HC Deb 11 May 1891 vol 353 cc482-3
MR. GOURLEY (Sunderland)

I beg to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty if he can state the nature of the structural alterations and arrangements which have been made on board each of the subsidised merchant cruisers to enable them to carry their intended armament; the estimated value of the same; and the time and probable cost of effecting similar arrangements in non-subsidised steamers, say, of about the same speed and type; whether all or any of the proposed guns and fittings for the subsidised ships are ready for shipment; if so, where, and why they remain unmounted, seeing that the owners are receiving a heavy subsidy for this purpose; and will he state how, in the event of hostilities, subsidised ships which happen to be in foreign or colonial ports are to be furnished with guns and men?


My noble Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty has requested me to answer the question. The plans of several of the vessels were submitted for approval before building, as regards their subdivision and general arrangements being suitable for the purposes of acting as armed cruisers. All the subsidised vessels have had necessary strengthening made to their decks and platforms for guns at a cost of about £400 per gun. Fitting in a similar manner any other suitable ship would require three or four weeks at a cost of £600 to £800 per gun. The guns and fittings are ready for immediate placing on board, being stored at depots most convenient to the routes on which the vessels are engaged, thus insuring cruisers available at early notice in different parts of the world. It is considered more desirable thus to keep the guns, &c, in store and good order until wanted rather than to expose them to the wear and tear incident to mercantile voyaging; also, if kept so fitted, they would form an obstruction to the working of the vessels in their ordinary trading.