§ MR. HERBERT LEWIS (Flint Boroughs)
rose to move:—That in the opinion of this House, in the interests of trade and communication by sea between places on the coast of Wales, and with a view to the protection and development of sea fisheries and the safety of the persons engaged in them, it is desirable that a Departmental Committee be appointed to inquire in what way and to what extent the existing provision of piers and harbours on the coast of Wales should be improved.He said he was glad that the Minister who represented the Government on that occasion was the President of the Board of Trade, because it was under his auspices that the House of Commons had given its sanction to the policy of the Light Railway Bill. The arguments by 908 which the introduction of that Bill was supported ran largely on the same lines as the arguments by which he would try to justify this Motion to the House. In introducing the Light Railway Bill, the President of the Board of Trade said:—If they could do anything to bring the producer and consumer more closely together— if they could make more easy the distribution of produce—they would have done much to help both the producer and the consumer.Then referring to the complaints of high charges on the part of railway companies, he said:—He was not prepared to deny that there was some ground for those complaints, but assuming that agriculturists who now possess railway facilities might fairly complain of railway charges, what of those producers who had no railway communication whatever to avail themselves of? If the position of the one class was bad, the House would admit that the position of agriculturists who had no means of railway communication was infinitely worse.That, unfortunately, was the position of a large part of the agricultural population who live on the coast of Wales. Evidence had been given before the Welsh Land Commission by the ex-chairman of the Cardiganshire County Council and others to the effect that in Wales, owing to the want of facilities, the sea had been very little utilised for the carriage of agricultural products. In some parts of the country—the peninsula of Lleyn for example—he was assured that facilities of water carriage were far more important to the agricultural classes than light railways, much as they were needed in that part of the country. He therefore hoped he would carry with him the President of the Board of Trade and the House, in the assertion of the principle which underlay his Motion. But the Light Railway Bill not only referred to agriculture—it proposed to develop the fishing interest as well, and here again the principle of his Motion was in complete accordance with the policy of that Measure. Taking a rough survey of the coast of Wales, and indicating a few out of the many important questions into which an Inquiry by a Departmental Committee would be of value, he would begin with the estuary of the Dee—the part of the Welsh coast with which he was most familiar. The River Dee, and all the ports along the estuary had 909 suffered severely owing to the abstraction of a large body of water for canal purposes at Ellesmere. Instead of being returned to the Dee it was diverted to another watershed, and from the time when this abstraction commenced this diversion had been probably the greatest contributory cause to the silting up of the Dee. The River Dee Commissioners, who were empowered during the last century to make works for the improvement of the navigation of the Dee and the reclamation of land, chiefly confined themselves to reclaiming land, and under their regime the navigation of the Dee became worse and worse. Within the last few years they had got rid of their obligations, so far as navigation was concerned, and had transferred them to the River Dee Conservancy Board. That body was doing its best, with the extremely limited means at its disposal, but those means were entirely inadequate. The channel had become tortuous, and the accumulation of sand-banks at one point of its course was so serious as to threaten at times the closure of the greater part of the Dee to navigation. The change which had taken place might be judged from the fact that Parkgate was in former times the port for Ireland, and that men-of-war used to lie at anchor under Flint Castle afloat even when the tide was out. It was only by private effort and at great expense, that the owners of the wharves along the Dee at Flint, Bagillt, Greenfield, Mostyn and the Point of Air could keep the gutters deep enough to enable vessels to approach. The possibility of restoring to the Dee the scouring power of which it had been wrongfully deprived had often been discussed, and it was a question which demanded and deserved full inquiry. If the navigation could only be relied upon, the works which now line the banks of the Dee Estuary would be largely increased. Facilities of railway communication and water carriage would do more to improve the estuary than any other agency could effect. Coming to the open sea, the need of a harbour of refuge somewhere between Holyhead and the Wild Roads had been felt for many years, and the existing harbour at Voryd near Rhyl possessed many natural advantages for the formation of a harbour of refuge. For 910 about half a mile in a seaward direction from the harbour into which the river Clwyd ran, the channel had been dredged to a depth of nine feet at low water mark. This dredging had been done by way of private enterprise for the sake of raising gravel for making concrete, and a considerable part of the work of making it a harbour of refuge had therefore actually been accomplished. For the last two or three years some dredging had been done in a seaward direction, and for that privilege the Board of Trade received £50 a year, but apparently they had not spent a penny of that money upon the improvement of the navigation between the channel of the Dee and the Voryd Harbour. What was urgently required was the continuation of the dredging to the sea by cutting through the bar of the estuary which was dry at low water on ordinary tides, thus enabling vessels of 10 to 15 feet draught of water to get in at the earliest stage of the tides, and steamers of light draught of water to get in and out at all times. It was most important that something should be done, and done quickly for the development of the natural advantages of this harbour. From 150 to 200 trading vessels, varying from 100 to 1,000 tons burden, visited the harbour annually, and were often exposed to much danger, and occasionally sustained serious damage. A large number of vessels loaded limestone at the unprotected Llandulas stages, and when a storm suddenly came on with the wind blowing from the north or north-west, as they had no harbour of refuge nearer than Wild Roads, vessels were lost every year because they were unable to run into Voryd Harbour. The local fishermen at Voryd had made several attempts to carry on their occupation outside the bar but they had found it too dangerous, as there was not enough water on the bar to enable them to run into harbour when they were caught in rough weather outside. Many a shipwreck had been caused on the Rhyl banks through the inability of these and other vessels under stress of weather to reach Wild Roads, or to cross the bar of the Clwyd into the harbour at Voryd. The expense of making Rhyl into a useful harbour of refuge for! vessels drawing up to 15 feet of water 911 and for small steamers, fishing boats and yachts, would be comparatively small and part of the work would be actually remunerative in itself. Those who now carried on dredging work paid the owner of the soil £100 a year, and the Board of Trade £50 a year, for the privilege of dredging for gravel. But the provision of a harbour of refuge at Rhyl was something more than a local question, and the town could not be expected to bear an expense which would be for the benefit of the coast between Holy-head and the Mersey. In any event there was a case for full inquiry on the part of the Board of Trade, in the interests of the safety of life and shipping property on the coast of North Wales. Such a harbour as the one he