HC Deb 05 August 1879 vol 249 cc184-5

asked Mr. Attorney General for Ireland, Whether his attention has been called to the proceedings before the Privy Council of Ireland, on Monday July the 21st, and the statements then made by the Lord Chief Baron with reference to the Law Officers of the Crown in Ireland; whether the appeal of the Baltinglass Steam Tramway Scheme was dismissed, but without costs, on the ground that the proposed plan for laying rails was in contravention of the Act of Parliament with respect to the laying of tramways upon public roads; whether it is a fact that the same Privy Council last year sanctioned and authorized the construction of the Portrush and Giant's Causeway Steam Tramway on lines precisely similar to those which, in the case of the Balting lass Steam Tramway Scheme, the Lord Chief Baron declared the Privy Council could not sanction as the order on the face of it would be illegal? I beg to disassociate myself from the remaining part of the Question of which I have given Notice, because the Judges it refers to are so captious and irritable. It was—Whether on the occasion in question the Lord Chief Baron said he was very much surprised the Law Officers could have passed such an order which in his view was clearly illegal, and, according to the Vice Chancellor "altogether illegal;" and, whether he can inform the House who is the party responsible for the illegality, the Privy Council itself or the Law Officers of the Crown?


Sir, my attention has been called to the matters referred to in the Question of the hon. Member. I believe that it is the fact that the appeal of the Balting-lass Steam Tramway Scheme was dismissed, as stated in the Question. It is also a fact that the Privy Council last year sanctioned the construction of a steam tramway between Portrush and the Giant's Causeway; but the manner in which it was intended to construct that line differed in some respects from the Baltinglass Scheme, which was recently before the Privy Council. With reference to the words attributed to the Chief Baron, I have to say that I have been, apprised by that learned Judge that he was inaccurately reported in the newspapers, and that he neither said nor meant that the Tramway Orders, passed by the Law Officers, were clearly illegal; and that the idea of his saying that an Order was illegal which he had never seen was preposterous. With the legality of the proposed Order in the Balting-lass case the Law Officers had nothing to do, as it never came before them; but the Order which was made sanctioning the Portrush Tramway was unopposed, was supported by the Grand Jury of the county, the County Surveyor, and the Surveyor of the Board of Trade; was passed by the Privy Council; was approved and settled by the Law Officers; and did not sanction anything illegal.