HC Deb 05 December 1893 vol 19 cc468-9
MR. GOURLEY (Sunderland)

I beg to ask the Secretary to the Admiralty if he will be good enough to inform the House the names and type of ships now comprising the Mediterranean Squadron; how many torpedo boats are stationed at Malta, Gibraltar, Cyprus, and Aden coaled and ready at a moment's notice for active service; and can he assure Parliament that the dock accommodation and repairing appliances for hulls and machinery are equal to those of Toulon; if not, is it intended without delay to place the management of the dockyard and arsenal of Malta in the hands of experts, who will at once make it, both in appliances, spare stores, and ammunition, equal to the requirements of the emergency of naval warfare? At the same time may I ask the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that, owing to the recent visit of the Russian squadron to Toulon, the almost impregnable condition of the gunnery defence of its approaches have been made public by The Times correspondent; can he assure Parliament that the arsenals of Malta and Gibraltar are equally well protected against the guns of a hostile fleet; and whether His Royal Highness the Duke of Cambridge, when visiting last year both places officially, made any reliable comparative Report regarding their gunnery pro- tection, or has he had any Report from the Financial Secretary or Civil Lord of the Admiralty, who recently visited both places officially?


I will ask leave to reply to both the questions of my hon. Friend. It is not consistent with the public interest to give an explicit answer to such questions; and I would go further, and say, with all respect for my hon. Friend, that public mischief may be done even by putting such questions upon the Paper. It is enough for me to say that the Government is not—and no Administration could be—indifferent to the important duty of maintaining the defences of Malta and Gibraltar.


Can the right hon. Gentleman say how many big guns are mounted at Malta?


That is precisely the sort of question I cannot answer.