HC Deb 15 May 1834 vol 23 cc1085-90
Mr. Halcombe

rose to move for the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into the present state of the Harbours on the coast of Kent and Sussex, and particularly upon the best means of preventing the accumulation of beach at their entrance, and to suggest such improvements as might be deemed necessary or desirable for affording greater safety to the shipping of this country. It was not his intention to detain the House with many observations, but as he understood there was some intention of opposing his Motion, he might be pardoned for troubling them with a short statement to show the necessity of the measure, It was a notorious fact, that, by reason of the accumulation of sand or beach across the mouths of the harbours on the Kent and Sussex coast, which had been suffered to go on without interruption, there was now only one harbour in that part of the kingdom to which ships, overtaken by stormy weather, could resort with safety, namely, Ramsgate; whereas, if the subject had been properly attended to, there were the harbours of Dover, Folkstone, Shoreham, Sandgate, &c., which would be equally accessible. The subject was one of great importance to the mercantile and shipping strength of the country, and he undertook to say, that the course which he wished to be adopted would be attended with very little expense. If the House granted him this Committee, he would promise to bring before them the testimony of several eminent and ingenious individuals who had devoted their especial attention to the subject, and were prepared with plans to remedy the evil complained of. He was aware that it might be objected to his Motion, that, in as far as the Cinque Ports were concerned, there were local Acts and local Boards for their respective management, and therefore, that interference on the part of this House was unnecessary. But the fact was, that application had been repeatedly made to those Boards, especially that for Dover, without success.

Sir James Graham

said, he was very unwilling to oppose a Motion which bore such a specious semblance of utility as that of the hon. and learned member for Dover. But he really must be allowed to say, that when he came to consider it, he never had heard a more extraordinary Motion than the present one. As far as he had been able to follow the arguments of the hon. and learned Member, the principal subject for the proposed Committee to inquire into, was, whether certain banks or bars which obstructed the entrance to certain harbours on the coast of Kent and Surrey, formed of sand or shingles, could be removed. Now, he must say, that he thought that would be a very fruitless inquiry to engage the attention of a Committee of that House. He would candidly state to the House, that the Board of Admiralty had lately received several strong applications from the Cinque Ports, desiring that, at the public expense, certain engineers should be sent down to carry certain improvements into execution which were deemed advisable. The Board, however, considered, that the Downs already afforded sufficient accommodation for his Majesty's navy, whether in time of peace or war; and, therefore, that on public grounds there existed no pretence for such an outlay as would be required. But the fact was, the hon. and learned Member had, in the course of his address, anticipated an answer to his arguments which he (Sir J. Graham) thought quite satisfactory; and that was, that there already existed local Boards for the regulation of the Cinque Ports, who were much more competent to form an opinion on the subject than any Select Committee of that House. Under this consideration he felt bound to resist the Motion of the hon. and learned Member.

Mr. George F. Young

thought, the local Boards which already existed amply competent to attend to the grievances complained of. He had not discovered one single argument in the speech of the hon. and learned Member which could recommend this subject to the legislative attention of the House.

Sir Thomas Troubridge

thought the subject well worthy of consideration, whe- ther, at a time when France was active in repairing and extending her harbours, we should be totally neglectful of the condition of our own ports. He regretted, that the Board of Admiralty had not taken the subject into their own hands, and trusted that the House would not inconsiderately dismiss it, now that it had been brought under their notice.

The House divided, when only the teller rose to go forth; the division, therefore, was—Noes 83; Ayes 0: Majority 83.