HC Deb 25 November 1959 vol 614 cc359-60
35. Mr. Dodds

asked the Secretary of State for War how much has been realised from the sale of 1,250,000 surplus boots; and how this compares with the cost of purchase.

Mr. Soames

The sale of these boots is not yet complete.

Mr. Dodds

Will the right hon. Gentleman explain why? Is it a fact that these boots, which cost nearly £2 a pair, have been on sale at from 8s. 6d. to 10s. a pair? Is not he well aware that there are plenty of buyers to take them at that rate? Why has it taken so long? Can he deny that this blunder arose because, in 1955 and 1956, the War Office insisted on ordering these boots when the provisioning depôt said that they were not required? Is not the secret of the whole thing that somebody had the brainwave that, if these boots were not made, the Ministry of Supply would show a loss on the special leather it held if the leather had to be sold?

Mr. Soames

I will endeavour to answer those questions briefly. As I told the hon. Gentleman when he asked me a Question some months ago, the boots were handed over by the War Office to the Ministry of Supply for sale, and that handing over was completed some months back now. The Ministry of Supply thought it right not to put all these boots on the market at the same time—the hon. and learned Members for Northampton (Mr. Paget) will know the reason for that—but to market them in such a way as to attract the best price over a period of time. Now the moment has arrived when the Ministry of Supply is no longer responsible, for it does not exist any longer, and I am myself responsible for the sale of these boots. I can tell the hon. Gentleman that there is another lot to go out for tender in a few weeks' time.

Mr. Paget

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, however much these boots may be passed, Northampton is extremely concerned about his activities in running a cut-price shop?

Mr. Soames

That is not strictly true. As the hon. and learned Gentleman knows, we are sending these boots for export.

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