§ MR. MARJORIBANKS,
in rising to call attention to the want of Harbour accommodation on the East Coast of Great Britain, and more particularly to the lamentable need of low-water Harbours suitable for fishing and coasting vessels; and to move—That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the Harbour accommodation on the Coasts of the United Kingdom, having regard to the laws and arrangements under which the construction and improvements of Harbours may now be effected,said: I am confident that the House will not need any apology from me for bringing the subject of our Harbour accommodation before it—a subject which must excite the keenest and most general interest of a nation, whose success in the past, whose glory and material welfare in the present, are so inextricably bound up in the maritime enterprize and prowess of her sons. Some apology is, however, due by me to those hardy seamen and fishermen, whose interests I desire to further, and whose perils my earnest hope it is to be, in over so small a measure, the means of decreasing, for having ventured to bring this Motion before the House, instead of leaving it to the care of some more able and older Member. I do not think the necessity for some action of the kind being taken can be more clearly shown than by a short statement of the casualties which occur along our Coasts from year to year. According to the Report of a Select Committee of this House, which sat in 1857, the annual average of all wrecks and casualties, from whatever cause, which occurred on the Coasts of this country in the five years 1852ࣽ6, both inclusive, appears to have been 1,025 per annum. Dividing the 20 years 1861 to 1880 into quinquennial periods, we find the average annual casualties to have been in the period from 1861 to 1865, 1,538; in the 5 years from 1866 to 1870, 1,862; in the 5 years 1871 to 1875, 2,536; and in the 5 years 1876 to 1880, 3,380. Are not these figures appalling, not only in their aggregate number, but still more so in their 378 fearfully rapid and never-failing progressive increase? Surely it is time for Government to interpose, with firmness and determination, and to take steps to put a stop to so disgraceful a state of things; and surely one, at any rate, of the means by which these evils may be mitigated is by a judicious, but resolute, policy of encouraging by every possible means, at intervals and in carefully selected localities around these Islands, the construction of low-water Harbours, which shall offer a ready place of refuge to vessels in distress, at all times of the tide. It is but a poor answer, and one quite unworthy of the Government of a great country like ours, to say, when hundreds of lives have been lost by sudden storms, and they are petitioned by poor fishermen for assistance in constructing necessary Harbour accommodation, that the great commercial seaports have been able to provide for themselves stupendous harbour works, that all such works must only be undertaken on the most strictly commercial principles, and that they must imitate their great corporate neighbours, and help themselves to what they want without Government intervention. Now, Sir, it is just six years since a debate on Harbours was raised in this House. On that occasion, it was on the Motion of the noble Lord who now represents Liverpool, and then King's Lynn (Lord Claud Hamilton). The object of his Motion was to press the claims of one particular locality, and to ask the grant of large sums of the public money. My Motion is on totally different lines. It is not to press the claim of any particular locality, nor to demand the free grant of Government money. I only ask for a thorough, an impartial, a searching inquiry. I contend the time is opportune. We have had two exceptionally stormy seasons in succession. It is now 26 years since the last inquiry upon the subject was ordered by Parliament. A Committee was appointed in 1857, and the result of their labours is to be found in the passing of the Harbour and Passing Tolls Act, which has been of immense benefit; but, as I shall presently endeavour to show, has not of late years been administered in the spirit in which it was framed, or for the purposes for which it was passed. Then the great harbour works on the South Coast at 379 Portland, and elsewhere, have been completed, or are on the point of completion; and the convict labour thus to be set free is available for and about to be applied in new localities. And, again, the Scotch Fishery Board, which has an annual sum, though a very small one, for disposal on harbours, has just been re-constituted; and some inquiry on the past disposal of those funds, and into the present needs of the country, whose interests are its care, must be beneficial, and help the new Board to a thoroughly sound decision as to their action in the future. I intend to rest my demand more especially upon the facts relating to the East Coast of this country, the most dangerous of our shores, and on which—more particularly on that part between the North Foreland and the Firth of Forth—an altogether undue proportion of wrecks annually occur. That will be evident at a glance to any hon. Member who will refer to the Wreck Charts annually compiled and published from the Board of Trade Wreck Register. Upon this point the Report of the Committee of 1857 is very clear. In that Report it will be found that Captain Washington states that he had computed that one-half of the whole wrecks of the United Kingdom occur on the East Coast of Great Britain, and fully one-half of that number between the Firth of Forth and the Humber. This estimate of Captain Washington is fully borne out by the statistics of the last year we have now published—from June, 1880, to June, 1881—in which, out of a total of 2,865 wrecks, excluding casualties by collisions, 1,171 occurred on the East Coast, between the North Foreland and Cape Wrath, and 956 of these last, or one-third of the whole number, between the North Foreland and the Ferne Islands; while out of a total loss of life, excluding collisions, of 888, 496 were lost between the North Foreland and Cape Wrath, of which 420 were between the North Foreland and the Ferne Islands. In the year 1881–2, of which the statistics are not yet before Parliament, the loss of life on the East Coast was, I fear, even more appallingly great than that which I have already presented to the House. On two occasions alone 249 lives of fishermen were lost on the Coasts of Scotland—namely, 58 in the Shetlands 380 in July, and 191 on the Berwickshire Coast; in October. Now, Sir, what are the harbours we have on this fearfully dangerous East Coast? Many indeed in number, but few indeed in value for refuge purposes. It should be remembered that the value of a harbour for refuge purposes must be gauged by its capability for taking in the class of vessels for which it is intended at all states of the tide; and I believe that 10 feet at low tide should certainly be the least that should be allowed, even for the class of fishing boats now in general use on the North-East Coast. For it is necessary to boar in mind that, in addition to the amount of water a vessel actually draws, an allowance must be made for the "send of the sea," or, in other words, the depth to which the keel of the vessel descends in the trough of the sea, equal to at least one-half the height of the waves. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Chamberlain) recently made an important speech on the subject at Swansea, in which he showed himself fully alive to the importance of the subject, and expressed his desire to gather all the information he possibly could on the subject. This inquiry now asked for will, if granted, be the means of furnishing him with much that will be useful to the formation of a sound opinion. The following is a statement of the existing harbours on the East Coast. Between the Thames and the Humber there are 17, of which five only—the Thames, Harwich, Lowestoft, Yarmouth, and Lynn—are harbours having more than 8 feet at low water; between the Humber and the Forth 27, of which only five also—the Humber, Tees, Hartlepool, Sunderland, and the Tyne—are harbours having more than 8 feet at low water. And of these five, four are on the Coast of Durham, within 30 miles of each other, so that their utility as harbours of refuge to the country generally is greatly diminished. Between the Forth and Cape Wrath there are 48, of which two only—the Forth and the Tay—have more than 8 feet at low water; but the latter is very dangerous to enter during storms; and five with between 6 and 8 feet at low water—namely, Montrose, very difficult to enter in certain states of wind and tide; Peterhead, Fraserburgh, Buckie, and Aberdeen— 381 this last also dangerous to enter in storms. This short summary of the harbours on this dangerous and rocky Coast, combined with the wrecks that annually occur on it, surely speak for themselves for the crying necessity that exists for the multiplication of harbours that should be available in all weathers and at all states of the tide. I must now again, for purposes of comparison, refer to the Report of the Committee of 1857. The following passage will there be found:—It appears in the evidence taken by your Committee that between St. Abb's Head and Flamborough Head, a distance of about 150 miles, every harbour along the Coast, without any exception, has a bar at its entrance more or less dangerous, and that none of them can be entered at low water. This Coast includes the important ports of the Tyne, the Wear, and the Tees, besides those of Berwick-on-Tweed, Blyth, Hartlepool, Seaham, Whitby, and Scarborough.Now, how far does the present state of things differ from that set out in the Report? Between the Humber and the Forth, since 1858, many harbours have been altered or enlarged—e.g., Bridlington, Scarborough, the Tees, Hartlepool, Sunderland, the Tyne, Blyth, Warkworth, Burnmouth, and Dunbar; but, with two exceptions, it cannot be said that any of these harbours offer better refuge for vessels during storms; several—e.g., Scarborough, Sunderland, and Blyth—offer more accommodation, but are not available more than formerly by ordinary vessels except