§ LORD CLARENCE PAGET
said, he rose to call the attention of the House to the present modes of superintending the lights, buoys, and beacons on the coasts of Great Britain and Ireland; and to the manner in which funds are now, and have been raised to defray the expenditure there- 1111 on, and to move for an Address in relation to this subject. He felt it incumbent on him in the first place to apologize—holding but a subordinate position in the House—for venturing to propose a Motion which would involve a considerable reform in the system of lighting and buoying the coast of the United Kingdom, and eventually the expenditure of public money. Feeling that this important question ought to be brought before the House by some Member of weight and influence, he had earnestly requested many hon. Gentlemen, who thought a reform on this subject necessary, to take charge of the Motion; but they had requested him, as a seafaring man, to submit it to the notice of the House. Under these circumstances, it would be his duty to point out that this great maritime country, which had been the pioneer of free and unrestricted intercourse among nations, was, he regretted to say, the lowest among the nations as regards the lighting and buoying the coasts. He thought his best course to pursue would be to show the danger to life and property which arose from the present utter want of system, and then to move an Address to Her Majesty, praying that measures might be taken to give effect to the recommendation of the Select Committee on Lighthouses of 1845. He believed that no person would dispute that it was a matter of most vital importance to mariners that there should be a simple and uniform system of lighting and buoying the coast of the country, with as few and as uncomplicated regulations as possible. He would give an example of the present system of lighting and buoying on our coast, and then he would refer to the system which prevailed in France; but before doing so he begged to offer his sincere thanks to the French Minister for Public Works, and more particularly to the gentleman at the bead of the French lighthouses, M. Leonce Reynaud, for the very ample materials which they had drawn up for his guidance. Let him observe, however, that the French were not alone in making reforms in this matter, the United States of America had done the same. Russia, too, and even Spain and Portugal, and the smaller countries of Europe, had paid great attention, of late years, to the lighting and buoying of their coasts, and establishing a system of uniformity and simplicity. But reverting to the system—or rather want of system—in this country, it was well known that we had a great many bar harbours, 1112 especially on the south coast. Mariners, in passing up and down Channel, were continually caught in gales of wind, and obliged of necessity to bear up; frequently it happened from the state of the weather that they could not get a pilot on board, and the result was that they had to take their chance and run for it, on a lee shore. Now he found by the book of sailing directions that the following were the signals displayed at different ports:—At Shoreham, which was a bar harbour, a red flag was hoisted when there were eleven feet and upwards of water in harbour; and a blue and white pendant at high water. At the neighbouring port of Newhaven, when there was from eight to ten feet of water at the entrance, one black ball was displayed, and when it was high water two black balls. At Dovor a red flag with a black ball indicated that the water was from seven to ten feet, and a red flag alone that it was from ten to thirteen. Going to the north, at Sunderland, a red flag, half-mast high, showed when there was eight feet of water on the bar, and when there were ten feet the flag was hoisted to the masthead. At Scarborough a white ball was displayed when there was ten feet of water at the entrance of the new harbour; at Blakeney, a blue flag when there was nine feet of water on the bar; at Wells, a black ball and basket when there was ten feet on the bar; and at Arbroath, in Scotland, a blue flag with a black ball when the water was under ten feet. Suffice it to say, that every harbour in this country was lighted, and its system of signals established upon a footing entirely distinct from and independent of its neighbours. Hon. Gentlemen were aware that the public lights on the coast of England were under the control of the Trinity Board; those on the coast of Scotland were managed by the Northern Light Commissioners; and those on the coast of Ireland were under the charge of the Dublin Ballast Board. These three bodies were indirectly under the control of the Board of Trade, but only so far as questions of finance were concerned. Besides these, there were many smaller corporations who lighted and buoyed their harbours independently of the Board of Trade. He wished to assure the House that, in bringing forward this subject, he was far from intending to make an attack upon the Trinity House, or to impute to it the jobbery which was formerly a distinguishing feature of that old corporation. His object was simply to 1113 show that the lighting and buoying of our coasts were conducted upon no definite system. He had already given examples with respect to the signals adopted at several harbours, and he might add that the system of buoying was conducted in the same manner. Every little harbour had its own buoys; all prepared with the utmost care, and laid down with a laudable anxiety for the welfare of the shipping interest. It had been his fortune to have sailed much about the English coast, and he did not hesitate to say that at every port he visited the corporate authorities were most desirous of rendering it safe for the approach of vessels; but, unfortunately, every port had its own system of buoying. If hon. Gentlemen would examine a chart of the Thames, they would observe that at the entrance of the river the system of buoying was as complicated as could well be imagined. On approaching the Prince's Channel, the Queen's Channel, or the Margate Channel, such was the confused system adopted that no stranger, without having a pilot, could possibly avoid danger even with the utmost caution. Some ten or eleven years ago he called the attention of a gentleman connected with the Trinity House to the lamentable state of buoying in the Thames, observing that it was impossible for any foreign ship caught in a gale of wind off the Gallopers to get into the river without imminent risk that the vessel would be lost with all hands. The gentleman asked how he proposed to remedy the evil? He replied, by simply adopting the system which prevailed throughout Europe, of having buoys of one colour on one side the Channel, buoys of another colour on the opposite side, and buoys of a third colour, or striped, upon the middle banks. According to the French system, on the approach from sea, a red buoy was on the starboard or right side, a black buoy was on the port or left side, and striped buoys were placed upon banks in mid-channel. There could, therefore, be no difficulty in navigating any channel, however intricate. The gentleman replied, "Of course, we know that; but if we were to buoy the Thames in such a manner, no ship would ever take a pilot." So that hundreds of lives were to be imperilled in order that employment might be afforded to pilots! He reasoned with the gentleman, and urged that this was hardly a sufficient justification. The rejoinder he received was that there was a stronger reason, for it was said, "If the Thames 1114 were buoyed upon such a system, the French fleet might sail up any night and burn Chatham." For his own part he (Lord C. Paget) regarded both these objections as puerile, and he thought it a lamentable circumstance that a great maritime and commercial nation, which had a greater amount of commerce and a larger number of her sons afloat than any other in the world, should be behind every country in Europe in rendering the approaches to its ports clear and safe. He was bound, however, to except Scotland from this condemnation; for the Commissioners of Northern Lights had issued a notice that the whole of their buoys would be arranged upon the French system. The papers he had received on the authority of the French Government were, in his view, so valuable, that he intended to place them in the hands of the President of the Board of Trade; for he thought, as he had honestly told the French authorities, that great benefit would be conferred upon our shipping interest by taking a "leaf out of their book." The French