§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Sir James Corry.)
§ MR. BIGGAR (Cavan, W.)
said, he had no special objection to urge against the Bill; and if the Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Jackson) would give him a satisfactory assurance that the Canal dealt with by the Bill would hereafter be dealt with in a proper manner, and that they would not lend any more money to the undertaking, his opposition to the measure would be very much removed. His special opposition rose from the fact that he had reason to believe the Government might be tempted to lend money to the Company who were promoting the Bill. He had an inherent horror of the lending of money by the English Government to such an undertaking, and he thought the experience which had been gained in regard to such loans in the past was by no means encouraging. In the case of one of these undertakings, which passed through the Northern part of Ireland, it had never yet paid interest upon the borrowed money. In another case, which involved a scheme of reclamation, a Government had lent to those who were engaged in carrying out the scheme more than the value of the property, even if the scheme had been successful. He was, therefore, desirous in this case that the Government should give an assurance that they would make no further advances to this undertaking, and in that case he would not oppose the Bill. He was afraid that, although tile Secretary to the Treasury might resist further applications, yet in the end he might be tempted to lend the money. The promoters professed to 123 offer a security; but their security would be entirely at the mercy of the Great Northern Railway Company of Ireland. Certainly, if he were director of that railway, he should use all his efforts to make it impossible for the Canal to be worked in competition, seeing the amount of mischief it was calculated to do the railway without any corresponding benefit. He might further remark that, if this were a bonâ fide scheme, there would not be the slightest occasion to go to the Government in order to borrow money, for the reason that the Chairman of the Company was a man of large means and the head of a successful stock broking firm. His clients would be quite ready to lend the money, and if their security were offered for any loan that was required there were plenty of people belonging to stock broking firms who would advance the money. Those persons, however, thought it more satisfactory to deal with the Government, because the Government were not likely to enforce payment of interest. He had not only great fear that the Government might be tempted to lend money at once; but he had, however, a further fear that if a commencement were made in the way of lending money, the first loan would not be the last. What would occur would be this—the money borrowed in the first instance would be spent, and then a fresh application for another loan would be made. It was alleged that it was desirable to keep up a certain amount of competition by means of this Canal with the Great Northern Railway Company; but, if that were so, how did it happen that while the Canal was in operation, even before the railway was made, other people were able to compete with it satisfactorily? For instance, Mr. John Quinn, a successful carrier, found himself in a position to make a good business by conveying goods to and from Dungannon in competition with the Canal. Therefore, it was difficult to adduce any argument in favour of the Bill. There was another matter which only came to his knowledge a short time ago. It appeared that there was certain property now held under lease from the Government which it was proposed to transfer into a new Company, so that the tenants, instead of being under a landlord like the British Government, might find 124 themselves dealt with in a harsh and arbitrary manner. He thought such a transference would inflict a very great hardship upon those unfortunate persons who held terminable leases which expired in 13 years. In the first instance, they had obtained the property at a very moderate rent, on the condition of paying a small fine on the renewal of the lease. If, instead of being under the British Government, they were compelled to deal with a Company which was trading for a profit, they would run the risk of having their entire property confiscated. In one case, the tenants of John Stevenson and Company paid a rent of £10, and professed to have laid out £6,000 upon the property; another tenant paid £10, and professed to have laid out £5,000. The property brought in a total revenue of £50 14s. a-year, and the tenants professed to have spent upon it no less than £30,000. It would be hard for them to find that their property was confiscated, and it must be remembered that these were not agricultural holdings that would come under the provisions of the Land Act. On the contrary, when the leases expired the tenants would be liable to be called upon to pay an unreasonable rent, or to find themselves evicted. Under those circumstances, and seeing that the Bill was one which was calculated to give rise to a considerable amount of discussion, he thought it would be better that it should be postponed until after Whitsuntide, when there would be more time to consider its provisions. He would, therefore, move that the debate be now adjourned.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Biggar.)
