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Mobile Labour Force

Volume 476: debated on Monday 26 June 1950

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The following Question stood on the Order Paper in the name of Mr. MARPLES:

30. To ask the Minister of Works what are his plans for the future of the Mobile Labour Force.

The Ministry has for some years proceeded on the basis that all its building work should be let to contract wherever possible and that the Mobile Labour Force should be used only for work of recognised urgency which cannot be carried out by other means. The Mobile Labour Force has done admirable work but I have decided that it should not undertake any further commitments except in very special circumstances. Subject to any such cases arising, the force will be allowed to run down as its programme of work now in hand is completed, which, so far as can be foreseen, will be about the end of 1951.

Does that answer mean that the Mobile Labour Force will not continue to build, at a price of £3,000, houses for the Forestry Commission which let in water? Does the Minister realise there is a widespread feeling that the Mobile Labour Force is an expensive method of building, and that that feeling has not been allayed by his refusal to give the costs?

The houses built for the Forestry Commission were built under very special circumstances. That case is a very stale one, which I am now having re-investigated. We shall undertake to build only in cases of a special nature, and I do not regard Forestry Commission houses as coming under that head.

What is the size of the Mobile Labour Force which the Minister wishes to have in being?


asked the Minister of Works why he is using the Mobile Labour Force and direct labour at Capenhurst; how long he proposes to continue using them; and were competitive tenders received for the work being carried out.

The Mobile Labour Force is being employed at Capenhurst on certain preliminary works which could not be carried out by other means within the urgent time schedule and without causing delay to the major part of the project. The intention is to let as much as possible of the later work at Capenhurst to normal contract, on the basis of competitive tenders. In reply to the second part of the Question, I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given him on 19th June.

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that he could have estimated preliminary works on competitive schedules if he had used plus or minus quotations, and had used the schedule of prices they have in the Ministry of Works? In other words, does he realise that he could have received competitive tenders for the work without delay?

The hon. Gentleman may be right, but I am not so informed. I have inspected the work myself, and I am satisfied that what has been done is in the general interest. This is only preliminary work which will give the main contractors, whenever they under-take the major portion of the work, a much better start, with the ultimate effect that there will be a much quicker finish.