HC Deb 04 April 1887 vol 313 cc376-426
MR. R. W. DUFF (Banffshire)

, in rising to call attention to the administration of harbour loans under the Harbour and Passing Tolls Act of 1861 by the Public Works Loan Commissioners; and to move— That in the opinion of this House, the Board of Trade should decide on the policy of the works to be undertaken, and that the functions of the Loan Commissioners should be limited to deciding on the sufficiency of the security offered by applicants for loans, said, he disclaimed any intention of attacking the general policy of the Public Works Loan Commissioners—a body of gentlemen who, in the discharge of a delicate and onerous duty, had gratuitously rendered valuable service to the country. But he wished to relieve the Commissioners of certain duties which the Board of Trade had greater facilities for dealing with. He believed this opinion was entertained by some of the Commissioners themselves. In 1858 a Royal Commission was appointed to consider the harbour question, The Commissioners recommended an expenditure of £2,000,000 on various harbours throughout the country. In the Session of 1860 the late Mr. Lindsay, then Member for Sunderland, carried a Motion by a majority of 17 against Lord Palmerston's Government, declaring that effect should be given to the Commissioners' Report. The Government put the question off till the following Session. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) was then Chancellor of the Exchequer. It was not surprising that so jealous a guardian of the public purse should have looked with apprehension on the proposal to spend £2,000,000 on harbour works, and should have endeavoured to meet the views of the House with some counter proposal. The Government, accordingly, introduced the Harbour and Passing Tolls Act. The late Mr. Milner Gibson, then President of the Board of Trade, in introducing that measure, promised, on behalf of the Government, that £360,000 per annum should be paid to the Loan Commissioners to be lent at 3¼ per cent for harbour purposes, interest and capital being repayable in 50 years. The House would therefore see that a sort of bargain was struck between the Government of the day on the one hand, and the representatives of harbour interests on the other. The Government of 1879, by authorizing the Treasury to raise the rate of interest 1 per cent, broke the compact entered into in 1861. The Public Works Loan Commissioners by the interpretation they had put on the Act had frustrated its intention. For some few years after the passing of the Act, up to about the year 1865, matters went comparatively smoothly in its working, but later on there came a serious difference of opinion between the Loan Commissioners and the Board of Trade as to the construction of the Act. Sir Thomas Farrer laid down the principle he now urged in a letter of October, 1865. Addressing the Loan Commission is, he said— The Board of Trade are distinctly of opinion that the decision upon the policy of each grant should rest solely and entirely with them, and that the decision upon the sufficiency of the security should rest solely and entirely with the Loan Commissioners. This, as the Board believes, was the intention of the Government and of the Legislature, and any other course can in their opinion only lead to confusion. This opinion, he believed, laid down the only sound policy, and when it was departed from they got into endless confusion. In order to illustrate this he referred to two decisions of the Commissioners. They were applied to for a loan by the Hollywood Pier Company. In their answer, March 4, 1865, the Commissioners say— That the Legislature in making provision for the construction and improvement of harbours by loans of money at allow rate of interest and with a period of 50 years for their repayment, had in view national purposes of trade and general utility and did not contemplate advances from the public funds to promote promenades or pleasure traffic. The Commissioners had previously refused a loan for the Brighton pier. He thought in this decision they were perfectly right. For Brighten Pier, even when enhanced by a band, was scarcely the "harbour of refuge" contemplated by the Act. But the House would observe that the Commissioners, in their reply to the Hollywood Pier Company, laid down a policy. The Act was intended "to benefit trade." How did they adhere to it? An application was made for a loan for Burntisland. In their reply in August, 1871, the Commissioners said— The Board do not feel justified in making for purposes of trade, advances of public money under the Harbour and Passing Tolls Act at an interest of 3¼ per cent. and with a period of 50 years for repayment. They decline, therefore, in the exercise of the discretion invested in them by the Act of Parliament by which these principles are regulated, to entertain applications for loans under the Harbour Act, except in the cases in which the works proposed to be executed are shown to be calculated to serve for refuge or shelter, or otherwise conducive to the safety of life and property. Burntisland was refused a loan because it promoted trade interests only, and Hollywood Pier because it did not promote trade interests. But then in the Burntisland case we were told that "refuge and shelter" were the objects of the Commissioners; but if that was so, how did we come to find £50,000 lent to Falmouth Docks, financially one of the worst loans the Commissioners made? Did the Falmouth Docks afford more shelter than a harbour would at Burntisland? The House would see that the principles successively laid down by the Commissioners involved them, as the Board of Trade said they would, in hopeless confusion. The term "shipping purposes" used in the Act would have instified loans in all these cases, provided always the security were good. But the fact was that the Act of 1861 had of recent years, in consequence of the interpretation put upon it by the Loan Commissioners, ceased to be operative. This was the opinion of several witnesses before the Harbour Committee, and it was supported by statistics in their report. Sir Thomas Farrer, in reply to a question by the chairman, said— I can have no doubt that the construction that the Public Works Loan Commissioners have put upon the Act has limited the real intention of the framers of the Act and the intention of Parliament in passing the Act. The return showing the operation of the Act indicated how it had gradually ceased to be operative, and the time when it so ceased would be found to be coincident with the period when the Commissioners took all power out of the hands of the Board of Trade. The Act could scarcely be said to have come into full operation till 1864, In the five years 1864 to 1868 inclusive, the average grants per annum were £223,352. In the next 10 years the annual grants fell to an average of £98,264. During the last five years, by the combined policy of the Loan Commissioners and the Government of 1879 raising the rate of interest, the amount granted for home ports, exclusive of Colombo, was reduced to an average of £53,500. He was not Warning the Commissioners for the higher rate of interest; that was arranged by the Government of 1879; but the falling off in the amounts lent dated from about the year 1869, when the Board of Trade practically ceased to have any control over the transactions. That this was the case was brought out by a Question put by the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Salt), himself a Loan Commissioner. The hon. Member inquired— Is it not a pity that the public should not have the benefit of the comments of the Board of Trade? Sir Thomas Farrer replied— When people have taken a great deal of trouble to come to a decision, and they find that their decisions are treated as so much waste paper, they are apt to give it up. He believed that the influence exercised by the Board of Trade was a beneficial one in carrying out the intentions of the Act. If the House adopted this Motion, action would have to be taken to restore the functions which the Board of Trade claimed and exercised when the Act was first put into operation. So much money had been wasted in harbour construction that he could readily understand the existence of a feeling that all expenditure in such works was necessarily attended with great risk and likely to be unremunerative. No doubt, when they remembered the million and a-quarter thrown into the sea at Alderney, the failure at Jersey, the mismanagement at Wick, Anstruther, Dunbar, and other places—it was not wonderful that the House should approach the subject with a somewhat prejudiced mind. But the scandalous waste at Alderney and the mismanagement at other places did not take place under the system of loans he was advocating. Where the people had taken the initiative and borrowed money on harbour dues and other securities, where they had managed their own local affairs, in fact, where they had enjoyed "Home Rule" in this harbour question, the country had not lost a sixpence. In the cases of Anstruther and Dunbar there were special grants; they did not come under the Harbour and Passing Tolls Act. Wick was altogether exceptional. The people there wanted to spend some £40,000 on a harbour, but the plans were over-ruled by the Government of the day, who induced the British Fishery Society to contribute for a work to cost £120,000. The harbour was a complete failure. The Wick Harbour Commissioners accurately stated the case when they said— The Government is not a mere creditor, but a creditor whose action directly led the debtor into the path of ruin. The total amount advanced under the Act up to 1883 was £2,561,849. The interest received on this was £897,381. The interest due at 3 per cent—the rate the State can borrow money at—would be £822,428. There was an actual gain of £74,953. But against this must be put £33,992 written off for the harbour at the Isle of Man, and £61,290 in arrears. If, therefore, only £20,000 of the arrears was received—and he believed a greater amount was good— there would have been no loss to the State. The other transactions of the Commissioners showed where the loss arose that had caused the additional rate to be put on harbour loans. By the last Report the Commissioners had lent in all £54,088,000. Of this £1,852,723 had been written off; most of it appeared in what was called the closed account; and £433,853 was in arrears. The losses had arisen from £1,250,000 in Irish workhouses, £150,000 in the Thames Tunnel, in a total amount of £250,000, £100,000 in Battersea Park, and £84,000 in roads, in a total of £666,000. Except in the case of the Isle of Man, there had been nothing written off the £2,500,000 borrowed under the Harbour and Passing Tolls Act. Yet the compact of 1861 had been broken to pay for the bad debts he had alluded to. A study of the Return appeared to present some startling anomalies. There were many poor communities, fishing villages, where the height of the ambition of the people was to secure a harbour. They would toil and save for this object; a common fund was started; every house, where it was possible, are, and every boat, would be mortgaged as a security for a harbour loan, and when, by every possible sacrifice, they had got together something like a security, they were to be charged 4¼ per cent for a loan for 40 years, while here, in the centre of the richest city in the world, £150,000 was to be written off a loan of £250,000 on the Thames Tunnel, and £100,000 on the loan for Battersea Park. The loan to the Thames Tunnel was made some time ago, but Battersea Park was a comparatively modern affair; but both transactions appeared in the accounts, and the high rate now charged for harbour loans was in consequence of the bad debts which the Commissioners, acting under instructions from the Treasury, had contracted. The Act of 1875 had put a stop to such transactions in the future. Those who represented harbour interests were entitled to say that if the Act had hitherto worked so well, that was the best possible reason for extending its operation. Those who believed, as he believed, that harbours, on properly constructed plans, were as much reproductive expenditure as money spent in sanitary purposes or in educational purposes, or any object for which loans were granted, were entitled, looking to the special obligation of Parliament, to claim that loans should be administered on more liberal principles than they were. Up to the year 1861, for the 10 preceding years we spent £300,000 on harbour improvements. Now we were lending £53,000 a-year, and spending some £20,000 a-year at Dover and Peterhead, which might possibly give the next generation two more harbours. The Harbour Committee told thorn that during the last 20 years in Prance the State contribution to harbours had been £11,000,000, and other countries had been spending larger sums than we had in developing their trade by harbour construction. The amount of loans granted between 1861 and 1883 was £2,561,849. The amount refused was £2,407,559, so that about half the sum applied for had been refused. He believed that under the system he was advocating the Board of Trade would have granted a far larger proportion of the amount asked for, and the Act of 1861, as explained by Mr. Milner-Gibson, would have had some chance of being-carried out. He now wished to refer to another grievance complained of in administering those loans. The Commissioners declined to advance money for harbour works to joint stock companies, and to private individuals. There was nothing in the Act to justify such a refusal. It was an arbitrary decision come to by the Commissioners. If a company or an individual was prepared to give ample security, he did not understand on what grounds they were to be prevented borrowing money for a useful public purpose. The Harbour Committee, in their Report, protested strongly against this limitation, as being an evasion of the Act. Then, the Commissioners had no proper means of seeing that the money which they lent was properly expended. The original plans might be submitted to an engineer, but during the progress of the works the Commissioners had no guarantee that the plans might not be altered. They had no system of inspection. They had heard something about an inspecting engineer in the evidence before the Committee; but when he looked into the Estimates, he found only £100 a-year charged under the head of an engineer. If the Commissioners could for that sum get a competent gentleman to inspect, not only the plans, but the progress of about 20 works going on over the country, and costing some £53,410 a-year, they were certainly to be congratulated on their economical arrangements. The fact was, he believed, that there was no inspection at all after the money was lent, and it was quite possible to obtain the money for one purpose and to spend it on an entirely different one. But he proposed that they should transfer the policy of determining on the works to the Board of Trade, where they had a Harbour Department more competent, he believed, than the Loan Commissioners were to decide on the original plans, and with full power under a special Act of inspecting the works under construction. There was only one other point to which he should allude. They were told in Her Majesty's Gracious Speech that they were to have a Local Government Act. He feared, however, that it was rather a long way off; but when it was introduced he hoped it would contain provisions enabling districts to assess themselves for harbour loans, and that the Bill for Scotland would not overlook the recommendations of Sheriff Guthrie Smith contained in the Fishery Board's Report, that special facilities be given to fisherman to obtain in cases where they had already built their houses on land not belonging to themselves, thus enabling them to give collateral security. The learned gentleman to whom he had referred estimated that in his county alone (Banffshire) £58,000 which might be used as collateral security for harbour loans was not available, because fisher- men had no legal title to their houses. If time permitted he would prove to the House that the Act of 1861, while fairly administered, was productive of great benefit, not only in carrying out such extensive works as had been undertaken on the Tyne, at Leith, Aberdeen, Eraser-burgh, Belfast, and other nourishing seaports, but also in the case of numerous fishing villages. On this account he regretted that the compact of 1861 had been broken, and that the Act had become almost inoperative. All he would further say was, that if it should be the deliberate intention of Parliament not to grant any assistance whatever to harbours, to pay no attention to the recommendations of endless Commissions and Committees, to abolish the Harbour and Passing Tolls Act, to say that England, the greatest maritime country in the world—was to be the only nation to give no State assistance to harbours, and that they were to depend entirely on private enterprise, it would be more honest to say so than to pretend to give assistance by a system of loans, when they at the same time made the conditions of those loans so onerous that scarcely anyone would take advantage of them. But he could not believe that such a course would commend itself to the House. He believed, on the other hand, that the general desire was to see the extension of a system which up to the present had cost the country nothing, and which, at a comparatively small risk to the taxpayers of the country, had contributed largely to the saving of life and to the benefit of trade. He moved the Resolution standing in his name.


