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Public Works

Volume 148: debated on Wednesday 9 November 1921

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asked the Minister of Health whether, seeing that the authorising of local authorities to undertake work by direct labour to pay not exceeding 75 per cent. of the district rates on public works for the relief of unemployment, as per Circulars 245 and 251 of the Ministry of Health, gives an incentive to local authorities to carry out this work by expensive methods of administration, and that the Minister of Health has received suggestions from organised contractors of a short period contract under which the services of contractors are offered on terms which, while giving the contractor no financial interest in the labour item, will enable the organisation of these firms to be economically utilised for the purpose of obtaining the best possible return for the expenditure on this class of work, he will say what reply, if any, has been given to the contractors making these suggestions and what recommendation, if any, has been made to the local authorities who will be entitled to the benefit of Government grants for organising and employing labour in the most efficient and economical manner?

It is for the local authority to determine how the works for which a grant is being made shall be carried out. If the works are being carried out by direct labour, it is open to the local authority to employ a firm of contractors as managers, on such terms as the local authority think fit. I am informing the organised contractors accordingly. I do not think that any special communication on the matter to local authorities is necessary. My own view is that as a general rule it is better to have the work carried out under ordinary contract conditions.

asked the Minister of Health whether he is now in a position to report the decision of the Ministry on the subject of a grant to the Chesterfield Council in respect of certain road schemes which, if put into operation, will absorb many of the unemployed in that town?

I have been asked to reply to this question. No decision has yet been arrived at. I am in communication with the Unemployment Grants Committee and with the Ministry of Labour on the subject of these applications, and will inform my hon. Friend of the decision as soon as I am in a position to do so.