HC Deb 29 August 1835 vol 30 cc1114-9

The House resolved itself into a Committee on the River Shannon Navigation Improvement Bill.

Mr. Potter

did not know whether the right hon. Gentleman (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) was aware of the objections which had been urged against this Bill by his hon. Friend the Member for Bridport. His hon. Friend complained, that in a measure which merely appointed Commissioners to prepare estimates for the improvement of the navigation of this river, a provision should have been introduced to raise by loan one half the amount which might be required for the work. In that objection he entirely concurred; and, instead of the Government advancing any portion of this money, he conceived that the whole sum should be made a charge on the Irish counties connected with the Shannon, and raised in them by means of assessments. He did not consider that the security for this advance ought to satisfy that House.

Mr. Lynch

said, that the security for the repayment of the loan was as good as could be given.

Mr. Pryme

agreed in the objections stated by the hon. Member for Wigan, and he could not tell why a Clause empowering the House to grant a loan should have been thought necessary at that early stage. He would ask, to what public works in England had such donations been given? He did not object to grants being made for the improvement of Ireland, but let equal justice be done to England. He would suggest, that all that part of the preamble should be omitted, and leave it to Parliament to make the grant hereafter if they thought proper.

Mr. Wallace

said, that there had been a sum of money voted for Portpatrick harbour which might very well be dispensed with, and given to the deepening of the Shannon, or any other useful national purpose. Laying it out at Portpatrick, was in plain English, throwing it into the sea—it was throwing away good money after bad; and he would therefore move, on bringing up the Appropriation Clause, that no more money be expended on Portpatrick harbour.

Mr. Warburton

did not object to making the grant, but the present Bill was merely for the purpose of appointing Commissioners to obtain an estimate of the expense, and the introduction of such a Clause in it was premature. He put it to the right hon. Gentleman (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) whether he could cite any precedent for such a proceeding? It was pledging the House to advance the sum necessary for carrying on these works, whatever that sum might be. There were various conditions necessary to be entered into with the proprietors, and the Government could make a better bargain if the grant was not previously made. The hon. Member concluded by moving the omission of that part of the preamble which authorized the grant.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

would state the grounds on which this preamble was framed, in order most particularly to meet the objections of the hon. Member for Bridport, to whose authority on these subjects he was disposed, both in and out of the House, to pay the most respectful attention. This Bill was introduced in consequence of several repeated inquiries by Committees of that House, but the Bill did not carry out to their full effect the recommendations of those Committees. He did not propose to the House to do this, and if it had been proposed by others he would not have approved of it. The recommendation of the Committee was, that there should be a vote of public money for this purpose—absolutely pledging the House not only to the principle, but to a vote of public money for the adoption of the principle, before they had a satisfactory plan and estimates, and, above all, before arrangements were made with the parties locally interested, in order to protect the public against undue, excessive, or extortionate claims, which would be a bar to the undertaking altogether. It was recommended by the Committee that the money should be advanced; but to that recommendation he entirely dissented. He would not ask the House to advance one single farthing, except for the expenses that must be incurred by reason of inquiry. The Bill did not pledge the House to the advance of any money; all it pledged the House to was, that in the event of there being a satisfactory plan and estimates, and in the absence of all unreasonable local demands, the money should be hereafter advanced. The question was, whether the Crown, in its individual capacity, being a party to the undertaking, which could not be effected without the interposition of the House, and the Crewn having no right to impose the onus upon individuals who had neither the means nor the power to execute the work, that House was disposed to adopt the principle of the Bill by saying, that if the parties locally interested would provide one-half of the expense, and a proper plan were laid before Parliament, they would be disposed to give the other half. His hon. Friend, the Member for Bridport said, there had been no similar cases. He could assure him that there had been innumerable such cases. There was the case of the river Barrow, and of the Cam; but the present was a special case. A very considerable portion of the navigation of the Shannon belonged to the Crown, and they were annually voting sums of money for the imperfect maintenance of the navigation of that river. [Mr. Pryme: How does it belong to the Crown?] It was vested in the Crown by the laws of the land. There were, as he had said before, several precedents. He would not speak of the Caledonian canal, which, he believed, was a failure; but there was the Highland roads and bridges, the interposition of Parliament in which case, according to Mr. Telford, was the means of advancing Scotland a hundred years in civilization. There was also the Holyhead road, the Menai-bridge, and the Plymouth Breakwater, and various other cases in which that House had interposed. They could not expect that the parties would submit to a proposition for pledging the county rates for the repayment of this money unless that House pledged itself to the principle, and to advance the money if a good, case were made out. On these grounds he prayed the House to allow the Bill to remain in its present state. He had done his duty in proposing the Bill—he had done his duty by the Committee and by the public; and he hoped the House would enable him to treat with the parties in Ireland, with whom he could treat effectively if they saw that House disposed to entertain a favourable view of the present case.

