§ On the Order for Second Reading,
§ *THE FINANCIAL SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY (Mr. R. W. HANBURY,) Preston
I may at once say what view the Government take as to the attitude 128 they should assume with regard to this Bill. There is a certain Motion down on the part of my honourable Friend sitting below the Gangway referring it to a Select Committee, or I should say a hybrid Committee. That instruction we shall undoubtedly agree to, as we shall also agree to the Instruction which he proposes to move, with it. Our reasons are very plain. There are two things which are wanted with regard to this Bill. We want a great deal more light thrown upon it than we have had at the present moment. In the next place we must show that there is complete agreement between the Irish Members sitting on both sides of the House and the Government, that, although we are anxious that there should be an alternative route of communication between England and the south of Ireland, we are also most anxious that that route shall be a competitive one. I never recollect a Bill brought before this House as to which the House was so little in possession of the real facts as we are with regard to this Bill. From time to time, ever since the negotiations began, there have been constant changes going on. Those changes have been going on even till within the last few days, and what is the result? The result, undoubtedly, is that we hardly know who really are the promoters of this Bill at all. We have got a shrewd suspicion, and more than a shrewd suspicion, that the nominal promoters are not the real promoters at all. Then, in addition to that, we do not know how far this Bill—which deals with a complete scheme, a scheme which would open out communication from Rosslare on the east to Cork on the west—is intended to be carried out, or how far it is the intention of the promoters to pick but parts of the Bill, with the object of later on introducing a scheme, not the same scheme that is in the Bill, but a scheme of a totally different character. Then with regard to those whom we know to be the actual promoters of the Bill, we, do not know 128 how far they are working together. We do not know what their relations one to another may be. We do not know which of these two great railway companies is to, control the other, which is to have the predominant voice; and only recently, within the last few days, there have been various proposals made. One of these railway companies has proposed to buy up the Lismore and Fermoy Railway, and the other proposes to buy up the Waterford, Dungarvan and Lismore Railway. Therefore, we do not know how far they are working in co-operation at all, and, if they are working in co-operation, what their mutual relations are; and we do not know what their real intentions are with regard to the Bill. Under these circumstances the opinion of the Government is that this Bill should be read a second time, and that it should be referred to a hybrid Committee. That, so far as I can see, is the only possible way in which full light can be thrown upon the intentions of the promoters. I should think that everybody would be of one mind as to the fact that it would be a great advantage to the south of Ireland to get a company like the Great Western there. And on the other hand, with regard to the Great Southern Railway, what we are anxious to do is, knowing that they are the owners of the present road to Dublin, to prevent them having the absolute command of both routes. I hope, therefore, that the Irish Members will, one and all, support the Government, and show a firm front on this matter, which we all believe is one of very great importance to the south of Ireland. If the matter is properly handled, I believe that a scheme may be evolved, which would be a great advantage to the south of Ireland; and, of course, I should be sorry to say one single word which would in any way discourage the Great Western Railway. I would rather give it encouragement, and on the part of the Treasury we offer it that encouragement. We feel, as all the Irish Members feel, that this is such an 129 important matter, involving, as it does, so much of the future prosperity of the south of Ireland, that we ought not to be left in the dark with regard to it. We therefore think that the hybrid Committee, which the honourable and gallant Member proposes to consider it, would be the best means of obtaining the light that is so urgently required.
§ MR. J. E. REDMOND (Waterford)
I have a notice on the Paper to move that this Bill be read a second time this day six months, and that being so, I naturally have listened with the greatest possible interest to the statement which the right honourable Gentleman has made. Speaking of that statement generally, I am inclined to say that it must be immensely satisfactory to the Irish Members who are interested in this matter to find that, on the main question which is at issue, the Government, as represented by the right honourable Gentleman, are at one with them. Under these circumstances I am not quite sure that it would be a wise course for me to adopt to persevere with the Motion of which I have given notice; but at the same time I must candidly say that I think the arguments which the right honourable Gentleman has just addressed to this House might all of them have been used with great effect in support of a Motion refusing to give a Second Reading to the Bill. At any rate, everybody concerned must admit that this Bill is one of such large and far-reaching importance to the whole south of Ireland, and the circumstances under which it has been presented to the House at the present moment, are of so strange and so extraordinary a character, that a full discussion, or at least some discussion at this stage of its procedure, ought to take place. I do not think that the interest which we all have at heart would be served by simply agreeing, without discussion, to the course which the right honourable Gentleman has suggested. I think it would be 130 well that the whole matter should be discussed here and now, so that everybody concerned outside this House may clearly understand what are the points upon which the Irish Members and the Treasury are agreed. If ever there was a case in which the inconvenience of discussing Irish private Bills in this House was apparent it is the present one, because the subject at issue in this Bill is an intricate and complicated one. There have been many and varied and ever-changing negotiations, spread over a large number of months, and with several railway companies; and although all the circumstances, or most of the main facts, at any rate, connected with this question, are familiar to the Irish Members, it may be truthfully said that those main facts are quite unknown to the general run of Members of this House. But it is essential, in my opinion, that the main facts of this case should be understood, not only in this House, but by the public outside, as soon as possible, and it is for that reason that I venture for a very few minutes to occupy the attention of honourable Members while I endeavour to state those facts. The