retired, and the Clerk at the Table informed the House that Mr. Speaker had been compelled by indisposition to leave the House, and was unable to resume the Chair:—

Whereupon Mr. COURTNEY, the Chairman of Ways and Means, took the Chair as Deputy Speaker, pursuant to the Standing Order.

MR. E. W. BECKETT (Yorkshire, N.R., Whitby)

said, he begged to second the Motion of the hon. Member for Banffshire. There were three reasons why the Government should not refuse to accept it. In the first place, hon. Members sitting on both, sides of the House were in favour of it, and it was not often that Ministers got the chance of meeting the wishes both of their opponents and supporters; in the second place, the Motion did not contain or imply any criticism on any portion of the Estimates; and in the third place, it did not ask the Government either to reduce or to increase their expenditure by one penny. He did not think that, recommended by these arguments, it would encounter any serious obstacle or hostility. The Motion might be objected to on the ground that it laid down a principle, and that it was dangerous and inexpedient for the House of Commons to lay down principles. But surely the House ought not to legislate without principles, and in the present case a clear enunciation of a principle was particularly required, not for the guidance of the House, but for the guidance of a Body emanating from and responsible to the House. Such a Body ought to have an accurate comprehension of the lines on which it was expected to act, and it could only have this comprehension if the instructions given to it were full, plain, and positive. In fairness to them, and in order to avoid misconceptions in the future, it would be well if the present Motion were passed. With regard to the issue of harbour loans the functions of the Commissioners and those of the Board of Trade so overlapped each other and stood in such a relation to each other that, as Falstaff said, ''they are neither fish nor flesh, and no man knows where to have them." He had no complaint to make of the Board of Trade nor of the Loan Commissioners in their individual capacity, for he had found both civil, courteous, and ready to listen to what he had to say, and as accommodating as money-lenders could be expected to be; but owing to their respective duties being undefined it was easy for them to refuse an application by taking refuge behind each other, and throwing the responsibility of the refusal on each other's shoulders. The Board of Trade might say that they would be delighted to sanction the policy if the Loan Commissioners would find the money, and the Loan Commissioners would say they would be delighted to find the money if the Board of Trade would sanction the policy. The result was that the issue of loans that were urgently required were very often refused. They did business on the principle of Spenlow and Jorkins— "The hand and heart of the good angel Spenlow would always be open but for the restraining demon Jorkins." Thus the game went on— And enterprises of great pith and moment, With this regard their currents turn awry, And lose the name of action. It was obvious that Parliament must have intended that there should be a broad line of demarcation between the functions that each of those Bodies had to fulfil, and the Motion only asked the House to put a legal stamp and form on those obvious intentions of Parliament. If the Loan Commissioners were allowed any voice in pronouncing on the policy of a loan, the result was that they were rendered less capable of deciding with a perfectly unprejudiced and unclouded mind upon the character of the security offered for a loan, as the opinion of the policy would insensibly but undoubtedly influence their opinion of the security. It was extremely necessary that the functions of deciding the policy and the loans should be kept distinct. Those who, like himself, anxiously desired to see harbours of refuge constructed at various points along the coast, or at all events the existing harbours enlarged and improved, were told last year that for the fulfilment of their wishes they must look to local enterprise and local capital, assisted by giants from the Loans Commissioners. If anything was ever to be done in this direction— and much was urgently needed for the protection of life and property, and for the protection of our sailors and our fishermen—the Loan Commissioners must be easy of access, not grudging of their money or hard in their terms. It was because he believed that this Motion, if carried, would open the door to deserving applicants, and by removing one of the chief impediments to harbour loans would in some measure facilitate their issue, that he ventured most earnestly to press for its adoption by the House.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "in the opinion of this House, the Board of Trade should decide on the policy of the works to be undertaken, and that the functions of the Loan Commissioners should be limited to deciding on the sufficiency of the security offered by applicants for loans."—(Mr. Duff)

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

MR. SEALE-HAYNE (Devon, Ashburton)

said, that recently two legal decisions had been given which greatly increased the difficulty of obtaining loans for harbour works. The decisions to which he referred sprang out of occurrences at Falmouth and Dartmouth respectively. In each case an accident occurred to a ship, and the Harbour Commissioners were mulcted in damages, with the result that their affairs passed into the hands of Receivers of the Court of Chancery. Before those decisions it was believed that Harbour Commissioners were not liable for inadvertent damage to ships, and that the loans made to them were fully secured. These decisions, however, showed that they were equally liable with Railway Companies and carriers. In these circumstances, if the law were not altered, it was very unlikely that private individuals or the Public Works Loan Commissioners would in the future be ready to advance money for harbour works. He therefore hoped that a Bill would be introduced for the purpose of rendering all loans to Harbour Commissioners perfectly safe.

MR. J. A. BLAKE (Carlow)

expressed great regret that the recommendations of the Select Committee on the construction of harbours, of which he was a Member, had not been carried out. As the law stood, the Loan Fund Commissioners had the exclusive power of granting or refusing loans. The result was that localities in which it was most desirable to build harbours were often unable to obtain the necessary money. At Waterford, for example, a determination was come to eight or nine years ago to build a much-wanted harbour, and good security was offered to the Loan Fund Commissioners; but they refused to advance the money, and consequently the work could not be undertaken. He held that the question of the desirability or undesirability of erecting a harbour in a particular locality ought for the future to be decided by the Board of Trade, and that the powers of the Loan Commissioners ought to be restricted to that of determining whether the security offered for an advance was or was not sufficiently good.

SIR JOSEPH PEASE (Durham, Barnard Castle)

