§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ SIR COLMAN O'LOGHLEN
, in moving the second reading of this Bill, explained that its objects were twofold. Its first object was to prevent railway companies from suspending railway communication in the districts in which they had their lines at their own discretion on Sundays; and the second was to provide for third-class accommodation between places lineally connected by railways, belonging to two different companies, and to give the public the same accommodation they would have if the whole length of line belonged to one company. On the former head he might state that he brought in a similar measure last Session; but the hon. Member for Water-ford (Mr. Blake) opposed it then, as he intended doing now, and it was lost by a majority of only three in a House of eighty-five Members. The Irish Members present, however, with only four exceptions, supported the Bill—a rather rare case of general agreement among them—and its defeat was occasioned by no less than eighteen out of the fifty-three Scotch representatives 244 combining to oppose it. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had said that while Ireland ought to be governed in Imperial matters in an Imperial spirit, yet in local matters the feeling of the people ought to be consulted; and therefore he (Sir Colman O'Loghlen) thought he had a right to complain of Scotch Members thus forcing their peculiar views on the observance of the Sabbath into a question which solely affected Ireland, and where those views were not generally sympathized with. He trusted that on the present occasion this purely Irish Bill would not be defeated by a combination of the Scotch Members. Up to 1862 every railway in Ireland ran Sunday trains; but in that year the Waterford and Limerick company suddenly resolved to discontinue them. The consequence was that nobody could leave the county of Clare between four o'clock on Saturday afternoon and eight o'clock on Monday morning, nor Limerick between ten o'clock on Saturday night and ten o'clock on Monday morning; and the directors persisted in this course, notwithstanding the inconvenience it caused and the indignation which it evoked, the corporation of Limerick unanimously memorializing the directors against the measure, but without effect. Notwithstanding all remonstrances the company continued to close the line up to the present time, and unless Parliament interfered it would remain so. His Bill enacted that every railway company in Ireland that carried passengers during six days of the week should be obliged to run one train each way on Sundays, unless excused by the Board of Trade. By a Return dated June, 1864, it appeared that out of thirty-five railways in Ireland thirty-two ran Sunday trains, and only three did not. It was contended that the Legislature ought not to interfere with railway management; but it had been found necessary for Parliament to interfere in many ways, either for the safety or the convenience of the public. Then it was alleged that the companies had discontinued the Sunday traffic because they lost money by it. The House had been told on a former occasion that the average number of passengers on the Limerick and Waterford line on Sundays was only twenty-five, and that the directors, in stopping the Sunday trains had only interfered for the benefit of the shareholders. But, from a Return which had been made to the order of the House, it appeared that the total number of passengers conveyed on Sundays during the year 1860 was 11,953; in 1861, 245 11,471; in 1862, 10,613; while the average number of tickets on Sundays in those years was 230, 221, and 204 respectively. It was stated on good authority (Mr. Gait) that the cost of a railway train per mile was from 1s. 4¼d. to 1s. 4¾d., but to a company who worked a line six days in a week he was assured the cost of a Sunday train did not exceed 1s. per mile. Assuming, however, that the cost of a train was 1s. 6d. a mile, the cost of a single train each way from Limerick to Waterford would be £11 11s. 6d., while the Returns showed that while Sunday trains did run on the Waterford and Limerick line the average receipts were £22 0s. 6d. every Sunday: so that the receipts almost doubled the expense of the train. He denied, therefore, that the real ground for stopping the Sunday train was that it involved a pecuniary loss. But then, it was said, why impose such a law upon railway companies in Ireland and not in England and Scotland? His answer was that the House ought to legislate ac cording to the wants and feelings of each country. There was no necessity for legislation of this character in England or Scotland; but in Ireland the necessity clearly existed. Moreover, the State could interfere with more propriety with Irish than with English or Scotch railways. The Irish railways had been made either by loans or the assistance of Government money. Many of the railways had received remission from the Government in the shape of the rate of interest, and the Government were, there fore, entitled on behalf of the public to make conditions with them. The National Gallery was open in Dublin on Sundays, and so were the Botanical Gardens, because they received Government support. Even in Scotland during the last few years the North British Railway had run Sunday trains, and during the last summer a Sun day train had run between Edinburgh and Glasgow, It was enacted in 1844 that if English railway companies ran trains on week-days they must run a Parliamentary train on Sunday. In 1844 the late Dr Arnold was asked to sign a requisition against the running of a Sunday train on the Midland Railway. He refused, and pointed out that the Christian Lord's Day was a different thing from the Jewish Sabbath, and was to be observed in a different manner. Dr. Arnold, indeed, thought it right that fewer trains should be run on Sundays than on other days, and