HC Deb 19 June 1860 vol 159 cc672-714

said, he rose to move the Resolution of which he had given notice:— That, in the opinion of this House, it is the duty of Her Majesty's Government to adopt at the earliest possible period the necessary measures to carry into effect the recommendations of the Commissioners appointed in 1858 to inquire into the formation of Harbours of Refuge on the coasts of Great Britain and Ireland. A Committee had reported unanimously in favour of the establishment of Harbours of Refuge. A Royal Commission had subsequently considered the matter, and backed up the Report of the Committee; and under such circumstances he felt it was the duty of the Government to have brought forward this subject. They had, however, given answers to the various questions that had been put to them, which, if they were not evasive, certainly showed that they had no earnest feeling in this matter, and, as they had either failed or neglected to bring it forward, the duty of calling attention to the subject devolved on some independent Member. The value of the imports and exports of the country rendered the question important. Our tonnage employed in the foreign trade, including both entries inwards and outwards, was 22,000,000 tons annually; that of our coasting trade 32,000,000. Our annual exports and imports £320,000,000, exclusive of our coast trade. While trade was constantly increasing the area was limited. From the increase of trade the vessels were becoming every year more liable to danger. In the year 1854 no fewer than 1,549 persons lost their lives on the coast, without reckoning those who perished from ships foundering at sea. The average loss of life from ships stranded on the coast of the United Kingdom was 1,000; and he feared that this year it would very much exceed that amount. The amount of property lost on the shores of the United Kingdom was estimated at a million and a half sterling per annum. These important facts were brought before the House in 1857, and the House with one accord agreed to the appointment of a Committee to see if anything could be done to mitigate the fearful loss of life and property to which he had alluded. That Committee sat for two Sessions, and took evidence from all parts of the country; and in 1858 they reported to the House that they could not too strongly press on the House their conviction of the necessity, on national grounds, that the works required to remedy the present state of things should be undertaken as early as possible, and on such a system as would secure their rapid and steady progress. A Motion was soon afterwards made and unanimously agreed to, for the appointment of a Royal Commission, not to clear up any doubts that existed, but to examine the coast with a view to discover the most suitable sites for the creation of Harbours of Refuge. The hon. and gallant Member for Chatham (Sir Frederic Smith) and himself were the only Members of the House on that Commission; but the other Members were able and competent men. The Commission was presided over by Admiral Hope, who was at present in command of the fleet in China, and was occupied for a period of six months in the prosecution of the arduous labours which devolved upon it. The Commissioners met in London and agreed on certain points which they thought to be necessary elements in a good harbour. The first object they sought to attain was to fix upon sites by means of which the utmost would be done to save life; the next was, as far possible, to save property; the third, to afford facilities for commerce; and lastly came the question of our defences, which now occupied a considerable degree of public attention, and in connection with which it seemed desirable to secure a rendezvous suitable for our ships of war as well as a proper station for convoys. Having fixed upon those leading points, the Commission had held its first meeting at Wick, and there they found a larger trade than they expected. They found that 10,000 ships passed through the Pentland Frith annually, and that about 10,000 more passed along the coast on their way to the Baltic, to Canada, and to the United States. They found that no fewer than 1,700 boats of large size, carrying from 8,000 to 10,000 men, were engaged in the herring fishery, besides a great many more boats of smaller size. And they found that along the whole of that iron-bound coast, from Cromarty to the Pentland Frith, there was not a single harbour which—he did not say a ship—but which a herring boat could make if caught in an easterly gale of wind. The consequence was that in one of the recent gales no fewer than 120 of the hardy fishermen by whom the herring boats were manned had perished, when attempting to make the harbour of Wick in an easterly gale. If the harbour, on a limited scale which they recommended, had been erected, all those lives would have been saved. Further south, the Commission found that a large passing trade and a large fishing trade existed, and yet from Peterhead to the Frith of Forth there was no harbour which an ordinary-sized vessel could take at low water. Therefore they recommended that at Wick and Peterhead harbours should be made, partly out of local resources, for he was bound to say the people did not ask that all should be done for them out of the public revenues. At both places the people said, "We shall benefit to a considerable extent by the construction of these harbours, and for the benefit we expect to derive we are willing to pay." They next came to the northeast cost of England, where they found that at the port of Shields, from 300 to 400 vessels sometimes left the harbour at one tide, manned by from 5,000 to 6,000 men. Going still farther south, to Flamborough Head, they found it was no uncommon thing for 500 sail of merchantmen to be taken by one grasp of the eye, if he might use the expression, and the sea appeared to be literally covered with fleets of merchant ships; and yet with this vast amount of property and life continually at stake, they found that from the Frith of Forth to the Humber, a distance of 150 miles, there was not a single port to which those vessels could in any case of necessity fly for refuge. The consequence having been that in 1857 sixty-five ships had been totally wrecked in one gale of wind, and eighty-five lives sacrificed. He might add that he had seen it somewhere stated that in the last gale no less than 300 vessels had been stranded along the shore to which he was referring, and it should be remembered that the lives which were thus lost to the country were those of our seamen, on whom England must depend to fight her battles in the hour of need. In that quarter, again, they had experienced similar liberality on the part of the inhabitants with respect to the contributing to the cost of providing the necessary harbours. As an instance of that liberality he might mention the case of the Tyne, where it would cost £1,000,000 to erect a harbour, towards which expenditure the inhabitants expressed themselves ready to contribute £750,000, if the Government will furnish £250,000. At Hartlepool £1,000,000 would be required to make a Harbour of Refuge there, and the people offered to raise half of that sum if the Government would give the oilier half. That, he thought, proved that the harbours they recommended would not be useless, for the people themselves, if they did not appreciate their value, would never spend their own money on their construction. Coming further south they found the remarkable harbour of Filey, where nature had done so much, and man had clone nothing at all. For the sum of £800,000 that harbour could be made nearly equal to the magnificent harbour of Portland. Going south from the Thames to the Land's End, there were many harbours—Dovor, Portsmouth, Portland, Plymouth, and in the Isle of Wight—all made at the cost of the Government; but they did not consider that Dovor was one of those harbours likely to be of much advantage for saving either life or property in jeopardy at sea. While he would do all he could to obtain such harbours as the Commission had recommended he would do all in his power to oppose further grants of money to Dovor. They would never get their money's worth either from Dovor or Alderney—especially from Alderney. From the northern coast of Cornwall to the Bristol Channel they found that between Lundy Island and Bristol, there was no expenditure necessary, there being already excellent shelter; but between Land's End and Hartland Point, passed by one-fifth of the whole coasting trade of the country, with the exception of Padstow, a very dangerous harbour to take, and which would only admit small vessels under favourable circumstances, there were sixty miles of iron bound coast, with no place of shelter. It was necessary to do something there, and the Commission were unanimous in their recommendation that a Harbour of Refuge should be made at St. Ives, which would not only be of vast utility for the preservation of life and property, but also of national importance as regards defence. For the sum of £400,000 a magnificent harbour could be constructed there. Turning to the west, south, and north coast of Ireland they found that nature had done nearly as much as on the west coast of Scotland. On the west there was the magnificent harbour of Galway; and on the south the still more magnificent harbour of Cork. On the north there were Belfast Lough, and Lough Foyle. They did not, therefore, think it necessary to recommend any grant of money for the construction of Harbours of Refuge either on the west, south, or north coast of Ireland. But on the east coast, where the principal traffic took place from Liverpool, Glasgow, and the ports on the Clyde, there was a great want of shelter. In the Bay of Carlingford, however, there was a splendid sheet of water, fit to receive the whole of the Royal Navy, but access to it was prevented by a bar or ledge of rock that might be removed for £50,000, when the Bay of Carlingford would at once become a magnificent harbour. Waterford presented similar facilities, and for the same sum of £50,000 the harbour could be made accessible at all times of the tide. The Isle of Man was the last place they visited. They found that there was not a harbour on the Island. At Douglas they were obliged to land in small boats. Yet there existed a considerable trade with Liverpool, besides the shelter that might be afforded to ships passing up and down the Channel. They felt, therefore, they might fairly call on the Government to be at the expense of making a harbour there. But the people of Douglas came forward and said "No; we feel we shall greatly benefit by the construction of the harbour, and we will willingly bear half the expense if the Government will bear the other half." The whole sum the Commission recommended should be spent was£2,365,000 for separate harbours at points where they were most needed around the whole of our shores. He did not ask the House to vote all that money at once for this purpose; but he did ask that they should adopt the Resolution that the Government should, at the earliest possible period, undertake to commence these great national and necessary works. It would take at least ten years to construct all these works; and the grants should be spread over that period. The sum required next year would not exceed £250,000, and might not reach that amount. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade might say he objected to abstract Resolutions like the present, and that it would be time to deal with the question when they had money for Harbours of Refuge and were prepared to spend it upon them; but he would remind the right hon. Gentleman that he once himself brought forward a celebrated abstract Resolution, involving the sacrifice of a much larger sum than the House was then asked to vote. The right hon. Gentleman submitted to the House an abstract Resolution in favour of the repeal of the paper duties, which was carried, and when he became a Member of the Government he used his influence in the Cabinet to put it in force; and, by that Resolution, he did not ask for a sum of £250,000 a year for ten years, but he asked the House to give up for ever £1,500,000 per annum. He (Mr. Lindsay) did not know whether the Government intended to ask the House to adopt the Report just laid on the table with regard to the defences of the country, but without wishing to anticipate discussion upon that question he must say that it touched upon the subject of his Resolution. The great defence of this country ever had been and ever would be on the waters. It was not sufficient to say that everything had been changed since the application of screws to ships of war, for whatever change had taken place in the mode of conducting warfare, we were essentially a maritime people, and our great strength must ever be on the waters. As regarded, therefore, the defence of the country, he asked the House to support his Resolution, and he did so on this ground, that while these Harbours of Refuge would provide all round the coast a rendezvous for ships of war, and stations for convoys of merchant vessels in a time of warfare, they would complete those points of defence as regarded our different ports which would be required even if £12,000,000 were expended on fortifications. There would be no end to an expenditure on fortifications; for when once they began a system of fortifying the coasts, it must be continued on both sides of the kingdom, from Land's End to John o' Groat's. And after all if they spent £12,000,000 in fortifying Dovor and other places, was it likely that an enemy would land his forces before the very muzzles of the guns? Both the Committee and the Commission reported that the sum required for the works they suggested was trifling as compared with the great objects which were to be attained, and therefore he asked the House on the ground of national defence, but above all on the ground of mercy, to support his Resolution.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That, in the opinion of this House, it is the duty of Her Majesty's Government to adopt, at the earliest possible period, the necessary measures to carry into effect the recommendations of the Commissioners appointed in 1858 to inquire into the formation of Harbours of Refuge on the Coasts of Great Britain and Ireland.


