HC Deb 11 May 1860 vol 158 cc1125-8

said, he would beg to ask the Secretary to the Treasury when the Copies of Correspondence, which was moved for on the 30th March and 23rd April last, in reference to the Measurement of Gas Act, 22 & 23 Vict., c. 66, will be laid on the Table of the House, and, also, when the Models of Gasholders required by the same Act will be deposited at the Exchequer, according to promise? The officials of the Treasury, who ought to be first to give effect to the intentions of the House, seemed to direct their whole attention to the best methods of preventing the Act coining into operation. The country was in a state of doubt and uncertainty with regard to the gas measures. For instance, Sheffield had sent up some gas-meters to the Treasury with a view of having them stamped, but the parties were told that her Majesty's officers had not had time to carry out the provisions of the Act, and that there were no gasholders deposited.


I am sorry that I should be separated by so long an interval from my questioners, but it is an accident over which I have no control. I regret not to be able to give an entirely satisfactory answer to the question of the gallant Officer opposite (Colonel Lindsay) with regard Captain Grant's inventions. Nobody can attach greater importance to the question of cooking in the army than I do, and the Commission over which I presided gave great attention to the subject, as may be seen from the Report. Captain Grant, no doubt, has proposed a great improvement in the system, but his is only one of many inventions which have been laid before the Government as means of enabling the soldier to bake as well as boil his food with a great saving of fuel. I have not the least wish to detract from the merits of Captain Grant's apparatus; but I believe that where it has been long in use—at the London Tavern, for instance, and other places—it is not approved, and it is gradually falling into disuse. When it was first introduced into the army it was undoubtedly the best apparatus, and effected the largest economy of fuel. But it has its drawbacks. It is a largo apparatus. As long as you have 500 men to cook for it cooks with great economy; but for every 100 men you have under that number the cost of fuel per man is proportionately increased. In fact, it requires always to be used at its full extent. It has also this disadvantage, that it cooks unequally; the meat which is close to the fire gets too much cooked and has to be removed, while that which is farthest off has to be brought near; and there are great complaints from the men that in shifting the pieces they get their shoes burned by standing on the hot plates, and their clothes injured by the fire. There are other apparatus at Woolwich, which have the disadvantage of being more costly and more complicated, but with which there is a great economy of fuel. The old boilers reset on Captain Gallon's plan are those which effect the greatest economy of fuel. The following figures, I think, will give the House some idea of the relative economy of the different apparatus. The old barrack boilers unaltered cost, for 100 men, from 16oz. to 18oz. of fuel per man, for 300 men from 16oz. to 18oz., and for 500 from 16oz. to 18oz. Captain Grant's apparatus cost, for 100 men 32oz. per man, for 300 men 16oz., and for 500 men 12oz. and a fraction. This is with the boilers alone. With the ovens the cost runs 40oz., 18oz., and 14oz. respectively. The complicated apparatus at Woolwich of which I spoke costs for 100 men 20oz., 800 men 12oz., and for 500 men 8oz. per man. With the boilers reset on Captain Gallon's plan the cost is only 4oz. of fuel per man, whether for 100, 300, or 500 men. For the ovens the cost is 4oz. per man for 100 men, 2oz. for 300 men, and so on. The difference is so great that I think the Government would not be justified in adopting Captain Grant's as the universal apparatus. The late Secretary for War offered Captain Grant a royalty of £35 for every apparatus to be set up. This, however, he refused. I proposed to him to take £500 as a compensation for the trouble which he had incurred—and I must say that he has devoted great pains and labour to the matter; he was the first person to turn his attention to it, and to lead others to take it up. He accepted my offer, but simply as a compensation for the expense and trouble at which he has been, and not as a recognition of the merits of his invention. As regards the field apparatus, the Select Committee were ordered to turn their attention to that, and apparently it was the only apparatus they did inspect. They highly approved it, and I believe the Commander in Chief was greatly pleased with what he saw of it. We have sent out a set for 5,000 men to China, and we have sent another set to Aldershot, so that its merits will be fully tested. At the same time we have thought it fair to place it in competition with another field apparatus, invented by the late M. Soyer. I shall be glad to do anything agreeable to Captain Grant, who has devoted a great deal of time to this subject; but as guardian of the public purse in military matters, while other inventions have been brought forward to compete with his, and some of them successfully, it would be difficult to give a reward to him, and not to the others.

With regard to the case to which my hon. Friend the Member for Westmeath (Mr. Pollard-Urquhart) directed our attention, the case is, no doubt, one of considerable hardship. The price of hay rose, and having lost considerably by their contract, the contractors applied to the Government for some compensation. They did not apply for any compensation for their oats contract, by which I conclude it was profitable to them. It is a remarkable thing, however, that throughout Ireland, where we have many contractors who must have suffered in common from the increased price of the commodity, these were the only contractors who applied to us for compensation. Clearly, if Government allows it to be understood that in dealings of this sort with persons engaged in trade and commerce they are not to be bound by the bargains made, because it may turn out to be less remunerative than the contractors anticipated, it would be impossible to insure that the contracts would be fulfilled. Suppose the reverse had happened, that there had been a most extraordinary produce of grass, and hay had fallen £1 or £2 per ton, I very much doubt whether these parties would have given the Government the benefit of the reduction. Under the circumstances, however much I lament the position of these gentlemen—and I think their position rather a hard one—I do not see how, consistently with my duty, I could do otherwise than hold them bound by the contract into which they originally entered.