about high water. The two exceptions are the Tees and the Tyne. The former is already available at all times of the tide by small vessels, and is steadily improving; while the Tyne may now fairly be described as a real harbour of refuge for all purposes. Twenty years ago the Tyne had a very dangerous bar at its entrance, over which the depth of water was, on the average, about 6 feet at low water, and 20½ feet at high water. Of springs, now, the bar has been entirely removed, so that there is 23 feet at low water between the pier heads. The total cost of these works has reached something like £3,500,000 sterling, of which the Tyne Commissioners have laid out in the last 20 years £1,000,000. A grant of £250,000 was recommended for them by the 1859 Commission; but the only aid they have received has been loans to the amount of £345,727 382 from the Public Works Loan Commissioners. The distance from the Humber to the Tees is 110 miles, and there is no refuge harbour along that great stretch of Coast. From the Tees to the Tyne is only 30 miles; but this portion of the Coast is specially fortunate in regard to harbour accommodation; while from the Tyne to Inchkeith, in the Forth, the next available shelter, is 130 miles. Let me give, as instances of the great need of low-water harbours of easy access, two disasters that recently happened on the coast of my own county, both of which, humanly speaking, would certainly have been greatly mitigated, if not wholly averted, by the existence of such a harbour. The first was on the 19th of November, 1875. Some 40 Fife boats had left Yarmouth for home the day but one previously. They were on the morning in question overtaken by a severe gale. A number of the boats made the attempt to take Berwick Harbour; but the Berwick fishermen signalled them against such a course, and they were forced to make for the Holy Island. Two of the boats followed in the wake of some Burnmouth boats, and found safe shelter in that harbour; but a third, which made the attempt later on, was warned off by the coastguardsmen, and had to stand out to sea and was lost. Five boats in all were lost—three belonging to St. Monance and two to Cellardyke, with 37 men, who left 18 widows and 71 children. Then came the terrible disaster of the 14th October, 1881. On that occasion, between 1 and 2 o'clock in the afternoon, a terrible storm burst on the fishing fleet fishing off the Berwickshire Coast, and in a couple of hours 35 boats and 191 lives were lost, leaving 107 widows and 351 children. Many of the boats on that occasion were smashed up within sight and hearing, and almost within touch, of the shrieking women on the shore, or at the pier heads at Eyemouth and Burnmouth. The skipper of one of the Eyemouth boats described to me the fearful horrors of that day. He ran for his own harbour; but, as he neared it, he realized the absolute impossibility of entering. To use the man's own words, he came to the conclusion that there was nothing for it but to "put his trust in God, and make the sea his friend for the night." He accordingly went out to sea, and, after 28 hours of the greatest hardships and danger, got into Shields. 383 Eyemouth alone, on this occasion, lost 129 men, Cove, Coldingham, Burnmouth, Newhaven, and Fisherrow, losing the remaining 62. Seven Eyemouth and one Burnmouth boat weathered the storm at sea, and took shelter at last on the 15th and 16th in the Tyne. Instances such as these may be multiplied without end. It is only a week ago to-day since a fearful storm raged on the North-East Coast, which, I am informed, placed the boats on the Aberdeenshire Coast in the gravest danger, and would, had it come upon the men at low tide, infallibly have led to a great disaster. The same storm terribly jeopardized the safety of the whole fleet of Yorkshire fishing boats. Eight fishermen wove drowned at Filey, leaving seven widows and 20 children. These men, I hear this morning, were lost entirely from the absence of proper harbour accommodation. I may here mention that I have the authority of the Secretary at Lloyd's for saying that one great reason for fishing vessels not being accepted on the books of that great institution is the want of suitable harbours for their accommodation on our Coasts. Ramsgate, Hull, Preston-pans, the Shetland Islands, have all been among recent sufferers. I do, Sir, implore the Government to take into their most serious consideration the clamant necessity of coming to the assistance of these unfortunate men, and to make some endeavour to devise apian by which we may deal effectually with a state of things which year by year becomes a more and more crying disgrace to the country. It is my contention that great national harbours of refuge, and perhaps defence, which have so often been the subject of debate in this House, can only be constructed at the most enormous expenditure, and by means of public money. I, therefore, pass them by. It is, however, I believe, the fact that the Government have already determined to employ the convict labour set free by the completion of the works on the South Coast, on three works of this character at Dover, Filey, and Peterhead. But we have a right to ask for a clear and definite statement of their policy in this matter, the reasons that have weighed with them in coming to this decision; and why, especially, the works at Dover are to take precedence of the works at Filey, for, as far as I can judge from all the evidence, the latter place has far greater 384 claims as a harbour of refuge than the former, and is situated in a position where such works are far more needed than at Dover, with the Roads and the Thames so near at hand, and would, besides, be of the greatest service in the development of the North Sea fisheries. I hope the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade will not fail to make a very full and definite statement on this point for the satisfaction of the House and the country, though, of course, he may plead the value of defence works at Dover to be sufficient to outweigh all other considerations. It is often said that fishery harbours will not pay. I do not believe that at all. I believe that if the place is judiciously chosen and the works efficiently constructed there need be little fear of their paying. Look at the marvellous development of Grimsby. In 1856, 1,540 tons of fish were sent inland from that place by rail; while, in 1881, 49,583 tons, or about one-fifth of the whole quantity so conveyed in the whole of England, were despatched from that place. Again, Fraserburgh may be cited as another example of rapid development. In 1815, the total catch of herrings there was 5,560 barrels; from 1840 to 1850, about 24,000 barrels per annum; while from the extension of the harbour, which commenced in 1873, the catch has yearly increased, and in the years 1877 to 1881 the average number of barrels caught yearly reached the enormous figure of 180,000, worth about £250,000. In 1870 the number of boats was 480, and in 1880, 789. In 1847 the revenue from harbour dues was under £1,200; in 1877–81 it was considerably over £10,000 per annum. It seems to me that the policy to be adopted is something of this sort. A certain number of places should be carefully selected along the Coast, with the view of being made into first-rate fishery harbours, which should be available by small craft at all times. The selection of these places should depend on their suitability for improvement from an engineering and commercial point of view, and from their situation on the Coast in regard to one another. It will be at once apparent that there is a vast difference between the construction of great national harbours of refuge, or even of harbours suitable to the vessels of our great commercial ports, and of 385 harbours that will servo for refuge for fishing and other small trading vessels. Such harbours, into which small craft of all description could run with safety at all times, are undertakings comparatively small, both in difficulty and expense. The first thing absolutely necessary is the extension of the principle of lending money at a low rate of interest, recognized by the Act of 1881, to the establishment of fishery harbours. Hitherto, as far as the East Coast, at any rate, is concerned, it has been chiefly the large ports which have benefited by that Act; and the smaller harbours, including nearly all those devoted to fishing, have obtained but little assistance. Between the Humber and Capo Wrath, £1,377,000 has been lent to 11 harbours, with an income exceeding £2,000 per annum, and only £19,205 to five places whoso income is below this amount. There are, in this district, between 40 and 50 harbours which rely mainly or entirely upon the fishing industry; only about four of them have an income exceeding £2,000, and only eight have received loans. The Committee of 1857 recommended free grants to the amount of £2,000,000; the Commission appointed to complete the Committee's work recommended grants amounting to £2,365,000. Both the recommendations as to grants were set aside, and never acted upon; but as an alternative policy, the Harbours and Passing Tolls Act, 1861, was introduced and passed, to make provision for the construction and improvement of harbours, by authorizing loans from the public funds to harbour authorities. Now, Sir, many and various applications were at once made under the Act, and during the first four years the Public Works Loan Commissioners advanced some £1,250,000, or about half of the whole amount lent by them for harbour purposes in the 20 years ending 1880; but soon a dispute arose between the Board of Trade and the Loan Commissioners, first proceeding from the Board of questioning certain decisions of the Commissioners. The Board seem always to have taken the more liberal interpretation of the Act; the Commissioners always the more restricted one. The result has been that year by year the loans became less and less, till at last the policy seems to be to give as little as possible, and that only under the 386 most severe conditions. In the four years ending March, 1866, the average annual amount granted was £331,925, and £115,750 refused; in the four years ending March, 