§ ADMIRAL FIELD (Sussex, Eastbourne)
asked the First Lord of the Admiralty, Whether it is true, as reported, that in the final experiments on May 17, carried out by the "Torpedo Net Defence Committee" at Portsmouth, it was conclusively shown that wooden booms entirely failed, although increased from 10 to 12 inches diameter, the same being broken or blown away from their heel attachments to the side of the Resistance when subjected to the explosive action of 92 1b. of gun-cotton against nets suspended from such booms; whether in all the previous experiments, from September, 1886, to the present time, wooden booms have invariably failed when exposed to ordinary explosions of gun-cotton against nets; whether, notwithstanding these failures, it has been decided to fit the Invincible and other ships with similar heavy wooden booms of from 20 to 24 cwt. in preference to steel booms of an improved type, weighing under 10 cwt., as proposed by Mr. Bullivant; whether the estimated cost of steel booms is from £20 to £22, as against £28 to £30 for wooden booms of 12 inches diameter; whether it is true that the "Net Defence Committee" and Dockyard officials are in favour of steel booms being fitted to Her Majesty's ships; and, if so, why are wooden booms still ordered to be used when naval opinion outside the Admiralty Office is known to be in favour of steel booms, as being less than half the weight, less costly, more durable and efficient; and, whether the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty will be pleased to order a further trial of steel booms to establish beyond doubt their superiority over wood, as claimed for them by authority, before expending further moneys on wooden ones?
§ THE FIRST LORD (Lord GEORGE HAMILTON) (Middlesex, Ealing)
During the present year five experiments, with a view to testing the efficiency of wooden booms, have been carried out. In one case only was the boom broken, though some defects in the ironwork and rigging were developed on each of these occasions; and, excepting in the case of the broken boom, the injury was not of a nature to render the net defence inefficient, but the damage was such as could be readily repaired. The statement that the wooden booms entirely failed cannot, therefore, be supported. It has been decided to fit the Invincible with wooden booms, and the work is in progress. The estimated cost of steel booms is slightly greater than that of wooden booms. It is true that the Net Defence Committee recommended the use of steel booms; but there is a great divergence of opinion on the subject. Until further experience has been gained by actual use of the present fittings at sea, it is not proposed to make any changes; but the matter will be kept in view, and should it be satisfactorily established that steel booms are in all respects more efficient than wood, the Admiralty will be prepared to substitute them for the wooden ones now in use.
§ MR. PICTON (Leicester)
wished to know whether the weight of the boom was correctly given in the third paragraph of the Question?
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
I am not aware that those figures are actually correct; but, no doubt, these wooden booms are heavier than steel booms.
§ MR. BRUNNER (Cheshire, Northwich)
inquired, whether the noble Lord would give the names of the officials who were opposing the introduction of steel booms, so that a Motion might be made dealing with the question of their continuance in the Public Service?
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
said, it was most improper that Questions should be put to him for the purpose of advertising inventions.