HC Deb 07 July 1842 vol 64 cc1130-3
Mr. Rice

in moving for a copy of the report of the officers appointed by the Admiralty to consider the plans of Mr. Cubitt for constructing a harbour of refuge at Dover, expressed a wish that the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) would give some assurance that the serious attention of the Government would be directed to the very important subject of constructing a harbour of refuge in the narrow channel for the protection of our coast. With regard to the expense, it was his opinion that in a few years the whole expense would be saved, not only in the saving of time, but in the saving of human life in our commercial navy.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

had no objection to the production of the paper called for by the hon. Member. He was quite sensible of the great importance of the subject to which the paper related. But it was a question which required very full consideration on the part of the Government before it undertook so great a work. The expense of the proposed harbour had been estimated to amount to between £500,000 and £600,000. The hon. Gentleman must not therefore be surprised if he, in the present state of the national finances, forbore giving any pledge as to what course the Government might at any subsequent period take. He would repeat that he was quite sensible of the importance of having harbours for the protection of the commercial navy on all parts of the coast. A variety of plans had been submitted to the Treasury, each plan in itself of great importance, and it would be premature for the Government to pledge themselves to any work of an extensive character before they had fully considered all that bore upon the undertaking.

Sir R. Peel

was willing to abide by the opinion he had expressed on a former occasion, when this subject was brought under the notice of the House. That opinion was, that mere local exertions were not likely to be effective, and that he thought it would be better to make one extensive harbour, constructed on the best principles that science could suggest. But whether that harbour should be at Margate, at Hastings, or at Dover, he expressed no opinion. He thought that the Government should take the highest professional opinions upon the subject, and then form one harbour upon an extensive scale. He also had said that in the present state of the national finances he could not press upon her Majesty's then Government to undertake so great a work. He confessed he could not see any such improvement in the financial affairs of the country as to induce him to be more earnest in pressing forward the undertaking now than he was formerly. He could assure the hon. Gentleman that there was hardly a port on the coast respecting which similar plans had not been suggested to the plan which related to Dover. One plan had been proposed with respect to the island of Jersey, another to the Isle of Man, and others with respect to the eastern coast. The hon. Gentleman must, therefore, excuse him, if he declined giving any assurance whatever respecting an undertaking depending so much upon contingencies; even if he could foresee that prosperity in the affairs of the country which the hon. Gentleman appeared to an- ticipate, still he should like to realise it, before he made any pledge as to the works the Government might undertake in consequence of that prosperity.

Captain Plumridge

wished to call the attention of the right hon. Baronet to the case of the harbour at Falmouth, which he considered to possess peculiar claims on the Government. It was a port where nature had done everything, and art had done nothing but to destroy. It was the very eye of the channel, and he hoped the right hon. Baronet would grant the loan of a steam vessel to be stationed at Falmouth, the use of which would be extremely advantageous. He made this appeal in the name of his constituents and of his own to her Majesty's Government.

Sir Robert Peel,

without wishing to mean anything discourteous to the hon. Gentleman, felt bound to decline giving any pledge on the matter. It would be much better that these things should be done in a formal shape.

Motion agreed to.