HC Deb 26 April 1864 vol 174 cc1660-98

said, he rose to move a Resolution on the necessity for the construction of harbours of refuge, and in so doing he would say that he wished to alter the terms from the Resolution as it stood originally on the paper, so that it would now run thus:—"That, in the opinion of this House, Her Majesty's Government should now adopt measures for the construction of Harbours of Refuge on the coasts of Great Britain and Ireland, recommended by a Committee of the House in 1858, by a Royal Commission in 1859, and by a Resolution of this House in 1860." What he wished to point out was this, that two Committees of that House and a Royal Commission had recommended that harbours of refuge should be constructed, and that recommendation had been confirmed by a. Resolution of that House. He had no desire to point out to the Government the method in which they should carry out the recommendations, but he did hope they would take such steps as they might judge best for constructing those harbours of refuge which had been so frequently and so strongly recommended. The hon. Baronet the Member for Stamford (Sir Stafford Northcote) had put a notice upon the paper by which he proposed to add certain words to the Resolution, and he (Mr. Lindsay) had altered its terms in the hope that the hon. Baronet would not think it necessary to move the addition. He did not believe that the hon. Baronet was opposed to the construction of those harbours, but that, considering the position which he then occupied in that House, and the higher position which he was likely to occupy, and deservedly so, he was no doubt frightened at the very large claim that might be made upon him by-and-by for the construction of harbours of refuge. He was therefore not surprised, under the circumstances, that the hon. Gentleman should have thought of adding the words standing upon the paper to the Motion of which he had given notice. But that Motion only called upon the Government to carry out the repeated recommendations in favour of harbours of refuge, leaving them free to determine what measures were best for that purpose. In connection with the subject it was impossible to pass over a paper from the Board of Trade which had been laid upon the table of the House. Somehow or other a copy had not been sent to him, but he bought one in the Vote Office, and he had read it with great care and considerable surprise. The document was meant to guide the opinion of Members of the House, and to answer the deliberate Resolution of the Committee, of the Commission, and the Vote of the House; and when a document of that kind was laid before the House, it ought to be correct as to its facts; it ought to lay before them statements which no one could doubt; but he was sorry to say that this document was calculated to lead hon. Members astray. For his part, he thought the deliberate convictions of Parliamentary Committees and Royal Commissions, formed upon full information, and backed by the vote of a majority in a full House, were entitled to more respect than a document concocted at the Board of Trade by any gentleman, however competent. In dealing with this question he desired, first, to consider the necessity for harbours of refuge; secondly, the cost; thirdly, the amount of life and property that would be saved by their construction. The paper to which he alluded dealt with two of these points—it admitted all the startling facts forming the true recommendation of harbours of refuge—namely, the fearful losses of life and property along the coast; but it opened with the expression of doubts whether these harbours could be constructed for the sums named by the Commission. Now, who were the persons against whom that single gentleman at the Board of Trade set up his opinion? Admiral Hope, a gentleman of great abilities and shrewd common sense; Admiral Washington, the late hydrographer to the Admiralty, a man well fitted to give an opinion on the matter, whose loss was still deplored; Captain Veitch, of the Royal Artillery, and for some time attached to the Board of Trade; Mr. John Coode, an eminent civil engineer with considerable experience in the construction of breakwaters; and his hon. and gallant Friend (Sir Frederic Smith), than whom no one was more competent to form a sound opinion. He himself was also a Member of the Commission; but, without bringing his own name into controversy, he asked, might not the view of these five gentlemen be adopted against that of an unseen clerk of the Board of Trade? The document in question contended that the original Estimates as to harbours of refuge already existing had been exceeded. No doubt such had been the case with harbours of a military character, like Dover and Alderney, and also at Holyhead, which had been altered, for naval or postal purposes, by every successive Board of Admiralty. The only two pure harbours of refuge, Kingstown and Portland, were the only two which had been kept within their limits. Kingstown cost less than the original Estimate, and the same might be said of Portland, if the expenditure made with a view of turning it into a naval harbour were deducted. In the paper emanating from the Board of Trade every vessel was struck out of the account which was not lost in a gale of wind. An attempt was made to measure the strength of gales, and it was contended that because in one, of which the violence was indicated by the figure 9, a vessel could carry close reefed topsails, she would have no right to seek a harbour of refuge, and, therefore, if lost ought not to be counted among those which might have been saved by such means. But by what process was the strength of the wind arrived at? It was often blowing only a stiff breeze on shore when the sailor outside knew that a hurricane was raging. In the same way the paper eliminated all collisions from the account. But the fact was notorious that collisions were frequent among the vessels which particular winds kept crowding under Flamborough Head. It also eliminated all vessels which foundered at sea. Why the foundering of many of those vessels was directly attributable to the want of a harbour of refuge. In the absence of such a haven vessels caught by a gale from the E.S.E. at Flamborough Head had no shelter on that iron-bound coast, but had to run to the Frith of Forth, and many of them foundered on the way. The Board of Trade, however, took no notice of them, which ought to have been done when they put forth a document for the purpose of guiding the judgment of the House on a great question of national policy affecting the interests of a class of men on whom we all depended, especially in the hour of need —he meant the seamen of England. Another deduction was made on account of losses attributable to bad seamanship. Bad seamanship! Did they not know that the coasting trade trained the best seamen that England had ever possessed, and how could the author of this document judge whether or not a vessel had been lost by bad seamanship when the crew had all perished? He would not trouble the House further with the document, but would pass on to the real facts of the case. The question first attracted public attention in 1852. In, 1857 a Committee was appointed to inquire into it, of which the late Mr. James Wilson was chairman. That Committee sat for two years, and examined a great number of witnesses, all of whom agreed as to the necessity of these harbours. In 1852 the entries inwards and outwards in the foreign and coasting trade of vessels with cargo represented 39,000,000 tons; and the Committee, in order to ascertain the loss, took the average between the years 1832 and 1852. They found that there were upon an average 5,128 casualties per annum to sea-going vessels, many of which were totally wrecked, and that every five years 4,184 lives, exclusive of fishermen, were sacrificed. The amount of property annually lost was £1,500,000. This state of things was most appalling. The Committee reported that they could not "too earnestly press upon the House the necessity of these works being undertaken at as early a period as possible, and placed under some system which will secure their steady and speedy progress;" and further, that, considering the commercial and political non-security of the country, and the enormous loss of life and property at sea to which the nation was exposed from the unprotected state of the coast, there was no one object to which the public money could be more usefully and properly employed, having regard to the future prosperity of the nation. In 1858, Mr. Wilson, who was chairman of the Committee, moved for a Commission to make further inquiry upon the coasts, and to point out the sites at which harbours ought to be constructed. The Motion was assented to by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich, who was then First Lord of the Admiralty, and the Commission to which he had already referred was appointed. That Commission heard much evidence at a great variety of places, and unanimously confirmed the opinion of the Committee that harbours of refuge were necessary. In their visit to the coast the Commissioners found all seafaring men anxious that these harbours should be constructed, but many large shipowners, whose vessels were seldom upon the coast, were unwilling to be taxed in the shape of a passing toll to carry out the object. They found also in many places, especially in the east of Scotland, that every witness considered his particular town the most suitable place for a harbour; and his hon. Friend the Member for the Montrose Boroughs actually recommended a grant of public money to the harbour of Arbroath, the whole of the entrance to which was surrounded with sunken rocks. After giving the subject a very full and impartial consideration, the Commissioners made their Report. The document to which he had already referred stated that they had recommended grants of money to the extent of £4,000,000; but that was not correct. For the purely national harbours they recommended grants to the extent of £1,340,000, and they also recommended that grants should be made to other places for smaller amounts, on condition that those who were locally interested should contribute equal, or, in some cases, larger amounts. They said they should not recommend passing tolls for the purpose of erecting harbours, because those tolls had long since been condemned by the House of Commons; but it was urged that the parties who would be gainers by the harbours should tax themselves, and by so doing benefit the public at large, before the public were called upon to contribute a shilling. The public, too, would profit by their construction, because these harbours of refuge could be made of the greatest service to our navy in the event of a European war. The question had, however, been asked—could they be constructed for the sum specified in the Report of the Commission? Now, the Members of the Commission were competent to form an opinion on the subject, and in addition they had examined all the most eminent civil engineers on the subject. He would not say that the work could be done for the sum named in the Report of the Royal Commissioners if the Government in office were to "meddle and muddle" the matter; but if tenders were issued on the following day for a plan as laid down by the Commission, he would undertake to assert that responsible contractors willing to accomplish the work for the amount set forth in the Report might readily be found. It need not cost even the amount named by the Commissioners, for what better employment for our convicts could we have than to send them down, for example, to Filey, where they would enable us to construct a harbour of refuge at a much smaller expense? It was not merely, he might add, in the opinion of the Commission that harbours of refuge were necessary on our coasts. His right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade and the noble Lord at the head of the Government had also borne testimony to the expediency of those harbours in the strongest possible manner. And if they were required in 1852, how much more were they required at the present day, when there was an increase since then in the entrances and clearances of our tonnage of 18,000,000? He might further observe that during the last five years for which we had Returns, there had been 6,941 casualties on our shores, including a vast number of total wrecks. Upwards of 4,000 lives had during that time been sacrificed. Again, taking the year 1862, he found that there had been 1,418 casualties, with a tonnage of 326,000, and crews amounting to 14,714 men. The estimated value of the ships wrecked, together with their cargoes, was, during that year, not less than £6,000,000. If out of that amount £3,500,000 were saved, there would still remain an annual loss to the extent of £2,500,000. Then came the question, what amount of life and property would be likely to be rescued by the construction of harbours of refuge? The paper from the Board of Trade stated that, on the north-east coast, in the severe gale of the 4th of January, 1857, sixty-five vessels and eighty-six lives had been lost, but by the system of elimination to which he alluded they had reduced the number of lives which would probably have been saved if there had been a harbour of refuge on the coast to half of the number which actually perished. Now, if one-half of the lives would have been saved, one-half of the property would have been saved also; and in a valuable pamphlet which, no doubt, most hon. Members had seen, and which had been written by a gentleman who resided on the coast for twenty years, and who took up the matter as a philanthropist, would be found an analysis of the Board of Trade Returns, which showed that in the gale in question there were ten vessels lost and fifty-six lives of which the Department had no account. But let him suppose, taking the lowest estimate, that the construction of harbours would save only one-sixth of the property and one-sixth of the lives which were annually lost on all parts of our coast. What he asked from the House was £134,000 per annum for the next ten years; or, if the parties locally interested raised the £1,600,000 he had named, the full extent of the demand on the House for the next ten years for the construction of all these harbours would be £236,000. Now, taking the saving of property that would ensue at £400,000, or about one- sixth of the entire loss (£2,500,000), they would thus have the harbours made for nothing, with a saving to the nation in the one case of £266,000, and, in the other, of £164,000 annually. They would recoup themselves for all their outlay and have a considerable sum over; in addition to which they would have the satisfaction of saving the lives of those hardy mariners whom they could so ill spare. He had, he was afraid, trespassed too long on the patience of the House. But he had felt as an old sailor, who had been brought up among the hardy men to whom he had referred, that it was incumbent on him to make another appeal to the House on their behalf, and he would now leave his Motion in the hands of the House, confidently hoping that his appeal would not be made in vain. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving the Resolution.