had indicated would prevent the loss of vessels every year; it would develop the fishing industry, it would cheapen the transit of goods from Liverpool to Rhyl and to the places of which Rhyl formed the centre, and incidentally it would give a great impetus to the tourist traffic between Lancashire and places on the coast of North Wales. That coast was one of great natural beauty; and it would be easily accessible from the crowded and populous centres of Lancashire and the Midlands if they only had such facilities for landing passengers as would encourage shipping companies to run lines of steamers along the coast. He could speak from personal experience of the enormous advantage which a landing place with a daily service of steamers conferred, not merely upon the immediate vicinity of the landing place, but also upon the whole of the surrounding country for many miles. A steamer seemed to bring life into the dullest place. The case of Holyhead Harbour and the great improvement which might be effected there by the removal of the Platter Rocks was not one which could properly be dealt with under this Motion. The discussion upon that subject would come more properly under the Board of Trade Vote. But with regard to Holyhead, he might remark, in passing, that notwithstanding the large sums spent upon the harbour, the place had hardly any local shipping trade of its own. There was no place where a tourist steamer could land passengers. The coast of Anglesey teemed 912 with fish, and yet the Anglesey people, largely owing to lack of proper facilities, were unable to participate in the fishing industry. He feared that excessive railway rates largely contributed to that condition of things. Given reasonable rates, and with a little encouragement, a profitable fishing industry could be established in Anglesey. There were also a number of places on the western coast of Wales where, at comparatively small expense, the fishing industry could be developed and the carriage of goods greatly cheapened— such places, for example, as Abersoch, Trevor, Porthysgadan and Porthgolmon on the Lleyn Peninsula, where nature had already done the greater part of the work. Such an industry would vivify the whole district, and would make the light railway which they were thinking of making a profitable undertaking. Pwllheli had a natural harbour, which might also be greatly improved. A breakwater at Borth, near Portmadoc, within the harbour, with gas buoys and leading lights during the season, would be a great stimulus to the fishing industry. Aberdovey was one of the best natural harbours on the coast. It could, and did, accommodate vessels carrying nearly 2,000 tons always afloat. A few years ago there was a line of steamers running between Aberdovey and Water-ford, but it was discontinued, largely because they could not get in and out at low water. The inner harbour offered capital facilities and accommodation, and if the bar was only dredged, the harbour would be one of the finest on the coast. There, with a little money judiciously spent, a breakwater might be constructed inside the harbour for the protection of fishing boats. The estuary was two miles broad at high water, and ran inland for several miles, consequently it was too rough in stormy weather, and the fishing boats adapted for the place, from 5 to 15 tons burthen, were frequently destroyed. If a breakwater were erected the fishing industry could be considerably developed. The importance of the harbour was shown by the fact that the Cambrian Railway Company had spent £10,000 upon it, but of course they could not be expected to undertake the development of the fishing industry. The facilities for the fishing industry on the coast of Cardiganshire 913 were extremely few, and a Departmental Committee would do very useful work by inquiring at what places and in what way the accommodation at places like Borth, Aberystwyth, Aberayron, New-quay, Cardigan, and Fish guard could be improved, giving protection to fishing boats and enabling steamers to call. He would leave others better acquainted than he was with that coast and that of South Wales, to speak on the subject, but the remarks he had made will] reference to the North Wales coast; applied with equal force; to that of South Wales. In connection with the fishing industry, facilities of communication were of the greatest importance. The Light Railway Bill would in a few cases help fishing districts to send their produce to market quickly, but regular communication by coasting steamers would do much more, and if Government aid were available for the creation of new harbours and landing places, an inducement would be given to steamboat companies conducting the traffic to increase the number of their ports of call. The existence of the present state of things in too many cases left the fishermen half idle and the artisans of the towns imperfectly and irregularly supplied with fish. The Crofters Commission acting upon this view gave expression to the opinion—That the Government acting on the one hand on behalf of a people crippled in their powers by the stubborn features of nature, and, on the other hand, in the inrerests of an industry of national importance as a source of food supply to the whole community, might step in and grant financial assistance. The possible loss to the public exchequer would be small: the link between the toiler of the sea and the toiler of the town would be profitable to both.And they declined to discuss in principle, as it was unnecessary for him to discuss, the question of Government aid to useful enterprise prompted by motives of general concern. Some years ago the country was deeply stirred on the fisheries question. It was not so easy now to obtain its ear on that question, but its importance in relation to our national food supply still remained undiminished. While the subject matter of his Motion did not, refer to the vast trading interests of the industrial districts of South Wales, it was closely connected with them, at least in one 914 respect. The coal and iron trades of South Wales could take good care of themselves in regard to the proper provision of piers and harbours. Magnificent docks had been constructed at Cardiff, Barry, and elsewhere. The improved provision of which his Resolution spoke did not in any way refer to them, because a great trade could always create its own facilities for transport. At the same time, now that trade was not so flourishing as it once was, and the margin of profit had become considerably smaller, it was a matter of the utmost importance to those great industrial districts that any extension of dock, pier or harbour accommodation which they might require should not be unduly weighted by the heavy cost—in large part the quite; unnecessary cost—of obtaining the necessary Parliamentary powers. Take the case of the construction of the Barry Dock. The expenditure required to put the Barry Dock Bill through Parliament was enormous. He believed he was correct in saying that taking both sides into account, it ran into hundreds of thousands of pounds. Speaking with a due sense of the fitness of the words one ought to use, and with a due sense of proportion, he could not help stigmatising that expenditure as monstrous. It was unnecessary, unproductive, and largely gone to swell the already bloated incomes of Parliamentary agents and counsel. The President of the Board of Trade, when at the Local Government Board, was the author of a policy of decentralisation which he very wisely inaugurated some years ago, and which he would doubtless have carried out successfully, had he been allowed by a certain set of authorities to do so. If he had had his way, it would have been possible to construct piers and harbours at very much smaller expense than is now necessary. It was to be hoped his successor would press forward that policy to a successful conclusion, and if he were to appoint a Departmental Committee their Report would certainly strengthen his hands in that direction. He had been asked why he desired this Motion to apply to the coast of Wales alone, to which he. replied that he was best acquainted with the Welsh