§ Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee, read.
§ Moved, "That the House do now resolve itself into Committee."
§ THE EARL OF REDESDALE (CHAIRMAN of COMMITTEES)
said, he thought it would be convenient if he explained why he had adopted the course of referring this unopposed Bill to a Committee of the Whole House. Their Lordships would, no doubt, remember 1332 that the Bill stood in a very peculiar situation for some time. It was an unopposed Bill, and as such had come before the Committee over which he presided, and had also been made the subject of a Resolution of their Lordships' House with regard to the adoption of the narrow-gauge principle in Ireland. The Resolution which had been come to by the House was that they should have a Report from the Board of Trade on the subject of the Bill. There had, accordingly, been a Report made by the Board of Trade; but he was sorry to say that the Report of the Board of Trade appeared to him to be exceedingly unsatisfactory. The engineer of the company had been examined, and, of course, gave strong evidence in favour of the Bill, and gave some reasons why the line should be constructed on the narrow gauge. But the Board of Trade had not inquired into some matters which appeared to him (the Earl of Redesdale) to be of very great importance in coming to the conclusion to sanction a railway on a less than the standard gauge. For instance, the engineer said in his evidence that dangerous gradients ought to be avoided; but no questions were put to him as to where the gradients might not be modified. He considered this matter was an extremely important element in such an application. Then, again, it was an extremely important matter to inquire whether a company applying for power to construct a narrow-gauge line should not be compelled to take sufficient land to construct the line on the standard gauge, if it was afterwards found desirable; but no such questions had been put to the engineer. Their Lordships must bear in mind that in Ireland a great deal of evil had arisen from the construction of very small railways; but the evil had been greatly reduced by the amalgamation of the smaller lines into the larger ones. With regard to the present Bill, the existing railway of 12 ½ miles was constructed on the broad gauge, and it was proposed to make 15 miles, or thereabouts, on a different gauge. If that were sanctioned, it must necessarily interfere with any proposals of amalgamation with another line. All these matters were really very serious; and it was also important to point out that this railway did not, as it had been stated, receive very general approval throughout the country. He had looked 1333 at the Returns; and he found that out of the owners five assented, one dissented, five were neutral—and one of those, who was the most important, as the line went through a very large extent of his property, had since expressed to him his dissent—and nine gave no answer at all. Of the lessees, seven assented, eight dissented, one was neutral, and three sent no answer at all. Of the occupiers, 28 assented, 27 dissented, 33 were neutral, and 12 gave no answer at all. That was the state of feeling in the district through which the railway was to pass. As, however, the Report of the Board of Trade recommended that the line proposed should be made, he did not wish to offer any opposition to the Bill, especially after the Resolution of their Lordships to which he had referred; but he, nevertheless, still continued to think that such lines were not advisable. In this case, there had been no examination made on the spot by any officer of the Board of Trade; and, therefore, he had thought it his duty, in all the circumstances, to refer the Bill to a Committee of the Whole House. He desired to say a few words with regard to another Bill which came before him as Chairman of the Committee on Unopposed Bills, and with regard to which he believed that the course he had adopted had been misunderstood. The Letterkenny Bill did not stand in the same position. That railway had been granted on the standard gauge, and it was proposed to be converted into a narrow gauge. There was no difficulty in constructing it on the standard gauge, for which almost all the land required was already purchased, and as the promoters had got an Act last year for an extension of time, without asking for more capital or change of gauge, they must then have thought it would be remunerative if so constructed, and, therefore, he did not feel justified in passing the Bill.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
said, he was glad that his noble Friend (the Chairman of Committees) had taken the course of referring the Bill to a Committee of the Whole House; because, as he understood his noble Friend's view, if he had not done so, it must have shared the fate of the Letterkenny Railway Bill. His noble Friend had referred to the Letterkenny Railway Bill, and their Lordships would remember that 1334 on a former occasion his noble Friend had reported that, in his opinion, or, rather, that in the opinion of the Committee over which his noble Friend presided, that Bill should not be proceeded with. The House on that occasion arrived at the conclusion that it was desirable that the authority of his noble Friend as guardian of the Private Business should be maintained; and he was bound to say, as his noble Friend still seemed to wish to convert their Lordships to his opinion, that he had heard nothing to convince him that his noble Friend's decision was wrong. On the contrary, he believed the decision that had been arrived at was a right decision. The proposal which their Lordships determined was that narrow-gauge railways ought to be sanctioned where railways on the national gauge would either be impossible in construction, or unremunerative. With regard to the Letterkenny Railway, his noble Friend said it was not impossible to construct it on the national gauge, because they had the land taken, and that there was no difficulty about the levels. That was quite true, and, therefore, that part of the case failed. But what about the other case? Would it have been remunerative? His noble Friend thought it would, because the Company had the power to raise an amount of capital which would have been sufficient to make a broad gauge. But there was one statement in Colonel Yolland's Report which his noble Friend had entirely overlooked, and which he (the Lord Chancellor) took to be the key of the whole Report to the Board of Trade. Colonel Yolland said the question referred to the Board of Trade seemed to be—should there or should there not be a railway? And from the evidence placed before them, Colonel Yolland concluded that there was no prospect of raising the money for making the line on the standard gauge; and, therefore, under the circumstances, Colonel Yolland concluded that the construction of a narrow-gauge railway would be beneficial to the district. That really seemed to be the key to the whole matter. No doubt, it would be much better to have a railway on the standard gauge, if it were possible, and their Lordships had affirmed that principle by a Resolution of the House; but when it was not possible it was better to have a narrow-gauge 1335 railway than no railway at all. With regard to the present Bill, his noble Friend had spoken with regard to the Report of the Board of Trade, and had said that there had been no investigation on the spot. That was not what could be expected, seeing that the officers of the Board had the survey's before them, and upon that point he did not see that any exception should have been taken by his noble Friend. He trusted that their Lordships would have no difficulty in coming to a conclusion on the matter.
§ LORD WAVENEY
supported the Bill; but, at the same time, he thought it very desirable that the investigations should be made in Ireland, where the truth as to any point could be more easily ascertained.
§ THE EARL OF REDESDALE (CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES)
said, in the Letterkenny case the money powers of the Company were ample. There had been £80,000 expended on the line already, and of the £100,000 they had at command to complete it, the first £50,000 was to have a preferential dividend, and the next £35,000 was guaranteed.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
said, in the Board of Trade Report, Colonel Yolland stated that the speed should be limited to 25 miles an hour. He asked whether the noble Viscount (Viscount Lifford) would insert some Amendment in the Bill to that effect?
§ Amendments made: the Report thereof to be received on Thursday next.