§ Order for Third Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the third time."
§ *(3.15.) MR. J. WILSON (Lanark, Govan)
In moving the Motion which stands in my name upon the Paper, I desire briefly to explain to the House the reasons which induce me to do so. As Member for the Govan Division of the County of Lanark, I naturally take a deep interest in everything that concerns the interests of my constituents. Besides being myself a resident, I am a, large employer of labour in the parish of Govan. The present Bill proposes no 879 new scheme of dock works, but the promoters, who are the Clyde Navigation Trustees, propose to abandon certain powers which were declared by Parliament in 1883 to be for the public benefit. In that year the Trustees acquired land for the purpose of erecting docks. Now, the River Clyde runs from east to west, and the main road between Glasgow and Govan follows the River Clyde, and almost runs parallel with it until it reaches Renfrew. The road runs on the south side of the river, and the proposed docks are also on the south side. The Local Authorities and the people of Govan do not object to the docks as docks; but what they do object to is that this Bill, if passed, will cut in two a main artery and a turnpike road which has been from time immemorial a public highway. The land acquired for docks is in Govan; but if the proposals of this Bill are accepted, they will practically cut the burgh of Govan into two halves, and leave those on the west side of the docks out of touch with the other part of the burgh on the east side. Parliament in 1883, in conferring additional powers upon the Clyde Navigation Trust, stipulated that the existing turnpike road should be maintained, and that it should form a point of continuity by means of two swing bridges. The object of the present Bill is to do away with the road and the two swing bridges. It must not be forgotten that in 1883 Parliament recognised the importance of this road, and required the Trustees to make a solid road for the purpose of serving the large amount of traffic that is carried over it. The Govan road is one of the best, one of the widest, and one of the most important roads which go into the City of Glasgow. It is computed that on the average some 13,000 persons travel upon it daily, in addition to vehicles. The plea of the promoters is that there is difficulty in passing the swinging bridges by vessels using the dock, but I maintain that it is no difficult matter to cant a vessel so as to pass a swing bridge, and the Harbour Master of Glasgow told the Committee that the canting of a vessel in the river was a more bagatelle. The cost of constructing the two swing bridges and their upkeep is estimated at £125,000; and the Clyde Trustees, if the present Bill is carried, 880 propose to put that sum into their own pockets as well as to absorb the public property on the roadway which runs through the centre of the proposed docks, without giving the community anything in return. There can be no difficulty, so far as shipbuilding is concerned. The longest steamer is the City of Rome, and that vessel was in the Clyde in 1883, before this Bill passed, and experienced no difficulty in using the river. Indeed, it was clearly demonstrated to the Committee by nautical engineers and other exports that there could be no difficulty in taking out the very largest vessels afloat—even vessels 600 feet long. That view was supported by Sir Frederick Bramwell, the eminent engineer, who is thoroughly conversant with the Clyde navigation as well as with the docks of London. In answer to Mr. Pember, the counsel for the Local Authorities of the Corporation of Govan, Sir Frederick stated that, although in these days he was hardly astonished at anything, he did think that it would be a piece of the greatest hardship to do away with the swing bridges and compel the public to travel a long distance round. Nor were the Committee unanimous in passing the Preamble of the Bill. I believe that they had the greatest difficulty in making up their minds upon the subject; and I fear that in the decision which they ultimately arrived at, they overlooked the main point which was in the minds of the Local Authorities. The question is one which concerns the public, and pre-eminently the working classes. Those of the working classes who are employed in the West End, but live in the East End, will be required, if this Bill passes, to go round the docks in order to reach their work some 1,400 yards, or, taking 300 days as constituting the working year, to travel something like 300 miles per annum unnecessarily. The Local Authorities have no personal advantage to gain in opposing the Bill; their only object is to preserve the rights of the public. Under these circumstances, I beg to move the Resolution of which I have given notice.
To leave out the words, "now read the third time," in order to add the words "recommitted to the former Committee, with an Instruction to the Committee to provide that the line authorised by the Act of 1883 with
regard to the portion of the road passing through the centre of the docks be adhered to, with this alteration, that one swing bridge instead of two swing bridges be constructed."—(Mr. John Wilson, Lanark)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ (3.30.) MR. CALDWELL (Glasgow, St. Rollox)
This matter has already been determined before two Select Committees, one of the House of Lords and the other of the House of Commons, and the points raised by my hon. Friend have been carefully considered. In one place the inquiry lasted four days, and in the other six. In these circumstances, it is quite unprecedented to ask this House to go into matters of evidence and detail with a view to overturning the decisions of the Committees of both Houses of Parliament. The promoters of the Bill are acting in the public interest. My hon. Friend said the Trustees would save £125,000, but who would have to pay it? Acting in the interests of their constituents, the ratepayers, the promoters desire to carry out the scheme at the least possible expense. With regard to the swing bridges, the plans contained in the present Bill are essentially different to those contained in the Bill of 1883, and it was in order to get rid of these bridges that the old scheme was abandoned. The advantage to Govan from this Bill will be very great indeed, as the assessment of the new docks will prove an additional source of revenue. The new road will lead through the centre of the extended burgh, whereas the present only runs along the riverside.