1870, £101,711 granted, and £174,132 refused; in the four years ending March, 1874, £111,950 granted, while the returns of refusal are incomplete; in the four years ending March, 1878, £49,050 granted, and the average of refusals in three years—1875–8—£336,266; and in the four years ending March, 1881, £68,000 granted, and £250,743 refused. Again, Sir, it is impossible to get at the reasons of refusals from the Loan Commissioners. In 1875, before a Committee of this House, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. Hubbard), Chairman of the Board, stated that the Commissioners wished all their acts to be clear as the light of day, and that they had no objection to state their reasons for refusing loans to harbours; but though it has again and again been asked that the reasons of refusal should be included in Parliamentary Returns, it has been impossible to obtain an acquiescence to the demand. To return, however, to the places to be selected for the purposes of these harbours, if possible, they should not be distant from one another more than 40 or 50 miles, so that vessels using them might not have far to run in a storm. When once these places have been decided on, loans should be refused to intermediate places till the completion of the works at the selected places. The execution of such a policy as I have attempted to sketch would give, for instance, on the East Coast of Scotland first-rate fishing-boat harbours at Eyemouth and Anstruther, improved harbours at Stonehaven, Banff, Helmsdale, and Scrabster; and first-rate fishing-boat harbours at Wick, Melvich Bay, and in the Kyle of Tongue. These, together with a harbour of refuge at Peterhead, would, I am certain, lead to such a development in the Scottish fisheries of the North Sea, whether of herrings, or of cod, ling, and haddocks, as would seem to be almost incredible. I do not suggest, for one moment, of course, that these works should be carried out by free grants of Government money, though, of course, cases might occur where such grants might be deemed necessary, as in the case of Ark-low last year; but I do say that this is 387 a policy to be effected by means of loans at low rates of interest. The figures I have put forward to the House, however, are remarkable, not only for the actual decrease in loans granted, but as much or more so for the proportionate decrease between loans granted and loans refused, and prove, without another word, how far short the results of the Harbour and Passing Tolls Act has fallen of the intentions of its promoters. Fishermen have always shown themselves willing to pay heavy harbour dues. At this moment the Grimsby dues are, I believe, some £17 per annum on each boat, which is a heavy yearly tax on boats originally costing from £400 to £500. But a further difficulty has been placed in the way of applicants for harbour loans, for which we have to thank the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Devon (Sir Stafford Northcote). As the Act was passed in 1861, the rate of interest for harbour loans was 3¼ per cent up to £100,000, and in excess of that sum such higher rate as the Commissioners might determine, not exceeding 5 per cent; but in 1879 the right hon. Gentleman changed the rates to 3½ per cent for loans not exceeding 20 years, 3¾ per cent for loans exceeding 20, but under 30 years, 4 per cent exceeding 30, but under 40 years, and 4¼ per cent exceeding 40, but under 50 years; and, moreover, limited the sum to be lent to any one place in one year to £100,000. The effect of these changes cannot be better stated than in the words of my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade—The Bill now presented for our consideration, if I may judge of its purpose by the statement which was made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, has for its object the abolition of this system of loans altogether. Everything which he said would apply to the whole system of loans. If that be his opinion, why does he not bring in a Bill to that effect? Instead of that, he seeks to secure the same result by a side-wind, by making the conditions of the loan so onerous that nobody can take advantage of them."—(3 Hansard,  616.)I hope, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman will bear these opinions he then expressed in his mind, and give us all the help he can to a return to the original provisions of the Act. After all, but little loss has accrued from advances hitherto made for harbours by the Loan Commissioners. Between 1861 and 1880 388 they advanced £2,781,822; during that period their losses, including principal and interest, amounted to only £16,434. I wish, in conclusion, to urge in the strongest terms upon the House, that, though all round our shores we have innumerable small tidal harbours, which are, no doubt, exceedingly useful in calm or even moderate weather, yet in a storm, unless at high-water, or, at the best, at half-tide, are worse than useless, for those seeking refuge must perforce remain outside till the harbours fill with water, or, at any rate, a sufficient depth of water is on the bar at the entrance of the harbour to enable them safely to cross it. In fact, in the case of vessels that do try to make them, they are little better than mantraps. The true policy to be kept in view by all interested in this subject is, I am confident, not the construction of one great harbour of refuge in one district, which would be of no use whatever to nine-tenths of the vessels which might be in distress, but the formation of a number of smaller harbours dotted here and there at judiciously selected intervals all round our shores, with a sufficient quantity of water at low-tide, to which vessels might run at whatever part of the Coast they might be overtaken by a storm. I beg to move the Resolution of which I have given Notice.
§ SIR EARDLEY WILMOT
said, he had much pleasure in seconding the Resolution so ably proposed by his hon. Friend the Member for Berwickshire (Mr. Marjoribanks). He should have apologized to the House for taking so prominent a place in the debate, not being a commercial or naval man, had he not brought forward the same question himself in a Resolution in 1876, when the Conservative Ministry held Office. The then President of the Board of Trade (Sir Charles Adderley) made at that time two objections to the proposal, which he (Sir Eardley Wilmot) confessed somewhat surprised him. One was that if no more harbours were constructed shipowners would construct their vessels of better material, and be more able to resist stormy weather; the other, that harbours did not pay in a financial point of view. As regarded the first objection, he was afraid that no amount of skill or science could always resist the power of the elements; and, as regarded 389 the second, although Portsmouth, Portland, or Plymouth harbours did not pay financially for their construction, they paid abundantly in the security they afforded to our commerce, in the safety of our shipping, and in the preservation of many valuable lives. As regarded the necessity of more harbour accommodation than existed at present, he had only to refer hon. Members to the two Blue Books he held in his hand. One was the Wreck Register of last year, the other was the Report of the Commission on Convict Labour, lately published. Both these documents afforded undoubted testimony to the truth of the statements made by the hon. Mover of the Resolution, containing, as they did each, a Wreck Chart, upon which the spots more thickly clustered together on the North-East Coast, in the region of Filey and Whitby, than in any other part of the shores of Great Britain, were a plain proof of the great loss of life and property in that district. The hon. Member had dwelt forcibly on that point; and he (Sir Eardley Wilmot) could confirm his testimony by the tables and statistics to be found in the Wreck Register in his hand. The same tables were valuable in another direction, as they proved that, although the prevalent wind throughout the year on our Coasts was from the South-West, yet the wrecks which occurred were in a much larger proportion from the North, North-East, and East. The table also showed that the fact of there being much fewer wrecks on the Southern and Western Coasts was to be accounted for by there being more harbours for vessels to take refuge in in time of tempests in those districts—as, for example, Portsmouth, Plymouth, Falmouth, and many smaller harbours. Then, as regarded the sufferers from shipwreck, the tables in the Wreck Register also showed that the casualties almost invariably occurred in vessels of small tonnage, generally under 300 tons. The losses to vessels upwards of 500 tons were few. The poorer classes—namely, the fishermen, whose whole property often consisted of their vessels and nets, were the chief sufferers; and, in determining the harbour question, this class of seamen was very greatly entitled to consideration. