§ *MR. HAYDEN (Roscommon, S.)
rose to call attention to the subject of Irish railways, and to move, "That the present Railway Rates and Charges in Ireland constitute an intolerable grievance to the Irish people, and that measures should be adopted this session for the remedy thereof either by amalgamation of the management under State control, or by State purchase of Irish Railways, so as to reduce the tariffs, and further to increase facility of transit by utilising and developing the waterways, and canalising certain rivers in Ireland," said: This subject is one of great importance to the country we represent. There can be no doubt that the commercial and social prosperity and progress of any country are greatly affected by the nature and extent of the carrying powers which the country possesses. In Ireland the carrying powers are the railway companies, and these have been granted to them by this House. Therefore it is but right that this House should now and again, anyway, have something to say as to the manner in which they carry out these powers. As the representatives of the people from whom they derive their powers, it is essential that an examination should be made by us as to the manner in which the railway companies carry out the promises which they make 277 to Parliament when they get these great powers and privileges. Now, in Ireland we contend that the railway companies do not serve the public in the manner which they professed they intended to do when they came before this House for these powers. We have in Ireland, exclusive of the light railways, seventeen railway companies, and we hold that they are worked extravagantly, that much of the revenue derived from the public is devoted to the payment of huge numbers of directors and general managers. These companies in Ireland possess no fewer than 135 directors, all of them deriving large salaries—most of them, anyway—or fees, which are of course extracted from the general public who use these lines. Now, the total length of the Irish Railways is about 3,000 miles, and for their management there are 135 directors; while in England one company alone—the Great Western—has a mileage of close on 2,500 miles with only nineteen directors. That one fact alone, of course, shows that there must be extravagance in, the working. Another great hardship on the public who use these lines is that there are so many different companies. There are many points of contact where different lines meet, and practically at all these places there is great friction in regard to both goods and passengers. Travellers by one line often find themselves arriving too late at a junction to catch the train on the other line. So great is the rivalry and jealousy between the companies that the trains of the one will not wait on the trains of the other for even a minute. Indeed, the only punctual time kept is the time of starting; so that travellers have often to take a whole day to go a comparatively short distance. I know myself of a case between Mullingar and Enniskillen—a distance of between fifty-five and fifty-six miles. You have to travel over the lines of two companies, and you can never do the double journey and transact a little business in one day, although there is a great deal of trade between the two towns.
Another evil is the existence of preferential rates for both passengers and goods to towns where lines meet, and where there is, therefore, competition. Goods are sent from Dublin to 278 these towns at a cheaper rate than to towns half the distance, where there is no competition. That is a point that ought to be regulated by the Board of Trade. But one of the greatest hardships from which the country has to suffer is that these railways give a preference to goods coming from foreign countries over the produce of Ireland, or even different districts of Ireland. Goods coming from England, Europe, and America are sent through Ireland at a cheaper rate than goods produced in Ireland itself. Now, certainly one of the first essentials of railways, after protecting the interests of the shareholders, should be to develop the country in which they are situated. When England grabs a new country the first thing she does is to start a railway for the purpose of developing the country; but the Irish railways give a preference to through rates from other countries. In going long distances from one part of Ireland to another there may be some chance of through rates, but for intermediate distances the people have to pay as much as the long-distance travellers; and it is the same with the freights for goods. I think there ought to be some regulations made by this House, or by some railway authority, by which the same treatment should be meted out to all portions of the country; and that there should be a regular mileage rate, without any preference to foreigners or long-distance people. Everybody in the country complains of the high railway rates in Ireland as compared with other countries. The rates in Ireland are 20 per cent. per mile more than those in England or Scotland. That is a matter to which I would claim the attention of the Irish Government. In neither rates nor fares has any progress whatever been made in Irish railway management since railways were first started in the country. In fact, the only progress made has been in adding to the mileage, though even there the progress has not been sufficient.
The case against the Irish railway companies has been brought before the House over and over again, before Royal Commissions, and Select Committees. There may be differences of opinion as to the methods of improvement. Many of us think that the ideal way of dealing with the question would be the State purchase 279 of the railways, although some of my colleagues are doubtful as to that method under existing circumstances. Because they believe that the State purchase of the railways should be carried out by an Irish Government. This is one of the drawbacks we suffer from our connection with this country. There can scarcely be a doubt but that if there was in Ireland a Parliament representing and legislating for the people of Ireland, one of the first things that Parliament would do would be to nationalise the railways—as has happened in other countries—without any injustice being inflicted on those who had put their money into the railways. The State ownership of railways has been profitable and successful in Belgium, and that system was recommended to be adopted in Ireland as far back as 1868. This matter has been the subject of investigation from time to time since railways were started in Ireland, and Royal Commissions have reported on it. The Royal Commission of 1868 recommended that there should be greater State control than at present exists. Upon that point there could not possibly be any difference of opinion. Those interested in the companies—directors and shareholders—possibly might not like State control, but I think the interests of the shareholders would not suffer if there was a more up-to-date method forced upon the directors.
During the proceedings of the Irish Financial Relations Commission a very interesting proposal was made by Mr. Challoner Smith, the President of the Institute of Engineers in Ireland. Mr. Challoner Smith, who is an expert in railway work, preferred the proposal which he made to State ownership. His proposal was that there should be something in the nature of a Commission to look after the working of the railways without interference at all with the management by directors. He wished to unify the working of them, and make them work as one company. He further proposed that the rates and fares of the railways in Ireland should be reduced at one fell stroke by 50 per cent., and he endeavoured to show from experience that the effect of the reduction would be such an increase in the traffic as to more than counterbalance the effect of the reduction. He also suggested that, as of 280 course the shareholders would not be prepared to take so great a risk at once, it was the duty of the State to offer to guarantee to the shareholders any loss that might accrue from such reduction of rates and fares. He was able to show that, even supposing that the State had to pay something upon the guarantee, from the result of working such a system elsewhere at the moment, that the guarantee would be a diminishing quantity, and that at the very most, supposing there was no absolute increase whatever in the traffic of the country at the reduced fares and rates, which could not be the case, the total loss would only be £1,250,000. He showed pretty conclusively that the result would be that traffic, both passenger and goods, would at once double in amount, and that would almost wipe out any guarantee that might be given. There would, of course, be some increased expenses in working the increased traffic, but I would commend the suggestion of Mr. Challoner Smith to the Chief Secretary of Ireland, and I think it is one worthy of the consideration of the right hon. Gentleman.
Two years ago this House thought it necessary to include in an Act, called the Agricultural and Technical Instruction Act, some clauses relating to the railways of Ireland. Sections 5 and 17 of that Act gave certain authority to the Agricultural Department which was to be set up in Ireland. Section 5 gave the Department authority to make inquiry as to agricultural and rural industries, and how they could be benefited, having especial regard to the carrying arrangements of Ireland; Section 17 gave the Agricultural Department authority to appear before the Board of Trade and the, Railway Commission as plaintiffs. These clauses were resisted very strongly and very bitterly at the time by the railway interests in the House, but they were carried; but though that Act had been for a considerable time in operation there had been no results. The Department has done nothing, but I do not think that is the fault of the Department. A few days ago I asked a question upon this subject, I asked whether the Department had applied to the Treasury for any money. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary declined to answer the question, and from that I am inclined 281 to think the Department did apply to the Treasury for money, and their application was not listened to, and that these clauses of that Act are not operating in the country because there is no money, and the Agricultural Department is consequently unable to give the country any little advantage that may be derived from this Act, passed a few years ago by this House.
About twelve months ago one of the most representative and important Irish deputations which ever waited on any Department waited on the vice-President of the Department in this House, and asked him to have a viceregal Commission appointed to examine into the question. That deputation consisted of every Irish Member in the House, and leading counsel and business men, including the Lord Mayors of Dublin and Belfast and other towns, and a number of Irish peers, and Mr. Plunket, the vice-President, gave a most sympathetic reply. We are accustomed to sympathetic replies. That is all we are able to obtain, although, perhaps, we ought to be thankful for the change upon the part of the Government. A little while afterwards an hon. Member, representing one of the northern constituencies of Ireland, asked the Chief Secretary whether he would recommend the appointment of a viceregal Commission, and the answer of the right hon. Gentleman was that it would be premature to appoint a Commission until it was seen how the clauses of the new Act worked. That was in the middle of May last year. A year has gone by, and we find that those clauses have not worked at all, because, as we say, the Government have deliberately kept back the means of working from the Agricultural Department, which has charge of them.
This is a very serious matter. No one will assert that the railways are giving the satisfaction that they ought, and few will defend the extravagant method of working the lines, and by which men with very little experience of railways are appointed directors, simply because they are country gentlemen. Originally the idea of the companies in selecting these gentlemen as directors was because of their influence on grand juries, to which the companies had to go for sanction when they had to pass over roads and so forth in various parts of the country. 282 Everybody knows that these gentlemen were made directors because of their influence on the grand juries. The grand juries no longer control the country, but it is hard to get rid of the old system in a moment. Business men should be appointed. There are not five business men among the whole 135 railway directors in Ireland. A few months ago a series of articles appeared in one of the London papers, entitled "Fifty Years of Irish Railway Working," and as an instance of method and progress it was stated that in fifty years the time of the train from Galway to Dublin had been accelerated by five minutes, whilst the fares had been increased 20 per cent. I think if no other fact than that could be deduced, it would be sufficient to justify this House in interfering in the railway management of Ireland, and I would strongly impress upon the Irish Government the necessity of either interfering or of giving the Agricultural Department the means of putting into force the clauses of the Agricultural Act.
