HL Deb 13 July 1875 vol 225 cc1366-7

asked Her Majesty's Government, What course they intended to pursue with regard to Dover Harbour? The noble Earl said, that he did not by this Question desire to put the Government to any inconvenience whatever, his desire being simply to obtain information in reference to a point of so much importance. Their Lordships were, of course, aware how very inadequate the means of communication across the Channel were. For a long time there had been proposals made to facilitate this passage; and during the last five years Bills, which to a greater or lesser degree embraced those suggestions, had been introduced into Parliament. He had himself the honour of being Chairman of the Dover Harbour Board; and the various plans which had been submitted to that body had been from time to time placed before the Government, lest the adoption of any one of them might interfere with any larger plan which they might have under consideration for Imperial purposes. It became, however, at last his duty to represent to his colleagues on that Board that the position of the Government appeared to him to be untenable, because it stopped all individual effort upon the ground that it might interfere with what were Imperial necessities, whilst, at the same time, the Government took no step to bring forward any Imperial plan. At length a plan was brought forward by the local authorities, which was submitted to various Government authorities and was carefully modified; and that plan was formally adopted by the late Government, and a Bill intended to give effect to it was introduced into their Lordships' House and read a second time. The Bill was sent to a Select Committee, which, after hearing the opposition of the Railway Company, affirmed the principle of the Bill by a large majority. The present Government, upon being questioned on the subject, said that they had intended to introduce a Bill this year, in consequence of the Select Committee reporting that at a small cost the efficiency of Dover Harbour could be largely increased. He did not complain that the present Government had taken time to consider the matter before they decided what course to take, but he thought that it would be desirable that they should state what their intentions were; whether their intention was simply to consider merely whether a larger or a smaller plan should be decided upon, or whether they intended to institute any course of inquiry before they came to any decision; and, further, that it should be known whether they had given up the idea of carrying out what appeared to be a most important national work, as well as one of great local importance.


said, that the noble Earl had accurately described all that had taken place up to the time the last Government had left Office. When the present Government came into Office they found in the Office certain proposals which had been made and certain views which had been entertained by the late Government, and based upon which proposals a Bill was introduced into the House of Commons this year. So far, therefore, the Government had followed upon the lines of the recommendation of the late Government. The Bill to which he had referred was referred to a Select Committee; and part of the Bill was based upon this, that the expense of forming the harbour would, to a very great extent, be met by the harbour tolls; and it was supposed that increased tolls would meet the increased expenditure of the harbour authorities. The Committee that considered the Bill reported, to a certain extent, in favour of the scheme; but they really reported in favour of a much larger scheme, the evidence being that the matter had better be dealt with in a much more extended form than was proposed by the Bill. With regard to the intention of the Government in the matter, he might state that they, after reading the Report of the Committee to the effect that larger works were advisable, and finding that those larger works would cost more money than the tolls would readily cover, thought it better to withdraw the Bill for the present Session in order that they might in the autumn thoroughly sift and digest the evidence and propose a plan to submit to Parliament next Session. In making this statement he did not pledge the Government to any particular scheme, but wished to show their Lordships that the Bill was not withdrawn with any view of shelving the matter in any way whatever.

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