§ MR. MONSELL
rose to move—That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Commissioners appointed to inquire into the railway system of the United Kingdom may be instructed to direct their inquiries, in the first instance, to the Irish railway system, with a view of ascertaining, with as little delay as possible, such facts as may enable this House to determine whether the provisions of the second clause of the general Railway Act of 1844 should be applied to such Irish railways as are subject to its provisions.He thought the subject one of very great importance, and trusted the House would give it the most serious consideration. A Commission had been appointed to inquire into the railway system of the United Kingdom, he asked that the Irish railway system should be considered by itself and without delay. The definite object of his proposition was to bring into play the provisions of the Act of 1844, which gave power to the Government, with the sanction of Parliament, to purchase the railways whose Acts were passed after 1843. He was aware that the case of Ireland had been frequently brought before Parliament in the present Session, but he was convinced that the House would look with an indulgent eye on any proposal which could be clearly shown to be for the benefit of that country; and it was his belief that this question was one of that character. First, did his proposition in any way interfere with the self-reliance of the people of Ireland; and secondly, was it a measure which would confer benefit on one class in Ireland, or would it benefit the whole people? His proposition, instead of interfering with the self-reliance of the Irish people, would extend and develop it, and, unlike any other measure which could be sub- 897 mitted to the House, would benefit all classes in Ireland, and, like a fertilizing flood, penetrate into every nook and cranny of the land. The reduction of the price for the transit of passengers and goods would benefit every class and every individual. In order to justify his Motion, he was bound to prove that there were certain special circumstances appertaining to Ireland, which demanded the separate consideration of the Irish railway system; and that the benefits which would result from his proposition would be felt by the whole people. With regard to the first point, it was, unfortunately, not necessary to say many words. Whatever the cause, there existed vast resources in Ireland undeveloped, and consequent misery among a large portion of the population. It must be obvious to every one that though the strong shoulders of Great Britain might support the incubus, high fares on railways, which constituted the only means of transit for a large proportion of the population and merchandize, crushed the industry and prevented the development of the resources of a country like Ireland. Another reason existed for regarding Ireland as an exceptional case in respect to this matter. In the year preceding 1839 there were various public meetings in Dublin, attended by the most eminent men of all parties in the country, and they urged the adoption of a system of railways for Ireland analogous to the system which generally prevailed on the continent. Among others a meeting was held in Dublin, when a resolution was passed, declaring—That railways in the hands of individuals or chartered companies, however valuable and important might be the facilities they gave, were necessarily monopolies, and as such were irreconcilable with the public interests; while, if such establishments were the property of the State, they could be altered and dealt with at any time, without injury to any party.A measure in accordance with their views was submitted to that House by Lord Morpeth, then Chief Secretary for Ireland. The Duke of Leinster, Lord Kingston, and many other great Irish proprietors engaged that if this measure passed they would give the land for railways that passed through their properties for nothing. The year 1839 was one of great party contests, and anything proposed by one party met with no favourable reception from their political opponents. The consequence was that Lord Morpeth's mea- 898 sure fell through, the English system was introduced into Ireland. A circumstance which distinguished the Irish from the English and Scotch system, was the smallness of the amount of capital invested in the railways of the first country. The Chancellor of the Exchequer was not one to "rest and be thankful," but even he might feel appalled at the idea of undertaking to touch the English and Scotch railways, with their £300.000,000 or £400,000,000 of capital, but in Ireland the value of the railways—according to Mr. Dargan—was less than £20,000,000. Their capital was £22,500,000. The original shares amounted to a little more than £13.000,000, and bonds and preferential shares to a little more than £9,000,000. The gross receipts for 1863 amounted to £1,518,000, against £30,000,000 in England and Scotland, and the working expenses were £750,000. The gross receipts from all the Irish railways last week were £26,800, whereas the receipts of the London and North Western Company alone for the same week were £101,000; those of the Great Western Company were £63,000; those of the North Eastern Company were £56,000; those of the Midland Company were £44,000 and those of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Company were £36,000. Therefore it must be obvious to the House that the comparative smallness of the Irish railway question gave the House a practical control over it, which they could hardly expect to exercise over the English and Scotch railways. What were the complaints made against the Irish system. The charges made for passengers on the Irish railways were as high, and the charges for goods in many cases were considerably higher than the corresponding charges in England. Heavy goods, for instance, cost more from Dublin to the Limerick junction, a distance of about 100 miles, than from London to Manchester, a distance of 187 miles; and yet the railway fares in England were the highest in the world. Notwithstanding the poverty of Ireland, the Irish railway directors seemed to be enamoured of the English system of very high fares. He was not making an attack on the directors of the Irish railways. A railway director was a person to whom a certain number of shareholders intrusted their capital in order that he might make the most money for them he could with it; and if by carrying thirty passengers he 899 conceived that he could make more profit than by carrying 200 passengers, he was bound to carry the thirty in preference to the 200. But it was singular that the Irish railway directors should take such a different view of the effect of high prices from that acted on by all other persons who made money in Ireland. Let them look, for instance, at the monster shops. Did they sell enormously expensive articles, such as diamonds or rubies? Not at all. They sold a large number of ordinary articles at a low price, turning their capital over frequently, and thus earning a large aggregate profit. Then there was the great unendowed Church in Ireland. What great sums were spent upon churches, convents, and schools—sums so great that he was afraid almost that he should startle some hon. Gentlemen if he were to mention their amount. Were those sums made up of the hundreds or thousands subscribed by a few rich individuals? Not at all. They were raised from the pennies, the sixpences, and the shillings of the great body of the people. Was it not wonderful, that, with these examples before their eyes, Irish railway directors should still persevere in the system of high charges? No doubt by lowering rates they might lower their dividends for a short time—but for a very short time only? The extent of the infatuation under which they laboured in that respect was illustrated by a story which he heard only the other day. Lord Clancarty, being anxious to establish on the Midland Great Western Railway a system of low fares between, he believed, Athlone and Galway, went to the directors and offered to guarantee them against any loss they might suffer; but the directors refused the proposal, and said they would continue to pursue the course which had reduced their shares to a considerable discount in the market. He would mention another evil of the present system. A small amount of railway capital in Ireland was divided among a great many companies. Between Belfast and Dublin there were 113 miles of railway divided among three distinct companies, with three separate sets of directors, three separate sets of officials, and three separate sets of proprietors; and all these different bodies in their dealings with one another were actuated by that amount of charity which generally distinguished railway boards in their dealings with one another. That state of things operated most injuriously on the various interests of the 900 country. For example, in the neighbourhood of Limerick there were large mines affording an opportunity for the development of a considerable mineral traffic. A railway company was asked simply to put a station in a convenient place for that