HC Deb 26 March 1878 vol 239 cc21-34

Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, ''That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Young.)

MR. M. BROOKS moved, as an Amendment, that the Bill be read a second time on that day six months. It might, he said, be asked why he did not adopt the usual course in cases of this kind and leave the consideration of the Bill for a Committee upstairs, who were generally entrusted with the investigation of all Bills of this nature? He did so, because he had it on the highest authority that it was a somewhat moot point whether a Committee could take cognizance of the particular points to which his objections applied. In 1871 the promoters of the present Bill passed a Bill for the Construction of Tramways in the city of Dublin. That Act in 1873 was supplemented by another, and since that time the Company had been running tramways through the city of Dublin, in a manner which had been, to a certain extent, of convenience to the inhabitants of that city. They had, however, availed themselves of the right which they undoubtedly possessed, tinder the Statute, of charging the maximum fares, and this amounted in many instances to 200 per cent more than the charges made by other Companies in London, Liverpool, Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Belfast. The North Metropolitan Tramway Company in London charged from Moorgate Street and Fins-bury Park to Highbury, a distance of more than four miles, 3d.; to Stratford, more than two miles, 2d.; and to places within a mile, only 1d. The House would be surprised to hear that in Dublin they had not a single fare at 1d., notwithstanding the fact that the charges for horseflesh, labour, rent, and taxes, were very much lower than here. The London Tramways Company charged, from Brixton to Blackfriars, to St. George's Church, Southwark, and Westminster Bridge, only 2d., although the distance in each case was more than two miles; and from some of the stations, whence a distance of four and a-half miles was covered, the fares were only 2d. In the city of Edinburgh a passenger was conveyed for 1d. a-mile. Most hon. Members were acquainted with the city of Edinburgh, and would be familiar with the network of tramways extending from the Post Office. The traffic was carried on at all hours of the day to a very large number of stations, extending over two, three, and four miles, and the fares were only 2d., 3d., and 4d. In the city of Glasgow the fares during all hours of the day were at the rate of 1d. a-mile. In Dublin he found that on the line of the Dublin Tramways Company to Rathmines—three and a-quarter miles—the charge was still 3d., and if a passenger travelled on the tram-road for only half-a-mile the charge was still 3d.; while in Glasgow and Edinburgh it would be 1d. On the Donnybrook line—two and three-quarter miles—the smallest fare was 3d. Last week, he had himself tested the fares, and had travelled a short distance, not exceeding that from the corner of Park Street to the other side of Westminster Bridge, and in common with the rest of the passengers, he had to pay the ridiculous fare of 3d. He found that the Company were dividing 8½ per cent; while the North Metropolitan Company, who carried passengers at 1d., were dividing 9½ per cent. He mentioned these facts to show that low fares did not decrease the dividends of the Tramway Companies. No doubt it was much more convenient for a Tramway Company to carry one passenger at 3d. rather than three at 1d.; but the carrying out of that system of obtaining dividends from a small number of passengers at very high fares deprived the poorer and humbler classes of the great advantages which they ought to derive from the improved tramway system. In Dublin, it was true there was a workmen's car by which passengers were carried for ½d. per mile, but it was at 6 o'clock in the morning. In Dublin, unlike Glasgow and other towns, there were few factotories, and therefore factory servants were unable to avail themselves of these trams. The working classes employed in building operations, who did make use of them, had the fares paid by their employers, and the fares did not come out of their pockets. Consequently, it could not be said that the poorer and humbler classes obtained the advantage which they desired. In Dublin there was another Tramway Company, whose tramways ran in a district conterminus with that of the present Company; but hitherto the latter had declined to interchange tickets, so that passengers having a quarter of a mile to go from the Dublin Tramways Company's line, and having to finish their journey on the line of the other Company, had to pay two fares, amounting to 6d. This was a great hardship, and he hoped that one result of the Motion he now made would be the rectification of the very selfish mode in which the Company had hitherto maintained their monopoly. The Corporation of Dublin had made known to the Company their desire to extend to them, as they had hitherto done, every consideration, and a schedule of fares had been proposed by the Corporation enabling the Company to collect 2d. per mile for first-class passengers, which was double the fare exacted in London, and 1d. per mile for third-class passengers and those who travelled outside. No response was made to that proposition of the Corporation; but the Company treated the Corporation and the authorities of Dublin with a silence that was hardly civil. Without wearying the House with any further remarks, he would move the rejection of the Bill.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question, to add the words "upon this day six months."—(Mr. M. Brooks.)

