HC Deb 19 February 1957 vol 565 cc183-4
8. Mr. Swingler

asked the Secretary of State for War what action he is taking to stop the accumulation of surplus stocks in the Army.

Mr. Hare

So far as possible, surplus stocks are being used to reduce the need for current purchases. Meanwhile urgent arrangements are being made to dispose of all items which are no longer needed. New orders are being related to our revised requirements.

Mr. Swingler

Has the Secretary of State studied the Third Report of the Select Committee on Estimates, with particular reference to the statement that it was the policy in the War Office to spend up to the hilt? Will he pay attention to that fact, and possibly issue some directive that if Parliament is asked to vote more money than is necessary for the accumulation of stocks there will not be irresponsible spending in his Department?

Mr. Hare

As I explained to the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shin-well) last week, I am not satisfied with the general position and am going into the matter personally. Everything possible is done to dispose of unnecessary stocks.

Mr. Simmons

Is there any connection between the accumulation of surplus major-generals and the accumulation of surplus stocks?

Mr. Hare

It should be in a reverse direction.

Mr. H. Wilson

The right hon. Gentleman has said two weeks running that he was not satisfied about this position. Is he aware that, following very strong representations from this side of the House last year, the then Prime Minister said that he would hold a special inquiry into the whole subject and that the inquiry was put into the hands of the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, now the Prime Minister? Does the answer mean that the right hon. Gentleman considers that the present Prime Minister's inquiries have proved quite abortive?

Mr. Hare

It does not mean anything of the sort. I want to see that proper decisions are arrived at. I hope to deal with this matter in my Estimates speech, which will be in a fairly short time.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

Does the Minister's earlier statement mean that much of this stock will be sold back to the suppliers, or that it will be put on the market so that the taxpayers, who have already paid once for it, may have a chance of buying cheaply items such as binoculars and bicycles?

Mr. Hare

The method of disposal must depend upon the type of commodity involved.

22. Mr. Lipton

asked the Secretary of State for War when he intends to reduce the stock of 346,568 chairs held by his Department.

Mr. J. Amery

Surplus chairs will be disposed of as soon as possible.

Mr. Lipton

What is being done about it? Does the hon. Gentleman not know that these chairs exist? Why does he not get on with the job now instead of saying he is going to do it as soon as possible? Is he aware that even if the whole of the Armed Forces wanted to stage a "sit-down" strike, there would still be too many chairs?

Mr. Amery

The actual surplus for disposal is only between 80,000 and 90,000. The hon. Gentleman will know that even the most active soldier has to sit down sometimes.

Captain Pilkington

Although the whole House will approve of it, can my hon. Friend say for what particular crime the hon. Colonel the Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton) has been reduced to the ranks?