, in seconding the Resolution, said he entirely concurred with the Royal Commissioners when in their Report they described this question as one of a truly national character. He would address himself principally to the part of the country with which he was connected, and in the first place he would allude to the results of that frightful hurricane, unexampled at such a period of the year, which on the morning of Whit Monday last devastated the shores of the United Kingdom. He found from The Shipping Gazette that within ten miles of Hartlepool on that morning thirty-six vessels were wrecked, involving a loss of life and property, and all of those vessels were in such a position when the storm came on, that if there bad been a harbour of refuge in the locality they would have ridden it out in entire safety. Powerful steamers had been exposed to the greatest danger—one from Hamburgh had been obliged to throw overboard 192 out of 200 sheep, and another from Rotterdam was compelled to slaughter her deck cargo—bullocks: both vessels were nearly foundering in sight of port. His constituents, though naturally desirous to diminish the risk of damage to property at sea, were still anxious to see means adopted to save human life. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Milner Gibson) was in the habit of frequently cruising in those waters, and he avers the importance of providing for the security of those who frequented these seas. He trusted, therefore, that the Government would consent to entertain the question, and give their attention to those ports which most required such aid. He found from The Shipping Gazette that the wreck in January were 229, in February 154, in March 166, in April 133, and in May 124, making a total of 806. He might further state that of the thirty-six vessels wrecked off Hartlepool, three were lost with their entire crews. If it was thought expedient to expend a sum of £10,000,000 or £12,000,000 in fortifications in anticipation of the possible danger of a foreign invasion, the proposal to grant for ten years an annual sum of £250,000, could scarcely be considered an unreasonable one, the desired object being the "formation of Harbours of Refuge." He had no information as to the amount of loss of human life in them; but allowing that each ship was worth £1,000, and that the damage done was to the extent of about half that sum, there would have been a destruction of property equal to £400,000, which was more than the sum proposed to be expended in forming one or two of these harbours. The Royal Commissioners, in submitting their Report to the Queen, said they did so in the firm conviction that if these harbours were carried out in the spirit of their recommendations they would prove not the least noble of the many works of benevolence which illustrated the history of Her Majesty's reign. He would ask the Government to bear that in mind, and not to view this question either with carelessness or indifference. By adopting the plan recommended by the Royal Commission they would deserve the gratitude of seamen yet unborn, and the admiration of all classes of their countrymen.


said, he hoped Her Majesty's Government were not prepared to give a hasty assent to the Motion, involving as it did an expenditure, according to the Report of the Commissioners, of £2,365,000, but in the judgment of many authorities equally competent to form an opinion on the subject, an expenditure greatly exceeding, if not double, that sum. There were serious and grave reasons why the- House should pause before they accepted the Motion. The hon. Member for Sunderland had referred to the Committee on Harbours of Refuge, but that Committee was a most unfortunate appointment, inasmuch as, instead of consisting of disinterested and impartial judges, the majority, or at least a large portion, of the members represented seaports, and were directly interested in large sums of money being spent upon Harbours of Refuge. The hon. Member for Sunderland had put the annual loss of life by shipwreck on our coasts at 1,000 persons; the Commissioners estimated it at 780, and the annual loss of property at 1,500,000. But did the hon. Member maintain that a great proportion of those lives and of that property would be saved by the erection of Harbours of Refuge? That was extremely problematical. He did not deny that Harbours of Refuge would prove of some value, but it was very questionable whether there would be any material saving of life and property by the erection of the few Harbours of Refuge recommended by the Commissioners. Only a very limited number of vessels on our coasts could reasonably be expected to be in such a position, on the approach of a storm, as to be able to take advantage of those harbours. He had heard many experienced seafaring men speak against harbours of refuge, which they called "skulking holes;" and he never should forget the approbation when one of the sea captains, at the meeting held at Dundee, said, in answer to a question from the Commissioners, that he thought many more ships were lost in making for harbours than in putting out to sea. The Commissioners themselves said that in certain weather ships were only able to reach those ports which were under their lee; and, therefore, the greater the number of such ports the greater would be the saving of life. The Commissioners further said that the inevitable conclusion was that it would be advantageous to improve existing ports wherever practicable. But he understood that, instead of recommending the improvement of existing ports, the Commissioners recommended the construction of new harbours. It was his firm conviction that more losses occurred through ill-found unseaworthy ships than were occasioned by sudden gales. New and powerful vessels, if well manned, were to a great extent independent of harbours of refuge; and for coasting vessels, which would principally make use of them, it would be much more advantageous to improve those which already existed and which lay in their route, than to expend enormous sums on the construction of new harbours of refuge. This view was amply borne out by the statements in the Report of the Commissioners, and by the evidence which they had collected; but they had fully determined on this gigantic scheme of expenditure, and they accordingly recommended its adoption to the Legislature. The specific recommendations of the Commission, moreover, were open to particular objections. He regretted that Scotland should figure at the head of the rest; of places on which the outlay was to be made. The Commissioners recommended that £250,000 should be expended on the little town of Wick, and £300,000 at Peterhead, and he believed he was only doing his duty in protesting against a step which was so uncalled for. It might be desirable to expend a portion of that amount at Wick for the benefit of the herring fishery, which was of importance in a national point of view, but as regarded Peterhead, it had been declared by the unanimous testimony of the witnesses examined at Dundee, that such a harbour was wholly unnecessary. The northeast coast of England, however, was the point at which it was proposed to make the largest expenditure. He did not deny the importance of the commercial interests upon the Tyne, but on (he same principle every other river in the kingdom would have a right to apply for a grant of public money in proportion to its shipping. They were also asked to expend £500,000 at Hartlepool, and £800,000 at Filey Bay; but how could they justify the erection of two harbours so near each other, at a cost of £1,300,000? If they rashly agreed to sanction the expenditure of this money, they or their successors would live to declare their inability to stop an enormous expenditure such as was going on at Dovor and Alderney. The Commissioners expected that the expenditure would be at an end in about ten years, but he was convinced that if they sanctioned the expenditure by their vote that night there was not one of them that would ever see the end of it. There were recommendations of the Commissioners in which he concurred, and therefore he was unable to meet the Motion with a direct negative; but believing the proposed expenditure of £2,500,000 to be, in the present financial position of the country, inexpedient, and that it would be unwise for the House of Commons to enter into any pledge on the subject, he deemed it to be his duty to move the previous question.


said, he rose to second the Amendment, because he thought the proposals advocated by the hon. Member for Sunderland were made at a very inop- portune moment, and he was of opinion that it would be impolitic for the House to make any promise to incur so large an outlay as that which the Commissioners had proposed. They would have shortly do discuss the Report of the National Defences Commission, which, of course, must be more important than the question of Harbours of Refuge. It might indeed be said that to provide harbours of refuge was also a national object, but it was not so in the same degree, for the Government was not bound to take care of the defence of the country, but the Government was bound to project the mercantile marine against storms and dangers of the sea, which were the act of God, any more than it was bound to protect the agricultural interest against damage by hailstorms. In dealing with the question before it the House should, he added, bear in mind that upon the north-east coast of England the wrecks which took place were attributable to causes which might be obviated to a considerable extent by the owners of vessels themselves, inasmuch as the principal sufferers were colliers, which were frequently sent out to sea in an unfit state. Under those circumstances, while he was of opinion that at the proper season the construction of harbours of refuge was an object to which the House might very properly give its sanction, he must decline advocating the proposed expenditure for the purpose at the present moment.


