HC Deb 28 April 1874 vol 218 cc1263-335

I rise to call the attention of the House to the subject of the acquisition and control of Railways by the State, and I shall conclude with a Motion, which, for reasons I will presently state, deals exclusively with the railway system of one portion of the Kingdom. In approaching this question, I cannot but remember with satisfaction that the views I am about to advance have received, on various occasions, the warm approval of some of the most eminent and experienced men connected with the working of railways in this country. This is a question on which abstract ideas and mere theories count for little, and I am well aware that if the feeling of the House is to go with me at all, in advocating, as I intend to advocate, the acquisition of railways by the State, it can only be if I am able to show some practical grounds for the strong conviction I entertain of the necessity of such a course. On the very threshold of this subject, I have to meet an objection founded on the principle that "the business of Government is not to trade but to govern." This is a maxim so sound and useful in its legitimate application that there is no little danger of losing sight of the necessary limitations to which it is subject, and so applying it to a state of things to which it really may not extend. It will be at once admitted that it has constantly been found necessary, in practice, to limit this restriction of a Government interference so as to exclude certain classes of industrial operations to which the principle of competition is inapplicable, which it is of the utmost importance to the public to have well performed, and which no private enterprise would be able to manage in an equally satisfactory manner. I am entirely opposed to the idea that the Government should, for a profit, enter into competition with the ordinary trader, and I am quite willing to admit that nothing short of a great public necessity can justify the State in undertaking the management of an industrial enterprise. Such a public necessity, however, has led the Government of this country, with full justification to undertake the business of the Post Office, to establish the Post Office Savings' Banks, and to make the working of the Electric Telegraph a department of the State. On precisely similar grounds I am prepared to rest the case for the State purchase of railways. The railway system is essentially a monopoly; it is of vital importance to the whole community that the railways should be managed in the best possible manner; and there are various reasons why the State would occupy, as compared with private companies, an exceptionally favourable position in undertaking such a work. The history of legislation on railway questions shows that it was not the original intention of Parliament to allow the companies to possess any monopoly of the means of communication even on their own lines. In almost all their Acts of Incorporation, provision is made to enable all persons who choose, to use the lines, like common roads or canals, on payment of certain tolls and subject to certain necessary restrictions. This idea of protecting the interest of the public by what may be called "competition on the lines," in a short time, of course, proved to be an utter delusion, and the companies enjoyed an exclusive monopoly of the use of their fines. The next attempt to obtain for the public the advantages of competition was the abandonment by Parliament of opposition to the construction of competing lines. One effect of this was to inflict serious injury on the owners of existing lines which had been constructed in the belief that they would not be exposed to any such direct competition. The result of this policy was, for a time, a wasteful and mischievous rivalry between different companies; projects for the construction of competing lines, often disastrous to those who undertook them, were rife; and an enormous amount of capital and energy were wasted with comparatively little advantage to the public. In the course of time, however, the companies began to see the folly of this suicidal rivalry, and the utter failure of the attempt to maintain competition may be understood from this passage in the evidence of Mr. Harrison before the Royal Commission which was appointed to inquire into the subject. There is not a single instance," he said, speaking in the year 1867, "at the present moment, where a line has been granted upon the ground of affording competition, where that competition exists. But not only did the opening of competing lines utterly fail, after a little time, in keeping down fares and rates, while it reduced the profits of the shareholders of existing companies, but it has been clearly shown that the ultimate effect of the construction of those lines has been to raise the charges and maintain them at a high standard, and for this reason—When rival companies have come to an understanding between themselves to charge equal fares and to abandon competition, these fares are generally considerably higher than the old ones. Mr. Cawkwell pointed out the reason— That there are two capitals on which interest has to he paid, and two lines then have to be worked to accommodate the same traffic-instead of one capital and one line. As Sir Rowland Hill says in his Report on the Royal Commission— The traffic that would he ample for affording a reasonable profit to one line, is often quite insufficient for two, thus Parliament, which in the case of excessive profits might warrantably interfere to lower the rates, is debarred from so doing from a sense of justice, and by the fear that a further reduction of profits, already too low, might render the working of the line impracticable. Thus the course adopted by Parliament, in sanctioning the construction of competing lines, in the hope that they would tend to produce low rates, has had quite the contrary effect, and become the means of maintaining high ones. But whatever the influence of competition may be, it is quite evident that it must not be relied on in the future. The history of railways for some years past points to no fact more clearly than the enormous extent to which amalgamation between companies has taken place. Out of 15,000 miles of railway at the end of 1871, 15 companies owned or worked no less than 10,000 miles, leaving little over 4,000 miles in the hands of the remaining 91 companies. After a brief period of competition the result is always the same—the lion and the lamb lie down together and apply their united energy to getting as much as possible out of the public. The Joint Committee which sat in 1872 to inquire into the subject of amalgamation, in answer to the question— How far does competition exist, and how far can it be relied on?" replied—"There is little or no real competition in point of charges between railway companies, and its continuance cannot be relied on. There is at the present time considerable competition in point of facilities, but the security for its permanence is uncertain. They further assert that— The facts and figures brought before them afford proof that the general recommendations and resolutions of Committees, Commissions, or Government department, have had but little influence upon the action of Private Bill Committees, and have not stayed the progress of the companies in their course of union and amalgamation. At the present moment, three great, companies working in intimate alliance—namely, the London and North Western, the Lancashire and Yorkshire, and the Caledonian, owning or working 2,685 miles of railway, and with a joint capital, including the capital of lines worked by them, of over £120,000,000, share between them one-quarter of the railway capital, and one-fifth of the railway mileage of Great Britain. The North Eastern Railway alone is now composed of 37 combined lines which were formerly competing. Nor is there any reason to suppose that this process will not go on still further in the direction of monopoly. The Amalgamation Committee, to which I have referred, while they see clearly the fact that, in the words of their Report—"Combination between railway companies is increasing, and is likely to increase," have failed to devise any method of effectually controlling it. After recommending the appointment of the Railway and Canal Commission which was created last year, they conclude their Report in these words— If the above recommendations are adopted by Parliament, they will not have the effect of preventing the growth of railway monopolies. Indeed, it is perfectly obvious that neither Parliament, nor a Commission, nor any other authority, can compel companies, once they perceive that their interest is in combined action, to maintain a rivalry injurious to themselves. We, thus, are brought face to face with the question, whether the great railway system of the country is to be held by a monopoly of joint stock interest, to be worked with special regard to the profits of certain shareholders of companies, or whether it should be placed under the control and management of the State, to be worked on the broad principle of obtaining for the public, the greatest degree of safety, the utmost facilities for the conveyance of passengers and goods, and the very lowest scale of rates and fares consistent with avoidance of loss. But, it may be asked, is there no intermediate course—Is there no method by which Government, without taking upon itself the burthen and responsibility of owning the railways, can, at the same time, control them so as effectually to protect the public interest? I think not. The history of attempts made by the Government to interfere, in this way with the working of railways, is not encouraging. It is now 21 years since a Committee sat to devise some means of protecting the public against the great inconveniences, and the impediments to traffic, which arose from the action of the railway companies. The result of their labours was the adoption in the following year. 1854. of the Act known as the Railway and Canal Traffic Act, which was introduced by Mr. (now Lord) Card well, the object of which was to secure uninterrupted facilities for the convenient interchange of goods and passenger traffic from one railway system to another, and also to compel the companies to observe the rule of equal charges under the same circumstances. It was clearly shown before the Joint Committee of 1872 that this Act has accomplished hardly anything. Mr. Chichester Fortesene, the late President of the Board of Trade, speaking in this House last year, did not hesitate to say that— As to securing the equal treatment of company by company, or the free and uninterrupted forwarding of traffic over all the lines which Parliament had sanctioned, the success of the Act had been most imperfect." and he added that, "in controlling the dealings of company with company, the. Act had been, to a great degree, a dead letter."'—[3 Hansard, ccxiv. 234.] It is true that this failure was partly attributed to the unsuitability of the Court of Common Pleas to act as a tribunal for the decision of the cases which arose under it, and last year an amended form of the Act was recommended, and three Commissioners were appointed to act as a tribunal. It was stated last night, in "another place"—and the statement was not contradicted—that this Commission is nothing more than a mere Board of Arbitration, and that there are no means of enforcing its decrees. Indeed, when we consider the nature of the case, and the vast difficulties to be encountered, we are driven to the conclusion that the causes of failure which affected the old tribunal must apply also to the new, because they are inherent in the nature of the matters with which the tribunal has to deal. It may appear, in theory, a perfectly easy thing for Parliament to insist on the effectual fulfilment of the conditions on which it has granted concessions to railway companies, but, practically, nothing is more difficult. This is one of those cases in which it may be said that the cure is worse than the disease, for supervision to be effectual, must be so interfering and so inquisitorial that it would inevitably lead to a system of divided power and responsibility which would produce the most disastrous results. Remember, also, that if by Government restrictions or interference you reduce the responsibility of the companies, in the very same degree that you do this, you increase the responsibility of the Government. If, then, we cannot look to competition for protection against monopoly, and if it has been found impracticable to control monopolizing companies in the interest of the public, we must either take the railways into our own hands, or be content to see a system of joint stock monopoly grow up amongst us wielding an enormous and practically irresponsible power, which it will use with the great and primary object of advancing its own selfish interests. If the interest of railway companies, and the interest of the public were identical, this state of things need not cause any apprehension; but this is not so. To a certain extent, no doubt, it is the interest of the companies to provide facilities for the public; but the ultimate object aimed at in company management and in State management is entirely different. Many instances can be adduced in which the directors of railway companies, acting in strict accordance with their duty, which is to obtain the highest possible dividend for their shareholders, have inflicted most serious injury on the public at large. For instance, the interest of the public demands that as many persons as possible should be able to travel at the lowest possible charge consistent with avoidance of loss; and the object of State management would be directed to the attainment of that end. If a railway company, on the other hand, can get as much profit by conveying 10 persons at a high rate as it could by conveying 50 persons at a much lower rate, why should it trouble itself about the remaining 40 persons? Neither must it be supposed that this is by any means an imaginary state of things, the principle which underlies it is at the bottom of our whole scale of railway charges in this country. It has been proved over and over again that the loss of profit consequent upon an enormous reduction of rates is by no means proportionate to the amount of the reduction, and is utterly insignificant when compared with the general advantage resulting from it. Now under a system of State management this general gain would be an element in the calculation, but no Directors of a company would be justified in reducing the amount of their shareholders' profit for the good of the general public. Looking at the question from an economical point of view, I should like to know how it can be that if the gain to the companies from high rates is less than the loss to the public caused by those high rates, the result is not an economical injury to the nation? The evidence brought before the Royal Commission and the Joint Committee contains abundant proof of the fact that the diversity of interest between railway companies and the public has in many ways operated injuriously on the trade and commerce of the country, and it was clearly shown that the companies have not hesitated to use their powers in a manner prejudicial to the general interest, and in a way never contemplated by the Legislature. One instance of this is the way in which traffic has been diverted from its natural and shortest course by the imposition of what are termed bar-tolls—that is tolls imposed not in the way of fair traffic, but for prohibitory purposes—on the links of the canal system of which the railway companies had obtained possession. Many cases were adduced, also, of the way in which traffic has been impeded and irregularly diverted in order that railway companies might obtain additional profit. Thus it was proved before the Committee that South Yorkshire coal had almost entirely ceased to come to London, because two railway companies had raised the rates for conveying coals from South Yorkshire to a prohibitory extent in favour of coals from Derbyshire and other places. The extent to which evils such as this prevail is pointed out very clearly in a memorial which was addressed a couple of years ago to the then Prime Minister by the Liverpool Chamber of Commerce. This document called attention to— the excessive and especially the unequal vales levied by the railway companies on the traffic to and from Liverpool as compared with the rates charged for the same goods for similar distances to and from other places. It went on to state that— these extra charges are so imposed as to force the traffic out of its natural channels, and to enable the railway companies to offer a bounty to divert it into other channels through which it would not otherwise flow; and pointed out in conclusion that— then the consumers of imports and producers of exports in the great and populous district of which Liverpool is the natural maritime centre, are burthened with a tax and restricted on their trade in order that unprofitable extensions of railways in other directions may be made to pay. Surely it is a grave question whether private companies working for their own interest should be allowed to exercise so vast a power as this over the industry and enterprise of the country. But this is not all. Not only was it shown that the companies have often used their power injuriously on the existing fines, but it was also proved that serious injury has been done to various places by the persistent and vexatious opposition which they have offered to the construction of new lines. Mr. Lankester, a merchant of Southampton, told the Joint Committee that over £200,000 had been wasted by that city in attempting to overcome the opposition of two powerful companies, the Great Western and the London and South Western, to the effort made to obtain direct communication between Southampton and the manufacturing districts of the North. He dwelt on the injury caused by the want of such communication to the trade and commerce of Southampton, and pointed out that not only were they without any direct communication with the Welsh collieries, but that quantities of manufactured goods from Sheffield, Manchester, &c. are actually at a considerable increase of cost as well as distance, out of their direct route as far as London, on their way to Southampton. The spirit in which the companies are managed may be imagined from one little incident. It was proved before the Standing Arbitrator that at one time when there was an effort made to secure running powers for through trains between the North British System and the Scottish Central and Scottish North Eastern lines over the lines of the Caledonian Company, even in the rigours of a Northern winter the Caledonian Company would not allow foot-warmers to be supplied to the North British passengers at the very stations where, with a refinement of cruelty, they provided them for their own. The discontent of the public with the management of railway companies is no new feeling. So long ago as the year 1844 the complaints on this subject were so general that they led to the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into them, which was presided over by the right hon. Gentleman the late First Minister. The result of this Committee was that after lengthened negotiations between the Board of Trade and the representatives of the railway interest an Act was passed which provided that at the expiration of 21 years the State could acquire the railways on certain terms laid down in the Act. This Act is applicable to a great number of the English lines, and there are only 64 miles of railway in Ireland which are not subject to its provisions. Although I do not believe that the Act of 1844 is of much value as regards any power of compulsory purchase conferred by it on the Government, it is extremely useful as evidence of the fact that it was the intention of the Legislature at that time to make provision for State purchase, should such a course come to be deemed desirable. The late Sir Robert Peel, who was a prominent opponent of Government interference.' with private enterprise, although not prepared at that time to advocate State purchase used these words when the Act providing for it was passing through the House— Seeing,"' he said, "that there is a monopoly with respect to conveyance and communication, the Legislature should have the power of purchasing after a certain period, on giving due notice to the parties concerned. We are about to say to the railway companies, you shall not have a permanent monopoly against the public, but after a limited number of years, we give yon due notice, we shall have the option of purchasing your property. On a subsequent occasion the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich has pointed out that while words were inserted in the Act of 1844 for the purpose of preventing any Government at any subsequent period from acting upon the assumption that Parliament at that time entertained the view that the State should purchase the railways, yet, in his own words, said that— It was the opinion of the Parliament of 1844 that it was desirable to take measures for leaving their successors in a condition of perfect freedom to interfere with and acquire property in railways, in case such a measure should be thought advisable. But apart from this Act, considering the enormous public interests involved, and the fact that the railway companies have obtained a monopoly of the great highways of the country, which it was never the intention of Parliament that they should possess, this is obviously a matter which must be treated as a great question of public necessity; and should it be deemed advisable in the general interest to deal with it, the present owners of railway property—if they received fair compensation for their property, including a moderate percentage in consideration of compulsory purchase—would not be in any way aggrieved if Parliament were to take out of their hands a power, which it is not for the public interest they should any longer enjoy. If I were not unwilling to occupy too much time, I could point out from the evidence of the Royal Commission, how the Governments of Belgium and Germany have been able to acquire railways without dealing unfairly with the original owners. The advantages which the State possesses over private companies in the management of railways, spring chiefly from two causes—first, the superior borrowing powers of the State; and secondly, the advantage of one uniform system, undisturbed by the conflicting interests of different companies, and able to act on the broad principle of promoting, as far as possible, the general advantage and convenience. Sir Rowland Hill, in his Report on the Royal Commission, from whose conclusion against purchase he dissented, sums up under the following heads the advantages to be derived from a transfer of the railways to the State:—1. The acquisition by the State of a property of greater value than its price. 2. The receipt by the proprietors of railways of a dividend somewhat higher than that of which, if the railways remained their own property, they could have any reasonable prospect, such dividend, moreover, being rendered certain in amount, and therefore free from its present liability to great fluctuations. 3. A cessation to a great extent, of fierce struggles to obtain legal authority to construct new railways, with the consequent saving of the cost of such struggles, of the time and attention of Parliament, and of the directors of railways and others; the saving of the expense of making railways which are not needed, and so on. 4. The power of making a reduction, eventually large, in fares and rates. 5. The greater efficiency of management, and a great improvement in postal facilities, and a cheap parcels' delivery. To these may be added the advantage, in a military point of view, of having one uniform system of railways under the control of the Government. Among the advantages which would result from State management, there is one, certainly not the least important, which we would be justified in expecting, and that is, more adequate provision for the public safety. A noble Duke, a Member of the Cabinet (the Duke of Richmond), admitted last night in the other House, "That the Government are perfectly agreed that with regard to accidents on railways the country is in a most unsatisfactory condition." The evidence given before the Committee on Railway Accidents, of which the hon. Member the Secretary to the Board of Trade (Mr. Bentinck) was Chairman, disclosed the appalling fact that hundreds of people had lost their lives in accidents which might easily have been prevented. Nor is this state of things improving. In the last Board of Trade Returns, out of 246 accidents which took place in the year 1872, no less than 238 are classed as preventable. In that year, over 1,000 persons were killed, and more than 3,000 injured in railway accidents, and the Returns show an increase of 44 per cent in the year 1872 as compared with the preceding year. The Railway Commissioners do not deal with this matter of safety at all—it is not within their province, and the Inspectors appointed by the Board of Trade are powerless to do anything except to make Reports, and to suggest remedies, the adoption of which they have no authority to enforce. Captain Tyler, one of these Inspectors, in his Report upon the Kirtlebridge accident, which took place in 1872, points out the great difficulty the Board of Trade has always experienced in inducing companies, and especially the large and more powerful ones, to adopt even the most obvious improvements in the system of working and principles of construction, and he also draws attention to the fact that the most extensive railway systems have far from kept pace with their constantly growing business, and corresponding requirements. Many persons, no doubt, are deterred from any practical consideration of the proposition that the State should assume the control of the railway system, by the apparent magnitude of the undertaking. I do not at all wish to under estimate the serious nature of a proposal dealing with property worth the enormous sum of £500,000,000 or £600,000,000, and involving the management of over 15,000 miles of railway, employing upwards of 200,000 officers and servants, and transporting annually over 380,000,000 passengers and 170,000,000 tons of goods and minerals. But, at the same time, we must take care that the magnitude of these figures does not dazzle us, so that we become unable to discern the practical features of the scheme. As regards the difficulty of dealing with the enormous amount of money invested in railways, we must remember that, to a great extent, State purchase need be nothing more titan a guarantee of dividend and interest. There need not be, as Captain Tyler has pointed out in one of his able speeches— Any transference of ownership as regards the real owners, the proprietary, inasmuch as the same individuals who now hold the railway stock of companies, might continue to possess if they choose, and no doubt, under judicious arrangements, a large proportion of them would choose, the railway stock of the State. It would only be necessary to raise by the floating of State railway stock enough money to pay off those who desired to receive cash. If under the existing imperfect arrangements railway companies are able to buy up one another with advantage to themselves, and on equitable terms, how can it be impossible to devise a plan by which the State, without any hardship or unfairness, may buy up the companies one after another, in the interest of the whole of the community? I think it hardly necessary to allude to the strange confusion of ideas which has been displayed in speaking of the proposal that the State should buy the railways, as a proposal which would have the effect of greatly increasing the National Debt. Those who use this language seem to have entirely lost sight of the distinction between wasting the revenues of the country in undertakings which bring no return, and the expenses of which have to be met by increased taxation, and the acquisition by the State, which would yield a return not only sufficient to meet the cost of acquiring it, but would, in all reasonable probability, continue to improve and increase in value every year. The growing security of railway property, and the safety of any obligation the State would incur in acquiring it, is indicated by the fact pointed out in the annual Report issued last month by Captain Tyler, that for the years 1871 and 1872—the last years for which the accounts have yet been analysed—for the first time in the history of our railways, the average dividend on ordinary stocks exceeded the average dividend or interest on the fixed charges preferred to them. In the year 1872, the average rate of interest on the preferential and loan capital of the railways of the United Kingdom was 4.39 per cent. while the average interest on the ordinary capital was 5.14 per cent. I cannot venture to occupy the time of the House by entering into the financial details of the question; but if, bearing in