coast line, and that Wales was a maritime country, 10 out of her 13 counties being 915 maritime counties. The conformation of the coast, broken up as it was into creeks and bays, lent itself easily to the development of intercommunication by steamer, and rendered the construction of harbours easier. It did not present a blank front of chalk cliffs or a flat expanse with a shallow approach. It was not a wild, rock-bound, inaccessible coast, and with the exception of a part of the coast on the Bristol Channel it had not those great trades and industries which made the expense of improving communication a comparatively small matter in richer portions of the country. It was impossible for private enterprise, however widely extended it may be, to consider a scheme of this kind as a whole. The Welsh County Councils might have considered the question, but, so far, they had no power to meet to confer on a question of this kind. It was only a Government Department like the Board of Trade, acting through a Departmental Committee, whose inquiries would be supplemented by all the accumulative knowledge and experience of the able officials of that Department, which could adequately estimate the capabilities of the coast, and suggest a plan by which its resources might be developed. The inquiry would serve the useful purpose of ascertaining to what extent and in what way the food supply of the Welsh coast could be developed. The sea along the coast of Wales teemed with fish, and the fisheries were capable of vast extension. The Fishery Boards which had been established along the coast were doing their best for the protection of the fisheries, and they bore the entire cost of the work, although the question was one in which inland counties were just as much interested. But these Boards had no power to make those substantial improvements without which the fishing industry could not be properly developed. The next Motion on the Paper in which a number of Members took great interest dealt with the national food supply of 916 this country, especially in time of war. If facilities for landing fish and sending them to market were increased, the food supply of the country was thereby augmented. If better accommodation for fishermen were provided, an industry would be developed which would make the most of that inexhaustible harvest of the sea which constituted one of the most important portions of our national food supply. It was quite possible that in time of war some fisheries might have to be abandoned, the fishermen not caring to risk capture by the enemy's cruisers, but in a comparatively protected region like that of the Welsh coast, it would be possible for them to go on with their work unimpeded. If there was any real danger that in time of war our food supply might fall short, then the desirability of developing sea fisheries was of as great importance to large towns like Birmingham, as to places on the sea coast. He was not asking the Government to do anything rash—anything for which they had not already a precedent, by way of inquiry, grant, and legislation. The Highlands and Islands Act of 1891 had authorised the Treasury to make grants towards the construction of piers, harbours, and boatslips in the Highlands. But even if there had been no precedent, he thought he had made out a primâ facie case for inquiry, independent of precedent. This Government had come into power upon a Programme of social legislation. They were to have ''better trade." Well, this was a "better trade'' Resolution. Could they find a more natural or legitimate means of promoting the well-being of maritime countries, and of indirectly imparting no small benefit to inland counties, than the development of coast communication. Was there one more greatly needed? Its benefit to the farmer, the trader, and those who were in various ways dependent upon both, would be very considerable. It might be the means of starting new and important industries, to whose 917 commencement and profitable working cheapness of transit was essential. The system was already in existence in part; the harbours were there, most of the work had been done by Nature. What they wanted to know was, providing what exists now was supplemented, if the missing links were supplied, would the accruing benefit be sufficient to justify the Government in taking further action, or in empowering localities or the County Councils to take action, either singly or jointly? They only asked for Inquiry. Let that Inquiry be of as practical and searching a character as possible, and he felt confident chat good would result. They denied Wales the great objects on which the hearts of the great majority of her people were set. Although she had recorded immense majorities time after time, for certain great Measures, the voice of the majority of her people was overborne by an English majority. She had asked for great reforms, and although there existed at the present time among Welsh Members, a majority more preponderant in proportion than the one which now keeps the Government in power, the desires of the people whom that majority represents will have no chance of being carried into effect for a lung time to come. The same was the cast; with Ireland, but they had affirmed their intention, in the case of Ireland, of pursuing a generous policy towards that country. They asked that the same should be done in the case of Wales. There were two great questions upon which the Unionist Party won the last General Election—one was their opposition to interference with vested interests, the other was their avowed desire to promote trade. Now, if the object he had in view was carried out, it would interfere; with no vested interest in any shape or form, but if the Inquiry for which he asked resulted in any improvement of the piers and harbours on the coast of Wales, it would promote and develop trade on the coast—the kind of 918 object which the present Government considered that it existed to promote. They did not ask for a grant, or for legislation, although they had precedents for both; they only asked for an Inquiry. If they were to ask for a grant, they would be perfectly justified on the ground that both as regards the Crown property, and grants in aid of local authorities, Wales had suffered severely. Crown property in Wales had been sold to the value of £110,000, the money had been taken out of Wales and had been invested very largely in London ground rents. It would be far more fitting that it should be invested in some enterprise that would be of permanent benefit to Wales. With regard to the grants in aid, it had been shown in the House the other day that Wales received loss than her share by £60,000 per annum, in proportion to population, Since the year 1888, she had lost nearly half-a-million sterling on that account. He, therefore, hoped that the President of the Board of Trade would carry to its logical issue the policy he had adopted this Session, with a view to the development of inland communication, and that he would agree to the holding of an Inquiry as to the extent to which a similar policy might be carried out on the neglected coast of Wales. For the sake of the fisherman, the agriculturist, and the trader, to safeguard life and property on the Welsh coast, and to develop new and profitable industries, he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would assent to the Motion. He begged to move the Resolution.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
seconded the Resolution. On the Estimates last year he had put the case of one particular port in South Carnarvonshire to the right hon. Gentleman, who had promised that if an application, were made by some responsible authority for that port he would make an Inquiry. All that his hon. Friend asked was that the right hon. Gentleman should extend that Inquiry so far as the Welsh coast was concerned. In Cardigan Bay 919 there had been formerly a very important fishing industry which had now decayed, and with the exception of one or two small ports the industry had almost completely disappeared, because there was no single harbour of refuge in that part of Wales at all.
