asked the Secretary of State for Air why, in placing contracts for several million pounds recently, the Builders' Emergency Organisation, set up by the Ministry of Works and Planning, has been ignored; why local builders were not given the opportunity to tender; and why the contracts were all given to a few firms, such as Wimpey's and McAlpine's and their subsidiaries?
The contracts to which I assume the hon. Member refers were placed after consultation with the Ministry of Works and Planning, who consult the Builders' Emergency Organisation whenever they think it appropriate. Of the 52 firms invited to submit tenders, 15 were local firms. Of the 22 contracts allotted, six were allotted to Wimpey and two to McAlpine. So far as I know, the 12 successful tenderers in the case of the remaining 14 contracts included no subsidiaries of these two firms.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that many of these contracts were placed without the Builders' Emergency Organisation being consulted; and that in many areas local builders were not allowed to tender, and that they have a feeling that this policy, if persisted in, will drive them out of business?
No, Sir. On these large contracts it is my duty to consult with the Ministry of Works and Planning, and it is for them to decide whether it is appropriate to consult the Builders' Emergency Organisation or not. In the case of smaller contracts, of £20,000 or less, which my officers have power to allot, we do consult the Builders' Emergency Organisation.
asked the Secretary of State for Air whether, in placing contracts with a few large firms only, he is satisfied that he has carried out the undertaking given to this House some time ago that local builders would be given the opportunity for contracting in their area; and is he aware that many local builders are losing their employees to the larger contractors?
It is not the general practice of the Air Ministry to place contracts with a few large firms only. When tenders are invited, every consideration is given to the claims of local firms capable of executing the work. If such firms submit satisfactory quotations they are given contracts. The transfer and distribution of labour generally is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour and National Service.
Is not my right hon. Friend aware that in many cases small firms, owing to the Ministry giving work to the large firms, lose their machinery and their men, who are very often transferred to the large firms and find that they have no work to do for many days?
We are only anxious to get the work done, and we have to get it done at the lowest rate we can, but we have to choose the firm which we know has the power and the experience to enable it to get important work done in time for the operations for which it is required.