HC Deb 20 July 1885 vol 299 cc1188-90

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty, Whether his attention has been called to the following statement, reported by The Times as having been made on Tuesday last by the late First Lord of the Admiralty:— When preparations were being made, it was found desirable that we should get a considerable number of very fast boats on purpose to carry torpedoes and quick-firing guns.…It was intended that these boats should be used for the purpose of defeating the Russian boats with quick-firing guns; but, if peace is assured, it will be necessary to have torpedo gear for these boats, so that they may be used for the purpose of firing torpedoes; whether it is the intention of the present Board of Admiralty to adopt the policy of arming these torpedo boats with guns only in war time, and with torpedoes in peace time; and, if so, in what way are these deadly projectiles to be used in time of peace; whether it is the fact that the real reason for not arming those boats with torpedoes was that there were none to arm thorn with; if he will state how many torpedoes there were in stock on 21st April, exclusive of the armaments of ships in commission, what is the cost of these weapons, and at what rate can they be supplied in the event of war; and is there at the Admiralty any Correspondence to show, or is it the fact, that the Naval Advisers of the Board strongly urged arrangements for increasing this supply, but that their suggestions did not meet with the approval of Lord Northbrook?


Several curious statements have appeared in the public Press in reference to these torpedo boats, and consequently I am not surprised that my hon. Friend has drawn some rather erroneous conclusions. I can best answer the series of Questions put to me by simply stating facts so far as they are within my cognizance. The late Board of Admiralty ordered 40 torpedo boats out of the Vote of Credit. The contract was made on the 80th April, and the first of them was to be delivered in the last week in September, and the last of the series in the first week of February. Consequently it would be apparent that these boats would not be available for any operations in the Baltic, as they were going to be delivered when naval operations were practically impossible in that sea. The machine guns were ordered for those torpedo boats; but no design of the mounting of the guns has yet been passed, but they will shortly come before the Board of Admiralty. The late Board proposed to allocate these boats for the defence of certain harbours at home and abroad, and that being so, it was self-evident that they should be armed with torpedo gear. I take it that the late Board got the assent of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to include the sum for the armaments in the Estimates of the present year. The Admiralty are fairly well supplied with torpedoes, and arrangements have been made both at Woolwich and with private firms for a larger and more rapid manufacture of these articles during the present year. There are certain Minutes at the Admiralty of a very confidential character with reference to these torpedo boats, which my hon. Friend will see it would be quite contrary to custom and against the public interest to publish.


Would the noble Lord kindly say what is the cost of these torpedo boats?


They cost about £10,000 or £12,000 each, without fittings.