HL Deb 11 June 1852 vol 122 cc475-8

in putting the question of which he had given notice to Her Majesty's Government, had first to call their attention to the following paragraph which had appeared in the daily papers:— THE NEW PACKET STATION COMMISSION.— Captain Charles Tyndal, of the Royal Navy arrived in Galway on Tuesday night, accompanied by his secretary, for the purpose of viewing and reporting on the capabilities of the port of Galway for a Transatlantic packet station. The gallant officer was out early the following morning making the necessary observations. Each of the three Commissioners appointed by Lord Derby's Government will separately visit the harbours of Limerick and Galway, and send in their respective reports. He (Earl Cawdor) did not know whether there was any truth in this paragraph.


Not a word of it. We have sent out no Commissioner.


His noble Friend assured him that there was not a word of truth in the paragraph; and he was very willing to believe that Captain Charles Tyndal was not called upon to make any report on this subject. But "coming-events," it was said, "threw their shadows before;" and he was not quite clear that Captain C. Tyndal might not yet ap- pear bodily in that city for the object assigned to him, or some other gallant captain in his stead. He had hopes that the late discussion in that House had settled this question; but owing to this paragraph, and the perseverance with which certain noble Lords connected with Ireland always pursued the objects which they had once had in view, and owing to other circumstances which had come to his knowledge, he had now more fears than hopes; and, therefore, he felt compelled to put a question or two to his noble Friends near him. The object of the late inquiry ought not to have been what port in Ireland is the best fitted for Transatlantic navigation, but what port on the western aide of the United Kingdom. Now, there had been no allusion made to anything of that sort by any other of the noble Lords opposite. The evidence and the report which had been founded upon it both showed clearly enough that no advantage would be gained by choosing an Irish port as a Transatlantic packet station, but that great evil and inconvenience would accrue to the commercial and travelling community from the adoption of such a proposal. Now they were threatened with a fresh inquiry, to decide whether Limerick or Galway would be the least inconvenient as a place of departure for America. He had already informed their Lordships that the Commissioners who conducted the last inquiry were precluded from inquiring into the practicability of selecting other harbours in other parts of the country; but it had somehow or other oozed out that Milford Haven was better suited for a Transatlantic packet station than either Limerick, Cork, or Galway. It had been shown that there was no harbour on the western coast of Ireland into which a vessel of any great tonnage could enter with safety in hazy weather. Now, the soundings in Milford Haven were so good that any vessel of any size might run into it either night or day. If we were to have another inquiry into this subject, he thought that the capabilities of Milford Haven ought to be included in that inquiry. He wished to ask the noble Duke near him (the Duke of Northumberland) whether he intended to proceed with this inquiry, and, if so, whether he would include Milford Haven in it?


said, he could fully appreciate the desire of his noble Friend to have the merits of Milford Haven investigated, in the event of the Government instituting an inquiry as to the most desirable port for a new transatlantic station. He could assure his noble Friend that the merits of Milford Haven should not be lost sight of; but he must leave his noble Friend to balance them against the merits of Limerick and Galway, which were as eloquently advocated on a former night by certain Irish friends of his, as those of Milford Haven had been advocated that evening. His noble Friend had misapprehended the intention of the Commission of Inquiry now about to issue. First, as regarded the paragraph which his noble Friend had cited from the Times. It might be very true that Captain Tyndal was surveying and examining Galway Bay; but, if so, it was on his own behalf, and not on that of the Government. When he said just now that Government had not despatched a commissioner to Galway, he bad said that which was perfectly true to the letter, for the appointment of the commissioners had not been signed till that morning by the noble Duke near him. Still it was intended that those commissioners should proceed to make forthwith a personal survey and examination of the western coast of Ireland. Their survey, however, was to be limited within very narrow bounds. Without in the slightest degree involving the Government in any pledge whatever as to the adoption of a packet station, they were desirous that one point should be cleared up by an examination on the spot, which appeared to be left in doubt by the late Commission of Inquiry on the subject. That commission reported that, among the places for a packet station on the west coast of Ireland, there were two to which they gave a decided preference over all others. They entered into a statement of the comparative advantages and disadvantages of the ports of Limerick and Galway; and there was a request that a commission should be appointed for the purpose of filling up what appeared to be a void in the previous commission, and striking the balance between the comparative merits of those two harbours. It was, therefore, thought desirable that officers should be appointed for the purpose of personally inspecting the harbours of Limerick and Galway, investigating the comparative merits of the two, and reporting thereon to the Government. It was necessary that that examination should be undertaken by naval officers, in order to determine what facilities there were for the entrance to and departure from those harbours respectively, for steamers of the largest class, at all times of the day and night, and at all times of the tide. The investigation of the commissioners was strictly limited to the comparative merits of the two harbours of Limerick and Galway; and that was owing to the late commissioners, in reporting upon the different harbours, giving a preference to those two, but without deciding in their own minds to which of the two the preference was due. He could assure his noble Friend that the Government would undertake no great work in reference to this subject without the fullest consideration of any claims which Milford Haven might put forth as to its means of communication with all parts of the United Kingdom.


said, whatever might be the merits of Milford Haven, there would undoubtedly be a saving of time, which was a matter of great importance, by the adoption of an Irish port. He accepted the statement with respect to the present intentions of the Government, but he was satisfied that, in the end, they would have to go a step forward.