HC Deb 27 July 1897 vol 51 cc1305-11

"That a sum, not exceeding £26,247, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1898, for the salaries and expenses of the Office of Public Works in Ireland."

MR. P. J. POWER (Waterford, E.)

said the position as to the new route to England was in a most unsatisfactory position so far as the Fishguard and Rosslare line was concerned. He did not intend to enter into the merits of the respective tenders, but he urged that a decision should be come to at once. He thought there could be no doubt as to the great importance of this new route to England viâ Waterford. The people who had to pay this large guarantee were more interested in this matter than anyone else, and they had not had a proper opportunity of going into the pros and cons of the rival schemes. His constituents were inclined to think that considerably more liberal offers than had been made might be made, for it was notorious that if one forced a sale the seller was placed at a great disadvantage. The people, who were still liable for £252,000, had a right to demand that nothing should be done in a hurry. When the Vote was in Committee he urged that the entire sum of £93,000 should be remitted, and under all the circumstances he did not think that that was an unreasonable request. The Treasury, however, refused to accede to that proposition, and had determined to foreclose and sell at once. He had no, doubt that that was a convenient course for the Treasury, but it was a most inconvenient proceeding for those whom he had the honour to represent. He suggested that the Government should not charge the interest of the next two years in this case. In the meanwhile, County Councils would be established in Ireland, and the decision as to what should be done should be left to them. By foregoing the interest for two years, the Government would give people time to think what was the best course.


said that naturally the cess-payers were anxious to relieve themselves of the crushing liability resting upon them. The public were not made aware of the offers that were made to the Treasury on behalf of the railway companies until Friday last. He was sure the right hon. Gentleman would recognise that where the interests were so large it would take some little time for the matter to be fairly discussed and weighed. The question concerned not alone the cess-payers who were paying so heavy a burden, but practically it involved a much larger issue, namely, whether there should be for Cork and the South of Ireland some alternative route to the Welsh and English markets as against the Great Southern and Western and London and North Western Railways, Cork at present being virtually in the hands of the Great Southern and Western with regard to its imports and exports except in so far as it was relieved by its sea borne trade. He did not dispute that the majority of the resolutions were in favour of the Fish-guard and Rosslare line; but the public opinion of the localities was still undetermined and he hoped that the Treasury would delay the matter for a reasonable time.