The request put forward by the representative deputation to which I have allnded was the appointment of some board, such as a permanent railway commission, to exercise control over the companies, and try and make them work as one service, and destroy that friction which exists, and, above all, to abolish all those preferential rates, especially those giving preference to the foreigners over native producers. I will not trouble the House further, as the time is limited, and as I think it is scarcely necessary, considering the long history of this question and the way it has been dealt with over and over again by Royal Commissions, the Reports that have been brought in, and the recommendations which have been made and have never been acted on. I therefore beg to move the motion standing in my name.
§ MR. MURPHY (Kerry, E.)
said he felt great pleasure in seconding the motion of his hon. friend. He did not propose to inflict upon the House a mass of detail in connection with the motion, although there would be no difficulty in his producing fact after fact and Report after Report showing how bad the whole system of railway management was in 283 Ireland; how unjust the rates and charges of every description were, and what little attention was paid by railway companies in Ireland to doing anything on the ground that it would convenience the public or develop the resources of the country. But he did not propose to do so, for the simple reason that it was a generally admitted fact that Irish railways were animated solely by a desire to make profit for themselves, and it never occurred to them to do anything merely because it would result in advantage to the people, who, after all, should have the controlling power in the regulation of matters of such importance to the prosperity of a country. He would, however, illustrate by a few facts the present position of affairs, and he believed that when he had done so it would be clear enough to all who wished to see that in this matter of railway and canal traffic in Ireland there was a great and crying grievance which called for an immediate remedy. It was a question which belonged to no class or condition of the people of Ireland. It was one that touched all. On the one side they had the directors and salaried officials, who, of course, were quite satisfied with things as they were. On the other, they had the people, north and south and everywhere, asking with one voice for relief from a system that was crushing out the very life of Ireland by reason of the way in which it was maintained and conducted. Truly, if Nature hated monopolies, it was reasonable that the Irish people should hate railway companies. From beginning to end they were one horrid, dreadful monopoly. Their every effort was to crush out all competition. If a canal or alternative route were present anywhere, they decided right away to buy up the one or amalgamate with the other. They generally promised many good things during the progress of the negotiations, but when the end came the result was always the same—competition was destroyed, monopoly was restored—and the complaints of the people in regard to any matters could be safely ignored as their remedy was gone. This was not a matter of to-day or yesterday. It had practically prevailed since the introduction of railways into Ireland, and though Commission and 284 Committees and experts had time after time pointed out the evil results of the system, successive Governments remained inactive and did nothing to remedy the state of affairs; and the more closely the question was inquired into the more deeply sensible one became of the ridiculous regulations that existed in every shape and form. If one looked at the average rates for the other countries one would find that in England it was 5s. 6d. per ton, in Scotland 5s. 2d. per ton, and in Ireland 6s. 8d. per ton. How this inequality could be explained passed comprehension, when we were told that the average cost of railways in England was £53,000 per mile, in Scotland £33,000 per mile, and in Ireland only £12,500 per mile. The explanation, however, was not far to seek. The profits went into the pockets of the directors and shareholders, and the public and the industries of the country had to pay the piper. Irish railway officials would no doubt say that the traffic was not in the country, but he contended that the actions of the officials themselves had contributed to that result as largely as any other cause, If a comparison was made with Scotland, which had practically the same length of line, it would be found that the receipts in Scotland were £10,000,000, whilst in Ireland they had dropped to £3,000,000, and the same result would be obtained by comparing the working results with any other country. In Ireland railways could be constructed so much cheaper than in other and more prosperous countries, and their working expenses were so much less, that the reverse should be the case. But in Ireland charges were prohibitive and not competitive.
Nobody in Ireland thought of using, railways except in a case of absolute necessity, and while such was the case the receipts would be low; nevertheless they managed to pay as large a dividend and to have as many directors as any railway system in the world. In Belgium an article would be carried for 7s. a ton, while in Ireland it cost 22s. per ton. Indeed, the fact is that you could bring some articles from Belgium to Ireland at a cheaper rate than you could from Mayo to Dublin. In the matter of passenger traffic the same fact is observed. A third 285 class passenger could travel in Hungary for one-fifth of the rate he could travel in Ireland. Then, in addition to all this, the country had to put up with every possible inconvenience in the matter of transit. The convenience for live stock was as bad and costly as it could be. Passengers had to travel in uncomfortable and unsightly carriages, at inconvenient times. The connections were so arranged that if one wanted to get to Galway from Kerry, for instance, they might as well go up to Dublin first, and so on. If there was a waterway of any description the railway company bought it up, and left the grass to grow upon its bank, and made its own terms. In the result it was often found cheaper to take goods from Dublin to Tralee, for instance, than from Dublin to Killarney, though the first mentioned place was twenty miles further. Even more glaring and unjust charges could be cited, but there surely could be no necessity. The President of the Board of Trade stated two years ago that he sympathised with the complaints made on a similar motion. In reference to his own town of Killarney, he might say he acknowledged the improvement in the service that had been made, still the preferential rates given by the railway company to their own hotels, for instance, over the same charges to other hotels, and in other ways, did away with the few advantages given to the people. A great railway authority once declared that the present railway system could be better managed for the benefit of the country by one director in Dublin, at the head of a single system, than by the present arrangement of having hundreds of directors and several companies. That mode was, he believed, the proper one. At present Ireland was the worst served country in railway matters in the world. He believed that the Transvaal had been stated to be worse, but the statesmanship of the Colonial Secretary had managed to have most of that railway system mostly blown up, so at present Ireland stood alone. The system of Government which had been planted in Ireland was as a rotten tree, and railway monopoly was one of its worst branches. That monopoly had been maintained by Ministers and Governments until it had become intolerable.
286 The Government asked for the remedy, but the duty of finding a remedy lay upon the Government. All the facts he had given indicated in the clearest and most convincing way the justice of the motion. It was not the function of those who supported this motion to provide a remedy. If the Irish people had their own Parliament they would soon alter the conditions of affairs, but as long as this country undertook to consider and deal with Irish grievances it was its duty to provide a remedy for all these matters. Irish Ministers and Chief Secretaries in the past had shown an utter disregard of the feelings of Irishmen in reference to railway rates. At the present moment they had a gentleman as Chief Secretary who affected, at any rate, to be sympathetic towards the Irish people. He (the hon. Member), at the opening of Parliament, looked upon the sunny smile which appeared on that gentleman's countenance, and hoped it was the outward expression of the inward desire to do something to improve the material condition of Ireland. There was a splendid opportunity for the hon. Gentleman. Every class in Ireland were in agreement as to the ruinous system on which Irish railways were conducted. On the one side were the directors and the officials and some of the shareholders; on the other side were the people. The Chief Secretary ought to be on the side of the people. The hon. Gentleman had no objection to being reminded of his connection with Ireland. If, from one reason or another, he did not care to lead a revolution for the realisation of Ireland's hopes, et him inaugurate a railway reform in Ireland, and he would do something which would cause his name to be remembered in that country in a pleasanter and more affectionate way than were the names of some of his predecessors. He begged to second the motion.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed. "That the present Railway Rates and Charges in Ireland constitute an intolerable grievance to the Irish people, and that measures should be adopted this session for the remedy thereof, either by amalgamation of the management under State control, or by State purchase of Irish Railways, so as to reduce the tariffs, 287 and further to increase facility of transit by utilising and developing the waterways, and canalising certain rivers in Ireland."—(Mr. Hayden.)
§ *MR. BANBURY (Camberwell, Peckham)
I rise to move the following Amendment—In line 12, to leave out all words after 'That,' in order to insert 'whilst admitting the importance of developing the facilities of transit in Ireland, the time is not opportune for taking any steps which might act as a check to private enterprise, and place a burden upon public funds.'Although I do not agree with the arguments of the hon. Member who moved the resolution, I desire to congratulate him upon the moderate and sensible manner in which he has stated his case. We must all admit that it is extremely necessary for the prosperity of any country that means of locomotion should be given to it, and it is extremely probable that the facilities of locomotion in Ireland are not as good as they might be. But the question before us to-night is as to how those facilities can be improved. The mover and seconder of the resolution advocated two courses—first, the control of the railways by the State, and, secondly, the purchase of the railways by the State. Before dealing with these two courses in detail, I would remind the House that it has always been accepted as a broad principle, at any rate, that the object of the State is to govern, and not to trade, but if we passed this resolution, in the form either of control or of purchase, we should be admitting the principle that it is the duty of the State not to govern, but to trade.