history of this Bill is a most extraordinary one. There is, in the county of Waterford, a line of railway known as the Waterford, Dungarvan, and Lismore Railway, which was built a considerable number of years ago, and in connection with which there was a guarantee given by the ratepayers of the county and city of Waterford; and for a large number of years those ratepayers have been paying this guarantee at the rate of £14,000 a year, and I believe they are still liable for another 17 or 18 years to continue that payment. In addition to that, the Government—the Treasury—hold a mortgage of nearly £100,000 upon this line, and last year the Treasury determined, in consequence of the accumulation of arrears of interest upon their debt, to foreclose the mortgage and to sell the line. In conjunction with this line there 131 is another short line running from Lismore to Fermoy, which belongs to the Duke of Devonshire; and when the Treasury last year threatened to sell the Waterford, Dungarvan, and Lismore lines, two rival proposals were made by two different railway companies to purchase these two lines, each of those companies undertaking to relieve the ratepayers of a certain portion of the guarantee, each of them promising in addition to provide a new and independent route—a through route—from Cork to London. This new route would manifestly be of enormous value to the south and south-west of Ireland, so long as that new route was one which would be in competition with the existing route—that is, in competition with the route which is run at present by the Great Southern and Western Railway of Ireland, and which now enjoys a monopoly of the route from Cork to London, and which, in matters of freight and matters of through fares, does exactly as it pleases, quite irrespective of the interests of the public. One of these rival proposals for the purchase of these two local Waterford lines came jointly from the Great Western Railway of England and the Great Southern and Western Railway of Ireland, and they proposed that the new route should be from Cork to Fermoy—over the two local lines in Waterford, and then from Waterford to Milford. This proposal when it was made public, though it received some support in the city of Waterford, and in one or two other places, was vigorously opposed in most parts of the south of Ireland, and it was opposed chiefly upon this ground: that it would not be a competitive route at all, but would still maintain the monopoly of the Great Southern and Western of Ireland Railway; and the upshot of it was that eventually the negotiations which were going on between the Treasury and the Great Western and the Great Southern and Western of Ireland Railways for the purchase of these lines broke down, and broke down quietly, because it was found impossible to obtain from the Great Western sufficiently satisfactory guarantees that under this proposed arrangement the Great Southern and Western would not have the 132 monopoly, and would not have a complete control over the new route. So much for the one scheme. The other scheme was put forward by a rival company, the Fishguard and Rosslare Railways Company, which also proposed a new route, which was to run from Fishguard to the port of Rosslare, and thus have a new line across a part of the county of Wexford to Waterford, and from Waterford, by the two local lines which were to be purchased, to Fermoy, and from Fermoy, by a new line to be built, direct to the city of Cork. In this case there could have been no doubt, at any rate, that the new line would be a competitive route—that it would be an alternative route to the Great Southern and Western of Ireland Railway, and a competing one. But what has now happened is this: that the Great Western Company and the Great Southern and Western Company of Ireland, having failed in their joint negotiations, have abandoned their original scheme, and have purchased the scheme of their rivals, the Fishguard and Rosslare Railway Company, and now come before Parliament to champion the Rosslare scheme—the Rosslare scheme with certain very essential differences. They propose now to carry out the Rosslare scheme with this difference: that from Waterford, instead of going over the local lines in the county of Waterford to Fermoy, and thence by a new line to Cork, they propose to go from Waterford over the Waterford and Limerick line to Cork, running by Limerick Junction and Mallow; and in order to carry out this purpose, the Great Southern and Western of Ireland Company have entered into an arrangement to purchase the Waterford, Dungarvan, and Lismore Railway, and also the Central Railway Company of Ireland in addition, and the result will be that, if this new arrangement is carried out, the Great Southern and Western Railway Company will not only have their present monopoly increased and perpetuated, and, as I will show, safeguarded in such a way that never at any time can there be a competing route, because the new proposal is not merely what I have stated, but it is also to purchase the two local Waterford lines—the Water- 133 ford, Dungarvan, and Lismore Railway, and the Lismore and Fermoy Line. What for? Is it to be used as part of a new and competing route? Nothing of the kind, because I have been informed in the most authoritative way by the representatives of the Great Western Railway in England that they do not intend to connect the new route to Waterford city by a bridge—that is one end of the local lines—and they do not intend to join Fermoy to Cork—that is the other end of the local lines; so that these two local lines are to be left derelict. Why have they been purchased? In order to render it impossible in future for any route to be made which would be a competing route against the one which they are now establishing by the purchase of the Waterford and Limerick Line, and thus perpetuating the powers of the Great Southern and Western of Ireland Railway. If this scheme is carried out the monopoly of the Great Southern and Western Railway in the south and south-west of Ireland would be established for all time, and it will never be possible in the future to construct a competing route. The right honourable Gentleman says he does not know who the present promoters of this Bill are; that is a figure of speech. He does know perfectly well. They are the Great Western Railway Company of England. He knows that. The Great Western Railway Company are promoting this line; but when this Bill was introduced—this actual Bill which the House of Commons is asked to pass to-day—at the commencement of the Session, it was promoted by the Fishguard and Rosslare Company, and then the Great Western Railway Company presented a petition against it, and this petition, on which I might rest the whole of my case against this Bill is of the most extraordinary character. They say—The proposed railways are quite uncalled for and unnecessary with respect to or for the purpose of either local traffic or through or cross-Channel traffic. The construction of such railways cannot be justified, whether with regard to the demands for railway accommodation or the probability of a remunerative return