mind the superior credit of the State, and the economy which would result from uniform management, we were to compare the amount which would have to be provided annually to satisfy the fair demands of the present owners, with the net annual income of the railways, it would be seen then, the financial part of the proposal is very far from presenting any insuperable difficulties. As regards the capacity of the State to undertake the successful management of so vast a business, it must not be forgotten that all experience shows that the difficulty of administrative work by no means is increased in proportion to its magnitude. A mere multiplication of similar mechanical arrangements by an extension of organization, may accomplish an apparently overwhelming amount of work, without much additional difficulty, and with the utmost facility for applying the invaluable principle of the division of labour. We must also remember that in undertaking the management of the railways, the State would enter into possession of an organization and machinery already provided and kept in working order by constant use. In Captain Tyler's words, There need not be even a change of management as many of the present chairmen and directors would probably become administrators for the State, while the officers and servants of the companies would, as a rule, remain in their places, and the management and working would be conducted by the same heads and the same hands. I know that fault has often been found with the administration of public departments, and that, in some instances, it has been contrasted unfavourably with the management of private companies. In this respect, however, there is a great distinction to be observed between the earning, working, Departments of the State, and what are known as the spending Departments. Over the spending Departments, as a rule, the healthy influences of public opinion and criticism have comparatively little control, but it is very different with these working Departments of Government which touch in their operation, the daily interests and convenience of the people. An eminent official connected with the Post Office, put this point very clearly in an address which he delivered not very long ago— That great establishment," said Mr. Scudamore, speaking of his own department, "is rendered efficient because it is worked under the eye of the public, its master, because it is brought face to face with that master not merely from day to day, but from hour to hour: because it does work which is absolutely necessary to its master, which, when well done is of the highest possible advantage, and which, if ill-done, is utterly intolerable. He added, also, that he believed that public opinion, expressed either through Parliament or the Press, was the salt which kept the Post Office sweet; that it was to the pressure of public opinion and the constant supervision of the public—to the fact that the master's eye was always on the Post Office—that that great establishment owed its efficiency, energy, and zeal. Every word that has been said in this respect about the Post Office, would apply with equal, if not greater force, to the railways; nor can anyone doubt that public opinion and criticism would, in this country, have a far greater chance of promoting efficiency, in acting upon a public departpartment, specially entrusted with the duty of promoting, as far as possible, the general interest and convenience, than in attempting to influence the directors of companies, who are only bound to consider the wishes or interest of the public, so far as it happens to be the interest of their shareholders that they should do so. The same healthy public opinion, also, would no doubt be an effectual safeguard against any abuse of those powers of patronage with which a railway department would have to be entrusted. As a matter of fact, we find that in Belgium and elsewhere, when vacancies occur in the railway service of the State, they are filled up by the responsible officers of the department, simply with a view to secure the best and most capable men to do the work. My reluctance to trespass unduly upon the patience of the House compels me to pass over many points of interest, but I hope hon. Members may be of opinion that I have said something to show that the railway system is essentially a monopoly, to which the principles of Free Trade and competition are entirely inapplicable; that it is not possible for Government effectually to control this monopoly in the public interest; that the railway companies have frequently used their powers to the injury of the public; that they have not sufficiently provided for the safety and convenience of their passengers, while they have not hesitated to divert the free course of traffic for their own objects; that Parliament by no means originally intended the companies to enjoy their present monopoly, and has always meant to reserve to itself the power of acquiring the lines, if it should seem desirable in the public interest to do so; that for financial and other reasons the State would have peculiar advantages, as compared with private companies, in the working of railways: that the practical difficulties, and the way of acquiring and managing the lines, are by no means so great as they appear at first sight, while the steady progress of amalgamation, forces upon us more strongly every day the question whether the great iron highways of the country are to be managed by the State in the interests of the public, or by a small and constantly decreasing number of Joint Stock companies for their own private ends. I have not ventured, however, to submit a Motion to the House on this great subject as a whole. I am not prepared to say that public opinion in this country is as yet sufficiently matured upon it. I have, therefore, confined my Motion to a portion of the Kingdom where public opinion is almost unanimous in favour of the views I advocate, and where the railway system is of so limited an extent that an experiment may be tried with but little risk or difficulty, which would be of great value in enabling us to come to a conclusion on the wider issue I have stated to the House. Though I believe that a strong argument for the State purchase of the Irish railways is to be found in the fact that by so doing a great deal of practical information and experience as to the State working of railways might be gained, which would be extremely useful in determining the course Government might in future-pursue with regard to the railways of the United Kingdom, still it by no means follows that it is not expedient to buy the Irish lines because we are not prepared to buy the English ones also. The case of Ireland is special and peculiar. This distinction was clearly pointed out some time ago by the late Prime Minister, who not only said that he did not see that the adoption of the principle of State purchase with regard to Ireland would render necessary the adoption of the same principle in Great Britain, but who even admitted that, in his opinion, such a step would not have any sensible effect in prejudicing the position of Government for resisting any plan in England or Scotland that might be brought forward. The circumstances of the two countries are so different that the judgment of Parliament as regards the English railways would not be in any way compromised by any course it might adopt with reference to Ireland. Indeed, it must be at once admitted that the condition of Ireland is so different in many respects from that of England that it is quite easy to conceive that a proposal economically bad in England might not be open to the same objections if applied to Ireland. I do not mean for one moment to advocate that we should proceed on unsound economical principles in our dealings with Ireland. It has been well said that to talk of relaxing the laws of political economy because a country is poor and undeveloped, is very much the same as if a physician were to propose to relax the laws of medical science because his patient was of a feeble constitution. But, as one who was himself a great economist once pointed out in this House, political economy, being, like every other science, a thing to guide our judgment, not to stand in its place, we must not attempt to lay down a set of practical indefeasible rules, and insist on applying them without regard to times, places, and circumstances; but we must in every instance examine the particular conditions of the case with which we have to deal, in order that we may be in a position to form a sound judgment as to the treatment it requires. I have no wish to conceal my belief that we would be acting on sound economical principles if the State were to buy the railways of the United Kingdom, but in the case of Ireland there are special reasons why such a policy is desirable. I hope to show the House that in bringing forward this Motion I am making no appeal informâ pauperis on behalf of Ireland; but were I making an appeal for a generous treatment of this matter, I might remind the House that if the Irish railways have difficulties to contend against owing to the want of commercial activity and manufactures in that country, that it was the jealousy of the English Parliament in the interest of English traders which discouraged and brought to ruin many branches of industry in Ireland. Although this deplorable policy has long been abandoned, we must remember that when the industry of a people has been artificially depressed, the removal of the injurious restrictions by no means places it in the same position, either relatively or absolutely, which it would have occupied had they never been imposed. I have said that my proposal is no demand made by Ireland upon the Imperial Exchequer. It has not generally, I am told, been found difficult to get Irishmen to unite in support of any attempt to get money from the Imperial resources for exclusively Irish purposes, and I am quite ready to admit that such unanimity cannot be expected to have much weight. The general and remarkable expression of Irish public opinion in favour of the State purchase of the railways is not open to this objection, because it has been thoroughly accepted by those who have moved in the matter, that the Imperial Government should not. under any circumstances, sustain any loss from the transaction, the entire burden of the loss, should there be any, falling upon exclusively Irish resources. Irishmen, without distinction of party or class, complain of the bad state of their railway system; they wish for an united system of management in the public interest; they believe the experiment of State purchase would be a financial success; but they are willing to bear the loss if it were not so. The question is one which should be argued on practical and economical grounds alone, and I hope no irrelevant political topics will be introduced to obscure and complicate the discussion. The evils under which the Irish railway system suffers were pointed out by a great number of witnesses before the Commission of which the Duke of Devonshire was Chairman, and this evidence is summed up in an exhaustive manner in the supplementary Report on that Commission prepared by Mr. Monsell, now Lord Emly. The whole railway mileage of Ireland is little over 2,000 miles, and the work done by all the Irish lines put together is considerably less than that of several of the great English companies. Yet, notwithstanding the limited extent of the whole system, there are in Ireland between 50 and 60 different lines of railways authorized by Act of Parliament. These lines have an average length of only 48 miles, and their affairs are administered by over 400 directors, and a number of solicitors, secretaries, engineers, and other officials, ridiculously disproportionate to the amount of work to be done. To illustrate the consequences of this state of things, a friend told me the other day that the traffic manager of one of four short lines which have one terminus in Cork, said to him that if he had the management of all the four lines he would be comparatively idle; but that now every moment of his time was occupied watching the proceedings of the other three companies. In his evidence before the Royal Commission. Captain Huish, 18 years manager of the London and North Western Railway, attributed to the divided management four facts which, he said must strike everyone who travels on Irish railways—namely, that the rates are very high, the speed very slow, the trains very few, and the remuneration of the proprietors very small. Mr. Forbes, ten years manager of the Midland Great Western, said that, in his opinion, the fares and rates in Ireland were prohibitory of any development of the traffic, and had been so ever since he had known the country. Practically. I since the opening of the railway system in Ireland nothing had been done in the way of experiment. If the rates were lowered, there would be a very large increase in the traffic of the country. The feeling in Ireland is that, if the railways are to be managed with the skill, judgment, and economy which are essential to the welfare of the country, amalgamation and unity of management are absolutely necessary; but they desire such an amalgamation as will not have the effect of placing the control of the whole internal traffic of the country in the hands of an irresponsible monopoly acting for its own private interests. What they want is amalgamation in the public interest, and management conducted with the primary object of promoting, as far as possible, the general welfare and convenience. There can be no doubt that the assumption of the Irish railways by Government would produce a great saving of expense. The economy from consolidated management has been estimated by various witnesses at from £50,000 to £150,000 a-year. A great deal would be gained also, in this way, in the power of transferring rolling stock to places where it may be required on special occasions, such as the great fair at Ballinasloe. This is really an important matter, for it was pointed out to the Commission that the want of capital of railway companies in Ireland has the effect, not only of preventing the further development of traffic, but even hinders them from availing themselves properly of the existing requirements of trade. The concentration of a large amount of rolling stock is frequently required for transporting cattle from fairs; and purchasers of stock, uncertain of being able to remove them, either abstain from buying, or buy at a lower price. Another great element of economy is the superiority of Government credit. The Irish railway companies have raised by loans and debenture stock a sum amounting to very nearly £7,000,000. If the State were to assume that debt, the result of the reduction of interest consequent on State security, would be an annual saving, estimated by the highest authorities, of between £80,000 and £100,000. I am informed on good authority that the total commercial value of the Irish railways at the present time is probably rather less than £24,000,000, and as the permanent way of most, and the rolling stock of a good many, are not in good order, the real value cannot be taken at more than £22,000,000. If the Government were to purchase, no doubt, a certain percentage must be added to this as compensation for compulsory sale. But, making allowance for this, I do not see any reason to anticipate any financial loss on the transaction. The Board of Trade Returns for the year ending 31st December, 1872, give the total receipts of the Irish railways at a little over £24,00,000. Of this sum, the large amount of £1,300,000 is absorbed by working expenses, being 53 per cent of the gross receipts. In England and Scotland the proportion of working expenses to gross receipts is only 49 and 51 per cent respectively. However, the net income of the Irish lines in 1872 was over £1,100,000—a sum quite sufficient to relieve us from any apprehension of loss, after providing for the claims of the present owners of the railways. I am extremely anxious in dealing with this question to avoid anything like exaggeration or undue enlargement of expectation. We must not conceal from ourselves the fact that improvement in the railway system of Ireland can only be gradual and tentative; for no matter what facilities you give, the habits of a people cannot be changed all at once. We must remember, also, that as an experiment in State purchase, we can expect at best only very moderate results in Ireland—a poor country with a decreasing population. But, notwithstanding all this, I believe there are good grounds for thinking that the State, in purchasing the Irish railways, would not only find itself in a position to confer, without any loss, great benefits on the country, but would also find itself in possession of a safe and fairly progressive property. The arterial lines of the country were originally constructed on sound principles, and in the best possible manner. There are some encouraging circumstances in the recent history of Irish railways. If, for instance, we compare the gross traffic given in the last Returns with the gross traffic of 1863—the year for which particulars are given by the first Railway Commissions—and allowing for the increase of mileage, we find that the average improvement in Ireland is somewhat greater than that of the United Kingdom in the same period. We also find in the same period that, while the net receipts of the Irish lines have increased about 30 per cent. the capital paid up has only increased about 15 per cent. Though, no doubt, great commercial activity and manufactures produce large traffic on railways, it would be an error to suppose that railways cannot be fairly prosperous where they do not exist. It was proved before the Royal Commission that, in countries as purely agricultural as Ireland, railways managed on the centralized system are as prosperous as the best English railways. Some of the Prussian lines, running through districts with quite as little of manufacturing wealth as the average of Ireland, pay large dividends. The whole traffic-receipts of the Irish railways are less than those of the Great Eastern of England, which runs through a purely agricultural country. As regards rates and fares in Ireland, there is abundant evidence, with which I shall not venture to trouble the House now, to show that they are unduly high as compared with those Continental countries where the State owns the railways, and even as compared with England. The effect of these high charges is a small amount of traffic, and a depressing influence on the enterprise of the country. I am convinced that, under State management, a great ultimate reduction in these charges might be effected. It is an established fact in the annals of railways that even the most extraordinary lowering of fares leads to but a comparatively small loss in dividend. To illustrate this, I need hardly remind the House of the celebrated contest between the Edinburgh and Glasgow and the Caledonian Companies for the Edinburgh and Glasgow traffic. The fares, which were 8s., 6s., and 4s. for the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd classes, respectively, were reduced to 1s., 9d., and 6d. The battle went on for a year and a-half, and, at the end of that time, the dividend of the Edinburgh and Glasgow was only 1 per cent less than ordinary, and that of the Caledonian only ½ per cent. Another point is, that a reduction of charges, which may prove ultimately very remunerative, sometimes entails a temporary loss until the increased traffic has had time to develop. Now, Government could afford to wait for future gains, but what Board of Directors could venture to sacrifice the immediate interest of their shareholders for a prospective and perhaps remote advantage. There are firm grounds for supposing that there is a good deal of undeveloped traffic in Ireland, which low charges and increased facilities would bring out. A curious fact with regard to the Irish railways is that the stations are so far apart that local traffic, and particularly third class passenger traffic is greatly discouraged. The number of miles between stations on French, German, and Belgian lines varies generally from about three to five miles; in England the average is four and a quarter miles; while in Ireland it is as high as six miles. As a matter of fact, in the South and centre of Ireland the peasantry scarcely travel by rail at all. Though this, no doubt, is greatly due to high fares, it must also to some extent be attributed to the want of stations at a convenient distance from their homes. Again, in the time tables of most English lines there are convenient arrangements for markets and other special occasions, but I have never seen similar facilities announced in the time tables of any Irish lines. The great importance of attending to third class traffic may be better understood that the amount per train mile paid by third class passengers is often considerably greater than the amount paid by the other two classes put together. There has been a considerable increase in third class traffic in Ireland for the last two or three years, since additional facilities have been given; but even yet, of five trains between Dublin and Cork every day, only two take third class passengers, and as none of the branch lines have trains working to one of these, the result is that third class passengers have often to wait from one to three hours at the junctions of the branch lines. Although it cannot be expected that the rural population of Ireland will ever travel like the population of the manufacturing districts of England, yet the increase in third class traffic on the English lines since April 1872, when third class began to be taken on nearly all trains, indicates the great importance of giving the utmost facilities for this kind of traffic. Comparing the half rears ending 31st December 1870 and 1873 we find that the number of third class passengers on the London and North Western increased, in round numbers from 10,000,000, in 1870, to over 17,000,000 in 1873, and on the Midland Railway from 6,500,000, in 1870, to nearly 10,000,000 in 1873; the financial result being that, allowing for the loss on second class traffic, the total gain to these two companies in the half year was £430,000, which is about equal to the whole of the second and third class traffic on all the Irish railways put together. As regards goods traffic in Ireland, the evidence brought before the Royal Commission shows clearly that many important branches of Irish industry, which with a cheap and harmonious mode of transit might develop and flourish, are depressed and crushed by the high rate of charges and the conflicting arrangements of the railway companies. The Report of the Inspectors of Irish Fisheries for 1871 points to the same conclusion. The Inspectors point out, in the words of the Report— What a very great drawback to the development of fisheries in remote parts of the coast is the cost and difficulty of conveying the fish to the large markets. In some places the expense of transit often amounts to fully half the sum realized by the fish. This is particularly the case where the fish has to be earned over two or three different lines of railway, each making a particular charge. No industry would be more benefited by the greater development and amalgamation of the railways than the coast fisheries. As one instance of the way in which industrial effort in Ireland is discouraged by the short-sighted and narrow policy of the railway companies, I may refer to a circumstance which was made known only last month. Near Mallow, a station on the Great Southern and Western Line there is a promising undertaking lately established for the manufacture of condensed milk. A short time ago the secretary of this Company pointed out to the traffic manager of the Great Southern and Western Railway that, while at the rates quoted, the Milk Company can send 12 tons of their manufacture to Cork for £3 6s. 0d., that it costs £3 18s. 6d. to send only 11 tons; the result being that as they are not often in a position to send 12 tons daily they labour under great difficulties. The appeal to remedy this state of things was rejected. I hope, in conclusion, the House may be of opinion that I have said something to show that the existing system of railway management in Ireland is unsuited to the circumstances of that country, and fails to give reasonable facilities for goods and passenger traffic. I have also attempted to show that this evil can only be remedied by a process of amalgamation, and that this process should be effected by the State in the public interest; and also, that while the Imperial Exchequer would run no possible risk of loss, there is every reason to expect that the advantages of Government security and unity of management would make the experiment a financial success, and would ultimately render possible such a reduction of charges and development and improvement of the railway system as would confer very real benefits on the country. I cannot now enter into details with regard to foreign railways; but I may remind the House that my Motion only proposes that we should give some trial to a system which has been adopted, more or less, by nearly every country in Europe. In Belgium, where the rates are beyond comparison lower than with us, the State lines last year showed a net return of 6 per cent on the invested capital; and Government management has been found so successful as compared with company management, that all the lines of the country are gradually falling into the hands of the State. When M. Faisseaux, the Director General of the Belgian Railways, was examined before the Royal Commission, he did not hesitate to say that although Ireland, unlike Belgium, was almost purely agricultural, and not to a great extent a commercial and manufacturing country, he would have followed the same course in Belgium if the country was in the same position as Ireland. I believe England might learn many useful things from the management of Continental railways. We were the pioneers of the railway system, and other countries, following us, have been able to profit by the experience we acquired at great cost. It is a serious consideration that England is almost the only European State which has not acted on the principle that railways are the true sinking fund for the payment of the National Debt. I am grateful to the House for having borne with me so long on a subject which it is not easy to bring within reasonable limits, or to present in a practical shape. I am obliged to pass over many important points, and have desired rather to indicate certain general principles than to enter into any statement of details. I am satisfied, however, of this—that there is no question more worthy the attention of Parliament than the relation of railways to the State. It is a question which touches every class and affects every interest. If England is to maintain her position at the head of the industrial enterprise of the world, it is essential that her means of transport should be as perfect as possible. Railways not only cheapen trade, they make it possible; and nothing can be more clearly proved than that the commerce of a country bears a direct proportion to the improvement in its means of transport, and especially its transport by railway. The country pays nearly £50,000,000 a-year for the cost of transport. Every shilling of this enormous sum is a tax falling directly upon consumption, indirectly upon production. Anything which makes a reduction of this tax possible helps to remove a grievous burden from the industry of the people, and brings increased comfort to every household and family in the land. Great results, indeed, have been attained since the first year of the century, when Mr. Outram, of Derbyshire, laid iron rails on stone sleepers, and gave his name to the first tramway; but who can tell how much remains to be done, not only in the field of further mechanical improvement, but even to enable the country to enjoy the full benefits of the results already brought within our reach by scientific progress. We look back now with pity, almost akin to contempt, on the eager and strenuous opposition which, only a few years ago, ignorance and prejudice— even in such a home of learning as the University of Oxford—offered to the first construction of railroads. I am not at all sure that the feeling will be very different with which time to come the policy will be regarded of leaving the power of levying an enormous tax upon the people, and of controlling and diverting for its own purposes the commerce of the country, in the hands of an irresponsible monopoly of joint stock interest, and of refusing to recognize the principle that it is the duty of the State to undertake and provide that the railways of the country shall be managed so as to promote, as far as possible, the comfort, the welfare, and the safety of the whole nation. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving the following Re-solution:— That it is expedient that measures should be taken to obtain possession of the Irish Railways and place them under Government management.


