HC Deb 25 January 1847 vol 89 cc479-81

, who had a Motion on the Paper to the effect— That it is the opinion of this House no public works can be of greater importance to the future prosperity of Ireland than Railways, and that every facility for their construction be given by Her Majesty's Government, provided always that proper security can be afforded for the repayment of any advances made by the Treasury;"— expressed his gratification at the announcement made by the noble Lord the Member for Lynn (Lord G. Bentinck), that the noble Lord had prepared a measure upon the subject. Much had been said relative to the importance and necessity of giving encouragement to the employment of English capital in Ireland; but he was not aware of a question to which each succeeding Government gave less attention than the questions of Irish railways and fisheries; both of which, if properly encouraged, might be made sources of wealth and prosperity to that country. The Government first objected that they had a dislike to interfere with private enterprise; but he was well aware that the directors and proprietary of Irish railways would be most happy if the Government would assist them in carrying out their works. Then a doubt was expressed as to whether the money would be properly expended; but he could see no reason for such a doubt if the management were good. At last they came to the question of security: and the security which railway companies proposed to give was to make over the railways at once into the hands of the Government as a guarantee for any advances which might be made of the public money. Now the Government had not scrupled to spend in the course of three months upwards of half a million of money in unproductive labour—namely, the making of roads; but they refused their assistance in promoting the construction of the most productive of public works, railways. In two instances only had assistance been given, and these were in the case of the Dublin and Kingstown and the Dublin and Drogheda railways, and the greatest advantages had been experienced in consequence. If the Government would render the Irish railway companies the necessary assistance, before forty-eight hours had expired upwards of 50,000 able-bodied men would be taken off the public works upon which they were now employed, and the Government would not be required to advance any money until the proprietaries had advanced 20 per cent on the outlay. The country, he was told, was to be improved by draining, and agriculture was to be fostered in every possible manner. But what was the use of drainage and such improvements if they had not the means of communication throughout the country? How was the land to be permanently improved, except by the introduction of lime and other manures at a cheap rate? And what cheaper means could they have for their conveyance than railways? He might be taunted with being interested in the question, on account of his being a proprietor in Irish railways; but he begged to assure the House that he was not actuated by self-interested motives, and as a proof of his desire to promote the welfare of Ireland, he might state that he had resided in that country during the whole autumn, that he had bought all the corn he could, erected mills, and for the whole of that period had employed upwards of 500 men in his slate quarries. Not one of these men had died, except from natural causes; not one had been in the poor house, and not a penny had been asked by any of them from the relief committees. He had said to them, "You may have your wages in money or in corn at cost price;" and by these means 500 men, or, with their families, 2000 persons, had been supported ever since the works were begun. The companies promoting the main trunk lines of railway from Dublin to Cork and to Limerick, did not want a farthing from the Government; it was only in the construction of lines running through the distressed districts of the country that loans were required. He was quite convinced of this: but as the noble Lord (Lord G. Bentinck) had prepared a measure, he would, by leave of the House, for the present withdraw his Motion.


said, that as he had stated in the early part of the evening, the question of advancing money for the construction of railroads in Ireland was still under the consideration of Government; but there were certain points still to be ascertained before they could come to a determination upon it.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.