HC Deb 12 August 1887 vol 319 cc258-9
MR. EWART (Belfast, N.)

asked the First Lord of the Treasury, Whether, having regard to the representations made to the Government from time to time by the Harbour Commissioners, the Chamber of Commerce, and other Local Bodies in Belfast on the subject of making it a first-class port, the Government are now prepared to give Belfast, which stands third in the United Kingdom as regards collection of revenue, the advantage of first-class status?


(who replied) said: For Customs purposes the ports in the United Kingdom are no longer classi- fied, so it would not be possible, in so many words, to give Belfast the advantage of first-class status. But I understand the hon. Gentleman to ask really that the salary of the collector should be raised from £700 to £800, and that he should have a first-class surveyor under him, instead of second and third-class surveyors, as at Glasgow, Newcastle, and Hull. If the amount of revenue collected were the only criterion by which the staff of a port is fixed, no doubt Belfast would have a staff corresponding to the amount of revenue collected there, but other things have to be taken into consideration; and it is one of these—the amount of foreign trade—which really is the main element in fixing the staff of a port. In this respect Belfast does not approach Hull, Newcastle, or Glasgow, the number of foreign vessels entered inwards and outwards at Belfast being only 437 in 1886, as against 2,471 at Glasgow, 5,218 at null, and 9,576 at Newcastle. The trade of Belfast, though very considerable, consists mainly of coasting trade, which is under little or no restriction, and gives the Customs officers little or no trouble, so that a smaller establishment is well capable of dealing with it. Surely it would be wrong, under such circumstances, to increase public expenditure without a real need for it.