HC Deb 06 March 1884 vol 285 cc657-8

asked the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies, with reference to that part of the Report of the Royal Commissioners on Jamaica which states that the Rio Cobre Irrigation Works, recently constructed at an actual cost of £150,000, may, under certain probable contingencies, have to be abandoned altogether, and also as to the Ewarton Railway Extension Scheme, estimated to cost £263,000, On whose recommendation were the said works undertaken, whether they were sanctioned by the Secretary of State for the Colonies; and, whether, before so sanctioning them, he had required and received the usual plans and estimates of the probable cost of the works, and of their probable returns; and, if he will lay upon the Table of the House copies of all such documents as are now in the Colonial Office?


The total capital cost of the Rio Cobre works was about £133,000. They were undertaken on the recommendation of Sir J. P. Grant, when Governor of Jamaica, and the original scheme was sanctioned by the Secretary of State. He received apparently careful Estimates and plans, and a return of 5 per cent was anticipated by the Governor on the original Estimate, which, however, was largely exceeded by purchase of land, deviations, and extraordinary accidents by floods. The Commissioners, in their Report, point out that the low return on the outlay is greatly due to the neglect of the occupiers to avail themselves of the water, and they only contemplate the abandonment of the works in case of some great accident, which would necessitate a new loan. This, I hope, is not a probable contingency. The Ewarton Railway was also sanctioned by the Secretary of State on the recommendation of the Government of Jamaica, after reference to the consulting engineers, Messrs. Hawkshaw. I think it undesirable to produce Papers respecting the details of public works in a Colony unless there has been some serious controversy on the subject calling for the interference of Parliament.