§ [SECOND READING.]
§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ MR. J. J. O'SHEE (Waterford, W.)
explained that the measure was brought in for the purpose of constructing a new link line across the city to join up the existing railway. There were three Bills to promote this object. The Bill to which he would call the attention of the House was promoted by the Fishguard and Rosslare Railway Company. This Company intended to provide a new and competitive through route with the Great Southern & Western Railway to Cork and Dublin, and also with the same company to Cork and London and the South of England. A necessary part of that through route was that a line should be constructed from Cork to Dunkettle and Fermoy. The Treasury undertook to put at the disposal of the Hybrid Committee the sum of £93,000, which was a mortgage on the County of Waterford Railway, that sum having been required in addition to 489 the original capital of £280,000. The capital was insufficient to complete the construction, and the Irish Board of Works advanced £93,000 by way of mortgage. That line was acquired by the Fishguard and Rosslare Railway, and it was forty-three miles long. In order to complete the through route it was laid down that a line should be constructed from Fermoy to Cork. In 1873 through the Grand Jury it was agreed that the ratepayers of the county of Waterford should be taxed to the extent of 5 per cent. on the original capital, representing £14,000 a year, in order to secure the construction of the railway. In 1898 an offer was made to wipe out the whole guarantee of £14,000 a year payable by the ratepayers of Waterford upon the Treasury agreeing to remit their mortgage of £93,000 upon the railway. But the hybrid Committee would not accept this offer, which was made by the promoters of the Bill, and they suggested that the Cork and Fermoy Company should complete the route with a view to securing competition with the Southern and Western Railway, and the Waterford ratepayers were offered relief to the extent of £7,000 a year. The position now was that the company which undertook to construct the Cork and Fermoy direct line had failed to carry out its obligations and, therefore, the county of Waterford ratepayers claimed the benefit of that money in justice to the people of the county of Waterford who had made such enormous sacrifices for their railway. Last year a Bill was brought in for the construction of these lines in Cork City, and he believed it was thrown out by the Committee because it was promoted by a private syndicate. The Cork City Council were willing to guarantee 4 per cent., and the Treasury at that time agreed, in case they were satisfied with the financial part of the scheme, to accept it, but when they came to investigate it for themselves the Treasury were not satisfied with the financial basis of the Bill.
On behalf of his constituency in the county of Waterford who had been paying an average rate of 11¼d. in the £ on the entire valuation of the county, and also on behalf of the city of Waterford, which had been paying £1,600 a year in respect 490 of the guarantee, he strongly protested against any part of this money being used for constructing link lines or bridges across the Lee so long as there was any possibility of its being used for the purpose of making a substitute for the Cork direct line. Last year it was agreed that a sum of £33,000 of the entire sum of £93,000 should be allocated towards buying out the old toll bridge at Waterford; and as representing the ratepayers and the county of Waterford, he had no objection to that, because the city of Waterford ratepayers during the same period had been giving the £1,600 a year to which he had referred. On the contrary, he approved of that decision of the Treasury. The Bill that came before the House last year was thrown out because the Committee decided that they would not be a party to enabling the Great Western Company to evade their obligations of 1898. This was not the first attempt to evade those obligations. The position remained the same to-day, and these companies, the Great Southern and Western and the Great Western, ought not to be allowed to stand behind a Bill of this kind, as the promoters said they did stand behind it. They attempted in 1901 to evade their obligations. In that year they approached the Secretary of the Treasury, and it was practically arranged that money should be given to the Great Western Company for the building of this line. The whole Irish representation got up and protested indignantly against that course, and the Leader of the House at the time, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London, would not allow the arrangement, which had almost been completed,, to be carried into effect. The right hon. Gentleman declared that the House ought not to permit obligations which should be regarded as sacred to be evaded two or three years after the obligations were undertaken. When the question of allocation came on, he hoped the House would determine that the money should be used for the benefit of the people who had made such enormous sacrifices in the past, and by whose means the people of Cork were able to talk to-day of this link line through the City. It was monstrous that these railway companies should ask the Treasury for a 491 grant which should not be devoted to the work at all. This Cork City Railways Bill was really for the construction of a tramway. The proposal of the Cork and Waterford Railways Bill was for high level connecting links and swinging bridges across the Lee. The Committee to whom these Bills would go would no doubt be able to deal with these matters. He had only risen to enter his protest against the £60,000 being allocated directly or indirectly to the construction of these works in the city of Cork, and to claim on behalf of the ratepayers of Waterford that when the allocation came to be considered the House would determine that as far as possible the money should be used in the way he had indicated.
