HC Deb 05 May 1845 vol 80 cc158-64
Mr. French

was glad that the hon. Member for Oxford, the Chairman of the Standing Orders Committee, was in his place; as he wished to assure him and the House, that in bringing forward the Motion of which he had given notice, he did not mean to question the correctness of their decision in respect to the Irish Great Western Railway. On the contrary, he considered that they could not, consistently with their public duty, have arrived at any other decision; that although the omission of numbers on the plans laid before them were in themselves trifling and unimportant, they were so numerous that had they of their own authority recommended the Standing Orders to be dispensed with, they would have created a precedent which must of necessity prove most embarrassing to them in their future proceedings. He therefore again repeated, that he neither impugned nor complained of their conduct; but he would respectfully submit to the House, that there were circumstances connected with the case before them which rendered it an exception to the general rule; and that the interests of the public, for whose protection the Standing Orders themselves were framed, imperatively demanded that permission should be given to proceed with this Bill. This was, indeed, a peculiar case; no landowner, occupier, or lessee, complained of injury or offered any opposition to the progress of this measure. The landowners of the province of Con-naught had almost to a man declared in its favour. He held in his hand a declaration in approval of this line, signed by hundreds of the principal proprietors, headed by such men as Lords Sligo and Clancarty, who, differing as they did in politics, concurred in support of this measure. The inhabitants of the different towns and districts through which it was to pass had petitioned in its favour: its sole opponent was a canal company; and when the House was put in possession of the nature and circumstances of that opposition, he very much doubted whether they would consider that body entitled either to their regard or respect. The petitioner was a Mr. Macmullen, secretary to the canal company. This gentleman, having, as he stated, full powers, had entered into an agreement with him (Mr. French), that if certain conditions for the protection of the interests of the canal were acceded to by the promoters of the Irish Great Western Railway, all opposition should be withdrawn. The agreement was drawn by the Parliamentary agent of the canal company, and was assented to by the provisional committee of the Great Western Railway, without the alteration of a single word; and an intimation was conveyed to him, as chairman of the company, that the opposition was withdrawn. To his great surprise, at the moment the Committee, having examined into the case, were about to report that the Standing Orders had been complied with, Mr. Macmullen entered on his opposition. Had the canal company, as in honesty they were bound to do, adhered to the arrangements made by their authorized representative, the case was an unopposed one; or had they not deceived him, by entering into an agreement they had no intention to fulfil, he should not have been under the necessity of appealing to the indulgence of the House. He would then have been, as he now was, in a condition to show, to the satisfaction of the Committee on Private Bills, that the allegations made by the canal company were unfounded, and that the Standing Orders had been fully complied with. These allegations were all of one nature—that certain fields, or angles of fields, within the limits of deviation, were without numbers. By an error of their draughtsman, on the plans lodged in the county of Kildare, (through which county the railroad was not to run,) the limits of deviation were drawn on each side at one hundred and ten yards; whereas by this Bill they were restricted to one hundred yards, and to ten yards in towns. The angles of those fields did come within the apparent limits of deviation as drawn on the map, but not within the actual limits as designed by the Bill. In addition to this, it must be remembered that, as these lands were not required for the purpose of the railway, no notice had been given to their owners; their names did not appear in the book of reference; there was, therefore, no power to take any portion of them; and no injury could by possibility arise to any single individual. Would the House, under such circumstances, suffer the canal company to profit by their violation of agreement; or would they not rather show, by their decision, that faith must be kept by public companies as well as private individuals? It was not possible to exaggerate the importance of this project to Ireland; it had truly been called a national one, connecting the Irish sea with the Atlantic ocean, opening a district in Ireland the most neglected, but probably more abundant in resources than any other portion of the Empire. It had been approved of by the Board of Trade; it had been most favourably received by the public; 54,000 deposits on upwards of a million of money, all of which would be expended in the employment of the people, had been paid up; the Cashel Company, a great portion of whose line would be available to the public next spring, had agreed to invest 100,000l. in the undertaking. Four gentlemen of great experience in railway matters, directors of the Birmingham Railway, had agreed to act on their board; and if the House would sanction the Motion with which he was about to conclude, there could not be a shadow of doubt entertained that this line would be speedily and effectually executed. He (Mr. French) should not detain them by dwelling on the necessity of employment for the people, as the first step towards the pacification of Ireland; without it all other measures, no matter how well intended, were valueless. Both Houses of Parliament had pledged themselves to make any sacrifice for the tranquillization of Ireland: he now tested the sincerity of their declarations. He asked not for a sacrifice of principles—he asked not for a sacrifice of privileges—he asked not for a sacrifice of money—he alone required at their hands a sacrifice of a few technicalities; and in the full assurance that it would not be denied, he begged leave to move—"That Leave be given to proceed with the Irish Great Western Railway."

