HC Deb 04 December 1956 vol 561 cc1024-7
12 and 13. Mr. Wigg

asked the Secretary of State for War (1) what proportion of the cost of the Army's tercentenary dinner, held at the Royal Hospital, Chelsea, on Tuesday, 27th November, 1956, was borne by public funds and what proportion by the Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes' funds; and the total cost and the cost per head including all charges for food and drink and such items as china, cutlery, glass, table linen, furniture, transport, etc., either hired or order specially for the occasion;

(2) what was the additional percentage added over and above the cost price of items of food and drink supplied by the Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes at the Army tercentenary dinner held at the Royal Hospital, Chelsea, on Tuesday, 27th November, 1956.

Mr. John Hare

Of the total cost of this dinner, about £1,000 is being borne by public funds. The remainder is being met from private funds, in particular by contributions from some of those present. None of the expense is being borne by N.A.A.F.I. In accordance with their normal practice, N.A.A.F.I. supplied the dinner on a basis which fully covered its costs and gave it a small profit.

Mr. Wigg

Would it not be true to say that the cost of this dinner was at least £20 per head, and that probably one of the reasons there were no canteen facilities in Suez was that the N.A.A.F.I. was caught up with this operation?

Mr. Hare

I really think that that supplementary question was entirely unworthy of the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg). This was a unique occasion, which in fact gave great pleasure to the Army as a whole, and I make no apology for the expenditure of money upon it.

Major Beamish

Has not the hon. Gentleman the Member for Dudley shown by his questions that he is a "barrack room lawyer" par excellence?

Mr. Stokes

May I ask the Secretary of State one question, in view of his statement that £1,000 had to come out of public funds? Am I right in understanding that the officers attending had themselves to subscribe £4 each? If that was so, why on earth should the dinner cost £1,000 more?

Mr. Hare

The officers attending actually contributed slightly less than the figure which the right hon Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) has given. As this was private money, I did not wish to deal with it in the House. I am accountable to the House for public money spent, and those details I have given. This dinner did cost quite a bit of money. I again say it was a unique occasion, and I do not think the money was wasted. We had to get extra things, such as cutlery, crockery, glassware, table linen, etc., all specially for the occasion.

Mr. Simmons

Could the Secretary of State for War say how many other ranks were at the dinner?

Mr. Hare

That is asked in a later Question, in replying to which I will answer it.

Mr. Wigg

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the right hon. Gentleman's reply, I beg to give notice that I will raise the matter on the Adjournment.

15. Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

asked the Secretary of State for War how many guests attended the Army's tercentenary dinner on 27th November; and how many of them were other ranks.

Mr. John Hare

There were 186 guests; none were other ranks. All regiments and corps were represented by their colonels or colonels-commandant.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

By way of making this tercentenary celebration fully representative, would not the War Office perhaps consider another dinner for other ranks, perhaps for other ranks from Port Said?

Mr. Hare

In view of the fact that some of the hon. and gallant Gentleman's friends do not seem to like our having had one dinner, the suggestion of another might not be as popular with them as it might be with him. As it was possible to get only one representative from every corps and regiment of the Army to attend the dinner, in order to keep the numbers within proportion, it was obviously proper that the colonels-commandant and colonels should be the representatives. I might add that quite a number of the people who attended that dinner did in fact start their Service careers in the ranks.

Air Commodore Harvey

Would my right hon. Friend say why the hon. and gallant Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) did not receive an invitation?