§ CAPTAIN PRICE
asked the Secretary to the Admiralty, Whether it is true, as stated in the "Army and Navy Gazette" of the 17th February, that a large quantity of navy blue cloth and serge, intended for the Naval Service, was recently surveyed at Deptford Victualling Yard, and that the whole of it was rejected by the surveying officers as being under weight, of bad colour, and not according to sample; whether the Admiralty, nevertheless, decided against the surveying officers, and informed them that, as the contractors had agreed to lessen the price, the cloth was to be passed; whether this inferior cloth will now become the standard, as to quality, for next year's samples; and, who are the contractors who supplied the cloth?
§ MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
Sir, the facts stated in the article on which the hon. and gallant Member founds his Question are, in the main, incorrect, and the inferences and allegations based on them are wholly unfounded. No quantity of No. 1 blue cloth has been received at an abatement as stated. In January last 999 yards of No. 2 blue cloth, a coarser material used for trousers, were rejected for containing more "grey hairs and bur" than the pattern. These are minute specks hardly noticeable, except by experts looking especially for them. They are removed by hand, the process being a tedious one. This was the last delivery under the contract, and the contractors asked that the cloth might, if possible, be taken at an abatement to close the transaction. This request was referred for the opinion of the examining officers, who reported that the cloth might be taken for hospital service at a reduction of 2½ per cent, and with the consent of all concerned this was done. As regards the case of the serge, a firm of contractors, being in arrear with their contract, were required to complete it by a given date, after which all then undelivered would be brought against them. A delivery of 4,000 yards towards the end of the extended period was rejected for various defects; but the Report stated that it was a mixed delivery containing 199 many good pieces. In justice to the contractors it was directed that the delivery should be gone over again in detail, and such pieces only accepted as reached the full standard of colour, quality, &c, in every respect. This was done, and 1,520 yards were accepted without abatement. These are, I presume, the facts to which the paragraph refers. The insinuations it contains are absolutely without foundation, and would not have called for contradiction were it not for the importance given them by being referred to in a Question by an hon. Member of this House. I may add that, of course, the deliveries of one year do not constitute the standard for the next year's supplies. The standards are unchanged until they require replacement, when they are specially made. It is confidently affirmed that the quality of cloth and serge has in no way deteriorated of late, while the price, of which the seaman has the benefit, has been lessened. I am sorry to have to reply at such length; but in justice to the officers of the Department who have acted most properly in the circumstances, I was obliged to go into these details.