HC Deb 12 November 1908 vol 196 cc520-3
MR. LEVERTON HARRIS (Tower Hamlets, Stepney)

I beg to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty whether the Admiralty are bound by any agreement or undertaking, or is otherwise under any obligation, to obtain a supply of any intoxicating liquor from any particular person or persons; if so, what are the names of the persons; and what breweries, distilleries, or licensed premises they represent.


Such liquors as are bought directly by the Admiralty are obtained in the open market by competition in the usual way. As regards canteens in naval shore estabments, the supply of liquor is not purchased by the Admiralty, but is provided by the general contractor for canteen supplies under arrangement with the naval officer in charge. The Admiralty policy is against anything in the nature of a tied system with any particular firm of brewers for wet canteens, and whore anything of that nature still exists, steps will be taken on the termination of the current local agreement to regulate any fresh arrangement in accordance with the policy referred to.


Arising out of that Answer, and seeing that the right hon. Gentleman has not answered my Questions, may I ask, Can he say definitely whether the Government are bound or not by any contract; and further, is there any contract with the proprietor or owner of a public-house known as the "Coach and Horses"; also, how many of these canteens are tied at the present time?


I have answered the Questions completely. The hon. Member asked whether the Admiralty are bound by any agreement or undertaking, or are otherwise under any obligation, to obtain a supply of any intoxicating liquor from any particular person or persons. My Answer is in the negative.

MR. H. C. LEA (St. Pancras, E.)

Is it not a fact that all the rum bought by the Admiralty at the present time, and for years past, has been bought under an agreement with a firm of brokers in the City?


I must ask for notice of that.

MR. A. J. BALFOUR (City of London)

Perhaps I may be allowed to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether his Answer did not deal with the Admiralty in its centralised capacity in London, or does it mean that there are no contracts with the Government at Portsmouth, for instance, or Devonport or any other place with individual suppliers of liquor?


There are contracts, but I have endeavoured as well as I could in my Answer to draw a distinction between wet naval canteens and Admiralty contracts. Under Admiralty contracts liquor is invariably bought in the open market by open competition, but the canteens are not Admiralty contracts. In this case there have been past contracts extending over a period of three years, but it is proposed in the future to bring all such contracts to an end and to insist upon the Admiralty policy being adopted in regard to canteens.

* MR. LEIF JONES (Westmoreland, Appleby)

Arising out of that Answer and the cross-examination of my right hon. friend, may I ask whether the best way of overcoming the difficulties suggested in the various Questions would not be for the Admiralty to give up purchasing liquor?


Certainly not.


I do not want unduly to press the right hon. Gentleman, but we are anxious to know exactly what the system is. I understand that arrangements are made to buy in the open market, and of course we have nothing to say against that, but is the arrangement made with a firm of brewers for a week, a month, two months, six months, or for any period? For how long are these open market agreements made?


I have no knowledge on that point, but no doubt the contracts for delivery of beer which might be ordered would extend over a considerable period. But the contract with any particular brewer would be made in open competition with other brewers.


I asked the right hon. Gentleman if he could give us the names of persons, and I repeat it now, and can he tell us if there is any contract with the owner or proprietor of the "Coach and Horses"?


I have no knowledge at all of the "Coach and Horses."