Sir Frederick Trench

said, that the Bill should also have his support because he knew it would confer a very great benefit on not less than two millions of persons who resided on the banks of the Shannon, but who had never seen a suit of new clothes in their lives. The population of the country along the line of the banks of the Shannon were in a state of heart-rending distress.

Mr. O'Connell

observed, that the hon. and gallant Officer laboured under some mistake. The people to whom he alluded might have seen the new clothes of the police and the soldiers; they might also have seen the hon. and gallant Officer himself; and, if so, they must not only have seen new clothes, but clothes cut in the highest and newest style of fashion. He challenged the hon. Member for Scarborough to state what interest the people of Ireland had ever derived from their connexion with England. Their debt had been increased in consequence; and up to the commencement of the existence of the present Administration he defied any hon. Member to show any act that had been done for the good of Ireland. Ireland was perhaps the most fertile country in the world, and yet what was the general state of the inhabitants? They were in a state of the greatest misery, owing to bad laws. The present Ministry were anxious to do all they could to alleviate the distresses of that unhappy country, but what was the use of that when a sort of stop-gap existed elsewhere? If he were told that but for England his country could not find a market for its provisions, what would be his reply? Why, that but for Ireland this country would be without a market for its manufactures. The people of Ireland were a patient people, and he only wished his voice were loud enough to be heard elsewhere, in order that he might beg that their patience should be considered, and their grievances redressed. He could not but lament that at this late period of the Session they were discussing mere words, for really the alteration proposed by the hon. Member for Bridport amounted literally to nothing. He feared, however, that it proceeded from that begrudging and niggardly spirit which was invariably displayed in that House when the question of advantage to Ireland was the subject under consideration. He admitted, however, with gratitude, that a spirit favourable to Ireland had diffused itself among a majority of that House; but he, at the same time, could not help recollecting that there was a frightful minority who were adverse to everything at all tending to the well-being of Ireland, and who wished to have that country once more delivered up to the tender mercies of the Orange faction, in order that the abuses of which the Irish people so long and so loudly complained might be perpetuated. There was an oligarchy of about 200 persons in another place who would refuse to pass any measure which they deemed beneficial to Ireland; and if their power was not crushed what must the prospect of Ireland be? The people of England owed the people of Ireland a great debt, and he was willing to acknowledge that what tended to the benefit of the one country ought to promote the interest of both, because he did not wish to conceal the fact that if the two kingdoms were rightly governed their interests should be identical. He wished, however, that the system of misrule which had so long existed in Ireland would speedily be put an end to, and, that finally, justice should be done to his country.

Mr. Ewart

said, that he should give the Bill his warmest and best support. He thought the arguments of the hon. Member for Scarborough were quite inapplicable to the present case; and he trusted, with his hon. Friend the Member for Dublin, that a better feeling would be introduced towards Ireland in another place.

Mr. Warburton

said, that he should have no objection to withdraw his Amendment, provided the right hon. Gentleman, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, would introduce into the preamble some words which would render it impossible for the Government to call on the House to vote money for this purpose until the estimates were before them.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

was willing to accede to the proposition of his hon Friend.

Sir Frederick Trench

would not make any comment on the personal observations made by the hon. and learned Member for Dublin, for that hon. and learned Member was but too prone to indulge in personal sarcasm, which in his case was exceedingly to be regretted. The joke, however, was witless; but, without pursuing the subject farther, he would only observe, that he and the hon. and learned Member for Dublin were agreed in one thing, and that was that the people to whom he alluded were in a state of almost nudity. The hon. and gallant Officer complained that the noble Lord (the Secretary for Ireland) had last night requested the hon. and learned Member for Dublin not to support the Bill, as it would insure its rejection in another place.

Viscount Morpeth

had been led to make that observation in consequence of a very grave debate which had occurred in another place, and which had reached him through the ordinary channels.

An Amendment was made in the preamble, the several Clauses were agreed to, and the House resumed.

Back to