HC Deb 19 June 1865 vol 180 cc469-71

said, he would beg to ask the Secretary to the Admiralty, To explain the grounds of his statement that the important Dockyard at Sheerness was among those destined eventually to be abandoned, no such recommendation having been made by the Dockyard Committee of 1864? He said it was not to be wondered at that the statement which had been made a few nights ago by the noble Lord had occasioned a good deal of surprise, because when last year the hon. Member for Finsbury (Sir Morton Peto) alluded specially to this subject, the noble Lord, in reply to the hon. Member, very candidly said he had no hopes of Sheerness being abandoned, as it was a station of great importance, especially for North Sea purposes. He further stated that it was a matter of consideration how far other dockyards should be abandoned; but no Amendment was moved in Committee specifying this particular dockyard. The noble Lord said there was not a single Member who was of opinion that Sheerness ought to be in the number of the dockyards that ought to be sold or abandoned. It should be remembered that Sheerness possessed some special advantages. At any time of the tide ships could be brought up close to the yard, and at low tide within a cable's length of the main entrance there was fifty feet of water; and at a trifling expense the largest ships in the navy might be docked in this harbour at low water. He (Sir Edward Dering) anticipated that the House would be of the opinion expressed by Sir James Graham in his place in that House, that any Government that should seriously entertain the idea of selling or abandoning so useful a harbour as Sheerness would be trifling with the best interests of the country. He could not sincerely believe that the noble Lord bad formed any very serious intention in this matter. He (Sir Edward Dering) main- tained it would be a sacrifice which, if it were placed at half a million of money, would he below the mark. Should he have the honour of a seat in the House in the next Parliament, and the question be brought forward, he should feel hound to give it the most strenuous opposition in his power. He hoped the noble Lord would give the House some assurance that he had no intention of making a sacrifice of this particular dockyard.


said, the hon. Member had put forward the strongest arguments that could be used in favour of the dockyard at Sheerness. When on a former occasion he had alluded to the contingent probability that at some future time the dockyard at Sheerness would be closed he did not intend to convey the idea that there was any immediate intention of closing the yard. It was true that the dockyard Committee had inserted Deptford, Pembroke, and Woolwich as the dockyards recommended to be closed, and said nothing about Sheerness. It must, however, be borne in mind that the Admiralty, on taking the matter into their serious consideration, had felt that there were extremely powerful reasons against closing Pembroke Dockyard; and, indeed, so far from closing it they had, with the consent of the House of Commons, made there a new dockyard, so to speak, in which to construct iron ships. As to Deptford, also, after giving the recommendation of the Committee full consideration, the Admiralty thought that it would be a very unwise thing to close Deptford yard at the present time. They had, therefore, decided not to close either Pembroke or Deptford Dockyards; but the Admiralty thought it right to consider whether any other of the dockyards should be closed. When the establishment at Chatham should be really completed it would be the greatest establishment of the kind in the world. It was under these circumstances that he had the other night alluded to Sheerness, in answer to a question; not that he had the slightest idea of closing Sheerness Dockyard at the present time; but eventually, when Chatham should be completed, it would be for the Parliament of that day to consider whether Sheerness Dockyard should not he suppressed. Sheerness had undoubtedly deep water, but it was very confined, the dockyard being so small that it was unfit for the large men-of-war of the present day. The hon. Member and the people of Sheerness need be under no alarm that their dockyard, which was at the present time very useful, was going at once to be suppressed.

Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put and agreed to.

Main Question put, and agreed to.