§ MR. FRENCH
Sir, I have given notice of a question which I wish to put to the First Lord of the Admiralty, whether, at a time when the British contingent force in Turkey is unable to take the field from the non-arrival of its cavalry, it is the fact that a screw-steamer, capable from its dimensions and accommodation of conveying an entire cavalry regiment, including horses, each voyage, and in a fortnight, to the seat of war, has been twice placed by its owners at the disposal of Her Majesty's Government; and, if so, whether his sense of public duty will admit of the right hon. Gentleman's stating to the House his reasons for declining to avail himself of the services of the Great Britain, when offered by Messrs. Gibbs and Bright?
§ SIR JAMES GRAHAM
I have endeavoured, Sir, to show that every information I can give consistent with what is due to the interests of the public service, I am at all times ready to give; but, I must say, I think I am entitled on this occasion to appeal to the House—and to protest against the form in which this question has been put upon the Votes, and through the medium of the Votes, circulated throughout the country. There are various assumptions in this question, all of which are unfounded. First, it is assumed that the British contingent now in Turkey is unable to take the field, from the non-arrival of its cavalry. On what ground that is put forward I am at a loss to conjecture, the fact being that that contingent is in all respects able to take the field and ready to execute any service the Government may direct. The second assumption is that a certain screw-steamer, capable of conveying an entire cavalry regiment including horses each voyage, and in a fortnight, to the seat of war, has been twice placed by its owners at the disposal of Her Majesty's Government. Now, it is quite clear that that statement refers to the Great Britain, but so far from that vessel being capable of conveying an entire cavalry regiment, which consists of 300 horses, with the full number of men and officers, it cannot convey more than 150 horses. A third assumption, which is included in this last, is that the Great 538 Britain, if taken up by time Government, would perfect the voyage from this country to Constantinople in a fortnight. My answer to this is, that no steamer has ever yet performed the voyage in that time, the shortest period in which it can probably be performed being from eighteen to twenty days. Then as to the other assumption, that the Great Britain has been twice offered to the Government, that also is incorrect, for she has been offered but once. But then comes the point, why has the offer been refused? The reason is, that upon the whole, the terms demanded appeared to the Government higher than they had paid for other vessels of a similar character, and without entering into minute particulars, which I presume the House would not desire—I may say that it was not thought expedient on the part of the Government to hire the Great Britain on those terms.