HC Deb 28 June 1839 vol 48 cc1015-9
The Chancellor of the Exchequer

moved the second reading of the Shannon Navigation Bill.

Mr. John Ellis

objected to proceeding further with this bill at present. He entertained strong objections to many of its provisions. He objected to the extensive powers given to the three commissioners appointed under the bill, particularly with respect to the appointment of a number of officers at considerable salaries. He thought that the duties of these commissioners could be very well performed by the Board of Public Works in Ireland. He also objected to the provisions of the bill with respect to making the awards final; and he considered the clauses with respect to grand juries far too stringent. There were many other objections which he entertained to the details of the bill, but which could be more properly stated in Committee.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

was glad that the hon. Member had given him the opportunity of going into an explanation with respect to this bill. Some of the objections which the hon. Gentleman entertained were objections of principle. Now, with respect to the increase of official patronage, the hon. Member was mistaken. The first proposition which he had made was, that the provisions of this bill should be carried into effect under the direction of the Board of Works. In a communication which he had had with General Burgoyne who was at the head of the Board of Works, that gentleman had stated his willingness to undertake any duties which he felt he could perform, and to discharge those duties to the best of his ability, without additional pay. A similar answer had been given by Mr. Griffiths; but both these gentlemen stated, that it would be necessary that they should be assisted by a paid officer in carrying into effect the provisions of the bill, and they suggested to the Treasury the appointment of Capt. James, of the Royal Engineers' for that purpose. So that these three individuals would form the commission to carry the bill into effect. With respect to the awards, he thought it would be most inconvenient to reopen these cases, as these awards had been made with great care, and after full examination. With respect to the stringency of the clauses connected with grand juries, he thought that no valid objection could be made on that ground. He felt bound to see that there was such security that the money advanced by Parliament for public works in Ireland should be repaid, and if he was forced to abandon those clauses he would give up the bill.

Mr. Lucas

did not object to the stringent provisions of the bill. He hoped that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would enforce the payment of the loans to Ireland, for he would then do a service to the country, inasmuch as without a proper understanding on this subject public credit must be injured, and the difficulty of getting capital into Ireland increased. What was intended to be a loan should be so called when asked for, and the payment of it should be insisted upon; but where there was no prospect of repayment, it would be much better to call it a grant at once.

Mr. O'Connell

said, that gratuitous commissioners were generally very bad commissioners. The gentlemen whom the right hon. Gentleman had mentioned were in the receipt of very good salaries, and they would do this duty for those salaries. He hoped that the question of compensation would not be opened in Committee—that no discussion would take place as to whether too much or too little had been given. He knew one instance in which the claim was for 30,000l., and the award was made for 5,000l. only. He had not brought the case before the House, but he had advised the parties to submit rather than to re-open the case. He thought the provisions of the bill, with regard to the repayment of loans, could not be too stringent. He must tell those who thought that Ireland borrowed money and never paid it, that not one shilling was ever raised on the county-rates of Ireland by a general Act of Parliament but had been repaid, and that with interest at the rate of 5 per cent. When he heard men talk of a matter of bounty, and that the English Members of that House were ready to ad- vance money as a bounty, he must say, that he did not think it any bounty at all, but a severe burden upon Ireland, seeing that 5 per cent, must be paid for money raised at 3½ per cent. He challenged any hon. Gentleman to produce a case where the borrowed money had not been repaid to the last farthing.

Mr. Shaw

considered it a great national object, as much to the credit of England as to the advantage of Ireland, that English credit should be made instrumental in promoting Irish objects, and on the other hand there should be a full assurance of repayment. He quite agreed with his hon. Friend behind him, that there was a general impression, and he could not help thinking with the hon. and learned Member for Dublin, that it was an unjust one, that money lent to Ireland was not repaid. There was no instance, he believed, of money being fairly lent without being repaid It was quite useless to refer to loans to the clergy, because every one knew that they were made under circumstances which precluded all just expectation of repayment. He believed that if it had not been for this impression, money would have been promptly advanced for railways in Ireland.

Mr. Hume

thought himself bound to support the Chancellor of the Exchequer upon Irish grounds. No doubt the money would be repaid, and had it not been for the mistaken notion which prevailed, the Government would not have been obliged to give up the greatest national work ever undertaken for Ireland—the railways. It was for the benefit of both countries, that the credit of England should be lent to promote public works in Ireland, and he hoped the Government would not fail to introduce the railway scheme early next Session. The inquiry which the Government undertook in Ireland did them great credit. In England twenty-nine millions had been paid, and twelve more were owing for railroads—had such an inquiry taken place here, many millions would have been saved, and the railroads made much more convenient. The Chancellor of the Exchequer could not be too particular in taking powers for enforcing the repayment of the money, as it would do benefit both to England and Ireland, in doing away with the prejudice at present existing against lending money for public works.

Mr. Sergeant Jackson

said, he felt very much the vast importance of the Shannon navigation to Ireland and to this country, and also of railroads. He was not aware whether the right hon. Gentleman was aware of it, but there was an impression abroad, that the Shannon Navigation Bill was a job, and that the right hon. Gentleman had nothing but a job in view. He was glad to hear, however, from the right hon. Gentleman his declaration, that he did not mean to pay any other commissioner than the one who must necessarily be very much employed in the work, and that the bill was not got up for the purpose of creating patronage for the Government. As he had opposed the plan for railroads in Ireland, he thought it right to say, that upon hearing the subsequent statement of the noble Lord, the Secretary for Ireland, the objections he had entertained were entirely removed by what he understood to be the view of the noble Lord. He, therefore, could not but express a hope, that the Government would press forward their amended project early next Session, when he trusted they would receive general support.

Mr. S. O'Brien

trusted, that the noble Lord, the Secretary for Ireland, would not even now finally abandon his railway scheme, but would take the sense of the House upon it; if so, he was sure the noble Lord would now carry it by a large majority. With respect to the bill before the House, it had his cordial support.

Viscount Morpeth

would not now enter into the merits of the railway question; he only hoped his right hon. Friend would be more successful in his scheme of water carriage than he (Lord Morpeth) had been in that of land carriage. He had involuntarily been compelled to abandon it, and he could only say, that if he had been allowed to prosecute the measure, he was sure he could have satisfied the hon. and learned Member for Bandon, that any notion of patronage was as unfounded in that instance as it had been proved to be unfounded with respect to the bill in the hands of his right hon. Friend.

Mr. Wyse

expressed his regret, that the; Irish Railway Bill had been given up almost without consideration, and he trusted, if the noble Lord did not renew the question, some hon. Member on one side of the House or the other would do so, and thus afford an opportunity not only of discussing the merits of the measure, but of clearing the Irish people from the aspersions which had been cast upon them. He concurred with the hon. Member for Kilkenny, in thinking, that if the plan of the noble Lord had been acted on in England, large sums might have been saved in the construction of railways—the monopolies by which he feared the country would, ere long, be embarrassed, would not have been created, and the public might have secured those profits which now went into the hands of private individuals.

Mr. Warburton

said, he should have been glad if the Government had not abandoned their scheme with reference to Irish rail-Ways, if it had only been for the purpose of affording a comparison between railroads constructed by the Government and those undertaken by private individuals, and of thus ascertaining which was most calculated to promote the public interests. With this view, he hoped early next Session the Government would renew their scheme.

Mr. Sheil

, in reference to the provisions in the bill before the House on the subject of awards and compensation, said, that although there might be no suspicion of bias in the commissioners, who. without the intervention of juries, were to make the awards, still, as they might be wrong in one case out of a hundred, he thought there ought to be an appeal allowed.

Bill read a second time.