ADMIRAL FIELD (Sussex, Eastbourne)
was understood to say that there was no harbour of refuge on the West coast at all.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
said, there was no harbour of refuge to which a ship could run in a storm on the whole of the west coast of Wales. The researches of the Scottish Fishery Board had proved that the fish, decade after decade, sheered further out to sea. The consequence was that the fishing industry required craft of a very much larger size than in vogue 50 years ago, and harbours were needed into which boats of 40 or 50 tons might put in any weather. The rateable value of the small towns was very small, and it was not to be expected that they could burden themselves with an expenditure of £30,000 or £40,000 — an expenditure, moreover, which would be for the benefit of the whole of the western coast of Wales. Pwllheli had only 2,000 or 3,000 inhabitants, and Aberdovey had only about 2,000. They could only come to the Imperial Parliament for these harbours, and the process was an extremely expensive one. His hon. Friend had referred to the extreme case of the Barry Docks, but there were many cases in which the hardship was felt. This had been shown recently in the case of Bangor, which required to make not a harbour, but a pier, and had to spend £3,000 or £4,000 in order first to get an Act of Parliament. The pier was for the benefit of the whole surrounding country, but the ratepayers of Bangor had to bear the burden of erecting it. The Government ought either to make the harbours they needed for them, or give a central authority in Wales the power of making them. He trusted that the President of the 920 Board of Trade would at any rate accede to the modest request for a Committee to inquire. It was a matter of general interest and not merely a question for the west coast of Wales. The decay of the fishing industry was a serious matter from the point of view of naval defence. We complained of the decay of our mercantile marine and of the employment of Lascars, and foreign seamen, and that furnished a reason for reviving a decayed industry in a locality which at one time was one of the best recruiting grounds for our Navy.
§ *GENERAL LAURIE (Pembroke and Haverfordwest)
said, he strongly supported the Motion, and he would mention in support of it a serious and a growing evil which called for inquiry whether something could not be done to remedy it. The population of the county of Pembrokeshire was rapidly diminishing. In 1881, it was 91,000; and in 1891 only 82,000, and while the population was diminishing the poor rate was increasing, although not to the same extent. It was therefore reasonable to ask the Board of Trade to ascertain whether anything could be done to restore the former prosperity of the county. There were two ways in which it could be done. One was by further developing the industry of the population itself, and the other was by the creation of a through trade. In the early days of the Great Western Railway, Mr. Brunel selected Fishguard as a suitable point where a harbour might be constructed for the mail route to Ireland; there was a bay which with a moderate outlay might be made a practicable harbour on the route of a transit trade with Wexford, while trade would not be taken away from any other port. A steamer might very well run daily between Wexford and Fishguard, and would obtain full cargo. Arrangements were being made for the construction of a wet dock at Porth Grain, and a steamship line was proposed whence agri- 921 cultural produce could be shipped to Manchester through the Ship Canal. If the people of the rural districts could only obtain such a market for their produce, that would stop the diminution of the population. It was not unreasonable to ask for inquiry whether something could not be done to restore prosperity or increase it along the coast of Wales; but he should have been glad if the Motion had dealt with harbours all round the coasts of the United Kingdom.
§ *SIR CAMERON GULL (Devon, Barnstaple)
rose to move the first of two Amendments, which were in each ease to insert "England and" before "Wales." He said he did so in no sense in hostility to the Motion. He entirely recognised, as indeed any Member must, the urgent need of further harbour accommodation in Wales; but he believed the House would also recognise that there was further need of harbour accommodation in other parts of the United Kingdom. This was no new question; it had been agitated from 1836 to the present time. As long ago as 1860 a Motion was carried, although opposed by the Government of the day, recognising the principle of grants of public money towards the construction of harbours. In 1861, by the Harbours and Passing Tolls Act, there was laid down the general principle under which Governments have acted down to the present time. It was that, as a rule, harbours should not be built at the public expense, but that loans should be granted for the purpose of building them at low rates of interest to localities that could offer securities for the loans. He did not ask the Board of Trade to give up the principle of building harbours through loans; but In; did ask attention to the exceptions that had been recognised. They were, first, national harbours of refuge, such as Dover, Holyhead, and Peterhead; these, important as they were, were foreign to the Resolution of to-night, because their construction was de- 922 termined by considerations of national defence and the protection of our naval and mercantile marines. The second exception was that of small and poor districts which required harbours. To Ireland a grant was made in 1883 of £250,000 for harbours; and there is an annual harbour grant of £3,000 to Scotland. He did not complain of these grants, indeed he was glad they had been made; but he wished to urge that there were places on the coasts of England which had the same claims as places in Scotland and Ireland. The making of exceptions to the general rule was recognised by the Select Committee of 1884, who, in their Report, said:—Your Committee believe that grants of public money may, to a limited extent, be Marie in aid of works which provide purely refuges chiefly for fishermen at certain portions of our coast to which a large number of boats belong" and off which great fisheries are prosecuted, while the existing harbours are only accessible to the boats at a. limited portion of each. tide. Your Committee believe that it falls entirely within the province of Government to provide the much needed refuge in these districts, it being absolutely impossible that the fishermen themselves can raise sufficient funds for such works, or find security upon which to borrow money to carry them out.It was not a very large matter, six or eight works costing from £80,000 to £100,000 each would meet all the demands that were made. The Committee proceeded to point out generally the districts where they were needed, and the Committee earnestly recommended the appointment of a small Commission, embracing in its number two engineers and a nautical man of great experience to inquire carefully and thoroughly into this subject, and more especially into the requirements of localities indicated with the view of determining the exact sites at which refuge works could best be carried out. Lest the objection should be made that this was only the suggestion of a roving inquiry, the Committee pointed to an example of admirable work performed with regard to the Norwegian coasts by a Royal Commission appointed by the Norwegian Government to report 923 on. the necessities of their coasts. The principles laid down were that refuge and shelter were more important than trade, and that fishery harbours for poor fishermen should be very favourably considered. Setting aside the question of national harbours of refuge, what he wished to urge was that there were on the English coasts small places with coasting trade and fishing trade capable of expansion that were almost entirely neglected, and that the maritime counties of England equally with those of Wales stood in need of any assistance which the House could give. Other maritime counties were as well adapted for further accommodation as Wales, as for instance Devon and Cornwall, where harbours were needed to prevent the loss of life which now went on.
§ *SIR C. GULL
agreed. But the question of finance did not affect Wales only. The difficulty was felt equally in England.