§ *ME. BANBURY
If the State purchases a railway it is evident that it enters into a trading transaction. If, on the other hand, the State controls a railway it must control it in the interests of trade, otherwise there would be no object in its controlling the railway.
I will deal first with the question of control by the State. The hon. Member who moved the resolution suggested that the rates should be reduced by one half, and that the State should pay the difference. He then went on to say that a certain Mr. Challoner Smith had said 288 that if this was done the result would be a very great profit to the railway. I do not quite understand the hon. Member's position, because I heard him say that the shareholders and the directors were rather to be blamed, and that they ought not to be considered. To whom is the profit to go? The shareholder, the person whom he blames. Who is to bear the loss? The State. That seems to be a most extraordinary argument to be advanced by a gentleman who is opposed to the director and the shareholder. If the shareholder came down and proposed that if there was a loss the State should bear it, but if there was a profit he should take it, I should not be surprised, but I do not quite see the force of the argument from the point of view of the hon. Member. The hon. Member who seconded the resolution said that a certain amount of money had been advanced in times gone by to the railways in Ireland, but that, in his experience, there were many Irishmen who preferred to ride on their donkeys rather than travel on a State-aided railway. I should say that that was an argument in favour of leaving the railways to private enterprise. There are several reasons why State control is not a good thing. For one thing it is the money of other people which the State is to control. The money is put into the concern by private people in order that they may obtain a certain return for their capital. The ordinary investor is not a philanthropist; he goes into a business in the hope that he will make a profit. My experience is that the majority of shareholders in a railway are not the rich, but the poor, the trustee who has invested a small amount of money for a widow, or the man who, perhaps, has been a worker on the railway, and has invested a portion of his earnings as a provision against old age. It is quite a wrong idea to suppose that in attacking a railway company you are attacking the richer classes; you are attacking the backbone of the nation—the lower middle classes, who have worked hard, saved a certain amount of money, and invested it in their own country. It does seem to me that it would be rather hard that a railway, started and carried on by the money of these people, should be controlled by the State, not in the interests of these people, but apparently for the purpose of providing 289 cheap facilities for traders and other similar purposes.
Then comes the question of State purchase. I have not attempted to deny that in all probability there is a good deal to be said on the part of the Irish people against the working of Irish railways, but the question is, Is the only remedy for that the purchase of the railways by the State? I do not believe that is so, and I am inclined to think that, even if it was so, the evils which would be inaugurated by State purchase would outweigh any possible advantages. One of the great evils entailed by such purchase would be that it would probably be extended to England.
§ *MR. BANBURY
My hon. friend says we have not the same mismanagement in England that they have in Ireland, but it was only two or three hours ago that an hon. Member opposite alluded to the directors of the London and North Western Railway as "ornamental guinea-pigs." I do not know of anything worse for a railway or any other commercial undertaking than that it should be managed by "ornamental guinea-pigs." Therefore, the view that we have not the same mismanagement here is not shared on the other side of the House, and it is quite conceivable that, if the policy of State purchase of railways were adopted in Ireland, we should at once have hon. Members urging the adoption of the same policy in England. What would that involve? We have lately had a long discussion upon the raising of a loan of £60,000,000. Hon. Members opposite have held up their hands in amazement at the iniquity of the Government in suggesting that that amount of money should be borrowed, but do they know how much money is invested in English railways? The amount is £1,200,000,000 If hon. Members think an addition of £60,000,000 to the National Debt is a serious matter, what would they think of an addition of £1,200,000,000?
§ *MR. BANBURY
That remains to be seen. It will have to be shown that the management of an industry, such as a 290 railway, by the State is as good as the management of the same industry by private enterprise. I think I shall be able to show later on that it is not as good, and certainly that in the result it is not so remunerative. One great argument for the motion is that the rates would be at once reduced and the facilities for both passengers and goods traffic increased. But the increasing of facilities means money for additional expenditure on rolling stock and other things. I do not at all say that a reduc ion of rates, provided the rates have been excessive, necessarily means a loss to the railway. It may mean a profit, but, of course, the reduction must be a reasonable one.
But supposing the railways of Ireland were in the hands of the State, what would happen? Immediately, hon. Gentlemen opposite would come down and say that it was the duty of the State to give them every facility for travelling as passengers, and the employees also would at once say that as they were employed by the State they expected a rise in wages. It would be extremely difficult to resist the pressure of hon. Gentlemen on the other side, and perhaps on this side, if their constituents told them that one of the conditions of their return at the next General Election was that they voted in favour of increased wages to the employees on the State railways, and reduced rates to merchants and traders. That that is not an impossible contingency is, I think, shown by a recent speech of my hon. friend the Member for Mid Herts. In the course of that speech the hon. Member drew attention to the great pressure which is put upon Members on both sides of the House by the Civil servants of the State. If you were to increase the patronage of the Government I do not know what would happen. If the enormous number of men employed on the English railways were brought under the control of the State, the control of the railways by the State would vanish, and would rest in the hands of the employees. The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil probably would not regard that as an unmixed evil.
§ *MR. BANBURY
I thought not, but possibly other people would. It is quite a fallacy to suppose that the State has an inexhaustible chest of gold into which it can put its hand and draw out any amount of money for making the conditions of life easier. All money spent by the State must be provided from somewhere, and I think I have shown that the purchase of the railways would result in a loss to the State.
But the purchase of railways is not the only State purchase which hon. Gentlemen opposite are advocating. Only a few weeks ago it was proposed that £120,000,000 should be spent on Irish land, and it seems to me that, if we were to comply with all their requests, in a very short time there would be nothing in Ireland except the State, and that the Socialist Commonwealth suggested by the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil, would be established there, but whether for the advantage of Ireland or of England I do not know. The question of increased wages and increased facilities is a very great one, and one which cannot be passed over. If the method proposed in the resolution is the only way in which the grievance complained of by hon. Gentlemen opposite can be obviated, I think we should pause before we assent to it. I should like to point out to the hon. Gentleman that we have a good instance afforded us in the case of the Australian colonies and of America. In the Australian colonies the railways are managed by the State. I have not been able to get the whole figures, but I looked up the Australian Handbook this afternoon. I take New South Wales and victoria because I think it will be recognised that New South Wales and victoria are the most prosperous of the Australian colonies. I take the year 1900, because it is the most prosperous year the Australian colonies have had for some time. I find that the deficit on the working of the New South Wales railway is £6,138. Of course, that is not a very large amount, but it shows that the result of the State working of the railway was a deficit. In the case of victoria about £40,000,000 is employed in State railways, and the losses amount to about £100,000 a year. That is the result of State management, and these Australian railways practically only earn about 3 per cent. interest on the capital advanced.
292 In the case of America the railways have never been managed by the State, and I do not think anybody will say that American railways do not give every facility both to passenger and to traders. I have heard it advanced over and over again that English railways should take a lesson from the American railways, and that similar charges should be introduced over here because they are very much lower. The manner in which American railways have been built is different to any other railways. When we build a railway in England we borrow a certain amount of money and the ordinary, preference, and debenture stock contribute equally to the, making of the railway. But in America the general principle is that the bonded debt makes the railway. In looking at American railway results, therefore, you must not look simply at the interest paid upon ordinary shares but also the interest paid on the bonded debt. I ask any hon. Member in this House to look at the price of American railway ordinary shares. Most of them are at £100, and some of them are over, and that is all profit which has accrued from the private management of the railways. The profit of the American railways has not been gained by exorbitant rates but by affording the public every facility and charging low rates, and the result is far more advantageous than in the case of the state owned railways in Australia. The first thing you have to consider in this matter is how to make the enterprise profitable. I do not know why the State should come forward and act as a philanthropist. The State should not make exorbitant profits, but it should act on business lines. If the State is to take moneys out of the pockets of one class of the community in order to put it into the pockets of another class, then I say that the days of the prosperity of that State are numbered, and commercial prosperity can no longer exist in the future. I said at the commencement of my remarks that the province of the State was for government and not for trade. It may be contended that by holding the Post Office and telegraphs the Government have violated that maxim, but I do not think that is an argument which will hold water.
There are exceptions to every argument, and it is possible that it is necessary 293 to make an exception in this particular instance. I have not looked up the history of the Post Office, but I believe it has never been managed by private enterprise. The telegraph department was managed by private individuals, but it was merely an off-shoot of the Post Office. But we must draw the line somewhere. If we are to have the State trading in railways why should the State not take over the docks and shipping, and other matters, and engage in other commercial enterprises. A good many hon. Members on this side of the House have advocated the subsidising of shipping companies. If we purchase the Irish railways on the other side of the Channel we may be asked on this side to purchase the ships of the country. If we once go into these enterprises there is no knowing when we shall stop. It was only yesterday that an hon. Member said he objected to the loan of £60,000,000 proposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer because he thought it would be better employed if it was lent to the working men of Ireland. I instance that to show hon. Members opposite see the necessity of encouraging capital to remain and to be employed in the country. I believe that one of the great evils from which Ireland suffers is want of capital, and if hon. Members would do all they could to encourage the investment of capital in Ireland they would be advancing the real prosperity of the country far more than by asking the State to purchase the railways. I believe that the real solution of this question is to be found in the amalgamation of the different Irish railways. It is almost impossible for certain small railway companies to give proper facilities to the public because they have not got the money to do it with; whereas, if they amalgamated with other companies they might be able to give the facilities desired. It was in the interest of the shareholders that a company should give the public proper facilities. I was rather astonished about a fortnight ago, when an Irish railway Bill came up for the Second Reading in this House to see it thrown out on the ground that this railway which could not be built because the company had not got the money was going to be built by another company. I think that Bill should have gone before a Committee, 294 because it would have been a step in the direction of amalgamation which the hon. Gentleman who moved this resolution advocated. I beg to move.
