§ MR. DAWSON (Leeds, E.)
, in rising to move the following Resolution:—That, in view of the existing depression of trade, and the large number of persons out of employment, this House is of opinion that the present is a favourable time for the Government to carry out certain valuable and necessary public works, more especially the formation of Harbours of Refuge, at various points upon the Coast,said, that he felt that some apology was due to the House for his having brought such an important subject before their notice so soon after his becoming a Member. The great necessity, however, which existed for doing something for those who were out of employment, and for those who were exposed to the perils of the Coast, would, he trusted, be held as an excuse. There were two ways in which the House might approach the consideration of this Motion — either from the humanitarian or from the business-like point of view. He wished the House to consider it not as a question of providing relief for the unemployed, but to consider whether if there were certain works which ought to be carried out at the present moment, and works which were necessary, this was not on other accounts a suitable and fitting time for such works to be carried out? They had heard from the President of the Local Government Board that it had been the practice of Her Majesty's Government to urge upon Local Bodies the necessity of carrying out works in their own districts; but his point was that there were certain works which could not be carried out by the localities alone, and which required the assistance of the Executive Government of the country. He believed that it had been agreed that some money ought to be 644 expended upon the fortifications of the country; and, if that were so, this was surely a good time for the Government to carry out these works. The works, however, to which he more particularly referred were the formation of harbours of refuge at various points of the Coast. There were, roughly speaking, three kinds of harbours—purely commercial harbours, great national harbours of defence; and, thirdly, smaller harbours of refuge. With regard to the commercial harbours, these, he admitted, must be considered upon a commercial basis; and he did not ask the House to assert that they ought to be made at the expense of the State. The case, however, was very different with regard to the great harbours of national defence, which it was admittedly the duty of the Central Government to carry out. The East Coast of England, where an enormous proportion of our trade passed up and down, was particularly exposed in case of war to the attacks of foreign nations; and he had the authority of Sir Astley Cooper Key and Sir Frederick Evans for saying that there was not upon the East Coast a single harbour in which Her Majesty's ships could take refuge in case of damage. When one reflected upon the absolute necessity of our having the complete command of the sea to prevent our being starved into submission within a few weeks, it was alarming to think of the defenceless condition of the East Coast. From the Thames to Cape Wrath there were no fewer than 92 harbours, and of these only 12 had at this moment a depth of 8 feet at low water; while it had been declared on good authority that the very lowest depth at the entrance to a harbour ought to be 10 feet. The Government had resolved to carry out works at Dover; but why they had selected Dover in preference to Filey was one of those mysteries which they would probably never be able to fathom. Looking at the evidence of the various Committees that sat to inquire into the subject, there appeared to have been a great agreement of opinion in favour of Filey. But upon the present occasion he did not ask the House to express any opinion with regard to these large harbours. They would entail much delay in the preparation of plans and specification, and works of this kind would be practically worthless for attaining the object he had in view— 645 namely, the relief of present distress. What he wanted the House to consider was the subject of the small refuge harbours, which were greatly required, more especially on the East and Cornish Coast, along the Bristol Channel, and on the West Coast of Ireland. Repeated Committees had reported as to the pressing necessity of such harbours. So long ago as 1858 a Committee of that House reported that certain works of this nature were an absolute necessity, and recommended that a grant of £2,000,000 should be made to carry them out. In 1859 another Committee sat to report upon various sites, and recommended that £2,365,000 should be expended on certain works; and by referring to the pages of Hansard it would be found that in 1860 the House was asked to consider the question, and a Resolution was carried that it was necessary to give immediate effect to this recommendation of the Committee. From that time, however, down to the present, practically nothing had been done. He hoped, however, that the adoption of that Resolution might be of good omen, and that the Resolution which he was now bringing forward might also be adopted; but he trusted that the present Government would, in that event, not follow the example of previous Governments, and allow the Resolution to remain a dead-letter. In 1883 and 1884 a Committee, presided over by the right hon. Member for Berwickshire (Mr. Marjoribanks), sat, and reported that nothing had been done. The average annual loss of ships on our Coasts was between 3,000 and 3,500; the annual loss of property over £2,000,000; the average loss of life between 800 and 900. It was the duty of the country to try and prevent this enormous loss of life and property. The Committee of 1884 reported that there—Is on certain parts of our Coast a great and preventible loss of property and life, which would undoubtedly he reduced by an increase of deep-water harbours, which may be accessible to vessels using them at all states of the tide.The fishing population was deeply interested in this matter. A high authority had stated that the annual value of the British fisheries was £11,000,000, and the number of men actually engaged in the fisheries on sea besides those engaged in the fishing industry on shore was 125,000. This large population and this important source of national food 646 and wealth were largely dependent on the proper supply of harbours of refuge. In an admirable speech which the right hon. Member for Berwickshire delivered in 1884, he called the attention of the House to the enormous loss of life in the great gale of November 1875, and again in 1881, when there were lost in one single day on the Coast of Berwickshire the lives of 191 fishermen. So great at present were the risks to which fishing vessels were exposed from the deficiency of harbour accommodation that the authorities at Lloyd's refused to insure them. He understood by the reply of the President of the Board of Trade to a deputation last Wednesday that it was the opinion of that right hon. Gentleman that it was of benefit to fishermen that there should be a deficiency of harbour accommodation, because such deficiency made the shipowners the more careful in the equipment of their vessels before sending them to sea. That line of argument would show that the best thing to be at once done was to abolish all lighthouses and other life-saving apparatus. It had been said that England would compare favourably with the nations of Europe in what she spent. What had the Government done in the last 25 years? During that time the Loans Commissioners had advanced about £2,500,000; but other countries had done almost as much. In the same period the following sums had been spent on the same object: — Holland £2,500,000, Belgium £2,700,000, Germany (excluding Wilhelmshaven) £1,100,000, Spain £1,720,000, Italy (without Spezzia) £1,500,000, and France £11,000,000; so that whatever this country might have done it could not compare favourably with other countries, considering its insular character. It might be argued by the Government that the public Treasury was not full enough to justify the expenditure of £3,000,000 on harbours of refuge, that being the sum said to be wanted by the Society for the Extension of National Harbours of Refuge. But, however empty the Treasury might be, such a sum would certainly be voted in a case of national emergency abroad. Why, then, should it not be voted in a case of national emergency at home? It might also be objected that the localities interested should bear the burden of construction. In many cases, no doubt, 647 they would; but they should also be assisted by the Government, and loans should be made very easy. But in many cases the localities that most needed the harbours were just the very places that would be unable either to find the money or the security for a loan. In 1883 between the Humber and Cape Wrath there had been £1,377,000 lent to 11 harbours, with an income of over £2,000 a-year, and only £19,205 to five places with less than £2,000 income. In that district there were between 40 and 50 harbours relying mainly or entirely on fishing, and only about four of them had more than £2,000 a-year, and only eight had received loans. He also contended that the Loans Commissioners were most unwilling to make loans to private individuals or Companies, and He thought that should not be the case. In the four years ending March, 1881, the average annual amount granted was £68,000, while £250,000 was refused. If the harbours were necessary, and the people were willing to construct them, he contended that it was wrong for them to be sent empty away from the Loans Commissioners, because they were not entirely satisfied with the security which the poor fishermen were able to give. Grants of money should be made in such cases. One of these places that could not give security was Eyemouth, where the loss of 191 lives to which he had just referred occurred. Those lives would have been saved had a proper harbour existed; and the reason why there was no such harbour was that the fishermen were unable to give the security required by the Loans Commissioners. The week before last 50 lives were lost on the Coast; yet no notice had been taken of the matter. Had 50 lives been lost in Burmah great excitement would have been manifested. He held that the construction of harbours of refuge was a matter of national concern, and that this was recognized in the country was shown by the Petitions supporting the project that had come from Nottingham, Lincoln, Bradford, Leeds, and other inland towns. Nov, he would like to ask the House what would be the result which might be expected to accrue from the construction of these harbours over and above the saving of life? First, there would be an enormous development of the fishing industry, which it was estimated might 648 be doubled with proper harbour accommodation. In 1856 Grimsby sent inland 1,500 tons of fish; but in 1881, with improved harbour accommodation, it sent inland 50,000 tons; and it was the same with many other places. One of the great mistakes the Government had always made in regard to Ireland had been to make grants for nets and boats, when they might have done much more good by providing better harbour accommodation. The Report of the Committee that sat in 1884 placed on record that nothing was more likely to lead to the development of the resources of Ireland than the improvement of the harbour accommodation of the country. If harbours were improved and increased in number the number of fishermen would soon be doubled, employment would be found by deserving persons, and the immigration of country people into the largo towns of the Kingdom, which was so great a cause of distress, would soon diminish in its extent. As an illustration of this point, he might mention that in 1852 the harbour of Wick had over 1,000 boats employed in the fishing trade, and caught 80,000 crans of fish. At the same time the harbour of Fraserburgh had 190 boats, and caught 22,000 crans of fish; while Peterhead had 242 boats, and caught 16,000 crans of fish. In 1862 there was a difference of opinion between Wick and the authorities in London, the consequence of which was that the Wick Harbour works fell into disrepair, while Fraserburgh and Peter-head were busily employed in improving theirs. The result was that in 1882 Wick, instead of having 1,000 boats, had only 600, and caught 69,000 crans of fish against 80,000 in 1852, while Fraserburgh had come up from 190 boats to 900, and Peter head from 242 to 822. These facts were sufficient to show that a great development of the fishing industry might be expected from improved harbour accommodation. There would be a further result, which was of a purely national character. A great deal had been said about the necessity of forming a large Naval Reserve of Naval Volunteers as a means of defending the Coasts of this country. Now, if the number of our fishermen was doubled, there would at once be a recruiting ground for the Navy, and for the formation of a Reserve, which would 649 be an immense source of strength to this country in the event of a war. In the remarks he had made he had not ventured to specify to the House where harbours should be constructed; but he was quite satisfied that almost every Gentleman who took part in the debate would suggest a different site for such a work. He only wished to affirm the principle that these works were necessary, and would be beneficial; that being the case, they should be done at once. Some time or other such works must be done, and he contended that the present time in the condition of the labour market was a most suitable opportunity. Some of his friends had said the doctrines he had been advancing on the subject were of a Socialistic tendency. He did not think they were; but he knew that there had been former occasions when the Government of this country had given employment to distressed people. If a famine broke out in India at this moment, the Government would give its sanction to public works for its relief. In Ireland, also, in the famine years, for the purpose of giving employment, works were carried out, though many were absolutely useless. He admitted that it was not desirable that a Government should engage in operations which would of necessity clash with private enterprize. What he proposed would not have that effect, because, unless the work was of a paying nature, private enterprize would have nothing to do with it. But there were works which might, in a national sense, be so remunerative that, though not likely to attract private enterprize, a Government ought to undertake them. Something had been said about convict labour being employed in the course of time. But if they were to trust to convict labour for these works no person in that House would see the beginning of them. Dover Harbour would take 25 years; Filey would take a long time; and, unless they trusted to other labour, 30 or 40 years might elapse before the works which he had in view were taken in hand. For them convict labour was unsuited. They were too small to justify the outlay which would, in the first place, be required for the construction of barracks for the convicts. The Report of the Committee of 1884 was very strong against convict labour being made to subserve the construction of these harbours. At present we could 650 not shut our eyes to the fact that there was an enormous amount of suffering among the working population; and, what was more, that the long continuance of this distress might pave the way for dangerous doctrines and opinions, to which some ears might be only too willing to listen. In London it was said that some 7,000 or 8,000 men came to the Docks every day looking for work, and went away without getting it. He had heard that something like 50,000 persons in the pool and the upper reaches of the Thames were out of employment, and that in Poplar, which used to be a perfect hive of industry, one house in four in the High Street, which was a mile long, was unoccupied. Birmingham, Liverpool, Sunderland, and many other largo towns were also suffering enormously. It was impossible to give employment to all; but the Motion had been framed in such a way, by laying stress on the small harbours in various districts, that a great influx of labour would not be attracted into any one of them, and the labour of the districts themselves would be prevented from flocking into the large towns. Besides, the labour might be got cheaply. He was told that men who used to get 8d. an hour would now be glad to earn 3d. or 4d. He had to thank the House for the attention with which it had heard him, and to apologize for having trespassed so long upon its time. He trusted the Motion might receive favour-' able consideration; for it was designed to do something towards alleviating the distress which they behold on every side and deplored, and to do so in a way that would especially commend itself to this nation, that owed so much of its power and wealth in the past, and must trust so much for its very existence in the future, to the welfare of its seafaring population. Believing, as he did, that if this Motion was carried it would be the means of relieving distress and saving a preventible loss of life at sea, he felt that he should not be doing his duty if he did not press it to a division. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving the Reesolution which stood in his name.