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade had told them that the Government had decided in favour of two sites 390 at which harbour works were to be commenced—namely, Filey and Dover, in conformity with the recommendation of the Commission on Convict Labour; but that they had determined to begin first with Dover. He (Sir Eardley Wilmot) must say he regretted this decision, for he thought that preference should be given to the far greater requirements of the North-East Coast—at Filey. There was ample and excellent material close at hand for the works; and the Brigg, a natural breakwater, extending half-a-mile into the sea, and affording shelter from the winds prevalent on that Coast, would save, at least, £250,000 in the expense of construction. Filey was close to a railway, by which coal could be brought down to the bay; and suitable and safe accommodation might be readily found on the adjacent cliff for the convicts employed in the work. At Dover, on the contrary, concrete had to be used, as no stone was to be found within reach; and if the harbour were completed there, as proposed by the Government, it must be considered rather as a work of defence than as one of protection and safety for shipping. At all events, if they made another pier and breakwater at Dover, he hoped they would not make it in a straight line, like the present Admiralty Pier, which was built broadside to the prevailing winds, but in an arched or convex form; the disadvantage of the present construction being that in one night damage was done to the masonry to the extent of £20,000. The wall, too, of the present pier had another defect—namely, that its side was perpendicular instead of slanting, and thus sustained the full force of the waves, instead of enabling them to slide off them. There was the danger of silting, too, at Dover which did not exist at Filey. He must apologize for having troubled the House at such length, and thanked it for the indulgence with which it had received his remarks. There was only one other subject to which he would briefly refer, and that was the strategic aspect of the question as regarded the North-East Coast. At present there was not a single harbour between the Tyne and the Thames in which an iron-clad could anchor should it at any time come to grief in those seas, or where it could take in coal or water. On the opposite coast, the Germans had constructed the magnificent harbour of Wilhelmshaven, at the mouth of the 391 River Weser, and up to the year 1876 had expended on it£1,500,000. Even before that time, so secure was the accommodation for ships of war there, and so powerful the defence, that in 1870, during the Franco-German War, the French Fleet lay outside Wilhelmshaven for some time, and was quite unable to get at the enemy's Fleet inside. Was it desirable that other nations should be so far ahead of us in providing the means of safety for our fleets, even putting aside the security afforded by such a harbour to numberless trading vessels which might be labouring under stress of weather in those dangerous seas? In conclusion, he confidently appealed to the Government to grant the Committee asked for by his hon. Friend, when this great and very important question of harbours might be fully considered, and something effectually done to guard against the lamentable loss of life, and the great injury to property, which he contended was materially owing to the insufficiency of adequate harbour accommodation in many parts of the United Kingdom, and especially on the North-East Coast.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the Harbour accommodation on the Coasts of the United Kingdom, having regard to the laws and arrangements under which the construction and improvement of Harbours may now be effected."—(Mr. Marjoribanks.)
§ MR. CHAMBERLAIN
I am very loth to interpose at this early stage of the debate; but I wish to do so, because I think there is a general feeling that, if possible, it would be well if the hon. and learned Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst) should have an opportunity of bringing on the very important Motion on the Transvaal of which he has given Notice. As I hope I may be able to make a statement on the subject before the House which will be satisfactory to my hon. Friend the Member for Berwickshire (Mr. Marjoribanks) and other hon. Members interested in the question, I think it better, very briefly, to state at once the opinion the Government have formed on the matter. Let me say, in doing so, that I think we are all very much indebted to my hon. Friend for the extremely able and very interesting statement which he has made on the subject. It is quite impossible to ex- 392 aggerate the interest in the matter, because I believe there is no question which appeals more strongly to our sympathies than anything which concerns the life and security of our sailors. There is, therefore, no doubt that it is not difficult to make out a very strong case for some immediate reform and amendment of the law. I did not quite follow my hon. Friend at the commencement of his speech; but I imagine the terrible loss of life to which he referred was included in the general loss of life during the years quoted. In 1882, there was a total of 526 British vessels lost on the Coasts of the United Kingdom. The total loss at sea was, of course, however, very much greater than that. I am speaking only of the loss of life on the Coast, or immediately within sight of it. There was a loss of 692 lives; but if I take the average for six years, I find that the loss in 1882 was considerably in excess of the previous year. Of course, the House will understand that only a very small proportion of this loss is due to the want of harbours of refuge. At the same time, I believe no one can be more deeply impressed than I am with the fact that the loss of a large proportion of those lives is due to preventable causes—that it is due to mismanagement, and misconduct on the part of the shipowners, or in some cases to carelessness in the furnishing of ships, and above all, to the most shameful practice of overloading. These are evils for which I hope, at no distant time, I may be able to propose what I think will be sufficient remedies; but they are not touched at all by the Motion which has been put on the Paper by my hon. Friend. That Motion deals solely with the question, how far life and property at sea might be saved by the creation of harbours of refuge, or ordinary trading harbours round our Coast, and also, perhaps in a minor degree, how far a stimulus might be given by the construction of such harbours to one of the greatest and most important of our industries, and how far the Government and Parliament can aid in such work. I was very glad to hear from my hon. Friend that he did not ask the House for anything in the shape of I a grant of public money, but that all he I asked was that there should be a searching inquiry to see where these harbours could be best provided; and also, as I understand him—and, if so, I accept 393 that construction—to ask for inquiry into the working of existing legislation, to see how the facilities which are at present afforded by the Harbours and Passing Tolls Act may be modified and extended. I say I am glad that he excluded the question of a grant of public money. That arises, no doubt, in the case of convict harbours; but then it must be understood that convict harbours stand on a different footing. I do not understand that my hon. Friend purposes this Committee should inquire into the construction of convict harbours, which are not constructed under the Harbours and Passing Tolls Act, 1861. In the case of convict harbours, what you have first to regard is the convenient employment of the convicts, and you have to see that certain provisions are fulfilled; that the works will not interfere with local interests; that there is a probability of satisfactory accommodation for the convicts; and that the works will be of a kind to justify the construction of the necessary accommodation for them on the spot, and that the works will be in themselves of a sort which can be properly undertaken by the convicts. The Government, after carefully inquiring into the matter, have come to the conclusion that the two localities which best fulfil these conditions are Dover and Filey. My hon. Friend asks me why we have selected Dover as the place first on our list. My answer is, because we have had in view the several purposes for which such a harbour is to be used, and they are three-fold. There is, in the first place, the possibility of using it as a harbour of refuge; in the second place, there is the possibility of using it as a commercial harbour; and, in the third place, there is the possibility of using it as a great national harbour for the Naval Forces of this country. As regards all three purposes, I think Dover undoubtedly has the higher claim With regard to the third, it is already the site of a considerable fortification; whereas at Filey the fortifications will have to be constructed, and will involve a great addition to the total cost. But we do not exclude Filey from our early consideration, and although we begin with Dover, yet we hope and believe that the time may not be far distant when we will commence similar works at Filey; and, most certainly, it is not the intention to wait until Dover 394 is completed before the works at Filey are commenced. I may here state the reasons why I do not think it would be desirable to contemplate any great scheme of public grants for harbours generally. In the first place, we should be involving the country in an expenditure, the vastness of which might be calculated to appal the House. Let us see what our experience has been in reference to this matter. The Committee of 1857 recommended an expenditure of from £1,500,000 to £2,000,000, three-fourths of which was to be provided by passing tolls, and one-fourth only was to be provided by Government grant. The Commission which was subsequently appointed increased this Estimate to the sum of £4,000,000, of which it was proposed £2,500,000 should be provided out of the public funds. There is nothing so uncertain and so unreliable as the estimates of harbour construction. There is nothing so uncertain as the success of the works undertaken. In the case of Dover, the original estimate of the works was £245,000; and we have spent already £693,000. At Alderney, where the original estimate was £620,000, we have spent £1,274,000, which might as well, for all practical purposes, have been thrown into the sea. At Holyhead, where the original estimate was £638,000, the sum actually expended was £1,479,000; and at Portsmouth, where the original estimate was £558,000, the expenditure already amounted to £1,034,000. Altogether, upon these four harbours, while the original estimates of qualified engineers was £2,059,000, the actual expenditure has been £4,500,000. In any calculation that may be made on this subject, we may assume that the original estimates will probably be more than doubled; and, in fact, there is no limit to the probable expenditure which may be contemplated in the case of these harbours. There is also no limit to the claims that will be made when it is understood that the public purse strings are to be loosened for this purpose; because, although the Committee recommended altogether some 12 localities as suitable sites, since that time there have been applications, supported by strong