HC Deb 11 April 1893 vol 11 cc18-9
MR. LOUGH (Islington, W.)

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for War if he will state whether the offer of the late Government to sell certain Snider rifles to the public has been withdrawn; and, if so, will he explain on what grounds?


It is a fact, as stated by the hon. Member for Guildford on Friday last, that a firm of South African merchants, which had recently applied to the War Office to purchase Snider rifles, was informed that there were none available. In 1890, on the authority of the then Secretary of State for War, a similar answer was given to a like application; and nothing is known at the War Office of any such weapons being subsequently offered to the public by the late Government, except in a broken-up state.

MR. BRODRICK (Surrey, Guildford)

May I ask whether, before the answer just given was drawn up, the Financial Secretary consulted the Director of Artillery?


Yes; I consulted the Director of Artillery, the Director of Contracts, and all persons likely to be informed on the subject. I may call attention to the fact that early in 1891 the Foreign Office were consulted upon the subject, and Lord Salisbury pointed out that the mischief which arose from selling disused arms had been very great owing to the use to which they were likely to be put in uncivilised countries, and especially in Africa, and it was determined, with the sanction of the Secretary of State, that the best course would be to break up these arms. I believe that instructions were given accordingly to the Director of Artillery, and that these have since been carried out.


Is it not a fact that about 18 months ago some new Snider arms were sold to the East Africa Company; and in the printed Memorandum circulated on March 30, 1892, with the Estimates was there not a statement that the proceeds from the sales of old stores (£105,000) would probably be augmented by the sale of Snider arms?


I know perfectly well it has been the practice of the Department to sell arms to Chartered Companies and the Colonies; but from the statement made the other night, it would be implied that applications to the War Office had been refused by the present Government, whereas similar arms were offered to the general public by the late Government.