§ MR. HOWELL (Bethnal Green, N.E.)
asked the Secretary of State for War, Whether his attention has been called to the Report of the Judge Advocate General with regard to certain transactions in connection with the inspection and reception of certain leather at the Ordnance Store Department at Woolwich; whether it is true, as stated in the Report, that—In a great many cases the sealed pattern attached to the specification was a very inferior pattern of the articles described;whether, as regards hides,—The specification described the very best class of hides, whereas both the sealed pattern and the sample were universally of a quality and dressing inferior to that described in the specification;whether a contractor, whose attention was "called to the condition of the hides," stated in evidence,—I accept no responsibility about them, because, when I send in hides properly dressed, and they have been approved by the Inspector, there is an end of the matter, so far as I am concerned;and, whether the Government will consider the advisability of establishing a system, under which, after a certain number of articles had been found not to be equal to be specification, the contract should be considered void, and the whole of the goods returned to the contractor?
§ MR. HANBURY (Preston)
wished to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he could say who was the official who 1646 was responsible; and what action, the War Office proposed to take in regard to the retention of that official in the Public Service?
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE (Mr. E. STANHOPE) (Lincolnshire, Horncastle)
My right hon. and learned Friend the Judge Advocate General (Mr. Marriott), to whom I am much indebted for having undertaken an inquiry as to the inspection of leather at Woolwich at my request last year, has now presented a Report which is of a serious character, and is engaging the earnest attention of the Government. As regards Question No. 22, which the hon. Member proposes to put, I would ask him to postpone it until Thursday. The bearing of the Report upon individuals must be dealt with as a whole. I am not sure that I ought not to ask the House to allow me to deal with it, not in the form of an answer to a Question, but in reply to the Motion of the hon. Member for Preston (Mr. Hanbury), when I can explain fully the views of the Government on the subject. As regards Question No. 21, the Report seems to me to be, generally speaking, fully supported by the evidence, and contains the three statements quoted by the hon. Member. I may say that I propose in future to withhold tenders, either temporarily or permanently, from firms who persistently neglect to work fully up to standards and specifications. In the case of one contract, which was completed, the defective articles have been, as I mentioned the other day, returned to the contractor, and he has been directed to replace them.
§ MR. HOWELL
inquired, whether the persons mentioned in the Report as responsible were being continued in the employment of the Government in the positions they occupied?
§ MR. HANBURY
wanted to know whether the right hon. Gentleman would undertake that Messrs. Dunn and Moody, who had performed a great public service in bringing this subject before the public, should suffer no detriment whatever, either at the War Office or in the Department with which they were connected?
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
I would rather reserve all I have to say about indi- 1647 viduals till I can speak of them as a whole. I admit that Messrs. Moody and Dunn undoubtedly rendered a public service.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)
asked whether, having regard to the seriousness and importance of the subject, the Government would afford an early opportunity of discussing it in a graver way than by mere Questions?
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
I think that is a Question which ought to be addressed to my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Treasury.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR (Donegal, E.)
asked, whether the right hon. Gentleman would, in the course of his statement, whenever he made it, say whether there was not at the War Office a list of contractors kept by the Superintendent of Contracts; whether it was decided some time ago to remove from that list the names of Messrs. Ross and Co.; and whether that Order was afterwards rescinded?