HC Deb 13 February 1956 vol 548 cc2078-9
75. Mr. Dodds

asked the Secretary of State for War the number of hammers and paint brushes disposed of at the surplus goods sale at Bicester on 8th February; how the average sale price per article compared with the cost price; why they were not retained in stock for future use; and the reasons for the precautions taken in respect of the use of cameras and the admission of the Press.

The Under-Secretary of State for War (Mr. Fitzroy Maclean)

There were 1.675 hammers and 10,820 oil brushes which were part of the equipment of the obsolete Polsten machine gun. The average sale price of the hammers was 1s. 3d. each and that of the oil brushes 7½d. We do not know how much was actually paid for these articles when they were purchased early in the war, but it was almost certainly less than the present replacement prices of 1s. 8d. and 1s. 2d., respectively. They were not retained in; stock because no future military use for them could be foreseen. Press representatives could attend the sale in the same way as members of the general public. For security reasons, it is normal practice not to allow photographs to be taken in military stores' depots.

Mr. Dodds

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the officer commanding said he had orders not to allow the Press into the sale? Will he explain how hammers can be obsolete, or is it that these are left-handed hammers and cannot be used by right-handed men?

Mr. Maclean

My information is that the Press were allowed to attend the sale in the same way as any other members of the public. If the hon. Member says that the commanding officer gave specific instructions, I will certainly look into that point. As to the hammers, they were part of the tool equipment of the Polsien machine gun, and I do not think that they would have been useful for ordinary purposes.