system, he might observe, was not confined to France, but was applied to the buoying of the Scheldt and the Elbe (the navigation of which was very difficult), and had, indeed, been generally adopted throughout Europe. The French signals, also, consisted of a simple system of balls, which were preferable to flags, because in calm weather balls were always visible, while flags fell to the mast and could not be seen. So simple was the French system, that a man who had the chart before him might safely enter any harbour along the seaboard of France. In the remarks which he was now addressing to the House he was anxious to keep the question of light dues entirely clear of another question —that of the local dues and passing tolls —which had recently agitated the shipping interest, and was of such importance that he thought it was worthy of separate discussion, and ought not to be mixed up with the present Motion, which he regarded more in the interest of humanity than as having reference to any wrongs from which the shipping interest were suffering. From the able statement which had been furnished him by the French Government, he gathered that the coast of France, extending 1,500 miles, was lighted by 210 lights. These lights were of two descriptions, one being the catoptric and the other the dioptric. The former were constructed upon the old reflecting principle; they were nothing more than a 1115 lamp, and reflectors behind. In modern days, however, M. Leonor Fresnel had invented a system of lenticular lights, which had been improved by a Scotch gentleman named Stephenson, and which being not only more brilliant but more economical than the lights formerly in use, had been adopted almost universally on the Continent. These were the dioptric lights. Of the French lights, 154 were upon the dioptric and 56 upon the old reflector principle. Turning now to England, he found, by a Return for 1856, that there were upon the English coast, under the Trinity House, 114 public lights, while on the Scotch there were 45, and on the Irish coast 65. For these 224 lights we paid £350,000 a year, while the French for their 210 lights paid only £48,000. Of this £48,000, £11,665 were for new works and £8,000 for buoys and beacons, so that the actual cost of maintaining the French lights was only £28,350. It should be remembered, moreover, that while three-fourths of the French lights were on the dioptric principle, only seventeen, or about one-sixth, wore so lighted in England. Now, he did not wish to overstate his case. He was aware that, in order to make a fair comparison between the two countries, various details should be taken into consideration. Thus material and labour were dearer hero than in France; and the French had but one floating light, whereas there were thirty-eight of these in England, and four, he believed, in Ireland. But he asked whether, when so great a contrast prevailed between the cost of the lights of this country and those of France, it was not time that public opinion should be brought to bear upon these matters. The President of the Board of Trade had kindly given him access to the accounts preserved there, from which it appeared that, in 1856, for the maintenance of lighthouses we paid £139,508 to the Trinity House, £38,139 to the Port of Dublin Corporation, and £30,359 to the Northern Lighthouse Commissioners, making a total of about £208,000, the residue being applied to the payment of pensions, charities, &c, making in all £353,000. He would confine his remarks to the Trinity House lights; and with respect to these it was impossible for anybody to believe that due care and economy were exercised in the expenditure of public money, more particularly when the House reflected that that money was paid by a class of the commu- 1116 nity which suffered from the open competition of foreign trade, and the difficulties of which were year by year increasing. He thought it behoved Parliament, on behalf of the shipping interest, narrowly to watch this expenditure, and to ascertain that not one shilling was spent over and above the sum absolutely necessary for the due maintenance of our lighthouses. Now, he had gone very carefully through the details, and found that the average cost of a first-class French lighthouse for éclairage and repairs was about £390 per annum; of a second-class light, £303; and of a third-class, £142. He would allow for the land lights of England a sum beyond the cost of the first-class French lights— namely, £400 a year, although many of the former were second and third-class lights; and he thought there would be no difficulty in reducing our expenditure to £200,000, including £50,000 for new works for the next year. There were certain places where the Government had wisely determined to build new lighthouses, and he was informed by the Board of Trade that about £50,000 would be sufficient for that purpose. As old systems could not be got rid of without a certain amount of compensation to retiring officials, he would allow £14,000 under this head, and for the establishment of a small central Board. Such a Board, comprising an intelligent engineer, with, perhaps, an officer under the Board of Trade to assist him, and a few local engineers to watch the lights, would assimilate our system to that of the French, and would effect a groat saving of expense. He proposed to get rid of a large staff of steamers, of which there were now seven, including the Irish and Scotch boats. The Trinity House maintained five, at a cost of from £27,000 to £30,000 a year. But was it not absurd that in this country, with such an enormous marine, with gunboats in shoals upon the slips in the dockyards, with an immense number of small steamers at command, and with coast-guard vessels, and their tenders now distributed round our coasts, the lighthouses should not be looked after by our navy? Such an arrangement would effect a saving of £30,000 a year. Then there remained that ancient corporation, the Trinity House. He did not at all wish to urge that that corporation should die along with its twin brother, now awaiting the judgment of Parliament. On the contrary, he should be very glad if the House could arrange that the Trinity House 1117 should compose the central Board, the establishment of which he suggested. He greatly doubted, however, whether they would ever get an old corporation to amend its ways so completely as to introduce the reform and economy required. One of the boats maintained by them was a steam yacht. Now, he had a very great respect for the Elder Brethren, and was very glad that they should take an airing on the water when they pleased, and their other duties permitted; but let them do it at their own expense. He would now proceed to show the House that the French system of lights was far superior in brilliancy to our own, and he might further observe, that it was clearly demonstrated in the Report which had been issued by the Board of Trade for the benefit of our Colonies last year, that no possible force of reflector could equal in brightness a lenticular light of the second order even. Any person who happened to be leaving Folkestone on his way to Paris on a fine night, and was fortunate enough not to be sea-sick, might observe a magnificent bright light as it were at his feet, while he might also perceive a little light, such as apparently might be produced by a farthing candle. The latter proceeded from Dungeness, which was only about twelve miles; the former light from Cape Grisnez which was twenty-five miles distant. Was it not, he would ask, disgraceful to this country that she should be so far behind France in so important a particular? It might be said, indeed, that the expense of changing our system of lights was one which was too heavy to be incurred without much deliberation; but he was sure the House would not be of that opinion, when he informed it, that the outlay which would be required in order to change a first class light from the catoptric to the dioptric principle did not exceed £2,000. He, therefore, saw no reason why, when we were paying over £350,000 per annum in the shape of light-dues, we should not place our system of lights on the very best and most modern footing. He had referred to the case of Dungeness, to show that we had not done so in one most important instance; and he might also adduce the case of the Lizard, the North Foreland, Beachy Head, as well as of many other first-class lighthouses, in support of the proposition which he had advanced. He could not, under those circumstances, as a seafaring man and one who took a considerable interest