HC Deb 25 February 1914 vol 58 c1744

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he is aware that the strength of the Fourth (Gibraltar) Battle Squadron was officially declared two years ago to be six ships, to be increased to eight if necessary; whether this force consists now of only four battleships; and whether and, if so, for what reason it has been decided to transfer the "Lord Nelson," "Agamemnon," and "Cornwallis," to the reserve on the completion of the "Marlborough," "Iron Duke," and "Benbow"?


It is not considered necessary on military grounds to complete the Fourth Battle Squadron this year, and it will also be more convenient to defer the completion of that squadron until it can be made a homogeneous formation composed entirely of the early "Dreadnoughts." The expression "Reserve" which the hon. Member applies to the Second Fleet is not correct. No men from the Reserve are used in the manning of any of these ships in peace or war.


As a matter of fact have we not two battleships less than the right hon. Gentleman spoke of as necessary in 1912, and four ships less than he spoke of as advisable; and in view of these facts does not the right hon. Gentleman propose to increase the defensive force in the Mediterranean?


We are developing the Fleet organisation in relation to that of other Powers, and our organisation will keep pace with this development, and is keeping pace with those developments.