upon the expenditure of capital involved in the proposed undertaking.Remember that those are the words of the men who are now promoting this 134 scheme. What do they mean? Here by this Petition the Great Western Railway Company declares that this line cannot be made remunerative, and now they ask the House of Commons to pass this scheme. How are they going to make it remunerative? The only way in which they can possibly make it remunerative is by setting up this monopoly, when they will become masters of the situation, and when they can recoup themselves by increased fares and increased rates upon freights in Ireland. I might go through this Petition clause by clause, and rest my case upon these clauses. Another one says—The lines of the proposed railways have been badly selected, and they are open to many objections from an engineering point of view, and otherwise, the crossings of the Rivers Suir and Barrow in the manner proposed are most objectionable, and will obstruct and interfere with the navigation of those rivers, and with the traffic thereon, and the proposed railways cannot be constructed for the amount of the estimated cost thereof.It seems to me to be a preposterous thing that a company, having presented a petition of this kind, should come round and actually support a Bill which they have denounced in that way. I have hitherto spoken of the general interests of the south of Ireland. There are particular interests also. There is the particular interest of the county of Wexford. According to this scheme, a large sum of money will be spent in improving Rosslare Harbour, and in building a railway from Rosslaie across the southern part of the county of Wexford to Waterford. Now, I should be very sorry to have anything to do with or to take any action myself which would be likely to prevent the possibility of a through route from Rosslare being created. My objections to taking that course would be justified by many reasons, one of which is of a somewhat personal character, and that is that the original idea of this through route to Rosslare was conceived and announced nearly 40 years ago by a grand-uncle of mine who at that time sat in this House as Member for Wexford. In addition to that I am bound to the county of Wexford by very close ties, and it would be impossible for me to take any action likely to prevent the creation of this through route. After all, the 135 predominating factor must be this: what is the interest generally of the whole south of Ireland? Then, with regard to Waterford, what are her particular interests? I say nothing now at all about the creation of a rival route there, because, so far as I can gather the opinions of my constituents in that matter, they are not afraid of that, and they do not desire to obstruct in any way at all the creation of this line from Rosslare. But what is their interest apart from that? It is proposed to cut Waterford off from this new route. The routes to connect Waterford with the new route at the Waterford end, and to increase her railways at the other end, are cut off, and no connection is to be made between Fermoy and Cork. Then there are the particular interests of Cork. What has Cork to gain from a scheme of this kind? I say that Cork has everything to lose. In the original Bill of the Fishguard and Rosslare Railway there were three reasons in favour of Cork. First, there was to be a loop line to connect all the railways in the city of Cork. Secondly, it was proposed to give them a direct line from Fermoy to Cork. Thirdly (and this was the great reason), they were promised a route which would compete with the Great Southern and Western Railway, and would be an enormous benefit to the trade of their city and county. All these things have disappeared, and, so far as I can see, the interests of Cork must be strongly opposed to the passing of this Measure as it stands. But, Sir, over and above all of these individual interests and individual cases, must be the great interest of the welfare of the whole south and west of Ireland generally. This Bill, as it stands, only deals with one portion of this scheme of the promoters, and if this Bill were passed it would be necessary for the promoters to come to Parliament next year again with new Bills dealing with other portions of their scheme. I submit, Sir, that this is a matter which should be dealt with as a whole. I submit that the whole scheme of the promoters should be put into Bills and submitted to Parliament at the same time, and considered at the same time by Parliamentary Committees. What can be the case if this Bill is sent to a Committee? The Committee will be called 136 upon to express an opinion upon one portion only. The right honourable Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury, who, I think, is in general agreement with us as to what we want, seems to be quite easy in his mind as to what will happen if the Bill is sent to a hybrid Committee, and if the Instruction of the honourable and gallant Gentleman opposite is carried. I do not entirely share that view. The Instruction of the honourable and gallant Gentleman is to the effect that the Committee is to inquire into any, or all, of the proposals contained in the Bill, and to report whether they are prejudicial to the creation of a competitive route in the future. If those are not the words, I think I have given the sense. But this Bill does not contain all the proposals of the promoters. It only contains one small portion of the scheme of the promoters, and it might be quite possible that the hybrid Committee would report that there is nothing objectionable in this Bill, because the Bill will be narrowed down to the building of a line in Wexford. There is nothing in this Bill to create a monopoly in Ireland, but they ought to know that the purchase of the Waterford and Limerick Railway, of the Central Ireland Railway, and of the Waterford, Dungarvan, and Lismore Railway, by the Great Southern and Western Railway Company, is really an integral part of the whole scheme; but if they do know that it will be outside their purview. I say that all these things do point to the creation of a monopoly, and I am not entirely satisfied that the appointment of a hybrid Committee is the best method of protecting our interests. I take the ground very strongly that it is dangerous and unwise for this House to pass one portion of a scheme until it has the other portions before it. I think it is unwise for the House to let go its grip upon any portion of a scheme until it has considered and approved of the whole scheme. Now, it is a strange thing that we are asked to pass the Second Reading of this Bill, in view of the statements made by the Secretary to the Treasury to the effect that he himself is in the dark in this matter. In a matter of such vast importance as this every single item of the scheme should not only be 137 known to the Treasury, should not only be known to the Irish Members representing the districts, but should be known to the Irish public, and, should be known to that public in time to enable them to express their opinions before the matter is decided in this House. At the present