said, he had great pleasure in supporting the Motion made by the hon. Member for Banff (Mr. R. W. Duff). It had fallen to his (Sir Joseph Pease's) lot to have a good deal to do with harbour loans by way of communication between the Harbour Authorities and the Public Works Loan Commissioners. Since the year 1861, when the Act was passed for granting such loans at a fixed rate of interest, upwards of £2,000,000 of money had been spent on the North-East Coast of England, with which he was well acquainted. The Government had no doubt wasted money in the localities which the hon. Member had pointed out. The Royal Commission of 1859 had reported recommending grants of money to certain harbours on the coast of the United Kingdom. The Act of 1861 was intended to over-ride that Report by granting loans at 3¼ per cent to existing harbours. Instead of money being advanced by the Public Loan Commissioners at 3¼ per cent, as was done in connection with the first Tyne and Tees loans the Act was ignored altogether, and as much as 4 per cent, and 4 ¼ per cent in some poor districts, were charged on the loans granted by the Public Works Commissioners. This meant that the interest charged by the Loan Commissioners was now more than could be borrowed from the public; and further expense at this high rate east a burden upon the industry of the localities which undertook to pay such heavy rates of interest for loans for harbour works. The promise made by Mr. Milner Gibson in 1861 had been ignored, and the Public Works Loan Commissioners had taken advantage of the wording of the Act to impose the excessive terms. He (Sir Joseph Pease) had stated his opinion that the original intention was that public money should be lent cheaply for deepening harbours, and constructing fishery harbours on the coast of an essentially maritime country. The Loan Commissioners, he understood, took advantage of the word "may" in the Act of 1861, and they set up a claim to judge of the policy of the works for which the loans were sought. Then there was another point to which he desired especially to call the particular attention of the House. This was that when the Public Works Loan Commissioners took in hand the examination of the work and the proposals of the harbour authorities, they did not deal liberally with questions submitted to them. In the Tees case, where they had spent the sum of £1,000,000 sterling, they had borrowed three-fourths of that sum from the public; but when they went to the Public Loan Commissioners for their last loan they were told that the security they offered, which was the same as that on which a previous loan had been granted, was not sufficiently good. He and those with whom he acted was sure that the security was perfectly good, for they knew that, independently of their tolls, for every foot of water they could got in the harbour they were promoting, they should get larger ships and more foreign trade; and they thought that they had given ample proof of this to the Loan Commission. They showed a toll tariff which would give a large surplus; but the Public Loan Commissioners refused to grant them a loan. Thereupon they called the attention of the late Lord Iddesleigh, who was then Chancellor of the Exchequer, to the subject, and to the wording of the Act of 1861, and showed him that there was reason to believe that the Public; Works Loan Commissioners were not doing their duty to the harbour authorities. The noble Earl—then Sir Stafford Northcote—was good enough to take the matter into consideration. Papers were sent for, submitted to, and considered by him, and the result was that they got their loan. But if in the case of the Tees, where there was a large trade, they had been able to provide for themselves by obtaining their loans in a great measure from the public, as well as to meet the requirements of the Public Works Loan Commissioners, it did not by any moans necessarily follow that iu the case of many of the smaller harbours these promoters could provide for themselves in the same way or to the same extent. Now, if there was one thing which we ought as a nation to do, it was to promote the establishment of harbours, which would be useful to trade in times of peace, and would be conducive to the saving of life; while in times of war they would be of the highest national advantage. If, therefore, anything could be done to promote the object which he had referred to, and to enable the Public Works Loan Commissioners to see that it was their duty to the State to take the most favourable view of the application of the harbour authorities, he thought it would be a most desirable thing. He believed that this object would be promoted if the Board of Trade were intrusted with the duty of judging of the merits of the proposed works. In that case he thought they would have a tribunal better fitted than the Public Works Loan Commissioners to deal with local wants, and to meet the wants especially of the communities which were least able to borrow from the public. For these reasons he should support the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for Banffshire.


said, he felt it his duty at once to state, in answer to the complaint that the rate of interest had been raised 1 per cent, that in the opinion of the Treasury, which was at least as well able to judge of the question as any outside authority, the country owed a great debt of gratitude to the Public Works Loan Commissioners for the admirable manner in which they had discharged their difficult and important duties. They had executed the trust committed to them in a manner which had saved the country great loss, although they had not been able to escape loss altogether. An account had been taken and a calculation made, which showed that on the rates charged there had been a loss of interest on loans to harbour authorities amounting to £8,000. Out of 50 loans granted several would not be repaid. The rates now enforced were sanctioned by the Treasury Minute of the 18th of June, 1885. There were two scales, according as collateral security for the repayment of the loan was or was not offered. When no such security was offered the interest was 3½ per cent, when the loan was repayable in 30 years, 3¾ per cent, when the period of repayment exceeded 30 and did not exceed 40 years, and 4 per cent for periods from 40 to 50 years. When collateral security was offered, the rate was ¼ per cent lower in each case. Those rates could not be considered extravagant. He agreed that loans should be granted if possible when security was offered, but he did. not imagine that his hon. Friend would desire that the Public Works Loan Commissioners should grant loans which were really grants in disguise. It was no doubt desirable that local efforts should be aided wherever it was probable that no loss would be sustained or that there was a general concurrence of opinion. But it would be equally conceded on all hands that too free and lavish a use of State aid tended to discourage private enterprise and to cripple local effort. So far as the Government were concerned they desired to assist local effort in the most beneficent and efficient manner possible. It must, however, be remembered that the Loan Commissioners exercised their authority under an Act of Parliament, and the obvious duty of anybody in such circumstances was not to consider whether the Act of Parliament was right or wrong, but to confine themselves rigidly to the duties prescribed by that Act of Parliament. The Loan Commissioners, in claiming the right to decide as to the policy of these loans, had been acting under their strict legal powers. It was expressly provided that in granting loans they should have regard to the sufficiency of the security for their repayment, and should exercise their judgment whether the work proposed would be so beneficial to the community affected as to justify the loan which was asked. The hon. Member for Banff (Mr. R. W. Duff) had pointed out that the Committee recommended that £350,000 should be set aside annually for these loans. The whole of that sum had not been expended. But Parliament would be unwise in fixing a definite sum like that to be spent each year, because the operation of such a rule would be to multiply the number of applicants, and it would also be necessary either to deal with applications according to priority or to the adequacy of the security offered. The proposed limit of £350,000 had not been reached, not from any desire on the part of the Treasury to impose undue limits, but because the applications had not complied with the requirements imposed. The hon. Member for Banff had referred to the differences which had arisen between the Board of Trade and the Public "Works Loan Commissioners, and he had endeavoured to show that the Commissioners were entitled to a voice as to the policy of the loans, as well as to the security which was offered for their repayment. He was glad to say, however, that his hon. Friend the Secretary to the Board of Trade would be able to inform the House that the negotiations which had been in progress would pro- bably be successful. Therefore, he need not at present go further than that. The hon. Member also referred to the question of waste, and recommended that a certain proportion of the works should be undertaken by the Board of Trade, because the Board had at their disposal engineers who could inspect the works. But the hon. Gentleman himself supplied the soundest argument against Government interference. The hon. Member referred to the case of Wick, and showed conclusively that there the interference of the Government engineers led to a larger outlay than would otherwise have been incurred.


said, he did not mean that the engineers of the Board of Trade should lay down the works, but that there were works going on, as in the case of the Forth Bridge for instance, to which they might be sent for the purposes of inspection. He did not mean that they should be answerable for the works. The Loan Commissioners had no engineers, whereas the Board of Trade had engineers whom they could send out to see that works were carried out according to the plans.


said, the hon. Member had referred to the case of the Forth Bridge. It was true that the Government sent engineers to inspect the works. It ought, however, to be borne in mind that that bridge was built by money advanced, not by the Government, but by the public. In that case the Board of Trade inspection was not for the purpose of seeing that the work was carried out in a particular way, but it was limited entirely to the exercise of the power of the Board to see that the safety of the public was secured. It would be most dangerous for the Government, either through the Board of Trade or any other Body, to make themselves responsible. If they sent an engineer, what would he have to do? Was he to exercise any control over the design or the construction, or was He to make any recommendations, or to insist on certain works being carried out in a particular way? If so the Government engineer, and through him the Government, would immediately be made responsible for carrying out the works. Therefore he would ask the House to hesitate before they adopted a plan of too much Government interference. Then the hon. Member alluded to the enor- mous sum of money expended by France upon harbours; but he did not think that experience of Government outlay and Government responsibility in connection with public works in France furnished an example which it would be desirable for this country to follow. It was true that a great effort was made in France some years ago to induce the Government to aid the workpeople by finding them employment and carrying out public works. Last year it appeared that the sum of 1,000,000 francs was spent on harbour works. Opinion was greatly divided, however, as to whether the ports had derived any advantage from this expenditure. The expenditure was made on the condition that the dues should be increased, the result being that in many of the ports the trade had fallen off. The hon. Member likewise urged that the Government ought to facilitate as far as they could assistance to Local Authorities by giving them larger powers to offer as security their local rates On this point the Government were entirely at one with the hon. Member. They would raise no objection, and they thought it was extremely desirable to extend the powers which these Local Authorities at present possessed. Reference had been also made to the saving of life. Now, it was a curious fact that the evidence of the Wreck Chart went to show that the provision of harbours would not necessarily, to a very largo extent, prevent the loss of life which occurred at present. The largest loss of life took place either on coasts or in districts which were already provided with harbours, or in districts where no proposal had been made to establish harbours, He did not wish to lay too much stress upon that, and he only mentioned the circumstance in order to prevent misconception. If the Government were not able to go the whole length of the hon. Member, it was not from any disregard of the desirability of adopting every means to diminish the loss of' life which took place, The negotiations that had been in progress would, he believed, find a happy medium by which the policy and the conduct of the Board of Trade and the Public Works Loan Commissioners would be brought into harmony. He had reason to hope that his hon. Friend(Mr. R. W. Duff) would agree that if such a solution could be found it would he much better in the interests he so well advocated than an arbitrary change by means of some violent action on the part of Parliament. He hoped, if the Secretary to the Board of Trade was able to inform the House that the recommendations of the Treasury had been accepted by the Board and by the Commissioners, that the hon. Member would feel that he had obtained all He required and would not think it necessary to press his Motion.

MR. ANDERSON (Elgin and Nairn)

said, that difficulties which appeared to him insurmountable were placed in the way of Local Authorities desiring to obtain loans from the Public Works Loan Commissioners. What was perfectly clear to his mind was that the Public Works Loan Commissions had proved to be a complete failure—and that there must be entirely new legislation with regard to them. There must be complete reorganization, and a new body put in their place, who would really be effectual. It was no use going on with old machinery which had already proved practically useless. The House had had no information as to what the Government were going to do in that matter, except that some negotiations were going on between the Treasury and the Public Works Loan Commissioners which would lead to something—they were not told what. Legislation on that subject ought to be taken seriously in hand. The loans made by the Commissioners had been in nearly all cases to largo harbours. That was a mistake. He was satisfied that for the purpose of saving life the great thing was to encourage the making and improvement of small harbours. The harbours of refuge were wanted not for ocean-going steamers, but for fishing boats. In some harbours where the draught of water had previously been sufficient it was now, owing to the increased size of the boats in use, too little. The result was that those harbours were practically useless, as the fishermen could not depend on being able to enter them in bad weather at all states of the tide. Inquiry would show that a great deal of the loss of life which took place round the coasts of Scotland was traceable to the absence of harbours suitable for fishing boats. He would like to hear that a Bill was in preparation which would facilitate Local Authorities in obtaining loans for the, construction of small harbours. Without some such power, it was absolutely impossible to give the prosperity to the fishing industry which it ought to possess. He ventured to think that, in the opinion of that House, the Public Works Loan Commissioners had been proved to be a complete failure. ["No, no!"] Hon. Members might differ from him, but he ventured to think that that was the opinion of everybody capable of forming an opinion on the subject. They were not an efficient body for dealing with questions of this kind. They ought to be got rid of, and a body created which would perform, their duties more thoroughly.

