HC Deb 23 February 1953 vol 511 cc1700-1
4. Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

asked the Minister of Materials the total amount of the purchases he has made since 1st January, 1953, to date; and what materials were involved in those purchases.

Sir A. Salter

A very large proportion of the purchases made by my Department are covered by standing contracts. The total payments for new supplies during the period mentioned, including supplies coming forward under these contracts, are of the order of £30 million. The materials involved are set out in the Ministry's printed Supplementary Estimates (Class IX, Vote 6, Subhead A). If, however, the hon. and gallant Member is referring to new purchase commitments made during the period the total would be about £6 million, of which about half was in respect of jute and jute goods.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

Would the right hon. Gentleman confirm that these transactions could not have been properly, safely, nor efficiently left to private traders? Is he aware that if that confirmation is forthcoming some of us on this side of the House will support him against the raucous and doctrinaire critics on the other side of the House?

Sir A. Salter

Every one of the cases of public trading where public trading remains has been examined and is being examined very carefully, and at the moment we think that the reasons for continuing public trading are temporarily decisive in favour of doing so.

Colonel Gomme-Duncan

Are not the figures my right hon. Friend has just given a further indication that this Department could be made a sub-department of another Department with a very large saving to the taxpayer?

Sir A. Salter

That is a very different question, and I am not at all convinced that there would be any saving.

Mr. Shinwell

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that we on this side of the House are very glad occasionally— although infrequently—to hear some commonsense from the Front Bench opposite?