HC Deb 08 July 1959 vol 608 c1337
20. Mr. Dodds

asked the Secretary of State for War how many of the 1¼ million pairs of surplus boots have been handed over to the appropriate authority for disposal to date; and when will this part of the transfer be completed.

Mr. Soames

All will have been handed over by next month.

Mr. Dodds

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that his right hon. Friend the Minister of Supply last week said that he could not give the price? Is he also aware that I have a letter from the contractors stating that these boots are realising between 8s. 6d. and 10s. Od. a pair? Since they cost nearly £2 a pair to the taxpayer, is it not becoming obvious that a tremendous blunder has been made in the production of these boots when they could not have been required?

Mr. Soames

The question of price is a different question to that on the Order Paper. As the hon. Gentleman knows, that is a matter for the Ministry of Supply and not for the War Office.

Mr. Paget

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Northampton boot and shoe operatives are already on short time and that this sort of unfair competition from his Department is scarcely helpful?

Mr. Soames

I am speaking at some risk here, because I am not absolutely certain that I am right, though I think I am right. I believe that all, and certainly the vast majority, of these boots are being sold on the condition that they have to go abroad. In view of what has been said about the number of boots, it is established—and I said so when the matter was before the House earlier—that the vast majority of these boots are having to be disposed of because of the change of policy about holding war reserves which has been brought about by Her Majesty's Government, and very sensibly so, in the nuclear age.