HC Deb 20 February 1846 vol 83 cc1255-61

rose to move— That it be an Instruction to the Select Committee on Petitions that in all cases of Irish Railway Bills, wherein the promoters shall have proved compliance with the Standing Orders in the House of Lords, they do give priority to the investigation of the compliance with the Standing Orders of the House of Commons, applicable to such Bills, over all other cases which may stand for enquiry before them, provided due notice of the sitting of the Committee for such purpose has been given, and that the promoters of such Bill propose to prove the compliance with the Standing Orders either wholly or in part by viva voce evidence. He begged to observe that when he had given notice of his intention to submit that Motion to the House, he was not aware that the hon. Member for Dublin had given notice of a similar one. Their objects were the same. They were both desirous of affording facilities to the progress of Irish railways. It was known that all Irish railways were obliged to commence in the House of Lords, that the witnesses should necessarily wait until they had given their evidence again in the House of Commons. Now, the delay would be productive of very great expense and inconvenience if those witnesses should be compelled to stay in London until that case in which they were engaged should have come down in regular order. The object which his hon. Friend the Member for Dublin and he himself had in view, was, that those witnesses should have an opportunity of at once giving their evidence, that so they might be released from further attendance. In the case of English Bills, the parties could reckon very nearly upon the certainty of the day on which they might be expected to be in attendance; but in the case of Irish Bills they could not calculate upon their time. The hon. Gentleman stated the case of the county surveyor of Wexford, who was obliged, after giving his evidence before the Lords' Committee, to go over to attend the assizes in the county of Wexford, and then to return immediately to London, at very great inconvenience. He instanced another case, in which no fewer than one hundred and eighty-four other Railway Bills intervened between the one in which a friend of his was engaged, and the one under hearing; and yet all the witnesses were compelled to remain in London at an enormous expense until the case should have been disposed of. He (The O'Conor Don) be- lieved there was every disposition on the part of hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House to give every facility to Irish railway business in the present state of the country; and he believed that the Motion he had to propose would tend greatly to effect the object which all had in view.


seconded the Motion; he said that he had put a notice of Motion on the book with a similar intention to that of his hon. Friend. His Motion was— That it be an instruction to the Committee on Petitions for Private Bills that a Sub-Committee for the consideration of petitions for Irish Railway Bills be appointed. It was not the object of either his hon. Friend or himself to delay the business connected with England by that Motion. On the contrary, it was calculated to facilitate the business of all.


did not know why the Motion should extend only to Railway Bills. He did not see why all Private Bills connected with Ireland should not be included. He should, therefore, beg leave to move, if the Motion were persisted in, as an Amendment, that instead of the words, "In all cases of Irish Railway Bills," the words "in all cases of Irish Private Bills," should be inserted.


, though exceedingly anxious to facilitate Irish railway business as much as possible, thought that the Motion could hardly be acceded to. Before it could be agreed to, he should like to hear the opinion of the Chairman of the Committee on Private Bills, as to whether the Committee had not already actually the power to advance any Bills they should think fit. He did not object to the principle of the Motion, but he believed that it would be found practically to be unnecessary.


, as the Chairman of the Committee alluded to by the noble Lord, begged to say that he believed the Committee had the power to make a selection, and recommend the advancement of any particular Bill; but at the same time he should say that the Committee would feel the greatest reluctance and difficulty in giving priority to any one or any class, or taking any out of the ordinary course, without receiving some special notice from the House, or some positive intimation of its desire that such a course should be adopted. The Committee had, as the House was fully aware, a vast number of Bills before them. There was an accumulation of business altogether unprece- dented, and the Committee would feel very great difficulty in giving to any party a priority, without some special intimation from the House. He did not mean to say that an actual Motion was necessary, but merely that they should be able to gather that in that particular class of cases there should be a priority of hearing afforded. With regard to the two modes proposed, it had struck him that neither was the very best plan that could be suggested. The hon. Member for Roscommon proposed that Irish Bills should have priority over English. Of that he did not approve, for the agents for the English Bills would have to keep their witnesses in town, which would be productive of great discontent. The hon. Member for Dublin, on the other hand, proposed a new Committee, which should be composed of Members who had no experience, and who would consequently not be likely to give satisfaction. There were at present six, or rather he should say, seven, Sub-Committees sitting daily; and he should be inclined to propose that one of them should give up their attention solely to Irish Bills, rather than have a new and inexperienced Committee appointed. But at all events he should wish to know if it were the feeling of the House that peculiar facility should be given to any class of Bills, before the Committee could take upon themselves the serious responsibility of giving a preference.


, whilst joining in the sentiments expressed by his hon. Friend the Member for Derby, wished to mention one circumstance before hon. Members should have made up their minds upon the subject. In the case of Irish Bills having passed the House of Lords, and being obliged to keep witnesses in town until their turn in the House of Commons should have arrived, the question was one merely of expense, and not one of retarding the proceedings; but in the case of English Bills which should be set aside to make way for others, the question would be not one of expense alone, but of delay to their proceedings, as they should afterwards have to pass the House of Lords. To them, therefore, the question would be one of loss of time as well as loss of money.


thought that every facility ought to be given to the Irish Bills. The inconvenience which their promoters felt in being delayed in London, must be much greater than it could be in the case of English Bills. He hoped that, whether one Committee were to be charged with the care of Irish business, or that any other mode should be adopted, that something would be positively done to facilitate their proceedings.