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)
said, he had had some expectation that when the hon. Baronet the Member for Mid Armagh (Sir James P. Corry) rose, not from his usual place, but from a responsible seat on the Government Bench, to move the second reading of the Bill, he would have said something in support of it. As the hon. Baronet had not done so, his (Mr. Healy's) hon. Friend the Member for West Cavan (Mr. Biggar) had felt himself compelled to offer some reasons why the discussion should be deferred until a later date. Nobody could know better 125 than Mr. Deputy Speaker how important this question was, and what an amount of discussion it might give rise to. This question of the Ulster Canal had for some years excited great attention, and it was altogether impossible that adequate discussion should take place upon it that day, for this reason—that Irish Business had been put upon the Paper. Most important matters were down for consideration, and it was not to be expected that the House would address itself to a calm consideration of the present Bill. He had given Notice on Friday to the First Lord of the Treasury sury (Mr. W. H. Smith) that the Bill could not be properly discussed that day; and he would now appeal to the Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Jackson) whether it was not desirable to postpone it for a few days? He would give his reasons for making that suggestion. The Bill itself was drawn on the principle of the Bills which had preceded it, all of which had been brought in by the Government. It was a Private Bill, not brought in by the Government on their responsibility. He did not complain of the course pursued by the promoters in endeavouring to obviate discussion in that House by bringing forward the Bill as a private measure; but he did think it an unreasonable course that the Government, who were the immediate parties concerned, and who were really engaged in getting rid of their own property by means of a Private Bill, should not themselves have taken the action implied in the answer which was given by the First Lord of the Treasury to the Question addressed to him on Friday, and have asked the hon. Member for Mid Armagh to postpone the Bill, in order to see whether a short postponement might not have the effect of getting rid of all opposition. He knew that there was considerable anxiety in North Armagh for the passing of the measure, and he had received telegrams requesting him to support it. He was quite ready to do so, if he found that it was possible; but, in the first place, he was anxious to see whether the Government would not make such a promise as would insure the withdrawal of all further opposition, and would allow the Bill to pass with all reasonable speed. But, before withdrawing the opposition, hon. Members should be allowed an opportunity of expressing 126 their views to the Secretary to the Treasury. They had not yet had that opportunity, and he would suggest that a joint deputation consisting of the promoters of the Bill, such as the hon. Baronet (Sir James Corry) and some others, together with some of the opponents of the measure, like his hon. Friend the Member for West Cavan, and persons like himself (Mr. Healy), whose opposition was of a very modified character, should wait upon the Secretary to the Treasury and make representations which would be the means of enabling them to arrive at an agreement that would get rid of all opposition. He would, therefore, support the Motion for the adjournment of the debate, so that the opponents might have an opportunity of placing their views before the Government better than they could possibly have that day. If that step were not taken, of course the opponents would be obliged to enter into a debate upon the merits of the Bill. He himself should strongly deprecate any hostile demonstration against the measure at the present moment; and he had a strong hope that if the Bill were postponed until a later period, all the opposition now raised against it would disappear. If he were in Order upon the Motion for the adjournment of the debate, he would suggest to the Secretary to the Treasury that he should put into the Bill certain clauses that would have the effect of entirely modifying the objections now entertained to it. For instance, an assurance ought to be given that if the purchasing Company should be enabled to turn the Canal to useful purpose, their rights would be transferred to the County Boards of Armagh, Derry, Monaghan, Antrim, and Tyrone, should such Boards be constituted in the future. In that way, he thought, they would get rid of the opposition which his hon. Friend the Member for West Cavan felt disposed to offer to the Bill. Therefore, apart from the consideration whether to-day was a fitting day for the consideration of the measure, he thought the Government might see their way to a compromise, with the view of putting some provisions in the Bill which would have the effect of getting rid of all the difficulty. He, therefore, ventured to support the Motion of his hon. Friend. He certainly thought that the Great 127 Northern Railway Company should never, by any possibility, be allowed to come into possession of this Canal; but the Bill, as it stood, gave no guarantee upon that point. He felt surprised that the Government had not themselves proposed the postponement of the Motion for the second reading. He asked the Secretary to the Treasury to concur in the adjournment of the debate, so that a friendly conference might take place between the Irish Members, seeing that this was a Bill upon which Irish opinion should essentially prevail—whether it was Conservative or Home Rule.