said, that as a naval officer who happened to have some experience in connection with the subject before the House, he deemed it to be his duty cordially to support the Motion of the hon. Member for Sunderland. The hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter) appeared to imagine that a vessel would never be lost on our coasts if she were properly appointed and efficiently commanded; but no one who was accustomed to the sea could, he thought, accede to the justice of that proposition. It was impossible, indeed, to glance at the evidence which had been taken before the Royal Commission without perceiving that although some cases of wreck were due, in some degree, to causes such as those which he had just mentioned, yet a large number of them were to be attributed to bad weather, and many of the latter had occurred amongst first class ships fully found and manned. The hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Lindsay) had pointed out to the House that property to the value of no less than £1,500,000 was annually lost on our shores; while the average loss of human life, a matter of much greater importance, was no less than 850 per annum. Without dwelling, however, on the general question, he should wish to advert for a moment to the port of Waterford, the capabilities of which he had had an opportunity of ascertaining in person. The position of that port at the south-east angle of Ireland was considered to be a most important one; it commanded the entrance to the St. George's Channel, and the Bristol Channel, and the whole of the trade of the west coast of England as well as that of the east coast of Ireland had to pass by it, while the commanders of the Liverpool ocean steamers bound for America were peremptorily ordered by the owners to take—except in cases of great emergency—the southern route. Now these vessels, on reaching the mouth of the Irish Channel, might be met by a southerly wind, in which case it would be a matter of difficulty for them to return to the English coast, whereas, if there were a safe harbour on the south coast of Ireland, they would be able to proceed thither, and, if necessary, find shelter. There was another point. From Kingston to Cork there was a great extent of coast, but no harbour at all adapted for the purposes of a harbour of refuge. He did not make these remarks from any desire to put forward the claims of Waterford, which was capable of accommodating the local shipping, but for purely national reasons. A harbour of refuge at that point was specially required. He hoped they should have a favourable vote on this subject, and that the Government would be prepared to enter on the subject in the spirit in which it had been recommended by the Royal Commission.


said, that in his opinion his hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland had made out a fair case, and that the Government were really called tin to take some early steps on this subject. It was not right that our brave seamen, the marrow and strength of the country, should be left to perish from dangers which were preventible. If the same accidents took place on railways as on the sea, they would have had long since Harbours of Refuge along the coast; but it was because the loss of life which was so great by shipwreck did not come fully home to them that they had overlooked the question. It was their interest as well as their duty to do so, for they could in no way more effec- tually promote our national defences than by the construction of Harbours of Refuge. The saving of the lives of from 800 to 1,000 seamen every year would be not only a most economical but a most wise measure of national defence, for they were the men who must fight our battles. There was no doubt that many colliers were sent to sea in an ill-found and unscaworthy state, and it was much to be desired that some means could be devised for preventing or punishing such traffic in the flesh, blood, and lives of our fellow-creatures, the owners of these vessels, by the system of insurance, saving themselves from pecuniary loss. Condign punishment should follow in every case where such a charge could be made out. He hoped the Government would accede to this Motion, so that there might be no occasion for a division. He, for one, should be ready to supply a much larger sum than that asked for, and he did not wish it to be supposed that persons who came from the interior of the country did not take an interest in the subject.


said, this is a subject of great national importance, and I may be permitted to observe that the inhabitants of inland towns take quite as deep an interest in it as those residing in seaports. For instance, the people of the large manufacturing town which I have the honour to represent think it a positive disgrace that England, with an enormous commerce like hers, that the east coast from the Humber to the Frith of Forth should be left in a totally unprotected state. Will it be credited, that on that part of the coast there is not a single harbour capable of admitting vessels at low water? But such is the fact. The Royal Commissioners recommended Filey Bay as a most eligible site for a life and refuge harbour, which recommendation, if carried out, would be of immense service on the east coast. I have received a letter from the Leeds Chamber of Commerce on the subject, and, with the permission of the House, I will read a short extract from it:— This Chamber is of opinion no time should be lost in the construction of a national life harbour at Filey Bay, the necessity for which has become again evident from the disastrous results of the hurricane which recently swept over this island. Dr. Cortis, of Filey, writes to me thus:— We feel very warmly on the subject just now, half our fishermen being ruined by the loss of ten of their vessels wrecked in our bay on the 28th of May, entirely for want of a harbour. Along the north-east coast, extending from the Fern Islands to Flamborough Head—say a sea distance of about 100 miles only —45 per cent of the whole coasting trade of England passes, and 32 per cent of her entire trade, coasting and foreign together, and on this part of the coast the scenes of shipwreck and loss of life are annually most heartrending and distressing. It is, therefore, of paramount importance that something should be done, and that soon. One million and a-half of property is annually lost on our coasts by shipwreck, and the lives lost from the same cause frequently exceed 1,000 in a year, no fewer than 1549 having thus perished in the year 1854. Why, only the other day, the awful destruction of fishing-boats belonging to Yarmouth and Lowestoft alone was attended with the loss of above 200 men. We cannot afford to lose year by year the valuable lives of so many brave fellows. How shall we be able to man our fleet if war were to come? We deem it to be of imperative necessity to find money for the building of ships of war, and yet we commit the suicidal policy of seeing our hardy seamen decimated year after year without ever attempting to make any adequate provision for their protection and safety. No doubt it will be said by the Government that the state of the finances of the country will prevent the recommendations of the Royal Commissioners being carried out at present. But I may observe that we find money for works of much less importance. This country never grudges money for works of necessity and mercy, but it does grudge money for works which it feels are not needed. I shall cordially support the Motion of the hon. Member for Sunderland.


said, he was surprised that the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter) should have opposed this Motion, because upon referring to the evidence which was given before the Commission he found that the town he represented asked for a grant of £60,000 or £70,000 to improve its harbour, and that great efforts were made by the people of Dundee—of which town he believed the hon. Gentleman was a native—to obtain the construction of a harbour of refuge at Arbroath, only a few miles from that port. The hon. Member for Sussex (Mr. Dodson) had opposed the Motion upon the grounds of the financial difficulties of the country and the necessity for improving our national defences. Were not our best defences the seamen of the country and a full treasury? Was it not, therefore, the worst possible policy to allow our sailors to be drowned, and to throw annually a million and a half of property into the sea? It was frightful to look at the wreck chart and observe the number of black spots off Flamborough Head, demonstrating, in a painful manner, that humanity, as well as prudence, required them to establish harbours of refuge on the north east coast. The Commission had recommended the formation of one at Hartlepool, and if that and other harbours were constructed they would be found useful in case of war both for the Royal and commercial marine. In addition to the want of a harbour for the north-east coast he thought a very strong case had been made out for one on the south-west coast at St. Ives, in the neighbourhood of which a very large amount of coasting tonnage had to pass, and which was nearly in the line from Liverpool to America. He entirely approved the scheme recommended in the Report of the Commission, and that particularly because it was founded upon the principle that the public money should not all be expended at a few places, but that assistance should be given to the improvement of a number of small harbours. Perhaps the most valuable part of that scheme was the proposal that loans should be made for the improvement of harbours upon the same plan upon which they had been granted for drainage, education, and other purposes. The harbour of Poole—the town which he had the honour to represent—was rapidly filling up because the inhabitants had no means of keeping it in proper order. They had made application to Parliament for an Act, unfortunately without success—but if the system of making loans was brought into operation not a month would elapse before they would set to work upon the improvement of their port. When the Commission was appointed it was understood that its Report would be final, and should be carried out, and he knew that some of its distinguished members would not have served on it had it been likely to prove otherwise. What more, then, had the Government to do than to decide whether or not they should act upon it? If they meant to throw it over let them say so at once, but if they meant to carry it out let there be no delay. There was no reason why the decision should be postponed until next year. If the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade had a Bill let him introduce it, and allow the House to see what its provisions were. He earnestly trusted the Government would not oppose the Motion, because the majority of the House agreed in the principles upon which the Commissioners had based their Report.


remarked that he could not concur with the Commissioners that Filey was the best point, because it was too near the Humber, but he knew from experience that two or three harbours of refuge were most necessary on the east coast. They had not too many seamen, and they ought to take care of those which they had.


said, that with reference to the remarks of the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter) he wished to remind the House that not a single member of the Committee nor of the Commission had any personal interest in the expenditure which they recommended. The only object which they could have had in view was the good of their country. He believed that St. Ives well deserved the £400,000 which it was proposed to expend upon it. But Sir F. Beaufort had truly stated to Captain Sheringham that if ever there was a place which demanded the attention and assistance of the country it was Padstow. A small sum, £40,000, as recommended by the Commissioners, would do an immense deal of good. When a vessel was embayed on the iron-bound coast of Cornwall there was no harbour to get to, except Padstow. On the 26th October, the night on which the Royal Charter was wrecked, no less than twenty-four vessels, with over one hundred lives and £30,000 worth of property, were lost on the Cornwall coast. The northwest, which was the dangerous wind, was the true wind for Padstow harbour, but captains of vessels were deterred from running for it because they had to hug the point, and if they missed the true wind failed inside the point, and their vessels went to certain destruction on a quicksand. The principle, he contended, should be to assist those places which showed the greatest disposition to assist themselves, and to begin where the most good would be effected at the least cost. No small place had done so much out of its own means as Padstow. By various appliances to assist ships, eighty-one coasting vessels had been saved and only fourteen of them belonged to Padstow. If the Government had commenced by expending a small sum on Padstow, the country would have be- lieved that they wore in earnest and anxious to do more as soon as the state of the finances would permit.


