HC Deb 08 June 1841 vol 58 cc1347-50
Viscoun Morpeth,

in rising for leave to bring in a bill for the purpose of establishing rail roads in Ireland, said, that in the present state of the Session, he should not move for leave to introduce a bill of any importance, with any other design than that of having it printed, so as to give information to the public generally on the subject, more especially to that portion of it more immediately concerned. He would merely then refer to a statement which had been made on the occasion of his bringing forward this motion. The right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, towards the conclusion of his speech last week, had made a slight and passing allusion to this motion, as if it had been brought forward with a view of propping up the Government on the eve of a general election The fact was, that certain private individuals had come forward and made a proposition on the subject to the Government. He would merely state what that proposition was, and not enter at any length into any of the circumstances connected with it. He was still of opinion that the proposition which he had first brought forward on the subject of the Government undertaking various railways in Ireland, was the most expedient plan. But as when he had brought it forward, he had reason to believe, that it would not meet with the assent of the legislature, he had withdrawn it, and had not attempted again to introduce it, although he believed that persons of all parties had since expressed themselves in its favour. A proposition on that subject had been submitted to the Government on the part of certain individuals of great character, station, and financial ability, and although in making that proposition they had doubtless, imagined that they were not entering upon a hazardous speculation, yet he honestly believed that they had been principally induced to take up the project, because they believed that it would be of advantage to Ireland. Those Gentlemen had adopted as the basis of their calculations, the report of the Railway Commissioners, for which the country was so much indebted to the assiduity and energy of his late excellent and lamented friend, Mr. Drummond. They had proposed to the Government to raise a capital of 1,300,000l., to be applied in the first instance to the completion of the southern line of railway, that from Dublin to Limerick, which would go quite across the island, and would unite the two seas; the works to be carried on under the exclusive superintendance of Commissioners to be appointed by the Government, and in order to obviate any jealousy as to the selection of these commissioners by the Government, it was proposed to nominate them in the bill, and they would consist of Sir John Burgoyne, Mr. Rennie, and Mr. Jones, who had been the secretaries to the Irish Railway Commission. The sum was proposed to be raised by means of debentures, and the expenditure to be under the management of a Board of Control consisting of seven Members, and the Government had reason to hope that Gentlemen of all parties would be found willing to give their services as Members of such board gratuitously. The debentures, when signed by two commissioners and by two Members of the Board of Control, to bear an interest of 4 per cent., and in case that should not be made good by the profits of the railway it was guaranteed to be paid by the countries which would benefit by the railway passing through them. In addition to the interest of 4 per cent., the holders of the debentures would be entitled to one-half the surplus profits. The commissioners named in the bill were to have the sole direction of the works. The lands necessary were to be taken in the manner to be provided by the act. The bill contained further powers enabling the directors to extend the line to Cork, and also to enable other parties to make lines in other parts of Ireland at the same time. A deposit of ten per cent, on the capital to be paid up before the act should come into operation. Such were the main features of the proposal which these gentlemen had made to the Government; and as at present it was not his intention to elicit the opinion of the House as to its merits, but merely to lay the bill before the House, in order that it might be considered fully both by the House and by the people of Ireland, he should not enter into any discussion as to the merits of the scheme. In bringing forward the measure of the present time, his only object was to give facilities to the present Government, Of if it should be displaced, to any other that might succeed it, for bringing forward a measure calculated to benefit the population of Ireland.

Mr. Shaw

seconded the motion. He was happy to be enabled to bear testimony to the great attention paid to the subject by the noble Lord; and he believed the project was likely to be very successful.

Lord Stanley

inquired whether the proprietors of land through which the line should pass would have the power of resistance to it? Also, whether they were to be remunerated, and how and what were the means to be afforded them for the defence of their rights?

Viscount Morpeth

said, he did not intend to make the assent or dissent of the landlords essential to the carrying the bill; but there were regulations for compensation on the principle adopted by the Shannon Navigation Bill, which he believed was satisfactory to all parties. In answer to a question from Mr. Shaw, the noble Lord added, that it was his intention to give a general power to other parts of Ireland to adopt the principle laid down for this line.

Mr. Sergeant Jackson

said, a railroad might pass along the margin of one county and yet the whole expense might be thrown upon the adjoining county upon whose territory it proceeded. He begged to know if this was to be the case?

Viscount Morpeth

said, that it was intended to give a power of applying the principle of the bill to other parts of Ireland than those named in it; and that the deficiency to be provided for, if any, between the guaranteed interest and the receipts of the line would be made up by an equitable assessment on the respective counties benefitted by it.

Mr. S. O'Brien

regretted that the bill of the noble Lord was not as perfect or satisfactory as that proposed by him last Session. He however thanked the noble Lord for the proposition he had just made, and he begged to assure him that it was one of the most popular measures which he could have thought of introducing into Ireland.

Mr. F. French

complained of the system of bringing forward measures of this kind (which were so well calculated to raise the expectations of the people of Ireland) and then abandoning them. He would take an opportunity, early in the next Session of Parliament, of bringing forward this question, and of reminding the noble Lord of his promise upon the subject, which he thought pledged his noble Friend to exert himself in carrying it through Parliament. He thought, however, that the noble Lord was bound to bring forward this bill before, when he was conscious of having excited the expectation of the Irish people upon it, of having the approval of this House, and also from his own conviction as to the general approval of the measure. Fie was, however, thankful to the noble Lord for bringing forward this measure even at so late a period, and he (Mr. French) would support the proposition most heartily.

Mr. Lucas

thought that this would be a most desirable experiment to try whether English capital could be laid out in Ireland to advantage.

Mr. Litton

said, that all parties in Ireland had signified their approval of this project.

Leave given.