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.