HC Deb 14 August 1919 vol 119 cc1764-5

Subject to any conditions prescribed by the Board with the consent of the Treasury any bricks or other building materials which have been acquired by a Government Department for the purpose of the erection or improvement of houses for the working classes, may daring a period of five years from the passing of this Act be sold to any person who undertakes to use the same forthwith for the purpose of erecting or improving houses for the working classes and to comply with the said conditions at a price sufficient to cover the cost of replacement at the time of sale of the materials so sold.


I beg to move, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

This is following the precedent of an Amendment made in the English Bill. The only effect is to give some possible assistance to private enterprise in respect of any materials which may be at the disposal of and is not required by a Government Department.


Is there anything at the moment to prevent any Government Department disposing of surplus stock to purchasers?

Lieut.-Colonel MURRAY

I would like to enter a protest against the insertion of this Clause. I agree with the hon. Member for Central Edinburgh that there is nothing to prevent a Government Department disposing of such property without the assistance of this Clause in the Bill, and I think that the effect would be to lead to regular trading on the part of Government Departments. We have already had a Profiteering Bill which allows municipal trading, and I think that this will tend in the direction of trading on the part of Government Departments.


If a Government Department has acquired bricks and materials for the purpose of the erection or improvement of houses for the working classes, then, notwithstanding the fact that they acquired them for that purpose, they can, under the powers given in this Clause, dispose of them, especially if they are surplus materials, to a person whose private enterprise it is to supply this class of thing. It certainly does no harm, and it enables a Government Department to give very necessary assistance in this matter.


On this occasion I am glad to agree with my right hon. and learned Friend. If the Government have got power for this purpose, I think it is a very useful indication to them to beware of hoarding and holding up stocks of material against the public. For instance, we had a question and answer in the House the other day. We now know that the War Office has got a million reels of cotton, which they are holding. If they would let this go the housewives of the country would be glad to get it at something less than the 6d. or 7d. per reel they are paying to-day. I support a Clause which indicates in any way to a Government Department how foolish it is for them to hold up material which they no longer require.

Question put, and agreed to.