§ MR. LLOYD (Weduesbury)
asked the Secretary of State for War whether he was aware that the bullet that killed Mr. Henn's son on June 9 at Tipton was believed to have been fired by one of the Volunteers of the 1st V.B. Worcestershire Regiment whilst shooting at the range in ordinary practice; whether the War Office had received complaints from Tipton in the year 1892 that the range was unsafe; whether, in consequence of these complaints, the range was at that time closed, inspected, and afterwards pronounced by the War Office to be safe, and was again re-opened; whether the War Office having allowed a rifle range to be used, which they now condemned as unsafe, and which they had now closed, they could allow to Mr. Henn his out-of-pocket expenses in connection with the death of his son if they believed the death was caused by a stray bullet from this rifle range; and whether the closing of the range would be permanent?
THE FINANCIAL SECRETARY TO THE WAR OFFICE (Mr. WOODALL,) (who replied) said Hanley
I am aware, from the proceedings of the inquest in this unfortunate case, that the 1st Volunteer Battalion of the Worcestershire Regiment were firing at the range when the accident occurred, and presumably the fatal shot was fired by one of the members of that corps. No complaints in regard to this range appear to have been received in the War Office prior to this accident. The range was closed for a time in 1892 by the Local Military Authorities, and again re-opened by them after being examined and pronounced to be safe. With regard to Mr. Henn's claim, I can only refer to the answer given by the Secretary of State on June 18, and that by myself subsequently. As long as existing conditions continue the range will not be re-opened.
In a sense, certainly; but what has been done was done not by the direction of the Commander-in-Chief or the War Office, but on the responsibility of the local officers.
§ MR. LLOYD
asked whether, if the Local Authorities were authorised by the War Office to close the range and then afterwards to re-open it as a safe range, the Volunteers ordered to shoot on the range could object to use it, although it had been sanctioned by the War Office? If they could not, then could the Volunteers be liable in any way for this accident?
I decline to be drawn into a controversy on a point like that. The range, under ordinary circumstances, was fairly safe. The particular accident appears to have occurred through a bullet hitting the roof of a shelter and then ricochetting in an unexpected manner. The incident only goes to show that a range, under such exceptional 282 circumstances, cannot be considered as perfectly safe.
I will communicate with the Local Authorities, and will give the hon. Member an answer hereafter.