HC Deb 21 July 1898 vol 62 cc596-607 "Page 32, line 26, after 'and,' insert 'also for the supply under any agreement for the tramroad being worked and used by the Dublin United Tramways Company.'"—(Mr. Lewis Fry.)
*MR. LEWIS FRY (Bristol, N.)

The Amendment which I have on the Paper raises a very important question as to whether a tramway company ought to be empowered to manufacture rolling stock and to supply such rolling stock to another company over whose lines they have no working agreement. This is a Bill to incorporate, a company for the purpose of making a tramroad connecting the existing tramways of the Dublin United Tramways Company with Howth. Perhaps I need hardly say that if I did not think that the Bill as it stands would be treated as a precedent of very far-reaching effect, I should not be here to say a single word about it. I halve no hostility towards the Bill. The new company has, indeed, my heartiest wishes for its success. I understand that it is to be an electric tramroad, to be worked by electricity supplied from the generating station at Clontarf, and by the Bill the Dublin United Tramways Company are empowered to enter into an agreement with the Clontarf Company to supply motive power, and beyond that to supply rolling stock, and it is in connection with this latter power that I ask the House to accept the Amendment which I have put down on the Paper. This question, as to whether a railway company could manufacture rolling stock for sale or for any other purpose than that of being used on the lime belonging to the company, or worked by themselves, was very much discussed in 1875. The matter was brought before the courts in the case of the Attorney General v. the London and North Western Railway Company. The London and North Western Railway Company had agreed to supply 25 locomotive engines to the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company, and the Association of Locomotive Engine Manufacturers brought the matter before the Master of the Rolls, who granted an injunction restraining the company from manufacturing engines or rolling stock for any other purpose than that of being used on their own lines or lines worked by them. The grounds of the decision were that it was not the intention of the Legislature that railway companies should become rolling stock manufacturers and enter the open market in competition with those engaged directly in the business. In consequence of that decision various railway companies sought Parliamentary powers to enable them to manufacture and sell rolling stock, but the clauses conferring this power were in all cases struck out in the House of Lords by the then Chairman of Committees—Lord Redesdale—and their power to manufacture and supply rolling stock was confined to such stock as might be required for the purposes of the company or for the use of any line on which that company had working powers. Since 1875 this clause containing these restrictive words has appeared in every Bill of every railway company, and in fact the words of that clause are contained in the Amendment which I have submitted to the House. It appears in this form in the Dublin United Tramway Companies Act of 1896. It has been universally applied, not only to railway undertakings, but to tramway undertakings in England and in Ireland, and to railways in India. The Tramways (Ireland) Act contains no power whatever which would enable the Lord Lieutenant to grant such powers as are sought by the Clontarf and Hill of Howth Tramway Company in this particular clause. The words of my Amendment were inserted in the Bill in the Upper House because, as it was originally introduced, they were not there. The limitation as contained in my Amendment was inserted by the counsel to the Chairman of Committees, and not by inadvertence, as suggested by the statement of the promoters. But when the Bill came to be dealt with in this House those words were omitted. Of course the parties who take the view which I am representing here to-day were not in the room when that was done, and I have the authority of the Chairman of Committees to state that his attention was not drawn to this omission. There are one or two statements which are made by the promoters in their statement, to which I should like to refer. I believe that statement is in the hands of honourable Members. On page 2 the second paragraph runs— It is submitted that, even as applied to railways, the proposed amendment is contrary to the usual policy of Parliament (which now allows railway companies to carry on many subsidiary businesses for the public advantage), is a restriction upon free trade, and ought to be carefully considered before it is inserted even in an Irish Railway Bill. As far as I know, the only subsidiary businesses railway companies are empowered to carry on are hotels and steamboats, but I submit to the House that these matters are entirely different from the manufacture and sale of rolling-stock. Those powers are conferred by Parliament upon railway companies for the purpose of their own traffic and for the purpose of promoting their own business, and it would be a totally different position if they were allowed to enter into the open market as manufacturers and sellers of locomotive engines and other rolling-stock. Another statement made by the promoters is that electrical motor cars cannot be obtained at a reasonable price from any maker in the United Kingdom. These cars are being manufactured now at Leeds for the Leeds Tramway Company; they are also manufactured in other places, so that the allegation that they cannot be purchased in the United Kingdom is, I think, going beyond the mark. The reasons why I submit that my Amendment should be accepted is that this proposal is an entirely new departure from the practice of 25 years of both Houses of Parliament, and that it is contrary to the policy which has been acted upon by the authorities ever since the year 1875, when the Master of the Rolls gave the decision and granted the injunction to which I have referred. I also submit that if this Amendment is rejected the House will have admitted that railway and tramway companies are not to be confined to manufacturing their own rolling-stock, but may enter into the open market as makers and sellers of locomotive and other stock—will, in fact, enable them to sell to other companies and persons with whom they have no connection. I think that the change of policy will be of a very far-reaching character. If this Bill is passed as it now stands it will necessarily form a precedent for every undertaking of the same description, and gradually it will be found that railway and other great companies will endeavour to obtain this power, and will use their capital and the great power conferred upon them for special purposes by Act of Parliament to enter into competition with other companies who have embarked a large amount of capital in the business of rolling-stock manufacturers, and the House will set up a competition which, I venture to think, will act injuriously to the interests of the country. The result will be that the manufacture of rolling-stock will get into the hands of a few companies, and such a thing as that would be unfair to private persons who have embarked private capital in these industries. For these reasons I beg to move the Amendment which I have set down.

