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Scotland—Northern Lights Commissioners—The Tay Lights

Volume 217: debated on Monday 14 July 1873

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asked the President of the Board of Trade, Whether the Board of Trade has suggested to the Seamen Fraternity of Dundee the desirability of altering the position of the so called leading lights at the entrance of the Tay, which masters of vessels allege are calculated to mislead vessels entering the river; and, if so, whether the Seamen Fraternity have expressed their intention of altering the position of these lights, so as to indicate the proper channel; whether the Board of Trade approves of the policy of entrusting to self elective irresponsible bodies the lighting of important channels of public navigation, and what were the reasons which induced the Board of Trade to renew, on its expiring recently, the charter of the Seamen Fraternity of Dundee, continuing to that body the highly responsible duty of lighting the Tay, and of levying dues therefor; and whether the Board of Trade intends to again renew the charter, when it expires again in March 1875, so far as regards the lighting of the Tay and the levying of dues?

Sir, although they have made the suggestion the Board of Trade have no power to compel any alteration. The Seamen Fraternity of Dundee are, by Royal Charter, charged with the duty of lighting and buoying the river Tay; and are, by the same Charter empowered to levy certain dues therefor. The Charter is still existing but if it had expired, the Board of Trade have, of course, no power to renew a Royal Charter. What they have done is as follows:—They have, under the direction of an Act of Parliament, which practically gives them no discretion in the matter (Harbours and Passing Tolls, &c., Act 1861), and with the advice of the Law Officers in Scotland, sanctioned the continuance of the payment by the Seamen Fraternity, for a limited period, of sundry charitable pensions to certain named persons who were proved to have a vested interest in them. As to the question of policy, there can be no doubt that the duty of lighting an important port would not at the present day be intrusted to a self-elected body, but to one representing the commercial interests of the port, and the persons who pay the dues. I presume it would be for the Harbour Commissioners or people of Dundee, if they should desire a change, to apply to Parliament for the purpose.

Army—The Late Captain Charles Agnew—Compensation For Commission—Questions

asked the Secretary of State for War, Whether, when he refused to grant a sum of money to the representatives of the late Captain Charles Agnew, 16th Lancers, who was murdered at Suez in March last on his way home from India invalided, he was aware that, although no application for leave to retire from Her Majesty's service had been actually made, it was well known to the relatives of the deceased Officer and to others that it was his intention to make such an application; and, if he is not aware of that fact, whether he is willing to receive proof of it, and upon receipt of proof, to reconsider the circumstances of the case, with the view of granting to Captain Agnew's relatives, if possible, the amount, or part of the amount, which would have become his by right, had not his death by assassination prevented him from carrying out his intention to retire from the service, receiving the value of his commission?

I think, Sir, the Question has been framed under a misunderstanding of the extent of my powers and the scope of my duties. Parliament has confided to the Army Purchase Commissioners the duty of indemnifying officers in respect of the commissions they held on the day on which purchase ceased. I apprehend that the commission of Captain Agnew could not have been sold under the purchase system, and, therefore, that the Purchase Commissioners are not empowered to purchase it. It never was the custom, while purchase continued, to move estimates for cases of the kind, and I cannot undertake to create such a precedent in the present instance.

Navy—Chatham Dockyard Railways—Question

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty, Whether the connection between the Dockyard and Government established at Chatham with the Railway system of the Country has been completed; and, if not, when the completion of such works may be expected?

in reply, said, that the connection of the dockyard and Government establishment of Chatham with the railway system of the country was a matter which had been left by Act of Parliament to the London, Chatham, and Dover Railway Company, who were about to enter into contracts for the necessary works, which would probably be completed within the financial year.