HC Deb 20 February 1873 vol 214 cc730-2

said, that before he put to the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty the Questions of which he had given Notice, he must preface them by reading the following telegrams:— Lisbon, February 15.—Ex-King expected. The Italian squadron is expected here. English squadron expected. The English squadron has arrived, and has been placed at the disposal of King Amadeus. February 16 —Three more ships belonging to the British squadron have arrived at Lisbon, The Times supplemented that intelligence of February 15, with the information that two of the ships are the Hercules and the Agincourt, and adds that the Admiral has offered to convey the ex-King safely to Italy. Subsequent intelligence, he added, goes on to state that an Italian steamer has arrived at the service of the ex-King, and that a whole fleet of British ships has now arrived, which the Admiral has placed at the service of the ex-King. The Questions I have to ask are—What orders were issued by the Government for this sudden rendezvous of a British fleet in the Tagus? What is the number of ships assembled, and whether from the Mediterranean or other parts? And whether this naval demonstration of the British Government is intended as a protest against the establishment of the Spanish Republic, or as the commencement of a policy of interference in the affairs of the Peninsula? I wish also to ask whether, as reported in The Times of to-day from the speech of Senor Figueras in the Spanish Cortes, this whole fleet is merely" for the sake of the petty interests of a puny dynasty?"


My right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty has asked me to reply to the right hon. Baronet, and to inform him and the House that it was in consequence of a request conveyed to the Admiralty from the Foreign Office that a portion of the Channel squadron proceeded lately from Gibraltar to Lisbon; it was couched as follows:—

"Foreign Office, Feb. 12, 1873.

"Sir,—I am directed by Earl Granville to request that you will move the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty to take immediate steps for providing a steamer at Lisbon for the reception and embarkation of the King and Queen of Spain, with a proper escort of ships to accompany them, and to make such additional provision of ships at Lisbon as might be left behind, if necessary, for the purpose of protecting British interests.—I am, &c.,


"The Secretary to the Admiralty."

My hon. Friend the Secretary to the Admiralty, now in the House, will probably be able to state the exact number of ships that proceeded to Lisbon; but with respect to the other Questions addressed to me without Notice by the right hon. Baronet, I must decline making any reply at the present moment.


I may supplement what has been stated by my noble Friend by stating that the Channel fleet would, under ordinary circumstances, have been at Lisbon somewhere about the time when the King and Queen of Spain arrived there; but, in consequence of the despatch to the Admiralty from the Foreign Office, a special telegram was sent to Admiral Hornby, requesting him to hasten the arrival of the ships at Lisbon.


Is the whole fleet from the Mediterranean there?


Not the whole fleet at present. Only three of the principal vessels.