MR. VESEY KNOX (Londonderry, N.)

I venture to earnestly appeal to the House to reject this Amendment, which is solely for the purpose of preventing Irishmen from making tramway carriages for an Irish tramway. The honourable Member who has moved the Amendment has referred to the fact that there is a sort of standing clause in existence which he is now seeking to incorporate in this Bill. I shall therefore have to trouble the House as to the history of that clause; and I think the House will agree that it ought not to go on from year to year without receiving consideration, especially when it applies to exceptional circumstances. As a matter of fact in 1878 this great carriage manufacturing association in England petitioned the House against the great number of Railway Bills, and it was decided by the Court of Referees that that association had no locus standi. I venture to bring that fact before the knowledge of the honourable Member, because he says that these things were done behind his back in Committee of this House, so that his friends the railway carriage manufacturers would in no case have been present before any Committee. They could not be, because it was decided, and properly decided, that this association of railway carriage manufacturers had no right to be heard before any Committee of this House. It is quite true that in 1878 Lord Redesdale in the House of Lords did settle a clause which prevented any railway company from supplying rolling-stock to another railway company, excepting under working agreement. The effect of that clause in Ireland has been most disastrous. It has never been discussed in this House, it has never had the consideration of this House, but it has been inserted by the officials in a number of Irish Bills with the most unfortunate effect. What has been the effect? In Ireland the demand for railway carriages is not sufficient by itself to support the private railway carriage manufacturers, consequently all the smaller Irish companies have been compelled to go to England—to the gentlemen whom the honourable Member represents, and to pay the members of this association much larger prices for their rolling-stock than if they had been permitted to buy it from the railway com- panies which make their own rolling-stock in Ireland. Therefore the effect of the clause has been to prevent this work being done in Ireland, and to compel Irishmen to pay larger sums than they ought to have done. I trust that where the matter comes up for consideration the House will not consider itself in anyway bound, so far as Ireland is concerned, by the Redesdale clause of 1878. There may be an argument against the London and North Western Railway Company competing with other manufacturers in England in this class of work, but that is a separate question which I hope the House will not allow to weigh on this occasion. But now it is proposed to go a step further, and it is proposed to apply this rule, not merely to railway's, but to tramways also. This Bill proposes to authorise a short tramway route of five miles in length, continuing the line of the Dublin United Company and bringing it out to Howth. The line will be in every sense a tramway, excepting that part of the way it will run along private land for about a mile or so. It will be operated by electric energy friction, and the cars will be of the type so common in America, but which are almost utter rarities in this country. Now, Parliament has not, contrary to the statement of the honourable Member, uniformly enforced this provision against the tramways. In the case of the North Metropolitan Tramways Company in London, that company was authorised to make rolling-stock not merely for itself, but for other companies. It did so for years, it does so still; and I have a number of other precedents in which tramway companies have been authorised to supply rolling-stock to other companies. Therefore it is not the case that the policy of Parliament has always been to enforce this provision in the case of tramway companies, and it is ridiculous, therefore, to say that any capital has been invested anywhere on the faith of the expectation that this clause would always be inserted in Tramway Bills. Parliament has not inserted it in the case of the chief Metropolitan? Tramways Company; and I fail to see why Parliament should enforce it in Dublin. The honourable Member sought to show that this power could not be obtained in England. He has referred to the case of the Central London Railway, but the Central London Railway is a railway, not a tramway—it will run in the bowels of the earth; it will have a special form of power not used anywhere else, and as there was that special form of power not used elsewhere, it is true that that special form of power had special means taken to deal with it. In this case the tramway will be operated by motor cars of the type which is used on the trolly lines of America. It is an absolute fact that it is impossible to get a motor car in England at any sort of moderate price. It may be owing to the operation of the Tramways Act, 1870; it may be owing to labour difficulties, but the fact remains, and when the Dublin United Tramway Company were authorised to equip their line with electricity, they invited tenders from numerous manufacturers in England, and found that they could not get anything of the sort from any English manufacturer, unless they paid the extra price which is required by all English manufacturers who attempt to make a new article which they have not been accustomed to make before. The first cars for the Dublin line were brought across the Atlantic from American manufacturers who keep them on hand as ordinary articles of commerce. Now I am authorised by the promoters of this extension to say that they are not going, under any circumstances, to pay the extortionate extra sum which the railway carriage manufacturers in England will ask them to pay. The only effect therefore of having these words in, will be to send these orders to America, and I ask whether it is the object of legislation in this House to send work to be done in America instead of getting it done at home. Now the Dublin United Company not wanting to send any more work to America, is putting up tramcar works in Dublin, where they will be able to make tramcars very much cheaper than they can be made anywhere else in the United Kingdom. I may say that Dublin has a very much larger electric tram system than any other city in the United Kingdom, a fact of which, as an Irishman, I have reason to feel proud. There are no other works in the United Kingdom, and all the promoters ask, is that they should be allowed to buy from this company without entering into a working agreement, and thereby sacrificing their in- dependence—that they should be allowed to buy their oars from a company whose lines actually join, their own, and which can make the stock cheaper than it can be made anywhere else. Parliament has inflicted wrongs in the past upon Irish industries and prevented the development of Irish manufactures. I do most earnestly hope now that we are given the chance of developing these electrical industries—perhaps the only industry in which we are a few steps in advance of England, that the House will not strangle it in its birth. We do not ask that the Company should have general power to supply these currents to anybody. If an application is made, that will be a separate affair to be considered by itself. All we ask is that we shall be allowed to supply the currents to a neighbouring company outside the city of Dublin whose lines will actually adjoin its own. I do appeal to the House therefore to reject the proposal of the honourable Member as one of the most selfish that has ever been brought before the House of Commons.

