HC Deb 05 August 1902 vol 112 cc763-8

Considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

[Mr. JEFFREYS (Hampshire, N.) in the Chair.]

Clause 1:—

(12.5.) MR. POWER (Waterford, E.)

complained of the hour at which this Bill was being taken. Irish Members were anxious that whatever expenditure was made in this way should be made properly, in order to be of some advantage to their constituencies. With regard to the Amendment standing in the name of the hon. Member who represented counties where there were congested districts, he hoped it would not be thought that he objected to this expenditure in their districts. With regard to their fishing industry, they did not ask for generous treatment, but simply to be treated fairly. The fishing industry of Ireland had been largely killed by the jealousy of England, and he contended that some restitution was due on that account. He quite recognised that the money that had been spent on the fishing industry, in the congested districts had been well spent, and he was delighted to hear that this industry had progressed so marvellously; but outside the congested districts there were many cases which deserved some sort of support. He considered this Vote of £100,000 was a small and beggarly sum for this purpose, considering the enormous sums of money which this country got by indirect taxation from the people in those districts. He wished to place one instance before the Chief Secretary. In his own neighbourhood at Tramore, the district was prepared to give one-third of the money necessary to erect a pier, and an institution presided over by Mr. Horace Plunkett had promised to also provide one-third of the cost, and they had applied to the Government to make up the remaining one-third. As the local taxation in this district was 7s. 4d. in the £, he thought this offer to provide one-third out of the rates showed that these people were not backward in offering very liberal terms for this improvement. He did not know what the right hon. Gentleman intended to do in this matter, but he hoped he would be able to state that the Government were willing to give some assistance towards the erection of this pier at Tramore.

Amendment proposed— In line 1, page 10, to leave out the words congested districts.'"—(Mr. Power.)


said he was almost entitled to gather from some of the first words which fell from the hon. Member that he would anticipate a reply something like that which he had just given to his right hon. friend the Member for South Antrim. This Bill dealt with the congested districts, and it dealt with the West of Ireland. No one who had studied this matter would be prepared to argue that the west coast, which contained the congested districts, stood in as favourable a position in regard to harbours as the east coast. There was no insurmountable difficulties on the east coast for ships to travel, but on the west coast there were many physical obstacles to ships travelling at all, with the result that good lines of steamers were not put on that coast. Therefore, there were some grounds underlying the scheme of this Bill why attention should be given to the west coast, in order to obtain a harbour which would invite steamers to travel along the west coast. The hon. Member by this Amendment invited the Committee to transfer the expenditure of some of this money to the east coast. He thought that proposal would altogether undermine the financial basis of this Bill, and if the Amendment were carried, of course the Bill would be lost. This measure was based upon the allocation of this money to congested district counties, where £100,000 had already been found too small for the purpose. He was sure that his hon. friend would not urge them to transfer some of this money for another purpose, which would be an entirely new departure. He was ready to admit that the full benefits of the Act of 1899 had not yet been derived, and he never anticipated that the benefit would be derived immediately. He could not now go into the details of the case which the hon. Member had brought forward, and he should not now be justified in arguing his point at greater length. He hoped the Amendment would not be pressed.


said he was sincerely anxious that this Bill should pass into law, and he did not desire to prolong the discussion at all. He was rather surprised at the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, because he understood that the original scheme was one which did not exclude assistance being given to harbours situated outside the congested districts. That was all they were asking for in this Amendment. The case which his hon. friend mentioned exemplified what he meant. In the case of Tramore, the Government built a pier without consulting local opinion. It was built at the wrong place, and it was badly constructed. It had been swept away, and at present there was no pier at all. The people of the locality had agreed to contribute one-third of the cost of a new pier, the new Department had offered to contribute another third; but the pier could not be constructed, because there was no means of getting the other third. He thought it was a great pity that the original scheme was not adhered to, because it would have enabled them to deal with such cases as that at Tramore. He could not see why the right hon. Gentleman could not have succeeded in obtaining from the Treasury a larger sum of money to enable places outside the congested districts to get the benefit of the Bill. It was quite a fallacy to suppose that the need of harbours was confined to the congested districts. It would be quite easy to bring forward a number of cases outside the congested districts where the claims for harbours were almost as great. If it were not for the peculiar circumstances under which they were now discussing the matter, he should feel bound to discuss it at length, and to divide the Committee against the proposal to confine the benefits of the Bill to the congested districts, but if at this time of the session they were to attempt to discuss the Bill in the way it ought to be discussed, and to take into consideration the needs of other places, the passage of the Bill would be absolutely impossible. They were face to face with this position. Were they to sacrifice their right to discuss the questions raised by this Bill, or wore they by discussion to destroy the chance of the Bill passing altogether? He had more than once protested against Irish legislation being presented in this way. The House of Commons had been sitting for seven months, the Government had the largest majority on record, and they had a brand now set of rules devised by the wisest men in the State, and yet the circumstances were such that this Bill could only be passed sub silentio. If his hon. friends would take his advice, they would not prolong the discussion; but a limit must be put to this way of legislating for Ireland. Even at the risk of depriving some sections of the people of the benefits of such a Bill as this, they must in the near future put down their foot and say they would not be parties to Irish legislation being brought forward and pushed through in this way. Having made that protest, he asked his hon. friends not to raise matters of discussion on this Bill, for the sake of the poor people who would be in some small way benefited by the measure.


said he did rise to reply to the general criticism of the hon. Member. He had answered it before now. There was an agreement, in so far as they could, to keep the congested districts outside the arena of political controversy. After what the hon. and learned Member had said, he would do all he could to assist the progress of the Bill. He would not move the Amendment which stood on the Paper in his name. The whole framework of the Bill was bound up with the financial conditions underlying it, and they could not alter these conditions at the present stage of the session. All the Amendments on the Paper, with the exception of his own, would make considerable change in the financial conditions underlying the Bill.


begged leave to withdraw his Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


moved an Amendment on Clause 1, with the object of empowering County Councils of the seaboard districts to construct the harbour works and to look after them when constructed.


said that if the hon. Member's proposal were carried out the whole of the expense would fall on the County Councils. This matter had been carefully considered, and the Bill laid down that nothing was to be done except by agreement between the County Council and the Board of Works, and it further laid down that the Board must lease the work to the County Council. Beyond that he could not go without making a fundamental alteration in the Bill. He was not prepared to hand over the money to the County Council, and at the same time to relax the control over the manner in which the work was carried out.


asked leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2:—

Amendment proposed— In page 2, line 19, after '1½ per cent.,' to insert the words 'and not more than 2½ per cent.'"—(Mr. Gilhooly.)


said he answered this by anticipation when he introduced the Bill. In his opinion 1½ per cent, would be ample, but it was just possible that a County Council might wish the Government to co-operate with them in carrying out works of a more ambitious character. He had not in his mind a single case in which this would be proposed, but he felt that it would be unwise to tie up all the possibilities under the Bill. He could not accept the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clauses 2 to 5 agreed to.

Clause 6:—

MR. FLAVIN (Kerry, N.)

said he would net move the Amendments of which he had given notice; but he would like to remind the Chief Secretary of certain promises he gave during his trip around the west coast of Ireland in connection with the encouragement of the sea fisheries off the coast of Kerry.

Clause 6 and remaining Clauses agreed to.

Bill reported without Amendment.


said he thought he was justified in asking the House to take the Third Reading now, as the general trend of the discussion appeared to be in that direction.

Bill read the third time, and passed.