, in seconding the Motion, said, he resided in the vicinity of three Irish Railways, and the trains on them consisted generally of one or two carriages attached to the engine. The country had a very large population, but the fares were much too high for them to pay. The fault was not that of the Directors of the lines, because they were the servants of the shareholders, and not those of the public. It was their only business to try to get the largest dividends they could for their shareholders. The efforts to promote amalgamations in Irish railways which the right hon. Gentleman the late Prime Minister made last year had failed, though the terms offered were liberal—and they failed simply because people could not be induced to divest themselves of lucrative appointments for the public good. The only remedy for this state of things was the compulsory purchase of Irish railways by the State. What was wanted was that the Report of the Commissioners, which recommended the purchase of the railways by the Government, should be acted upon. The hon. Member for Rochester (Mr. Goldsmid) had placed on the Paper Notice of an Amendment—namely, "that the purchase of the Irish Railways by the State would be financially inexpedient." But would it be so? Two scientific societies and some of the first financiers of the day, said there would be no difficulty on the score of finance, and the late head of the Government acknowledged it. The whole thing could be done without borrowing, by means of Stock certificates bearing interest at 3½ per cent. The purchase of the English and Scotch railways would be a subject for consideration if the results of a purchase by the State of the Irish railways should be satisfactory. The hon. Member for Rochester was apprehensive about the National Debt becoming larger by the State purchase of railways than that of any other European State, and instanced France. But Franco had spent £500,000,000 by carrying on war with Germany, and what return had she got for that expenditure? Nothing but debt and the shame of defeat—whereas by the purchase of the railways we should acquire an immensely valuable property. What he desired to impress upon the House was this—that the proposal was not to spend money, but to make an investment which would prove a lucrative one, and which in any case would be attended by benefit to the State. The Chancellor of the Exchequer the other evening told them the effect of the remission of one half of the sugar duties, and went so far as to say, if they were wholly remitted, the effect would be to increase the consumption of tea, and he (Mr. Ormsby Gore) believed firmly that by the reduction of rates and fares on railways, they would increase the consumption of all Customs and Excise articles. It had been said that, excepting the alphabet and printing press, no human invention had ever done so much to civilize mankind as the improvement in the means of locomotion—but what was the use of it, if it was beyond the reach of the people? Let them lower the rates and fares and they would do more for the people of Ireland than anything yet propounded by the numerous political quacks, who were perpetually prescribing their violent nostrums and ruining the health of their patient. That the bargain itself would be remunerative if the purchase were made on anything like fair terms he felt convinced. What was required was that the rates and fares should be reduced, and encouragement given to the development of the traffic, and that could not be done so effectually as by the State. The hon. Member concluded by seconding the Motion.

Motion made, and Question proposed. That it is expedient that measures should be taken to obtain possession of the Irish Railways and place them under Government management."—(Mr. Blennerhassett.)


