HC Deb 19 July 1904 vol 138 cc500-6


Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."

MR. JOSEPH DEVLIN (Kilkenny, N.)

stated that both of the points for which he had contended had been conceded by the promoters, and he did not wish to press the Motion standing in his name. He did not think it necessary to read the agreement entered into by the promoters of the Bill and himself. It was sufficient for him to say that, now the promoters had conceded the two points, he was sympathetic to the scheme of a great and growing community tar municipalise and electrify the tramways system which had hitherto been a curse to the City.

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

said he would like to get a little more information than had been vouchsafed by the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down. He found en the paper something like sixteen or seventeen Motions against the Second Reading of the Bill. The hon. Member for Kilkenny stated that he did not consider it necessary to read to the House the terms of the agreement between himself and the hon. Gentleman who represented the Conservative Party in Belfast. He confessed that he was extremely interested to know what the terms of the agreement were. More than that, he thought the House was entitled to know from the hon. Gentlemen who sat for Belfast—all Conservatives—to what extent these hon. Gentlemen had been satisfied with the Motion which had been put down on the Paper? The hon. Gentleman had elected to say that he was judge in his own cause; that he was satisfied with the terms of the solution offered o him by the corporation and by the hon. Baronet who was in charge of this Bill, and who was, in general, a fair exponent of the Conservative Party in Belfast. What he contended was that whatever was done, as betwixt the Belfast Corporation and the learned Gentlemen representing the various con- stituencies in Ireland, should be done open and above hoard. This House was not merely a debating Assembly. It was a great Court of Law, and parties engaged in this legislation were litigants who came to the bar and demanded for their own particular class and for the public outside, that they were entitled to know the length and breadth and substance of this agreement. He spoke on behalf of a considerable number of Catholics in Belfast; and he shared the views of hon. Gentlemen that it was now desirable that these tramways should be electrified for the benefit of the citizens of Belfast. But they were living in times when questions of municipal government in Ireland were keenly criticised, and by none others more than by the hon. Members who represented the northern constituencies. What he wanted to know was how the Belfast Corporation were going to exercise the great patronage they would have under this scheme. One-fourth of the population of Belfast was Catholic, but he found that in the town clerk's department of the 149 officers with high salaries only three were Catholics. The Protestant members of the establishment it were paid £29,129 a year and the Catholics only £293 a year Then take the rate collector's department. In the rate collectors' department, of £19,300 paid in Belfast, £19,260 went to Protestants and only £40 to Catholics. Turning to another department in Belfast —the board of guardians—he found that out of 211 officers employed, 205 were Protestants and only six were Catholics. Was that to be perpetrated in the tramway system?


Order, order! Many of these figures have no relevancy to the Second Reading of the Bill.


said he was told by an hon. Gentleman who had put down a Motion to oppose the Bill that a solution had been arrived at on this very question as to the manner in which these appointments were to be made, and, if that was so, surely they were entitled to know the nature of the arrangement. Although he was well aware that in a Bill of this nature the debate must be limited, he submitted that in regard to the transfer of patronage, wherever they extended the franchise in Londonderry or Belfast oppression would result. This extension of the functions of the Belfast Corporation would operate in the same way. They proposed to get hold of this great system of tramways. He rejoiced that they were going to get it so long as they proposed to use it to the benefit of the population generally. He did not suggest that the Catholics of Belfast were entitled to more than their share of consideration, but he did ask for fairplay towards them in accordance with their number and ratepaying capacity. He objected to their being boycotted or, as he might term it, "Ballinasloed." He trusted that the people of Belfast, if this Bill passed into law, would see their way to insist, if they could do so, upon a large bonus being paid by some private firm rather than take this matter into their own hands. Such a step would be in the interest of economy and of the ratepayers. As an hon. Gentleman sitting behind him had thought fit to make an interruption he would state that he found that the Dublin Corporation within the past month had paid 16s. 7d. per yard for ripping up the streets for a particular purpose, when they were able to get the work done by contract for 5s. a yard. He was opposed to sweating.


Order, order! I do not see what this has to do with the Belfast trams.


remarked that he was glad that the ruling of the Chair had, for the first time in history, been received with approbation from the Irish Party behind him. What was strictly germane to the Bill was a clause giving the corporation power, if they thought fit, to grant an option to lease the tramways to private individuals, and it was on that clause that he submitted he was strictly in order in suggesting that it would be far more profitable for the Belfast Corporation to lease these lines to a private company than to endeavour to work them themselves. The reason was plain. So long as the corporation had this system in their own hands there would be no criticism, but if it was in the hands of a private company the public would always have the protection of the corporation's criticism. He had no shares in either Dublin or Belfast trams, but he had seen that pressure could be brought to bear on municipal representatives, and he knew that it would be much better if the authorities stood up for the interests of the ratepayers rather than yielded to the clamour of what was falsely cared public opinion. This Bill had gone to the House of Lords. A clause had been put in at the instance of the Great Northern Railway, and if this stage was passed sub silentio no further opportunity would be open to those who watched these developments with so much interest. All that they could hear was that a private arrangement had been come to between the hon. Baronet opposite and hon. Gentlemen on that side, and although he did not represent Belfast he thought an opportunity should be given for a further statement. With that object in view, and in order to give the hon. Gentlemen an opportunity to inform the House as to the nature of the concession which had been made, he begged to move that this Bill be read a second time this day three months.

