HC Deb 07 July 1898 vol 61 cc135-40

(By order) Ordered, That in the case of the Fishguard and Rosslare Railways and Harbours Bill, Standing Orders LXXXIV, CCXIV., CCXV., and CCXXXIX. be suspended, and that the Bill be now taken into consideration, provided amended prints shall have been previously deposited."—(Dr. Farquharson.)

Bill, as amended, considered accordingly.

Motion made— That the Bill be recommitted to the former Committee."—(Mr. Patrick O'Brien.) That it be an Instruction to the Committee that they do insert in the Bill a clause or clauses providing that Members of the House of Commons may travel free of charge over the various systems of railway and steamer services affected by this Bill, when said Members are going to or returning from attendance on their Parliamentary duties."—(Mr. Patrick O'Brien.)


I beg to move the Motion which stands in my name, to recommit this Bill, and I seek to do so for the purpose of instructing the Committee— That they do insert in the Bill a clause or clauses providing that Members of the House of Commons may travel free of charge over the various systems of railway and steamer services affected by this Bill, when said Members are going to or returning from attendance on their Parliamentary duties.


If that is the object of the Motion, to recommit, I may say at once that the Instruction will be out of order. The question of Members of the House of Commons travelling free of charge is not a matter for private Bill legislation—that can only be done by public legislation. If, therefore, that is the object of the honourable Gentleman's Motion, he is entirely out of order in moving it.


As you have made that ruling, Sir, I may acquaint you with the fact that I have the authority of the original promoter of this Bill that if it passed the House of Commons, he would insert such a condition. I take it that the companies concerned in this Bill are bound by this condition of the original promoter as much as they would be bound by any other condition which they had accepted. I take these grounds that, for the first time in my experience, the British Treasury is investing in a public concern of this description £93,000 of pubic money, and I thought, Sir, that that being so, a Member of this House had the right to ask the Treasury to insert a condition enabling Members of the House of Commons who travel to do a public duty and who spend most of their time here, to travel free of charge over what I may call the public high- ways of the country. Sir, I am aware that this is a novel proposition, but as my honourable Friend said the other night, everything is novel which is heard for the first time. Free travelling is not novel——


Order, order! The honourable Gentleman is now discussing the merits of his Motion, which I have already ruled out of order. I am not aware as to what the views of the promoter were, and if I were that would make no difference at all to my ruling, neither would the fact of the investment of the money by the Treasury at all alter my ruling. The Instruction for which the honourable Gentleman wishes to recommit the Bill is out of order.


Of course, Sir, I bow to your ruling, but you will allow me to give notice that when the Treasury comes to this House for power to allocate this money, I shall raise this question again.

MR. T. M. HEALY (Louth, N.)

I hope I may be allowed to say a few words by way of acknowledgment of the action of the Secretary to the Treasury in this matter. I think it only right, when a great public service has been rendered, that a fair acknowledgment of such service rendered, as in this case, by the Government should be made from these benches. We have had occasion in the past to complain of the Treasury—indeed, we have had very strong grounds for complaints against the Treasury. But, Sir, there never was an occasion on which the officials of that institution have come forward and rendered such a signal service to the country as they have on this occasion by their action with regard to this Bill. I do not merely refer to the £93,000 of public money which is to be invested in this scheme, but I refer to the action of the right honourable Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury all through this Bill, and to the help that he has given us, both in public and in private, to get this very valuable railway construction scheme piloted through the very difficult channels of this House. Had it not been for the right honourable Gentleman in the first place, I believe that this Bill would have been sent up to the Lords without there having been this very valuable public inquiry which has taken place, and which has occupied so much of the time of many Members of this House. That Committee, Sir, was presided over by a gentleman who performed his duties with much dignity, and who rendered great service to the Bill by his conduct in the chair. The right honourable Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury all through has taken what I may call an Irish line in regard to this Bill. He has rendered, as I have said before, to the entire population of Ireland an enormous public service, and on an occasion like this I desire to make myself the mouthpiece of the expression of feeling which I know prevails throughout the South of Ireland as to his exceedingly commendable action in this matter. I only hope, in conclusion, that, as we are now nearing the end of the Session, both the right honourable Gentleman the Chairman of the Committees on the Bill and the right honourable Gentleman the Secretary for the Treasury will use their influence with the House of Lords, so that the fortunes of the entire population of the south of Ireland are not imperilled by the fact of some Standing Order not having been rigorously complied with. I think we are entitled to ask that the House of Lords, in a matter of this importance, should give some little relaxation, if any is needed, in its rules, so as to enable this Bill to pass with as little delay as possible.

