HC Deb 23 February 1920 vol 125 cc1334-5W

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Munitions what is the reason for the delay in the sale of British war stores in France; and whether he can give any estimate of the extent of the consequent immense losses by theft, illicit sale, and exposure to weather, floods, and fire?


If my hon. Friend will refer to the answer given on the 16th instant he will see that stores to the value of £50,000,000 have been sold in France, £15,000,000 worth have been removed to this country and sold, whilst £80,000,000 worth have been brought back by the War Office to supplement Army reserves. I cannot therefore agree that there has been any avoidable delay in the sale of British War stores in France and Belgium The whole of the stores in Belgium have been disposed of. In France, all animals, all the hutments, which of course could not be removed, the broad gauge railways, rolling stock, locomotives, dock plant, barges and water craft, which were not required in this country, have also been sold. In addition, the stores in the forward areas, including some 500 dumps and accumulated stores at Calais and Dunkirk, have been disposed of in spite of the great difficulties, especially with regard to transport and labour, which have been experienced throughout by our representatives in France. Some loss from theft and exposure was unavoidable, but all possible precautions have been taken. Until the beginning of this month the responsibility for the custody of surplus stores rested with the Military authorities up till the time that they were handed over to the purchasers