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


said, the course taken by the hon. Member in moving the rejection of the Bill on the second reading was a very unusual one. In point of fact, the speech of the hon. Member was in favour of the second reading of the Bill; for all he wanted was a revision of the fares of the Company, and certainly the House could not be prepared to say what the fares should be from one part of Dublin to another. Surely it was a question for the consideration of a Committee, and of Gentlemen specially told off for that purpose, who would hear evidence on the subject. It must not be forgotten that a Bill had already passed a second reading, with the assent of the Corporation of Dublin, for the Construction of Tramways in Dublin, and it was not unreasonable on the part of the promoters of the present measure to expect that their Bill would be referred to the same Tribunal. These two Companies, one the old and the other the new Company, had competing lines; and, although the hon. Member was strongly in favour of 1d. a-mile rate as the maximum that should be charged, yet the Dublin Central Bill, which had already been read a second time with the assent of the Corporation, fixed the maximum at 2d. per mile. He could not understand why, under such circumstances, the Corporation could ask the House to restrict the promoters of the present Bill to 1d. The Bill had passed the Standing Orders in both Houses of Parliament, notwithstanding the opposition of the Corporation, and he hoped the House would now allow it to take the usual course. The hon. Member was in error in saying that there was only one workmen's train per day. Provision was made in the Bill for two in the morning and two in the evening. He believed the usual arrangements were made in regard to workmen in every respect, whether the workmen used them or not, and there were certainly trains running twice in the morning and twice in the evening.


hoped the House would not consent to entertain the second reading of the Bill, if for no other reason, because it was undesirable to continue a monopoly affecting the citizens against the wish of the Corporation of Dublin. He complained of nothing unfair on the part of the gentlemen who promoted the Bill. They were, no doubt, struggling for the interests of their own Company; but, inasmuch as those were the interests of capitalists who made a very good thing out of the existing tramways, he did not think their interests ought to be allowed to stand in the way of the general interests of the public. It was one of the misfortunes of Dublin—in fact, a misfortune which it shared in common with other parts of Ireland—that the measure of self-government which it enjoyed was rather scanty. He did not believe for a moment that the House would entertain a Bill for a tramway through the City, which was opposed by the Corporation of London, and which proposed to grant a new and a fresh monopoly. Therefore, if he took no other stand than this—that this was a Bill opposed by the Corporation of the city of Dublin and all the local authorities—that it was a Bill which ignored the right of the citizens of Dublin to make terms for themselves beforehand—that was to say, before they were made the unwilling parties to the creation of a monopoly—he was satisfied that that ground and the arguments based upon it would sufficiently commend themselves to the House and ensure the rejection of the Bill if it were now pressed to a division.


had no interest in the question, but believed that the simple object of the Bill was to extend a system of tramways originally authorized in 1871 and extended in 1873. That was an object which the House was unable clearly to go into, and it ought to be referred to a Select Committee.


remarked, that although he was a member of the Corporation of Dublin, and had a good deal of interest in the prosperity of Dublin, he could not take the same view of the matter as the hon. Member for Dublin (Mr. Brooks) did; but, of course, in this he only spoke in his individual capacity. The hon. Member for Dublin represented the opinion of the Corporation on the matter. The Corporation granted their original assent to the Company for the construction of tramways, perhaps, on terms that were too favourable. They did not realize how valuable tramways were to become, and did not make the advantageous terms they might have made. They would have done better if they had the gift of prophecy; and, if on this occasion, the Corporation had opposed both of the Tramway Bills now before the House, he would have been able to understand their position and to go with them.


said, there were Petitions from the Corporation against all the Tramway Bills.


