HC Deb 26 April 1811 vol 19 cc778-80
Mr. Foster

moved the committal of this Bill.

Mr. Cooper

opposed the motion, and supported the former Bill which he himself had brought in.

Mr. Barnard

also supported the Bill of last session, the beneficial effects of which, he said, had already been experienced, and considerable property was embarked in consequence there of. He moved, as an amendment, That a Committee be appointed above stairs to enquire into the effects of the former Bill.

Mr. Foster

contended, that it would be entirely inconsistent with the principles of justice, and the practice of parliament, to take away from individuals the right vested in them by an act of the Irish legislature; and maintained that the act of last session went to do this, and therefore should be repealed.

Mr. Grattan

said, that this was a case of public interest, of honest public interest; and there were several petitions on the table against the proposed Bill, which involved considerations much more extended than seemed to be supposed. What was the object of this Bill? To restore double tolls, and to limit the number of outside passengers to three. This would be a measure seriously affecting the interest of individuals, and checking the progress of improvement. In every view of the subject, he thought it should go to a Committee above stairs, where they could ascertain the state of the tolls before the last session, and know what loss the proprietors had sustained by the act, for which they could receive compensation.

Mr. W. Pole

said, he should only trouble the House with a few words upon this subject, which appeared to him to he in the smallest compass.—With regard to the act which passed last session he assured the House, and he took shame to himself while he made the confession; that he never heard of it during its passage through the House. Whether the hon. gent. who brought it in had given notice of it or not, he did not know, but certainly he had never heard of it till it passed. The facts of the case he understood to be, that an act had been passed, upon the suggestion of lord Kilwarden and Mr. Wolfe, for continuing and extending the act of the 33d. of the King, vesting the tolls upon the road between Limerick and Naas, and Dublin and Kilcullen, in certain persons for 50 years, on certain conditions. It had been found that great difficulties arose in keeping these roads in repair, and a considerable debt had been incurred; when certain gentlemen came forward, and offered to put the roads in repair, and to keep them so, and to take upon themselves the whole of the debt which had been incurred; provided the tolls and regulations then existing were continued for the term of 50 years. This act remained in force till last session, when an hon. gent. behind him brought in a bill to repeal it, and to deprive the per-sons alluded to of the rights which had been vested in them by the legislature. This, he believed, was the first instance that ever occurred where parliament had deprived individuals of a vested right, without entering into some negotiation with them, and determining what compensation they should receive. His right hon. friend opposite had recommended that they should go into a Committee, in order to ascertain what loss these individuals had sustained, but that was a measure that ought to have been adopted last session, before the vested rights of the individuals were taken away. If he had been aware last session of the Bill which was brought in, he should have said, if it is necessary that the existing act should be repealed, let it be repealed; but, in the first instance, you must make a compensation to those whose rights you are going to destroy. The rights which had been vested in these individuals were granted under such stipulations as rendered it impossible for them to do any in justice to the country: they were not only compelled to keep the roads in repair, and to take upon themselves all the existing debts, but they were bound in a penalty of 20,000l. to be recovered by a summary process in chancery, to make good their payments within a certain period. The gentleman, whose name was mentioned in the act (and who had not the same interest now that he had when the act passed, for he then had an interest in the tolls, and now was a great coach proprietor) had been round the country, and had found no great difficulty in convincing the inhabitants that it was pleasanter to travel for two shillings than for five, and so they signed the petition. But he was sure if they knew that they were doing an act of injustice, and depriving individuals of vested rights, they would sooner have cut their right hands off than have signed the petition, It was not necessary, but the House would excuse him if he read an extract from the act of parliament by which the rights in question had been granted to these individuals, to shew by what strict stipulations they were bound. [Mr. Pole then read an extract from 38 Geo. 3.] Upon the whole, it appeared to him a very hard case, and he thought that parliament would act with great injustice to the individuals concerned if it did not restore them those rights which had been taken from them, without their having been guilty of any neglect, or having done any thing to forfeit them.

