HC Deb 12 May 1885 vol 298 cc323-48

Order for Second Reading read.


said, that in the fewest number of words he could use he proposed to move the second reading of the Bill. The House would be aware that the second reading of a Bill only meant the sanction of the House to the desirability of inquiry. He knew it might be said that there had been a good many inquiries already as to the necessity of a Channel Tunnel; but he would venture to say that not in one of those inquiries, whether Departmental or otherwise, had the matter been gone into in a satisfactory, judicial manner. There had been no cross examination of witnesses by counsel. On this occasion he hoped to be able to save the House trouble in the matter, because, as he had stated a short time ago, in postponing the second reading of the Bill, in order to consult the convenience of the President of the Board of Trade, and the exigencies of Public Business, if the Prime Minister would be good enough to say that he was still in favour, as he used to be, of a Channel Tunnel, he (Sir Edward Watkin) would, considering the nearness of the Dissolution of Parliament, withdraw the Motion for the second reading. On the other hand, if the Prime Minister would tell the House that he had changed his opinion, and that he thought a connection between England and France by means of a Channel Tunnel was an unwise and dangerous measure in the interests of this country, and that he now thought it ought not to be carried out, then he would also withdraw the Motion for the second reading, and save the House the trouble of a discussion and a division, knowing that there would soon be a new Parliament, and hoping that with that new Parliament there might possibly be a change of Government, which might, perhaps, be more in harmony with the views of the country generally on this and other questions. Circumstances had been greatly modified since the last debate upon this question. It had been found possible to comply with what seemed to be the outcome of that discussion; and therefore the present Bill was introduced practically as a Bill for enabling experiments already sanctioned by Parliament to be continued and extended, while giving to the Government of the day power either to continue or to acquire any works connected with a permanent Tunnel. The Bill recited that by the South Eastern Railway Act of 1874 the Com- pany were authorized to apply certain moneys belonging to them, or under their control, subject to the limitation thereby prescribed, towards the cost of any soundings and of any borings, shafts, driftways, or other works in connection with the construction of a Tunnel under the English Channel; also, that by the South Eastern Railway Act of 1881, after reciting that by the Act of 1874 the South Eastern Railway Company were authorized to apply money belonging to them, or under their control, towards the cost of experimental borings in connection with the construction of a Tunnel under the English Channel, the South Eastern Railway Company were empowered to purchase and acquire by compulsion or otherwise, and to hold certain lands for the purposes of such experimental borings and other works. The Bill then went on to recite that whereas experimental borings and works had been carried on and executed for some distance under the bed of the Straits of Dover, and so far as the same had proceeded they had been successful and satisfactory, and in order to ascertain the possibility of completing within a reasonable period a Tunnel between England and Franco, it was expedient that the experimental works should be further prosecuted, with the view of determining the practicability of constructing and maintaining a permanent Tunnel for railway purposes beneath the Straits of Dover between England and France, and that powers to that effect should be granted and conferred. It next recited that it was expedient to provide—in the event of the experimental works proving successful—for vesting in the Lords of the Treasury the right or power of determining the expediency of prosecuting the permanent works of the Channel Tunnel, and of sanctioning the prosecution and execution of such permanent works. The Bill further declared that it was expedient to make provision, in the event of the experimental works proving successful, for the transfer, in manner provided, of such works or of any permanent Channel Tunnel works to the Lords of the Treasury if required by them. It then gave a general power of agreement between this particular Company and the Company presided over by the noble Lord the Member for Flintshire (Lord Richard Grosvenor), and also with the Railway Companies which would be connected by means of the Tunnel with the Continent; and in addition there wore several minor conditions with which it was not necessary to trouble the House. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Chamberlain) had now entered the House, and he (Sir Edward Watkin) would repeat the few words he had uttered a few moments ago—namely, that if the Premier was still in favour of a Channel Tunnel, or, on the other hand, if he had changed his mind and would declare that in his view England and France ought never to be united by a Tunnel, in either case he (Sir Edward Watkin) would withdraw the Motion, and save the House all further trouble as to discussing it. He did not know whether the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade was charged with any message or statement from the Prime Minister. He did not know whether the House would agree with him; but he ventured to think that on a question which affected the future relations between France and England, and a great many other questions besides, the opinion of the Prime Minister and of the Government w as the property of the House and of the nation, and he ought not to be told that the Government did not intend to express an opinion; nor had he any right to assume from their silence that they had no opinion. Having taken so much trouble in order to save the House the necessity of a discussion he would now say a few words, and they should be very short indeed, on the question before the House. Those who had been prosecuting this work had always contended, first of all, that the experiments ought to be conducted by private enterprize; but that if the Tunnel were constructed it would practically mean the extension of the British Empire to the middle of the Channel, and therefore it ought to become a national work, as an extension of the Empire. Then it had always been thought further that, although it was expedient to invest private money in this direction, in any case there ought to be power reserved to the Government to take charge of it. They had never sought for the slightest monopoly. They had always contended that a passage under the sea to connect England and France ought to be open to every Company and every person. It was considered also that a connection between England on one side and the Continent on the other should be an International work, such as the schemes for connecting the two shores on either side of America and the Suez Canal. The Canal in Nicaragua, for connecting Nicaragua with the shore of the United States, had been described in the Portocols as a work entered into by the persons who undertook it "as trustees for all mankind," and they thought it should be "neutralized" by the general assent of Europe. Those were the views the promoters of this Bill entertained. The