MR. WOLFF (Belfast, E.)

This line from Clontarf to the Hill of Howth does not in any way affect the district with which I am connected, but I ask the House not to take any steps which would in any way affect any industry to be started in Ireland. I can quite understand why such large companies as the London and North Western, should not be allowed to enter into the market in competition with ordinary manufacturers, but I cannot say that that in any way applies to the United Tramway Company of Dublin. That is only a small company in itself. It is not a railway company at all, and therefore it strikes me that the ordinary rules do not apply to it. We who are connected with Ireland in manufactures are anxious to see manufactures growing, and whatever is done in that way helps other manufactures which happen to be begun. I can speak personally of the difficulty which we experience in getting skilled workmen to assist us. We have to go to Scotland and elsewhere, and under these circumstances if there is to be a branch of industry which will employ skilled workmen, and which will enable engineering firms to keep skilled workmen, I hope that the House will be only too glad to throw no difficulties in the way of such a thing being done. On the contrary, I hope the House will consider that this Amendment, if carried, will do considerable harm to us in Ireland in the way of preventing an increase of our manufacturing industries, and I hope that this rule, which only applies to English manufacturers, should not be made to apply to Ireland.

*SIR W. WILLS (Bristol, E.)

I think that the House is always disinclined to depart from rules which have previously been laid down without sufficient reason, and I do not see as yet that any reason has been advanced why we should depart from this policy which has been deliberately pursued for many years.


It has not been pursued in the case of the North Metropolitan Tramways Company, and in a number of other cases.


