HC Deb 28 June 1889 vol 337 cc1016-8
MR. HANBURY (Preston)

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for War whether out of the guns, 100 in number, for which (according to a Return of 18th June 1889) nine of Her Majesty's ships were still waiting, 40 at least were ordered without any promise to complete them at any definite date; how many of the guns, about which no information on this point is afforded in the above Return, were similarly ordered either from the ordnance factories or private firms; who was the person responsible for giving such orders, and when were they given; whether the same practice now prevails; and, whether, in giving orders for guns to private firms, any priority is claimed by the Government for national orders over those given to the same firms by other persons or Governments?


This question assumes that in a Return dated the 18th of June it is shown that nine of Her Majesty's ships are waiting for 100 guns, but if the hon. Member will look at the Return he will see that 100 is the complete armament of the ships; and the Return further shows that from 60 to 70 of these were actually on board ship, or could be put there at any moment, or had passed proof and were practically ready; seven were stated to be at proof, of which up to this date six have passed; four were to be delivered by contractors at various dates during this month, all of which have been received. The armament of two ships will be completed, as the Return states, by putting on board seven guns of the same calibre, which are now ready. The block in the supply of guns, therefore, has been almost surmounted. No guns whatever have been ordered by contract without a promise to complete them by a definite date. As a rule guns are not ordered for particular ships, but for Navy service generally. Therefore the column in the Return which states the dates when outstanding guns were promised does not relate to the dates at which contractors of the ordnance factories have undertaken to supply them. To avoid complication the Return was originally moved in this form. The delays which have taken place either from change of pattern or by neglect of contractors are notorious. I have no doubt that the person responsible for the orders given is the Secretary of State for War for the time being Contractors are now required to give precedence to orders from our own Govern- ment, and our resident Inspectors will take care to insure this being done.