THE EARL OF CARNARVON
rose to 151 ask a Question as to the Arrangements now under Consideration by the Admiralty for the Re-distribution of the Harbours of Malta, and for the better Naval Protection of the Town. His Question had a twofold bearing. In the first place it related to the re-distribution of the harbour of Malta, as between the Queen's ships and those of the mercantile marine; and in the second, to the protection of the town and harbour. For many years the population of Valetta had been out-growing the accommodation afforded by the town; but that had been met by various measures: but in the harbour, where the means of relief were not so available, the difficulty of providing accommodation for the shipping had been more felt. The result was that on the one hand the Queen's ships took up more room for themselves than the harbour could afford, and on the other the commercial marine viewed with jealousy the encroachments of the Royal Navy. The accommodation for the mercantile marine had been reduced to one single creek in the harbour, and the result was disputes between them and the navy; and the disagreement had gone further, and caused disputes between the naval and military authorities and the commercial community. The irritation which existed would become chronic unless something was done to alter the present state of things. Next to Gibraltar we had no outpost so important as Malta, and although it was true that it was in many respects a garrison town, and must be regulated by military considerations, yet these considerations alone should not be allowed to have weight. Unless you meant to double the number of troops and add to the fortifications, you must put yourself in a position to rely on the support and good-will of the native population, which the existence of these subjects of irritation was calculated to weaken. In the beginning of the year a proposition was made that the whole of the harbour space should be re-distributed between the Royal Navy and the merchant service. It was proposed that the upper end where there was now a useless marsh, should be drained and dredged, and converted into a harbour for the merchant service, and that they should also have a portion of the quarantine harbour. The Royal Navy was to have all the creeks which indented the shores of the harbour. Owing to the change of Government this proposition could not be dealt with by the late Board 152 of Admiralty. He impressed upon the First Lord of the Admiralty the propriety of at once looking into this matter. He did not say it was desirable that the £70,0U0 required should be put upon the Estimates this year, but whether the money was provided this year or not it would be well to come to a decision at once. The re-distribution of the harbour was intimately connected with the defences of the island, which were not in the condition which it was desirable they should be in, and he thought the speediest means possible should be taken for improving them. But before the entire plans for completing the works could be carried out it was necessary that these disputes must be settled.
§ THE DUKE OF SOMERSET
could assure the noble Earl that the subject to which he had called the attention of the House was one which would receive the best consideration of the Board of Admiralty. The real question at issue was, how the harbour of Malta was to be divided between the commercial marine and the navy. This, it was hoped, would be satisfactorily arranged by good management on both sides. With regard to the arrangement for carrying out the objects referred to by the noble Earl, he must remind him that neither in the Estimates, nor in the Supplementary Estimates for the present year, was any Vote proposed by the late Government for that purpose. The present Board of Admiralty having been so short a time in office, he could not take upon himself the responsibility of introducing into the Supplementary Estimates such a Vote, especially as the sum in question would not be less than £70,000. The subject was under the consideration of the Board, and he could assure the noble Earl that everything in their power would be done to complete the arrangements that were necessary.
LORD STRATFORD DE REDCLIFFE
, considering the importance and position of Malta, was glad to hear that this subject had been under the attention of the Government; but he would have been better pleased to hear that they had come to some decision regarding it. When they considered the present state of the world, and the importance of Malta, especially in connection with the East, the defences of that place must necessarily be a matter of the deepest interest. They were not to view this question as one merely affecting the accommodation of the trade of Malta 153 and the navy, but as one connected with the question of our defences. He hoped, therefore, the subject would receive the most earnest attention of the Government,
§ THE DUKE OF NEWCASTLE
said, that the matter alluded to necessarily occupied more than one Department of the Government; it occupied the attention of the Colonial, the War, and the Admiralty Departments. He begged to assure his noble Friend that in neither of those Departments had the subject been neglected. On the contrary it occupied the most serious and anxious attention of one and all. It was viewed, primarily, as regarded the defences; and, secondly, as regarded the convenience of all branches of the service—the navy on the one hand and the mercantile marine on the other.
§ House adjourned at half-past Seven o'clock, till To-morrow half-past Ten o'clock.