HC Deb 25 July 1910 vol 19 cc1841-52

Order for consideration, as amended, read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill, as amended, be now considered."


proposed, as an Amendment, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months."

I should like to have your ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, whether the Motion to recommit the Bill in the matter of the provision of facilities for railway communication with the quays at Drogheda is in order?

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER: (Mr. Whitley)

That Motion is certainly out of order, because it refers to something quite outside the scope of the Bill. Only matters that are in the Bill can be dealt with on the Report stage, and such other matters that properly come within the Rules of Order.

[The Motion referred to was the following: "Mr. Nolan: On Consideration of Great Northern Railway (Ireland) Bill, as amended, to move, That it be recom- mitted in the matter of the provision of facilities for railway communication with the quays at Drogheda."]


Then, Sir, I shall proceed with the Motion that the Bill be considered on this day three months. I do not propose to discuss the general policy of the Great Northern Railway Company as it affects the town of Drogheda, although I should be very glad if it were in order to do so. What I wish to draw attention to is the fact that the directors of the Great Northern Railway Company have made a distinct departure from the intention they expressed in the first instance with regard to the object they had in view in asking for the extension of their line to the quays at Dundalk. I hold in my hand a letter from the town clerk at Drogheda in reference to an interview which took place between representatives of the Great Northern Railway Company and a deputation from the corporation of the town of Drogheda. He says:— I wish to tell you that in the interview which the deputation from the corporation had with the directors, it was stated by Mr. Fane Vernon, on behalf of the company, that the proposed extension to the quays at Dundalk was only intended for the company's convenience in getting sleepers and other materials into their own works at Dundalk more cheaply than at present, and was not intended for general convenience.


Does that come within the scope of the Bill?


The Bill deals with the extension of the accommodation of the Great Northern Railway Company at Dundalk, and in the Bill the company distinctly asks and obtains, up to the present, the powers it asks for, and it is with these powers that I am dealing now. I am not now talking about the suggestion of constructing a line of communication between the quays of Drogheda and the main line, but I am dealing solely with the proposed extension of the company's line on the quays at Dundalk. I wish to draw attention to the fact that there has been a distinct departure from the intention expressed by the directors of the railway company. In this letter it is stated, on the authority of the chairman of the railway company, that this proposed extension in Dundalk was intended for the private convenience of the railway company, and was not intended for general traffic. The letter goes on to say:— It now appears from the proceedings before the Committee on the Bill, that the directors propose to depart from their expressed original intention, and have made it known that the extension will be used for general work, and, needless to say, this would add to the injury already imposed upon the Port of Drogheda by the Great Northern Railway Company by a further diversion of its natural traffic. That is clearly borne out by clauses to be found on page 9 of the amended Bill. I was present myself in the Committee Room during the discussion, and I heard it distinctly stated there that the railway company intended to use these powers and the new wharf and new line for the purpose of carrying on general traffic to the Port of Dundalk, and what I wish to draw the attention of the House to is the fact that the town of Drogheda is injuriously affected by this policy.


I am afraid the hon. Member is traversing my ruling. It appears that he does not object to something that is in the Bill, but he wants something else put into the Bill. That, of course, is out of order at this stage.


I have no desire at all to traverse your ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, and I do not propose to say anything to the House about the construction of a line communicating from the quays of Dundalk to the main line, but what I do wish most respectfully to draw the attention of the House to is that a distinct departure has been made by the directors of the Great Northern Railway in connection with powers by which they seek to extend their railway communication to the quays of Dundalk. It was originally said by the directors that they wanted this extension for the purpose of handling goods required by themselves in the maintenance of their main line, such as sleepers and rails, and now it appears from what they have stated that they do not intend this limited use of the line and the wharf, but they propose to carry general goods by this line. What I most respectfully ask is that someone representing the Great Northern Railway will here and now disavow the intention of the company of departing from their original declaration as to the power they sought under this Bill. I hope they will adhere to their originally declared intention, as otherwise it will be my duty to offer all the objection that I possibly can according to the Rules of the House. I might carry on the discussion at greater length, and prove beyond the possibility of a doubt that the Great Northern Railway Company of Ireland have not exercised the powers which they have already got, with a view to advancing the interests of the community at large. I think I could prove that the House, in granting addi- tional powers to the Great Northern Railway Company, ought to secure that those additional powers would not be used to damage any part of the community in Ireland affected by this railway, which is one that has gradually grown up within the last seventy years. I do not wish to discuss the general policy, but I could prove, if it were in order in connection with this stage of the Bill, that the Great Northern Railway Company has not acted in such a way as would entitle it to ask this House for further powers. I shall ask the House to express its opinion upon this subject. I shall be glad if someone representing the Great Northern Railway Company will deny the statement that the directors of that company propose to act in connection with the extension of this line in a way contrary to the intention they expressed when the Bill was introduced.


