§ MR. JESSE COLLINGS (Birmingham, Bordesley)
said, he wished to call attention to the proposal of the War Office to dismantle the Small Arms Factory at Sparkbrook, and to turn it into a repairing shop. This was, he urged, a matter not only of local concern, but of national import. He contrasted the advantages of the Sparkbrook Factory with those of the factory at Enfield, and pointed out that in the event of a prolonged invasion of this country Enfield would be almost unprotected. Railway communication with that place could not be compared with Sparkbrook, which was in the midst of a network of railways, placing the district in communication with all parts of the Kingdom. Sparkbrook, moreover, was situated in a district possessing rich resources of coal and iron and other requisites for carrying on such a factory. The policy of the Government, if carried out, towards the Sparkbrook Factory would entail great loss upon his constituents in Bordesley, and, although he insisted on their fair and equal treatment, he did not base his objections solely on the loss his constituents would suffer. He based them on military grounds, and thought every military man would agree as to the imprudence of closing a small arms factory with so many facilities for its work as that at Sparkbrook. The factory was capable of turning out from 600 to 1,000 rifles a week. It possessed the best machinery, and he contended that to close the place as a factory and remove the works to Enfield would not only be contrary to the understanding on which the Sparkbrook Factory was opened, but wasting a considerable amount of public money. He earnestly asked the Government to reconsider their attitude in the matter.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Sir W. HARCOURT,) Derby
I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman has not given notice of his intention to raise this question. The representatives of the War Office are not present, and I am in the unfortunate position of being a sort of residuary legatee of all the odds and ends that turn up on the Appropria- 1750 tion Bill. I am afraid I cannot give a detailed reply; but I am sure the right hon. Gentleman's observations will receive due weight. I am not surprised that the right hon. Gentleman should think that everything the present Government has done is wrong, and that everything its predecessor did was right; but I am at a loss to understand the right hon. Gentleman when he puts his claim on national grounds. The right hon. Gentleman said that in the event of a prolonged invasion it would be better to have a factory at Birmingham than at Enfield.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
I am afraid that in the case of a prolonged invasion Birmingham from its importance, and especially from the importance of its Representatives, would be one of the first objects of an invading Army. They would probably desire to hold the Members for Birmingham, and especially the right hon. Member for Bordesley, as hostages, with a view to the conclusion of peace on favourable terms. But it ought to be some consolation to the right hon. Gentleman that, whatever method be adopted by the War Office, it will be adopted on the deliberate advice of competent military advisers.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed for To-morrow.