MR. SCLATER-BOOTH (Hants, Basingstoke)

said, he did not think that hon. Members on that side of the House, or even right hon. Members on the Front Opposition Bench, would agree with the hon. Member, who had just sat down, in his estimate of the services of the Public Works Loan Commissioners. Those gentlemen devoted a large portion of their time to the Public Service without fee or reward, and he thought it rather hard that such strong remarks as those of the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down should be made about them. The Public Loan Commissioners stood between the House and the lavish issue of public money demanded by Members who pressed their claims in a manner inconvenient to the Government of the day. The Commissioners had saved the nation the expenditure of many millions of money. He agreed with the hon. Member in one thing—there was no reason why small harbours should not be as useful for harbours of refuge as large harbours; and if money could be advanced for small harbours he, for one, would be glad of it. But to say that money advanced by the Public Works Loan Commissioners for large harbours was money flung into the sea, was a statement which he thought would not receive the assent of the House of Commons. So far as he was aware of the views of the Commissioners, they would not consent to act as the mere agents of the machinery of Parliament, which left them no discretion. They believed they exercised real and important functions, both as [regarded policy and the discretion and judgment they had to display upon the question as to whether or not the security for the loans which they made was sufficient. If their discretion was interfered with or taken away, he apprehended the Commissioners would resign their functions. He trusted Parliament would hesitate long before breaking down that barrier to the lavish expenditure of public money. It must be remembered that ratepayers, though a long-suffering class, had lately shown that they were not willing to add to their burdens. He would only add that he hoped that the House would hoar from the Government what had been done to make matters work more smoothly between the Board of Trade and the Treasury, and that the result would be that advances would be made more speedily and satisfactorily.

MR. P. M'DONALD (Sligo, N.)

said, He desired to draw the attention of the House to the claims of Sligo, a port on the West, which had an extensive coasting trade with Liverpool, Glasgow, and other places. Sligo was an inlet and outlet to a large number of towns of considerable importance. In consequence of a growing trade, the Sligo Harbour Commissioners applied to the Board of Works for a loan of £15,000 for the purpose of deepening the harbour, and dredging it, and making other necessary improvements. The Board of Trade declined to grant the loan, basing their refusal on the fact that the surplus from the harbour dues, after paying the expenses necessary, was not sufficient. But the reason that surplus was so small was because the two years preceding had been unprecedented in point of weather on the Western coasts. Storms had set in and destroyed several important works, and a large expenditure was needed for their repair. It was this expenditure which lessened the surplus, rather than any falling off of the harbour dues. In April, 1886, the Sligo Harbour Commissioners applied to the Treasury for permission for a deputation to wait upon them so that they might explain more fully the several bearings of the case, but as yet no reply had been sent to that request. He hoped the necessary facilities would be given to such deputation by the Secretary to the Treasury; and, if they were, he could promise that Gentleman that such facts would be laid before him as would enable him to recommend to the Loan Commissioners to grant the required loan.

MR. ASHER (Elgin, &c.)

said, a proper appreciation of this Motion could not be attained unless the clear distinction between the class of harbours dealt with by it and harbours of refuge was kept fully before the House. He understood that, prior to 1861, the policy was to support harbour accommodation by means of grants; but, as the result of discussions in this House, the policy was adopted of providing harbour accommodation by means of loans, and not by grants, and no large harbour had since been built at the public expense except where convict labour had been employed. The harbour at Peter-head was one of that class, and was referable to a principle totally different from that which regulated the harbours pointed at in this Motion. He did not concur with what his hon. Friend the Member for Elgin and Nairn (Mr. Anderson) said with regard to the Public Works Loan Commissioners. This Motion was not at all intended to cast any blame upon them, and he believed it was generally conceded that they had performed their difficult duty with great judgment and discretion— guarding the interests of the public in the matter of loans. But what was pointed at in the Motion was, that there was at present imposed upon them a duty which, they were not qualified to discharge—that of deciding on the policy of those works, while there was at pro-sent existing a Government Department in the Board of Trade much better qualified for the discharge of that duty. In that he (Mr. Asher) concurred. There were some general considerations with regard to the Motion which, it seemed to him, went to show that something was required to be done. Since 1861 the policy had been to provide fishing and commercial harbours by means of loans. He entirely approved of that policy. It seemed to him to bring into joint operation local enterprise and energy with the credit of the State, so that harbours could be provided with no loss to the public, and with the greatest advantage to the localities. But the broad features of the case were these. In 1861 the Legislature contemplated that, under the system then inaugurated, a sum of £360,000 might reasonably be expected to be required annually for such loans. He agreed with the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Jackson), that a fixed sum was not a good arrangement, and that there ought to be elasticity, so that a proper application need not be refused in any one year, because it happened that the sum fixed for the year had been expended before the application came in. But the thing to observe was that the full sum of £360,000 had never been reached in anyone year, and that, although in one year it did come up to £260,000, it had been gradually dwindling year by year, until the amount given as loans for harbours was, during the last year, £40,000 or £50,000. That would be intelligible if the necessity had diminished; but everyone who know anything of the subject was aware that along the coasts of Scotland there existed the greatest possible demand for harbour accommodation; so that they had to consider that, while the necessity for increased expenditure was annually growing, the amount of the loans was diminishing. There must be something radically wrong in a system which produced those results. In his opinion, it was attributable to the monopoly possessed by the Public Works Loan Commissioners of the policy of deciding upon the advisability of the loan and the sufficiency of the security; and, while it was quite proper that, on this latter point, the decision should rest with them, yet, in deciding on the former, they were apt to look at it too exclusively from the point of view of the Board that had to see to its securities. If the loan went up to the Public Works Loan Commissioners with the support of a recommendation from the Board of Trade, after full inquiry in favour of the policy of the loan, He could scarcely doubt that the result would be that the improvement of harbours by means of loans would be much more largely productive of good in the future than it had been in the past. Allusion had been made to the question of interest, and the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury indicated no intention of reduction. Now, it appeared to him that the matter of interest was one of the most essential features of the case. He was not in favour of the loans being granted at so low a rate as to entail loss to the public; but, on the other hand, he objected to a rate which was to some extent prohibitive, and which was in excess of what was necessary for the safety of the public. He would put aside the rate for the short period of 15 years for loans, because it was beyond the resources of the places at which harbour accommodation was most needed, and loans most required, to repay the loans in a period short of 50 years. The sliding scale, beginning with a low rate of interest for 20 years, seemed plausible; but as they had no hope of repaying within 50 years, the higher rate was practically that they had to pay. But with collateral security, why should so high a rate of interest as 3¾ per cent be charged? He failed to see how the security was impaired, or the chance of repayment much impaired, by the extension of the time during which the money had to be paid. The theory of the sliding scale was, that the money was loaned by the State to be repaid in 30 years at 3½ per cent; and he failed to see why the addition of 20 years for repayment, by means of a sinking fund, should so depreciate the security as to warrant the increase of a half per cent. Looking at the great importance of providing harbour accommodation, to the immense impetus it would give to an industry in which a large portion of the population were engaged, and to the importance of the supply of an article of food, the proper policy would be to cut down the rate of interest to the lowest possible point which could be regarded as keeping the Exchequer reasonably safe. What had happened in the past seemed to him to justify a reduction, because the evidence taken by the Royal Commission showed that, so far from there having been any loss on interest, the interest actually between 1861 and 1883 amounted to £75,000, more than 3 per cent on the whole sum expended.


But the Government could not borrow at 3 per cent; that was why it was larger.


said, he had always understood that the credit of this country was such as to enable them to get money at a rate not higher than 3 per cent. Now, that was £75,000 which should not have been charged upon the harbours, and should have been saved to the several localities. Then, with regard the capital, the Report of the Commission showed that there was fair and reasonable security for these loans; be- cause, out of a total sum lent from 1861 to 1883 of £2,500,000, there had already been repaid £694,000, while £1,700,000 was not due at the date of the Report; and there was only £62,000 in arrear. So that the experience of the past showed that those harbours were a subject upon which loans might be given with reasonable security; and the interest account showed that the interest; might be reduced with safety to the Exchequer. In these circumstances, he hoped the Government would do something in the direction of enabling loans to be more largely taken advantage of than hitherto. There was no class of the community more desirous of meeting honourably all the obligations they might undertake than the fishing population, and he felt sure it would be doing good service, not only to them but to the State, if the Government would meet them at least half-way in the effort to facilitate the carrying out of improvements on their harbours.

COLONEL HILL (Bristol, S.)

said, he wished to urge upon the Government the importance of providing harbours of refuge on a systematic principle all round the coast, and more particularly at Lundy Island. The importance of these harbours to a great mercantile country like this could not be exaggerated. He was fully persuaded that expenditure of that kind would receive the almost unanimous approbation of the nation, and enable us to maintain our military and commercial supremacy. He would suggest that a certain sum should be devoted annually to the purpose, so that the work might go on continually.


said, this question was one of particular interest to Scottish Representatives, not only because of the importance of the fishing industry in Scotland, but also on account of the more than usually intricate circumstances with which they had to deal. The hon. and learned Member fur the Elgin Burghs had not in the least overstated the case when he spoke of the enormous development that might be effected in the harbour accommodation on the coasts of Scotland, and the importance which would be given to it by lowering the rate of interest. He could speak only with regard to fishing harbours, but as the Representative of a burgh with a great commercial harbour, he could vouch for the advantage which that burgh received from getting their money at 3¼ per cent for the construction of their harbour. In Scotland they found great difficulty in knowing where they were. It was very difficult to get clear and sufficient information upon which they could set to work. They had to deal not only with the Public Works Loan Commissioners, but also with the Board of Trade and the Scottish Fishery Board, and in the Highlands there were also questions connected with the Crofters Commission. They had no Local Authority through which the fishermen could make their wants sufficiently known locally, and there was the difficulty of finding subjects on which loans could be raised. The system of tenure in the North-East of Scotland was of a faulty nature. The system of feus had not been introduced there, and the fishermen could not raise loans on their properties. If these difficulties were removed, and clearer information were circulated, they should, have less nonsense talked about impossible fishery harbours, and more practical work would be done. Members for fishing constituencies often bad to deal with very troublesome matters connected with these fishery harbours, and sometimes gave very awkward pledges concerning them. A great deal had been said about the risk involved in the spending of money on fishery harbours. It was on account of that risk—on account of the difficulty that fishermen, who were generally men without capital, had in raising the necessary funds, and of the enormous increase which in some districts might be achieved by developing harbour accommodation in aiding the food supply of the country —it was on these grounds that they trusted Her Majesty's Government would give a favourable consideration to the case placed before them. Our fishermen had to contend with fishermen in foreign countries, who received large bounties; and the least we could do here was to secure that as far as possible they should have safety to their lives and property, and that the resources of the seas surrounding our shores should be developed to the very highest possible degree.


