HC Deb 28 March 1809 vol 13 cc824-32

Sir Arthur Wellesley moved, pursuant to notice, "That the house do resolve itself into a Committee of the whole house, to take into consideration the act of the 40th of his present majesty, for the further extension of Inland Navigation in Ireland." The house having resolved itself accordingly,

Sir Arthur Wellesley

sad, that the benefits which had been experienced by the late extension of inland navigation in Ireland, in consequence of the Act of the Irish Parliament, to which he desired to call the attention of the Committee, were so evident and striking to every one who was acquainted with tire progress of internal im- provement in Ireland, within the last seven or eight years, that it was unnecessary for him to expatiate on it; he would venture to assert, that no other species of internal improvement, nor any other medium through which public bounty might be bestowed, could produce such marked and decided national advantages as had arisen from the operation of the Act to which he had referred. The increase of agriculture in Ireland (the prime object of inland navigation) was a benefit not merely bestowed on that country, in the spirit of liberality, but a measure of sound and necessary policy for this country to adopt; and one upon which, if any man could heretofore have doubted, the present political and commercial state of Europe and America would furnish sufficient arguments to bring conviction to his mind. It was an uncontroverted fact, that the agriculture of Great Britain had not for many years been equal to the production of grain sufficient for her own consumption; and that we had, for several years past, most lavishly and improvidently expanded millions in improving and extending the agriculture of foreign and hostile nations, by purchasing their corn, while we suffer the fertile lands of Ireland to remain untilled, for want of a cheap and easy conveyance of their produce to market. It was also admitted, that the deficiency of capital in Ireland was so great as to render it impracticable to obtain an extensive inland navigation, without considerable Parliamentary aids; and if he was founded in these points, the only thing that remained to be considered was, in what manner, and under what regulations, these bounties should be administered, and the system which had proved so beneficial, should be farther extended? He professed himself to be unacquainted with the detail of the business, and indeed the other necessary avocations of any man holding his office, would render it completely impracticable for him to enter into the inquiries necessary to form a correct judgment on matters of this nature; and therefore he conceived himself justified in bringing forward the measure of continuing the present Board of Directors of Inland Navigation, whose duties it would be to examine and inquire into the different lines of navigation that were already and might hereafter be proposed for, and to state their opinions on their respective advantages, in order to guide the judgment of his majesty's government as to which of those lines they ought to recommend to Parliament to be carried into execution by public aid. He therefore moved, "That leave be given to bring in a bill for the farther extension of Inland Navigation in Ireland."

Sir John Newport

said, that he perfectly coincided in the sentiments expressed by the right hon. member in the commencement of his speech, namely, that the further extension of Inland Navigation in Ireland, was a most desirable object, not merely to that part of the United Kingdom to which he belonged, but to every part of the empire; as on the extension of the agriculture of Ireland, not only depended the welfare, but, in the present awful crisis, perhaps the very existence of the state. We must secure at home, even in unfavourable seasons, the certain means of subsistence; otherwise, shut out as we are from the Continent of Europe, as well as of America, it might be in the power of our enemy to dictate terms to us. Ireland is able and willing amply to supply your deficiency in corn; but you must assist her to do so; and I agree with the right hon. gent., that such is her deficiency in capital, that without Parliamentary aid, she cannot extend her navigations into the heart of her fertile country. And without inland navigation, the produce of those countries cannot be brought to market, as it could not bear the expenses of land carriage; and therefore inland navigation is the one thing needful. So far the right hon. member and I are fully agreed, but we differ most essentially in the manner in which these wise and politic measures are to be carried into effect. The right hon. gent. seems to think that nothing more is necessary to be done, but to appoint a Board, with salaries, and then every thing will follow. Now, I am of opinion, that a Board without salaries would be preferable, and I much fear, that the Board of the right hon. member, with salaries, will not only not forward the business, but will actually retard it; and this has been sufficiently proved by the manner in which this same Board has hitherto proceeded; a permanent instance of which I will give to the Committee. In the year 1807, the whole sum expended by the Board, including its own establishment, was £.21,000: and what do you think, out of that trifling sum, was paid for the establishment? why, no less than £.6,100. This went in £.500 a piece for five Commissioners, £.500 more to a secretary, so much for an accountant, for a clerk of the minutes, for law-agent, and house-rent, and engineers, and surveyors, &c. &c. Now, Sir, I am fully convinced, that the Lords? of the Treasury, and the Commissioners of Imprest Accounts, are fully competent to perform all the functions of this same Board, even if they had money to expend; but, upon the right hon. gentleman's plan, they will be left without employment, as it does not appear that the right hon. gent. has intimated an intention of making any grant for the further extension of Inland Navigation in Ireland, during the present session of Parliament; and we have no certainty that any such grants will be made at a future period; and therefore the whole amount of the right hon. gent. famous measure is, to insure us, that we shall have the salaries of officers to pay, whether we may have any employment for those officers or not. I shall therefore vote against the motion of the right hon. gent.