§ *SIR C. GULL
said, even if the hon. Member's Motion were accepted, and the Government handed over £60,000, it did not follow that it would be applied for the purpose of harbours. It would be dealt with by the county councils, which had not the power to deal properly with the question of harbours. The hon. Member's argument that this matter should be dealt with, not piecemeal, but as a whole, supported his own contention, that it not only affected Wales, but the United Kingdom, and he hoped the Inquiry asked for would not be confined to Wales. He need not occupy the time of the House to show the need for further harbours of refuge. During the years from 1877–78 to 1882–84, there were 3,694 lives lost and 16,000 casualties, excluding collisions. The last Report told the same sad tale. He would not 924 quote the example of foreign Governments. France, on harbours of refuge, had spent £11,000,000; Germany, £1,000,000; Belgium, £2,500,000. But our own Government had admitted that it was their duty in exceptional cases to provide harbours. The Resolution of the House of 1860, the Act of 1861, and the Select Committee of 1884, had recognised this. The treatment of Ireland and Scotland in later years in questions of harbours had strengthened the hands of those who asked for the same treatment for England and Wales. Were not our coasts as dangerous and the traffic and fishing industry as large? Had we not as poor struggling districts as Ireland and Scotland? On the coasts of Devon, from Land's End to Bristol, there were no harbours of refuge. In the storm of last October there were 12 vessels in danger and four wrecks within sight of his own windows. Two of these wrecks involved the loss of every man on board. The harbours existing were only available at high water. At low water they were dry, and he hoped the Board of Trade would inquire whether one or more harbours could not be made available at other states of tide. At Clovelly, there was considerable traffic. It was the only place the Bideford boats could run to, because they were forbidden to go near Bideford bar at low water. He believed that by an addition, at small expense, to the existing breakwater, sufficient water could be enclosed to enable fishing vessels, and coasters to take refuge in storms. But though they could show ground for exceptional treatment, sailors and fishermen had a right to ask help as a matter of justice. Sailors and fishermen, were taxed and rated for roads rarely used by them. The roads were the means of communication between producer and consumer. Harbours were the means of communication between the sea producer and the consumer, and were as necessary for sailors and fishermen as the roads for those inland. Why should not those inland 925 be rated and taxed for harbours as the seafarers were for the roads. The demand was a small one. The appointment of a small Committee was recommended by the Committee of 1884. He was willing that the Inquiry should begin on the coasts of Wales, but whatever was done for 'Wales ought to be done for England as well. He trusted that in justice to the villages around our coast, to whom we looked for men for the best recruiting material for our Navy, our first line of defence, a favourable and sympathetic answer would be given by the Board of Trade, and that the present Government would take practical steps to carry out recommendations which had been too long allowed to sleep. The hon. Baronet concluded! by moving his Amendment.
*CAPTAIN PHILLPOTTS (Devonshire, Torquay)
seconded the Amendment, observing that the arguments which had been used in favour of Wales would apply with equal force to the case of England. In the county of Devon the question of the provision of harbours of refuge and of accommodation for the fishing fleets had for many years excited a great deal of interest. He remembered an influential meeting, composed of representatives from all parts of the county, being held at Exeter, eleven years ago, at which a resolution was unanimously adopted on this subject, but they had advanced no further since that date. There was no doubt that in England, and especially on the coast of Devon, the fishing communities had largely borrowed money, and done all within their power to help themselves; and, because they had done so, he contended, that was no reason why the Government should not come forward and help them. It was, in fact, a generally accepted maxim that those who helped themselves should be helped by the powers having control over them. At the present time a Bill was in preparation for the extension of the fishing harbour of Brixham, but if this Resolu- 926 tion were accepted by the President of the Hoard of Trade, and a Committee appointed to consider the question, it would be found that, for the expenditure of a very small sum of money, a harbour might be erected on the south coast of Devon that would, to a large extent, relieve the fishing community of Brixham from the necessity of enlarging their harbour as they proposed to do. He referred to the urgent necessity for creating a harbour of refuge in Torbay where, in certain states of the wind, ships were compelled to seek shelter, although when the wind blew from the east it did not afford a safe anchorage. Some years ago a number of ships anchored in Torbay to obtain shelter from a westerly gale, when suddenly the wind shifted eastwards, and something like 70 or 80 ships and hundreds of lives were lost. If there had been a breakwater in the bay these valuable lives and property might have been saved, and this was a necessary work which ought at once to be undertaken. There was at the present time no harbour of refuge from Plymouth up to Portland, and Portland in itself was not a good harbour. He had only mentioned Torbay as one place, but he supported the Amendment because he regarded this as a national and not a local question which ought to be dealt with in a broad and comprehensive spirit, and he earnestly hoped the President of the Board of Trade would see fit to grant the Inquiry that was asked for.
§ *SIR G. OSBORNE MORGAN (Denbighshire, E.)
observed that, while no fine would complain of the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment endeavouring to extend the scope of the Motion, everybody who knew Wales must admit that there was a great difference between the case of England and Wales, which came much nearer to those of the Western Highlands or the West Coast of Ireland. In the Principality the people were much poorer, and therefore much more in 927 need of public assistance, whilst they had not had their due proportion of State aid. They had no large wealthy towns in Wales—if they excepted Glamorganshire—such as there were on the west coast of England, and it was absurd to talk about small Welsh villages raising sufficient money out of their own rates to provide for piers and harbours. No part of the country stood more in need of piers and harbours than Wales, and, at the same time, there was none more adapted by nature for the formation of such necessary works. He had lived a great portion of his life on an inhospitable part of the coast between Bangor and Rhyl, and no person unacquainted with the district could have the slightest idea of the frightful loss of life and property caused by shipwrecks, especially among the fishing fleets, which might have been avoided if a comparatively small amount had been expended in providing the protection for them which had been sketched out by the Mover of the Resolution. The provision of these harbours too was of more importance to Wales for the carriage of agricultural produce than light railways. Sea-carriage must be cheaper than land-carriage, and he defied the President of the Board of Trade, however economical he was, to construct a light railway which would carry their produce as cheaply as coasting vessels. The whole conditions of the fishing industry had changed. In former times fishing was done in small boats, but now it was carried on in boats of such tonnage that they could not go into these small harbours. The fishing industry was greatly crippled for want of piers and harbours which had been alluded to in the course of the Debate. The part of the country which they represented was an essentially poor one, and under these circumstances they were obliged to sue informa pauperis. They had not the means for doing these things themselves, and they honestly believed that, if the right hon. 928 Gentleman would grant the facilities and the protection which the Motion asked for, they would prove in the end to be remunerative. But they did not ask the right hon. Gentleman to go so far as that. They merely asked for an Inquiry which had for its scope the coast of Wales, and he trusted that the Resolution would receive the favourable attention of the President of the Board of Trade.
