§ Order for Committee read;
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
said, he rose to call attention to the great difference between the Bill upon which the House was now asked to go into Committee, and the one which passed a second reading about six weeks or two months ago. The Bill proposed to grant loans for making of harbours. To that he had no objection. Neither had he any objection to the proposal to abolish passing tolls. Indeed, he hoped the Amendment of which notice had been given by a hon. Gentleman, to refer that part of the Bill to a Select Committee, would be withdrawn. Passing tolls had already been examined into by Select Committees, and they had been condemned by both sides of the House. Then the Bill proposed to abolish tolls for charitable purposes and differential dues. To these proposals he had no objection. But what he did object to was the mode in which the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade intended to deal with this part of the question. And here the difference arose between the Bill then before them and that which had been read a second time. By the first Bill it was proposed that dues levied by charitable corporations should cease and determine from the time when the Bill came into operation. As the Bill then stood, it was proposed that these tolls should not cease till the 1st of January, 1872, and the Government took power to make an Order in Council to extend them even beyond that time. Again, by the first Bill the differential dues were to cease on the 1st of January, 1862, and the parties were to have compensation for five years. By the new 1235 Bill they were to have compensation for ten years. Then he objected to the way in which it was proposed to deal with Ramsgate Harbour. The first proposal was to Test it in the Trinity House; now it was to be placed under the Board of Trade. He had no objection to that if the Board of Trade was to be in the nature of a trustee; but he did object to the powers given in Clauses 32 and 42, by which, as it seemed to him, the Board of Trade would have power to sell the harbour to any private company, though it had been decided by Committees of that House over and over again that no power of selling harbours should exist. But the main point to which he wished to call attention was the following:—Previous to 1826, when we entered into treaties with foreign nations with regard to the admission of foreign shipping, there were certain incorporated bodies who were allowed to levy differential dues on foreign shipping. The amount of dues then levied on foreign ships amounted to £10,000, and we had since paid for compensation to those bodies very large sums of money for the loss of the dues. In Hull there were three bodies who had a right to levy these dues. In 1826 the dues amounted to £5,000; last year the dues on foreign ships were £24,000—for the House would observe that after our change of policy with foreign nations, the amount of foreign shipping that came into our ports was very much increased. By the first Bill the Government proposed to deal very liberally with Hull, and to pay to it £120,000 as compensation. But Hull had already been compensated out of the public Exchequer to the amount of £473,000; so that in all Hull would have received £590,000. The town of Hull was not satisfied with this arrangement. They had demanded, and, so far as the Government was concerned, succeeded in obtaining £240,000, which, added to the sums they had already received, would give them compensation to the amount of £713,000. Now, he wished to know how it came that a Bill had been laid on their table by which Hull was to receive £120,000, and that now they had before them another Bill which increased that sum to £240,000? He hoped this was not done under the threat that the parties locally interested would do their best to throw out the Bill if their demands were not complied with. Then take the case of Newcastle:—In 1826 the Corporation of Newcastle received from differential tolls on foreign shipping £1,100; last year 1236 they received £10,400 for foreign shipping. They had received in all as compensation £126,000, the greater part of which had gone to pave the streets of Newcastle. The Trinity-house of Newcastle in 1826 received £350 for the pilotage of foreign vessels; but in 1860 it received £8,600. These two bodies in Newcastle had received in all £240.000 since 1826. By the original Bill £95,090 was proposed to be given to them as compensation; but by the new Bill no less a sum than £195,000 was to be given, in addition to the £240,000 which Newcastle had already received. He wanted to have an explanation of this change. Liverpool was down for a respectable sum in the shape of pilotage. They had paid the Liverpool pilots since 1826 somewhere about £172,000. By the original Bill they would have had to pay them in round numbers £45,000 more; and that was a liberal settlement, considering they had already received £172,000. But the Liverpool pilots, he was sorry to say, were no more satisfied than the Hull and Newcastle Corporations appeared to be; and they demanded, and it was proposed by Bill No. 2 to give them, £90,000, for which the public derived no benefit. The pilot boats were held in shares, and the sum drawn from the Exchequer was divided amongst the owners. The consequence was that a pilot boat worth about £2,000 sold for £8,000, and paid an interest of somewhere about 9 per cent. He must complain that the Liverpool pilots should have the right to come to the House every year and ask for £9,000, for which they gave no equivalent; and that when a sum of £45,000 was offered to them, they would not be satisfied, but came down and got a pledge that they should get £90,000. He also must complain that the President of the Board of Trade should have got a Bill read a second time, with propositions giving to certain parties £250,000 by way of compensation, and that now he should produce a totally different Bill, giving compensation to the same parties to no less an amount than £500,000. He should be prepared in Committee to make such Amendments as would remove the objections he had stated.
