HC Deb 20 March 1890 vol 342 cc1264-7

I desire to bring before the Committee the expenditure in connection with the repair of the breakwater at Holyhead Harbour. That breakwater has an elbow which points inwards towards the land instead of outwards. I believe that upwards of £2,000,000 have been spent in making a harbour of refuge at Holyhead, and in erecting Holyhead Breakwater. A railway was laid down ostensibly to supply stone for the edge of the breakwater, in order to prevent it from being washed away by gales of wind. For upwards of two years the constant repair of the breakwater has been given up, the rails have been removed and sold, and the breakwater has been left to the mercy of the wind and waves. Two years ago a deputation waited upon the President of the Board of Trade, and told him that, notwithstanding the manner in which the breakwater was suffering, no steps were being taken to repair the damage which was being done. Quite lately a large piece of the breakwater was swept away, and grievous damage has been done which might have been prevented if the usual repairs had been continued from year to year. Exactly at the point where the elbow of the breakwater is nearest the land are some rocks, called the Platters Rocks, and inside this point an area of something like 250 acres is not available for the harbour of refuge. The question of removing these rocks has been brought before the Government on various occasions, and has always met with a sympathetic reception. The President of the Board of Trade received a deputation on the subject in 1888, when he said that he would be glad to see the rocks removed if any arrangement could be made to bring about the desirable result. As the breakwater had been constructed at great expense, and the rocks still remained in the middle of the harbour, the right hon. Gentleman said it only stood to reason that it would be a great public benefit if the whole of the harbour could be utilised. This is in no sense a Party question, but is one in which a friendly interest has been expressed by both sides of the House. Nothing but the difficulty of finding the money has prevented these Platters rocks from being removed. With a south-west wind vessels entering are placed in a difficult position, as they cannot beat up past these rocks into the inner harbour. They anchor in the outer harbour, where they are sheltered from the S.W.; but when, as was often the case, the wind veered to W.N.W. and N. then there was a tremendous sea running into the harbour, and ships in the outer harbour were in circumstances of great danger. A few years ago there were as many as 20 ships stranded in Holyhead Harbour in the gale which had worked round to the northward, and there was a considerable less of life. The existence of the rocks also renders it difficult for the ordinary traffic to pass and repass. Steamers navigating between Ireland and Holyhead are constantly in danger from the large ships which are anchored there. It is said that something like £200,000 would be required to remove the Platters rocks; and, if ever they are to be removed, I think the present moment affords an excellent opportunity; first, because we are given to understand that there are large sums of money in the Treasury which nobody knows what to do with, and which might be readily devoted to a work of this kind. We are not likely soon to have such a surplus again; and there is this further reason, that if the rocks are blown up, they will be available for the much needed repair of the breakwater. I hope the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade will be able to give some encouragement to the people of the Island of Anglesey, whose harbour has for so many years suffered from the existence of the Platters Rocks. I hope the President of the Board of Trade will see his way to give some encouragement to the great desire we have to see the rocks removed.


The hon. and gallant Gentleman did not give me notice that he intended to bring this subject forward, and I was not present when he commenced his speech, but I understand he complained that there was some neglect with regard to the repair of the breakwater at Holyhead for some years, and that owing to that neglect the storm had had serious effect upon the break-water. I cannot express an opinion which carries with it any real authority on the subject; but I think the Votes of this House will show during the past few years that considerable sums of money have constantly been expended in the repair of the breakwater, and from my own knowledge I can say that in the earlier part of last autumn, when I myself visited Holyhead, very considerable sums were being expended partly on the breakwater and partly also on the jetty. A good deal of money has also been expended in recent times in stretching chains along the breakwater for the purpose of protecting it from the sea. I think the hon. and gallant Gentleman will admit that the storm of last year was a storm of exceptional severity. It did great damage to the breakwater, and it was followed by such a continuance of rough weather that it was not possible to repair the damage as rapidly as was desired. With regard to the Platters rocks, looking at the cost—amounting to no less than a quarter of a million—which a competent engineer has reported to be the sum necessary to remove the rocks, I was for a long time of opinion that it was oat of the question to remove them. I do not think the improvement in the harbour that would be effected by the removal of the rocks would be quite so great as the hon. Member supposes, because it is obvious that though their removal would enable ships to get into the inner part of the harbour, yet the area now occupied by the rocks could never be good holding ground as anchorage for ships. The estimate of a quarter of a million was made on the assumption that the rocks were to be removed to a depth of 25 feet. s When I was at Holyhead I noticed that the ships using the harbour appeared to be of a very much smaller character than I had previously supposed, and, on inquiry, I found that this was not only the case at that time, but was generally so. Under these circumstances it occurred to me that much good might be done by removing the rocks, say to a depth of 12 or 15 feet, and I directed the Admiral Superintendent at the port to take during the winter months records of the draughts of water of all vessels using the harbonr of refuge, so that after six months' experience we might know what good would be done by the removal of the rocks to a depth of 12 or 15 feet. I shall soon have the Return I asked for, and I shall be very glad if the result of the information thus obtained enables me to make some proposition to the Treasury that will render the harbour more useful to the Merchant Navy than it is at present.


I would point out to the right hon. Gentleman that the Estimate to which he has referred was made some years ago, and that with the very improved machinery now in use it is believed the work could be done much more cheaply. The right hon. Gentleman knows that to remove the rocks to a depth of 20 feet, according to the original Estimate, would only cost £60,000, and it is believed it could now be done for less than that. I hope, therefore, the right hon. Gentleman will be able to see his way to do something for us.