr Henry White Mr Henry White , Birkenhead East

asked the Postmaster-General whether he will consider the advisability of instituting an inquiry into the operation of price-fixing rings, in so far as they concern prices of supplies to the Post Office?

Photo of Sir Herbert Holdsworth Sir Herbert Holdsworth , Bradford South

asked the Postmaster-General what action he proposes to take to ensure that prices charged to the Post Office by the combination of manufacturers of telephone cords are reasonable?

Photo of Mr Gordon Hall Caine Mr Gordon Hall Caine , Dorset Eastern

asked the Postmaster-General whether his attention has been called to the report of the Public Accounts Committee affirming the existence of a manufacturers' ring able to dictate terms for certain supplies; and whether he is taking any action in the matter?

Photo of Mr Samuel Viant Mr Samuel Viant , Willesden West

asked the PostmasterGeneral whether he has taken any precautions to ensure that, in the purchase of material for his Department, the prices charged shall not be inflated by the operation of rings or combines; and, if so, can he state the nature of these precautions.

Photo of Mr George Tryon Mr George Tryon , Brighton

It has been a matter of common knowledge for some years past that pricefixing rings existed in the case of certain supplies which are in use by the Post Office. The Department has consistently taken every step open to it to ensure that prices were reasonable and has encouraged alternative sources of supply, wherever practicable. In view of the growth of the Post Office requirements, and for the better co-ordination of the Department's investigations, it was felt desirable that contracts relating to such supplies should be brought under special review, and I appointed a Standing Committee for that purpose in August, 1936. This committee is under the chairmanship of the Assistant Postmaster-General, and every contract of substance in relation to which effective competition is not forthcoming is referred to it for consideration of the terms proposed before any such contract is placed. The question whether the position of the Department in this connection can be further strengthened has been under consideration from time to time, and in July last the Assistant Postmaster-General invited certain of the manufacturing interests concerned to discuss with him further means to that end. This they willingly consented to do, and I await the results of the discussion which is about to begin.

Photo of Mr Henry White Mr Henry White , Birkenhead East

Will the committee have authority to call for statements of costs and the like which are necessary?

Photo of Mr George Tryon Mr George Tryon , Brighton

The question of costs is one of the very important questions on which I am anxious to get information.

Photo of Mr Herbert Williams Mr Herbert Williams , Croydon South

Has the Postmaster-General consulted the President of the Board of Trade and the Minister of Agriculture, who are generally engaged in fixing up price rings in every other industry?