HC Deb 18 December 1854 vol 136 cc462-3

Jealousy for the efficiency of the Navy alone induces me, otherwise most unwillingly at this time, to put a question respecting an Act which impeaches the resources and capabilities of our Royal Arsenals and private yards, and apparently betrays great improvidence on the part of Government in neglecting to prepare vessels adapted for a known and special service, when every delay, omission, and error, and appearance of dependence on any aid but our own, is of serious import in such matters. The question he had to ask of the First Lord of the Admiralty was, on what grounds an exchange had been effected with the King of Prussia of the Thetis frigate for two gun-boats?


The exchange to which the hon. and gallant Officer refers has not been completed, but it has been contemplated, and is still contemplated. The circumstances are these:—In the month of June the Prussian Government applied to Her Majesty's Government to know if they were willing to exchange for two gun-boats, made in this country by Mr. Russell, of peculiar construction, light draught of water, carrying heavy guns, and capable of being steered fore and aft —two old corvettes. Her Majesty's Government said they had no objection to such an exchange on principle, but it was necessary to inspect the vessels before they agreed to the proposal. They made inquiry respecting them; Mr. Scott Russell went to Dantzic for the purpose of inspecting them; and reported as his opinion that they were perfectly well suited for the Baltic service, and that it was well worth their while to make trial of the new construction in active war. On that ground the Prussian Government were told that there was no objection at that time to the exchange. That was. I think, in the month of June. Some delay took place, and it was not until the month of September that the Prussian Government acceded to the proposal we made, that instead of two corvettes, one old frigate should be given in exchange for the two vessels in question. In the month of September there was no great anxiety on our part to effect the exchange for those two vessels, because they were not applicable to the Baltic service for this year; but the Prussian Government intimated that they thought the honour of the British Crown was involved in the exchange, and it was not thought proper by us to involve a question of good faith in the matter. Accordingly it has been arranged that, if the two vessels shall be sent to us by the Prussian Government towards the close of the year, the British Government shall take them in exchange for the frigate; but the exchange has not yet been completed. [An hon. MEMBER: What is the draught of the two gun-boats?] I am not quite certain, but I believe about eleven feet.