Mr. Parnell

said, that no man was more fully convinced than he was of the expediency and sound policy of encouraging the further extension of Inland Navigation in Ireland, by Parliamentary grants, and he was sincerely rejoiced to find that the right hon. Secretary not only agreed with him in that principle, but had adduced one of the strongest arguments that could be urged in favour of that measure, namely, that it was a measure of sound British policy, independent of any advantage that Ireland might, as a distinct member, derive from it. But agreeing as he did with the right hon. gent, in principle, he was surprised to find nothing in the measure proposed, that tended in the smallest degree to carry that principle into effect. The right hon. member's plan was to appoint a board—to do what? The fund which they were originally appointed to distribute was expended. If it was intended that the Board was to be of any use, why did not the right hon. Secretary come forward, and propose to renew the fund? or rather, why does not the noble lord (Castlereagh) fulfil the solemn pledge given by him to the Irish Parliament, that whenever the sum of £.500,000 then granted, should be expended, his majesty's ministers would come forward, and recommend it to the United Parliament to make such further grants as should be sufficient to complete the general system of Inland Navigation in Ireland? "And I now see, said Mr. Parnell, a right hon. and learned gent, in his place, (we suppose he alluded to Doctor Duigenan) who, when, the grant for £.500,000 was proposed by the noble lord to the Irish Parliament, moved an amendment, and proposed a million to be granted for the extension of Inland Navigation; upon which occasion it was, that the noble lord made the solemn pledge to which I have alluded, and upon the faith of which pledge, the right hon. and learned gent, withdrew his amendment. If I am incorrect in my statement, I desire that the noble lord, or the right hon. gent, will set me right. Well then, either it is the intention of his majesty's ministers to recommend further grants to be made for the extension of Inland Navigation in Ireland, or it is not their intention. If it be their intention to carry into execution the principle which the right hon. Secretary has avowed, of extending Inland Navigation in Ireland, and which is the professed object of the Bill, an object which he fully admits cannot be accomplished without further Parliamentary aid, why does he not bring forward a motion for an adequate grant for that purpose, and which grant, if made, would have rendered it unnecessary to have put the payment of the salaries of the Board upon the Consolidated Fund, as those salaries would naturally have been paid out of such grant? But I confess, Sir, that there appears to me some reason to suspect, that ministers have no intention whatever to make any further grant, and that their only object is to lull the people of Ireland with a delusive expectation, that future grants will be made, and in the mean time to secure a comfortable establishment for their friends upon the Consolidated Fund; for which reason I am determined to take the sense of the Committee on the motion proposed by the right hon. Secretary; and I feel myself strongly justified in so doing, as I am persuaded that if his majesty's ministers were sincere in wishing to promote inland navigation in Ireland, there is at least one measure sufficiently ripe for adoption, if they had thought fit to avail themselves of it; namely, the extension of the Grand Canal to the towns of Roscrca, Nenagh, and Tipperary, upon one level of above 120 miles; and from thence into the most fertile parts of the county of Tipperary, by Cahir, Clonmell, and Carrick-on-Suir; and uniting the great ports of Limerick and Waterford, with that of Dublin.— This is a line in which I have no personal interest whatsoever: but this line, whether it be considered in a military, or com- mercial point of view, whether as furnishing the best and speediest means of concentrating the internal force, and distributing the internal produce of the island; or whether we consider it as tending to accelerate the civilization of a very disturbed, although very valuable district of country, is an object of great national importance; and ought not to be deferred until another session."

