§ VISCOUNT WOLMER (Edinburgh, W.)
In the absence of the hon. Member for West Belfast, I beg to ask the Secretary of State for War whether, in view of the fact that the Government of India have, for many years in succession, pressed for the supply of the whole of the breech-loading field guns required to complete the equipment of the Royal Artillery in India; that money necessary for the purchase of the guns has year after year been granted by the Government of India; that these grants have lapsed owing to the failure of the War Office to carry out their engagement to supply these guns; and that the Government of India having, in consequence of such failure, proposed that the guns should be obtained from private manufacturers outside the War Office, he will explain the grounds on which this proposal was negatived by the Home Authorities?
§ MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
There does not appear to have been any serious default on the part of the War Office in carrying out their engagements, but I may say that the manufacture of ordnance, both for field and fortress service, has been quite abnormal during 1193 the last few years, and that it has been impossible to supply all demands as quickly as we should have wished without an expenditure on plant, either in the Government factories or by contractors, which must have been left to lie idle when the re-armaments had been completed. The India Office have stated in the past that, as regards 12-pounder field guns, those they have asked for cover their total requirements. Omitting the batteries which were shipped to India in 1887 and 1888, the number demanded is 347. Of these, 270 have already been shipped to India; 36 more now await shipment; and of the remaining 41 there are 38 well advanced in the Ordnance Factories. I understand that the Government of India did propose that the field guns wanting to complete should be obtained from private manufacturers; the Home Authority which negatived the proposal was not the War Office, but the India Office. I may add that the experience of the War Department in obtaining this class of gun from contractors has been anything but satisfactory.