§ MR. BORLASE (Cornwall, St. Austell)
said, he rose to second the Resolution so ably moved by the hon. Member for East Leeds. He did so with the greatest gratification, because, at a time like the present, when it was supposed they were on the eve of a great Party struggle, it 651 was very pleasant indeed to find that there was a subject like that which transcended mere Party politics, and on which both sides of the House might meet together in full accord to discuss the welfare of one class, and the life itself of another. The Resolution aimed at two things, and its object might be said to be assuredly noble. It was proposed to utilize the opportunity offered by the fact of so many hundreds of thousands being out of employment, to perform one of the greatest services it was possible to render to the cause of humanity in the land. Then the question arose whether his hon. Friend who submitted the Resolution was not attempting more than he could possibly perform; whether the two objects were really germane to one another; and whether the poor persons who at that moment were out of employment were the fittest and most proper to do this peculiar kind of work; and whether that employment would do anything to relieve the vast amount of pressure now brought to bear upon the Metropolis? To this last difficult question he thought there could be but one answer. When his hon. Friend asked him to second the Resolution, he said he would do so only on one condition—that it took up the line adopted last year by the hon. Member for Berwickshire, who had so truly pointed out that the small Coast harbours should, in order to be useful in saving life and property, be made deeper than they were. But if this work were to be done, it ought to be done by labour on the spot. If his hon. Friend pleaded that by work of this kind they would be relieving the pressure on the Metropolis, he ventured to think his hopes would not be verified. There was a vast pressure from the country into the Metropolis, which came for the most part, curiously enough, from the two centres where these harbours of refuge were required—namely, on the South-West and East Coasts. So far, however, as his hon. Friend's Resolution bore upon the granting of loans from the Consolidated Fund for the creation of those small harbours he was fully in accord with him, and so far he seconded the Resolution with pleasure. One of the most important documents contained in our Blue Books was a Memorandum published by the Board of Trade in 1864, and written in 1860, by Sir Thomas 652 Farrer, who said that even then, 25 years ago, Committee after Committee, Commission after Commission, had inquired, and were inquiring, into the subject of lighthouses, harbours, and other means of preventing shipwreck. In 1857–8 a Select Committee was appointed; but it did not specify, any more than the right hon. Member for Berwickshire, any particular points of the Coast, but roughly indicated where those harbours were required, and suggested an expenditure of about £2,000,000. As to the mode of raising the money, the conclusion of the Committee was that, to some extent, the expenditure ought to be a national one, and to some extent local. In August, 1858, a Royal Commission was appointed to complete the inquiry of the Select Committee. It was intended that this Commission should indicate the particular sites; but it did not do so, confining itself to a statement of the broad basis upon which it was desirable to proceed. It recommended that when there was an entire or virtual absence of local interests or local industry to be benefited, where the advantage conferred was exclusively on the passing trade, the cost ought to be borne by the public funds. The Commission recommended eight different districts for the construction of harbours, and an expenditure of £4,000,000 in all, of which £2,390,000 was to be borne out of the Consolidated Fund. When the fishing and trading interests were considerable they recommended a loan. A Resolution was passed in the House of Commons in 1860 which called upon the Government of the day to carry out these recommendations as speedily as possible. The Commission expected to raise £1,625,000 from local sources; but there was nothing in the evidence to justify such an expectation. When the Committee came to consider his (Mr. Borlase's) own county, the people of which were poor, they proposed to provide Cornwall with two harbours—one at an expenditure of £400,000 at St. Ives, and another at an expenditure of £40,000 at Padstow. He need hardly say that in neither one case had the recommendation of the Commission been carried out. He saw that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, in reply to a deputation upon this subject, had stated that he had not been at the Board of Trade long enough to have ransacked 653 the pigeon-holes on this subject; and he (Mr. Borlase) hoped that when the right hon. Gentleman came to reply to those representations he would reply from his heart, and not from the pigeon-holes of the Department. "Whether the pigeonholes were Liberal or Tory, it was always the same pigeon that came out of them. He (Mr. Borlase) contended that they were not subsidizing trade in any sort of way in what they were asking, or that they were actuated by any consideration of the value of the vessels which were lost. They asked merely that life might be protected. It was asserted that vessels were ill-found, and that to provide harbours of refuge would encourage unscrupulous owners to send their vessels to sea improperly fitted, They might depend upon it that until the principle, somewhat modified, perhaps, but still the principles of the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham, were put, into practice, ill-found vessels would be sent on voyages, whether there were harbours of refuge for them to go into or not. But it was on behalf of the fishing vessels for which he was there chiefly to plead. All interested in fishing, he thought, must feel the deep debt of gratitude which they owed to his right hon. Friend the Member for Berwickshire (Mr. Marjoribanks); and the House itself must feel a deep debt of gratitude to him for having presided over the Commission which brought together such a mass of evidence on the subject—evidence that was invaluable, though not exhaustive. What his right hon. Friend pleaded for in 1880 he (Mr. Borlase) pleaded fornow. It was for the deepening of a number of little harbours, which would not cost a great deal of money, but which, being now mere tidal harbours, were traps for the unwary. Those harbours should be deepened to 10 feet, or he would say a little more, in order to provide against the dangers arising from what was now a back swell. The Commission presided over by his right hon. Friend issued its Report in July, 1884, and recommended the creation of a number of small harbours at distances from each other of about 40 or 50 miles, and also of other places of refuge, and the application of public funds to the purpose; but it did not indicate the particular places where such works should be undertaken. He need not detain the House by quoting from the Reports; but it was impossible 654 to suggest that loans would be of any use whatever in nine-tenths of those places. The reason was that where the physical conformity of the shore was rugged and dangerous, with high and beetling crags, there usually the land inside was bleak and uncultivated; and the resident population, as in many parts of Cornwall, consisted of humble fishermen who were utterly unable to provide money to meet such loans. They had had within the last day or two the advantage of hearing what the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade had to say about this matter. It appeared from what he said that he had been much troubled already for money; that he had been approached by a considerable number of deputations; and that he expected to be approached by other deputations, all asking for millions, which must be obtained from the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He (Mr. Borlase) did not know what other people had been asking for money; but he felt certain that the right hon. Gentleman need fear no ill-will on the part of the British taxpayer if he allowed a sum of money to be devoted to the object mentioned in the Resolution. Whether the taxpayer lived in the middle of the country or upon the shore, there was no subject more dear to the minds of Englishmen than the welfare of our sailors. Whether they judged popular feeling in this matter by our poetry, by our national ballads, by pictures exhibited in the galleries, or, if he might come to more recent times and say, by popular pieces put on the stage—there was one performing in the Strand then—in every case they found evidence of a desire to do all that could be done to preserve those in peril on the sea. Then there was the question about going to the Treasury. It was an extraordinary thing that trade could be subsidized by foreign wars; that the Foreign Office, the Colonial Office, the War Office, the Admiralty could approach the Treasury without any fear of being sent empty away; but when it was a question not of deliberately subsidizing trade by taking life, but of indirectly helping it by saving life, not a penny could the Home Departments ever get from the Treasury. He could assure the right hon. Gentleman that on this point public opinion was ripe for action. He should like, 655 if he might be allowed to do so, not to indicate any particular spot in Cornwall, but to say a word about the whole county generally. He approached this question with a deep feeling of responsibility. He came from a county which had just 200 miles of Coast, from the Lizard Point, round the Land's End, to Hartland, the most wild, desolate, and bleak Coast of England, and around which there was not one single harbour which was not a tidal harbour. The prevalent gales on that Coast were from the North-West, and in that case it was a lee shore all the way. He thought if the President of the Board of Trade had lived all his life down there, and had seen some of the wrecks he (Mr. Borlase) had seen, he would not make some of the excuses which he had made in reference to this matter. He did not think he would make the excuses about subsidizing trade if he had seen, as he (Mr. Borlase) had seen, nine bodies washed into one little cove there, or that he would say harbours of refuge for the purpose of saving life were of no use whatever. He wished the hon. Baronet the Member for West Cornwall (Sir John St. Aubyn) was present. He certainly could have confirmed what he (Mr. Borlase) had stated. He would have been able to tell them how—he believed it was in 1866—there were 14 wrecks lying around St. Michael's Mount, in Mount's Bay—wrecks ranging from that of a barque to a small fishing smack. They were all well found; and it was because of the intensity of the gale, and that they had no harbour to flee to, that they were wrecked. On the Coast of the Lizard there was one spot where, within a limit of 6₽ miles, there were nine wrecks in one year, and in one case 24 people out of 25 were drowned, and that within the reach of the voices of those who were on shore. Money was wanted, and money could only come from the Treasury. The right hon. Gentleman had mentioned a universal panacea which they had all found so useful at the General Election—the Local Government scheme. That was a case in which they could not wait for that scheme. There were three ways only in which these harbours could be constructed—(1) by the employment of convict labour; (2) by loans; and (3) by grants from the Exchequer. He had given up all idea of having convict 656 labour, because he had learnt how impossible it was to employ convicts in small places on small works, without greatly increasing the cost of those works. If the question of loans were relegated to the new Local Government scheme, he thought they might bid farewell to it for a considerable time to come. Then they were left, last of all, face to face with grants from the Treasury. That was what he pleaded for, because it had been recommended by two Committees of that House and one Royal Commission; he pleaded for it because they had precedents for it. They had a precedent for it in the case of £250,000 which their Irish Friends would tell them was taken out of the Irish Church Surplus to construct harbours in their country. Then he believed an enormous sum of money had been spent some time ago on the Skerries Lighthouse, and other considerable sums had been spent on lighthouse accommodation. That was precisely on all-fours with the demands which he made. Returning to the Resolution, he could not, as he said, recommend it on the ground that it would do anything to help the unemployed of London; but he believed they could find plenty of unemployed on the spots where these harbours would be necessary; and he believed that to a certain extent, and by commencing works of that sort in the country, they would prevent any future pressure being brought to bear on London. He believed the period of adversity had turned or was turning, and that in six months or a year many industries of this country would be in a better condition than they were at present. They only asked for this as a temporary, and not as a permanent subsidy; and they asked for it with the double purpose of doing great service to humanity and of employing those who were willing and anxious to be employed in the country districts of the land.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "in view of the existing depression of trade, and the large number of persons out of employment, this House is of opinion that the present is a favourable time for the Government to carry out certain valuable and necessary public works, more especially the formation of Harbours of Refuge, at various points upon the Coast,"—(Mr. Dawson,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. JOSEPH CHAMBERLAIN) (Birmingham, W.)
