§ SECOND READING.
§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ (3.15.) MR. A. O'CONNOR (Donegal, E.)
This Bill relates both to England and Ireland, but I wish to take exception to that part which applies to the town of Killarney. It is proposed, with the consent of the Board of Trade, to obtain a Provisional Order for lighting that district by electricity. Although Killarney has a' great reputation for its lakes, its mountains, and its historical ruins, it is but a very small and poor place in itself. It is proposed by this Bill to give to a Mr. Leahy a monopoly of electric lighting, in connection with Killarney, for 28 years. Mr. Leahy is not, I believe, a resident in Killarney, but in the neighbourhood of the town there is a mill which is worked by water power. It formerly belonged to a firm named Leahy, of which this gentleman was not a member, although he was a family connection. Mr. Leahy has, however, obtained a lease of this water power from year to year, and in consequence of possessing it he has proposed to supply Killarney with electric lighting. In the beginning of last year there was a statutory meeting of the Town Commissioners of Killarney to consider a letter from Mr. Leahy, asking for their assent to a Provisional Order for lighting the town. A resolution, giving assent, was carried by five to three, but there was a strong feeling manifested in 1172 the town that if electric lighting was to be undertaken it should be in the hands of the Town Commissioners themselves, for the benefit of the inhabitants. Some time afterwards the Board of Trade wrote to the Town Commissioners informing them that an application for a Provisional Order had been made, and asking for their opinion in regard to it; whereupon the Commissioners wrote to object to any concession to Mr. Leahy, and desired that they themselves should become the promoters of a scheme. This occurred in February or March, 1890, and in April a resolution was passed convening a special meeting for the adoption of a statutory resolution, as required by the Electric Lighting Act, and for the rescinding of the resolution passed upon the 17th February in favour of Mr. Leahy's application. The meeting was held, and was adjourned until the 21st of July, when a unanimous resolution was passed rescinding the resolution of February, and a further resolution come to empowering the Commissioners to make an application to the Board of Trade for a Provisional Order on their own behalf. On the 7th of August the solicitor to the Commissioners was instructed to take the necessary steps for obtaining a Provisional Order, and authority was given to expend the local money for that purpose. On the 12th of December a special meeting was called to rescind, if possible, the last resolution, but it failed, and the decision previously arrived at was endorsed. A memorial was accordingly signed and sealed on behalf of the Commissioners, but an extraordinary thing then occurred. On the 29th of January last a special meeting was called, on the requisition of a small number of the Commissioners, for the purpose of dealing with a letter which the solicitor of Mr. Leahy had addressed to the solicitor of the Town Commissioners in reference to electric lighting. That meeting was irregularly called; several members of the Commissioners, including the Chairman, received no notification of it. The Chairman was in Killarney at the time, but as he knew nothing about the meeting, he did not attend it. At the meeting, the Town Commissioners were given to understand that if they proceeded with their applica- 1173 tion they would do so at their own cost and peril; and they were threatened with proceedings, not in connection with electric lighting, but in regard to a rate it was proposed to levy to cover certain liabilities which had been incurred with respect to interest and principal on account of some water works scheme. The Commissioners being badly advised, had, on a previous occasion, been mulcted in costs for a scheme of the same kind, and Mr. Leahy threatened them with similar proceedings if they did not withdraw their opposition to his scheme. The result was that a resolution was adopted instructing the town solicitor to withdraw their application for a Provisional Order, and to support the application of Mr. Leahy. On the strength of that resolution Mr. Leahy proceeded with his scheme, but the people of Killarney are opposed to it, and the Town Commissioners are opposed to it. The resolution was improperly passed at a special meeting irregularly convened, and as it has no effect in law, I ask the Board of Trade to refuse to allow Mr. Leahy's scheme to go on. There is very little need in Killarney for electric lighting at all, and under all the circumstances I hope the President of the Board of Trade will consent to eliminate from this Provisional Order that portion of it which relates to the town of Killarney.
§ (3.25.) THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE (Sir M. HICKS BEACH,) Bristol, W.
I do not think the hon. Gentleman has shown that his opposition to this part of the Bill is well founded. It is a Provisional Order to enable electric lighting to be provided for the town of Killarney. Now the town of Killarney is not an ordinary country town, but it is a place that is much resorted to by visitors, and it contains a number of large hotels, which do not exist in an ordinary country town. The application for a Provisional Order was opposed among others by the Chairman of the Town Commissioners, by Lord Kenmare, by 13 persons resident in Killarney, and by the Killarney Gas Company; but with all due respect, my opinion is that the real opposition to the Order comes, not from the inhabitants of Killarney, but from the Gas Company. The Town Commissioners having further considered the subject, 1174 withdrew their opposition, and entered into an agreement with Mr. Leahy that if he would pay the expenses they had incurred, they would consent to the Provisional Order, with certain Amendments, reducing the maximum price to be paid and the period during which the concession is to run. That agreement was ratified at a meeting of the Town Commissioners. The hon. Member says that the meeting was irregularly summoned. This is the first I have heard of any irregularity. No complaint has been made to the Board of Trade that the proceedings were not perfectly regular. The Provisional Order, as amended by the agreement, was sent down to Killarney for consideration, and no objection has been made to it. So far from there being any general objection on the part of the inhabitants of Killarney, the only objectors are the Gas Company, and not a single Petition has been presented against the Provisional Order. I therefore trust that the House will not take the unusual course of refusing to read the Bill a second time. If the matter requires further inquiry, the proper tribunal to investigate it will be a Select Committee; and I shall not have the smallest objection to the reference of the Killarney portion of the Order to a Select Committee, who can inquire into it in the ordinary way.
§ (3.30.) MR. A. O'CONNOR
An inquiry before a Select Committee would involve a serious expense, and would entail a heavy burden upon the inhabitants. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to allow this part of the Order to stand over for a few days, in order that the people who are interested in it may be communicated with.
§ SIR M. HICKS BEACH
I see no reason for deferring the Bill. After the Second Reading there will be ample opportunity for consideration.
§ Question put, and agreed to.