traffic; but they absolutely refused to do so, in the fear that another company might share the profits, leaving the minerals to be transported at a rate so high as to put a practical estoppel on the development of the resources of the district. Again, the cheap and expeditious conveyance of cattle was a matter of paramount importance, especially to the. South of Ireland; but the exorbitant charges of the railway companies precluded the graziers from using that mode of transport. He had received many letters from different parts of Ireland, all testifying to that effect. A gentleman of great intelligence, Mr. Cooper, writing from the South of Ireland, stated that Kerry sent annually thousands of cattle by road that would never walk a mile if the railway rates were sufficiently low. In Meath and Carlow, and every other county, the same sort of exclusion was practised. The graziers either walked their cattle or sent them by canal. The same observation applied to flour and corn—no pound of corn or flour ever passed by railway to the great flour mills at Croom in the county of Limerick. He might give another illustration of the present system of railway management. In order to facilitate the traffic between Limerick and Dublin Parliament passed the Bird Hill and Roscrea line, but not a single passenger went on that line from Limerick to Dublin, and this all because a few miles of the line belonged to a company with which the Great Southern and Western did not agree. Thus the intentions of the Legislature had been completely frustrated. Now, it was not quite fair to talk about self-reliance when the people were deprived of the simple and cheap means of carrying their cattle to market. This was by no means carrying out the principle of free trade. These small monopolizing companies had all the vices of despots; they apparently did all they could to thwart the development of the traffic; and how anybody could say that they must be maintained for the sake of free trade he could not understand. If the cost of transit could be abolished surely that would promote free trade. If the products of different 901 hemispheres and zones could be brought together without cost of transit that would be the very realization of the idea of free trade; and so also in a proportionate degree would any measure that tended to reduce the expense of conveying cattle and other produce to market. If the railway charges in Ireland were brought down to the Belgian scale, or to something less than one-half of their present amount, the effect upon the trade and prosperity of the country would be like the touch of a magician's wand. If a farmer sending his cattle to market was enabled to do for 10s. what now he could not do under 30s. what an advantage that would be to the Irish producer! Then take the case of manufactures. One of the difficulties in the way of establishing manufactures in Ireland was the price of coal; and if they could reduce the price of coal and the cost of carriage of it to the same rate as it was in Belgium or Westphalia, they would do more to develop manufactures in Ireland than they could do by any other single step they could take. The Irish system of railways was capricious in regard to the cost of carrying coal. The cost to Bray was 1½d. a ton, to Wick-low somewhat less, to Athy 1d., while to Maynooth it was no less than 2d. What crime the Duke of Leinster, or the inhabitants, or the College of Maynooth had committed to subject them to this high impost he did not know. One of the German railway companies which had reduced the rates to one half-penny per mile per ton had raised its dividend from 7 to 12½ per cent. The bondholders and preference shareholders in Ireland had about 5 per cent on £10,000,000. If the Government took up the railways in that country they could get the money at 3 or 3¼ per cent; and in that way alone a saving of about £150,000 a year would be effected. Mr. Dargan stated his opinion that if the railways were placed under a central management a saving in the working expenses might be effected of £200,000 a year; and, at all events, there could be no doubt that it would produce a considerable saving—Establishment charges now amounted to 49 per cent. Mr. Dargan further stated that a reduction of rates would not be attended with loss as the traffic would be increased. These statements Mr. Dargan was prepared to substantiate before a Committee. He should now show the House from an experiment tried on a small railway—the Foynes line 902 —what effect an increase of charges bad upon the traffic of a railway. In 1862 the Foynes Company raised their rates from 3s. 10d. to 4s., from 2s. 9d. to 3s., and from 1s. 8d. to 2s. for the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd class respectively. In the year ending in 1862, before the increase took place, the total number of passengers was 87,256; in 1863, after the change took place, it was 71,383; and in 1864 it fell to 63,046. Let them observe the effect of this very small increase of fares. The experiment had also been tried in Great Britain. Mr. Gait, who had written a very able book on railways, stated that at the time of the Manchester Exhibition, when the London and North Western and the Great Northern Companies were competing, first-class passengers were carried to Manchester and back for 7s. 6d., and second-class for 5s.; the whole expense of the train was 50 guineas, while its receipts were £174. The contest lasted with great benefit to the public all the summer, and the dividends only fell ½ per cent. The contest between the South Eastern and the Great Western Railways to Reading lasted about a year and a half. While it continued passengers were carried a distance of 67 miles at 3s. first-class and 2s. second, ten times as much being charged in proportion of other parts over the lines, yet where the fares were lowest there was an average profit of 250 per cent upon the cost of running every train. When the Edinburgh and Glasgow and Caledonian lines quarrelled they carried passengers between Edinburgh and Glasgow, a distance of 46 miles, for 1s. 9d., and 6d., and the Caledonian line only suffered a loss of ½ per cent dividend by the reduction, which was equal to one-eighth of the ordinary charge, though there was a division of traffic at the same time that the reduction was in operation. He asked that the experiment which had been made in Belgium and Germany should be tried in Ireland. In 1838 the population of Brussels, Malines, and Antwerp was 232,960, the population of Liverpool, Manchester, and Warrington was 523,000. The number of passengers between Liverpool and Manchester before the railway opened was 164,250 per annum; the number that went by railway in 1836, at 6s. and 4s. fares, was 523,000, being an increase of 218 per cent. The number of passengers yearly, before the opening of the railway between Brussels and Antwerp, the fares of the Belgian diligences being about one- 903 half those of the English coaches, was 80,000. The number of railway passengers between those two towns, excluding those who stopped at Malines, was 781,250, showing an increase of 876 per cent, the railway fares being 2s. 6d. and 1s. Here was a comparison between Belgium and the busiest part of the United Kingdom, It might be said that in Belgium there was a population of 420 to the square mile, while in Ireland it was only 185 to the square mile; and therefore that the analogy of Belgium did not apply to Ireland; but he would take a country—Prussia—in which it was still lower, namely, 156 to the square mile, and he would take a railway which ran through agricultural districts, in which the wages of the people were not very different in amount from those which were paid in Ireland. In that country the whole of the people availed themselves of the railways—even the poor market women carried their fruit by railway. It might be said that Irish railways were made at a greater cost than foreign railways, although obviously the original cost of the railway did not touch the questions they were considering, but that was not so. The railway from Cologne to Minden, which with its branches was about 330 miles long, cost £28,000 per mile. The Belgian railways cost from £18,000 to £19,000 per mile, and the Irish railways £13,000 per mile. On the Cologne Railway the charge by the first-class, which was used by Princes and Englishmen only, was 1½d. per mile. The charge by the second-class—used by those who in this country would use the first-class—by the Cologne line was 1d. per mile, and by the third-class, answering to our second, the charge was only three farthings per mile. Our lowest class was 1d. per mile, whereas the fourth-class fare on the German line was only three-eighths of a penny per mile. That railway in 1858 paid 7 per cent. There was then a considerable reduction in the charge for the transport of goods, and the result had been a dividend of 12¼ per cent. It might be argued that this increase of traffic arose in a great degree from coal, and that the Westphalian railways abutted on a coal field, while there was but little coal in Ireland; but it should be remembered that, practically, the Irish