HC Deb 23 March 1852 vol 120 cc40-3

said, he rose to call the attention of Her Majesty's Ministers to the subject matter of a petition presented from the town commissioners of Ennis. The petition was one of no ordinary importance, both from the repectability of the parties who had signed it, and the motives which had induced them to come forward. The town commissioners of Ennis were comparatively uninterested in the question, and their motive in addressing the House of Commons was to obtain protection from the deep wrong which had been inflicted upon the poor of the town which he had the honour to represent. The river Fergus took its source eight or nine miles above the town of Ennis. A loan had been obtained by the proprietors of the land between the source of the river and the town from the Commissioners of the Board of Works, for the purpose of effecting the drainage of the land. But in place of commencing the outlet for the purpose of facilitating the exit of the water below the town of Ennis, the Commissioners of Works had made an outlet in the river near its source, whereby the water was drawn from the surrounding lands, and the town in consequence was made liable to inundations. The petitioners prayed that the Commissioners should be called upon to complete the works which they had undertaken. It was a part of the. agreement that the proprietors were not to repay the money that was advanced for effecting this drainage until the works had, been completed, and it was alleged that a great portion of the money was already expended. The resident gentry refused to contribute until the Board of Works had done their part, which was to complete the works. The Board, however, would not complete them, and the consequence was the district was inundated. The town of Ennis was the centre of a district containing a population of 150,000 souls, whose trade was greatly interested in the river Fergus being rendered navigable to that entrepôt, and that could only be done by the removal of a bar below the town, which prevented vessels sailing up to it. For the trivial expense of about 30,000l. that invaluable boon could be secured to a wretched but peaceable population; and he hoped the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer would give a favourable consideration to their claims. He had repeatedly brought this subject before the attention of the Government, and everything was in train for the execution of the project, when the late Administration took it into their heads to throw up the reins of power. Hence he was obliged to renew his application, and to make the present appeal to the new Government. His object, in the first instance, was to induce the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer to insist on the Board of Works completing that portion of the drainage which they had undertaken above the town of Ennis; and, in the next place, to obtain the first moiety of 15,000l. as a grant from the Government, and another 15,000l. as a loan, to be advanced on the security of the tolls of the town of Ennis.

Motion made, and Question proposed— That the Board of Works in Ireland be directed to complete forthwith the Drainage Works undertaken by them on the River Fergus.


said, he could bear testimony to the persevering manner in which the hon. Gentleman who brought forward this Motion had pressed the subject upon the attention of the late Government. With regard to the drainage of the river Fergus, and the improvement of the navigation to the town of Ennis, he (Sir C. Wood) did not consider it was an object for which a grant of public money should be made, but he thought it one for which a loan might be advanced. At the same time, if a loan was to be advanced, it would be necessary that it should be made in the name of commissioners for the improvement of the river Fergus, in order to secure its repayment. But at present there were no such commissioners in existence, and therefore before the loan could be granted it would be necessary to pro- ceed by introducing a Bill on the subject.


could assure the hon. Member for Ennis that he was not at all influenced in the reply about to be given, by the consideration that it might affect the return of the hon. Gentleman at the next election. He had read the petition of the Commissioners of the town of Ennis, but he had arrived at an impression different from that of the hon. Member. It did not appear by the petition that the fault lay with the Commissioners of Works, but, on the contrary, with the landowners of the district, with whom the hon. Member must be most intimately acquainted. The petition stated that the loan by which the works were to be carried out, was obtained by the Board of Works on the understanding that it was to be repaid by the gentry. The proprietors, notwithstanding the great benefit they have undoubtedly derived from the operations that had been effected, refused to sanction any further expenditure. The House would recollect that under the Arterial Drainage Act, Clause 50, a certain expenditure might be incurred by the Board of Works; but the payment of a certain amount was also required from proprietors in order to complete such works. In this case it was the proprietors who had declined to permit any further outlay. They ought to come to some decision among themselves before asking assistance from the Chancellor of the Exchequer; at the same time if an application were made to the Government of the nature suggested by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax (Sir C. Wood), he should be happy to give it every consideration.


said, the complaint was that the Commissioners had spent the money in the most useless way, doing only a portion of the work here, and another there; and if it were to be completed in the same manner as it had been begun, the cost would be very enormous. A sum of 195,000l. had already been expended, and he understood 160,000l. more would be necessary to finish the original plan.


said, that the work had been done for relief purposes during the late famine, and no doubt the outlay was not so advantageously made as it would have been under other circumstances. He had instructed the solicitor to the Board of Works to make a return of the Public Works begun but still unfinished in Ire- land, in order to enable the Government to ascertain which, and how many of them ought to be carried to their completion. He (Mr. Napier) intended to direct his attention to the numerous Acts which had from time to time been passed for promoting works of improvement in Ireland, with the view of consolidating them into one uniform and intelligible code.


was glad to hear the announcement just made by the hon. and learned Gentleman; but he thought the Irish proprietors had been much ground down by taxation in every shape, and they had substantial reasons for refusing their assent to the completion of these works, as alleged by the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer. They complained of mismanagement in the execution of them, the original estimates having been doubled and tripled in many instances by the actual sums expended; and they were, therefore, reluctant to make themselves further responsible for the payment of consolidated annuities and other similar charges. That was the reason why so many of these works remained in an unfinished state. He hoped that the Government would yet entertain the present application favourably.


, in reply, said, the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer was under a misconception as to the conduct of the local proprietors. The real cause for their refusal to contribute was, that the Board of Works were legally bound by the litera scripta of their contract to complete the works before the proprietors should be called upon to pay. He was obliged to the right hon. Gentleman (Sir C. Wood) for pointing out a mode in which his object could be secured, and he should therefore now withdraw his present Motion, giving notice at the same time of his intention to bring in a Bill on the same subject.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

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