The MARQUESS of LONDONDERRY
said, that he wished to put a question on this subject to the noble Earl at the head of the Admiralty. It would be in their Lordships' recollection that on former occasions he had made various inquiries relative to the intentions of the Government with respect to perfecting the harbours of Portpatrick and Donaghadee. The efforts which he had hitherto made had been unsuccessful; but still he was persuaded that a good cause must ultimately prevail. The point which was in dispute on this subject ought to be put at rest in some way or other. The controversy had already lasted too long, and the reports which had been made were so numerous, that the Government ought to determine whether it was prudent and right to continue this packet station in a defective state, or to abandon it altogether, and to name some other quarter to accomplish the object which it had in view. He found that there had been no less than thirteen different reports on this subject. Out of these—and they were made by most able men—seven were entirely in favour of the passage between Portpatrick and Donaghadee; four were against it; and the other three were neutral. These reports all came from the most efficient officers. Now nothing whatever had been done. The station on which driblets had been expended, remained in a very defective state. Sums had merely been given to clear out the sand in the harbour, and the vessels employed were quite inedequate to the station. The harbour of Portpatrick remained unsafe, and vessels were obliged to remain off the harbour if the tide did not permit them to come in. The sum of 300,000l. had been expended on this harbour; and the question was whether the Government would supply 30,000l. more, and put good steamers on the station, or whether they would leave the harbour in its present state? If the Government would make the proposed improvements, employment would be given to a great number of persons in that part of Ireland. This passage was the best and the shortest that could be made from land to land. Seven or nine out of the thirteen reports stated that the wind, the tides, and the currents all combined to make it the 596 most desirable station. It was quite clear if the railroad was continued from Carlisle to Dumfries, and from Dumfries to Portpatrick, that letters and the mail could be delivered by that line in Dublin in a much shorter time than by Holyhead. He would wish the noble Earl particularly to regard this point. If it were determined to take the passage to some other station, that could not be done without a large expenditure. But if that were to be done, what arrangement in the interval was to be made? He only wished for 30,000l., which, according to Sir John Rennie's report, would put the harbour in a complete state of efficiency. He should move that Sir John Rennie's report be placed on the Table. He wanted to know on what grounds the Government refused to make this harbour efficient. If they asked the captains who made this passage, they would all say that it was the best that could be made. There were reports ranging from the year 1809 to 1843 on this subject, and therefore the Government could not say that it wanted information. Captain Evans had made a report for the purpose of some railway, and it appeared that his report was to paralyse and overturn all the former reports that had been made.
§ The EARL of AUCKLAND
was afraid the answer he had to give would hardly be satisfactory to the noble Marquess, though he agreed very much in what had fallen from him. It was certainly true that the harbour of Portpatrick was in a most unsatisfactory state, and the packets employed were also of an inconvenient construction. At the same time, it was impossible to introduce better packets into the harbour as it now stood; and the first question that presented itself was as to the propriety of laying out a very large sum of money on its improvement. Bad as the harbour was, and poor as the vessels employed also appeared to be, yet for very many years the service had been regularly performed. Having made inquiry into the point, he was informed that it would be necessary to expend a sum of 50,000l. on the harbour. The question had been already under the consideration of the Post Office, and surveyors had been employed to inquire what harbours of the western coast of Scotland might be thought best fitted for the communication with Ireland, and the conveyance of correspondence. He learned that, only within the last two or three days, a report had been made to the Post Office, and through the Post Office to the 597 Treasury. That report was not favourable to the maintenance of correspondence by the line between Donaghadee and Portpatrick. He (the Earl of Auckland) had been informed also that this report was likely to be submitted to him officially in a few days; and he could only promise that when it was so he would give it his best consideration, as he should also to the arguments and facts the noble Marquess had adduced. But he must beg the noble Marquess also to bear in mind, that though the Admiralty might be the executive office superintending works of this description, yet, with respect to the subjects of expenditure and public convenience, they must come mainly under the consideration of other departments. He had no objection to the report of which he spoke being laid on the Table of the House.