HC Deb 17 June 1895 vol 34 cc1264-5

I beg to ask the Financial Secretary to the War Office if he will grant a Return, for the year 1894, showing the amount of foreign forage and meat issued to Her Majesty's troops in Great Britain and Ireland; and if, in case it should be found impossible to obtain this from the various contractors for the past year, he will issue such instructions as will insure the information for another year?


It is not in my power to give Returns of the sources whence supplies for the Army are drawn. Provided contractors deliver supplies of the quality required, it has not been the custom to stipulate that they shall be exclusively of British origin. To do this would be to run counter to the commercial policy of this country. In reply to a question similar in principle in 1893, the late Prime Minister said:— The Legislature has, by a series of Acts, made careful provision that the whole of the community shall have free access upon equal terms to all products whatever in whatever country produced, and it appears to me that those Acts of the Legislature are presumably a guide for the Executive Government. It would be a singular step for an Executive Government on its own discretion to allow the course of legislative precedents to be infringed. Published Returns of the Board of Trade give complete information of the imports and exports of this country, and it is not desirable to grant special Returns dealing with a mere fraction of the subject; especially as the object for which they are asked appears to be to call in question the settled policy of the country.


said, that arising out of the right hon. Gentleman's answer, he should like to ask him whether he was to understand that it was for the benefit of the public service that the information for which he asked was not to be given?


It is contrary to the usual practice to do so. I will make inquiries, but it is not usual or desirable that I should make a Return on the subject.


asked whether, all things being equal both in price and quality, the right hon. Gentleman would give a preference to English produce?


All considerations being exactly equal, I should personally give a preference to English produce, but that rather begs the question.


asked what was the object of buying this cheap foreign meat for the use of the troops?


Order, order! The question of the hon. and gallant Gentleman is out of order.