§ Order for Third Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed,
§ "That the Bill be read the Third Time."
§ MR. HUDSON
said, he should move as an Amendment, that the Bill be considered that day three months. The shipping interest of the north of England complained with great justice of the toll which was now levied upon their vessels, and he would appeal to the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade to say 593 whether it was fair, or even honest, to tax this body of men for purposes from which they derived no advantage whatever. 2,000,000l had already been paid by the shipowners of the north of England towards the improvement of this harbour. He called, therefore, on Her Majesty's Government for assistance in throwing out this Bill, which would only relieve the steamers of the metropolis, at the expense of coasting vessels; and he hoped that the Bill would be rejected by such a majority as would induce the Commissioners of Ramsgate Harbour to come next year before Parliament with a better measure.
§ MR. PLOWDEN
said, be had great pleasure in seconding the Motion of the hon. Member for Sunderland, and in doing so he considered that it was unnecessary for him to add anything to the arguments which the hon. Gentleman had adduced against the third reading of this Bill. He would, however, just observe that he entertained strong reasons for opposing this measure. One was, that the harbour of Ramsgate was said to be of little use as a harbour of refuge, except to vessels of small tonnage. A second reason was, that the tax levied on passing the harbour, operated in an unjust and oppressive manner upon the coal trade; and a third reason was, that the tolls thus raised were, he (Mr. Plowden) had been given to understand, not altogether appropriated to the improvement and repair of the harbour, but also to the improvement of the town of Ramsgate, which he considered an unjust and improper appropriation. On these grounds he felt great pleasure in seconding the Motion of the hon. Gentleman.
§ Amendment proposed, at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months."
§ MR. HENLEY
said, that the subject of Ramsgate Harbour had been a good deal under the consideration of the Government. The present Bill was not altogether satisfactory, but as far as it went it took off tolls. The power of the Ramsgate Harbour trustees was limited to the levying of tolls in a certain manner, and in the present measure it was proposed to give them the power of taking off some of these tolls. Some parties objected to that. The opinion of the Government was, that the question ought to be more extensively dealt with; but under the circumstances of the late period of the Session, the Government declined taking any part on the Bill one way or the other.
§ SIR GEORGE PECHELL
said, he regretted to hear the opinion which the right hon. Gentleman had just expressed, as the late Government had declared manfully that these tolls should be abolished. These dues were a plunder of the shipowners of the country, and he hoped the hon. Member for Sunderland would be successful in his Motion.
§ MR. HENLEY
said, he had never stated the Government were satisfied with this Bill. What he had said was, that it was not possible for the Government to deal with the subject this Session in the way they thought desirable, as there was not time to give the Parliamentary notices.
§ MR. FREWEN
said, he had given notice of an Amendment on the third read-for the abolition of the tolls except on vessels entering Ramsgate Harbour. Two years ago a Committee had reported that the harbour could be kept in repair without the passing dues, and that they should cease.
SIR FRANCIS BARING
said, a Committee of the House had reported on this subject; but, as every one knew it was not difficult to get recommendations upon such questions on both sides, he sent down Mr. Walker, the engineer of the Admiralty, to report on the subject, and he reported that it was impossible to get rid of the passing tolls and maintain the harbour. Under these circumstances, he (Sir F. Baring) advised certain alterations to be adopted by the commissioners and trustees of the harbour, with a view to obviate certain complaints that were considered to be well founded. But it was stated that those grievances could not be removed without an Act of Parliament; and this Bill was for the purpose of enabling the commissioners and trustees to carry those alterations and improvements into effect. He was undoubtedly of opinion that it was better the harbour should be managed by the parties themselves, than that the management should be thrown on the Admiralty or the Government; for if the passing tolls were abolished, the harbour would have to be maintained out of the public revenue.
