HC Deb 04 March 1886 vol 302 cc1911-3

asked the Secretary of State for War, Whether, in addition to the 800 men which it is alleged are to be discharged from the Small Arms Factory at Enfield, it is true that a large number of men, numbering, it is asserted, 5,000 persons, are to be discharged from Woolwich Arsenal; and, if so, if he would consider whether, in the existing condition of trade, it is desirable that so large a number of men should be thrown upon the labour market, and also if some arrangement could be made, by a reduction of the working hours or otherwise, to render unnecessary such discharge of workmen at the present time?


asked the Secretary of State for War, Whether, at this period of distress from want of employment, it is in contemplation to reduce the number of employâs at the Royal Small Arms Factory at Enfield; and, if so, by how many?


asked, whether the men about to be dismissed were specially engaged to push on the manufacture of the additional Martini rifles necessary for the supply of the Regular and Volunteer Forces; and, if so, whether the supply of Martinis was now such as to require the dismissal of nearly one-half of the workmen at a time like the present of widespread distress?


Perhaps the noble Viscount will kindly give me Notice of that part of his Question which relates to my answer last Friday. I have to thank him and my hon. Friend (Mr. Howell) for postponing their Questions in order to suit my convenience from Tuesday last. Both as regards Enfield and Woolwich, the Estimates for the next financial year will not provide for the maintenance throughout the year of that high-pressure rate of production in the manufacturing departments which has prevailed for some months; and, therefore, there will be in some of them a reduction in the numbers of workmen. The precise numbers to be reduced cannot be accurately stated at present; but every endeavour will be made to effect the reductions gradually, so as to diminish as much as possible the unavoidable inconvenience. In reply to the Question of the hon. Member for Preston (Mr. Hanbury), I have to say that I shall be prepared, on the Estimates, to explain the grounds upon which it has been decided somewhat to diminish the rate of manufacture at Enfield. It would be unusual to enter into details in answer to a Question.


I will ask the right hon. Gentleman to-morrow, whether the reserve of small arms at Enfield is not now 100,000, or about 500,000 less than is supposed to be required; also, whether the re-arming of the Forces at home and in India, arranged by the late Government, has been entirely suspended; and, if so, what is the reason for altering those arrangements?


I appeal to the noble Viscount whether the answer I have just given does not equally apply to this Question? These matters really arise on the Estimates, and there is a difficulty in answering them in this way.


asked, whether, in the forthcoming Army Estimates, provision would be made for proceeding with the defences of the coaling stations and of the military and the mercantile ports, under the Estimates prepared by direction of the noble Lord the Member for Rossondale (the Marquess of Hartington), and approved by the Treasury.


in reply, said, it would, he thought, be unusual for him to anticipate the publication of the Army Estimates by a particular answer to his right hon. Friend's Question. He hoped that the Estimates would be in hon. Members' hands very shortly. They would give the right hon. Gentleman the information he sought.


gave Notice that, on going into Committee of Supply on the Army Estimates, he would call atten- tion to the necessity of providing for the security of this country, and in the interests of economy—[Laughter]—yes, he meant economy—for a continuous execution of the works and the manufacture of the materials which were ascertained to be required for the protection of our coaling stations abroad, and of our mercantile harbours and military ports.


Will the right hon. Gentleman state whether the reductions which he has announced in the Estimates of next year will at all interfere with the supply of Martini-Honry rifles to the Indian Army, which have been promised to the Indian Government?


in reply, said, he thought that this was also a Question for discussion on the Estimates, though, if the noble Lord gave Notice, ho would not object to answer the Question. The noble Lord must have misinterpreted what had fallen from him if ho understood him to have said that there would be a reduction in the Army Estimates.


asked, whether similar reductions to those mentioned were to be made in the Royal Dockyards?


in reply, said, he would make a statement on the subject on Monday week on the Navy Estimates.


asked, whether a notice had been posted at the Small Arms Factory, announcing that 800 men would be dismissed on April 1?


in reply, said, that he believed that such a notice had been posted.