HL Deb 04 April 1905 vol 144 cc286-8

My Lords, I beg to ask the Under-Secretary of State for War whether he can now state the total amount which has been spent on barracks, hospitals, and other works in St. Lucia under the War Office or other Departments of the Government. I have to apologise to the noble Earl for giving him the trouble of answering my Question with regard to St. Lucia in two instalments. It is quite true that I wished to know how much money had been spent on St. Lucia during the last three years, but I also wanted to know the whole sum that had been so spent, because it seemed to me that the case was an interesting one and one of very considerable importance. It is only of very recent years that it was determined that great military works were necessary at St. Lucia. They were entered into; many hundreds of thousands of pounds were spent upon them; and then, suddenly, just as they were approaching completion, the whole policy was changed, and these great works were found to be of no use and were abandoned, and it is even admitted that the Government do not see any use to which the buildings can be put in the future. That seemed to me a very serious matter. Of course, it is quite right that when a policy is changed the necessary effect should be given to it; but it does seem curious that the Government should come to a decision to adopt a certain policy, and never at that time have had an idea that possibly the policy would be utterly reversed within ten years. The result is that there has been this heavy expenditure for which the taxpayers get no return whatever. No doubt these instances may be inevitable under certain conditions, but they should be as rare as possible, and when they do take place they should have attention called to them, and the very fullest information should be given as to how they occurred and the reason for them.


My Lords, I can assure the noble Lord that his apology for troubling me twice was quite unnecessary. I am always glad to give him information. As far as I can ascertain, the policy of having considerable works at St. Lucia dates from the third Report of Lord Carnarvon's Committee, which was laid before Parliament in 1882. The Com- mittee recommended the adoption of St. Lucia as a coaling station in preference to Port English in Antigua. From 1881 to 1888 I can trace no expenditure on works at St. Lucia. Since 1888, the date of the passing of the Imperial Defence Act, the expenditure at St. Lucia by the War Office has been, roughly, £408,000. I am informed that the Admiralty have spent £9,945, raised partly on the Estimates and partly on loan. The Colonial Office have made no expenditure for Imperial purposes there, though I believe they have spent money for purely Colonial purposes.