, in moving, as an Amendment, to leave out all the words after the word "That." in order to add the words— The purchase of the Irish Railways by the State would be financially inexpedient, would unduly enlarge the patronage of the Government, and seriously increase the pressure of business in Parliament, said, that there were several questions which required to be answered before the House could arrive at the conclusion suggested by the hon. Member for Kerry. What were the grievances against the Companies both in England and Ireland? Were they remediable only by means of State purchase? If only remediable in that way, were they of sufficient moment to induce the House to disregard the great objections arising on other grounds? And, notably, what would be the financial results in case the proposal of the hon. Member (Mr. Blennerhassett) was accepted? He could understand the hon. Gentleman's desire to avoid the last question, because he firmly believed that the hon. Member's proposal would entail a heavy loss to the Revenue. What were the arguments urged? Most were general statements that "the purchase was for the public interest; "that" the railways were a dangerous monopoly employed in the interest of the shareholders, and against the interests of the public; "that" fares were too high; "that" trade was discouraged;" and so on. But what proofs of these allegations were offered? None that he (Mr. Goldsmid) could find, except that the hon. Member indulged in a series of assumptions, such as that the State would alone consider the interests of the public, and not care whether the railways were a paying concern—that the State would foster competition, would reduce fares, would make branches, &c, &c. It was in all this that the hon. Member was mistaken, for experience had shown, in connection with railway matters, that the true interests of the shareholders were not antagonistic to the interests of the public, and that extra facilities and financial improvement went hand in hand. He was not one of those who contended that the management of English Railway Companies was absolutely perfect: but was this absolute perfection attainable anywhere? Recent discussion had surely shown that it had not been attained in the Army, Navy, or the Civil Service. That there were great evils in Irish railway management he did not deny; but it was perfectly manifest that if the Irish people and the Irish shareholders would step in and put an end to the mismanagement that existed, the same results would accrue as had been obtained in England. What was required for Ireland was simply unity of management. The hon. Member had quoted the North-Eastern system of England. Why, that was a strong case in point, for, as the hon. Member had said, that system had once consisted of 37 different companies, most of which did not pay. Then the shareholders had stepped in and said—"You shall amalgamate," and the line was now one of the best paying in the country. Again, it was somewhat astonishing to find the hon. Gentleman, who was an advocate of Home Rule, coming forward and practically saying that he had no confidence in his fellow-countrymen, and asking the United Parliament of the Three Kingdoms to undertake the management of Irish home affairs. The real fact was, they were asked to purchase the Irish railways because they were not paying concerns. This was admitted by Lord Claud Hamilton last year, when he said that he never should have given Notice of his Motion in favour of State purchase, if "the Irish railways had been in the same state of prosperity as those of England and Scotland." If the charges made by the companies were considered a grievance, they could be brought under the attention of the Commission appointed last Session for the very purpose of controlling the railways on such matters. It had been argued that if the railways were purchased by the State, there would be no accidents on them. That was the first time he had ever heard that Government property was not liable to accidents. He believed the Government powder stored at Hounslow had certainly once, at least, indulged in an explosion; but he supposed the powder forgot, at the time, that it was Government property. Government vessels had been wrecked. Government guns had burst, and various other accidents had recently occurred to Government property; and consequently it appeared to him that if the Government were to purchase the railways they would still be liable to accident. What were the principal causes of railway accidents? On the Continent, the result of railway experience was that, in order to avoid accidents, it was absolutely necessary to limit the length of the trains, the number and class of passengers, and the speed. In England, the method of railway working had been entirely different, because we carried first, second, and third class passengers by express trains; we did not limit the number of trains; and we carried any number of passengers in a train. It was obvious that one cause of accidents had been the pressure put upon railway companies to carry, at a high rate of speed, persons of all the three classes, which caused trains to be too long, and to be liable to longer and more unforeseen detention, and, in consequence, to unpunctuality, and the accidents resulting therefrom. If we desired to have safety, we must have rigid rules with respect to the number of trains, the speed, and the number of passengers to be earned. If Parliament were to say that no train should run more than 40 miles an hour, or should contain more than a certain number of carriages, a fertile source of accidents would be got rid of. At least, one of the Railway Commissioners—a man of very considerable experience—entirely agreed with him on that point. The frequency of trains in England was three times greater than on most Continental lines, and there must follow from that state of things, also, a greater degree of liability to accidents. The carelessness both of passengers and servants was another and fruitful cause of accident, and there could be no doubt that that carelessness would still exist, whether the railways were managed by companies or by Government. But the preventable accidents might properly, and were intended to be checked by regulations to be made by the Railway Commission appointed last year. While considering the disadvantageous circumstances of the railway traffic of this country, it would be well to bear in mind some figures showing the proportion of accidents to passengers that occurred here, as compared with those of other countries. He found in the Gartenlaube, which he had carefully consulted, that in 1869 there were 3,330 geographical miles of railway in England. 1,370 in Prussia, and 1,050 in Austria. In England the total number of passengers on these lines was 312,000,000; in Prussia, 62,000,000; and in Austria, 18,000,000. It was to be understood that he was making no reference to goods and mineral traffic, which was enormously greater in England than in the two countries named, and which, of course, inevitably added to the risks on railways. "With regard to the two foreign countries named, it would be remembered that the population of each of them was certainly not less than that of England. Well, as to the number of accidents, there were in England 5 passengers per 1,000,000 injured slightly, injured seriously, or killed; in Prussia, 12 per 1,000,000; and in Austria, 23 per 1,000,000. This was, also, notwithstanding the fact that the rate of speed in England was far higher than in the two countries named. In India, again, although in that country the State exercised a strict control over the lines, the proportion of accidents was at least as large as in England. "With regard to Belgium, where it was commonly said the beau idéal of railway management was to be found, he was not in possession of precise statistics; but he had reason to believe that the proportion there was not much short of what it was in Prussia. Persons who were liable to be alarmed by railway accidents should consider for a moment the far larger numbers of people who were run over in the streets of the metropolis. Last year there were no less than 217 persons killed by accidents in the streets of London, not to speak of the very considerable number who were injured. The reason why less attention was paid to this really more serious evil was, that the papers took less notice of such occurrences than they did of railway accidents; and that more people were killed or injured at one time on railways than in the streets. Keeping these facts in mind, the number of railway accidents did not appear so alarming; but, in his opinion, they might be considerably reduced by enlarging the powers of the Railway Commission appointed last year. So much for the question of accidents. An argument for transferring the railways to Government had been drawn from the case of the Post Office and the Telegraphs. But the cases were not at all analogous, for the business of the Post Office and Telegraphs was, comparatively speaking, a very simple one, involving practically the use of very little capital, and that little almost a fixed quantity; and, moreover, the question of trust came into consideration. While on this point, he might also say with regard to the Telegraphs that he believed they had not hitherto been so successful, in a financial point of view, as had been expected when they were acquired by Government. A great portion of the expense connected with railways was the cost of the plant, and the purchase would involve an enormous outlay on the part of the Government. They should remember, too, what was the proper province of a Government. The real object of all Government was to do what was absolutely necessary for the welfare of the State, but not to enter into trade and commerce unless some imperious necessity required it. He maintained that no such imperious necessity had been shown by the hon. Member. The hon. Member had referred to the Report of the Irish Railway Commission, and had stated that one of its members, Sir Rowland Hill, was in favour of purchasing the Irish railways by the State; but in fairness he should have mentioned that only two members of that Commission—Sir Rowland Hill and Mr. Monsell—held that opinion, and that all the others were against it. Who were the other Commissioners? Their names were those of the Duke of Devonshire, the Earl of Donoughmore, the Earl of Belmore, the Hon. Leveson Gower, Messrs. Lowe, Roebuck, Hors-fall, Dalglish, Glyn, Ayrton, Douglas Galton, Hamilton. Maclean. C.E., and Pole, CE. (Secretary). They were all men of distinguished ability; and some of them had had great experience in railway management. This was the conclusion at which they arrived. They said— We cannot concur in the expediency of the purchase of the railways by the State, and we are of opinion that it is inexpedient at present to submit the policy which has been adopted, of leaving the construction and management of railways to the free enterprise of the people, under such conditions as Parliament may think fit to impose for the general welfare of the public. On that decision he took his stand, rather than on the opinion of two isolated members of that Commission. Again, Belgian experience had been quoted in favour of State purchase. But it should be remembered that the circumstances of the two countries were entirely different. The cost per mile in England was £38,000; in Belgium, £18,000. Land was far dearer in England; and so were labour, materials. &c., &c. Besides this, the speed in Belgium was 30 per cent less, and the number of trains far less; and finally, the system was a very small one, so that the analogy was not a real one. To pass to another subject. What was it that it was really proposed to buy? It was important in considering this question to keep in view its magnitude. The total mileage of railways in the three countries was over 15,000 miles, and in Ireland alone over 2,000, and although it might be said that the purchase of the English and Scotch railways was not involved in the question, he believed that the principle which applied to one country equally applied to the others. The only difference was one of amount. Well, that being so, what was the amount of capital to be taken into account? In 1872 the total capital expended on the railways amounted to £570,000,000; and it-was now as far as he could ascertain, over £600,000,000. The percentage paid in 1872 on the ordinary share capital was 5.14 per cent. and on the total capital 4.51 per cent. At present it was, he believed, somewhat more. That being so, what would it cost to buy the railways? The calculation was a very simple one. If we were to issue Consols for the purpose of the purchase of the Irish and Scotch railways, we could not offer to the holders of stock less than the annual income which they at present received. Upon that principle the amount of Consols we should have to issue to replace £1,000 stock producing £45 a-year, would be £1,500, and therefore, if we were to purchase the £600,000,000 of stock we should have to give £900,000,000 of Consols in order to produce the revenue of 4½ per cent. allowing nothing for compulsory purchase or prospective increase of value. Taking the analogy to be derived from the operation of the Lands Clauses Consolidation Act, compulsory purchase would necessitate an addition of 10 per cent. thus making £90,000,000 more, so that the result would be that we should find ourselves obliged, if the Government became the purchasers of the railways, to increase the National Debt by, at least, the large sum of £1,000,000,000, or, in other words, to more than double it, for now it amounted to only about £780,000,000. That would be without making any allowance for the prospective increase in the value of the investment; and upon that point he should like to refer to what had been stated by Captain Tyler, a gentleman of vast experience in railway matters, and who was most desirous, he could not help believing to be at the head of a great State railway department. He had been told that in expressing that opinion last year. Captain Tyler was under the impression that he (Mr. Goldsmid) meant to cast some reflection on his character. That, however, was far from his intention; but it was only natural that a man in Captain Tyler's position should be employed, and should expect to be employed, by the Government in the management of railways if they were in the hands of the State; and though he had no doubt his Report was honest, his opinion would probably be, in consequence, more or less biased on the subject. Well, Captain Tyler said this— There seems no reason why receipts of railways should not in another series of year continue to manifest equally important progress. The Companies will be able, as their credit improves and their ordinary dividends increase, to raise money at cheaper rates. The additional outlay required for further accommodation and improved apparatus, though large in total amount, will be merely fractional as regards the total capital: and will be the means of inducing increased traffic, and of saving largely in compensation, and of effecting economy in working: so that it will, on the whole, be beneficial in a pecuniary sense to the Companies. The railway system generally, having to a great extent overcome the troubles connected with competition and extension from which at one time it suffered so severely, would appear to have before it, in years to come, the prospect of increasing soundness and approaching prosperity. Allowance for the prospective increase of value must therefore be made in addition to the £1,000,000,000 of Consols, which he had ventured to show was the minimum value of the railway share capital at the present moment. Put that at 10 per cent. It would therefore bring up the price to £1,100,000,000 of Consols. Now, for this to pay financially the annual profit, which might be taken at 4½ per cent. on £600,000,000 of railway stock, or £27,500,000. must be increased to £33,000,000. Consequently, at first, on £1,000,000,000 of Consols there must be a loss of £2,500,000 a-year, or on £1,100,000,000 of Consols there must be a loss of £5,500,000 a-year, the mean of which would be £4,000,000. Now seeing that all sound politicians—such as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone), the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, the hon. Baronet the Member for Maidstone (Sir John Lubbock), and others—most properly insisted on decreasing in times of prosperity the National Debt, any policy which would lead to such a disastrous result as he had pointed out would be most unwise. Turning to the general result of the proposed plan, it would be seen that there were but two modes of management which could be followed. One would be for Government to lease the lines to working companies under certain conditions. But nothing could be gained by this, as without undertaking the vast and new responsibility proposed they had now the power of imposing conditions on the working—a power of control which the House exercised in many ways. Thus, it had appointed a Railway Commission to look after the railways, and it could increase the powers of that Commission. Consequently, that plan was out of the question. The only other method was that of direct Government management, which would involve the necessity on the part of the House of Commons of looking after the Government in the administration of so enormous a department. The result would be that there would be constant Motions in the House with respect to fares, wages, and branch lines; Motions with regard to one town being favoured more than another; and if a strike occurred, the matters in dispute would be brought before the Legislature, and the whole or greater part of the time of the House and the Government would be consumed in considering all these multifarious and most important questions. There would, besides, be great difficulty on the part of the Government in managing 250,000 railway servants, and constant applications would be made to Members of the House in connection with the 20,000 vacancies which year after year occurred among that body. And what would be the system of appointment adopted? It could hardly be that of having recourse to the Civil Service Commission, because a man might be an admirable writer and pass the Civil Service examination, and yet not be possessed of those physical qualifications which were required in a railway porter. How, again, would is be possible, by means of such an examination, to select an efficient railway manager to look after the business of a great establishment? It appeared to him that the only system which it would be found possible to adopt was that of patronage, involving all those evils which it had been the endeavour of successive Governments to avoid. Again we were told the object of the purchase was to reduce fares, and to build branch, and therefore non-paying, lines. Bur he had proved the financial results of purchase with present fares and lines. How much worse, then, might they not be with these reductions, unless the increase of traffic were enormous beyond all pas; experience, which would immediately necessitate vast additional outlay, as the present lines and plant would be totally insufficient? This was admitted by the Irish Railway Commission, who said that if the Government were to buy the Irish railways and reduce the fares they could not look forward to making any profit for at least 11 years, which he (Mr. Goldsmid) thought would even then be more than problematical. Moreover, if the Government had that enormous number of servants it would have to face the great difficulty of strikes—a matter not to be disregarded—especially when they remembered that of late there had been great discontent in the Civil Service. which contained, comparatively speaking, a small number of employés. Again the State would be under the necessity of purchasing all the other undertakings in which the railway companies were interested, such as collieries, canals, steamers, harbours, engine and waggonworks, hotels, &c.; and thus the Government would have to enter generally into competition with the private enterprise of the country. Moreover, the capital account would never be closed, for at present a sum varying between £10,000,000 and £20,000,000 was annually spent by the railway companies in new branch lines, extensions, additional rolling stock, and the like, all of which would have to be met by the Government. At present, too. if an accident occurred on a railway, a Government Inspector went down and tried to ascertain the cause of the mischief, and to enforce such alterations as would, in his opinion, obviate its recurrence; but if Captain Tyler were himself the manager of the line, who would inquire into his mismanagement or that of any other person who might be said to have caused the accident? He might ask, Quis custodiet custodem ipsum? The State would be responsible, legally, for the failure of its servants; and these questions would be constantly brought before the House, when they would have the same results as they had in regard to unfortunate events in the Navy and Army—a thing greatly to be deprecated. Again, there would not exist the same personal interest in making the undertaking pay as was now secured under private management; moreover, the adoption of improvements would be a great stumbling block. The President of the Board of Trade knew what a number of inventors were always appealing to him in favour of their inventions, while the experience of the First Lord of the Admiralty, no doubt, was very similar. He was informed that nobody could imagine how many alleged improvements were daily suggested to the railway companies—improvements which after a few months trial proved to be utter failures. Therefore, the difficulty which the companies encountered in selecting inventions would not be lessened but increased in the case of the Government; because probably they would have hon. Members of that House, the friends of inventors, bringing forward and urging the Government to adopt the greatest discoveries of the day. The effect which the purchase of the railways would have on the credit of the nation deserved notice. Although a portion of the property of the country would be represented by the railways, it would be inalienable; and a country with a Debt of £1,770,000,000, especially in times of difficulty, would not have the same national credit or be as able to raise money as a country with a Debt of £780,000,000. The experience of France proved that to be so, although the recuperative power of France was as great as that of this country. To sum up, he (Mr. Goldsmid) would say that the hon. Member for Kerry (Mr. Blennerhassett) had shown a small grievance, but he had not shown that it could not be remedied either by the directors or shareholders of the railways, or by the action of Parliament or of the Railway Commission. He had given no proof that it was necessary for the State to purchase the Irish railways; whereas he (Mr. Goldsmid) had demonstrated that, for the State to buy them would involve not only great financial and political disturbance, but also such a vast amount of administrative difficulty as would practically impede the business of Parliament, and they knew already that on many occasions attempts had been made by right hon. Gentlemen on both sides to diminish the pressure of Public Business in that House. The gross amount received in 1872 by our railways for carrying passengers was £23,000,000, and for conveying goods. £28,000,000. That was the result of unaided private enterprise; and it was not. on the whole, discouraging. He said "unaided enterprise," but that was only correct as regarding the English and Scotch railways, but not as regarding the Irish, because loans had been made by the Treasury to the Irish railways at certain rates of interest. From time to time the companies had applied to the Government to reduce those rates of interest, and on various occasions with success. He thought it was wrong for the Government to accede to those applications, as it was not their duty to make non-paying concerns pay. Moreover, he did not believe that such assistance from the State had been advantageous to the Irish railways themselves. When the present Speaker had been first elected to fill the Chair he so greatly adorned, he had said that the now Prime Minister was "a master of happy phrases;" to which he (Mr. Goldsmid) would venture to add that he was a master in appreciating the genius of his fellow-countrymen, and in judging the sources of the national prosperity: and he was sure the right hon. Gentleman would not wish to do anything that would check that main and primary source of English greatness—the efforts of private enterprise. He trusted, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury, or the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, would positively state to the House that the Government did not approve of the Motion. He (Mr. Goldsmid) had thought it only right that the present House of Commons should hear the reasons—financial, general, commercial, and political—why the late House of Commons had withheld its assent from this proposal on two occasions; and he hoped the present House of Commons would confirm that decision. He begged to thank the House warmly for its courteous attention, and to conclude by moving his Amendment.


