HC Deb 18 July 1889 vol 338 cc722-4
MR. HANBURY (Preston)

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for War what was the total sum realised by the sale of disused Army clothing during the three years from 1st June, 1885, to 1st June, 1888, the period of the latest completed contract; what was the total number of individual articles so sold; whether out of 350 classes of articles of clothing already contracted for in advance for the three years now current, from 1st June, 1888, to 1st June, 1891, in 116 classes alone the following quantities are estimated by the War Office as likely to become disused should the contract as hitherto be allowed to run out, namely, 13,890 forage capes; 173,940 tunics; 62,760 jackets; 58,530 pantaloons; 737,424 trousers; 513,630 frocks; 90,000 leather leggings; 239,550 great coats, cloaks, and capes; whether the clothing similarly sold in advance in 1885 included a similar number of articles, and whether it was all sold in one or at most two lots; and, if so, what was the amount realised by each; whether, if there were two contracts, both were given to the same firm; whether, in addition to any real competition being practically precluded by the magnitude of the contract, this enormous quantity of clothing was also sold on speculation, tenders being asked for and sent in in 1884, and the things tendered for being clothing which would only actually become disused during the long period of the three years subsequent to 1st June, 1885; whether neither the actual things sold themselves nor their condition being known to either vendor or purchaser at the time of contract a fair price is obtained, or adequate security taken that serviceable and even new clothing is not fraudulently disposed of as old or bad; whether, moreover, out of 350 classes of clothing specified in the War Office form of tender, some 230 have not even the quantity for sale even estimated by the War Office; and, whether he will use his right to terminate such an arrangement by giving six months' notice, and afford Volunteers, bands, and working men, who now buy these things at third or fourth hand, an opportunity of purchasing direct in their own localities and in small lots, and of purchasing not on speculation but articles already actually disused and capable of being inspected.


Accounts are made up to the 31st of March, and the sum realized for the three years to the 31st of March, 1888, was £136,205, including boots. The total classes to be disposed of are 354, of which Mr. Moses can claim 298 under his contract. The remainder refer to articles of value not exceeding 3d., which can be disposed of at the discretion of commanding officers. The numbers of the several articles as estimated for sale are substantially as stated in the question. The sales in 1885 were in one contract. Every effort was made to secure competition, and the contract cannot be described as speculative, seeing that the condition of time-worn clothing is well known and every possible precaution is taken to get as much wear as possible out of the clothing before it is sold, commanding officers being held responsible that this condition is complied with. Special regulations have recently been issued on this subject to commanding officers which I shall be happy to show my hon. Friend. The quantities are not estimated for 136 of the classes, but the quantities are very small. My hon. Friend must remember that the special object of these transactions is to obtain for the benefit of the Army Estimates as large a sum of money as possible; and as I have reason to think that money would be lost to a considerable amount by terminating the present contract I am not prepared to take such a step. When, however, the question of a new contract has to be considered we shall call for tenders for one contract as now, and, as an alternative, for a divided contract, either by districts or in some other way.