said, his hon. Friend the Member for the St. Austell Division of Cornwall (Mr. Borlase), in the very interesting and sympathetic speech he had just made, had confined himself almost exclusively to that part of the question which dealt with the intrinsic advantages of harbours of refuge. His hon. Friend, no doubt, spoke with authority, as representing, to a large extent, a maritime constituency consisting of a population of fishermen, who were entitled to the sympathy and the interest of the House as being among the most energetic, industrious, and deserving of all the classes of the population in the United Kingdom. But the argument of his hon. Friend went to this—that it was at all times the duty of a Government, out of Government money, to provide harbours of refuge around the Coast; and he was candid enough to say that he would not urge it upon the House with any idea that if these works were undertaken they would have any considerable effect upon the prevailing depression. The hon. Member, however, who introduced the Motion had called in aid the existing want of employment in order to justify his calling the immediate attention of the House to the matter; and it was on that account that he ventured now to intervene for a few minutes between the House and the President of the Board of Trade, whose Office was more directly concerned with the main purport of the question. At the same time, it was one in which he himself had always taken a deep interest, and he hoped he might be allowed to say very briefly why he could not accept the views of his hon. Friend the Member for the St. Austell Division of Cornwall. In the first place, the advocates of works of this kind had never been able to agree among themselves on several very important points. They had not been able to agree as to what kind of harbours the Government should construct—whether, for instance, great harbours of refuge involving enormous expenditure, and which could only, by the physical necessities and financial considerations, be made in a few places, or a number of 658 small harbours — not deep-water harbours—constructed at every prominent point along our Coasts. They had not been able at all to agree as to the places suitable for the construction of these harbours; but when they had gone into detail it had been found that every Representative of a fishing station or a port put forward his special claim for his particular district as being superior to all the rest. Unless the Government and the House were prepared to lay down that in all places which made out any claim harbours should be constructed at the national expense they would give great offence. Then there was the third point on which he found disagreement. What was the object for which these harbours were to be built? Were they to be built in order to save life, or for the advantage of property and trade? [An hon. MEMBER: Both.] The House would see that that was important. If they were to be built for the advantage of trade and commerce, then it became a matter of consideration whether trade and commerce should not bear the expense, and why a particular trade or commerce should be benefited when no other trade demanded similar assistance from the Government. The only ground, in his opinion, upon which there was a claim for national assistance was that those harbours would lead to an enormous diminution in the loss of life at sea. He wished that was the case; but he had convinced himself, by studying all the literature on the subject, that there was no reason to believe that any harbour that could be built would materially affect the loss of life. He believed the creation of harbours, as a matter of national importance, would have a most stimulating effect on the fishing industry, and prove of advantage to the Mercantile Marino; but he did not believe that it would lead to any considerable reduction of loss of life at sea. Let him point out why he said that. Anyone who would look at the wreck charts would find that the loss of life around the Coast was greater on those portions of the Coast already provided with harbours than on those parts entirely without them, thus showing conclusively that something besides harbours had to do with this matter, and that the conditions of loss were not removable by the erection of harbours. Then, again, it had further been found by careful examination that the loss of life within 15 miles 659 of the Coast was small in proportion to the total loss of life at sea. The greater part of it took place under circumstances in which a harbour could not be of the slightest advantage. Even with regard to loss of life on the Coast and within 15 miles it was found that the great proportion was due to causes altogether independent of the existence of harbours. A great many losses took place in an offshore wind, during exceptional gales, as in the case of the disaster at Shetland, where some 100 brave fishermen lost their lives under circumstances in which it would have been absolutely impossible for them to have made any harbour of use. They were caught in undecked boats, and they went to the bottom. For these and other reasons, he said, it had been found that the proportion of loss of life at sea had not been appreciably affected by the existence of harbours, or if it was affected it would be to a very small extent indeed. If even that loss of life was to be affected, he might, to use the language of his Predecessor, Mr. Milner Gibson, say—"You must find some means of towing a harbour at the back of every ship." Unless they had a harbour actually on the spot, convenient to the ship at the moment when it was in danger, it was of as little use for the purpose of saving life as if it were 100 miles away. Therefore, he did not think a case could be made out on the humanitarian ground for State assistance. But he believed a case could be made out on commercial grounds, and that State assistance the State had always been willing to afford—that was to say, upon anything like a local guarantee, the State had been willing to advance money at very low rates of interest for the promotion of such works. In doing that, he thought it had done all it could wisely do. When they called in the assistance of the Local Authority they had the advantage of local knowledge, supervision, and management in the creation of the works, and they also got a responsibility which gave them some assurance that the money would be wisely and usefully expended. If the State were to undertake the work they would have very little security that the money would be well and economically expended; harbours would very likely be put where they were not wanted, and neither trade nor anything else would be benefited. He would proceed to the matter which had brought him on 660 his legs—namely, the hope in which his hon. Friend had indulged that if these works were sanctioned by the State at the present time they would be a relief for the existing distress. He was very sorry that he had not been able to receive such information on this subject as he could have wished. That was not his fault. He was glad to see his Predecessor in the House. Up to the time the late Government left Office no inquiry was instituted by the Department, and the inquiry had to be commenced from the moment that he accepted Office. He sent out letters immediately to all the Boards of Guardians in the Metropolis, and then to all the Vestries, then to about 100 Provincial Boards of Guardians, then to a great number of private individuals likely to afford information; and, lastly, a very important correspondence had taken place with the leading trade unions. The general results he could state in a few words, and he did not think it necessary to trouble the House with figures. The Returns of pauperism, whether in the Metropolis or in the country, showed a slight increase, an increase over the last two years on the whole of less than 5 per cent. as compared with the last year. The Returns exhibited the distress as partial; it existed only in certain Unions in the country and certain portions of the Metropolis. Although it was an increase upon recent years, it was a great decrease on some previous periods. In 1870 the total number of persons in receipt of Poor Law relief in the Metropolis was 160,000; whereas, at the present time, it was about 100,000. It had been as low as 86,000 in the course of the 17 years, and it was important that the House should bear in mind that the population of London had, during that time, enormously increased; so that he believed it would be found that the amount of actual pauperism in the Metropolis, and probably in the rest of the country, was less per 1,000 than it had been for a great number of previous years. That was all the information he could get as far as pauperism was concerned, and from that point of view the distress was not very exceptional, and did not require exceptional measures. The Boards of Guardians expressed an opinion that under the present law, and with the present facilities, they were quite capable of dealing with the question; and 661 they hoped—a sentiment in which they would all agree—that as the distress had been increased by the extraordinary severity of the weather, when the weather became milder the exceptional distress might disappear. Now, if that was all, he did not think they had much cause for alarm; but he thought it necessary to pursue his inquiries further than the Poor Law Authorities, because he was under the impression, which, he was sorry to say, had been fully confirmed, that there was a great deal of distress among the better class of artizans and labourers, which could not and did not come to the knowledge of the officials of the Poor Law Guardians. Nothing was more wonderful or more admirable than the way in which the better class of working men in the United Kingdom shrank from any resort to the Poor Law, undergoing the greatest privations, amounting almost to actual starvation, rather than have recourse to what they believed to be degradation. It had been found that the greatest difficulty of the Guardians was to induce by any means this class of persons to disclose their circumstances. At the same time, the opinions he had received were almost generally to the effect that the distress among the class to which he referred, who were, ordinarily, in continuous employment and did not generally apply for pauper relief, was now very great, and had been increasing. He confessed unless it diminished, if it even continued, it would be a matter for the most serious consideration of the Government and the House what steps were to be taken to relieve it. He, for one, had no idea of pretending that the House and the Government were not responsible for some measures to deal with this distress. Then the question arose whether a proposal such as that now before them would be of advantage to those whom it was intended to benefit? State works of every kind always laboured under this disadvantage—that they were uneconomical, for the reasons which he had stated in connection with harbours. Moreover, another serious objection to them was that of necessity State works must be local—that was to say, the State could not undertake large works in every locality, but only in a few. Therefore the relief given by such works would be confined to a few districts. He could assure hon. Members that the existing distress I was not confined to London; it was almost 662 universal throughout the country; and in every district and in every Union there were persons belonging to different trades, skilled artizans as well as unskilled labourers, who were at the present time in want of employment. Therefore, what was necessary, if they were to deal with it effectually, was that the works should be undertaken in every Union; and if the State were now to undertake works, he thought there would be the greatest dissatisfaction throughout the country if these works started only in one or two localities. But if the works were required, and must ultimately be undertaken in each locality, then he could not see what reason there was why the State should interfere. The responsibility both of initiating and managing them ought to rest on the Local Authorities, who had certainly the power of managing them better and cheaper than could otherwise be done. If the works were to be universal, there would be no advantage in the State undertaking them. The locality must, of course, pay its fair share, and it would be much better that it should pay directly, and have the control and management of them. Therefore, his hope and belief was, that the ultimate remedy for exceptional distress of the kind they had to deal with was to be found in the increasing activity of Local Authorities, which he believed had already been very considerably stimulated, and which he hoped further to stimulate, and which might, no doubt, be assisted by liberal terms in the shape of loans from the State for those purposes for which loans were provided. But when the hon. Member opposite suggested that a great harbour at Filey, for instance, or at some other part of the Coast, would be in itself an assistance to the unemployed, he thought the hon. Gentleman really could not have worked out the problem.
§ MR. DAWSON
said, that he had expressly confined himself to the question of the construction of smaller harbours.
