§ SIR CHARLES CAMERON (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
I beg to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty whether his attention has been called to the statement that a fire was recently discovered in the magazine of one of Her Majesty's ships, which could not be ascribed to anything except the spontaneous combustion of cordite, presumably of inferior quality; and whether, if the facts of the occurrence of the fire be as stated, an official inquiry has been held, and with what result; and if the fire, as stated, was found on inquiry to be due to the spontaneous combustion of inferior cordite, whether any steps are being taken to guard against similar accidents through cordite hurriedly manufactured to meet the present demand.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. GOSCHEN,) St. George's, Hanover Square
The occurrence referred to is presumably what happened in the magazine of the "Revenge," when one cartridge spontaneously ignited and set fire to two others in the same box. The other boxes of cartridges in the magazine were not affected. With regard to this occurrence I made a statement in the House, in reply to the hon. and gallant Member for Eastbourne, on February 8,* that an inquiry had been held, and that the whole of the evidence had been referred to the Ordnance Committee for further investigation. The cause of the explosion has not yet been ascertained with any certainty. With regard to the second part of the question, there is no foundation whatever for the imputation that the explosion was in any way due to hurried manufacture to meet the present demand. The cordite which ignited was made in 1894, and there was no new cordite on board the "Revenge." The position of the Navy as regards the supply of cordite has not been such as to* See The Parliamentary Debates [Fourth Series], Vol. lxxviii., page 917.943 require the placing of any special or hurried orders. The orders for 1899–1900 were placed in due course in June last year, and those for 1900–1901 will be placed almost immediately.