HC Deb 02 March 1893 vol 9 cc803-4
MR. ROBERT WALLACE (Edinburgh, E.)

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for War whether his attention has been called to an article in the current number of The Investors' Review, entitled, "The Maxim - Nordenfeldt Company," in which it is alleged that permanent officials at the War Office and officers on active service in considerable numbers, and often of high rank, are shareholders and Directors of this Company; whether it is in accordance with the Rules of the Service for officers in its purchasing and fighting branches to hold a greater or smaller pecuniary stake in companies interested in pressing a particular weapon upon the Government, or in furnishing foreign Powers with the best munitions of war; whether the Gardner gun has been proved to be a cheaper and better instrument than the Maxim or Nordenfeldt, and whether its comparative merits have been investigated and tested by the Department by public competitive trial or otherwise; whether there is any, and what, difference in cost to the Revenue between the Maxim and Nordenfeldt guns supplied by the Company and those manufactured at Enfield; and whether he can say if any, and how many, persons have been killed or wounded by the bursting of Nordenfeldt guns in any operations of the Service?


I have seen the article in The Investors' Review, which contains what is alleged to be a list of the shareholders in the Maxim-Nordenfeldt Company. I do not find in that list the names of any permanent officials at the War Office, nor among the military officers named, as now holding shares, more than a very few who are not either retired, unemployed, or belonging to the Reserve Forces. There is no rule against an officer holding shares in any company established for a legitimate object; but an official of the War Department—whether civil or military—is forbidden to hold shares in any company (other than a Railway Company or any similar company) which enters into a contract with the Department. The Gardner gun has not been proved to be cheaper and better than the Maxim or Nordenfeldt. The Gardner system was abandoned some time ago for future supplies in favour of other systems. A Gardner gun of a modified pattern has recently been submitted to us, and arrangements for its trial are now being made. No Nordenfeldt guns have been ordered from the Company since 1889. The Enfield cost of manufacture was then considerably lower than the price charged by the Company, but as royalty was not included no exact comparison can be made. The manufacture of Maxim guns has only recently been taken up at Enfield, and it is estimated that the price, including royalty, will compare favourably with the price now paid to the Company. No accidents of the nature referred to have occurred in the land service with the Nordenfeldt gun.