in the subject, help urging 1118 upon the Government the necessity of carrying out the change which he proposed. In the Report issued by the Board of Trade, to which he had already alluded, it was stated that the increase of brilliancy arising from the adoption of the new system would be in the ratio of two or three to one, and that the expense, once the system was established, would be less than that of the old. It was no doubt true, that if his Motion were carried it would be necessary that an outlay of £200,000 for the next year would be required. He should, however, at once relieve the minds of hon. Gentlemen upon that point, by assuring them that he did not intend to ask for any expenditure of the public money for a period of two years. There were £400,000, or something approaching that amount, in the shape of surplus light dues available at the Board of Trade, and he should suggest to the Government that it could convert that sum to no better use than the carrying out the proposed change in our system of lights. That amount would be sufficient to meet the expenditure for the next two years, and at the end of that period the country might be so fortunate as to possess an overflowing exchequer. At all events, he believed there would be no difficulty as regarded expense at the end of the two years, as the utmost amount of expenditure that would then be required would be £150,000. He had calculated that an outlay of £50,000 would be necessary, in the first instance, for the construction of new works; but when those works were completed a new and perfectly efficient system, comprising a total of 373 lights, including 149 harbour lights belonging to various small corporations, for which dues were now levied by such corporations independently of the Board of Trade, might, he had no hesitation in saying, be maintained at a cost of £150,000 per annum. Under those circumstances, he called upon the House, with the utmost confidence, to assent to the Motion which he had to submit to its notice, and to take the management of our lights out of the hands of the Trinity Board as at present constituted. The present system was, in fact, one of the worst forms of double government. The coil which they were now seeking to get rid of, in relation to India, would be perpetuated in this country so long as they kept up the Trinity Board, the Northern Lights Commission, the Irish Board, and the Marine Department of the Board of Trade. Did he not 1119 feel indisposed to trespass too long upon the attention of the House, he should have felt it to be his duty to enter into the history of that system of jobbery under whoso operation our shipowners had so long suffered, and under which they were suffering to the present day. Full details upon the subject were, however, to be found in the reports which had emanated from two Committees, one of which had sat in 1834, and the other in 1845, and which had been presided over by one of the most useful and indefatigable Members who had ever sat within the walls of the House of Commons— he meant the late Mr. Joseph Hume. It would also be seen by the Report of the Committee of 1845, that the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton had divided the Committee in favour of the proposition of placing our lights under one central system, and against that which sought to convert the Trinity House into the Board by which that central system was to be carried into effect. The Trinity Board was a self-elected body, and the noble Lord thought the introduction of one-third of its members, upon the nomination of the Crown, would cure some of the evils which were complained of. The noble Lord, however, unfortunately did not succeed in that object. He would next say a few words upon the amount of debt lately paid off by the shipping interest of this country, amounting to no less than £1,281,000. It was manifest that the debt had been incurred by means of a system of improvident leases which had been granted, sometimes by Parliament, sometimes by the Trinity House, and sometimes by the Kings of former days, who, when they had a favourite to reward, and found a difficulty in doing so, seemed to have thought the best means of carrying out their intention was to give him a lighthouse. There was one gentleman who got a lighthouse because his wife was the daughter of the Earl of Leicester. Even so late as the reign of George III. the same sort of thing occurred, and in the Grenville Correspondence there was this passage:—Mr. Grenville went to London, August 13 (1764). The King received him with great good humour and confidence, talked much to him upon the two Secretaries of State—greatly blaming their conduct towards Mr. Grenville, and concurring himself in sentiment with Mr. Grenville upon his foreign business. Mr. Grenville, finding His Majesty in these gracious dispositions, took an opportunity to apprise His Majesty that there was a grant for a lighthouse in the disposal of the Trea- 1120 sury. He humbly asked His Majesty to bestow this upon him, as a provision for his younger children, who, from various circumstances relating to the unhappy state of his own family, might be left in difficulties. The King was graciously pleased to grant it, and did it with expressions of great kindness to Mr. Grenville.That was very gracious of the King, but what did the shipowners say of it? They were saddled with another improvident lease, and, notwithstanding the recommendations of Committees, a fresh lease was granted, in 1826, to Lord Braybrooke, of a lighthouse, who based his claim for a renewal upon the fact that his family had held leases of the light for 160 years. There were other details, into which he could not enter, but which were perfectly disgraceful. A sum of £250,000 had to be paid to the owners of private lights for loss of dues upon foreign shipping. When foreign nations demanded to be placed upon a footing of reciprocity, and to be released from the payment of double dues, the loss of income to the light owners which ensued from a compliance with those demands amounted to a considerable sum. That sum used to be paid annually from the Treasury of the United Kingdom, and when the lights were about to be purchased the owner naturally calculated those sums as part of their revenue. The Treasury, however, refused to pay in respect to those sums, and consequently the shipowners had to pay an additional amount of £250,000. The last point upon which he would touch was the effect of those dues upon foreigners. He confessed, he thought that, while all the principal foreign nations admitted our ships into their ports free of all light dues, it was quite beneath the dignity of this country to levy a miserable tax upon their vessels which visited our coast. Those charges had been the subject of much sharp correspondence between the American and our own Government, and he thought the former were perfectly justified in their complaints. For these reasons, he submitted to the House that it was high time that the question should be dealt with. He had no desire to put down the Trinity House if it were possible to make that body efficient; but, he felt it to be his duty to impress upon the House, that as long as the lighthouses of this country were left in different and independent hands, without any system of uniformity, our coast lights would be discreditable to the nation. He urged this matter also because he believed the shipowners of this country had undoubted claims to be 1121 considered in reference to it. The present Chancellor of the Exchequer, in introducing his last Budget, had referred to this subject, and expressed an opinion that it was indefensible that shipowners should have to pay a large sum, which was, in fact, interest paid to the Trinity House, for the purchase of private leases which had been improvidently granted in former times. He therefore claimed the support of the right hon. Gentleman, as well as of the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton, upon this occasion; and, with that support, he hoped to obtain for his Motion the assent of the House. The noble Lord concluded by moving—That this House will, upon Thursday next, resolve itself into a Committee, for the purpose of considering an Address to Her Majesty, praying Her Majesty to direct that measures may be taken for giving effect to the recommendation of the Select Committee on Lighthouses of 1845— namely, 'That all expenses for the erection and maintenance of lighthouses, floating lights, buoys, and beacons, on the coast of the United Kingdom, be henceforth defrayed out of the public revenue.'
