HL Deb 09 June 1845 vol 81 cc209-11
The Marquess of Londonderry

inquired whether Government intended to keep up the passage between these ports, and, with that view, whether they would complete the harbours, and put good powerful packets on the station. Upwards of 300,000l. had been sunk upon these harbours, but they were not yet completed; and, in fact, were in such a state, and the money actually expended from year to year upon them was bestowed in such a niggardly way, that the sea every winter ruined the labours of every summer. A railway company, who proposed to run a branch line to Portpatrick, had been officially informed that Government did not intend to abandon the harbours. By means of this railway the mails could be conveyed to the north of Ireland five or six hours earlier than by any other route; and he was authorized by the directors to state that if the Government would put this packet station in the condition in which it ought to be, which would cost about 30,000l., it would be a strong inducement to the company to persevere with the line they had projected.

The Earl of Haddington

replied, that the Admiralty had unquestionably given to the projectors of a railway, who proposed to run a branch to Portpatrick, the assurance which had been stated to the House. There was no doubt that the Lords of the Admiralty were of opinion that the best mode of communication between the north of Ireland and the south of Scotland was by the passage from Portpatrick to Donaghadee. In questions of communication, the great point was to go as far as possible by land, and as little way as possible by sea; but whether the passage in question should be ultimately and permanently retained, and whether those large packets should be used on the station which it was certainly desirable to see used, depended altogether upon circumstances over which the Admiralty could have no control. If the railway to which his noble Friend referred—which had been lost in the House of Commons in consequence of the Standing Orders not having been complied with — had been carried out, he agreed that it would have been desirable to provide the facilities suggested by his noble Friend in aid of that communication; but Her Majesty's Government did not consider it would be a proper use of the public funds to expend a large sum of money, as it were on speculation, in the improvement of the harbour of Portpatrick.

The Earl of Northampton

remarked that the shortest and nearest passage between the two countries was by the route mentioned. The subject was one which deserved the consideration of the Government. They should remember that they were now pursuing a conciliatory course towards Ireland; and that their object was to tighten the bonds which united the two countries—not the bonds of force, but of attachment and loyalty—and in order to attach Ireland to the connexion with this country, he thought they ought to show a willingness to sacrifice a reasonable amount of the public money, if that expenditure were considered to be in some degree necessary for the purpose of shortening and facilitating the means of communication between the two islands.

The Earl of Ellenborough

said, it was obvious that anything that would tend to facilitate communication between England and Ireland must be advantageous to both countries. The application of steam to the purposes of navigation, made it, he thought, necessary to make some alterations at Portpatrick. He had himself experienced considerable inconvenience both in getting in and in getting out of the harbour—the difficulty of getting out was the greater—and the consequence of the insufficient accommodation of that harbour was, that they were obliged to put steamers on that station so small that they were totally unfit for contending with the sea they had to encounter, on the passage from Portpatrick to Donaghadee.

The Earl of Haddington

said, larger vessels could not get into the harbour. He had already stated that the moment the Government were assured that Portpatrick was to be the point of communication, it would be their duty to take into consideration the means of making it efficient for its purposes.

After a few words from the Marquess of Londonderry, the subject dropped.