§ On the order for the Second Reading of this Bill,
*MR. C. E. SCHWANN (Manchester, N.) moved, that the Bill be read 2a that day six months. He said the object of the Bill was to obtain powers to build a sea wall or embankment from East Cliff Terrace, Dover, for about three miles towards Ness Point, in St. Margaret's Bay, and also to take a portion of the cliffs in order that residences might be built. He urged that the appearance of the cliffs of Dover, which were historical, would be defaced and altered by the proposed works. He objected to the Bill on two grounds. First, he objected to it on sentimental grounds. The natural beauty of the coast scenery of England was a matter of importance to every Englishman, and he was sure the House would look with a jealous eye on any defacement of coast scenery at Dover, with which our patriotic feelings were so closely associated. Anyone who had visited Richmond in Yorkshire, and had seen how objectionably the beautiful view of moors and glen had been interfered with and spoilt by the erection of gas works, covered with corrugated iron, pitched over, would hesitate to support any measure which would prejudicially affect the coast scenery of England. This House successfully prevented the establishment of railways in the Lake District of Cumberland. If such arguments applied to the Lake District they would apply with even greater force to the coast of Dover of which Shakespeare had written:—
That cliff whose high and bending head
Looks fearfully in the confined deep.
["Hear, hear!"] Then there were practical objections against the Bill. In those objections the War Office and the Admiralty were concerned, and doubtless those Departments had made the fact known to the promoters of the Bill.
He understood that if the Bill passed it was intended to hold a local inquiry into the matter, but he would suggest that the inquiry should be held before the Second Reading of the Bill, and not after, in order that hon. Members might have the means of understanding the real character of the changes proposed by the Measure. ["Hear, hear!"] He begged to move that the Bill be read a Second time that day six months.
§ MR. G. WYNDHAM (Dover)
said, the hon. Member for North Manchester had accurately described the objects of the Bill, the main purposes of which were to build a sea-wall on towards St. Margaret's Bay, and to provide by the contemplated work building plots for the extension of the town of Dover. As to the objection urged by the hon. Member, that by the proposed work the natural beauty of Shakespeare's Cliff would be defaced, he might remark that the cliff called Shakespeare's Cliff' was more than a mile distant from the cliffs which would be affected by the Bill. Then, with regard to the objection that the contemplated improvements were unnecessary in any way as a protection against the further encroachment of the sea, he could confidently assure the House that unless the proposed sea-wall was now built, the Government of the day would in less than five years have to ask Parliament for a grant of money to erect a wall to prevent the Foreland lights falling into the sea. The facts referred to by the hon. Member of the interference with natural scenery in Yorkshire did not apply to the present Bill; it was not a parallel case, and therefore, he would not further refer to the point. The present Bill was a Bill, not of this year, but of last year, and the only reason of the delay for prosecuting this means—and the only means—of expanding Dover was that last summer was spent in drafting clauses to meet the objections of the Board of Trade, the War Department, and other Departments. When the Bill was first introduced it was understood that objections would be raised by the Board of Trade. Every effort was made to meet those objections, and with the view of doing so a proviso of four clauses was drafted last February and inserted in the Bill, and were approved by the Department. Then objections were raised by 1454 the Admiralty, upon which a deputation of the leading men of Dover waited on Lord Spencer. The matter was discussed with his Lordship, and eventually he indicated that if a certain clause was drafted and inserted in the Bill, the Admiralty would waive their objections. That clause was drafted and accepted, and yet, after all, the Bill was blocked by means of the Board of Trade. [Laughter.] He did not mind being made a fool of himself, but he thought it was intolerable that one Cabinet Minister should be made a fool of by another Cabinet Minister in this way. ["Hear, hear!" and Laughter.] The promoters of the Bill, he might add, met with opposition also from the Commons Preservation Society, but their objections were likewise met. So that the promoters of the Bill had really met, by dint of great trouble, all the objections that had been raised against it, and he thought that in those circumstances the House might give the Measure a Second Reading. ["Hear, hear!"] The Bill, which was introduced in February of last year, provided for the only means by which Dover could be expanded. With regard to the proposed new road, all that was asked by the Bill was to make good the existing road where it had been washed away. That road was washed away in consequence of the action of the Government in regard to the Admiralty Pier; and if the Government, for their own purposes, washed the road away, they should not prevent the building of a new road now. The Government now in office was, he thought, quite willing that this Bill should proceed, providing there was a local inquiry which should make it clear that it was for the real good of the people, and not for the benefit of private enterprise. Considering that every public body—the Corporation of Dover, the District Councils of the neighbourhood, the Parish Council of St. Margaret's Bay, the Harbour Board, and the Committee of St. Margaret's Convalescent Home—were all in favour of this Bill, he thought he might confidently leave it to the House of Commons.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE (Mr. C. T. RITCHIE,) Croydon
