I am not aware whether it will be wound up before Christmas, but I think it is now merely engaged in disposing of what has been left over. A great deal of money is involved, but we hope to wind it up as soon as possible. The view of the head of the Department is that the sooner it is wound up the better.
I do not know whether that is so or not. I can assure the House that there is only one reason why it should be kept alive. That is, that it is very difficult to dispose of these enormous dumps, and you have got to watch your market very carefully. Lord Inverforth has shown very great skill and saved enormous sums of money to the country. The Ministry will not be kept alive one single moment beyond what the financial interests of the country demand.
Lieut.-Colonel J. WARD:
Has His Majesty's Ordnance Department control of the whole of these stores? Does the Disposal Board of the Ministry of Munitions get the stores from the Ordnance Department for sale, and would it not be possible for the Ordnance Department to dispose of the stores, instead of having this duplication of business which is so expensive?
I do not wish to say anything about the Ordnance Department, which is a very effective Department for its own purposes, but I should doubt very much whether it has got the necessary equipment for the purpose of disposing of these stores. There is a vast quantity which could not be sold all at once, even from the point of view of putting it on the market. It would be a very unwise thing. There has been a considerable quantity of stores unsold, but I believe that they are pretty well through now.
It is not altogether that. If you had all the material available in one dump, it would be quite impossible to put it all on the market at once. You have got to watch the market very carefully, because it would affect the market. It has been done with great skill and care by Lord Inverforth. I have had my eye on this for some time.
Cannot the right hon. Gentleman conceive the possibility of a Disposal Board without the meddlesome interference of a superfluous Ministry? Might not he get rid of the Ministry, and let the Disposal Board go on without any Ministry?
Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware of half-a-dozen cases of manufacturing businesses, employing thousands of hands, conducted by the Ministry in competition with traders, which have not yet been handed over to the Disposal Board?