§ 20. Mr. TAYLOR
asked the Secretary of State for War whether the War Office consulted Messrs. William Foster and Company, Limited, of Lincoln, who were the originators and builders of the tanks used in the War, before ordering the tanks and engines in 1919 which were, at a later date, condemned as useless for either training or war, and which involved the country in an expenditure of £267,000; whether he is aware that the works of this firm are specially laid out for the building of tanks and similar engines of war, that a large number of their skilled workmen are unemployed, and that there is a large amount of destitution in Lincoln owing to the volume of unemployment; and whether, in the circumstances, the firm of Messrs. William Foster and Company will be invited to tender for such tanks as the Army may require?
§ Captain KING
I think that this and other questions arising on the Army Accounts for 1923–24 should be deferred until after the Committee of Public Accounts to which it stands referred has reported. I may say, however, that only a small order for tanks is being given this year, and it is not proposed to ask Messrs. Foster and Company to tender for these. I must not be taken as subscribing to the hon. Member's description of the firm as the originators of the tanks used in the War. Messrs. Foster and Company are only one of several firms (and by no means the largest producer) who manufactured tanks during the War.
§ Mr. TAYLOR
Were any private firms given an opportunity of tendering to the Government specifications, or is it the fact that no firms were allowed to offer tenders? Is it not also the case that the present Chancellor of the Exchequer said in this House in 1919 that the Government type of tank would make all existing types obsolete; and has not this sum of £267,000 in fact been wasted, and have not all these tanks been scrapped?
§ Captain KING
I have already pointed out that this matter will come before the Public Accounts Committee and will then be reported on to the House.
Mr. W. M. ADAMSON
Is it not a fact that Messrs. Foster's firm received the largest amount of payment for the patents in tanks?