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Navy—Works At Haulbowline

Volume 220: debated on Thursday 25 June 1874

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Observations

rose to call attention to the state of the works at the intended Dockyard at Haulbowline. It was curious, observed the hon. Gentleman, that this very Dockyard was one of the bribes held forth to the Irish people to support the Union. Mr. Cooke, then Secretary of State for Ireland, and the mouthpiece of the Government of the day, informed the Irish people that the immediate result of the Union would be the construction of docks at Haul-bowline—a promise which, like many other more important promises made to the Irish people on that occasion, was either forgotten or ignored by the English Government as soon as the object for which it had been given was gained. Forty-eight years afterwards they found a deputation waiting on Lord Russell and Lord Auckland, urging the fulfilment of that promise. Lord Russell informed the deputation that the Government intended to avail themselves of the advantages of Queenstown "much more than they had done heretofore," and Colonel James was sent over to prepare the plans and design of a coal shod to contain 30,000 tons of coal, a steam factory, a dock, and other works, to be proceeded with immediately. The plans were made, but nothing further was done in the matter. In 1864 the necessities of the public service led to the appointment of a Select Committee on the subject of dock extension generally, and that Committee recommended the construction among others of the dock at Haulbowline, as a work of "urgent necessity" to the public service. In 1865 the works there were commenced, and the Government promised that they should be proceeded with rapidly, and be completed in five years. He had to complain, however, of the great slowness with which the construction of the works had since their commencement proceeded. He had visited Haulbowline lately, having heard from several of the dockyard working men that they had been dismissed because, as they were informed by the officials, the Government had not money which they could apply in payment of their wages; and a few of them informed him that they were told they might return to the works if they would consent to work 2d. a day less. He was not aware that Her Majesty's Government were in such a position as to be obliged to discharge men because they had not money to pay them their wages on Saturday night, but he found the facts stated to be correct. He (Mr. Ronayne) never saw so miserable and desolate a place—indeed, the works were like "the lake of the Dismal Swamp." The convicts had, indeed, nearly succeeded in destroying one of the most picturesque objects in Queens-town Harbour, Haulbowline Island, for the purpose of obtaining materials to enclose the site of the intended docks, but although it was now nine years since those works were commenced, and many millions had since been expended on similar works in England and Malta, ordered at the same time, not one stone of the new "dock" of Haulbowline had yet been laid. There was ample dock accommodation at Cork for the Mercantile Marine of the port, constructed by local enterprise; but as long as there were no naval docks, Her Majesty's Navy should avoid Queenstown Harbour altogether. In conclusion, he asked the House not to refuse to spend money in Ireland for Imperial purposes because it was Ireland.

, on behalf of the Government, said, the works had certainly been procrastinated long beyond the period originally intended, but there were good reasons for the delay. In the first place, the number of convicts at the disposal of the Irish Government had been very limited; and secondly, unexpected engineering difficulties had arisen in connection with the construction of the works which had greatly tended to postpone their completion. He thought the hon. Member was in error in some of his statements. The works were projected in 1864, and begun in 1865, at the same time as several other docks. The first Estimate for the whole of these workswas£6,000,000, the sum then put clown for Haulbowline being £250,000. Sir Andrew Clarke, however, reduced the gross Estimate to £4,650,000, and the sum to be devoted to Haulbowline was put at £150,000—the first Estimate being based upon the employment of "free" labour, and the second on that of convict labour. The sum of £20,000 a-year was regularly taken for the construction of the works; but in 1871 it was discovered that there were great engineering difficulties in the way. It was found necessary to have a very large pumping apparatus, and a considerable addition to the works was also necessary. A new Estimate was recently taken, and a further reduction was made, the work being still done by convict labour. When the first Estimate was made it was expected there would be about 1,200 convicts employed on the works; but in reality there had been only 450 or 500, and that was one of the great difficulties with which they had to contend. The hon. Member alluded to the dismissal of men, but he was not in all particulars correct. In Chatham Dockyard 250 men were employed, and free labour exceeded convict labour. Much progress had of late been made with the works, in particular since Mr. Andrews was placed in charge of them. A Report had recently been received of them stating that, in all probability, they would be constructed for the estimated amount of £330,000, and the Director of Public Works did not recommend that a larger sum than £20,000 a-year should be taken for the work, unless the number of the convicts was increased. £750,000 were voted within the last nine years, and only £650,000 were taken. The Government believed it to be a necessary and important work, and they had no wish to postpone it in any way, but, on the contrary, they had every desire to expedite it, and the First Lord of the Admiralty had determined not only to send an Inspector to the spot, but to visit it personally.

said, he thought there was a policy on the part of successive Governments of leaving Ireland out of all strategic consideration in time of peace, and a desire to concentrate all the naval and military establishments in the South of England. Out of £6,000,000 or £7,000,000 which had lately been expended upon defensive works, only about £60,000 had been expended in Ireland.

said, he had some knowledge of Ireland, and if there was any place where Dockyard accommodation was more wanted than another, it was Queenstown, which was a great commercial station. The hon. Gentleman said that £20,000 had been expended yearly on public works at Queenstown, and the reason why they did not expend more was that they could not get convict labour. Now, that was very creditable to Ireland. His (Sir Edward Watkin's) opinion was that they could got free labour quite as cheap as convict labour. It appeared to be the determination of the Government not to take the economical and expeditious way of completing the work now in progress, but to dawdle over it for half a century simply to enable the Chancellor of the Exchequer to accommodate his Estimates. According to the calculations of the Government, it would be 20 years before the work was finished, and he ventured to say that in that event it would cost 30 or 40 per cent more than if they did as any business firm would do, and pushed it forward to completion within three or four years. He insisted also that it was the duty of the Government to redeem the promises made to the Irish people on the subject.

might remind the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Ronayne) that the whole of the money voted was not expended.

said, he remembered it was stated in the Report of the Commissioners that free labour was to be employed. Of £7,000,000 which were voted to be expended on harbours, and other public works, only £260,000 was voted to be applied on the works at Haulbowline, Ireland, and that sum was reduced by £100,000. There was a very strong feeling on this subject in Ireland, and also in reference to the men who had been dismissed. He thought the Government ought to take up those works earnestly, and complete them in reasonable time.

Main Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.