present position of the work was this—on the French side, about 2,200 yards of experimental Tunnel had been executed, a large amount of machinery had been erected, and about £80,000 sterling had been spent. On the English side, a less amount of money had been spent; but about the same length of experimental Tunnel had been bored due south of the Shakespeare Cliff. The action of the Government might be right, or it might be wrong; but the effect of that action, so far as the property of this Company and of the French Company in the Tunnel works was concerned, had been to confiscate the property of the shareholders, and also to inflict upon the innocent persons in England who desired to carry out a great work, for no improper motive, and certainly not as a matter of speculation, a large amount of litigation instituted at the cost of the country by the Board of Trade. They had also been put to needless expense in having been compelled to drain and ventilate that portion of the work already carried out by needless and special methods. Moreover, the steps taken by the Board of Trade had necessitated the use of other machinery of an entirely new and exceptional character from that originally provided, and the Company had been forbidden to work with the machinery they themselves had deemed sufficient. In the discussion which arose last year in connection with the Irish fisheries, hon. Members^ seemed to think that it was very hard to be compelled to come to Parliament in order to beg for the use of their own money. In this case the Company felt it hard indeed, having acquired the right to the foreshore, and being in possession of the manorial rights, and having provided adequate or other, never yet explained, Her Majesty's Government chose to take objection to their proceedings. In the earliest step taken by the Company in regard to the Tunnel works, not a single thing was done without the entire cognizance of the Board of Trade; and the Board of Trade had been requested, over and over again, to say whether they were opposed to the construction of a Tunnel, and if they thought it ought not to be made; so that the Company might become acquainted with the views of the Government before they were committed to the financial responsibilities in which they proposed to embark. All he could say was, that it was felt extremely hard that after laying out their own money, after taking all the trouble they had, and obtaining the best advice they could, after the Governments of Mr. Gladstone in 1873, and of Lord Beaconsfield in 1874, had again and again committed themselves to the principle of the construction of a Tunnel between the two countries, after those two Governments had placed themselves in communication with the Representatives of France—after all these things it was very hard, indeed, that the efforts of the Company and the expenditure they had incurred should be wasted. The great reason which had always induced him to favour the idea of connecting England and the Continent by means of a Tunnel was that we had no second line of communication. We were dependent for the supply of one-third of our food and of all the raw materials of our textile manufactures—cotton, silk, jute, and everything else, with the exception of a little wool and of flax grown in Ireland, upon foreign countries; and if we lost the mastery of the sea for a fortnight, the nation might find itself involved in the greatest possible disaster. It had always struck him, and he believed it had struck others also, that a second line of communication would, in any circumstances, be of immense value. The Government were taking upon themselves the vast responsibility of refusing a second line of communication. As to the alleged military danger of a Tunnel, he could not understand the fear that was created by the idea of the construction of two holes 14 feet wide under the bed of the sea, which could be destroyed in an instant if necessary. On the contrary, he thought the prosecution of some such means of conveying traffic from the Continent of Europe to all parts of England, Wales, and Scotland would provide in the end a great national security, and it was the only mode of protecting the trade of the country and the sustenance of the people in the event of our ceasing to retain command of the sea. He was quite aware that hon. Gentlemen opposite would argue that we ought to have a better Navy. He was entirely with them on that point; but it did not affect the question they were now discussing. He knew it was said that danger might crop up unexpectedly in all manner of ways; but one of the greatest strategists in Europe, Count Von Moltke, had said, and had authorized it to be repeated, that there was no more chance of this country being invaded through a Tunnel than of its being invaded through his library door. As a matter of fact, a few old women, armed with broom-sticks, might effectually prevent the advance of a hostile army through a Tunnel. It was for the House to say whether they intended to share the responsibility of keeping this country in a position of exceptional danger owing to the want of a second line of communication. He was aware that in discussing the question he had to deal not only with a good deal of prejudice, but also, if possible, with the national hatreds which might exist, for anything he know, or both sides of the Channel, and everybody must be painfully aware that prejudice and hatred had neither conscience nor logical faculty. He therefore asked the House to look at the matter quite apart from any prejudice or feeling of national hatred. It was a simple mathematical proposition which he laid before them, and it was a proposition which he believed it was for the interest of both countries concerned—were two lines of communication safer than only one? They were reminded of the "silver streak." The construction of the Tunnel would not abolish that "silver streak;" but the "silver streak" would remain as it was before, without any diminution, obstruction, or otherwise. With regard to the "silver streak," what was it that Lord Palmerston said? Everyone must admit that Lord Palmerston possessed great patriotism and a large amount of experience. He would give a short extract from a speech delivered by Lord Palmerston in 1851, in which that noble Lord said— The application of steam to navigation has, in effect, made a bridge over the Channel, and has given the means of quick attack—an attack on a scale of magnitude such as did not exist before. Again, it is said, we should know beforehand if any such preparations were being made. I say you might not know, because by the internal arrangements of railways the distribution of troops is such that 50,000 or 60,000 men could be collected at Cherbourg before you knew anything of the matter, and such a number of men could walk from the quay into their vessels as easily as they could walk from their own barrack yard. A single night would bring them over, and all our Naval Forces, be they what they might, could not be relied upon to prevent the landing of the expedition. That was the notion of Lord Palmerston with regard to the modern danger of an invasion of this country by this means. It was not improbable that naval and military officers on either side of the House, if they thought fit to do so, would tell the House that if this country was ever to be invaded it would be invaded by the sea. There were hundreds of places which could not be expected to be fortified