HC Deb 03 August 1888 vol 329 cc1377-9

, in rising to ask Her Majesty's Government, Whether it is intended to construct a first-class dock at Gibraltar? and to move for copies of correspondence and reports (if any) that have been addressed to the Admiralty on the subject, said, that since the opening of the Suez Canal the commerce in the Mediterranean had enormously increased, and he had been told by those who had hold high command at Gibraltar that the number of vessels passing that place had increased to a very great extent, and that five-sevenths at least of that shipping belonged to England. With regard to the accommodation for our men-of-war, we had literally nothing in the event of war time to provide for repairing them at Gibraltar. The docks at Malta were all they had to depend upon; while Cyprus also seemed to many naval men to hold out a prospect of a fair dockyard. Our Naval Establishment at Gibraltar was of the very smallest, considering the importance of the position with regard to our political relations, as shown during the last war, and to the fact that since then our commerce had increased tenfold, and that there was every reason to believe that as long as the Suez Canal was open it would not only remain in its present greatness, but would materially increase. During the operations of Lord Nelson and the blockade of Toulon, the British ships had been able to remain at sea for several months at a time; but the shins of that day did not require so much repair, and they could also be careened at Gibraltar. At the present day not only men-of-war, but also the large merchant steamers, were liable to accidents to which the old wooden ships had not been liable, and it was impossible to repair them without the assistance of docks. Since he had first considered the propriety of calling their Lordships' attention to this matter he had communicated with several gallant friends, at least four of whom were highly distinguished Admirals, and had asked them as to the necessity for docks at Gibraltar. They had one and all recognized the importance of the question. One of them, who had been in command at Gibraltar, and another, who had been Commander-in-Chief in the Mediterranean, stated that it was of the utmost importance to this country that there should be a dock at Gibraltar, and he knew that he could appeal to the opinion of the noble and gallant Field Marshal who had addressed their Lordships that afternoon. It might be said that there was no site for a dock which would be free from the danger of shelling from the land side; there were, however, four places which were mentioned as possible sites. He would not attempt to give an opinion on this point; some of them seemed undesirable, but one or two appeared to be places in which a dock might be constructed at an expense of not more than £250,000. He trusted that the noble Marquess, who he knew had paid much attention to the question of the defence of this country, would give his personal attention to this matter. He had recently heard from gentlemen who were connected with Gibraltar in a commercial way, and they told him that the need of such accommodation for ships was so strongly felt by the commercial classes there that, once the dock was under construction, the Government would receive unanimous support from the inhabitants of the Colony. In conclusion, he begged to ask whether any communications had been received on the subject, and to move for Papers.

Moved, That there be laid before this House— Copies of correspondence and reports (if any) that have been addressed to the Admiralty on the subject of a first-class dock at Gibraltar."—(The Viscount Sidmouth.)


said, that he could entirely support the views of the noble and gallant Lord who had brought forward this Motion. No one could have lived at Gibraltar for any time without being aware of the great necessity for having the means of repairing ships. Regarding the several places named for the construction of docks, he would deprecate any construction on the north front, as it would take away the best defence—a clear plain; but on the side of the Mediterranean there was a place that might be suitable—Rosea Bay, which would be safe from land attacks, and open only to the attacks to which every place on an open coast was liable—attacks from the sea, from which the fortifications above it would defend it.


said, that Her Majesty's Government fully recognized the advantage that would be derived from the fact of having a dock at Gibraltar. Many schemes had been from time to time submitted to Her Majesty's Government, and recently they had had five; but of these only two had been accompanied by a detailed plan, while of those two, one bad not been for the construction of a dock so much as a pier for coaling purposes. The consideration of these various schemes had been delayed pending the receipt of plans and other details which had not yet been received. With regard to the question of sites, no survey had been made by Her Majesty's Government, and the only scheme with a detailed plan was that submitted by Sir W. Reid. There was another scheme suggested by Lloyd's, and two engineers had been sent out for the purpose of examining the proposed site; but they had had no communication with them since last April 12 months. No correspondence whatever had been specially addressed to the Admiralty. There had been an amount of correspondence between various parties and Her Majesty's Government, but it was not considered desirable to lay it on the Table. It was incomplete, and no object would be served by producing it. He hoped, therefore, the Motion for the Papers would not be pressed.

Motion (by leave of the House) withdrawn.