said, they were merely Petitions to obtain a locus standi and not against the Preamble of the Bills. The Dublin Central Tramways Bill proposed to run over a number of streets in the boundaries of the city, and over the same ground as was proposed by this Bill, and it had not been opposed, although it did not propose to give greater concessions in the way of low fares than the present Bill. He, therefore, failed to see any justification for the exceptional course proposed to be taken now in opposition to the second reading of the Bill. To kill this Bill was to ensure the passing of the other, without any special advantage to the public. If the Corporation had opposed every Bill and had said, for instance, that they wanted to wait until they saw whether steam would be introduced or not, he would have admitted that their position was tenable; but they had assented to the Bill of one Company at fares equally high, whose line was to be laid over the same ground, and he did not see why the two Bills under the circumstances should not proceed pari passû.


said, he should like to know on what principle of Home Rule hon. Members would justify the speeches made there to-day. They ought to be considering the Mutiny Bill, and they were listening to a discussion which ought to be settled by the local autho- rities in Dublin, as to whether Dublin ought or ought not to have this particular Tramway Bill. They could not by this Bill concede Home Rule to the City of Dublin; but they could virtually, in practice, by deferring to the decision arrived at on the merits of the case by the local authorities, who knew most about the whole affair. All the local authorities, whether the Corporation of Dublin or the Commissioners of Rathmines, were unanimous in their opposition to this Bill. The case was not at all a matter of fares. He had had something to do with the introduction of the tramway system into the city of Dublin, and he would tell the House what it was that was underneath the Motion made to-day. The Corporation of Dublin gave this Tramway Company, the first that went to them, full powers to make 21 miles of tramways, and having got a monopoly they took, so to speak, the cream of the streets and the traffic, and made exactly 11 miles out of the 21. From that hour to this they could not be induced to make another mile in the streets that required it just as much as those which the Company had scooped out from the richest part of the city. Last year another Company came in to do what this Company would not do, and which they never thought of doing until another Company came in. Now this old monopoly Company came forward with an unreal Bill, and the Corporation of Dublin asked the House to throw it out, on the ground that it was brought in to defeat the endeavour of a new Company to break down a monopoly. The Corporation of Dublin, the Town Commissioners of Rathmines, and the whole of the frontagers were unanimous in opposing the Bill, and he hoped the House would reject it and not tolerate such an attempt to defeat a bonâ fide measure.


thought the hon. Member for Tipperary (Mr. Gray) had put the question in the clearest and most forcible manner before the House. He did not for a moment mean to say that the hon. Member for Dublin (Mr. Brooks) was not exercising his full right in raising an opposition to the second reading of the Bill. The hon. Member would, perhaps, not have done his duty if he had not given the House an opportunity of expressing an opinion upon the measure; but, although it was a perfectly legitimate opportunity for expressing the dissatisfaction of the local authorities in regard to the proceedings of a Tramway Company, at the same time it was for the House to weigh how far they ought to take a step contrary to precedent, and which might lead to inconvenient consequences. If the question had been simply the one raised by the hon. Member for Dublin, the House might have been disposed to pause before reading a Bill a second time which was opposed by the local authorities. That was a ground well worthy of consideration; but, as the hon. Member for Tipperary had pointed out, there was another scheme competing with this which also proposed to construct tramways. That scheme had been read a second time without opposition from the Corporation of Dublin. That being so, he did not think the House ought to take upon themselves functions which would be better exercised by a Committee upstairs, who would have a much better opportunity of weighing all the merits of the two competing schemes. He believed he was not wrong in saying that the other scheme had received the sanction of the Corporation of Dublin as the local authority, and that the present scheme had not; and that there had consequently been in this case a relaxation in the Standing Orders, the Committee being of opinion that, under the peculiar circumstances of the case, a competing Bill might fairly be entertained. He did not think the House was a fit tribunal to decide upon questions of this kind, which would require maps and a plan of the district to guide the investigation. At the same time, it must be admitted that the Dublin Corporation were only fair in asking that, with regard to fares, the city of Dublin should be treated with the same liberality as London and Edinburgh. He did not, under the circumstances, think the House would act wisely in accepting the Motion proposed by the hon. Member for Dublin at this stage of the Bill; and he hoped that the hon. Member would withdraw it in order to enable the Committee upstairs to form an estimate of the advantages of the scheme, as compared with that of the Dublin Central Company.


