HC Deb 20 June 1864 vol 175 cc2102-7

Order for Second Reading read.


said, he rose to move the second reading of the Bill. It had two objects, the first and principal was to secure to the travelling public the right, at least, to one train upon Sunday, and next, to procure for third-class passengers certain privileges to which they were entitled. As the latter object was of minor importance, and one that could be better discussed in Committee, he would not enter upon it in that stage of the measure. But to carry out his main object he proposed that every railway company in Ireland should be compelled to run at least one train each way on Sunday. In consequence of the great monopoly granted to railway companies, Parliament from the earliest times had interfered for the regulation of traffic, the Act of 1844, which might be called the Magna Charta of railway passengers, providing that, among other things, a train should run each way daily at a certain rate, and that similar fares should obtain upon Sundays, if trains run upon those days, which was a matter left optional with the companies. The practice of running trains upon Sundays was almost universal in Ireland as well as in England, but in November last the Limerick and Waterford Railway, whose district contained 600,000, Inhabitants, suddenly discontinued its previous custom of running Sunday trains, and thereby imprisoned all the people in that part of the country, from Saturday night to Monday morning. Remonstrances had been addressed to the directors, and the corporation of Limerick, a city with 45,000 inhabitants, accustomed to pleasure trips to Castleconnell and elsewhere, memorialized the board, and all to no purpose. It was stated that the effect of his Bill would be to compel the railway employés to work on Sundays. There was, of course, some truth in that; but he only asked for the minimum of work from them—namely, one train per day. Then came the question, whether a Legislature ought to interfere and compel railway directors to run a train on Sundays. He should not propose such a measure for Scotland; but there was no such strict observance of the Sunday in England or Ireland. There was nothing in the objection that the Bill would vary the conditions on which the companies had received the sanction of Parliament, for Parliament had frequently legislated in disregard of that objection.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."


, in moving the rejection of the Bill, regretted he could not do so in as eloquent terms as the hon. and learned Baronet who had proposed it, but he would imitate him in one important respect by trespassing very briefly on the time of the House, as it was then past midnight. He objected to the measure on three grounds— first, it imposed obligations on existing companies which they neither undertook nor contemplated when they constructed their lines; next, gave very arbitrary powers, to Government which might be exercised to the serious detriment of companies; and, lastly, if the contemplated powers were imposed, great injustice and loss would be inflicted on the shareholders, The hon. Baronet had very candidly stated that it was in order to compel the lines in the counties of Limerick and Clare, to run on Sundays that he had introduced the Bill, and he would at once take issue with him on those lines, and expected, without carrying his illustration further, to prove that it would be most unjust of the House to pass the Bill. The Waterford and Limerick was 77 miles long, Limerick and Ennis 25 do., Limerick and Foynes 26 do., Limerick and Castleconnell 13 do. The first of these lines was paying a dividend of little more than 1 per cent to the shareholders, and the other three nothing, and some of them, he believed, hardly met their expenses. They had tried the experiment of running on Sunday with ruinous loss, sometimes with four passengers, and occasionally with only one. To save the shareholders from further injury, the directors had very wisely ceased the Sunday traffic, but on one of the lines it was resumed lately for the summer months. Surely it was not fair to expect, when the law under which the shareholders invested their money enabled them to protect themselves, by not running on a day that left the greatest loss, it would be most unfair now to force them to do so. He spoke feelingly on the subject, having been a shareholder in one of them, and having some indirect interest in another. Allusion had been made to, the lines being in the hands of opulent individuals, and it was advanced as a reason for compelling them to have a Sunday traffic, a very insufficient reason he submitted; but he thought it was very lucky for the constituents of the promoters of the Bill, that the lines were in the hands of men of spirit and capital, or they might share the fate of the Bagnalstown and Wexford line, which did not run either on week days or Sundays. He would leave it to Members mere pious than he unfortunately was to press the Sabbattarian view of the question; but this he would say, that it was most creditable to the chairman and directors of the company that, amongst other reasons for not running on Sundays, was the desire to allow their 800 officials to attend properly to their religious duties and spend a quiet day with their families, and not the least amongst the hardships the Bill would impose was compelling these poor men to be on duty for the doubtful convenience of a few persons who could travel probably quite as well on week days. The professed object of the hon. Barnoet was to give facilities for 600,000 people to travel, who, singularly enough, had not sent in even one petition to support him in his efforts for them, and it would be still more extraordinary if they now took to travelling on so large a scale on Sundays, when previously their custom on that day left a heavy loss. But let his hon. Friend take care that his efforts, if successful, would not place them in a worse position, as the directors, if compelled to run on Sundays, would probably have to take off some of the week day trains. As several hon. Friends had promised to speak in support of his Motion, he would not trespass more than by entreating the House, as an act of justice and mercy to those on whose behalf he spoke, not to pass a measure so unprecedented, and calculated to inflict such hardship, and begged to move that it be read a second time on that day three months.