observed, that the necessity for facilitating the despatch of railway business was by no means confined to Ireland, and that it might be necessary to extend the same facilities to Scotch Bills. He was informed that there was a district in the Highlands of Scotland where there was great distress at the present moment, arising partly from the failure of the potato crop, and partly from the want of employment. There was a petition before the House for a Bill to make a railway from Oban to Glasgow; and he was informed that there was no opposition offered to the Bill, either in point of form or on the merits. But, although there was no opposition to it, it was very far down in the list, and must wait its time, unless some arrangement were made to give it a preference. He thought it was a matter well worthy the attention of the House to consider whether, in the present pressure of business with reference to Private Bills, a Committee of Inquiry should not be appointed to report whether facilities ought not to be given to such Bills as the one he had referred to, where there was no opposition, and where the necessity for employment was unusually great.


said, it was already under the consideration of the Committee of which he was a Member, whether it would not be expedient that Scotch railways, as well as Irish railways, should originate during the present Session in the House of Lords—a measure which, if adopted, would obviously tend to relieve railway business in that House, and afford the same facility for the passing of Scotch Railway Bills as had already been afforded to Irish railways. With regard to the suggestion of the hon. Member for Roscommon, he considered that unless some such plan was adopted, Irish Railway Bills would absolutely be put to a disadvantage, in place of being facilitated. It was well known that the Standing Orders of the House of Lords were more strict than those of the House of Commons; and that some of the Bills might be going on in the House of Lords, incurring great expense there, without knowing whether or not they would pass the Standing Orders of the House of Commons. If this could be avoided with justice to other parties, it ought surely to be done. As to the manner in which it could best be done, he could not well say; but, after the general opinion which had been evinced by all sides of the House, that, under present circumstances, every facility should be given to Irish Railway Bills, it would be only acting in accordance with that principle if that Committee of which the hon. Member for Derby was Chairman, were to take such measures as were consistent with justice to others to carry that Resolution into effect. Of the two suggestions made by the hon. Members who had first spoken, he thought that made by the hon. Member for Dublin the preferable one; but the suggestion of the hon. Member for Derby was probably the best of all, namely, that one of the Committees should undertake, under the present circumstances, all the railway business, both of Ireland and of Scotland, in case they should allow Scotch Bills to originate in the House of Lords, as in the case of Irish. He thought the House had much better not come to any formal Resolution on the subject, but allow the Committee to remain unfettered by any decision or instruction. They (the Committee) should find no difficulty in carrying the intimated wishes of the House into effect.


thought it quite inexpedient that the House should come to any formal Resolution. The Committee had full power to make any arrangement they pleased with regard to any business that might come before them; and his hon. Friend the Member for Derby, although he might see some difficulty in the matter, must have gathered enough from the generally expressed feeling of the House in the present state of Ireland, to guide the decision of the Committee of which he was the Chairman. Enough had been said to show that it would meet the general concurrence of the House if the Committee were to facilitate the Irish measure.


also thought it best to leave the matter in the hands of the Committee, who had both the power and the disposition to make such arrangements as would best carry out the views of the House; but there was another subject to which he wished to call the attention of the House, and on which he had already communicated with the hon. Member for Derby, but in respect of which, however, it appeared that the Committee of which he was Chairman would not feel themselves at liberty to act without some expression of the opinion of the House. The House were aware that a Classification Committee had been ap- pointed to group together all Bills belonging to the same district of country, and that after the second reading they were referred to a Select Committee. It might so happen, however, that of ten Bills sent before the Committee on Petitions, eight of them might have passed the Committee; but that the other two, in consequence of being far down on the list, might be delayed for two or three weeks. What he had to suggest was, that it should be left to the discretion of the Committee on Petitions to take such Bills out of their order, with a view to complete the examination of Bills in the same group.


said, that the Committee alluded to would have to report thirty-three groups to the House on Monday next.


begged to offer an intimation to the Committee of which the hon. Member for Derby was Chairman, with regard to the Oban and Glasgow Railway Bill, to which the right hon. Baronet opposite had referred. That Bill stood very low down on the list. It was desirable that it should be discussed as early as possible, in order that employment might be afforded to the people in that part of the country, who were much distressed; and if the Committee had power (which, however, he doubted), he trusted that that case would meet with their attention, in order to have it advanced.


was of opinion, that Bills in the same group ought as much as possible to be taken together, and not exactly as they stood in the list. He was rather in favour of giving some discretion to the Committee; but he did not see how it could be done without an express instruction from the House. Perhaps the better course would be, that the Secretary of State for the Home Department should propose that a particular Bill, on account of distress in the district, should be taken out of its turn, and that the House, acting on its own knowledge, or on the responsibility of the Minister of the Crown, should instruct the Committee accordingly.


believed that the suggestion of the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Strutt), would accomplish the end he had in view.


said, there was a growing notion out of doors that the legislation upon railways was worthy only of the island of Laputa. He recommended that a Committee should sit in Dublin, to consider the best lines for Ireland.


was anxious that there should be no misunderstanding on the subject as to what Bills ought, whether Irish or Scotch, to have precedence in the Committee.


said, that the only way to meet the difficulty was to appoint one or two other Committees, which would be prepared to take the Irish and Scotch Bills. He threw it out for the consideration of hon. Members, whether it might not be expedient to assimilate the Orders of the two Houses of Parliament, so that when an inquiry into a Railway Bill had been completed in one House, it would not be necessary to go through precisely the same process in the other House.

Motion withdrawn.

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