, in seconding the Amendment, said, the hon. Member who had just sat down had in his most able and lucid speech clearly made out a ground for rejecting the Motion of the hon. Member for Kerry (Mr. Blennerhassett.) He (Colonel Barttelot) approached that question in no unfriendly spirit to Ireland. It was not in any sense a party question; and if any real grievance could be shown to exist in regard to it he was sure that every hon. Member would readily do his best to remedy it. The hon. Member for Kerry, who had very ably brought forward the Motion, did not disguise from himself that the question of the Irish railways was mixed up with that of the English and Scotch. Last year the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone), while admitting that Irish railways might be assisted in raising debentures, resisted the noble Lord's (Lord Claud Hamilton's) Motion, expressing his agreement with the hon. Member for Rochester (Mr. Goldsmid) that it was unwise for the Government to act as traders, though the Post Office was, and the Telegraphs might be, an exception. As to the Telegraphs, he might remark, the Government purchase had not apparently been a very successful speculation, the large dividends anticipated not being likely to accrue. He warned the House of the danger that might be incurred by purchasing the Irish railways. They were first told that they could be got for £22,000,000, next that a sum of £28,000,000 would be requisite, but the probability was if the matter was thoroughly looked into that £30,000,000 would be nearer the mark. That being the case, they were bound carefully to consider what they were likely to get for their money. The first thing that would happen if the Government purchased the railways would be an immense clamour throughout the length and breadth of Ireland for a reduction of fares and increased railway accommodation. Then every place which had not a railway would ask for one, and consider itself very badly used if it did not get it. These were two strong reasons against the purchase; but there was another, equally strong, also deserving of consideration. Were the railways taken over by the State immense patronage would devolve upon the Government, which might work in a very awkward way. Leaving the advocates of Home Rule to consider the bearing of this proposal on that agitation, he would tell hon. Members opposite who referred to times long past to show that English legislation destroyed the trade and commerce of Ireland that they would render more service to their country by looking to the present time and to the manner in which Ireland was now treated. The hon. Member for Kerry (Mr. Blennerhassett), who described Irish trade as declining, should visit Belfast, one of the most flourishing towns in the United Kingdom, which had been making great advances. Let any one who knew Ireland say whether the trade of that country had not annually increased. Had not the wave of prosperity which had passed over England and Scotland affected Ireland? Look at the Returns made in regard to trade, commerce, and agriculture. There was no country that had made greater strides in prosperity during the last 20 years than Ireland. If it were only left alone, if there were a cessation of the agitation that was constantly going on. if her people would only follow the example of England and Scotland in their habits, there was nothing to hinder the sister Isle being as prosperous, as contented, and as happy as the rest of the United Kingdom. As to the management of railways, this was for the shareholders to remedy, and, were incompetent directors got rid of, the lines might be managed much better than could be done by any Government. He had hoped that after what had been done to amend the condition of Ireland, her "winter of discontent" had passed away, and that the words of her poet might be applied to her— O Erin, O Erin, thy winter is past, And the hope that lived through it shall blossom at last. He trusted that no false hopes would be held out, such as had proceeded from both front Benches in former years. There was no occasion now to hold out hopes that would not be realized, and he trusted that his right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland would announce that the Government had no intention of purchasing Irish railways. The hon. and gallant Gentleman seconded the Amendment.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "the purchase of the Irish Railways by the State would he financially inexpedient, would unduly enlarge the patronage of the Government, and seriously increase the pressure, of business in Parliament,"—(Mr. Goldsmid.)

—instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


congratulated his hon. Friend the Member for Kerry (Mr. Bleunerhassett) on the ability he displayed in bringing forward his Motion, and hoped the subject would receive the attention of the House. He (Mr. Downing) regretted that the hon. and gallant Member (Colonel Barttelot) had imported into this question a matter which might very well have been left out, and he cordially agreed with him in wishing that the Irish people were as happy as the English, but there was in fact a marked difference between the people of the two countries. This question had been several years in suspense, something like a promise being on one occasion given, while on another, hopes were held out that the existing mismanagement must and would be remedied. In 1836 the House resolved that Irish railways should be executed as public works, the management being-vested in the Irish Board of Works, with power to the Treasury to consider what assistance might be requisite. This had remained a dead letter, as also had the recommendation of the Commission six years ago, which was adopted by the House, that advances should be made to assist the construction of railways. It had been stated that large sums had been advanced by the Commissioners of Public Works in Ireland to aid in the construction of the Irish lines, but the House had not been told that those sums had been repaid. What was the fact? In all, sums amounting to £3,002,700 had been advanced, and of that large sum there was due now for principal £75,000, and for interest £27,000, but only because the time for payment of those sums had not arrived. The amount of interest paid on the loans amounted to no less than £757,341. He hoped never to hear it asserted that the money which had boon borrowed had not been repaid.


said, he had never made such an assertion. What he stated was that money had been advanced to aid in the construction of the Irish lines, and that nothing of the kind took place in England.


asked what argument could be founded on the fact? If the money had been advanced, it had been repaid, and with interest. But it had been said that if the Irish lines were purchased, the English lines should be purchased also. He had the high authority of the late Prime Minister for saying that such need not be the case. "It would not," said the right hon. Gentleman, "involve the extension of the principle to England;" and again— The circumstances were so different that he did not feel that the judgment of Parliament would he compromised by any step that it might adopt with reference to Ireland."—[3 Hansard, ccxv. 1159.] He hoped, therefore, that as the lines could be purchased on the security of every acre of Irish land, as no one could possibly suffer but Irish proprietors, who were unanimous in opinion upon the subject, that the Irish Members who were united upon the question would not be overborne by the English and Scotch Members. In what position did the present Government stand as to this matter? The Government of the late Lord Derby appointed a Commission in 1867 to value the Irish railways, and to report thereon. That inquiry cost £28,000, and further instructions were given them to report what they would be worth to a bonâ fide purchaser. A deputation of Irish Peers and Members waited upon Lord Derby and the present Prime Minister, and a Sub-Committee was appointed to act with the deputation, which consisted of the present First Lord of the Admiralty, the Duke of Richmond, and the right hon. Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Spencer Walpole). He ventured to think, as he had frequently heard from hon. Gentlemen opposite, that had that Government remained in office, the Irish lines would now be the property of the State. The Irish Members were part of the United Parliament, and he therefore hoped their opinions would not be treated lightly, and that they would not be overridden by the united opinion of English and Scotch Members. Should they be, what would the people of Ireland say? "If we had our own Parliament we would not be treated in that way." The House had heard what the hon. Member for Rochester (Mr. Goldsmid) had said in his "very able speech," though for his (Mr. Downing's) part, he did not think there was much in it. He deprecated attempts being made to put off this question after the manner of the hon. Member for Rochester, who last year suggested that the whole question in the course of time would come to an end, by steam being supplanted by some other invention, and by the Irish rail-ways being thus got rid of altogether. As an illustration of the high tariff for the carriage of goods on the Irish railways, he would state an instance. A brewer in Dublin contracted to supply the troops encamped at the Curragh of Kildare with ales; but finding that the cost of transit was 56s. a ton, and that he would not have any profit, he declined to send the ales by rail, and sent them by water and made a profit. Why was it that the railway company charged so high a price per ton for carriage? because Parliament had given a monopoly to the railway companies. The question was—were they going to continue that monopoly? He considered it was the duty of the Government to take such steps as would rectify that state of things. In 1870 Sir Charles Fox and Sons reported that the opening of 685 additional miles of railway, at an outlay of £3,500,000, would complete the Irish railway system. If the Government would not purchase the Irish railways altogether, would it be asking them too much to consider whether it would not be wise and just to advance the people of Ireland the sum necessary to enable them to complete those lines for the construction of which Acts of Parliament had been obtained, and thus afford them an opportunity of most materially developing their resources? In conclusion, he begged to differ from those hon. Members who were in the habit of asserting that Ireland was in a prosperous condition. During the last 20 years the prosperity had decreased, her population had diminished from 8,500,000 to 5,500,000, while thousands of acres had gone out of cultivation, and her cattle trade had considerably fallen off. He hoped the Government would take a considerate view of the Motion of his hon. Friend, and not be diverted from rendering justice to Ireland by the Amendment of the hon. Member for Rochester.


said, he felt deeply interested in the welfare of Ireland, but he failed to see how the purchase of the Irish railways by the State could conduce to the prosperity of that country, or else he should vote in favour of that proposition. The chief reasons why this appeal was made were the alleged want of traffic and the high prices charged for traffic by the Irish railways. Traffic always would produce railways, but the converse of this—namely, that railways would produce traffic—was only true where there was a germ and nucleus of traffic to create and develop the railway system. The case of sugar had been mentioned, but everyone consumed sugar, whereas in Ireland there was no present requirement, or, at all events, very little for railway accommodation. In addition to this, were the Government to have all the patronage of the railways in their hands, a great impulse and addition would be given to that party feeling and excitement which had always been the bane and the curse of the sister country. For his part, he should be glad to see the spirit of enterprise so advanced in Ireland as to develop her traffic; but he could not see that the Resolution before the House could in any way advance her material and social interests. With regard to the alleged prosperity of Ireland, he thought that anyone who would travel through that country must see that that statement was not correct. There were vast tracts of land uncultivated, and there was also observable the absence of a middle class in the country—a class which was an element of wealth in every country. A very strong argument in favour of something being done to promote the prosperity of the Irish railways was to be found in the decrease of the passenger traffic in 1871–2 by £116,000; and if any hon. Member should ask the Government to take into consideration the proposition for the completion of un-finished railways he should be glad to support him; but in the subject now before the House the question of patronage was the rock upon which the proposal would split.


said, that he would not have troubled the House with any remarks on this subject, were it not for the challenge of the hon. Member for Cork County; but he hoped that as long as he had the honour of holding a seat in it he would openly express his opinions, regardless of the side upon which he sat, and that opinion was that he did not know any boon which would prove of more benefit to Ireland than that of the purchase of the Irish railways. He trusted that whatever course the Government might feel it their duty to take, they would not, by supporting the Amendment of the hon. Member for Rochester (Mr. Goldsmid), pledge themselves to a policy antagonistic to the only request that could be made of them, backed by the unanimous wish of the Irish people.


said, he was glad to have heard the observations which had been just expressed by the hon. Member (Mr. Kavanagh) on the opposite side of the House, It had been said by the hon. Member for Rochester (Mr. Goldsmid) that the proposal to purchase the Irish railways would require £1,000,000,000 sterling, but it would not require any such money. The Irish railways—and the purchase it was proposed should be confined to them—were valued at from £20,000,000 to £23,000,000. They comprised about 2,000 miles of railway, and in England there were already railway companies with mileage nearly as great, capital considerably larger, and traffic immensely superior in quantity. The latest statistics he could obtain showed that there were, in 1868, 1,908 miles of railway in Ireland, and that these 1,908 miles were managed, not by one official, as they would be in any Continental State, but by 39 distinct corporations, having for the most part 39 distinct policies, 39 secretaries, 39 solicitors, 39 engineers, 70 auditors, and 333 directors. The practical result of this was that the lines appeared to be designed to combine the minimum of convenience with the maximum of charge, so that in a poor country like Ireland the fares were higher even than in England, and almost invariably higher than in Scotland. In Belgium the average third-class fare for 100 miles was 3s.; in Italy, 4s.; in Prussia, 6s. 6d.; and in Ireland, 8s. 4d. The charge imposed for the conveyance of the necessaries of life was so high that it considerably enhanced the selling prices, and impeded trade and manufactures. As many hon. Members could testify, live stock were frequently driven along the roads in order to save the railway charges, and with a similar view goods had been shipped for England, and then reshipped to another Irish port. The rates charged were in some cases 50 or 72 per cent of the value of the produce. Moreover, the want of supplemental accommodation had been deeply felt. The late Prime Minister had admitted that it would be to the interest of Ireland that the extreme sub-division of her railways should be got rid of. The Irish shareholders were amongst the worst remunerated, for their investments, in the world, and some of the companies in that country had no dividend at all, so that extensions were altogether prevented. In Ireland there was one mile of railway for every 10,000 acres of land; but in England there was one mile for every 9,700 acres. Mr. Dargan, a high authority, had stated that State purchase of the Irish railways would effect a saving in management of £250,000 a-year. In Belgium nearly all the greater railways were under the control of the State. Independent companies had been frequently sold to the State. Passengers, there, were carried for 67 per cent less than in Ireland, and goods from 39 to 70 per cent less; while the Belgian railways paid at least 7 per cent. the profits being applied by the State mostly to the creation of a sinking fund, and it was calculated that in eight years more the accumulations would be sufficient to clear off the entire cost of the railways. The Irish Members did not ask the House to advance any money that would not be perfectly safe. They proposed to guarantee the State against loss; and he trusted, therefore, that the able and kindly Gentleman who had lately spoken would reconsider the subject more carefully. As to the objection that great loss of time would be entailed on the House by such a purchase, that inconvenience might easily be avoided, for that might be done which was suggested on a former occasion, the system might be managed by a paid Board upon which all the patronage would devolve. So far from Government management of railways being unusual, it was the British system that was the exception. From Belgium, Prussia, and other countries where railways were in the hands of the State there were no complaints of the inconvenience, which had been spoken of by hon. Gentlemen.


opposed the Motion. It had been contended that this was a purely Irish matter; but the logical deduction from the adoption of the proposal would be the purchase of the English railways, and there would be a greater inducement to purchase the latter, as the security would be so much the better. If the Irish railways had been paying concerns we should never have heard of any proposal for their purchase by Government. This was not a purely Irish question; it involved the interests of the Kingdom at large. Hon. Members opposite said they that did not wish for any class legislation. But he maintained the purchase of the Irish railways would be in reality the adoption of the system to which hon. Gentlemen Themselves objected. He hoped the House would refuse to sanction the Motion of the hon. Member for Kerry (Mr. Blennerhassett.)


