HC Deb 05 May 1891 vol 353 cc136-7
MR. GOURLEY (Sunderland)

I beg to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty whether the Reserve Merchant Cruisers, for which £60,306 9s. 10d. is required for the current year, have yet been fitted and equipped with their intended armament; if not, would he explain why, before completing for active service the vessels already subsidised, he proposes to augment the number, thereby involving an increase of £18,150 for the current year, besides a still further annual increase on the completion of three vessels now building for the Canadian Pacific Company; will he state the nature of the armament with which the ships are to be fitted, the time that will be required to complete the same, and how they are to be manned during peace and war; if the Commanders, Officers, and crews are members of the Naval Reserve, or whether it is true that some of the ships are manned by Lascars; and whether any of the vessels are engaged in the Postal Service; and, if so, does the contract enable the Government to utilise them, in the event of an emergency, without the payment of a subsidy?


The necessary structural alteration and arrangements for the armament have been made in the subsidised reserve vessels, and it is estimated that they could be ready for sea as armed cruisers in eight days. The armament for six of these vessels is four 5in. breechloading and eight 7in. muzzle-loading guns, besides machine gun armament; for the remaining eight ships 12 4.7in. quick-firing guns and a machine gun armament. They would be manned partly by the officers and men of the active naval service and partly by Naval Reserve officers and men, each ship carrying as part of her ordinary complement a considerable number of Naval Reserve officers and men. All the vessels engaged are in the Postal Service, and the contract with the Post Office does not enable the utilisation of the vessels in an emergency without a subsidy.