§ MR. MALCOLM (Suffolk, Stowmarket)
I beg leave to second this Amendment, and in doing so I venture to say a few words on the subject—not because I have suffered upon Irish railways and want a change, nor because I am a director and want no change—but because the true solution of the government of Ireland according to Unionist principles seems to me to rest upon our capacity to show that in dealing with the material problems which obtain in that country we are offering as a contribution—not an invitation to plunge into a flood of theoretical controversy of a revolutionary nature, but the practical assistance of the long commercial experience of this country, and at times the guarantee of our unrivalled credit. Such a question we are discussing to-night, and I agree with the hon. Member that there is none more important or more fraught with possibilities for the advancement of prosperity in Ireland. For, as in a diagnosis of the human frame it must be necessary to assume that the veins and arteries are in a healthy condition for the passage of our blood, so in examinations of the Irish body politic nothing can be more necessary than to insist upon the vigour of those veins and arteries of transit—the railway and canal systems of that country. I am very glad to find, in a sense, that this Amendment has been put before the House, for the drawback to the original motion was that it took no cognisance of the time and season in which it is brought forward. Who could have imagined that such a proposal would be forthcoming, involving as it does large State expenditure if either of its suggestions be adopted, at the end of a period of Estimates which has been spent, by the party proposing it, in voting against every item of expenditure that has come up for discussion?
No, the time is far from opportune—and upon that ground, more than any other. I shall vote for the, Amendment. As for the merits of the original resolution, I confess I see a great deal to be said for the amalgamation 295 of Irish railways, with a strong Railway Commission to safeguard the interests of the public. From all I can read in the Reports of Commissions and debates, the feeling of those who live in Ireland and of those who take evidence is unanimous in favour of some such operation. And yet it has become the inveterate custom of this House to maintain a non possumus attitude in the face of all Commissions. By such an attitude the reputation of this House is impaired, and the people of Ireland suffer. For who can doubt, reading the Reports of the various bodies that have sat to inquire into the many branches of this question, but that from the very beginning the Irish railways have left much to be desired? One has only to consult comparative statistics to see how absurdly high are their fares and their rates, when laid parallel to those of similar railways in this country—how expensive their administration, and how unsatisfactory their speed. I, for one, am driven to the conclusion that some organic change is necessary if the Irish people are to enjoy the ordinary facilities of twentieth century railway travelling. And this organic change must, I think, work in the direction of amalgamation rather than purchase, for the same experience which teaches us that State purchase is not always a profitable investment for the public, teaches us also that amalgamation is generally fraught with reduction of expenditure and increase of convenience. If I may say so, Ireland is not the only country which would be the better of an over hauling by Government of its railway system from time to time. Ideas seem to riot in the minds of directors that the public is their servant and not their master, and one consequence is the intolerable rates of which many of us complain. I am, in my sanguine moments, averse to giving preferential tariffs to our own goods for export over imported goods, that might be unfair to the consumer. But, I do confess, living in and representing an agricultural constituency, that I resent the preferential and hostile rates which, whatever may be said as to their fairness, make it cheaper, speaking roughly, to buy a hog from Chicago in London than to 296 buy one from Suffolk. I should indeed like to see the railway rate tariff so regulated as to protect the home products a little more. And what I should ask for myself I ask now for my Irish friends inside and outside this House. There is a patent grievance, which the interference of this House can perhaps mitigate or demolish. It will not be removed by adherence to this non-possumus attitude—nor do I expect such an answer from the Chief Secretary. There is, in Ireland, a state of things which can be altered for the better by a wise Unionist Government; non possumus never governed a country and never will; but close and sympathetic attention to this question of amalgamation will go far to increase material prosperity in that country and to remove a grievance which is in no sense a party question.
To leave out from the word 'That' to the end of the Question, in order to add the words, 'whilst admitting the importance of developing the facilities of transit in Ireland, the time is not opportune for taking any steps which might act as a check to private enterprise, and place a burden upon public funds.'"—(Mr. Banbury.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. McCANN (Dublin, St. Stephen's Green)
I have during many years past given much time and study to the Irish Railway and Canal question, and their working in relation to the industrial life of Ireland. I have also given much consideration to the part our railways play and the dominant influence they exercise on the economies of the Irish problem. I have had many years practical experience as a railway director. I may say, however, that the chief insight which I have obtained in the working of the Irish carrying trade has been acquired as chairman of the Grand Canal Company. I have occupied this position for the past ten or eleven years, and still continue to do so. I may say here that it is my belief that our waterways, our canals, navigable rivers and canalised rivers, which cover so large an extent of the country, and which are fed by such an abundant 297 and never-failing supply of water, could be made to play a most important part in the industrial life of Ireland, and for the great benefit of the whole people. These waterways are now for the most part practically useless and derelict. Those of them such as the Grand Canal Company are so much hampered and conditioned as to render their public utility of little or no use. There seems to be high Government influence utterly opposed and hostile to the proper utilisation of these waterways for the public good. This would appear to have been always the view more or less of our Irish Government officials. It is one of the official traditions of Irish Government. This tradition, I regret to say, is rather more than less pursued by our Government to-day towards our waterways. For what reason only Heaven and Irish Government officials can tell.
Be this as it may respecting our waterways, with regard to our railways, however, I will say without hesitation, and under the sense of the responsibility which attaches to the statement, that as they have been worked from their start to the present day it would be much better for the country, from every point of view, that a railway had never been constructed in Ireland. The railways were permitted to buy up the canals, the only possible source of continuous and lasting competition with them; and those waterways they did not buy, the railways were permitted to reduce their rates for carrying so low to the competitive canal station as to render the canal trading unprofitable, and so cripple the waterways as to put them off trading, or, if allowed to continue, only to such an extent as the railway would permit, and then the rates of carrying were put to their normal level, if not beyond it. The public thus lost the only lasting source of competition they had with the railways, and fell at once under their grinding monopoly, This would not be the time or place to consider what are the malign influences and agencies that make everything that can be made available for the general good in other countries work exactly in the opposite direction in Ireland. Certainly railways work in this perverted direction towards the general good in Ireland, whilst in other countries they are made the instruments of immense 298 benefit to the people. This is particularly the case when the railways are made to work harmoniously with the waterways of other countries, each doing its part of the traffic which naturally suits it. It must appear that everything in Ireland, as well as railways, works automatically from its wrong end. No matter how plain this inverted working may be to the ordinary observer, once commenced there seems to be no force or influence amongst us capable of being called into existence to rectify the evil effects of its wrong start. Things must then muddle on in their perverted grooves. Our fate seems inexorable in this respect.
But to come to the immediate question before the House, the effect of the present high railway rates and charges on the industrial life of Ireland, and the possibility of effecting a remedy, if there be injustice, I think I cannot make myself intelligible unless I am permitted to quote a few facts and figures which lie at the base of the Irish economic problem, if, indeed, they do not constitute the entire base itself, and go to make up the whole crux in the question. Last November I delivered before the Bankers' Institute in Ireland the inaugural address for the year, the subject being "The Economics of the Irish Problem." I first showed, what we all know, but what is not always kept steadily in view, that all of us in Ireland derive our existence and well-being directly and indirectly from the land, and that the two exceptions, which are generally supposed to constitute exceptions to this statement, are not really so. These are the great brewing and distillery trades in Dublin, and to a lesser extent the same trades in the provinces, and then the great manufacturing industries of Belfast and its neighbourhood. Inasmuch as about three-quarters of the porter and whisky manufactured in Ireland is consumed in the country, and that the industries of Belfast and its neighbourhood were started, and are largely sustained by, the credit supplied by the Irish bank deposits, which are directly and indirectly the produce of the land, I cannot see that these two interests are exceptions to the general statement. But the economic state of things to which I wish to draw attention is this: our land, 15,300,000 acres in all, is cultivated by 486,000 occupying 299 tenants or holders, about 400,000 of whom, five-sixths of the whole, are operative occupying tenants, whose holdings are valued for taxation purposes at a maximum of a little over £20 valuation, and coming down to £1. The average rent paid by this class is about £7 to £8 a year, and their average incomes cannot be above £40 to £50 a year each, out of which rent and taxes have to be paid. Allowing five to each family, this class of operative farmers, who with assistance from their families do the entire work of their farms, constitute about 2,000,000 in all, nearly half our population. The incomes derivable from the land would not work out at more than £5 a head yearly for the maintenance of each individual comprised in this large class of the people. The facts and figures now shortly stated were given fully in the bankers' address. As far as I know they have not been substantially controverted, although there are many people who do not like such issues raised; I would be willing to contradict them if they were inaccurate. But I should also mention that these small incomes are only attainable in the good years, but when the rainy day comes round, which it inevitably does in Ireland, then the standard of living of this class, being so low and incapable of being pared down when the potatoes fail and the turf is wet, the people are starving, or next door to it.
