HC Deb 11 March 1957 vol 566 cc802-3
51 and 52. Mr. Dodds

asked the Minister of Supply (1) how many safety razors have been sold by his Department at public auctions since 1st January, 1955; and how the price realised compares with the cost of purchase, both as a whole and as regards the average per article.

(2) how many shaving brushes have been disposed of by his Department at public auctions since 1st July, 1955; how much they realised; how this compares with the cost of purchase; and how the cost per article compares.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Supply (Mr. W. J. Taylor)

Since the dates in the Questions, 1,011,715 safety razors and 593,965 shaving brushes have been sold for £3,698 and £10,791, respectively. These articles were all bought during the war and it is not now possible to ascertain the original cost.

Mr. Dodds

Is the hon. Member aware that dealers have said that they bought at these auction sales safety razor blade holders in good condition for 1d. each and shaving brushes for 6d. each? Is the hon. Gentleman not aware that I am just starting to use a shaving brush at home that was bought in 1940? Would he explain how shaving brushes can deteriorate to such an extent that they have got to be sold just like scrap goods? Will the hon. Gentleman also explain whether anybody has ever been sacked for the wilful waste of money that goes on at these auction sales?

Mr. Taylor

These goods are mostly of very cheap quality and in poor condition. My Department has no machinery for selling these goods by penny numbers or in small lots. The only way in which my Department can dispose of these goods when they are made surplus by a Service Department is by sale at auction. This procedure has been followed in this case. Whether anyone has been sacked or not, I am not able to say.

Mr. G. Brown

Will the Minister look again into this matter, or perhaps the Prime Minister will at some stage? We repeatedly have these scandals. Of course, Departments have been over-ordering in the past. Nobody is complaining about that, but we are always getting scandals about the disposal of stocks at public auctions where "rigging" goes on and where prices are realised which are out of all proportion to the prices for which these articles are subsequently sold. Will the Minister look into the arrangements and see whether it is possible to devise a better and more economical way of doing the job?

Mr. Taylor

We will certainly look into this matter to see whether the arrangements can be improved, but I do not hold out very much hope that they can be improved. These goods were bought at the beginning of the war when they were issued free to the troops. That practice has now been discontinued and the goods are surplus to requirements.

Mr. Nicholson

Were the trades concerned consulted before these articles were disposed of?

Mr. Taylor

Certain inquiries were made of the manufacturers of these goods and they were asked whether they would be prepared to take them back. They were not so prepared. Many of the goods are obsolete.