HC Deb 22 July 1862 vol 168 cc662-4

Order for Third Reading read.

SIR GEORGE LEWIS moved that the Fortifications (Provision for Expenses) Bill be now read the third time.


said, that having generally voted in the minority on all occasions respecting this measure, he wished to repudiate the charge brought against him and those with whom he acted, that they had any intention of treating the Defence Commission and its Report with the slightest disrespect. He denied that the recommendations of the Commission had been carried out in the Bill, and therefore the absurdity of the charge was obvious. When they found such men as Sir John Burgoyne, Sir Frederic Smith, and other eminent authorities differing in opinion from the other members of the Defence Commission, those with whom he acted felt that they had a perfect justification for the course they had taken. He would again urge upon the consideration of the House that many of the works recommended by the Commission were wholly unnecessary; and he trusted the Government, would see the propriety of still further reducing the proposed scheme of fortification.


said, he was a zealous supporter of the policy of placing our dockyards and arsenals in a proper state of defence; but he held that a superfluity of defence was almost as objectionable as an entire absence of defence. No one could dispute the right of civilians to express an opinion on these subjects. The greatest improvement that had been effected in the armaments of this country had originated with a civilian, Sir William Armstrong, and the Government had recognised the value of the opinion of civilians by making one a member of the Defence Commission, and by placing upon that Commission Members who had had no practical experience of warfare. The Government had itself indicated an opinion, that the recommendations of the Commissioners were in excess of the requirements of the country by reducing their scheme of fortifications to a considerable extent. They had reduced, for example, from ten to five the number of forts proposed to be constructed on Portsdown Hill; but even five forts were, he could not help thinking, more by two or three than were necessary. Two forts would be, he ventured to think, sufficient on Ports-down Hill, and those need not be of a large description, but secure against escalade. The idea of bringing an army to defend Portsdown Hill or Portsmouth was preposterous. The forts proposed to be erected near Plymouth were very numerous, and he doubted the expediency of constructing so many. He must express his hope that the Government would reconsider again the subject of these defences, and would not be deterred from carrying their reductions still further. If the practice of entering protests which prevailed in the other House existed in the Commons, he should, with great humility, but earnestly, protest against the approval by the Government of the excessive recommendations of the Defence Commissioners.

Bill read 3°, and passed.