§ MR. HENLEY
I have to thank the noble Lord for the able and temperate manner in which he has brought forward this important subject. In dealing with it, however, I am thankful to find myself relieved from more than one difficulty. I am in no way responsible for the constitution, or rather for the arrangement of the present system, otherwise than in common with every other Member of this House. I am also relieved from the difficulty of discussing this in any sense as a party question, because it is within my own knowledge that the noble Lord would have brought forward this Motion, probably in the very same terms, though no change of Government had taken place. This relieves me from a difficulty, because I feel that the House will now consider the question on its own merits, and without reference to the state of political parties. I agree with the noble Lord in every word he has said; and I have often expressed the same opinion to the House, that it is indefensible that the shipping interest should have borne the charges of buying up those private interests on which the noble Lord has touched. That point, however, may well be left out of our consideration, because the debt has been wholly discharged, and all the annuitants have disappeared. I should have been glad, however, if the noble Lord had addressed his Motion to the system of management of lighthouses, 1122 and that he had left untouched the question who was to pay for them. These are two distinct and separate questions. We have all a common interest in putting our lighthouses upon the most economical and approved system that can be carried out in this country. I think the noble Lord, in the able statement which he has made, has not dealt quite candidly with some parts of the question. The noble Lord very fairly said that there was no information which it was in my power to afford him on the subject, which I did not with the utmost readiness place at his disposal. My opinion was that on a subject of this importance it was desirable to have the plainest and simplest statement of the facts put before the House that it was possible to obtain. What I complain of is that, in the comparison drawn by the noble Lord between the expense of lights in this country and in France, he has not dealt quite candidly with that part of the question. Taking from a Parliamentary return the amount of money paid for light dues the noble Lord has stated the expense of maintaining lights in this country at £350,000. [Lord C. PAGET: £208,000.] The noble Lord contrasted the sum of £350,000 expended, as be said, in England, with that of £48,000 paid in France, whereas in point of fact the actual charge of the maintenance of the English lights is £208,000 instead of £350,000. That is no inconsiderable difference. But the noble Lord has omitted from his statement one very material clement as to the expense of our lights as compared with the cost of the lights in France. I believe that the French do not keep up more than one light vessel. The charge for light vessels is a most important one in this country, and has reference to another heavy charge. I will show the House how these things stand with us. The average annual cost of lighthouses in England for maintenance and repairs is £27,000. The average annual cost of light vessels, with repairs, is £37,000. Hence the' light vessels, which the noble Lord did not bring under the notice of the House, actually cost more than the maintenance of the lighthouses. [Lord C. PAGET: I gave the amount.] Another important question is this. The noble Lord did not very accurately distinguish what number of the French lighthouses were harbour lights. I have not the means of information which the noble Lord has of the French system, but I believe that a large number—above 200—of 1123 those lighthouses which he spoke of as costing £48,000, are what we call harbour lights, maintained at a small expense. As far as I could gather, the noble Lord said that the average annual cost of French lighthouses of the first class was nearly £400. [Lord C. PAGET: £390.] The, English, lighthouses consist of 48 first-class lighthouses, 11 second class, 12 fourth class; and the average cost of their maintenance and repairs is £387. So that when the real expense of the lighthouses of the countries is compared, our system does not stand in the disadvantageous light which the noble Lord supposes. The next matter touched upon by the noble Lord was one of great importance. I mean the system of buoys. If we were now, for the first time, establishing a system of buoys, such a system as that referred to by the noble Lord would have a great deal to recommend it, and in many cases would probably be preferable to the course we now follow. But we must recollect that the French coast differs in some respects from the English, and that buoys, though they might be advantageous in France, would not be found to work equally well in this country. We have the estuary of the Thames divided into three separate channels not far distant from each other. It is of the greatest importance that the captain of a vessel should know in which of the channels he was. A red or a black buoy would not give him this information. This great estuary of the Thames and of many of our other great rivers is traversed by thousands of vessels without pilots. The masters, mates, seamen, and boys of which have grown up with a knowledge of every particular spot marked in a particular way. These parties have been accustomed to see a black, white or checkered mark on a particular place, and it is clear, therefore, that, however fine in theory it might be to commence a new system, we should run a vast risk in making the change, and do far more mischief than good. I mention this because there is no indisposition on the part of the light authorities to adopt a simple system of the kind referred to, whenever it is found advisable. Another point touched upon by the noble Lord was with reference to the dioptric and reflecting lights, and the noble Lord complained that the English lights were not all of the improved kind. Now, as far as I am informed, all the lights, when they require to be renewed, 1124 are renewed on the best and most improved plan. The noble Lord says that it would cost only some £2000 to change the old lights for the new. Considering the number of lights we have, I think it would scarcely be advisable for those who have the management of the light duos to go to the expense of substituting all at once the new light for the old. The system adopted appears to have been to substitute the improved light for the old reflecting light whenever a change was required, and I believe that a duo regard for economy is the best justification for this course. The next point touched upon by the noble Lord was the steam boats, which he said were maintained at a very great cost. No doubt the Admiralty, if it thought fit, could perform all the duty of those boats; but that would only shift the expense from one hand to the other. The Admiralty would, in that case, ask for additional grants, and upon the whole, I do not believe the expense would be diminished. From the great number of light ships we had it was necessary to have these steamers for the purpose of taking up the buoys and of visiting the light ships every six months or so. I now come to a most important part of the subject, with regard to which I am not prepared widely to differ from the noble Lord. I mean that part which relates to the management. The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Cardwell) in 1853 effected a very great change in this matter, and I doubt whether he did not lay the grounds of still further changes. Antecedent to that period the light dues collected in England were applied to English purposes, those collected in Scotland to the Scotch lights, and in Ireland to the Irish lights. The right hon. Gentleman made a common fund of them. The large amount of light dues collected in England, where the traffic is more considerable, was made applicable to the building of lighthouses in Scotland and in Ireland, where it was of advantage to the shipping interest that lighthouses should be, and where the amount of dues collected was small. This appears to lay the foundation for a more uniform management. Even in a short experience of the present system every one will discover that it entails a great deal of trouble and correspondence, in consequence of what the noble Lord very aptly calls the double government. But at present I am not prepared to say that I see any evil results as far as the management of the expenditure is con- 1125 cerned. These are two very different questions. At the same time, I cannot affirm that the system under single management might not be more economical and simple. The noble Lord raised a much larger question than this. The noble Lord desires to place every harbour light and every one of the lesser lights under central management. These are now to a certain degree controlled though their revenues are kept separate. Now this very large and important subject has not escaped the attention of the Government, and one large portion of the question not touched by the noble Lord I will shortly allude to. I refer to the duty which is thrown upon the Board of Trade of erecting what arc called colonial lights. At present the charge on the Consolidated Fund on that head is some £40,000 or £50,000 a year, but I cannot say that it is altogether on a satisfactory footing. I think great advantage will arise to the public if a Royal Commission were issued to inquire into the whole subject of the management of these lighthouses. The Motion of the noble Lord touches only one point of the question. At present it would be premature to transfer off-hand, without due inquiry, a charge of £200,000 or £300,000 to the public exchequer from the shoulders of other parties. The noble Lord alluded to a sum of £400,000, which he said some gentlemen who visited me supposed was in my keeping and at my disposal. I can assure him that he was wholly wrong in that supposition. No one bad brought to my knowledge the existence of such a sum, and therefore I could not be asked to dispose of it in the manner stated. I have looked to see from what source this sum of £400,000 has arisen. It is a sum of money formed from time to time of the surplus of light dues, and it remains in a sort of standing balance to meet the charges for the new works which are continually required. So far from having that nest-egg at my disposal, no allusion was made to it by the gentlemen in question. I believe I have touched on all the points mentioned by the noble Lord. I believe our present system of management is not so disadvantageous to the public as the noble Lord supposes. If we knew how many of the French lights were harbour lights, I believe we should find our system not so expensive as the noble Lord thinks. I am not prepared to say that if we had a central management, that the expense might not be less, but then the 1126 House must remember that we cannot sweep away an ancient system without increasing largely the amount of superannuations. Taking England, Ireland, and Scotland together, the superannuations at present amount to not less than £20,000 a year, a very heavy item, which forms part of the existing annual expenditure. Any extensive alteration in the system of management will, of course, involve an increase of superannuation allowances, and it might be without corresponding benefits. If the Motion of the noble Lord is carried there must of necessity be a central Board of management, for it is impossible that so large a sum of money as that which the noble Lord proposes to throw upon the public exchequer can be administered by irresponsible parties, or, at all events, by parties not so fully responsible as a public board would be. Though the Board of Trade at present possesses a certain power of control I am ready to admit that the fact cannot be concealed that there is in some sense a divided responsibility. At the same time I hope the noble Lord will withdraw his Motion and accept the proposition of the Government to issue a Royal Commission as more likely to lead to a satisfactory solution of the question. A Royal Commission, properly constituted, and investigating the whole subject with all its difficulties, will either satisfy the public that the present system of management is a good one, or point out the best mode of making the requisite changes. I trust, therefore, that the noble Lord will not put the House to the trouble of dividing upon a Resolution which merely seeks to add to the burdens of the public exchequer at a time when, as everybody knows, its resources arc barely adequate to meet ordinary demands.