§ MR. THOMPSON
said, that the proposal in the Bill to give loans to harbours which could give security, was a mockery in so far as those harbours were concerned which could not give security. Taking the case of Whitby, its present revenue was about £5,800, of which £5,300 were de- 1237 rived from passing tolls, and if those were taken off, as proposed by the Bill, the place would be left with only £500 to maintain its harbour. What was there in that to afford security? Nor would the harbour retrieve itself by levying dues on imports and exports. The utmost that could be expected from such a source was £1,100 or £1,200 a year, which would be totally insufficient for any purposes of providing harbours of refuge. That would be the result of the application of the Bill to the case of Whitby, which, as a harbour of refuge, had saved 3,700 ships in six years. It became them, therefore, to consider whether they were to have any harbours of refuge or not. Were they prepared to give up the principle of selection of the best places for these harbours of refuge, and, by adopting the Bill, simply give such places the power of raising a loan for the purpose? He was not favourable to passing tolls, but until a proper substitute had been provided he did not think that Whitby should be deprived of the privilege of levying them. For these reasons he should move that the Bill be referred for consideration to a Select Committee.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "the Bill be committed to a Select Committee," instead thereof.
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. CAYLEY
said, he thought that the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Thompson) had clearly shown that compensation should be given in the case of Whitby, if the passing tolls that now existed there were abolished, These tolls were granted to Whitby, not by charter, but by Act of Parliament, in perpetuity. He trusted, therefore, the right hon. Gentleman, the President of the Board of Trade, would reconsider the case of Whitby in that spirit in which he had dealt with the cases of Hull, Newcastle, and Liverpool.
§ MR. DEEDES
said, he had seconded the Motion for referring the Bill to a Select Committee, because he could see no other course open by which the interests of the parties which would be affected by the Bill could be submitted to fair consideration. As to Whitby, he thought it was one of those cases in which the House might fairly step in and protect its privileges. 1238 The measure would interfere with private interests to an extent which required the most careful consideration on the part of the House; and he had to observe that the labours of the proposed Committee need not extend over a very lengthened period, and need not prevent the House from passing the measure before the close of the present Session. He specially objected to the new clauses in the Bill for the management of Dover Harbour, and he thought the commissioners of that harbour were fairly entitled to be heard in the matter. Parliament had sanctioned the payment of passing tolls at Dover, for the purpose of maintaining the harbour, and it, likewise, sanctioned the borrowing of money on the security of those tolls, for the purpose of carrying out various kinds of improvements. The case of Dover was shortly this: the harbour commissioners, on the faith of Acts of Parliament, had borrowed from the Exchequer Loan Commissioners a certain sum for carrying out extensions and repairs in connection with the harbour. The Bill proposed provided from the 1st January, 1862, to abolish passing tolls, which were the security for the payment of the money borrowed, without in any way providing for the extinction of the debt. A sum of £5,600 was paid yearly to the Exchequer Loan Commissions, in the shape of principal and interest, and he did not see what means the Board would have to pay that sum in future years if the tolls were abolished. He affirmed that the Gentlemen who proposed to deal in that way with Dover, ignored the very first principle which they ought to adopt—that of paying their debts. He was a commissioner of Dover Harbour, but he disclaimed having any interest whatever in the matter beyond that of protecting those rights which he had been elected to defend. If, therefore, the hon. Member for Whitby went to a division, he would support him in sending the Bill before a Select Committee.