he said he would cheerfully support the requisitionists in representing that only one train should 246 be run each way, but he could not consent to suspend the means of traffic for twenty-four hours. Short was the triumph of this Bill. It had been said that 880 officers of the Limerick and Waterford Railway were employed on these Sunday trains; but such a calculation on a line of 140 miles long was absurd. It was desirable that for cases of business, of mercy, or of Governmental action, one train at least should be run on Sundays; and, in the case of a county of 250,000 people, was he to be told that they were to be shut out from communication with the outer world from Saturday afternoon until Monday morning? The English Society for the Due Observance of the Sabbath expressed its acknowledgments to his lion. Friend (Mr. Blake) for the share he had taken in throwing out this Bill last Session. His hon. Friend, in acknowledging the compliment, attributed his success to the cooperation the Society had obtained for him from those hon. Members who had conscientious objections to the running of railway trains on Sundays. The Sabbath Alliance of Scotland had petitioned against this Bill on the ground that legislation on this subject was totally unnecessary. He might place reliance on what the Sabbath Alliance said if they told him what was necessary for Scotland, but he objected to receive them as authorities in regard to Ireland Various petitions had been presented against the Bill from Ireland, but they proceeded in all cases from some Presbyterian congregation, and he had no doubt that every one of these petitions had been sent out by the Sabbath Alliance. With regard to the second object of the Bill, it was a great hardship that a poor man could not always get a through third-class ticket between places not very distant from each other if the continuous line belonged to different companies, so as to enable him to make his journey in one day as first and second-class passengers were allowed to do, but was, in many cases, obliged to break the journey and sleep midway, unless he chose to travel second class The fact was, that third class passengers were not treated well in Ireland. They were charged the maximum of fare and received the minimum of accommodation. This was a gross mistake on the part of the railway companies, for while the third-class passengers in England were only 30 per cent of the whole, the third-class passengers in Ireland were 40 per cent. In some cases railways in Ireland had made travelling more expensive 247 than it used to be to the labouring classes. They used to be able, for example, to get from Ennis to Limerick for 1s. by one of Bianconi's cars. Now the cars were driven off the road, and third-class passengers between those two places were charged 2s. The Bill might, no doubt, be amended in some respects in Committee, but he trusted the House would accept the principle of the Bill by reading it a second time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Sir Colman O'Loghle.)
§ MR. BLAKE
said, the hon. and learned Baronet had stated that when that Bill was last brought forward it was not resisted by more than four Irish Members, and that the bulk of the opposition offered to it came from the Scotch Members. On the present occasion, it was probable there would be an increase in the number of Irish Members who would vote for the Amendment which he was himself about to move. A considerable number of petitions—nearly 150 he believed—had been presented from Ireland against the Bill upon various grounds; but even if the whole of the petitioners had been influenced by a desire for the observance of the Sabbath, that fact would not disentitle them to the attention of the House. The hon. Baronet had not been able to procure a single petition from his own county (Clare) in favour of his measure; neither had the activity of the hon. and gallant Member for Ennis nor that of the hon. Member for Limerick been able to elicit one from their districts. The whole expression of opinion which they had from Ireland was, therefore, adverse to the Bill, than which a more unjust and unnecessary piece of ex post facto legislation was never submitted to that House. If there was any good argument in favour of compelling railway companies to run trains on Sundays, why did the hon. Baronet confine his measure to Ireland, and not make it extend to the entire United Kingdom? There were 800 miles of railway in England, over which there was no travelling on Sunday; while in Ireland there were 250; and in Scotland there were very few lines indeed which ran trains on that day. All the Irish railway companies had undertaken to spend the money of the shareholders upon certain conditions; they had obtained their Acts of Parliament after keen contests before Select Committees, where every condition which the Legislature thought fit to impose was imposed upon 248 them; and it would, therefore, be exceedingly hard, after a large amount of their capital had been devoted to the construction of these lines, now to expose them to a species of legislation which would not be tolerated in England or Scotland. There were, moreover, many reasons for running Sunday trains in England and Scotland which did not apply to Ireland. There was hardly an English line that did not pay, while the Irish lines pointed at by the hon. Baronet were, with one exception, not paying their working expenses; and the consequence of that Bill would be to place those unprofitable lines in a still more ruinous position. One Irish line that had been constructed at a cost of from £15,000 to £20,000 per mile had, owing to the want of traffic, to be shut up; and therefore those who were so anxious that the people should have facilities for Sunday travelling ought to be careful that they did not deprive them of railway communication altogether. The Foynes and Ennis railways, which had been alluded