Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £37,630,000, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the expense of works, buildings and lands, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1957.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Lipton
I view this Vote with some suspicion, because according 613 to a note on page 135 it provides for expenditure on the construction and maintenance of War Department buildings, including the purchase of engineers' stores and materials. I suspect that these include paint of which about a quarter of a million gallons were recently sold as surplus. How much provision has been made under the heading of engineers' stores and materials for paint during the forthcoming financial year?
The Under-Secretary informed the House that notwithstanding the tremendous sales of paint which I described on a previous occasion as a colossal Niagara on which very serious losses have been incurred, about 1,100,000 gallons have been taken into stock since 1st January, 1955. Most of it was ordered during 1953 or early 1954. If that is so, it seems that the War Department is more than adequately provided with paint. I should not like to think that in a few months time the War Department will find much of this paint surplus, and that we shall have further substantial sales of surplus paint.
It used to be said in the old days that every soldier had a field marshal's baton in his knapsack. It looks now as if every soldier has a five gallon drum of paint in his knapsack, provided for him by the War Department. If the Under-Secretary can remove some of my serious apprehensions on this matter I shall be very grateful to him, and I think that the general public will be grateful to him. The Federation of Paint Contractors, a very reputable organisation, takes a poor view of the whole situation.
§ Mr. F. Maclean
The hon. and gallant Gentleman asked me to remove one of his serious apprehensions. I can remove one of his serious misapprehensions immediately by pointing out that paint does not come under this Vote.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
I should like to draw attention to Subhead A: "Works-Construction and Maintenance Services, £35,290,000." That is a very large sum, and I should like to ask if it includes £29 million which I was told by the Secretary of State was to be spent on barracks and installations in Cyprus.
§ Mr. Maclean
A great deal of this money is spent on maintaining existing barracks, including some in Cyprus. The 614 fact is, as my right hon. Friend has said over and over again, that a great many of our barracks are in very bad condition indeed. This is a most unsatisfactory state of affairs, as we are the first to admit. One of its worst features is that it involves, and has involved for the last fifty years, spending very large sums on the maintenance of buildings which are not really worth it.
The only answer is to get on with our current twenty years' building programme, and to build new barracks as fast as we can. That we are doing, given the limitations which are imposed on us by competition from other sources and by lack of funds. In the meanwhile, we must have somewhere for the troops to live, and we have to make those premises as habitable as possible. That explains this expenditure under the Vote.
§ Question put and agreed to.
That a sum, not exceeding £37,360,000, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the expense of works, buildings and lands, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1457.