§ SIR FRANCIS GOLDSMID
said, that he naturally looked at the matter in this light—whether the Bill which was intended for the benefit of the shipping interest would impose an undue rate of charge upon the Consolidated Fund, and thus upon the greater portion of Her Majesty's subjects. He agreed entirely with what had fallen from the hon. Member for Sunderland on that point. The harbour of Hull, for instance, had already received, in the shape of differential dues, what would amount to 1239 eighty or ninety years' purchase. The 29 Geo. III., to which the Trinity House of Hull referred in their petition, recited an intention simply of indemnifying, but instead of that, it had given what would really compensate the parties several times over, and had paid not only on the amount of shipping which then frequented the harbour, but on the increased amount which was attracted by the provisions of the Act itself. It was just as if, upon a proposal to free Waterloo Bridge, they should pay, not upon the number of passengers who now passed, but upon the increased number that would pass when there was no toll to pay. That was a mistake on the part of the Government of the time, and he could only say that the different bodies interested were very fortunate in obtaining what they did. He hoped, if the Bill were to go to a Select Committee, the Board of Trade and the public would be free to contend that the compensation should be reduced to a much smaller amount, and that they were not in any way bound by the proposals of the Bill.
§ MR. CAVE
The remarks of the hon. Baronet entirely vindicated the course proposed by the hon. Member for Whitby to refer the Bill to a Select Committee, for a Committee of the Whole House was not the best tribunal by which to try the rights of private indivduals. He would take the hon. Baronet's (Sir Francis Goldsmid's) arguments, therefore, as affording the strongest ground in behalf of a considerable private interest, which was very inadequately represented by him (Mr. Cave); he meant the shareholders in Shoreham harbour. The hon. Baronet admitted that those differential dues were secured in perpetuity under the Act, though he said it was done in a bungling manner—that it was not intended to be done, and that, therefore, it ought to cease. The hon. Baronet belonged to the legal profession, and surely he should have known better than that; for even if there were a blunder in the original bargain, at any rate those who ought to suffer were not the innocent parties who had purchased the property on the faith of the provisions of an Act of Parliament. No doubt private interests must give way to public, but he could not see that it was good public policy to deal too harshly with private interests. He had now to complain that, since the Bill had been altered, the injustice of which his constituents were most sensible had been greatly magnified and enlarged; because 1240 the right hon. Gentleman, the author of the Bill, laid down as a principle in the original measure that private interests ought to receive double the compensation which was received by public. All public companies were now to receive the same compensation with private parties—namely, ten years. In the course of the speech with which the right hon. Gentleman introduced his Bill, he impliedly stated that twenty years' purchase was about the proper compensation for those interests. The difference between public and private interests was not laid down by the right hon. Gentleman for the first time; it formed a prominent element in the debate on the Bill of 1856 for abolishing differential dues and Passing Tolls. In that debate it was stated over and over again, and Mr. Hallam was quoted to the effect, that private interests ought to be regarded in a different point of view. Moreover, the principle had been acted upon in various instances, especially in the case of sinecures, as in some notorious cases, fresh in the memory of the House, present holders received the full amount of these payments, which, as a matter of public policy, ought never to have been guaranteed to them. No longer ago than the present year the Committee on which he (Mr. Cave) had served, held the Government to their improvident bargain in the case of the Red Sea Telegraph Company. He trusted, then, the House would adopt the proposal of the hon. Member for Whitby, to refer the Bill to a Select Committee.
thought the alterations which had been smuggled into the Bill were such as could not fail to excite the jealousy of the House as guardians of the public purse, and he condemned that part of the Bill which would enable the Board of Trade to dispose of Ramsgate harbour, it might be to some private railway company. He should be disposed, without further explanation, to support the Motion.