where a force brought by ships could be landed, and where it would not be possible at a short notice to concentrate a military force; but we could always be prepared to defend a Tunnel, or to destroy it. A Tunnel would always be a fixed point; and in a time of danger or alarm, although we could not be prepared against the danger of invasion By sea, we could always be prepared against the danger of invasion by means of a Tunnel. He regarded the constant fears that were expressed of an invasion as a great change from the tone adopted by Englishmen in olden times, when, instead of constantly entertaining the idea of an invasion, we were generally talking about invading somebody else. He certainly thought that if there was any danger of invasion at all, it was much more likely that English Forces would land somewhere else than that the Forces of any other nation would land on this island, and incur the almost certainty of destruction. He maintained that Parliament and the nation had committed themselves to France with regard to the construction of the Tunnel; and there could be no doubt that the sudden change of mind which had taken place, however it might have been produced, without any explanation, as far as he knew, either diplomatic or otherwise, had produced in the minds of many Frenchmen an idea that England was hardly to be trusted. The Government had practically seduced Frenchmen into putting £80,000 of their money into the construction of a great work. Did Her Majesty's Government intend to repay the money which had been laid out on the distinct faith and assurance of Governments of both political Parties, and also upon a distinct Convention regulating how the Tunnel, if made, was to be destroyed in a time of war or in a time of difficulty? The first step towards war was the introduction of International suspicion that a nation made engagements and broke them; and it was much to be deplored that the Government should treat lightly or throw overboard, without compensation and without any explanation whatever, any engagement which it had previously assented to. He would like to ask any thoughtful man whether in the last two years, if this country had been constructing this great work in the face of all the world, in concert with France, any of those difficult questions would have arisen between France and England which had endangered the good relations between the two countries? If this country had gone into partnership with France, he believed that many of those disagreeable strains and many of the dangers which had sprung up from time to time would never have appeared. Take the case of the Cobden Treaty. For the 20 years of its existence no rumour of war had been heard between France and England. Mr. Cobden had said that the Tunnel would be the golden are way to connect the two countries in perpetual peace; peace meant friendly intercourse and mutual trade interests. By the Treaty concluded by Mr. Cobden, the actual interests of the two countries were made one, and it was for the interests of both countries to be at peace. If there were a perpetual alliance between England and France, nothing could be more advantageous to the interests of the two nations. Was there any permanent alliance we could have with anybody except with our nearest neighbour? We must be in a state of friendship with France, or in a state of war, or in a position that was, perhaps, even worse than war—namely, a state of suspense as to what might or might not happen. Therefore, he desired, if possible, to strengthen and make firm and lasting the relations between the two countries. A Representative of the working classes voted against him last year; but he did not forget that other working men, not long ago, went over to France to discuss industrial matters with the French working men. On that occasion the English Representatives waited upon the President of the French Republic to advocate the Tunnel. After having heard their views, he asked—"Why do you come to me? Why don't you go to your own Parliament and convince them? We are convinced in France. We deeply deplore the abandonment of the Tunnel, and if it is not made we shall regret it; but we cannot help it. We are opposed to isolation and separation, and we wish for a frank and cordial understanding between England and France." The real people were opposed to "isolation and separation," for they knew it was the forerunner of war. He (Sir Edward Watkin) believed that that was the opinion of all the working and industrial classes of this country; and he was satisfied that there would be a general feeling of regret if anything were to happen to prevent the opening out of a new source of employment for the industry of the country. He had only one or two more words to say; but if he were permitted, he would like to make use of a quotation, and when he told hon. Members that it was from a paper which was now the Government organ, he thought the House would feel inclined to treat the opinions expressed in it with respect. The quotation was as follows:— The opening of such a communication between this country and the Continent will be a pure gain to the commercial and social interests on both sides. It obliterates the Channel, so far as it hinders direct communication, yet keeps it intact for all those advantages of severance from the political complications of the Continent, which no generation has more thoroughly appreciated than our own. The commercial advantages of the communication must necessarily be beyond all calculation. A communication of this nature between the two chief Capitals of Western Europe, which should annex our rail way system to the whole of the railways of the Continent, would practically widen the world to pleasure and travel, and every kind of enterprize. The 300,000 travellers who cross the Channel every year would probably become 3,000,000 if the sea were practically taken out of the way by a safe and quick communication under it. The journey to Paris would be little more than that from London to Liverpool. It is, however, quite needless to enlarge on these advantages of the Channel Tunnel as the crowning enterprize of an age of vast engineering works. Its accomplishment is to be desired from every point of view; and should it be successful, it will be as beneficent in its results as the other great triumph of the science of our time. [Cries of "Name!"] The extract he had read was from The Daily News. [An hon. Member: What date?] He was sorry to say that it was not from The Daily News of to-day, but from The Daily News of January 22, 1875. He quite admitted that The Daily News might have changed its opinion; but it would honestly tell them if it had. The Government did not act in the same frank way. He hoped, before the discussion was over, that Her Majesty's Government would tell the House frankly whether they thought that the construction of the Tunnel was a work which ought to be completed at some time or other, or whether they did not. If the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade would get up now by himself, leaving the Prime Minister out of the question, and say that this was a dangerous work, and that it would be prejudicial to the interests of the country in the event of a war, or a sudden panic, he (Sir Edward Watkin) would at once withdraw the Bill. He thanked the House for the patience with which they had listened to his remarks, and he begged to move that the Bill be read a second time.