moment, if this Bill is passed, we are taking a leap in the dark, and do not know where it will land us. We do not know what the gentlemen promoting this Bill have in their minds, and I submit that under these circumstances it will be a far wiser thing to postpone the Second Reading until the whole of the proposals are laid before the House. The plans of the promoters are changed day by day. Nobody knows whether to-morrow they will be the same plans that they proposed to-day or not. Only last Monday, at a meeting of Irish Members, we were told that the Great Western Railway were in negotiation for the purchase of the Waterford, Dungarvan, and Lismore Railway, and on Friday, when I called to see the Secretary to the Treasury, he told me that up to that moment he had received no such proposal at all. How can the House act with confidence in dealing with people whose plans change from moment to moment, and whose statements are of that character? You ought not to give any power of this kind on the faith of any promises or any assurances for the future. Their promises and their assurances should be in the Bill you are considering, and therefore I think it is unwise for this House to pass this Bill on the promise that next year another Bill will be introduced giving certain safeguards against monopoly. I find myself in a difficulty about this matter. I believe that the proper and consistent course will be to reject the Second Reading of this Bill altogether. The action which the Government has taken has placed me in a difficulty. I am convinced that the right honourable Gentleman is at one with us in our desire to prevent the creation of a monopoly in the south of Ireland. That being so, am I justified in refusing to accede to the course which he has suggested? I do not like the course. I think it is an unwise one; but if we accept it have, at any rate, this safeguard: that we have the public 138 pledge of the Government that they, as a Government, will see that this scheme is not worked in the dark, but that it will be fairly worked. For these reasons I do not feel justified in proceeding with my Motion; but I do say that the people who are interested in this matter in Ireland will look to the right honourable Gentleman, who has now taken a serious responsibility upon his shoulders in this matter, to see that he, acting for the Government, will prove faithful to his pledge, and that at every step of the future procedure of this Bill the interests of the people will be safeguarded, and that every measure necessary will be taken to prevent the creation of a monopoly which would be disastrous to a degree to the whole south-west of Ireland.
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY (Cork)
My name, Sir, is the first one which appears on the back of this Bill, and to that extent I do not know whether to say fortunately or unfortunately—I am responsible for its appearance before the House to-day. And yet, Sir, I rise, as the honourable Member who spoke before me rose, in some doubt as to whether it is not my duty to the Irish public, and to the constituency which I represent, to move that this Bill be read a second time this day six months. That position will seem, perhaps, rather paradoxical to those who are unacquainted with the history of this Bill. But those who have followed the various involutions of its history will see, I think, that a Member situated as I am displays considerable forbearance in not taking the step which I have indicated, and in acceding to the course which the right honourable Gentleman the Secretary for the Treasury has invited us to take. I put my name on the back of this Bill because I conceived that it was a Bill which would doubtless confer great benefits on the people of the south of Ireland, and more particularly because I conceived that it would also confer great benefits on the city of Cork. The preamble of the Bill recites that it is desirable that railway communication should be established between the city of Cork and the port of Rosslare, and it was on the faith of the representation of the promoters that that was an essential part of the scheme that they received 139 support from me, and from other public men in the south of Ireland. The Bill now comes before this House after a change of promoters with that essential portion of the scheme dropped, so far as they are concerned, and the desire which they originally professed to connect the borough of Cork with Rosslare in the south of Ireland no longer exists. Sir, these gentlemen, the promoters, came among us in the south of Ireland pledging themselves to the establishment of this through route. On the faith of those pledges they obtained from me, and from other public men in the south of Ireland, valuable support. They obtained the support of the honourable Member for Cambridge, they obtained the support of the honourable Member for South Hants, and they obtained the support of the honourable and gallant Member for Yarmouth, whose public spirit in connection with this Bill entitles him to the thanks of the localities interested in the scheme. Furthermore, they obtained, outside of the support of Members of Parliament, the support of men like the Mayor of Cork, who spent himself night and day in order to preserve their interests, Sir George Courthorpe, and other public men in the county of Cork. They obtained that support, and they induced the public of the south of Ireland to interest themselves in their scheme. They induced the public of the south of Ireland to bring pressure to bear upon His Grace the Duke of Devonshire, to lend his aid to their plans, and to come into the undertaking which they professed themselves anxious to set on foot. They brought pressure to bear upon the Treasury to abandon an arrangement which they had publicly entered into with those two joint companies, the Great Western and the Great Southern and Western of Ireland. And here I will take this public opportunity of thanking the right honourable Gentleman the Secretary of the Treasury for the great courtesy with which he always received us, the great consideration which he always gave to the representations which we made to him, and for his evident sympathy with the object which we had in view, and for his desire to do what was best for the Irish interests and for the benefit of the south of Ireland as a whole. Having com- 140 menced the scheme in such a splendid way, I regret to say that it had a very lamentable catastrophe. Having succeeded in obtaining for the promoters of this line the support of, practically, the united south of Ireland, having got the Duke of Devonshire, at some considerable pecuniary risk, himself to give his support to it, and having induced the British Treasury to abandon an arrangement which they had entered into, these gentlemen, behind our backs and without one word of consultation with us, and without, from beginning to end, even saying "By your leave," or "With your leave," go over to the Great Western Railway Company of England, and have a secret treaty with them, and sell their whole undertaking. My opinion is that gentlemen who act in this manner ought to be taught a