§ MR. BELLAIRS (Lynn Regis)
I beg to ask the Secretary to the Admiralty whether he is aware that accurate particulars of the design of the "Dreadnought," built in Portsmouth dockyard, appeared in the German Press several months before the ship was launched; that particulars appeared in a London technical journal on 26th May, 1905, or fourteen months before the details were communicated to Parliament, giving the exact armament, speed, displacement, horse-power, nature of machinery, and other important ideas embodied in the ship; and will he say whether, in the case of the submarines built in private establishments to the order of the Government, any leakage of information respecting their design or the fact of their being constructed took place.
§ CAPTAIN HERVEY (Bury St. Edmunds)
May I ask whether it is in the interests of the nation that the Admiralty should answer "yes" or "no" as to the accuracy of newspaper articles, and whether it is not much better that 1412 foreign nations should be left in doubt as to the accuracy of these statements?
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON
I am inclined to agree with the principle of the question of the hon. Gentleman opposite. So far as I am aware, none of the statements published in the German Press were accurate in all important particulars. The statement containing details in regard to the "Dreadnought" in the London technical journal referred to proved to be a not inaccurate forecast. There is no reason to believe that there has been any leakage of information in regard to the design and construction of submarines.
§ MR. BELLAIRS
Will the right hon. Gentleman state whether it is the fact that there was no inaccuracy whatever in the Engineering article, and whether important information concerning the "Dreadnought" was communicated to the Press while all information was refused to this House up to 26th July?
§ MR. BELLAIRS
Then I must refresh my right hon. friend's memory. Is he aware that a pamphlet was issued by the Admiralty before the launching of the "Dreadnought," containing important information with regard to the vessel and marked "private"—I have it in my hand—and with the statement that it was for the use of the Press, but not to be quoted verbatim?
§ LORD BALCARRES (Lancashire, Chorley)
Will the right hon. Gentleman consider the propriety of taking proceedings under the Official Secrets Act?