HC Deb 23 April 1956 vol 551 cc1419-20
1. Mr. Fernyhough

asked the Minister of Supply if he will institute an inquiry into a recent sale of Army Fordson trucks, some of which were almost new and yet were sold in lots of ten at £17 10s. each.

The Minister of Supply (Mr. Reginald Maudling)

These trucks were all at least ten years old, and for the reasons I gave in my reply of 16th April to the hon. Member for Lichfield and Tamworth (Mr. Snow), they are not an economical proposition for ordinary purposes. That was, no doubt, reflected in the prices bid for them. I should like to take this opportunity of correcting a mistake in that reply, for which I apologise. Most of the trucks weighed 2 tons and carry a £25 tax; only a few of them were 3½ tons and taxed at £35.

Mr. Fernyhough

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is growing public concern and apprehension at this constant wicked waste? How does he think the Chancellor of the Exchequer is going to save £100 million so long as affairs like this are permitted? Can he say whether any more vehicles of a similar kind are on order? If he does not know what to do with them, instead of disposing of them at give-away prices, could he not find some use for them in some of the Colonial Territories which need some vehicles of this kind?

Mr. Maudling

I have yet to hear of a better way of disposing of surplus Government property than by open public auction.

Mr. G. Brown

But surely not selling them at £17 10s. per vehicle. Tremendous profit is going to be made by somebody out of this. Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that this is a fantastic situation—there is no party issue involved—in which large quantities of stock are ordered at public expense and subsequently sold not even at knock-down value? Will he not set up an inquiry, public or private as he chooses, into what is going on here?

Mr. Maudling

As I have explained, these trucks are at least ten years old. If the right hon. Gentleman can suggest to me a better way of getting a higher price, I shall be glad if he will do so.

Mr. Brown

Yes, indeed, since the Minister wants to know. Break them down and sell the spares. He will then get a lot more than £17 10s. per vehicle.