HC Deb 16 July 1888 vol 328 cc1378-86


Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [13th July], "That the Bill be re-committed to the former Committee."—(Mr. Kimber.)

Report of Committee read.

Question again proposed.

Debate resumed.


, in supporting the re-committal of the Bill, said, that all the requisite preliminaries had been complied with; but after having undergone investigation at the hands of the Committee to which it was referred by the House, it had been rejected on grounds which it would be found no longer existed, The object of the Bill was simply to obtain an extension of time for the construction of a line of railway which was authorized to be made five years ago, and which, when made, would be of great advantage to the locality. He, therefore, approved of the proposal that the Bill should be re-committed to the former Committee for further consideration.


said, that as Chairman of the Committee to whom the Bill had been referred, and who had unanimously rejected it, it was his duty to point out to the House why the present most unusual Motion should not be accepted. There were two points referred to the Committee—one was the question of the bona fides of the promoters; and the other was the question of the sufficiency of the estimates. As to the question of bona fides no evidence of the bona fides of the promoters was given; but the proof was rather the other way. There was every evidence of the want of bona fides adduced before the Committee. The promoters obtained permission five years ago to construct a railway of about nine miles in length. The engineer of the line, a Mr. Fraser, gave an estimate of £42,000 for the construction; but another competent engineer stated that it ought not to exceed more than £26,000; in addition to that a harbour was to be constructed at Killala at a cost of £46,000, and a guarantee had been obtained from the barony of £40,000. Since the Bill authorizing the construction of the line was passed, no steps had been taken by the promoters to carry out the bargain entered into five years ago. No evidence in support of the bona fides of the promoters had been produced, nor any evidence to show any real effort to obtain the capital. There were no shareholders. In point of fact, it did not appear that anyone took the least interest in the line, except the engineer himself. The local interest in the matter was represented by nobody. The only Irish witness which came before the Committee in support of the Bill was Mr. Fraser, the speculative engineer himself, and undoubtedly he had a considerable interest in the contract. The barony, although it had been induced some years ago to give assent to the scheme, now objected to the proposals of Mr. Fraser, and resolutions had been passed both at Ballina and Killala against the scheme. Six parishes, in which were two-thirds of the whole population of the barony, had held a meeting at which a resolution condemning the scheme was passed. That afforded a convincing proof that the barony did not desire that a speculative engineer should go on with the construction of the line. He would not say, for a moment, that it might not be desirable that some day or other a line of this kind should be made; but he did not think it desirable that permission should be given to those gentlemen to extend the time for carrying out their project. He did not think that the estimates could be relied upon. So far as the contracts were concerned, those which were put before the Committee were not complete. One was put in, which they were told was complete; but it was a contract which no Committee ought to accept. He was bound to say, as Chairman of Committees on Railways for many years, that he had never seen such a proposal before. The Bill proposed to authorize a capital of £150,000, whereas the entire cost ought not to exceed £60,000. On that ground alone the Bill ought to be rejected; but there was another and still more important reason—namely, that the gentlemen who promoted the Bill had failed to support it by any substantial evidence. The promoters thought that they had now found out what the points were in which they had failed before the Committee, and then asked to be allowed to supply further evidence. It was, therefore, evident that the Motion before the House was simply to obtain a fresh inquiry. He thought the Bill ought not to be passed, and he should oppose the Motion.

MR. CHANCE (Kilkenny, S.)