to, were not paying their working expenses during the six days they now ran, and if a seventh losing day were added it would put the shareholders in a still worse position. So far from the Waterford and Limerick Company not having been willing to accommodate the public on Sundays, a resolution was passed by the Board in favour of running on Sundays, provided it entailed no loss. The experiment was accordingly tried, and the result was that the Sunday receipts in the winter months fell short of the working expenses. The earnings of the company were made up of the receipts from the summer excursions. The allusion which he had formerly made to only twenty-five passengers travelling by the line had reference not to the summer, but to the winter months, when the traffic had to be given up by reason of the loss it entailed. The minimum cost of running one train on Sundays as proposed would be 2s. 6d. per mile, not 1s. as stated by the hon. Baronet. Last year he had said that the number of employés who would be deprived of their weekly day of rest by that Bill would be 800 on the Waterford and Limerick Railway and the other lines; and he now found by a statement forwarded to him from the companies that the number was 823. The hon. Baronet said it would not be necessary to employ the whole of them; but the secretary stated that the bulk of them would be required; and it was obvious that about as many 249 guards, signalmen, &c, would be needed to secure the due and safe conveyance of the public on a day when only one train was run as when there were two or three trains. Why, then, should 800 hardworking persons lose their weekly holiday for the sake of some twenty-five individuals who could probably travel quite as well on Saturday or Monday? Having quoted from several speakers in the former do bates on that subject in support of his arguments, the hon. Member referred to the Royal Commission which bad been appointed to inquire into the railways of the United Kingdom, and appealed to the hon. Baronet whether, before attempting to legislate in a manner most injurious to the struggling railways of the sister country, they ought not to wait until they had Been the Report of the Commission, and bad learnt what were the views of the Government in relation to it. The hon. Gentle man concluded by moving that the Bill be read the second time that day six months.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."—(Mr. Blake.)
§ MR. M'LAREN
said, the hon. and learned Member who introduced the Bill seemed to think that there had been some combination among the Scotch Members to prevent the passing of the Bill. Now, he (Mr. M'Laren) was prepared to say that, as far as he knew, this had not been the case; and, certainly, not a single word had been exchanged between any Scotch Member with reference to this Bill. The hon. and learned Member appeared to think that the Scotch Members had no right to interfere in an Irish question. Now, it was the part of the Imperial Parliament to legislate for the whole United Kingdom, and it was the duty of every Member of it, no matter from what country he came, to give effect to the honest opinions which he entertained. No doubt the public affairs of Ireland were not to be regulated according to the public opinion of Scotland, any more than the public affairs of Scotland were to be regulated according to the public opinion of Ireland; but the law as it stood on this railway question was in the state in which it ought to be, and was quite perfect. Railway directors in all the three kingdoms had the right to run trains on the Sunday whenever they thought fit. Directors would naturally be guided in such a matter by 250 these considerations—first, would public opinion sanction the running on Sunday? and secondly, would it pay them in a commercial point of view to do so? If both of those questions could be answered in the affirmative, the trains would be run. If either condition were wanting, there would be a contest, as in Scotland, whether the trains should be run or not. In the case referred to the directors thought it would pay to run trains on Sunday between Edinburgh and Glasgow; while the public opinion in Scotland took the opposite view, and denied that they ought to be run even if they would pay: whereupon the conflict arose. Therefore, if in Ireland public opinion sanctioned and required the running of Sunday trains, and if it was also the fact that they would pay, where was the necessity for coming to Parliament for an Act of coercion to compel the companies to run them? In a commercial point of view it would be very inexpedient to pass the Bill. It was stated that one of the Irish railways paid a dividend of only 1 per cent, and its shares were selling at a very large discount. That proved that its profits during the six working days of the week were insufficient to yield a reasonable dividend, including the traffic in passengers, goods, minerals and cattle; and this showed that a large loss must ensue from running on Sunday, when passengers only were conveyed. His own experience as a railway director proved that even in such a district as that between York and Berwick-on-Tweed a Sunday passenger did not pay, apart from other considerations. Mr. Gait's book, which the hon. and; learned Member for Clare had referred to, showed that when the writer spoke of an average of seventy passengers being sufficient to pay, he meant that there must I always be seventy passengers in the carriages during the journey—not that there should be a smaller number at certain I stages, as was the case according to the Returns quoted. Even although some of the Irish railways had obtained advances from the Government, as had been stated, that fact did not render it the less but rather the more incumbent on hon. Members to take care that they did nothing in regard to those lines which would prevent the money so advanced from being paid back again.