asked if any hon. Member seconded the Motion?


said, he would second the Motion; and, in doing so, he would detain the House for a very short time, because the question had already been fully discussed on a previous occasion, and he knew that the House was anxious to proceed with another discussion, which, at the present moment, was more interesting; but, representing as he did a very important commercial constituency, he felt bound to say a few words in support of a project which he considered to be in the highest sense beneficial to the commerce of the country. He had read very carefully the mass of evidence which had been given by various authorities in relation to this Tunnel; and he could not help being impressed by the fact that the objections raised against it were entirely of a military character. Of course, not being a military man, he was not competent to discuss the question from that point of view. He would, however, remark that there seemed to him to be a growing and a most deplorable tendency on the part of Governments—he would not say of this Government especially, but of all Governments—to refer every conceivable question to the judgment of military authorities; whether it was a commercial question, a political question, or any question whatever. Upon every policy now-a-days the Military and Naval Authorities were invariably referred to as the arbiters. He had not one word to say against the merits and ability of the Naval and Military Authorities. On the contrary, he entertained the highest regard for them; he discerned with great pleasure their great zeal and energy, and he admired, as much as anyone could, their great hero ism. But it stood to reason that persons of such a profession, in trusted as they were with the defences of the country, were likely, on matters of this kind, to err on the side of over-preparedness and over-fear rather than anything else. It stood to reason that if they asked a professional bombarder his view of the best way of settling a question, he would naturally select the method of bombardment, and the same sort of reply would be given by a person whose habit it was to use the bayonet. They were told that they had the high authority of Lord Wolseley on this point. He admitted that the authority of Lord "Wolseley was of the very first importance; but that noble and gallant Lord was not the only authority, although, perhaps, he was by a great many people considered to be our only General. He would read to the House a Memorandum, prepared in 1875 by a very high military authority of that day, Sir W. D. Jervois. That officer said that there appeared to be no military objection to the proposed project, provided that due precautions were adopted; but that should this country in alliance with France be at war with another Continental Power, the existence of a Tunnel might be highly advantageous. Sir W. D. Jervois went on to offer other opinions, and he concluded with this remark— "If proper defensive arrangements were made, such an undertaking might be rendered impregnable." It would, therefore, appear that our military advisers were divided upon the question. He must, however, decline to regard the question entirely from a military point of view, and he agreed with his non. Friend the Member for Hythe (Sir Edward Watkin) that it was in every sense a pacific movement, because he believed that the inevitable result of constructing a Tunnel would be to encourage and increase a sensible understanding between the two nations, and to prevent the possibility of war in the future. The hon. Baronet had alluded to the French Treaty. It was well known that Mr. Cobden had done more, perhaps, than any man of this age to in crease the goodwill and good understanding between this country and France. He (Mr. Slagg), as a humble follower of Mr. Cobden, attached the very highest importance to intercommunication between various countries. If full opportunities could be provided for mutual intercourse in regard to the interchange of commodities between one nation and another, it would lead generally to the establishment of a thorough knowledge between the various countries of the world, and he believed would tend to put an end to the fears, suspicions, and jealousies now entertained by nations with regard to each other, and thus knit the world together in a condition of harmony and common sense. Mr. Cobden, on several occasions, spoke of the construction of a Channel Tunnel with the utmost approval. He stated on one occasion— It is not enough to put the Government and the higher classes of each country on a friendly footing; hut the same good feeling ought to penetrate the masses of the two nations, and it is our duty to multiply all the means of incessant contact which will certainly put an end to superannuated prejudice and old ideas of antagonism. Again, Mr. Cobden said— I consider that a submarine Tunnel would he the true are of alliance between England and France. It was impossible to overlook the authority of that great man, than whom there never existed anyone in the country who so thoroughly understood and so heartily desired to give effect to the means by which harmonious relations should be cemented between the two countries. It was very remarkable that between England France there existed an almost natural community of interests. Certainly, there was a natural commercial relationship so far as commodities of the two countries were concerned. We sent to France large quantities of manufactures, textile and otherwise, manufactures which, produced cheaply and in enormous quantities, the French industries were not so well adapted to provide for themselves. On the other hand, the French producers supplied to us and to the world articles of luxury and manufactures into which skill, taste, and art largely entered, and which we, on our part, received with the greatest possible advantage. It seemed to him that Nature herself had supplied this commercial link between these two great countries; and he was firmly convinced that a union of this sort, of course duly protected by the simple military provisions that were necessary, would not encourage panics, but, on the other hand, would tend to establish peace and security. Believing, as he did, that the construction of this Tunnel would promote amity and friendship between the two nations and greatly benefit the whole world, he had great pleasure in seconding the Motion for the second reading of the Bill.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Sir Edward Watkin.)


