HC Deb 30 July 1891 vol 356 cc765-7

I beg to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer is he aware that serious loss and damage have been caused to the fishing industry of Stornoway, and to Lewis fishermen and others, in consequence of the local Customs officials prohibiting vessels to berth, load, and discharge at the inner quay, lately built along Cromwell Street, Stornoway, by the Stornoway Pier and Harbour Commissioners, until the same is legalised; whether he is aware that several old piers and landing-places formed at one time part of the inner quay now reclaimed and rebuilt by the Stornoway Harbour Commissioners, and that vessels were always permitted to be berthed, discharged, and loaded at these piers and landing-places without any objection on the part of the Customs local officials in the past, and will he give instructions that these objections be not persisted in as regards this inner quay; will he explain why, for the first time in 140 years, a demand has been made by the Board of Customs, on the representation of the local Superintendent of Customs, that the Stornoway Pier and Harbour Commissioners should, at their own expense, construct and maintain a watch-house and boat-house for the convenience of the local Customs officials, when there is a watch and boat house already in existence at Stornoway belonging to, or rented by, the Customs; whether such a demand is usual in the case of small harbours such as Stornoway; whether he is aware that the Stornoway Pier and Harbour Commissioners are at present applying to the Treasury and the Public Works Loan Commissioners for a loan to help them in providing additional harbour accommodation, which is much required there; and whether such loan was recommended to be granted by the Western Highlands and Islands Commissioners?


The Board of Customs have declined to legalise the new quay at Stornoway until the Harbour Board fulfil their statutory obligation to provide proper watch-house and boat-house accommodation for the Customs officers. Such a demand is usual in the case of any harbour as soon as increase of trade or any other reason makes the want of such accommodation felt. At present there is no Customs boat-house at all in Stornoway, and the watch-house (which is not provided by the Harbour Board) is quite unsuited for its purpose. I understand that a portion of the frontage covered by the new quay was formerly approved as a legal quay, but this portion has been partly built over, and had been for some time disused as a quay. I have not heard of serious loss being caused to the fishing industry by the prohibition, which only applies to vessels from foreign ports. The Harbour Board have not applied to the Treasury. They have, however, applied to the Board of Trade to sanction an application to the Public Works Loan Commissioners for a loan on easy terms under the Harbours and Passing Tolls Act, 1861, but under the existing regulations loans cannot be made under this Act for mere facilities of trade, such as quays. It is true that the Highlands and Islands Commission recommended exceptional treatment in this case, but they coupled that recommendation with conditions which the Harbour Board has not seen its way as yet to accept.