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY (Mr. JACKSON) (Leeds, N.)
said, he hoped the hon. Member for Cavan would not persist in his opposition to the Bill; and he would point out to the hon. and learned Member for Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy), who had made an appeal to him, that the passing of the Motion for the second reading of the Bill would not prevent any arrangements from being made which it might be necessary to make. He could assure the hon. and learned Member that personally he should be glad at any time to receive any communications or representations which either he or his Friends desired to make in reference to the amendment of the Bill. Hon. Members must be aware that the Bill had been before the House for a long time—[Mr. T. M. HEALY: Not this Bill.]—well, a Bill for the same purpose had been before the House on more than one occasion, and all the present measure did was to give the Lagan Navigation Company power to acquire the Canal. No terms were as yet fixed in the Bill, and therefore it was entirely open to hon. Members opposite and their Friends to make any reference to the Treasury which they thought desirable. He, therefore, hoped that the Motion for the Adjournment would be withdrawn, seeing that the second reading of the Bill would not prevent proper precautions being taken to secure that the interests of the Treasury and the interests of the district should be duly considered, and also to secure that provisions should be introduced into the Bill to make it impossible for the Canal to be acquired by the Great Northern Railway Company. He thought that all those questions might be met without any difficulty after the Bill had been read a second time.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
said, he also ought to have suggested that if the County Board system were established in Ireland, the Canal should be transferred to that Body.
§ MR. JACKSON
said, he was not in a position to give an answer upon that point, as the question, which was raised now for the first time, was a somewhat important question. The proposal was that the Government should make terms or impose conditions in the event of a certain thing taking place. It was on the supposition of a County Authority being established that it was suggested by the hon. and learned Member that that County Authority should take over the Canal. No doubt, at the proper time, that question would be considered. He would only point out that the people of the district had had an opportunity of making known their wishes, but they had not signified any opposition to the Bill. He might say, in answer to the hon. Member for West Cavan (Mr. Biggar), who was good enough to inform him the other day that there had been a quantity of land let on lease by the Board of Works, that he had made inquiry upon that matter, and was told that there were some tenants in that position; but although there were a considerable number of tenancies the rental value was only £40 a-year. Some of the tenants held very long leases, and the Bill did not, in any way, affect the position of their holdings under the leases, and, of course, the leases would hold good, whatever arrangement might be made; certainly it would be the duty of the Treasury or the Commissioners of the Board of Works, who would have to make the conditions under which the Canal Company would acquire the property, to take good care, as far as was necessary, that those tenants were left in full possession of their rights. He trusted, therefore, as there was really no substantial opposition to the Bill, that the second reading would be taken at once, so that the present opportunity might not be lost for making progress with the measure. In the meantime, he would undertake that those points which had been very properly raised by hon. Members opposite should receive full consideration.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)
said, that, as the Representative of a county which was vitally interested in 129 the Bill, he should like to say a word or two in regard to its provisions.
MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER
The Question before the House is the adjournment of the debate, and the debate ought to be confined to that Question.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
said, he only rose for the purpose of expressing a hope that the debate would not be adjourned. He quite agreed with the Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Jackson) that all the points which had been brought forward by hon. Members below the Gangway could be considered quite as well at a later stage of the Bill as now. As that was to be a night devoted to Irish Business, he hoped that hon. Members below the Gangway would allow the Bill to be taken at once, so that they might be able to proceed to more important Business.