said, he did not think it desirable that he should at any length reply to the arguments with which, on previous occasions, the hon. Baronet (Sir Edward Watkin) had supported the Bill, and which he had repeated that day. The hon. Baronet had postponed the second reading when the Bill was down for consideration a short time ago; and he (Mr. Chamberlain) was much obliged to the hon. Baronet for the courtesy with which he had accepted the suggestion which he (Mr. Chamberlain) had made to him on that occasion. He wished the House to understand, however, that the suggestion was not made for his own personal convenience, but for the convenience of the House, because, on the last occasion when the Bill was down, a matter of very high Imperial importance—namely, the Vote of Credit—was also down on the Paper, and he felt it almost impossible to intercept an important question of that kind with the present Bill. He had some little difficulty in understanding with what view the hon. Baronet had again brought this matter forward after a precise and definite decision had been given by Parliament with regard to it. The hon. Baronet explained that his object was to obtain the private opinion of the Prime Minister on the question, and he had also suggested that he wished to have his (Mr. Chamberlain's) private opinion as well. He in no way wished to depreciate either the private opinion of the Prime Minister, or of himself; but really it had nothing to do with the matter, and did not very greatly concern the House of Commons. What was of importance was the opinion of the House of Commons, and of the Government as a whole; and speaking on behalf of the Department that had special charge of this matter—speaking for the Prime Minister, his Colleagues, and the Government as a whole—he had no hesitation in saying that they resisted the further progress of this Bill. Their position had been perfectly clear from the first. Prom the moment the question arose as to whether the making of this Tunnel might not constitute all great national danger, they laid it down that the fullest possible inquiry must be held into that question; and, as a final result, they determined that the whole matter should be considered by a Joint Committee of both Houses, and they agreed to accept the decision of that Committee. The Committee went exhaustively into the subject, and by a majority of six to four decided that it was very undesirable the work should be proceeded with. The Government at once accepted the decision of the Committee, and recommended the House to abide by it. The only question now was whether anything had happened since the decision of the House two years ago not to go on with this Tunnel which should induce them to change their opinion. Was there anything in the present state of Europe or of our relations with Prance which was likely to remove the objections which were urgently felt by many Members of that House, and by a great part of the public outside to this scheme? He could not follow the hon. Baronet when he urged that, in the event of the relations between the two nations becoming strained, the fact of the existence of the Tunnel would tend to promote the cause of peace. If there were a Tunnel at this moment between the two countries, and if the relations between the two countries became so strained that it became necessary to close or to destroy the communication between them, he ventured to say that the fact of taking steps of that kind would cause relations which had been previously strained to become excited to a really dangerous degree. The hon. Baronet complained of what he called the confiscation of the shareholders property; but the shareholders had only themselves and the Directors to blame for what had taken place. They had had full warning from the first. They should have taken the warning, which was given them in the first instance when this work was commenced. They were told, in communications from the Board of Trade, that although the question of the foreshore was that immediately in dispute, and although no other was apparently raised at that moment, yet if they went beyond the foreshore into the bed of the sea the Government and the Board of Trade reserved to themselves the right to deal as Parliament might I determine with the further progress of the matter. If the hon. Baronet had wanted a guarantee before proceeding with the work, he should have come to Parliament and placed a Resolution before it before inducing the shareholders to spend their money. Indeed, there seemed to have been some idea of putting pressure upon Parliament by the course which had been taken; but having spent their money before ascertaining what course Parliament would take they had only themselves to blame.


said, he was sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but he wished to explain that Parliament had sanctioned the scheme on two occasions; and it was only when the right hon. Gentleman interfered with what Parliament had sanctioned that any question was raised.