railways abutted on the English coal fields, and that just as Westphalian coal at low transit prices flowed into the agricultural districts of Prussia and Hol- 904 land, English coal would certainly be sent in immense quantities into Ireland, where turf was now scarce, and was certainly in most places dearer to burn than coal would be with low railway rates. In Belgium last year a reduction was made in the parcel traffic, which was so very successful that a Bill was before the Legislature for reducing the rates still lower; and what was the financial result? The Belgian shareholder was making 5½ per cent. So successful had these low fares been that in 1884 the shareholders would be paid off, and the lines in the hands of the Government, who might use the railways as they thought fit, and who would be able to run trains at the cost price of travelling. Why should we not imitate such an example? It might be asked what system he would adopt in lieu of the present. He thought it a great misfortune that the recommendations of the Commissioners, Sir John Burgoyne, Sir R. Griffith, and Mr. Drummond, had not been acted upon with reference to the railways. But the evil had been done. The railway system had been productive of less benefit than was expected to Ireland, and it was placed in the hands of conflicting companies, whose Boards agreed in an enthusiastic devotion to high rales, and he saw no way out of the difficulty but in the purchase of the railways by the Government. What they ought to do was to introduce a measure giving the Government the railways for a period of, say, live or seven years, which would enable them to put the whole system on a proper basis. They might then divide the whole country as France was divided into certain zones north, south, east, and west—and let the railways out to companies on condition that low rates and fares were introduced and maintained. By that means they would get rid of the difficulty. Government management for a short period was not likely to work badly; for in a matter of this kind they would take good care to select the best men to administer the system. Such a change would confer enormous benefit on Ireland. The first result would be to effect a reduction in railway fares to one-half or one-third of their present amount, which would be equivalent to a remission of taxation of somewhere about £1,000,000 a year. But that would by no means measure the benefit to the country from the increased development of its resources which would necessarily follow from its being brought into close contact 905 with the markets of England. What but nearness to, or distance from, the best markets made the difference there was between the West and East of Ireland. Even in the first year he did not think the public Treasury would lose anything considerable, not more, probably, than from £200,000 to £300,000 a year. But the benefit to the country would be immense. If it was put to him whether he would prefer the abolition of the income tax or the measure proposed, he would without hesitation say, give Ireland this cheap mode of transit by railways. He thought he had shown that the case of Ireland was quite distinct from that of England and Scotland, and ought to be considered by itself. He believed if they adopted his proposition they would confer the greatest possible benefit on every class and every portion of the country. He now left the question in the hands of the House. He looked with great anxiety to the result of the debate, and he hoped the Chancellor of the Exchequer would be able to agree to his proposition. He was quite indifferent as to the means—the end he desired was low fares and more centralized management. The whole of the people of Ireland were in favour of the proposal, and no greater benefit could be conferred by the House upon Ireland than the granting of this Motion.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Commissioners appointed to inquire into the Railway System of the United Kingdom may be instructed to direct their inquiries, in the first instance, to the Irish Railway System, with a view of ascertaining, with as little delay as possible, such facts as may enable this House to determine whether the provisions of the second clause of the General Railway Act of 1844, should be applied to such Irish Railways as are subject to its provisions,"—(Mr. Monsell,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. WHITESIDE
said, in seconding the Motion, that he thought the House was indebted to the right hon. Gentleman for the great pains he had bestowed on this subject, fie had discharged a paramount duly to his country in bringing it forward. The size of the question naturally attracted their attention, and it more particularly deserved the notice of the House because it was not calculated to en- 906 courage any delusive expectations. He agreed that if it should appear on a full and careful inquiry that it could be carried out it would confer on Ireland very great advantages. We had arrived at a crisis in the history of railway legislation. The reason for the passing of the wise and statesmanlike Act of 1844 was, he understood, given in the words of the Committee who reported previous to the passing of the Bill. That Committee said it was material to observe that in this country what was called the "high fare system" ordinarily prevailed, and that the average charge for railway communication—which fell principally on trade and commerce—was very much higher than in other countries where railways had been established. That there was no early prospect of a general reduction of the charge under the present system of independent companies; and if the experiment of reducing the charge were tried, the results, it was believed, would not be very unfavourable upon immediate returns. The words of the Act which was passed subsequent to the Report of this Committee were very important, as they preserved to the House the power of considering what course it would be politic to adopt after an experience of twenty years of the system of railway management. It would be improper to ask the House to apply any other principle to the consideration of the railway system in Ireland than that asserted in a very wise section of the Act of 1844. Upon the grounds, then, of general and national policy would it be wise to exercise the power retained by the Government? It was said that a railway was as necessary to our existence as the air we breathed. It was ridiculous to speak of a railway as we would of any other road or highway. He thought we had suffered a great misfortune by Parliament having neglected the recommendations of a Commission in 1837 which was appointed to investigate and report upon a plan upon which the Irish railways should be conducted. A useful Bill was afterwards moved by Lord George Bentinck, but not being supported by the Irish Members was lost. The Report stated that it was the favourite opinion of many that undertakings of this description (railways) were best left to the free and unfettered exercise of private enterprize, and that the less the State interfered either in making exactions before begun or in controlling their subsequent management 907 the better. They (the Commissioners) were duly sensible of the great advantages to be obtained by allowing full scope to the capital and enterprize of individuals associated for such important purposes, but they apprehended that the difference between railways and any other description of public works had been overlooked, and the peculiar privileges which had been granted to them—privileges which should be exercised only under authority, effective superintendence, and control. It was important to observe the distinction. It was a very different thing asking the Government to take upon itself the management of the railways, and calling upon it to exercise a wise and politic control. The possession of a railway and the management of it as a trading company were very different to exercising that control which was intended by the Act of 1844. The two things were quite distinct. The exercise of that control would not lay the Government open to an imputation of unwise intermeddling with trading companies that could be otherwise made. The body of gentlemen to which he had referred said that—So great were the powers, so vast the capabilities of a railroad, that it must, wherever established, at once supersede the conveyances by common road; and, consequently, while the railway facilitated traffic, it destroyed other modes of conveyance.Towards the close of the Report the monopoly which railway companies obtained was referred to, while they were subjected to little or no external regulation or control. A most extensive monopoly had been established that could keep the intercourse of the country entirely at its command. The rate of speed, the hours for running, the number of journeys in the day, and the charge were all at the discretion of the railway companies, and whatever extravagant expenditure might be incurred in the construction or management of the lines it all fell upon the public. The Report then proceeded to say that it might have been well if we had looked