HC Deb 09 February 1944 vol 396 cc1760-1
41. Mr. Evelyn Walkden

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he proposes to make any changes in the arrangements for issuing civilian clothing of non-austerity design to demobilised sailors: why men who refuse to accept the mass-produced suit as now offered from stores are given in lieu of cash a voucher which is only negotiable at Messrs. Montague Burton, Limited; and if he will immediately put an end to this practice.

The First Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. A. V. Alexander)

With regard to the first part of the Question, the arrangements which shall apply to the issue of civilian clothing to sailors when they come to be demobilised are at present under consideration by the Admiralty in conjunction with the War Office and Air Ministry and other Departments concerned. The second part of the Question appears to arise from a misconception of the practice on discharge from the Service during wartime. Sailors discharged from the Navy are not offered a suit from Government stores; they are offered the choice of a voucher exchangeable for a suit at any branch of Messrs. Montague Burton, Ltd., and if they do not wish to accept this they are given a cash payment which is the same as that allowed to the other two Services and represents the wholesale price of a comparable suit. The third part of the Question does not arise.

Mr. Walkden

Can the right hon. Gentleman say why, and when, such a monopoly was arranged, and who authorised it, and why sailors should be treated differently from members of the other Fighting Services?

Mr. Alexander

I am not aware that they are treated differently in principle at all. The number of men so demobilised is comparatively small in war-time, and I think that the contracts Department, because of the smallness of it, gave the contract to one firm; but the whole matter is being reviewed.

Mr. Walkden

When was it authorised?

Sir H. Williams

Does the First Lord not think that this decision is most unfair to the co-operative societies?

Mr. Alfred Edwards

Would the First Lord also consider the point of view of my constituents, 3,000 of whom are engaged in manufacturing 50s. suits?