HC Deb 12 August 1889 vol 339 cc1014-6
MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)

I beg to ask the President of the Board of Trade whether the lenses supplied to the Commissioners of Irish Lights for the Bull Rock Lighthouse by Messrs. Chance, by direction of the Board of Trade, at a price higher by £150 than that of Mr. Wigham's tender for Messrs. Barbier and Company, have been found faulty by the Commissioners of Irish Lights and their scientific adviser, Sir Robert Ball, F.R.S., and some of them returned as imperfect; whether any complaint of a similar kind has ever been made respecting Messrs. Barbier's lenses, which have been supplied for many years to the Commissioners of Irish Lights; why the officials of the Harbour Department compelled the Commissioners of Irish Lights to purchase these inferior lenses from Messrs. Chance, at a higher price than those of better quality; whether notwithstanding this higher price and inferior quality, similar lenses have subsequently been ordered from Messrs. Chance for two important lighthouses in the South of England by the Trinity House, with the sanction of the Board of Trade; whether in the case of these two lighthouses tenders by public competition were sought; and, if so, whether Messrs. Chance's was the lowest tender or whether, as on the previous occasion, it was higher than the competing tenders; and whether the Harbour Department of the Board of Trade took any pains to have these lenses compared before de livery, as to quality and perfection of manufacture, with lenses of Messrs. Barbier's make and unimpeached quality recently erected at Tory Island Lighthouse and other places in Ireland; and, if so, what were the steps they took to have this comparison made?


As regards the lenses supplied by Messrs. Chance for the Bull Rook Lighthouse, the Commissioners have informed the Board that portions of the lenses, when first supplied by Messrs. Chance, were found faulty and returned. They were subsequently replaced satisfactorily, and the following report upon the present state of the apparatus has been made to the Commissioners by their scientific adviser, Sir Robert Ball, P.R.8.:— I was glad to notice that the defective portions of the glass, to which I had taken exception when I examined the lenses at Kingstown, had been satisfactorily replaced by glass which was free from objectionable striæ. I was particularly struck with the solid and massive character of the apparatus, which is a splendid piece of workmanship. No complaints have ever been made of Messrs. Barbier and Fenestre's lenses by the Irish Lights Commissioners. The grounds on which Messrs. Chance's tender for the Bull lenses was sanctioned by the Board of Trade in preference to that of Messrs. Barbier and Fenestre were fully stated in my reply to a question asked by the hon. Member on the 27th of February, 1888. With regard to Round Island and Bishop Rock, which it is presumed are the two lighthouses in the South of England referred to, the Board are informed by the Elder Brethren of the Trinity House that the lenses for these lighthouses were obtained from Messrs. Chance under a three years' contract in force at the time of their supply. There was, therefore, no public competition for the supply of those instruments. As regards the alleged higher prices of Messrs. Chance, the Elder Brethren were satisfied at the time of entering into the contract that the rates as then settled were rather lower than the French official tariff, and as regards quality they have both at that time and in subsequent reports the positive assurance of their engineer that the lenses supplied are at least not inferior to those supplied by French manufacturers. Each instrument is examined before delivery, and any portions not approved are rejected and replaced before it is passed as satisfactory.