MR. TULLY (Leitrim, S.)

begged to second the Motion, as he had a great objection to things done in secret, and behind people's backs, especially on those Benches. In this case there had been another Star Chamber transaction; another Dunraven treaty like that which sold the tenant farmers of Ireland and put on 24½ years purchase.


I would remind the hon. Gentlemen that the question before the House is the Belfast Tramways Bill.


said be merely wanted to show how hon. Members had been jack-jumping about on the Benches behind him in the interests of those whom they called Catholics. He was a Roman Catholic, and was not ashamed of his allegiance to Rome. Those hon. Gentlemen who professed to have the interest of the Catholics of Ireland at heart had, in a matter that affected the Catholics of Belfast, made a secret arrangement, with locked doors, in some Star Chamber. They were traitors, and he called them so to their teeth. The Corporation of Belfast were to get extended powers under this Bill, but the corporation had powers already over the Catholic cemetery in Belfast. If he had to draw any indication of what their manage- meat of the tramways would be from the manner in which they had managed their Dundonald Cemetery, he had every reason to oppose the Bill. There was a meeting of Roman Catholics in Belfast, at which the bigotry and intolerant attitude of the Belfast Corporation was condemned in regard to the cemetery and a resolution passed that in consequence Parliament should not bestow upon the corporation the powers now sought to be obtained under this Bill. This resolution voiced the opinions of the Catholics of Belfast, and he wished to know, as a humble representative of the Catholics, whether their rights had been juggled away in a secret, Star Chamber manner. He supported the hon. Member for Louth in the action he had taken, and, so far as he could within the limits of Parliamentary warfare, he should oppose this Bill until equal rights and treatment were given to the Catholics of Belfast as were conferred upon other classes in that important city. Some hon. Members were in the habit of standing up in the House and asking questions about the wrongs done to the Catholics in other parts of Ireland, yet they were willing to allow the rights of the Catholics of Belfast to be done away by a Star Chamber proceeding and not even to receive the miserable privileges accorded to the Jews in that city. He had been reproved because he approved of certain sentiments of the hon. Member for Louth. He heard a remark from the Member for Kerry, who was a great spouter in the House but never went to gaol. He (Mr. Tully) always went to gaol. He put the question to the Member for Limerick—had not the Jews rights which ought to be given to Catholics?


Order, order! The hon. Member had better keep away from these irrelevant topics.


said he did not wish to trespass more on the patience of the House, and he would therefore second the Motion.

Amendment proposed— To leave out the word 'now' and at the end of the Question to add the words 'this day three months.'"—(Mr. T. M. Healy.)

Question proposed "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."

MR. McKENNA (Monmouthshire, N.)

said he found on the Notice Paper fifteen notices of Motions on this Bill. He did not wish to enter into the merits of the subject, but among the notices of Motions there were several purely blocking Motions; two of these were put down in the public interest of the inhabitants of Behest, and he thought they were justified in asking some hon. Member in charge of the Bill whether these notices of Motions had been sufficiently dealt with. They were in the names of the hon. Members for South Kildare and South Sligo. The first was a Motion that after the Second Reading of the Bill there should be an Instruction to the Committee to insert a clause providing that certain wages paid to all employees of the tramway system should not be less than the wages paid on tramway systems in places of an equal population in the United Kingdom.


Order, order! The hon. Member is addressing himself to an Instruction that is not in the Bill.


submitted that if in a tramway Bill proper provision for the payment of the servants of the company was not made that was a reasonable ground for rejecting the Bill. It was on that ground that he proposed to vote against the Second Reading of the present measure, unless he had a satisfactory assurance from the promoters on the point.


asked whether, since hon. Members had removed. Instructions from the Paper, because their views had been met, the House was not entitled to know what those views were, and what arrangements had been made.


On the Second Reading the question is the principle of the Bill, and oil that discussion can take place without reference to whether this or that hon. Member is satisfied with the Bill as it stands. An hon. Member is quite in order is asking the hon. Member in charge of the Bill whether a ay concessions have been made, but it does not follow that every Instruction on the Paper could be debated on the Second Reading.


said he had already stated the nature of the concessions which had been made. The chief concessions met all the arguments adduced by the hon. and learned Member for North Louth with reference to clerkships and similar positions being thrown open to the competition of all citizens, irrespective of religion.


asked whether the concessions would be embodied in a clause.



Question put.

The House proceeded to a Division, and Mr. SPEAKER stated that he thought the Ayes had it; and, on his decision challenged, it appeared to him that. the Division was frivolously claimed, and he accordingly called upon the Members who supported and who challenged his decision successively to rise in their places, and he declared the Ayes had it, Three Members only who challenged his decision having stood up.

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