HC Deb 21 November 1912 vol 44 cc487-9
97. Mr. LLOYD

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether at any time since 28th September the total complement of British armoured ships in the Mediterranean was only three, and that, of these three, one was a cadets' training ship, the "Cumberland."

The FIRST LORD of the ADMIRALTY (Mr. Churchill)

That was the state of affairs between the 17th October and the 3rd November, if no account is taken of armoured cruisers refitting at Gibraltar.


Does the right hon. Gentleman really think that is a sufficient naval force for the Mediterranean at that time?


Most ample for all purposes.


asked whether it was the policy of the Government at the beginning of this year, and before the presentation of the current Naval Estimates, practically to withdraw our battleships from the Mediterranean; whether the programme of new construction for the year was based upon this policy of withdrawal; and whether, that policy having been reversed since the visit of himself and the Prime Minister to the Mediterranean in June last, and it being the expressed intention of the Government to maintain our position in the Mediterranean to as full an extent as we have ever done in the past, the present programme of new construction is adequate for discharging this duty and at the same time for maintaining a sufficient margin of superiority in the North Sea?


It is in no disrespect to the hon. Member that I must decline to attempt to deal with an argumentative question of this character otherwise than in Debate. Very full explanations of naval policy have been given to Parliament this year, and the time do not far distant when the Estimates of another year must be presented. It is then that the opportunity to review the whole situation will arise. Meanwhile it is sufficient to state that the withdrawal of the battleships from the Mediterranean had nothing to do with the new construction programme.


Are we to take it that no information is to be given across the floor in answer to questions in regard to naval matters?


Before the right hon. Gentleman answers that question, can he say whether he will not consider asking the Prime Minister for a day on which we can discuss these matters, having regard to the uncertainty when next Session will commence?


All the necessary opportunities must arise when the Estimates are presented. That will be quite soon enough to discuss these matters. They were only discussed when we separated in July.


Have not events greatly changed since July?


Any change there has been has only been in the direction of one of the strongest Fleets we have ever had in our history being placed there.

Sir J. D. REES

Have there not been political changes?