said, he was completely at variance not only with the conclusions the hon. Baronet (Sir Julian Goldsmid) had drawn from the facts, but also with his statement of the facts of the case. At the same time, he must say that it was perfectly evident, to any person who knew anything about the Bill, that the decision to which the Committee, over which the hon. Baronet presided, arrived was not only the proper, but the only decision a Committee of that House could have come to on the facts then before it. He wished, in the first place, to deal with a few of the statements which the hon. Baronet made. He said, in the first place, that a speculative engineer was the only person interested in the line. Now, he (Mr. Chance) thought it would have been desirable, before the hon. Baronet cast a slur upon the character of an individual who was not represented in that House, that he should have made himself acquainted with the facts. If he had done so, he might have easily discovered that the Deputy Lieutenant of the county (Sir Charles Knox-Gore), through whose property the line ran for six miles, and several other gentlemen of position were members of the Board of Directors. It was, therefore, singular, under such circumstances, that the hon. Baronet should get up in that House and say that the Bill was a matter of interest to one individual only, and that individual a speculative engineer. But the hon. Baronet got deeper in the mire as he went on. He had produced a telegram, no doubt, in the innocence of his heart, which had been received from an hon. Member who opposed the Bill, stating that meetings were held yesterday in the localities in which the Bill was opposed. It would appear that six meetings were held, and that they were organized by an individual from Belfast; but it would not appear that even 100 persons took part in the whole of the six meetings. It was perfectly consistent with the statement contained in the telegram referred to by the hon. Baronet that five or six gentlemen chartered an outside car drove round the district, and held the meetings one after another. He asked the House to consider what the proposed line was. The harbour at Killala had been characterized as of but little use; but it had been stated strongly by no less an authority than Sir Thomas Brady, in the second Report of the Commission on Public Works in Ireland, that the Commissioners unanimously recommended the harbour as one of the 12 that ought to be constructed in Ireland; the only opponent was Lord Annaly, who admitted that the harbour would be most valuable, but took up this extraordinary position—he knew that large fishing operations could be carried out upon that coast; but he objected to the construction of the harbour until large fishing boats showed a desire to come to the place—that was to say, that he desired the effect to be produced before the cause. Now the railway was a line nine miles in length, and it had also been condemned by the hon. Baronet; but it was strongly recommended by Mr. Tuke, on page 648 of the Appendix of the Report of the Commission. Mr. Tuke strongly recommended it as an independent line, altogether leaving out the question of carrying it further on to Belmullet. The promoters had been de-scribed as speculators, but they were men of position and influence who had a large interest in the locality. All they could possibly get under the Act of 1853, even if this extension of time were granted, was 5 per cent for 25 years, and the payment of that sum of £2,000 a-year depended entirely upon the construction of the harbour and the working and maintenance of the line and harbour. Whether the line succeeded or failed, no further guarantee would be given by the barony, and he asked the House to consider what the barony was getting for its money; it was to give £2,000 a-year for 25 years, and in return was to receive a harbour, costing £35,000, and a railway that would cost £40,000. He thought the harbour and railway would be a very good return, indeed, for a guarantee of £2,000 a-year. By the Act of 1883 it was provided that the guarantee should be first charged on the whole concern. Consequently, the barony would become the absolute proprietors of the line, if it was found to be an unsuccessful undertaking. The moment the line ceased to work, it would become the absolute property of the barony. He quite admitted that it would be dangerous and wrong to lay down for universal or even large application the principle to the promoters of public undertakings should be at liberty to apply constantly for an extension of time for the completion of their undertaking. But it must be borne in mind that this line would be constructed on terms that would be economical to the directors and beneficent to the people. It would open out an enormous fishing field upon the West Coast of Ireland, and under no consideration could the promoters make a penny out of the transaction as the Bill now stood. It must be borne in mind that the construction of the line was originally authorized in 1883, and that the opposition to the present measure came from one individual, one local landlord alone, whose contribution to the guarantee would amount at the most to £120 a-year. Even if the Bill had been ob- jected to, and condemned in a resolution passed in the district, it must not be forgotten that in 1883 it was adopted both by the Grand Jury and the Board of Guardians, and in 1885 a resolution was passed giving a perpetual guarantee which it was now proposed to get rid of. There was only one other observation of the hon. Baronet which he wished to deal with—namely, the position of the barony. He could not understand what that House had to do with the question of the barony. The liability of the barony was confined to £2,000 a-year conditional on the making of the line. He maintained that the promoters had shown the utmost bona fides in promoting the line. Although they knew that the guarantee was conditional with the successful making of the line, they had undertaken to go on with the work; and not only Sir Thomas Brady and Mr. Tuke, gentlemen possessing the highest knowledge upon the subject, but also Captain Walmsley, Sir John Cooto, and others, had strongly recommended the construction of this line and harbour. He admitted that he would not in any case have supported the Bill in the interests of the promoters alone. He apprehended that whatever happened to the Bill they would lose their money, but that was no concern of the House. The construction of the line would give employment to 200 people almost continuously for two years in a most impoverished district; it would develop the fisheries of the coast, and the inhabitants of the locality were nearly unanimous in its favour, with the exception of a few individuals in the town of Ballina; he therefore hoped that the House would consent to the Motion. After the observations which had been made by the hon. Baronet (Sir Julian Goldsmid), he thought the House ought to hear the opinions of some other Members of the Committee. He held in his hand a copy of the agreement for the construction of the works and the issue of capital. The agreement for the construction was to complete the work for £100,000. He ventured to say that if those documents had been produced when the case was before the Select Committee, at least three out of five of the Members would have recommended the passing of the Bill. Under these circumstances, he should certainly support the Motion.

