HC Deb 17 March 1887 vol 312 c557

These gun-boats and sloops have been laid down to make provision for the relief of small vessels on different stations during the next two years. A careful inquiry into the composition of our squadrons abroad has made clear that too large a proportion of our naval strength is absorbed by small vessels, which, however well adapted for police purposes in time of peace, or for operations in shoal water and rivers in time of war, would be of comparatively little value for the protection of our commerce on the high seas in time of war. I believe that, in course of time, arrangements can be contrived with the Foreign and Colonial Offices by which a limited number of larger and more powerful vessels, moving from place to place on the station, can be made to efficiently perform the work of the more numerous but less movable flotilla now employed. All the vessels now laid down have a speed equal to, if not in excess of, any of their class elsewhere, and will therefore be a match for anything of like displacement which they might encounter, and the new 20-knot protected cruisers about to be commenced will be faster than any ocean war cruisers in the world at present completed, and, consequently, of the highest possible value for the protection of our commerce.