said, he was quite aware that in past times a different view was taken of this matter from what had been taken subsequently. He could only say that it was a very remarkable thing that when this proposal was first made it did not appear to have struck anyone, on either side of the House, or any of the great authorities, that any military danger would result. The moment that question was raised the whole aspect of affairs was changed. What he would say in answer to the interrogation put by the hon. Baronet just now was that although Parliament had sanctioned the previous Bill, yet with regard to the present undertaking and the work carried through in consequence of the Bills obtained by the hon. Baronet and his Company, he had warning from the first that the Board of Trade, on behalf of the Government, reserved entirely the right to deal as Parliament might determine with the further progress of the work; and he must protest against the hon. Baronet making him in any way personally responsible in the matter. He was only responsible in this sense—that he was the organ of the Government and the mouthpiece of Parliament. On the last occasion that the Bill was before it, Parliament decided by a very large majority that the work should not go on; and until Parliament changed its opinion, he should, on behalf of the Board of Trade, interpose every obstacle to the further progress of these experimental works.


said, he would only intervene in the discussion for a few moments; but as he believed that he was the only Member of the Joint Committee which inquired into the merits of the scheme besides the right hon. Gentleman the Speaker now present, he wished to say a few words in answer to what had fallen from the hon. Baronet the Member for Hythe (Sir Edward Watkin). The hon. Baronet said that the only desire of the Company was to undertake certain experimental works; but, surely, if experiments were tried, it was expected that something would follow from them. The hon. Baronet said, further, that £80,000 had been spent by the unfortunate shareholders, and he gave that as a reason why the works should be allowed to proceed.


said, he wished to correct the hon. Gentleman. He had stated that £80,000 had been expended by France—not in this country.


said, that made it all the worse. There were two points brought before the Committee by the promoters of this scheme—the bene- fit it would be to the goods traffic, and the benefit it would be to the passenger traffic between the two countries. All the witnesses agreed in saying that the only goods that would be benefited were of three kinds—light goods, fragile goods, and perishable goods, which it was necessarily of importance to carry as speedily as possible. All the witnesses likewise agreed in saying that the heavy goods would still go by sea on account of the cheaper transit. Then the advantage in regard to passengers seemed to him to resolve itself into this—that French merchants at present did not come over to this country in any numbers, because they suffered so much from sea-sickness; and therefore they sent their foremen. It was further said, that if the Tunnel were constructed French buyers would come here themselves instead of sending their employés, who had not the courage to make such high bids as their master; and thus the commerce of this country would benefit. Then, as to the expense to the country, the Committee were told by all the professional witnesses, with one exception—there was only one professional witness whom the promoters were able to induce to come forward in favour of the scheme at all—that the expense of defending the Tunnel would be enormous, and that if ever a scare arose it would be necessary to destroy it. However secure it might be made, it would be necessary to incur a heavy and constant outlay for the maintenance of its defence. The Committee had the good fortune to have before them the Chairman of the Erie Rail way in America, who told them what certainly had astonished him (Mr. E. W. Harcourt)—namely, that 95 per cent of the goods shipped to Europe from America were sent through England. The witness added that this was only a temporary matter, and that they were awaiting the building of larger vessels, when the goods would be shipped direct. He was asked if the Americans had the same fear of sea-sickness as prevailed in France; and he said that, although sea-sickness was very disagreeable, he thought the Americans were more like the British in that respect, and that sea-sickness was not allowed to weigh with them at all. In face of the decision which not only had the Committee given, but which had been endorsed by the Government and Parliament, he thought, although he did not wish to use an un-Parliamentary expression, that it showed a considerable amount of cheek to bring this Bill forward again at a time when the British taxpayer was called upon to meet a national deficit of some £15,000,000 sterling, for the benefit of no one except sea-sick Frenchmen and the South-Eastern Railway.


said, that his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Chamberlain) had, unfortunately, made an omission which he would repair by moving that the Bill be read a second time that day six months.

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

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


said, he did not imagine the House would care to waste much time over this foolish project, particularly after what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade and the hon. Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. E. W. Harcourt), to whose opinion he was sure the House would attach much value. He had risen, not for the purpose of prolonging the discussion, but to ask a question on a point of Order. He was anxious to obtain the guidance of the Chair as to the course which he ought to take with regard to this Bill. The House was, of course, aware that the hon. Baronet who had moved the second reading of the Bill (Sir Edward Watkin) had a very heavy pecuniary interest in the success of the scheme, and therefore was unable to take any part in the division on the subject. He (Lord Randolph Churchill) had a very small pecuniary interest in the scheme presided over by the noble Lord the Member for Flintshire (Lord Richard Grosvenor); and he wished to ask the Speaker whether the fact of his having that small pecuniary interest in a project which was really of the same character as this, and which he believed now to be a thoroughly bad project, would prevent him from voting against the Motion of the hon. Baronet? He should be glad if the Speaker would kindly inform him whether there was any Rule or custom of the House with regard to the matter which would prevent him from assisting in the destruction of his own property?


