§ 15. Mr. ANNAN BRYCE
asked the Minister of Munitions (1) whether he will inform the House what firm has been concerned in the purchase of sulphuric acid from America; how much has been paid to the owners of vessels for the damage due to their ships to leakage of the iron drums in which the acid has been shipped; and whether the loss has fallen upon the Government agents or upon the Treasury; and (2) whether quantities of sulphuric acid, essential to the production of high explosives, have been purchased in America; whether, owing to defective methods of shipment, there has been loss and delay; what were the terms of purchase; and what the nature of the specification?
§ Dr. ADDISON
I will assume that by "sulphuric acid" he means oleum or fuming sulphuric acid. Certain quantities of oleum, which is an ingredient of high explosives, have been purchased from America through Messrs. C. Tennant Sons, Messrs. Baring Brothers, and Messrs. C. T. Bowring and Company. In the case of the earliest shipments there was a certain amount of loss due to the type of iron drums used. I may say that iron drums had always been used in this country, in America and elsewhere for the carriage of oleum both by land and sea, and the particular type used had been passed for the purpose by the American Inter-State Commission. Oleum, however, had never previously been transported across the Atlantic in quantity, so that no experience of the best type of drum to use for that purpose was available when the earliest shipments were made. The defects in the drums used in these earliest shipments have long ago been remedied. In the case of one shipment some delay was caused owing to instructions being sent to unstow the cargo of oleum and redrum it in stouter drums, but the supplies of oleum on hand in this country at the time being adequate, largely due to the earlier shipments, this 986 delay was in no way prejudicial to the supply of munitions of war. Nothing has been paid to owners of vessels for damage to their ships, but a claim has been lodged for damage, and two ships which had been damaged through leakage of oleum were purchased by His Majesty's Government on advantageous terms. My right hon. Friend does not consider it expedient in the public interest to give particulars as to the terms of purchase of oleum or as to the specification, but can assure the House that the statements that have recently been made in a certain newspaper are both inaccurate in detail and misleading in effect.
§ Dr. ADDISON
I do not know. They would be the drums ordinarily used for that purpose, but I will inquire into the matter.