HC Deb 27 April 1926 vol 194 cc1849-50

asked the Secretary of State for Air whether his attention has been called to the statement contained on page 5 of the Comptroller and Auditor-General's Report on the Air Services Appropriation Account, 1924–25, dealing with special advances made to contractors before the completion or delivery of goods in order that surplus sums remaining unspent should not be repaid to the Treasury, and to the statement on page 8 that a certain contractor to whom such an advance had been made shortly afterwards went into liquidation, whereby the Treasury has sustained a lose of nearly £500; will he state whether any official will be surcharged for the amount of this loss; will he publish a list of all such advance payments made by the Air Ministry and other departments, giving the names of the firms thus favoured; and will he state what steps he proposes to take to prevent such proceedings in future?

The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for AIR (Major Sir Philip Sassoon)

As this question falls into a number of parts, the answer is somewhat long, and, with the hon. Member's permission, I will circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.


Can the hon. Member state whether the statements contained in the question are accurate?


The question is referred to the Public Accounts Committee, which is set up by this House to deal with matters of this kind, and I think that I had better not say anything about it.


Is the hon. Gentleman aware that if any local authority were guilty of this sort of conduct, the members of it would not only be surcharged but locked up?

Following is the information promised

The hon. Member appears to be under some misapprehension in this matter. The loss alluded to on page 8 of the Report was not in respect of an advance made to a contractor; in fact, no such advance had been made. The Comptroller and Auditor-General called attention to an omission to deduct, from sums due to the contractor on a. Air Ministry contract, the value of services rendered to him by the Royal Aircraft establishment at Farnborough. The case is still the subject of correspondence, and no question of a surcharge against any official has arisen.

As regards the practice of making advances to contractors referred to on page 5 of the Report, the conditions have been defined and approved by the Public Accounts Committee. The advances are in all cases made for the convenience of the public and not for the advantage of contractors. I do not see that any public purpose, would be served by the publication of a list; of such advances or by the prohibition of such advances as are made within the limits laid down by the Public Accounts Committee.