HC Deb 30 June 1845 vol 81 cc1392-5

On the Report of the Committee of Supply being brought up,

Viscount Palmerston

wished to ask the right hon. Baronet, or the hon. and gallant Officer connected with the Board of Ordnance, what progress had been made in manufacturing muskets for the army upon the percussion principle? When the late Lord Vivian was Master of the Board of Ordnance, he took infinite pains to ascertain the best kind of musket for the use of the British army; and that manufactured on the percussion principle was considered the best, and it was determined that the whole army should be armed with that musket. Arrangements were accordingly made for manufacturing 50,000 muskets every year, till there should be a sufficient supply. If this arrangement had been acted upon ever since, there would be upwards of 225,000 muskets in the hands of the Government. He should think this would be a sufficient store to meet any demand that could arise upon the breaking out of a war, both for the militia and the regular army. He should therefore like to know how many muskets had already been made, and whether there would be any necessity for a similar vote next year to the one now in the Estimates?

Captain Boldero

could not inform the noble Lord how many muskets there were now in store; but he could state that there were manufactured last year, and would be also this year, 40,000 stands of arms, besides swords and other weapons.

Viscount Palmerston

wished to ask the right hon. Baronet whether it was his intention in the course of the present Session to propose a vote on account of providing for the better defence of our dockyards, and with a view to the formation of harbours of refuge? It was perfectly well known that the dockyards were not defensible against any attack made by surprise by a force embarked in steamers. The improvements in steam navigation and the multiplication of steam vessels, had entirely altered the nature of attacks against any defences that might be provided. This appeared to him to be a question of most urgent importance; and he wished to know whether the right hon. Baronet meant to allow the Session to pass by without establishing a better system of defence for our dockyards, and also making provision for harbours of refuge?

Sir Robert Peel

said, that provision had already been made both in the Ordnance and in the Navy Estimates, for both those objects during the present year. He could not exactly state the details; but with respect to the dockyards at Sheerness, at Portsmouth, and at other places, there had been, both in the Ordnance Estimates and in the Navy Estimates, sums voted, founded upon the Report of the Navy Commissioners appointed to inspect the dockyards. With respect to harbours of refuge, engineers had been employed at Dover and other ports along the coast; and (we understood the right hon. Baronet to say) that those engineers had made their Reports to the Navy Commissioners, who would also make a Report to the Government upon that branch of the subject.

Sir Charles Napier

was desirous of asking whether it was the intention this year to organize the coast-guard and fishermen along the coast, in the same manner as had been done in former days, in order that they might be ready to act in defence of our coasts in case of any sudden emergency? He looked upon this as a matter of great importance. We understood she hon. and gallant Officer to suggest, that in addition to the returns made by all the Government steamers, there should be obtained a statement of all the merchant steamers belonging to this country. He thought an arrangement might be easily made with the various steam companies, by which such information might be obtained.

Sir Robert Peel

said, the matter was one which had not escaped the attention of the Government. He concurred in the opinion that the coast guard might be made an efficient force in case of necessity.

Report received.

House adjourned at half-past one o'clock.