HC Deb 26 April 1888 vol 325 cc574-5

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty, Whether it is the fact that Her Majesty's ships Anson, Collingwood, Camperdown, and Howe are practically completed for sea, but cannot be put in commission on account of there being no guns to put on board of them; if so, will the guns required for the armament of these ships be provided and put on board during the current year; if not, when is it expected that they will be; and, is it the fact also that the completion of the belted cruisers Australia and Narcissus is being delayed on account of their armament not yet being ready; and, if so, when will that armament be provided?


The Collingwood and the Howe are now waiting for their guns, which, according to the latest advice from the War Office, will be delivered in a month and five months respectively. The Camperdown and Anson are within a few months of their completion; but their heavy guns will not be delivered until the 31st of March, 1889. The Australia and Narcissus are also waiting for guns; but we are informed that they will be delivered in a month and three months respectively. This delay is not due to want of funds, but to a miscalculation on the part of the manufacturers (including the Royal Arsenal, Messrs. Armstrong, and Messrs. Whitworth) as to the date of completion, and to certain difficulties experienced in connection with the liners of the heavy guns. In that portion of my Official Memorandum, which I laid upon the Table of the House, relating to Naval Ordnance, I pointed out the extreme inconvenience of the delay already experienced in the delivery of guns, and the disarrangement of the shipbuilding programme which it en-tailed. Her Majesty's Government are now closely inquiring into the causes of the extra delay now brought to their notice; and they will be ready, so soon as they can complete their inquiry, to take such measures as will tend to remove or prevent for the future the causes of miscalculations in the past.


Does the delay arise from the guns themselves, or from their linings?


From the guns themselves.

ADMIRAL MAYNE (Pembroke and Haverfordwest)

I beg to ask the noble Lord, whether these vessels are among those upon which the country is relying, on the strength of official representations, as being ready within 48 hours in the case of a sudden outbreak of war?


Certainly not.


Is not the Collingwood one of the ships in the First Reserve stated in the Mobilization Scheme to be ready at two or three days' notice?


All the vessels now waiting for their guns are in a distinct class of the First Reserve, and would not be ready in 48 hours. The Collingwood is now armed with two 43-ton guns of a type similar to those on the Colossus, one of which burst some time back. The new guns are of a different make, and will be on board in a month.

MR. MUNDELLA. (Sheffield, Bright-side)

asked, whether the designs were not furnished at Woolwich? Did the fault lie with the contractor, or with the designs?


The Gun Factory is not under the Admiralty; and any Question of this kind should be addressed to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War.


Perhaps, then, the right hon. Gentleman will answer it?

THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. E. STANHOPE) (Lincolnshire, Horncastle)

I think the right hon. Gentleman had better not ask the Question now. If he will put it on the Paper I will answer it.