6 JANUARY 1912, Page 11

Wednesday's papers contained the reply sent by the Lords of

the Admiralty to Mr. Smart's letter. They state that the price quoted on behalf of the Thames Ironworks for the two cruisers was £312,000 apiece, while the prices established by competition ranged. from £269,000 upwards, and four firms in other parts of the country submitted tenders of under £280,000. The acceptance of the Thames tender would there- fore mean a loss to the public of over £80,000 on the two vessels, as well as a complete departure from the principles approved by Parliament in regard to public contracts. The reply proceeds to say that no new circumstances have arisen which would be likely to enable Mr. Smart to undertake the con- struction at a lower price, and that the Admiralty do not feel satisfied that a contract of such importance could properly be assigned to a Receiver. They have therefore looked for the intervention of a firm competent to undertake the contract at ruling trade prices and to give the Thames its best possible chance of establishing itself on an economic basis. "Their lordships," it concludes, "do not feel called upon to express an opinion upon the question of the hours worked upon the Thames." We entirely approve the Admiralty's decision, but we may ask how it. can be made to square with the House of Commons Fair Wages Resolution upon the subject of Govern- ment contracts or again with the Mines (Eight Hours) Act.