said, that if he thought these harbours of refuge would really save all the property and lives which were lost by shipwreck he would vote for double the amount of money which was required to construct them. But it was a delusion to suppose that by the creation of these harbours anything like the amount of property or number of lives would be saved which were now lost. The previous year was one of the most disastrous on record as regarded the loss of life and property. More than 1,600 persons perished by shipwreck, but of that number 1,000 perished in six ships; and if they examined the circumstances under which those wrecks occurred, they would find the striking fact that they would not have been prevented by any of the harbours of refuge which were proposed. For instance, the Royal Charter passed the harbour of refuge at Holyhead, and went ashore on the coast of Anglesea; so that, unless the whole coast was one continuous harbour of refuge, such accidents would inevitably occur. Of 1,416 wrecks last year 350 had resulted from collision, and when allowance was made for ships which were lost through carelessness, which had foundered at sea, or had mistaken their position, he believed that not more than one-fourth of the entire number has been lost through stress of weather, or to which harbours of refuge could have been of any service. He warned the House that very many of the opinions and calculations in reference to harbours of refuge were based on incomplete information, and in practice would be found altogether illusory. The Government for years past had been gradually establishing really useful harbours, such as those at Portland and Holyhead, in which whole fleets could take shelter. With respect to the question of expense, he feared that the calculations of the Commission were illusory, and that the sum named would go only a short way in carrying out the scheme proposed. The north-east coast of England certainly required a harbour of refuge, but he believed if convict labour were more extensively employed, that might be economically and judiciously constructed, and the criminals themselves better disposed of than in the hulks at Bermuda. Hitherto harbours had been almost wholly improved and constructed by local enterprise, and if grants were now given to assist particular localities, he believed a very injurious influence would be exercised, and endless demands would be made for assistance of this nature. Hon. Members by supporting the present Motion ought not to be tied down to the approbation of a Report with many portions of which they disagreed. He should therefore vote in favour of the Amendment.


Sir, I have waited very patiently, but wailed in vain, to hear the opinions of Her Majesty's Government on this subject. My hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, in a very clear and convincing speech, opened the question, and in the course of it he stated that from what has passed this Session he is of opinion Her Majesty's Government never were in earnest about it. I confess that on the same grounds I have arrived at the same conclusion; and I think we have to-night a positive proof that it is a sound one. No one can deny the extreme importance of this subject or the extent to which it affects the interests of this great commercial country. There never was a question on which it more behaved the Government to form a distinct opinion; and as soon as any hon. Member had risen and made such a Motion as that which has proceeded from the hon. Member for Sunderland this evening, it was the duty of some Member of the Government to have risen and stated what their intention is. I do not know that I was ever more astonished than to see the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade sitting silent on those benches and having, as is my belief, no opinion, no intention, beyond, to use a vulgar phrase, "of seeing how the cat jumps"—and either to grant this Motion if the Government cannot help it, or to resist it if they possibly can. That is the only way I can account for the strange and, I think, not very decent silence of the Government. I hold that the House of Commons and the country have peculiar claims on the Government now in office in respect of this question, because it was first agitated under the noble Viscount now at the head of the administration. It is true that it fell to me to appoint the Commission which has been referred to tonight; but why did I appoint it? In deference to the opinion of the Committee of the House of Commons, which Committee had been appointed during the period of office of the noble Lord.

I was very sorry to hear the hon. Gen- tleman the Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter), who generally addresses the House with such good sense and moderation, trying, from the necessity of adopting any line of argument by which he could support the strange Motion by which he concluded, to throw discredit on the Committee and its conduct. He said that it consisted, in a large degree, of gentlemen who were Members for outports, and who therefore had a personal interest in the question. It did not appear to occur to him who the chairman of the Committee was. It was Mr. Wilson, whom the present Government have sent out to India in a high and responsible position. Mr. Wilson drew up the Report, and an ably drawn Report it is. It was in deference to the urgent recommendation of the Committee that the late Government appointed the Royal Commission. After the late Government came into office Mr. Wilson asked questions from time to time upon the subject, and urged that no time should be lost in the appointment of that Commission. I was not reluctant. I was much impressed with the ability with which the Report was drawn up; and I was glad to have the opportunity of taking part in what appeared to me to be a great national object. I was very anxious in the selection of the Members of that Commission, and I was sorry to hear the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. A. Smith) throw blame on its proceedings. But I believe that Commission was a very great success. Whom did I place at the head of that Commission? I appointed that gallant and distinguished man who has since shed his blood at the mouth of the Peiho; and I can appeal to the two Members of the Commission, who are also Members of this House, whether the conduct of that Commission by the gallant Admiral, and the mode in which he discharged all the duties which devolved on him in connection with it, was not worthy of his high reputation and character.

These are the steps by which the question has arrived at the position we now find it—when, after receiving, in answer to repeated inquiries, only evasive statements and straggling replies, my hon. Friend has properly raised this direct issue, and asks the House of Commons to decide whether something or whether nothing shall be done to carry out the recommendations of the Commission. The Government have made no sign as to their intentions, and I believe they have no intentions. But we have this significant clue to their feelings that two hon. Gentleman immediately behind the Treasury bench have risen to move the previous question; and, with the exception of these two, and the hon. Member for Truro, not a single Gentleman has spoken to-night except in support of the Motion. Really, Sir, the course of this debate reminds me of that other memorable debate on the memorable Reform Bill, when for six nights hon. Gentleman rose in succession, with rigid impartiality, from alternate sides of the House, to give expression to the same sentiments. I have already adverted to the speech of the hon. Mover of the previous question. What were the arguments of the hon. Gentleman who seconded it? He said that storms were caused by the power of God, and, therefore we ought to do nothing to avert them. Now, when an hon. Gentleman uses an argument of this kind it is a pretty plain proof that he feels he has nothing better to say. Another of his arguments was that the finances of the country were not in a position to justify the outlay, and in this reason I suppose is to be found the cause of the hesitation shown by the Government. But what is the obvious answer to that argument. I will remind the House that the object which the hon. Member for Sunderland seeks to obtain is a great national object—no one had ventured to controvert that. Now, if we can afford to give up the duty on silks, which in such ample folds surround the persons of the wives and daughters of the middle classes —if we can afford to throw away the duties on champagne and claret, which appear only on the tables of the rich—I hope this House will not deny that we can afford £250,000 a year for the protection of this vast amount of property, and for the saving of the lives of the poor. Why the paper duty alone, which we should have lost if there had not, happily for us, been greater wisdom in other places than on the Treasury Bench—one year of the paper duty would have liquidated nearly the whole of the sum that is asked from the Government for so desirable an object as that, the expediency of which we are now discussing.

The hon. Member for Sunderland has, with great force and effect, dwelt on some of the statistics of this question. The House will, perhaps, forgive me if I touch on some others to which the hon. Gentleman slightly alluded, or which he passed over altogether. We have heard a good deal of the necessity of a harbour of refuge in the Bristol Channel. On that subject, let me remind the House of the increase of the trade at Swansea. The increase of the foreign trade at Swansea between 1851 and 1857 has risen from 60,000 tons in the former to 262,000 tons in the latter year. Is it not an urgent reason for the creation of a harbour of refuge on that unsheltered coast, when we find the trade of that one port extending with such extraordinary rapidity? And what has been the increase of our shipping from 1843 to 1857? The British shipping entered inwards and outwards during the former year was 7,181,000 tons; in the latter 13,694,000 tons. In foreign shipping the increase had been from'2,643,000 tons, in 1843 to 9,484,000 tons in 1857; so that the two put together form an aggregate increase on the fourteen years of 136 per cent. And what are the disastrous facts to which my hon. Friend has so properly called attention? In the course of the last five years the average amount of casualties that befel ships on our coast was 1000, and of this number two-fifths were a total loss. The average loss of human life exceeds 800, and the loss of property, according to the evidence of Captain Sullivan, who was anxious to make the estimate as low as possible, amounted to a million and a half a year. But then we are told by the hon. Member for Truro that all that amount of life and property will not be saved, though harbours of refuge are established. Very likely not; but let me remind the House on the other hand, that that estimate of the loss of life did not include a very touching and important part of the question—the grievous loss of life among fishermen. Let me remind the House of the frightful accounts we have had of the disastrous effects of the gale that occurred within the last fortnight. I declare I hardly ever read in the public journals a more affecting or touching story than the accounts which were published from the north of England, where some thousands of Englishmen assembled on the shore, saw ship after ship go down, and every life on board was sacrificed because there was no place of shelter near. The hon. Member for Montrose tells us that if there had been a harbour of refuge all these lives would not have been saved. Nobody says they would, and my hon. Friend (Mr. Lindsay) does not say they would; the Commission does not say they would; the Committee does not say they would. But what we and what they say is that, so far as the prudence of men can guard against the visitations of Providence, if England had had, as a commercial country she ought to have had, harbours of refuge, a large proportion of the lives who annually perish on our shores would be saved. Positive proof on such a subject is unattainable, but I think we approach near to positive proof when we find that so soon as a gale threatens, the harbours of refuge formed at Holyhead and at Portland are crowded with vessels who fly there for shelter, and find it. Since the harbour at Holyhead has been formed, it has been resorted to every winter by some 200 or 300 vessels which would otherwise have been knocking about St. George's Channel, and many of them probably lost. It is the same with regard to other harbours, and therefore it is trifling with the question to say, that if you had these harbours of refuge more lives would not be saved. I trust the Government, after their conduct this year with the finances of the country, will not mock the House by talking of difficulties on that score. The money they have thrown away this year would provide again and again for all that is wanted for these great national objects. I will not longer detain the House. I have stated the views I entertain on this important question, and I challenge contradiction to the conclusions at which I have arrived. I trust, if the Government does not accede to this Motion, my hon. Friend will press it to a division.


