HC Deb 08 August 1916 vol 85 cc850-1
89. Mr. FELL

asked the Minister of Munitions if his attention has been called to the delay in the steps being taken by the Government to increase the supply of materials for the manufacture of high explosives by the low-combustion process; if the Government, under the advice of Professor Vivian Lewes, advanced money towards the installation of a plant for this process in Yorkshire; if, on the death of the professor last October, the opposing interests got the upper hand and the installation under construction was delayed; if he is aware that the Stettiner Chamotte Fabrik Actien Geselilschaft has since the beginning of the War put up in Germany eleven plants to work the low-combustion process for the production of explosives; and if the Government intend to carry through the proposals of Professor Lewes or to abandon them in the interest of the high-temperature carbonisation process which is in operation in this country at the present time?


The question of the production of raw materials for the manufacture of high explosives by the low-combustion process has been very carefully considered. This process does not produce metallurgical coke, and it is doubtful whether it produces the raw materials of explosives in as large proportions as the alternative process, and in view of this fact and of the present urgent demand for this coke it has been decided not to take further steps to secure the erection of low-combustion plant until the results obtained from the plant at present under erection have been thoroughly investigated. The Government advanced capital towards the cost of the installation of the above plant, but serious delays have occurred in the completion of the installation. Such delays have been due to the failure of the company to construct the plant as arranged, and not to the death of Professor Vivian Lewes or to any conflict with opposing interests. I have no knowledge of the facts stated in the question as to the erection of low-combustion plants in Germany. If the low-combustion plant at present being constructed proves successful, the question of arranging for the erection of further similiar plant will be considered.


May I ask whether the facts as I state them in the question are not correct; and whether the Government are not taking grave risks in not, at any rate, thoroughly inquiring into this process?


I do not know how many factories there are in Germany. The Government have made careful inquiry into the matter, and we do not think ourselves justified in going beyond this one experimental plant at present.