HC Deb 15 April 1825 vol 12 cc1355-8

On the resolution, "That 27,871l. be granted to defray the expenses of the Roads and Harbours of Holyhead and Howth, during the year 1825,"

Mr. Hume

said, he should be glad to know how much more would be required for this purpose? Year after year similar sums were voted. He advised that a survey should be made, to ascertain what would be the final expenditure.

Mr. Herries

could assure the hon. member, that the greatest care was taken that the money voted for this purpose should be properly expended. The works were under the direction of commissioners duly qualified. He was happy to add, that although the present was not the last grant which it would be necessary to propose, that there was every reason to believe that one or two more would be sufficient. It was not impossible but that the grant of next year would close the whole expense.

Mr. Hume

said, that in looking over the items in the amount furnished, he thought it doubtful how far economy was attended to by the commissioners in all their charges. He thought that, after the many grants that were made, it was now time to stop. He found a charge of 34,135l for widening a part of the road from Chester to Bangor. He found another charge of 1,407l. for parliamentary fees and solicitor's charges, for passing an act of parliament, constituting the commissioners. If so much was paid for. an act of parliament, it was right to inquire what was done. He found another charge of 5,000l. for engineering and surveying, although in another part there was a charge of 198l. for surveying part of the road. He found among other charges for the salaries and expense of officers, one of 400l. a-year for salary for a secretary. What most struck his attention was the charge of 1,400l. for passing a bill, of which he did not hear a word in the House.

Sir H. Parnell

said, that the act of parliament to which the hon. gentleman referred, had been passed for the purpose of consolidating three commissions; that of Holyhead harbour, Howth harbour, and Holyhead roads. Every gentleman who passed a bill through that House must know, that for every separate head it contained, a distinct fee was charged. The bill in question contained provisions for two harbours, and for the road from Holyhead to London, which of course increased the expense; but nothing was done that was not quite customary. As to the expense of the establishment, it would not appear.great, if the hon. gentleman would recollect the extent of the labours which the commission had to perform. They had the superintendance of the whole line of road from London to Holyhead, a distance of 260 miles; they had to superintend the erection of two suspension bridges; and they had also to superintend the formation of two harbours. There were no less than twenty-five con- tracts in operation, to which they were obliged to attend: and he maintained, that the charges were as moderate as, from the nature of the work, they could be. No grant had been made for the main line of road through Wales during the last two years; and, in his opinion, 30,000l. was not too much for insuring a proper communication between England and Ireland.

Mr. Calcraft

could not understand, when they voted public money for a public purpose, how the bill for the appropriation of that public money could be called a private bill. The consequence of so treating it was, that they paid this enormous per centage on their own grants. Bills of this particular description ought not to be considered as private, but as public bills. He observed one extraordinary item in these accounts; namely, 107 mile stones, at 6l per stone. Now, in the country in which he lived, the commissioners of roads could purchase as personable a mile-stone as could be seen in any other part of the country for 1l. It did appear to him, that when the public money was to be laid out, every thing was done in the most profuse and extravagant way. He could conceive no reason why the mile-stones on the Shrewsbury road should be so exceedingly expensive.

Sir H. Parnell

said, there was scarcely a stone in the neighbourhood fit for a mile-stone. The consequence was, that they had to be carried from a distance of forty or fifty miles. The money voted was laid out as economically as possible.

Mr. Calcraft

said, he merely meant to lay it down as a general principle, that public money was more profusely spent than private money. He was glad to find that the present instance formed an exception to the rule. With respect to the mile-stones, he knew not how they could cost so much, unless they travelled in mail-coaches.

Sir John Newport

was of opinion, that, whenever public money was voted for a public purpose, the act of parliament relating to it was a public, and not a private act.

Mr. V. Fitzgerald

said, the hill in question provided not only for the expenditure of public money for a public purpose, but contained provisions which interfered with private rights. The House could not, therefore, have proceeded by means of a public act, without depriving individuals whose private rights were concerned, of those safeguards which they enjoyed under the regulations by which private bills were governed. Besides, as the original act was a private act, it was necessary that the act to amend it should also be a private measure. No blame could therefore be attached either to the solicitor or the commissioners. The hon. gentleman bore testimony to the zeal with which sir H. Parnell had attended to these great works, and concluded by describing them as highly worthy the approbation of parliament and of the country.

The resolution was agreed to.