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY (Cork)
said, he thought the reason which the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down (Mr. T. W. Russell) had given—namely, that that was to be an Irish night, ought to be a reason for postponing the second reading of the Bill. The Bill, as it stood at present, contained provisions which were of an eminently contentious character. It was quite evident that sufficient time could not be devoted to it that day, the more especially as the merits of the Bill could not be discussed on the question of adjournment. That being so, and having regard to the fact that two Bills of much interest to Ireland, one of which involved the payment of a salary to the Parliamentary Under Secretary for Ireland, were upon the Paper, he hoped the Motion for the postponement of the debate would be assented to. He certainly thought that the reasons which the Secretary to the Treasury had given for opposing that Motion were somewhat inconclusive. No doubt, the hon. Gentleman had dealt very fairly with the objections which had been raised, and he had intimated that considerable concessions would be made. He had, however, understood that all matters could be considered at a later stage, and there was no reason why the second reading should not be taken that day. He (Mr. M. Healy) would point out that that would not be the case; because, if the promoters were placed in the position of having got this stage of their measure, they would be much less disposed to consider any objections that might be 130 raised to the scheme, or any point that might be submitted to them, than they would be if the House had not assented to the second reading. The hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury had not questioned the fact that as regarded many of the matters which had been raised—for instance, the position of the leaseholders, the ultimate disposition of the property, the control of the County Boards in the event of their being established, and others matters—were matters which must be carefully considered. It was most desirable that an agreement should be come to upon those points, and, if so, there would be a great deal more prospect of arriving at such an agreement and compromise if the Bill were not read a second time. He did not propose to discuss the merits of the Bill, nor did he desire to defeat the Bill. On the contrary, he was disposed to facilitate its passing into law, if that could be done consistently with proper attention being paid to the various interests involved. For his own part, he thought that it was an unreasonable thing to press the second reading upon the House that day.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON (Armagh, N.)
said, the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down (Mr. M. Healy) said that there were highly contentious matters involved in the Bill; whereas the hon. and learned Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy) had pointed out that the Bill was one upon which all sections of the Irish Representatives ought to agree.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
said, his point was, that in that part of the House, as far as he could see, there was a disposition to come to an agreement, if possible, on the subject, although there were contentious matters involved.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
said, he had listened to the various reasons which had been urged against the Bill; but the only serious objection was that which had been made by the hon. Member for West Cavan, who protested, as far as he could see, to the money of the State being advanced upon what he regarded as indifferent security. [Mr. BIGGAR: Hear, hear!] For his own part, he was always glad when the State was prepared to advance money to any undertaking that was calculated to develop the resources of Ireland and give employment to its people. So far from 131 its being an objectionable Bill, he would point out that the measure was one which dealt with one of the few questions that were of the most vital importance to the North of Ireland.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
said, he had understood that the argument in favour of adjournment was that the Bill contained contentious matter. He would simply venture to submit that, knowing a good deal about the Bill, and about the course which had been pursued in the part of Ireland in which he lived, a part of the country, which had the advantage of being represented, he believed, by the hon. Member for West Cavan, that so far from being contentious all persons who lived in the locality, with the exception of the hon. Member himself, were of opinion that the Bill would be of great advantage to the North of Ireland. He asked the House to concur with the Secretary to the Treasury that all the objections which had been urged against the Bill, and the reasons which had been given for the adjournment of the debate could be met when the Bill got into Committee. So far as he and his Colleagues were concerned, they were quite ready to meet hon. Gentlemen opposite, and so frame the Bill as to bring it in harmony with the wishes of the people of Ireland and the Representatives of Ireland on both sides. He denied that the Bill was in any way contentious, and he thought it could be easily shown that the Bill was really for the improvement of the North of Ireland. He hoped that hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway would see that that was one of those rare occasions on which they could all join in supporting a measure which would be for the advantage of a considerable portion of the Irish people. He, therefore, trusted that the hon. Member for West Cavan would withdraw his opposition to the second reading of the Bill, and reserve the consideration of any Amendments he might suggest until the Bill came before the Committee. He could assure the hon. Member that the promoters would be glad to consider any proposals that might be made. The effect of the measure might be imperilled, if the second reading were not taken then.
