HC Deb 16 June 1863 vol 171 cc981-4

said, he wished to call the attention of the House to the Reports of the officers of the Admiralty and the Board of Works in Ireland, regarding the serious obstruction caused to navigation in the rivers Bride and Blackwater, in the county of Waterford, by stake and head weirs. It appeared that a considerable number of weirs had been placed in those rivers, rendering them almost impassable; and that with regard to them the Admiralty and the Board of Works in Ireland acted very unsatisfactorily, each shifting the responsibility upon the other. The matter had at last got into the hands of the Board of Trade, and he trusted that some redress would at length be obtained by the persons who complained of the obstruction caused by the weirs. He should conclude by moving the Resolution of which he had given notice.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That it is the opinion of this House, that it is the duty of the Government to carry the Law into effect by immediately removing Stake and Head Weirs in the Rivers Bride and Blackwater, in the county of Waterford.—(Mr. Blake.)


said, that the reports to which the hon. Gentleman had referred showed that the navigation of these two rivers was seriously interfered with by the erection of weirs. But when he came to consider to what the delay in the removal of those obstructions was owing, he found it did not arise from any apathy on the part of the administrators of the law, or from the bandying of responsibility between the Admiralty and the Commissioners of Public Works in Ireland, but from the incomplete and inconsistent powers given by the Act of Parliament. There were many prohibitions in the acts, and no doubt many of the weirs were illegal, but it was not by any means easy to apply a remedy. Many exceptions were granted by the law itself; and the Commissioners of Public Works had no power to take the initiative in the removal of the weirs. It was necessary that a complaint should first be laid before them before they could interfere. Somebody else, in short, must set the law in motion, but up to a recent period not a single complaint had been made. It was quite true that power was given to the Commissioners to remove all weirs where they appeared to obstruct the navigation of any river; but the reason why they had not interfered was because they were of opinion that they were conservators of the fisheries rather than of the navigation of the rivers. They had looked upon the Board of Admiralty rather than upon the Board of Public Works as the conservators of the navigation. Nor did they consider that they had power sufficient to enable them to interfere successfully. There was no right of appeal under the Act of Parliament. Moreover, the powers of the Board were on the point of ceasing, and were about to be transferred to the new Commissioners of Fisheries. He therefore recommended the hon. Gentleman to wait till these changes had been made before he proceeded with the subject.


moved, at the end of the Motion, to add, "and all other encroachments on the property of the Crown and the rights of the public in the tidal waters and shores of Ireland." He said that all the rivers of Ireland were interrupted by weirs which parties had no right to place there. They wanted no Commissioners and no Act of Parliament. The Attorney General was all they wanted. In England, if anybody intruded on the seashore, there was an information filed at once. In Ireland, if an intrusion was made for the public benefit, as for a railway or the like, the Board came and removed the intrusion; but if it were by a private person, it seemed there was no remedy whatever. The Attorney General ought to file an information at once against the offenders. The weirs had been erected under the pretence of the Act of 1842, and now that they had been erected it would no doubt be pretended that a Charter granted by Charles I or Charles 11 sanctioned their erection. The longer they were permitted to remain the greater pretence would be given for pleading before a jury that a charter had been granted.

Amendment proposed, At the end of the Question, to add the words "and all other encroachments on the property of the Crown and the rights of the public in the tidal waters and shores of Ireland."—(Mr. M'Mahon.)

Question proposed, "That those words be there added."


said, that the Motion seemed to him very like a truism. It looked like a declaration that the Government ought to enforce the law; and there required no Motion to inform the Government of that. The question was, whether or not the Government had failed to do their duty. From the statements that had been made by the hon. and learned Member, he did not see that any evidence had been brought forward of any neglect of duty on the part of the Government. As far as he had been informed, many of the weirs on the Bride and Blackwater were as much legal weirs as any in the empire. It was true that a number of cases of alleged illegality had been brought before his notice. But the answer he had given was, "Bring me sufficient evidence of the illegality, and I will prosecute. But if you do not, I must decline to do so." If sufficient evidence had been brought, he should have felt it his duty to proceed by a writ of intrusion in the Court of Exchequer. But nothing had been said that evening to show that the Government had been guilty of any dereliction of duty.


said, the observations of the Secretary to the Treasury and of the hon. and learned Attorney General did not quite accord. There were three branches of the Executive in Ireland—the Admiralty, the Commissioners of Works, and the Commissioners of Fisheries—who were charged with the duty of abating these obstructions. Each cast the responsibility upon the other, and between them the duty was neglected.


said, that the case be-fore the House was a case of great hardship. The Reports showed that no less than three branches of the executive Government had for several years been guilty of breaches of duty. That was practically a denial of the rights of the poor. Under the circumstances he would, nevertheless, not recommend his hon. Friend to press his Motion.


said, that resting upon the assurance of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Peel), he would not press his Motion.

Amendment and Motion, by leave, withdrawn.