§ Order for Second Reading read.
THE MARQUESS OF CHANDOS
, in moving the second reading of this Bill, said, that it was limited to the passenger and postal service between Holyhead and Dublin. A great many statements had been circulated in opposition to this Bill; but they were chiefly founded on a misapprehension of its objects.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ MR. CAIRNS
said, be did not rise to ask the House to reject the Bill, but he wished that the second reading should be deferred. The Bill went to authorise the London and North-Western Railway Company to build and own steam-boats, in conjunction with the Dublin Steam-Packet Company, to ply between Holyhead and Dublin. But there was not a word in the Bill to show how the communication was 1865 to be improved. In fact, the company had no contract with the Government, and from an answer given to a question he put the other night, it appeared that the Government was about entering into the contract on the old terms. It was the duty of that House not to give the Parliamentary powers asked for, until the company showed that they had a provisional contract with the Government, and had bound themselves to perform the service better than it had been done before. He did not wish to negative the Bill altogether; but would move that the second reading be deferred for a month, in which interval the company might ascertain whether they could obtain a contract with the Government.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day month."
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question.
§ MR. FRENCH
said, he begged to remark that although the Motion was not in accordance with the usages of the House when an intention existed to throw out a Bill, nevertheless the present Motion amounted in substance to the same thing. For years everybody had been complaining of the difficulties of the passage between England and Ireland. A responsible company now came forward prepared to supply competent vessels, which would perform the voyage in between three and four hours—the time at present occupied being frequently upwards of twelve hours—they also undertook to supply passage-boats twice a day, and they were prepared to bind themselves not to raise the fares. He therefore thought he was not demanding too much when he asked the House to assent to the second reading.
§ MR. KIRK
said, he should support the Bill. There were at present three most imperfect communications with Dublin daily. This was the first time in the history of the two countries that a feasible means of communication had been proposed. The company undertook that the journey between London and Dublin should be accomplished in twelve hours.
§ MR. VANCE
said, he was inclined to give but a comparatively qualified assent to the Motion for the second reading. Indeed, as the Bill was framed, the Dublin Chamber of Commerce had the strongest possible objection to it. However, as, through the instrumentality of that body, certain modifications had been introduced 1866 into it, he was willing that the Bill should go into Committee, hoping to see it further improved during its progress.
said, he was opposed to the Bill, for he believed that the public interests would not be served by the monopoly which it proposed to confer on the London and North-Western Railway Company. He had no doubt that the public would gain most by competition rather than through the medium of the new and extraordinary powers proposed by this Bill.
§ LORD NAAS
said, he thought some such measure as the present necessary to improve the present state of communication between the two countries. The House, he thought, would do well to allow the Bill to be read a second time, but it would be necessary to take especial care in the Committee that the public interest should be guarded against injury from the censequences of a monopoly.
§ MR. H. HERBERT
said, he entirely repudiated the notion propounded by the hon. Member (Mr. Lindsay) that the principle upon which the Bill was founded was a novel one. Already the Chester and Holyhead Company had been granted powers precisely analogous to those now looked for; and this Bill might be said only to transfer these powers from one company to another.
§ SIR WILLIAM HEATHCOTE
said, that, in the case of that particular company, such a power had been given upon the recommendation of a Committee presided over by the late Sir Robert Peel, but it was granted under certain limitations, and the effect of the Bill now proposed would be to extend that power to other companies, without extending the limitations which were considered prudent by the Committee to which he had referred.
§ MR. BRIGHT
said, that having had occasion sometimes to go across to Ireland, he bad often expressed to his friends how glad he was that he was not an Irish Member, for he could never forget the miserable steamboat accommodation existing between the two countries. He had very little doubt that if this were under American rule that such a disgraceful state of things would not be suffered for a moment to endure. The Bill should certainly receive his support, as he believed through its instrumentality, at all events a partial remedy would be introduced.
§ MR. CARDWELL
said, the hon. Member who had last spoken had overlooked 1867 the fact that the special privilege given to the Chester and Holyhead Railway Company was given on the express condition of their providing proper boats and improving the communication. He dissented from the Motion of the hon. Member for Belfast (Mr. Cairns), and thought that the great question for the House was, whether railway companies should be enabled to become owners of steam boats. The question was, whether the particular case before the House came within the rule of the exception. That rule was, whether the steam-boat comunication was ancillary to the railway traffic. The House would do well to look at the way in which the Bill was drawn; for the House had had great difficulty in dealing with railway companies. He meant to oppose the Bill on principle, as it was originally drawn; but, with the modifications proposed, he thought the best course would be to send the Bill before a select Committee. In his opinion, the power engaged in supporting the steamboat communication round the shores of this country had done far more than all the associated railway companies that ever existed for improving the commercial intercourse of this country.
§ MR. BOUVERIE
said, he regarded the postponement of the Bill for a month as tantamount to its rejection for the present Session. The question of principle had been dealt with before, and was not new to the House. The Chester and Holyhead Company possessed the identical powers which it was now proposed to transfer to the London and North Western Company. The South Eastern and South Western Companies had similar powers for running steam-boats. With these various precedents, it was for the House to decide whether, with the interests of Ireland so deeply involved, they would reverse the principle they had hitherto acted upon. The real point for the Committee and the House to decide was whether the public would be better served in every respect in the manner proposed than they would be by any other scheme.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read 2°, and committed, and referred to the Committee of Selection.