HC Deb 06 April 1897 vol 48 cc628-30
MR. JOHN REDMOND () Waterford

I beg to ask the Secretary to the Treasury (1) whether he is aware that the Waterford, Dungarvan, and Lismore Railway was opened for traffic in 1878, the ratepayers of the city and county of Waterford being bound to contribute £14,000 per annum for 40 years to enable the share capital of £280,000 to be raised, the Treasury advancing £93,000 on mortgage loan, and that the ratepayers have already contributed £300,000 in payment of dividends, and still have a liability of £250,000 to face; will he explain why the Treasury, though having received £22,000 in part payment of interest, now propose to adopt the extreme course of taking possession of the line, thus taking the management out of the hands of the directors, who, from their local knowledge and experience, are the best judges of how the line should be worked in the interests of the ratepayers; (2) is he aware that in 1888 the Board of Works sent down Mr. Cotton, general manager of the Belfast and Northern Counties Railway, to make a thorough examination of the line, and that his report practically approved of the working of the line as carried out by the directors; and that in February 1896 the Board of Works sent down their engineer, Mr. Haire, who made an exhaustive examination, and why, on the Company's applying for a copy of his report, they were refused it, the Board of Works stating that it was all the less necessary to send it as the engineer could not suggest any improvement; and (3) whether the Government will lay these reports of Mr. Cotton and Mr. Haire upon the Table for the information of the House, and meanwhile will undertake to restrain action on the part of the Board of Works until the Estimates for the Board of Works come before the House, in order that opportunity may be given for Debate, and the views of the ratepayers taken whose interests are so very much larger than the Treasury?


The facts are as stated in the first paragraph, except that the local contribution is for 35 and not for 40 years. The Treasury have as yet come to no final decision as implied in the second paragraph. I cannot undertake to lay on the Table confidential reports to a Government Department, nor to state the effect of portions of such reports, and I can give no pledge as to what action the Treasury may take before the Vote for the Board of Works is discussed.


asked when the Board of Works would inform the directors of the intention to take possession of the line, and why they had adopted a course in regard to this railway different from that adopted to other lines?


Will the hon. Member put that Question on the Paper?


In view of the importance of the facts, and that the Board of Works are threatening to take possession of the line, may I ask whether the Government will agree to leave the matter in suspense, at any rate during the Recess, and until the Estimates come up, so that the matter may be discussed before the step is taken?


I am afraid I cannot give such a pledge at once. But I will see what can be done in the matter.


Will the right hon. Gentleman let me communicate with him again on the matter, as this is a very serious step?


Yes, I shall be glad to receive any representations from the hon. Gentleman.

MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR () Donegal, E.

Will the right hon. Gentleman inquire into the former instances in which the Board of Works have foreclosed?


I cannot answer that Question.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the permanent way of this line is in very excellent order—


Order, order! That Question does not arise out of the Question on the Paper.


I beg to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) if he has been consulted by the Irish Board of Works with regard to their correspondence with the Waterford and Lismore Railway, in which they threaten to foreclose their mortgage and sell the line for non-payment of interest; (2) is he aware that the late Duke of Devonshire advanced to this Company, practically without security and for public benefit, a sum nearly equal to the Government loan, in addition to making the connection with Fermoy at his own expense (now worked by the Waterford and Lismore Company); and (3) whether the Treasury, before sanctioning either a sale or foreclosure, will ascertain the views of the Duke of Devonshire as to the effect of such a step on the public interest and on the guaranteeing ratepayers of Waterford, who are now assessed £14,000 a year to maintain this railway?


The answer to the first and second paragraphs is, Yes. The step suggested in the third paragraph has already been taken, and we are expecting a reply front the Duke of Devonshire within the next day or two.