HC Deb 30 August 1909 vol 10 cc149-50

Considered in Committee and reported without Amendment.

Motion made and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the third time."


Before this Bill is read the third time, I may say that the principle of the Bill has the general approval of this side of the House as well as of the Government. I would only just ask one question of the hon. Member in charge of the Bill and that is whether satisfactory arrangements have been made at Esquimalt and Halifax for naval ships to get repairs done at a reasonable cost, to obtain fuel and also stores? I would also point out in regard to these two particular stations that nothing but good can arise out of this Bill, for not only will this action be of advantage to the Colony, but also an advantage to the Government, who will be able to get better accommodation than they are able now to obtain at these stations. But the Bill goes much further: it gives power to hand over to the Governor of a British Colony any naval station situated in the Colony. That, of course, includes some naval stations of enormous importance—of much more importance to the general defence of the Empire than of one particular Colony. There are safeguards, the principal being naturally the position of the Admiralty which is responsible for naval defence; also no such action can be taken without an Order in Council and the matter being laid before this House. I look forward to the time when, as the outcome of what has recently taken place, naval stations shall be regarded not only as the property of this country, but of the Empire as a whole, and that every naval station shall be equally valuable to the Navy wherever it may be, and in whose ever hand it may be nominally placed for care and maintenance.


I thank my hon. and gallant Friend for the support he has given to this Bill. It is a very simple Bill and is, as he says, entirely non-controversial. It is part, possibly an incidental part, of the great scheme which is on foot for equipping the British Empire with a fleet which will be equal to all its future responsibilities. The hon. and gallant Gentleman asks whether, in the event of the transfer of Halifax and Esquimalt, we have made provision for the stocking of coal and for fuel. That is provided in the Memorandum, and we have taken full facilities for repairs. As to any actual provisions for reserves of stores, it would be difficult to arrange that at this juncture, because it would be impossible to say just now what the needs would be, but in the Memorandum it is provided that the naval dockyards, including the building wharves, jetties, etc., will be maintained by the Dominion Government in a state of efficiency, and I think that is as far as we can go at the present time in regard to the question of stores.

The hon. and gallant Gentleman referred to the fact that as time goes on in the carrying into effect of the mutual arrangements between the Home Government and the Governments of oversea Dominions, the details of which last week were given by the Prime Minister, it might possibly arise that it would be proposed to transfer naval stations other than those we are already proposing to transfer, that is, Halifax and Esquimalt. That is perfectly true, and undoubtedly this Bill does not only give Constitutional sanction to the transfer of Halifax and Esquimalt, but it does provide an instrument which would remove any further necessity for Constitutional sanction should the Government transfer other naval stations. Of course, the Admiralty would devote the utmost care to any proposition of that kind, and the Bill provides that "every representation to His Majesty proposed to be made under this Act shall be laid before both Houses of Parliament and shall lie for not less than forty days on the table of both Houses before it is submitted to His Majesty." I am very glad to be able to find myself in complete agreement with my hon. and gallant Friend, and I thank him on the part of the Admiralty for the support he has given to this useful measure.

Bill read the third time, and passed.