The right hon. Baronet has fallen into an error in charging the Government with indifference to the importance of this question. The Government, considering all that has passed in reference to this question, considering the expectations that have been excited by the inquiries of a Committee of this House and the Repot of a Commission, have felt it their duty to give attention to the subject, and endeavour to provide a measure which, if not carrying out the whole of the recommendations of the Commission, at any rate will make a commencement and carry out these recommendations to a certain extent. The subject was under the consideration of the Government before the Session began. But the right hon. Gentleman has to consider now not merely the general question of the advantage of having harbours of refuge on parts of the coast which are now unsheltered, but he has to consider the propriety of our passing this particular Resolution on our Minutes, with a view to guide the future decisions of this House. I understand that is the object. The right hon. Baronet, in expitiating on the great evils of the absence of harbours of refuge, mentioned two particular instances, the Mumbles in the Bristol Channel, and the great loss of life among the fishermen off Yarmouth and Lowestoft on the coast of Norfolk. In neither of those cases, if he binds himself to the Report of this Commission, will he obtain any assistance. The Mumbles scheme, which the right hon. Baronet thinks so necessary, was rejected by the Commissioners, and there is no provision in their recommendations for a harbour of refuge on that part of the coast which could be of the slightest use to the vessels suffering there from want of shelter. I mention this to show the importance of our not fettering the discretion of this House, when we come to consider the question of granting public money for harbours of refuge. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Truro put that point before us with great force. He said we are binding ourselves to a general scheme, without considering the merits of any one of the proposed works, or the amount of money they involve. Would it be just or fair to prejudge, without discussion, the claims of one particular as against the claims of another particular port, when it was a question of granting the public money? It may be well to pass abstract Resolutions, in order to indicate generally that it is necessary to do something upon a given subject. But if you pass such a Resolution as this you will bind yourselves, at the earliest possible moment, to bring in a measure to give effect to the precise recommendation of the Commissioners ["No, no!"] I confess I cannot understand the words of this Resolution to convey any other meaning, for they are—"to carry into effect the recommendation of the Commissioners to inquire into the formation of harbours of refuge upon the coasts of Great Britain and Ireland." You not only do that, but you prejudge a great number of separate questions, each of great importance; and you prejudge another very important question, as to the way in which the funds for the support of these harbours of refuge are to be provided. The hon. Member for Sunderland spoke of the harmony which prevailed between the Committee of this House and the Commission; and he quoted their agreement as an additional reason why we should bow to the authority of those two bodies. But, unfortunately, they were not in harmony. They did not agree. They differed on one most material point, and that was as to the source from whence the funds are to be derived. Whilst the Commissioners recommended that a large portion of the money should be derived from the State grants, assisted by aids from the towns and places where the harbours of refuge were to be situated, the Committee of the House of Commons recommended that three-fourths of the charge of the support of these harbours of refuge should be levied upon shipping by a passing toll, upon the principle that those who derived the benefit of them should contribute to their construction and maintenance. This is a most important difference; and I think we should be wrong to prejudge a question of such a character by passing a general Resolution that we will carry out all the recommendations of the Commission. As to the question of passing tolls, I have one observation to make. The harbour of Ramsgate is a harbour of refuge to a very large number of vessels of small tonnage, which avail themselves of it during southwesterly gales. It is supported by passing tolls. But we have at this moment a Bill before the House to abolish those passing tolls, as a burden which the shipping interest is unwilling to bear. Upon the other hand we have a Committee recommending us to establish now passing tolls for the establishment of harbours of refuge. These are difficulties attending the question; and I submit, if the Government are to consider authorities upon a question involving the expenditure of money, there is no authority which they ought more carefully to consider than that of a Committee of the House of Commons. Now, in the whole of this debate I have never heard one Gentleman hint at the idea of a Committee of this House recommending that so large a portion of expenditure upon these harbours of refuge should be borne by the shipping who are to derive benefit from them. But it ought to have been mentioned, and it is my duty, upon the part of the Government, to mention it, as a matter that must be taken into consideration by the House.

I am sorry to say that I have not found any disposition on the part of the shipowners to contribute in the smallest degree to the support of these harbours of refuge. The chairman of the Shipowners' Society in Liverpool stated that he would rather not have harbours of refuge at all than contribute one farthing towards their con- struction or maintenance. This was stated before the Committee of the House of Commons, and we have never had one single application upon this important subject from ship-owners or mariners, with the exception of some recent memorials from fishermen. The applications have principally come from the localities where the proposed harbours are situate, and from persons having property, or whose interests would be promoted by the construction of these harbours in their immediate neighbourhood. It is rather discouraging, I must say, to find that the interest, for whose special benefit these harbours of refuge are to be constructed, have shown so great a reluctance to contribute a portion of the expense. It does seem to me, if harbours of refuge be necessary for passing shipping, and for the safety of our great mercantile marine, there is just as good a case why shipowners should contribute to them as they should contribute towards the support of lights, or buoys, or beacons, or any other facilities for navigation. Let me ask the right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich (Sir John Pakington) to consider whether it is right, after what has been stated, that we should pledge ourselves, upon two most important matters—first, as to the exact mode in which the money is to be raised for the making of these harbours; and, second, the exact and particular places to which the money should be given? His ministerial experience will tell him that if he had been in office at this time, whatever might have been his own views with reference to the bringing in of a measure, he would not ask the House of Commons to bind itself deliberately by a Resolution of this character.

With regard to the cost of these harbours, as recommended, it has been, as I understand from the Report of the Committee and of the Commissioners, very much understated. The Committee recommended that in the whole about £2,000,000 should be laid out; and that it should be advanced by the Government, three-fourths being repaid by a passing toll upon ships. The Commission made an advance upon that recommendation, for they suggested that not less than £4,000,000 should be expended; but they added that probably a portion of that £4,000,000 might be obtained from local aid. No doubt Hartlepool and the Tyne would be ready to contribute a considerable sum if the Government made a contribution; but I have been informed that many of the places at which it is proposed to establish these harbours are not likely to be able to raise large sums of money for the purpose, and that the transference of their local dues would not in any way afford a security for the full advance recommended by the Commissioners. I, therefore, for one, having considered this question, believe it is wholly delusive to suppose we can obtain any considerable portion of the amount of the £4,000,000 from the localities in which it is to be spent. But if you, the House, are to pledge yourselves to the whole of this scheme, can you rely upon the estimates of it? You have never had them before you. You have never gone into the question whether the estimated expenditure has been so carefully considered and discussed as to justify the House in pledging itself to an adoption of the plan. I do not mean to say that the eminent men who have made those Estimates have not named a sufficient sum, according to the best of their judgment; but we know that when works of this kind, especially connected with water, are commenced, suggestions are made in their progress. What appears at first upon a very small scale is very apt to swell into a great one. In the case of the Holyhead Harbour you began with an Estimate of £800,000, but the probable expenditure will be £2,000,000. I therefore say that it is not at all beyond the range of probability to say that an expenditure now estimated at £4,000,000 may mount up, if you give way to all the large schemes, to £6,000,000. These are considerations which it is our duty to consider before we pledge ourselves to this Resolution.

