HL Deb 08 August 1839 vol 50 cc18-22

Viscount Duncannon moved the second reading of the Shannon Navigation Bill, the object of which was, to improve the navigation of one of the finest rivers in Ireland. The whole amount that would be required to carry into effect the purposes of the bill was estimated at 580,000l., and from that outlay the most beneficial results might be confidently anticipated.

The Duke of Wellington

said, this was one of those bills with which, according to the usage of that House, their Lordships could not interfere. He, however, objected to the proposed issue of so large an amount of Exchequer bills at the present moment; and it would be much better if the issue were spread over a greater portion of time. Such grants ought to be brought under the consideration of a Committee of Supply, instead of giving such powers as were recognized by this bill.

The Marquess of Lansdowne

was glad to perceive that the noble Duke did not object to the principle of the bill. But the noble Duke felt some alarm at the large amount of Exchequer bills of which the bill would, authorize the issue, But he could state confidently, that it was not intended that any large proportion of that amount should be issued at once. In the course of next year not more than 60,000l. would be issued in Exchequer bills under this measure. The entire amount would be diffused over the four, five, or six years, during which the works would be in progress.

Lord Ellenborough

remarked, that the entire sum was to be divided into 276 portions. Of these, six were to be borne by the county of Limerick, and only four by Limerick itself, although that city would be more benefited by the measure than all the rest of Ireland. Could this system of apportionment be defended on any principle of justice or fair play? It was the grossest job he had ever heard of.

Lord Fitzgerald

said, that the proportions to be advanced were to be calculated according to the amount of the sum which each county and district would be called on to reimburse. The bill was called for by an unanimous representation, not only from every county through which the Shannon passed, but from many others. He congratulated the House and the country with which he was connected, upon the general assent to the principle of the bill. The objections which had been urged by the illustrious Duke would be amply provided for by the declaration on the part of the Government, or at all events, they might be easily obviated in committee.

The Duke of Richmond

was of opinion that improvements of this description should be effected through individual enterprise, or by public companies. If the principle of making a state provision for such purposes were once admitted, Scotland would make similar applications, and how could they refuse to that country what they conceded to Ireland? At the same time, he would not object to the bill, which he thought would be a great advantage to the part of Ireland for which it was intended.

The Marquess of Lansdowne

, as his noble Friend had alluded to Scotland, would beg to remind the House of the case of the Caledonian Canal, where the public money had been squandered in an unjustifiable manner by the unanimous consent of both Houses of Parliament. The present bill contained the most secure provisions against any such extravagant outlay. A more unjust objection than that raised by the noble Baron opposite (Lord Ellenborough) he (the Marquess of Lansdowne) did not remember. In looking for a job, the noble Baron said, the city of Limerick was benefited the most, and was called upon to pay less than any other part of the country which would be benefited by the improvement of the Shannon. Did not the noble Baron remember—for he had voted for the bill three or four years ago—that the city of Limerick was at this moment under an enormous amount of local charge for the improvement of the quays from which both the parties on the Upper and Lower Shannon were now deriving great advantage, though they had not contributed at all to those erections, and therefore nothing could be more unjust than to call upon the city of Limerick to pay anything for the improvement of the navigation except in proportion to the share it occupied. Not the city of Limerick alone, but every county which touched the banks of the Shannon, or approached that river by canals, roads, or rivers, would derive a collateral benefit from this, which he must designate as one of the greatest plans for public improvements—combining as it did public and private resources—that ever had been submitted for the adoption of Parliament; and he could not doubt but that their Lordships' sense of the justice of the case would dispose them to give a cordial and hearty assent to it.

The Earl of Ripon

had read the report of the commissioners, upon which the bill was founded, and he must not only bear his testimony to the great utility of the measure, but state his conviction that the work would effect one of the greatest improvements that could be made in Ireland. It seemed, however, that under this bill half the money was to be a gift, which made him anxious that her Majesty's Government should look with greatest vigilance to the state of the Exchequer-bill market, for if they did not early redeem the Exchequer-bills, they would find themselves in a great difficulty.

The Marquess of Westmeath

was afraid, that from the conversation which had taken place, it would go forth that this measure went only to improve private property. It should be remembered that the river Shannon was the property of the Crown, and that the proprietors on the banks of that river might complain of it as a nuisance, if the Government did not provide for that which it was impossible for any private company to do—namely, to remove the natural obstructions which, from time to time, would interfere with its course, and to guard against injuries to property by the superfluous back water.

Lord Lyndhurst

objected to the appointment of a new commission. There was already existing a commission under a bill passed three or four years ago for the consolidation under one board of all public works in Ireland, and he wanted to know why the proceedings for the improvement of the Shannon navigation should not be placed under that commission? It might be necessary, perhaps, to appoint a new commissioner; but that was not all that seemed to be thought necessary, for when he looked to the clause he found that not only was there to be a new commission, but that the commissioners were empowered to appoint, with the consent of the Treasury, other officers under them—to appoint an engineer, a surveyor, a secretary, and such other officers as they might think necessary, and those officers might be dismissed at the pleasure of the commissioners. Now, all that machinery existed under the present Board of Works, constituted under the provisions of the 2nd and 3rd of William 4th, the principle of which act was to consolidate all such commissions and form them into one board. He believed, that the noble Viscount would find that Colonel Burgoyne, who was at the head of the Board of Works, was of opinion that the whole business of the Shannon improvement might be conducted b that board, with the addition of one more paid commissioner, and that all the subordinate officers, such as engineer, surveyor, secretary, &c, that now were officers of the existing board, were sufficient to conduct the business of this bill. He trusted the noble Viscount would take the suggestion into his consideration.

Viscount Duncannon

said, that at present the Board of Works, was completely overcharged with business, and the attention of every person employed under it, was required for the matters already in hand. Colonel Burgoyne, therefore, had wished that anew commission, composed of himself, Major Jones, who was to be paid, and of Mr. Griffiths, who was unpaid, should be appointed, in order that the works in which the board was engaged might not be embarrassed.

Lord Lyndhurst

repeated, that this bill contemplated the appointment of new engineer, secretary, surveyor, and solicitor. Now, he held in his hand a copy of the letter of Colonel Burgoyne, in which that gentleman said, "It appears to me that the present commission, with Mr. Griffiths and Major Jones, would make an efficient and proper board. Of these only one, Major Jones, will require to be paid, and probably it will not be necessary to have a secretary," he said nothing of engineer, surveyor, or solicitor, but he mentioned" a secretary and some additional clerks, until a system of organization was perfected." So that, instead of all the machinery proposed by the bill, all that Colonel Burgoyne contemplated was the appointment of a secretary and some additional clerks. He (Lord Lyndhurst) apprehended it would at least be more economical to adopt the course suggested, which was consistent with the letter of Colonel Burgoyne, with which he had been furnished by consent of the Chancellor of the Exchquer.

Bill read a second time.