thought the hon. and learned Member for Louth (Mr. Sullivan) had made out a strong case in favour of the Motion for the rejection of the Bill. In 1871 the Company obtained large powers to enable them to make tramways for the accommodation of the public, and one of the inducements on which concessions were made to them was that they would extend their system into the suburbs; but, instead of doing so, they had constructed their lines through the principal streets, and had left the suburbs entirely unprovided for. The same thing had occurred in Belfast; and, as the present Company originally had obtained power to make 21 lines of tramway, and had only made 11, they had broken their contract, and were not entitled to further consideration at the hands of Parliament.


said, that, as to the appeal which had been made in the interests of the suburbs of Dublin that the Bill should be thrown out, he desired to mention that he had that morning received a letter from Mr. Vernon, who wrote as Chairman of the Pembroke township, in which he asked him to resist the Motion of the hon. Member for Dublin (Mr. Brooks). He did not inform him of the grounds of opposition, and he must confess he was not prepared to go fully into the arguments which had been adduced on the question. But he would say that, from the information which he had, there was a feeling that the Bill should have a fair hearing. And why should it not have a fair hearing? And why should not the objections to the Bill which had been raised be fairly gone into before the Committee, with a view of seeing how far the accusations against the Company were well founded? He thought that course the most desirable one, and readily gave his support to the Motion brought forward by the Chairman of Ways and Means.


reminded the House that this was a case in which the citizens of Dublin appeared before it through the Corporation, and in which important townships, like Rathgar and Rathmines, had complained that they had been neglected by this Company. Rathmines was a large and important township in the vicinity of Dublin—so important that they—the people of Rathmines—considered that in this particular they laboured under a great grievance. What were the facts? The Dublin Tramways Company some years ago obtained powers to construct 21 miles of tramway in Dublin and its vicinity. In consideration of the promises they gave, Parliament conceded to them privileges which were not enjoyed by any Tramway Company in England or Scotland. He was told that, among the other privileges, they obtained a right to a perpetual lease of the ground on which they were to lay down their tramways. Leases for this purpose on English or Scotch lines of tramway were not unlimited, as in this instance, but were terminable, under certain conditions, from, time to time. They also obtained the right of levying a high rate of fares—higher than those paid in England, not because the people of Dublin had in general larger means, but because the English and Scotch Tramway Companies, though they had obtained powers to levy the same fares as the Dublin Tramways Company, had, after a time, reduced those fares from 2d. to 1½d. But the Dublin Tramways Company, unmindful of the public interests entrusted to them, prevented the public from deriving the benefits they were entitled to expect. What were the objects which the Bill sought to promote? It was not a Bill for constructing new lines of tramway, but for abandoning others which the promoters were bound to provide, and they made no move in the matter, in pursuance of their promise, until another Company came forward and proposed to run a line for a certain number of miles, for the benefit of the people of Dublin, and to charge lower fares. When this Company did that, the Dublin Tramways Company, like every other dog in the manger, said—"We will not do this ourselves, though we have the power. We have not exercised our rights; but we will not allow you to make these new lines, and give the public the advantage. We will go to Parliament and bring forward a fictitious Bill of our own." For this Bill was neither more nor less than a fictitious Bill, as anyone could see who looked at it—for, pretending to do one thing, it did another; pretending to desire to meet the wants of the public, it sought to abandon the lines it ought to have made for their accommodation. And the Tramway Company said—"We will not carry out our pledge, but we will prevent you—the public—from carrying out your wish." This was one of those questions which should never have come before the House at all; but if the House insisted upon such questions being brought before it, and on retaining its control over matters which did not concern it, but only the people of Dublin, he thought the House should perform its duty, and devote some time and attention to the matter at issue, and not relegate it to a Committee upstairs, who might or might not take the right view, or might know nothing of the feeling of the people of Dublin in the matter, or might not rightly perform the duties entrusted to them. He should have been glad if the Bill had never been brought before the House at all; but, having come before it, he thought they should have a better opportunity of dealing with it than they could have on that occasion. They were all of them anxious to get on to the next Orders, for which they had a special sitting that day; but if this discussion were to be continued, a good deal of valuable time would be expended on the question before the House. He knew that Mr. Vernon had written to-day to the hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Plunket), and it was his opinion that the Bill should have full consideration; but the hon. and learned Gentleman said he was asked to support the Bill, and to oppose the Motion of the hon. Member for the city of Dublin, but he did not say why he was asked to do so. Now, he thought, under these circumstances, it would be only fair to the hon. and learned Gentleman that he should have an opportunity of putting forward his case; and, in order to give him that opportunity, and to enable the discussion to be taken in a more quiet and easy way, he begged to move the adjournment of the debate.