§ MR. BENTINCK
said, he thought the hon. Member (Mr. Lindsay) did not on that occasion hold opinions which were favourable to British shipping. He had been doing his best, with great ingenuity and ability, but he must say without success, to convince the people of the country that it was better for money to come out of the hands of Englishmen than out of the hands of foreigners. If the money had been productive of no benefit to the country, why, in the name of common sense, should it 1241 not come out of the pocket of the foreigner? He thought it most unwise to attempt to deal with rights which had been secured by the most stringent provisions which the country could provide.
SIR JOHN JOHNSTONE
said, he hoped that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade would be able to afford such explanations with respect to the Bill that it would not be necessary to refer it to a Select Committee. For his part, he did not wish to do anything which would endanger its passing in the course of the present Session; but he could not help thinking that under the measure as it stood no sufficient means would be left of maintaining many of our smaller tidal harbours.
§ SIR MORTON PETO
said, that he thought they would have done more wisely to have gone into Committee and discussed the clauses. He had heard no argument against the general policy of the Bill, and any argument used had reference to particular clauses. He saw nothing in the Bill to alarm them with respect to Ramsgate harbour. But the sale of public harbours to private companies was by no means a new thing. He very well remembered Folkestone before it was sold to the Corporation, and a more dead alive place he never saw, except Dover. Now it was made a flourishing port, and a large sum of money had been expended upon it. Lowestoft was another instance of the same-thing; and he was sure that Parliament would take care that neither Ramsgate nor Dover were handed over to any company without good guarantees being being taken for their proper management. He deprecated strongly the proposal to refer the Bill to a Select Committee.
§ Mr. NICOL
said, he wished to defend the inhabitants of Dover from the reflections cast upon them by the hon. Member for East Kent (Mr. Deedes). The fact was the port was suffering from the management of the Commissioners, of whom the hon. Member for East Kent was one. The people of Dover wanted to take their own affairs into their own hands. He objected to the Bill being sent to a Select Committee.
§ MR. MILNER GIBSON
observed, that it would have been very much easier for him to give explanations on the various points of detail which had been referred to 1242 as they arose on the various clauses in Committee, but he would endeavour to state the reasons which had induced the Government to make some alterations in this Bill. Those alterations were by no means so extensive as had been represented. So far as the facilities for raising money for improvements in harbours were concerned the provisions had only slightly changed for the better to make the working of the system more efficient. The abolition of passing tolls remained unchanged. It was true that the dues levied by charitable corporations were to be continued for ten years instead of five; but, practically, there was little difference between that proposal and the first. It was found that they had to deal not only with all existing pensions, but with persons who had acquired a right to have pensions, and it was thought the most judicious course to allow the dues for charitable purposes to last for a period sufficient to meet the case of all vested interests. It was, therefore, thought desirable to leave the dues on shipping for charitable purposes for a period of ten years. With regard to the extension of the period to ten years in the case of dues levied by incorporated bodies in certain towns, he admitted that the Government had agreed to that as a compromise. It was true that the original compact entered into by Parliament to give to certain persons a growing income from the Consolidated Fund as compensation for the loss of the differential dues they had to forego was an improvident engagement for the public; but the engagement was entered into, and the process of doing it away was one attended with very great difficulty. In endeavouring to come to an arrangement he had thought it right to extend the period to ten instead of five years. It was true that more was given in the way of compensation than it was originally intended to give; but it should be recollected that the existing claim upon the Consolidated Fund was a perpetual one, founded upon an Act of Parliament, an Act to which there was no termination. The sum claimed as compensation would also increase year by year. It was essentially a growing claim; and, therefore, he thought it a good settlement of the question to name a time at which that claim would cease altogether; and it was satisfactory to be able to say that the assent of all the parties interested had been obtained to the arrangement. He denied that there was any change in the principle of the 1243 Bill, for be could not regard the substitution of ten for five years as any change of principle. He would oppose the Bill being sent to a Select Committee, as it would practically defeat the measure. With regard to Whitby it had not