said, he had had great experience in the working of railways, and his opinion was that a poor railway was the worst security upon which a man could raise money. If, as was said, the Government could earn £100,000 more by working a railway themselves, they would certainly spend £100,000 more in doing so than would be expended by a private company. If the Government purchased the Irish railways it would not be enough that they should give the same service as was now given by the railway companies. They would have to pay the shareholders more, while a sum of £3 per mile per week for better service would make an addition to the expenditure of £6,000 a week, or £300,000 a year. Now, the real question was, was the Government prepared to pay the people of Ireland £300,000 a year for their railways? Upon that question he was not going to offer an opinion as a matter of policy or justice; but he was not prepared to sacrifice that amount of money unless our Friends at the other side of the water would guarantee that they would then be content. If they would only be satisfied over after, a good bargain might, perhaps, be made. As to accidents on railways, he thought our railway managers were entitled to great credit for the care they took of the public. Considering that they carried 756,000 daily, it was surprising how few the accidents were. Whatever else the Government might do, he trusted they would leave the responsibility of working the railways as much as possible with the companies. He did not complain of the present interference; but he certainly would not have the Government to interfere with the working of the lines by the companies much more than they now did.


said, that although he concurred in much that had fallen from the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment he did not agree in the conclusion at which they seemed to have arrived, that the Government should purchase no railway. In the time of the Irish famine a proposal for the purchase of the Irish railways was made on the Conservative side of the House and rejected by the Liberals; but the question was then a totally different one. Some of the arguments advanced by the supporters of this Motion were suicidal. It was said, for instance, that the Irish railways should be purchased by the State because they were badly managed, and because the shareholders got bad dividends; but the Irish people were perfectly able to manage their own affairs. If the Irish shareholders got bad dividends let them insist on better dividends, and if the Irish railways were badly managed let the public insist on better management. The real question, however, was, how far the State should interfere with such undertakings? At one time there was a rage for monopolies; then it was discovered that monopolies did not consider the public good, and competition became the rule; the interests of the public, however, were still disregarded. Where a certain amount of uniformity was required, the service was taken out of the region of monopoly and competition. The State took it into its own hand. This was the case with locomotion; the State determined and restricted its three elements—the public carriage was inspected by the police, the driver had to take out a licence, and the fares were regulated by Act of Parliament. So it was with the Post Office and the Telegraphs. It was for the good of the public that the State stepped in; without that there would be the greatest confusion and irregularity. The same argument applied to railways. Take the case of the London and Northwestern Railway Company, which was omnipotent, despotic, and could make the public pay what it liked. The interests of the public were put out of view. Consider, on the other hand, the advantages that would accrue from having unity of management all over England. There would be the greatest convenience in travelling; there would be a great saving of expense; and the public would have to a certain extent to be considered. At present we enjoyed neither the benefit of competition nor the benefit of unity of management—that was to say, of a monopoly. Going to certain places we had no choice of lines, and in regard to fares there existed great discrepancies. For example, one paid less to go to Edinburgh titan to go to certain stations two or three hours nearer. He would be told that in regard to many places there was competition. Perhaps he would be advised, for instance, to take a ticket to Exeter. That, however, seemed to him pretty much the same as committing suicide, for one was almost certain to get his bones broken on that journey. There was some nickname the train had which he could not at the moment remember, but which meant bloodshed and slaughter to all mankind. If experience was desired of the result of want of unity in the management of the railways, he would say try to get from Carlisle to Norwich. It would be found to be impossible. We ought to have neither a damaging competition nor a damaging monopoly. There was a strong dislike expressed to Government becoming, as it was called, traders; but in this matter Government had not done, and could not do, what was wanted. It was most undesirable to leave one of the great sources of the prosperity of this country under the control of private companies which considered nothing but their own good. The argument which applied to the Post Office and the Telegraphs was equally good in the case of the railways. What he had said was, in his opinion, true as regarded the United Kingdom generally, and his reason for recommending that attention should be confined in the meantime to the Irish railways was simply that a comparatively low sum would be required to purchase them. The capital of the English railways was £484,000,000—which would, under the Act of 1844. have to be bought at 25 years' purchase; that of the Scotch railways was £40,000,000, and that of the Irish was only £26,000,000. If the Irish railways were purchased by the State, not only would the sum required be very moderate, but there would be a positive gain to the State, for it was certain that there would be a very large increase in the amount of the dividends. There would be less rolling stock required, and a great saving would be effected in respect of the high sums at present paid to chairmen, directors, engineers, and solicitors. Mr. Graves, the late Member for Liverpool, had estimated that the saving effected would be about 25 per cent. but take it even at 10 per cent and it would still be a most desirable result. With regard to the Commission which sat in 1860, the two members of it who had most weight were in favour of the purchase of the Irish railways. The evidence given before the Commission pointed to the utter want of good management, and showed that the railway system of Ireland had not been half developed. Moreover, it was shown that, owing to the divided management, there was much clashing; and Mr. Forbes, of the London, Chatham, and Dover Railway, described the rates as prohibitory. It had been a principle in the legislation of this country for hundreds of years past that, where the object was the public good, it was proper not merely to restrict the action of trading companies, but even that the State should itself take a commercial enterprise in hand. He thought he had shown it would be for the good of the country that the State should purchase the Irish railways, and he hoped to see the day when a similar stop would he taken in regard to other railways of the United Kingdom.


observed., that the hon. Member for Kerry (Mr. Blennerhassett) had stated his opinion that the purchase of Irish railways was a different question from that of English ones; but he (Mr. Gower) failed to observe any difference of principle that should apply to Irish railways and not to English railways also. It was true, as the hon. Member said, that in Ireland there were a number of small companies; but this was not sufficient to justify the proposal now made. It was undoubtedly an evil, and he feared that the agitation which was made in favour of the State purchase of railways rather tended to aggravate the evil, inasmuch as the shareholders in many instances thought that they could obtain better terms separately than if they were amalgamated. One of the strangest arguments urged in favour of this proposal was that if the Government were to undertake the management of these railways the accidents would diminish. This he did not believe; but, independently of that, the accidents alluded to occurred on English and not on Irish railways. Common sense would, therefore, dictate that the remedy should be applied where the evil existed, and it was difficult to conceive how the fact that there were accidents on railways in England could be used as an argument for purchasing lines in Ireland. Any Government that accepted this proposal would find itself placed in a very invidious position. Again, it had been proposed that there should be uniformity in the fares; but, as a Member of the Commission of 1866, he could testify to the fact that this was a result which it was impossible to arrive at. He should be glad to see anything done which would have the effect of encouraging the development of Irish railways: but he believed that it could not be done by adopting the proposal of the hon. Member for Kerry.


A great part of the discussion of this evening, and not a little, I believe, of the speech of the hon. Member who introduced the subject (Mr. Blennerhassett), has very naturally been taken up with the main question of the purchase of railways, rather than with the Motion actually before the House. I do not wish to deal at any length with the main question. It is sufficient for me to say that, so far as my own opinion and the opinion of the Government are concerned, we adhere to the Report of the Commission of which the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down was a Member. The question of the State purchase of railways is full of difficulties. Such a proposal is open on the one hand to the objection that if carried out through the United Kingdom, it would be an operation of such magnitude as seriously to disturb the financial interests of the country; while, on the other hand, it would involve an interference with private enterprise of an objectionable, unnecessary, and therefore impolitic kind. I need say nothing of the financial objection, after the able and exhaustive speech of the hon. Member for Rochester (Mr. Goldsmid). But on the question of interference with private enterprise, it has been assumed by some of the speakers this evening that the State need not hesitate to purchase the railways, because it has already undertaken work connected with the Post Office and the Electric Telegraphs. Now, I can see no reason for placing railways on the same footing as the Post Office and Electric Telegraphs. If a Government is to go beyond the duty of governing, and to take to trading, it may just as well engage in any other pursuit as in the management of railways. It might undertake the management of docks, the manufacture of cotton, or the regulation of the trade which we heard discussed last night, and which is admitted in its abuse to cause so much misery in this country. But if the Government should not undertake the management of these things, then it appears to me that railways might, together with them, as well be left to private enterprise under proper regulations. But it has been alleged that, although the House has not upon this occasion been asked to apply this principle to the whole of the railways of the United Kingdom, the Government may fairly undertake this liability in respect to Ireland, on account of the exceptional circumstances of that country. I do not, however, think it is possible to consider the ease of Ireland apart from that of the whole United Kingdom. If the principle were once granted in the case of Ireland, the extension of it to other parts of the United Kingdom would certainly be demanded sooner or later. But, supposing this not to be the case, what special reasons are there why the Government should undertake this matter for Ireland and not for other portions of the United Kingdom? It has been stated that the Irish railways are in a depreciated condition; but whatever their condition may be at present, it has been steadily improving for some years past, so much so that the shareholders of many lines are now perfectly content with their position, and do not wish their lines to be purchased by the Government on any terms. Again, though the shareholders of other railways may, to outsiders, appear to be bankrupt, yet they seem to have a very sanguine idea as to the future prospect of their undertakings. I think it necessarily follows, therefore, that if the Government were to attempt the purchase of the Irish railways, a very high price would be demanded for them by the shareholders. 10 or 15 per cent beyond the market value has been spoken of; and this would not be all: for when the purchase had been made, it would, of course, be necessary that the Government should spend a sum of money in improving the permanent way, adding to the rolling stock, reducing the fares, and other matters which may tend to make the railways more available for traffic. Taking all these considerations together, the price which the Government would have to pay for the Irish railways would be far beyond their real market value. Then, when that price had been paid, what ground have we for expecting that any possible extension of business would recoup the Government for its expenditure? Ireland is not—and I am afraid is not likely to become—a manufacturing country. I could refer to many parts of England and Scotland of a character similar to that of Ireland, where the traffic does not increase, in spite of the reduction of fares, in that ratio, which would lead us to expect in Ireland any large increase. Therefore, I think it is not possible that for some years to come we could expect anything but a serious loss if we purchase the Irish railways. Then comes the question, how that loss is to be borne. The Members for Ireland who spoke this evening said they did not propose to ask the Imperial Legislature to bear the loss. They have one and all supported this proposal, irrespective of creed and party; but I have been unable to discover what is the exact nature of the proposition which they would recommend us to adopt. From what source are these funds to be derived which would unquestionably be required to carry out this undertaking? Are they to be derived from rates or taxes on Irish income or property? If so, are those rates or taxes to be levied on the whole of Ireland? Is Kildare to pay the deficiency of the county of Mayo? Is Mayo to pay the deficiency in the case of its own railways, and can it afford to do so? Is the whole of Ireland to pay for a deficiency which would mainly occur in the less thickly populated districts? If the railways are to be under Government management is it so certain that this burden will be willingly borne? Are not hon. Members for Ireland likely to come down to this House and say—"You are taxing us to make up a deficiency in the receipts of our railways; but that deficiency is, in our opinion, due to your own management. We, therefore, contend that you have no right to tax us." "Well, then, from what source would it probably be urged that the deficiency should be supplied? Very likely, as in other instances, from the Imperial Exchequer. But that is not the whole question. What about future extensions? The purchase of the telegraphs serves, I think, as a very useful lesson in these matters. That transaction has been so recently concluded that I scarcely deem it right to found any general argument upon it. This, however, we have clearly before us, that the hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. Tighe) the other evening requested the Postmaster General to insure that a certain district in Ireland, now 40 miles from a telegraph and not containing a town or village of 1,000 inhabitants, should have the advantage of telegraphic communication extended to it. I pass no opinion on that request. The cost of telegraphs is comparatively small, and so also may be said to be their use, in comparison with railways. But if such requests are made in reference to telegraphic communication, will not many such requests be likely to be made to the Minister who may be responsible for Irish railway extension? If so, from what sources are the funds to be provided? Are you to tax Ireland afresh for every extension that may be demanded by some remote parts of it? Those are the difficulties which I confess seem to me to require to be met by hon. Members for Ireland who ask the House to assent to their proposal. But there is another difficulty. How are these railways to be managed? I do not wish to dilate on a point into which the hon. Member for Rochester and others so fully entered. I must confess, however, as the representative of the Irish Government in this House, that I have no wish to see increased patronage in the hands of the Government. We might, in accordance with modern custom, delegate to the Civil Service Commissioners the responsibility which in former days fell on the Minister. Still, there will be persons to be appointed to offices on railways whose appointments cannot be made on the result of an examination. There will, too, be contracts to be given, stores to be bought, expenditure of every kind to be incurred, and there may, I fear, be no limit to the mischief which might arise from vesting in the Government powers and responsibilities of this kind. On a former occasion the late Prime Minister said that he would on no account recommend that the Government should take the management of railways; but I have soon it suggested that they should be leased out to companies who would manage them. Now, that appears to me to be a plan which is open to great objection, and which possesses very few of the advantages of management by a central government authority. You would under such a system have lessees who, instead of having a permanent interest in the railways under their management, would have a merely temporary and partial interest, and would therefore be less inclined than the present companies to risk an immediate loss by the reduction of fares, or by improvements in working for the sake of a future profit. If the Government, as owners, wished to control such lessees in their freedom of action, I fear they would not have many bids for their leases. If the leases were taken on conditions framed for the benefit of the public rather than of the lessees a loss might result which must eventually be borne by the Government, because it is impossible that lessees could be compelled to work any railway at a loss. I think, therefore, that is a plan which will not command any very large amount of assent. The point, however, to which I wish principally to direct the attention of the House is this. Certain evils are alleged to exist in the present condition of railways in Ireland, and we are told that they are to be remedied by means of Government management. Now, I should like to know whether those who say so have considered all the existing remedies for the evils to which they refer. The first evil complained of is costly and inefficient management. We have heard a good deal this evening on that subject; but there are many railways in England, which could be named, which at one period of their history were managed in a way equally costly and equally inefficient. I may perhaps also be permitted to allude to one of the Irish lines—the Midland Great Western. That line was once at as low an ebb as has ever perhaps been reached by any railway company. In 1865 it was deeply in debt, and hardly able to borrow money at a high rate of interest; while it paid dividends not out of its earnings, carried traffic at prohibitory rates, and kept its permanent way in a state anything but satisfactory to the public. What happened? The shareholders saw how their business was being managed. They turned out the directors and selected as their chairman Sir Ralph Cusack. Under his management the finances of the company have greatly improved. The fares have been lowered, market traffic has boon encouraged, and the whole concern has been placed in a flourishing condition. At the present moment I am informed their £100 shares have risen from 52 to 85½, and they have been able to place £450,000 debentures at 4¼ per cent. while their Five per Cent preference sitares have risen from 98 to 112. If the Midland Great Western can do this I am sure other Irishmen can do what Sir Ralph Cusack has done, and what has also been done by many Englishmen. But it is stated that not only has the management of Irish railways been bad, but great difficulties have been thrown in the way of amalgamation. I find from Lord Emly's Report, as one of the Railway Commission in 1867, that at that date, 1838 miles of railway in Ireland were worked by 35 companies, and I am informed that at present 2,049 miles are, under leases or working arrangements, worked by 19 companies. That shows no inconsiderable progress in seven years in the matter of amalgamation. I do not hold up amalgamation as the sole remedy for the present unfavourable condition of Irish railways. As has been remarked by the noble Lord the Member for Westmeath (Lord Robert Montagu) over-amalgamation may lead to monopoly; still the amalgamation of certain of the railways in Ireland may lead to great advantage. There are four Irish railways which have carried out the principle of amalgamation successfully. Thus the Great Southern and Western of Ireland have obtained control over 445 miles of line; the Midland Great Western over 375 miles; the Irish North-Western over 212 miles; and the Waterford and Limerick over 208 miles. I must mention with reference to the latter company that there is no case in Ireland in which amalgamation is being so successfully carried out as by them. With the assistance of the Great Western of England, the Waterford and Limerick Railway have recently absorbed or made working arrangements with six other companies, and in conjunction with these it supplies a route from the West and South of Ireland viâ Waterford to England in competition with that supplied by the Great Southern and Western of Ireland viâ Dublin. Since it has been alleged that the want of access to markets for their fish has been a source of difficulty to the Irish fishermen, I may state that one of the directors of the Great Western of England informed me the other day that within one week no less than 1,200 tons of fish were brought from Ireland and carried viâ Milford Haven to the consuming parts of the Black Country, and that arrangements were now being made which would accelerate the delivery of fish in Birmingham by 24 hours, and thus obviate the present necessity for packing the fish in ice. I have stated this to show what improvements in railway communication may be made by Irishmen themselves, or by Irishmen in concert with Englishmen, without any aid from the State. Parliament might beneficially lend its assistance in promoting amalgamation, and possibly facilities might be given by Government, by which it might be rendered easier and cheaper than at present. Both this question, and also the suggestion, whether some provision compelling amalgamation might not be introduced into every private Railway Bill brought before Parliament, require very careful consideration. Complaints are, however, made on other points. Thus it is said that the high rates charged on the Irish railways discourage traffic; that there is a great want of facilities for interchange of traffic; that undue preference is occasionally given; and that other evils of a similar kind exist which interfere with the commerce of the country. Upon these points I must remind the House of an allusion already made by the hon. Member for Rochester (Mr. Goldsmid) to the Railway Regulation Act which was passed last Session. That Act gives the public every possible power to deal with defaulting railway companies. Under its clauses a private individual may, through the Railway Commissioners, compel a railway company to give all proper facilities for interchange of traffic with other companies, and to forward himself or his goods at fair rates and with no unnecessary delay. The cost of such a proceeding is by no means considerable. I have been informed that the cost of the case of Goddard v. the London and South Western Railway Company, recently heard by the Railway Commissioners, in which the decision was given in favour of the plaintiff, was only £3 11s. 6d. But if any one is unwilling to incur that cost, he may, through the corporation of his borough, or through any other body exercising public powers, appeal to the Railway Commissioners against the offending railway company; and if the railway company decline to carry out the decision of the Railway Commissioners they will be liable to a penalty of £200 a day. I do not know whether the provisions of that Act are widely known in Ireland; but it is strange that, as I was informed the other day, there has only been one appeal, and that of an unimportant nature, brought before the Railway Commissioners, from Ireland, and that in spite of the grievances which it is now alleged exist. I do not know whether Irishmen are like Englishmen in this respect—that they sometimes grumble without much cause. It ought, however, to be widely known in Ireland that such means, as those to which I have referred, do exist, by which remedies may be obtained for real grievances, and I think those who complain ought to be told to put the means which the law gives them into force before they come to this House to ask for further remedies. But no doubt it may be said that, after all, this is not sufficient—that there may be cases, and, indeed, that there are cases, where the railway companies merely from want of funds cannot be reached by the Railway Commissioners—and that an insolvent company, in spite of all that may be required of it, cannot lower its fares, provide proper rolling stock for the interchange of traffic, nor keep its permanent way in proper order. It was evidently to meet such cases as these that a suggestion was thrown out last year by the right hon. Gentleman the late Prime Minister to the effect that Irish railway companies should first agree upon some reasonable principle of amalgamation, and should arrange among themselves for the interchange of traffic, and that then, as if in return for changes to be made by them for the better service of the public, loans should be granted to them by the State upon terms which should place them in a better financial position. Such a suggestion coming from so high an authority deserves more careful consideration than either I or the Government have as yet been able to give it, and I am anxious not to express any decided opinion as to whether anything can be done in that direction or not. But there are objections to the proposal which occur to me upon the spur of the moment. There are railway companies in Ireland which are very prosperous, and which would not accept your loans upon the terms suggested; and there are other companies which are by no means prosperous, owing either to their own mismanagement or to their having turned out unfortunate financial speculations. Is it right, having a proper regard for private enterprise, for the State to assist companies as a reward for bad management in order to enable them to compete, upon more advantageous terms, with better managed companies? If so, upon what terms is the money to be lent, and how do you propose to enforce those terms? Are you going to exercise the same control, or anything like the same control, over Irish railways as is exercised over Indian railways by the State? I believe that if that course were adopted, the Irish railways would be the first to complain; because, whereas in India the State guarantees the interest upon the whole of the capital invested, with regard to the Irish railways the guarantee would only extend to the debenture capital. But even if the Irish companies were to agree that a considerable amount of control should be exercised over their affairs by the State, I should still think that the proposal was open to very serious objection indeed. If there is one thing which strikes Englishmen who have to deal with Irish matters more than another, it is that, whereas in England we have something like a dread of Government interference, in Ireland that interference—if not exactly courted—seems at any rate to be always expected. It would, in my opinion, be a retrograde policy if anything was done, either by Parliament or by the Government, that would tend to further centralization. The management of the Irish railways, whether bad or good, is, at any rate, in the hands of those locally interested in them; and I am surprised when I find hon. Members who declare themselves to be in favour of giving to Irishmen the management of all their affairs coming down to this House and asking the central Government to take away from Irishmen that control over important matters in their own country which they already possess. That, to my mind, is a policy which may answer well enough in India, although, oven there, we are now by degrees encouraging and leading the Natives of that country in the direction of self-government; but that policy applied to Ireland would be a retrograde and, I believe, a most mischievous one. And I may say on my own behalf and on the part of the Government that, whatever help may be given to the Irish railways under special circumstances, and whatever may be done to promote the development of Irish commerce, the management of these matters had better be left as it is now, in Irish hands, and not placed in those of the Government. With regard to the course which we intend to pursue with respect to this Motion, I should wish to point out to the hon. Member for Rochester (Mr. Goldsmid) that we have before the House a distinct Motion by the hon. Member for Kerry (Mr. Blennerhassett), to which, for the reasons I have stated, the Government are not prepared to accede, but that perhaps the House would not wish to commit itself to all the propositions advanced by the hon. Member's Amendment. It seems to me, therefore, that it would be preferable for the division to be taken on the Motion of the hon. Member for Kerry, rather than on the Amendment of the hon. Member for Rochester. "With regard to the future, I assure the House and especially hon. Members from Ireland, that the points to which I have referred shall receive our most careful consideration, with every wish and endeavour to promote what we believe to be the true interests of that country.