§ MR. LAMBERT
pleaded for the construction of harbours of refuge on the coast of North Devon, where the loss of life when gales swept across the Atlantic, was enormous. It would be an act of humanity to erect these harbours into which ships could run when they were overtaken by these gales. They had done their utmost to provide this protection out of their own resources, but they were only a small and struggling community, and could not afford the large expenditure which was essential for the building of such harbours. They appealed, therefore, to the Government for an extension of that aid which they had so generously given them in the matter of light railways, to the erection of harbours of refuge, not only on the coast of Wales, but also on the coast of Devonshire and other parts of England.
expressed his general sympathy with the object the hon. Member opposite had in view, but said he desired to go into the merits of the question and to look minutely into the words of the Resolution. He was surprised that the right hon. Baronet the Leader of the Welsh Party should have spoken from such a limited point of view, and have confined this question —if there was any bottom in it at all— simply to a corner of a small country like Wales.
*SIR G. OSBORNEMORGAN
I did not desire to confine it to Wales, but I urged that the case of Wales was an exceptional one.
said, that in view of the admirable and reasonable Amend- 929 ment of the hon. Baronet behind him (Sir W. Cameron Gull), how could the right hon. Baronet opposite not be willing to support it and make the question applicable to the whole country. The right hon. Gentleman did not take the broad view of the question that they might have expected from a Statesman of his experience. The hon. Member for the Torquay Division also took a somewhat limited view of the matter. He talked about there being no harbour between Torquay and Portland on the south coast of England. Why, those places were only 60 miles apart. As to the Motion itself, the speeches of the Mover and Seconder did not agree with its terms; for while they spoke of harbours of refuge, the Motion really referred to fishing harbours only. But there was a great difference between harbours of refuge and fishing harbours, and nature was altogether against the proposal to construct harbours of refuge on the west coast of Wales, for that coast did not present any places really adapted to them. Nor did he think they were altogether necessary there. Sailors in a gale would rather try to keep as far away as possible from the coast of Wales, and keep good sea room. [Laughter.] Moreover, to call on the Government to construct harbours of refuge, not only on the coast of Wales, but on the coasts of England also, was an unreasonable demand, and he could not support so wild a proposal. It was one which, in regard to considerations of expenditure alone, the Government could not be expected to concede. The hon. and gallant Member for Pembroke had spoken of that port in connection with the subject, but the ease of Pembroke was different. That was a naval port of much importance, and it was the absolute duty of the Government to see that it was put and kept in an efficient condition. ["Hear, hear!"] The construction of harbours of refuge, however, was a very large and important matter, and was not to be undertaken on any part of our coasts without serious consideration, for unless they were fortified they would become objects of attack to an enemy in time of war and thus possibly points of danger to the country. A harbour of refuge had been advocated at Dover, and simply because that place would be 930 powerfully fortified. Therefore, the work of constructing a harbour of refuge involved much more than the construction of a harbour of shelter for fishing boats. ["Hear, hear!"] If the supporters of the Motion had confined their appeal to the provision of fishing harbours many hon. Members might have regarded the subject from a different point of view, and have voted in favour of it. He submitted to the House that neither the Motion nor the Amendment was worthy of serious argument, they were impracticable. Sailors, as a rule, were not very fond of harbours of refuge; they desired rather to guard against the under manning and overloading of vessels and sending un-seaworthy ships to sea. ["Hear, hear!"] Legislation should be such as to take care that our ships should be well manned, well built, and not overloaded. If there was such legislation there would not be the present demand for the Lifeboat Institution and other benevolent institutions of that kind, and for harbours of refuge all round the coast of Wales. If the Resolution were to be made a sensible one the Amendment of the hon. Baronet muse be accepted; certainly the word "fishing" must be inserted before "harbours" otherwise he for one could not support it.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT (Monmouthshire, W.)
said the greater part of the speech of the hon. and gallant Member was occupied in denouncing the demand for harbours of refuge. It might console the hon. and gallant Gentleman to know that the words "harbours of refuge" did not occur in the Resolution at all. What was asked for was the construction of piers and harbours. The gallant Admiral said if these piers and harbours were intended for development of the fishing industry there might be something in the Resolution, and if there was the word "fishing" in the Resolution he would have been disposed to support it. He hoped that at this the eleventh hour the hon. and gallant Gentleman would read the Resolution, for he would find that it stated that these piers and harbours were desired "with a view to the protection and development of sea fisheries and the safety of the persons engaged in them."[Laughter.] If this were a Resolution demanding great breakwaters in Torbay or in places of that character he 931 would not care about giving it any support. Expenditure upon things of that kind was not to be lightly undertaken. But he looked upon this Resolution in a totally different light. It was a moderate and reasonable proposal mainly in favour of the fishing industry on the Welsh coast. The hon. and gallant Member had frequently deplored the want of fishermen for the Reserve of the Navy and the employment of foreign sailors. Under those circumstances he should have thought any proposal which would develop the fishing industry on the coast of Wales or anywhere else would have secured the gallant Admiral's support. What was asked for in this case had been given in many parts of the "United Kingdom, and therefore he hoped the President of the Board of Trade would be able and disposed to give a favourable consideration to the Resolution.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE (Mr. C. T. RITCHIE,) Croydon
could not help sympathising with the right hon. Gentleman in the position in which he found himself. The right hon. Gentleman supported the Resolution, but hinted that if the word "England" were added to it the expenditure would be enormous and he could not approve of it. He undertook to say if the right hon. Gentleman were Member for Derby and sitting on the Treasury Bench, he would have regarded the Resolution from a totally different point of view. What did the Resolution mean? The right hon. Gentleman asked the gallant Admiral to read the Resolution. Well, the Resolution must be read, of course, with the light of the speeches which had been made in support of it. It meant this or it meant nothing—that the policy which had been pursued by all Governments, including that of which the right hon. Gentleman had been a Member, a policy of refusing to give grants of public money for the purpose of these piers and harbours, should be departed from. Then it was proposed to appoint a Departmental Committee. What did a Departmental Committee propose to do? Certainly it was not a properly constituted tribunal to decide whether a harbour should be erected in a particular part of the coast. Surely this was a matter which was much more familiar to 932 the local authorities than to a Departmental Committee of the Board of Trade. Having regard to the speeches by which this Motion had been supported, and looking to the fact that all the speakers had pointed out the inability of the localities to supply harbours themselves, and consequently asked the Government to apply public funds in the erection of those harbours, he would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether a Departmental Committee could decide on such an important matter as that? There had been many Committees and many investigations as to the amount of money which would be involved if this policy were adopted.
