HC Deb 20 May 1901 vol 94 cc580-1
MR. NORMAN (Wolverhampton, S.)

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that the Government Small Arms Ammunition Factory at Woolwich can produce 4,000,000 cartridges a week; that Messrs. Kynoch can produce 3,000,000 cartridges a week; and that, with the additional output of other makers, the total supply of cartridges may be from 10,000,000 to 12,000,000 rounds per week; will he state on what day, and at what hour of the day, the reserve of small arm ammunition stood at 3,300 rounds; how many rounds were at that time en route to South Africa; and how many rounds were being received per day by the Government from all sources; how many rounds of small arm ammunition were in reserve in South Africa and other Imperial stations at the outbreak of the war; how many rounds of this reserve were Mark IV. ammunition or other cartridges found to be unsuitable for use; how many rounds of Mark IV. ammunition were sent to South Africa after the outbreak of war; and how many rounds of Mark IV. or other unsuitable ammunition were brought back to this country.

MAJOR RASCH (Essex, Chelmsford)

When the right hon. Gentleman answers the question, will he also state who is the high official responsible for the state of things alluded to by the First Lord of the Treasury?


In reply to the hon. Gentleman, obviously in all matters of this character the Secretary for War is primarily responsible. As to the question on the Paper, I am fully aware of the possible output of the various makers of cartridges in the United Kingdom. I do not think it would be for the advantage of the public service to give all the details demanded by the hon. Member.


Is not the right hon. Gentleman of opinion that it would be advantageous to allay the almost universal alarm that has arisen owing to the statement of the First Lord?


I do not think there is any cause whatever for alarm. Under the very great strain of providing a large number of additional men at short notice, at one time the supply, which was in excess of the actual amount required to be kept by regulations, ran down very low, but that has long since been put straight.


Then may I ask if the right hon. Gentleman is of opinion that, in connection with the First Lord's statement concerning the reserve of ammunition, departmental information of a confidential nature may be used by a member of the Government for party purposes—


Order, order! The hon. Member must not ask as to a matter of opinion.