The Great Northern Railway Company of Ireland have promised a great deal in regard to what they are going to do, but we have no guarantee that they will carry out those promises. I take this opportunity of strongly supporting the Amendment that the consideration of this Bill shall be delayed for three months in the hope that during that time the company may see their way to consider more the interests of the community affected by this proposal. I have much pleasure in seconding this Resolution.


I am very sorry to differ from my hon. Friend the Member for South Louth, who so very ably represents the district concerned. I think, however, I can show that the course he is taking on this question is one which will not do any good to the interests of his own constituency. Naturally my hon. Friend is very anxious for the development of his own constituency. With regard to the town of Drogheda, even if it were possible to develop a scheme running to the north or to the south it would be one which probably would set certain persons in his own constituency at variance with himself and others in that district. With regard to the argument that the Great Northern Railway Company of Ireland have departed from the terms of their original proposal, I would like to point out that there never has been any competition with the seaport of Drogheda and Dundalk with regard to the traffic in question. No sooner did Dundalk sell their interests to the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company, instead of developing the port, they reduced the number of train services. It may be true that the London and North-Western Railway Company's goods traffic might be injured to a small extent, but that is only a fleabite to this great Company, which discharges most valuable work in Ireland. Beyond that I cannot conceive of the smallest injury being done to the port of Dundalk. If this Bill were to be rejected on account of the supposed injury it might do to the port at Dundalk, it might interfere with the development of the creosote works and other undertakings which are likely to give employment to the extent of hundreds and thousands of pounds per annum. I know my hon. Friend is highly popular in his constituency, and without arguing the case any further I will put this point to him: This Bill has been considered by a Committee upon which there was a representative of the Irish Party who, although a new Member of this House, is likely to become an efficient Member, and one who has no interest whatsoever personally with regard to this question—I refer to the hon. Member for the St. Stephen's Green Division of Dublin. As I understand this question, not only Irishmen but Englishmen as well are entirely unanimous as to the value of this Bill and the desirability of its passing into law. The hon. Member I have referred to as the Irish representative on this Committee has sat with an entirely detached mind, and has heard the arguments on both sides, and it seems to me to be a slur on the organisation of the Irish party and its efficiency if its own Members were to be flouted in this way. I therefore thought it my duty to oppose the Motion of my hon. Friend, for whom I have the highest respect. I think sometimes persons in Ireland do not altogether realise the difficulty of the passage through this House of schemes which are no doubt very desirable. I remember the proposal was made to connect these quays with the Great Northern by a guarantee, and the Committee rejected the guarantee. I am not sure about the town of Drogheda. Drogheda had an independent representative in this House up to 1875, and I never heard the old Member for Drogheda or South Louth press this as a grievance. It would be going in face of all regularity if a measure of this kind were to be rejected because an admitted grievance has not been met in a Bill which was never intended to meet it.


I feel bound, as a Member of the Committee, in justice to that Committee to inform the House that I am constrained with great reluctance to vote against the Amendment of my hon. Friend. There is no other course open to me. The Committee gave this Bill their most careful consideration. It was regarded from every standpoint, and the Committee unanimously came to the conclusion that the proposals of the Great Northern Railway Company, so far as they affected Dundalk, were such as to find very ready acceptance. It would be a very unfortunate thing if a Bill which would add to the facilities of Dundalk should be rejected at this stage. It seems to me very regrettable that the town of Drogheda and those people who are so anxious now to get these facilities, did not acquire a locus standi, and appear before the Committee and urge their views. There was no representation of the Corporation of Drogheda before the Committee, and so far as I know they made no attempt to be represented. I think it is rather late in the day for them to come forward now and compel my hon. Friend to put this Amendment on the Paper.