§ MR. RITCHIE
The policy of Government grants for the erection of these harbours. The amount stated as probably necessary for the purpose was from eight to ten millions sterling. ["Oh!"] He was speaking, not of great Government harbours, but of harbours of refuge, fishing and mercantile harbours. Everyone recognised that for the great harbours for military and naval purposes the Government ought properly to be called upon to provide the funds. These were not in question at all now. [''Hear, hear!"] It was the smaller harbours. The right hon. Gentleman might pooh-pooh it, but it was impossible to contemplate for a moment that a matter of this importance should be referred to a Departmental Committee. It was a matter with which the House ought to deal, with which the Government ought to deal without the assistance of a Departmental Committee. The subject was one which had been investigated over and over again. In earlier time the investigations did lean towards the grant from the Government for the purpose of these harbours, but the consideration given to the matter of late years had resulted in one conclusion —namely, that it was not in the interests of the country that the Government should take out of the hands of private enterprise the erection of these harbours. The Government was, in fact, debarred from the application of public money by a Treasury Minute, which laid it down that money should only be granted for the purpose of these harbours by way of loans. He was not in a position to argue the question with regard to the 933 various points along the coast which had been mentioned, but why did not the local authorities in those places come before the Government with some matured scheme for a harbour? If any localities desired to borrow money, let them put their case in a concrete form and it should have the fullest consideration by the Government. There was no necessity to appoint a Departmental Committee to consider an application; it was the duty of the Board of Trade to consider all these proposals; if they were submitted they would receive the most sympathetic consideration. If, on the 'other hand, it was desired generally to obtain grants of public money, he had to say that the making of grants was contrary to the policy that had been adopted by successive Governments for a number of years past, and affirmed by the House of Commons six or seven times in recent years. That policy was that Parliament would not give grants of public money for these purposes, but that any assistance given by the Government must be by way of loan. That was the policy of the present Government. It was the same policy as that which had been pursued by the Leader of the Opposition; and, if he adhered to it now, where was the necessity for a Committee? What were they going to inquire into? They could not go roving, all trying to find out where harbours were to be erected; they must wait until local authorities or persons interested put before them concrete proposals. If they were debarred from giving grants of public money no investigation could alter that condition of things. It was true grants had been made under exceptional circumstances in Ireland and Scotland; but in Scotland they were given on the recommendation of a Royal Commission —[ironical cheers]—who pointed out that there were certain parts of the country in so impoverished a condition as to be totally unable to help themselves. [Ironical cheers.] Very well, if hon. Gentlemen had corresponding districts in their minds—[''hear, hear!'']—with regard to which they desired to make representations to the Government, those representations, when made, would be considered by the Government. But that was a different thing from saying generally that there were certain districts which might be developed if they had 934 harbours. In the Resolution there was nothing that pointed to exceptional poverty and disability; and the adoption of it would seem to imply a change of general policy to the suggestion of which the Government was bound to give a distinct negative. Something had been said about the expense to be incurred in the taking of certain steps to form harbour authorities. Any practical difficulty of that kind he should be glad to consider with a view to its removal; but in offering an interview he could not leave it to be supposed that the general position he had taken up would be shaken. He had no option in the matter. Having regard to the Minute of 1887, he was bound to consider all demands as being applications made under that Minute. He sympathised with those who desired to increase the prosperity of the coasts of England and Wales, but his sympathy could not go to the length they wished. When hon. Members realised what was involved in the Resolution they would no depart from a policy to which the House had assented over and over again; an the Government could not assent to a principle which would involve the expenditure of millions of public money to do what they believed would be better done, and ought to be, done by the localities themselves.
§ MR. ABEL THOMAS (Carmarthenshire, E.)
said, the coast of Wales stood in an entirely different position to the coast of England, except in regard to the north coast of Devonshire, where, he admitted, similar conditions were present. They could show that it was absolutely impossible for the people in the district extending from Milford Haven round to Holyhead—the whole western coast, to make a port adequate for fishing boats without a very large expenditure of money. To say that little places like Fishguard or Forth, should come to the President of the Local Government Board and ask for a loan of even only £10,000 would be ridiculous. They would certainly want more than that sum, not less, he should think than £50,000. There was absolutely no hope of their getting any kind of harbour for the protection of fishing vessels from Milford Haven round to Holyhead, which was the whole of the west coast of Wales, unless a grant was given by the 935 Government in aid of some port or other. When the wind was blowing in to the coast there was no more dangerous coast in Great Britain to be found than that from Milford Haven up to Holyhead. If a small fishing vessel, or even a large vessel or steamer was within the range of that coast when a strong west wind was blowing, it was utterly impossible for them to run across to the eastern coast of Ireland. The fact was, there was no great manufacturing town or district on the west coast of Wales; it was entirely agricultural. In the past a very large fishing trade had been conducted there, and when all the fishing boats were small boats, they ran into the little harbours at high water between the tides. But the fishing industry had now entirely altered, and ships and steamers went out to sea for many days at a time. They suggested to the Government, therefore, in order to meet the changed conditions, that they should make this Inquiry. They did not ask for harbours for men-of-war or great ships, but harbours that might be used by the fishing craft of the present day. There was no part of Great Britain where better sailors were turned out than on the western coast of Wales. If the Government did make this Inquiry, he thought they would come to the conclusion that grants in aid would be advisable, as had been given in the case of the western coast of Ireland, and some parts of the coast of Scotland. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would reconsider his decision and grant the Inquiry asked for in the Motion.
