HL Deb 03 August 1891 vol 356 cc1109-11

Order of the Day for the Second Reading, read.


My Lords, I do not know that it is necessary for me to go into details upon this Bill. If your Lordships will look at the Bill you will see that its objects are detailed in the Memorandum, and I think it is un-necessary that I should go into any long statement of the causes which have led up to its being introduced into Parliament. It is purely a Rating Bill. As your Lordships are probably aware, the condition of the Western Highlands and Islands of Scotland has occupied the attention of Her Majesty's Government for a considerable period. Commission after Commission has been appointed, inquiry after inquiry has been made into the condition of the Western Highlands and Islands, with the uniform result of showing that owing to domestic misfortunes, such as the failure of harvests, and the failure of the fishing and other industries, the condition of that part of Scotland is very unfortunate. In consequence of what had gone before, I last year appointed a Commission to inquire into the matter, and ascertain what means might be the best to adopt for alleviating this chronic condition of distress. That Commission made two Reports. The general result of those Reports was: first, that the means of communication between the Western Highlands and Islands of Scotland and the central markets should be increased: secondly, that the facilities for carrying on the fishing industry should be also increased, and with that object they reported that, in the first place, the means of steam communication with the Western Highlands and Islands should be improved; secondly, that an improvement should be made in the telegraphic Communication; thirdly, that additional lights should be placed along the coast; and fourthly—I am only stating generally the result—that the railway communication also should be improved. With regard to the latter point, a small Committee is at this moment inquiring into which railway system would best afford the means of communication recommended by the Commission. With regard to the other points, a great deal has already been done; the steam communication has been already improved, and the telegraphic communication added to; the lights which have been recommended by the Commissioners are now in course of erection, and, as I have said, a Committee is now sitting inquiring into the subject of railway communication. But there was a further recommendation made by the Commissioners, and that was, that the harbours and piers and boat-slips should all receive attention. They recommended that certain larger harbours should be provided, and those works will be carried out, if it is found possible to carry them out at all, in the usual way under Provisional Orders; but they also recommended that small harbours and boat-slips should be erected. Of course it would be unnecessary, if not absolutely impossible, that Provisional Orders should in the ordinary course be obtained for carrying out every one of these small harbours and boat-slips. The cost of any of them will not exceed a few hundred pounds; and under the Bill which I am now asking your Lordships to read a second time the extreme limit of cost of any works to be carried out must not exceed £2,000. So that the expenditure upon none of the works undertaken can be very large in extent. The money has already been granted by the House of Commons. Her Majesty's Government have thought it necessary that some provision should be made for the future maintenance of any works to be erected under the grant of Parliament. The object of this Bill is simply to give to County Councils of counties which are affected by the Bill the power of levying rates for the maintenance of the harbours; and in case of necessity, if the rates should not prove to be sufficient, the power of borrowing money in order that the works may be properly maintained. Those are the general objects of the Bill. There is nothing of a contentious nature in the proposals made in it, and I have, therefore, now only to ask your Lordships to give the Bill a Second Reading.

Bill read 2a (according to order); Committee negatived: Then (Standing Order No. XXXIX. having been dispensed with), Bill read 3a, and passed.