at what had been done in other countries—in France, Belgium, and other places—before committing ourselves to the present system. In England alone were the main lines of intercourse committed to the management of individuals almost unconditionally and without control. This had arisen from the suddenness with which the railway system was pressed upon this country. What, then, was asked by the present 908 Motion? A Railway Commission, composed of eminent and competent persons, had been issued by the Government. It would be unwise to ask for a different body, and the only thing sought by the right hon. Gentleman who had brought this present Motion forward was that, the Irish railway question having reference only to a comparatively small extent of country, and requiring immediate and speedy relief, the Commissioners should take that first into their consideration. Although the book to which the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Monsell) had referred was written by an Irishman, there was only one observation in the volume having reference to Ireland. It was a remarkable book, and most interesting. In truth, railways had almost a poetical interest, only sometimes one was obliged to say that they were not quite agreeable under the present system. He could confirm the experience of others, that directors had a very artful and ingenious and crafty mode of raising the fares whenever they could conveniently do so, and that, too, with a regularity and punctuality which deserved the description given by Mr. Galt, who stated that wherever there was a conflict between the interests of the public and the advantage of the directors, the directors always decided against the public and in favour of themselves. The one reference to Ireland in Mr. Gait's book was to the effect that the railway directors in Ireland entertained very favourably the scheme of the purchase of the railways by Government. That Ireland was in every respect more adapted for the railway system being under the control of Government than England, as there the people did not view the interference of Government with mercantile affairs with the same distrust as was felt in this country; and while in one country it might be desirable to confine the experiment to low fares and Government supervision of a few lines, in the other it might be extended with the consent of all classes, from the Giant's Causeway to Cape Clear, and from Connemara to the Hill of Howth. Therefore in no country was it more desirable to have the experiment tried than in Ireland. He (Mr. Whiteside) agreed with the writer, because the people of Ireland had suffered much inconvenience from the multiplication of companies there. Herapath's Railway Journal, while it appeared to be unfavourable to the scheme of the Government purchasing the railways in this country, was not opposed to it for Ireland, 909 because it was a poor country and the purchase of the railways, followed by a very low fare, would he a sort of fillip which might contribute to the welfare of the country and raise the value of the land. There were a great many small railway companies in Ireland. In the north there were no less than six, and the Belfast people were so exceedingly skilful that they carried their lines no further than they felt certain they would be remunerative, leaving it to wilder speculators to accommodate the districts behind. If therefore they wished to travel from Londonderry to the Northwest lines they had two or three companies always to deal with. The system would have been much worse had it not been for his noble Friend Lord Erne, who had invested large sums in different railways, and took an interest in the management of them. The universal opinion in Ireland was against the existence of these numerous companies, and it was amazing that men who outwardly looked reasonable, and talked and acted on other subjects like other people, should undertake to prove that in the short line of country between Dublin and Belfast it was useful to have three companies with three sets of directors and officials. Most people thought this an intolerable nuisance; and Mr. Dargan was of opinion that by a uniform management a saving of £200,000 a year might be effected. If that were so, and if it were true that the credit of the Government would make a difference of 1½ per cent to these lines, a great benefit would accrue, and it would be possible to operate at once with the consent of all parties. In the West of Ireland the management of the Western Railway was much complained of. The utmost amount of inconvenience which could be afforded to the public had been afforded by the directors, and the result was that the dividend of the unhappy shareholders was reduced to 2 per cent. The shareholders would be very glad to get rid of the directors, who, on their part, he supposed, would be willing to transfer their functions to those who could exercise them with greater advantage to the country. As to the Munster Railway, he wished to say nothing in its favour, and nothing particular against it, further than that he believed that a wise man would strike out four-fifths of these companies, and have a concentrated management, which would lead to the economical results referred to by Mr. Dargan. If the Great Western in England had amal- 910 gamated twenty-five companies, what difficulty would there be in extending the principle of amalgamation in Ireland? There was not a single interest which would not be benefited by such a change. For instance, at present within limited distances a railway was never used in Ireland for the transport of cattle. There must be a reason for this, and he believed it to be the absurd arrangements made by the company in respect of cattle transport. The results of this question might be summed up in a few words, which he believed to be irrefragable. While he admitted that the state of Ireland peculiarly required this measure, he thought that inquiry—which was all they asked for at present—should be conducted on general principles. The highways of the country were almost as necessary as the air; in old times he was thought a hero who made a road which would last for ever, and the making of these iron roads never ought to be monopolized by companies free from Government control. At the outset the present system was regarded as an experimental one; the Government of the day wisely reserved to themselves the right, at the expiration of twenty years, of revising the experimental system; and the terms of purchase stated in the Act were distinct, and ought to be satisfactory to those who had anything to sell. Of course it would be necessary to look narrowly to see that no job was perpetrated; but he believed that we should never have a reduction of fares commensurate with the wants of the country until some such step was taken. Moderate fares were the most remunerative; but if railway directors thought they could get as much money by carrying a few passengers at a high price a3 they could get by carrying a great many at a low price, they would relieve themselves from the inconvenience of carrying a great number. He could not see how this grievance was to be redressed, except by the control of the State. In Mr. Gait's book it was shown that in a case where the fares were reduced by 70 per cent it only made a difference of 1 per cent in the dividend. It was open to the State to make another set of railways at one third the cost of the present lines, and their competition would destroy all the existing lines; but that would be a very unjust and unwarrantable thing, and therefore nothing remained but some such course as the Act of 1844 had pointed out. His right 911 hon. Friend had not mentioned the analogy of the penny postage; and, though the same results might not follow the adoption of cheap fares, we might fairly borrow a principle from a great experiment that had been successfully tried. It was not his place to point out the modus operandi, or how this great and useful project was to be worked out; this might be better done by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. But he would say a word to hon. Gentlemen on the other side who had the other night supported the Motion for inquiry of a similar kind to that now sought in regard to property in Ireland. Instead of searching about for trivial causes to explain the condition of the south and west of Ireland, why not admit at once what was perfectly plain—that before the adoption of free trade Ireland enjoyed a monopoly, was benefited by that monopoly, and that change of policy had led to the results now witnessed? This was indisputably true, and he did not mention it for any unworthy purpose. Adam Smith himself admitted that sometimes where laws which theoretically appeared unsound had been allowed to exist for a long period of time, and great interests had grown up in consequence, a sudden change would lead to results more lamentable than the evils which would follow from the maintenance of those laws. At present there was a vast trade in the import into Ireland of the daily bread of the people; that was something to be remembered. Free trade legislation might be proved to be a