§ MR. T. R. BUCHANAN (Aberdeenshire, E.)
thought the fishing community not merely in Wales, but in other parts of the country, would regret the statement of the President of the Board of Trade. The policy which the right hon. Gentleman had referred to under the Treasury Minute had absolutely broken down as regarded the supply of fishing harbours for the fishing community. There were several instances where the fishermen had subscribed a considerable sum of money for the construction of a harbour, and afterwards found that they were utterly unable to satisfy the conditions of the Board of Trade or the Public Works Loan Commissioners. The Committee of 1884, upon harbour accommodation, made a most complete and 936 valuable Report, but neither the last two Governments, nor, apparently, the present Government, seemed disposed to take any steps to carry out any of the recommendations of that Committee, either in regard to the larger or the smaller fishing harbours. When the case of Wales was presented, or that of different parts of the coasts of England or Scotland, they were not asking for doles of public money. The Government should be able, in this time of prosperity to hold out some hope that they would be able to modify the policy of the past so as to meet the real necessities of the case. He hoped, also that the Government would look carefully into the expenses which were inherent in the system of obtaining Provisional Orders, and that an attempt would be made to simplify and cheapen it. On behalf of the fishing industry there was an urgent necessity all round our coasts calling for something to be done, and the Government ought to consider whether they could not adapt their policy so as to meet the needs of the case, and to carry out some of the recommendations of the numerous Committees that had sat on the subject.
MR. HERBERT ROBERTS
could not agree with the President of the Board of Trade in what he said with reference to the attitude of the Leader of the Opposition at this time with reference to Welsh demands. It was said that if the right hon. Gentleman had been on the Treasury Bench he would not have shown so much sympathy with the Resolution. In his opinion, however, the attitude of the right hon. Gentleman towards Welsh demands, and the way in which he had met them in the past, led him to think that this would not have been the case. He did not think that the President of the Board of Trade quite clearly understood the meaning of the Resolution. The right hon. Gentleman said that there were no precedents for the policy advocated in the Resolution. There were precedents for what the Welsh Members were asking. In the first place there was the case of the Highlands of Scotland, where public money had been given for the purposes asked. Secondly, there was Ireland, which had received £250,000 from the Irish Church Fund to devote to the development of Irish 937 fisheries. What had been done in Scotland and Ireland, therefore, should, under similar principles, be done in Wales also. The right hon. Gentleman said that the money should only be given by way of a loan. This had not been the policy in the past. From 1828 to 1882, 28 harbours had been erected in connection with the Scottish fisheries. An expenditure of over £243,000 had been incurred, and out of that sum expended on Scottish fisheries, £150,000 had been provided by Parliament. The right hon. Gentleman said that it would be very much better that the local authorities of the various localities on the coast of Wales should come to London to state their case. His reply to that was that they wanted the subject to be put before the House and the country in some general form. They did not want to know merely what one small district required, but what the whole of Wales required in this respect. The right hon. Gentleman could not have realised that Wales did not receive her fair share of the Treasury grant in proportion to her population. Wales ought to have £12,500 a year. They based their case upon the exceptional circumstances of Wales. He had no objective principle to the Amendment moved by the hon. Baronet opposite, and the Resolution was not proposed in any sense of hostility to England. What they said was that the case of Wales was exceptional, and because it was exceptional they asked that a Committee should be appointed in order to make inquiries. Wales, especially North Wales, was poorer than any other part of the country. The Income Tax returns showed that North Wales was much poorer than England. He hoped that the right hon. Gentleman opposite, remembering the peculiarly depressed condition of Welsh agriculture and Welsh industries, would consent to reconsider to some extent the reply which he had made that night.
§ CAPTAIN BETHELL (York, E. R. Holderness)
observed that questions of 938 this kind were certainly assuming greater importance than they assumed a few years ago. He agreed with his right hon. Friend that, however important these questions might be, the House stood upon firm ground when they declined to pay out public money for the assistance of any locality, unless that locality could give some reasonable security for the advance made. If the policy of promoting these small harbours of refuge—as to the great usefulness of which there was room for doubt—were to be adopted in the future, he trusted that it would be laid down as a condition that the County Council or Fishery Board of a district making application for the construction of a harbour must associate itself in the locality with the demand. What was the use of establishing these large and important local bodies if, whenever a question of some importance, involving the expenditure of public money, came on for consideration, they were to be excluded from the matter? Let them rely in connection with questions of this kind upon the action taken by the County Councils. He could easily understand that some scheme might be arranged under which County Councils could be assisted pecuniarily to promote the fishing industry. In recent years various industries had accepted and received assistance from the Government. That had been the case in Ireland especially. He quite agreed, however, with his right hon. Friend in the position which he had taken up. He repeated that the County Council or the Fishery Board of a district ought to be associated with any proposal that came before the Board of Trade for consideration.
§ MR. J. W. LOGAN (Leicester, Harborough)
said, that some of his hon. Friends were opposed — rightly he thought—to these grants in aid. But he could understand that the Welsh Members and people expected a certain amount of sympathy from the present Government, for the Government had 939 pledged themselves to assist and develop trade. The Government were pledged to promote the agricultural industry, and they had foreshadowed the mode in which they intended to do that—namely, by relieving agricultural property of the rates now borne by it, at the expense of the general ratepayer of the country; and when it was considered that the expenditure of large sums of money had been sanctioned by the House within the last year for the purpose of making railways in Central Africa, he did not wonder that the people of this country should feel that instead of spending money in Central Africa for the purpose of developing a problematical trade there, it would be infinitely better to develop the industries round our own coasts. Though he was opposed in principle to these grants in aid, yet, because since he had been in the House he had seen millions of money voted for railways in Africa and other such projects instead of to the development of trade in this country, he should support his hon. Friend if he went to a Division.
§ MR. W. ALLAN
thought that the wording of the Motion was rather misleading from one point of view, and no doubt tended to impress the right hon. Gentleman opposite to the great amount of expense which was involved in it. If the Motion had asked the right hon. Gentleman to give a small Departmental Committee to inquire in what way and to what extent the existing provision of piers could be improved, it would be a reasonable request. He thought that if the word "harbours" were deleted, there would be very good ground for asking the right hon. Gentleman for such a Committee.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Question further amended by inserting, after the second words "coast of," the words "England and."
§ Main Question, as amended, put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 64; Noes, 117.—(Division List, No. 99).