Mr. Estcourt

was not acquainted with the merits of the proposed railway, and therefore he could not go into them. It was sufficient for him, as a Member of the Committee on Standing Orders, to know, that in more than 300 instances, in the proposed plans and surveys, the Standing Orders had not been complied with. Many of these Standing Orders were of importance; and the Committee found that it was their duty to report, as they had done, that in this case the Standing Orders ought not to be dispensed with, and that the parties ought not to be allowed to proceed. To set aside this Report of the Committee, would be to establish a very dangerous precedent, which would have the effect of rendering the Reports of Committees on Standing Orders of very little value in the House.

Mr. Redington

supported the Motion, which did not imply any, the slightest, imputation against the Committee on Standing Orders, which had only adhered, rigidly adhered, to its duties; but, if it could be shown that a too rigid adherence to the Standing Orders in this case would work great injustice to all concerned in promoting the measure, he hoped the House would interpose its authority, and allow the parties to proceed. This was not a new case. There were several on the Journals of the House in which it had complied with similar Motions under similar circumstances. Let the House also bear in mind, that in this case there was no complaint by landowners on the line of not having received due notice. In fact, the objections were in a great many instances technical; and, if the House adhered strictly to its Standing Orders, it would happen that, besides the great inconvenience of delaying the railway to another Session, its promoters would have to incur again all the expenses which they had been at from the commencement to the present moment. Under these circumstances, he did hope that the House would accede to the Motion.

Mr. J. W. Patten

was opposed to the Motion. So far from the Committee having strained the Standing Orders against the proposed measure, they had done all in their power to help it on. Indeed, they had even gone out of their way to do so; but the instances of noncompliance were so numerous and so glaring, that it was impossible they could be passed over.

Mr. Strutt

was sorry that any measure should be lost which was calculated to benefit Ireland; but, as a Member of the Committee on Standing Orders, he must say that no other course was left to them but to report that those Orders ought not to be dispensed with. It would establish a very dangerous precedent, if the House should set aside the Report of that Committee.

Viscount Palmerston

felt the force of the objections against interfering with the Committee on Standing Orders; but if it should happen that the House should extend its indulgence to this project by assenting to the Motion before it, he trusted it would, should the case require it, extend a similar indulgence to a rival line—he alluded to the Dublin and Mullingar, Longford and Sligo line. He did not say this from any knowledge that there were any material defects in the plans and surveys of that line; but should there be any, and that project stand in the position in which the present now stood, he did hope it would obtain similar indulgence. For himself, he was disposed to adhere to the Standing Orders.

Mr. Warburton

thought the safest course would be to adhere in all cases to the decision of the Committee on Standing Orders. If the present Motion were carried, its principle ought to be made retrospective, and applied to all the projects which had been rejected for non-compliance with the Standing Orders. If this were not done, the promoters of those projects would have much cause for complaint.

Mr. George A. Hamilton

stated that he was certainly very averse to expressing any opinion that might appear contrary to the judgment of the Standing Orders Committee. But he could not avoid saying that he did feel that the question of a line of railway to the extreme west of Ireland might, and ought to be, looked upon rather as a national question, than as one merely relating to a Private Bill or a private railway. He must, however, add, that he entered fully into the considerations urged by the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton, with respect to the Railway Bill from Dublin to Mullingar. He thought that both projects ought to be submitted to a Committee of the House; that the whole question of a western railway in Ireland ought, if possible, to be disposed of by Parliament during the present Session. It was a matter of the utmost public importance that it should. He had himself, on a recent occasion, visited the West of Ireland, and when he recollected the feeling which prevailed among all classes in that part of Ireland, and their anxiety with regard to a railway, he earnestly hoped the House would pause before it rejected the proposition of his hon. Friend the Member for Roscommon.

Sir T. Fremantle

did not wish that the vote which he should give in this case should influence that of any other hon. Member. He would vote in favour of the Motion. In the situation which he had the honour to hold, he thought it very desirable that every encouragement should be given to projects of this kind in Ireland. He should be very unwilling in ordinary cases to advise the House to decide against the Report of the Committee on Standing Orders; but considering how desirable it was that measures such as that to which the Motion referred should be encouraged in Ireland, he was anxious that both this and the competing line to which the noble Lord (Lord Palmerston) referred, should be sent to a Committee, where their merits might be examined, and both eventually sanctioned by the House if it saw good ground for it. At all events, if the House should extend its indulgence to the line then before them, he trusted it would grant a similar one to the rival line.

Sir G. Grey

said, that if the House acceded to this Motion, the Standing Order Committees should be spared the trouble of going into cases for the purpose of ascer- taining whether Standing Orders ought to be dispensed with; or perhaps it might be desirable that the House should agree to a Resolution that the Standing Orders should not be applied to Irish railway projects.