great and signal benefit to the Empire; but if the consequences of that legislation had led to distress in certain parts of Ireland, the Legislature should try to confer some proportionate advantage upon the country where this could be done without violating the rules of political economy or perpetrating any gross job. His belief was, that that was the desire of the House. At the same time, he did not wish it to be supposed that the condition of the whole country had been accurately described by hon. Gentlemen who had addressed the House on a former occasion. Last autumn he had seen a good deal of the country. Beginning at Fermanagh, he had gone to Derry. stretched round the coast to Belfast, passed to Armagh, Neath, Carlow, Wexford, and other places, and according to his observation there was a conspicuous improvement in many parts of the country. As the right hon. Gentleman (Sir Robert 912 Peel) had said, there had also been very great improvements in Dublin—the approaching Exhibition was a proof of this. And if, in the districts which had suffered most from free trade, a plain, practical benefit like that now proposed were conferred upon all classes, it would be received in Ireland as a proof of the beneficent spirit which animated this House, and would make the Irish people sensible—and the debates of this Session showed that they ought to be sensible—of the pains and anxiety with which the House listened to every proposal calculated to be of the smallest practical service to that country.
§ MR. SCULLY
said, that he took great interest in this question, so much so that he had some time since solicited an interview with the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer upon the subject. The question could not, either directly or indirectly, be regarded as involving any party considerations, and he should be, therefore, very much surprised if any hon. Member representing an Irish constituency opposed the Motion. It would be for the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer to consider whether the question was one which should be immediately dealt with, or whether, as usual, it should be postponed for some future treatment. The Commissioners certainly ought, in his opinion, to direct their attention first of all to Ireland, because, though that country would, no doubt, receive immediate benefit, England also would derive permanent advantage from such a course. The experiment might first be tried in Ireland, and if successful might be extended to England; while in case of failure, on the other hand, the latter country would be able to avoid adopting any course which had been found unsatisfactory. In the Commission which had been appointed the Irish element appeared to have been lost sight of, in fact the noble Lord at the head of the Government usually excluded Irishmen from the Cabinet and from Commissions. Out of fourteen Commissioners there were seven English and one Scotch Members, but not one hon. Gentleman who represented a constituency in Ireland. The only Irishman on the Commission was the Earl of Donoughmore. He quite believed that the proposed reduction of railway fares would be of greater advantage to Ireland than even the abolition of the income tax. The right hon. Gentleman the 913 Chancellor of the Exchequer owed something to Ireland, because during the time that the right hon. Gentleman had been in office the taxation of that country had been very nearly doubled. No doubt the people would benefit very much by a reduction in the charges for passengers and goods, but such a reduction would hardly meet with much favour from the railway companies, because it was very possible that with high fares and few passengers a railway company might return to its shareholders a dividend of 10s. per cent more than it would do if conducted on a reduced tariff. He could quite understand that the doubling of the traffic on a railway would have the effect of enormously increasing the trouble and work of the officials, who, in the case of the experiment failing, would be blamed by the shareholders for want of judgment, and in case of success would receive neither credit nor benefit. Mr. Gait and others had shown that by a little temporary sacrifice there would be an ultimate gain to the Government. It was proposed to reduce the charges on goods to something like one-third of their present rate; to reduce the fares of third-class passengers to one farthing; second class to one half-penny; and first class to three farthings a mile. Even were there a pecuniary loss, he apprehended that the Chancellor of the Exchequer could in some way deal with the question. It was suggested that the loss to England would be one-seventh of the gross traffic, and to Ireland of £250,000 annually. There were three or four ways by which the Government might deal with the question, and by which the reduction of fares might be effected. For instance, the Government might say to any railway in Ireland, "Reduce your fares and we will indemnify you for the loss, if there be any; while the gain, should there be a gain, shall be your own." There was another scheme, of paying over a certain sum to the railways in consideration of their adopting a low tariff under Government supervision. Or there was another, and perhaps a better plan, and it was this that the Chancellor of the Exchequer should purchase the Irish railways altogether. The net profits of those railways for some years past were on an average £800,000 a year. In 1862 they were £748,000, and in 1863 £768,000. The whole system might be bought at 25 years' purchase for £20,000,000, and this country would not lose by the bargain. But the Chancellor of the Exchequer said the 914 Government ought not to give 20 millions for their purchase, because, amongst other things, it would lead to a vast amount of petty patronage. Such purchase would be an excellent thing for Irish shareholders, and it was well known that the Government could borrow at 3¼ per cent. Therefore the interest upon the£20,000,000 purchase money would not exceed £640,000, and supposing the Returns from the railways remained the same as now, there would be a profit from the transaction of £160,000 a year. By uniform management, however, there might be a saving of £50,000; or, in Mr. Dargan's opinion, of £200,000, and that would be so much additional gain. At present the Government paid £80,000 a year for conveyance of mails in Ireland, and a very large sum for carriage of troops and stores. All that might be saved, and it would not be too much to say that this country would be a gainer by the bargain which he recommended of from £350,000 to £500,000 a year. Now he would ask, had the Commissioners turned their attention at all to the subject of the railways of Ireland? He had reason to believe they had not. He wished to got rid of the present system altogether. If the Government should take the railways of Ireland into their hands, he should altogether object to their disposing of the consequent patronage according to their present system; and, indeed, he thought that other patronage besides that connected with railways should be disposed of in a judicial manner in open court, the reasons for the decisions arrived at being stated. As long as patronage remained nominally in the hands of the Crown, but really in the hands of the Ministers, the only satisfactory arrangement would be to require all appointments to be made in open court after examination of the competitors by competent judges. At present there was great dissatisfaction at the appointments made in connection with the Queen's Colleges, and people could not understand why it was that the most eminent men in Ireland were passed over. ["Question!"] He maintained that he was speaking strictly to the question, because the disposal of the patronage was an important element in the consideration of a proposition to hand over the railways to Government control. The present mode of managing railways was very unsatisfactory. It was notorious that Boards of Directors were always fighting for what they termed their section of country; 915 and their fares were either low or high as competition existed or not. Where there was no competition there were very high and even prohibitory rates; where there was competition very low rates prevailed. He had endeavoured to ascertain the traffic rates for goods on Irish railways, but had been unable to do so, as there were no printed rates, and the Companies charged just what they pleased—a policy which in the result was prejudicial to their own interests, as people would not send any goods but what they were compelled by necessity to send. The goods charges were higher now between Dublin and Tipperary than they were before railways were introduced, and the only advantage was that of increased expedition. The Chancellor of the Exchequer could not confer a greater benefit upon Ireland than by contriving some mode by which, without serious loss to the revenue, or only a temporary loss, the interchange of produce could be facilitated. That could only be done by reducing the fares, and the reduction of fares could only be effected by the intervention of the Government.
