HC Deb 18 February 1896 vol 37 cc560-2
MR. L. R. HOLLAND (Tower Hamlets, Bow and Bromley)

I beg to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty, whether Messrs. Yarrow's machinery designs for the torpedo boat destroyer Havock were forwarded by the Admiralty, under the late Government, to competing firms without the previous knowledge or consent of Messrs. Yarrow; and, if so, whether the Admiralty intend to continue this system of distributing one firm's designs among other firms without the consent of the firms whose designs they distribute; whether, although Earl Spencer communicated with Mr. Yarrow, in August, 1894, to the effect that their success in first constructing vessels of the high speed of the Havock and Hornet would be remembered in the future, yet in the spring of 1895, when tenders were, invited for improved vessels (of 30 knots speed), the Admiralty refused Messrs. Yarrow' s tender, although the original tender submitted by them was lower than the original tender sent in by another firm, who were successful in obtaining three boats after reducing their price: Whether, in respect to these tenders, the Admiralty was party to the modification of the tenders after they were received; and, if so, whether the Admiralty intend to continue this system: and, whether vessels of the same contract speed as the Hornet were subsequently ordered in the north, in some cases at prices between £3,000 to £5,000 per vessel more than that paid to Messrs. Yarrow for the Havock and Hornet, from builders who were supplied by the Admiralty with Messrs. Yarrow s designs?


This question deals with facts long past and should have been addressed to our predecessors in office in the last Parliament, who had personal knowledge of them; but I am quite prepared to reply. In accordance with a long-established practice, certain working drawings of machinery designed by the first makers of British torpedo-boat destroyers, including Messrs. Yarrow, were communicated to firms who had entered into contracts with the Admiralty for later vessels. Those of Messrs. Yarrow were practically duplicates of machinery supplied to the Admiralty seven years before, as admitted by Mr. Yarrow to the Admiralty. Independently of this, however, and before that step was taken, Messrs. Yarrow and another London firm were distinctly told of the proposed action of the Admiralty in the following terms;— Extract from Admiralty Letter of August 16th, 1893. I have further to slate that while recognising the good work done by your firm in the construction of torpedo vessels, it is considered desirable to encourage other firms in undertaking this class of work. It must therefore be understood that the Admiralty consider that they are entitled to make use of information in their possession respecting the torpedo-boat destroyer type as may appear necessary in the public interest. No remonstrance followed at the time. Mr. Yarrow long afterwards stated that he had misunderstood this paragraph. As to the second question, the case as stated is absolutely misleading. Three firms were invited to tender, of whom two were London firms. The London firms, including Messrs. Yarrow, had sent in tenders over 16 per cent. and 18 per cent. higher than the north country firm, which had tendered lowest. Their prices were clearly too high, as was shown by the result, for when the other London firm was offered three boats at £4,000 per boat less than its tender, it accepted the proposal without, demur. Their original tender was slightly above that of Messrs. Yarrow. But a fact which the question suppresses is that an offer of the same reduction was made by the Admiralty to Messrs. Yarrow and declined. They were then offered three destroyers at exactly the same price as that accepted by the other London firm, and they declined again. In reply to the last paragraph, it is the fact that higher prices than those given for the Havock and Hornet were paid to other firms as well as to Messrs. Yarrow for boats put out to contract at a considerably later date, but in all cases the displacement and horse-power were greater than those of the Havock and Hornet, and the accepted designs were, in many instances entirely dissimilar to those of Messrs. Yarrow, and in no instance did the principal dimensions correspond with those of the Havock and Hornet.

MR. W. ALLAN (Gateshead)

desired to know whether it was not a fact that Mr. Yarrow was sent for by the late Government and asked to go to France to try and find out the designs of French fast torpedo-boat destroyers, and whether Mr. Yarrow did not succeed and submit the designs to her Majesty's Government?


said, that he was not at the Admiralty at that time, but there was nothing inconsistent in the statement he had made. The late Government frankly appreciated the services rendered by Mr. Yarrow, and if his tenders were too high that was not the fault of the Government.


asked whether it was not a fact that,£38,000 had been paid by the Government for a form of torpedo-boat which Mr. Yarrow offered to build for £34,500?


said the two forms of boats referred to were not identical. The boat tendered for by the firm in the north of England was greater in displacement and in horse-power than that of the other.

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