asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works and Buildings whether he has any statement to make with regard to the policy of his Department in the matter of the distribution of contracts, in the light of the complaint made by the Federation of Greater London Master Builders, to the effect that a few large contractors are receiving undue consideration?
It is the policy of the Ministry of Works and Buildings to spread opportunities of tendering for its contracts as widely as possible among suitable firms and the claims of firms established in the vicinity of proposed works are always carefully considered. We have taken special steps to secure that the smaller and medium-sized builders are considered and there are some hundreds of this type of builder now working for the Ministry. The large firms are brought in for the large jobs or for work which presents particular difficulties. It should, however, be noted that the Government building programme has now passed its peak and is growing substantially less.
Is my hon. Friend aware that in some districts where local firms have been encouraged to pool their resources there are hundreds of skilled men who have not received a pennyworth of work, and that these firms have been engaged for months making arrangements to carry on their work, and yet London firms have been brought down to do the work and carry out these contracts?
I am aware of complaints by contractors and also by operatives that opportunities for their employment have not always been available, but it is the policy of the Ministry of Works and Buildings, as of every other Government Department, to rationalise effort in accordance with war's necessity, and, as I indicated in the latter part of my reply, the peak in the building industry has now passed, and it is growing substantially less, and I imagine that there will be still further complaints of lack of opportunities.
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works and Buildings whether, now that the Ministry has issued an Essential Work (Building and Civil Engineering) Order, 1941, to establish payments by results to the building industry, he is going to require contractors to work to a Time and Progress Schedule to enable this Order to be effective and fully beneficial both to the war effort and to the operatives?
My Noble Friend is taking active steps with both contractors and Departments as to the value of Time and Progress Schedules, but it would not yet be practicable to seek to make this compulsory.
Seeing that the Time and Progress Schedules have been so successful in many cases in avoiding delay and waste, could not the Minister and his Department see that these are applied right away, and that there shall be no further delay about it, as this should have been done a year ago?
I can assure my hon. Friend that the importance of the point that he has raised is fully recognised. As I indicated in my reply, active steps are being taken by both contractors and the Department, and this point of view will be taken into consideration at the earliest opportunity.