The Irish question, which is always more, or less simmering, owing in reality to the economic condition of this class, when at starvation point it becomes acute and seething. At present it may be said to be in the gentle summer stage, but let a wet year come, with the potatoes and turf absent, and with the other evil concomitants of the Irish rainy day, it will be then seen that the seething stage has once more arrived, and the pot will boil over, and any fat there is will go into the fire as of old.
I want to show the part the Irish railways play in the economics of these two millions of people, whom, if possible, we should preserve in the best interests of Ireland, and indeed in the best interests of the Empire also. The rates charged by the Irish railway companies are, as far as I know, the highest in the world. Agricultural produce is charged about six farthings per ton per mile. All 300 goods carried by railway sare, as is well known, charged by weight, the ton being the unit. In the United States and Canada their railway rates for same agricultural produce are now well under one farthing per ton per mile, and these countries now claim to be able to carry by their rivers and canals at rates very much under this farthing per ton per mile. The continental rates in the chief prosperous countries are about, I think, two farthings per ton per mile. All these countries make a profit out of their railways charging these low rates. Prussia makes a profit of about £22,000,000 available for State purposes out of the receipts of the railways, after paying all working charges and interest and sinking fund on capital borrowed to make and buy the railways. It will be seen at once how Ireland is handicapped by the exorbitant rates charged by her railways, as compared with other countries I have named, which are in so keen competition with her in her own special products in her own markets. The stage may now be said to have arrived when Ireland can compete no longer. She is now almost completely crushed out of her own markets for her own produce. But this is not half the story; I will tell the remainder as shortly as possible. The Irish railway companies make through rates for the foreigner, the mileage proportion of which will be very much lower than their local rates for the same mileage to the Irish producer. But the rates for what are technically called smalls are absolutely prohibitive in enabling the small producers to market their produce direct, without the crushing charges of intermediaries, who collect the small into large parcels. Take eggs, which could, and should, be made such a source of profit to the Irish people. The course of the egg trade is this at present. The small farmers' wives or children take the eggs—a dozen or two—to the nearest little shop in the country, or in the town or village nearest them; they exchange these eggs at the lowest price for their tea, sugar, tobacco, etc., which are usually sold to them at the highest price. The price fixed by the shopkeepers for these eggs will generally be found to be the price for addled or stale eggs in, say, an English 301 manufacturing town, less by railway and steamship rates and the tolls of the various intermediaries through whose hands they pass. That is to say, to market Irish eggs, which are fresh at the start, they must become stale, and, in order to get them to this condition, they must be passed through the hands of various expensive intermediaries, and pay large rates to railways and steamers. As with eggs so with everything else that a small farmer has to sell in a small way. This in a country where five-sixths of the whole are small farmers, and who number roundly 2,000,000 people.
It is a sad story from beginning to end. One of the saddest sights to be seen in Ireland to-day, next to the flight of the people, whom you meet with on every road and at every railway station on their way to America, is the large number of flour and oatmeal mills all over the country now idle and dismantled. These mills formerly ground the farmers' wheat and oats grown in their vicinity, and supplied the people with the home-grown flour and oats, and gave much employment in their neighbourhood. The action of the railways is much responsible for this particular state of things by the low through rates they will make for the foreigner for his flour, charging at same, time their full high local rates for his flour to the home miller, and also by the fact that the railways put wheat and flour in the same classification, charging the same rate on the manufactured and unmanufactured article. We have heard the Irish landlords described as bloodsuckers. I am an Irish landlord, and I fear must own to this soft impeachment towards the class, but they never were in it with the railways. But we have heard of good landlords in Ireland, and there have been many, but no one ever knew or heard of a good railway, nor can there ever be such.
I will not weary the House longer with the misdeeds of the Irish railways, or the sinister part they play in the economics of the Irish problem. The question is, can anything be done to remedy this state of affairs. I am not hopeful. The Government and Government officials in Ireland will not stir to seek a remedy. Putting a remedy in operation would be to a certain extent an 302 acknowledgment of their want of appreciation previously of the position, and then if the railway remedy succeeded, people would begin to say that there were other economic wrongs beside the railways requiring to be looked into, and if they were probed, as we say, the whole discovery might then be found out. People who govern us would not like this, so it is safe to say that nothing will be done in this or any other direction. But I will say shortly what could be done and ought to be done, even if what I say be considered in only an academic and Pickwickian sense. I have long ago formed the conclusion that until 50 per cent. at least to start with is taken off all existing railway rates in Ireland, passengers, goods, agricultural produce, cattle, etc., that there is no use in trying to do any good in any shape or form in the country. I would also stipulate that all through rates should cease, or at least that the railway portion of the through rates, if made, should never be lower than the local rate charged on the same produce for the same distance. Equal mileage rates should be charged for all goods carried. It should also be stipulated that no reduction or rebates be given—20 or 50 tons should be charged full ton rates. There is no more effectual means of crushing out the small trader or farmer than by the present system of charging lower rates for large quantities. All rebates and allowances of whatsoever character should be at once discontinued, and no differential rates or treatment, direct or indirect, in favour of towns, cities, or ports should be allowed to continue. There are many other matters in this connection which would reveal themselves, and where operation should be reversed in the interests of the whole community, but particularly in the interests of the small farmers and traders. But there is another recommendation which I am about to make. It will not require much consideration to grasp its consequences and effect, which anyone can work out for themselves. If the Irish railway manager has not already pronounced me a revolutionist, I know he will do so now. I mean the introduction of the penny Irish railway 14 lb. basket or hamper. I mean that a basket or hamper containing up to 14 pounds weight of anything the sender wishes to 303 have conveyed in it be carried from any railway station in Ireland to any other station, irrespective of distance, at a charge of ½d. for carriage and ½d. for delivery in any city, town, or village in Ireland. This hamper to be carried by all trains and to be delivered within one hour of its arrival at the station for which it is booked, no restriction whatsoever or limitation of any kind to be imposed as to what goods or materials the hamper may contain up to one stone or 14 pounds in weight. I have thought out for a long time the consequences, domestic, commercial, political, and social, which would follow on the introduction of this penny railway hamper in our midst. Of course, the other changes which I have indicated to be made simultaneously.
MR. SACKvILLE (Northamptonshire, N.)
I ask you, Mr. Speaker, as a matter of order, whether it is in order for the hon. Member to read his speech?
§ *MR. SPEAKER
It is not in order to read a speech, but reference to very full notes is frequently permitted.
§ MR. McCANN
The reason I am reading is that I want to be accurate. I have a great number of facts to state, and I could not, I am sorry to say, give them all from memory. I am not so gifted with eloquence as a great many of my fellow-countrymen. I will read as little as possible. I have particularly thought out the effect of all these alterations, or rather reversals, in our railway system on the numerous class of small operative cultivators in Ireland, and the many others who would be induced to become operative cultivators by the reversal of all existing railway methods and charges. I believe that the railway companies, with proper organisation, could carry, even at present without loss, these penny hampers. A half penny for fourteen pounds weight for a distance of about sixty miles, which I calculate would be the average run on these hampers, would work out at 6s. 8d. a ton, which would be about the present carriage rate. Consider what these hampers would do for the Irish egg trade, the present condition of which I have already outlined. The congested districts, as well as all other districts in Ireland, could have the fresh eggs which 304 are laid the day before delivered in any town in Ireland the following day. The best market for these eggs would of course be the large towns at the ports, where they could be used for consumption in these towns or shipped off at once fresh to England and Scotland. It must be remembered that foreign fresh eggs—Russian, French, Dutch, Danish, etc.—are now imported largely for consumption in our own towns, as well as butter, and many other commodities grown by ourselves. I think that the introduction of the penny hamper would give an immediate additional value to all the eggs produced in Ireland at present of from 50 to 75 per cent., and this additional value would accrue simultaneously to every single producer of an egg in the country. We might reasonably expect that under these influences the production of eggs would be doubled in a few years. As with eggs, so with butter and all our other productions; the penny hamper would work more or less for all in the same way. Under its operation the entire washing of Dublin, Belfast, and Cork might be done in the congested districts of Ireland. This would appeal to a very numerous class in England, as well as in Ireland, who never wash their dirty linen at home.
I will leave you to consider how much could be done, and in how many ways, under the influence of the penny Irish railway basket, for the benefit of the Irish peasant. It goes without saying that I would recommend the nationalisation of all our waterways, our canals, canalised rivers and navigable rivers, making them to be free for ever for the people. These waterways could then be made to work in and in with the railways. I would recommend the local nationalisation of all the Irish railways. We do not want English nationalisation at all. Should views such as these ever come to be considered, and tenders and plans advertised for, I would claim to be permitted to put in one with specifications. I will undertake to charge no commission. I may mention that it would he the first business transaction of my life where I charged no commission. I may in conclusion say that my ideas are not revolutionary, although they may appear so to some people; they are 305 the result of forty years experience and thought. I beg to thank the House for the patient hearing that has been given me.