been dealt with so harshly as the hon. Member for Whitby (Mr. Thompson) was inclined to think. It was true they proposed to take away the passing tolls, which amounted to something like £4,000 or £5,000 a year; but they provided under the Bill an income which the Whitby people themselves estimated at £1,100 a year, while at the same time they would relieve that harbour of a debt of £32,770. Passing ships, which did not propose to enter the harbour, ought not to be called upon to support Whitby Harbour. The Government contended that it was not just that passing vessels should be preyed upon by those local interests. A promise was given to the shipping interest, that when exposed to the unrestricted competition of the foreigner—seeing, too, the competition at home by railways and other modes of carriage—it should be relieved from all unnecessary and unjust burdens, and should not be placed at a disadvantage when compared with other carriers. If the House desired to see the coasting trade of England flourish, and together with that her general maritime trade, they could do no better than relieve the shipping interest of those burdens. As for Whitby, it was no harbour of refuge. In fine weather a ship might be got in, but a man would be insane who in a south-west gale, the only formidable one there, would try to get a ship inside its piers. As to the Amendments of which notice had been given by the hon. Member for Dover, they had been brought forward by that Gentleman on the part of his constituents, who proposed to constitute a new Board, and to transfer to it the privileges now Vested in the warden and assistants. The people of Dover had a great interest in the management of their own port, and there were railway and other bodies which were directly interested in its good management. It was, therefore, the duty of the Government to consider whether the existing Board was as good a Board as one would be which contained within it members of the corporation and others, and after due reflection they came to the conclusion that the Amendments proposed by the hon. Member deserved support. The present trustees professed to be unable to manage Dover harbour after the passing 1244 tolls were abolished. They contended they had a debt to pay, and that the harbour would fall into a neglected state. But the new Board were prepared to take Dover harbour with its burdens and contingencies, and they asked for nothing from the State. Believing, then, that there was property at Dover sufficient to pay the debt, and to yield a considerable income besides, the Government must decline to accede to the proposals of the hon. Member for Kent. The hon. Member for Finsbury (Sir Morton Peto) had correctly stated the effect of the clause as regarded Ramsgate harbour. The harbour having been transferred to the Government, it was thought desirable that the Government should be free to give certain powers to any corporate body, but that could not be done without the entire sanction of Parliament. The Government had received proposals from a railway company, which he thought very advantageous, but they told the company that they could not give them any exclusive powers, and that if they ran a tramway along the pier any other company might make use of it. They had no intention, nor would any Government think of such a thing, to grant Ramsgate harbour to any company without securing that as a harbour of refuge and a commercial port. Ramsgate would be to the shipping interest all that Ramsgate had ever been. Their only object would be to make Ramsgate additionally useful to the public, and also to save the public from any charges which might come upon the Consolidated Fund. He had explained all the points that had been raised, and would simply ask the House to negative the Amendment of the hon. Member for Whitby.
§ SIR BROOK BRIDGES
said, that he was himself a member of the Dover Harbour Commission, and he maintained that there had been no neglect of duty on the part of himself and of his colleagues. All he asked was that that subject should undergo a thorough investigation; and he felt assured that such an investigation would only tend to justify the conduct of the Dover Commissioners. He should support the proposal for referring the Bill to a Select Committee.
§ LORD LOVAINE
expressed his approval those changes in the Bill which went to increase the amount of compensation to those parties whose rights it would specially affect. He believed that without those changes the measure would never pass through that House, and even if it should 1245 do so, he felt perfectly certain that it would be rejected in the other House. He was opposed to the Bill being referred to a Select Committee.
MR. SOMERSET BEAUMONT
said, it was a mistake to suppose that all the charters by which the dues proposed to be abolished were granted had been given for the purpose of discouraging foreign shipping. The port which he had the honour to represent (Newcastle) had always been an enlightened place, and it certainly had never been actuated by such narrow views.
§ MR. LIDDELL
said, he thought the discussion which had taken place had been mainly caused by the Government having mixed up so many subjects in one Bill. However, he approved of the Bill as it stood, with the exception as to the proposal to hand over Ramsgate harbour to a private company.
