HL Deb 24 July 1885 vol 299 cc1758-63

Order of the Day for the Third Reading read.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 3ª."


, in rising to move— That so much of Standing Order No. 116 be suspended as requires the insertion in the Bill of provisions forfeiting in certain contingencies to the Crown money deposited under the Standing Orders; and also to move Amendments restoring Clause 32 of the Bill to the form in which it was sent up from the House of Commons, said, he had to ask their Lordships to take a course which he was afraid was a very unusual one. He had so strong a sympathy with the action usually taken by the Chairman of Committees (the Earl of Redesdale) with reference to the Standing Order of the House that it was with great hesitation he had undertaken to make his proposition. He explained that the promoters of the Bill desired to ask their Lordships to put back in the measure provisions passed by the House of Commons. Those provisions had for their object to enable the promoters to recover from the Treasury without the formality of an Act of Parliament certain money deposited as a guarantee that the works authorized in the Bill would be carried out. He urged that this was a very special case, and reminded their Lordships of the desirability of their doing what they could to encourage undertakings of this kind in Ireland, money as a general rule being raised for them in that country with the greatest difficulty. The noble Lord then proceeded to describe the railway, pointing as a proof of the bona fides of its promoters to the fact that they had invested upwards of £30,000 in the undertaking. He explained that part of the work provided for in the Bill was the construction of waterworks for the generation of electricity, which was the motive power of the railway. Larger works than would be immediately required had been provided for, so as to admit of the extension of the railway, if in course of time its success warranted an extension. It was believed that, in addition to the tramway between Bush Valley and Portrush, a line of railway might be constructed over which they might be able, at less expense than at present, to convey minerals and goods down to the harbour at Portrush. He thought he might appeal to the Lord Chancellor of Ireland to support his Motion, as knowing something about this railway. The noble and learned Lord had, he thought, given evidence on the subject before a Select Committee of the House of Commons. He thought he might also appeal to the noble Earl the late Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, who had opened a portion of this railway, and which was at present at work. The noble Earl (Earl Cowper) had also interested himself in the undertaking whilst he was in Ireland. He urged their Lordships to do a great right by doing a little wrong, and to support the action of the House of Commons in this matter.

Moved," That so much of Standing Order No. 116 be suspended as requires the insertion in the Bill of provisions forfeiting in certain contingencies to the Crown money deposited under the Standing Orders."—[The Lord Ventry.)


was understood to say that the noble Lord who moved this Motion had not established any ground for its adoption. He maintained that great difficulty might arise if their Lordships were to sanction the present proposal, because next Session other Companies might come forward and plead what had now been done as a precedent to be followed in respect of their undertakings. The argument in favour of the proposal seemed to be this—that the scheme was an experiment in electric railways; but this was not a powerful argument. It would not be wise to interfere with the Standing Orders affecting deposits, the object of the deposits being to insure the objects for which the Acts were obtained being carried out. If those objects were not carried out the deposits were forfeited. If once that rule were allowed to be broken through they might just as well do away with it altogether.


said, that the House of Commons had treated this as an exceptional case, the railway being constructed to work by electricity, and being, therefore, a most important scientific experiment. The undertaking consisted of two short tramways, worked from a central point by the water power of a particular stream, utilized to generate electricity. This was not a case in which there had been an attempt to get a guarantee or anything of that kind, and it came before their Lordships as a private local scheme of great merit, for which the funds had been provided by private subscription. There was a Standing Order of the House—a very just one—which requird the promoters of these schemes to deposit a sum of money as a guarantee for the fulfilment of the objects of the Bill. The Bill had infringed this Standing Order, and that infringement had been allowed in the House of Commons; but in the House of Lords it had been struck out, and their Lordships were now asked to put it in the same condition in which it was sent up from the House of Commons. What was the objection to that? The amount of the deposit was £1,200, and it was to protect that that the present Motion was made. All that was asked was that, as this was a scientific experiment which might be of great public utility, the forfeiture of the balance should not be enforced against those who were finding the funds for the experiment. The case was a singular exception to the general rule, and he thought that if the noble Earl (the Earl of Redesdale) would go over to Ireland and see the railway and the beautiful country through which it ran, he would not take the course he was now taking.


said, he had taken a great deal of interest in the Bill ever since the matter had come before the Irish, public and the University of Dublin, and he had had the honour and privilege of being one of the Members for that University when the matter came before a Committee of the House of Commons. He attended it as a Member of the House of Commons in furtherance of an application made to the Committee exactly similar to that made by his noble Friend (Lord Ventry). The Committee being made acquainted with the gravity of the interests involved, and the advantage of these scientific experiments, and considering that there was no risk, acquiesced in the claim then put forward, which was the same as the one now under decision. It would not involve the Treasury in a farthing of loss; but it was important in the present condition of Ireland that the scheme should not be handicapped and hampered by a Standing Order. The whole sum in question was under £1,200. What was asked was this— that if at any time the scheme of the promoters became abortive, that instead of the balance of the deposit being handed over to and vested in the Treasury, it should be dealt with by the Court of Chancery in Ireland. He had great respect for the authority of the noble Earl (the Earl of Redesdale), and agreed that the House was under great obligations to him; but he trusted that after further consideration he would give way. If he mistook not the noble Earl himself was born on the site of this important scientific experiment.


, in supporting the Motion, said, that it was the duty of their Lordships not only to refrain from discouraging these interesting scientific experiments, but to encourage them on every opportunity. Everyone desired cheap conveyance, and it was possible that by this railway the means of obtaining that would be demonstrated, and, moreover, everyone who took an interest in science desired to promote the line.


said, he was placed at considerable disadvantage in having to defend the case of the Treasury in this matter against the very powerful arguments which had been addressed to their Lordships from different quarters of the House. There were arrangements which were clearly well calculated to prevent such schemes being undertaken, and not carried through. Everyone felt that the Standing Order in question was one in itself proper, right, and useful; but they were asked to lay it aside on this occasion, partly on the ground that it was very difficult to get capital in Ireland to carry on important and valuable enterprizes, and partly on the ground that this was a case of science, and that their Lordships were to yield to scientific principles. On the first of these arguments, if they admitted the difficulty of getting capital to be a reason why they should lay aside important and valuable safeguards, they were opening the door to very dangerous consequences. The same arguments would be used over and over again, and every case might be nearly as strong though not quite so strong as the last, and in that way they might break down the principle altogether. As to the scientific part of the arrangement, that was an interesting feature. He had had the advantage of seeing and of travelling over the railway, and he admitted that his personal interest was awakened by the sight he had seen there and the great spirit with which the work had been carried through. But he would point out to noble Lords that if they introduced a principle by which the Court of Chancery in Ireland was to be allowed to deal with these deposits and to give back this surplus to the promoters, they would be introducing an entirely new principle, and permitting the breaking down of the Standing Order. What he thought could possibly be done would be to adopt the suggestion made just now by the noble and learned Lord Chancellor of Ireland, and introduce some safeguard that the money might be taken out by order of the Court of Chancery of Ireland, provided it had the assent of the Treasury. There was no desire to impede the valuable work. The Treasury would be quite prepared to make a proper allowance; but ho thought that unless they had some safeguard of the sort, noble Lords would see that they would be allowing an opening to a practice which would go on continuing, and would get more and more objectionable.


said, the method now proposed would remove his objections to the proposal. He was of opinion that the consent of the Treasury ought to be given before application was made to the Court.


said, he accepted the proposal of the First Lord of the Treasury, which was that the money might he taken out by order of the Court of Chancery if an order by the Treasury was obtained.

Further debate adjourned to Monday next.