HC Deb 05 March 1888 vol 323 cc211-3

These ports, at home and abroad, include the great military fortresses for the protection of our arsenals and dockyards and certain other places which require protection on account of their value to the Navy. The question of their defence has long engaged the attention of Parliament which, under Lord Palmerston's advice, provided large sums of money for their fortifications. It is, perhaps, characteristic of the want of thoroughness which has too often marked our military preparations, that the cost of the armaments, corresponding to these fortifications, which was to have been borne on the Annual Estimates, was not provided till a later period. Nevertheless, it cannot be denied that these preparations, dilatory though they may have been, did for a considerable time answer the purpose of their author, and give protection to our Arsenals and Dockyards. But of late years the problem of the defence of fortresses has become more complicated. The power of the guns on board foreign ironclads, and carried even by comparatively small vessels, necessitates a partial and, in some cases, an almost complete reconstruction of our defences. Schemes have accordingly been prepared for the requisite alterations. They have been from time to time revised and extended; though the system of organization recently prevailing at the War Office seems to me to have been singularly ill-calculated to promote a comprehensive, and, at the same time, a critical examination of the whole subject. Eventually, the Estimates, pre- pared in full detail, which were presented to me in 1887, amounted to the following sums for the military ports:—

For works 1,561,302
For armaments and ammunition 1,576,500

To this must be added the cost of submarine mining defence—

Total Estimate 472,939
Completed up to 31st March 1887 415,982
Required to complete 56,957
Total 3,194,759

The amount therefore of, say, £3,200,000, may be taken to represent the total sum then put forward as necessary to place the military ports in a satisfactory state of defence.