§ MR. JOSEPH CHAMBERLAIN
said, that the hon. Member had spoken at some length upon the question of works at Dover and Filey; and he had thought that it had been more particularly with regard to works of this description that the hon. Member had been pressing his Motion on the Government. ["No!"] But whether they were dealing with two or three great harbours on the Coast, or with 30 or 40 smaller harbours, in all 663 cases the same thing would happen. In the first place, they would have to call in a certain number of skilled labourers. Harbour work was not unskilled work. Employment such as under-water work, for instance, required persons to be trained for it for a long time. Therefore, what they would be doing by abnormally increasing this kind of work would be to bring into a particular trade a number of persons who would not otherwise be brought into it. Sooner or later this work would cease, and then there would be a surplus of workmen in a trade which had been artificially stimulated. But the amount of labour which was now seeking employment, and which could be used on harbours, would form a very small proportion indeed of the total expenditure in wages. And how was that labour to be brought to the spot? The hon. Member for Leeds (Mr. Dawson) spoke of 7,000 persons who were daily applying for work at the East End. He (Mr. Chamberlain) thought that if the hon. Gentleman were to apply to them not 1 per cent would accept his offer. ["No, no!"] Hon. Gentlemen who said "No" knew nothing whatever about the conditions of this very peculiar population. He could tell them of a Relief Committee that offered to 135 of these men extra work at 2s. 6d. a-day in sweeping the streets. Only 15 accepted the offer; and of the 15 only 11 appeared at the work, and only five remained at it. There were a number of persons—a floating population—who would not accept fixed labour of that kind. And as to the population they were most desirous to benefit—skilled artizans and others, who were out of their regular employment—many of them could not undertake harbour work if it were offered to them. He had got a most touching account of a case in point. In the Prescott Union, where there were a great number of watch-movement makers out of work, the Guardians had opened a stoneyard for their advantage, and what was the result? These poor fellows had explained to the Guardians, and the Guardians supported their representation, that if they were set to stone-breaking their whole facility for their work would be absolutely and permanently destroyed, and that when trade revived again, as they hoped it might, they would be useless except for 664 the lowest kind of labour. And what was true about the watch-movement makers of Prescott was true also of the jewellers of Birmingham and the engineers and fitters, workers in the textile factory, with whom fineness of touch was of the greatest importance, and people of that description. Thus the class for whom the greatest consideration was necessary would be absolutely without any benefit from the proposal of the hon. Member. But there were other difficulties as well. How were these works to be conducted? Did the hon. Member propose that the Government should itself undertake to carry out the works for 40 or 50 different harbours throughout the country, to send their own engineers down in each case to superintend the works, and their own officers to supervise the workmen? Because if he did not, and if they were to be conducted, as they were at present, by contractors, he might be quite certain these contractors would not take the class of people for whom he wished employment. These could only get employment under special circumstances, by making it a condition that only these men should be employed; but their work would not be so valuable as that of persons accustomed to it. That was another practical difficulty which he thought would seriously interfere with the advantages expected from this proposal. Another point was that a long time would be required for making the plans and estimates of these works. There was absolutely no kind of engineering work at the present time so difficult as the making of harbours, and, unfortunately, about which so little was known, many of the harbours which had been designed having proved utter failures; therefore the greatest care and consideration were required for the plans and estimates before such works were undertaken. If they were to spend 18 months or two years in preparing plans for these harbours—and he sincerely hoped the hon. Member did not contemplate a continuance of the distress for that time—he assured him that they would before that time have to find some other remedy. He did not think it necessary to carry this argument further, except to point out one consideration which was really of great importance. The hon. Member proposed that for the first time the State should undertake the work of private 665 enterprize. The hon. Member told them there were some precedents in his favour; but he had to go for them to India and to Ireland, both of them countries in which exceptional circumstances had alone justified the intervention of the State, and both of them countries in which, he was sorry to say, there was at present no efficient and satisfactory system of representative government. But the hon. Member did not tell them there was any precedent in the United Kingdom; and, as a matter of fact, there was none. Of course, there would be in everybody's recollection the case of the distress in Lancashire at the time of the Cotton Famine. The number of people applying for relief in that county at that time went up from 69,000 to 248,000; and in consequence of the utter cessation of work in large districts immense numbers of artizans were thrown out of regular employment. It was true, the State on that occasion gave assistance to the Local Authorities by lending money on terms which, at that time, were exceptional. These terms had since been made general. It was by the assistance of these loans that the Local Authorities in the case of the Lancashire Cotton Famine were able to deal with the distress, and to establish relief works which became necessary. And that was, as he had already pointed out, the form of relief which would be best calculated to deal with the distress, and which he submitted as an alternative to the proposal of the hon. Member for Leeds. But if the State were for the first time to make an exception, and to undertake public works of a kind which were now, and had been for a long time, undertaken and carried out by private enterprize, let the House consider the serious consequences which would immediately follow. They would put a stop absolutely to all private enterprize in the United Kingdom. Take this one question of harbours. In the course of the last 20 years in 17 ports alone of the United Kingdom there had been spent by private enterprize £23,000,000, and these ports did not include London, Bristol, and some other large places. That was nearly double the whole amount of money that had been spent by the six other great maritime nations of Europe, which had all had recourse to State aid as a means of providing harbours. Now, if localities knew that they could obtain more harbour accommodation, 666 or that there was a chance of obtaining harbours at the expense of the State, was it likely that this expenditure would continue, or that any fresh expenditure would be undertaken? He firmly believed that if the Motion of the hon. Member were passed, and the Government were now to give it effect, that the first result would be that within 12 months there would be more people thrown out of work who were now employed, or likely to be employed, in harbour works by private enterprize, than any number which the State could possibly provide for. For these reasons, although he sympathized most heartily with the desire of the hon. Gentleman both to provide for the safety of our seamen and to provide for the relief of those who were temporarily in distress owing to the present depression in trade, he could not invite the House to accept the Motion.
§ MR. E. W. DENISON (Whitby)
said, the House had had a very serious and important admission from the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Chamberlain), to the effect that the distress in the country was almost universal, and, further, that the distress was of a most aggravated character. This statement, he thought, no one would be inclined to question. Neither would it be disputed that the depression in trade had been followed by the usual consequences—fall of profits, reduction in wages, and increase in the number of unemployed. The distress being very great, something must be done for its relief. The unemployed had, so far, borne their hard lot in an excellent spirit; but too great a demand must not be made upon their patience. It should be remembered that an idle population tended in time to become a criminal population; and they were early taught that for idle hands there was mischief found to do by a certain personage. Men without employment accepted suggestions, pondered over ideas, and contemplated actions which they would have regarded with abhorrence in days when, to-morrow, work was certain, and to-morrow's bread assured. At the present time the air was tremulous with agitation, and there was little doubt that we were on the border land of a vast social upheaval; and it was better that, if it were to come, it should come in a peaceful and Constitutional way than by force and violence. It did not require the French Revolution 667 to teach us that starving men were not apt to use rose-water. It was necessary, therefore, either to remove the causes of the existing depression, or to counteract its effects. Great was the power of that House; but he was well aware that forces beyond the control of the British Parliament regulated trade and commerce, though, undoubtedly, its action could affect those forces for good or for evil. Certain large projects which would have been beneficial to trade were abandoned when Lord Salisbury ceased to be Prime Minister. Further, the agitating zeal of some hon. Members on the Ministerial Benches was much calculated to shake that confidence without which there could be no successful trade. The only way to relieve the prevailing distress was to find employment for those who were unemployed. They did not ask for charity, but for work, which should be of service both to themselves and to the State. The hon. Member who had brought forward this subject had pointed out one direction in which this work might be supplied. Everyone who knew the North-East Coast was aware that it was a Coast of iron, which rose up out of the sea in an unbroken and terrible wall. Driven by the stress of the North-East gales, the seamen had no haven in which to take refuge, and unless they kept away from that inhospitable shore must perish. He had no hesitation in saying that hundreds of lives and many ships might be saved if there were a harbour on that Coast; and any relief work which would save life and property would amply repay the original outlay upon it. The President of the Local Government Board said it would take a long time to prepare plans for harbours; but the plans for a harbour of refuge on the North-East Coast were already prepared, and were the sanction of the Government given the work could begin to-morrow; and this statement held good for other parts of the country, engineers having plans for dealing with every conceivable place where harbours might be constructed; and as to Local Authorities borrowing money, it would be necessary first to create the Local Authorities, and it would take a year or more to constitute, them. He was greatly surprised to find that the President of the Local Government Board, who had been described as "the cherub that sits up aloft, to watch 668 over the life of poor Jack," should oppose this Motion, which, if carried into effect, would do so much for the safety of life at sea. One of the right hon. Gentleman's arguments was of the most extraordinary character. He said that distress was universal, but that the relief which public works would give was only partial. If this argument were carried to its legitimate conclusion it would close the boxes at the Mansion House, and would button up our pockets. It would forbid us to give a shilling to the man who was starving on our doorstep, because we could not give shillings to all the starving men in all the streets of London. According to the right hon. Gentleman, if they could not help all they must not help anyone. Legislation, too, would be greatly curtailed if only those Bills were to pass that redressed all the grievances of all the people in the United Kingdom. Then the right hon. Gentleman dwelt upon the great things to be expected from private enterprize. But if they were to wait until private enterprize invested money in harbours of refuge such harbours would never be constructed. Portland and Plymouth Breakwaters would certainly never have been raised above the waves by private enterprize. The supporters of the Resolution before the House did not ask the House to do anything extraordinary at this time of distress which it would not be well to do any time. Were they to commit themselves to the doctrine that they were to refuse demands which were right and reasonable because a concession to such demands might hereafter lead to demands which were unreasonable? The question was, could they do anything which would, at the same time, help the unemployed, and be of public advantage? The President of the Local Government Board asked the late Government what was their policy as to the unemployed? He had now to answer that question himself, or was the answer to be reserved until April 1, when the secrets of every Ministerial heart were to be made known, and the contents of Pandora's box were to be disclosed? At all events, they had a right to ask whether the views of the Government were in accordance with those of the Foreign Secretary, who lately advocated the curtailment of the hours of labour? Those views were essentially Socialistic. They were identical with the views of the 669 speakers at the Trafalgar Square meeting, which put a thorn into the side of the Home Secretary. Were those views to be adopted by the Government? At present they stood in this position—that one of their prominent Members had borrowed the Socialistic clothes at the time of the late Election, and then, when they came into Office, they prosecuted the Socialist leaders. Gentlemen on the Front Bench had, no doubt, their dreams of immortality. They could not trust for that to their legislation or to their speeches. Their legislation might be undone, and their speeches forgotten—but there was one thing to which they could trust—that was to the honour which was gained by those whose names were carved and engraved on public works. So far as hon. Gentlemen opposite had gone, history could only recognize their genius for destruction. If they cared in the least about their future reputation, they ought gladly to agree to a Resolution which would enable them to give proofs of constructive ability. Bearing in mind the urgent need that existed for relief works, he had been astounded to hear that the Government intended to oppose the Motion.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR (Manchester, E.)
said, that the hon. Member who had brought forward the Resolution had apologized for taking charge of so important a subject. He felt sure that everyone who had listened to the hon. Member's speech would agree that no such apology was needed. The President of the Local Government Board, in his reply to the hon. Member, had shown himself opposed to the construction of harbours, and appeared to think that harbours were of very little use indeed, except for commercial purposes, and that they would hardly at all serve the purpose which the hon. Member had in view—namely, the saving of human life. The right hon. Gentleman pointed out that in localities where harbours most abounded loss of life mostly occurred. That view was in direct opposition to the opinion of the Committee of which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Berwickshire was Chairman in 1884; for in the Report of that Committee it was stated that the great loss of life and property at sea would be reduced by an increase in the number of deep-water harbours accessible to vessels at all 670 states of the tide. One statement the right hon. Gentleman had made was of so extraordinary a character that he could not let it pass without comment. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to be of opinion that it was highly desirable that County Authorities should borrow money for the purpose of constructing harbour works; and he intimated that it was not necessary to wait for the new Local Government scheme, leaving the House impressed with the idea that there was but little hope of the early production of that scheme. That County Authorities should be allowed to borrow for the purpose under consideration was a most extraordinary doctrine. The magistrates in Quarter Sessions constituted the only authority that could possibly exercise the power; and to encourage a body, which, however public-spirited, was not, and did not profess to be, representative, to burden counties with any charges for purposes, however useful, was a doctrine which he did not expect to hear in that House, and least of all from the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman had charged him with not having instituted inquiries as to the extent of the distress during his tenure of Office. As a matter of fact, he did cause inquiries to be made, and he received from the Local Government Board Inspectors throughout the country Reports on the condition of the population. From those Reports he had gathered that it was not among the people who ordinarily applied to the Poor Law Authorities for relief that distress of an exceptional kind existed. The President of the Local Government Board had committed himself to some propositions which might be very embarrassing to him in the future. The right hon. Gentleman said (1) that it was chiefly among the artizan and skilled labourer class that distress prevailed; (2) that this class could not, from the character of their training, take advantage of ordinary relief works, such as making harbours and carrying out sanitary improvements; and (3) that the Government were responsible for dealing with the distress of these persons.