memorials, from at least a score of places, which can put forward claims almost as strong as those to which the Committee gave preference. Among these places 395 I may mention Bridlington, which by many people is preferred to Filey; Warkworth, in Northumberland; Dun-geness, Lundy Island, in the British Channel; Newhaven, Torbay, and other places; and altogether at the Board of Trade we have applications for 19 places which would have to be considered, and on behalf of which the local pressure would be extremely strong if it were once understood that the Government money was to be forthcoming. The only justification for undertaking such an expenditure of public money would be the certainty that there would be a saving of life and property in proportion; but from a very careful Parliamentary examination that had been made into this subject, in 1862, it appeared that the loss of life on our Coasts—the loss which, in any event, could have been saved by harbours of refuge—was very small indeed. After eliminating from all these losses all that is due to founderings or misconduct of owners or officers of ships, the number that is due to causes which might have been prevented by the existence of harbours of refuge is exceedingly small. On the East Coast it was found, after a careful examination, that only 15 lives could by any possibility have been saved by means of harbours of refuge. No doubt there are some cases, like those which were quoted by my hon. Friend, and especially as touching fishing interests, in which the loss of life could be prevented by such harbours; and, therefore, I say the Government will gladly welcome the multiplication of these harbours, which may not only be the means of saving life, but will undoubtedly give a great stimulus to commerce and trade. Therefore, as the contention of my hon. Friend is only that a Committee of Inquiry should be formed for the purpose, the Government will undoubtedly and with great willingness assent to this proposal. I understand that my hon. Friend the Member for South Durham (Sir Joseph Pease) proposes to move, as an Amendment, that the Committee shall be instructed to inquire into the working of the Public Works Loans Act; but that, I understand, is entirely covered by the original wording of the Resolution, and I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Berwickshire that there is room for such an inquiry. There is no doubt that 396 works carried out under that Act have very materially fallen off in late years, and it will be interesting to understand on what grounds this has taken place. The Board of Trade are of opinion that trading harbours, even where they are not specially harbours of refuge, ought to be assisted by Government loans, and they were included in the original conception of the legislation in question. It would be well worthy of inquiry, whether a modification of the Public Works Loan Act, which was made at the institution of the right hon. Baronet the late Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1879, may not also come under consideration, considering it is a fact that out of grants of something like £2,500,000 of public money which have been advanced altogether under this Act to 45 harbours, there has only been a loss of money amounting to £34,000. I think it is a fair subject for inquiry whether facilities which have proved so valuable and useful may not be extended. There are a great number of cases of fishing harbours to which large assistance has been given. £100,000 has been given to Fraser burgh, and £30,000 to Peter-head. In conclusion, I cannot help saying that whatever may be the defects of this system, and the faults of the administration, the general results have, on the whole, been extremely satisfactory, and the way in which private enterprize has been stimulated by these grants is something very remarkable. Any course of action that would check that flow of private and local enterprize would, therefore, be unfortunate, and should be carefully avoided, and I hope sincerely that one result of the appointment of the Committee may be greatly to stimulate it.
§ MR. BOURKE
said, he considered the subject under discussion one of the most important connected with their domestic legislation that could engage the attention of the House. He did not agree with the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Chamberlain) that the number of lives lost on the Coasts owing to the want of harbours of refuge was very small. The loss was, he (Mr. Bourke) believed, larger than the right hon. Gentleman supposed; and if he were the Representative of ever so small a constituency on the Coast, instead of a large place inland, he would have a 397 somewhat different opinion on the matter, and might think that considerable saving of life would result from the construction of harbours of refuge. To the fishermen class there was no question of greater or closer interest than this; and he earnestly trusted something would be done on their behalf, and that something good would come of the inquiry. He was sorry that Dover had been chosen as the first harbour on which to begin operations; but still they must be satisfied. Half a loaf, however, was better than no bread; and, while accepting it, with the belief that the President of the Board of Trade had shown a wise discretion in assenting to the appointment of a Committee, he would express the hope that in a short time further progress would be made in regard to this very important subject.
§ SIR JOSEPH PEASE,
who had an Amendment on the Paper, proposing to include in the inquiry the administration of the Harbours and Passing Tolls Act (1861), said, his object was to bring under the notice of the Committee the manner in which the Public Works Loans Commission had carried out the powers committed to them. He still hoped it might be embodied in the Motion. He was exceedingly disappointed at the line his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade had taken on that important matter. "What disappointed him (Sir Joseph Pease) most in that statement was that, without any further inquiry, convict labour was to be employed in order to make harbours at Dover and Filey. Dover was not a place for such a refuge harbour at all, nor was Riley, at that moment, a place where the best harbour of refuge could be constructed on the North-East Coast. He would point out that the Tyne was already a harbour of refuge, and the Tees was fast becoming one. Since 1858 the whole character of the shipping trade of the country had altered, and on the Coast between Berwick and the Tees they had now one-fifth of the number of ships going out and in, and one-eighth of the tonnage of the United Kingdom. The larger number of wrecks on that Coast occurred either South of the Humber, or in the neighbourhood of Tees Bay. On that Coast the use of the refuse slag from the ironworks at Middlesborough was capable of forming a harbour at a very low cost indeed, for its deposit in 398 a suitable location would cost them nothing; while there was no longer any doubt that this material could be used practically for this purpose, for it had been tested, and found a most excellent substance to stand the exposure to the water and waves. The quantity of slag at present being poured into the North. Sea was about 12,000 tons a-week, it soon would be about 24,000 tons a-week, while two years hence it would probably be about 30,000 tons a-week. They were told there were great natural advantages at Filey. Why, on the Tees they could have a breakwater that could enclose 1,000 acres of sea, with ample depth of water, and the cost to the nation would not run above £100 a running yard. He complained of the slender character of the inquiry instituted by the Commission, on whose recommendation Dover and Filey had been selected. They had examined only two engineers, both previously committed; and that, he was sure, would give no satisfaction to the country generally. The Downs would certainly have been a far better site than Dover, and beyond that the Tees had never been looked at for a single moment by this Departmental Commission, yet they could make a harbour there at a very much smaller cost than either at Filey or at Dover. There was in the neighbourhood of the Tees sufficient accommodation for the convicts who might be employed there. On the question of harbours for the fishermen, small harbours could not provide sufficient employment for convicts, and could not afford to pay interest to the Exchequer, and the result would be that the national purse would have to pay for the works. To that he should not very much object; but he thought the action of the Public Works Loans Commissioners should be considered, and the rules that were to decide their course of proceeding in relation to the securities required for these loans. One thing he hoped most sincerely, in common with the right hon. Gentleman who spoke last (Mr. Bourke), that the fishermen would ultimately reap some benefit from the inquiry.
§ MR. A. F. EGERTON
said, that, while he begged to thank the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade for the very serious consideration he had given to the subject, he could not help wishing the Govern- 399 ment had made further inquiry before deciding to employ their convicts at Dover and Filey. He regarded Dover as a most unfortunate selection; it was not, and really never would be, a harbour of refuge; and, as far as the national defences were concerned, it would be no use at all. It was a question whether, when the harbour was completed, it would not rapidly silt up. He thought that the construction of the harbour was a mistake, seeing that within five or six miles of Dover there was the magnificent anchorage of the Downs, which, whatever kind of harbour Dover might be made into, would still be in case of war, as in times of peace, the great rendezvous for the Channel Fleet and other squadrons. However, as the Government seemed to have decided upon Dover, they must make the best of it. He hoped that it would be within the scope of the Committee to inquire whether a new harbour of refuge could not be constructed at some other place far more preferable for the purpose than the port of Filey.