said, he had been asked to state whether any agreement had been entered into between the Board of Trade and the Public Works Loan Commissioners. He thought He should be able to answer the question in a manner satisfactory to both sides of the House. The hon. and learned Member for the Elgin Burghs (Mr. Asher) stated correctly that the Motion before the House was not in the slightest degree intended to cast any censure upon the Public Works Loan Commissioners, but it was intended to indicate that in the opinion of the House the Harbour Department of the Board of Trade was better qualified to give a technical opinion of the requirements of certain localities for harbours than the Commissioners could possibly be; and, further, that the powers of the Public Works Loan Commissioners should mainly be restricted to ascertaining whether the security offered was adequate and proper security—a question as to which the Board of Trade could not give a competent opinion. The view of the Board of Trade was perfectly in accord with that, and almost immediately after the Report of the Commission presided over by the right hon. Member for Berwickshire (Mr. Marjoribanks), the Board placed themselves in communication with the Treasury with the view, if possible, of arriving at some arrangement in the direction he had indicated. The recommendation of that Committee was that to the Harbour Department of the Board of Trade should be confined the duty of deciding and reporting as to the policy and expediency of any particular work in the United Kingdom; while the question of the value of the security which was offered by the Harbour Authority should alone be dealt with by the Public Works Loan Commissioners. Since that time—quite recently—the Board of Trade had been in communication with the Treasury, and he was now authorized to say that an agreement had been entered into between the two Departments, the conditions of which he would give to the House— It is agreed between the Board of Trade and the Loan Commissioners that greater latitude is to he given to the class of harbour works which are to "be assisted by loans under the Harbour and Passing Tolls Act of 1861. The Hoard of Trade consent to exclude from the definition of works to be so assisted—(1) open piers, such as Brighton and Ramsey; (2) wharfs and warehouses, and other mere facilities for trade; (3) docks where dues are levied; (4) river improvements which are independent of refuge and shelter at the river mouth. The Board of Trade will recommend harbour works for loans subject to these limitations, and the Public Works Loan Commissioners will accept the recommendation so far as policy is concerned. The Public Works Loan Commissioners remain sole judges of the security offered and it is understood that the agreement implies no relaxation on their part of the principle that they will grant no loan unless fully satisfied that the security offered is ample. If in any case the Public Works Loan Commissioners should consider that recommendations fall outside the agreed limitations, or if new questions as to the nature of works to be assisted should arise, a conference will be held between the Board of Trade and the Loan Commissioners. If the two parties should not be able to agree, the points at issue will be referred to the First Lord of the Treasury as arbitrator. Loans will not be recommended by the Board of Trade to encourage mere local rivalry. Further than that— Reports of the Board of Trade are to be made upon the various applications for harbour loans, stating fully the grounds of the Board's recommendations. These Reports are to be laid before Parliament. The Board of Trade, in making their recommendations, propose, subject to the limitations described before, to be guided by the following considerations:—(1) That refuge and shelter should be considered more important than mere facilities to trade; (2) that fishery harbours should be very favourably considered; (3) that public trusts should be more favourably considered than mere profit-making companies; (4) that market rates should be charged to wealthy bodies obtaining Government loans, unless in respect of works which it may not be the interest of the ratepayers to make. These suggestions, he thought, were very fair, and would, he hoped, meet the views of hon. Members who considered that loans should be made in aid of fishing harbours rather than for the purpose of promoting commercial undertakings. As a matter of fact, private enterprise did not require State aid in this respect, because in 20 years no less than £23,000,000 had been expended by private enterprise on 17 commercial harbours. He did not think the House would consider it was in any way the duty of the Public Works Loan Commissioners to grant loans solely for the purpose of promoting the rivalry in the trade of one harbour against another. That was not the object the Commissioners had ever had in view, or ought to have in view; but they ought to encourage—and by this scheme they would encourage—the fishing industry. They would, in the case of dangerous harbours, render them if possible more safe. As regarded the rate of interest, that was a question solely for the Public Works Loan Commissioners, and one in which the Board of Trade would in no way interfere. He would point out that the agreement made between the Board of Trade and the Public Works Loan Commissioners carried out to the full the suggestions made by the hon. Gentleman (Mr. R. W. Duff) who had brought the Motion before the notice of the House, inasmuch as it gave an initiative to the Board of Trade, and because the Public Works Loan Commissioners would have the benefit of the technical experience of the Harbour Department of the Board of Trade with regard to the harbours to be assisted. The only question that the Public Works Loan Commissioners would have to consider would in future be whether the security was adequate for the loan required. Under these circumstances, he hoped the hon. Gentleman would not think it necessary to press the Motion, but would withdraw it; and, if so, he believed he would find that the arrangement between the two Departments would be much more satisfactorily and expeditiously carried out than under Parliamentary interference.

MR. MARJORIBANKS (Berwickshire)

As Chairman of the Select Committee which sat upon the subject of harbour accommodation, I should like to say a few words before the debate closes. The statement made by the Secretary to the Board of Trade (Baron Henry De Worms) is what we desired, and we shall be glad to accept it as far as it goes, as it practically covers the point raised by the Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for Banffshire (Mr. R. W. Duff). It has never been suggested that such things as promenade piers should be brought under the Board of Trade, and, in my opinion, should not be helped by public loans at all. I should have wished that the Board of Trade had gone a step or two further, and had taken upon itself the duty of discriminating somewhat more clearly what harbours should receive public assistance at all; because the principle which has been acted upon by the Commissioners up to the present is this—that whatever harbour chooses to ask for aid, provided it can give the necessary security, is entitled to obtain a loan, irrespective of how far the work is necessary or likely to be of advantage to the public at large. Now, I say that, when we are lending public money for the purpose of providing refuge and shelter ports, we should take care that they are provided in the particular locality where they would be of the greatest possible use. That is particularly the case in regard to fishing harbours, which are to a peculiar degree proper subjects for loans of this kind. It is quite extraordinary how many of them there are, especially on the North-East coast. As a matter of fact we have a series of small fishing harbours, which on the average comprise one for every eight miles of coast; Each of these harbours has its own colony of boats, but in a storm the harbours are quite useless, and in any stress of weather it is difficult to enter them, even at those states of the tide when there is a sufficient depth of water. Now, I maintain that the proper policy for the Government to pursue, is to supplement these fishing harbours by somewhat larger harbours, capable of admitting boats at all states of the tide, at intervals all round the coast. If such a policy is adopted, the greatest care will have to be taken in selecting the places where new and important harbours could be most properly placed. For this reason, I think that considerable discrimination should be used in consenting to loans for harbours, altogether irrespective of the fact whether the security offered is sufficient or not, or whether an available harbour can be made for the money. With regard to what the Secretary of the Board of Trade has said as to the rate of interest, I quite agree with my hon. Friend the late Solicitor General for Scotland (Mr. Asher) said. It is quite useless to grant loans for any less period than 50 years. I think that terra is short enough, because the works, of course, take some time to execute, and a still further time for increased revenue to accrue. With regard to the question of the decrease in the number of loans applied for, I can honestly say that the decrease is, in a great degree, due to the difficulties put in the way of obtaining them. The House has been told that in this matter a stop forward has been made, and I am quite ready to admit it. There is another question touching the same point which I should like to notice, and that is that many of these small places have existing debts already—debts due to banks, and so forth, at a comparatively heavy rate of interest. One of the recommendations which the Select Committee thought was well worthy of consideration by the Government was, whether it would not be advisable, from the case which had been made out, to enable the Public Works Loan Commissioners to advance money for the consolidation of such existing debts. I am speaking of small places, and not harbours whose debts are to be counted by thousands of pounds—but still, harbours where improvements are necessary and needed. That is a point, the necessity of which, I think, presses upon the hon. Gentlemen opposite for consideration. With regard to the action of the Public Works Loan Commissioners generally, I have no desire to depreciate the high importance and usefulness of their work, but I think they are a far more competent and useful body in reference to their ordinary work than they are in regard to harbour loans. You have got 16 gentlemen of the highest integrity, for the most part resident in the City. I quite admit that they are well enough able to judge of the value of the security offered for the construction of water works, or carrying out drainage works, or building schools; but I maintain that they do not possess the technical knowledge necessary to enable them to judge properly with regard to harbours, and I think that one of the great mischiefs in regard to harbour loans is, that they are treated on the same footing as other loans. Now, I contend that this is entirely wrong, and I will give the House my reasons why I think it is wrong. In the first place, it is a distinct breach of the pledge given by Parliament to the country. In the early part of this century any assistance to harbour construction was given by way of grant. Between the years 1800 and 1860 £10,000,000 was given in that way, of which only some £400,000 went to the smaller harbours. In 1857 a Committee of the House, followed by a Royal Commission in 1859, made some recommendations on the subject. Those recommendations were so largo that they entirely staggered right hon. Gentlemen then at the Treasury and the Board of Trade. I do not wonder at it. The policy of dealing with this subject by grants was then done away with, and in lieu of it the policy was adopted of loans at a low rate of interest, the payment being spread over a long period of years. It i wag distinctly laid down that the rate of interest was to be 3¼ per cent, and the term 50 years. By treating a harbour loan as any other loan a distinct breach was committed of the pledge given by an Act of Parliament. The next step was in 1879, when the rate was raised practically 1 per cent. That arrangement again was modified in 1882, by allowing collateral security to be given, and in 1885 the rate of interest was lowered ½ per cent in such cases where collateral security is forthcoming. My next point is, that these loans have not been treated in the same way as other matters which came before the Public Works Loan Commissioners. The ordinary subjects that come before the Loan Commissioners are matters in regard to which Parliament has stepped in and declared that it is necessary that certain things should be done—such as schools, water works, drainage, and other objects. In all those cases you can tell what is going to happen—Parliament has compelled certain works to be done for the benefit of the people. You, therefore, know that you will have to expend a certain sum of money, perhaps, in building schools which will accommodate a certain number of children. Parliament has said that schools must be built, and we have got the unexceptionable security of the rates of the country. But in the case of harbours Parliament does not say that certain things shall be done; but if a locality comes forward and says—"We are willing to put our hands into our pockets for the purpose of making a harbour; will you lend us the money to do it?" That I maintain is a very different thing from the case where Parliament says that a certain thing must be done. There is, however, another point and that is the element of uncertainty in connection with all harbours which is inherent in the nature of the case. You never can be sure, even with the advice of the best engineers, whether when the work is completed it will not cost a good deal more than was originally contemplated, and whether it will effect the object for which it was intended. There are the inevitable risks during the construction of the works of the inroads of the sea, and there is great risk even after their com- pletion of injury from the same cause. When the country lends money for harbour construction I think it ought to be prepared to accept that risk, and, provided the security is good enough, to hear a certain amount of the risk, in order to say that the public work for which it lends the money should fulfil the work for which it is lent. I can give an illustration of the way in which these works have been dealt with in the case of my own constituency. I refer to the harbour of Eyemouth, with which I am well acquainted. That harbour is admittedly the most suitable place for a harbour upon that coast. Expert after expert has so reported. It enjoys an admirable position for a harbour of refuge, seeing that it is in immediate contiguity with one of the most productive fishing grounds on the whole of the North-East coast. They prepared a big scheme for the construction of harbour works which was to cost £80,000, but the necessary funds were not forthcoming. In 1880 they made an application for assistance to the Scotch Fishery Board. In 1881 there was a terrible gale, and one-half of the male fishing population of Eyemouth were drowned. That occurrence naturally stirred up the people of the locality, and they were determined to do something or other to remedy the existing state of things. A smaller scheme was devised—a scheme which was to cost £40,000; but even that was considered too big, and it was not until 1880 that the locality was able to negotiate a loan of £25,000 upon the collateral security of the rates. These unfortunate people managed to negotiate their loan just two months before the reduction of the rate of interest, and the consequence is that they are still burdened with a loan of £25,000 under the old rate of interest enforced under the Treasury Minute of 1879. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. Henry H. Fowler) was very much impressed with that case, and was inclined to give way. The people of Eye-mouth were obliged in the first instance to increase the accommodation of the inner basin of the harbour, so that the harbour itself would be able to provide for more boats, that from the increased revenue they might be able to meet the liabilities of their loan. To increase the depth of water at the entrance, it was necessary to dredge the harbour, and when the dredging was commenced it was found that the North-West pier, which it was always intended to retain as it was had been built upon the mud, and not taken down to the rock. The consequence was that had the dredging operations been proceeded with the scour of the sea would have washed away the foundation of this pier and it would have fallen in. It became necessary to rebuild this pier before the entrance could be improved; for this there is no funds; and so the place now has a good inner basin, but no improved entrance. That is the present position of Eyemouth. The people there are fixed with a debt of £25,000. Their revenue is not likely to increase, because they are unable to afford a sufficiently good entrance to the harbour. In such a case, I maintain that it is very bad policy for the Government not to come to the rescue, and advance another £5,000 or £0,000 to complete the works. Surely if the security of the town was sufficient for £25,000, it was good enough for a further sum of £5,000 or £6,000. Because that sum has not been advanced, I am afraid that both capital and interest will be lost altogether. I think the Government should be chary in advancing any money at all without ascertaining to a certainty, in the first instance, that the particular sum. asked for will accomplish the object for which it is required. Yet this is what has happened in the case of Eyemouth. The Loan Commissioners refuse to advance the extra £5,000 or £6,000. I am afraid they will find themselves losers in the end, and in the meantime both the fishermen and the ratepayers are in a very bad way. I do not think I ought to trouble the House at any greater length on this subject; but I insist on the necessity and the desirability of doing all the Government can to assist the small fishing harbours. The fisheries of this country are of enormous value and importance. It will be found from the Returns of the Board of Trade that the value of fish caught last year amounted to no less than £6,400,000. The fishermen who live in. these small colonies are not in a position to spend large sums of money. So far as experience goes, what has occurred in the case of the counties of Banffshire and Aberdeenshire, the construction of good harbours, has been accompanied with their bringing in good revenues. I believe that if additional harbours are provided, the result will be the same if the positions are carefully selected. The question is not only one of saving many lives, but of enabling a large number of people to live; I do appeal most earnestly to the Treasury and to the Board of Trade to do all in their power to assist this most important work.