§ Mr. A. J. BALFOUR
Exactly so. The House and the Government were bound to deal with the distress of those classes; but not in the way of sanitary 671 works and analogous undertakings carried on by Local Authorities. How, then, did the right hon. Gentleman propose to deal with them?
§ Mr. JOSEPH CHAMBERLAIN
I thought I had made that perfectly clear in my speech. I said I relied, at all events for the present, upon the stimulus which I thought had been given to Local Authorities to carry out the very kind of works of which the right hon. Gentleman has spoken—namely, sanitary and all other kinds of work connected with the usual business of Local Authorities.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said, the right hon. Gentleman had undoubtedly dwelt upon the utility of that class of works, and in that part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech he concurred; but in another part of his speech he had pointed out the inefficacy of public works to meet the case of skilled artizans; and if their case could not be met by sanitary works executed by Local Authorities, what scheme of relief had the right hon. Gentleman in his mind? The right hon. Gentleman had alluded to the case of Prescott. How were the watchmakers of that town to be relieved if, as the right hon. Gentleman acknowledged, they could not take advantage of harbour or sanitary works? What scheme was the right hon. Gentleman hatching by which he would give relief to this most deserving class of persons? Two, and only two, methods of meeting the distress could be conceived. One was that the Local Authorities should themselves at once take in hand the watch-making industry, and the other that the Government should have recourse to fiscal expedients with the view of protecting that industry from foreign competition. He need hardly say that he did not recommend either course, nor could he conceive of any Government making such a proposition; but if neither of those expedients were to be adopted, what possible scheme could the right hon. Gentleman have in view? Turning now to the main proposition contained in his hon. Friend's Motion, he agreed with the President of the Local Government Board. He agreed that only very partial, if any, relief could be afforded by the construction of harbours to the class whom they chiefly desired to benefit. The distress might be diminished in the localities where 672 such work was instituted; but to the great centres of industry, which were the scenes of the most acute distress, no relief would be brought. Then, supposing it were determined to construct harbours, by what means were the authorities to select for employment upon the work those most in need of it? They were too apt to forget that the money they were spending was not created by a fiat of that House, but was itself drawn largely from the wage-earning class; and where it was not so drawn, it was drawn from that capital which would go to support the wage-earning class. His hon. Friend represented Leeds. How could the construction of a great harbour of refuge on the Coast of Cornwall affect his hon. Friend's constituents? Almost the only way in which they could be affected would be by their having the privilege of paying for it. Therefore, though by constructing such a harbour they would possibly diminish the congestion of labour in Cornwall, they would be doing so at the cost of the very class whom they desired to benefit. But while it was unquestionably true that to undertake works for the sake of giving employment would not benefit but injure the working classes, it was also true that if the erection of these works was in itself desirable now was the time to carry them out. Depression in trade was accompanied and marked by a general lowering of wages; and, therefore, if it were the fact that harbours were required in the public interest, there could be no better moment for constructing them, for in that way they would possibly relieve local distress, and they would certainly construct them at less cost to the public Exchequer. The House and the country had no reason to complain of the manner in which the debate had been conducted. No nobler subject could be offered for their consideration than the relief of distress; but there might be temptations to rashly adopt measures which might appear for the moment to diminish the acute symptoms of the disease, but which would in reality only aggravate them. He was glad to see, by the prevailing tone and by the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, that there was no danger of falling into that particular error. But while the right hon. Gentleman rightly pointed out that, in 673 the interests of the labouring classes themselves, anything in the nature of State public work would be folly, he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would consider whether this was not the proper opportunity for carrying out the harbour works which had been so often recommended by Commissions and Committees. If the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade could give any indication, however faint, that he would favourably consider the very limited proposal of the Committee of 1884, he hoped his hon. Friend behind him would think that by his admirable speech he had got all that he could expect, and that he would not put the House to the trouble of a division.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)
, said, he wished to give his reasons for voting against the Amendment of the hon. Member for Leeds in the event of its being pressed to a division. There was no more dangerous tendency at the present time than the tendency on the part of many Democratic advisers to urge upon those who accepted their counsel that it was the duty of the Government to provide, in seasons of distress and misery, for such distress and misery by special Government action. An hon. Member who supported the Motion said that the unemployed asked for work, and if we wished to relieve the distress it must be by employing the unemployed. It was a dangerous doctrine to teach that it was the duty of the Government to provide employment at all. He submitted that that was not, and ought not to be, one of the functions of Government; and that if such a function could be discharged with advantage it was only in countries where despotic institutions prevailed, and there was no incentive to individual effort. The kind of claim which was made in this Motion on behalf of the poor was one which, if acceded to, would do them more irretrievable and lasting mischief than any other kind of ill that could be done them. If they taught people that when they were hungry the Government had food for them and work for them, they would give them the right to expect, when hungry, that the Government would fulfil their promise. They had seen, within the last few days, a special tendency on both sides of the House to complain that reductions were being contemplated in great Government works; and 674 these complaints had been made quite independent of the consideration whether the reductions were well or ill-advised. They were complained of solely on the ground of the prevailing distress. But on that ground they might justify any extravagance. That which Government works did was to relieve only, in the slightest degree, and very temporarily, the hungry few, while by their addition to expenditure they created a permanent approach to hunger on the part of the many. The great difficulty they had to contend against was the possibility that this country would have less produce-earning ability in the struggle with other nations. They had to face enormously increased Expenditure year by year, and with this the increase of indebtedness; for although it was true that the National Debt had nominally decreased, they had side by side with that an increase of the Local Debt to an amount exceeding any reduction of the National Debt, and the aggregate of the Local Debt was to him a National Debt, which the nation had, in some fashion, to acquit itself of. If the proposal for one kind of works were acceded to on the ground stated, there was no defence against similar proposals for the other kinds of work. But his objection was simply this—that Government interference destroyed and neutralized the self-reliance and individual action of the Local Authorities. It was only from these that they could getredemption; and Governmental relief of the moment was a permanent paralysis of the nation.
§ MR. J. A. BLAKE (Carlow)
said, he wished to urge upon the House the necessity which existed for the construction of harbours of refuge along the Coast of Ireland. The question was one that had been already very fully considered. In 1857 there was a Committee of that House which fully considered the matter, and they came to an unanimous Report in favour of such works. That Committee was followed by a Commission, including men of authority on questions connected with the sea and engineers; and they recommended certain harbours of refuge, of which two were to be on the Coast of Ireland, and a half-dozen on the Coast of England. In 1883 a Select Committee was appointed, of which he was a Member, and again the necessity and advisability of having such works carried out was 675 pointed out and agreed to. He contended that no Member of the House could consider the subject with any care, or have regard to the necessities of the case, without arriving at the conclusion that there was grave and crying necessity for the construction of these works. Some of the most leading nautical men in the Kingdom had been examined at the inquiries to which he had alluded, and expressed themselves in favour of these harbours of refuge. It was not true that the absence of the latter would result in sailors remaining more constantly at their work at sea; and it was also untrue that the question of insurance afforded an argument as against the existence of such harbours; and there was no doubt in the world that hundreds and hundreds of lives would be saved if such ports of refuge existed along the Coasts. Having been an Inspector of Fisheries in Ireland for many years, he could bear personal testimony to the fact that the construction of such harbours would be productive of incalculable advantages to the fisheries' industry, and that was surely a most important consideration. The right hon. Gentleman the late President of the Local Government Board had dwelt very largely upon the desirability of these works for the purpose of relieving distress. He confessed he sympathized very strongly with the existing distress; but he would have preferred that the consideration of these harbours should have been put forward on other grounds. He wished to touch upon the question of a harbour at Waterford. Where such harbours were most desirable, from an Imperial point of view, they conferred very little local benefit. The evidence taken before the Committee that considered this question showed that, from an Imperial point of view, there could be no more important site for a harbour of refuge than Waterford. Ireland had paid far more than her share to the Imperial Exchequer; and he thought he was justified in saying that Ireland would be satisfied to take back some of the millions which England owed her in the form of works of the kind contemplated in the proposition before the House. He had no hesitation in saying—and he spoke with considerable experience on the subject—that both in the direction of humanity, as well as of the maritime interests of 676 the United Kingdom, there could be no outlay of public money more advantageous than a judicious expenditure upon harbours of refuge along the Coast.
§ MR. CONYBEARE (Cornwall, Camborne)
said, that in the Report of the Committee in 1884 and 1885 he thought it was conclusively shown that not only was it desirable that harbours of refuge should be provided on different parts of the Coast, but that of all the points on the Coast the Coast of Cornwall was most in need of such harbours, and most in need of such consideration, if only because of the great poverty of its inhabitants. He could not help feeling, however, that the arguments used by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board, and the junior Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh), were really unanswerable. While they had a perfect right to insist upon the necessity for carrying out these harbour works in the interest of the seamen, as had been so often recommended by Commissions and Committees, he thought they were trailing a herring across the path, if he might say so, when they linked with that suggestion the question of providing work for the unemployed. In his own mind, he thought those who represented maritime constituencies should assist those who were the backbone of the first line of defence of this country—he referred to the seamen, who were in many cases practically disfranchised, and had no direct representation, and who in many instances were obliged to be away from their home during the time of a General Election. He, for one, was not disposed to go to the length proposed by some hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House, who demanded these undertakings of the Government because of the distress existing in the country at the present time; but he should like to point out that the establishment of these harbours of refuge—small harbours, not great national harbours, like those at Dover and Cardiff—would constitute remunerative labour in the best sense of the word, because such harbours would tend to develop the fishing industry, and consequently to increase the food supply of the country; and if, at the same time, they had the courage to put down those pernicious "rings" which existed in some places, and which caused tons of 677 fish to be destroyed in order to keep up the prices, they would be conferring a great boon upon the poor of our large towns. The evidence given before the Committee presided over by the right hon. Member for Berwickshire (Mr. Marjoribanks) showed conclusively that, in the opinion of the best authorities, the establishment of a harbour in Cornwall—at St. Ives for instance—would be a national undertaking in the widest sense of the word, and in no sense a merely local matter. But what he wanted to impress upon the House was the fact that if they set the unemployed to work all round the Coast at the present moment, they would not in a few years be any better off than they were now. They had the figures of the Local Government Board to show that, according to the statistics of pauperism, the condition of the people was not much worse now than in previous years; and, indeed, it was no use shutting their eyes to the fact that this condition of things was chronic. If that were so, as undoubtedly it was, where was the use of starting relief works, or raising Mansion House Funds, for the purpose of temporarily staving off what was recurring year after year? £70,000 or £80,000—what was it? A mere drop in the bucket—a flake in a snowstorm. As John Stuart Mill had said, what was required was more distribution, and a larger remuneration of labour; and these, in his (Mr. Cony-beare's) mind, were the great desiderata for meeting the existing evil. They did not act sufficiently upon the principle that the labourer was worthy of his hire.
