HC Deb 27 February 1865 vol 177 cc744-6

Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Sir Henry Stracey.)


said, he hoped to be able in a very short time to convince the House that the Bill ought to be rejected on the second reading. In the reign of Charles II. a Commission was established for the conservancy of the navigation of the principal rivers in the counties of Norfolk and Suffolk, and also of the port of Great Yarmouth. The Commissioners had twice had their powers extended, and at present they were twelve in number—three appointed by the justices of Norfolk, three by the justices of Suffolk, three by Norwich, and three by different parties in Great Yarmouth. These Commissioners had hitherto discharged their duties very satisfactorily to all the great interests concerned. But the Corporation of Yarmouth, without advancing any reason for so doing, had taken upon itself to ask Parliament to alter the Commission, to increase the number of Commissioners, and to give to Yarmouth a preponderating influence which would over- ride all the other interests concerned. Hon. Members looking at the printed Bill would be altogether unable to understand its real object. There were clauses authorizing the making improvements in the haven, according to deposited plans; but these improvements had been abandoned, and the promoters now came to Parliament simply to extend the influence of Yarmouth in the Commission. The whole drift of the Bill was to increase the number of Commissioners from twelve to eighteen, and to give the extra six to Yarmouth, so that—instead of having three out of twelve—Yarmouth would have nine out of eighteen, or just one half; and, inasmuch as the Commission sat in Yarmouth, that place would, of course, have a working majority of Commissioners. The counties of Norfolk and Suffolk were opposed to the Bill; and Norwich had also petitioned against it. Norwich was deeply interested in this question, and would be seriously injured if the Bill were allowed to pass. Hitherto Norwich had had its share in the management of the navigation. They had two outlets to the sea, one at Yarmouth, the other at Lowestoft. If this Bill should pass, the new Commission would have the power to establish preferential legislation in favour of Yarmouth, by which Norwich would be deprived of Lowestoft as an outlet for her goods. The Corporation of Yarmouth, the only promoters of the Bill, had not alleged against the present Commission any default of duty. They simply came before Parliament asking that their present fourth share in the Commission might be converted into a practical majority. He should therefore move that the second reading of the Bill be postponed for six months.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."—(Mr. Warner.)

Question proposed, "That the word now' stand part of the Question."


said, it was true that the Bill was promoted by the Corporation of Great Yarmouth, but they represented the entire shipping and mercantile interest of the port; they were the owners of the port, and they proposed by this Bill to give up, after ten years, the Corporation dues. He was not the advocate of the promoters or opponents of the measure, but he saw no chance of a reconciliation between the parties without some intervention, and-both sides having applied for the intervention of the Board of Trade he hoped that the Bill would be allowed to go to a Committee, upon whose recommendations the Board of Trade could act in the arrangement of difficulties which were at present a crying evil. The shipowners and merchants of Yarmouth, who paid nearly the whole of the dues of the haven, were all in favour of the Bill, and considering that the present Commission was appointed 200 years ago, it was scarcely to be expected that changes in it were not needed. The objection to the Bill was, that it sought to alter the constitution of the Commission. Well, it did so. In consequence of some of the Commissioners residing at a distance from Yarmouth, the Bill proposed to introduce two representatives of the fishing and merchant shipping interests of the borough. At a large meeting which took place on Tuesday last it had been agreed to withdraw the clause relating to fish wharves, which he understood was the only point upon which objection would be taken. The entrance to the haven was so dangerous that constant accidents were occurring. In one week, a short time since, there were ten vessels damaged, and when it was remembered that one vessel sunk in the haven would close the entrance, it would be seen how important it was that there should be local men at hand to superintend the navigation. Whatever might be the opinion of hon. Members as to the manner in which the Commission should be constituted, he thought the prudent course would be to send the Bill before a Committee.


said, that Yarmouth had brought in the Bill without the consent of the other parties, but the Commission extended not only to Yarmouth, but to 100 miles of river in the counties of Norfolk and Suffolk. Who paid the dues? It was said the shipowners, but ultimately, of course, the consumers paid, and they ought to have a voice in the matter. It was said that the Commission was an old one. Undoubtedly this was the case, but it should not be forgotten that its powers were altered as lately as 1847. By this Bill, Yarmouth, which originally appointed one-fourth of the Commissioners, was to have a practical majority in all cases, while the other parties, at present appointing three-fourths, were to be swamped.


said, the Board of Trade had been willing to mediate between the parties, a request to that effect having been addressed to them. The promoters were willing to abide by the decision of the Department, but the opponents would not, and so, of course, the attempt to settle the matter amicably fell to the ground. He did not think the Bill one which ought to be thrown out on the second reading, for the matters of detail which it involved could be advantageously considered in Committee.

Question put. The House divided:—Ayes 129; Noes 17: Majority 112.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read 2o, and committed.