MR. J. C. STEVENSON (South Shields)

said, that having been interested in this question for more than 30 years as a Member of the Tyne Improvement Commission, and ever since he had been a Member of the House, he desired to add a few words before the discussion closed. He congratulated his hon. Friend who brought on the question on his good fortune at having obtained a calm interval in the present political strife for this discussion, and on the amount of concession which He had obtained from the Government. While the sympathies of the House were naturally with the smaller fishery harbours, he claimed for the large trading harbours, such as the Tyne, the credit of having saved the Treasury enormous sums of money by the protection which the deepening of these harbours had afforded to shipping colliers in the North Sea, which the country would have compelled Parliament to grant for purely refuge harbours. Parliament adopted instead the cheaper and better policy of improving the harbours of destination, by means of loans at an exceptionally low rate of interest, and they wanted now to go back to the original policy of the Act of 1861. That Act, as first administered, made the Board of Trade the recommending authority, leaving the Loan Commission to decide only on the security. He was glad that it was now proposed to restore the position of the Board of Trade in respect of policy. The Act of 1861 was based on the principle of exceptionally low rates of interest for harbours, and was so administered at first; and there was no reason to increase the rate as the State could borrow money at a lower rate now than at that time. Too severe a view had been taken of the very small so-called losses to the Treasury by these loans. Sea-works were in their nature experimental, and even the failures in one place were most valuable experiences for the designs of subsequent erections. He had to complain that in the Tyne Acts, and in those of other harbours, the Treasury had inserted clauses prohibiting the borrowing of money from the Loan Commissioners, or at any rate imposing conditions of priority of security in favour of the Loan Board over other creditors. He also complained that, under the Income Tax Acts, harbour trusts were charged income tax on their surplus revenue. This surplus was necessary to satisfy the Loan Commissioners and other lenders, of the soundness of the finances of the trust, and being spent in lieu of capital was in no sense profit, and therefore ought not to be taxed.


said, that after the appeal that had been made to him by the Secretary to the Board of Trade he would not press the Motion to a Division. The hon. Gentleman opposite had practically conceded nearly all he had asked. He should like to know, however, whether the agreement to which the hon. Gentleman referred would be laid on the Table of the House, and on what terms the Government proposed to grant loans to individuals and Joint Stock Companies? He hoped the Secretary to the Treasury would reconsider the matter, and see if he could not give them money at 3¼ per cent. The matter was of some interest; but he was satisfied with what had been said by the Secretary to the Board of Trade, and he asked leave to withdraw his Motion.


said, that hon. Members should take care to see that this matter was considered not solely with regard to the peculiarities of the East Coast. This line of coast had many peculiarities, and was in many respects different from the West Coast. A large trade passed along it, and a large number of wrecks resulted during the course of the year. The fishing trade on the East Coast was quite different from that on the West, which, in the case of Ireland, was largely undeveloped. He hoped that the limitation of not advancing money to Trade Companies for the purpose of developing trade would not be adhered to, because it would act in a most injurious manner in the case of Ireland. It seemed to him that the Secretary to the Treasury did not go so far in the matter of interest as the Act of 1861. He thought that the interest allowed under that Act was 3¼ per cent; but in 1879 it had grown from 3½ to 4½ per cent, which was an enormous increase. With reference to the case of Galway Harbour, he might mention the fact that every naval officer and other official who went before the Committee on Harbours of Refuge, spoke in the strongest terms of the necessity of doing something for Galway. Conservative Governments had said that they were going to establish a convict prison at Galway in order to complete the works there, and they had been continually dangling before the inhabitants the prospect of a large scheme being carried out there. If the Government meant to manage that port they ought really to do so. and not to delude the people of Galway with the expectation that they were going to make a magnificent harbour there, although they did nothing to execute it. He wished, also, to ask the Secretary to the Treasury how that Act was to be worked in Ireland, and whether that country would obtain all the advantages which were to be enjoyed by Great Britain? The right hon. Member for Berwickshire wanted what he called small fishery harbours in England into which vessels could run at low spring tides. Such harbours in Ireland, where they had not so much money, would be called very good harbours, and they would be most useful on the West Coast, where four or five of them were much needed. The late Chancellor of the Exchequer had held out to them, as one of the great advantages which they would gain from the Government, not that they would get Home Rule, but that the advisability of establishing some deep-sea harbours on the West Coast of Ireland would be taken into favourable consideration by the Ministry. He hoped that the Government would redeem what might almost be regarded as their pledges, and construct deep-sea harbours, drawing nine or ten feet at spring tides, on the West Coast of Ireland.

MR. W. J. CORBET (Wicklow, E.)

said, the £20,000 for the construction of Arklow Harbour had been guaranteed by the neighbouring baronies, and he wished to call the attention of the House to the mode in which the money was expended.


said, the case of Arklow Harbour did not come under the terms of the Motion before the House, and could not in Order be brought forward at that time.


said, he wished merely to state that the £20,000 was ample for the purpose of constructing a harbour at Arklow, were it not for the fact that the Board of Works proceeded on defective plans; and he, therefore, appealed to the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Jackson)— whose courtesy during the long and protracted correspondence on the subject he was bound to acknowledge—that the poor fishermen of Arklow should not be saddled with the cost of the additional works rendered necessary owing to the bungling of the Board of Works. He trusted the Government would take this matter into consideration, and come to the conclusion that the poor fishermen and inhabitants of the town should not be called upon to make good the default of the Board of Works.