§ MR. WILLIAM O'BRIEN (Cork)
submitted that the discussion as to the share of the grant of £93,000 was irrelevant to the only question before the House, which was whether a Bill for bridging over the Lee and connecting the railway system with the rest of the country should be referred for consideration to the Committee. He thought he was entitled to call attention to the fact that the Bill did not in any way propose to appropriate this £93,000, or any proportion of the money. An arrangement was come to by the late Government and endorsed by the present Government for a certain allocation of this £93,000 between Cork and Waterford, and if that agreement was to be disturbed, obviously it was with the Treasury that the matter would have to be discussed hereafter, and the promoters of this Bill did not propose in any way to prejudge the question. They proposed that not only their own Bill, but the two alternative schemes, should all go together upon an equal footing before the Committee for consideration and investigation and evidence, and it would then be for the Treasury, by the light of the evidence given before the Committee, to say which of these projects was the more likely to fulfil the conditions under which this £60,000 was reserved for a satisfactory arrangement with Cork. He thought the hon. Member rather did an injustice to the very able Member for Waterford in thinking Waterford had done 492 very badly in connection with these matters. On the contrary, he thought Waterford had fared remarkably well in comparison with Cork. In the first place the ratepayers of Waterford had been relieved of £7,000 a year, and the Waterford portion of the connection had been completed while the Cork connection had not been touched. In the next place Waterford was to have £33,000 for its bridge. He did not envy Waterford, but he was entitled to point out that was a purpose not contemplated at all in the original scheme before the Committee, which merely stipulated for a footbridge. Waterford was in the splendid position of having an alternative route to England, and a free railway bridge, while the purpose for which this £90,000 was set apart had never been touched. These were all details which, of course, had much better be dealt with by the Committee who would go into the whole matter. It was absurd and irrevleant to ask the House to determine the matter just now. What they wanted was to give evidence in support of the claim which commanded the approval of the representatives of the corporation and of the Harbour Commissioners, and the support, not merely of the Great Southern and Western Railway, but of every railway which traded with the port. This Bill did not in the least interfere with any project for supplying an alternative route from the south of Ireland to Dublin. By bridging the Lee, it offered the best prospect of bringing into the railway connection a vast district in the west which was now absolutely cut off from the rest of the country. He might be allowed to say that this scheme would cost less than a half of the Links Railway and less than one-third of the other scheme, and that it proposed to lay down sidings to the deep water quays. The promoters of the Bill were perfectly willing that all three schemes should go before the Committee upstairs and be dealt with on their merits.
§ MR. POWER (Waterford, E.)
