Motor Vehicles (Government Acquisition)

Oral Answers to Questions — Road Transport – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 21st February 1945.

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Miss Ward:

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport why, in view of the census of laid-up motor vehicles taken in November, 1942, motor dealers are employed and a substantial commission paid to them by his Vehicle and Acquisition Department for locating vehicles suitable for acquisition; what such commission has amounted to since August, 1942; what has been the total cost of this Department to the Ministry in connection with salaries, commissions, travelling expenses, rentals and other expenses; and what was the average cost per vehicle acquired.

Photo of Mr Philip Noel-Baker Mr Philip Noel-Baker , Derby

My Ministry have used the census to which the hon. Lady refers to acquire by direct approach cars of suitable type and condition from owners who are willing to sell. My Department has, however, largely used the services of the motor trade to acquire motor vehicles, because it is usually more economical to do so. I am unable to give the total cost of these services, which include finding the vehicles, inspecting, collecting, servicing and delivery. The cost of the salaries and travelling expenses of the Vehicle Acquisition and Compensation Branch of my Department from August, 1942, until to-day, amounts approximately to £64,000. The branch works in my Ministry's offices, and its share of the total cost of the premises and other general expenses is difficult to assess. The average cost of the vehicles acquired and paid for up to 31st January, 1945, is £286, plus £5 for the salaries and travelling expenses of the Vehicle Acquisition and Compensation Branch.

Miss Ward:

Would the Minister say how many cars were acquired through the census by direct approach, and how many have been acquired under other procedure; and also whether his Department in fact keep accounts?

Photo of Mr Philip Noel-Baker Mr Philip Noel-Baker , Derby

Approximately, 1,300 were acquired by direct approach under the census. The total acquired was 13,000, which is to say that about 10 per cent. have been acquired under the census.

Photo of Mr Adam M'Kinlay Mr Adam M'Kinlay , Dunbartonshire

Is it not a fact that controlled undertakings get preference from the Ministry in the acquisition of such vehicles, over independent operators?

Photo of Mr Philip Noel-Baker Mr Philip Noel-Baker , Derby

I should not like to accept that suggestion. If my hon. Friend cares to put down the Question, I will examine it.

Photo of Major Abraham Lyons Major Abraham Lyons , Leicester East

When the Minister spoke just now of using the services of the motor trade, did he mean that the motor trade acquired from the public and then—[HON. MEMBERS: "Speak up."]—and if so—

Photo of Mr Philip Noel-Baker Mr Philip Noel-Baker , Derby

I am afraid I failed to follow the question of my hon. and gallant Friend.

Photo of Mr Douglas Clifton Brown Mr Douglas Clifton Brown , Hexham

If the hon. and gallant Member would speak up we might hear his question. I could not hear a single word.

Photo of Major Abraham Lyons Major Abraham Lyons , Leicester East

May I put it again? I asked whether the motor trade acquired from the public and then supplied the cars to the Department. If so, what is the difference in the price paid by the trade to the public and the price paid by the Department to the trade?

Photo of Mr Philip Noel-Baker Mr Philip Noel-Baker , Derby

We assess the payment in each individual case for the services rendered by the trader. As the service varies in each case very widely, it is impossible to make a fixed percentage or a fixed price, but the payments are reasonable on both sides.

Miss Ward:

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport what is the total amount paid in compensation to motor-vehicle owners, including commission to motor traders for vehicles acquired by his Ministry since August, 1942; and what is the estimated compensation on the basis laid down by the Compensation (Defence) Act, 1939, namely, the value of the vehicles immediately before their acquisition, without taking into account any appreciation due to the emergency, which basis had been adhered to previously by the Central Assessment Panel of the War Office.

Photo of Mr Philip Noel-Baker Mr Philip Noel-Baker , Derby

Up to the last day of January, 1945, approximately £3,700,000 were paid in compensation for motor vehicles acquired by my Ministry. This total includes all the payments made to owners, the cost of repairs and storage, and all fees for the services rendered by dealers. The compensation paid is based on the principles laid down in the Compensation (Defence) Act, 1939.

Miss Ward:

What kind of check does the Department impose on motor traders from whom it buys?

Photo of Mr Philip Noel-Baker Mr Philip Noel-Baker , Derby

Our own officers examine the price and condition of the car, and so on, in great detail.