HC Deb 27 June 1862 vol 167 cc1196-200

Order for Committee read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."

MR. ELLICE (St. Andrew's)

said, he wished to bring to the attention of the House the fact that a clause in the Piers and Harbours Act Amendment Bill, which had been defeated by a considerable majority, was re-introduced totidem verbis in this measure. That clause gave to the Commissioners of Woods and Forests the same power of interfering in relation to works connected with existing harbours as was properly enjoyed by the President of the Board of Trade. Communications had taken taken place between himself and the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Bouverie), and the result was that the Government consented to withdraw this and another clause; but now a clause was introduced which would have the effect of directly reversing the decision of the House. This re-introduction of the clause seemed to him rather sharp practice; and if technical reasons had compelled the President of the Board of Trade to make the proposition anew, he ought to have called attention to the point on the second reading of the Bill, and not have exposed the House to be taken by surprise. The clause had reference to Carrickfergus Harbour, and he doubted whether the people of Carrickfergus knew how far this clause affected their interests. As this clause stood, not a single stone could be put upon another for the improvement of the harbour until the consent of the Commissioners of Woods and Forests was obtained; and, from his experience of the Woods and Forests, he was persuaded the Commissioners would not consent to the improvement of any harbour without a money consideration. It was the duty of the House to protect the public from such a system of petty extortion, and he moved that the Bill should be committed that day six months.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "this House "will, upon this day three months, resolve itself into the said Committee, —instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


seconded the Amendment.


said, there was a general Act of Parliament which required that no provisional order should be made by the Board of Trade for the construction of a new harbour, or the improvement of an old one, without the consent of the Woods and Forests. It might be right or wrong that the Commissioners should have such a power, but, in making the provisional orders which the present Bill was intended to confirm, the Board of Trade had no option but to proceed according to the directions of the Act of Parliament. The House, in fact, might as well reject a private Bill because its promoters had complied with the Standing Orders as agree to the Amendment of his hon. Friend.


said, that if the Bill were extended to Scotland, it would in juriously affect the interests both of the public and the proprietors in that country.


said, there was no analogy between a provisional order which was made by the Board of Trade, on an ex parte statement and a private Bill, and he hoped the House would at once repudiate any such doctrine.


hoped that this Amendment would be withdrawn; but still he trusted that the House would support him, when the Bill reached the Committee, in an endeavour to put an end to these exactions on the part of the Woods and Forests. That Department had no right to tax the promoters of beneficial schemes in the manner they proposed to do. No one would dispute that a great portion of the shore was the property of the Crown. He would not now go into the question whether those shores which were the property of the Crown were held in trust for the public or to produce revenue. He did not believe that they were held for the latter purpose; but however that might be, a great many shores now belonged to private individuals, to whom the Crown had granted or sold them. He thought attempts like this on the part of the Woods and Forests were nothing less than extortion. The Woods and Forests were nothing more than the administration of the property of the Crown; the Board of Trade and the Admiralty were intrusted with the supervision of the works.


said, that nothing was more generally admitted than that the system of conditional orders was a very great improvement on the old system. It applied to enclosures, piers, and harbours—it saved a great deal of expense, facilitated public improvements, and was a great accommodation to all parties interested. With respect to the course pursued by his right hon. Friend (Mr. M. Gibson), he had no choice in the matter, as the law required that the assent of the Woods and Forests should be obtained. The property was vested in the Crown, but he quite admitted that it was held for the public; it was necessary, therefore, to see that no use was made of it which might be detrimental to the public interest. The Woods and Forests required a very small acknowledgment, not at all a heavy tax upon the parties concerned, but by way of admission that it was Crown property; and he thought that in so doing they were only maidtaining a right intrusted to them.


said, he was glad to hear the noble Lord's admission that the Crown held the foreshores for the public interest.


said, that the question before the House was not whether the Woods and Forests should exercise the right referred to, but whether a Bill to confirm certain provisional orders should pass. If any objection was felt to the authority of the Woods and Forests to issue these provisional orders, the issue ought to he fairly raised by a substantive Motion.


thought it was a fallacy to assert that the Crown was in all cases the owner of the foreshore.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

House in Committee.

MR. BLLICE (St. Andrew's)

moved to omit the 13th paragraph of the schedule. The clause as it stood gave the Woods and Forests power to interfere with works which the Admiralty and the Board of Trade had sanctioned. This was, in other words, giving them power to extort money from those who were making these harbours in the interest of the public.

Amendment proposed, to leave out paragraph 13.


said, the Commissioners of Woods and Forests ought not to be allowed to have the power, or allowed that interference over the harbours which this clause would give them.


supported the clause, and said, it had been framed in accordance with the Lands Clauses Consolidation Act, and that there could be no sound objection to it.


trusted the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for St. Andrew's (Mr. Ellice) would be agreed to.


said, the proper mode of proceeding, if hon. Members thought that Parliament had given too much power to the Woods and Forests, was to introduce a new Bill to repeal or amend the Act under which those provisional orders were made.


said, if the Committee consented to the clause, they would be acting directly in the teeth of the Act of last Session, and of the decision of the House in the present Session also.


said, the Woods and Forests would give their sanction, upon condition that a clause which would protect their rights was introduced in the particular Acts. They did not assert their claims beforehand. What they said was, "We give our sanction to your proposed plans; but we reserve to ourselves the right, when you come to execute those plans, to put in our claims." The real question before the Committee was, whether, by excluding the paragraph, they would not do an injury to the promoters.


said, the Woods and Forests wanted to attach to their consent a condition by virtue of which they should have the right of approval of the works which were to be constructed under the provisional orders; and what his hon. Friend wished was, that the Committee should say whether the Woods and Forests were right in attaching that condition. He did not think either the interests of the public or the rights of the Crown required such a condition. In many cases, moreover, it was monstrous to require the consent of the Woods and Forests, for the property did not always belong to the Crown.


hoped that the Government would give way on this point, as it was one on which there could be no doubt.


said, that the Board of Trade had acted strictly in accordance with the Act of Parliament, which required the consent of the Woods and Forests to be given. The Woods and Forests had given their consent with a condition; but if the Committee did away with the condition, then the Woods and Forests could not be said to have given their consent. The condition was not an unreasonable one, and was in accordance with Parliamentary practice, because it was inserted in every private Bill.

Question put, "That paragraph 13 stand part of the Schedule."

The Committee divided: — Ayes 37; Noes 78: Majority 41.


said, that the adoption of the Amendment rendered necessary the omission of four other consequential clauses.


said, that after the expression of opinion just given by the Committee, he would omit the part in each of the other provisional orders in the Bill similar to that which had just been struck out.

House resumed.

Bill reported; as amended, to be considered on Monday next, and to be printed [Bill 171].

House adjourned at a quarter after Two o'clock, till Monday next.