Lord Castlereagh

said, that he thought it rather extraordinary that the hon. member who spoke last, and the right hon. baronet who preceded him, having both professed themselves to be such warm friends to the measure for the further extension of Inland Navigation in Ireland, should, notwithstanding, determine to oppose the introduction of a bill, whose avowed object was the carrying of that measure into effect. "Does not this look more like peevish opposition, than any real disposition to maintain the public welfare? What is the question before the Committee?—'That leave be given to bring in a bill for the further extension of Inland Navigation in Ireland.' With the provisions of the bill, in the present stage of the business, the Committee had nothing to do. Gentlemen cannot, be so ignorant of parliamentary proceedings, as not to know, that if the bill, when produced and read, should be found inadequate to, or at variance with, the object it proposes to accomplish, they may refuse to give it a second reading; or they may, if they think fit, introduce such provisions in a Committee on the bill, as shall model it to their own liking. But it is impossible to give credit to the professions made by gentlemen, of their anxiety to promote Inland Navigation, and at the same time to suppose them serious in their avowed intention of endeavouring to throw out a bill which simply proposes to accomplish that object. A right hon. baronet, and an hon. gentleman near him, have made frequent allusions to me, as the author of the original measure of granting 500,000l. at the time of the Union, for the extension of Inland Navigation in Ireland. This, Sir, is a measure which I have no reason to be ashamed of, neither in respect to the principle which actuated it, nor to the manner in which that principle has been followed up by the very able and upright officers to whom the business was entrusted. They have performed their duty with zeal and ability; and the beneficial tweets of the measure, as far as it has gone, is fully admitted on both sides of the house; and although gentlemen may indulge themselves, on the present occasion, in talking of jobs and parliamentary influrence, yet, sure I am, that no such imputation was cast upon the measure at the time of the Union; but on the contrary, it was perhaps the single measure which, at that important crisis, was received with perfect approbation by both sides of the house. Gentlemen affect to think that the bill proposed to be brought in by my right hon. friend, the outline of which he has given, is merely a bill of patronage, and that no solid or substantial measure is intended to follow it; if such were really the case, I will candidly admit that the proposed bill would be a measure of extreme absurdity. But what is the fact? Various lines of Inland Navigation have been proposed, but none of them have been so far matured by the officers whose duty it is to examine and report upon them, as to furnish a justifiable ground for parliament to make a grant to aid their execution. Is it the intention then of gentlemen who profess to approve the principle which has been avowed by my right hon. friend, of aiding the extension of Inland Navigation, by further grants (after sufficient inquiry shall have been made into the merits of the several lines): is it their intention, I say, to prevent such inquiry being made, by the only persons competent to make it; or are they now ready, without any examination, to vote away the public money? Such conduct would indeed be justly denominated by the term "job," a figure in speech so familiar to gentlemen. I cannot therefore conceive it-possible that the hon. member is serious in saying that he will take the sense of the Committee upon such grounds."

Mr. Foster

said, he would not tread over the ground that had been already trodden by others, and should state very shortly his opinion on the subject. Inland Navigation had always been a favourite measure with the parliament of Ireland, but although very large sums had been expended upon that object, yet nothing of importance had been effected, until after the passing of the act now under consideration, which had placed the parliamentary grant of 500,000l. in a Board, capable and willing to do their duty by the public; a right hon. baronet had spoken of commissioners, without pay; and an hon. gentleman had suggested that the best mode of encourag- ing Inland Navigation in Ireland was, by in taking the matter up here, and voting money to particular works, in a Committee of that house; both these methods had been tried in Ireland, and both had failed; experience (if that were allowed to have any weight) would teach them to avoid the two systems which had already failed, and to pursue the one that had succeeded.

Mr. Windham

made a speech that appeared to entertain the Committee, but it was delivered in so low a tone of voice, that we could not catch all the points of it. Among other things, he said, he was ready to admit that the right hon. Secretary's time had been better employed during the last summer, than in superintending canals, however beneficial; that the proposed Board of Commissioners, without funds, was like a general without an army, an admiral without a fleet, or a minister without a majority! and that the money they had expended on the public works was little more than a per centage on their own salaries, (A laugh.) He deemed it unnecessary to put the establishment on the consolidated fund—for, as there was still a portion of the former grant remaining at the disposal of the Board of Commissioners, he thought there was no danger to be apprehended that those gentlemen would bestow the whole on the public works, and forget to pay their own salaries. Experience had shewn the house that they might trust them so far at least.

Mr. Foster


The Chancellor of the Exchequer

said, that when the right hon. gent. (Mr. Wind-ham)thought fit to make himself acquainted with any subject, he had the talent of enforcing his arguments with a cogency and force almost unrivalled; but when it happened, (as on the present occasion) that the right hon. gent, was disposed to take up a subject merely to assist his friends, and without any previous information, though he could not convince, yet his ingenuity was such as always to enliven the debate, and to relieve the house from the dull consideration of mere matter of fact, stud to transport them into the airy regions of wit and fancy. He was at a lass to comprehend what gentlemen could mean by opposing the motion of his right hon. friend. Were they friends to the extension of Inland Navigation? and if so, was it possible that they should oppose a motion for leave to bring in a bill purporting to carry that ob- ject into effect? Mr. Perceval repeated that unless it were intended by government to propose further grants, for the further extension of Inland Navigation in Ireland, the present bill would be an absurdity; but might not gentlemen, when the bill went into a committee, contrive to make it effective; and even introduce a clause to abolish the board, whenever it should happen that there were no funds for them to administer? The motion of his hon. friend had his hearty concurrence.

The Committee divided:—

For sir A. Wellesley's motion 41
Against it 12
Majority 29