Mr. Parnell

said that the petitions which he presented yesterday against the Bill were signed by all the most respectable resident gentlemen of the Queen's County, which was a circumstance that fully proved how much it was likely to affect the public interest. Before the act of last session passed to do away the restraints imposed on stage coaches, by the 48th of the King, this county, and many others, derived little or no advantage from them. But since these restraints have been removed, they have afforded the greatest advantages. He wished to call the attention of the House to one of these petitions in particular, it was that of Mr. Bourne, who, on the faith of the act of fast year, had expended a very large sum of money in building new coaches, and making preparations for establishing them in new directions. The coaches which were formerly made use of not being adapted to carry so great a number of passengers as that allowed by the act of last session, to appears that he has built twenty two new coaches, whose construction and strength, being adapted to ten outside passengers, would be ineligible and useless, if the number was again confined to three, with respect to the assertion that Mr. Taylor was not aware of the nature of the act of last session, he could not bring, himself to credit it, as the Bill was two months before the House, and had been published in the Irish newspapers. Nor could he believe that he was injured in the way that was insisted upon, because Mr. Anderson was interested exactly in the same manner, in consequence of his contract for the road from Dublin to Mullingar, and he had made no complaint; and because Mr. Bourne was also interested in the same way for the road from Naas to Limerick, and he distinctly says that he has sustained no injury whatever. The, true state of the case was this, that all these gentlemen were originally partners in the contract for these roads, and in the stage and mail coaches established on them, and that they obtained the additional tolls, as they are called, on the number of passengers to be carried, and the double toll on all stage coaches, in order to give them a monopoly in the stage coach business on these roads; it was for this purpose, and not by way of giving them any profit on the money to be expended by them in repairing the road, that these tolls, were given; the taking away, there fore of these tolls, or of this monopoly, was no infringement of the contract; it did no more than undo a very impolitic measure of the Irish parliament, and give to the public the full benefit of stage coach travelling. But if a case could be made out by which it would appear that Mr. Taylor had sustained an injury, let compensation be given to him by enabling him to collect from the carriages of gentlemen a higher toll, or in any other way that shall be considered most expedient. It was too much to say that, in order to fulfil a mischievous and unwarrantable arrangement of the Irish legislature, that, for fifty years two-thirds of Ireland were to be excluded from the use of stage coaches; and that those conveyances which were to accommodate the' middling and industrious classes of the people were to be made to pay a toll twice as great as that paid by tile carriages of the rich.—But whatever appearance of right Mr. Taylor may be able to shew to this double toll, it is quite evident from the words of the act of the 48th of the King that he cannot shew that he sustains any injury by the act of last session, allowing stage coaches to carry ten outside passengers—The words are," That it shall be lawful to demand at each pay-gate for every stage coach carrying more than six inside and three outside passengers, five shillings for every horse drawing the same, in addition to the tolls directed to be paid." This additional payment of five shillings on each horse is nothing more or less than a penalty to prevent more passengers than the regulated numbers from being carried. It is to be paid in addition to the tolls, and therefore cannot be considered as the toll itself, or as that which the legislature engaged to give Mr. Taylor, in consideration of his engagement to keep the road in I repair.—Mr. Taylor cannot, therefore, so far as the act of last session relates to this penalty, complain of injury, because it deprives him of no source of emolument, and in no degree diminishes or alters the tolls which the Irish parliament engaged to give him.—With respect to those who had petitioned the House not to pass this Bill it was clear that they had a fair claim to be heard: and for this reason it was necessary to appoint a Select Committee—because it was only before such a Committee that the merits of the case of each party and the public could be fully inquired into. It was quite idle to say that the people of Ireland enjoyed the benefit of laying their grievances before parliament, if no attention was to be paid to their complaints when brought forward. If so many petitions as were presented yesterday against this Bill, were to be wholly disregarded, and were inquiry into the allegations of them refused, it was gross delusion to say, that the right of petitioning gave any advantages to the people. The inhabitants of two thirds of Ireland were interested in this Bill, and it was to treat Them with insult to deny them a fair opportunity to set forth their grounds of complaint, and to prevent a measure which would be highly injurious to their interests.

Mr. Taylor

spoke a few words in support of the original motion

Sir John Newport

argued in favour of the amendment; and said that the Bill had been passed in 1798, when Ireland had been declared in a state of rebellion, and when all subjects of minor interest were unattended to. If the House was disposed to sanction this measure, notwithstanding The various petitions against if, he could only say that he should witness in this, as in other instances, a total disregard of the public voice of Ireland.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

said, that the object of his right hon. friend was not to repeal the Act generally, but merely such parts of it as related to the two roads in which major Taylor had a right vested by parliament, of which it would be highly unjust to deprive him. He could not help thinking that the right hon. bart. was not borne out in those charges which he so frequently reiterated of a disregard to the affairs of Ireland.

Mr. Hutchinson

was disposed to give his full measure of praise to Mr. Anderson (one of the principal individuals interested in this Bill,) whom he valued both as a friend, a constituent, and a man who had been of the greatest service to Ireland; but) having said this, he could not feel himself justified in giving his support to the original motion, which he thought put private interest in competition with public It would be a waste of words to attempt to prove the advantage of the facility of intercourse promoted by the act of last session. He wished that the interests of individuals might be considered, but he could not agree in the repeal of what had been so serviceable, particularly as petitions had been presented from various parts of Ireland against the present measure.

Mr. Croker

supported the original motion.

Mr. H. Fitzgerald

followed on the same side; after winch the House divided, when there; appeared—

For the original Motion 34
For the Amendment 16
Majority— 18

on our being re-admitted into the gahery,

Mr. Parnell

contended, that the parties should be heard by Counsel—and that the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer had lulled them into the opinion that it would be allowed.

The Chancellor Of the Exchequer

said, he must have been misunderstood; for any-individual who felt himself injured would have had the knowledge that the Bill was to be committed that day, and have counsel ready to attend.

Mr. Ponsonby

said, if he understood the argument of the right hon. gent. before the division, it was, that counsel should be heard on the part of individuals in the Committee; it was in his opinion the proper place to protect the individual. He would not oppose their going into the Committee, for they might adjourn, and give an opportunity to individuals to support their claims.

The Speaker

observed, it was impossible, according to the standing orders of the House, that counsel could be heard on a Committee of the whole House, for the purpose of granting remuneration to individuals.

The House then resolved itself into a Committee.

Sir J. Newport

moved," That the clause obliging stagecoaches which carried more than their number of passengers as by act of parliament, and which were, if they went in contradiction, obliged to pay five shillings toll extraordinaty for each horse, should be expunged." Which was supported by Mr. Bernard and Mr. Parnell, and opposed by Mr. Foster and Mr. Croker.

The Committee divided, and there not being 40 members in the House, the Speaker took the chair, and counted the House—only thirty-four members appearing, the House was of course adjourned till to-morrow.