I do not say that harbours of refuge are not desirable in themselves. There is no one in this House—and I am sure that in this I speak the sentiments of Her Majesty's Government, who more sincerely regrets the great loss of life that has taken place—probably some of it is attributable to the absence of shelter—upon the coasts of Yorkshire and Scotland. I should like to see a harbour in Wick, where the inhabitants have been prevented from making certain improvements, because they have been told that a larger scheme was under the consideration of the Government. I admit entirely that harbours of refuge might have had the effect of saving some portion of the property and lives that have been lost during the late storms; but I think an exaggerated view of their results in that direction has sometimes been taken. I have gone into a calculation of what would be the saving of life, supposing the harbour of Filey, which is the best situation for one on the eastern coast, had been in existence. I find that upon that coast during the seven years from 1850 to 1857, excluding 1855, (I do not know why the exclusion is made), there were 330 lives lost. In 1856, if Filey harbour had been made, there might have been five lives saved. This is in evidence given before the Commission. In 1857, twenty-four lives might have been saved; in 1858, three; and, in 1859, twenty-two. [Admiral DUNCOMBE: From what document is that?] It is from a careful analysis of returns from the Board of Trade. It is possible that all these people might have been saved; but the remaining lives that were lost, were lost at such a distance, and under such circumstances, that the harbour of refuge at Filey could have had no influence. The Commissioners themselves, lest the House should be misled, have distinctly pointed out how large a proportion of the losses of life and property at sea arises from circumstances which have no bearing whatever on the question of harbours of refuge. No doubt this must be so. Everybody must be aware that vessels require to be placed in the most favourable circumstances with regard to harbours of refuge in order to make them available; that there will be a vast number of ships upon an extensive coast liable to loss of property and life, though the whole of these harbours were constructed. As an illustration, I may mention that at the present moment upon the south coast of England, where there are a great number of fine natural harbours, which are better than any harbours of refuge you can construct, there is a very considerable loss of life and property. I do not know the percentage; but it was mentioned before the Committee that on the south coast something like 35 to 40 per cent of the loss of life which had taken place, had taken place there. We have no returns of sufficient accuracy to enable me to bring out an analysis sufficiently precise and certain to enable you to judge what would be the precise effects of harbours of refuge; but I, and every other man, must admit that the want of harbours of refuge, upon any coast frequented by shipping, is a great evil. It would be becoming in this country, as a great maritime nation, to do all we can, with justice to all other interests, to remedy this evil; and, on the part of the Government, I am not here to justify the putting aside of this great question; for I entirely repudiate the notion of the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Droitwich, that the Government has any desire to evade the question, or shuffle out of it. I may state, in reference to what has fallen from the hon. Member for Poole (Mr. Danby Seymour), that we have prepared a Bill to carry out some of the most important recommendations of the Commission. So far as the Board of Trade is concerned, we are not authorized to take upon ourselves to prepare a scheme for a large expenditure of public money, or to carry, in all its parts and dimensions, a great measure of this sort. That must be matter for more mature consideration; and the state of public business during the present Session, and the number of measures with which the House has had to deal, would have prevented us from dealing with a subject of such magnitude. But we have prepared a measure for the purpose of improving existing harbours, for erecting piers, constructing harbours, and effecting those objects which the hon. Member for Poole told us were considered in many parts of the country as most important. With reference to the saving of life, it appears to me that the improvement of harbours in towns already existing, in the seats of maritime trade, must have an important effect in saving life. If we look at the wreck chart, we shall see there are groups of wrecks always to be found in the immediate neighbourhood of ports much frequented by shipping. Why is this? Vessels arrive off the port—many of them tidal harbours—perhaps at the close of day, with heavy cargoes, the crew exhausted, and perhaps some of them sick. They all converge to a point, and loss ensues. It is, therefore, most important to create facilities for improving the entrance to those harbours; so that when vessels arrive off them they may speedily enter, and not be driven upon the dangers of a lee shore. The Bill we are about to introduce, will have an important bearing upon this question; and I hope the House of Commons will do us the credit of believing that we are in earnest upon this question. The Bill is ready to be laid upon the table; and I mentioned the other night, when I answered the question of the hon. Gentleman opposite, that it should be introduced when the state of public business admitted. It is a Bill to enable existing harbours to obtain money, and to create new facilities for the purpose, through the means indi- cated by the hon. Member for Poole. It is not in my power to command the business of the House, or to say the measure can be passed into law this Session; but I mention the fact that we are prepared with such a measure, and that, to a certain extent, it carries out the recommendations of the Commission. I mention this in order to rebut the charge that we have not considered this important subject, and to show that, in the opinion of the Government, it may now be dealt with.


said, that he was sorry to gather from what the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade had stated that there was no intention to form harbours of refuge. As a Member both of the Commission and of the two Committees that had sat on this subject, he was able to assure the House that the Estimates had been prepared with the utmost care and deliberation. They had been drawn up by an able man, Mr. Coode, one of the Commissioners, and, as an old Engineer Officer, he could pledge himself to their accuracy. They were works of the simplest kind. Great masses of material had to be placed in a certain spot, the price was well known, and any excess on the estimates, wherein a large sum was allowed for contingencies, was almost impossible. The cost would be £250,000 a year, and, if harbours of refuge were to be made at all, they must be made on a large scale. With regard to the difference of opinions between the Committees and the Commission, adverted to by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. M. Gibson), it was simply as to the best way of obtaining the necessary funds, and that was a matter that the House of Commons itself would determine. He was quite sure that a large amount of lives might have been saved within the last fen years if there had been harbours of refuge. A case came before the Commission, when not less than 700 vessels were off Flamborough Head at one time, and were many of them twice driven back, as far as the Firth of Forth, and on the second occasion several of them foundered. It was not too much to say that 1,000 vessels annually went down at sea which did not make for the shore, because their masters knew there was no place for them to run to; whereas, if harbours of refuge existed, a very large proportion might be saved. It was not till the Commissioners found that the existing harbours could not in general be improved that they recommended the construction of others. It was, however, notorious that tidal harbours and rivers would not form harbours of refuge, because the bar prevented vessels from getting in at low tide, and therefore the Tyne Commissioners intended to form a breakwater in deep water. He himself had gone down to Wick, believing that such an expenditure was unnecessary, but the more fully he examined the matter the more he was convinced of the necessity that the Government should provide a harbour of refuge there. Persons interested in the fishery had been anxious years ago to construct a harbour such as would answer their requirements; but, fearing that this would interfere with the formation of a larger one, the Government prevented this intention from being carried out. Lives had since been lost, and he feared that responsibility attached somewhere. At an expenditure of not more than £50,000 in each case, excellent harbours at Carling-ford and Waterford could be secured; and an outlay of £75,000 on Padstow would make it fit to be entered at almost any state of the weather. As regarded the northern ports at the present moment, there were no harbours in which our ships of war could take refuge from a gale in the northern ocean, without being obliged to run down as far as the Firth of Forth, and in case of war this would seriously interfere with our operations. If harbours of refuge existed at Peterhead and Wick, this deficiency would be supplied. In the first instance, it bad been supposed that the Pentland Firth might have been made use of, but many objections to it were discovered. He denied that the Commissioners had any favourite theories or pet spots; they had entered on their inquiry with a full conviction of the important trust confided to them, and with the desire of obtaining, at the least cost to the public, the greatest possible security for our marine. In every case they did what they could to induce the local authorities to come forward; and when the people of the Tyne offered to provide £750,000, they showed they were in earnest, and deserved great credit for contributing so largely to that which was not merely a local object. The same might be said of the offer of the people of Hartlepool to contribute £500,000. It was true that, as some persons thought the bight of a bay was not the best place for a harbour of refuge, because when vessels had once got in, they might be confined there for many days, the Commissioners had selected the horn of the bay, and proposed a harbour of refuge at Filey, although that was a place of no trade. But then Hartlepool, a place of very large trade, came forward and offered half a million towards the cost of works there, and that was the reason why, although Filey and Hartlepool were near each other, works were recommended at both places. He had no doubt that the work could be completed within the ten years named by the Commissioners, as there was very little fine or facing work to he done, the great portion of the larger harbours at least consisting of rubble work, which could be put together in mass. He trusted that projects so beneficial would not be lost sight of.


said, he was sure that the country would be as much disappointed as he had been with the answer of the right hon. Gentleman. It had been complained that the Resolution proposed by the hon. Member for Sunderland was an abstract Motion, but this, be thought, constituted its chief value. This question had prominently engaged the attention of the country for years, and persons would now be confirmed in the opinion they had before entertained, that the Government did not intend to do anything. Something had been said by the right hon. Gentleman in favour of the imposition of passing tolls to defray the cost of the proposed works. But in the Committee on this subject, he had himself moved the rejection of that part of the scheme. Passing tolls was a phrase very ominous to the ears of ship-owners, because for many years they had been called on to contribute to the support of harbours, some of whose bars were dry, and into which at no state of the tide could a ship of more than 120 tons enter. Many shipowners, he admitted, were under the apprehension that harbours of refuge would be places where their captains might put in without their consent, and where their crews might get ashore, and various delays and expenses might arise. The only real objection made to the recommendations of the Commission was based on financial grounds. And he could not esteem that a valid objection, when the annual loss of property for want of the harbours of refuge was at the lowest estimate a million and a half of money, and the proposed annual expenditure for ten years only to prevent that great loss was no more than one-sixth of that sum. The property thus wrecked and sunk in the sea was so much taken away from the stock of reproductive capital and means of employ- ing labour. Putting the saving of human life quite out of view, and looking at the question in the vulgarest way, as one of pounds, shillings, and pence, it was a very clear case. He must contend that the financial objection could not be a sincere one, for Parliament had during the last ten years voted no less than £2,089,000 for the two harbours of Dovor and Alderney, which could not pretend to be for the saving of life or property. Portland and Holyhead, on the contrary, were, he believed, exceedingly useful. If those who now raised the financial objection were sincere, let them refuse to spend another sixpence on Dovor or Alderney. To show that the expenditure which the hon. Member for Sunderland asked the House to sanction would be reproductive, he might mention the fact that while the cost of the Coastguard last year had been £755,000, the amount of property saved through that body was of the estimated value of £800,000; 1,200 lives having in addition been rescued through their instrumentality. The right hon. Gentleman had stated as evidence of the inutility of harbours of refuge that on the southern coast, where there were many harbours, there were also many shipwrecks. But he would remind the House that on the east coast there was no harbour of refuge for a distance of 250 miles, while one-half of all the wrecks in England occurred on the east coast, and one-quarter of them on that small portion of that coast, which represented but one thirty-sixth part of the coasts of the United Kingdom. Looking at the matter then on economical grounds, that would not be found an extravagant, but a reproductive expenditure; and looking at it in the point of view of saving human life, it was in his opinion the duty of the greatest maritime nation in the world to provide that safety for its sailors which nearly every other country took care to furnish.


said, he should support the Motion. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gibson) had stated that if there were a harbour of refuge at Filey there might he a saving of five lives in the course of the year. He did not know how the right hon. Gentleman arrived at that opinion, but he thought no one who knew that part of the coast would support him in it. Two harbours of refuge ought to be formed, one to the north, and another to the south of Flamborough Head.


