Skip to main content

Question

Volume 203: debated on Wednesday 10 August 1870

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

said, he would beg to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty Questions of which he had given him private Notice, concerning two points as to which he feared that considerable misapprehension still existed in the public mind. He wished to know, Whether there is any truth in a report, which has obtained very general circulation, that the Government, since the sale of Deptford Dockyard, have entertained the idea of repurchasing the whole, or some portion of it; also, whether the First Lord of the Admiralty will make such a statement as will relieve the Solicitor of the Admiralty from imputations attempted to be cast upon him with reference to negotiations for the sale of that Dockyard?

Sir, in replying to the two Questions of which my hon. Friend has been good enough to give me private Notice, I beg to say that there is no foundation whatever for the report to which he alludes, that the Government since the sale of Deptford Dockyard ever entertained the idea of repurchasing any portion of it. The sale was practically completed some time ago; the actual completion has merely been deferred, in consequence of a question as to title having arisen between the Admiralty Department and the Department of Woods and Works; but we have never dreamt of cancelling the sale, or buying back any part of the land. The second Question of my hon. Friend is whether I will make such a statement as will relieve the Solicitor to the Admiralty from imputations attempted to be cast upon him with reference to the negotiations for the sale of the dockyard. My hon. Friend and Colleague the Secretary to the Admiralty some time ago went very minutely into the matter, stated how the sale was conducted, and showed conclusively to the House that the Solicitor to the Admiralty had nothing to do with it. Unfortunately, the other day—I hope in the heat of the moment, and without previous intention—my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth (Sir James Elphinstone), without any Notice, charged the Solicitor to the Admiralty with being the brother-in-law of the purchaser, and with having connived at or with having had some share in the purchase. I said at the time, and I repeat now, that there is not the smallest foundation for that allegation. The purchaser of Deptford Dockyard is no relative whatever of the Solicitor to the Admiralty; the operations connected with the sale of the dockyard were conducted without the privity of the Solicitor to the Admiralty. The actual negotiations for the sale were conducted by an auctioneer in the City acting as agent for the Admiralty, and the Solicitor to the Admiralty neither directly nor indirectly had anything to do with it. I may add, that until some time ago, when the purchaser of the dockyard, in connection with another transaction, came to the Solicitor's office to sign a deed of guarantee, the Solicitor to the Admiralty and the purchaser did not even know each other.