HC Deb 02 June 1938 vol 336 cc2243-4
Mr. Cape (by Private Notice)

asked the Minister of Labour whether he has any statement to make about the future of Maryport Harbour?

Mr. E. Brown

The finances of the harbour at Maryport have suffered heavily as a result of trade depression and the harbour itself has been severely damaged by gales in recent years. The existing trade of the port has not enabled the Harbour Commissioners to finance the necessary repairs. The Commissioner for the Special Areas gave the Harbour Commissioners a grant in 1935 to enable the entrance to the port to be dredged, but subsequent gales have not only silted up the entrance to the harbour again but have destroyed some of the harbour works to an extent which, I understand, makes shipping chary of using the port. The Harbour Commissioners have appealed to the Commissioner for assistance to enable them to put their harbour in a state of efficiency. It is admitted that for many years the harbour has not been a paying proposition but the Harbour Commissioners claim that there are a number of industrial developments in North-West Cumberland which might well materialise if the harbour were reconditioned.

The Government and the Commissioner realise that, although in the circumstances as they are at present the case for the harbour is not a strong one on economic grounds, the closing of the harbour would be a serious matter and would involve further unemployment in Maryport and the district around. The Commissioner, therefore, last year paid for a report by an eminent firm of consulting engineers in order to ascertain the approximate expenditure involved in putting the harbour into a state in which its continued use could be secured. This report has been under careful examination in recent months, and after consultation between the Commissioner, the Harbour Commissioners and the Consulting Engineers, it is considered that for an expenditure of not more than £75,000 essential repairs can be carried out and the harbour put into a state of efficiency which would enable it to remain open for a considerable period and would put the Harbour Commissioners in a position to assure the neighbouring colliery companies that, if further shafts are sunk, the resulting coal could be exported through the harbour.

In all the circumstances the Government have authorised the Commissioner to offer the Harbour Commissioners a sum not exceeding £75,000 to carry out these repairs. Of the actual expenditure one-third is to be by way of free grant and the balance by way of loan. The financial details of this offer are being communicated to the Harbour Commissioners to-day, and provided that they and the bondholders agree to the Commissioner's proposals, and are prepared to join in promoting the necessary Private Bill, the Commissioner is willing that the work should be put in hand at once.