HC Deb 29 July 1907 vol 179 cc451-5

The Belfast Harbour Commissioners are prepared, in pursuance of their statutory powers, to let on lease for thirty-one years a plot of ground on the County Down side of the harbour, containing an area of forty acres or thereabouts.

The ground is admirably suited for shipbuilding, engineering, and other kindred purposes, being situate on the east side of the Musgrave Channel and having water frontage suitable for the launching of vessels.

The premises will be offered for letting by public competition by Messrs. Clarke and Son, at the Harbour Office, on Tuesday, the 6th October, 1903, at one o'clock.

For full particulars and conditions of letting, apply to the Commissioners' solicitor, Edward Bates, 11 Lombard Street, Belfast; or to W. A. Currie, Secretary to the Commissioners, Harbour Office, Belfast. 18th August 1903.

MR. Carlisle and others were present, but no offer was made.

The statement that the policy pursued by the trust for the past five years has been a source of trouble is without foundation.

It is also untrue that the trust has allowed not only the docks but the entrances to the docks to silt up.

As for the statement that in some cases Messrs. Harland and Wolff "had the greatest difficulty in getting the Commissioners to remove the silt prior to the launching of large ships," the Commissioners have to state that Messrs. Harland and Wolff's lease provides that the Commissioners shall give a depth of water opposite the launching ways of not less than ten feet at low water of ordinary tides. Notwithstanding this, the Commissioners have largely exceeded the said depth. Any special dredging required for gigantic ships the Commissioners have always undertaken, at the shipbuilders' expense in the first instance, the silt afterwards being removed gratuitously by the Commissioners when required for launches. With regard to the statement made by the chairman of this trust as to a proposed expenditure by Messrs. Harland and Wolff of £50,000 on additional plant, Messrs. Harland and Wolff's solicitor, in October, 1906, made certain proposals to the Commissioners as to a large floating crane, and stated that they, Harland and Wolff, had been going into the matter for some months previously, and that, although they would prefer the-Commissioners should provide the crane, they were then prepared to give out a contract for the supply of the same, and he asked the Commissioners for certain facilities in connection therewith. This is the matter to which the chairman referred in his statement of the 18th ultimo, the plans having been shown to him the previous day by Messrs. Harland and Wolff's solicitor. The facilities referred to in connection with this crane would cost the Commissioners a large sum of money, and the whole matter is still under consideration. Belfast Harbour is amply equipped with cranes sufficient for all ordinary shipbuilding work, including a crane erected at very considerable expense capable of dealing with lifts up to 100 tons. The Commissioners believe that at other shipbuilding centres in the Kingdom facilities of this character are provided by the shipbuilders themselves. There is no foundation for the statement that Messrs. Harland and Woolff offered to take £30,000 worth of harbour stock, and that the Commissioners refused to consider the offer. The Commissioners are engaged in constructing a graving dock for shipbuilding purposes at a cost of some £320,000. To induce them to undertake this huge expenditure Lord Pirrie, who was then a member of the Board, promised to take up £200,000 of Belfast harbour stock. This promise is still unredeemed. The following are the names of the present members of the Trust and the number of votes recorded for each on their last contested election:—

Number of votes at last contested election.
Chairman, MR. Robert Thompson, Drum House, Belfast 3,502
MR. John Andrews, Greenville, Bloomfield - 3,237
MR. George S. Clark, M.P., Dunlambert, Fortwilliam Park, Belfast
Sir Thomas J. Dixon, Bart., Graymount, Belfast
MR. R. E. Herdman, Rosavo, Cultra 3,272
MR. Frederick L. Heyn, Darina, Strandtown
MR. William J. Jackson, Ingledene, Cultra
Sir Otto Jane, Kinedar, Strand-town 2,633
MR. David C. Kemp, Cultra 3,409
MR. Samuel Lawther, Mount Vernon, Belfast 3,300
MR. John Lepper, Barnageeha, Fortwilliam Park, Belfast 3,303
MR. James M'Connell, Stranmillis House, Belfast 3,417
MR. Richard Paterson, Kilmore, Holywood - 3,468
MR. Hugh M. Pollock, 11, College Gardens, Belfast
MR. William R. Rea, Abbey-lands, Whiteabbey - 3,434
MR. John Rogers, 22, Derryvolgie Avenue, Belfast - 2,869
The Right Hon. The Earl of Shaftesbury, Belfast Castle, Belfast
Number of votes at last contested election.
MR. Thomas F. Shillington, Dromart, Antrim Road, Belfast
MR. John Sinclair, 8, College Gardens, Belfast - 3,594
MR. William Williames, Cornwall Villa, Holywood - 3,448
MR. James Wilson, Old Forge, Dunmurry 3,348
The Lord Mayor of Belfast,ex officio.

Of the above Commissioners three have been co-opted, viz., MR. George S. Clark, M.P., shipbuilder; Sir Thomas J. Dixon, Baronet, shipowner; The Right Hon. The Earl of Shaftesbury, K.C.V.O., Lord Mayor of Belfast. Some of the other members were originally co-opted and the co-options have been confirmed at subsequent elections. The officers of the trust (clerical and engineering) number fifty-eight, and their salaries amount to £1,147 12s. 6d . per month. The amount paid in weekly wages, based on four weeks in June last, is £803 to 669 persons. It is incorrect to state that the Belfast Harbour Commissioners invariably co-opt gentlemen on their Board who have no enterprise in shipping or port work. Two of the last three co-options were:—MR. George S. Clark, M.P., a director of the well-known Belfast shipbuilding firm of Workman, Clark, and Co., Limited, and a large shipowner; and Sir Thomas J. Dixon, Bart., senior partner of the well-known firm of Thomas Dixon and Sons, Belfast, who own and manage a shipping tonnage of 29,000 registered tons. The electors have in every instance in the past history of the trust, with one exception, endorsed the action of the Commissioners in their co-options, and have always aimed at having a representation of the various industries on the Board. More than half of the present members are interested in shipping. All co-options of Commissioners must take place within one month from the date of the vacancy which they are elected to fill. The Commissioners cannot control the dates of such vacancies either by death or otherwise. There is no foundation whatever for the statement that any friction has been going on or has ever gone on between the harbour trust and its employees. The chief and staple industry of Belfast is the linen industry, and the Commissioners are not aware that its destruction has been threatened. As for the shipbuilding industry, it is well known that it is in a most flourishing condition.

I am, etc.,

(Sd.) W. A. Currie, Secretary.

The Assistant Secretary,

Harbour Department, Board of Trade,

7, Whitehall Gardens, London, S.W.

From subsequent communications it appears that the date of the last election, which was not contested, was the 28th March last, and that of the last contested election was 29th March, 1906. At the latter the number of voters was 8,259, and the numbers of voting papers to which they were entitled was 14,175. Each voting paper entitles the holder to vote for not more than seven candidates, and the total number of votes recorded in 1906 was 24,059.