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. WYNDHAM, Dover)
We have had a most interesting debate on many matters of the greatest importance. I believe that this is the first occasion on which the hon. Member for St. Stephen's Green has addressed the House. He comes before us as an Irish landlord and commercial magnate, and he is a monument of what can be achieved even in Ireland by private enterprise. That makes his advocacy of some sort of State intervention all the more interesting and forcible. I am not prepared at a moment's notice to follow in detail the suggestions which the hon. Member has made; for example, the proposition that a penny railway hamper would revolutionise the economic condition of Ireland. But I am certain that when we read and study the report of the hon. Gentleman's speech we shall find in it much matter for consideration, In spite of the eloquent appeal made to me not to imitate my predecessors by adopting a non possumus attitude on these questions. I am not ashamed to avow that I am not prepared this evening with a cut-and-dried, exhaustive, and final pronouncement of the attitude of this and of all succeeding Governments upon the question of giving facilities for transit in Ireland. Although the words of the resolution do seem to invite not only a Government proposal as to the proper remedy, but a Government pledge that time will be found this session for giving effect to that remedy, the able and temperate speech of the hon. Member for South Roscommon was couched in very different terms from his resolution. He merely pressed these alternatives and the importance of the subject on my own consideration and the consideration of the Government. Indeed, I think it is admitted that debates after nine o'clock, though important, are academic, and it is impossible to allocate the Government time to measure in the course of such discussions. Perhaps I may point out that an argument in favour of the Amendment—namely, that it is inopportune now to proceed with legislation on the 306 lines suggested—may be found in the fact that the drama of this evening has been prefaced by a curtain-raiser in the afternoon, a lever de rideau, directed by that mercurial impresario the hon. Member for South Donegal. With that in my mind, I should say not only that the time is inopportune, but that it is non-existent.
In conformity with precedent, passing from any direct argument based on the direct terms of the resolution, and coming to the subject matter of the resolution, it has been the practice on previous occasions to balance the merits of the rival remedies suggested—State control or State purchase, and then to say something in favour of each and something against each. It is easy to postulate in that manner during the rest of the time that remains at our disposal. One can point out that amalgamation would reduce the cost of working the lines, but that it would also reduce competition. But after what has fallen from several speakers on the subject of railway competition, and notably from the hon. Member who introduced the resolution, who pointed out that the multiplicity of small railways in Ireland did not lead to any real competition—the only competition being not to waste fuel in order to catch connections at junctions, where the other train was eager to get off—and who further showed that the only real competition existed at places tapped by both lines—it will be admitted that all that discounts a good deal of the argument based on competition. I confess I would be very glad if some practical proposal were laid before the House; and hon. Members will remember that I would not oppose any reasonable and practical scheme of amalgamation on the ground that multiplicity of companies leads to healthy competition in Ireland. If Parliament were ever to consider the question of fostering or forcing amalgamation, or of demanding some form of State control as a set-off to amalgamation, we should have to recollect that so recently as 1892 considerable concessions were wrung by the House from railways in Ireland. Maximum charges for classified goods were imposed on the railways in Ireland, and it might not be right to impose a further reduction of rate upon cattle, goods or merchandise unless such 307 imposition wore accompanied by a guarantee. That has been done by many of our colonies, notably in Canada, where the State insists upon railway companies providing refrigerating cars and other apparatus necessary to the safe carriage of perishable goods, such as eggs, butter, and the like. Since that involved a great outlay of capital, the State gave a guarantee against reduction of profits, and I believe that in Canada this has worked out in such a way as to impose little or no loss on the State. It may be said, Why should not the companies do this without the aid of the State? The answer is, because in new or poor countries there is not available capital, as in England or Scotland.
Incidentally I may mention that the new Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction in Ireland has not been so remiss as may be supposed from references in speeches made during the discussion. The department made careful inquiry into the carriage of perishable goods during the summer, and has issued minute recommendations in a circular as to the steps which should be taken when the hot weather approcahes, and I am glad to say the Great Southern and Western Railway Company have adopted a system of refrigerating cars, and a Cork shipping company is following in the same useful direction. I do not believe that the hon. Member who introduced the resolution pressed very strongly for the State purchase of railways in Ireland, and very few arguments have been put forward in support of that object. I am opposed to such a policy, and do not treat it as within the range of practical politics. But it does not stand on all fours with the State purchase of British railways, which would involve an outlay of 1,200 millions, whilst in Ireland it would only cost 29 millions. In considering the problem of Irish railways we ought to recollect that the State has already given or guaranteed six millions in Ireland—a large concession in relation to the whole capital invested—in order to remedy the effects of the Irish railway system. There are many other arguments against State purchase, and to create a new State department would exhibit a broader target to the attacks that have been made upon Irish administration, and 308 such attacks would be encouraged by the hope that some of the shots might ricochet against the Act of Union itself. There is another difficulty, showing how closely social questions are interlocked in Ireland, and that is the difficulty of obtaining a properly trained staff for any large Government department in Ireland without appearing to ignore the claims of Irishmen. I say that in no offensive sense. This question of Irish railways is interlocked with the question of Irish education, and if you do not make progress with Irish education you cannot find the technically trained men for the administration of the Irish railways. Again, I say I do not think I have said that in any offensive sense. [Cries of "No, no."]
§ MR. WYNDHAM
While, in order to be perfectly candid in my attitude towards the difficulties of the Irish problem, I do not omit those present in my own mind, I think it will be easy to show that much has been done by this and preceding Governments for Ireland. We have free grants of a million and a half, and have guaranteed 4½ millions. We passed in 1888 the Railways and Canals Traffic Act, and in 1892 the Railway Rates and Charges Act. I desire in the short time at my disposal to pick out the salient features from what has passed before on this question. In 1874 the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, then Chief Secretary for Ireland, speaking as I am doing to-night on a very similar motion, said—Parliament might beneficially lend assistance to promote amalgamation of Irish railways, and possibly facilities might he given by the Government by which it would he rendered easier and cheaper than at present.I am well aware that two years ago the hon. and learned Member for North Louth, in one of his impassioned speeches, dilated at some length on the quotation from my right hon. friend's speech. I may say that the rest of my right hon. friend's speech was not in the same terms, but embodied a most earnest protest against any idea of State purchase of railways; 309 and the hon, and learned Member for North Louth omitted to mention that the passage he quoted was only the gilding of the pill, and did not represent all that could be said on the question.
The next document of real importance in this, to my mind, most important question, is the second Report of the Royal Commission on Irish Works—Sir James Allport's Report. That Report was published in the year 1888, and I would invite the attention of hon. Members to a few short passages in it. There had, it said, been a general agreement at all times and in all quarters that the railways in Ireland might be and ought to be treated separately from those in Great Britain. That had been the case because the Government had given money to Ireland, and had lent money to Ireland in a proportion never asked for or conceded in Great Britain. The Report went on to say, speaking of the Irish railway system, that capital took a too narrow view of its own interests.We consider," the Report proceeded, "that the present position is far from satisfactory, and we now proceed to discuss the remedy. The remedy we propose is two fold. On the one hand is centralisation, and on the other a universal controlling authority with power to inquire into and to remedy grievances. We would not recommend the first without the second, and at the same time we would not recommend the second without the first as a complete remedy for the evils that exist.The Commission differentiated Irish from British railways, and advocated extensive and even universal amalgamation; that that was, at any rate, to be fostered in every possible way, and accompanied by control in the interest of Ireland, which was purely an agricultural country. It is to be noted that this Commission was appointed in 1886, and reported in the year 1888, that is to say at a date when the Members of the Government and hon. Gentlemen representing Irish constituencies were both pre-occupied with questions of other than those of an economic interest. And so it fell out in 1892, when the Railway Charges Act was passed. At that time most of us were absorbed in a great political struggle, and it is one of the difficulties of Irish administration that whenever economic problems come to a head some political or constitutional 310 storm appears on the horizon, and all these deliberations are blown away. [An HON. MEMBER on the Irish Benches: "Not to-night,"] I trust it may not be so; but it was so in 1888. Nothing happened from 1888 until recent years, when we had again to approach these economic problems without having our attention diverted away from them. We had the interesting debate of 1899, in which many interesting speeches were made, and largely in consequence of that debate a new Department was established, and endowed with special powers for dealing with this question of transit facilities in Ireland. Hon. Members opposite have expressed a good deal of disappointment in respect of the practical effect of that Act, but it is a new Act, and I am able to inform the House that the Department is earnestly engaged on this very problem. I, for one, shall not despair of its labours without much stronger evidence of failure than any hon. Member has so far been able to adduce.
