HC Deb 24 March 1958 vol 585 cc22-3
37. Mr. Mason

asked the Minister of Supply to what extent there has been a growth in volume of surplus stores over the past two years; and whether he is satisfied that he has been able to cope adequately with its disposal.

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

The volume has about doubled, and my right hon. Friend is fully satisfied with the way this considerable task is being handled.

Mr. Mason

Would the hon. Gentleman say whether the nationalised industries and local authorities are kept fully informed of these surplus stores? Secondly, has not the Department been guilty of lack of foresight in view of the recent exposure of 1¼ million Army boots which are surplus? Has the Army warned the Ministry of Supply that they would not be required?

Mr. Taylor

In reply to the first part of that supplementary question, the arrangements on these matters were fully explained by the Prime Minister on 16th May, 1956, in paragraph 6 of the statement my right hon. Friend then made, which reads: Her Majesty's Government take the view that the arrangements for exchange of information in advance of public disposal should normally he limited to Government Departments, but that other public bodies (e.g., the nationalised industries and local authorities) can and should be sent copies of the auction catalogues (if they wish to receive them) or be invited to tender at the stage at which stores are disposed of to the public."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th May, 1956; Vol. 552, c. 2002.] Those arrangements still stand.

In reply to the second part of the supplementary question, about the 1¼ million surplus Army boots, I understand that this matter will ultimately be considered by the Public Accounts Committee. I think it would be wiser for me to make no comment on that at present.

Mr. Shinwell

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there are still vast surpluses in the possession of the War Office and other Service Departments—and, it may well be, in the possession of other Departments? Has not the time arrived when either some new machinery should be made available for the disposal of surplus goods or the Ministry should be abolished? Is he aware that the Chancellor would regard it as an advantage if the Ministry's expenditure were no longer a trouble to him and esteem it a favour if the Ministry were abolished? Is he aware that almost everyone wants it abolished except the Minister of Supply?

Mr. Taylor

I am aware that there are still considerable quantities of surplus stores to come forward for disposal, but my Department can only dispose of such surpluses as they are sent forward by the Service Departments concerned. In reply to the other point made by the right hon. Member, my right hon. Friend is satisfied with the present arrangements.