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, he must call the hon. Gentleman's attention to the subject before the House. It was the establishment of harbours of refuge round the Coast, and the employment of the population upon them. They were not discussing the general question of pauperism.
§ MR. CONYBEARE
remarked, that he was endeavouring to show that, in connection with this question of the establishment of harbours of refuge, they had to consider—and it had been considered at length by hon. Gentlemen who preceded him—the general question of destitution. ["Order!"]
§ MR. SPEAKER
I call the attention of the hon. Gentleman to the fact that he is out of Order in not confining himself to the Question before the House.
§ MR. CONYBEARE
said, he had to apologize for having travelled beyond the record, and he would not pursue that line of argument. He only wished to point out that in proposing to establish harbours of refuge they really did not meet the great social difficulties which faced them. Such works could at the best be only palliative, and in the course of a few years after they had finished all their undertakings they would find themselves in just the same difficulties that they were in now.
§ MR. GILES (Southampton)
said, he did not desire to argue this matter upon the side issue of finding employment for the unemployed. As the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board had said, the construction of harbours of refuge involved very difficult engineering problems. In these works many skilled engineers and skilled artizans; but only a small portion of the present unemployed labourers would be required. Whatever labour was employed, it would be of advantage to the unemployed; and in these times of destitution every little helped. Now, the Government had established a very good precedent by commencing a harbour of refuge at Dover, although there might be some doubts as to the necessity of a harbour of refuge at that place, it being so near to the Downs, which formed a natural harbour for the Channel. There were many other places on the Coast where harbours of refuge were much more required than at Dover; and he suggested that the Government should consider the question in a broad and comprehensive spirit, and not confine their attention solely to Dover. The Government had at public cost provided ships to protect the nation; and he maintained, therefore, it was part of their duty to provide harbours to protect the ships. Of course, he fully admitted that when they came to determine the different localities in which harbours of refuge should be made, they would have conflicting interests on all sides to contend with. To-night an Irish Member had advocated the making of harbours on the Irish Coast. The Representative of a Cornish constituency had advocated the construction of a harbour on the Cornish Coast; and a Gentleman from Yorkshire had advised the Government to construct a harbour on the Coast of 679 Yorkshire — he supposed at Filey. Despite these conflicting interests, he thought the Government would be perfectly justified, and he thought the public would not grudge the expense, in following out the precedent they had established by the commencement of a harbour of refuge at Dover, and establishing similar harbours of refuge elsewhere. Much had been said in the course of the debate about the necessity of small harbours. It was well known that small harbours were particularly necessary on the North-East Coast, in connection with the fishing trade; and, although he quite agreed it was not the duty of the Government to provide funds for the construction of harbours in the interests of localities, he thought some assistance, by way of loans from the Imperial Exchequer, ought to be given to localities which were struggling to make harbours for themselves. That was a subject well worthy of consideration; and he trusted the Government would without delay give their attention to it.
§ MR. HANDEL COSSHAM (Bristol, E.)
said, he thought it was very dangerous for Parliament to endeavour to relieve temporary distress by means of public relief works. He was fully persuaded that there had been times of more serious distress than that which existed now; and he believed that constant reference to distress in the House of Commons only tended to increase distress, because it taught people to depend upon the House rather than on themselves. It was not wise to relieve distress by expending public money, because that money came from the people who were just above the class who were driven to relief. The opinion prevailing upon the Opposition Bench was that the only way to relieve distress was to expend public money in its relief; and he had no great desire to nurse poverty. What he wished was to get rid of it. What they ought to do was to set to work manfully to relieve the causes which led to destitution; and his own belief was that the future relief of distress was to be found in an increased cultivation of the soil; and a very remarkable illustration of the end of State relief of the distress was afforded in France. Constant attempts were made by the late Government of France to relieve distress; and the consequence was that the country 680 had been almost landed in the position of being crushed by the weight of poverty. The greatest danger to the commerce of England was in loading the country with obligations of debt we should have some difficulty in getting rid of. There was no doubt that in the future the great commercial contest would be fought out by England and America; and it appeared to him that in view of that contest we ought to endeavour to lessen our national obligations, rather than to increase them. He had no great faith in the construction of harbours by the State; but he had faith in the provision of harbours by Local Authorities, who, understanding the wants of the district, could spend much more carefully than the State. He protested against the idea of relieving the distress by increasing our obligations in the shape of constructing harbours of refuge out of the national funds.
§ MR. P. J. POWER (Waterford, E.)
said, he thought that this question should not be considered merely from the point of view of the distress which undoubtedly existed amongst the working classes, but also with reference to the question of the lives of seamen. The providing of harbours of refuge for the purpose of saving the lives of seafaring men was one of the most important matters which could engage the attention of the House. The reasons upon which he would base his claims on behalf of Waterford Harbour were not local reasons merely, but the much broader reasons of national necessity. The Report of the Commission, which had already been laid upon the Table of the House, showed that in one year alone no fewer than 32 vessels had been sighted in distress on the Waterford Coast and on the South Coast of Wexford. Many of those vessels were wrecked. The harbour was at present of quite a sufficient depth for the trade of the port, but was quite insufficient as a harbour of refuge for the English nation's great shipping; and this was, he believed, a point of great importance. The Royal Commission had spoken in the following terms concerning this harbour:—Looking at the many advantages possessed by this harbour (Waterford), which occupied an important point on the South-Eastern angle of Ireland, near the entrance to St. George's Channel, we concur with the Committee of the 681 House of Commons (which had reported in favour of it) that it is most desirable that these great natural advantages should be turned to account, and a sum of money laid out in the deepening of the bar.The Report, further, went on to say that the conversion of Carlingford into a harbour of refuge, and the improvement of Waterford for the purpose of making it a harbour of refuge, with the excellent natural harbour of Cork, would provide ample accommodation between Lough Strangford and Wicklow, and diminish the casualties amongst the numerous shipping passing through the Irish Channel. He believed that if the views of that Commission were carried out they would be able to provide accommodation for ships of all tonnage at a comparatively small outlay at Waterford. The dredging of the entrance to Waterford Harbour at the bar would enable the biggest ships afloat to lie in there in any weather. A great ironclad was nearly destroyed at Waterford a short time ago, as also the Germanic, a Transatlantic steamer, which had been unable to get over the bar, and which had, therefore, to be taken by tugs to Liverpool in very bad weather, on account of breakage of the shaft. An outlay of £50,000 would be sufficient to do all that was required—a small sum when the vast importance of the work to be done and the benefits which would accrue to the shipping of the English people were considered. On these grounds, he believed he had established a strong case for the improvement of the harbour of Waterford, not upon local but national grounds.
§ DR. CLARK (Caithness)
said, he had not intended to take part in this debate but for some observations of the President of the Local Government Board with reference to harbours of refuge. As one who had had practical experience of these matters, having spent four years before the mast and a year behind the mast, and having had his own life saved by a harbour of refuge, he believed these harbours were very much wanted. He represented a county to which, if this Motion were carried, it would be certain to apply. At Wick there was a natural harbour, which only required a breakwater to be one of the finest harbours of refuge in the Kingdom. It was in a place where a harbour of refuge was wanted probably more than 682 anywhere else in Great Britain, since from the Moray Firth to the Orkneys there was no harbour, even for a fishing barque. There was, moreover, a considerable trade there from the East of Scotland to the Atlantic, and also a considerable trade from the Continent to the East of Scotland. Time after time Commissions had reported in favour of forming a harbour at Wick. The cost would be at most £250,000, which amount would have by this time been saved in the value of shipping lost, besides the loss of many lives between the present time and the time when the work had been recommended by the Harbour Commissioners. Only last year, he believed, there was as much money lost as would have provided a breakwater across the mouth of Wick Bay. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board seemed to think that harbours of refuge were of no value; but he thought that if the right hon. Gentleman would take a trip round Scotland he would change his opinion. Many sailing ships were lost by having to make for distant harbours of refuge against head winds, going ashore owing to their leeway. Not only would a great harbour be of great value locally, but it would also be valuable in a national sense. It would provide a refuge and accommodation for largo ships, and for the fishing boats that carried on work there. There were in this part of the Coast a largo number of small harbours which had been constructed under old Acts which were now practically useless, because the herring and other fisheries now required larger boats, and a little more money expended on them would again render them useful, and would have the effect of preventing many of the people engaged in the fishing industry from leaving, as they were now compelled to do, and going into the large towns, there to swell the number of unskilled labourers, and augment the distress which prevailed in these centres. The right hon. Gentleman had told them that the money in connection with the construction of harbours would be spent principally upon skilled labour; but he had himself seen the making of a good many harbours; and, notwithstanding the authority of the right hon. Gentleman, he knew that the great bulk of the money was not spent upon skilled labour, but 683 upon the labour of those who excavated by spade and shovel. In his opinion, money could not be better spent than in the direction proposed. It would, practically, be a method of insurance against the loss of life and valuable property. The present condition of the country in this respect was not very creditable to us. Almost every other civilized country spent 10 or 20 times as much on works of this kind as we did. It was not at all creditable that while they could get so much money from Parliament for purposes that were not useful—for foreign wars and Colonial aggression—it was so difficult to get money in order to promote the comfort of the people and increase the wealth of the nation. He had very great pleasure in supporting the Resolution of the hon. Member, which, if carried, would, in his opinion, not only go a long way towards preventing a number of men from being driven from their homes and adding to the amount of unskilled labour in towns, but would also prevent a great destruction of valuable life.
§ COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N.)
said, he did not altogether agree with the theory that the State was bound to find work for the unemployed. If that view of the State's obligations were to prevail, there would be no end to the demands that would arise. He also thought that if, by way of relieving distress, the Government started works all over the country, many of them would turn out valueless, and thus public money would be wasted. But when there were useful works to be carried out, it was desirable that the Government should proceed to carry them out at a time when there was a dearth of employment, and when labour was cheap. He thought that the Government might very well, in times of distress such as the present, expend £3,000,000 or £4,000,000 a-year on useful public works. He would not advocate the making of useless harbours for the sake of giving employment. But if certain harbours were urgently needed, now was the time to make them. He was a Member of a Committee which recently inquired into the question of harbours, and which was presided over by the present Comptroller of the Household (Mr. Marjoribanks). This Committee reported in favour of three harbours of 684 refuge for the East Coast—one for Cornwall, and two on the Irish Coast. He could not see why, when the House had appointed a Committee which went fully into the question, they should not give effect to its recommendations. The Committee was, no doubt, a Committee of the last Parliament; but, practically, it was a Committee of this Parliament. If they did not proceed with all the harbours suggested, they ought to commence with one or two of them. It was a remarkable fact that they were building a harbour at Dover which was not recommended by the Committee. In doing that, he considered they were throwing over the Report of the Committee. It was said that the construction of such harbours as these would not give any work to men who belonged to the class of the unemployed. But the hon. Member who had just sat down had shown that they would; and he himself, after some experience, could corroborate that view of the matter. He held that when localities were desirous of constructing harbours their efforts ought to be aided by an apportionment of Imperial funds. Many places were quite unable to defray the cost of the work themselves. Galway, for example, had exhausted its resources in an abortive attempt to construct a harbour. If assistance were given to that town the work might yet be completed. That it was very desirable that Galway should have increased harbour accommodation was shown by the evidence given before the Committee in 1884 by all the naval officers consulted. With free labour the harbour could be constructed at a cost of £100,000, and with convict labour at a cost of £30,000 or £40,000. He suggested that when competing claims should be set up by neighbouring seaport towns, a Commission might be appointed to decide where the harbour should be constructed. The President of the Local Government Board had raised the objection that there was no settled agreement as to the kind of harbour which should be built. Of course there could be no such agreement, because the character of each harbour must depend upon the conditions of the locality and upon the uses to which it would be put. Ireland use to receive £8,000 a-year from the Treasury for the purpose in question; but for the last three years the money had not been 685 given. He would only add that he hoped there would be a division on the question, and that the House would recollect that the issue was really whether they should rescind the Report of the Committee which had devoted so much time and care to this subject.
§ SIR JOSEPH PEASE (Durham, Barnard Castle)
said, there was no generosity so great as that of A when he thought that B ought to give something to C. The question of a national harbour was an entirely different question from that of the construction of a commercial harbour, which was the subject under discussion; and he did not think it was necessary to come to the State to aid merely commercial harbours. He had the honour of being the Chairman of the Tees Conservancy Commissioners, and he could say that they had improved their rivers and built piers at the cost of upwards of £500,000, and not a single penny of it had come as a gift from the State. All of it had been raised by means of local sources, or was in course of repayment to the State. The money, or rather part of it, had been borrowed from the Public Works Loan Commissioners; some of it at 3½ per cent; but that rate of interest had been increased to 4 per cent. His only complaint against the State was that this additional ½ per cent had been added to the rate of interest. The people who had made the Tees what it now was relied only upon themselves; and he considered that there was no community so poor that could not contribute something towards the construction of a harbour which their trading interests required. An hon. Member had spoken in favour of constructing harbours of refuge; but that was not a matter which was fairly before the House. The Tees was used as a harbour of refuge; its trade had been increased, and the river had been deepened, so that from a depth of 3 feet 8 inches at low water spring tides they had now a depth of 21 feet and 16 feet rise of tide, enabling commercial vessels to enter the port at any time of tide, and at high tide water for the largest ships. The Conservators of the river had done what they could to meet the existing distress in the country by putting on a number of men out of employment; but it was a mistake to suppose that any great amount of unskilled labour could be employed 686 on this class of work. On the Clyde about £1,500,000 had been spent, he believed, on the river, and, in addition, some £3,000,000 or £4,000,000 on other works. All that was done by local money. And so it was with the improvements on the Tyne, where some 200 or 300 vessels usually took refuge, having scarcely any dues to pay. If money was to be given away, he would ask whether it should not be given to those who helped themselves, rather than to people who had done nothing in the way of helping themselves? If Gentlemen came to that House and asked those who had built their own harbours without aid from the State to help them with public money in building theirs with State-found money it would be a very one-sided proposal. He intended to vote against the Motion of the hon. Member for Leeds, and he had given this explanation in order that his vote might not be misunderstood. He hoped, however, that the hon. Gentleman would be satisfied with the discussion, and would not insist on going to a division.
§ MR. YEO (Glamorgan, Gower)
said, that the question before the House had been discussed almost from every point. All agreed that harbours of refuge were necessary, not only on the Eastern Coast, but for the Coast between Bristol and Swansea. He rose to say a word on behalf of those ports that could not help themselves. Wherever it could be shown that dangers existed, it was only sight that we, as a maritime nation, rhould see that, as far as possible, our sailors were saved from the dangers which beset them. One hon. Gentleman who had spoken had mentioned hundreds and thousands of pounds spent in deepening the harbours in the locality he represented. He (Mr. Yeo) could also speak of hundreds and thousands spent in harbour improvements in the locality in which he lived; but his point was this—that in those particular localities there was a large existing trade, which justified this large expenditure, and which enabled the Local Authorities to borrow money upon the security of the tolls, and thus to enter on a large outlay of this kind. But there were other localities in which that condition did not exist; and his contention was that they, as a nation, were not only justified, but it was a duty laid upon 687 them to do their part towards making those localities safe. With all deference to the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, he contended that the construction of harbours of refuge were desirable not only on strategic and humanitarian, but on economic grounds. Statistics told them not only the number of lives lost, but of millions of money—about £2,000,000 annually—squandered on our Coasts. Was it not inconceivable that, after the Report of the Commission that the loss of life and the loss of property would be greatly reduced if these harbours were constructed, no steps whatever had been taken to carry out that recommendation? A great deal of stress had been laid that night upon the necessity for deepening and improving the small harbours round the Coast. He did not deny the importance and the claims of those small harbours, for the improvement of which Imperial assistance was asked to supplement local effort; but he would remind hon. Gentlemen that there was another class of harbours in connection with which no such question arose. Looking back to the Report of the Royal Commission, they would find that that Report recognized that there were large national harbours which it behoved the nation to provide. He would appeal to the Government, and ask them to set about that work. One wondered sometimes at the zeal shown by the Government in thinking that the shipowners of the country should do their duty. That zeal on the part of the Government was commendable; but while they were looking for the mote in the eyes of the shipowners, they forgot all about the beam in their own eyes. He said the duty of the nation was to provide these national harbours, and he regretted that the President of the Local Government Board should have given it as his deliberate opinion that these harbours of refuge would have no effect in saving life. He thought it was a poor compliment to the Committees and the Royal Commission that the right hon. Gentleman should express an opinion in direct conflict with the views of a number of practical men. Common sense would seem to convince one that the construction of these harbours would result in the saving of some lives; and, for his part, he was rather tempted to accept the opinion of a body of practical 688 men than the individual opinion of any one Gentleman, however well-informed, or however high his position.
§ DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid)
said, he believed that anyone who had taken cognizance of the facts put before the House by so many speakers must feel that by acceding to the Resolution they would be doing good by both hands—on the one hand, to sailors, by providing a refuge from the perils of the sea, and on the other hand to labourers, providing a refuge from sheer destitution. Different parts of the United Kingdom had been brought under the attention of the House. The claims of the English Coast, East, South, and West, had been supported; but there had been only slight notice given to Ireland. But the South Coast of Ireland, with which he was well acquainted, had special claims. It was the point to which the great commercial traffic between the United States and Great Britain tended, and where harbours would be of the greatest advantage. On the South Coast of Ireland there were many points which could each be turned to account, notably to the advantage of the fishing industry, which the House had been told was of the highest practical importance; and, if that was so, there was no part of the Kingdom where the fishing interest more deserved the fostering care of a benevolent Government than in the South of Ireland. Along the whole Southern Coast of Ireland, outside and beyond those harbours which nature herself provided, there was no harbour actually constructed by man. On the English Coast harbours abound; but very little money, indeed, had been spent on Irish industries, and scarcely anything to promote the fishing industry. In these times of depression and semi-starvation he held it to be the stern, imperative duty of every man having the welfare of his country at heart to pay attention to this subject. In Ireland this would be followed by the most beneficial results; for he was sure that the South Coast of Ireland presented many points that might be turned to practical account. He sincerely hoped that the debate would bear good fruit, and that the subject would not be shelved indefinitely.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE (Mr. MUNDELLA) (Sheffield, Brightside)
said, he must compliment 689 the hon. Member for Leeds (Mr. Dawson) upon the able statement he had made to the House. The question was one which interested and excited the sympathies of hon. Members, whatever might be their nationality. Every hon. Member, he was sure, sympathized with the desire to relieve the distress of people on land, and to prevent loss of life at sea. But he hoped in this, as in all things, the House would be practical, and would arrive at a sound conclusion. With respect to harbours, his hon. Friend the Member for the St. Austell Division of Cornwall (Mr. Borlase) had told him not to ransack the pigeon-holes of the Board of Trade, lest he should find in them something relating to this question left by his Predecessors. He could honestly say that he had found nothing left by his Predecessor which indicated that any sort of progress had been made in the matter. He agreed with the introducer of the Amendment that mercantile harbours ought to be provided by mercantile communities. The hon. Member had, however, spoken on behalf of a smaller class of harbour. He entirely sympathized with the hon. Member in the desire to do everything that could be done, not only for the Mercantile Marine, but also to promote the great fishing industries of the country, and to insure the safety and the lives of our seafaring population. But when a request was made that these works should be done by the State itself, it should not be forgotten that there had been an enormous expenditure all round our Coasts on small harbours during the last 20 years, and that this expenditure had been met by loans from the Government, which were being paid back with rapid punctuality and regularity. When one fishing community was paying for its harbour, and meeting its engagements with regularity, how could they propose that another fishing locality, which was, perhaps, a rival to the other district, should have its harbour made for it without any cost or responsibility whatever? The community which was discharging its duty and helping itself would be taxed in order to assist the community which was not helping itself. The Committee had recommended that loans should be made on easy terms to districts where harbours were necessary, and that such districts should be encouraged in that way to construct their own harbours. 