lesson. I think that promoters of an undertaking of this kind ought to be taught that they shall not be allowed to trifle with the public of these countries, and with a Government Department which watches over interests of this kind. I would, further tell them that the end is not yet. They have at present, by a private arrangement, involving considerable responsibility to individuals, by putting forward certain nominees in the interests of the Great Western Railway of England, made arrangements with the original promoters of this scheme to take over their interests. Well, that transaction, fortunately, has to come before Parliament for its approval. Fortunately, in all of these transactions dealing with railways and their transfer, Parliament reserved to itself the right of reviewing them, of considering them, and of claiming whether they shall be sanctioned or not; and I have to say, on behalf of the public of the south of Ireland, who have been practically tricked in this matter, that when these gentlemen come before Parliament to ask for Parliamentary sanction to this arrangement, we shall be there to scrutinise those arrangements and to see that justice is done to all concerned. If I and other men in my position—or if the gentlemen who interested themselves in this matter—had been gulled in the ordinary way by adventurers and undertakers, I suppose that the best course 141 would have been to hold our tongues and to bear our humiliation with as much dignity as possible. But that is not the case; we took all the precautions that reasonable men could be expected to take. This scheme was accredited to us by a Government Department, and the promoters had been invited to come to us and undertake this project. We did not deal with these people until we had satisfied ourselves that there were behind it men of substance, and, as we believed, men of honour, who were able to carry out the undertaking which they had set on foot, and who, we believed, would so carry it out. All I can say is that I am a poor man, and these men are rich men, but for all their wealth I would not be to-day in the position in which they have placed themselves. So much for the history of the Bill in the past; and perhaps I should to some extent apologise to the House for introducing into a Debate of this kind a matter of, more or less, a personal character. I would not have done it if I alone were concerned in it; but, in the interests of the many public-spirited men of the south of Ireland who have given their support to this scheme, I think it is only proper that on the floor of this House I should make some such statement as I have now done. That being the past history of this transaction, let me say a word or two as to the future. I will endeavour to sever this transaction from its past and to consider the proposals of these promoters in vacuo, as it were, and without any reference to the transaction which may well excite the irritation of my mind. Considering it in that way, and considering it as the promoters now put it before us, it proposes to construct across the county of Wexford a line of railway some 40 miles in length. Some people have said that it is easy to make proposals of this kind in a Bill, and that it is one thing to make them and another thing to carry them out. That may be so, but I, for my part, can see no reason why the present promoters of this Bill, if they do not desire to carry out that undertaking, should go forward with the Bill at all. It would have been competent for them, to use a vulgar phrase, to square their opponents, to sit down upon the concession, and to say: 142 "Now we have got hold of the Fishguard undertaking it is no longer a certain rival, and we will drop this proposal for a new railway in Ireland." As they persist in pursuing this Bill, I am compelled to believe, considering the matter candidly, that they certainly intend to carry out their project; and, believing that, I think it carries with it the further proposal that, having made the Wexford Railway, they certainly intend to set up a great main road between Fishguard and Rosslare. They have pledged themselves to us in conference to put upon the sea, between Fishguard and Rosslare, 20-knot steamers, which would be quite as good as those between Dublin and Holyhead. The position which I therefore have to consider is this: Am I justified in stepping in between the south of Ireland, and particularly the county of Wexford, and a large and beneficial scheme such as this undertaking would unquestionably be, simply because the past promoters of this Bill have dealt with the south of Ireland in the way which I have described? Reference has been made to the connection of the Great Western Railway with this project. I have no hostility whatever to the Great Western Railway Company. I believe, on the contrary, that the advent in Ireland of a great English company, prepared to spend its money in developing the railway and other resources of that country, would be a great blessing to every part of Ireland, and for my own part I welcome the Great Western into Ireland, and I only hope that other railway companies will follow their example. Considering, therefore, the proposals of the Bill as they now stand, and considering them alone, I do not think, although perhaps it would be difficult to show, that the city of Cork, which I represent, will gain any special benefit from the undertaking, still it is bound to benefit in a general way with the country as a whole. It will sustain, at any rate, no injury from the proposals which are involved, and I, for my part, if the matter stood there, would not feel myself justified in asking this House to reject the Bill. But the matter does not stand there. Unfortunately the Great Western comes before this House in very bad company. Of the Great Western 143 Railway Company itself I do not wish to say one harsh word. Of the Great Southern and Western Railway Company of Ireland no Irish Member will ever say one good word. They come here promoting a large and important scheme; they will come next year promoting a still larger and still more important scheme, and it is a singular fact, but I believe that out of the whole 103 Members who represent Ireland in this House there is not one who will stand up and say that he is a friend of that company. If that state of things exists, it exists not because of any natural perversity on the part of the Irish Members, but because the management of the Great Southern and Western Railway of Ireland has been such as not to command the confidence of any section of the Irish public. That is one fact, but we have a further fact. The Great Southern and Western Railway of Ireland comes before us as the allies of the Great Western Railway in this Bill. They intend, as we have heard, to come before us next year with an enormous scheme for swallowing up practically every rival line in the south of Ireland. We have heard a great deal of the disadvantages which result to Ireland from having a large number of small lines of railway, and we have heard a great deal of the great advantages which would result to Ireland from an amalgamation of those