§ MR. J. O'CONNOR (Tipperary, S.)
said, the hon. and gallant Gentleman who had just addressed the House (Colonel Saunderson) told them that if the second reading were not proceeded with then, the measure itself might be lost for the Session. He would, therefore, point out that the Bill was a Private Bill, and it could be brought on in the House at the commencement of Business at any time the Authorities chose; that there was no serious opposition offered to it; and that, on the contrary, it had met with approbation on all sides of the House. Nevertheless, as one who approved of the principle of the Bill, he joined with his hon. and learned Friend the Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy) in supporting the Motion for the adjournment of the debate. They had been promised by the Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Jackson) that when the Bill went into Committee, some of the suggestions which had been made would be accepted; but they were told not to put their trust in princes, and he was inclined, from the performances of some Members of the Government in other matters, not to repose the strictest confidence in the performance of the promises of the Government. For that and other reasons, he would strongly support any Motion that would succeed in extracting from the Ministry some special promise that the principles and suggestions which had been put forward by his hon. and learned Friend would be accepted before the second reading of the Bill was agreed to. He should certainly join with his hon. Friends in opposing the second reading of the Bill, until the House had some better assurance from the Secretary to the Treasury, that the suggestions which had been made to him would be carried out. For that reason, he trusted that the Financial Secretary to the Treasury would not insist upon opposing the Motion for the Adjournment of the Debate.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR (Donegal, E.)
said, he had understood from the observations of the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith) on Friday last, that he would seek an opportunity for conferring with the hon. Baronet the Member for Mid Armagh (Sir James Corry), with a view of seeing whether the measure could not be postponed from that day until a subsequent evening, 133 having regard to the Business upon which the House wished to be engaged that day. He would put it to the Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Jackson) whether it would not be proper on the present occasion to accept the proposal for the Adjournment of the Debate, that proposal certainly being in keeping with the promise of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury. [Mr. JACKSON said, there was no promise.] If there were not a positive promise, the First Lord of the Treasury said he would consult with the hon. Baronet, and see whether some arrangement might not be made for the despatch of Business which would prevent the present Bill from being put down that day. On his own account he joined in the appeal to the Secretary to the Treasury to consent to the adjournment of the debate, for this reason—the Bill had been introduced for three or four years in succession from the Treasury Bench, and he had consistently opposed the Bill on every occasion. The Bill now before the House was a different Bill, and the provisions contained in it were very different from some of the provisions which were included in past Government Bills. In consideration of the alterations which had been made, he was no longer disposed to oppose the transfer of the Ulster Canal to the new Company. He was bound to admit that, so far, he had not made up his mind to vote either for or against the Bill. That was a most unsatisfactory position to take up on the part of one who had for several years strongly objected to the Government Bills, and he therefore hoped that a little further time would be afforded for consideration.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 101; Noes 158: Majority 57.—(Div. List, No. 105.)