I am very glad we have had this debate. The subject is one which deserves the consideration of all parties in the House, but I cannot disguise the fact that it is interlocked with other economic questions in Ireland. It is interlocked with the land question, and so long as that question is in an unsettled state, and so long as we do not get from either the landlords or the tenants, and still less from both combined, the pressure which we would get from England or Scotland on other economic questions, it is difficult to make progress with these other economic questions. Again, it is interlocked with the education question, and it is difficult to expect further and useful developments of transit facilities until you have in Ireland a higher standard of education, and particularly of technical education. These economic problems would emerge, whatever the Government of the country might be. The hon. Member who seconded the resolution said: "You insist on governing us; give us Home Rule and we will settle all these problems." I believe that anyone who has listened to this debate, or who has given a moment's consideration to the other two subjects to which I have referred, will feel that there must be a common exchequer if 311 re toawie a del ether with the question of transit facilities, or with the land question, or with the education question. Therefore I am confronted with the very difficulty which hon. Members from Ireland would have to meet.
I need not discuss as to whether we owe, or do not owe, some large sum of money to Ireland. There are some people who hold that under the Act of Union we are under a special obligation to give economic assistance to Ireland in this matter, and have not done so; and there are some who hold the view that we have more than done our duty in that respect. I can leave these recriminations on one side. As a Unionist, and above all as an Imperialist, I may point out that Ireland is one of three ancient kingdoms, with a large, though I regret to say, a diminishing population. It is an agricultural and a poor country, which demands development at our hands, even more than, say, Cyprus or the West Indies, because of its very proximity to our shores, and its close historic associations with Great Britain. Although it is not necessary to enter into any argument as to the financial relations of the two countries in considering this question, it still remains that any economic question brought forward such as this deserves, and will always obtain, careful and sympathetic consideration from any Unionist Government.
§ MR. MOONEY (Dublin Co., S.)
said that the hon. Gentleman who seconded the Amendment, and the Chief Secretary, had declared that we were in the same position as in 1888. So far as he could make out, the only important point brought forward by the Chief Secretary was that this was not an opportune time to go into the question of Irish economic grievances. Well, if the right hon. Gentleman waited until such time as he considered it opportune to raise these questions and to deal with them, the Government would find that there were no traders left in the country, because the Irish railways were killing Irish trade and stifling Irish industry as fast as they could. It had been found that many articles could be produced far cheaper in Ireland than in England, but the English manufacturers, in consequence of preferential railway and steamboat rates, 312 could introduce their goods into Ireland at a lower rate than Irish goods could be forwarded from towns only twenty miles away. The firm of Guinness, the brewers, did a large trade with England and the North of Ireland, but they found it far cheaper to ship their goods from the North of Ireland to England, and reship them to Derry, than to send them direct there from Dublin. The right hon. Gentleman said that they should wait for the development of the new Agricultural and Technical Instruction Department, and he referred to the new powers that Department had taken to appear before the Railway Commissioners. The Railway Commissioners were very little known in Ireland, and were a body which was very hard to get at, and the result was that the unfortunate trader, knowing little or nothing about the Railway Commissioners, preferred to lose his money rather than engage in a futile and costly attempt to get redress at the hands of the Railway Commissioners. It was disappointing that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, while stating that the time was not opportune to deal with this question, gave no indication whatever when this important question would receive consideration.
§ *Mr. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)
We have had a very remarkable and suggestive debate, but I think that before it closes someone ought to stroke the t's and dot the i's. In the first place, I think it is very remarkable that no Irishman on this side of the House could be found willing to move the Amendment, which I understand His Majesty's Government are going to support. That duty has devolved upon my hon. friend the Member for Peckham. My hon. friend does his work well, and is always ready to step into the gap; and I am delighted to find that although he does not pretend to know anything about Ireland or Irish Railways, he was able to fill up three-quarters of an hour of the valuable time of the House. The first thing I wish to have noted is that, so far as Ireland is concerned, on both sides of the House there is absolute unanimity as regards its railway system. Now, we had, I say it frankly, a very sympathetic and suggestive speech from my right hon. friend the Chief Secretary. One thing is to be noted 313 in regard to that speech. I once heard a previous Chief Secretary say that in distributing the patronage of Ireland he was often unable to give appointments to a certain class of the community because of their lack of fitness owing to the want of education. That was said some years ago in this House; and now we have, eight years after that statement was made, another Chief Secretary coming forward and offering as an objection to the motion before the House that the question of education is involved in it, and that Ireland cannot produce the people to manage her railways. Why, that is an extraordinary statement to come from the representative of the Irish Government. I ask why then do not the Government face this educational problem, and why cannot the Government put aside all those feelings that stand against a settlement of the education question, and see that the Irish people should have just the education to enable them to carry out the duties which other people have to be imported to do? My hon. friend the Member for Peckham said another extraordinary thing. He knows a great deal more about finance than I do; he is constantly engaged upon it, and I am not, He likened the expenditure upon the proposed State purchase of the Irish railways to the loan of sixty millions for the South African war. He went further, because he hinted that the proposed expenditure of £120,000,000 on the purchase of Irish land was open to the same objection. I cannot understand it. In the one case there is no proposal to spend money at all. There is a proposal to ask the Imperial credit for the purchase of the railways or the land, whereas the sixty millions for South Africa has been spent in the coin of the realm and is gone. From my standpoint, it is rightly spent; I can say that. [Cries from the Irish benches of "No."] Yes. That sixty millions is gone; it has been added to the National Debt, and there it will remain until it is paid off by the British taxpayer. Although the money for the land purchase would be added to the National Debt, it would be paid off by instalments every year, and the State would receive as good interest for the loan as it receives for any other loan. What, then, is the 314 use of comparing the two things? It is the same with the Irish railways. If the Government resolved to advance forty millions for the purchase of these railways the State would have an asset. I have heard the greatest railway expert in Ireland—a man who was until quite recently in the Government service—say that he would give a clear four per cent. on the Irish railways. These things ought to be known.
As I have said, this has been a most remarkable debate. Let me sum up. Where do we stand after this debate? I ask the House and the Chief Secretary to note that nobody has ventured to defend the present Irish railway system. It is admitted to have all the vices and very few of the benefits a railway system ought to confer upon a country. It is also admitted—at any rate the charge has been made, and it has not been denied—that it has done as much as any agency or influence in Ireland to discourage trade and to handicap and hamper industry. Now what is the remedy? Is the remedy to sit down under this vicious system and to do nothing at all? That is the first question I press on the Government. I do not altogether blame the Government for not taking up the question. The Chief Secretary was perfectly right when he said that for fifteen years we have had great constitutional questions before us, and that economic questions have had to be set aside, and that, too, with the consent of hon. Gentlemen opposite. [Cries from the Irish benches of "No."] I say I do not blame the Government for inaction in the past. It is quite true that the Government have done a great deal for the Irish railways. I admit at once the service done by building light railways free of expense. But are we to do nothing as the result of this debate? Is the result to be a non possumus for the encouragement of the present system? The hon. Member for South Roscommon put forward three alternative ideas. I would advise him to drop Mr. Challoner Smith, whose plan was that the fares and rates should be reduced one-half, and that the British taxpayer should pay the difference. The British taxpayer is a patient animal; he would do a great deal for Ireland, but he could not be expected to do that. Another principle is that of State control 315 in the management of the Irish railways. I am sure something of the kind is needed, but I would like to see a plan that would work of State control over private trading concerns. We come to the third proposal, that of State purchase. Now I admit that that is a large question, and I would not expect the Government to give any reply to a proposition such as that right away, but I did expect—I say it fairly now—that before my right hon. friend sat down he would have held out some hope that, in a time of profound peace in Ireland, when there is room for all these economic questions to be discussed, and when the people are anxious to discuss them, and are ready to listen to reasonable considerations, that some undertaking would have come from the Government on this question, and that the House would have had some future opportunity of considering it.
§ MR. LOUGH (Islington, W.)
Everyone who has listened to the debate with profound interest must have been greatly disappointed at the speech of the Chief Secretary. He seems to have gathered the worst features of his predecessors in office. He spoke of a speech of a predecessor in 1874, and quoted from it words of sympathy to Ireland; but then he said that was only the gilding of the pill. That was true. No Chief Secretary ever meant anything. That was twenty-seven years ago, and the right hon. Gentleman was only humbugging Ireland. Then he came to the year 1888, and quoted from Sir James Allport's Report, but, said he, there were riots in Ireland, and again nothing could be done. Then in 1893 there were riots in Ireland, and again nothing could be done. But what are we waiting for now? There is no political revolution going on
§ now. We are in a period of peaceful Unionist Government, and yet the right hon. Gentleman has nothing to say, or if he has, he has lost his opportunity. If any proof were wanted, here it is, of the total incapacity of the House to deal with the problems of Ireland. We have had the education question, the financial relations question, and the land question, and the Government have put them all off. And now there is the old question of the Irish railways, which has been before the House in the same form for sixty years, waiting for settlement, in the same shameful manner. The Chief Secretary, after only three mouths experience of office, said that if we nationalised the railways in Ireland, we could not get Irishmen to work them. I say that is a shameful statement to make. There are as able railway managers in Ireland as in this country.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
My object was to show that the education question was of importance in relation to the railway question.