§ MR. HUME
said, he regretted to hear the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr.Henley), and still more so the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down. It surprised him to find that the right hon. Gentleman had lived so long and learned so little, and that he did not seem to know the general opin- 595 ion which existed against these passing tolls. With respect to Ramsgate Harbour, the whole business from the first had been the job of a City alderman, the late Sir William Curtis, in order that his yacht might be able to enter the harbour. Upwards of 2,000,000l. had been spent on the work. The present Bill proposed to give the trustees power to alter or reduce the dues as they should think fit. Every Member who supported the principle of the Bill would support in so doing the principle of passing tolls. He hoped the House would reject it.
§ MR. MASTERMAN
said, he was sorry to find the opposition which this measure had met with from the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Hudson). It had not been brought forward without much consideration on the part of the trustees, who were anxious to relieve any inequality that might exist in the levying of the toll. It was a mistake to suppose, as some had done, that the harbour was of no use as a place of refuge. This year upwards of 300 vessels had taken refuge in it from stress of weather. He hoped the House would agree to the further progress of the measure.
MR. BENNETT DENISON
said, he was opposed to the Bill, because the parties to be taxed under it had had no opportunity of being heard before the Committee against it. The shipping and colliery interests had a large stake in the country, and their representation of the grievance they would sustain under this Bill, deserved the serious consideration of the House. The Bill ought certainly to be rejected, especially as the Government had promised to consider the subject with a view to legislation in the ensuing Session.
§ MR. GROGAN
said, he should vote against the Bill on account of the injury it would inflict on the shipping interests of Ireland.
said, as the representative of one of the largest seaports, the shipping of which was most affected by the Bill, he should offer his strongest opposition to the third reading.
§ MR. STAFFORD
said, he felt it to be his duty to say a few words with reference to this Bill. Following up the investigations of the right hon. Gentleman lately at the head of the Admiralty (Sir F. Baring) the present Government had come to the conclusion that it was indispensable to make some new arrangements respecting it. Hon. Members who opposed the 596 third reading of this Bill, had made no attempt whatever to controvert the position laid down by the right hon. Gentleman (Sir F. Baring), that it was, pro tanto, a relief to the shipping interests. ["No, no!"] It might be denied, but it had not been controverted. The difference between himself and the right hon. Baronet the late First Lord of the Admiralty on this subject was, that he (Mr. Stafford) did not consider the maintenance of the passing toll to be so necessary as the right hon. Baronet considered it to be. At the same time, whatever might be the fate of the present measure, the Government would not feel themselves precluded against legislating upon the question in a future Session. At the same time, he could hold out no encouragement to those who promoted this Bill that the Bill which the Government would introduce would in any way meet with their sympathy. The time had come when some bold, decisive, and final measure ought to be taken with reference to the question of passing tolls. Whilst he should not record his vote against the Bill, he should leave the House to decide as it pleased, pledging, at the same time, the Government, definitely and distinctly, that a Bill should be brought forward in the ensuing Session for grappling in the best manner possible with this somewhat difficult question.
SIR BROOK BRYDGES
said, that the harbour of Ramsgate was of great advantage and convenience to the coal shipping trade, inasmuch as in severe weather as many as three hundred sail frequently found refuge within it.
§ MR. H. CURRIE
said, he should support the Bill; and he begged to state to the House that the proposed reduction of dues from shipping that passed the harbour of Ramsgate, if the Bill were agreed to, would amount on steam vessels to 1,170l.; on colliers to 1,720l.; on vessels in ballast to 1,400l.; and on the Channel Islands trade to 500l.; making a total reduction of 4,790l.
§ SIR CHARLES BURRELL
said, that lifter the statement of the hon. Gentleman the Secretary of the Admiralty, that the Government would be prepared to bring in a Bill on the subject next Session, the House ought not, in his opinion, to press the present measure.
said, he must express a hope that in the Bill to be brought forward by the Government next Session, the passing tolls would be altogether done away with.
§ Question put, "That those words be there added."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 130; Noes 28: Majority 102.
§ Words added; Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to; Bill put off for three months.