§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Clause 1 agreed to.
§ Clause 2 (50 & 51 Vict. 16).
§ MR. MARJORIBANKS (Berwickshire)
I wish, on page 1, Clause 2, at the end, to add the following new subsection:—The Public Works Loan Commissioners may, under the powers conferred on them by 'The Harbours and Passing Tolls Act, 1861,' if they are satisfied as to the security offered, make loans to Local Harbour Authorities, not exceeding £10,000 in any one particular case, to enable such authorities to consolidate existing debts incurred for harbour construction or improvement; provided always it shall be certified by the Board of Trade that the expenditure for which such debts have been incurred was reasonable and beneficial.360 I beg to move this Amendment, in order to give effect to the remarks I made last night. I think I can best illustrate the reason for this Amendment by mentioning the case of a small harbour on the Coast of Fife — Pittenweem — with which I am very well acquainted. In this instance, the small village has built itself a harbour, and the Harbour Authorities have thereby incurred a debt of £4,000 to the local bank, for which they have given their harbour dues as security, together with the "common good" — the burgh property — which is of the value of £350 a-year. That the security is good, the House may be satisfied from the fact that the bank advances the money at no greater rate of interest than 4 per cent. Well, those Harbour Authorities want £3,000 or £4,000 more. They go to the Public Works Loans Commissioners, and ask for a loan; but the Public Works Loans Commissioners say—"We cannot advance you this money, as we must put out our money at the first charge." Now, there is plenty of security for the whole sum of £8,000; and what I want to do is to enable the Public Works Loans Commissioners in this case to consolidate the debt, and to advance the money for the whole purpose, seeing that the security is sufficient. I hold that this is quite consistent with the policy which the present Government has stated in their recent. Memorandums. They have laid it down that we should only help harbours of this sort by way of loan, and not by way of grant, and that it is necessary to make the loans upon sufficient security. They have also laid it down that fishery harbours, especially when belonging to Door fishermen, should be very favourably considered, and that public Trusts should be more favourably considered than works promoted in the interests of private companies. These conditions all apply to the case I am quoting, which is only an illustration of many other similar ones. The Government may not agree to the wording of the Amendment; and, in that case, I should be willing to withdraw now, in order that it might be brought up in an amended form on Report.
In page 1, Clause 2, at end, add new subsection "The Public Works Loan Commissioners may, under the powers conferred on
them by 'The Harbours and Passing Tolls Act 1816,' if they are satisfied as to the security offered, make loans to local Harbour Authorities not exceeding £10,000 in any one particular case, to enable such authorities to consolidate existing debts incurred for harbour construction or improvement, provided always it shall be certified by the Board of Trade that the expenditure for which such debts have been incurred was reasonable and beneficial."—(Mr. Marjoribanks.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY (Mr. JACKSON) (Leeds, N.)
I am sorry that I cannot accept the Amendment made by the right hon. Member; but I desire to point out that really this would alter in a very essential particular the principles of the Act under which this money can be lent. It is true that we inserted in the Public Works Loans Bill a clause relating to giving increased powers of rating; but that was no new principle, it was merely an extension, of the principle already admitted with regard to Urban Authorities, and it was merely extending the principle to Rural Authorities. Under the Harbours and Passing Tolls Acts as the right hon. Gentleman knows, there is no power at present to lend money to pay off existing debts, and there is no power, therefore, to lend money for the purpose of consolidating existing debts. This Amendment would be such an important change in the principle of the Act that I think it would hardly find its proper place in this annual measure—the Public Works Loans Bill. There is, I think, another objection. I cannot see myself how you could stop at loans not exceeding £10,000 if the principle of the Amendment were admitted and were found to be useful, and I do not deny that it would be found very useful in the case of these small harbours, but manifestly the advantage of consolidating loans in the case of large harbours would be a different thing—if the principle I say were once admitted it would extend to larger loans The right hon. Gentleman knows that there have been many applications made to the Public Works Loan Commissioners in connection with some of the largest docks and harbour works in the Kingdom. If it was found that any considerable financial saving could be effected by adopting the principle recommended, and if it were found that such a power 362 as this would enable the authorities to construct or extend existing works we should have to face endless applications. I know that the right hon. Gentleman takes great interest in these small harbours, but I trust that having had an opportunity of placing on record his views of the subject he will be satisfied with that on this occasion, and will not press his Amendment.
§ MR. MARJORIBANKS
I certainly will not press it at this hour of the night and in the present state of the House if the Government think they cannot accept it; but I do hope that during the Recess the Government will endeavour to take measures to effect what the hon. Gentleman himself appears to think a very admirable object.
§ MR. ANSTRUTHER (St. Andrew's, &c.)
If the debts could be consolidated in the manner suggested by the right hon. Gentleman of the Harbour Authorities it would allow for the repayments of interest and the repayment of capital at the same time. A new sum provided under such an arrangement as that suggested would enable Harbour Authorities to carry out improvements which are very necessary, in fact which are almost essential for the carrying on of the work which they of necessity took in hand. I quite admit the force of the argument of the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Jackson) that it is impossible in a money Bill of this kind which is an annual Bill to introduce a new principle into the Harbours and Passing Tolls Act. But what I should like very much to receive will be some sort of assurance from the hon. Gentleman as to what will be done in the future in this matter. I should like to know whether or not her Majesty's Government will take into consideration the desirability of passing some measure to reform this Act in order to enable this power to be given to Local Authorities with reference, if not to such large concerns as those to which the hon. Gentleman has referred, at any rate to those small fishing harbours which are in much more struggling circumstances, and which I think have proved themselves deserving the support of Her Majesty's Government.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn
§ Clause agreed to.
§ Remaining Clause agreed to.363
§ Bill reported, without Amendment; Bill to be read the third time To-morrow.