MR. MAC IVER
asked the President of the Board of Trade, Whether he is in possession of any information, confirmatory or otherwise, in regard to the following statements which appeared some time ago in the "Ironmonger" newspaper:—Provincial Trail, Reports, Birmingham.—Arms and Ammunition.—The troubled state of Ireland has given rise to an active inquiry for weapons for defensive purposes as well as for some which, it is feared, are intended for aggressive use. Several orders for guns and pistols for landlords' defence organisations have been placed hero during the last month or two, and a large quantity of bulldog and other revolvers, both for Government and private use, have been despatched to Ireland since the commencement of the Land League agitation. * * * Orders of another character for old military rifles for Inland have also been plentiful lately, and it is calculated over 5,000 Snider Enfolds, which wore sold by the Government a few years ago as 'old stores,' at an average of 3s. or 4s. a piece, have been bought up since Christmas by supposed agents of the Irish land agitation at from three to four times their former cost. Stocks of old guns have tints been relieved, but at considerable risk to the peace of the Country. * * * In anticipation of the outbreak in the Transvaal, high class sporting rifles were in good request last autumn for Natal and Delagoa Bay, where the Westley-Richards Company did a large business. With the Orange Free State, also, business in high class guns has been very 1305 brisk of late, and throughout Cape Colony weapons of every kind have been in good request of late, on account of the Basuto War and the disturbed state of the neighbouring tribes on the eastern seaboard:and, if these statements are true, whether Her Majesty's Government cannot discourage the sale of old stores for such purposes, as well as the exportation of arms and ammunition known to be intended for use against ourselves?
§ MR. CHAMBERLAIN
, in reply, said, that the statements which the hon. Member had extracted from The Ironmonger newspaper appeared to be somewhat indefinite in their character. He did not think they justified the Question which the hon. Member had founded on them. He had no special information on the subject to which those statements related; but he was strongly of opinion that no British manufacturers of arms were exporting arms and ammunition known to be intended for use against ourselves. As regards the sale of military arms from the Government stores, the hon. Member asked a Question which had been twice replied to in the House. He could only repeat that in the time of the late Government 200,000 old Enfield rifles were sold at an average price of 1s. 6d. apiece. He was not aware whether any of those arms had found their way to Ireland; but if the hon. Member was under any apprehension on the subject, he might be relieved to know, on the authority of the noble Lord who represented the late Government in that matter, that all those arms were unserviceable, and some of them were dangerous to the persons using them. He had only to add that during the time of the present Government these sales had been entirely discontinued. No arms whatever had been sold by the present Government under these circumstances.
As the right hon. Gentleman has referred with emphasis to the action of the late Government, may I ask whether it is not the case that the sale of arms was begun by the former Liberal Government and stopped by the late Conservative Government?
§ MR. CHAMBERLAIN
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman asks me a Question which is not within my knowledge. Probably it would be better to address it to the Secretary of State for War.
§ MR. O'DONNELL
asked whether it was legal for a Government official to sell dangerous weapons to the public; and, if not, whether it was the intention of the Government to institute a prosecution against the official of the late Government responsible for such sale?