HC Deb 13 May 1895 vol 33 cc1052-3
MR. R. W. HANBURY (Preston)

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for War, on what principle the percentage of Foreign and Home produced meat which may be issued to the troops is based; whether that percentage only applies to the United Kingdom as a whole, or whether it holds good in the case of each separate station; whether it applies to both beef and mutton, or whether in the case of mutton no restriction exists; what is the estimated saving for this year by the purchase of foreign and colonial meat; and, whether he can state what has been the estimated saving since the rule was established in 1890?


Up to December, 1888, the trade in frozen or refrigerated meat had not been largely developed, and no restriction had been necessary on its supply. It was ascertained, however, that the contractors were issuing some of this meat mixed with home-killed meat; and, as it was unquestionably a cheaper article, though not as a rule inferior in quality, it was decided that the State should have the benefit of the lower price by calling for tenders from contractors who were to be permitted to supply frozen or refrigerated meat on not more than four days a week. In 1890 it was found more convenient to substitute a maximum quantity for a maximum number of days; and 60 per cent. was adopted as a rough substitute for four days out of seven. The percentage applies to each station at which frozen meat is supplied, and it includes frozen mutton as well as refrigerated beef; but mutton must never exceed one-seventh of the total issue of meat. Mutton can be issued all the year round; refrigerated beef only from October to July, inclusive. This period was extended last year, May having previously been the limit. The saving effected cannot be stated, as the tender is at an average price for the whole supply, and the fluctuations in home and foreign meat prices from year to year preclude comparison; but there is no doubt that the saving is considerable. I may add that I am somewhat surprised that the hon. Gentleman asks this question, because categorical replies upon nearly all his points were made to him by my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary on May 12th, 1893.


Is it not the duty of the Government to carry out the doctrine of free trade in this as in other respects?


The duty of the Government raises a very wide question.