§ MR. LINDSAY
said, he regretted that the right hon. Gentleman had not gone a little more fully into the subject. However, in what he had said he (Mr. Lindsay) could not altogether agree with him, and more especially as he scorned to intimate that the difference between the cost of English and French lights was not so great as his noble Friend had stated. Now, if any confirmation of the figures of his noble Friend was wanted, he would beg to call the attention of the House to the statement of Captain Washington of the Admiralty— who was a competent authority on this subject. From an estimate of that gentleman it appeared that the annual cost of a 1127 shore light in the United States was £202, and of a light vessel, £656. The annual cost of maintaining the lights in France was £268,000; in England, £504,000, or nearly double. In his opinion the noble Lord had made out this part of his case. Some change was evidently called for, when the French were able to maintain superior lights to ours at half the cost. The right hon. Gentleman who last spoke would make it appear that there was almost no balance in hand from the surplus of light dues. By the last account in 1856 there appeared to be a balance of £165,137. [Mr. HENLEY: No balance for the erection of new lighthouses.] He was informed that the balance had now reached nearly £400,000, and the right hon. Gentleman could not deny that that sum was property belonging to the shipowners, for it had been collected by means of a tax levied on the shipping interest, and it ought to be applied to the purpose of lighting the coast and building new lighthouses. But £400,000 would go a long way, and if these lights could be maintained for £180,000 per annum — and he believed they could be efficiently maintained for much less — then it would gratify the Chancellor of the Exchequer to be told that, in case of their maintenance being transferred to the Consolidated Fund, the House of Commons needed not to be applied to for a vote of money on their account for two years at least. Why, he asked, should a much greater tax be levied on shipping than was really necessary for the maintenance of the lights? He might be told that a great sum had been levied for the purpose of purchasing the private lighthouses, amounting to nearly £1,200,000; but if reference were made to the report of the Committee on Lighthouses, of which the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton was a member, it would be found distinctly laid down that all expenditure necessary for the erection and maintenance of lighthouses, buoys, &c., should henceforth be defrayed out of the public revenue; and that if the Trinity House had incurred a debt in purchasing lights from private individuals, the Government ought to take that debt off their hands. The great question before the House was, whether these lights should continue to be levied on the shipping interest of the country, or be paid for out of the Consolidated Fund. Formerly the shipping interest was, unfortunately, in the position of being what was called a "protect- 1128 ed" body. It was therefore supposed to obtain some peculiar advantages—which, indeed, protection never gave them—and consequently every Government when they desired to raise revenue, fastened themselves on the shipping interest. Happily, the shipping interest was now relieved from protection, and the consequences of protection should also be swept away. The House could not deny, that to extract from the shipping interest the large amount of £1,200,000 for the purchase of private lighthouses, and the extinction of rights which never should have been granted by former monarchs or by votes of that House, was a gross injustice. The shipping interest of the country had been, however, subjected to that injustice, and he now asked that they might be relieved from the burden. It was impossible to give them back that which had been taken from them, but a tardy act of justice might be done by relieving them from the duty of maintaining lights which ought to be supported by the nation at large. If hon. Members looked to the able report of the Committee of 1845, they would find it clearly laid down by the whole of the witnesses, and agreed to by the majority of the Committee, that it was the duty of the nation to light its own shores and warn strangers of danger. It was not merely the shipowners who derived benefit from the lights, but also the merchants and the consumers, and therefore, even if the House agreed that the necessary amount should be paid out of the Consolidated Fund, instead of laying a tax upon the people, it would diminish the tax now really paid, for it was paid in a most expensive manner—namely, by several hands, one after the other. In justice not only to ourselves, but to the mercantile navy of foreign nations these heavy duties ought to be abolished. The United States of America had remonstrated very strongly for many years against this tax, and with great force, for while they never charged for their lights the English had for a long time taxed their ships for lights. Finance, too, levied no dues in return for the excellent lights, and even Russia and Prussia made no charge. It was a narrow view of the question, to say that by placing those charges on the Consolidated Fund they would be granting relief to foreigners. How stood the case as regarded America? America had taken the lead of all other nations in the matter of lights. In 1792 she had but 10 lighthouses; in 1848 she 1129 had 270 lighthouses, 30 floating lights, and 100 buoys; in 1850 she had 300 lighthouses; and in 1855 the number was increased to 500 lighthouses, irrespective of floating lights. Yet, with this liberal provision along her coasts, she made no charge for lights. Suppose America made a similar description of charge on our ships as we made upon hers, what an outcry would be raised. An American steam-packet entering the Mersey paid £62 for light dues; and if the Americans had made the same proportionate charge for lights to the Cunard Company that we had made to the Collins Company, that company would have had to pay in 1850 £3,224, from the whole of which that company had been relieved. It was natural that America should deeply feel this injustice, and it was unwise policy that such a feeling on the part of a friendly Power should continue to exist. Again, he could state, that in the year 1849 one firm, having ten ships trading between Liverpool and New York, paid in the shape of light dues a sum of £2,498; and he also knew that two American ships, the Franklin and Washington, had paid £800 per annum for lights, because they touched at Southampton for the mail bags. The House would, perhaps, be surprised to hear that during the ten years from 1840 to 1850 the Americans paid for lights in this country no less than £234,000. If the same tax were continued between 1850 and 1860 they would pay at least £400,000. Yet the burden borne by foreign shipowners was but small in proportion to that thrown on the shipping of this country, for out of the whole sum our own shipping paid 86½ per cent of the tax. The impost fell with peculiar severity upon the coasting trade. Take, for instance, the case of a vessel of 450 tons, running between St. John's and this country, and earning a freight of £1,000. Such a vessel would have to pay £10 per annum, or 1 per cent on her earnings, for light dues; but if the same vessel were to be employed in the coasting trade, she would have to pay £42, a sum equivalent to 4 per cent upon the gross amount of their freights. Upon the north-east coast of England this was often more than they were earning. The shipping interest did not require to be protected from foreign competition. It spurned such protection; but what it asked was, that it should be relieved from burdens which had been unjustly imposed upon it in the days of pro- 1130 tection, He was willing to admit that the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Board of Trade greatly desired to see the shipping interest relieved from all unjust charges, but he did not see what was to be gained by a Royal Commission. It was something better than a Select Committee, but the House already had all the information necessary; and the question whether lighthouses should be paid for by the shipping or out of the Consolidated Fund was a question for the whole House to decide. He did not see the necessity of a Royal Commission to go about the country and examine the lights. The question was now ripe for settlement, and his fear was, that if a Royal Commission were appointed, the House would only get the same evidence that was already before it.