railways, and from putting them under one central authority. Well, my view of that subject is this: amalgamation of railways is good or bad according to circumstances. Amalgamate as much as you like, so long as you are amalgamating railways which are not competing with one another; but when you carry your principle of amalgamation to this extent, that you propose to amalgamate competing lines, and the fact of whose competition is the sole guarantee which the public of the country have for reasonable rates and proper management, then I say you are introducing a fatal policy into the management of Irish railways. Any considerable scheme for the amalgamation of non-competing Irish lines, would, I think, have the hearty support of all Irish Members; but when a company like the Great Southern and Western Railway Company comes before us with a scheme not for the amalgamation of non-competing lines, but for the suppression of all railway com- 144 petition in Ireland, then I warn those gentlemen that they have some very rough weather before them in Parliament when such a proposal as that comes before this House. The position of affairs as regards this great company is most remarkable. Their principal port is Dublin. Their next principal port is Cork. It has always been a matter of wonder to anyone interested in Irish railway development that this great line, having had dozens of opportunities for doing so, never sought to get into the port of Waterford. Yet for 40 or 50 years they have managed their affairs in that retrograde and unenterprising way. Twenty years ago they could have bought the Waterford and Limerick Railway for a song. Twenty years ago they could have bought the Great Central of Ireland Railway for a song. Ten years ago they could have had, for the asking, the Waterford, Dungarvan, and Lismore Railway. What has brought about this extraordinary change in the attitude of this company? All of a sudden, without one word of warning, this company, which would not for twenty years take a present of any of these lines, has become alive to the necessity for railway amalgamation, and they propose to embark almost millions of capital in buying up the Waterford and Limerick line, the Central of Ireland line, and the Waterford, Dungarvan, and Lismore line. Why is this? Because the shadow of competition has cast itself in front of them; because the danger of competition has at last arisen, because the English railway companies have at last become alive to the possibility of assisting their own lines by taking some interest in, and by making some connection with, the Irish companies. The moment this danger of competition arises, the moment this company sees the possibility of any other line than their own laying their hands on any portion of railway traffic, that moment they abandon their traditional policy and make this gigantic proposal for swallowing up every line which has in itself the element of competition with their own. The circumstances of this proposal for amalgamation are most suspicious, and they will require the close scrutiny of Parliament. We Irish Members will deem it to be 145 our duty to watch these proceedings very closely indeed, and if any railway directors in Ireland or in England are so ignorant of what goes on in this House as to suppose that the Irish Members will treat these matters as merely in the interests of shareholders, or as merely in the interests of the railway companies, and that they will leave out of sight the interest of the country as a whole, then I tell those gentlemen that they are vastly mistaken. We will watch all their proposals carefully; we will canvas them and scrutinise them, and we claim from the Government of this country that they will not permit one of those proposals to pass except they are satisfied that they are for the good, not of the shareholders concerned, not for the companies concerned, but they are for the good of the Irish public as a whole. That is the position which I take in this matter, and taking that position, notwithstanding my original desire, in view of the conduct of the gentlemen who were first concerned in this scheme, to move the rejection of this Bill, I hold that the Secretary of the Treasury has taken a wise and prudent course—that it is a good thing that we should have an investigation by a Committee of Parliament into this question of railway communication and railway development. I think it is a matter for congratulation that we shall have these gentlemen before us on oath, and that we shall have an opportunity of taking down their words in shorthand and of reducing their somewhat nebulous proposals into a concrete form of clause and sub-clause. There has been a good deal of what I may call "in-and-out running" in the proposals of this company. The Great Southern and Western Company proposed to taken up these Waterford lines as a private undertaking. That is the first proposal. Then the Great Western and the Great Southern and Western acquire them jointly, and then there is a third proposal that the Great Western shall buy one of these lines and the Great Southern and Western the other. These involutions and convolutions are of a character which necessarily excite suspicion in our minds, and while I have said that I shall be very sorry to kill any scheme which has in it any germs of good for 146 any district in Ireland, I think at the same time we are entitled to claim that before any scheme of this kind is passed we should have an opportunity of examining the whole question and of hearing in a plain and downright manner what these companies really mean to do, and who will have the control when they carry their undertaking into effect. I join in what the honourable Member for Waterford has said as to the satisfaction which is felt by us that the Secretary to the Treasury, speaking on behalf of the Government, has taken upon himself a responsibility in connection with this matter. I welcome that fact with pleasure, because I think it involves this: That the Government as a whole, and particularly the Government of Ireland, will interest themselves in this matter of railway communication in Ireland, and will insist upon having competitive routes. I am glad of it because I think it means that they will not simply interest themselves in this Bill this year, but that they will interest themselves in a still more important Bill which will come before us next year. Welcoming the action of the Government as I do, I am forced to the conclusion that that action involves this: that when the Government invite the Irish Members to take a certain step on their responsibility, that we, as Irish Members, should at any rate take that course, and should concur in what the Government proposes. Therefore, because the Government advise us to do so, and because I think it advisable that all Irish Members should be as much as possible at one on this question, I concur with the action which the honourable Member for Waterford has taken, and I will support the Second Reading, of course on the understanding that the Instruction of the honourable and gallant Member opposite is proceeded with.
§ MR. J. J. SHEE (Waterford, W.)
