§ MR. PIRIE (Aberdeen, N.)
I beg to ask the Secretary of State for War with reference to the 1,700,000 Army rations destroyed near Pretoria during April last, will he state the total value so destroyed, the respective quantities of soldered and non-soldered tins, and also the names of the firms who respectively supplied them, together with the dates on which they were supplied; is he aware of the fact that good meat properly preserved and tinned practically never deteriorates; and, if so, is he prepared to call to account those persons who supplied these rations; and will he lay upon the Table of the House the Report called for from the General Officer Commanding South Africa.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. BRODRICK,) Surrey, Guildford
The value was approximately about £80,000. The numbers of soldered and unsoldered tins were roughly 1,120,000 and 548,000 respectively. The names of the firms who supplied them are as follows:—Aberdeen Preserving Company, W. Bruce, John Davidson, Duhamel and Company, London Canning Company, Maconochie Brothers, Milne and Sons, Moir and Wilson, John Moir and Son, Poulton and Noel, Sturton Brothers. Twenty-two thousand of the rations were supplied at the end of 1900, and the rest between April and June, 1902. Good meat properly preserved and tinned and properly stored should keep for at least two years without deterioration; these rations, however, also contained vegetables, And the tins had been subjected to considerable variations of climate. The whole question is being investigated. The Report can be laid.
§ MR. WILLIAM REDMOND (Clare, E.)
What form is the investigation taking, and will there be a regular and searching inquiry?
§ MR. BRODRICK
The War Office is investigating what steps are necessary. The inquiry will take the usual form.
§ MR. CATHCART WASON (Orkney and Shetland)
Will any claim for compensation be made against those persons who supplied the rations?
§ MR. BRODRICK
I cannot say; I shall have to make inquiry. It is impossible without knowing exactly to what the tins have been subjected during the early part of the time they were in South Africa to say whether any blame attaches to the contractors or not.
§ MR. WILLIAM REDMOND
Has not the right hon. Gentleman just admitted that a large proportion of these rations only arrived in Africa last year?