HC Deb 14 July 1903 vol 125 cc572-4
MR. CATHCART WASON (Orkney and Shetland)

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for War if, in view of the Report with reference to damaged tinned meats, he will ascertain whether such damage has been caused by bad meat being tinned, defective tinning, or inferior tin, and also state the amount of tinned meat that is held by the War Office in stock; and whether periodical examinations will be ordered in the future.


There is no reason to suppose that the damage was due to bad meat being tinned, defective tinning, or inferior tin, but inquiries are being made on the two latter points. The analyses made at home by the Government Analyst, Somerset House, of samples of the rations before they left England were all satisfactory. The stock of preserved meat maintained is 2,000,000 lbs. It is examined periodically according to the regulations.

MR. COURTENAY WARNER (Staffordshire, Lichfield)

How often does "periodically" mean—once a month or once a year?


I do not remember exactly, but I should imagine certainly once a year. Of course, only a percentage is taken.


Is it not the fact that an inquiry is taking place in reference to the damaged stores in South Africa which had to be destroyed?




And, in view of the enormous quantity of rations that had to be destroyed, will steps be taken not to employ the same contractors again?


That is the subject of another Question.

MR. KEIR HARDIE (Merthyr Tydvil)

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for War whether he proposes acting upon the recommendation of the Report of the Board of Officers, which inquired into the destruction of meat and vegetable rations at Pretoria, and recover from the contractors the cost of the rations destroyed; which of the firms named, if any, of those who supplied these rations are to be struck off the War Office list; and whether rations supplied during the war by any of the firms named in the Report were condemned; and, if so, were the rations so condemned destroyed or returned to the contractor.


Until the full liability of the contractors is ascertained from South Africa it will not be possible to consider the question of recovery of cost. Very few complaints have been received as regards the various brands of meat and vegetable rations; it is understood that they gave general satisfaction. Contractors, when responsible for condemned rations, have to make good the loss either in money or in kind.


Were any of the rations returned to the contractors?


No, they were destroyed.

MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)

Who is responsible for passing these contracts, and what action are the Government going to take?


We are making further inquiries before we take any further action. With regard to who the contractors were and what proportion of what each contractor supplied was examined, I hope the House will excuse me at the present moment from saying what our course of action will be; but if we find that the contractors are liable the House may rest assured that we shall act fully up to our contract.


Will fuller information be in the hands of Members by Thursday when the War Office Vote comes on for discussion?


I hope so. We cabled for particulars on Thursday or Friday in last week.


The noble Lord has not stated whether he will also give information as to who were the responsible advisers of the War Office in accepting these rations?

[No answer was returned.]