HC Deb 31 July 1903 vol 126 cc1137-40

(Considered to Committee.)

(In the Committee.)

[Sir FREDERICK BANBURY (Camberwell, Peckham) in the Chair.]

I. Schedule—


called attention to the estimated expenditure on the Britannia Royal Naval College for 1903–4 and 1904–5, which was £177,390. His point was that this very large expenditure was undertaken on the ground that it would be sufficient provision for the whole of the naval cadets for the Navy. In addition, another large sum would have to be provided for Osborne College. Surely, in view of that, they ought to be saving something on Britannia College. Perhaps, however, a much larger number of cadets had to be provided for.

[Mr. J. W. LOWTHER (Cumberland, Penrith) at this stage took the Chair.]


said that 260 cadets was the provision under the old scheme; but under the new scheme of naval training the total number was about 800, and there would be 400 cadets at each college.

MR. CALDWELL (Lanarkshire, Mid)

said in reference to the sum of £200,000 for the naval establishment at Rosyth, that it had been ascertained that the property had been advertised for the last ten or twelve years to feu, but not a single application to erect buildings had been received by the owner. When the matter was before the Committee it was stated by the Government that they had asked Sir A. Binnie of Glasgow to give his opinion of Rosyth as a feuing site. The proprietor had been advertising this as felling land for ten or twelve years without getting an offer, so that the Government in paying for it as land suitable for dwelling-houses had paid in respect of a value which it did not possess. The best proof that it had no feuing, value was to be found in the tact that there was no demand for building land in the district. If the Government had made inquiry they would have found that in the neighbourhood a private individual bought 2,200 acres. including the minerals, for £38,000. The rental of that land was £1,000 for the surface and £800 or £900 for the minerals. The rental of the land bought by the Government was £1,600 a year, and they paid. £122,000 for it, excluding the minerals. It was clear, therefore, that nothing could be more extravagant than the price paid for the land. They were under no compulsion to give an exorbitant price. They could have put into operation the Land Clauses Act and they would then have been able to get it at a fair price as between a willing buyer and a willing seller. Lord Linlithgow knew perfectly well with whom he was dealing. The Government put on valuers to value the land as a felling property. It was a mere hollow pretence to say that this was a private sale upon the report of valuers. They could get valuers to value anything at any price. They could not get over the plain common-sense of it, that they were paying eighty years' purchase of the rental when nobody else paid more than twenty-six years' purchase. How could they treat 1,600 acres as feuing property merely because there was a distant possibility of feuing half-a-dozen acres? In point of fact there was no demand for dwelling houses there, as was proved by the fact of a man having land in the district having tried in vain to feu it for ten or twelve years. Again, they were told that the Admiralty had been making borings with the object of seeing what was the nature of the foundations. He had been making inquiry, and was informed that there was a hundred feet of sludge or clay before they got to the solid ground. If that were true it was exceedingly serious, because in a naval base or dockyard they would have to deal with heavy buildings, and heavy machinery. Assuming that the borings showed that there was no solid foundation to be got under a hundred feet digging, obviously the site would be practically useless for the purposes of the Government.

MR. COURTENAY WARNER (Stafford-shire, Lichfield)

said that there were two items on the schedule, "coaling facilities and fuel storage," and "electric lights and electric power." What he wanted to know was why these were put separately under different headings and—


said he did not think hon. Members were entitled to go back over all the items when the question was that the schedule as a whole should be added to the Bill. Each item had already been considered and discussed, and hon. Members would not be in order in going back on the whole ground already covered.


said he wished to know if he would be in order in moving the omission of the last two items.


The Question before the Committee is that the schedule, as a whole, be added to the Bill.


said that in that case he would merely point out that there were works mentioned in the schedule which were not permanent works. There was the item for electricity, for instance, which would be worn out long before the loan was repaid. He thought it most improper that loans should be used for the purposes of temporary works; and he would; therefore, object to the schedule as a whole.

LOUGH (Islington, W.)

said that the schedule was a most extraordinary one in some ways. Many of the estimates were not estimates of the total cost; and that could not be regarded with satisfaction. The Committee ought not to agree to such items without knowing what the total cost was to be. He thought it was understood that some of the larger items should be further explained. The Chatham item especially should be explained.


said he had nothing to add to what he had already stated, except that the plans of Rosyth would be available to hon. Members.


asked if it was the case that Lord Linlithgow had been advertising Rosyth for ten or twelve years, and could not get a purchaser. Then as to the boring operations, was it a fact that 100 feet had to be sunk before anything solid was reached. If information could not be given on these points now, it ought to be forthcoming on the Third Reading.


said he could not pretend to set himself up against the hon. Gentleman as an authority on boring. The borings would be carried to the proper depth; and, as regarded the land, portions of it had been felled within the last few days.


said he had received no reply in reference to the inclusion of temporary works in the schedule, against which he protested.


said he wished to know, with regard to Rosyth, if the Government had any objection to produce the valuers' report on which the Admiralty acted. He also hoped an explanation would be given with reference to the items for electricity and other temporary works in the schedule for which money ought not to be borrowed.


I really must again protest against hon. Gentlemen discussing each of these items separately, after we have gone through them all. The object of going through the items would be frustrated if hon. Gentlemen were to discuss each item again. I must remind the Committee that the only question now before the Committee is that this be the schedule of the Bill.

Bill reported, without Amendment; to be read the third time upon Monday next.