§ [SECOND READING.]
§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill he now read a second time."
§ MR. ELLIOT
said the Bill was an annual one, and was framed in the usual way. The main reason for wiping out such a large sum for Seton Had tour was that until it was wiped out the Harbour Commissioners would be unable to raise money to improve the Harbour, and, in the circumstances, he thought it was only right in the interests of the fishing population of the neighbourhood that the amount should be wiped off.
§ MR. WHITLEY
said that although the Bill was called a Public Works Loans 1025 Bill, it was really a Bill for wiping off debts For instance, Timothy Sullivan was to have £8 1s. 10d. written off; John Houlihan was to have £5 5s. written off; and George Bain and James Webster were to have £10 7s. 1d. written off. He confessed he was not familiar with this soft of Bill. He always understood that such a Bill was to enable money to he advanced to certain local authorities for public works; but when they were asked to authorise the Treasury to issue a sum not exceeding £7,000,000 in Great Britain and £900,000 in Ireland, he thought, they were entitled to look into the matter closely. After all £7,900,000 added to the liability of the State was a matter for consideration. He wished to know how it Came about that the small debts mentioned in the schedule were to be written off. Certainly, if the money now asked for was to be distributed in the same manner he would decline to vote for the Bill.
§ MR. DALZIEL
said that when he looked at the Bill he thought it suggested a job of some kind; and he made sure it was an Irish Bill. He made enquiries, however, and found it related to that part of the country to which he himself belonged. They were asked to wipe off £5,509 borrowed by the Port Seton Harbour Commissioners. What security was that amount granted on? Who granted it, and who was responsible for the great loss which was incurred? If they were going to lend £7,000 one year and wipe off £5,000 later, there would be a great demand for loans on the Treasury. He thought until there was an explanation that the House should not give increased powers in regard to loans. As regarded the smaller sums, the individual cases might be justified: but it seemed to him that the amount to he remitted in the interests of the Port Seton Harbour Commissioners was a very important matter indeed He thought the House was entitled to more information than it had received; and unless it was forthcoming he would vote against the Second Reading.
MR. JOHN DEWALR (Inverness)
said the amounts which it was proposed to write off in connection with the loans granted to Scottish fishermen were not 1026 in any way due to the dishonesty of the fishermen, but to the mismanagement of the Scottish Fishery Board. The Board advanced money to build boats, but the boats were the wrong class; and the fishermen were consequently unable to pay the loans. How differently things were managed in Ireland, where the Congested Districts Board had established a great fishing industry and where the fishermen were able to repay the money which had been advanced to them.
§ MR. CALDWELL
said that it should be noted that the sums asked for in the present Bill showed an increase over the amounts in the corresponding Bill of last year. Why was the amount for Great Britain increased from £6,000,000 to £,000,000 and the amount for Ireland from £800,000 to £900,000? This was the first Bill in which an amount exceeding £100 had appeared against Scotland, but with regard to Ireland, he often wondered why anyone in that country ever repaid a loan at all, as they all appeared to get off. He should like to ask the Secretary to the Treasury if the writing off was brought up to date. He thought that highly improbable, having regard to the small sums which appeared in the Bill against Ireland. It was often stated that although the money was written off, the Government retained the right to recover it. He had often asked how much had been recovered in that way, but as far as he could find out not a penny had ever been recovered. He thought Public Works Loans Bills were a device to enable people to get rid of the payment of loans. He hoped the Treasury would make the strictest investigation with regard to all these loans, as it seemed to him that they were too easily wiped off. That was not fair to those who really struggled honestly to pay what they had borrowed.
§ * MR. WEIR (Ross and Cromarty)
said with reference to the amount written off oil loans to the fishermen of Stornoway, he wished to point out that the fishermen were not dishonest, but were very careful to pay their debts. The fault lay with the Fishery Board of Scotland, in pressing on the fishermen, who were badly off for boats, a class of boat not suited to the harbours in the district. Some of the 1027 boats were damaged, but the fishermen still continued to pay until they could pay no longer. If the Board had only supplied the proper kind of boats, there would be no arrears. He only mars died that the people paid up so well in the circumstances.
§ MR. H. J. WILSON (Yorkshire, W.R., Holmfirth)
said that by a little frank explanation at the beginning of the proceedings on the Bill all this discussion would have been avoided. In order to elicit further information he moved that the Bill be read a second time this day three months.
To leave out the word now, and at the end of the Question to add the words upon this day three months.'"—(Mr. H. J. Wilson.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ MR. DALZIEL
asked whether the Government were really going to refuse the information asked for. All they desired to know was under what circumstances this particular loan of £7,000, of which £5,900 was to be written off, was granted. The Lord Advocate was now present: did he know anything about it?
§ * THE LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. A. GRAHAM MURRAY, Buteshire)
said he did, and so would the hon. Member if he had read Section 3 of the Bill. The debt was made in 1882, when a Liberal Government was in office, and that was the whole explanation. Why the money could not now be recovered was that the harbour had been under a judicial factor for many years, and no money had been coming in.
§ MR. WHITLEY
said that his question with regard to the small items in the schedule had not been answered. His point was that public works loans were not intended for such matters as the purchase of fishing boats. The Bill ought to be reserved for such substantial works as the construction of piers and harbours, which could not be carried out without the aid of public credit.