, in seconding the Motion, declared his opinion that the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Lindsay), and the gallant Officer the Member for Chatham (Sir Frederic Smith), deserved great credit for the perseverance with which they had kept this Question before the House. The Reports of the Committee and the Commission both appeared to have been strangely ignored and neglected; but as the representative of a commercial port, the vessels belonging to which were constantly braving the perils so well described by his hon. Friend, and too many swelling the wreck chart to which he had alluded, he felt that the importance of the subject before them could not be overrated. He differed also from the Board of Trade Report quoted by his hon. Friend, not only in the points he had mentioned, but in those which stated that these harbours of refuge would be of such pecuniary advantage to shipowners that they ought to be paid for by passing tolls. Shipowners were generally covered by insurance, charged practically on freight, and it was doubtful whether the premiums would be affected by the formation of harbours. Underwriters and consignees might possibly be to some extent interested, if it were true that property to the extent of £2,000,000 was lost annually on our shores, but especially the seamen themselves, the widows and orphans of shipwrecked mariners—no small number, when it was remembered that 1,000 lives were annually lost. And those ratepayers were deeply concerned whose burdens were augmented by so many helpless creatures left without means of subsistence. Still less weight was due to the argument that ships were often wrecked on a coast abounding with harbours, and that fewer ships than might be supposed were lost on that part of a coast which was notoriously deficient. With respect to the first, no one expected that any measure would make navigation a safe and easy calling. With respect to the second, the number of ships absolutely stranded on an inhospitable coast was no measure of those which were lost because the coast was harbourless, or which might have been saved had a port been under their lee. Many a vessel was wrecked on the Shetlands for want of harbours in Yorkshire. The actual loss might take place hundreds of miles from the cause of it. Hon. Members would clearly perceive this by listening to a few words of Robert Stevenson upon a kindred subject — not the lamented Robert Stephenson, lately a Member of that House, but the architect of the Bell Rock Lighthouse. Robert Stevenson wrote thus—. In 1799 a three days' gale from the S.E. drove from their moorings in the Downs and Yarmouth Roads, and from their southward courses, a large fleet of vessels. Borne north by the gale, these ships might easily have reached the anchorage of the Frith of Firth, for which the wind was fair, but night came on, and fearing the Bell Rock, these ill-feted navigators resolved to keep to sea and thus escape its dangers, but driven before the storm they were wrecked, about seventy, on the eastern shores of Scotland, where, sad to tell, many of their crews perished. The objection of expense was more deserving of consideration. The House, which vibrated between parsimony and extravagance, was now in an economical mood, and he must be a bold man who would put a large extra charge upon the Estimates. He was as glad as his hon. Friend to find the hon. Baronet so careful of these finances, over which he hoped, with him, that he would some day have more control. Yet they had endangered shipping by making an artificial shoal at an enormous cost in Alderney. The engineers were now destroying in Corfu, at great expense, works which he had seen them, a year ago constructing at a still greater. In the neighbourhood of Portsmouth, the Government was busy altering the face of nature—Diruit, ædificat, mutat quadrata rotundis—and was spending millions in works which a succeeding generation of engineers would probably point to as examples to be avoided. But it seemed really that the most economical way of carrying out such works was that recommended by his hon. Friend, which might not only be of great benefit to the marine of this and other countries, but might solve a difficulty which threatened to be more pressing than ever—namely, what we were to do with our convicts. In corroboration of his hon. Friend's opinion, he might read what Captain (now Sir Walter) Crofton, then Director of Irish Prisons, wrote in 1858, on intermediate prisons. His words were— On reference to the Report of the Committee on Harbours of Refuge made at the close of last Session, it will be observed how numerous and pressing are the calls for different works on our coasts, varying from £800,000 to £20,000 in estimated value. It will be quite evident, then, how convenient would be the application of special convict labour for these purposes, provided it could be economically located on the site of the works by means of moveable iron buildings. Those used in Ireland for this purpose accommodate fifty men and three officers in each at a cost of about £330. The fifty men are in association like soldiers in a barrack. Cellular accommodation would much increase the expenditure, and is not to be desired. With prisoners whose merit and industrial exertion during detention have placed them in the intermediate stage before release, this system has been found reformatory and economical, the association operating as a further test by which we may induce the public to employ the criminal. If we cannot control them in association after our long course of discipline and training, we cannot expect the community will have much confidence in their future well doing. It is by the use of economically constructed moveable buildings that the labour of convicts can be made of greater utility to the State. There was the task, and there were the means of performing it, and he hoped the Government would have energy and determination enough to undertake a work of such vast importance not only to the whole maritime population, but to the country at large.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That, in the opinion of this House, Her Majesty's Government should now adopt measures for the construction of Harbours of Refuge on the coast of Great Britain and Ireland, recommended by a Committee of this House in 1858, by a Royal Commission in 1859, and by a Resolution of this House in 1860."—(Mr. Lindsay.)