§ SIR HUSSEY VIVIAN
pointed out that the Public Works Loan Commissioners were bound by the Act of Parliament, in the most stringent manner, to look to the security which they accepted; and he could assure his hon. Friend the Member for Berwickshire (Mr. Marjoribanks) that there were many applications which had been refused which they would have been glad to have entertained if they had thought that in so doing they were performing their duties as guardians of the public purse. How, then, would they stand, if they put their hands in the pockets of the public and were as liberal as it was desired they should be in granting loans for harbours of refuge or other harbours? The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Chamberlain) had told the House about the enormous sums of money that had been expended on harbours of that character, and he had shown that at least double the estimated expenditure had been incurred in those harbours. Further, the right hon. Gentleman had also informed the House that the claims on the Board of Trade for harbours of this nature were of a very large character. He (Sir Hussey Vivian) did not object to any inquiry the House might desire into the Public Works Loan Commis- 400 sion. There wore as humane men as any on that Commission; and if they only saw their way clear, in the discharge of their public duty, to make these grants, he was sure every application made to them under these circumstances would be accepted. But then it was impossible for them to shield the public from excessive loss if they allowed their humane feelings to guide them in the consideration of questions of that kind. He supposed the hon. Baronet the Member for South Durham (Sir Joseph Pease) complained that they did not make a grant to a harbour which undoubtedly had a largo income, and was a solvent concern. He (Sir Hussey Vivian) might, however, complain in the same manner, for about the same time that his hon. Friend made his application, he (Sir Hussey Vivian) made a similar one on behalf of Swansea Harbour, and was likewise refused. The question, indeed, was simply a commercial one. A good ample security could always obtain any amount of money that might be required. His hon. Friend, he might mention as a proof, found no difficulty in carrying out those great works on the Tyne. Nor had they at Swansea any difficulty either. They went to the public, and very readily obtained a large sum of money necessary for the works—he believed something like £300,000. These, indeed, were not cases in which the country's purse ought to be drawn upon. If it was the desire of the country that harbours of refuge for fishermen and for shipping should be carried out, distinct sums of money should be voted for that purpose. But he did not think the House should be permitted to deceive itself into the belief that grants could be made for harbours of this kind without, at the same time, some risk being run. Indeed, on the contrary, they were liable to make very serious bad debts in granting such loans. He did not come to the House prepared to enter into the discussion, or otherwise he could assure hon. Members he could have given them many instances in which large sums of money had been lost through grants of this nature having been made. He believed, for instance, that the whole of the money granted for the harbour at Wick might be regarded as a bad debt, inasmuch as the works had been washed away and no longer existed. Thus it 401 was apparent that the country must face I these risks if grants were to be advanced for the making of harbours. He was far from saying that such harbours were not desirable; but, at the same time, the pecuniary risk they ran was great, and it would be unfair to cast on the Public Works Loans Comission the decision as to whether or not the public money should be granted in such cases. If they did advance the money, and there were no incomes to meet the loans, then they would be blamed for so doing by the House; and, therefore, while on the one hand he would court the fullest inquiry as to the course taken by the Public Works Loan Commission, on the other hand he felt that unless they were acting under the conditions of an Act of a very different character to that under which they now acted—which compelled them to look with the greatest care to the security of the public money lent—they would not be able to grant public money any more than they had heretofore done. While hon. Members had been urging the necessity of a harbour of refuge on the East Coast, the claims of the West should not be overlooked. The whole of the North Coast of Cornwall, for instance, was entirely void of any place to which vessels could run in distressed weather; and, again, along the Coast from Milford to Penarth there was no safe place in which vessels could seek shelter when the weather was stormy. Lundy would be a good site for the protection of the Bristol Channel. No better site for the purpose could be found; and, in addition, it possessed the advantage of being a place from which convicts could not possibly escape, unless they were amphibious. Thus, while hon. Members were laying before the House the requirements of the East in the way of harbours of refuge, the House should not also forget the requirements of the South and West in the same respect. He was extremely glad that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade had assented to this Committee; but, so far as the Public Works Loans Commissioners were concerned, if the House expected them to grant larger loans than heretofore, then the Act of Parliament under which they derived their powers would first of all have to be changed.
§ MR. C. ROSS
said, he concurred entirely in the necessity for this inquiry. 402 He wished to put in a word for the Bristol Channel and the South Coast, which, at the present moment, were entirely un-provided with adequate harbour accommodation. It struck him that an inquiry dealing with a limited portion of the country, which might probably lead to an expenditure of money, was scarcely fair to the rest of the community. He could not but look upon the question, to some extent, from a local point of view, and he was bound to place before the House the case of the fishermen on the North Coast of Cornwall. But from a national point of view, also, the construction of harbours of refuge was a matter of great importance. The condition of the North Cornwall fishermen was absolutely deplorable. If the Government would lend money for the construction of harbour works on that Coast the rate of interest to be necessarily at a very low rate, the money would be safe and the interest regularly paid; and great advantage would accrue not only to the poor fishermen of that district, but also to the community in an ample supply of wholesome food at a cheap rate. To his own knowledge, the fishermen of the West Cornwall frequently dared not venture out to sea in doubtful weather, because of the utter absence of any harbour of refuge. The Committee of 1859 reported that a harbour of refuge was more wanted at St. Ives than almost any other spot in the United Kingdom. On the East Coast there were many competitors, and no absolute preference of one port over another had ever been made. Thus the case of St. Ives was the most pressing of all. If that recommendation was warranted in 1859 it was still more so now, as the harbour was much worse now than it was then, and our commerce and carrying trade had been enormously developed. Besides that, St. Ives was on the highway of the most important part of our trade from Liverpool and the chief ports of the country, and had thus especial claims upon the attention of the Government.
§ MR. STEVENSON
said, he regretted that the Motion had not continued to be confined to the East Coast, and that a Committee of the House was now proposed instead of a Royal Commission. The East Coast was large enough to be the subject of,; a special inquiry; and a Royal Commission, visiting the localities, 403 would have collected much valuable evidence as to the harbour accommodation now, compared with what it was 25 years ago, when the former Commission reported. Except on the Tyne, none of the plans then proposed had been carried out. He (Mr. Stevenson) had to thank the hon. Member for Berwickshire (Mr. Marjoribanks) for his appreciation of the labour of the Tyne Commission, over which he (Mr. Stevenson) had the honour to preside; but he would not claim that the Tyne was yet a complete harbour of refuge, though they hoped to make it so. They had spent£3,000,000 on the piers and in river works, principally dredging; and they had got only £350,000 on loan from the Public Works Loan Commissioners. Already the Tyne was largely used as a refuge for ships sailing to or from other ports. The people on the Tyne had no interest beyond other taxpayers in the question of the employment of convicts on harbour works. But he thought the opinion of the House should be taken, and much fuller inquiry made before either Filey or Dover was selected. There was some case for Filey 25 years ago; but it was entirely altered now. Then fleets of laden colliers which had left the coal ports, caught by a sudden gale before weathering Flam borough Head, had no port to run back to short of the Firth of Forth, and many were wrecked or foundered. The steamers had changed all this; fleets did not accumulate, and the Tyne was open for refuge. Besides, the intended area of Filey could not contain all the men-of-war and fishing and other vessels that were said to be likely to use it, all at one time. He had the greatest misgivings also as to the success of the harbour at Dover, on account of the danger of silting up, if they enclosed the area and interfered with the currents that now maintained its depth. "What was now wanted at the Tyne was a pilotage service adapted to the change of circumstances, so that vessels seeking refuge should have pilots to conduct them into the harbour, when the present pilot cobles could not get to sea. Most of the wrecks that still occasionally took place would thus be prevented. He thought this was a subject that deserved the fullest inquiry. The coasting tonnage from the Tyne in 1859 was in the proportion of 5£ sail to I steam; in 1881 the proportion was 1 sail to 3 steam.
