HL Deb 30 April 1885 vol 297 cc1096-7

rose to ask the Secretary of State for the Colonies, Whether Her Majesty's Government has undertaken or intends to undertake the completion of the railroad between Cape Town and Simon's Bay and the Cape of Good Hope? The value of this railway, he submitted, had been pointed out by various Military Authorities; and it was entirely upon military, and not upon commercial, grounds the undertaking should be completed. The communications by sea from Simon's Bay to Table Bay were very long. If the line of railroad were completed it would be possible to establish barracks halfway, and the troops could be moved backwards and forwards, and it would be a good line of defence. He understood that the Government proposed to expend £90,000 upon the fortifications at Simon's Bay; but the works of defence there would be absolutely useless unless they had the means of conveying troops to Simon's Bay by railway. The only assistance asked in the matter was a sum of £50,000 for the construction of six miles of railway. He hoped the noble Earl would take the question seriously into consideration, as from the best information he could obtain our defences were in a most imperfect condition.


said, that he had gone closely into the question of the defences of these two places, both with good maps and also by having personally ridden over the ground; and he had come to the conclusion that it was absolutely impossible to separate the defences of Simon's Bay from those of Table Bay. The two must be considered as part of one defence, and it was absolutely necessary that the railway should be completed. He was glad, to find that his opinion was corroborated by that of the noble and gallant Lord (Lord Napier of Magdala).


said, he did not think the noble Lord would expect him to enter into controversy on the subject. He believed the noble Lord's statement of facts was quite accurate, and he was very willing to defer to the high authority of the noble and gallant Lord opposite. There was no doubt that it was very desirable to connect these two places. But the question was—who was to make the railway, and who was to bear the expense? Within the last few days he had received a communication from the Agent General of the Cape Colony conveying a proposal on the part of the Government of that Colony, which he intended immediately to refer to a small Departmental Committee appointed by the Colonial and War Offices and the Admiralty. The subject would be at once taken into consideration. He had not seen the details of the proposal, and could not, therefore, express an opinion upon it; but he was quite sure that whatever decision was arrived at that communication would not be lost sight of.


said, that it was extremely difficult to discuss these questions openly, because so many military considerations were involved. He quite agreed with the noble and gallant Lord behind him as to the great necessity of completing this railway. He was glad that the Colonial Secretary had undertaken to examine the subject; but he was disposed to regret that it was to be referred to a Departmental Committee, and that reference would involve a loss of precious time. No further facts could be ascertained, and there did not seem to be two opinions on the subject. The railway ought to have been taken in hand long ago; and he, with other noble Lords, had on several occasions urged the importance of this and other similar undertakings at a time when they might have been prosecuted more effectively, and at a less expense than was possible now. He urged with all the force in his power that there should be no unnecessary delay on the part of the Government in taking action in the matter.


wished to add that means should be taken for the conveyance of torpedoes from one port to the other.

House adjourned at a quarter past Seven o'clock, till To-morrow, a quarter past Ten o'clock.