said, he would detain the House only a very few minutes in explaining the Amendment he had put on the paper to the Motion of the lion. Member for Sunderland; and he must claim their indulgence for the few remarks he should make, because he felt he rose at a great disadvantage after a speech so full of feeling and knowledge as that with which the hon. Gentleman had just favoured the House. He could not possibly attempt to put anything he might have to say in comparison with what fell from the hon. Member, for, on the one hand, he had not the advantage of being able to speak with authority on the subject, and, on the other hand, he could not appeal to the feelings of the House, because he was there to plead the cause of the British taxpayer, who certainly did not excite the same feelings as our brave British sailors were so justly entitled to raise. But he thought it well for the House to consider, before they came to a vote on the question, what their real position was in regard to it. They ought to consider whether a constitutional question was not involved in the course which had been taken, and which it was now proposed they should take with regard to the matter. The proceedings which the House had taken of late years with regard to harbours of refuge should not be forgotten. For a good number of years (probably for twenty or twenty-five years) the question had engaged public interest, There had been discussions as to the mode in which they could provide against the dangers of wreck, and various plans for the establishment of harbours of refuge had been from time to time considered, until at length in 1857 a very remarkable and unusual course was taken by the Government of the day in moving for a Select Committee of that House to consider the question of the policy of making public grants towards harbours of refuge. That Committee was appointed not on the Motion of any private Member on either side of the House; but it was actually originated by a Member of the Government, and by a Member peculiarly interested in looking after expenditure. It was not proposed by the Admiralty or Board of Trade, but by the Secretary of the Treasury. Mr. Wilson, representing the former Government of the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston), proposed, in order to solve the difficult question they had to consider, that a Select Committee should be appointed, not to inquire whether harbours of refuge were good or bad things, or where they should be placed if it was thought desirable they should be constructed, but "to inquire into the policy of making further grants of public money for the improvement and extension of harbours of refuge." That Committee was appointed with considerable solemnity. It did not appear to have been introduced by Mr. Wilson in any speech, but when the nomination of the Committee was in question, the hon. Member for St. Andrew's (Mr. E. Ellice) made a suggestion that the Members should be appointed not in the usual way by the House, but by the Committee of Selection. That course, however, was not taken. The Committee at first consisted of sixteen Members; it was afterwards raised to twenty-two. It sat for two Sessions, and finally reported in June, 1858. The inquiry, conducted by the Committee, divided itself into two branches— first, whether it was desirable that harbours of refuge should be established; and secondly, where and at what cost they should be made. On the first branch of inquiry the Committee appeared to have taken a good deal of evidence, and after ascertaining in what parts of England or Scotland there should be harbours of refuge, if anywhere, and after estimating the expense, they proceeded to suggest the appointment of a Royal Commission, where men of professional skill might thoroughly investigate the question of cost and the exact locality where the harbours should be placed. But upon the second and the main point of inquiry—namely, the policy of making further grants of public money, and the mode in which these harbours, if made, should be paid for, they came to the conclusion that harbours should be made by advances of public money, the interest of which was to be paid in a considerable proportion by a charge upon the shipping interest. That recommendation was important, because it had a material bearing upon subsequent proceedings. It was because that part of the recommendations of the Committee had been lost sight of that they were now left in exactly the same position, I with regard to these questions, as they were in the days of the late Mr. Wilson, before the appointment of the Committee. Upon that point he would read to the House the 18th paragraph of the Committee's Report— The conclusion at which your Committee has arrived, therefore, is that a charge not exceeding in any case 1d. per ton may fairly be made upon all ships entering into or clearing from ports in the United Kingdom, which ships in the ordinary course of their voyages would pass the harbours to be constructed; and that, whatever rate is fixed upon at first, it shall be reduced from time to time, so as not to exceed a total sum which shall be equivalent to three-fourths of the interest, which should be computed at the rate of 3 per cent, and of the cost of maintenance. Your Committee feels more confidence in recommending this principle for adoption, because it is one so manifestly fair to the rest of the community, that no such objection can be taken to it as would be likely to interfere with the speedy construction of these important works; whereas, it would have much less confidence in that object being attained if the charge were proposed to be defrayed from the Consolidated Fund; against which objections might, with every appearance of justice, be raised by those not interested in shipping or seaport communities. Your Committee is aware that it would require great care to carry out the principle in all its details, but it is of opinion that this duty may fairly be left to Her Majesty's Government. The House would observe that the Committee distinctly left it to Her Majesty's Government to adjust the mode of repayment. Mr. Wilson, in his draft Report, had proposed that the question should be left to the Royal Commission, whose appointment the Committee had recommended; but the Committee, by a majority of two, decided that it should be left to the Government. He wished to call the attention of the House to the constitutional question involved in this matter. If they wished to exercise economy and a control over the expenditure of the country, they must adhere to the principle of throwing upon the Government the responsibility of originating expenditure, while they retained to themselves the duty and the power of controlling and checking the proposals of the Government. They ought also to look with jealousy upon proposals for expenditure issuing from the representatives of particular interests, or even from what were called the representatives of humanity, because such proposals were not made under the pressure of responsibility as the propositions of the Government were made. He was bound to say, with all respect for the late Mr. Wilson, that the appointment in the first instance of the Select Committee was an imprudent step, which the House should be careful to avoid repeating. But let the House consider how the matter stood after the Committee had reported. They re- ported, first, that harbours of refuge would be of use for the saving of life and property, and next, that estimating the cost at £2,000,000, three-fourths of the cost should be refunded by a charge on the shipping interest, and that the remainder should be defrayed from the Consolidated Fund, in consideration of the saving of life and of the services which might be rendered to the naval forces of the country. They also recommended that a Royal Commission should be appointed to complete the work of selecting the sites for the harbours, and, in compliance with an address from the House in accordance with that recommendation, his right hon. Friend near him (Sir John Pakington), who was then First Lord of the Admiralty, advised Her Majesty to appoint a Royal Commission. Upon the proceedings of that Commission he had nothing to say, except in praise of the spirit in which they performed their labours. He did not dispute their plans nor question their estimates, although it was a difficult thing to place entire reliance upon estimates so framed. But, without challenging the sufficiency of their estimates, he would draw attention to the fact, that the Royal Commissioners threw aside the recommendation of the Committee that a considerable portion of the expense of these harbours should be defrayed in some way by a charge upon shipping, and recommended that it should be borne partly by local contributions, but chiefly by the Consolidated Fund. It was this conflict of principle between the recommendations of the Committee and of the Commission, which he believed to be at the bottom of all the difficulty of the case. He had, therefore, placed upon the paper notice of a Motion to add certain words to the Resolution of the hon. Gentleman, with a view of recalling the attention of the House to the recommendations of their own Committee. It was true that he had proposed his Amendment under circumstances somewhat different from those in which they found themselves placed at present, because there had been a change in the wording of the Motion; but, reading the Motion as it stood now, he found it difficult exactly to understand it. In fact, he thought it might be said in legal phrase, that the Resolution proposed was void for uncertainty. The Resolution proposed— That, in the opinion of that House, Her Majesty's Government should now adopt measures for the construction of harbours of refuge on the coasts of Great Britain and Ireland, recommended by a Committee of the House in 1858, by a Royal Commission in 1859, and by a Resolution of the House in 1860. But was it the recommendations of the Committee or those of the Commission that it was proposed to the House to enforce? The two inquiries differed in their results; but, as the Resolution of the House in 1860 was in favour of the Report of the Commissioners, he presumed the conclusions of the Royal Commission were those intended to be favoured by the present Resolution. As the Motion, if carried in that sense, would tend to throw upon the Consolidated Fund a considerable burden, and as he was anxious, as far as possible, to protect that fund from improper charges, he had given notice of his Amendment, but as to whether he should press it to a division or not he should leave it to the House to decide. But he did hope and trust that the House would not fetter the Government by any Resolution of the kind proposed by the hon. Member, unless they were prepared to indicate some mode by which payment should be made. The hon. Member for Shoreham (Mr. Cave) appeared to cast a doubt upon the propriety of levying a charge upon shipping for the purpose. There could be nothing inappropriate in laying a charge of some kind upon the shipping, because the principle of taxing the interest which would derive the most benefit was a fair one. He could not understand the argument which was occasionally employed, that no special interest' should be subjected to taxation for such an object, because the general interest was also benefited. It was perfectly possible, if they traced the matter thoroughly, that the benefit would not ultimately fall upon the interest taxed, although that interest might at first be benefited; but, in the same way, any charge which might be laid on the shipping, though it would at first be borne by the shipping interest, would ultimately be diffused throughout the country. What was true of the benefit must also hold good of the burden. The foreign shipowners, too, ought not to be exempt from the payment of this tax, as they would also derive benefit from the establishment of harbours of refuge; but the plan of the Royal Commissioners would let them off altogether, and would throw the whole burden on the British taxpayers. What he desired to do was, to raise the question of principle and to secure that those who received the greater part of the benefit should bear the chief burden of the charge.

Amendment proposed, At the end of the Question, to add the words "and should make provision for wholly or in part defraying the expense of such Harbours as it may be thought right to construct, by means of tolls upon shipping, as recommended by the Committee of this House."—(Sir Stafford Northcote.)