§ MR. THOMPSON
said, that in deference to the wishes of the House, he should withdraw his Motion, reserving to himself the right of proposing clauses in Committee.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ House in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
§ Clause 3 (Advances of Money to Harbour Authorities),
§ MR. BEECROFT
moved the following Amendment:—Page 3, line 18, after 'Assistant Secretaries, add 'but any place recommended as a site for a harbour of refuge by Her Majesty's Commissioners on harbours of refuge, in their Report dated the third day of March, 1859, shall have a prior claim on the money at the disposal of the said Loan Commissioners, in preference to any harbour or place not so recommended.'The hon. Gentleman said, in proposing this addition to the clause, I may state to the Committee that the mercantile classes are strongly of opinion that no time should be lost in the construction of national life harbours. They take a warm and deep interest in this most important question, in proof of which I may observe that I have this day presented to the House a petition from the Leeds Chamber of Commerce, from which I will, with the permission of the Committee, read one or two short extracts—Your petitioners would humbly represent that, whilst there are certain objects contemplated in the Bill which have their warm approval, they regret to find that the provisions of the Bill which 1246 have reference to the loaning of money by the Government for harbour purposes, do not extend to the granting of such aid for the construction of harbours of refuge at several places or sites on the coasts of England, pointed out and recommended by Her Majesty's Commissioners in their Report on Harbours of Refuge, dated the 3rd day of March, 1859. They are of opinion that the grievous loss of life and property which annually occurs on the coasts of England, more especially on the north-east coast in the vicinity of Flamborough Head, in consequence of the want of harbours of refuge, is a matter of grave national importance and responsibility, and one that claims the serious and early attention of your honourable House. They, therefore, respectfully submit that not only the interests of our shipping and commerce, but likewise the higher claims of humanity fully justify an immediate grant of loans by Government towards the construction of harbours of refuge, and that such grant should take priority of any application or grant of loans for any other harbour purposes whatever. Tour petitioners would respectfully beg to draw your attention to the peculiar necessity existing for a grand national harbour of refuge at Filey Bay on the north-east coast, the construction of which was strongly recommended by Her Majesty's Commissioners in their Report before mentioned.In February, 1860, a very large and influential deputation had an interview with the noble Lord at the head of Her Majesty's Government, and strongly urged that no further delay should be permitted to take place, in the commencement of those highly important and humane works recommended by the Royal Commissioners in their Report, dated the 3rd of March, 1859. That Report concluded with the following appropriate and feeling appeal:—We now commend the good work, submitted to our inquiry, to your Majesty's most gracious protection, in the firm conviction that if fairly carried out in the spirit of our recommendations, it will prove not the least noble of the many works of benevolence which will illustrate the history of your Majesty's reign.The noble Lord said, that he quite agreed with the views entertained by the deputation, but that the state of the finances of the country were such as to prevent the Government granting public money for the construction of additional harbours of refuge, May I ask if the finances of the country are now in a better state than the were then? Certainly not; in that case we must fall back upon the loan, which I should like to see very much increased. The question before us is simply this, are funds to be provided in one shape or other for the construction of harbours of refuge, which all admit to be works of paramount and special necessity? We spend millions of money in building ships of war, and although we know above one thousand 1247 valuable lives are annually lost by shipwreck, and from the same cause the destruction of at least one million and a half of property is annually involved, yet we adopt no means to lessen the evil and to prevent as much as possible such national calamities. This must be, to say the least of it, suicidal policy. Under such circumstances I ask how are we to man our fleet in time of war? The line of the northeast coast of England from the Fern Islands to Flamborough Head, a sea distance of 100 miles, is that within which the scenes of shipwreck and loss of life are annually most numerous and distressing. Among this length of coast passes 45 per cent of the whole coasting trade of England and 32 per cent of her entire trade, coasting and foreign together. On this dangerous sea-board, England's great nursery for seamen, the Royal Commissioners have selected the mouth of the River Tyne, Hartlepool Bay and Filey Bay, as the most eligible sites for life and refuge harbours. Filey is admirably situated for such a purpose. It is peculiarly adapted by nature for the construction of a harbour of refuge. Nature having already done five-sixths of the work, and provided an ample store of materials close at hand; stone of suitable quality for a breakwater being in the cliffs immediately adjoining. There is ample depth of water for vessels of any size, up to the largest class of ships in Her Majesty's Navy. The holding ground i3 but rarely equalled and cannot be surpassed. There is entire freedom from banks and shoals; and absence of all tendency to deposit; and an abundant supply of fresh water of excellent quality. In a strategic point of view, a harbour here would in time of war be of immense service. A squadron of men-of-war stationed here could watch the Baltic, and cover the whole coast from the Forth to the Wash. Harbours of refuge should also be commenced immediately at Hartlepool Bay, and at the mouth of the Tyne, for I maintain it is a positive disgrace to this great country, that the whole coast from the Humber to the Frith of Forth is entirely unprotected, there not being a single harbour capable of admitting vessels at low water. Although I have endeavoured to condense my remarks in as few words as possible, I still hope that I have said enough to convince the Committee that the question of national life harbours is one that ought to have our immediate and earnest consideration. I, therefore, leave with confidence to the de- 1248 cision of the Committee the proposal which I have ventured to bring before it.