§ MR. S. B. MILLER
thought that that; House was not the proper arena for theological discussions; but after the pointed allusions that had been made by the hon. 251 and learned Member for Clare to the petitions which had been presented from Presbyterian congregations in Ireland on that subject, he must take leave to say that in respect to conduct, character, and piety, those petitioners might bear comparison with the inhabitants of any other part of the British dominions. Among them were many thousands who were conscientiously opposed to that proposal as involving a desecration of the Sabbath, and who were ornaments to the province in which they lived. The hon. and learned Baronet had blinked the real question raised by that Bill. It was a measure retrospective in principle, and, therefore, very objectionable. He had founded his argument on the case of the Waterford and Limerick Railway; but these companies had obtained their Acts from that and the other House of Parliament, and in those Acts there was nothing to compel them to run trains on Sunday. On the faith of those Acts they had spent millions of money; and was that House to turn round now and say to them, "We will violate the pledge we have given, we will impose wholly new and very onerous conditions upon you, and oblige you, nolens volens, to run Sunday trains not only at a loss, but to the ruin and destruction of your property?" Several of these unfortunate companies had paid no dividend for years. The hon. and learned Baronet had alluded to the Scotch Members having voted against his Bill last year. If he (Mr. M'Laren) knew anything of the consistency of Scotch Members he thought he would find a greater number opposed to the measure this year than there were last. Behind that Motion there was a large question vitally affecting England; and if they imposed upon Ireland what they durst not impose upon Scotland, and what it was to be hoped would not be imposed upon England, they would perpetrate as great a wrong as had ever been done to his country. Not only was that tyrannical Bill, for such it was, vicious in principle and in design, but, seeing that the Royal Commission on Railways had not yet presented its Report, it was also most inopportune and ill-timed; and hon. Members from all parts of the United Kingdom ought strenuously to resist a measure that was likely to prove so disastrous.
§ SIR PATRICK O'BRIEN
said, the subject under discussion did not resolve itself into a Sabbath question; the point at 252 issue partook more of a financial character. The policy of the directors of the Limerick and Waterford Railway Company was open to serious animadversion, and the charge of Pharisaism was justly brought against them. As to the Scotch Members, there was not one of those Gentlemen that did not travel by rail on the Sunday in the course of the year; and therefore it was not seemly in them to come to the House of Commons and endeavour to prevent the public of Ireland receiving the accommodation they required. He should be the last to endeavour to force the people of Scotland, who had strong opinions as to what was called the desecration of the Sabbath, to run trains in Scotland; but, on the other hand, he objected to their making an endeavour to coerce the people of the South of Ireland to be ruled by their religious opinions however conscientious they might be. He did not believe that one petition in favour of the Bill had emanated from any of the six counties of Munster; and, as he believed the measure was opposed to the interests of the people living in the district, he should oppose the Bill.
rose to explain the reason he should not vote for the second reading of the Bill, having voted for it on a previous occasion. It was true that there was a railway traffic in the North, but it was not a commercial or pleasure traffic. He did not intend to vote at all, not because he had altered his opinion, but because he felt it was his duty in some measure to reflect the views of his constituents, a very large proportion of whom were Presbyterians, who were the most orderly portion of the population, and were deeply opposed to Sunday traffic.
§ MR. BAGWELL
said, that if the Irish railways were compelled to run trains on Sunday, the House would have to provide against any loss they might sustain by so doing. Although he never travelled by the railway on a Sunday, he would not restrain other people from doing so. The Bill now before the House would require certain alterations when under the consideration of the Committee, and one of them related to the provision to be made for empowering the Board of Trade to make inquiries as to the loss or profit arising from the running of trains on Sunday. Trains now ran between Dublin and Cork on that day; but towns lying on the right and left of the line connecting those places did not enjoy such an advantage. He therefore contended that the people of Limerick and 253 Waterford ought to be put upon an equal footing with those of Cork. The pecuniary part of the subject, of course, deserved the consideration of the House, but in the present stage he felt it his duty to support the Bill, reserving certain Amendments which he should advocate in Committee.