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


felt bound to say something in support of the Motion of the hon. Member for Sunderland, from the circumstance of residing near one of the proposed harbours of refuge, and having personal knowledge of the advantages which would result to the shipping interest from its formation. He had some reluctance, however, in doing so, fearing it might be supposed that he was advocating the matter for the interests of his constituents. He could say, with truth, the advantages they would derive would not be very much, as Waterford harbour was deep enough for their purposes. He quite concurred with his hon. Friend in taking exception to many portions of the document lately issued by the Board of Trade, with a view of showing that the construction of the refuges recommended by the Royal Commission would not be as useful as was supposed. At page 12 the following passage occurred:— There is no doubt whatever that the greater portion of the vessels lost are coasters of small value, and comparatively ill found. Again, at page 15— That it is not generally the good and well found ships which are lost for want of harbours of refuge. Now, to refute that very erroneous statement, he had only to refer to the document itself; and as other hon. Members, he supposed, would call attention to the misstatement as regarded their own part of the coast, he would confine himself altogether to the wrecks along that part of the coast of Ireland, which a refuge at Waterford would have been likely, to a great extent, to have prevented. In the 10 years (between 1850 and 1860) there were 42 vessels wrecked along the coast between Wicklow Head and Waterford, representing 16,628 tons register, and with the vessels perished 673 human beings. Although the Board of Trade Report would lead to the supposition that it was only small coal vessels that were lost, he could only find three colliers amongst them, the greater number being large vessels, well found and manned; seven of them were over 1,000 tons burden; one, the Columbus, 1,849 tons; the Racer, 1,669; the Pomona, 1,500; the Adriatic, 1,327; and numerous others from 300 to 800 tons. Since that list has been made out other magnificent ships had been lost close to Waterford, two of which only he would mention— the Tiger, worth £13,000, and her cargo £11,000; and the Angelina, ship and cargo worth £8,000. No doubt, some of the 42 vessels wrecked between 1850 and 1860 could not have been saved, even if there had been a refuge at Waterford; but it was not going too far to assume that many of them would have been preserved, and several lives as well, if they could have taken shelter within the harbour. None of the wrecked vessels were bound to Waterford. There was a curious table in the Report, intended to prove that the greater number of vessels wrecked near the sites of the proposed refuges could not have been saved even if they existed. How they were able to prove that he was utterly at a loss to understand, as it did not follow that because a vessel went ashore at some distance from the place recommended for a refuge, that she would not have made for it if the captain thought he could have entered with safety. It was really melancholy to think that much of the deplorable casualties he had detailed might have been averted for such a paltry outlay as £50,000. No doubt, more could be accomplished for the requisite amount in Waterford than in any other part of the kingdom; but if all that the hon. Mover of the Resolution had stated could be accomplished for £2,000,000, it was a great reproach to the House of Commons if they hesitated a moment about it. Probably it would be said that night, as it had been on a former occasion, that owners of vessels could protect themselves by insurance; but, knowing something of commercial matters, he could assure the House that the profits on freights were, and had been for a long time, so low, that few owners could afford fully to insure themselves; and even supposing they did so, and underwriters had to bear the loss, still would not so much of the capital of the country be lost? Besides getting the mere value, or even the margin of profit over, allowed on ships and cargo insured would not always compensate the owners for the inconvenience they might suffer in their business. A ship might take a long time to replace; and there were certain descriptions of goods not always easy to be had, and for the want of which, at particular times, the community might suffer, as in the instance of cotton or corn. A great saving would also be probably effected by merchants if the harbours of refuge were made, by the diminution of risk, and consequently reductions in the rates of marine insurance. There was, however, one species of loss which, as the noble Lord at the head of the Government admitted on the last occasion that this subject was brought forward, that no insurance could guard against or compensate for—that of the gallant fellows who perished with the wrecked vessels, and who some years amounted to the fearful number of 1,500, the average loss of human life along the coast on each side of Waterford harbour for the last ten years being nearly seventy per annum. Now, if there was no other motive than the preservation of these poor men for their country and families, the entire of the outlay, even if it amounted to £4,000,000, would be well expended. There was another point he wished to touch on, which certainly ought to influence the Government and House considerably in the vote they would give that night. Iron-clad vessels were now superseding the old timber men-of-war, and whatever superiority the former might have in resisting shot and shell better, they certainly were inferior to the latter in sea-going qualities, and in a storm were infinitely more helpless and likely to be driven on shore. Now, let them suppose the Warrior or Prince Consort caught in a storm, with the wind in shore, somewhere along the coast he had been describing, between Kingstown and Cork, the chances were that vessels and crew would go to the bottom, or be dashed on the rocks. Each of these vessels, besides their equipment, cost the country fully £500,000, and took a long time to build, and at a particular time might place the country in a very serious difficulty to replace. How deep, but how unavailing then would be the regret that a miserable short-sighted economy to save the comparatively trifling sum of £50,000, had led to such a disaster. He had no hesitation in saying that there never was an occasion when a due regard for the protection of the most valuable part of the Royal Navy, the requirements of commerce, and the in- terests of humanity more strongly claimed the vote of the House than the present one; and he trusted if, as on a former occasion, that his hon. Friend obtained a majority, the Government would not again venture to treat with indifference the wishes of the people, expressed through their representatives.


said, it would be out of place in him to follow the hon. Member for Stamford (Sir Stafford Northcote) into I the various questions he had raised. He had understood the hon. Baronet however to say, that the measure had originated with the Government. There was no doubt that it ought to have so originated; but, unfortunately, it had not done so, nor had it even received their approbation. It was stated that harbours of refuge were essentially necessary in the case of any war in which we might be engaged. Why, then, were they not put upon the same footing as the fortifications, and why was not the money provided in the same way? But the House ought not to consider that as purely a money question. Where the incidence of taxation fell was immaterial. The nation would get a valuable return for its expenditure. Every year our able-bodied seamen were being lost by the score. We were losing in money value at the rate of more than a million per annum. And the President of the Board of Trade, before he frittered away these facts, ought to remember the duty which we owed to the poor fellows who manned our ships, and the great loss both of life and money which now took place for the want of these harbours.


said, he rose to ask the hon. Baronet (Sir S. Northcote) not to press his Motion to a division. It was desirable that the House should vote upon the main Question, whether or not the Government should carry out, by such measures as they thought fit to adopt, the recommendations of the Committee or the Commission. He regretted to find the principle of passing tolls supported by the hon. Baronet, for that system had been discarded by the Government and the Legislature, and would, he hoped, never be renewed. The taxpayers at large were not asked solely to provide these harbours, for a large proportion of the cost was to come out of the pockets of the shipowners and merchants at the ports at which the expenditure was to take place. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had himself been a witness to the improvements car- ried out in the Tyne by means of dues paid by the shipowners there, and the proposed grant of £250,000 was well earned by the expenditure which had taken place in the Tyne, for the benefit of the whole country as well as for that of the district.


said, that seeing the pressure brought to bear upon the Government, he felt it his duty, on behalf of the taxpayers of the country, to state his views upon this question. He was surprised to find that his hon. Friend asked the House to commit themselves to the recommendations both of the Committee and of the Commission, for, as the hon. Baronet had pointed out, these recommendations were not consistent with each other, The constitutional question was also one of high importance, for instead of the House of Commons checking the Government they had been initiating expenditure, and forcing it upon the Government against their wishes. As to the cost of the proposed works, he doubted whether it was possible to carry them out at anything like the sums estimated. His hon. Friend said the Commission had examined gentlemen of experience on the point, but in speaking of the Tyne, the Report itself said that the magnitude of the works contemplated there, and their novel character, rendered them to a great extent experimental. So that the Commissioners admitted the uncertainty of the outlay in that instance. In noticing the construction of the Committee, the hon. Baronet had omitted to state that it was composed chiefly of representatives of counties interested in the expenditure of the public money. In the Report of the Committee the expenditure at Carlingford and Waterford was set down at £20,000 each; but the Royal Commission contemplated an expenditure of £75,000 at Carlingford and £50,000 at Waterford, so that the House was preparing to legislate in the dark without knowing what the real cost of these works would be. The experience of Holyhead, where the original estimate had been greatly exceeded, might be a guide to them on the point. The works at Portland were estimated to cost £584,000, but £896,000 had already been expended on them, and the estimate now before the House was £932,000. The truth was that if the House began the proposed expenditure of £4,000,000 or £5,000,000, they might be thankful if they got off for less than £10,000,000. He objected altogether to some of the recommendations of the Commissioners, who took great credit to themselves for not asking the House to vote the whole of the money, but recommending that some part should be raised in the localities. They proposed, for example, that the public should give £125,000 to Wick, provided an equal sum were raised on the spot. Why, the people of Wick might as well be asked to pay off the National Debt. Reference had been made to Dundee, but all the captains trading between that port and the Baltic gave evidence that no harbour of refuge was required on the north-east coast of Scotland. One master trading between Scotland and London stated that more ships were lost in running for harbours of refuge than in remaining out at sea, and in that opinion he concurred. The great cause of the loss of life in the North of England was not the want of harbours of refuge, but the state of the vessels themselves. If the ships were better found, better manned, and better commanded, there would be fewer wrecks on our coasts. If he thought that any considerable amount of life and property would be saved by the proposition before the House, he should gladly vote for it, but it was because he did not believe that the erection of six or seven harbours of refuge would have much effect, that he hoped the Government would not sanction the expenditure.