said, he rose to second the Motion for the adjournment of the debate. They had got into the discussion almost by accident. Hon. Members had been brought down, some at great inconvenience, to proceed with the Mutiny Bill, and he had no desire to prevent them from doing so. What he was anxious for was, that this matter should be fully investigated by the House, and to that end he seconded the Motion for the adjournment of the debate.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Parnell.)


observed, that the object of the present opposition was to throw the Bill out for the Session, and allow the other to proceed in its place. The House would see how little ground there was for it. The Bill was down for second reading a fortnight ago, and was then specially fixed for that day. The hon. Member for Dublin (Mr. Brooks) had, consequently, had a fortnight before him for looking into the matter and getting up his opposition to the Bill. If the present Motion for adjournment was carried, the Bill would, practically, go over the Session. They had already lost a fortnight that was available for Committee, while the other Bill was ready and had been so for some time; and if the Order were to be now adjourned to some indefinite day, practically, the Session would be over and the Bill defeated.


observed, that although Private Bills had been thrown out sometimes on the second reading, yet it was almost an unprecedented course. He thought it only fair that those who were interested in a case of this kind, relating to the traffic of Dublin, should have an opportunity of substantiating their complaints against the Company, which, they said, had so imperfectly performed the duty it had undertaken towards them. There were cases similar to this Bill, in which the Bill had been thrown out, and not postponed. He submitted to the House that it could only be fair, in view of the statements which had been made by those who represented the people of Dublin in that House, and fair to the people of Dublin themselves, if the House would allow the debate to be quietly adjourned. If that were done, it would come on again with the advantage to the Tramway Company of showing them the desirability of their making terms with those who were entrusted with the good management of the city. He hoped the House would consent to the adjournment of the debate, which he did not think, with the hon. Member for Helston, would have the effect of throwing out the Bill.


said, that it had been stated that the object of the opposition to this Bill was to favour the progress of a competing Bill. He could assure the House he had not the slightest personal regard for, nor the slightest hostility to, either measure. His sole object in bringing forward his Amendment was to obtain for the poorer classes of Dublin the same advantages as were enjoyed by those of London, Glasgow, Edinburgh, and other places. In proof of the necessity for that, he might mention that he had seen a report of the Belfast Tramway Company, issued within the last few days, and which stated that the reduction from 2d. to 1½d. had increased their passenger traffic to the extent of 198,000 persons in six months. When he considered the enormous advantages which facilities for locomotion would give to the poorer classes, and of which, it was thus proved, they were disposed to avail themselves largely, he felt he should be wanting in what he owed, not only to his constituents, but to the House itself, if he did not call attention to the fact. One word more of explanation. As reference had been made to the competing Bill, he would point out that that Bill could go before the Committee, which would take cognizance of all the circumstances affecting it. But what he had said earlier in the morning, and what he had had from the Chairman of Ways and Means, was this—that a Committee upstairs would have no power of revising the existing Acts of 1871 and 1873, so that that being a moot point, the Committee might not be disposed to review that legislation. He did hope that, since this conflict was going on, the Motion for adjournment would be agreed to. It was still early in the Session, and no harm could be done; while the promoters of the Dublin Tramways Bill might be disposed to submit to such arrangements as had been found useful and beneficial to the public, and, at the same time, conducive to the interests of the Company.


said, it would be convenient for the House, if there were sufficient grounds for it, to consent to the adjournment, so that they might pass on to other Business. At the same time, they should not wish to adjourn a question fairly before the House only on that ground. As far as he could see, he thought there was reason for a short adjournment, and, as he understood, it would be very desirable that there should be as little delay as possible. He thought it would be convenient if the adjournment were until Friday next.


said, there would be no time to communicate with Dublin in that short interval. He must ask for Friday week.


consented to the proposal.

Motion agreed to.

Debate adjourned till Friday, 5th April.

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