§ MR. LOWE
said, he believed that if the House would favour him with its attention for a few moments, he should be able to throw a little light on the intricate question before it. The noble Lord had been at great pains to show, and in his opinion had actually shown, that the management of these lights was needlessly expensive. The noble Lord had gone farther, and had shown the cause of that expenditure. He (Mr. Lowe) believed that the expense was mainly owing to the double government of the Board of Trade and the Trinity House. He did not think that any blame was due to the right hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Cardwell) who was the author of that double government, because it was a great thing to place the control in a single office, and to make that office responsible to Parliament. That right hon. Gentleman was not, therefore, to be blamed if the institution of the double government which he set up had not worked altogether satisfactorily. Nor did he attribute blame either to the Trinity House or the Board of Trade. They were both anxious to curtail the expenses, but there was a divided responsibility. One department proposed the expenditure, and another had to ratify it, and neither exercised the same control and responsibility as if the duties wore discharged by a single hand. He did not believe it was in the power of the President of the Board of Trade to reduce the expense of lighthouses, however large it might be, as long as the double government remained. But what was the proposal of the noble Lord? It was not to abolish or to remodel this double government, and form a single government, which should take the management of the light- 1131 houses, and endeavour to reduce the expenses, but he left the imperfect machinery as it stood, and wished to transfer the light dues from the shipping to the Consolidated Fund. Now, in what position would the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Board of Trade find himself if the noble Lord's Motion were agreed to? He might have to place an estimate before the House which the noble Lord might have no difficulty in proving to be too large, but which the right hon. Gentleman would be unable to control or reduce, owing to the constitution of his department. If the light dues were to be thrown upon the Consolidated Fund, the first step should be to give the Minister, whose duty it would be to propose the estimate, the means of reducing it to the lowest point consistent with efficiency. That power he did not now possess, for at present he had to control the Dublin Board, the Board of Scottish Northern Lights, and the Trinity Board, and that expenditure could not be controlled as if it were under a single hand. He felt himself compelled to object to the Motion of the noble Lord; but if Parliament did away with the double government and substituted a single department, it would be a fair subject of consideration whether the burden ought to be thrown upon the Consolidated Fund or not. It might be that by defraying the cost of lighthouses out of the Consolidated Fund, something would be saved in expense and something in vexation. So long as the system of divided responsibility and of double government continued he was satisfied—without imputing blame to the Board of Trade or the Trinity House—that a reduction of expenditure could not be effected. He could not vote for a proposal which would place the President of the Board of Trade, or any Minister, in the position of submitting estimates to the House, without having the power of controlling the expenditure to which they referred.
§ MR. CARDWELL
said that the debate had advanced so far that they might be quite certain one desirable result would be attained—that, in some mode or other, there would be a full and impartial inquiry into the efficiency of the present system, and as to whether the present charges were excessive. His right hon. Friend had proposed the appointment of a Royal Commission on this subject. In 1853, when the question was brought under the consideration of the House by the Govern- 1132 ment of the Earl of Aberdeen, they found it a matter of no small difficulty to deal with the subject, in consequence of the existence of charters of the most remote antiquity, many of them having been subsequently ratified by statute. One corporation—the most ancient, he believed, and not the least eminent among those whose interests were affected—met the demands of the Government and of Parliament in the most frank and liberal spirit. That corporation, having possessed the power of levying large sums beyond the requisite expenditure, and not only having the power, but being directed by the terms of their charter to employ it in a manner which gave them extensive and valuable patronage, finding it was the opinion of the House of Commons that a power so exercised at the expense of the shipping interest should no longer be continued, consented voluntarily to an arrangement which was ratified by Parliament, and which compelled them to submit every shilling of their expenditure to the sanction of a Minister who was responsible to that House. This arrangement subjected their accounts to the examination of the public auditors, and enabled Parliament, at any moment, to step in, and, by questioning the Minister who was responsible, or by directing inquiry, to ascertain whether a single shilling had been expended beyond what was absolutely necessary. The other corporations, however, had refused to follow that admirable example; and the consequence was, that at the period to which he referred, a Royal Commission was issued, to inquire into them. That Commission, with great labour, extended its investigations to every part of the three kingdoms, and they recommended extensive and important changes, which had never been carried into effect. The able speech of the noble Lord (Lord C. Paget) had produced so great an effect upon the House, that it was necessary to have an inquiry now, whether the House accurately understood the real facts of the case. He was sure the noble Lord had left the House under an impression that the heavy debt to which he had referred—£1,200,000 —was incurred in spite of the recommendations of Mr. Hume, and that the burden continued to this day to oppress the shipping interest; whereas, the fact was, that this debt, whether right or wrong—and he (Mr. Cardwell) was not at all disposed to defend the transaction—owed its origin to the first Committee, of which Mr. Hume 1133 was the Chairman, that it was now wholly extinguished, and not a farthing was now collected, or would be collected, from the shipping interest, for its liquidation. His hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Mr. Lindsay) had told them, from the Report of 1845, what was the comparative cost of maintaining the lights in Franco and in England. That was the expenditure before the system was reformed, and the figures quoted were, doubtless, correct; but the hon. Gentleman seemed to have overlooked the information afforded to the House by the noble Lord, as to the present cost of French lighthouses, and to have forgotten also that his right hon. Friend opposite had told them what was the present expense of maintaining English lighthouses. He (Mr. Cardwell) believed the expense of English lighthouses was somewhat below the expense of French lighthouses. [Mr. LINDSAY was understood to say that the cost was about the same.] The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Lindsay) had, however, quoted figures from the Report, which might lead the House to suppose that the expense of the lighthouse at Dungeness far exceeded that at Cape Grisnez. He (Mr. Cardwell) believed the House was also under the impression that the Committees of 1834 and 1845 found great fault with the English system, on the ground of its inefficiency, and expressed an opinion that a new system should be adopted. If, however, hon. Members referred to the Reports, they would find that the Committee stated, in the most plain and emphatic language, in their Resolutions, that the system was as efficient as it could be. Was it not to be expected that a system would be efficient which was placed under the management of Mr. Faraday, and for which that name was responsible to the British public? Comparisons had been drawn between the system of lighthouses in England and in America. Upon this point, he would remind the House that, shortly before the Bill of 1853 was passed, the American Government, dissatisfied with the condition of the lighthouses in the United States, sent a Commission to Europe, to investigate the system on which lighthouses were maintained, and that Commission reported in the highest terms upon the management of lights in England, and recommended that the system of the Trinity House should be adopted in the United Status. The noble Lord proposed to carry into effect the recommendations of 1134 the Committee of 1845, and, undoubtedly, the Committee, not unanimously, but by a majority, he believed, of six to four, arrived at the conclusion embodied in the noble Lord's Resolution; but that Committee also made the following recommendation:—Your Committee, therefore, after mature consideration of all the circumstances relative to and connected with the present state of the several establishments for arranging the lights, &c, in the three kingdoms, are of opinion that all public