said, he wished to observe, with reference to the Piers and Harbours Bill, of which he had been enabled to procure the second reading, and which had been referred to a Select Committee, that the hon. Member for Poole had, two or three weeks ago, asked the President of the Board of Trade when he would introduce the Government measure on the subject; to which question the right hon. Gentleman had replied that a measure of an analogous nature had been prepared, which he was waiting until the Select Committee alluded to had reported to bring in, thus casting upon him (Mr. Paull) the opprobium of delaying the Government Bill; while from the statement of the right hon. Gentleman that evening it appeared that the pressure of business was so great that he had not deemed it expedient to introduce it. He might add that he had never listened to a speech which was likely to be received with more widespread dissatisfaction throughout the country than that which the right hon. Gentleman had just delivered. As the representative of St. Ives he felt very deeply interested in this subject, but he looke dat the question as one of national importance, and he felt assured that the claims of St. Ives were of such importance that they must meet with consideration along with those of other ports. He found that the wrecks in the Bristol Channel in 1859 were 66, and the crews of 20 of these vessels were drowned; while in the case of six other vessels some were saved and some drowned. But if a harbour of refuge had existed at St. Ives this loss of life might have certainly been diminished. He hoped the Motion would be pressed to a division, and that it would be shown, although the Government might be remiss, the House of Commons was prepared to uphold the reports of its own Committee and the Royal Commission.


said, he hoped the Government would yet yield on this subject, and spare the House the necessity of a division. The mind of the Government and the country should be one with regard to it. The question admitted of no doubt; but the Government might feel they would be wrong to be hurried. There was no necessity for being so. At the same time there should be a distinct understanding that there was a sincere desire on the part of the Government to carry it out. A reference had been made that night to Holyhead, and to the estimate being so much exceeded. Why was that? It was because the plans were altered several times. When his duties called him to that part of the country during the construction of that harbour, he generally found that they were working on a plan different from that which they were working on when he paid his previous visit. They managed these matters better on the Continent than in this country. When such public questions were agitated and settled the whole thing was committed to men who thoroughly understood it. A Commission was appointed, by whom all the plans were sifted; and, instead of being a mere question of pressure of the moment they were so carefully considered that when they were once settled there was no chance of there being unsettled again. If the Government had determined to carry out these works, plans should be prepared for the whole of the harbours; they should be submitted to practical men, who should report to the Government, who should then offer the works to contractors, taking adequate security for carrying them out at a given sum. There could be no doubt of making harbours of refuge at the precise sum contracted for, just as any other public works. Nothing could be more simple. It was a mere calculation of carrying so many millions of cubic yards of stone into a given depth of water, and there was no contingency in the case which could not be estimated. He hoped the Government would feel that the country had made up its mind on this subject. Representing as he did a section of the Metropolis, he must say his constituents would see with great pleasure that this question was settled. The taxation necessary for such a purpose they would bear not unwillingly; what they objected to was taxation for which they received no value. Only last night the House had entertained the propriety of having a map of the country on the 25-inch scale, on which a million of money might be expended, whereas a quarter of a million a year for ten years was now to be considered so formidable that the Government could not face it. The country was prepared to pay a fair expenditure for the navy, the army, and public works. If the object was just, righteous, and proper, the country would find the money, and if the Chancellor of the Exchequer found himself in a deficiency next year, arising from circumstances beyond his control, instead of reproaching, they would applaud him for the public spirit he evinced in providing for such works. He had no hesitation in support- ing this Motion; at the same time, as a sincere supporter of the Government, he trusted they would not put their friends to the painful position of opposing them on this question.


said, the question before the House involved the saving of thousands of lives and millions of property. His hon. Friend (Mr. Lindsay) had remarked that the Committee and the Commission to which this question had been referred entirely concurred in their views, and that consequently nothing had been done. Probably there was no member of the House who ever heard of anything being done in consequence of the labours of a Committee and a Commission. The result of his experience had been to show the uselessness of abstract Motions, and he regretted that his hon. Friend had not brought the matter to a more practical issue. The annual amount of loss of human life was 1,000, and of property 1,500,000; but he would put all questions of that kind aside, and take it, as the Majority of the House would, as simply a question of money. Upon that ground alone it was one of the most grave questions that the House had ever had to consider. A great deal had been said about localities. There were one or two to which he wished to refer. His hon. Friend had laid great stress upon Wick. No doubt a harbour of refuge there would be of great importance to the fishermen of the place; but it was not a national necessity. The reason why so many fishermen were lost was, that they would run all risks to make their own port; but every practical man that had been near Wick in bad weather would bear him out in saying that in a national point of view a harbour of refuge there would be useless. He had always thought that the foundation of a harbour of refuge between the Isle of Wight and the Downs would be a very important national work. He would undertake to prove that more money had been wasted upon those two harbours of Dovor and Alderney, within the course of the last few years, to have constructed efficiently the whole of the harbours of refuge recommended by the Royal Commissioners. They had flung hundreds and thousands of pounds sterling into the sea for harbours and fortifications at localities, the merits of which he had never heard any hon. Member in that House, except some distinguished statesmen on the Treasury bench, defend. He had heard Alderney defended by the present and preceding Boards of Admiralty. He had heard the right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich (Sir John Pakington), when he was at the head of the Admiralty, state that Alderney was a useful harbour for watching the proceedings at Cherbourg. Alderney was twenty-eight or thirty miles from Cherbourg, and, as a harbour of observation, it was as useless as if it wore 500 miles off. The steamers that might be watching the operations of a fleet at Cherbourg would not run to Alderney, where there would be no one to whom to tell the news, but to Portland or Spithead, or wherever the fleet might be. In the event of bad weather no vessel would try to get into Alderney as a harbour of refuge, but would rather endeavour to get as far from it as possible. The fortifications in progress at Alderney were said to require 2,500 men according to some calculations, and 5,000 men according to others, to man them. But would any one tell him that, in the case of a threatened invasion, we should be likely to spare 2,500 men to garrison a barren rock, that would be perfectly useless until the war was over? The Government were therefore spending a large sum of money to construct strong fortifications that would be at the mercy of the French whenever they came to Alderney. The Government had already spent on Alderney alone £700,000 or £800,000, and the Estimates for the completion of the harbour and fortifications extended to £700,000 or £800,000 more. That would cover three years of the proposed expenditure for harbours of refuge. A scheme had been laid before the public for the construction of floating piers. He believed it was under the consideration of the Admiralty, who were about to facilitate the experiment. The projectors professed to be able by their plan to construct an efficient breakwater for an amount equal to only the interest of the principle which would be expended on a stone breakwater. The matter was, therefore, one that ought to receive the consideration of Her Majesty's Government. The question was, as he had before observed, strictly a question of money, and the only stumbling-block was that of finance. He would ask the House to recollect the amount of income voted away only a few days before for a financial experiment —he should not use a stronger word— an amount sufficient for two years of the expenditure required for the important work contemplated in the Motion of his hon. Friend. A most remarkable passage fell from the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, who always spoke with ability; but since he had sat on the Treasury bench, with considerable ingenuity. The right hon. Gentleman objected to going into details, but, as he understood his hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland (Mr. Lindsay), he did not want the House to be pinned to details, but to affirm a general principle. The right hon. Gentleman, however, had rather let the cat out of the bag. His right hon. Friend objected to "fettering the House in this matter," and intended to leave them entirely free "if the question is to be considered." He thought that in those last words of his right hon. Friend, the whole case of the Government was summed up. They were tantamount to an announcement to the House that the question was not to be considered, so far as the Government was concerned. His right hon. Friend asked the House not to prejudge the question. He was afraid that that was what his right hon. Friend himself had done, and that the conclusion at which he had arrived was that the Government ought not to interfere in the matter. His right hon. Friend had observed that the Commissioners asked where was the money for these harbours to be found? That was not a question for the Commissioners; it was a question for Her Majesty's Government. He had also observed that the shipowners had shown no disposition to bear their part of the expenses; but his right hon. Friend must have heard enough of the position of these shipowners to know it was reasonable that they should not be disposed to incur additional expenses. He had likewise observed that the Estimates were inaccurate. He (Mr. Bentinck) should have thought that his right hon. Friend was the last man to have touched on the question of inaccurate Estimates. It was indisputable that there was an enormous sacrifice of life and property annually through the want of those harbours. Succeeding Governments stood convicted of wasting millions of money on imaginary schemes, and when they were asked to contribute £250,000 a year for the purpose of saving that life and property, the Government threw every difficulty in the way. Under these circumstances he hoped the House of Commons would take the matter in their own hands, and support the Motion of his hon. Friend.


pointed out the necessity for Harbours of Refuge in Ireland, espe- cially on the Eastern coast, along which all the Atlantic traffic from Liverpool necessarily passed.


said, he hoped his hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland would persevere with his Motion, and the more so as he considered the speech delivered by the hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade upon the subject to be exceedingly unsatisfactory. He (Sir James Elphinstone) had paid a great deal of attention to the subject, having been a member of the Committee, and having accompanied the Commission along the coast of Scotland. The case of Wick had been referred to, and he must say that to see the fishing boats, 2,000 in number, leaving that port was one of the most extraordinary spectacles in the world. The present harbour could not accommodate them with advantage, and when it was considered that 10,000 of their best seamen manned these fishing boats, the importance of giving them protection could not be overrated. Though Wick was not the place he should select for a Harbour of Refuge, yet there were many considerations that ought to induce the Government to come forward in the spirit of the Commission and do something for the safety of these men. He would recommend Peterhead as a strategic point which the Government should not overlook. It is the advanced salient point on the East coast, some sixty miles nearer the entrance of the Baltic than any other point on the coast; its south bay offers great facilities for a harbour of refuge, and, in the event of war, as a turning point of the coast, it is most important as a point to concentrate an advanced squadron. He would also press the claims of Filey Bay, on the English coast. The coast at Flam borough Head was strewd with the wrecks of fishermen's boats when a storm came on, because there was no means of escape for them. He regretted to hear the tone of the hon. Member for Montrose on this question. He knew that the merchants of Dundee stood high, but they were not backward in asking for assistance when their own interests were at stake, and net bought they should be the last to oppose the claims of others. In 1857 five merchant ships belonging to Dundee got adrift at the North Cape, and the owners, through their representative, applied to Government arid got steamers sent to their assistance. Why, then, should the merchants of Dundee oppose others when they applied for the interfer- ence of the Government? The Government admitted that there were four hundred miles of coast which they could not defend. They were about to ask the House for £12,000,000 for the defences of the dockyards, and why should not they as well ask for £15,000,000 for the construction of Harbours of Refuge. They would fill up a great portion of the intervening undefended points between their dockyards; and with the aid of a fleet of small vessels placed at these points they would he able to repel any invasion that could take place. He asked whether they ought to grudge £250,000 a year for a great object like that now proposed, when they had been throwing away their capital in the way they had done during the present Session.


