HC Deb 15 May 1888 vol 326 c320

asked the Secretary of State for War, Whether a new barge contractor has recently by his neglect placed the Arsenal and town of Woolwich in great danger, by leaving powder and ammunition barges unattended in the River Thames; whether about 750 tons of explosives were in the deserted barges, and that, with the adjacent powder ship and Government barges, a total of 2,000 tons of ammunition and powder was involved in risk; to whom would the people of the Metropolis look for indemnity for loss of life and property in case an accident had happened; whether his attention has been called to the statement of the contractor— That he employed vagrants, whose names and addresses he did not know, and who deserted the barges; and, if so, will the Government offer a reward for the said vagrants to come forward and explain whether they swam ashore, or how they all made their escape unobserved, and particularly why they left work for which they were to be paid; and, whether the said contractor will be continued in the service of the Government?

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

I cannot at present answer the Question fully, inasmuch as I have not obtained sufficient Notice from the hon. Member; but I may say that the contractor is bound to provide suitable watchmen for the barges; and that, having in this case failed to do so, he was summoned by the Thames Conservancy Board and punished with a heavy fine.