HC Deb 03 December 1906 vol 166 cc568-70
COLONEL HERBERT (Monmouthshire, S.)

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for War whether it was reported to the War Office in December 1902 that the † See (4) Debates, clxv., 1223–4. profits realised by the field force canteens in South Africa amounted to £700,000; whether the Report of General Lyttelton showed that £140,589 had been expended for the benefit of officers, non-commissioned officers, and men, and that the only balance credit consisted of stock valued at £103,528; whether any steps have been taken to fix the responsibility for a deficit of £400,000 which should have been available for distribution amongst those who dealt with the canteens; and whother any part of that apparent deficit has been applied to other purposes than such distribution, and by whose authority.


As regards the five parts of this Question the Answers are as follows:—(1) No such report was made. The stock in hand of the field force canteens on September 30th, 1902, was at one time valued at the cost price of £722,800, and it is to this that the hon. Member presumably refers. No such figure represented profit. The value of this stock was subsequently found to be, from various causes, very much depreciated, and there were, of course, liabilities to be set against it. (2) Yes, £146,509 is reported to have been so expended. (3) Yes, in April, 1904, the balance credit of the canteens was reported to consist of stock of the nominal value of £103,528. (4) There is no doubt that the profits of the field force canteens were diminished, partly from unavoidable causes and partly from injudicious or bad management; but the hon. Member probably over-estimates the extent of the loss sustained. For losses due to what were considered avoidable causes the officer who held the post of managing director between August, 1901, and September, 1902, was censured and informed that he could not hope for further advancement in the service; he has since retired from the Army. (5) There is a mistake in the hon. Members figures which I have explained. As far as I am aware, all grants from the profits of the field force canteens have been made to the officers, non-commissioned officers, and men of the garrison; but I would here repeat what I said in answer to a previous Question on this subject— that these canteens are administered locally by the General Officer Command- ing-in-Chief in South Africa, and the accounts audited by civil accountants appointed by him.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the statement at the beginning of my Question is taken from the evidence given by Mr. Brodrick before the War Stores Commission, and will he inform mo whether any part of the deficit was used in the payment of losses incurred by the management of farms or other similar undertakings in South Africa?


In answer to the first part of the question of my hon. and gallant friend, I can only say that a great deal of water has flowed under the bridge since Mr. Brodrick gave evidence, and the matter has been investigated more completely and thoroughly than it was ever investigated before. It is a mistake to say that £700,000 was lost. As regards the last part of the Question, I cannot answer that on the spur of the moment, but, I will inquire if the hon. and gallant Gentleman wishes.


I will put down another Question.