§ MR. ENNIS
said, that he trusted to the indulgence of the House while he addressed it for the first time. At first sight he was disposed to express his acquiescence in the spirit of the Resolution. He thought that inquiry would do good. But the more the existing state of Irish railways was inquired into the better, and the more honest the direction of those railways would be found to be. He had not, like other hon. Members, three methods to point out to the Chancellor of the Exchequer by which the mighty change that was contemplated might be accomplished; but in the language of the Mover of the Resolution, he would say that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would be a bold man if he sought to carry it into effect. After seriously considering the matter he had come to the conclusion that the traffic upon Irish railways could only be a very limited quantity. He was one of the pioneers of the railway system in Ireland in 1845–6, believing that railways were the best means of improving the condition of the country. He accordingly induced numbers of persons in Ireland to put their hands into their pockets and contribute to a result that promised so much success. The system at first promised to be most successful. Those expectations, he would admit, had not been realized, owing to the wretched state of 916 the country, not to any fault of the railway companies. He now felt bound to say, as a railway director, that notwithstanding every effort that had been made to regulate the fares and prices according to the traffic offered, the directors had been unable to augment that traffic to anything like a reasonable extent. Some anomalies of railway management had been flung at him, and he had been told that the Duke of Leinster, at Carton, near Maynooth, paid he did not know how many shillings a ton for the carriage of his coals. It was said that this happened because there was no competition at Maynooth. The fact was, however, that at this hamlet there was a most active competition between the railway and the canal. The rate charged for coals on the Midland Great Western Railway, over an extent of 300 miles, was only three farthings per ton per mile, and at that rate coals could hardly be carried with profit. Allusion had been made to the Earl of Clancarty, who was a director of the Midland Railway, and who, it was said, made a proposal to his brother directors that if they would reduce their rates and fares between Galway and Athlone to a certain minimum amount, he would pledge himself if there were loss to make up the deficiency. The directors, however, could not accept that offer without applying the same rates to the other portions of their railway, and there was no one to give a similar guarantee elsewhere. Having, however, done all in their power to assimilate the fares to the wants of the country, the directors were met by the fact that the traffic, as he had said, was a limited quantity, and could not be extended to anything like the amount necessary to make the reduction profitable. Mr. Gait, in his book, had made some very extraordinary proposals. He recommended that the fares should be reduced to an equality with those on the Belgian lines, to the extent of not less than two-thirds, so that the traveller would get for 6s. 8d. what he now paid £1 for. But when Mr. Gait made that proposal he forgot the Belgian railways were subsidized by the Government, and that they could afford to charge these low rates. He wished this system had been originally adopted in this country, and that the Government had taken into its hands the construction of all the lines. By this means competition would be avoided. What had competition done for Ireland? There were two railways 917 between Dublin and Athlone, a town of 6,000 or 7.000 inhabitants. The second railway was granted in 1857, when the Royal Duke at the head of the Horse Guards gave evidence of the value of Athlone as a military station. The Committee were told that nothing ought to induce them to reject the opportunity of opening a communication between the metropolis and Athlone, that great emporium for the military. What was the state of Athlone now? There were a barrack and thirty-five acres of land there, which were left in the care of half a battery of artillery and a few men to keep the barrack in order. The Great Southern and Western and the Midland Great Western Railways had similar and harmonious fares and rates, and the traffic managers were instructed not to lose any traffic that could be made remunerative. His experience was quite adverse to any such sweeping reduction of rates of traffic as had been before suggested; but he, for one, should be delighted if the Chancellor of the Exchequer would take under his protection the Irish railways, because everything he touched was turned into gold.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Before addressing myself to the Motion, there are two statements made in this discussion to which I feel bound to take exception. I cannot admit to the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Scully) that there has been any neglect of Ireland or Irish interests in the appointment of the Royal Commission. The hon. Gentleman says there are two or three Scotchmen on the Commission, but only one Irishman. He has investigated the question of nationality with an acuteness to which I cannot lay claim. We did not ascertain the birthplace of every Member of the Commission. But one Member of that Commission is a Peer of great ability (the Earl of Donoughmore) connected almost exclusively with Ireland. The Chairman of that Commission is a noble Duke, holding the first rank among Irish proprietors. Lord Stanley, another Member of the Commission, is directly and largeiy interested in Ireland; so that I think it can scarcely be said with justice that due regard was not, in the formation of the Commission, paid to that country. In noticing the observations which fell from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Whiteside), I am not about to utter a single word which could prejudice the final judgment of this House as to the question 918 whether it is or is not right or desirable that a pecuniary boon should be conferred by the United Kingdom at large on Ireland, or that any adjustment or re-settlement of the various questions connected with Irish taxation should not be at a fitting time undertaken. But I do protest against the assumption that there is a debt due from this country to Ireland on the specific ground that Ireland has been injured by the transition from a protective system to the system of free trade. Such an assumption I believe to be wholly and absolutely groundless. The right hon. Gentleman says that Ireland is importing wheat largely. What does that prove but the benefit which she derives from free trade?—because the price of wheat has, in consequence of free trade, greatly fallen. What does Ireland do with the land on which she formerly grew wheat? She raises oats upon it. Has the price of oats fallen owing to free trade? She raises flax and cattle. Has the price of either fallen because of free trade? For my own part, I think nothing is easier than to show the great advantages which Ireland has derived from the free trade system. I do not wonder, I may add, that several Gentlemen who have spoken in this debate have given great credit to my right hon. Friend the Member for Limerick (Mr. Monsell) for having called the attention of the House to a subject which is undoubtedly one of very great interest and importance. I am not surprised at my right hon. Friend's natural anxiety that the investigation of the circumstances and facts connected with Irish railways should not be postponed so as to come on as a mere postcript to a large and comprehensive inquiry. I am not prepared, on the part of the Government, to say that we could assent to the form of Address which he proposes, but I at the same time think it may be in my power to give him the assurance for which substantially he seems to me to ask, and that is that such measures that we can adopt we will adopt with the view of securing inquiry without delay into the circumstances of Irish railways. I entirely concur with my right hon. Friend in several of the propositions which he and others have laid down. It is quite true that the cost of railways is not the regulator of the rates of fares. It is true that