MR. T. M. HEALY
I beg to ask the Secretary to the Treasury if he is aware that the Belfast and Northern Counties Railway Company has given notice that they will not continue the working agreement with the Derry Central Railway Company expiring in February next; will he state whether the Belfast and Northern Counties Railway Company have opened negotiations with the Treasury to procure to themselves a forced sale of the Derry Central line on foot of the mortgage debt due to the Treasury by the Derry Central Railway Company; is he aware that such a sale, if carried out, would tend to destroy competition in the district; and that complaints have been made of the Deny Central Railway Company; and that there is a feeling in the districts served against the management of the Derry Central line by the Belfast and Northern Counties Railway Company under their working agreement; will the Treasury give reasonable opportunities to enable the Derry Central Railway Company to arrange with other companies for the working of their line when the agreement expires, and not exercise the power of sale; and will he, in accordance with the policy announced by him in 1895, give a pledge that no sale of this line to the Belfast and Northern Counties Railway Company shall be carried out without full notice and free competition.
§ MR. HANBURY
The statements in the first two paragraphs are substantially correct. But the Belfast and Northern Counties Company, while refusing to continue the working of the line for another year on existing terms, have not refused altogether to continue it. I have given the Derry Central Company an opportunity of making a counter-offer, and I shall be glad to consider any offer from other quarters. I am aware of the local feeling against the present arrangement. I am considering how far it would apply to the working of the line by the Belfast and Northern Counties Company as part of their own system, and whether effective competition can be expected in this district under any arrangement.