MR. P. J. POWER (Waterford, E.)

said, he thought it was a waste of public money to appoint Committee after Committee on this or any other subject, and then when they received the Reports of these Committees and Commissions to allow their recommendations to lie idly by. This applied in a particular degree to the question under discussion. They had already had Commissions on the subject, and hitherto, so far as they knew, no good had come to the county from these Commissions. They had cost considerable sums of money, but nothing had been done to carry out the recommendation of the Commissioners. He would admit that the answer which the Government had given to the Motion at present under consideration went, to some extent, to meet the point raised, but not in a full or satisfactory manner. Hitherto it appeared that the Board of Trade and Loan Commissioners had not had their duties properly defined, and the way in which they had conducted their business had led to a considerable amount of confusion, expense, and delay. The Loan Commissioners were no judges as to where a harbour of refuge might be usefully constructed. They were gentlemen who, as a rule, were not qualified to give an opinion on this matter. The Board of Trade were, in their turn, not the proper authorities to advise as to the solvency of the securities offered for the repayment of loans given by that measure for carrying out these works. He had gathered, however, from the reply which had been given to this Motion by the Government, that the duties of those two Bodies would in future be properly defined—that the duty of the Loan Commissioners would be confined to looking into the nature of the security offered for the loan requested, and that of the Board of Trade would be limited to considering the suitability of the sites recommended for harbours of refuge. If this was done, and the two Boards were induced to work harmoniously together, great advantage would thereby accrue to the public. It was impossible to lay too much stress on this subject, bearing in mind the great loss of life and property that might be prevented by the construction of harbours of refuge; and he urged the Government to offer Local Authorities such terms in lowness of interest and extent of years for repayment as would almost compel them to construct harbours where they were needed. It must be acknowledged, he thought, that local enterprise had hitherto done its part in the matter; but that the State had failed to do its fair share, seeing that the work was, to a large extent, of a national character. Still, he was satisfied that, if sufficiently favourable terms were offered to Local Authorities, harbours of refuge would be constructed on many parts of our coasts. Taking Waterford, in which he was particularly interested, as a case in point, he believed that if the Government offered the Local Authorities a loan for 50 years at a low rate of interest, they would remove the bar and make the harbour one of the finest and most useful in the United Kingdom, and thus prevent serious loss of life and property on the coast. In one year 36 vessels in distress came off this harbour, and he regretted to say a number of these became total wrecks. By a judicious expenditure of a little money this harbour could be rendered a place of the greatest safety.

MR. BYRNE (Wicklow, W.)

said, that the Board of Trade was composed of gentlemen who were by no means capable of deciding questions as to the construction of harbours. He felt bound to complain of the manner in which the Board of Works in Ireland performed its duties in connection with the construction of harbours. It was the slowest Board in all Ireland, and was largely composed of worn-out public servants. He held that the responsibility of determining when and where harbours should be built ought not to be divided. One Board ought to be constituted having supreme control. The loans granted under the present system were often too small, and the result was that many harbours lacked stability and were not large enough. The time for the repayment of the loans should be extended from 60 to 63 years, and the interest should be lowered to such a rate that Local Bodies should take advantage of them. With regard to the Arklow Harbour, it was a glaring example how the work was done by the engineers of the Board of Works. The engineers of the Board knew nothing about the local tides. They drew plans which were not practicable, the result being that the works were unstable and inefficient. Instead of adopting their present cheeseparing policy, the Government should grant such an amount as would enable the works to be carried out in an efficient manner. He urged the importance of providing piers and harbours for fishermen on favourable terms, being convinced that whatever money was granted in this direction by the Government they would get ample value for it. The loans made to Harbour Boards ought not to be repayable within less than 50 years, and the cost of harbours of refuge, like that at Arklow, should be defrayed partly out of Imperial funds, the interests which they served being by no means exclusively local.

MR. PLYNN (Cork, N.)

said, he desired to point out that the Harbour Commissioners of Waterford had already incurred an expenditure of £2,000 in obtaining a Provisional Order, in order to obtain the benefit of a loan; but the rate demanded was too high to enable them to take advantage of the loan. It was a matter of importance that something should be done to improve the harbour. A great number of shipwrecks had occurred there in recent years. On one occasion a large barque which was unable to cross the bar went down with all hands. The case of Arklow Harbour was an instance of gross incompetency and lamentable waste of public money. He thought that in the fugitive moments which the Government had to spare from pursuits more congenial to them, they might give some attention to the development of those resources in Ireland which, if she had the power of managing her own affairs, Ireland would soon turn to the best account.

MR. J. O'CONNOR (Tipperary, S.)

said, that, in supporting the Motion, he would recommend that the interest on the loans should be materially lessened, so as to induce the Local Authorities to borrow and construct harbours, and develop the resources of the country. It was a matter of Imperial necessity that harbours should be constructed round their coasts, and it would tend to the safety of their commerce, and greatly minimize the loss of life which occurred year after year.

MR. O'HEA (Donegal, W.)

said, that he had called the attention of the late Government to the case of two harbours in the constituency of West Donegal— Portnoo and Bunbeg—on which large amounts had been expended by the Board of Trade; but the work had been carried out in such an unskilful manner as to make both harbours a nuisance instead of a boon. He believed that two Government engineers had gone to visit that place, but he had never heard that they had done anything more. The foundations of a new pier were laid there some time ago; but that pier was now a mass of débris, and instead of a shelter it was a danger to vessels entering the harbour. At another harbour in West Donegal, a steamer which came within about a mile of the coast was unable to call in bad weather for want of a suitable pier. If something practical were to be done the people would not grudge the money.

DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid)

said, that a similar Motion had been brought before the House last Session, but no practical result had followed. In his opinion, unless the works which were begun were carried to completion, the money might as well be thrown into the sea. From Waterford to Bantry Bay, practically speaking, although there was an immense amount of fishing on that part of the coast, there had been no money spent by the Government. He thought also that something might be done in the way of blowing up the rock which barred the harbour of Cork, if money were advanced to the Cork Harbour Commissioners for that purpose.

MR. BARRY (Wexford, S.)

