HC Deb 27 July 1807 vol 9 cc928-9

On the reading of the order of the day, for the third reading of the London Port Improvement bill, which was for the advancing 30,000l. to the West-India dock company,

Mr. W. Smith

rose and said, that he had the instruction of a very numerous class of traders in West-India produce, to oppose the bill; of the progress of which, to its present stage, he was wholly unaware, un- til informed by mere accident, nor could he have obtained a printed copy of the bill but through the kindness of an hon. friend near him, in order to be fully apprised of its object. The persons who instructed him to oppose the bill, and the list of 60 of whom he had in his pocket, would have come forward with a petition against it, but for the very advanced period of the session. They complained of very oppressive grievances and impediments to their trade, caused by the conduct of the dock company, and they desired only to register their protest against granting to the company, by this bill, the sum proposed, and thereby further confirming their monopoly, until they should redress the grievances complained of, and which the parties aggrieved were ready to state by petition.

Mr. Alderman Shaw ,

as a member of the dock company, declared that, in the course of his experience amongst them, he never witnessed the slightest disposition on the part of the company or their servants to inconvenience, much less to oppress or injure, any man; on the contrary it was their earnest wish, as well as their interest, to give facility and accommodation to every trader resorting to those docks, to the utmost of their power; and he was convinced they would, at any time, be ready, with the utmost cheerfulness and alacrity, to remove, upon representation, every cause of complaint to the utmost of their power. Besides, he begged leave to observe that the 30,000l. granted by this bill, was not for the private advantage of the company, but for public purposes; namely, for building a party-wall between the outward bound, and the homeward dock, and thereby the better to prevent depredations on the ship owners, and frauds on the revenue; to build offices for the accommodation of his majesty's officers of the customs there, and to erect barracks for the convenience of the troops it was found necessary to employ, in order to prevent depredation. He therefore hoped the house, feeling the necessity of those arrangements for the completion of the West-India docks, would not, without some obvious grounds, reject the bill.

Mr. Alderman Combe

allowed that there were many complaints made of disappointment and impediment, such as alluded to by his hon. friend who opposed the bill, but they were such as he had no doubt the company would be ready to remove upon fair representation.

Mr. Hibbert

supported the bill, defended the conduct of the company, and lamented that the hon. gent. who brought forward the objection had not himself more frequently visited the docks, and witnessed the alacrity and dispatch there evinced for public accomodation, and that he had heard the story only from prejudiced persons, whose complaints arose from their own irregularity, rather than from any fault of the company. If carts were crowded there in such numbers as rendered it impossible for them to be loaded within the hours daily appropriated to business, it was undoubtedly expensive and vexatious; but how were the company to blame? There were many, he believed, who did not like to send so far for the produce, and were averse to the docks on that account; and others who disliked them on account of the death blow they had given to smuggling, and to plunder upon the property of West-India merchants, from the moment they entered the river till they were cleared at the custom-house, which existed before those docks were erected: but the importance of those docks to the public would be better estimated by a calculation which he could prove, namely, that before the erection of those docks, the plunder of West-India produce upon the trade in London, amounted to half a million annually, besides the proportionate loss to the revenue. He trusted, therefore, the house would not, upon slight and unexamined grounds, withhold the aid proposed by this bill from an object of such public importance.—The bill was then read a third time, and passed.