said he rose with a profound sense of responsibility engendered by the fact that anything the Irish Members said would have no effect on the Government, who had made up their minds on the question. A profound interest was taken in the Waterford, Dungarvan, and Lismore Railway, and it was said that there ought to be delay on the part of the Government in coming to a decision. If delay would assist the Government it was now seven years since the Act was passed to make this connection between Rosslare and Cork. But now a keen competition had suddenly sprung up, and a great element of the dramatic had been imported into the consideration of the question. What was the position from the point of view of the common or garden Irishman? The Great Southern and Western Railway Company of Ireland was in conjunction with the Great Western of England in opposing the giving of the line to the Rosslare Company. The Great Southern and Western Railway Company was held in no favour in Ireland. Every place through which it ran would be glad to be rid of it. It was true that amongst the people of Ireland there was a doubt as to what should be done in the matter; but he would point out that the public bodies of Cork, Fermoy, Lismore, and Dungarvan had passed resolutions begging the Goverment to sell the railway to the Rosslare Company. Waterford city, he granted, was in a contrary sense. But Waterford, if he recollected aright, paid only £1,400 out of the £14,000 guarantee; and Waterford city, as he recollected well—for he was a Member of the Select Committee at the time—sent its Mayor and Corporation over to support this route when the Act of 1890 was before the House. Then what was the case of Wexford? The Corporation, the Board of Guardians, and the Grand Jury of Wexford had passed unanimous resolutions in favour of the Rosslare Company; the Enniscorthy Guardians had done the same; and if it was any recommendation, which he doubted, the County of Wexford Lunatic Asylum Board—[laughter]—had passed a similar resolution. They were told that this was a case in which there was a possibility of doubt amongst the local people, as to what should be done with this line. He could see no doubt the Waterford city people were strongly in favour of the Great Western; all the rest were strongly in favour of the Rosslare Company. Let him say a word on the question of delay. If this proposal was to fructify into a going concern, they must have an Act of Parliament, which could not be got this year. As he understood the Standing Orders, they must table their plans in November, and the four months between now and November was none too long for civil engineers to map out this line and take levels and deviations, and so on, seeing that there would be forty miles of railway from Rosslare to the city of Waterford with two enormous bridges. If it were going to be made into a scheme at all, surely it was essential that the Government should make up their minds one way or the other to whom they were going to give it. If they were going to give it to the Great Western, give it them on the spot and put the people out of pain; if they were going to give it to the Rosslare people, give it them. Only have a mind and make it up somehow. ["Hear, hear!"] He quite agreed that the Great Western would be the better body for the city of Waterford, and if he lived in the city of Waterford as his hon. friend did, he would be a Great Western man; for the interest of Waterford was an important interest, and was not to be lightly set aside. In view of all the ease, however, he believed the city of Waterford was no more in danger of its traffic than in 1890, when its Mayor and Corporation unanimously supported the Rosslare scheme. He had read the two proposals, and that of the Great Western was worse in one respect, that was to say, it was shorter in amount. It was the better of the two in another sense, because it offered the Treasury cash. The Rosslare offered a larger sum, but a little more deferred. That was from the Treasury point of view. From the point of view of the baronies the Great Western tender was slightly better than the Rosslare. He thought the Government might make slightly better terms than those of either of the proposals. In one respect he thought the Great Western proposal was wholly impossible, because the moment they said they would only give £7.10s. for a £10 share, they debased the entire system upon which British credit rested. On the other hand, he thought, a little more !night be screwed out of the Rosslare Company. But whatever they decided upon, the Government should when they had come to their decision, bring in this Bill next year, and put their back into it, and not allow a Committee of the House of Lords to reject that scheme. He was not at, all sure, in view of the importance of this route to England for the whole of Munster, that this was not worthy to be made into a public Bill.


wished it to be understood that he had spoken simply as a county Member.


thought there was very little to be said in favour of the proposal for delay. An opportunity had occurred for settling this question, and if they did not take advantage of it, the opportunity might never recur. Hon. Members averred that sufficient time had not been given to the people of the locality to make up their minds, but if hon. Members were to see the number of resolutions which he had received in favour of one scheme or the other, and if they knew how many deputations had been anxious to see him on this subject on the one side and the other, they would, he thought, no longer doubt that the locality had had sufficient time to prove its opinions. He held that they onght to come definitely to terms with one or other of the competing companies. From the first there had been three interests to consider, namely the taxpayer, the ratepayer, and the locality generally. He wished to point out that he had not considered the taxpayer exclusively. In proof of that he might mention that the Treasury had received a far better offer front the Great Southern and Western Railway Company, which they had rejected, because they did not want to throw the whole of this district into the hands of one Company. if nothing were done and if the matter were to remain entirely in the hands of the present directorate and shareholders, the ratepayers and locality, he believed, would benefit much less than they would if the line were handed over to either of the Companies that were tendering, for in addition to the sums which these Companies were offering to the Treasury for the mortgage, they were making certain concessions both to the rate- payers and to the locality. It vas highly important in the interests of ratepayers that there should be a good railway system throughout the South of Ireland, a system that would develop traffic. The hon. Member for North Louth had rather taunted him for not having made up his mind at once, but he had been waiting simply in order that the locality might be able to express its views. He had received many resolutions from Boards of Guardians and other bodies, but he had not yet received all the deputations from the South of Ireland who were anxious to interview him. It would not be right to make up his mind until he had seen these deputations, but he hoped he should have received the last of them by the end of this week, and he should do his best to arrive at a decision by Monday or Tuesday next, so that he might announce his decision before the House rose.

Resolution agreed to.