LORD CLAUD HAMILTON
objected to the compulsory character of the Bill, thinking that the arrangements between the companies and the public they served should be left to themselves, But he rose to call the attention of the House to the curious change that had come over the aspect of the question during the discussion. At first it was described as a question of general interest, applicable to the whole of Ireland; but now it had dwindled into a local dispute with the Limerick and Waterford Railway. The hon. Baronet the Member for the King's County (Sir Patrick O'Brien), with more zeal than discretion, had branded the opposition to this Bill with the epithet of "Pharisaical;" but he (Lord Claud Hamilton) did not know whether it was applicable to a person in his position. In the district in which he lived trains did not run on Sunday; but. had they been required to do so, he had no doubt that arrangements would soon have been made to meet the wishes of the inhabitants but he did not see how it was "Pharisaical" not to compel companies to run trains on Sundays, when they were not asked for. He quite agreed with the hon. and learned Baronet that in railway matters attention should be paid to the feelings of the inhabitants of the locality through which it was proposed to construct the line, and in the present case all the requests that had been made to him were that he would oppose the Bill. The compulsory powers sought in the Bill were contrary to the sound principles which guided Parliamentary action. Some of the railways in Ireland were established by means of public money, and to enforce such provisions as some of those contained in the Bill would amount to a breach of contract. The companies accepted loans on certain specific terms, and Parliament had no right now to impose regulations which would diminish the profits of the railways. No man could expect the same rate of interest for the money he had lent if he, by any subsequent conditions, diminished the productiveness of that money while in the hands of the borrower. He held that trains could not be run on Sunday without a loss to the 254 company, and that for Parliament to order Sunday traffic would necessitate a breach of contract, and be a violation of the sound principles which should govern legislation.
§ MR. PIM
said, there were two questions involved in the present discussion—one concerning the travelling facilities to be provided for the public on Sundays, and the other affected the third-class accommodation required. In various parts of the country the railway companies possessed a monopoly of the traffic; and when they did not run the trains the people were worse off than they were before the introduction of the railway. Some inconsistency—he did not like to say "Phariseeism"—had been manifested by the hon. and learned Member for Waterford (Mr. Blake) in his opposition to the Bill; for while he based his argument on the assertion that Sunday trains would not pay, he took great pains to obtain support from people not only in Ireland, but in Scotland, on the ground of Sabbath desecration. The matter in which he had taken the most interest was included in the second part of the Bill—namely,the accommodation provided for third-class passengers. This was a subject which deserved the serious attention of the House. He, however, would not record his vote in favour of the Bill, because he took objection to the partial manner in which the Bill proposed to deal with the subject. Were the Bill to pass it would to a great degree be an ex post facto law, and he thought it would be too hard on the railway companies, doing very badly at the present time, to impose a burden upon them which would put them in a worse condition.
§ SIR HUGH CAIRNS
said, that he did not desire to express any opinion on the merits or demerits of the Waterford and Limerick line, but he thought it right, as the Bill aimed at legislation of a general description, that the House should consider the character of that legislation and endeavour to ascertain whether it was based on sound principles. As he intended to vote against the Bill he would briefly state his objections to it. He regarded it as an interference of a very strong and violent kind with an established mercantile undertaking, or perhaps he should say a great number of established mercantile undertakings. He admitted what had been said by several hon. Members, that railway companies had a monopoly of the carriage of the districts through which their lines ran; but still in dealing with them the principles of justice 255 must be consulted. Parliament did not establish a monopoly and then say from time to time that it was entitled to super add such conditions to the monopoly as might be thought necessary for the benefit of the public. On the contrary, the habit of the Legislature had been this:—At the time of granting a monopoly it invited the public to advance money on shares, telling them as far as possible what the terms were upon which it was prepared to establish the monopoly, and leaving it to them to accept the terms or refuse them. This was the course generally adopted; but there were exceptions to the rule. One exception was deemed to be an extraordinary one at the time it was made; he referred to the demand upon railway companies previously established to run Parliamentary trains. He would not, however, have it understood that he denied the right of Parliament to legislate in reference