HC Deb 08 August 1836 vol 35 cc1023-6

On the question that 3,140l. be granted for the promotion of Public Works in Ireland,

Mr. French moved, that the sum of 210l. for the probable cost of works on the Upper Shannon should be struck out. It was, he considered, sufficient that the interests of the country should be neglected, without consulting them by this pitiful grant. 50,00l. expended on the Upper Shannon would render the entire river, from Lower Allen to the sea, navigable for vessels of fifty tons. Colonel Burgoyne, the intelligent Chairman of the Board of Works, considered it could be done for a considerably smaller sum, but declared, in his evidence before a Committee of that House in 1834, that if it required that sum, or double the amount, as a matter of public policy he would decidedly recommend its outlay. The Government was ready to adopt the recommendation of committees in all cases where it went to diminish the assistance for Ireland, as was proved by the annual diminutions of the miscellaneous estimates. But the Report of the Committee of 1834, re- commending a very different course, was not attended to; that Committee had declared, that a very large portion of the river, that part of it for which the present grant was proposed, was in the hands of the Government, and in a very unsatisfactory condition, and recommended that Government should be called on to put that part into an efficient state for the purposes of trade, and to fulfil the obligations to which they appeared to be equitably subject. The navigation from Athlone to Lower Allen was in the hands of Government, who had not even taken the pains to complete the works they had themselves begun, and the Committee reported they felt themselves entitled to recommend the House to call on the Government to alter and improve this part of the river, as its present inefficient state must be owing either to their supineness in not providing for repairs, or to an original defect in the contract, for which the officers of Government were responsible. All these recommendations were unheeded by the right hon. Gentleman, and, in place of 51,000l., his Majesty's Government substituted 210l. He, on the part of his country, objected to it with scorn. The right hon. Gentleman had pledged himself more than once that a grant would be proposed to a considerable amount for the improvement of the Shannon during the present Session. He did so several months ago, on a motion brought forward by his noble Friend, the Member for Leitrim. At a later period, on a motion of his own, the right hon. Gentleman had assured him that he was prepared to act this Session. His answer was the same to a question put by his hon. Friend, the Member for Limerick. He regretted to be obliged to state, the interference of the right hon. Gentleman had been fatal to every measure for the improvement of Ireland since he had a seat in that House. A Bill was about to be brought forward with the sanction of the Committee for the improvement of the Shannon. The right hon. Gentleman volunteered to bring it forward. It was given to him. After several months' delay it made its appearance in a totally different shape; not such a Bill as the Irish Members had a right to expect—not a Bill founded on the recommendation of the Committee—nor such a Bill as the interests of Ireland required. But even the trifling benefits that could be expected from this Bill were, by his management, postponed. A Bill for the construction of a bridge over the Shannon, at Athlone, was prepared by him. The right hon. Gentleman requested him to confide it to his (the Chancellor of the Exchequer's) care, as it was a money bill, pledging himself to carry it through. He did so, and the right hon. Gentleman had not brought it forward, and, in all likelihood, never would. The Public Works Bill had been promised by him from Session to Session—from day to day; he had named four distinct days on which to bring it forward, and it had not been yet produced, and he thought he might venture to predict it would not be a satisfactory measure whenever it should make its appearance. The hon. Member concluded by moving, that the sum of 210l. be struck out of the grant.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

said, he thought the proposition a most extraordinary one. Because the hon. Member for Roscommon could not get all he wanted, he refused to take anything. Anxious as he was personally for the improvement of the Shannon, he would not ask Parliament to grant a single penny until the local proprietors had subscribed their quota. He had been charged with not bringing in a Bill upon the subject; he held the Bill in his hand, and intended to move for leave to bring it in the moment the House resumed.

Lord Clements

was sorry his hon. Friend (Mr. French) proposed to strike out the sum requisite for keeping the works in repair, though he perfectly agreed with him in the justice of the remarks he had made. He objected to having the navigation of the river placed under the control of the Government, and he was confident, that the trade of the river, if left to private individuals, would pay all the expense of improving the navigation.

Mr. French

said, that the right hon. Gentleman, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, had distinctly pledged himself to bring forward a measure for the improvement of the broad waters of the Shannon during the present Session, in his reply to his motion to inquire into the tributaries. If the right hon. Gentleman was disposed to redeem his pledge, he was perfectly aware that no report from the Commissioners was required. There was no land to be valued, nor any damages to be estimated. He denied, that the right hon. Gentleman was either deeply or personally interested in the improvement of the Shannon. He had no connexion whatever with it, the right hon. Gentleman's property all lying below Limerick. The right hon. Gentleman had done a great deal for Limerick, where he was deeply and personally interested, but nothing for the navigation of the Shannon.

Amendment negatived. Vote agreed to. The House resumed.