it is hardly possible to estimate the advantages which low railway fares may confer on a country. It is true, as he has said, that the problem which he has raised, 919 and manfully confronted, to-night—the difficult and serious problem relating to the intervention of Government in the concerns of railways—is to a certain extent limited and simplified in Ireland by the particular circumstances in which she is placed. I even go a step further, and admit that if it should be the desire of the Imperial Parliament to confer a pecuniary boon on Ireland there would probably be no mode in which that boon could be conferred so free from all taint of partiality, and at the same time so comprehensive and effective in its application, as some measure taken with the view to secure to her the benefits of cheap railway transit. That is a proposition which I look upon as being of very great importance; but there is, I regret to say, a point in the speech of my right hon. Friend at which I must part company from him. He seems to be of opinion that if the Government were to become purchasers of railways in Ireland—a proposal of vast moment even in the case of Ireland alone, one on which I do not presume to give any opinion, and in the consideration of which it is my duty to reserve to myself and to the Government entire and absolute freedom—it would be necessary for us in the first instance to take upon ourselves the working of those railways. Now, I have no hesitation whatever in asserting the negative of that proposition. I contend that under no circumstances, and for no time, however limited, ought the working of any railway in the country to pass under the direct superintendence of the Government. I look upon the objections to any function of that kind being undertaken by them as so strong as at once to oppose a barrier, supposing it to be an essential part of the proposed plan, to any further consideration of the subject. It has been justly observed by my right hon. Friend that there are various modes in which the Government, if after examining the subject they should deem it desirable to do so, might intervene with the view to secure for this country, or for Ireland, as a portion of the Empire, the benefit of cheaper carriage and transit by railway. We might intervene by purchase, by means of a guarantee, by becoming creditors of railways, taking up the debts for which they are liable, and affording them the benefit of a lower rate of interest. That would have the effect of making a large addition to the net surplus available for dividends, and would enable the Government to make 920 better terms. We are not now, however, in a position to inquire into the merits or demerits of any one of these courses of proceeding; but I do not attach blame to any one that this discussion should have ranged over a wide field. We come, after all, to one question, and that is the question of investigation. Now, the expediency of investigating the facts, connected with our railway system generally has been admitted by the Government, the House, and the country at large. The question raised by my right hon. Friend is what place Irish railways ought to occupy in the inquiry, and he has made certain calculations of profit and loss which he thinks will follow the adoption of the measures which he recommends. He tells us, in general terms, that the gross receipts of Irish railways amount to £1,500,000; that of that sum £750,000, or 50 per cent, goes into the working expenses, and the remaining £750,000 is available for the satisfaction of debentures, preferential claims, and dividends on the ordinary shares. He thinks that if a reduction of fares and charges were made to one-third on an average of the present rate, the effect would be that the first loss consequent on the change would not be above £200,000 or £300,000 a year, and the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Scully) arrives at a somewhat similar conclusion. Now that, it appears to me, is a very sanguine Estimate. I am glad to hear that it is the opinion of a gentleman who is a great authority on the subject (Mr. Dargan) that a saving of £200,000 a year can be effected in the working charges of Irish railways. The hon. Member for Athlone (Mr. Ennis) who has just addressed the House—and I am sure we should all wish to hear him again—did not advert to that part of the case, but he does not, I apprehend, share in the sanguine notion that the working expenses can be reduced to about 30 per cent, on the gross receipts. This is, however, a material calculation in the proposal of my right hon. Friend, who also gives the Government credit for being able to borrow any sum of money at any ordinary time at the rate of 3 or 3¼ per cent, If, however, he will study the present prices of the Funds he will find it represents not very far short of 3½ per cent. I mention that in order to show that if in order to take up £8,000,000 or £9,000,000 of debenture debt and preferential shares we were to ask for a loan 921 of money to that amount we probably could not obtain it except at a rate exceeding 3½ per cent. The calculation, therefore, in this matter must not proceed on principles which are over-sanguine. But my right hon. Friend went on to speak of the important subject of the conveyance of coals, and he seems to think that a charge of ½d. a ton per mile might be taken as a fair and paying charge. I, however, apprehend that what would be a remunerative rate for the performance of the service depends on a great variety of circumstances which no general view could embrace. It depends on the quality of coals taken in the regular course of traffic, on the practicability of obtaining back freights of any kind, on the length of the journey, and on many other things. It would, therefore, be extremely unsafe for us if we were to allow ourselves to adopt or form any rapid conclusions with regard to the results to be achieved in a matter of this kind. I have admitted freely the great benefit which the reduction of fares and charges on railways is calculated to confer. The advantage accruing from it would, in my opinion, be enormous. It would pass with invigorating force through every fibre of the national system. But for that very reason let us not be seduced into any premature conclusions with respect to the cost at which that reduction could be effected. Nothing but the most minute, searching, and comprehensive investigation can possibly enable us to deal safely with a question of this kind. Being of that opinion we have committed it to the hands of gentlemen who will devote to it the time and labour which it demands, and I, for one, do not think it would be convenient for the public service that we should be tied down by the precise terms of the proposed Address. The proposition is that the Commissioners should be directed to turn their attention in the first instance to the Irish railway system. I apprehend, however, that they have already begun their investigation into the English system, and that they have proceeded to take vivá voce evidence with respect to it. It would, under those circumstances, I think, be inconvenient that we should ask Her Majesty to issue instructions which would have the effect of causing the Commission to break in upon the course of their proceedings, and to stop taking that evidence which has been already tendered. The Commission, if it thinks fit, may cause the facts relating to the Irish system to be collected' 922 at the same time as those relating to the English system. The facts of the Irish system are of a far simpler character than those of the English system; for we have not in Ireland those extremely complicated matters of controversy which arise in England from the greater density of population and the more intricate system of competition. What I propose is that my right hon. Friend should withdraw his Motion, and I, on the part of the Government, undertake to use such measures as may be in our power to attain the object he has in view—namely, the examination of all the facts of the Irish railway system without delay and without prejudice to any portion of the subject. At the same time I must beg my right hon. Friend to understand that I hold out no promise to him, because it is much better that the executive Government should not proceed to frame a conclusion which must be hypothetical, and may be delusive, before we are in