said, the House would probably desire to know the view the Government took with regard to this proposal. It 1455 had been, he thought, before his predecessor as it had been before him, and after reading all he could upon the subject, and after hearing his hon. Friend on the subject, he had come to the conclusion that, before the Bill proceeded to its Committee stage, it was necessary that the Committee should be fully informed with regard to two points. One was, whether this proposal was in the public interest; and the other was, whether or not the works proposed were of such a nature as would carry out what was proposed, and not be in any shape or form a source of danger. The course the Board of Trade had, he thought, always acted upon, with regard to their rights on the foreshore, had been that if they parted with those rights it ought not to be for the benefit of any private speculator. They were to be convinced that it was in the public interest; and it was only when they were so convinced that they could be consenting parties to the parting with those rights. The inquiry which would have to be undertaken before this Bill went into Committee would have for one of its objects the ascertaining of whether or not this proposal to annex a portion of the foreshore was in the public interest. Then a further inquiry would have to be made, assuming that it was in the public interest that the foreshore should be parted with, as to whether the works to be undertaken were well considered and adequate for the purpose. It would never do for the Crown to part with their rights unless the promoters of the scheme were prepared to show the House of Commons that the works they asked its consent to were sufficient for the purpose, otherwise they might prove a source not of advantage but of danger to the public. After fully considering the matter, he did not feel disposed to object to the Bill being read a Second time on the condition—which he understood his hon. Friend the Member for Dover, on behalf of the promoters, would consent to—that no further progress should be made with it until both inquiries to which he had alluded had been held, and they were in a position to place before the Committee which would have to deal with the Bill the results of those inquiries.
§ MR. W. ALLAN (Gateshead)
said, that, unquestionably, both on practical 1456 grounds and on engineering grounds, there was the broadest necessity for something being done at Dover. The Admiralty Pier jutting into the sea there acted as a groin, and the sea set in a tidal current which was gradually away from the cliff. There was one point in this Bill which must commend it to every hon. Member, and that was that all the inhabitants of Dover were in favour of it. Dover was a very interesting place with a great deal of continental trade, but it had no chance of expansion whatever; and this road in the interest of the inhabitants, was an absolute necessity, apart from its engineering value in protecting the cliff. He would therefore appeal to the hon. Member who moved the rejection of the Bill to withdraw his objection to it, so long as the Board of Trade were perfectly willing to examine the drawings, which they should do. Unquestionably the road must be made of such a staple nature that the sea would not have any effect on the cliffs in the future. He supported the Bill in its entirety.
§ MR. J. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)
said, the hon. Member who spoke last seemed to think that the Bill was promoted on grounds of public utility. According to the best information he could gather, it was entirely promoted by a syndicate of private persons who desired to develop a building estate. The advice given to him by the responsible officials at the Board of Trade, who had had great experience in dealing with these questions, was that, according to their judgment the Bill, if carried out in its present form, was far more likely to injure the cliff between Dover and St. Margaret's Bay and to tend to the encroachments of the sea than it would be to prevent it. That was a matter of the most serious possible consequences. The sea had been making encroachments along the coast there, as well as further north, and it had become a matter of the utmost consequence to preserve their coasts from these encroachments, but the information given him was that this Bill would positively tend to increase the wash of the sea on the coast. Under these circumstances he considered, when he was at the Board of Trade a year ago, that it was necessary that an Inquiry should be held before the Bill could go any further. The Board of Trade 1457 were trustees of the foreshore, and they ought not to allow anything to be done which could possibly involve their interests or injure the public. He was glad to hear that the President of the Board of Trade took the same view that an Inquiry was necessary. He differed from the right hon. Gentleman only in one point. He should have thought that this Inquiry ought to precede and not follow the Second Heading. It appeared to him the matter was one of so much importance, affecting so largely the public interest, that the House itself ought to be informed before it passed the Second Reading of the Bill. It was not a question for the Committee only, but when a public interest, such as that of the preservation of their coast at a point which strategically was of exceptional importance, was involved, the House ought riot to commit itself to the principle of the Bill until it had before it the reports which the right hon. Gentleman proposed to obtain. He would suggest, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman should modify so far what he had said as to require that the Bill should be postponed until such time as was necessary to obtain the reports of the local Inquiry. He thought it would be unwise for the House to give its sanction to this important Bill without having this information before it.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, he had already spoken, but perhaps, with the indulgence of the House, he might just say one more word. The information before him was not quite of the same character as that which the right hon. Gentleman opposite said was before him. There was no doubt that the Board of Trade had all along considered that a local Inquiry was necessary both with regard to the foreshore and in regard to the works. In their opinion the course which he had suggested was really the best one. A Committee of the House of Commons was much better adapted for considering the evidence of those who would be sent down to hold the Inquiry than the House as a whole. He would further point out to the right hon. Gentleman that the House would have an opportunity of considering the Bill when it came back for Third Reading, and it would then have before it the view which the Select Committee itself took.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn; Bill read 2a.