to railways, whether established or yet to be established. The railway was subject to legislation like everything else. The hon. and learned Gentleman who had charge of the Bill considered there was not only a necessity for trains being run on the Sunday, but that their running would not be attended with any pecuniary loss. On the other side, the directors contended that the running of trains was attended with a positive loss. Now, how was the House able, between these conflicting opinions, to decide which was right? In the present case, until it was proved that there would be no pecuniary loss in running trains on Sunday, and that there was an absolute necessity for legislation like that proposed in the Bill before the House, he asked hon. Members to be exceedingly cautious in the course they adopted. The next objection he had to the Bill was that it was a sectional piece of legislation, affecting only a part of the country—for in some parts of the country the trains did run on Sunday and in others they did not. What were the reasons for simply legislating for one district? The hon. and learned Baronet had said that he did not legislate for Scotland, because the feelings of the people of that country would be against it, and that he did not legislate for England, because there was no necessity for so doing. Now, in England there were 800 miles of railway on which trains did not run on Sunday, while in Ireland there were but 200 miles of railway without Sunday traffic. Then the hon. and learned Baronet said the House had a right to legislate in regard to 256 railways in Ireland, because there the railways had been constructed by public money. [An hon. MEMBER: There are several railways which have not had such advantages.] If they had all received loans from the Exchequer it would have made no difference. They had borrowed money at a certain rate of interest, and he asked if the hon. Baronet could, with justice, go to them afterwards and say he wanted to impose further obligations upon them in respect of the loan already bargained for? There was just the same reason for legislating for England in this way as for Ireland. The Scotch Members were quite right in taking an interest in this question, for were such legislation as that of the Bill before the House to be successful, it would not be confined to Ireland—it was impossible that it should not be extended to Scotland. The hon. and learned Baronet had asked him if it was against the law of the country to run trains upon the Sunday? His (Sir Hugh Cairns') reply was that he was satisfied it was not in the least degree contrary to law to do so. But, going beyond the mere question of law, he was ready to admit that so far as moral and religious considerations were concerned he should not at all regret that directors of railways should think it desirable to run a train each way on a Sunday on their lines, for the convenience of towns, thereby rendering unnecessary a large amount of traffic and movement of another kind. The question of whether they should do so would, however, in his opinion, be better left to the railway companies themselves, to be decided on the two grounds whether a Sunday train would be likely to be remunerative, and whether the public feeling of the neighbourhood would justify its running. In those cases in which a train did not run on Sundays he felt assured the circumstance arose out of one or the other of those considerations, and they were cases which, he contended, the House ought to respect. By forcing a legislative enactment, as was proposed, on the consciences of those who objected to Sunday trains the House would be doing away with that which was the first privilege of freemen in this country, the right to act in accordance within their own judgments. But he was also opposed to the Bill, because there was no demand for it. There were no petitions in its favour, while he had never presented so many petitions in reference to any other measure as he had against it; petitions got up among men of the 257 greatest respectability, who he believed could not be driven to do anything which they did not like, and accompanied in many instances by written communications evincing the utmost opposition to the measure. He hoped the lion, and learned Baronet, would, under all the circumstances of the case, withdraw his measure. The period of twenty-four years, during which it was provided that railways should he left with out any formal revision of their arrangements by Parliament, was drawing to an end. A Royal Commission had been appointed to examine the question of proper railway conduct, and what legislative measures ought lo be proposed by way of regulating their future traffic. He was quite willing to admit, so far as his observation went, that there were a great many things connected with railways which ought to be altered, he did not think that the Rail way Directors in Ireland were always so experienced or so alive to then own interests, which were, after nil, identical with the interests of the public, as in this country, he was glad, therefore, that the Commission to which he alluded had been appointed, and to that Commission he thought some of the questions raised by the Bill might very advantageously be referred. It would be most perilous, in his opinion, to legislate as was proposed with out due consideration, and he hoped the hon. and learned Baronet would adopt his suggestion and withdraw his Motion.