There is no Rule or custom of the House on the subject, and I should recommend each Member to be guided by his own feelings in the matter, and to vote or abstain from voting as he thinks fit. Of course, hon. Members will understand that there is a risk of having their votes disallowed by the subsequent action of the House if the House should think their interest was too direct.


said, he would not detain the House for more than a minute or two with the few remarks he intended to make; but it seemed to him that there were two questions before the House. One was the making of a Channel Tunnel, and the other was whether the proper time had arrived for the making of that Tunnel. His own opinion was that the Tunnel could be made with great advantage to the trade of the country, and made as an engineering work without any great or insurmountable difficulty. He hoped the day would come when they would be able to see the Tunnel made; but he very much doubted whether to-day was the day in which they ought to facilitate making it. His view was that the country, at the present moment, was under heavy military obligations, and the Tunnel could not be made at the present moment without increasing our military preparations and expenses. Unfortunately, the people of this country had not sufficient confidence in their neighbours on the other side of the Channel to allow it to be made without greatly increasing the military establishments of the country. Seeing that the Naval and Military Estimates were, at this moment, on a very large scale compared with what they used to be; that we were this year spending more than £30,000,000 of money upon them, and that we had already an addition of £11,000,000 this year's expenditure; and being afraid that if the Tunnel were made it would lead to a further increase of the Military Estimates, he did not think the Bill ought to be pressed. He hoped the day would come when there would be more friendly relations between the great European Powers, and when there would be a general feeling that peace would be Letter facilitated by closer communication and friendly intercourse, than by a large addition to the Military Forces of the country. He was afraid that the hon. Baronet, if he went to a division, would have no prospect of carrying the second reading of the Bill; and, as he might damage his chances in the future, he thought the hon. Baronet would be acting wisely if he would withdraw the measure, at any rate for the present, until the state of Europe offered greater inducements for such a work than it did now.


who rose amid cries of "Divide!" said, he would not keep the House from a division for more than a few minutes; but the question was one upon which he entertained a strong opinion. He had been somewhat astonished at the manner in which the Bill had been received by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade. The first objection made by the right hon. Gentleman to the proposal of the hon. Baronet (Sir Edward Watkin) was that the House had already expressed its opinion upon the Bill in a sufficiently precise and definite manner. Now, he (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) was old enough in political observation to remember many questions, on which the House had expressed an opinion in a precise and definite manner, which had subsequently been raised, even by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade. He would recall to the recollection of the right hon. Gentleman an historic incident in connection with the question of flogging, when the right hon. Gentleman was found fault with for continuing a discussion upon a subject on which it was thought the House had expressed its opinion in a sufficiently definite and precise manner. It was among the most creditable portions of the right hon. Gentleman's career that he had persevered in forcing a question upon the consideration of the House and the country in regard to which Parliament had already given an opinion; and fortunately, in the end, the view of the right hon. Gentleman prevailed. He had been somewhat astonished at the general tone of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to imply that the strained relations which existed between this country and France were likely to be perpetual. That was almost assuming that the present Ministry would be perpetual. Now, he (Mr. T. P. O'Connor), in spite of the many disappointments he had met with in the course of the last five years, was still somewhat of an optimist; and he was just as little inclined to believe that the strained relations between this country and France would be perpetual, as to believe that the tenure of Office by the present Ministry would be perpetual. What was the general argument which had been brought forward against this posposal? It was that there was a possibility of ill-feeling being created between this country and France. He thought there was no idea that was more to be regretted than this—of continued strained relations between the two countries. As he understood the doctrine of Liberalism five years ago, the idea and hope of the Liberal Party was that, if the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister came into Office, there would be a gradual softening of the irritation which then prevailed between different countries in the world, and that there would be, in future, less danger of a rupture of the peaceful relations of Europe than at any previous time. The great means of establishing such peaceful relations was by increasing the communications and knowledge of different countries with each other. He knew it was rather a risky matter to talk of the civilizing influences of railway communication; but when in America he was told that if there had been as much railway communication between the Northern and Southern States from 1850 to 1860 as there was now, the Civil War between those two parts of the United States would never have broken out, and the American people would have escaped the loss of life and of treasure which was occasioned by that unfortunate war. In the same way, he believed that the construction of the Channel Tunnel, instead of being a source of danger, would be a means of increasing international good-feeling and good-will.


