HC Deb 20 April 1959 vol 604 cc19-20
29 Mr. Dodds

asked the Minister of Supply (1) as he has only invited tenders for 650,000 pairs of the 1,250,000 pairs of surplus boots sent to him for disposal by the War Department, what it is proposed to do with the other 600,000 pairs;

(2) how many of the 1,250,000 pairs of surplus boots were ordered since 1st January, 1954; how many have been manufactured since that date; and what is the condition of the surplus boots for disposal;

(3) what was the cost to public funds of the 1,250,000 pairs of surplus boots now for disposal; to which countries they may be sold; which parts of the British Commonwealth are included; and what safeguards there are to ensure the boots do not find their way to the home market.

Mr. W. J. Taylor

Of the remaining 600,000 pairs, only 150,000 have yet been made available by the War Department. In any case we must await the outcome of tendering for the 650,000 pairs before deciding how to dispose of the rest.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War said in a reply to the hon. Member on 10th December last that the original cost of the total number of boots referred to by the hon. Member was about £2 million and that they had all been in stock for at least eight years. The condition of all boots declared to me as surplus for disposal is described as "unused". Tenders have been invited subject to an undertaking that the boots will be sold only overseas. It will be a condition of sale that the boots shall be so exported and tenderers are required to give an undertaking to this effect and to satisfy the Ministry of Supply that the undertaking is being complied with.

Mr. Dodds

How does the hon. Gentleman square up what he has just said with the Answer which he gave me on 23rd March, when he said: …these boots were ordered a very long time ago and have been held in stock for a great length of time. It is almost impossible now to say who ordered them, or indeed, I should imagine, what was paid for them."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd March, 1959; Vol. 602, c. 902.] Could not that cost of £2 million have been given in that Answer?

May I ask him further whether it is not a fact that most of these boots were ordered after 1955, as is revealed by the Committee on Public Accounts? Will he therefore tell his right hon. Friend and the Secretary of State for War that all this wriggling will not prevent me going on asking Questions until it is clearly revealed that a wilful waste of public money has taken place and that it is time the guilty were penalised for it and not shielded?

Mr. Taylor

When I gave that reply on 23rd March, I was aware that the boots had been in stock for a great length of time, but I thought that when the hon. Member put that Question down he was asking specifically for me to name somebody who had ordered them. The Ministry of Supply buys only on specific demand from the Service Departments. The last demand for general service boots for the Army was made in mid-1955. This order, as finally amended, amounted to 340,000 pairs of boots for delivery up to early 1957. Apart from 11,400 pairs for the Air Ministry, no more have been ordered.

Colonel Beamish

Will my hon. Friend give the hon. Gentleman opposite at least one boot since he has shown himself to be such an adept at putting his foot in it?

Mr. Dodds

That is more than the hon. and gallant Gentleman could do.