HL Deb 12 July 1849 vol 107 cc208-11

, in rising to move— That after the large Sums of Money expended at the National Expense on the Harbours of Portpatrick and Donaghadee, amounting to upwards of 400,000l., and the Grants last year of 10,000l. by Her Majesty's present Government, to enlarge and dredge the Basins for the Reception of large Steam Vessels, it is highly inexpedient to remove the Packets from the Station, and to give up the desirable Communication between the South-west of Scotland and the North of Ireland,"— said: In venturing once again to trouble your Lordships on the subject of the abandonment of the packet harbours between Portpatrick and Donaghadee, I do it under the conviction that the papers presented by the noble Marquess afford, on the face of them, no grounds whatever for the decision the Government have arrived at. In the first place, no reports whatever are afforded of the inefficiency of the harbours at the present hour; in the second place, no statement is made, or can be given, as to the saving to be produced by the change; lastly, if the contractors fail, there is no forfeiture. The old packet station is abandoned, and could not, under some time, be re-established; and it appears there will be an entire stoppage to all passengers between Portpatrick and Donaghadee. The noble Marquess' (the Marquess of Clanricarde's) guarantee for the fulfilment of the contract, seems to rest on his high opinion and reliance of one of the proprietors, Mr. Burns. This appears really to me to be giving up certain positive advantages, over which the Government have complete control, for the chance of an arrangement evidently in the hands of others, while the Queen's subjects are entirely deprived of a short passage to Ireland. It would be very antediluvian to suppose the steam company did the service gratuitously. No doubt they had some great benefits that docs not appear, and they certainly act for their own convenience alone, for when pressed to take the mails on Sunday they refuse. I do not see how it is proposed, then, to send the mails on Sundays which always went over in the old packets. This, then, is one inconvenience in the arrangement. It next appears by the correspondence, that, probably on account of some fears suggested by the remarks in this House that the company might fail, the Post Office confined its contract to twelve months only. If, at the same time, they had given the competition of a fit steam- boat between the ports of Portpatrick and Donaghadee, there would have been at least a fair trial. The next observation that occurs, is a very miserable saving of some pounds on substituting runners for mail cars. Every one knows in Ireland, cars that carry two, three, or four passengers, with bags, are far safer for conveyance, and afford greater accommodation in the country; and to substitute runners, with the temptations of whisky, will more often find the bags and runners in the ditch. This is surely injudicious, and penny wise and pound-foolish. Next, the letter from Mr. Abbot clearly shows that the arrangement had been so hurried that there has not been time to make full and proper reports. With respect to the details of the postal arrangement in Scotland, there are some noble Lords here can speak to them, no doubt, with far more knowledge and confidence than I can, so I will not attempt to urge them on your Lordships. It seems, on the 16th instant, the present packets cease to ply; and I must remark on the rapidity, without further and fuller information, with which this change has been effected, more especially when it is considered that in another place so very small a majority directed the question for further inquiry by a Committee. The noble Marquess then read a letter from Sir John Ross, in which he stated, as the result of a trial be had made, that the voyage from Portpatrick to Donaghadee could be made by a competent vessel in less than one half the time occupied by the Government packets; and that this line of communication is preferable to that from Greenock; and another letter from Mr. Caird, expressing similar opinions as to the disadvantages of Greenock, and an impression that the Greenock, contract was not intended to be carried out bonâ fide.


opposed the Motion on the ground that the change about to be made (namely, to send the Scotch mails by Greenock direct to Belfast) would save expense and establish a better and more speedy mode of communication between Ireland and Scotland. He trusted that their Lordships would not upon any grounds, but he was sure they would not upon the grounds stated in this resolution, accede to the Motion of the noble Marquess.


contended that the port of Donaghadee should be kept up, after the great expense that had been incurred upon it.


thought the request that had been made by the parties whose interests were affected by the alteration in the communication, was a very reasonable one, namely, that a trial of the two routes should be made during the winter, in order that it might be tested which was the most sure mode of communication. That request, however, reasonable as it was, was refused by the Government; and when an inquiry was moved for on the subject, founded upon petitions against the change that had been presented to their Lordships' House, unaccompanied by any petitions of a counter description, the Government bad also refused to assent even to the appointment of a Committee. A few days subsequently a Motion was made for the production of papers preparatory to a Motion; but the papers were not produced till the morning of the very day on which that Motion was to be brought on, and no time therefore was allowed their Lordships for their perusal. With regard to the alleged superiority of the new route by Greenock and Belfast, it occupied no less than eleven hours and ten minutes in fine weather; and even on their own showing, he contended that the promoters of the alteration bad not proved that any advantage in point of rapidity would be secured by the change. At all events, he thought it would be only' a fair compromise—if the argument, as he apprehended, was not all on one side—to consent to test the question, by allowing a competition to take place for a reasonable period between the two ports of Greenock and Portpatrick, and then to decide according to the result of the experiment.


replied that no experiment was necessary, the voyage having been already tested by the result of the last twenty years' experience. The noble Earl had said the Passage by Greenock took eleven hours in fine weather, but experience proved that the average was only nine hours and a half. With respect to what had been said in praise of Portpatrick, it should not be forgotten that the evidence before their Lordships did not at all by any means bear out these statements: for, among other officers who give similar testimony, Capt. Pechy declared on his examination, that he considered that the harbour of Portpatrick could not be made a safe port of either ingress or egress in south-westerly gales, without incurring an enormous expense.

On Question, House divided:—For the Motion 18; Against it 31: Majority 13.

Resolved in the negative.

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