I do not propose to detain the House very long, but, representing as I do West Waterford, I have a very considerable interest in this Bill, more especially as the city of Waterford pays annually a very large sum towards the guarantee which has been mentioned by both preceding speakers. In connection with the attitude which the honourable Member for the city of Waterford has taken in this 147 matter, I desire to say that I do not agree with the honourable Member that it is necessary for the House to have before it the whole scheme which is in contemplation by the Great Western Company of England and the Great Southern and Western Company of Ireland. The honourable Member for the City of Waterford has a strong objection to the carrying of the scheme which relates to the amalgamation or purchase, by the Great Southern and Western Company of Ireland, of the Waterford and Limerick Company, of the Central of Ireland Company, and of the Waterford, Dungarvan, and Lismore Company. That portion of the scheme is not now before the House, and when it does come before the House, as I anticipate it will do next year, it will be then for the House to deal with it, and I have no doubt that the Irish Members as a whole, supported by the Government in the matter, will secure the rejection of that particular scheme. My interest in this matter is an immediate interest, for my constituents have been paying for a long period of years nearly £9,000 a year, and still remain liable for a period of 17 or 18 years more to the same annual contribution. Therefore I am in favour of any proposal which will give speedy and immediate relief to the ratepayers of the county of Waterford and to the city of Waterford. I believe that if this additional part of the scheme be brought before the House next year, and if it do not receive the sanction of the House, then I think that the Waterford, Dungarvan, and Lismore Railway will, as the honourable Member for the City of Waterford said, be left derelict by the companies which now propose to acquire it. I have down on the Paper, in connection with this Bill, an Instruction which proposes to ask the Committee to which the Bill will be referred to insert a clause to provide that the proposals made by the promoters for the relief of the ratepayers of the county and city of Waterford are inserted in the Bill. The proposal which the promoters originally made with the ratepayers of the county and city of Waterford amounted to a reduction of 2 per cent., or £5,600 of the £14,000 contributed. As, however, I believe that the Treasury are bound by repeated pledges in this 148 matter not to let any Bill pass this House which does not secure relief, and considerable relief, for the ratepayers of the county and city of Waterford, I do not propose to move the Instruction, for I believe that this Bill, coming, as it will, before a hybrid Committee, will put the Treasury in a position—and will put Parliament generally in a position—to secure, if necessary, the revision of the proposals which were originally made by the promoters, and I hope that we shall be able to secure better terms than the terms which were brought forward last year. Since then, of course, a transformation scene has occurred, and the promoters who now put this Bill before the House are not the original promoters. I trust that the Treasury will see its way to secure relief to the county and city of Waterford from the entire guarantee of £14,000 a year, in consideration of the sacrifices that the ratepayers of Waterford have made in the past, because it was in consequence of their guarantee that this Waterford, Dungarvan, and Lismore line, which is the central fact in connection with all these schemes, was built, and it never would have been built if they had not undertaken to give that guarantee. For that reason I trust that when this question comes before the hybrid Committee the Committee will endeavour in every way possible to secure the best terms they can, with the object of relieving these ratepayers altogether of the burden of that guarantee.
SIR R. U. PENROSE FITZGERALD (Cambridge)
I came into this House ready to vote for the rejection of this Bill. I am one who has suffered, and is still suffering, from having been deceived by one of the companies more or less interested in the promotion of this Bill. I have listened to the explanatory, clear, and straightforward statements of the honourable Members for Cork and Waterford, and I entirely endorse the opinions that they have so fairly expressed. Those opinions are the opinions of those on this side of the House who are interested in this Bill. After, however, the statement of the right honourable Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury, I would appeal to the House to allow the Motion for 149 the rejection of the Bill to be withdrawn, and the Instruction of the honourable Member for Yarmouth, that it be sent to a hybrid Committee, to be carried. On behalf of those who are acting with me on this matter, and who have been alluded to by name, I thought it advisable that we should express to the House the opinion that we are entirely at one with honourable Gentlemen opposite in this matter.
§ SIR T. G. ESMONDE (Kerry, W.)
This Bill not only affects the county in which I live, but it also affects my constituency, which is one of the divisions of Kerry. I have, therefore, some reason for expressing my satisfaction with the speech of the Secretary to the Treasury. The right honourable Gentleman thoroughly expressed my opinion in this matter, and I think that in the transaction of the negotiations in connection with this scheme the right honourable Gentleman has taken a very friendly and kindly part in endeavouring to meet the wishes of the Irish Members. I should be very loath to do anything that would prevent the carrying out of this project—perhaps I should not say this project, but, at any rate, some railway project—because I am fully alive, in the first instance, to the very great advantages which would accrue to my own county by the construction of this proposed new railway, and also the very great advantage which would accrue to my own constituency in the county of Kerry. In the south of Ireland we very badly want further railway connections and further railway development, but this particular Bill or project has been brought forward in so many shapes, and promoted in such very extraordinary ways, that we are justified in feeling somewhat suspicious about it. The history of the proposal has been given, but I may perhaps explain how the proposal was submitted to us in the county of Wexford. First, we were told that an independent company was going to build a railway in Wales, and then start some steamships going 20 knots from Fishguard to Rosslare, and then construct a railway in Ireland. Then we were given to understand that the company had been adequately financed, and had every means and intention of carrying out the pro- 150 posal. The residents of the county of Wexford were induced by these representations to take up the case of this railway very strongly. Then, in some extraordinary way, the original promoters of this project disappeared, and gave place to the Great Western Company of England. Then things went on very nicely; we were very glad indeed to hear that that company was going to develop Ireland; but that company disappeared, and we were confronted with our friends the Great Southern and Western Company of Ireland. With all these changes the House will understand why it is that, while we are not anxious to prevent a proper scheme of railway development from being carried out, we are really desirous that the matter should be ventilated, or that it shall be put into the hands of a company which will do the work honestly, so that it may be the means of strengthening and developing the trade of the south of Ireland.