and general lighthouses and floating lights, buoys, and beacons in the United Kingdom should be placed under the management of one Board, resident in London, and that that central Board in London should be the Trinity Board of Deptford Strond.That was the recommendation of the Committee presided over by Mr. Hume. His right hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Lowe) had compared the bodies which possessed control over lighthouses to a double government, and he (Mr. Cardwell) was anxious to call attention to this part of the case, because without having any desire to maintain the existing system, he thought it was important the House should understand what a single government for the management of lighthouses meant. It meant that the expenditure of a very large sum of money, the patronage which was involved, and the settlement of the tangled local questions which might arise, should at once be transferred to the Board of Trade. There was at present, however, no double government in reality, but the whole responsibility of managing the lights was left in England, Scotland, and Ireland to throe distinct bodies, so that each country had its own special officers presiding over the service. The noble Lord had admitted that if he were a Scotch or Irish gentleman he would strongly object to transfer these powers into the hands of an English body resident in London. There was, however, a common fund and a uniform control. There was no divided responsibility, but for every shilling of money which was improperly expended the President of the Board of Trade was responsible to that House. He did not say that at some future period it might not be expedient to confer these great powers upon a department of the Government; but he maintained that the proposal to increase to such an extent the responsibility, the power, and the patronage of the Executive Government was a matter that requited the most serious and careful consideration, and ought not to be 1135 decided upon in an off-hand manner, and lay an unexpected Resolution, before the House was fully acquainted with all the circumstances of the case. Then, with regard to the question of money, he was not at all surprised that in the present state of the finances his right hon. Friend opposite should be disinclined to throw any additional charge upon the Consolidated Fund. The right hon. Gentleman near him (Mr. Lowe) seemed to think that if the charge were placed upon the Consolidated Fund the expenditure would he managed more economically, but he (Mr. Cardwell) believed that if they wished expenditure to grow they could find no surer means of accomplishing that object than by transferring it from local control to the Consolidated Fund. That was a question well worthy the attention of those persons, whether members of a Royal Commission or of a Committee, who were going to investigate this subject. There would be no end—he knew it from experience—to the applications which would be made for building new lighthouses of all kinds. Every shipwreck which took place would involve a claim, and would be laid at the door of the Board of Trade. A Committee was now sitting upstairs on harbours of refuge. No veil was so impenetrable as that which shrouded the deliberations of a Committee of this House until they had made their report. He wished that veil could be penetrated, so that the House might form a conjecture as to what part of the coast of this country had not asked for its £.5,000,000 of money; and when the general public paid all these charges, while the shipping interest enjoyed all the advantages derivable from them, would there exist the same security as was afforded now that only reasonable demands should be made for establishing lights on the coast of England? For all these reasons—having had the honour of submitting the great reform of the Trinity House which had now been five years in operation —believing that when a change of such a kind had been made it was only just that its result should be investigated and made known—and believing it to be necessary also that the House should be informed of many most important consequences before it placed this charge upon the Consolidated Fund, before it gave to any Government the patronage of every light which now existed or was hereafter to exist, and before it threw upon them the responsibility of all the local controversies and disputes 1136 which would be sure to arise, he should support the proposal for inquiry by a Royal Commission, in preference to having this charge at once placed upon the Consolidated Fund by means of an Address.
§ MR. BENTINCK
said, he entirely agreed with his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, that that could not be regarded as a party question. For his part, he did not wish to prefer charges against any people in that case, but he was anxious to see a remedy provided for the abuses and the absurdity of the existing system; and he thought that no hon. Member would deny the existence of gross abuses, or that anything could be more monstrous that the complication of our system of signals and the system of buoys. His noble Friend who had brought forward a Motion recommended that certain duties in connection with the maintenance of lighthouses should be performed by the Royal Navy; but appeared to him (Mr. Bentinck) that it would not be desirable to impose on our officers a task which they would probably find very irksome, and which they certainly would have no special motive for discharging carefully and zealously. He differed upon one point from his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade. His right hon. Friend bad said that great inconvenience would arise from changing the buoys in the Thames, but he (Mr. Bentinck) believed that that inconvenience would be far more than counterbalanced by the great advantages of which such a measure would be productive. He concurred most cordially with the noble Lord in his attempt to induce the House to consider the whole subject; but, at the same time, he did not think his noble Friend could fairly call upon the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer to undertake the cost of all this additional expenditure without their having had more accurate and detailed information on the matter. He therefore hoped his noble Friend would be induced to adopt the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, and accede to the proposal for a Commission to inquire into the subject.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
said, that the House was much obliged to his noble Friend for the ability and clearness with which he had brought before it a subject of great national importance. In many respects he concurred in the view which had been taken by his noble Friend. He 1137 was a Member of the Committee which sat in 1845, and was truly an assenting party to the recommendations which that Committee made to the House. At the same time, he thought the observations of the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down worthy of the attention of his noble Friend. Since that Committee sat, great changes have been made in the constitution and arrangements of the Trinity House, and therefore it could not be said that that Report, and the Report of the previous Committee, contained all the information necessary to enable the Government and the House to determine what course they should pursue upon this important matter. He should, therefore, strongly recommend his noble Friend to accept the proposal which had been made by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, that a Royal Commission should be issued to inquire into this subject. Notwithstanding the improvements which had been made at the Trinity House, he was led to believe that other changes might be made in the arrangement of that Department which would lead to a considerable saving; and, he must confess that he was one of those who thought that, in the abstract, there was a good deal of plausibility in the argument that the expense of these lights ought to be borne by the public, instead of by the shipping interest. The lighting of our coast was undoubtedly a duty which belonged rather to the nation than to individuals. Take for analogy, on a small scale, the lighting of the streets; we did not call upon the persons who traversed the streets of this great town to pay for their lighting. That expense was defrayed by the parishes, who stood in the same relation to the lighting of our streets as the nation occupied to that of the coasts. Upon that analogy he thought that the nation ought to pay the expense of lighting the coast. On the other hand, until the Department, which was responsible to Parliament, was invested with full power of controlling the expenditure and enforcing those arrangements which were best adapted to secure the efficiency of the service and its economical performance, it must be premature to make the transfer from the shipping to the Consolidated Fund. There were matters of detail with regard to which further inquiry appeared to be requisite, and he should therefore strongly recommend his noble Friend, in the interest of the matter which he had taken in hand, to accept the proposal of the right hon. 1138 Gentleman opposite, to withdraw his Motion, and to leave it to the Government to appoint a Royal Commission to investigate the whole matter and report thereupon.