said, he was of opinion that the supporters of the Bill had proved a case entirely against themselves. The hon. Baronet the Member for Hythe (Sir Edward Watkin) said that he desired to establish a second line of communication between this country and the Continent in case the first line should be at any time jeopardized, so that we might at any time be able to provide the country with food and raw material. But would that not be, at the same time, furnishing another line of communication which might be a source of danger in itself? The hon. Baronet had quoted Lord Palmerston, who said that our defences at the present moment by sea were not equal to what they were in former years, in consequence of the facilities afforded by steam for ships to come upon the coast with greater rapidity. If that were so, how was the construction of this Tunnel in any shape or form to give relief? Because the "silver streak" would still remain, and until they could do away with that "silver streak" this Tunnel would in no way obviate the difficulty. The hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Slagg), in seconding the Motion for the second reading, said that the Tunnel would be of great advantage to our commerce, and he could not imagine how it could be a source of danger if proper precautions were taken. "What did the hon. Member mean by" proper precautions? "Had he any idea of what the cost of such proper precautions to this country would be? The hon. Member said he knew nothing of military matters, and, therefore, he did not propose to enter into military questions. But did not proper precautions mean proper military precautions, and a constant expense which the country would be called upon to bear, possibly for an imaginary benefit which might not ever be realized? He contended that the arguments which had been put forward in support of the Bill were no arguments whatever which ought to be allowed to influence the House. Then, again, they had had the working-man's argument. Whenever there was a difficulty the working man was brought in by one side of the House or the other. The hon. Baronet said there was a great work of employment offered to the working men of the country; and, also, that in the event of the Channel Tunnel being opened, a good many working men would go upon the Continent for the purpose of obtaining employment there. He did not think that the working men of this country would do anything of the kind, They took a broader view of the matter. They knew what the wages were on the other side of the Channel, and what the wages were on this; and he apprehended they would be of opinion that the facilities afforded by a Channel Tunnel would be of very little benefit to them, even if their labour were employed in making it. For all these reasons, he supported the view expressed by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, and he should vote against the second reading of the Bill. The hon. Baronet the Member for South Durham (Sir Joseph Pease) had said that he thought the Tunnel an excellent scheme; but that this was not the proper time for making it. The hon. Baronet admitted that on looking along the horizon he perceived some rather dark clouds in the distance; and he thought the public, in addition to the military expenditure now taking place, ought not to be put to the expense of the "proper precautions" for the defence of a Channel Tunnel which had been alluded to by the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Slagg). Therefore, the hon. Member for South Durham was not prepared to advocate the construction of the Tunnel now; but he hoped, when the sky was clear and everything agreeable, that the work might be undertaken. The hon. Baronet seemed to forget that clouds might gather again; and, therefore, all the arguments which were adduced in favour of the scheme on the ground of peace and commercial prosperity formed no appreciable ground whatever in favour of the scheme.


said, he wished to state the reasons why he, for one, would certainly vote for the second reading of the Bill. It was placing the House and the country in a ridiculous position before the eyes of the whole world to say that this Tunnel was not to be made because there was some fear in England that it might be made a vehicle for hostile war operations against this country. Such a reason for not sanctioning the Bill was, in his opinion, a reason calculated to throw upon the Government of this country the supreme ridicule of all civilized people in the world. It was absolutely an unnatural state of affairs that it should be impossible to establish, by means of a railway Tunnel, communication between two great countries. It had been stated by the hon. Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. E. W. Harcourt) that the Tunnel was to be constructed merely for the benefit of certain French merchants who suffered considerably from sea-sickness in crossing the Channel. He had been much surprised to hear the matter talked of in such a light and flippant manner. There could be no doubt about it that the Channel Tunnel scheme was one which interested not only the people of France and England, but the people of Europe generally; and it ought to be treated in a very spirited and not in the narrow minded manner in which some hon. Members dealt with it. The hon. Member for the City of London (Mr. Alderman W. Lawrence) had spoken of the working men of England; but the hon. Member absolutely knew nothing whatever of the wishes of the working men of England. The hon. Member said he thought the working people of this country were not in favour of the establishment of this Tunnel and Railway; but he (Mr. Redmond) had not the slightest doubt that if the question were made one of the issues at the next General Election, the working people of the country, on a poll being taken, would, by an overwhelming majority, be found absolutely and completely in favour of the scheme. It was a scheme which must, of necessity, confer great advantages upon the working men of the country, because it would most decidedly tend to create a good feeling between this country and the people of Europe. It would establish better and more friendly relations hereafter between countries which now had no great love for each other. Anything that was for the benefit of commerce, anything that would have a tendency to establish lasting peace, would have the support of the working classes; and if the present Bill were not allowed to be read a second time, it would be because the working classes of England were not represented in the House of Commons as they ought to be. If there were more Representatives of the working classes in that House, the Bill would be read a second time amid patriotic cheers, and the fanciful feelings which had been raised against the measure by hon. Gentlemen, who expected others to call them commonsense objects, would not have been heard of. Instead of the Bill being rejected, as he presumed it would be, it would be carried, under such circumstances, by a large majority, because it would be understood and believed that it was in the interest of the world generally to pass any measure that was calculated to secure peace and tranquillity. He, for one, should vote for the second reading of the Bill.


in reply, said, he would only add a word in reference to the speech of the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill). The noble Lord had said that he (Sir Edward Watkin) had a large pecuniary interest in this scheme, fie might say that his pecuniary interest did not extend to more than £200 or £300. He took a deep interest in the work, however, because he believed it to be a great work; and he hoped, after the observations which had been made by the noble Lord, that when the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Brad laugh) brought forward his Motion for the abolition of certain pensions, he would consider that it would scarcely be right for him to record his vote upon that question. In regard to the remarks of the President of the Board of Trade, he would only say that the Company had done everything in their power to consult the Board of Trade. They had endeavoured to obtain information from the Government in regard to their opinion as to the desirability of the scheme, but had altogether failed. He was sorry, therefore, that he felt compelled to ask the House to divide upon the second reading of the Bill.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 89; Noes 281: Majority 182.—(Div. List, No. 179.)

Words added.

Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.

Second Reading put off for six months.

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