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

I quite agree that the hybrid Committer which sat upon this Bill have devoted a great deal of time and trouble to it, and this House is much indebted to many of the gentlemen who sat upon the Committee, and who showed such a grasp of the very intricate details of this Bill. Many of them were, of course, well acquainted with the locality, and were able to give the benefit of their local knowledge to those Members who were not possessed of such local knowledge. With regard to the action of the right honourable Gentleman opposite, the Secretary to the Treasury, we cannot forget that the promoters of this Bill offered to relieve the county of Waterford altogether of the tax of £14,000 a year which they now spend; but the company have only been called upon to relieve us to the extent of £7,000. True, we get another £3,000 by means of the operation of the Local Government Bill; but even with that we are still left with a charge of £3,000 a year in the county and city of Waterford. We maintain that we were never allowed to avail ourselves of the legislation which helped other people—I refer to the light railways, and the assistance which they got towards the dividends on their capital. I say that when the remission was made it should have been made more in our favour than it has been, because, speaking broadly, I am quite sure that the £4,000 a year which we still have to pay will go largely to the advantage of other people. Speaking of the Bill as a whole, I think we may say that we welcome the advent of the Great Western, although, for my own part, I wish that company had come in better companionship, but, having selected their own companion, we, of course, must be satisfied with them; and we are grateful to the hybrid Committee for inserting that provision which makes it necessary that there should be four members of the board of the Great Western Company upon the board of this company, as against three members of the board of the Great Southern and Western Company. Now, Sir, I will not detain the House longer on this subject, but I wish to point out to the House, although it is probably aware of the fact—at any rate, the members of the Committee who sat upon this Bill will be aware of it—that from all parts of Ireland complaints were received as to the treatment which the traders and passengers using the Great Southern and Western line had to submit to from that company. I have in my mind a case in point which will, to some extent, indicate the policy pursued by this company. A relative of mine was travelling to Kingsbridge one morning last year. It was a wretchedly cold day in February, and my friend was travelling third class; and when the porter in charge of the foot-warmers came round, to my friend's astonishment, he ceased putting foot- warmers in—no foot-warmers were put in the third-class carriages for the use of the third-class passengers. He asked whether it was by the order of the directors that he did not place foot-warmers in the third-class carriages, and he said it was. He was offered a little gratuity for the use of a foot-warmer, but he refused it, saying that he could not accept it, because if he did so and placed a foot-warmer in a third-class carriage he would be dismissed. He said, if you want a foot-warmer you will have to apply to the station-master. Of course, he was only performing his duties in accordance with the orders of his directors, but my friend did not consider that he ought to have to go to the station-master and beg for the use of a foot-warmer. I submit with every confidence that everyone who knows anything about travelling in this country would consider it a monstrous, and unheard of thing if a third-class passenger, because he was a third-class passenger, were denied the use of a foot-warmer. No doubt it is a small thing, but, as I said, it indicates to some extent the spirit which animates the Great Southern and Western Railway, and I trust that this proposed joint board, consisting of directors of the Great Western Railway and the Great Southern and Western Railway, when they come to manage this new line, will show a little more reasonable spirit to the traders and passengers who will avail themselves of the line. I quite agree that when this line is made it will be found to be a great advantage, and, with the qualification I first indicated—namely, that the company should be held to their original proposal to remit the whole of the £14,000 a year to the county and city of Waterford—I cordially approve of the Bill.

Motion made— That Standing Orders CCXXIII. and CCXLIII. be suspended, and that the Bill be now read a third time."—(Dr. Farquharson.)

(Queen's Consent signified.) Bill accordingly read the third time, and passed.