said, he thought the House ought to be consistent with itself, and he by no means shared in the apprehensions expressed by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford seemed to think that it would be a great public calamity to place some £200,000 of patronage in the hands of the Executive; but he (Mr. White) would ask how long ago was it since the House arrived at the conclusion that it would be a benefit to have the vast patronage connected with the Indian Administration given to the Executive? Again, no later than in the last Parliament it was deemed expedient to adopt the recommendation of the noble Lord the Member for Sandwich, and pay £1,250,000 to the King of Denmark in order to extinguish the Sound Dues; but the Light Dues on our own coast were of a far more objectionable character, and surely if it was expedient to abolish the Sound Dues, it was no less expedient to do away with our own Light Dues and throw the charge of maintaining the lighthouses upon the Consolidated Fund. With respect to the state of the finances, which some persons viewed with some degree of alarm, he thought that if the Chancellor of the Exchequer was compelled to continue the imposition of the income tax, he would in a great degree do away with the unpopularity of that proceeding, or of raising money in any other unpalatable way, if he would consent to remove so objectionable an impost as this was felt to be. Let it be also remembered that by making the transfer proposed they would be benefiting the consumer, and carrying out the principle of direct taxation, in favour of which the House pronounced years ago. In conclusion, these dues were very severely felt by the coasting shipping, especially by that connected with the port of Plymouth, and, as a Member for that town, he tendered his warmest thanks to the noble Lord (Lord C. Paget) for the admirable manner in which he had brought this subject before the House.
§ MR. A. SMITH
observed that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford (Mr. Cardwell) was mistaken in supposing that the United States Commissioners had reported in favour of the English system 1139 of lighting. On the contrary, in their Report, they gave a decided preference to the system pursued in France, and adverted to the extreme economy of that system compared with the one which was pursued here. They stated that the average cost of the lights in this country was £500, while the magnificent French light at Grisnez cost only £300, and they further reported that proceeding on the French system the total cost of the whole of the lighthouses in the United States, which were very numerous, far exceeding ours, would be but £84,000 a year. The greater cheapness of labour and materials had been alleged as a reason for the moderate cost of the French lights, but as that argument could not apply to America it must fall to the ground. The United States Commissioners stated that the expense of the lighthouses in France in 1825 was actually less than the cost of collecting the dues in this country; and they described the machinery of the Trinity House as not only objectionable in principle, but exceedingly expensive. In fact, so many contrary statements had been made upon the subject, that he hardly knew what the real state of the facts was. For instance, it had been said that the cost of lighthouses in this country was only £27,000 a year, and of light ships £37,800; but when he turned to the last accounts published by the Board of Trade, he found that the expenditure for lighthouses alone was nearly £148,000, and the receipts £252,000 a year, which left a balance of £104,000 wholly unaccounted for. It was a great misfortune that the accounts laid on the table for their information as to the actual expenditure of the Trinity House were not as complete as they ought to be. Previous to the passing of the Mercantile Marino Act the Trinity House only gave the amount of the receipt from Light Dues, and the expenditure upon lighthouses; but they were not bound to account for the residue, which was between £60,000 and £70,000 a year. Doubtless a large part of that balance was required for the salaries and expenses of that establishment itself. The Elder Brethren, it appeared from the blue book, had £7,000 a year, the establishment on Tower Hill cost £80,000, and the steamers in connection with the Trinity Board and the lighthouses cost a large sum. He concurred with the right hon. Gentleman opposite that this matter ought not immediately to be placed in the hands 1140 of the Government; but he wished to see the Trinity Board establishment remodelled and that body made effective for the purposes for which it was intended. Its constitution was very defective, many of the Brethren being self-elective, while in his opinion the Elder Brethren ought to be selected from different ports in the kingdom by the mercantile marine body in conjunction with the shipowners. The establishment of such a Board as that would be satisfactory to the great shipping interest, which through its instrumentality might be placed in that position in the body politic to which it was fairly entitled. If thoroughly remodelled, its various functions, together with the examination of masters and mates, and other duties beneficial to the mercantile marine of this country, might be exercised by it with great public i advantage. The Trinity House had obstinately resisted improvement, never yielding except to the strong pressure of Parliamentary inquiry. For a long period they persisted in the use of sperm oil, on the plea that it encouraged the whale fishery; and it was not until the Committee of 1845 had sat that they were at last induced to substitute colza oil in its place. The Trinity House must be subjected to a thorough and searching investigation before it could be put upon a. proper footing. He should offer, therefore, no objection to the appointment of a Commission, because he thought that its investigation would eventually lead to useful results.
§ MR. PHILIPPS
said, he did not see that because we spent £1,250,000 to abolish the Sound Dues, it followed that we were now called upon to place the charge of lighting our coasts upon the Consolidated Fund. He thought that if the argument of the hon. Member for Ply- mouth (Mr. White) that the cost of maintaining lighthouses ought to be defrayed by the Consolidated Fund, because the charge ultimately fell upon the consumer, was allowed to prevail, it would be impossible to stop there. The railway interest might with equal plausibility urge that the expenses for watching, taxation, and local rates ought to be thrown upon the national Exchequer, because they also ultimately fell upon the consumer and the travelling public. He trembled for the Consolidated Fund. The late Chancellor of the Exchequer had warned them that the danger to which it was exposed at the present day did not arise from personal corruption, 1141 but from the advocacy of the pet schemes of benevolent individuals, each of whom sought to throw a new charge upon the country, for what he no doubt conceived to be the good of the public. If such a practice were not sternly discouraged, it was to be feared that this fund would cease to deserve the epithet "consolidated," and that, as Hamlet wished might be the case with his own flesh, it would "melt, thaw, and dissolve itself into a dew." Inasmuch, however, as the greater portion of the speech of the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, had reference principally to the improvements which might be made in the Trinity Board, he did not wish to offer any objection to the suggestions which he had made.
§ MR. COWAN
complained that it was too often the case that when the sheriffs and other authorities on the coast of Scotland submitted good plans to the Trinity Board for the improvement of the northern lighthouses, they were set aside, whether by secret influence or not he could not say. He thought that with reference to the difference in the cost of establishing and maintaining lighthouses on the coast of France and England it arose from the rocky character of our shores, and the impossibility of getting at many of our lights except during a short period of the year, for the purpose of repairing them. Many of them on the coast of Scotland were situated in places access to which was extremely difficult. As the noble Lord had attained his object by bringing the matter under the consideration of the Government, he recommended him to leave it to be dealt with by them on their own responsibility, and to withdraw the Motion which he had made.
§ MR. J. EWART
remarked that he could not concur with the noble Lord the Member for Sandwich in deeming it expedient that the whole of the proposed expenditure should be thrown upon the Consolidated Fund. It was, however, he thought, a question well worthy of the consideration of the Government whether it would not be desirable to free the coasting trade from the operation of those dues which pressed so heavily upon it, and which amounted to a sum of only £G0,000 per annum.
LORD CLARENCE PAGST
said, that, after the assurance which he had received from the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, that the Government would be prepared to appoint a Royal Commission to inquire into the im- 1142 portant subject which he had that evening brought under its notice, and after the opinion which had been so generally expressed by hon. Members that such a course would be likely to lead to a satisfactory result, he should, with the permission of the House, withdraw his Motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.