asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he is aware that the Western Regional Hospital Board intends to have their new hospital building programmed by contractors out-with Scotland; whether this conforms with his policy; and whether he will make a statement.
The Board's general policy, with which my right hon. Friend agrees, is to let its contracts after competition among selected contractors, including Scottish firms who ask to compete and who have the necessary resources for the contract concerned. All the main hospital building contracts awarded to date have been let to Scottish firms.
The Board is at present negotiating with two firms of national contractors with headquarters in England for the construction of two maternity units together costing about £2 million as an experiment in the use of their special systems of industrialised building. The labour used will in the main be Scottish.
Is my hon. Friend aware that that information will be warmly welcomed in Scotland at the present moment, because her predecessors gave both education and road contracts to London-based firms without any competitive tendering being involved? Will she ensure that the Scottish economy gets its due share of investment in Scotland?
Is my hon. Friend aware that this will not give so much pleasure to the contractors of Scotland as my hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie (Mr. Dempsey) suggests? If contracts of this nature are let out to English firms, we generally find that the prices which are given to English firms are much higher than those given to Scottish firms, and by virtue of this much of the labour employed by local contractors in Scotland is taken away from the work on which it is presently engaged because the English firms have better prices and can give the men greater incentives?
My hon. Friend will agree that it is very important to encourage every possible aspect of technological progress in the building industry in Scotland. Here we are concerned in the main with Scottish contracts for Scottish hospital building. In the case in question, a very small amount of the programme is being given to an English firm for the purpose of experimenting with industrialised building techniques as they apply to Scottish hospitals. However, I agree with my hon. Friend that in general the points that he makes are valid.