asked the Secretary of State far Scotland whether he will make a statement about the allocation of contracts for the supply of cast-iron products for the Lenthouse-Whiteinch tunnel.
I understand that Glasgow Corporation, on the advice of their consulting engineers, has agreed to a proposal of the main contractor that an offer by a Scottish firm to carry out part of the sub-contract for the cast-iron lining should not be accepted, though it was £21,000 less than the next lowest. The reasons were that the Scottish firm could not quote for all the items required, would have had to instal special equipment and alter its foundry lay-out, and had not carried out similar work before.
I should have been glad if the work had gone to a Scottish firm, and so, I am sure, would the Corporation; but I see no reason to question their decision in the matter.
Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that the Scottish light-castings industry in Falkirk and Eastern Stirlingshire has been running on short time in recent years and has a very questionable future ahead of it? Does Ste realise that the people engaged in that industry will think that the sending of this contract across the Border is a disaster? Further, why could not the part of the contract which could be fulfilled—as in any case it was £21,000 below the next lowest tender—be accepted? Further, may I ask whether he himself, as Secretary of State, tries to exercise a general oversight over the placing of such contracts in order to make sure that work that can be done in Scotland is so done?
I would repeat my regret and my very real understanding of the feelings aroused by this contract going South. It would have been very much better could the contract have come to Scotland, but this is a highly technical problem. In reply to the latter part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary, this was actually the case of a sub-contractor—there is Glasgow Corporation, a contractor and a sub-contractor—and my direct influence over that contract is very remote. But, of course, I try to see that as much work as possible is done in Scotland.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the firm in question probably has the greatest experience of iron in this country, being one of the original founders of the whole iron-founding industry? Is he further aware that it received the commendation of the Select Committee during the war for its excellence in economical production, and that this estimate was £21,000 below that of the other firm? Surely some investigation should have been made into the statement that it could not do the work, for the firm itself is quite confident that it could and that there was no justification for putting the contract South.
I have the greatest admiration for the firm in question, but the right hon. Gentleman will realise that this is a very technical problem which involves the whole fate of this tunnel.
Further to that point of order. May I ask whether it was not the case that I reminded the Secretary of State for Scotland and my hon. Friends and others that this was an industry in which there is short-time working, in which men are being laid off, and which needs work?