HC Deb 02 April 1957 vol 568 cc215-6
17. Mr. Dodds

asked the Secretary of State for War as nearly 8 million surplus safety razor blades have been sold at public auction sales at an average price of eight blades a penny, what opportunity was given for the troops to purchase them before being offered at public auctions.

Mr. John Hare

None, Sir. Following rulings by the Public Accounts Committee, that the sale of surplus Government stores should be by open competition, it is a general rule that surplus stores are not sold to troops.

Mr. Dodds

Does not the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that these blades could have been sold before they became surplus stores? Will he explain why, if these razor blades were bought during the war, they have had to be kept until 1957? Could they not have been sold to the troops without becoming surplus stores? That is the complaint.

Mr. Hare

The hon. Gentleman should know that all these blades were bought during the war. The decision to render them surplus stores was taken in 1955. Why decisions were not taken earlier than that is something for which I am not accountable. This is a case of better late than never.

Mr. Nabarro

Is it not a fact that this accumulation of razor blades was there in 1945, and there in 1951—the same razor blades? Is not the guilty man the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell)? Why does he not get up and tell us?

Mr. Shinwell

I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman two simple questions. Is it not true that the bulk of these razor blades were purchased during the war? Would he send a selection of these surplus blades to the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) so that he might shave his moustache?

Mr. Hare

My hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) is quite correct; most of these blades were bought during the war. I hesitate to send a selection of them to my hon. Friend, because they are of a quality rather inferior to that of razor blades manufactured in 1957.

Mr. Dodds

What about the loss to the taxpayer? Does nobody care about that?

Mr. Lipton