HC Deb 17 November 1919 vol 121 cc608-10
69. Mr. HOHLER

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Munitions whether he realises that the fact that he holds 11,000.000 yards of cloth has affected and is seriously affecting the price of clothing; and why he does not at once offer the same for sale by public auction and in reasonable quantities throughout the country?


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Munitions what is the reason why the 11,500,000 yards of Government cloth, now handed over by the War Office to the Ministry of Munitions, are being disposed of so slowly; whether, in view of the gravity of the shortage of clothing material and the high price of clothes, it still remains the policy of his Department to sell at the highest possible figure; and whether any offers have been rejected which would have covered the cost to the Govrnment?


I cannot agree that the Government cloth referred to by my hon. Friend is being disposed of slowly. The bulk of this material was only recently handed over to the Disposal Board, and sales were delayed pending the decision on the Standard Clothing Scheme. Three million yards of the 11,500,000 yards of cloth have already been disposed of, and negotiations are proceeding for the sale of the balance. It is the policy of the Board to dispose of this material at prices approximating to the current market values. No offer has been rejected which would have covered the cost of the material to the Government.


Is the hon. Gentleman aware that small people are complaining that they cannot buy so much cloth as he is offering, and that what they want is to buy a small quantity in order to make it up for their own household purposes; and why does he deprive them of such an opportunity, seeing that they are paying as much for the cloth as anybody else?


The question is a complicated one and to state the reasons for the particular course taken would require more time than I could possibly give in the course of an answer. One difficulty at once occurs to me. It is that the great bulk of this cloth requires to be re-dyed and a small purchaser is not in a position to have that done economically.




In view of the large number of questions on the Paper, I would ask the hon. Member; to give notice of any further question.

75. Mr. BRIANT

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Munitions if the 250,000 lounge suits and other articles of clothing now offered for disposal by his Department can be sold to retailers at a fixed price subject to a guarantee that they will be again sold to private purchasers at a fixed percentage of profit; and if, as the minimum number of suits which according to the advertise- ment can be tendered for is twenty-five, this method of sale places the opportunity of direct purchase out of the reach of the consumer and provides no security that they will not eventually be purchased by him at an excessive price?


It is the duty of the Disposal Board to dispose of surplus property to the best advantage in the interest of the taxpayer. The suggestion made by my hon. Friend has been considered by the Disposal Board, but in view of the necessity for securing rapid disposal and keeping staffs down to a minimum it has not been found practicable. Retailers have an opportunity of tendering for the purchase of surplus clothing, and provision has been made by the Government against profiteering.


Are these suits among those which have to be re-dyed?


I do not think that applies to this case. A very large proportion of these suits are of abnormal sizes and will require re-making.


Can they be sold at a controlled price at a reasonable profit?


That is the question put here. The answer is that it is not practicable.