HC Deb 09 March 1886 vol 303 cc295-6

asked the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies, If the Government would be able to grant a Return of British Ports ordinarily used for coaling purposes by Her Majesty's Ships, distinguishing the defended from the undefended Ports, and, as far as can be done without injury to the public service, the amount of coal stored at the various Ports, and the state of their defences?


A Return of British ports ordinarily used as coaling stations by Her Majesty's ships would practically embrace all the more important ports of the Empire; and I do not see that their enumeration could serve any useful purpose. To distinguish the defended from the undefended ports would, in the interests of the Public Service, be very undesirable, and might also turn out to be misleading, as a port might appear in the Return as "undefended" because no permanent land defences had been erected there, whereas the Admiral on the station might have taken very efficient though unobtrusive steps to protect it against naval attack. If, however, the noble Lord will refer to Parliamentary Papers 4,186 and 4,226, on the defence of Colonial Possessions, published in 1884, he will see what has been done in the direction of fortifying our principal coaling stations. I am sorry I cannot consent to grant a Return of the quantity of coal stored at the various ports and the state of their defences. The quantity of coal varies, and any such Return could only be approximately accurate and to some extent misleading; while the Return itself might, for reasons which the noble Lord will doubtless understand, prove very detrimental to the Public Service.