said, he was of opinion that his hon. Friend the Mover of the Resolution was only to be congratulated upon one thing—namely, the ability with which he had put forward his views. His hon. Friend and his supporters had failed to obtain a single crumb of comfort from the Government. He (Earl Percy) regretted exceedingly that the President of the Board of Trade had thought it right to restrict this inquiry to its present very narrow scope, while, at the same time, pronouncing so decided an opinion upon the larger question included in the Resolution as it originally stood. In the event of the great question of harbours of refuge all along the Coast being re-opened, they would all have their pet schemes; and he, for his part, would certainly advocate the claims of a harbour further North than Filey. He was convinced that inquiry would show that the President of the Board of Trade under-estimated very much the real good that could be effected by harbours of refuge, and overestimated the dangers arising from the misconduct of shipowners and the overloading of ships. He had very little hope that much advantage would result from the proposed inquiry; but he trusted that they might look upon it as the forerunner of better things.
§ MR. HENEAGE
said, that representing, as he did, large shipping interests, he looked with dismay on the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman to build with public money a harbour at Filey. He did not know of what use it was going to be to the fishermen of the Humber. If any money was to be spent, it should be spent on harbours at places where they were really required on the North East Coast, and not on a harbour built for the purpose of propping up the decayed trade of a particular town. He protested against the Government taking up the cause of Filey, and trusted the Government would allow the whole question to be thoroughly considered, and, if they found they had made a mistake, relinquish their absurd purpose of laying out money for the benefit of a decaying port.
§ MR. BLAKE
said, that, in his opinion, the speech of the President of the Board of Trade was most unsatisfactory in some important respects. For his own part, he was disappointed at the limited nature of the proposed inquiry, 405 and he would suggest that it should be so enlarged as to apply to the whole of the United Kingdom, and that there should be an adequate Irish representation on the Committee. On the Coast of Ireland there were as dangerous spots as any to be found in Great Britain, and both the Committee which had previously sat and the Royal Commission which followed unanimously reported in favour of the construction of two harbours of refuge on the Coast of Ireland. The Committee unanimously recommended that Waterford, with which he was identified, should be improved and made a harbour of refuge, as between Dublin and Cork there was no possible place in which large vessels could take shelter. He therefore hoped that now, when the matter was being revived, Irish interests would not be neglected. He hoped that the Committee would also take into consideration the question of fishery harbours. He thought it was the bounden duty of the Government to render available for the benefit of the people every industrial resource. Regarding the fisheries as a nursery for both the Royal Naval and Mercantile Marine, he thought there was nothing which would better repay the outlay, to say nothing of the benefit to the localities concerned, and to the community in general, from the more abundant supply of wholesome food. He earnestly hoped, therefore, that on the Committee there would be a sufficient representation of Irish interests, so that when the Report came up for consideration they would be able to come to an impartial conclusion on the different views which would be submitted as to the best sites for harbours.
§ MR. W. H. JAMES
said, he trusted that the advantage of having some great harbour of refuge would not be lost sight of amid the number of local claims. Why Dover should be selected he did not see. The relative claims of Dover and Filey had been discussed before the Committee, whose Reports he held in his hand, and in the result the Committee said that they did not feel in a position to express an opinion on the subject. He thought that the reason why it was deemed necessary to have a very large harbour at Dover was because the project of a Channel Tunnel had conjured up in the minds of the military authorities the idea of invasion, and as a large harbour was being constructed at Boulogne it was thought that we should 406 have a large harbour at Dover. But it would be better if the Government paid more attention to the preservation of life, and the safety of the fishing population. He hoped they would hear from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or some other Member of the Government, before the close of the debate, that though the works at Dover had been commenced, some opportunity would be given to the House to express an opinion whether concurrently with those works a harbour on the North-East Coast should not also be made.
§ COLONEL MILNE HOME
said, that considering his very close and intimate connection with the part of the Coast which his hon. Friend (Mr. Marjoribanks) represented, it was right that he should express thanks to the hon. Member for the manner in which he had brought this subject forward. He congratulated the hon. Member on having got from the Government even a quarter of a loaf. He would much rather have had a Royal Commission than a Select Committee; but it would have been useless to divide the House on the question of a Royal Commission, and therefore the hon. Member was justified in moving for a Select Committee. They had this question before the country for almost a century. There had been Committees, and Commissions, and Reports to no end; but nothing had been done. He sincerely hoped that the Select Committee now promised might bring about some result. He did not intend to enter into the very large question of refuge harbours, for the reason that it had generally been the custom to advocate the claims of one locality against another, and they had had petty local jealousies brought into what was a national question. The result had been that nothing had been done, and the fishermen on our Coasts were still in peril. The sum subscribed for the relief of the sufferers by the Eyemouth disaster was £55,000; and if it had been expended on the previous improvement of the harbour, it was highly probable that the disaster would have been prevented. It was well, on every ground, that the Government should stimulate local effort to improve these harbours. Not only would disasters be prevented, but the supply of fish food would also be increased. Grants might pauperize the dwellers on the Coast, but those who helped themselves should be assisted by 407 loans on favourable terms. The Public Works Loan Commissioners, through their Representative here (Sir Hussey Vivian), had stated that they required to go to Parliament for more powers if they wore to give assistance on better terms. If so, he was sure that Parliament would readily grant those powers. He could not discover on what conditions loans were given, and it would be a convenience if the conditions were strictly laid down. Appeals were made now and again on behalf of occupiers of land; but Government assistance in the manner he was advocating would be a far greater benefit than assistance given to the landed interest. He cordially supported the Motion.
§ COLONEL NOLAN
said, when the question came before the Select Committee he hoped the interests of the town of Galway would not be overlooked. The question of utilizing convict labour was now occupying the attention of the Government; and, in his opinion, convict labour could be nowhere more usefully employed than in Galway Harbour. The late Government were promoting a scheme for building a breakwater at Galway, and he did not think the present Government could do better than resume that project. There was a great want of proper harbour accommodation on the "West Coast of Ireland. Nature had done a great deal for it, but the Government had done nothing. He hoped that on the Select Committee Irish interests would be fairly represented, and that the important question of improving harbour accommodation on the West Coast of Ireland would not be further neglected.
§ MR. DODDS
said, the terms on which loans were granted were distinctly laid down; but the conditions required to be made a little more elastic. He protested against the conclusion that appeared to have been arrived at by the Government to adopt Filey as one of the harbours of refuge, without giving the House an opportunity of discussing the question. He assured the House that public opinion on the North-East Coast was that Filey was a bad, if not the very worst site that could be selected for the purpose. He would, therefore, express an earnest hope that the Government would proceed no further with the project until the House had an opportunity of expressing an opinion upon it. It 408 was unfortunate that those most interested had not been listened to, and that action had been taken on the advice of the gentleman who had been professional engineer to Filey.
§ SIR R. ASSHETON CROSS
said he should much like to see the harbours of Ireland attended to, as a means of increasing the industrial resources of the country. As Chairman of the Commission on Irish Prisons, county and local, he was glad to have heard that the recommendation as to the closing of Spike Island Prison was to be acted upon as soon as possible. A number of plans for the employment of convict labour had been considered; but the question of Galway Harbour had not been brought before the Commissioners. Independently of that, he would impress upon the Government to give the preference to Ireland by way of encouraging the people to look for a living to something besides their holdings.
