HL Deb 24 April 1890 vol 343 cc1246-8

My Lords, I have two questions which I wish to put to Her Majesty's Government, and I shall not detain the House more than a few minutes in doing so. The first has reference to the proposed Dock at Bombay. I would ask the noble Lord the Secretary of State for India (Viscount Cross) whether, in the agreement about to be made with the Bombay Port Trust, care will be taken that a clause shall be inserted which shall empower Her Majesty's Government to make a prior claim in all cases where it may be necessary for the repair of Her Majesty's ships? Upon this matter I would venture to refer to a remark which fell from my noble Friend, in which he spoke of the dock at Bombay as being intended for Indian and not for Imperial purposes. I think any dock there which is to be used at all by the Navy must be regarded as not for the use of the ships on the Station—not confined to vessels employed merely on the Indian Station, but extending to vessels which sail up the Persian Gulf, patrolling all those waters, and going as far as Zanzibar. My second question is as to the proposed dock at Gibraltar, and with regard to that I would ask the Government whether they propose to introduce a similar clause into any agreement in reference to the dock, and also whether they will take into consideration the importance of adding a clause which will enable the Government incase of war, or in any case of necessity, to purchase the dock for their own use? I need not remind the House that Gibraltar is a military rather than a commercial port; and it seems to me that, if we do assume the great responsibility which rests upon us of making a dock not entirely belonging to Government, that the Government should in all cases have a prior claim to the use of it. Before I sit down I wish to refer to some words which fell from a Member of the Government lately, which have ltd me to think that after all the Government intend to construct the dock themselves, and to take it out of private hands. That is surely the only course worthy of a great naval country like this, for the sum of £350,000, which will be required, is a mere flea-bite considering that our naval interest upon that portion of the seas alone must be valued at £10,000,000 sterling.


My Lords, with reference to the Port Trust Dock at Bombay, the noble Viscount will remember that when I was asked a similar question before the Recess I gave a provisional answer, stating my belief that the Government had the power of using that dock whenever they wanted it for Her Majesty's ships. I have since made inquiry into the matter, and I have much pleasure in informing the noble Viscount that this point was not lost sight of when sanction was given to the construction of the graving dock, and that the Bombay Port Trust have agreed to the Government having a preferential right to the use of it in time of emergency.


With regard to the second question of the noble Viscount as to the dock at Gibraltar, when he mentioned the matter early in the Session I told the noble Viscount that a site had been selected, and that in connection with the works it was proposed to extend the new mole some 16,000ft. We then proposed to carry it out by private enterprise, and in the draft agreement which was then drawn up on the subject clauses, such as the noble Viscount refers to, were inserted, to the effect that the Government were to have priority of claim for docking Her Majesty's ships, and Government were to have the power of acquiring the dock by purchase, not only in the event of war, but in any other circumstances when such a course might be desirable. Since then certain difficulties have been pointed out with regard to the construction of the dock by private enterprise-difficulties which require very careful consideration. A small Departmental Committee has been appointed to consider the whole subject and to suggest the best way of carrying out the work which the Admiralty are so desirous to see concluded.

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