§ MR. CHANNING (Northamptonshire, E.)
I beg to ask the Financial Secretary to the War Office whether the War Office has obtained from Indian factories a large quantity of boots for the use of the troops in South Africa; what number of pairs of boots have been thus obtained; at what price they have been supplied, and at what prices Army boots, both hand sewn and machine made, have been contracted for this past year in Northamptonshire and other shoe manufacturing districts in England; whether very large tenders of boots have been made by English firms this past year, 910 and only small orders placed with such firms on the ground of price; whether it was found that the Indian made boots supplied to Lord Kitchener's forces in the Soudan proved unsatisfactory, while English made wire sewn and riveted boots stood the campaign exceedingly well; and whether the leather out of which Indian boots are made is thinner, and therefore unsuitable for rough travelling in stony country; whether the Indian boots supplied to the South Africa forces were, before the decision to purchase, submitted to the usual examination of the Army boot inspectors in this country; and whether, in arranging for the present and future requirements of the troops, the War Office will take the proper steps to secure the soundest and strongest boots from approved English firms at a fair price, having regard to the increase in the price of sound leather and to the cost of British labour.
* MR. J. POWELL-WILLIAMS
In order to meet a very urgent demand 60,000 pairs of boots have been ordered from India, at prices equal to the lowest price paid in England. They could not have been obtained as quickly from any other source. Contract prices are not disclosed. The Indian boots supplied for the Soudan, as well as the English made wire-sown and riveted boots, were found quite satisfactory. The Indian boots were subjected to the usual inspection in India, and were shipped thence to South Africa. Orders for boots have, during the past year, been placed at home with all firms offering supplies at reasonable prices. The offers declined were from makers whose quotations were much above the mass of tenders received. As a rule, the boots of the British Army are obtained from home manufacturers, but in a time of emergency, when immediate delivery is necessary, other sources of supply have occasionally to be resorted to.
§ MR. CHANNING
May I ask why these requirements were not anticipated in time to get the boots in England? Have not tenders for 300,000 pairs been issued within the past week?
§ [No answer was given.]