HC Deb 15 May 1861 vol 162 cc2074-7

Order for Second Reading read.


said, he rose to move the second reading of the Bill. It was the fourth time he had ventured to present a measure of a similar character to the House. In 1858 the Bill passed a second reading by a considerable majority. In 1859 it was again introduced, but owing to the dissolution it made no further progress. Last year the Bill was once more introduced, and passed a second reading by a considerable majority. At the suggestion, however, of the authorities of the departments to which the Bill referred, he moved for a Select Committee, which the House granted. In the course of that inquiry he found the provisions of the Bill were too stringent considering the measure was experimental, and he had, therefore, framed the present Bill in accordance with the opinions entertained by the Committee, and in conformity with the evidence taken before it. Neither the principle nor the details of the Bill were new. The principle of allowing inquiries to be made by public departments and of allowing them to grant provisional orders to be subsequently confirmed by Parliament, had been sanctioned over and over again, and had been found to work satisfactorily. He hoped that the principle might be extended to the class of undertakings to which this Bill referred. As to the details, he submitted that they would mainly be subjects for consideration in Committee. The greatest difficulty in the case was to select the body most fitted to give effect to the provisions of the Bill. In his former Bills he had made the Admiralty the executive, but their multifarious duties indisposed them to take upon themselves any new functions; and that being so, he had naturally turned to the Board of Trade, which had a marine department, and was not so overworked as the Admiralty was said to be. At the same time, all the rights and privileges of the latter Board were reserved to them. The objections to the measure came principally from conservancy bodies and those who had rights and privileges under old charters; but, he had inserted a saving clause as to the rights and privileges possessed by those bodies. Then, former Bills which he had introduced were obligatory in their nature; this was only permissive, and, therefore, it came before the House in a less objectionable form than on former occasions. His object was that persons desirous of constructing harbour works, if they wished to save the expense of an Act of Parliament, should make application to the Board of Trade. They would be compelled to give ample notice, to deposit plans, and, in fact, to comply with all the Standing Orders of this House relating to the introduction of private Bills of this kind; and then the Board of Trade by a provisional order might empower the promoters to undertake the works proposed. Such provisional order, however, would have no validity whatever until it was confirmed by Parliament, introduced on the principle of the Enclosure Acts, and every opportunity of seeking redress would be given to all parties who felt aggrieved by the decision of the department. The great object which he had in view was the saving of expense in obtaining private Bills. However simple might be the provisions of such a Bill, the expense of passing it, even if unopposed, was several hundred pounds; and Captain Veitch gave an instance of an Act which had been passed under the most favourable circumstances, but which had cost £750. Looking at what had lately occurred with reference to harbours, he thought the object of the Government should be to enable parties to carry out in the easiest and most inexpensive manner harbour works which might be required for the purposes of commerce and of refuge. In the small ports along the coast the expense of carrying a Bill through Parliament was an important element for consideration, and deterred the execution of useful works. He trusted, therefore, that the House would give a second reading to a Bill which he believed would prove a great boon to the seafaring population around the coast, and would form a valuable appendage to the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Milner Gibson).


said, from the title of the Bill hon. Gentleman might suppose that it was a measure for precisely the same object as that which had been introduced by the Government; because they were both called Bills for facilitating the Construction of Piers and Harbours. This Bill did not clash with the Bill of the Government, and if it should please the House to agree to the second reading, it might even act as an aid to the objects of the Bill which the Government had introduced, he begged to say that it was not the wish of the Government to object to the Bill on the second reading. He should reserve any observations on the measure until its details came to be considered. Although if the House should decide to impose any fresh duties on the Board of Trade, that department would endeavour to discharge those duties satisfactorily, it would be for the House to consider whether they were prepared to part with the powers which the Bill undoubtedly deprived them of. It appeared to be a well-considered measure, and constructed in accordance with the principal evidence given before the Select Committee on this subject last Session; but, in passing through Committee of the whole House, he though it would require to be considered with very great care, because there were powers relative to the compulsory taking of land, and with regard to the levying of rates, without a special Act of Parliament. That such powers as those should be obtained from Government by a provisional order, was a matter requiring great caution and consideration. In making those observations, he reserved to himself the right to object to the details of the Bill; and, with that understanding, there would be no opposition on the part of the Government to the second reading of the Bill.


said, he had no objection to the second reading of the Bill. But he had to observe that he thought they would have to consider in Committee whether it would not be desirable that they should fix some limit to the amount which could be raised under the provisions of the measure.


said, it was impossible for the Government to take under their charge the harbours of the kingdom, and the best thing to be done was to facilitate the action of the companies and of private individuals. He was himself the proprietor of a harbour which was capable of great improvement, and the present Bill would give facilities in such a case for the carrying out of works of great advantage to the community.


said, that he opposed the Bill last year, and still, upon principle, entertained strong objections to it. At the same he admitted that in the case of small undertakings of the kind to which it applied, it was of great importance to save expense, and seeing that the principle of provisional orders had already been recognized by the House, he should renounce his opposition to the second reading.

Bill read 2o, and Committed for Tuesday 11th June.

House adjourned at Three o'clock.