HC Deb 19 February 1872 vol 209 cc645-6

asked the First Lord of the Treasury, If there be any truth in the statement which lately appeared in the Irish papers, that a Government official had entered into negotiations with the Directors of certain Irish Railways, with the view of ascertaining their value in case the Government were inclined to purchase the Railways of Ireland; if it he the fact that Captain Tyler, one of the Inspectors under the Board of Trade, did put himself in communication with the chairmen of certain Irish Railways, with the view to ascertain the price at which the Government might purchase the Lines they represented, and stated that he was authorized to make such inquiry; whether it has come to the knowledge of the Government, that, in consequence of the public statement as to the alleged action or intention of the Government, the value of Irish Railway Stock rose considerably within twenty-four hours after the appearance of the statement in the public Press; and, whether it is the intention of the Government to propose to Parliament any scheme for the purchase of said Railways, or if it be the intention of the Government to propose any scheme having reference to them?


Sir, with regard to the two first paragraphs of the Question of my hon. Friend the Member for Cork (Mr. Maguire), I have to say it is quite true that Captain Tyler, one of the Inspectors of the Board of Trade, has been in Ireland on matters connected with his department; and it is also true that Captain Tyler, on going to Ireland, was not forbidden, but was indeed authorized to collect on his own account, and entirely on his own personal character, any information relating to Irish railways and the views of their proprietors which he might think to be interesting and important to the public. But he did not do this on the part of the Government with respect to any particular branch of the subject, and whatever the information he had collected might be, it could only be regarded as a portion of the discharge of his general duty to inform himself with reference to matters of public interest and importance in connection with his department. My hon. Friend will, therefore, understand that there was no official communication whatever between Captain Tyler and any person connected with these Irish railways. I find there is a statement in an Irish newspaper which tends to confirm what I have now said. It is stated in that newspaper that on Saturday Mr. Haughton, the Chairman of the Great Southern and Western Railway, said at a meeting of the company in Dublin that an officer of the Board of Trade had waited upon him unofficially to ask for information about the company, but that he had not made any proposition whatever. I believe the statement in that report is perfectly correct. With regard to the rest of the Question, relative to the rise in value of Irish railway stock, in consequence of the newspaper report of the alleged action of the Government, I am not really aware whether the value of Irish railway stocks has participated in the rather healthful influences which seem to have been at work upon other railway stocks; but I need not point out to my hon. Friend that in a country where intelligence is not only freely circulated, but is more freely manufactured than any other article of trade, it often happens that stock rises in value in consequence of rumours and circumstances affecting it occurring. As to whether it is the intention of the Government to propose any scheme for the purchase of the Irish railways, that is a matter on which I have no announcement to make to Parliament.