HC Deb 19 March 1956 vol 550 cc818-9
29. Mr. Dodds

asked the Minister of Supply the expense entailed in holding the recent public auction sale of Government surplus goods at Melton Mowbray; the quantity of paint sold; how much it realised; and how this compares with the purchase price.

The Minister of Supply (Mr. Reginald Maudling)

The expenses of the two-day sale were £1,900. One hundred and fifty-eight thousand five hundred and thirty-four gallons of liquid paint and 10½ tons of dry paint were sold for £26,302, which is about a quarter of the estimated purchase price.

Mr. Dodds

In view of the ridiculously low prices which are realised at such sales, may I ask the Minister whether he is aware that many other Government Departments have been ordering similar paint over the last twelve months? Is he not aware, in this matter of paint, that the paint manufacturers stated that there was no need to have ordered such huge quantities because they hold big stocks and can execute orders at very short notice? Why has this big loss occurred?

Mr. Maudling

My responsibility in this matter is to dispose of surplus stocks on the best possible terms, and if the hon. Member can suggest any way of getting a better price than at a public auction, I shall be very glad to consider it.

Mr. P. Wells

Is the Minister satisfied that this was a genuine sale and not rigged by a gang of dealers who discourage, by bribes and threats, genuine bids, and afterwards proceed to "knock," where they share out the swag?

Mr. Maudling

My officials keep very careful watch to make sure that auctions are conducted on the proper lines and are not rigged. My Parliamentary Secretary has visited both recent auctions.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

Will the right hon. Gentleman get ready for the next auction sale, because the War Office has taken into stock another 1,100,000 gallons of paint since the beginning of 1955?

Mr. Maudling

Any questions about the acquisition of paint by the War Office should be put to the Secretary of State for War.