HC Deb 15 April 1958 vol 586 cc26-7
47. . Mr. Shinwell

asked the Prime Minister whether he will cause an inquiry to be made into the stocks in the possession of the Service Departments which are regarded as surplus to requirements; how far those stocks are made available to the Ministry of Supply; and why they are not readily disposed of.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Macmillan)

Holdings of equipment which are surplus to Service requirements are first offered to other Departments likely to be interested and the balance is then disposed of as rapidly as is consistent with the best return to public funds. The Ministry of Supply is the agent for the disposal of all War Office and certain Admiralty and Air Ministry surpluses in the United Kingdom. The Service Departments carry out their own disposals overseas.

Mr. Shinwell

Will not the right hon. Gentleman agree that it is desirable that hon. Members should be informed about the quantity of stocks in the possession of the Service Departments? We are very much in the dark about the matter. So far as we are aware, we seem very wealthy in the possession of stocks but very wasteful in the disposal of them.

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman's Question referred to the responsibility of the Departments. If he will put down a Question about how Parliament could be better informed, I will do my best to answer it.

Mr. Gaitskell

The Prime Minister's predecessor set up a Committee to look into the whole business of the disposal of surplus stocks, and am I not right in supposing that the right hon. Gentleman himself was in charge of that Committee? Has it reported? Could the Prime Minister make a statement about it?

The Prime Minister

Yes. The present working is based upon that. There is some part in which the Ministry of Supply has certain functions, and other Departments manage their own. On the whole, I think that it is working well.

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