§ MR. LOUGH
I take the right hon. Gentleman's own words. He said that you could not find men in Ireland to administer the railways if they were nationalised. I say that there are most excellent men. I could mention six men who could manage all the railways, and the right hon. Gentleman was only trifling with the subject. The question of the Irish railways is a very simple one, and could be dealt with as easily as any other, if the House were only serious about it.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided.
§ Ayes, 90; Noes, 152. (Division List No. 166.)317
|Abraham, William (Cork, N.E.||Carvill, Patrick Geo. Hamilton||Doogan, P. C.|
|Ambrose, Robert||Channing, Francis Allston||Dully, William J.|
|Ashton, Thomas Gair||Clancy, John Joseph||Farrell, James Patrick|
|Barry, E. (Cork, S.)||Cogan, Denis J.||Ffrench, Peter|
|Bell, Richard||Colville, John||Field, William|
|Boland, John||Condon, Thomas Joseph||Flavin, Michael Joseph|
|Boyle, James||Corbett, T. L. (Down, North)||Flynn, James Christopher|
|Brigg, John||Crean, Eugene||Griffith, Ellis J.|
|Burke, K. Haviland-||Cremer, William Randal||Hammond, John|
|Burns, John||Cullinan, J.||Havdie, J Keir (Merthyr Tydvil)|
|Caldwell, James||Delany, William||Harmsworth, R. Leicester|
|Campbell, John (Armagh, S.)||Dillon, John||Harrington, Timothy|
|Hayden, John Patrick||Mansfield, Horace Rendall||Redmond, J. E. (Waterford)|
|Hayne, Rt. Hon. Charles Seale-||Mooney, John J.||Redmond, William (Clare)|
|Hemphill, Rt. Hn. Chas. H.||Morton, E. J. C. (Devonport)||Rigg, Richard|
|Hope, John Deans (Fife, West)||Murphy, J.||Roche, John|
|Jones, Wm. (Carnarvonshire)||Nolan, Col. J. P. (Galway, N.||Roe, Sir Thomas|
|Jordan, Jeremiah||Nolan, Joseph (Louth South)||Russell, T. W.|
|Joyce, Michael||O'Brien, Kendal (Tipperary Md||Schwann, Charles E.|
|Kennedy, Patrick James||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Stevenson, Francis S.|
|Leamy, Edmund||O'Brien, P. J. (Tipperary, N.)||Sullivan, Donal|
|Leigh, Sir Joseph||O'Connor, James (Wicklow, W.||Thomas, J. A. (Glamorgan Gow.|
|Levy, Maurice||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Lonsdale, John Brownlee||O'Doherty, William||Tully, Jasper|
|Lough, Thomas||O'Donnell, T. (Kerry, W.)||White, Luke (York, E. R.)|
|London, W.||O'Dowd, John||White, Patrick (Meath, North|
|M'Cann, James||O'Kelly, Conor (Mayo, N.)||Wilson, E. W. (Norfolk, Mid)|
|M'Crae, George||O'Mara, James||Young, Samuel (Cavan, East)|
|M'Dermott, Patrick||Pirie, Duncan V.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Sir Thomas Esmonde and Captain Donelan.|
|M'Fadden, Edward||Power, Patrick Joseph|
|M'Govern, T.||Reddy, M.|
|Acland-Hood, Capt. Sir Alex F.||Fletcher, Sir Henry||Molesworth, Sir Lewis|
|Allhusen, Augustus Henry E.||Godson, Sir Augustus Frederi'k||Montagu, G. (Huntingdon)|
|Anstruther, H. T.||Gordon, Hn. J. E. (Elgin & Nairn||More, Robt. J. (Shropshire)|
|Arkwright, John Stanhope||Gordon, Maj Evans- (T'rH'ml's)||Morgan, David J. (Walthams'w|
|Arnold-Forster, Hugh O.||Gorst, Rt Hn. Sir John Eldon||Morgan, Hn. Fred. (Monm'thsh|
|Arrol, Sir William||Green, Walford D (Wednesbu'y||Mount, William Arthur|
|Ashmead-Bartlett, Sir Ellis||Greene, Henry D. (Shrewsbury)||Mowbray, Sir Robert Gray C.|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Greville, Hon. Ronald||Murray, R Hn A Graham (Bute|
|Bain, Col. James Robert||Guest, Hon. Ivor Churchill||O'Neill, Hon. Robert Torrens|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (Manch'r||Gunter, Sir Robert||Percy, Earl|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon. G. W. (Leeds)||Guthrie, Walter Murray||Platt-Higgins, Frederick|
|Bathurst, Hn. Allen Benjamin||Hamilton, Rt Hn Ld. G. (Midd'x||Plummer, Walter R.|
|Beach, Rt. Hn. Sir M. H. (Bristol||Hamilton, Marq of (L'nd'nd'ry)||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp|
|Bentinck, Lord Henry C.||Hanbury, Rt. Hn. Rbt. Wm.||Pretyman, Ernest George|
|Bill, Charles||Haslett, Sir James Homer||Pryce-Jones, Lt.-Col. Edward|
|Black, Alexander William||Hay, Hon. Claude George||Purvis, Robert|
|Blundell, Col. Henry||Heath, Arthur Howard (Hanl'y||Pym, C. Guy|
|Boscawen, Arthur Griffith-||Helder, Augustus||Randles, John S.|
|Brassey, Albert||Henderson, Alexander||Renshaw, Charles Bine|
|Brodrick, Rt. Hn. St. John||Higginbottom, S. W.||Rentoul, James Alexander|
|Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edw. H.||Hope, J. F. (Sheffield Brightside||Renwick, George|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Hornby, Sir William Henry||Ridley, Hon. M. W (Stalybridge|
|Cavendish, v. C. W (Derbyshire||Hoult, Joseph||Rolleston, Sir John P. L.|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Howard, John (Kent Faversh.||Round, James|
|Cecil, Lord Hugh (Greenwich||Johnston, William (Belfast)||Royds, Clement Molyneux|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J (Birin.||Johnstone, Heywood (Sussex)||Rutherford, John|
|Chamberlain, J Austen (Worc'r||Kenyon, James (Lancs, Bury)||Sackville Col. S. G. Stopford-|
|Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry||Keswick, William||Seely, Charles Hilton (Lincoln)|
|Chapman, Edward||Law, Andrew Bonar||Seton-Karr, Henry|
|Clare, Octavius Leigh||Lawson, John Grant||Simeon, Sir Harrington|
|Coghill, Douglas Harry||Legge, Col. Hon. Heneage||Smith, Abel H. (Hertford, East)|
|Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse||Leigh-Bennett, Henry Currie||Smith, Hon. W. F. D. (Strand)|
|Colomb, Sir John Charles Ready||Leveson-Gower, Frederick N. S.||Strutt, Hon. Charles Hedley|
|Colston, Chas. Edw. H. Athole||Llewellyn, Evan Henry||Tollemache, Henry James|
|Compton, Lord Alwyne||Long, Col. Chas. W. Evesham||Tomlinson, W. Edw. Murray|
|Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow)||Long, Rt Hn. Walter (Bristol S.||Valentia, viscount|
|Cranborne, viscount||Lucas, Col. Francis (Lowestoft||Walrond, Rt. Hn Sir William H|
|Cust, Henry John C.||Lucas, Reginald J (Portsmouth||Warde, Col. C. E.|
|Davies Sir Horatio D (Chatham||Macdona, John Cumming||Wharton, Rt. Hon. John Lloyd|
|Dickson, Charles Scott||MacIver, David (Liverpool)||Whiteley, H. (Ashton u. Lyne)|
|Dimsdale, Sir Joseph Cockfield||Maconochie, A. W.||Whitmore, Charles Algernon|
|Dorington, Sir John Edward||M'Arthur, Chas. (Liverpool)||Williams, Colonel R. (Dorset)|
|Doxford, Sir William Theodore||M'Calmont, Col. J. (Antrim, E).||Wilson, J. W. (Worcestersh, N.|
|Durning-Lawrence, Sir Edwin||M'Iver, Sir L. (Edinburgh, W.||Wilson-Todd, Wm. H. (Yorks.|
|Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edward||M'Killop, Jas. (Stirlingshire)||Wodehouse, Rt. Hn. E. E. (Bath|
|Fergusson, Rt. Hn. Sir J (Manc'r||Majendie, James A. H.||Wylie, Alexander|
|Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst||Manners, Lord Cecil||Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George|
|Finch, George H.||Massey Wainwaring, Hn W F.||Younger, William|
|Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne||Maxwell, W. J. H (Dumfries-sh.|
|Fisher, William Hayes||Melville, Beresford Valentine||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Mr. Banbury and Mr. Malcolm.|
|FitzGerald, Sir Robert Penrose-||Milton, Viscount|
|Fitzroy, Hon. Edward Algernon||Milward, Colonel Victor|
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added:"—Debate arising. Objection being taken to further Proceeding, the debate stood adjourned.