§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ MR. HERBERT GLADSTONE
, in moving the second reading of the Bill, said, its object was to improve the harbour of Arklow. The measure was before the House in 1876, when it was brought in by the senior Member for Westminster (Mr. W. H. Smith) and the senior Member for East Gloucestershire (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach), read a second time, and referred to a Select Committee. The Bill fell through then owing to local disagreements—chiefly in consequence of the opposition offered to it by the Wick-low Copper Mining Company. That opposition had now been overcome, and the Mining Company had agreed to sell their rights for the sum of £5,000. The local authorities were completely unable, out of their resources, to undertake the necessary works, and to deal with the encroachments of the sea; and the Bill, therefore, was brought forward in order to authorize the Board of Works to proceed with the necessary repairs. The Treasury, recognizing the work to be of a national character, had granted the sum of £15,000 towards the proposed improvements; and, in addition, had sanctioned a loan of £20,000. There was no necessity for him to trouble the House at any length upon the Bill, because he proposed, to-morrow, to move its reference to a Select Committee. There was considerable distress amongst the fishermen in the Arklow locality, arising chiefly from the bad state of the harbour; and taking this into consideration, together with the fact that further delay would only increase the cost of making good the harbour, the Government wished to press on the Bill as quickly as possible. He would, therefore, move that the Bill be read a second time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Herbert Gladstone.)
§ MR. R. POWER
said, he did not rise to oppose the second reading of the measure, but to ask the hon. Gentleman why the Bill should be referred to a Select Committee? He agreed that the 1769 Bill should be pushed on with all possible speed; but he had never known that the best way to push on a Bill was to refer it to a Select Committee. If it were referred to a Committee nothing would be done; but if the hon. Member carried the Bill through a second reading to-night, and then proposed to take the Committee stage in the ordinary way, he (Mr. E. Power) was sure there would be no objection on the Opposition side of the House, for all the Irish Members were anxious that the Bill should pass.
§ LORD FREDERICK CAVENDISH
said, this partook of the nature of a Private Bill, and must, by the Standing Orders of the House, be referred to a Select Committee.
§ MR. WILLIAMSON
said, that, unlike the hon. Member who had just sat down, he rose for the purpose of expressing the opinion that the Bill should not only be referred to a Select Committee, but should be subjected to a searching scrutiny. If this Bill wore part of a national system of aiding fishery harbours on the exposed coasts, not only of Ireland, but also of England and Scotland, then he approved of it, contingent on that searching scrutiny. But if it were a mere sop to an ungrateful and undeserving Cerberus, he most emphatically objected to it. He recently applied to a Cabinet Minister for aid to a fishery harbour of refuge on the East Coast of Scotland, and he was told that the Government did not give such grants. He, therefore, should be pleased if the Bill passed, if it were a step in the direction of a great national system of aids to fishery harbours on all our exposed coasts, not only of Ireland but also of Scotland and England, and he should not oppose the second reading. At the same time, there were many grave considerations connected with this special Bill which would need very searching scrutiny. It was proposed to pay, in the first instance, £5,000 for this harbour—a useless asset of a bankrupt Company—then to make a free grant of £10,000, and to give a loan of £20,000 besides, on very dubious and undefined security. There were, moreover, further and subsequent liabilities. The harbour, he believed, was exposed to be silted-up by the sands, driven by easterly winds, from the Arklow banks, so that not only must there be economic inquiry, but also the 1770 very best scientific investigation before the Bill could be allowed to pass. He should not oppose the second reading; but, as far as he was concerned, he should insist upon a searching investigation by the proposed Committee.
§ MR. MARJORIBANKS
said, he did not wish to stand in the way of the second reading of the Bill; but he had always thought that such grants as this grant of £15,000 in aid of harbour construction were against the policy of the present Government. The Harbour and Passing Tolls Act was passed in 1861 for the purpose of discouraging and preventing such grants; and he did hope that when the working of that Act was brought up the Government would remember this grant of £15,000, and the other similar grants made for the benefit of Ireland. This question was a pressing one to those who lived on the coast of the North Sea, where harbours were very much needed. They did not grudge this grant to Ireland; but they did press on the Government to do something for them on the East Coast of Great Britain also.
§ LORD FREDERICK CAVENDISH
said, the Government had done something for the people referred to in 1876, and at other times. For himself, he thought it only fair and proper that a Committee should examine into the question most carefully. The loan which the Bill would grant was secured on sufficient guarantees.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed to a Select Committee.