said, he hoped the House would not accept the advice of the hon. Member for Montrose, who, indeed, could hardly expect them to be influenced by the opinion he had expressed in opposition to the weight of evidence in favour of the Motion of the hon. Member for Sunderland. The terms of the Resolution had been criticized rather severely, but whether they were open to criticism or not, he did not believe there was a man in the House who did not perfectly understand what the hon. Member for Sunderland meant. He thought the hon. Member was entitled to great credit for the perseverance with which he had followed up the question from Session to Session. The present state of the question did not reflect honour either upon the Government or upon the House. If the Government agreed with the hon. Member for Montrose—if they rejected all the evidence that had been collected—if they thought harbours of refuge were valueless and not worth the cost, let them frankly say so, and the House would un- derstand the position which they took; but, on the other hand, if they were not prepared to go so far, they must acknowledge that something should be done in the direction indicated by the hon. Member for Sunderland. There was an overwhelming weight of evidence in favour of harbours of refuge. First of all, there was the Report of a Committee appointed by the Government themselves, and presided over by the late Mr. Wilson; then, there was the Report of a Royal Commission; and lastly, there was the Resolution moved by the hon. Member for Sunderland in 1860 and adopted by the House. Here was a combination of opinion which no Government was at liberty to disregard. What, then, had the Government really done? They had taken the extraordinary course of laying before the House a memorandum from the Board of Trade. The hon. Member for Sunderland had dealt too mildly with that document. As an answer to the two Reports and the Resolution he had mentioned he could hardly treat it with gravity, and he wanted to know who wrote it, for it bore no name. It was written in 1861, but it did not see the light till 1864. The President of the Board of Trade was well acquainted with nautical matters; he had been a good deal at sea, and to that circumstance might be attributed the fact of his having suppressed this peculiar memorandum for three years. Admiral Sullivan, the only man connected with the Board of Trade to whose opinion on the subject he should be inclined to attach much weight, could not be the author of the memorandum, for he was one of the Royal Commissioners and joined with his colleagues in reporting in favour of harbours of refuge. One of the arguments urged by the writer was, that a considerable number of the shipowners were not disposed to submit to a tax upon shipping for the support of harbours of refuge. Now, with all respect to so respectable a body of men as the shipowners, they were not the men to whose opinion he should attach most weight in this matter. The hon. Member for Shoreham (Mr. Cave) had glanced at the reason. The wealthiest and most influential of them insured their ships, which were generally well found, and rather than submit to additional taxation were inclined to run all the chances of the sea. But there was another class whose opinion was entitled to more consideration —the captains and crews of the ships; and the evidence of all the captains who had been examined was all in favour of harbours of refuge. Another argument used in the document was, that these harbours of refuge would be of value only to the smallest and most worthless of our ships and coasters. He thought that was a very unsound opinion. The Report further stated, that of a total of 1,654 lives lost by shipwreck, in one year 926 were lost in three fine ships. Now, one of those ships was the Pomona, and the hon. Member for Waterford had told the House that if there had been a harbour of refuge at that port she would not have been lost, Another was the Royal Charter, which he believed had fallen a victim to the fatal ambition of making rapid voyages. She-was lost after she had passed Holyhead harbour, on her way to Liverpool, and had she taken advantage of the harbour, he believed she would have been saved, The Report likewise stated, that if from the casualties from stress of weather they deducted those caused by ships foundering at sea, very few of the whole number would have been saved by harbours of refuge. Without meaning any offence to his Irish Friends, he must express his opinion that some Irishman had a hand in drawing up the Report, for it was self-evident that if a ship was in harbour she could not founder at sea. One of the last paragraphs in the Report stated that the existing harbours of refuge were always crowded in gales of wind, and that, if additional harbours of refuge were formed, vessels unable to face a gale would use them, instead of running back to their own port, or seeking a more distant anchorage. He might ask what vessels were able to face some of the gales experienced in our channels at times. But on the fact so stated the comment in the Report was —"This is a very different thing from saving vessels from wreck." He could only account for such a Report on the supposition that it was written by some gentleman who might be very conversant with the details of the Board of Trade, but who knew nothing about shipping or harbours of refuge or gales of wind. It was impossible such a Report could be accepted as against the Report of a Royal Commission and the deliberate Votes of the House. He presumed that the Government looked upon it merely as a money question—as a question how they were to pay the cost of constructing those harbours of refuge; and he thought his hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland had taken a perfectly legitimate course in bringing forward the subject and calling on Her Majesty's Government to state how they intended to deal with it. His hon. Friend near him had thrown out a suggestion in conformity with the spirit of the Report of Mr. Wilson's Committee—that a portion of the expense of those harbours should be borne by the shipping interests. He did not see any objection to that proposition. Whether the Amendment would be added to the Motion he did not know, but he should feel bound to give his vote substantially with the Motion. At all events, he hoped the persevering efforts of the hon. Member for Sunderland would be crowned with success before long, and that the shipping interests of this country might at no distant day have those harbours, of the great advantage of which, in the saving of lives, he had not the smallest doubt.