said, that railway companies had obtained their Acts under certain restrictions imposed on them in Select Committee, and it would be most unfair by a public general Bill to impose new conditions on these undertakings. Some of these small Irish railways had been for some time worked at a considerable loss, and it would be an ill-advised proceeding on the part of the Legislature to make that loss greater than it otherwise would be by passing the Bill. It was true that a population of 600,000 might be deprived of the means of travelling on Sunday, but probably not one in 100,000 wished to travel on that day. He, therefore, begged to second the Amendment, and he hoped that the House would pause before embarking in legislation of this kind.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Ques- tion to add the words "upon this day three months."—(Mr. Blake.)

Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."


said, that 50,000 of his constituents were calling out for the opportunity of travelling on Sundays. No one regretted more than himself that the shareholders in these lines were not making money, but they had driven the public cars and all other conveyances off the road, and, therefore, the population must all become pedestrians unless the trains ran between the termini. He was once brought within twenty, miles of his house on Sunday, and he could not get borne for dinner; and he knew of a case in which a doctor could not be had from Dublin to a person who was dangerously ill for want of such railway accommodation as this Bill sought to provide. He hoped, therefore, the House would consider the interests of the majority, and support the Motion for the second reading.


said, he should support the Bill. Great inconvenience was felt in the north as well as the south of Ireland from the want of Sunday trains. He knew places in which railway communication was suspended for thirty-six hours.


said, the precedent of the Act of 1844 would not go to sustain the proposal before the House, for that Act referred only to railways which should be incorporated either in that year or subsequently.


contended that the reason why there were not Sunday trains was because they would not be supported. There were three Sunday trains during the summer season between Limerick and Castleconnell because they paid. And so where the traffic was remunerative trains would be run. He thought, moreover, that if the House legislated at all it should do so with respect to the whole of the kingdom.


said, he never heard so important a proposition supported on such poor grounds. Notwithstanding the number of persons said to be shut out from travelling for want of railway accommodation, it was quite evident that they were not able to support Sunday trains. The hon. and learned Gentleman (Sir Colman O'Loghlen) should ask the House not only to run trains, but to give money to enable the companies to do so. It would be unfair to oblige 800 railway servants to give their services on the Sunday on account of the small number of persons who would require to travel on that day. The latter part of the Bill which would place the poor on a level with the first-class passengers was fair, but he was decidedly opposed to the first part.


said, he hoped, after the expression of opinion which they had heard, the hon. and learned Gentleman would not press the Bill. He thought the arguments of the noble Lord (Lord Naas) conclusive against the Bill. With regard to the poor gentleman who was suffering, and was unable to obtain medical advice, the question really was whether he was not better without it. They had this saying in the North when a man died, "Did he die by the doctor, or did he come by his death fairly?"


trusted that the hon. Baronet the Member for Clare would not take the advice to postpone this Bill.


said, that the Bill was opposed to the uniform legislation which had taken place on railways. He should vote against the Bill on the ground that they ought not to legislate for one corner of the empire on a different principle from that which they legislated for other parts.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 21; Noes 40: Majority 19.

Words added.

Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.

Second Reading put off for three months.