If this Bill passes through, it will only be fair to the great railway companies in this country that they should be allowed the same liberty of making engines and carriages for sale. I am quite sure that they do not wish to enter into competition with manufacturing firms in that line of business, but the principle is one which involves very important considerations, and I sincerely hope that the House will look at the matter all round before resolving to favour this Irish Company to which we all wish prosperity, and to all other Irish industries. I do not think, however, that it is right that a great principle which has been long adopted by the House should in the case of an individual company be sacrificed for their convenience and for their benefit. There is sufficient competition amongst English manufacturers, to enable this Clontarf Company to secure good rolling stock at a moderate price.

MR. COURTNEY (Cornwall, Bodmin)

It is very unfortunate that this discussion is degenerating into any question between Ireland and England, and I do hope that the House will not listen to the suggestion which hails from Bristol. I do not know whether there is any particular interest connected with that city with which this tramway would interfere, but I think from lines of general policy that it is quite out of place to suggest that the tramway companies of Dublin, and the subordinate companies which are to be made, should not be enabled to enter into an agreement which suits both of them, that one should be able to buy from the other the requisite rolling-stock. The suggestion of the Amendment seems to me to be that this company should be compelled to go to a dearer market in order to get what it can get cheaper anywhere else, and to add to the anomaly it is suggested that the United Tramway Company of Dublin may supply the rolling-stock to the subordinate company if it enters into an agreement to work the subordinate company, but it may not do so if it does not enter into that agreement. Surely there is no principle in this, with all respect to the authorities, and at this time of day, I hope the House will altogether refuse to assent, to this limitation of the freedom of its committees in enabling a subordinate company to enter into an agreement with a company like the Dublin United Tramway Company. It is not a general power which is sought for this latter company to enable it to go into the markets of the world, and to supply them wholesale. If that question were raised it might be a question for discussion, but it is only a question whether those who make a continuation of the existing lines, should be enabled to get their machines next door instead of being compelled to go to another country for them. I hope the Amendment will be rejected.


This carriage industry is one of the oldest in Dublin, and it is one of the few industries that has been left to that city, and I believe that anything which would discourage in any way the building of carriages there would be a very great loss to the working men. They have had a very difficult struggle to maintain. There are very few industries left in Dublin now, and the adoption of this clause would be a great advantage to the city because it would necessarily give a large amount of employment to the working men. I consider that the Amendment is of a very selfish character. It is an obstacle in the way of developing a most legitimate trade, and I trust that the House will not vote in favour of it.

*SIR T. ESMONDE (Kerry, W.)

After what has fallen from both sides of the House I trust that the honourable Gentleman will withdraw his proposal. I think that the proposal which he asks the House to accept is one which would inflict a very serious injury on Ireland, and is one which does not meet so far as I can see, with the approval of the vast majority of the House. I was not here when this Debate was begun, and I did not hear what the honourable Gentleman had to say on the matter, but I certainly think the feelings of the House, and certainly the advantage of public business, would be consulted if the honourable Gentleman withdrew his Amendment. I should like to ask the right honourable Gentleman the Chairman of the Committees if he has been consulted in this matter. Perhaps he would have no objection to giving us his views upon this point. I am perfectly certain that whatever his opinion is it will carry great weight, and possibly it may enable us to come to a definite decision. But so far as I can see at present this is simply a proposal which will inflict very great injury on Irish trade. It is a proposal which is rather in favour of monopoly, and, I hope, in the interests of Ireland and in the interests of Irish artisans that the House will not agree to it.


After giving full consideration to this matter, I have come to the conclusion that this clause might very fairly stand as it is, and therefore I should, if I had thought it necessary to continue the discussion, have risen for the purpose of urging upon the House the desirability of not accepting this Amendment. All that is proposed by the Bill is that the Dublin United Company should have power to serve the Clontarf and Hill of Howth Company only—not that they should sell rolling-stock to the whole world. Under the circumstances, considering that their power of sale is strictly limited, I see no reason why the clause should not pass in its present form.


I think the general sense of the House is against this Amendment, and therefore I do not propose to put the House to the trouble of a Division, especially after the remarks that have fallen from the right honourable Gentleman the Chairman of Committees. At the same time I think it is a somewhat bad precedent that we are about to set up.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Bill to be read the third time.