§ MR. GREGORY
said, it was remarkable that it was precisely in that part of the world where strong religious opinions were supposed to exist that railways were running on Sundays, and it was precisely from that part of the world where religious convictions were not so strong that the petitions against the measure came. Those petitions were apparently of foreign extraction. They came from scattered Presbyterian populations throughout the whole of Ireland, and they were similar in substance to the petition of the Sabbath Alliance in Scotland, There was something significant in the fact. But when the hon. Members for Ireland complained of the interference of Scotch Members in a matter of purely Irish concern, he must say that when some years ago he brought forward a Motion for the benefit of the inhabitants of Edinburgh by throwing open the Botanic Gar dens there, he was inundated with letters and papers complaining that he, an Irish Member, should interfere in a matter of purely Scotch concern. It appeared to 258 him that the House was losing sight of the provisions of the Bill. The action of the measure depended upon two things—first, that it was in consonance with the wishes of the people through whose district it ran; and, secondly, whether it would pay. These points were to be decided by the Board of Trade instead of by the Directors. What his lion. Friend wanted was that when a railway fell into the hands of Directors who had particular feelings as to the Sunday question, there should be some other tribunal beyond that Board of Directors to decide whether the country through which the railway passed should be deprived of railway accommodation. The Bill provided such a tribunal in the Board of Trade. As to the effect of the measure on the commercial affairs of the railway, he must point out that if the Board of Directors could show the Board of Trade that they would suffer any pecuniary loss by running Sunday trains they would not, under the provisions of the Bill, he compelled to do so. The Commission now sitting on the subject of railways would have no authority to deal with such a matter, and the House would, under the circumstances, he hoped, not accept the suggestion of the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite, but would read the Bill a second time.
§ MAJOR GAVIN
said, that in discussing the religious and other objections to Sunday traffic, the interests of the 52,000 inhabitants of Limerick (which city he represented) were lost sight of. They were shut up for twenty-four hours as if they were a besieged city, as nothing could come in and nothing was let out; and all this to conciliate the feelings of a few religious people and some Railway Directors. The Bill was lost last year by a majority of three, in consequence of the thinness of the House occasioned by a levee; but he met with some of those who opposed it as invading the sanctity of the Sabbath enjoying themselves on the following Sunday at Hampton Court or Kew Gardens, and some he knew went down to Brighton to revel in the sea breezes and the other things that could be enjoyed there. The Mayor of Limerick, who was a Presbyterian and one of the largest employers of labour in Ireland, was in favour of the Bill. He trusted the House would pass this Bill, and allow his pent*up constituents the opportunity of once more enjoying the country air on the Sunday.
§ MR. LEFROY
said, he opposed the Bill 259 on the ground that it would interfere with the proprietary rights of the railway companies, and also because it was not desirable to impose the necessity of running Sunday trains against the religious convictions of the people. There were a number of petitions against the Bill from the Presbyterians of Ireland, and he trusted the House would adhere to its decision of last year.
§ MR. MILNER GIBSON
said, that as his hon. and learned Friend (Sir Colman O'Loghlen) did not seem inclined to agree to the suggestions of the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Sir Hugh Cairns) that this question should be referred to the Commission on Railways now sitting, the House would have to give a vote "Aye" or "No" on the Question of the Second Reading. He (Mr. Milner Gibson) would say a few words to explain the reasons upon which he had arrived at a conclusion on the subject. As regarded a reference to the Commission on Railways he did not think much would be gained by that. That Commission had pretty nearly concluded its inquiry into Irish railways, and the evidence on that branch of the investigation was completed—although they had power, no doubt, to re-open it. He did not think that this particular question had come under their consideration, but even if the Commissioners gave an opinion upon it, the question would necessarily come back to the House; and therefore to refer the Bill to that Commission would be only a postponement for further information. The hon. and learned Member for Belfast (Sir Hugh Cairns) had stated with great force the rule—although there might be exceptions—of Parliament against ex post facto legislation, and there was also much force in his argument that when companies came to that House and asked for powers and undertook obligations, a contract was entered into between them and Parliament, and it was not desirable, even though a monopoly had been granted, that Parliament should, without very strong exceptional reasons, afterwards impose new obligations on the companies. The general Act of 1844, which compelled the running of Parliamentary trains, was expressly confined to railways thereafter to be constructed; and it provided that when those railways ran Sunday trains they should run cheap trains on that day; but railways already in existence were not subjected to those obligations unless they should come to Parliament for some new and special 260 power, in which case they were placed under the same obligations as future railways. If, therefore, his hon. Friend would frame his present Motion in the spirit of the Act of 1844, he (Mr. Milner Gibson) should be prepared to support him. As to the obligation which it was sought by the fourth clause of the Bill to impose, he looked upon it as being most reasonable and salutary, amounting, as it did, simply to a condition that in