HC Deb 03 April 1908 vol 187 cc816-7
MR. BELLAIRS (Lynn Regis)

To ask the Secretary of State for War whether the whole of the Ordnance depots were under War Office control up to the 31st March, 1908; whether he can state what amount of cordite has been destroyed or got rid of up to that date at these depots since the 1st January, 1907; and what is the amount of cordite still remaining in which mercuric chloride has been found, or which is awaiting examination for the purpose of ascertaining if it contains mercuric chloride, or is in any way deteriorated.

(Answered by Mr. Secretary Haldane.) There are naval ordnance depots at certain places which are not under the control of the War Office. The amount of cordite destroyed cannot be stated without reference to the various stations. None has been destroyed because it contained mercuric chloride unless it was found by testing to have deteriorated. All cordite is periodically examined to see whether it has deteriorated, and the tests applied for this purpose determine the stability of the cordite, whether mercuric chloride is present or not. I have no materials available to enable me to state the actual quantities.


To ask the Secretary of State for War whether hitherto it has been the invariable practice for cordite to be passed for both Army and Navy by inspectors under the War Office; whether any statement has been obtained from the companies which used mercuric chloride as to the dates at which the practice was commenced of adding this unlawful ingredient, and so masking the only test which was applied to the cordite; and whether he can, from this data, state approximately the total quantity of cordite containing mercuric chloride which was thus passed into the Army and Navy and to India, irrespective of what may have since been used at target practice.

(Answered by Mr. Secretary Haldane). The reply to the first part of the Question is in the affirmative. As regards the second part of the Question only the National Explosives Company have informed us as to the date when mercuric chloride was first used. As regards the last part of the Question, it is not possible to give any figures, but the whole of the stock of cordite in which mercuric chloride may be present will in the usual course be tested for stability.