said, the right hon. Baronet who had just sat down had informed the House that the Resolution which they were invited to consider was perfectly clear, and that he thought there was no one in the House who did not understand its meaning. [Sir JOHN PAKINGTON: The object of the hon. Member.] He thought the right hon. Baronet had said the "Motion," because he had said distinctly that he understood what the meaning of the Motion was. But the hon. Baronet the Member for Stamford had said he thought the Resolution was vague and uncertain, and that therefore it ought not to be supported, because hon. Gentlemen supporting it would not know for what they were voting. He (Mr. M. Gibson) agreed with the hon. Member for Stamford. And unless they were to be indifferent to the wording of their Resolutions—unless they were to be contented with transacting their business in a slipslop manner, and to vote for any form of words which it might please any particular Member to submit if they guessed the object — they were called upon to look carefully to the meaning and wording of any Motions that were submitted for their approval. The right hon. Baronet (Sir John Pakington) strongly relied on the fact, that a Resolution was passed by the House in 1860, on the Motion of the hon. Member for Sunderland, calling on the Government to carry into effect the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Harbours of Refuge. A Member, also, who could introduce a proposal to the House with the statement that a similar proposal had already received their approval, came before them under very advantageous circumstances; but it was to be borne in mind that on the 6th of May, 1862, a Resolution on the subject was submitted to the House in these words— That in the opinion of this House it is the duty of Her Majesty's Government to adopt measures to carry into effect the Resolution of the House passed on the 19th of June, 1860, in regard to harbours of refuge. A division was taken; and the Ayes were 77, the Noes 115; so that in May, 1862, the House voted the very reverse of the Resolution which had been voted in June, 1860. He therefore contended that they came to the present discussion practically unrestricted by any Resolution of the House. Setting aside the Resolution of 1860, they were asked to do two things —to give effect to the recommendations of the Select Committee of 1858, and also to those of the Royal Commission of 1859. As had, however, been pointed out by the hon. Member for Stamford, these two recommendations were essentially different from each other. The Committee proposed that harbours of refuge should be made only on condition that three-fourths of the cost of construction and maintenance should be provided by the shipping interest for whose benefit it was contended they were constructed. On the other hand, the Commission were of opinion that passing tolls as charges upon shipping were to be utterly condemned, and they proposed that large votes of public money should be provided and aided by local subsidies from the different towns and places where the harbours were to be constructed. Again, the harbours proposed were different, and varied in number in each case. Therefore, whatever might be the view with respect to harbours of refuge, it was impossible to place the Resolution before them on their minutes. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Droitwich had stated that Admiral Sullivan, a distinguished officer of great experience and knowledge, connected with the Board of Trade, was a member of the Commission. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Droitwich had forgotten to tell the House that Admiral Sullivan did not entirely agree to the Report of the Commission, not because he was an enemy to harbours of refuge, but because he regarded it as a sine quâ non that such works should be supported to a great extent by the shipping interest. The right hon. Gentleman had commented severely on the memorandum of the Board of Trade. He held himself responsible for the document as emanating from his Department. There might be errors in it, for they would creep into public papers in spite of all precautions. He could say that if there were any they were not intentional; but he would like to see some of them distinctly pointed out, for that had not yet been done. The table showing the number of vessels that might have been saved by the proposed harbours of refuge had been carefully examined by Admiral Sullivan and Captain Walker, in order that through their professional criticism it might be rendered as accurate as possible. He agreed with the right hon. Member for Droitwich, that the Members of the Commission were most competent to deal with the question referred to them; but they went far beyond the scope of the inquiry which they were asked to undertake. They were commissioned to give a professional opinion as to the best sites for harbours of refuge, on particular parts of the coast; but it was no part of their duty to discuss the mode in which funds should be raised, or to apportion the burdens to be borne respectively by the State and by the local public. His hon. Friend the Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter), said that the Select Committee was mainly composed of gentlemen interested in particular ports, and favourable to public grants for the benefit of these localities. Upon that point he was not informed, but he had no doubt that they did not call witnesses unfavourable to their views. They could not, however, induce a single shipowner to express an opinion on behalf of harbours of refuge if their construction would cost him a penny; but they got mariners to come forward and say that under certain circumstances harbours of refuge would be a benefit — only they could not agree as to the sites. The Commission consisted of Admiral Hope, Sir Frederic Smith, Admiral Sullivan, Admiral Washington, Captain Veitch, Mr. Coode, and Mr. W. S. Lindsay; but of that number only Admiral Hope and Mr. Lindsay were unconnected with the Select Committee, all the rest having been either members of it or having given evidence before it. His confidence in the Commissioners had been in some degree shaken, because they had recommended an impracticable plan. They recommended a total expenditure of £4,015,000. Of that, £2,390,000 was to come out of the Consolidated Fund without repayment, and the remainder £1,625,000 to be advanced from local sources; but they were not entitled to express an opinion that, of the total amount to be expended on harbours of refuge, £1,625,000 could be obtained from local sources, because there was no evidence that the money would be forth coming. The hon. Member for Montrose had remarked that it was quite out of the question to expect Wick to contribute £125,000, nor could Peterhead furnish as much as £200,000. On the Tyne £750,000; was to be supplied locally and £250,000 by the State. He knew well the enter prise and great capital that could be brought to bear in the Tyne, but he could not believe that such a sum as £750,000 would be supplied for this purpose by local contributions. With respect to Hartlepool the Commissioners proposed that the Government should spend £500,000, and the place £500,000; but the hon. Member; for Sheffield, who knew something of the affairs of that place, could tell what chance there was of £500,000 ever being obtained from the locality for the purpose. In 1854 Hartlepool obtained an Act to construct works with £50,000 to be raised on the security of the tolls, but though Mr. Ward Jackson, a most energetic man, had made two attempts, the money had not been raised. It was therefore absurd to expect that £500,000 would be raised in the place. The extraordinary proposals made by the Commissioners were calculated to shake one's confidence in those gentlemen, There was not the least chance of these large sums being provided by the different localities; but he had no doubt that if the Commissioners had kept themselves with in the scope of their inquiry, and had only applied their minds to indicate the sites where harbours should be erected, they might have given advice well worthy to be followed by that House. With respect to passing tolls, the shipping interest had insuperable objections to making all shipping pay for harbours from which only inferior vessels would derive a benefit. It would be making good ships pay for bad if the former were obliged to contribute towards harbours for ill-found vessels, and the proposition, therefore, appeared to be wholly wrong in principle. He did not object to the principle of tolls with the condition that the tolls should only be paid by those who derived benefit from and used the harbours—in the same way as they were paid for a light or buoy by ships which were aided in their navigation thereby; but one of the witnesses before the Commission expressed his opinion, that passing tolls would be universally opposed by all the shipowners in the kingdom; and another witness, Mr. Alcock, from Sunderland, stated that passing tolls would be most strenuously objected to. Therefore he must take it for granted that there was no chance of supporting these harbours of refuge by passing tolls, nor of obtaining money for them by local contributions; and the matter resolved itself into the plain and naked truth that, if the harbours of refuge recommended by the Commissioners were to be constructed, the House must be prepared to vote the cost of them —£4,000,000. The Commissioners suggested that the work should be carried on by an annual expenditure of not less than £250,000. In that respect he conceived the advice of the Commissioners to be wise, for he had heard it stated by most competent authorities that there could be no worse policy than too much delay in carrying to completion works connected with the sea, such as breakwaters and piers, as heavy gales and seas did them great damage when in a half-finished state. It was, therefore, bad economy not to carry on these works in the most vigorous manner; but he doubted whether the large sum of £250,000 a year would be sufficient. They would be shutting their eyes to all experience in regard to works of that description if they were to hope that in that particular case the estimates would not be exceeded. In respect to works executed in deep water, and exposed to the shock of heavy gales and seas, the most experienced engineers could not say what they could be accomplished for, and, therefore, the House must be prepared, if it entered upon the construction of these harbours, to incur a larger expenditure than £4,000,000 The House was asked to tax the people of this country to confer a benefit on shipowners, so that their ships and cargoes might be protected. Now, the shipowners were carriers by water and competed with the railway carriers by land, and the House would be giving the former a peculiar advantage over the latter if it voted money in order to render coast navigation more easy and the necessity of only sending well found ships on coasting voyages less urgent. He had heard of a part of the country where there was a class of vessels called "summer vessels," which never ventured out in the fall of the year or winter months, because they could not encounter the gales then occurring; but in summer they obtain a trade and a profit, the shipowners, in fact, running the risk of sending ill-found ships to sea during the fine season. It was just the same sort of thing as people going into doubtful speculations for a large interest with a chance of losing their capital. He contended, then, that what was asked for by the present Motion was, that the country should pay to make that operation more easy, and then the particular class of ships for which these harbours were intended were likely to be even less seaworthy than at present. He was not now speaking of the long sea-voyage ships, but of the small coasters. The Returns presented by the Board of Trade had been criticized and complained of, but he was surprised to hear it stated that that Board was wrong in excluding from the Returns casualties arising from collisions. Why, the fact was that those collisions arose from some misunderstanding or neglect of the rule of the road when vessels met each other, and the question of harbours of refuge had nothing to do with such cases. He undertook to say that the Returns would have been most fallacious unless the cases of collision had been eliminated from them; and the elimination had been performed under the careful scrutiny of Admiral Sullivan and Captain Walker. With respect to the number of ships likely to be saved by these harbours of refuge, he disagreed with the right hon. Member for Droitwich, who instanced the case of the Royal Charter, which had passed Holy-head, so that it appeared that the contiguity of a harbour of refuge did not prevent the loss of the ship and the loss of life. Then with respect to the case of vessels foundering at sea. Colliers sometimes sprung a leak suddenly and foundered, and could not be saved even if a harbour of refuge were near them. He would with permission refer to the Board of Trade Returns, from which it appeared that on the east coast some of the ships lost were 30, 50, and even 90 years old, which foundered at a considerable distance from the ceast. Thus, in 1862, the Sarah, 50 years old, was lost off Whitby; the Saratoga, 30 years old, was lost 25 miles east of Sunderland; the Duke of Buccleugh, 33 years old, was lost in Robin Hood's Bay; the Robert and Margaret, 99 years old, foundered 35 miles E. by S.E. of the new Sand Light Ship; the Fidelity, 68 years old, foundered with all hands, somewhere between Shields and London. Many of this class of vessels were lost, and if there had been a harbour of refuge every five miles they could not have been saved. The number of lives lost during 1863 was 608. Of that number one half were lost during the gales of December, which were from the westward. Of the lives lost in the gales of December, nearly 200 were lost on the East coast; and it was a remarkable fact that, during these gales, harbours of refuge on that coast, would have been of no advantage, for all the vessels were blown off the coast, and the lives were lost in the North Sea or on the Dutch coast. The number lost during the gales in January 1864 was 148, and it was a curious fact that they were lost during gales from the westward. He could give a number of cases of ships being lost with every soul on board, but going through the cases with the most critical examination, it was impossible to say that the harbours of refuge which had been projected would have been of any use. The test applied by the Commission for the expediency of a harbour of refuge was the number of lives lost upon a line of coast, but they did not appear in their recommendations to have acted entirely on that test. The Returns for the last thirteen years showed an annual average loss of fifty-two lives between the Fern Islands and Flamborough Head, and in the same time eighty-seven lives between Flamborough Head and the North Foreland, and yet the Commission did not propose a single harbour of refuge from Flamborough Head to the North Foreland. The greatest loss of life on the whole coast of the United Kingdom was in the Quadrilateral, if he might so call it, which would be formed by drawing a line from the Skerries to Lambay Island, and from Fair Head to the Mull of Cantire, and yet some of the finest natural harbours—Lamlash Bay and others —were situated within these limits. Certainly his hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland had not been very liberal in his proposal for the expenditure of public money in Ireland. All he had proposed was some thousands for dredging the entrance to the harbours of Carlingford and Waterford. His chief anxiety seemed to be the coast from Fern Islands to Flam-borough Head, which was by no means the most dangerous part of the coast. There was an open sea there, but between Flamborough Head and the North Foreland vessels had to contend with outlying sands, which made it always more difficult for them to lie to. Why then was it that all the money was to be expended between Flamborough Head and the Fern Islands, when the loss of life was not so great as in other parts of England? From Start Point to the Land's End there had been thirty-six lives lost in one year—and the annual average loss is 38 a year; but within those limits there were the fine harbours of Falmouth and Plymouth, proving that the loss of life had to do with something else than the non existence of harbours of refuge. It was a consideration of some weight when they found this annual loss of ships and life along a coast provided with fine natural harbours. He begged now to call the attention of hon. Members to the point upon which they would actually vote. It was not as to the selection of a few particular places upon which £4,000,000 was to be spent, but it was as to the commencement of what the Commissioners called "the carrying out of a national policy." The Commissioners reported that what they recommended was a "basis'" upon which was to be erected some superstructure to be called a "national policy," the steady prosecution of which could not fail ultimately to produce beneficial results. And they went on to say that every harbour was useful for life and refuge purposes to the extent in which it possessed freedom of access and good shelter, and so far had claims upon the public money. But why was the House of Commons to raise up ports at the public expense in opposition to ports maintained by private enterprise? If once hon. Members were to come, at the instance of their constituents, and ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer to give money from the Consolidated Fund in that reckless way, it would be a proceeding dangerous to the finances of the country and to the independence of that House. If public money was to be granted to particular places, the support hon. Members would receive would depend upon the amount of public money they could obtain. Nothing excited greater jealousy than to find that one port was getting large sums of public money, when perhaps a neighbouring one was struggling with great difficulties to maintain its own prosperity unaided. He had gone through the evidence given before the Commission with respect to the ports in the east of Scotland and the north-east of England, and the result was this, that the several witnesses advocated their own ports in preference to all others, and if their own ports were not suitable they doubted the necessity for any harbours of refuge at all. The people of Wick were of opinion that Wick was the best place that could be selected, and that natural harbours of refuge were of no use at all. The people of Peterhead thought that Peterhead was better than Wick; and the people of Fraserburgh, that Fraserburgh was better than either Wick or Peterhead. At Aberdeen a harbour was not wanted, but the witnesses from that city thought that if money was to be spent at all then Aberdeen was the best place. At Dundee a harbour of refuge was not needed, and the witnesses from that place were of opinion that one was not needed either at Wick, Peterhead, Fraserburgh, or Aberdeen. And so on the north-east coast of England, at Filey, Hartlepool was considered the wrong place; and Hartlepool at Filey. At Redcar people considered their place preferable to Hartlepool and better than Filey; and at Whithy, that Whitby was better than Filey, Hartlepool, or Redcar. Then, at Scarborough, that place was considered the best of all. He quoted these things to show how difficult it was to get rid of local jealousies when it came to be a question of expenditure of public money. There was one recommendation which both the Commission and the Committee emphatically made, and that was as to the policy of assisting harbours to improve themselves by loans of public money at a moderate rate of interest, thus enabling the Government to co-operate with private enterprise. The Commission reported that there were many tidal and other harbours on various parts of the coast which were susceptible of great improvements, exclusive of those to which grants should be made; and that the improvement of existing harbours would in many instances do more for the preservation of life and property than the expenditure of an equal sum applied to only one harbour. Great loss of life and a very great proportion of wrecks occurred from the collection of ships around tidal estu- aries which they could not enter, and where they were obliged to remain during long winter nights. It was obvious, therefore, that to render tidal harbours accessible at all times, and, under all circumstances, would be much more effectual for the preservation of life and property than to place one or two life harbours on parts of the coast, at a distance from ports or tidal harbours; because if the ship did not happen to be exactly in the right position when the gale took her, the life harbour was of no use. He thought it, therefore, a wise recommendation that they should co-operate in the improvement of existing harbours. Well, the Government did co-operate. They brought in a Bill nearly in conformity with the advice of the Commission and the Committee, to enable Harbour Commissioners to raise loans at 3¼ interest, to be repaid in fifty years. Although that Bill passed only two years ago, it had been very extensively used, for they had already granted no less a sum than £863,500, either promised or actually paid, and they had under consideration further applications for sums amounting to something like £250,000. The policy, then, of assisting harbour authorities to improve their own harbours and of co-operating with private enterprise, had been successful; and he thought it a far wiser policy and more consonant with the genius of the people than to make presents of money pell-mell for the construction of life harbours on particular parts of the coast. There had been advanced to the Tyne £100,000, and to the Wear £150,000; to Wick £60,000, and £20,000 more was under consideration. The people of Wick instead of waiting from year to year for the success of the Motion of the hon. Member for Sunderland had put their shoulders to the wheel and had provided works which he believed would be very valuable to the fisheries of that town. The Tees had obtained £30,000; Carrickfergus, £5,000; the Isle of Man, £45,000; Belfast, £100,000, and so on. It was a mistake, therefore, to say that nothing had been done. The Government were not insensible to the public feeling on this matter, and it was their desire to do all that was right in policy and just to the taxpayer in the attempt to save life and property. In other directions a great deal had been done. A Select Committee on Shipwrecks sat in 1836, and another in 1843. Another Committee, known as the Harbour of Refuge Committee, sat in 1858. Many of the recommendations of these Committees had been carried into effect. The Committees of 1836 and 1843 attributed the occurrence of many wrecks to the incompetence of masters, mates, and engineers, and Parliament had provided for their examination, and required from them certificates of competency or service. Courts of inquiry had been instituted for the express purpose of inquiring into the causes of wrecks. Some inquiry took place in the case of every wreck, although no formal court was held, except in the case of the more important wrecks. Parliament had taken measures for improving the discipline of the merchant service, and for the survey of passenger ships, which were obliged to carry one lifeboat at least. The number of lifeboats stationed on the coasts of the United Kingdom had largely increased, and they had been subsidized and improved. In 1856 there were 124 inefficient lifeboats; in 1864, 180 efficient lifeboats, 150 of which were subsidized out of the Mercantile Marine Fund. In 1856 there were 198 inefficient sets of mortar and rocket apparatus; in 1863 there were 240 efficient sets on the coasts, entirely supported by the Government. There were 164 lifebelt stations on the coasts, at which were placed 663 lifebelts. Regulations had been agreed to for making the rule of the road at sea uniform among ships of all nations, with the view of preventing collisions. The Government had during the last eight years given not less than £40,000 out of the Mercantile Marine Fund towards defraying the expenses of lifeboats and mortar and rocket establishments, &c., and in the shape of rewards and encouragements for the saving of life. All this proved that the State had not been unmindful of the importance of saving life, and he trusted, with all respect for the House, that it would not urge the Government to go too far in this direction. He should very much dislike to see Englishmen submitting to a number of petty regulations even in regard to the saving of life and property. The principle on which much of the greatness of this country was based was that of self-reliance: and the more regulations that were made, and the more interference that took place with seamen and shipowners, the greater the tendency to lessen the principle of self-reliance. He would not go into the opposite extreme, and say that there should be no regulations; but, seeing the tendency of legislation of late years, he should be sorry to see Parliament going too far in relieving Englishmen from the necessity of exercising that vigilance which was, after all, the best protection for life and property. It had been stated that there had been a gradual increase in the loss of life from ships of the United Kingdom; but if they were to eliminate carefully from the Returns all the cases in which harbours of refuge would have been of no service, he believed it would be found that the numbers had not increased, but that there had been a gradual decrease. In 1853 the number of our vessels was 35,310; the whole number of sailors was 253,896, and the number of lives lost was 689. In 1862 the vessels had increased to 39,427, the sailors to 304,171; while the lives lost were 690. So that the number of sailors having increased very largely, it might have been supposed there would have been a proportionate increase in the number lost, but that was not the case. He believed that the House would mislead itself, as well as others, if it agreed to the Resolution of the hon. Member for Sunderland.