§ MR. MILNER GIBSON
said, he must object to any limit being placed on the discretion of the Government in the matter. It appeared to him that it would not be good policy to do so. It must be remembered that the object of the loans was to assist small harbours as well as large, and even fishing harbours, so that they might be improved and made places of protection for life and property. Government ought, therefore, to have full discretion. The hon. Member should bear in mind that the fact of any particular place having been recommended by the Commissioners could not fail to have weight when an application was made on its behalf for a loan. He thought that would be quite sufficient.
§ MR. BEECROFT
said, that he was content to rely upon the promise of the right hon. Gentleman, and withdraw his Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
said, he wished to move the insertion of certain words in the clause, the object of which was to make the rate of interest payable upon any sum advanced to the harbour authorities uniform. They were enabled by the Bill to borrow to the extent of £100,000 at the rate of 3i per cent per annum, but upon any sum in excess of that amount they would have to pay a larger amount of interest.
§ MR. FENWICK
said, he must oppose the Amendment; it might enable some of the large public bodies to get more than their due share of the public funds.
§ MR. MILNER GIBSON
said, that the clause did not limit the amount any harbour authority might obtain for the improvement of the harbour, but it merely provided that upon any sum in excess of £100,000 there should be a higher rate of interest, not to exceed 5 per cent, paid. There should be a check against any one great body, such as the Mersey Board, coming forward and swallowing up the whole of the money which Parliament should place at the disposal of the Commissioners for any one year.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ MR. PAULL
said, he proposed to insert in the clause the words "or that with the sanction of Parliament may become leviable." The harbour authorities were only able to borrow money for the purpose of 1249 constructing new works at the time when they were empowered to levy rates. Any harbour authorities that might hereafter be constituted would be prevented, unless the Amendment which he proposed was adopted, from availing themselves of the provisions of the Bill until a certain portion of the proposed new works had been completed.
§ MR. MILNER GIBSON
said, that harbour authorities were allowed to borrow money when they had the right to levy tolls which were taken as security. The Amendment contemplated a prospective right of security, which it might be very unwise to sanction.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, that the case of the hon. Gentleman was, that it might be very desirable that persons should have the liberty of borrowing money with the view of carrying works to such a state as they would be in a position to levy the tolls. But that was a proposal of a doubtful nature, and it was expected of all public boards that they should never commit the public funds in doubtful cases. He did not think it desirable that the Committee should agree to the Amendment.
§ Clause agreed to.
§ Clause 4 (Abolition of Passing Tolls),
§ MR. THOMPSON
said, he proposed to insert words for the purpose of continuing the rates and tolls levied in respect to the harbours of Dover and Whitby until the 1st January, 1867.
§ Amendment negatived; Clause agreed to.
§ Clauses 5 and 6 also agreed to.
§ House resumed. Committee report Progress; to sit again on Friday at Twelve of the clock.