HC Deb 29 March 1956 vol 550 cc2323-4
5. Mr. Dodds

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer how far he is still pressing to obtain any part of the £461,911 owed by purchasers of Government surplus stock; and what precautions have been taken to obviate the increase in the number of defaulters in respect of Government surplus stock sales.

Mr. H. Brooke

These claims were abandoned and written off as losses, only after every effort had been made to recover the sums due and it had become clear that there was no prospect of doing so. Most of the losses in question were incurred during the immediate post-war period, and it is not the case that the number of defaulters had been increasing. It is the practice of selling Departments to take all reasonable precautions to check a purchaser's ability to pay, and not to part with stores until the full purchase price has been paid.

Mr. Dodds

Can the right hon. Gentleman state whether any lessons have been learned from the past with regard to Government surplus stocks? Can he say that some precautions are now being taken to ensure that there is not overbuying by Government Departments, which inevitably leads to huge surpluses being sold?

Mr. Brooke

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister told the House the other day that a special, fresh inquiry into this was being undertaken. I should like to point out to the hon. Member and to the House that most of this sum of £461,000 odd arises not because someone who bought the goods went off with them without paying for them, but because the purchaser failed to complete his contract. The goods were left in the hands of the Department concerned, which had to sell them in default, and proceeded to try to recover from the original purchaser the difference between the amount he promised to pay and the amount which the goods actually fetched.