said, that the right hon. Gentleman had made a very curious statement, the last portion of which did not appear to bear on the subject. He had urged on the shipping interest the necessity of being self-reliant, and yet he had given the House a long list of enactments passed for the regulation of the shipping interest. He should like to know whether the right hon. Gentleman's statement as to the loss of life referred to the losses all over the world, or on the coasts of England only. The right hon. Gentleman gave the House the number of British ships all over the world, but the wreck Return was, he feared, the list of the vessels lost on the coast of the United Kingdom. The effect of that legislation had been, he said, very beneficial, yet the right hon. Gentleman hoped it would not be carried too far, and that the shipping interest would not cease to be self-reliant. The Legislature had been particularly kind to the shipping interest during the last thirty years, and that interest was getting every day more and more into leading-strings. They bad got a Return, extending over thirteen years, of the success of this "meddling and muddling "—to use a favourite phrase. The recent wreck Return stated that in 1852 of the whole number of British vessels one vessel came to grief in every 209 voyages, by collision or other accident. In 1862 the number increased to one in 138. That was a very ugly increase. Whether the legislation which the right hon. Gentleman had magnified as so beneficial had anything to do with it he did not know, but that was the fact, and it was a very awkward one. The right hon. Gentleman rather led the House to believe that the majority of the vessels wrecked were old and worn-out coasting vessels. There could not be many of these which were 100 years old, and if there were they must be the very last of their race. But, according to the wreck Returns, it appeared that of sailing vessels engaged upon coasting voyages one in every 130 came to grief, while the proportion of oversea vessels was one in 137. It must be remembered that the wreck Returns only dealt with wrecks upon or close to the coast of England, and that oversea vessels only entered within these limits at the close of their voyage. The difference, therefore, was not as great as might be expected. They were, however, disagreeable figures, and showed that with all our legislation, and our teaching the people to be self-reliant, in thirteen years the wrecks had increased from one in 209 to one in 138. And if they followed it still further down they would find that from 1857 (and he was speaking from recollection) to the present time the increase in wrecks was no less than 30 per cent. That was a disagreeable state of things to meet. These remarks diverged somewhat from the subject before the House, but he was induced to make them, because the right hon. Gentleman had laid so much stress on these matters. Upon the general question he agreed with what had fallen from the hon Baronet the Member for Stamford, As far as evidence went, there was a great weight of authority in favour of harbours of refuge, but his own expectations were not too sanguine. He did not, however, propose to set his opinion against the professional men who had given evidence upon the subject; but he did not believe the success would be so great as was anticipated. There was also a great difference of opinion where these harbours of refuge should be put, and it was upon that ground also that he supported the hon. Baronet. Of this they might be certain, that persons who were called upon to spend so much money locally, in order to obtain the assistance of Government, would ventilate the matter thoroughly, and take means to have the expenditure made, if it was made, at the right time and in the right way. Another reason for voting in favour of the proposition of the hon. Member for Stamford was, that no one could make out from the Resolution of the hon. Member for Sunderland whether he intended the whole of the money to come from the Consolidated Fund, or partly from that source and partly from others, for on that point the Report of the Royal Commission and the Report of the Committee were absolutely at variance. The Resolution took them both in, and, therefore, so far as he saw, it was not clear from whence the money was to come. He should oppose the Motion.