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. CHILBERS)
said, he hoped that after he had answered a few questions the debate would be permitted to conclude, inasmuch as the Government had accepted the Motion. The Government distinctly understood that the Motion was to include the Irish harbours, and of these none deserved more consideration than that of Galway. The question had been raised whether this Motion included an exhaustive inquiry into the conduct of business by the Public Works Loans Commissioners. That was the distinct object of the Motion, and that was the sense in which the Government accepted it. Of course, the law, as it was worked now, was not exclusively the law of 1861. That law had been largely altered on the proposal of the right hon. Member for North Devon (Sir Stafford North cote), when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer some years ago. It would only be proper, therefore, that the Committee should expressly inquire into the whole working of the law of 1861, an well as of the law since. Most unquestionably, it was right that the law and its amendments should be thoroughly looked into by the Committee; but he was bound to say that no complaints had reached him as to the present working of the law, or the proceedings of the Public Works Loan Commissioners under it, whose assistance was most valuable. 409 It had never been the intention of the Government to refer to the Committee the question of harbours constructed by convict labour. Indeed, any proposal of that sort was not within the scope of his hon. Friend's Motion, which had reference solely to harbours constructed out of money advanced by the Public Works Loans Commissioners or by the Fishery Board in Scotland. It had been objected that if this Resolution passed in its present form there would be no future opportunity of discussing the question of harbours built by convict labour. His answer was that the Government would give them the fullest opportunity of discussing the relative merits of Filey and Dover. Estimates for them would have to be proposed, and on those Estimates the fullest discussion would take place. Complaint had been made that the Papers did not disclose the reasons why the Government were going to expend money on the larger harbour at Dover and upon a new harbour at Filey. As they were to be military harbours as well as harbours of refuge, some details in connection with their construction ought not to be thrown open to all the world. But when the Vote for the extension of the harbour at Dover was before the House, the Government would, on their responsibility, explain the grounds on which they proposed to carry out that extension, and it would then be competent for the House to disapprove the course which the Government wished to adopt. In like manner, when, not this year, but later on, the Vote for the new harbour at Filey was brought forward, that subject could be fully discussed. After those assurances, he trusted the Motion would be carried without further delay.
§ MR. FRESHFIELD
said, he was glad the Government had determined to construct a harbour of refuge at Dover, in accordance with the plan recommended by the Royal Commission many years ago. The Admiralty Pier, which was part of the plan, was compeleted some 10 years back; but it was soon found that the erection of a pier jutting out into the sea did not fulfil the conditions of a harbour of refuge, and that the entire design ought to be completed. Accordingly, a Vote was granted in 1873 for the completion of the second arm of the harbour; but the then Government wont out of Office, and left to the Dover 410 Harbour Board the execution of the work. The Board brought in their Bill, and proceeded with it up to a certain stage, when the Government of Lord Beaconsfield asked them to abandon their measure in favour of their own. The Government next brought in a Bill of their own; but were, unfortunately, prevented by financial considerations from carrying it out. The matter remained in abeyance till last year, when the Harbour Board again introduced a Bill, which was carried. In conclusion, he hoped the present Government would show a little more earnestness and consistency than the Government of Lord Beaconsfield, which took up the subject being convinced that it was a right one, and then dropped it on financial grounds.
§ SIR ALEXANDER GORDON
said, he would remind the House that last year they had been informed by the Home Secretary that the construction of two harbours of refuge was projected—one in England, by means of English convict labour, and the other in Scotland, by Scottish convict labour. The President of the Board of Trade had now announced that the Government intended to employ convicts at Dover and Filey; but nothing had been said of Scotland. He feared that the project of employing Scotch convicts in Scotland had been abandoned. If that were so, it would cause very great discontent and dissatisfaction in Scotland. He feared that the Committee would end in very great disappointment. They were to inquire into the fishing harbours all round the Coast. There were thousands of such harbours, and it appeared to him that it would be three or four years before any Committee could do justice to the question. He would have much preferred a Royal Commission to a Select Committee. He hoped the Committee would inquire into the advantages of money being spent on harbours by the Scotch Fishery Board.
§ MR. BIRKBECK
said, he thought that after the discussion which had taken place the matter now under debate would be brought prominently under public notice. He did not, however, consider that sufficient attention had been directed to the importance of the fishing interest and the large number of vessels employed in the fishing between; the Forth and the Thames. There wore 411 no less than about 4,600 vessels engaged in fishing in that district; and if Her Majesty's Government would only realize the number of lives that were constantly in such perilous danger for want of harbour accommodation they would not only be conferring a lasting benefit upon these poor men, but they would be doing still more—it would be the means of increasing the supply of food to the country, and satisfy the clamour for a cheaper supply of fish. He should have been very glad had the President of the Board of Trade informed the House of the number of lives that were saved by the Board of Trade rocket apparatus on the North-East Coast of England. He had the honour to be connected with the National Lifeboat Institution, which, during the last two years, had saved no less than 676 lives between the Thames and the Forth. Here, if it was required, was ample proof of the necessity of the harbours of refuge. He must say he was perfectly shocked that so large an amount of money was to be spent on Dover Harbour; and as regarded Filey, from a national point of view, it was the best situation; but he should have preferred it had a Royal Commission been granted and an inquiry held into the whole question. This would have been much more satisfactory than a Committee such as was now proposed. There were dangerous places on the Norfolk and Suffolk Coast, and the outlying banks of the Thames were matters of serious importance. They had no harbours of refuge for ships on this particular Coast, and he did hope the Government would see their way to give some consideration to this most dangerous portion of the Coast of the United Kingdom.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
said, he rose to say a few words, especially with reference to what had fallen from the hon. Member for Dover (Mr. Fresh-field). The hon. Member had made some remarks on the conduct of the late Government in declining to proceed with so important a matter as Dover Harbour; and he added, rather contemptuously, that he regretted very much that the scheme was abandoned on financial grounds. The hon. Member received a sympathetic cheer from Gentlemen below the Gangway opposite, who disliked extravagance much, but disliked Lord Beacons field's Government more, and with whom, if Lord Beaconsfield did 412 anything in the way of economy, expenditure seemed to find favour. He (Sir Stafford North cote) could only say, however, that the subject of Dover Harbour lay quite apart from this particular Motion. The Motion of the hon. Member for Berwickshire (Mr. Marjoribanks) had led to the Government mentioning their intention to proceed with Dover Harbour. When that proposal was made, it would be for the House to consider and approve it; but it had nothing to do with the question then before them. As to the Motion of the hon. Member for Berwickshire, it might be said that nobody had a right to object to a Committee which the Government were prepared to grant. If the Government considered that there was sufficient ground for an inquiry into the harbour accommodation on the Coasts of this country, and that a Committee could throw further light upon it, by all means let such a Committee be appointed. He could only say that he hoped the Committee would not be one which would call up false hopes, as some Commissions had done in former times, and particularly one dealing with this question, by making recommendations which were easy enough to make on paper, but which the Government found it impossible to take up. He was glad to hear the proposal as to the loans to be made by the Commissioners; but he wished to put in one word of caution. The Loan Commissioners were gentlemen who rendered considerable service to the country, and he hoped that it was not intended to set them aside either by the action of a Committee or of the House itself. Of course, whatever rules the House liked to lay down should be laid down; but it would, be a bad example if they interfered with the complete responsibility of those gentlemen of administering the law when it was law. He knew quite well—and so did all those who had been connected with the Treasury—how hard was the pressure brought to bear on those gentlemen, and how conscientiously they discharged their duty. With regard to the question of Dover Harbour, that was a matter which rested upon different grounds, and he would not now discuss it; but he only rose to say that the present proposal was one which they might accept.
§ Motion agreed to.413
§ Ordered, That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the Harbour accommodation on the Coasts of the United Kingdom, having regard to the laws and arrangements under which the construction and improvement of Harbours may now be effected.