§ MR. HOWARD VINCENT (Sheffield, Central)
asked the Secretary of State for War, What are the regulations under which steel is manufactured in Woolwich Arsenal; whether any extension of War Department steel works, or of plant for the production of steel, has been lately or will be authorized; whether expectations were recently held out to the steel trade that Her Majesty's Government would largely follow the practical example of other countries in confining the Government manufacture of steel to the working up of materials obtained from private firms on tender; how far the industries concerned may rely upon the fulfilment of promises on the faith of which large capital sums have been expended; and, whether an independent Board for the testing of all material of war prior to issue might be established with advantage to the public interest; and, in such case, if steps will be taken to that end?
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE (Mr. E. STANHOPE) (Lincolnshire, Horncastle)
There are no special regulations for the manufacture of steel in Woolwich Arsenal. No extension of the War Department Steel Works has 178 recently been authorized, and none is in contemplation. I must, however, add that in July, 1884, there were three fnrnaces capable of casting respectively three tons, six tons, and 13 tons, and of these the two larger could be run into one mould. But the larger furnace was found to be inconveniently situated, and in 1884 authority was obtained to remove it to another building. This furnace, when completed, will cast a 15-ton ingot, and in its place another was put in hand of about six tons power. No hopes wore held out that the example of other countries, in confining the manufacture of steel to the working up of material obtained from the trade, would be followed; but some of the firms at Sheffield and Sir Joseph Whitworth were asked to increase their plant in view of large Government orders for gun forges. This understanding was entered into by the then Surveyor General of Ordnance; but, unfortunately, it was not reduced to writing, and I have found no record of it in the War Office. The promises made in 1884 were partly fulfilled in 1885, when large orders were given; but I may say that I am personally satisfied that a pledge was given to the trade, and I will do my best, within the limits of the Parliamentary grants, to keep it. In answer to the fifth Question, I may say that the question of establishing an independent Board for testing all materials of war is at present under the consideration of the Commission inquiring into the Ordnance Department; and until I receive their Report I cannot come to any decision upon the subject.
§ MR. MUNDELLA (Sheffield, Brightside)
asked, Whether castings of 15 tons were something entirely new at Woolwich; and whether anything of the kind had been done before, and to any considerable extent?
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
Any extension which has taken place has been in pursuance of orders in 1884.