said he could not allege that his constituents were interested in this matter to the same extent as the constituents of the hon. Member for West Waterford; but at the same time they were deeply 493 interested in it. The hon. Member had stated that the railway companies had offered to relieve Waterford of the guarantee of £14,000 a year. The representatives of Waterford were anxious to close with that offer, but the late Mr. Hanbury, who was then Financial Secretary to the Treasury, stated that a competitive route would be of greater value to Waterford than the entire guarantee. He thought that the treatment which Waterford had received from the railway company had been downright disgraceful in regard to the competitive route from Cork to Fermoy. The present Leader of the Opposition on July 18th, 1901, was reported to have said—;There is no doubt that this company are pledged to construct the line from Cork to Fermoy, and the Treasury neither have the power, nor would they exercise it if they did possess it, of sanctioning any escape from that Parliamentary obligation.And on the 23rd day of the same month the Leader of the Opposition said—;His opinion was that once a railway company came before a Committee of that House and got a Bill for value received it ought to carry out its obligations. It might be that the obligations ought not in the interest of Ireland to have been entered into. It might be that the money to be spent on this line had much better have been spent in carrying out other railway works in the south and west of Ireland. Upon that point he did not offer an opinion, though he inclined to the opinion that the money probably might be better spent. That did not, however, alter the fact that a bargain had been made in the most solemn manner before two Committees—;a Committee of this House, and a Committee of the House of Lords—;and that it was in consequence of that bargain that the railway company obtained from this House the privileges it now enjoyed. He thought they must distinguish that question from the question of expediency, and he did think that the railway company were bound to carry out the bargain into which they had entered.These were the words of the right hon. Member for the City of London, when he was First Lord of the Treasury; and it was to be hoped that the present representative of the Treasury would adhere to these sound views, and would say that if this money was to be spent, it should be spent in providing an alternative route, and not in constructing tramways or railways in Cork. He hoped that the whole matter would be fairly thrashed out before a competent Committee upstairs, and he would seriously impress 494 on the Gentleman in charge of the finances of the Treasury that Waterford had a prior claim to the Treasury grant.
§ * CAPTAIN CRAIG (Down, E.)
said he would not move the motion which stood in his name, that this Bill should be read a second time that day six months. While he did not wish to detain the House, he wished to explain his reasons for taking this course. The House had before it three separate and distinct Bills, and in regard to each of them it was asked that it should be taken in preference to the others. The importance of these Bills was very great, and it was on the ground of their importance that he urged that all three should go upstairs and be dealt with by a Committee. He wished to say that in taking this course he had done so with the assent of his hon. friends, and consequently, speaking on behalf of his Ulster colleagues, he wished to say that they desired, as far as they possibly could, to impress upon the House the necessity that the questions raised by the Bills should be carefully considered. Some of them dealt with overhead railways; in others the trains were to run along lines upon roads which were to be adequately protected, and some of them presented little outside schemes such as the seventeen mile road railway between Youghal and Cappagh. On occasions like this it was, in his judgment, the duty of the House to send all three Bills to the Committee. Let them be thrashed out, and then their united virtues might be embodied in a Bill which would satisfy the claims of Waterford, Cork, and Youghal. In withdrawing on behalf of the Ulster Party their objections to each of the Bills, he would like to say that they (the Ulster Unionist Party) met with very different treatment on a certain occasion recently and they hoped that the fair dealing which they now accorded to the South of Ireland in regard to these three most important railway Bills might on another occasion be extended to them. He had in common with other Members received circulars from the promoters of these various undertakings, and he would point out that although they naturally differed in substance, all of them respectfully asked that the Bill dealt with should be read a second time and referred to a Committee. In the case of the 495 Rathmines and Rathgar Bill, the Chairman of Ways and Means, it would be recollected, failed to instruct the House as to what should be done with private Bills of such a very contentious nature, namely, that the proper course was that of allowing them to go upstairs to be dealt with by a Committee. The Ulster Party in withdrawing their opposition did so in the interest of the eventual outcome of these measures, which he presumed would be the best of the three amended and improved. He hoped it would be considered that the minority to which he belonged were deserving of respect for the course which they had pursued.
§ CAPTAIN DONELAN (Cork, E.)