those cases in which different railway companies carried first and second class passengers through by arrangement between them they should do the same for third class passengers, and not leave them behind at intermediate stations. He next came to the question of Sunday trains. He considered that the proposal of his hon. and learned Friend upon that subject was little more than a legislative exposition of the meaning and intent of the Act of 1854. By that Act it was provided thatEvery railway company should afford all reasonable facilities, according to their respective powers, for receiving and forwarding passengers on its lines.That provision did not make any exception with respect to Sunday trains; it did not say that that accommodation should only be afforded on week days; it declared generally that all "reasonable facilities" should be afforded for the conveyance of passengers. It might be said that it would not pay to run a train on the Sunday upon that line. But the Act of 1854 only provided that a railway company should give that amount of reasonable accommodation which they could afford, "according to their respective powers," and, therefore, as he understood these words, they ought not be compelled to dose unless they could do it without loss. The hon. and learned Member proposed to refer the question whether it could be done without loss to the Board of Trade. No doubt it was a question on which they were perfectly competent to pronounce an opinion, and to say to railway companies, 'You shall not on the ground of your own peculiar religious views, or upon any other ground except that of commercial loss, deprive the public of those reasonable facilities which it was the intention of the Legislature they should possess." But he hoped that although his hon. and learned Friend might require them to decide upon any merely commercial point, he would not expect them to adjudicate upon questions of feeling or conscience. There was no 261 doubt that with many persons it was regarded as a matter of conscience that a train should not run on the Sunday; but they should take care that the conscience of one man was not to be the only mode of measuring the convenience which should be afforded to another. He had been informed that the Directors of this particular railway—the Waterford and Limerick—were not acting in accordance with the wishes of the District which it traversed; and he referred especially to that line because it was, he believed, the only one of any great length and importance in Ireland which ran no train oil the Sunday. His hon. and learned Friend did not propose the running of more than one train each way on that day; and he (Mr. Milner Gibson) should say that in his opinion the withholding of that accommodation was not in accordance with the spirit of the Act of 1854. Under these circumstances he thought he might fairly support the second reading, especially as his lion, and learned Friend left the question of loss to be decided by the Board of Trade, who would exempt railway companies from the obligation of running trains if by so doing they suffered pecuniary loss. He thought this Bill a fair legislative exposition of what Parliament meant by the Bill of 1854. He thought that in a measure of this sort regard should be had to the general wishes of the population.
§ MR. MILNER GIBSON
said, he had been informed that redress could be obtained from the Superior Courts by some decision compelling railway companies to give reasonable facilities on the Sunday, but he thought it was better that Parliament should itself give a legislative exposition of the true intent and meaning of the previous Act. He considered this a measure which the House might reasonably entertain, and, speaking for himself individually, he was prepared to support the second reading.
§ MR. WHITESIDE
understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that the present measure, which was a partial and local Bill, was to be an exposition of a general statute, and that its principle was not to apply to Scotland or England, and he therefore asked whether the right hon. Gentleman really meant that a general Act of the realm was to be expounded by an enactment which was not to be applied to England and Scotland?
§ MR. MILNER GIBSON
explained that the House could deal with the cases of England and Scotland when they came under consideration.
said, that he was struck with the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, that he only gave his private opinion on a matter of such vast importance. Now, considering the importance of the office held by the right hon. Gentleman, and that he had formed no official opinion on a matter which was one of the most important charges of his Department, he (Mr. Henley) should like to know why they should hurry into legislation at all. What the right hon. Gentleman had sketched out went to change the entire nature of the Bill. As the right hon. Gentleman consented to do away with the universal character of the measure, what occasion existed for any hurry in passing it? And why should not the Government take up this subject and bring in a general measure, if one were necessary, declaratory of the meaning of the Act of 1854? There seemed to be no ground for legislation on the part of the lion, and learned Baronet, but if the principle of the present measure were good, it ought equally to apply to England and Scotland. The right hon. Gentleman said that the Board of Trade; could not look at the religious part of the question, but must only regard the commercial That course of proceeding savoured somewhat of Mammon—and something else. After what bad fallen from the right hon. Gentleman he would give his vote against the second reading of the Bill, because if it was to have no retrospective action it could not remedy the difficulty mentioned with regard to the traffic between; Waterford and Limerick.
§ SIR COLMAN O'LOGHLEN
expressed his readiness to accept the suggestion thrown out by the President of the Board of Trade, and to insert words to render the Bill prospective only.
§ Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 83; Noes 200: Majority 117.
§ Words added.
§ Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.
§ Bill put off for six months.