I hope that the hon. Members who moved and seconded the Resolution before the House (Mr. Blennerhassett and Mr. Ormsby Gore), as well as those who have taken objections to it, and the speakers who have followed them, will forgive me for saying that by far the most important speech which we have heard this evening is the one just delivered by my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland, who, in the name of the Government, has clearly and distinctly expressed their decision not to interfere at present in the matter of the purchase of the Irish railways. This is a matter with which the Government, and the Government alone, is competent to deal; for it must be obvious to every Member of this House that an undertaking such as that proposed in the purchase of the Irish railways can only be successfully taken up and supported by the Government; and the passing of a Resolution such as this would only impede their operations if they were disposed to deal with the question, for it would at once give rise to unreasonable and unwarrantable demands upon them. Neither party in this House' has approached this question in any unfriendly spirit. The previous Government of hon. Gentlemen opposite certainly did not approach it in an unfriendly spirit by appointing a Royal Commission to inquire into the condition of the Irish railways, with instructions so worded as almost to show that if a case could be made out at all in favour of the purchase of the Irish railways, the Government would be ready to consider it. Certainly the late Government also approached the question in an equally willing spirit. I know that my right hon. Friend at the head of the late Government would have been exceedingly glad if he could have seen his way, by any interference of the Government, to remove the evils of Irish railway management; and, speaking for myself personally, I may, perhaps say, I approached the subject with a desire still more keen than most of my Colleagues that we might see our way to meet the wishes of a large number of Irish people. Perhaps I ought even to plead guilty of the charge that by too open a statement of my own views on the subject I may have raised hopes which I was not able to fulfil. But certainly I did think that in a country like Ireland, whose industrial resources are not so fully developed as those of England, private enterprise could not be expected to do in regard to railway management all that it has done here. I certainly did think that some reparation might be due to Ireland for having sanctioned a system of railways there that did not give the country the fullest advantages which it is entitled to enjoy, and that it was possible, at all events, if the Government undertook to work the railways in a liberal and enterprising spirit, that although some loss at first might ensue, it was not necessary that that loss should be a permanent one. Holding personally these views, although the Government to which I belonged came to the conclusion that the difficulties in the way of this undertaking were absolutely insuperable, I certainly should not have been prevented by any abstract arguments urged by the hon. Member for Rochester (Mr. Goldsmid), or by other speakers in this debate, from giving the fullest and most candid consideration to any scheme which the Government might have thought fit to lay before the House, if they had arrived at a view different from that of the late Government. Judging, however, from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, the Government have, as advised at present, arrived at the same conclusion as we did, and I do not think it would be fair in me to attempt to gain any popularity in Ireland by holding out now any hope of support from this side of the House to a proposition to which, when we were in office, we were unable to give our assent. Well, the only purpose for which I have risen to-night is to urge on hon. Gentlemen who represent Irish constituencies which take a deep interest in this question, whether it is worth while to persevere any further in this proposal. The late Government, supported by a very large majority, came to the conclusion that the proposition was inadmissible. The present Government, supported by an equally large majority of their party, have arrived at a similar conclusion. Therefore, I would ask hon. Members from Ireland, what prospect they have of carrying out that undertaking on which they have set their hearts? I do not know whether it is to be made in future an article in the indictment against England to justify the demand for "Home Rule." But, looking at the question not from any political point of view, but simply as a practical question, affecting the material interests of Ire-laud, I would invite those hon. Members to consider what practical advantage to their country they expect from the further agitation of this subject. It must be evident that, unless they can hope for ultimate success, the further agitation of this subject can do nothing but mischief. It is not to be expected that the railway companies will take the steps they should take to improve the management of their lines; it is not to be expected that rolling stock will be maintained in proper order; that extensions and repairs of lines will be made if there is any lurking hope kept up in the minds of the shareholders that ultimately their property will be purchased by the Government. It is not to be expected that the process so much insisted upon by my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary, and referred to by other speakers, will be pressed forward, as it might be, while this question is kept alive. My right hon. Friend, without giving any direct encouragement, did not, I am glad to say, absolutely shut the door on the part of the Government to the consideration of the suggestion made by my right hon. Friend at the head of the late Government, as to assisting Irish railway companies if they were disposed to amalgamate and offer the public certain advantages. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary saw considerable objection to giving such assistance, and I do not deny that there might be objections to doing it. The instance he quoted, in which something has already been done in the matter of amalgamation and improved management, was the case of the Waterford and Limerick Railway. I believe that there have been great improvements effected in the South of Ireland by the agency of that railway. But my right hon. Friend stated, and with perfect truth, that these amalgamations and improvements have been effected by the assistance of the Great "Western Company of England. Now, it may not happen that in all cases a powerful English company will be found to lend assistance, as has been done in that instance; and I believe we shall be warranted in saying that without the help of the powerful English company to which I have referred, these improvements would not have been carried out in the South of Ireland. I think that example justified my right hon. Friend (Mr. Gladstone) in making the proposition that the Government might, if necessary, on receiving reasonable propositions from the Irish railway companies, render to other Irish railway companies that sort of assistance and support which was rendered to the Waterford and Limerick and other lines by the great English company already named. But as long as this agitation is continued, as long as the Irish railway companies think there is any chance of then-property being purchased by the State, these amalgamations will not go on at the rate at which they otherwise might. There is only one other reason that I venture to place before the House, which has in some degree changed the opinion I held on this subject. There can be no doubt that the feeling on this matter in Ireland has very much diminished in strength during the last few years. After the very decided objection taken to the proposition last year by my right hon. Friend, then at the head of the Government, one might have supposed that, if the feeling were as strong as it was represented to be, a great deal of agitation would have arisen in Ireland on the subject. But, on the contrary, the announcement made by my right hon. Friend last year was received with the greatest equanimity throughout Ireland. I do not mean to say that weight ought to be given to violent or unreasonable agitation; but the inference I am inclined to draw is that the agitation on this question has never been a very real one as proceeding from the Irish people. I am disposed rather to think that the movement has originated, in a very great degree, not from the Irish people, but from the Irish railway shareholders; and I attribute its present diminution to the improved condition of the Irish railways. Although many of those railways are not now in a satisfactory position, still the dividends are much better than they were; and the inducement to agitate in order that the Government may relieve the shareholders of an unprofitable property is consequently diminished. In my opinion it was never the wish of any party in this House to relieve Irish shareholders of an unproductive property. If the subject has—as it certainly has—been favourably considered in this House, it was because it was thought that this was ardently desired, not by Irish shareholders, but by the Irish public, and because it was supposed that great improvements might be made in the Irish railways. It must, however, now be evident that, rightly or wrongly, the vast majority of this House are resolved against the acquisition of the Irish railways by the State, and I can only hope that hon. Members from Ireland will accept that fact as a fact, and devote the energy they have hitherto employed in the agitation of this question to the numerous other modes in which they may, by working upon the Boards of the Irish railway companies, or otherwise, promote the prosperity and improvement of that country.


said, that after the able speech of his hon. Friend who had introduced the Motion (Mr. Blennerhassett), he should not have thought it necessary to address the House; but some statements had been made which seemed to require a few remarks. The noble Marquess who had just addressed the House (the Marquess of Hartington) had observed that there had been no agitation in Ireland on this question, from which it must be inferred that in order to obtain any boon for that country there must be agitation. The opinion which had been quietly expressed by the people of Ireland in many directions was a far greater expression than any noisy agitation. This question was not a new one. It had first been mooted in 1864. In 1865, on the provision in the Act of 1844. empowering the State to purchase railways at the end of 21 years, coming into force in Ireland, a Commission of Inquiry was appointed. Lord Emly then proposed the purchase of Irish railways by the State, but withdrew the Motion on an assurance that the existing Government would fully consider the matter. Afterwards, on the representation of Irish Members that Ireland was not sufficiently represented on that Commission, other Irish Representatives were placed upon it, including Lord Donoughmore, who unfortunately died soon after. The Commission reported against State purchase, Sir Rowland Hill and Lord Emly being dissentients. In 1867 the late Lord Derby's Government appointed a second Commission, which reported that any loss that might arise from the reduction of fares would be made up in 11 years, and that as clearly provided for the purchase of the railways as any words could do. Now, if that step necessitated a contribution from the Imperial Exchequer for the good of Ireland, it was rather inconsistent to say that for all purposes the Three Kingdoms were united, and yet to tell the Irish they must bear the expense themselves. The Belfast Chamber of Commerce, however, as well as various public meetings, and every Irish witness examined by the Commission, bad expressed the readiness of Ireland to bear any temporary loss. He was surprised, therefore, to hear the statements which had been made that night, which appeared to him to be mere evasions of the real point at issue by the House and by the Government. It was not for a private Member to devise a scheme for this purpose, and it was trifling with the question to ask whether the loss should be borne by particular counties. It was for the Government to arrange the details. The powers of the railway companies were now used to prejudice Irish trade. Goods could be conveyed from Liverpool to Limerick for 20s., while from Dublin to Limerick the rate was 27s. 6d., and there were innumerable instances of this system. As to taunts respecting Home Rule, his duty was to use existing machinery as he best could for his country. He might believe Irishmen would manage their affairs better; but this did not preclude him from supporting measures which would benefit his country. The Chief Secretary held up the present system as a barrier to reform when he represented a measure which would intrust power to an English Administration as a betrayal of nationality. He himself might as well say that Irish Members thereby evinced their confident expectation within a few years of obtaining an Irish Parliament. The real issue was between unity of management and that of companies with a various policy; and if Ireland took the risk of loss she might fairly claim an Irish Railway Board. A large share of the management was now vested in English shareholders, the best managed lines being those under the exclusive direction of Irishmen, while the companies which scandalously mismanaged comprised English shareholders. The trade of Ireland required a system of management which might entail a temporary loss, and this neither English nor Irish directors could be expected to incur. The Government ought not to shut the door to this demand, though it was not backed by monster meetings, which it was absurd to expect on such a question. In 1868 the Peers and Commoners of Ireland united in a declaration, stating that if in the 11 years which might be required to make the Irish railways pay their own way, there should be any loss that should be met out of Irish resources, and that nothing would be more easy than to raise the money by a tax upon Irish property, which would be improved in value by the proposed change. That declaration was signed by 72 Irish Peers, and by 90 Irish Members of that House out of 105: and as four of these Members were also Members of the then Government, it could not be expected that they would sign it. He said that he never knew of such unanimity upon an Irish question. [A laugh.] He knew that there was some dissent; but the declaration he referred to was a proof that Ireland was represented by 72 Peers, and he might say 97 Commoners were prepared to accept the pecuniary responsibility of the measure they recommended—namely, that the Irish railways should be placed under a general Board of Management, with a view to reduce expenses, and to the introduction of a general and uniform tariff for goods and passengers, which would have greatly augmented the traffic and promoted the welfare and prosperity of Ireland. He contended that, when Ireland was prepared to tax her own resources to guard against any possibility of loss to the Imperial Exchequer, the House of Commons ought to be slow to reject a proposal like the present.