Lord G. Somerset

said, that the right hon. and learned Gentleman who spoke last had completely anticipated what he was about to observe on the Motion. Of course he fully concurred in what the right Gentleman had said.

Sir R. H. Inglis

said, that he never saw a case which furnished so many strong arguments against such a Motion as that before the House, as did the project to which it referred. There were in it not less than 300 instances of noncompliance with the Standing Orders. If the House agreed to this Motion, he did not see how it could refuse similar Motions in other cases.

The House divided on the Question that leave be given to proceed with the Great Western (Ireland) Railway:—Ayes 96; Noes 81: Majority 15.

List of the AYES.
Acton, Col. Godson, R.
Adderly, C. B. Gore, M.
Bagot, W. Gore, R.
Bailey, J. Greenall, P.
Barron, Sir H. W. Gregory, W. H.
Bateson, T. Grimston, Visct.
Bentinck, Lord G. Guest, Sir J.
Beresford, Major Hallyburton, Lord J.
Berkeley, hon. C. Hamilton, J. H.
Berkeley, H. F. Hamilton, Lord C.
Berkeley, G. Hastie, A.
Blake, M. J. Hayes, Sir E.
Bowes, J. Henniker, Lord
Busfeild, W. Hill, Lord M.
Butler, P. S. Hodson, F.
Crew, R. S. Howard, P. H.
Clayton, R. R. Hussey, A.
Clifton, J. T. Hussey, T.
Colborne, W. R. Law, C. E.
Collins, W. Leslie, C. P.
Colquhoun, J. C. Lowther, hon. Col.
Coote, Sir C. Mackenzie, T.
Courtenay, Lord Mackinnon, W. J.
Crawford, W. S. Macnamara, Major
Damer, hon. Col. M'Taggart, Sir J.
Dick, Q. Maule, right hon. F.
Divett, E. Maxwell, J. P.
Douglas, Sir H. Milnes, R. M.
Duncan, G. Morris, D.
Dundas, Adm. Murphy, F. S.
Escott, B. Newry, Lord
Flower, Sir J. Norreys, Sir D. J.
Forbes, W. Northland, Visct.
Forman, T. S. O'Brien, A. S.
Fremantle, Sir T. O'Conor Don
O'Ferrall, H. M. Taylor, E.
Phillpotts, J. Tennent, J. E.
Polhill, F. Thornhill, G.
Ponsonby, hn. C. F. A. Tollemache, J.
Repton, G. W. J. Trollope, Sir J.
Roche, E. B. Tufnell, H.
Rous, Capt. Tyrell, Sir J. T.
Shaw, F. Wall, C. B.
Sheil, R. L. Watson, W. H.
Smith, T. B. C. Yorke, H. R.
Smythe, G. Young, J.
Somers, J. P.
Stanton, Sir G. TELLERS.
Stewart, J. French, F.
Stock, Serg. Redington, T. N.
List of the NOES.
Aldam, W. James, Sir W. C.
Arbuthnott, T. H. Jermyn, Earl
Arkwright, G. Labouchere, H.
Baldwin, B. Lowther, Sir J. H.
Barnard, E. G. Lygon, Gen.
Beckett, W. Macaulay, T. B.
Blackburne, J. I. Manners, Lord C. S.
Bouverie, hon. E. Mildmay, H. St. J.
Bowring, Dr. Mitcalfe, H.
Bright, J. Morrison, J.
Brotherton, J. Mundy, E. M.
Buck, L. W. Napier, Sir. C.
Chapman, A. Ord, W.
Childers, J. W. Pakington, J. S.
Christie, W. D. Palmerston, Visct.
Clerk, Sir G. Parker, J.
Colebrooke, Sir T. E. Pendarves, E. W.
Compton, H. C. Pringle, A.
Corry, H. Pusey, P.
Dodd, G. Rushbrooke, Col.
Douglas, Sir C. Russell, Lord J.
Duncan, Visct. Rutherfurd, A.
Duncombe, T. Sanderson, R.
Duncombe, hon. O. Somerset, Lord G.
Egerton, W. T. Stansfield, W. R. C.
Elphinstone, H. Stuart, Lord J.
Entwisle, W. Strutt, E.
Evans, W. Thesiger, Sir F.
Fitzroy, Lord C. Thornely, T.
Glynne, Sir S. Trevor, G. R.
Greene, T. Turner, E.
Grey, Sir G. Vane, Lord H.
Grosvenor, Lord R. Waddington, H. S.
Hatton, Capt. V. Walker, R.
Heathcote, G. J. Warburton, H.
Hepburn, Sir T. B. Winnington, Sir T.
Hobhouse, Sir J. Wood, Col.
Howard, Sir H. Wortley, J. S.
Hume, J. Wrightson, W. B.
Inglis, Sir R. H. Estcourt, T. G. B.
Irving, J. Patten, J. W.
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