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
said, he would appeal to his hon. Friend the Member for West Cavan (Mr. Biggar) not to offer further opposition to the second reading of the Bill. They had made their protest against it, and they had received some promise in the nature of a suggestion that the Secretary to the Treasury would undertake, between this and the next stage of the measure, to devote some consideration to the views 134 which had been put forward that day. He would, therefore, simply ask for some information as to what the future course of procedure in regard to the Bill would be. He would suggest that the course to be taken should be similar to that which was taken in the year 1886—namely, that the Bill should be referred to a Committee of Irish Members. He did not know whether that would be possible under the Rules of the House, or whether the Committee of Selection possessed the power of referring it to an Irish Committee or not. As, however, the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir James Corry) had the matter in hand, he would suggest to him that a Select Committee should be appointed to consider the provisions of the Bill, that it should consist of Irish Members only, and that it should include Members from both sides of the House. He believed that such a Committee would be better able to deal with the Bill than any other, and that the consideration it would undergo would have a valuable effect. The Bill involved an entirely new departure in the history of Private Bill legislation. It seemed to him that the Government were handing over to a private Company a sort of damnosa hereditas. Government property to the value of tens of thousands of pounds was proposed to be handed over to a private Company by Her Majesty's Government. He believed there was no instance in the history of Ireland in which the State, finding that it had made a bad investment of the public money, and that it was impossible to make a profit out of it, proposed to hand it over to private individuals. If that was to be the way in which the State cow was to be milked for the Irish people, he entirely repudiated being a party to the transaction. All that he could see in the matter was that the Government had made a bad investment, and that they were now seeking to get rid of their responsibility by handing it over to private individuals. He maintained that if the canal was to be handed over to private individuals, it should be done only with proper safeguards, the first of which was that neither the Great Northern Railway Company, nor any other company, should, under any circumstances, be allowed to get hold of the canal; that it should be vested in some persons 135 who would work it to a profit; and that if the unfortunate Lagan Navigation Company found they could not work it, it should then be handed over to a representative Board, and that the Lagan Navigation Company should not be allowed, having got the property for nothing, to apply to the Irish Courts for a winding-up order, so that the assets of the Company, including themselves, might become assets for the benefit of their creditors. He did not see why that canal property should ever be allowed to become an asset so far as the debts of the Lagan Navigation Company were concerned. On the contrary, it should be preserved intact. He would further suggest, as a third point, that wherever private rights existed, as in the case of the Tyrone Tile Making Company, they should be duly protected. His hon. Friend the Member for West Cavan had made a fourth proposition—namely, that no further sums of money should be lent by the Government. His hon. Friend thought that if money were lent, it would be lent on very bad security. The Government might think that in getting rid of their liabilities for a payment of £1,000 a-year they might be making a good bargain; but he was of opinion that if they were going to give away the money at all, they should give it frankly, and not as a loan; because He could assure them that they would never receive one penny of the money back again, as long as any water continued to flow in the Lagan, which he was advised would not cover a very lengthened period. It was quite evident that the Government had made a bad investment, and it would be just as well that they should treat the matter frankly, and part with the property with a good grace. He certainly trusted that the Secretary to the Treasury would give the House an assurance that no more money would be advanced by the Exchequer to that undertaking. Perhaps, if a strong feeling prevailed among Gentlemen who represented the minority of Ulster Members opposite, he might not feel called upon to oppose their wishes; but as the Government were making a new departure, and were proposing to hand over the assets of the State to a private Body, he thought the best course they could follow would be to provide that the provisions of the measure should be 136 considered by a Committee composed entirely of Irish Members.
§ SIR CHARLES LEWIS (Antrim, N.)
said, he was prepared to oppose the extraordinary suggestion which had been made by the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Mr. T. M. Healy). That was a private Bill and unopposed, and the question before the House was that it should be read a second time. He apprehended that under those circumstances there was only one course which the House could pursue, and that the Bill must take its ordinary and legal course. It had been suggested that the Government had placed themselves under certain pledges, and that a certain understanding had been come to; but that was no reason why the measure should only be considered by a Committee composed of Irish Members. The Question before the House was, whether the Bill ought to be read a second time or not. He did not think that it was possible for the House to come to any understanding such as that which had been suggested by the hon. and learned Member for North Longford—namely, that the Bill should be referred to a Special Committee of Irish Members. He understood that it could only go before the Chairman of Committees in the usual form, with one Member of the House sitting with him, and he entirely repudiated the suggestion of the second reading being taken on any understanding whatever. Why any hon. Member should object to the ordinary course being taken, he could not for the life of him understand, and he should be glad to hear definitely from the Government what they intended to do. He had understood the Secretary to the Treasury to say that he would endeavour to mediate between the promoters of the Bill and certain persons who might not have a locus standi to oppose it, but with whom it might be desirable to make some arrangement before the Bill received the sanction of Parliament. That was a perfectly fair course, and it might be desirable to insert certain safeguards in the Bill, but he altogether objected to any proposal to take the Bill out of the ordinary course.
