HC Deb 20 August 1860 vol 160 cc1589-90

I wish to correct a statement made by my hon. Friend (Mr. Lindsay) respecting the relative strength of this country and of France in line-of-battle ships. My hon. Friend has quoted from a French pamphlet, which is not official, and therefore we are not bound to accept its statements as true, even of the strength of the French navy in regard to line-of-battle ships. I will not, however, quarrel with its statements on a subject upon which the writer may have had very fair information; but at least we may be permitted to know what number of line-of-battle ships we have ourselves. The pamphlet gives us 63 steam line-of-battle ships afloat. [An hon. MEMBER: Including blockships?] It does not say a word about blockships. But the fact is we have at this moment 52 screwships of the line afloat and nine blockships, making 61. Now, blockships are of course available for service afloat, but still I do not think it is fair to set them down as equal in point of efficiency to line-of-battle-ships. There is one thing which the pamphlet altogether omits as regards the French navy, which is that the French Government are building 10 iron-cased ships. We are building only four. Therefore the statement that we are making undue preparations on this side of the Channel, and that we are preparing a vast steam navy as compared with that of France, is not borne out by the facts.