§ Mr. BYRNE
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether his attention has been called to the Report of the local Government auditor for the year ending 31st December, 1916, in which it is stated that the financial condition of the Dublin Port and Docks Board continues to be highly unsatisfactory; whether he is aware that leading members and officials of the Board have recently resigned as a protest against the Board's decision to meet the situation by unnecessarily reducing expenditure which is essential to the 1131W upkeep and future revenue-earning capacity of the port; whether he has been informed that, having failed to provide for the repayment of large loans due in 1916, the Board are at present endeavouring to pay off such loans by borrowing at £7 per cent.; whether he is aware that the Corporation of Dublin is at present raising a large sum by way of loan from America at about £5 10s. per cent.; whether he is aware that the Port and Docks Board having to borrow at such a comparatively penal rate demonstrates the incapacity of the Board, as at present constituted, to manage the affairs of the port to the general advantage of the residents in the district which it serves; whether, having regard to the fact that the Board have now exhausted the financial powers conferred upon it by Parliament, he will immediately take steps to institute a searching inquiry into the affairs of the port, with a view to other suitable action; if he has received any of the resolutions of protest from the public boards in Ireland protesting against the system under which the Dublin Port and Docks Board is elected; and if he will take steps to alter that system so as to allow the people the opportunity of electing their own representatives?
§ Mr. G. ROBERTS
I have seen a copy of the Auditor's Report on the accounts of the Dublin Port and Docks Board for the year ended the 31st December, 1915. I am informed by the Docks Board that they, hope for an improvement in their financial position owing to the steps they have taken to increase their revenue by raising their rates, and also to the payments to be made to them by the Government in respect of dues on transports, stores, etc., under the agreement recently1132W come to. I am informed that one member of the Docks Board and the engineer have recently resigned, mainly owing to disagreement with the policy of the Special Expenditure Committee of the Board. The Docks Board tell me that owing to the issue of 6 per cent. Exchequer Bonds, and to the attractive terms of the recent French Loan, they have found it necessary to give 7 per cent. for five-year bonds and 6 per cent. for ten-year bonds. I have no definite information as to the terms of the loan raised by the Corporation of Dublin. I do not see that this borrowing demonstrates any incapacity on the part of the Docks Board, and there does not appear to be any reason for the Board of Trade instituting an inquiry into the affairs of the port, even if they had any power to do so. The only resolution of a public body which has reached me protesting against the system under which the Docks Board is elected, is one by the guardians of the North Dublin Union, which the hon. Member sent to the Board of Trade in September last. I can find no reason for altering that system, under which the parties principally interested in the welfare of the port appear DO be reasonably I represented.