§ MR. JORDAN (Clare, W.)
said, he was most anxious that the Bill should pass as quickly as possible; but, at the same time, he must join with his hon. 137 and learned Friend the Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy) in endeavouring to arrive at some understanding by which, if the Bill did pass, and the canal were handed over to the Lagan Navigation Company, it should not be possible for the Great Northern Railway Company or any other Railway Company to purchase or lease the canal hereafter. He thought that the Secretary to the Treasury should give some sort of assurance to that effect, or otherwise the canal would be of very little use. It was of no use at present, although it might be of great value if it were put in order. If, however, it were put in order at the expense of the State, and then allowed to be purchased by the Great Northern or any other Railway Company, it would be of very little advantage to the North of Ireland. So long as it could be used as a competing line with Northern Railways, it would be of much advantage to the commercial community in securing the lowering of rates and the price of the carriage of provisions and other goods. But if a loop-hole were left by which Railway Companies could purchase the canal, it would be of no use whatever, but would rather be in direct opposition to the interests of the North of Ireland. Representing as he did the commercial interests of that part of the country, he protested, anxious as he was that the Bill should pass, against the canal being handed over to the Lagan Navigation Company for the purpose of selling it. No one could be more anxious than he was, that the measure should pass. He had supported the provisions it contained in various forms, locally and otherwise, for many years, and he was glad that the Bill had now arrived at the stage it had reached in that House, but he thought there ought to be some guarantee before they consented to pass it, that it should be worked in the interests of the people of the North of Ireland. He thought it was not unreasonable to ask the Secretary to the Treasury to give an assurance to those who were anxious that the Bill should pass, that it should not be handed over to a Railway Company which up to the present time had saddled the people of the North of Ireland with very high and prohibitive rates. His hon. and learned Friend the Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy) had also made another valuable suggestion—namely, 138 that if it could not be worked with advantage it should not be permitted to be sold, or thrown into a bankrupt estate; nor was the suggestion unreasonable that the Committee appointed to consider the provisions of the measure should consist of Irish Members only. He thought it was only fair that Members from the North of Ireland, whose constituents were most interested in the measure, should be selected to consider the Bill. If it were found that it was a measure for the good of the country, it would certainly not be against the interests of the Lagan Navigation Company or the North of Ireland that the Committee should be composed of Irish Members. He therefore approved of the suggestion that the Committee should be an Irish one, and he would further press upon the Government the propriety of giving a guarantee that the canal should never be handed, by lease or otherwise, over to the Great Northern or other Railway Company, but maintained as an independent competing medium.
§ MR. JACKSON
said, a question had been asked as to the desirability of inserting previsions in the Bill, to take care that in handing over the canal to the Lagan Navigation Company, they should be prevented from transferring the property they acquired to a Railway Company. He regarded that suggestion as a most reasonable one, and he had no hesitation, therefore, in saying, in view of bringing the present discussion to a termination, that he would himself undertake to say that no such provision should be inserted in the Bill, or in the agreement which it would be necessary to make for carrying it into effect. He need hardly point out that in regard to forming a Committee composed of Irish Members only, that was a matter that was not in his power to control. The Bill stood at present as an unopposed Bill, and in the ordinary course would be before the Chairman of Committees. What he had promised the hon. and learned Member for North Longford was, that he would be prepared to accept any information in regard to the measure which he or his Friends were prepared to place before him.
§ SIR JOHN MOWBRAY (Oxford University)
said, it would not be in the power of the Committee of selection to do what the hon. and learned Member for North Longford desired, or to place 139 on the Committee to which the Bill would be sent, any one interested in the matter. If the hon. and learned Gentleman desired something out of the ordinary course, it would be necessary for him to make a Motion to that effect to the House.
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
said, he wished to ask as a question of Order, whether it would be regular to give Notice that day, that he would move to-morrow that the Bill be referred to a Select Committee.
MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER
The hon. and learned Member can give Notice; but he cannot make such a Motion now.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed.