§ MR. LOUGH (Islington, W.)
On behalf of the hon. Member for East Northamptonshire, I beg to ask the Secretary of State for War whether he will state for what amount of army boots the War Office has given contracts to the Cawnpore or other factories in India; for what period, and on what conditions and terms; whether the tests applied to these boots are identical with those insisted on for Army boots supplied by contractors in Great Britain; whether these Indian factories are allowed to supply boots made on the combination principle, while contractors in Great Britain are not allowed to supply boots made on that principle; and, if so, on what grounds these advantages are given to the Indian factories and refused to British manufacturers.
Arrangements have been made with the Indian Government to supply 100,000 ankle boots per annum for the next three years. They will be inspected by the military authorities in India with the same rigidity as is employed for supplies passed for the use of the British troops in India. They are to be of the hand-sewn pattern supplied to British troops there.
§ Mr. LOUGH
On behalf of the hon. Member for East Northamptonshire, I beg to ask the Secretary of State for War, whether, of the 400,000 pairs of Army boots for which tenders have been invited in the past few weeks, only a small proportion of the tenders have been accepted; and whether the average contract price for the screwed Army boot last year was 11s. 6d., whereas this year the War Office is refusing all tenders at over 9s. 9d. Whether contractors have offered to supply 40,000 pairs of boots a year for three years, similar in pattern to the Indian Combination boot, but of stronger and less brittle leather and of stronger workmanship, at practically the Indian price, and have had this offer refused. Whether the hand-sewn boot contracts formerly given to Northamptonshire villages are now being transferred to India, with the result that numbers of hand-sewn workers in Northamptonshire are out of employment. And, whether the policy as to Army boot contracts will be re-considered with a view to equality of treatment of British manufacturers and workmen and those in India.
The whole of the boots in the recent tenders have been ordered for production in this country. The average price paid for the screwed boots showed a considerable reduction, but it is not the case that tenders over 9s. 9d. have all been declined. Contractors have offered to supply a combination boot. The pattern is now under consideration, and a certain number of such boots have been ordered from various British manufacturers for trial. The Northamptonshire villages delivered only 117,000 last year. 162,000 boots have been ordered for the coming financial year, and further orders will be placed with them as these approach completion. The surplus beyond the number which it is in the power of Northamptonshire to produce has been ordered from India.
§ MR. CHARLES SPENCER (Northamptonshire, Mid.)
Will Northamptonshire villages have a chance of competing?