HC Deb 06 May 1862 vol 166 cc1281-2

said, as the season for carrying on works was rapidly passing away, he wished to ask the First Lord of the Treasury, When a discussion will be taken on the propriety of proceeding with the erection of the three Forts at Spithead?


Sir, the Commission to whom that question was referred in deference to the obvious opinion of the House of Commons, have not yet reported. Whenever their Report is made, it will be necessary, as we stated before Easter, to come to Parliament for a Vote, and on that occasion, of course, the question will be discussed. I am quite aware that that reference, together with the suspension of the works, has been attended with considerable expense; and if it should turn out, on the Report of the Commissioners, that these forts are necessary to cooperate with and support the nautical defences, then of course a certain amount of valuable time will have been lost. That we stated to the House; but the House were so entirely run away with, owing to the report of the encounter between the Merrimac and the Monitor, that it was in vain to attempt to stem the tide; and we felt that our duty compelled us to yield to what in debate and by other signs was manifestly the wish of the great majority of hon. Members. I will only add this— if I may be allowed to say so, without meaning anything in the least degree discourteous to the House—that when the House of Commons takes into its own hands administrative details, and takes them out of the hands of the executive Government, the probability is that such a course will be attended with increased expense and diminished efficiency.


I will beg to ask the noble Lord whether he is able to say at what probable time the evidence and the Report of the Defence Commission will be in the hands of Members.


The Commission, I believe, are considering their Report, or are about to consider it, and the information I have received lends me to think that they are likely to agree to it in about a fortnight; but I cannot pledge myself as to the particular time when the Report will be in print and ready to be laid on the table.