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Navy, Army, And Air Force Institutes

Volume 155: debated on Wednesday 28 June 1922

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asked the Secretary of State for Air if he is aware of the system whereby the Navy, Army, and Air Force Institutes supply goods in their shops at ordinary retail prices, less 8 per cent., and at the same time make a profit on the rations supplied to the men; if he is aware that profits as high as 50 and 75 per cent. are made in the wet and dry canteens, respectively; and if he will do anything to alter, for the benefit of the men, this method of privileged trading?

As the reply is rather long, I will, with my hon. Friend's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following is the reply:

The shops to which my hon. Friend refers are presumably the service institutes conducted by the Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes. These institutes are an integral part of the organisation of every Air Force station at home.

The practice of paying rebates on the gross takings in such institutions has been in force for a great many years, and was instituted long prior to the formation of the Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes. Moneys received by way of such rebate are spent for the collective benefit of the men by the commanding officer of the unit or station. The suggestion implied in my hon. Friend's question that the 8 per cent. rebate is paid out of profits made on the sale of the articles for the commuted portion of the ration is entirely without foundation; the retail price of these articles is fixed on a basis which ensures that it shall not be more than the cost of the same articles if supplied by the Royal Army Service Corps.

I am advised that the percentage of profits in the wet and dry canteens, as quoted by my hon. Friend, are incorrect and exaggerated, and that while gross profits on certain lines, such as cups of tea and coffee, are undoubtedly high, the prices charged in service institutes do not admit of more than a low margin on the profits as a whole.

Such profits as may accrue eventually from trading in institutes, after necessary expenses have been met, would, in any event, be spent for the benefit of the men of the Services under the direction of the Board of Admiralty, the Army Council, and the Air Council.

The present system under which institutes of the Navy, Army and Air Force are conducted by the Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes was adopted after full consideration of the matter by a joint conference of the three Services, and I am satisfied that it is at the present time the best possible system from the point of view of the Royal Air Force and of the men themselves, who are represented on the local committee of management, and I do not propose to alter it.