said, he had heard with great satisfaction the excellent speeches of the Chief Secretary for Ireland and the noble Marquess opposite (the Marquess of Hartington). He had come from Ireland on purpose to oppose a Motion which he regarded as nothing less than a gigantic job. It was little to the credit of Ireland that 79 Peers and 90 Members of Parliament had found it consistent with their self-respect to ask the House, in an abject and menial form, to help them to pay their railway fares. For his part, rather than sign such a document, he would have thrust his hand into the fire. He could conceive no greater disgrace to any set of men than that they should ask the House of Commons to apply the national resources to their private ends. He trusted the proposition would be scouted by hon. Members on both sides of the House. Why could not Irishmen show that they could manage their own affairs rather than call upon the Government to interfere in their behalf whenever they found that they could not make both ends meet? To put the railways upon sound commercial principles was an object worthy of the House, but that could not be done by Government interference. He believed that he would give his vote on that occasion in opposition to every other Irish Member; but he was prepared to do so, and to justify it when the proposition came before his constituents. The agitation, in fact, came from the higher classes, who ought to be ashamed of themselves for having set it on foot. The lower classes had taken no part in it. The examples of France and Belgium, where Government management was applied, showed the case. A hard-and-fast line was drawn with respect to fares and charges, which bore heavily upon trade, and Mr. Allport, the spirited manager of the Midland Railway, would tell them that any such hard-and-fast line in this country would be fatal to its prosperity. On the Midland, where commercial principles prevailed, no less than 9,000 different rates were made for the special cases of the different trades. This consideration was unknown where railways were under Government management. The decision of the House would be received by all honest men in Ireland, and by all those interested in the good and solvent lines, with the greatest satisfaction, and by those interested in the bankrupt and insolvent lines, with the greatest humiliation.


said, as it was his intention to vote against the Motion of the hon. Member for Kerry (Mr. Blennerhassett), for whom he entertained the highest respect, it was expedient that he should explain the reasons for his hostility. At the present moment it was a consolation to know that Irish people were employed upon the Irish railways; but it was not necessary for him to be a Helenus, or to change his sex and become a Cassandra, in order to prophesy that, if over the Irish railways were delivered over to the English Government, three weeks would not. elapse before every Irishman employed on them would be sent about his business, and every man, from chief superintendent to lowest porter, would be superseded by an Englishman. The officers would be told to go to America with a vengeance—or to "Hell or Connaught."


I must remind the hon. Member that his language exceeds the licence of Parliamentary debate.


said, he did not think his language was worse than that of the hon. Member opposite who called the right hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone) a "trickster." The language he (Mr. O'Gorman) had used was perfectly well known; it was perfectly historical; it was used by a man who took the mace from off the Table of the House; but of course he would with pleasure beg pardon if he had gone beyond the Rules. If the English Government were allowed to tamper with Irish railways, Irish railways were at an end. The only disgracefully mismanaged railways were those that had English connections: those that had only Irish connections were fortunate and respectable. The moral he deduced from that was, "Keep Englishmen away and you will be respectable;" and that was all he wanted to do. He would relate a story as to the mode in which England treated Ireland. A certain Lord Lieutenant—as to whose name it did not matter—was out riding a horse in Phœnix Park in company with a man well known for his wit, scholarship, and patriotism, who had represented Knocktopher for 40 years in the Irish Parliament, the late Sir Hercules Langrishe. The horse stumbled in a boggy part and threw his Excellency, who fell on his ears, but being an Irish horse it throw him back again. His Excellency said—"Sir Hercules, How is it they have not drained the Park?" "I suppose," said Sir Hercules," they are so deeply interested in draining the rest of the country that they have not got to this yet." As an Irishman, bound to do all he could to keep Englishmen out of Ireland, he was compelled to vote against the Motion.


said, that, in accordance with the suggestion of the right hon. Baronet opposite (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach), he was perfectly prepared to withdraw his Amendment, and take the division on the proposal of the hon. Member for Kerry. [Cries of "No. no!"]


asked whether it was the pleasure of the House to permit the hon. Member for Rochester to withdraw his Amendment? and there being cries of "No!"


put the Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

The House divided:—Ayes 56; Noes 241: Majority 185.


I must point out to the House the position of the Question at the present moment. The House, by its recent vote, has declared that the words proposed by the hon. Member for Kerry (Mr. Blennerhassett) shall not stand part of the Question. The only word, consequently, which stands part of the Question at the present moment is the word "That." If the House desires either to affirm or to negative the proposition of the hon. Member for Rochester (Mr. Goldsmid) the proper course would be to allow those words of the hon. Member for Rochester to be added to the Question, and that the House should then take such a course as it thinks proper with regard to the Main Question so amended.


, while bowing to the Speaker's decision, thought that on a previous occasion a different course was pursued.


apprehended it to be quite in Order to negative the Amendment of the hon. Member for Rochester (Mr. Goldsmid), it being competent to any Member to propose the insertion of an entirely different set of words after "that," He had understood from the right hon. Baronet (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) that the Government were not prepared to support the Amendment, and if it was to be negatived it was immaterial at what stage the division was taken.


explained that he had said it would be more convenient if the hon. Member for Rochester withdrew his Amendment, and if the House divided on the original Resolution. Some few Members having, however, objected to that withdrawal, they had better proceed to a division.


asked whether, if the words were added, the Question would then be put as a substantive Question?


I may state that it has sometimes happened that the House has negatived the proposal that the words proposed to be added should stand part of the Question; but the effect of that vote is that an entry is made upon our Journals that the word "that" is the only word which remains. To avoid that inconvenience, therefore, I would submit to the House that the more convenient course would be to allow the words to be added, and then to vote the affirmative or negative upon the Main Question.


To prevent any unnecessary confusion, I only wish to say that while I should have preferred voting on the original issue, I shall now, after the course that has been taken, support the Amendment of the hon. Member for Rochester (Mr. Goldsmid).

Then Motion amended by adding the words— the purchase of the Irish Railways by the State would be financially inexpedient, would unduly enlarge the patronage of the Government, and seriously increase the pressure of business in Parliament.

Main Question, as amended, put.

The House divided:—Ayes 235; Noes 59: Majority 176. Resolved, That the purchase of the Irish Hail-ways by the State would be financially inexpedient, would unduly enlarge the patronage of the Government, and seriously increase the pressure of business in Parliament.

Adderley, rt. hn. Sir C. Bailey, Sir J. R.
Allsopp, S. C. Ball, rt hon. J. T.
Anstruther, Sir W. Barclay, J. W.
Arkwright, A. P. Barrington, Viscount
Arkwright, F. Bassett, F.
Assheton, R. Bates, E.
Backhouse, E. Baxter, rt. hon. W. E.
Baggallay, Sir R. Beach, rt, hn. Sir M. H.
Bagge, Sir W. Beach, W. W. B.
Bell, I. L. Gordon, rt. hon. E. S.
Benyon, R. Gordon, W.
Beresford, Colonel M. Grower, hon. E. F. L.
Biddulph, M. Grantham, W.
Boord, T. W. Gregory, G. B.
Bourke, hon. R. Grey, Earl de
Bourne, Colonel Grieve, J. J.
Briggs, W. E. Gurney, rt. hon. R.
Brise, Colonel R. Hall, A. W.
Broadley, W. H. H. Halsey, T. F.
Bruce, hon. T. Hamilton, Lord G.
Brymer, W. E. Hamond, C. F.
Bulwer, J. R. Hankey, T.
Burt, T. Hardy, rt. hon. G.
Callender, W. R. Havelock, Sir H.
Cameron, C. Henley, rt. hon. J. W.
Cameron, D. Hermon, E.
Campbell, C. Hervey, Lord F.
Cartwright, F. Heygate, W. U.
Cave, rt. hon. S. Hill, A. S.
Cecil, Lord E. H. B. G. Hill, T. R.
Chapman, J. Hodgson, W. N.
Charley, W. T. Hogg, J. M.
Cholmeley, Sir H. Holford, J. P. G.
Christie, W. L. Holker, J.
Clarke, J. C. Holland, S.
Clifford, C. C. Holms, W.
Clifton, T. H. Holt, J. M.
Clowes, S. W. Home, Captain
Cochrane, A. D. W. R. B. Hopwood, C. H.
Cole, H. T. Huddleston, J. W.
Conolly, T. Isaac, S.
Corbett, J. Jackson, H. M.
Cordes, T. James, W. H.
Corry, J. P. Jenkins, D. J.
Cotes, C. C. Johnson, J. G.
Cowper, hon. H. F. Johnstone, H.
Cross, J. K. Jolliffe, hon. Captain
Cross, rt. hon. R. A. Jones, J.
Cuninghame, Sir W. Kingscote, Colonel
Cust, H. C. Knight, F. W.
Dalkeith, Earl of Knowles, T.
Dalrymple, C. Laird, J.
Damer, Capt. Dawson- Learmonth, A.
Davenport, W. B. Lee, Major V.
Davies, D. Leeman, G.
Daries, R. Legard, Sir C.
Denison, W. E. Legh, W. J.
Dillwyn, L. L. Lennox, Lord H. G.
Disraeli, rt. hon. B. Lindsay, Lord
Dowdeswell, W. E. Lloyd, M.
Duff, M. E. G. Lloyd, S.
Dyke, W. H. Lloyd, T. E.
Eaton, H. W. Lopes, H. C.
Edmonstone, Admiral Sir W. Lopes, Sir M.
Lowther, J.
Edwards, H. Macduff, Viscount
Egerton, hon. A. F. Macgregor, D.
Elliot, Admiral Mackintosh, C. F.
Emlyn, Viscount M'Lagan, P.
Estcourt, G. B. M'Laren, D.
Evans, T. W. Mahon, Viscount
Fielden, J. Maitland, J.
Fitzmaurice, Lord E. Majendie, L. A.
Fitzwilliam, hon. C. W. W. Makins, Colonel
March, Earl of
Folkestone, Viscount Marten, A. G.
Forsyth, W. Mellor, T. W.
Foster, W. H. Mills, Sir C. H.
Gardner, J. T. Agg- Monekton, hon. G.
Gardner, Richardson- Monk, C. J.
Garnier, J. C. Montgomerie, R.
Goldsmid, Sir F. Muntz, P. H.
Mure, Colonel Shaw, R.
Naghten, A. R. Shute, General
Nevill, C. W. Sidebottom, T. H.
Newport, Viscount Simonds, W. B.
Noel, E. Smith, A.
Northcote, rt. hon. Sir S. H. Smith, F. C.
Smith, S. G.
O'Gorman, P. Smith, W. H.
Onslow, D. Smollett, P. B.
Palmer, O. M. Somerset, Lord H. R. C.
Parker, Lt.-Col. W. Stanhope, hon. E.
Pease, J. W. Stanhope, W. T. W. S.
Peel, A. W. Stanley, hon. F.
Pelly, Sir H. C. Steere, L.
Peploe, Major Stewart, M. J.
Phipps, P. Storer, G.
Plunkett, hon. R. Talbot, C. R. M.
Polhill-Turner, Capt. Trevelyan, G. O.
Price, Captain Turner, C.
Raikes, H. C. Twells, P.
Rashleigh, Sir C. Wait, W. K.
Read, C. S. Walker, T. E.
Reid, R. Waterhouse, S.
Rendlesham, Lord Whalley, G. H.
Pepton, G. W. Wheelhouse, W. S. J.
Ripley, H. W. Whitelaw, A.
Robertson, H. Whitwell, J.
Rothschild, N. M. de Wilmot, Sir H.
Round, J. Wilmot, Sir J. E.
Russell, Sir C. Wilson, C.
Samuda, J. D'A. Winn, R.
Sandon, Viscount Wolff, Sir H. D.
Selater-Booth, rt. hn. G. Yeaman, J.
Scott, Lord H. Yorke, hon. E.
Scott, M. D. Yorke, J. R.
Scourfield, J. H. Young, A. W.
Seely, C. TELLERS.
Selwin-Ibbetson, Sir H. J. Barttelot, Col. W. B.
Goldsmid, J.
Anderson, G. Lewis, C. E.
Arcndale, W. H. Lewis, H. O.
Bass, A. Locke, J.
Bateson, Sir T. Macdonald, A.
Beresford, Lord C. M'Carthy, J. G.
Biggar, J. G. M'Kenna, Sir J. N.
Bowyer, Sir G. Mulhelland, J.
Brady, J. Mundella, A. J.
Browne, G. E. Nolan, Captain
Bryan, G. L. O'Cleary, K.
Butt, I. O'Conor, D. M.
Carter, R. M. O'Donnell, F. H.
Cogan, rt. hn. W. H. F. O'Donoghue, The
Collins, E. O'Neill, hon. E.
Conyngham, Lord F. O'Reilly, M.
Corry, hon. H W. L. O'Shaughnessy, R.
Cowan, J. Redmond, W. A.
Crichton, Viscount Reed, E. J.
Dixon, G. Smith, E.
Dodds, J. Smyth, R.
Downing, M'C. Stuart, Colonel
Dunbar, J. Swanston, A.
Errington, G. Synan, E. J.
Gore, W. R. O. Thompson, T. C.
Gray, Sir J. Trevor, Lord A. E. Hill-
Hamilton, Marquess of Wallace, Sir R.
Harrison, J. F. Whitworth, W.
Herbert, H. A. Williams, W.
Kavanagh, A. MacM. TELLERS.
Leatham, E. A. Blennerhassett, R. P.
Leslie, J. O'Conor Don, The

Bill read a second time, and committed to a Select Committee.