MR. COURTNEY KENNY (York, W.R., Barnsley)

said, that, as one of the Members of the Committee, he wished to remark that he thoroughly endorsed the statement of facts which the hon. Baronet the Member for South Pancras (Sir Julian Goldsmid) had laid before the House, and he believed they would also be endorsed by the other Members of the Committee. The hon. Member for Kilkenny (Mr. Chance) had laid great stress on the position occupied by the members of the Board of Directors of the Company. Now, the Committee had been struck by the fact that none of the Directors of the Company had been called before them, except one single individual who did not appear to have any local interest.

MR. BIGGAR (Cavan, W.)

said, he wished to say a few words to explain that he was one of those who opposed the Bill, and that he hoped the decision of the Committee would be adhered to. His hon. Friend (Mr. Chance), who spoke a few minutes ago, had not correctly stated what the provisions of the Bill were. First of all, the holders of preference shares were made liable; but if the line did not pay the working expenses, and it certainly would never do so, the ratepayers would make up the difference between the income and the working expenses, so that, in point of fact, the liability of the ratepayers was practically unlimited. In addition to that, the promoters of the Bill had issued a circular of a most absurd character, stating that a line of steamers was to run from Ballina to Killala in conjunction with a line of railway only eight miles long. It was impossible to imagine that a line of steamers would be laid down from Killala to any part of Scotland in opposition to the line of steamers which existed already. He believed that an attempt had been made to get an expression of an opinion from the people of the locality on Sunday morning after Mass. The opinion obtained from six parishes possessing two-thirds of the rateable value of the district was that they were resolved not to support the Bill. Under these circumstances, he asked the House to object to the proposition now made.


said, that before the House came to a decision he should like to explain the reason of the vote he was about to give. He did not think it necessary or proper at that stage to discuss the merits of a project which was sanctioned by a Committee of the House five years ago. He would only say that the Commission, after examining the evidence, distinctly stated that, in their opinion, no advantage would be derived by the fishing industry by the construction of the harbour at Killala. The hon. Member who asserted that the harbour would be of great advantage for the fishing industry could hardly have consulted the Report of the Commission, which was entirely to the contrary effect. It was not necessary, however, for the House to consider that question. A very strong Committee of that House had gone into the matter, and had reported upon it, the conclusion they arrived at being that, considering a period of five years had elapsed since the time the Company were authorized to construct the railway, and all the attendant circumstances, there was convincing proof that this was not a bonâ fide transaction. He must say that such facts as he had seen led him to the same conclusion as the Committee. After the lapse of five years since the original Bill was passed, it would be a very strong case indeed which should induce the House to take upon itself the responsibility of over-ruling the decision of the Committee upstairs.

MR. J. O'CONNOR (Tipperary, S.)

said, he concurred with the views which had been expressed by his hon. Friend the Member for West Cavan (Mr. Biggar), and he desired to say why he opposed the Bill. There were many circumstances in the South of Ireland which rendered it most desirable that the House should hold its hand before endorsing schemes of this kind, which would have the result of sinking the country in debt. It had been stated by the hon. Member for Kilkenny (Mr. Chance) that the construction of the railway would create a fishing industry. Now, he had always understood that it was the railways that followed the fish, and not the fish that followed the railways. That had certainly been the case in the fishing ports of the South of Ireland. He should vote against the proposal to re-commit the Bill.


asked, by the indulgence of the House, to be allowed to correct an unintentional misrepresentation which had been made by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman had said that the Committee did not recommend the construction of the harbour at Killala in the interests of the fishing industry. What the Committee said was, that they could not recommend a large outlay. The locality would now be getting both the harbour and railway for £2,000 a-year, which was a very different thing.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 29; Noes 206: Majority 177.—(Div. List, No. 218.)

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