HC Deb 01 June 1888 vol 326 cc881-2
MR. DUGDALE (Warwickshire, Nuneaton)

(for Mr. MUNTZ) (Warwickshire, Tamworth) asked the Secretary of State for War, If he can state why the gun-manufacturing plant recently perfected at Sparkbrook is being removed to Enfield; whether he is aware that the price of coal at Enfield is 15s. per ton, as compared with 5s. per ton at Sparkbrook; whether the wages of skilled gunmakers at Sparkbrook are much less than at Enfield; whether he will cause a statement to be prepared and laid upon the Table of the House at the earliest possible date, of the total amount expended at Enfield in each year during the past 10 years, showing the sums expended on salaries, wages, material, coal, and miscellaneous; the number of arms of all descriptions manufactured in each year, also those repaired; and, whether, in view of the greater safety in case of an invasion afforded by an inland site like Sparkbrook as compared with Enfield, and in the interests of economy, he wilt order the removal of machinery from Sparkbrook to be stopped at once, in order that the removal of machinery from Enfield to Sparkbrook may be fully considered?

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

Some of the plant at Sparkbrook has been removed to Enfield to facilitate the production of the new magazine rifle, and under the arrangement made when Sparkbrook was purchased that the Government manufacturing establishments were not to be increased. There is not the slightest intention of shutting up Sparkbrook, which will also be required as it has hitherto been. The object has been to restrict the output of rifles from the Government establishments, and to put out as many as we can to private contract. Of these a very large proportion will be made in Birmingham. The action recently taken, and the reasons for it, appear to be thoroughly misunderstood in Birmingham; and I would suggest that a small deputation should see me on an early day, when I am sure that all misconceptions can be removed, and, at any rate, a frank interchange of opinion can take place. I am aware that the price of coal and the rate of wages are both somewhat higher at Enfield than at Birmingham. The wages are, roughly, 10 per cent; the coal is so different in quality that the difference in true cost is difficult to state. If we were free to choose a new place for the manufacture of small arms, it is probable that Birmingham would be preferred to Enfield. But an establishment already exists at Enfield, and could not be transferred without enormous cost to the country, and, what is almost worse, great delay. As regards the statistics asked for by my hon. Friend, he will find that they are already published yearly. If he will speak to me, I will consider with him whether any further information is required.