possession of the facts of the case. By using every endeavour for the early collection of the facts, we shall take the course which will enable my right hon. Friend at the earliest possible moment to make any proposition to the House which he may think fit, or, in case we may feel ourselves enabled to move in the matter, he will be in a position to follow his own course with regard to our proposition should he be dissatisfied with it. With regard to the latter part of the Resolution, which relates to the specific object of enabling us to determine whether the second clause of the general Act of 1844 should be applied to such railways in Ireland as it may be applicable to, I do not go along with my right hon. Friend. I agree with some who have spoken in attaching value to that Act of 1844 as deciding the main question of right in favour of Parliament and the public, if policy and expediency should also unite in deciding us to deal with that Act. But speaking generally, and especially in the case of Ireland, if there were to be any dealing with railways it ought not to be confined to those railways which are subject to the Act. The natural course would be to exclude all idea of mere compulsion in this case, and I do not think a satisfactory measure could be adopted if it were forced upon reluctant bodies of shareholders. What would be more satisfactory would be that amicable communications should take place, that they should not be confined to particular portions, but should embrace the whole system of Irish railways. These my right hon. Friend may 923 think sufficient reasons for him not to press his Motion at the present time. I have every hope and confidence that the facts of the Irish railway system may be brought out within a reasonable period—I cannot say a very short time because this is a complicated matter—and placed before Parliament, so that hon. Gentlemen from Ireland may take any course on the subject which they may think their duty to their country dictates.
said, he wished to reply to the Chancellor of the Exchequer in respect to one point in which he thought the right hon. Gentleman had fallen into an error in consequence of having misconceived the intentions of his right hon. Friend the Member for Limerick. The Chancellor of the Exchequer seemed to be impressed with the idea that the Irish Members were asking for this measure as a boon to their country. That they utterly denied. They were asking for no boon, but as the highways of the country were the rights of the subjects, they asserted that it was as much the duty of the Government to protect the subject in the enjoyment of the means of travelling as in any other privilege that necessarily belonged to him. There could be no doubt that this was one of the most important questions affecting Ireland that could be brought under consideration at the present moment. The question had been introduced to the House in a most lucid and unanswerable speech by his right hon. Friend the Member for Limerick (Mr. Monsell). Under the present railway system the people of Ireland were almost deprived of the benefits to which they were entitled of travelling from place to place. It was proved that in Belgium persons were conveyed by railway at about one-third of the rate charged for the same distance in Ireland; nevertheless, the Belgian proprietors had much larger profits. The history of our railways in England proved the same fact. Some time ago, when a great competition existed, the London and North Western Railway Company reduced their fares for a distance of 340 miles from 60s. first-class, and 40s. second-class, to 7s. 6d. and 5s. respectively. And what was the result? Why, there was only a loss of 10s. per cent. That example was sufficient to show that low fares generally increased the dividend by the immense augmentation of the traffic which such a step was sure to produce. In his own country the Foynes Railway had at one time increased their fares for a certain dis- 924 tance from 3s. 6d. to 4s. The consequence was a great falling-off in the traffic. The directors, seeing the error they had committed, reduced their fares, and from that moment the traffic had considerably increased. The great evil they had to contend against in Ireland was the jealousy and want of co-operation between the different lines of railway. He had himself been a director of one or two small railways, and he had found that owing to that jealousy the larger lines took every means to prevent the smaller lines from developing the traffic which they otherwise could do. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had given a most satisfactory promise that the interests of Ireland should be consulted at the same time as those of England and Scotland; but he could not see the necessity for that elaborate and protracted investigation which the right hon. Gentleman appeared to anticipate. It was now twenty-one years since this subject was first mooted. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, who was the President of the Committee which sat upon the subject in 1844, introduced a Bill in that year which he carried through Parliament. All the anticipations then expressed by the right hon. Gentleman from that measure had since been more than realized. He stated that there was no likelihood that the experiment of the greatest possible cheapness to the public would be tried under the present system; and as it had not been tried during the last twenty-one years it was not probable that the public would obtain the benefit of such an experiment in the future. Also in remarking upon the receipts of the railway companies, which were then only £5,000,000, he said he did not think he was extravagant in his expectations when he anticipated an increase of receipts to £15,000,000 in some few years hence, and dwelt upon the importance of having a Government supervision of so large an expenditure. Well, the receipts now amounted to £36,000,000 a year—being much more than double what the right hon. Gentleman had anticipated. This was a question deserving the best consideration of the Government, who could perform no worthier act than to take into their hands the supervision of those railways. When the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Whiteside) spoke of the prosperous state of the country through which he passed in his tour last autumn, it should be recollected that he had avoided altogether the southern and western districts of Ire- 925 land, where misery of the most extreme character prevailed. Now he (Colonel Dickson) believed that nothing would lead more to the reduction of that misery than the development of the resources of the country by means of railways with low fares and under the supervision of the Government. In his own part of the country there were some millowners who were obliged still to send their produce by means of ordinary cars and carts over the old roads instead of by railway. All the Irish Members asked was that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would but carry out those views in respect to Ireland which he had expressed twenty-one years ago.
§ MR. LEFROY
said, he could not let the debate close without expressing his heartfelt gratification at the mode in which this subject had been treated. It was most satisfactory that the peculiar circumstances of Ireland in reference to its railway system should have been considered in such an admirable spirit and temper by hon. Members on both sides of the House. The Irish Members especially owed the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Limerick (Mr. Monsell) a deep debt of gratitude for the able and argumentative manner in which he had brought this question under the consideration of the House. He (Mr. Lefroy) must also express his satisfaction at the way in which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had treated this question, which filled him with hope for the future. He quite concurred with the right hon. Gentleman in the objection which he entertained to the Government undertaking the management of railways, though it would be well if they would to a limited extent undertake their control.
§ MR. MONSELL
said, that after the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, which was all that he wished for, he could not have the slightest hesitation in withdrawing the Motion.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.