said, that as a member, both of the Committee and Commission, he stood forward to defend the Estimate which had been attacked by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade. The details had been repeatedly gone into, and after the sittings of the Committee had closed, the professional members remained for several weeks going over the Estimates in the most minute and cautious manner. There was not one of those gentlemen who would not pledge his reputation for the sufficiency of the amount, and a strong argument in confirmation of the Estimate was afforded by the fact that one of the most extensive contractors, a gentleman who had been engaged by the Government upon works at Portland, at Holyhead, and at Anglesea, had expressed in writing his willingness to carry out the works proposed, in accordance with the plans, and at the rate of remuneration specified in the Report. The right hon. Gentleman attacked the Committee for having exceeded their duty in stating how the funds were to be raised, but having ascertained that there existed on the part of the shipowners an insurmountable aversion to the method previously contemplated, it was only their duty to acquaint the House and the Government frankly with the fact. The harbours had been divided into two classes—those for the preservation of life and those for commercial purposes. The former they proposed to construct at the public expense; in the formation of the latter to assist in a stipulated proportion. Was not that plan a fair and just one? If the local contributions were withheld, the country would only have to pay £1,500,000 instead of £4,000,000; if, on the contrary, local contributions were given, the country would reap the advantage in vastly im- proved harbour accommodation. Was it politic, was it wise, to continue year after year throwing away the national capital, refusing to make any effort to diminish these losses? The Government, he maintained, would be culpable if, having thrown over the Motion by a majority, they did not come forward themselves with a proposition. The opinions of Admiral Sullivan and Captain Walker had been referred to; but why had not the right hon. Gentleman brought forward Returns properly signed by them? These Returns were disavowed by the Department that made them. Although the witnesses differed, the Commissioners did what they went down for, with the view of avoiding being led away by local jealousies; they set the evidence of one witness against another, and then formed an opinion. If then; was any place at which a harbour of refuge was wanted, it was on the East coast. It was said that the vessels were badly found and insufficiently manned; but was the poverty of the trade any reason why the sailor, who was compelled to go into it in order that he might earn his bread, should not be protected? The right hon. Gentleman said that the Commissioners exceeded their duty when they gave an opinion upon commercial questions; but the hon. Member for Sunderland was placed upon the Commission to represent commercial interests; and no man could have taken more pains than he did to investigate every portion of this question. He deserved well of his country, and of the profession of which he was an honour, for the part which he had taken with regard to it.


said, the blue-book from which the right hon. Gentleman had quoted was not circulated amongst Members of the House; it was a paper prepared in the office of the right hon. Gentleman. He had quoted from it partially. He found on reference to it that, out of twenty-nine shipwrecks, twenty-two would have been saved by harbours of refuge. In the next page he found that, out of twenty-six cases of shipwreck, nineteen might have been saved by harbours of refuge. With reference to that point, from his knowledge of groping in the Channel, there was no place where a harbour of refuge was so much required as at Start Point.


said, that he had never heard anyone deal more lightly and pleasantly with tales of disaster and distress than had the President of the Board of Trade, but the right hon. Gentleman had not destroyed the effect which was produced by the touching and affecting speech of the hon. Member for Sunder-land. However much Englishmen or Scotchmen might differ as to the proper sites for harbours of refuge on the coasts of their respective countries, no representative of Ireland would dispute the claims of Carlingford. The present condition of that harbour was a cause of disaster, not only to local but to national shipping, and so small were the resources of the people that they could neither advance money nor pay the interest of an advance from the Government for its improvement. When the House was so extravagant as it was with respect to forts and ships, when it squandered so much money upon art, and was so reckless in regard to other expenditure, it ought to think of the poor sailors in the midnight storm, and carry out a policy at once of generosity and humanity.


was understood to mention the case of a wrecked vessel, which would have been saved had one of the harbours of refuge recommended by the Committees been constructed. He had a suspicion that the Return of wrecks and casualties for 1862 had undergone some manipulation.


, in reply, said, he had to complain of some of the statements which had been made by the representative of the Board of Trade. The sum and substance of the right hon. Member's speech was, that harbours of refuge were neither necessary nor desirable. Against this, there were the Report of two Committees, the Report of the Royal Commission, the Resolution of the House, the speech on a former occasion of the right hon. Gentleman himself, and the speech of the noble Viscount at the head of the Government. What he (Mr. Lindsay) asked the House to say was, that the harbours of refuge should be constructed; and he asked the Government to carry out the recommendations, leaving it to them to provide the necessary funds in their own way.


said, that as the Amendment of his hon. Friend the Member for Stamford was about to be put, he wished to explain the vote which the Government would feel it their duty to give. They concurred very much in what had fallen from his hon. Friend and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxfordshire, to the effect that of the two alternatives for raising the money—namely, out of the Consolidated Fund, or by means of passing tolls—the latter was the more just. [Sir STAFFORD NORTHCOTE: I did not say passing tolls.] Well, passing tolls or some other method of that description; but while that was the view of the Government, they could not vote for adding the words of his hon. Friend to the Resolution, because if they were to do so they would be pledging themselves to some plan, to the adoption of which they did not see their way.

Question put, the House divided; — Ayes 39; Noes 191: Majority 152.

Main Question put, the House divided: —Ayes 84; Noes 142: Majority 58.