HC Deb 17 July 1899 vol 74 cc993-5
MR. FLYNN (Cork, N.)

I beg to ask the Financial Secretary to the War Office, in reference to the contract for groceries, provisions, &c., in Cork Military District, whether he has seen a list of the prices for articles largely in consumption at which a local firm and the Canteen and Mess Co-operative Society respectively tendered to supply; whether he will cause inquiry to be made as to why the contract for groups 2 and 4, groceries, provisions, etc., was placed with the Canteen and Mess Co-operative Society at prices higher than tendered for by a local contractor who had previously satisfactorily supplied the Cork District for many years; and can he state whether the General Officer at present commanding the Cork District is bound by the promise of the Secretary of State for War in April, 1895, to the effect that the Department was moving in the direction of procuring good articles at a moderate price in the district itself; and, if so, will the attention of the General Officer commanding be called to the declaration of general policy in regard to contracts for military supplies.


In answer to the first paragraph of the question, I have to say that I have seen an incomplete list of prices furnished to me by the hon. Member. Comparison of articles by price list irrespective of quality is no guarantee of value; the contract for groups 2 and 4 was placed with the Cooperative Society on account of the better value offered to the soldier. I find on inquiry that the board which selected this society for groups 2 and 4 also selected local firms for other groups, and there seems no reason why their judgment should have erred in one case and not in the other. In answer to the third paragraph, the General Officer commanding, Cork, favours the placing of canteen contracts locally, provided that the interests of the soldier do not suffer thereby.


Is the hon. Gentleman aware that on the occasion referred to in the question the late Secretary for War expressed the opinion that the sounder system was to permit canteen committees to exercise their own discretion in these matters?


That is precisely what they do do.


I beg to ask the Financial Secretary to the War Office is he aware that Major Rawnsley, who has recently been appointed Inspector of Canteen Supplies in Cork Military District, was connected with the board of the Canteen and Mess Co-operative Society in 1896: and whether it is in accordance with the rules of the Service that a trading society so closely connected with officers on active service should compete with ordinary traders in the contracts for military supplies, in view of the fact that these officers are concerned in the approval or rejection of tenders.


It is a part of the duty of Major Rawnsley, as an officer of the Army Service Corps, to assist in inspecting canteen supplies; but the canteen management of each district is subject to the periodical independent inspections of the Deputy Assistant Adjutant-Generals for Supply Inspection, neither of whom are interested in the Canteen and Mess Co-operative Society. The second paragraph of the hon. Member's question has already been answered.