I do not think that anything could have been more clear than the speech of the hon. Member for Banffshire (Mr. Duff) in introducing this subject to the House. I maintain that the present state of the machinery for dealing with this important question of harbours is altogether inadequate. In the course of this debate we have heard some very hard questions about the Public Works Loan Commissioners. The right hon. Member for Berwickshire (Mr. Marjoribanks) went so far as to say that the Commissioners have altogether neglected their duty, and have studied different interests from those of the great question with which they have been called upon to deal. Now, I do not altogether agree in that opinion. I think that under the circumstances in which the Public Works Loan Commissioners are placed, all things considered, they have discharged their duty in a very satisfactory manner. But it appears to me that they have laid too much stress upon the purely commercial aspect of the question, and have excluded altogether from their consideration matters of public policy. If the Resolution of the hon. Member for Banffshire is agreed to, the effect would be to divide the consideration of the subject into two parts—one being its commercial aspect, and the other the consideration of the question of public policy. We have also heard during the debate a defence of the Public Works Loan Commissioners by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Hants (Mr. Sclater-Booth). The right hon. Gentleman said the Commissioners are a body of highly honourable gentlemen; that they are unpaid; and that they have discharged their duties in a manner which has been altogether satisfactory. Now, it appears to me a very poor argument to say that because gentlemen are unpaid, and are filling a purely honorary office, therefore they must be trusted with the decision of very large and important issues. My opinion is that a question of this great magnitude, affecting an important mercantile country like this—namely, the question of providing harbours of refuge—would be in much litter hands if loft to the disposal of the Board of Trade. There is a strong opinion among those who are interested in the matter that it is not only an important, but a most urgent question. A considerable amount of evidence was sub- mitted to the Harbour Committee, which was so ably presided over by the right hon. Member for Berwickshire. That Committee took the evidence of experts —men who thoroughly understood the condition of the coast and harbour accommodation—and any hon. Member who will take the trouble to read through the evidence submitted to that Select Committee will find that the harbour accommodation, particularly in reference to harbours of refuge, is altogether inadequate around our coast. Although now two years have elapsed since the Select Committee sent in their Report, as far as I know not a single step has been taken to carry out any of the important recommendations made by the Committee, and the whole matter of securing loans or making harbours of refuge still remains with the Public Works Loan Commissioners, and nothing is likely to be done until some step is taken in the direction of the Motion of the hon. Member for Banffshire to remedy the evils which are complained of. I have no desire to detain the House by entering into any details upon the question; I certainly have in my possession a great deal of detailed information showing where the Public Works Loan Commissioners have already failed to discharge in a satisfactory manner their public functions in reference to harbours of refuge; but I do not propose to trouble the House with them. I will, however, with the permission of the House, submit a single case which happens to concern my own constituency, and which shows to what a lamentable extent the Public Works Loan Commissioners have acted in dealing with this important question. As far back as 1864 an Act of Parliament was obtained for the construction of a harbour at Ross-slade, in the County of Wexford, and although repeated applications were made to the Public Works Loan Commissioners to further that object, nothing was done. Pour years afterwards, on the recommendation of Captain Field, of Her Majesty's ship Helicon, the Admiral ordered a survey. That survey took place, and a Report was sent in recommending the construction of a harbour at this particular point. Again, an interval of three years elapsed before the Public Works Loan Commissioners took any action in the matter. At the end of that time they ordered a special survey to be made by Mr. Rendel, the eminent civil engineer, and then, on his recommendation, the Public Works Loan Commissioners agreed to advance a sum of £75,000 to be secured on the harbour tolls alone; but at the same time they imposed as a condition that if they advanced that sum the promoters of the harbour should undertake to connect such harbour with the railway system of Ireland. That involved another considerable delay, which amounted to something like two years. At the end of that time a sufficient sum of money was raised locally to connect the proposed harbour with the general railway system of Ireland. A sum of from £75,000 to £78,000 was raised, and the railway was completed. The Public Works Loan Commissioners then advanced by three instalments a sum which amounted altogether to £45,000, although the original amount agreed upon was £75,000. When that £45,000 had been advanced they ordered a second investigation by Mr. Rendel, and then it was Mr. Rendel discovered what is often—indeed, I may say invariably— the case in large operations of this kind— namely, that the original estimate was not sufficient for the completion of the work. Anyone conversant with harbour works will know that it is a very rare exception for a harbour to be constructed within the original time, and certainly the Public Works Loan Commissioners, from their lengthened experience in such matters, must have known that it was a very unusual circumstance to complete the harbour for the sum of money originally demanded. Mr. Rendel sent in a further Report, stating what the amount of money was that would be necessary to complete the harbour. What happened then? The Public Works Loan Commissioners, ignoring altogether the question of public policy involved in the construction of this harbour, actually suspended their contribution towards the cost of the remaining works. The result was that, for two years and a-half, the works were allowed to stand idle and the machinery to rust. At the end of that time, acting under strong representations, they made a further advance of £15,000; but when that sum was expended, of course, the harbour still remained in a most unfinished state. Repeated applications were made to them to finish their part of the original bargain. They were given to understand how important it was, from a national point of view, to complete these works. But it was all in vain; the works were stopped, and for a period of two years were permitted to stand idle. The same amount of dislocation followed; the plant became, to a great extent, useless, and heavy loss followed to those who had entered into the construction of the railway, on the understanding that the Public Works Loan Commissioners would advance £75,000 for the construction of the harbour. The railway remained practically inoperative, and nothing was done even sufficient to recoup the promoters of the railway for interest upon the capital they had invested. This state of things prevailed down to 1881. In that year I had the honour of introducing a deputation to the late Mr. Forster, who was then Chief Secretary for Ireland. After hearing what the state of the case was, that right hon. Gentleman said that the only way to recover the largo sums of money which had already been spent on the pier and harbour and on the railway was for the Government to sanction such loans as would enable the works to be completed. Backed up by that strong opinion from the Chief Secretary for Ireland, and by highly influential opinion in the county, a further application was made to the Public Works Loan Commissioners, and again the extreme urgency of the case was ignored, and nothing was done. The next stop was to make an application for a grant under the Pier and Harbour Commission, which was then sitting under the Presidency of my hon. Friend the Member for Carlow (Mr. J. A. Blake). The inquiry of that Commission was held in January, 1884, and an important body of evidence was placed before the Commission. The Commissioners, while agreeing as to the necessity of establishing a harbour of refuge at this particular point, and as to the desirability of the Public Works Loan Commissioners making an advance to complete the harbour works, said that they were unable to make a grant from their own funds, because the matter did not come exactly within the scope of the inquiry which my hon. Friend the Member for Carlow was conducting. Another deputation, in consequence, waited upon the Treasury, and a further appeal was made, with the result that the balance of the loan originally agreed upon has been granted. I may point out that in the interval which elapsed, and taking the two periods during which the works were stopped, an enormous loss had accrued. I cannot at this moment give an accurate estimate as to the amount of the loss, but I know that it was very large indeed; and I maintain that it is a very great reflection upon the Public Works Loan Commissioners that they should have twice departed from their original bargain to advance the sum of £75,000. It is much to their discredit that they permitted a work of national importance to stand still for a period of five years, and that then, at the end of that time, acting under very strong representations and under great pressure, they made the advance that was necessary to cover the original amount promised. I submit that under the Motion of the hon. Member for Banffshire such a state of things would be met in future, because an important Department of the State, such as the Board of Trade, would take the question into consideration from a broader point of view than that which is taken by the Public Works Loan Commissioners. They would allow the question of safety and the desirability of having a harbour of refuge on different parts of the coast to have due weight with them. Broader questions of policy would influence the action of the Board of Trade, whereas such considerations are altogether excluded from the deliberations of a body like the Public Works Loan Commissioners, who take a hard-and-fast commercial view only. The particular case which I have cited stands in this position—that a sum of public money, amounting in the aggregate to £122,000, has been advanced, while private money to the extent of £76,000 has also been expended; so that something like £200,000 has been advanced to make this harbour of Ross-slade. I may add that that is the only harbour of refuge between Dublin and Waterford. Under the present machinery provided by the State there is not the slightest chance of this harbour being finished. Some hon. Gentlemen may say—"Why does not the public spirit of the locality step in and stop the practice?" All I can reply to that argument is this—that the public in the neighbourhood, both landowners and land workers—landlords and tenants— have already advanced £76,000 for the construction of the railway, and they feel and believe that the Government, through the Public Works Loan Commissioners, are directly committed and pledged to finish this work. There is not the most remote possibility that another penny of private money will be subscribed for this purpose. The consequence of the present state of things is that something like £200,000, more than one-half of which consists of public money, has been absolutely thrown into the sea, and will be irretrievably lost, unless something farther is done by the Board of Trade, or some other Department of the State, to finish the works. Knowing, as I do, that instances of this kind could be multiplied to an unlimited extent in connection with the harbours around the coast, there can be no wonder that hon. Members sitting on these Benches should feel anxious that the Motion of the hon. Member for Banff-shire should be pressed. I do not know whether the hon. Member intends to press the Motion to a Division; but, whether it is so not, I hope the Government will take the matter into their serious consideration, and will come to the conclusion, viewing the question from a common-sense point of view, that it is absurd, in a matter involving the lives of hundreds of people and thousands of pounds of property, that it should be at the disposal of a number of gentlemen merely filling an honorary position as Public Works Loan Commissioners. It is highly essential that the question should be dealt with by some great Department similar to the Board of Trade. Whether the hon. Member presses his Motion to a Division or not, I hope the Government will at once take the question into their serious consideration, and if they refuse to adopt the Resolution they will, at all events, at an early date, introduce a measure which will transfer the power of dealing with such important matters from the very unsatisfactory body now intrusted with the power to the Board of Trade or some other authority.

MR. T. M. HEALT (Longford, N.)

I cannot rise on this occasion without expressing my very great regret at the cause which has deprived us of the services of the right hon. Gentleman the Speaker this evening, and my hope and trust that we shall soon see the right hon. Gentleman back again. I have only a very few remarks to make upon the Motion now before the House. I think that the hon. Member for Banff-shire (Mr. Duff) is entitled to the gratitude of the Irish Members, and of those of his own country, for having brought this matter forward. Having represented at one time a maritime constituency, I fully understand—I have always understood—that the Tory Party are in favour of material advances as opposed to what I may call theoretical considerations; and I would therefore venture to express a hope that, after the many deputations which have waited upon the Treasury, we shall not now appeal in vain to right hon. Gentlemen opposite, at the moment they are passing a Coercion Bill for Ireland, to supply some salve by giving a little material assistance. In regard to the Motion itself, I believe that if my fellow-countrymen, sitting on this side of the House, had had the drafting of it they could not have expressed it in a more admirable manner than has been done by the hon. Member for Banffshire. The hon. Gentleman has entirely met our views, because what we feel is this. We have an enormous Mercantile Marine plying, it may be, from Liverpool or Glasgow, and coming in various directions down the Channel, and when there is a west wind blowing from the English Coast there is a considerable amount of life and property endangered on our side of the Channel from the want of proper accommodation. I think it is most unfair that monetary considerations should be allowed to enter into the calculations of the Government in this matter of fixing harbours of refuge. I may say that I had some bitter experience of these disastrous gales only recently, when a vessel running from Liverpool to Wexford became a total wreck on the harbour bar at Wexford, and some goods in which I was interested, and which were not insured, were totally lost. The propriety of constructing a harbour of refuge upon the East Coast has been reported on over and over again by the Government authorities, and if the harbour had been constructed the constant losses which now occur would be prevented, and a considerable number of unfortunate sailors who have been drowned would still be in active service. I know that it is somewhat unusual to raise questions of this sort on such an occasion as this. However, I see present the hon. Member for South Belfast (Mr. Johnston), for whom I have a great respect, although, unfortunately, I am bitterly opposed to him in politics. The hon. Member was for some years a Fishery Commissioner in Ireland, and the only political action in my life which I regret having taken was when I asked that he should be dismissed from that position. The hon. Member is well acquainted with the harbours in Ireland, and he knows that the considerations which have been put forward by my hon. Friends are quite correct. I challenge the Government to say that, from the Harbour of Dublin down to Waterford, which can hardly be called a harbour at all, there is a suitable harbour for vessels to run for in bad weather. Thirty or 40 years ago Reports were presented to the Government in favour of making this harbour of refuge; but Her Majesty's Ministers did nothing to carry out the recommendations made to them, and when we go to the Treasury, as to my sorrow I have done on three or four occasions—although I intend to go no more, unless I really have some hope —the local people who have waited upon the Government have found their wishes entirely unattended to. In this very case the people of Wexford have been befooled into constructing a railway to the village of Ross-slade, which has cost them £75,000, and the Government, after promising them material assistance, have left them in the lurch ever since. We have had some experience of the hon. Gentleman who is the present Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Jackson); we have found him moat conciliatory, and anxious to meet the desires of hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House, and to treat them as human beings. In this case I would make an appeal to him. We have here the whole coast embracing one-half of the East side of Ireland, which is a most dangerous coast to navigate, and it is proposed to complete a harbour into which your own vessels will run if they over get the chance. Hitherto, unhappily, they have not got a chance, and many of them have been wrecked in consequence. Is it from such trumpery pecuniary considerations as that that you have been induced to give the conveyance of your mails to German steamers, and that you have refused to give us the very small concession we ask for? I may say that anything more contemptible than this cheeseparing policy it is impossible to conceive. You have induced the local people to lay out £75,000 in the construction of a railway, and they have been compelled to see the works they have executed absolutely rotting for the sake of a few thousand pounds, when at the same time you are proposing to build an Imperial Institute at the cost of £250,000 or £500,000. You are investing enormous sums of money in non-productive works, when the lives of your sailors and your Mercantile Marine are in daily peril. Can anything be more preposterous? I thank the hon. Member for Banffshire for having brought forward the Resolution; I think he has done a great service to the country. So far as Ireland is concerned, he can scarcely realize the amount of service he has done, because he has given us the light of his official experience. Now that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen) has turned economical—certainly a new phase in the political career of the Tory Party—I would point out that there is no class of investment which the country would so fully appreciate as the construction of these harbours of refuge. The money is not to be spent in war, or in the purchase of guns or of gunboats, but in making our harbours safe, so that our vessels, when off a difficult coast, may have somewhere to run to in the event of being overtaken by gales and severe weather. I appeal most earnestly to the Government to complete this harbour at Ross-slade. A better place could not at any time be proposed. I sincerely trust that the Government, in taking the question into their consideration, will not forget our little end of the country.


I desire to bring under the notice of the Government the dangerous positions of the shoals which exist in Cork Harbour. I believe that the shoals in question might be removed by a small expenditure of money in dredging, and money so expended would certainly not be thrown away.


I must point out to the hon. Member that the question he is now raising is altogether irrelevant to the subject now under discussion.


Then I will not press it further.


Does the hon. Gentleman the Member for Banffshire press the Motion?


No; I ask the leave of the House to withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Main Question proposed, "That Mr. Deputy Speaker do now leave the Chair."