690 That, in his opinion, was the proper course to pursue. He should like to call the attention of the House to the evidence of a gentleman than whom no one was better acquainted with the interests of the fishing industry and the great need of harbours round the Coasts of the United Kingdom—he meant Mr. Spencer Walpole, who occupied the position of Fisheries Commissioner for many years. When before the Committee he was asked a question as to whether the construction of fishing harbours ought to be undertaken by the localities or by the State, Mr. Walpole stated that he very strongly held the opinion that the construction of such harbours ought to rest with the locality and not with the State. He was asked whether he could give any reason for that conclusion, and he said that, in the first place, the construction of a harbour always tended to increase the value of property in its neighbourhood; and, therefore, that if the State should construct the harbour the whole community would be increasing the value of the property of a small section of it. That was a strong argument, for within his own knowledge land which had been worth only £10 an acre by the construction of a harbour became worth £1,000 an acre. If the value of property in the neighbourhood of a harbour was so enormously increased, the owners of that property ought to come forward and contribute to the construction of the harbour. In the next place, Mr. Walpole said that it would be almost impossible for the State to provide harbours on all parts of the Coast, and that it must of necessity give the preference to some districts over others. Then, again, Mr. Walpole said that he thought the granting of State aid discouraged the local people from making the efforts they would otherwise make. If it were once understood that the State was going to construct harbours, no locality and no private individual would ever construct one for themselves, but would wait and hope to obtain a State grant. That was perfectly true; and while he thought it extremely desirable that this harbour accommodation should be provided, he thought that the proper course was to aid Local Authorities as far as possible in providing the accommodation for themselves, and he did not think that the accommodation should be provided by a direct 691 grant in favour of one locality at the expense of another. A remark which he had made to a deputation with reference to shipowners being more vigilant had been somewhat misunderstood. What he said was only a quotation from his right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board when President of the Board of Trade, who stated that the greater loss of life at sea was rather due to improper equipment or to unseaworthy vessels than to any lack of harbour accommodation. By far the greater loss of life round our Coasts was beyond the 15 miles limit, and therefore independent of harbour accommodation. All the evidence went to show that the loss of life among fishermen was not due to lack of harbours, but that the greatest loss arose at sea. It was shown by Mr. Gray, of the Marine Department of the Board of Trade, that in seven years there were 605 British vessels lost, with a total of 1,565 lives. Pour hundred and three of these lives were lost within a limit of 15 miles of the shore, 454 lives were lost somewhat beyond the 15 miles limit, while 708 lives were lost at sea. It appeared, therefore, that out of 1,565 lives lost in seven years 708 were totally unaffected by want of harbour accommodation. It had been admitted that the State works ought not to clash with private enterprize; and it seemed to him that Mr. Spencer Walpole's evidence showed that these grants could not be made without clashing with private enterprize, and without putting a stop to private enterprize, and that they would, therefore, hinder rather than aid the object they had in view by making State grants. The next question was whether, if the Government decided upon making a number of these harbours at once, it would assist the distressed classes now unemployed, and, if so, to what extent it would do so? He had consulted Sir John Hawkshaw on this subject, as he was an authority upon harbour questions and a most experienced man. When he asked Sir John Hawkshaw how far the construction of harbours would help the unemployed classes he said that he did not believe that they would be able to find employment for any of the distressed classes in London, but that they must get the unemployed classes from the neighbourhood of the harbours. Then it would be a year, or a year and a-half, 692 before the harbours were begun, for surveys and plans of the district would have to be made and skilled men accustomed to blasting operations employed to clear the site, and it was more than probable that before the harbour could be made homes for the workpeople would have to be built. Sir John Hawkshaw said that the tunnel which had just been completed under the Severn required 3,000 men to be employed, and their first duty had been to spend £50,000 in building houses for the workmen. It would be a long time, therefore, before men could be got at work. In the next place, as strong, hardy men would be required for work on the harbours, he did not see how the unemployed classes of the towns could be employed. The largest amount which it had been suggested should be spent on the construction of harbours was £6,000,000, extending over a period of six years. That would be £500,000 a-year, and what amount of employment would £500,000 a-year give? The wages of the labouring classes of this country amounted to between £300,000,000 and £400,000,000 a-year. The £500,000 it was proposed to spend would have to go, to a large extent, to pay for skilled labour, for engineering talent, and for supervision, and very little would be left for the employment of unskilled labour. The £500,000 a-year for the purpose of giving employment would be, therefore, a mere bagatelle, merely a drop in the ocean. If they wanted to employ labour they could do it very much more effectually than by voting money in that House for the building of harbours. Let them remove the restrictions which Parliament had put upon the subscription of capital for useful enterprizes. Only yesterday a deputation waited upon him with reference to the employment of £1,500,000 upon the construction of a railway between Derbyshire and Yorkshire, in which a seven mile tunnel would occur. The Midland Railway Company guaranteed a minimum dividend, of 3 per cent upon the capital; but the difficulty was that the House would not allow interest to be paid upon subscribed capital during construction, and it was impossible to obtain the capital without. He maintained that the House, by passing the Resolution of Tuesday last, with reference to the Man- 693 chester Ship Canal Bill, allowing capital to have free play, did more to promote the objects in view than it would by passing any number of Resolutions of this kind. Sir John Hawkshaw had assured him that, supposing the Government were to propose such an enterprise, nothing could be done in less than a year and a-half. A Bill would require to be brought in, private property would have to be taken, and the whole scheme would have to be planned; and before all that could be done, the Government hoped, at least, that the present distress would be a thing of the past. He had consulted another great authority, Sir Robert Rawlinson, of the Local Government Board, and that gentleman declared that the last thing the Government should do was to contemplate the employment of men with a view to relieving distress among the industrial classes. Let them stir up the Local Authorities. The Local Authorities would do these things much better than the Government, because they knew exactly who were in a distressed condition and the kind of men to employ. He ventured to say they had two or three speeches in the course of the evening that had contributed not a little to the value of the debate. He had never heard his right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board make a better speech; the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester (Mr. A. J. Balfour) had, with admirable force, given the House some sound doctrine; and there had been a speech delivered from below the Gangway by the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Brad-laugh) especially, which every Member of the House should welcome, and none so heartily as those who called themselves the Conservative Party, for it contained a sound principle, on which it was to be hoped the government of this country would always be conducted. It was an excellent thing when a man in the position of the hon. Member for Northampton told the working classes not to look to the Government for employment, but to their own organizations and to their own local governments; and to maintain that character for independence, which, after all, had always been the pride of the English working classes, and which was the best safeguard against Socialism. He ventured to warn the House against the attempt to relieve 694 distress by employment afforded by the Central Government. Let them look at France. From the baneful system of State employment, begun under the Empire, that country had never been able to shake itself free. Only the other day he observed that on the mere rumour of fresh works being started by the Government, 100,000 immigrants from the Provinces came flocking into the capital, many of them to go away disappointed, and many to remain to swell that wretched proletariat which was the terror of the French governing classes. What was wanted in this country was more temperance and thrift; and while he did not want to say one word that should be thought mockery in this time of distress—for he, and every Member, sympathized with the distressed condition of the people—yet, after all, they must hope that from this present adversity they would pluck the bright jewel of virtue and honesty and independence, and that they should learn from this lesson the great value of sustaining the national character on the old lines of self-help and self-reliance. He would promise this to the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Dawson)—that he would give the most careful attention to the Report of the Committee, and would do whatever he could to help the classes for whom he had interested himself—the fishermen and the seamen—not only to promote their industry, but to preserve their lives, If he failed, it would not be for want of sympathy, or from want of will to render such help as was within his power.
§ Mr. DAWSON
said, that after the assurance of the right hon. Gentleman he should be willing to withdraw his Motion.
§ MR. LANE (Cork Co., E.)
said, that the right hon. Gentleman had dwelt on the propriety of neighbourhoods which required harbours of refuge relying on their own resources for their construction. That might be all very well for England; but the circumstances of Ireland prevented her people from relying on self-help. The owners of property in that country never came forward to bear their share of any burthen for the benefit of the locality with which they were connected, and with which it might be reasonably expected that they would identify themselves. It was well known that in the Eastern parts of Ireland, where harbours of refuge were required, 695 people in the different localities had been quite willing on every occasion to come forward and bear their part of the expenses. This was notably so in the case of the large works commenced and completed at Arklow and other places; but it was quite useless to ask the Local Government Board to assist in works of this kind in those districts of the West of Ireland, where the people were starving, and where the poor rates had been raised to the very highest pitch. The speeches which had been made to-night by his hon. Friend the Member for Carlow (Mr. Blake) and his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Galway (Colonel Nolan) had been pointed more to the expenditure of public money in the districts where the people were unable to bear any share of the expenses, rather than to those prosperous and rich districts on the East and North-East Coasts of Ireland in which harbours had already been constructed. He assured the House that it was through no want of inclination on the part of the poor people in those localities that they did not contribute to the expense of constructing the harbours; it was simply because they were utterly unable to do so. Lately, he himself had occasion to serve upon a committee of gentlemen in the South of Ireland who had undertaken the task of providing fishing boats for the fishermen of the South-Western Coast. These gentlemen, out of their own pockets, undertook to supply large boats, costing from £600 to £800 each, to the fishermen on the Coasts of the counties of Cork, Kerry, and Waterford; but the fishermen positively refused to become responsible for the boats, for the simple reason that there was no fishery harbour along the whole Coast line in which they could safely anchor the vessels upon the return from fishing. That was one of the proofs the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board asked for, that the people of the locality were anxious to help themselves. The Irish people had been constantly taunted with coming for grants from the Imperial Parliament; but it had been proved here, during the last few weeks, that instead of the Irish people always coming as beggars to the Imperial Parliament they were contributing far more than their share of the Imperial taxation to the Exchequer, upon which they made 696 such futile claims from time to time in favour of useful measures, such as those contemplated in this discussion. He thought that the principal point which had been advanced by Irish Members in favour of the strengthening of fishing harbours had been unnoticed by many speakers. The Irish Representatives did not appeal to the House to construct fishing harbours for the mere purpose of providing temporary work. They took a more far-reaching and wider view of the matter than the mere temporary employment of idle hands. It had been seen that wherever in Ireland harbours had been constructed for the benefit of the fishing traffic an excellent traffic had been established, and thriving localities had arisen all around the harbours. Buildings had been erected for the curing of fish, and the result was that in all of those places which were formerly dependent upon the poor rates, which were never more than a few weeks removed from the point of starving, there flourishing communities had sprung up, and there was no such thing known as poverty or starvation. That was the reason the Irish Members regarded it as their imperative duty to press the question upon the right hon. Gentleman with the pertinacity with which they had done that evening, and not merely for the purpose of providing a few months' work for men who were now out of employment. He did not think the argument which was used by the two right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Ministerial Bench was one which ought to be allowed to weigh very much with the House—namely, that it would take a couple of years at least to provide the plans and specifications and estimates for these harbours of refuge. There was an old adage, "Where there's a will there's a way," and another, "There are none so blind as those who will not see." If the Representatives of the Treasury in the House were actuated by a sincere wish to see these works commenced they could in a very few days—not weeks or months—provide the estimates and specifications necessary for the small harbours, which only required upon then an outlay of £40,000 or £50,000. He knew one harbour, that of Ballycotton, in the county of Cork, which would only cost something like £20,000 or £30,000. The pier was not completed yet; but it had been pushed 697 forward so very rapidly lately that the fishermen of that place were able to use it to a very large extent. Only by today's post he had received a letter from the pastor of the parish, acknowledging the great benefits which had been derived by the fishermen of the district through the harbour, though the work was not yet completed, and also acknowledging that the people of the district were in a large measure indebted to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridge (Mr. Penrose Fitzgerald) for the grant which was given to them by the Government for the harbour. It was by the construction of other harbours like that at Ballycotton that the greatest amount of good could be done for the fishing industry in Ireland, and not by the construction of large harbours of refuge, which would cost something like £1,000,000 or £2,000,000 sterling. Such costly harbours might be wanted in England; but in the case of Ireland what was wanted was a series of small harbours such as he had referred to. He trusted that the President of the Local Government Board and the officials of the Treasury would turn their attention to this subject, and be able to see their way to meet the views which he (Mr. Lane) and his hon. Friends had expressed in regard to the harbour accommodation on the Coasts of Ireland.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.