§ Order for Second Reading read.
(9.18.) THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. A. J. BILFOUR, Manchester, E.)
In moving the Second Reading of this Bill, I have to say that it is a measure simply carrying out the policy of last Session. It is intended to make more rapid the works connected with light railways in the West and North-West of Ireland, in view of the possibility of a serious failure of the potato crop in that part of the country. The Government propose, by having a special Grand Jury as soon as the list can be got through, to enable the works to be commenced in time to deal with any distress that may occur. Clause 5 enables a Railway Company as promoter to construct a railway which does not exactly satisfy the requirements of the Light Railways Act.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. A. J. Balfour.)
§ SIR W. LAWSON (Cumberland, Cockermouth)
We have been told that this Bill simply carries out the policy of last Session, but I object to the policy of last Session.
§ *(9.22.) MR. MURPHY (Dublin, St. Patrick's)
The question whether or not this will promote urgency in the objects which the Government have in view depends upon the mode in which the Act is worked. I have some special knowledge on this subject, and I should like to have some explanation as to the position of the lines which are not under the Act in relation to the Government scheme. There are five railways scheduled in the Act; but outside these five railways there are three or four others which are 917 not scheduled at all in the Act, but are scheduled in an Order in Council. I should like to have some information as to whether the lines not in the Act are part of the present Government scheme. I may mention, for the information of the Committee, that there are two railways outside the Act of 1889 altogether, having been promoted under the Act of 1883, and to which this Bill has no reference, which will probably be commenced in the present year, and will then give a certain amount of employment in districts which are congested. The lines to which I refer are the line along the coast of County Clare to Kilrush and Kilkee, known as the South Clare Railway, and the Tuam and Claremorris line. The County Clare line has already been passed by the House of Lords and this House, and will shortly be an Act. With regard to the Galway Railway, there has been a certain amount of difficulty, and it is very desirable that the powers sought for should by some arrangement be confirmed. I respectfully contend that the provisions in the Bill will in no way meet the apprehended distress during the autumn and winter, because, supposing the Grand Jury are called together in November, it will be at least six months afterwards before anything can practically be done. It should be known that all the lines which are scheduled were already passed by the Grand Juries as long ago as last March, and if the Treasury really desire that the light railway projects already approved of shall be executed speedily, they had better give the promoters an opportunity of going before the Privy Council to have the Orders in Council made out, and that will end the matter. That can be done without any Bill.
§ (9.40.) MR. JACKSON
In reply to the first question put by the hon. Member, I must say that the lines which are not included in the Schedule will be in precisely the same position as before, and will be in no way retarded.
§ MR. MURPHY
Will the operation of the Act in reference to the other lines be suspended until those scheduled under this Bill have been dealt with?
§ MR. JACKSON
No; this Bill has a double object. It is intended to remedy the defects in certain presentments, and also to enable the Treasury to negotiate in reference to railways that are not light railways. But that is owing to the inherent difficulty of the case, and not to the fault of the Government. The Treasury and the Board of Works will take every possible pains to expedite these works.
§ (9.43.) MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)
The right hon. Gentleman asked us to consent to the introduction of this Bill on the ground that it would do something to avert the distress which was threatened on the Western and South-Western Coast of Ireland, and we thought that if we could, by accepting it, help in the troubles which were then threatened, it was our duty to do so. But I am inclined to think that it will not do anything to meet the apprehended distress during the forthcoming winter, and I warn the Government against laying that flattering unction to their souls. My hon. Friend the Member for Dublin (Mr. Murphy), who has had much experience in the construction of these railways, has declared that even after the passage of this Bill not a single pick can be put into the ground with reference to any of these railways before the potato crop, not of 1890 but of 1891, is dug up. I ask the House to realise what that means. This Bill is really a Bill to give the Midland and the Great Western Railway Companies a large sum of money to construct a line in the West of Ireland. That can be done in a clause of a few lines. The usual notices might be dispensed with, for I can assure the Government the landowners of Galway are only too anxious to sell their land on any terms, and without any notice whatever. If the Government wish to hasten the time when these lines may be constructed, they should take the word "November" out of the Bill and put in the month of September or October, and they could easily call the Grand Juries together in time to cover that procedure.
§ (9.52.) MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)
I should like to ask why November is the date which has been fixed upon for the meeting of Grand Juries, because, if this is an urgent case and the Government intend to proceed with their Bills, they must know that it would be easy to call the Grand Juries together next month instead of several months later.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
It is necessary to fix a date in November, because of the notices that have to be served under the Act of Parliament.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I do not think that would be possible. It is only reasonable that a landlord should wish to have notice before his land is taken from him.
§ (9.55.) MR. SEXTON (Belfast, W.)
I think that the general project of the Bill is excellent, but after the speeches of my hon. Friend the Member for Dublin (Mr. Murphy) and the hon. and learned Member for North Longford, I gravely doubt whether it will in any way meet the distress which, unfortunately, is apprehended in Ireland during the coming winter. Why not, as my hon. Friends suggest, dispense with the notices altogether and call the Grand Juries together at once?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
There are certain limits fixed under the Statutes, and we have allowed the minimum amount of time which can be taken before the Grand Juries are called together.
§ Mr. SEXTON
Well, I can only urge the Government to strain a point in this case, and dispense with these notices altogether. I am sorry to observe that the Bill does not include Belmullet, a district requiring assistance, perhaps, more than any other part of Ireland, and I would suggest as strongly as I can to the Government whether it is not desirable to include that district in the Schedule.
§ (10.0.) THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. MADDEN, Dublin University)
We have done our best to 920 facilitate the progress of the scheme. The notice to owners of land, however, is not the only thing to be considered. A substantial guarantee for a portion of the capital is required; and before going to the Grand Jury for sanction to such a scheme many proceedings must be taken involving a certain amount of delay. As a consequence of the efforts of the Government, the scheme will come on for hearing by the Grand Jury in November, instead of at the ordinary time, March, thus saving four months.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed for to-morrow.