I merely want to say, as the Chairman of the Committee, that the Corporation of Drogheda was not represented before the Committee at all, and, if they had really objected to the Bill, they ought to have been represented and have presented their case there. The Committee, however, had no knowledge of the case of Drogheda, and I can give no opinion about it at all. It is not merely a question affecting Dundalk and Drogheda, but to a great many other portions of the country it is a matter of importance, especially to Belfast, and I do ask the House to support the Committee and pass the Bill.


I understand my hon. Friend intends to go to a Division, and, in consequence of the Debate, to which I have listened with great attention, I think I shall feel it my duty to vote with him. The hon. Gentleman who was Chairman of the Committee (Mr. Ashton), and my hon. Friend the Member for the St. Stephen's Division (Mr. Brady) have put their finger on the spot. They said the Corporation of Drogheda had no locus standi before the Committee, and that no evidence——

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. J. H. Whitley)

I cannot allow the discussion on the position of Drogheda to proceed. It is really a matter entirely outside the scope of the Bill.


I would ask whether we are not in order in giving some reason to the House for acceding to the Motion that the Bill be considered this day three months? The Chairman of the Committee has referred to the absence of evidence upstairs, and I am going to offer a good reason why that motive should not prevail.


I pointed out to the hon. Member who moved the Motion now before the House that he could not move on the question of Drogheda, and he founded his Motion on the question that certain railways proposed to be made under this Bill to Dundalk should not be made.


I intended following up my allusion to the absence of evidence by showing why no evidence was offered on the part of others. No locus standi was established for the very good reason that this Bill had been introduced under a false pretence. The House must not be allowed to be deceived. I submit that, if a Bill has been introduced to a Committee upstairs and is reported without any Amendment being proposed on the part of persons interested, then that Bill comes before the House on a false pretence. This Bill was allowed to go to a Committee on the declaration of the promoters that the extension would be used only for a certain purpose. Then when the Bill is before the Committee a Clause is added altering the original purpose. I therefore submit that, this Bill, having been allowed to pass through Committee under false pretences, and being now reported with some Amendments, this House is entitled to consider the circumstances under which it was carried through Committee. That is what I consider the strength of my hon. Friend's case, and that was why I rose to make a few observations before the Chairman of the Committee asked the House to pass this Bill. I wanted to hear from someone who could speak with authority why it was that no evidence had been offered by those most concerned. I am concerned neither for Dundalk nor Drogheda; my Constituency is somewhat remote from their geographical situation, but I am concerned that a precedent should not be established for carrying through this House a Bill that affects any of the important ports of Ireland in the manner that this Bill has been brought before us. I think we should not have a Division until it has been ascertained what was the nature of the false representations made, and why it was that the promoters of the Bill had stated it was their intention to use this extension only for private purposes, and afterwards so to extend the Bill as to make it usable for public purposes to the detriment of a port not very far away. I am confining myself entirely to the one point made by my hon. Friend, that no evidence is offered by the districts concerned in consequence of the misrepresentation that was made of the intentions of the promoters of the Bill. I want to know what really happened before the Committee upstairs. I want the House to know what misrepresentations were made which induced the persons concerned for other districts to refrain from establishing a locus standi. It is with reluctance I shall give my vote in this Division. Both ports are equally dear to me. I am not inimical to the interests of the one or the other, but, having regard to the circumstances under which this Bill was got through Committee, and having regard to the misrepresentations which endure to the present moment, I hope you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, will be able, in consultation with your learned adviser, to state what is the real position of this measure having regard to the undoubted deception, I will not say wilful, but undoubted deception, practised on the Committee, and which is even now being unconsciously practised on the House. I hope the result of this Division will be that, on some future occasion, this Bill may be promoted, that it will not be carried through by false pretences, and that the House will have a fair opportunity of deciding on the whole case.

9.0 P.M.


I had been led to understand that any opposition likely to be put forward on behalf of the inhabitants of Drogheda would be in connection with the desire to have the quay connected with the railway, but the Committee have been told that that is not in order, and that we cannot therefore discuss it. Had it been otherwise I could have laid arguments before the House which would have shown there was little or no weight in the contention of the hon. Members. But I candidly confess this is an entirely new opposition as far as I am concerned. I never before heard any objections of this nature raised. It is usual for persons in charge of opposed Bills to have private conferences outside, and, so far as I am aware, no mention was ever made of the particular point which the hon. Member has placed before the House to-night. The hon. Member for North Kildare (Mr. John O'Connor) used some very strong language in reference to this Bill.


No, no.


The hon. Member talked about the Bill having been laid before the Committee under false pretences, and he also spoke about the gross misrepresentation of those in charge of it.


I qualified those expressions by saying I did not think the misrepresentations were consciously made.


That robs them of a good deal of their sting. I am perfectly certain that the Great Northern Railway Company of Ireland have not been guilty of any misrepresentations or wilful deception whatever. I ask the House to remember that this Bill has been exhaustively examined before the Committee upstairs, and that any representations on behalf of Drogheda could have been made, had it been desired, against what the railway company propose to do with reference to Dundalk, which must have been known to the people of Drogheda a sufficiently long time to enable them to establish a locus standi. A Bill of this kind cannot be effectively or properly discussed on an occasion such as this in the Whole House. Matters of this nature require evidence to be brought forward to support them, and I certainly cannot see there is any weight in the objections made by the hon. Member below the Gangway. If there is, however, any weight in them, witnesses ought to be forthcoming, and the whole matter should be properly tried before a Committee upstairs. This House is certainly not the proper place to decide upon a point of this nature at the stage which this Bill has now reached. I must ask the House once more to remember that this particular railway extension in Dundalk is only a small part of the whole Bill. There are several other very important projects in the Bill necessitating the expenditure of very large sums of money in improving and widening that portion of the line of the railway company, near Belfast especially, proving that the trade of the Great Northern Railway of Ireland is improving. I think the House, therefore, instead of throwing cold water upon this Bill, should think that if a railway company in Ireland was improving in its position that it was necessary to aid it. On that ground, if on no other, I think this House should pass this stage of the Bill without further discussion. This particular point has never been raised before, so far as I am aware, and the House will observe that my name is on the back of the Bill, and I have, of course, been kept informed of the various objections which have been raised from various quarters to the measure. Nearly all those objections have been overcome. Some of them by concessions on the part of the railway company and others after arguing the questions raised with those who brought them forward, but now we are face to face with a new objection, which, so far as I am aware, has never been raised till this moment, and I say that this is not the occasion, and this House, as constituted to-night, is not the proper place for the consideration of such a point as this. I hope, therefore, the House will agree with the Chairman of the Committee and the other Member of the Committee who has spoken that the very fullest consideration has been given to all the details of the Bill. The Committee have passed it unanimously, and I ask the House to do so also.


I only want to say one sentence on behalf of the Board of Trade, and it is to ask the House to consider the Bill now, and not to postpone it for three months. I am not sure whether the Bill requires any further argument from me, because it is one of those cases in which, to use the words of the poet:— North has answered unto South. I think there is, therefore, no more to be said, and it does not follow because a particular party was refused a locus standi that deception should have been used. I do not think there was any deception used, and I should be very reluctant and unhappy to see this Bill, which has been most thoroughly investigated, thrown out in the manner suggested by the hon. Gentleman opposite.


I do not want to delay the House in coming to a decision, but I merely want to shortly explain my attitude in regard to this Bill. I sympathise very deeply and sincerely indeed with the position of my hon. Friend the Member for South Louth in the attitude he has taken, and I regret very sincerely that it is out of order for him to raise the particular matter in which he is interested. I and others at a previous stage of the proceedings on this Bill also had points of difference with the company, which we were, happily, able to settle outside, and, therefore, the position which at one time it seemed we should have to take up in regard to this Bill was rendered unnecessary. But I would join in the appeal that has been made to the House of Commons this evening to pass the further stage of this Bill, because I believe that the interests involved are very considerable, and that in particular this measure will be of great importance and value to the town of Dundalk. I sympathise with my hon. Friend, as I have said, but I merely rise to say, for my part and those who were acting with me in the negotiations on the former stage of this Bill, that we shall feel compelled to support the further consideration of the Bill.

Question, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question," put, and agreed to.

Main Question put, and agreed to:—Bill, as amended, considered; to be read the third time.