said he had no intention of going into the respective merits of the three Bills so far as the railways terminating in the City of Cork were concerned. Neither had he the least desire to oppose any scheme calculated in any way whatever to benefit the people of West Cork, but he would point out that the only scheme which appeared to strike a through route between Cork and Dublin and thence to the South of England was that contained in the Cork and Waterford Bill. He considered that that Bill was deserving of the most support, and his Queenstown and Cork constituents were of the same opinion. The railway monopoly had been a source of great injury to the South of Ireland, and anything which could be done to break up the monopoly should, in his opinion, be eagerly adopted. In 1898 the Committee recognised the evils which railway monopoly inflicted upon the South of Ireland and recommended that a connection should be made between Cork and Fermoy, keeping the Rosslare route and preserving the connection between Dublin and the South of England. The Great Southern and Western gave a pledge that they would make this con- 496 nection, in consideration of a grant of £93,000 from the Treasury, but they broke their pledge and these were the companies who would be placed in control of the railway system of Ireland, if nothing was now done beyond connecting the railways which terminated in the City of Cork. It was proposed, by the scheme contained in the Cork and Waterford Bill, to form an independent company, to construct a link between Cappagh and Youghal, and thus carry out the intention of Parliament and relieve the South of Ireland from railway monopoly. It was for this purpose that the grant of £93,000 was offered to the Rosslare Company in 1898, and he thought under the circumstances that the Cork and Waterford scheme had the best claim to the balance of that sum which still remained in the hands of the Treasury. That, however, would be a question for the Committee to consider, for he presumed that these three Bills would be referred to a Committee and that their merits would be investigated in the usual way, but he strongly hoped that the suggestion thrown out by his hon. friend that the Treasury should give some intimation as to the desirability of allotting this balance to the construction of a competitive road, would be followed. He had no connection with the financial arrangements of the promoters or with those in opposition to this scheme, but he strongly supported the Cork and Waterford Bill in the interests of healthy competition and of emancipating the South of Ireland from railway monopoly.
§ MR. MOONEY (Newry)
said he had no interest in any of these schemes, but he was a Member of the Committee which sat last year upon the Cork Junction Railway, and perhaps he might be permitted to intervene in the debate. It was said that that Committee would not allow the railway company to evade its responsibilities and for that reason threw out the Bill, although it 497 was urgently impressed upon the Committee that there was an urgent necessity to adopt some scheme. What that scheme was he did not know, and he did not care, but he did know that the Committee were unanimously of opinion that some scheme should be evolved which would do away with the extraordinary system which existed in Cork at the present moment under which a large portion of the county of Cork was cut off from communication with the rest of Ireland. The finance of the particular scheme before them seemed to be unsound and the Committee adjourned the consideration of the Bill over Whitsuntide for the purpose of enabling the promoters to produce a better financial basis. When the promoters came back to the Committee the latter did not see their way then to accept the financial details of the Bill. He was perfectly sure that any Committee would carefully inquire into and give a very deliberate decision upon this matter. He therefore hoped that these Bills would be given a Second Reading and sent upstairs to a Committee in order that they might decide which was the best Bill. The Committee unanimously decided that the conditions of railway communication in Cork were disgraceful, and the sooner a remedy was found the better it would be for everybody.
§ MR. T. L. CORBETT (Down, N.)
on behalf of the Ulster Party congratulated the hon. Member for East Down on the fair and generous spirit he had shown in withdrawing his opposition to the Bill. He hoped that that feeling would be reciprocated by the Nationalists when other Bills came before the House. The same spirit was not manifested a few weeks ago when a Bill vitally affecting the health of a district in Ireland was under consideration. Sanction to send that particular Bill to a Committee was then refused. It seemed very harsh treatment. The representatives of Ulster constituencies did not desire to inquire 498 into the religion or politics of the people affected by the group of Bills now before the House. They only desired to do what was best for the district. By consenting to send these Bills to a Committee the Ulster Unionists were heaping coals of fire on the heads of hon. Members below the gangway. They had no desire to perpetuate the spirit shown by Nationalists a few weeks ago.
§ MR. SHEEHAN (Cork County, Mid.)
said that all the interest he had in this matter was that a link should be made. For that reason he asked that these three Bills should be sent before a Committee. He did not think it was necessary for him to enter into a discussion as to the merits of the Bills, although it would be as easy for him to state his views as anyone in the Committee. His only desire was that these three Bills should be referred to a Committee.
§ MR. LONSDALE (Armagh, Mid.)
drew attention to the fact that all three Bills had the same object in view, and submitted that they ought to receive careful inquiry and consideration by a Select Committee. He had no doubt that they would be able to examine them in such a way that the best scheme would emerge.