HC Deb 02 March 1960 vol 618 cc1194-5
7 and 8. Mr. Dodds

asked the Secretary of State for War (1) how many of the 1,250,000 pairs of surplus Army boots were allowed to be sold to the public in this country; what was the average price per pair obtained for them; and how this compares with the average price per pair sold for export;

(2) how much has been realised by the sale of 1,250,000 pairs of surplus Army boots; and how this compares with the cost of the boots to his Department.

The Secretary of State for War (Mr. Christopher Soames)

The whole of this surplus, amounting to 1,043,000 pairs has now been disposed of. They fetched £576,000, an average of 11s. a pair. There was a fairly wide range of prices, according to condition, between 6s. and 15s. The original cost of the boots was about £1.6 million.

About 5,000 damaged pairs were permitted to be sold in this country and another 43,000 were sold here without permission. The average price of all these was 10s. a pair.

I must add that I have disclosed these prices because of the interest which has been focused on this particular case. The disclosure should not be taken to prejudice the well-established custom whereby prices obtained in the sale of Government surplus stores are not normally made public.

Mr. Dodds

But why does the Secretary of State for War say it is £1.6 million when in reply to Question after Question for months it has been given as £2 million? Is not a scandalous state of affairs revealed by the Public Accounts Committee, that most of the boots should never have been ordered? Does it not reveal that more than £1 million—£1½ million—have been lost through blunders? I am now asking, who has been sacked or reprimanded for this terrible blunder, and a loss of an amount which is six or seven times the amount the Government are giving for World Refugee Year?

Mr. Soames

As to the first part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question, it is not the full 1,250,000 which were surplus. Use has been found for a number of them. That accounts for the figure of £1.6 million. As to the second part of the supplementary question, the hon. Gentleman has been told before that more than 1 million pairs became surplus not because of any over-ordering but because of a deliberate decision to reduce mobilisation stocks as the size of the Army was reduced.