That this Bill be read a second time.
§ Motion carried.
§ SIR JOHN COLOMB (Great Yarmouth)
After the speeches which we have heard it will not be necessary for me to detain the House for more than a few minutes, because I entirely concur with all that has fallen from the honourable Members for Waterford, Cork, West Kerry, and my right honourable Friend behind me. The object we have in moving for this Committee is to get a little light thrown upon transactions which are now so dark, and we feel it is important, because, as the honourable Member for Cork said just now, there has been a great deal of running in and out throughout the whole transaction. It is certainly true that one of the companies ran in and out by the promises which they made. The object of this hybrid Committee is to take care that the House itself is not run in to commit itself to a policy which will be disastrous to the south of Ireland, and it can, not be too often repeated, although it has been repeated once or twice, that there are concurrent transactions outside this Bill now taking place, which may warn the Members from Ireland as to what they may expect next year. The 151 Great Southern and Western Railway, having established itself in domination over the Great Western, is now proceeding to swallow up other railways, so as to complete the whole monopoly. This information is public property. It is known that they have offered for the Waterford, Dungarvan, and Lismore line, and the Central Ireland line, and that they will be coming next year for the sanction of this House to those transactions. It is well known that they have negotiated and arranged for the purchase of the Waterford and Limerick Railway, And that they will be coming next year for the sanction of this House to that transaction. The object of this Committee is to go to the root of the whole matter, and to thrash out all these transactions which have taken place, so that the House shall be put in possession of the facts of the case as they are, so that, if this Great Southern of Ireland Railway Company comes forward next year with these schemes, the House will be able to deal with them as they deserve, and they will deserve, according as they come out from the searching inquiry of this hybrid Committee. I beg to move the Instruction.
§ MR. POWER (Waterford, E.)
I believe that I have a right to speak on this subject. I have sat for Waterford since 1885. I support the Instruction that has been moved by the honourable and gallant Gentleman opposite, and I hope it is wide enough—
§ *MR. SPEAKER
The honourable Member seems to be under the impression that the Instruction has been moved.
§ MR. POWER
On the point of the appointment of the hybrid Committee I should like to make a few remarks. It is not my intention to go through the whole history of this complicated business. The honourable Member for the city of Waterford, I think, has given as lucid a description as to how matters stand as can be given, considering the nature of affairs, because the affairs con- 152 nected with this Bill have become as complicated as those of the Far East. Representing as I do the constituency mainly concerned, I wish to say that I am glad that the right honourable Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury has made the statement which he has, and I hope that when the matter comes before the hybrid Committee he will make the best bargain that he can. All Ireland is interested in this matter, but the county of Wexford, which pays £14,000 a year, is especially interested. We have paid £308,000, and we are liable for more—
§ MR. J. E. REDMOND (Waterford)
I am not entirely satisfied with the wording of the Instruction. The idea of the Instruction is, of course, to give an opportunity for a full inquiry into the whole of this scheme to see whether, viewing it in all its bearings, the scheme put forward by the promoters is one calculated to benefit the south of Ireland. I am afraid that such an inquiry cannot be made. One of the chief difficulties under which we are labouring is that this Bill does not contain the entire scheme. As everybody knows, part of the scheme is to purchase the Waterford and Limerick Railway. That is not in this Bill. That will come up next year in a separate Bill, and under the terms of this Instruction, it is an essential portion of the scheme of the promoters—namely, the through route over the Waterford and Limerick is excluded from the purview of the inquiry. Then I say that a searching and full inquiry will be impossible. I will not labour this point. I hope I have made it clear. The Bill does not contain all the proposals. This Instruction 153 empowers the Committee to inquire into all the proposals contained in the Bill, and will, therefore, exclude from the purview of the Committee some of the most essential portions of the whole scheme. Under these circumstances, I would ask the permission of the House to amend this Instruction. I am a little doubtful as to the words that I would propose, but if the sense of my words is gathered by the House, and if there is no objection, then it will be very easy to put the idea that I have got into more accurate words. I would suggest that the Instruction should run in this way—That it be an Instruction to the Committee that they inquire and report whether the adoption of any or all of the proposals contained in the Bill, either in themselves, or in connection with the acquisition of other railways, would prevent or produce proper competition.Therefore, the Amendment that I desire to move would be, after the word "Bill," in the second line of the Instruction, to insert the words—Either in themselves or in connection with the acquisition of other railways.
§ *MR. SPEAKER
That would be an extension of the Instruction, and cannot be moved without notice. In any case, it would not be in order, because it would be going into matters altogether beyond the scope of the Bill.
That the Bill be committed to a Select Committee of nine Members, five to be nominated by the House and four by the Committee of Selection. That, subject to the rules, orders, and proceedings of this House, all petitions against the Bill be referred to the Committee, and such of the petitioners as pray to be heard by themselves, their counsel, agents or witnesses, be heard on their petitions against the Bill if they think fit, and counsel heard in support of the said Bill against such petition. That the Committee have power to send for persons, papers, and records. That five be the quorum.
§ Motion agreed to.154
That it be an Instruction to the Committee that they do inquire and report whether the adoption of any or all of the proposals contained in the Bill would prevent or prejudice adequate competition in the railway system in the south of Ireland, or in the system of communication between that country and England and Wales.
§ Motion agreed to.