HC Deb 02 March 1865 vol 177 cc960-1

said, he would beg to ask the Under Secretary of State for War, Whether Her Majesty's Government are aware that Armstrong Guns are being manufactured by the Elswick Ordnance Company for Foreign Governments; and, if so, whether permission to do so has been granted to that Firm by the Secretary of State for War, the patents for constructing guns on that principle having been transferred to Her Majesty's Government by Sir William Armstrong?


said, in reply, that Sir William Armstrong received a patent in 1858, and by an arrangement made with the Government of that date, it was transferred to the nation in 1859. That was the only patent in connection with his system of rifling guns. At any rate, it was the only one under which the Government possessed an exclusive right. That patent related to the manufacture of wrought-iron breech-loading guns, and had never been used by any other manufacturer or by any person other than the Government. The question did arise in the course of last year, whether Sir William Armstrong had the right to manufacture guns on the shunt principle without the permission of the Government, and a legal opinion was taken on the subject. The Government were advised that they had no exclusive power over that invention, and although it was in Sir William Armstrong's power to prevent the Government manufacturing them, it was not in the power of the Government to prevent Sir William Armstrong or any other person manufacturing those guns. There was reason to believe that Sir William Armstrong's company had supplied guns to foreign nations, though the Government had no official information on the subject.