I am disposed to take the hon. Baronet at his word when he says that if we ask for£12,000,000 he will give us £15,000,000. However, I can assure the House that we are as sensible as any who have spoken of the vast importance of the matter now under consideration. It is impossible for any one to have gone through the Reports of the Committee and the Commission, and to have seen the vast amount of valuable life and property which are annually lost by shipwrecks on the coast without being convinced of the absolute necessity of taking measures to provide harbours of refuge for the protection of shipping and the prevention of those disasters. Therefore, if we object to the Motion of my hon. Friend it is not in the slightest degree from any indifference upon the subject, nor from our not having made up our minds upon the matter, nor from the motives which have been imputed to my right hon. Friend (Mr. M. Gibson) that he wished to evade or to shirk the question altogether; but the reason we object to it is because it pledges the House blindfold to the whole of the recommendations of the Commission to which recommendations the present debate has shown that even those who are prepared to vote for the Motion ore not prepared to give an unqualified assent. Wick is one of the points that have been adverted to. Now, is everybody agreed that Wick is a case whore a great outlay should be made? The hon. Member for West Norfolk (Mr. Bentinck) says that Wick is not a place for a national harbour. Another hon. Gentleman has told us that a harbour at Wick may be useful for local purposes, but not for national uses. One hon. Gentleman says that there is no need for harbours on the south coast of England, while another hon. Member says there is the greatest need of harbours between the Foreland and Portsmouth. There is great diversity of opinion as to the different harbours, but my hon. Friend who makes this Motion calls upon the House, without consideration, without going into details, to pledge the Government to adopt the recommendations of the Commissioners in their entirety. There was great difference of opinion among the witnesses who were examined by the Commission and the Committee as to the particular localities. Some were in favour of Hartlepool, some for Filey, and some for other points. My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade has told the House that the Government have a measure, prepared for the commencement, at all events, of these operations. That measure might be brought in during the present Session if the other business before the House did not seem to make it impossible to hope that it might be carried into law before the prorogation; but we are prepared to assure the House that in the next Session this matter will assume a shape in which the House will be called upon to take it practically into consideration. I will not follow the hon. Member for Norfolk (Mr. Bentinck) into what he has said about Alderney, but I will merely observe that he has admitted that all those who have successively occupied the Treasury benches, and who from their official sources of information may be supposed to know more about the subject than hon. Members not possessed of that information, all have been of opinion that Alderney was a proper place to form a harbour. The Duke of Wellington, who may be considered a competent judge, attached the greatest importance to the fortification of Alderney in connection with Portland. But, with regard to this particular question, I assure the House that it is most unjust to the Government to state that this matter has not occupied their serious attention, that they are not fully alive to the importance of the subject, and that it is not their intention to deal with it in an efficient and practical manner. It is sufficient to know that a great number of our most valuable seamen are annually sacrificed to storms and disasters, some of whom might have been preserved were these Harbours of Refuge on the coasts. But at the same time I cannot help suspecting that a certain proportion of those calamities are traceable to ships being sent to sea insufficiently manned, or not properly found, and not in a condition to take the sea; and if on the one band the Government is urged to take measures by providing at the public expense harbours of refuge, on the other hand I hope the owners of ships will feel the deep responsibility which rests upon them if, in order to avoid expense, they send ships to sea in a state not fit to cope with the difficulties which may arise. But not to detain the House, I can only say that I hope the House will not commit themselves to this sweeping Resolution, but will be satisfied with the assurance of the Government, that this matter has received and is receiving our serious consideration, and that, undoubtedly, it will be our duty in the next Session of Parliament to bring it before the House in some practical shape.


, in reply, said, he was sorry he could not rest satisfied with the assurance of the noble Lord, because he could not believe the Government were in earnest, for the simple reason that they had given no proof of their sincerity. It was more than two years since the Committee appointed by the Government had reported in favour of what he asked the House to assert. It was one year since the Commissioners had reported, and nearly twelve months since his Motion had first appeared upon the paper of the House; but he had not pressed it, because he had hoped the Government would do what he conceived it was their duty to do, namely—to take the sense of the House upon the subject. There was really no difference between the Committee and the Commissioners as to essential points, and they agreed as to the necessity of establishing Harbours of Refuge. The Committee had recommended that the parties interested—the shipowners—should supply a portion of the funds in the shape of passing tolls; but the Commissioners had adopted a similar view in recommending that no grant of money should be made unless the parties interested also subscribed to the expense. If the Government had done their duty he would not have brought forward this Motion, but as they had only given evasive statements he had felt bound to ask the House to interfere. The Motion would only pledge the House to the principle of the recommendations, and not to the details; it would affirm the necessity of providing Harbours of Refuge for the saving of life and property. It was the fault of the Government that he was compelled to make this Motion, and the country was entitled to have the opinion of the House expressed upon it.


I will certainly not, after my hon. Friend has replied, attempt to enter upon the discussion of the question or reply to his reply, but there is one point upon which that reply is so calculated—of course unintentionally—to mislead the House— namely, upon what is the matter upon which we are going to vote, that I must take the liberty of calling the attention of the House to the Motion as it stands upon the paper. My hon. Friend has put a construction upon his Motion quite different from its true sense; but, if the House conies to the vote to which he invites it, it will be bound by the terms of the Resolution, and the speeches of the mover can have no effect whatever in altering the signification which its words convey. My hon. Friend says that he asks the House to pledge itself to this principle; that it is necessary to carry into effect the recommendations of the Commission or the Committee with regard to the necessity for the establishment of harbours of refuge. That is not the Motion. The Resolution says nothing whatever about the Committee; it refers only to the Commission. The Committee recommended an expenditure of two millions, the interest of three-fourths of which was to be paid out of the certain revenue of passing tolls. The Commission recommended an absolute expenditure, without any return, of two millions and a half, with a further local expenditure of a much more doubtful character, amounting to about a million and three-quarters, making a total of four millions, against two, with the source from which it is to be defrayed in a great measure uncertain. But that is not the only point. My hon. Friend says that he wants the House to affirm the necessity of establishing harbours of refuge. If he wants the House to affirm that, why did not he make a Motion to that effect? On the contrary, he moves a Motion to the effect that in the opinion of this House it is requisite to take the necessary measures for carrying into effect all the recommendations of the Commissioners. The hon. Member for West Norfolk (Mr. Bentinck) says that it is entirely wrong and absurd to lay out a shilling upon Wick, for the purpose of making it a national harbour of refuge, and he tells us in the same speech that he is going to give a cordial vote in support of the Motion of my hon. Friend, that vote being to the effect that money shall be laid out to make a national harbour at Wick. ["No, no!"] That is the grammatical construction of the Motion. [A laugh.] I am in the judgment of the House. The Resolution says that it is necessary to carry into effect the recommendations of the Commissioners, and I want to know whether it is or is not one of those recommendations that a national harbour of refuge shall be made at Wick, to a great extent with public money. That stands among the recommendations, and the hon. Member for Norfolk, who says that the recommendation is absurd, is going to vote for the Motion which declares it is necessary to take measures for carrying it into effect. The question is, whether it is wise for the House to commit itself to a Motion which at once pledges and binds it with respect to the harbours which are to be constructed, in regard to which the greatest difference of opinion exists, and with respect to the sources from which the money to be spent upon them is to be derived, the whole of which enters into and forms an essential part of the recommendation of the Commissioners. I intend strictly to observe the pledge which I gave to the House, and therefore I will not say one word in answer to the charges of insincerity which have with great levity been made against the Government by the right hon. Baronet opposite. My noble Friend has stated that the Government has a measure which they are ready to produce at the first opportunity at which they can hope to obtain for it a fair consideration, and with this statement I leave the matter in the hands of the House.

Whereupon Previous Question put, "That that question be now put."

The House divided:—Ayes 145; Noes 128: Majority 17.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Resolved, That, in the opinion of this House, it is the duty of Her Majesty's Government to adopt, at the earliest possible period, the necessary measures to carry into effect the recommendations of the Commissioners appointed in 1858 to inquire into the formation of Harbours of Refuge on the Coasts of Great Britain and Ireland.