HL Deb 29 March 1900 vol 81 cc602-5



My Lords, I beg to move that the Bills mentioned in the notice standing in my name be referred to a Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament. This follows a precedent set by your Lordships' House last week when the Dublin Corporation Bill, and another Bill which depended upon it, were referred to a Joint Committee of both Houses.* This procedure is, as I said on that occasion, a somewhat novel one; but with regard to these particular Bills, which deal with the very important question of the amalgamation of railways in the south of Ireland, I think there is a distinct precedent for the course proposed in the case of other Amalgamation Bills which were referred, in 1873, in the same way as I am now proposing, to a Joint Committee of the two Houses.† The Bills are very important in character, and will have a very large effect, especially on the South and Central parts of Ireland; They were referred to a Hybrid Committee of the House of Commons last year, and the inquiry was of a very protracted, and, if I may be allowed to say so, of a not wholly satisfactory nature. I trust your Lordships will assent to the motion which I now move.

Moved to resolve, That it is desirable that the— Great Southern and Western and Waterford and Central Ireland Railway Companies Amalgamation Bill [H.L.], The Great Southern and Western and Waterford, Limerick, and Western Railway Companies Amalgamation Bill [H.L.], And the Midland Great Western Railway of Ireland Bill [H.L.], be referred to a Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament.—(The Earl of Morley.)

* See page 3 of this volume. † See debate on 25th February, 1873, on Railway, &c. (Transfer and Amalgamation), Bills. The Parliamentary Debates [Third Series], Vol. ccxiv., page 886.

My Lords, I have given notice to move, as an Amendment to the motion of the noble Earl the Chairman of Committees, to add the following words: And that the said Committee be empowered to inquire and report with reference to the said Bills—

  1. 1. What special safeguards (if any), having regard to the circumstances of the South of Ireland, are required for the protection of the public in the event of any of the amalgamations proposed in the said Bills being carried out other than the safeguards afforded by existing Public Acts; and
  2. 2. As to the propriety of inserting in the common form clause (No. 38 in the first named Bill and No. 33 in the model Bill) making provision as to general Railway Acts, special words providing for further State interference with railways in Ireland."
I do not wish to take up the time of the House unnecessarily, and before moving my Amendment I would appeal to the noble Earl to postpone his motion for a few days. He has already kindly postponed it, at my request, from last Monday, but the object for which I asked that the matter should be postponed has not been attained. A large and very important deputation waited on the Irish Government about a week ago to ask for the appointment of a Commission to inquire into the whole question of Irish railways. They asked, further, that these particular Bills should be suspended until that Commission had reported. The answer to that prayer has not yet been given, and all I would ask the noble Earl at the moment is that he should postpone this motion until the answer of the Government has been received. If a Commission should be appointed I take it that the Bills would be suspended, and that there would be no occasion for the appointment of a Joint Committee. Therefore it is material that the answer of the Government should be given before we are asked to affirm that it is desirable to appoint a Joint Committee. If the Government refuse the Commission, then I should most heartily concur with the noble Earl that a Joint Committee would be a very notch better tribunal to discuss these important Bills than a Hybrid Committee of the House of Commons, or an ordinary Private Bill Committee. But until we know what the answer of the Government is I venture to submit that it is somewhat premature to bring this motion forward.


In the absence of my noble friend Viscount de Vesci, I wish to ask the noble Earl the Chairman of Committees whether it is possible to give instructions to the Joint Committee that no further powers should be granted unless a promise is given that the railway will be extended from Mountmellick to Mullingar, a distance of about thirty miles. The County Council of West Meath have petitioned for this extension, and they will appear in the proper course.


In reply to the question put to me by the noble Lord who has just sat down, I would point out that instructions are never given in this House to Private Bill Committees. I think it would be very unfortunate indeed if this precedent were broken into in any case, and it would be specially inconvenient in the case of a Joint Committee of an exceptionally strong character. The House is really not in a position to understand the bearings of the condition which my noble friend would wish to instruct the Committee to insert. It will be open to him to lay his views, or the views of those he represents, before the Committee, who, I have no doubt, will give them the consideration they deserve. On these grounds I should deprecate most strongly any attempt at binding the discretion of the Committee. With regard to the question of my noble friend Lord Monteagle of Brandon as to the postponement of the motion, I would point out that I have already consented to allow the Bills to stand over from last Monday till to-day. I have great difficulty in consenting to any further postponement. It is very important that the question should be sent down to the House of Commons before we rise for the Easter holidays, and that we should, if possible, get an answer from the Commons before that time arrives. Of course, that would be impossible if I postponed the Bills again till next week, or till a later period. Moreover, I venture to suggest to the House that the case of my noble friend for a further postponement is not a very strong one. He spoke of a Commission to inquire generally into the legislation regarding Irish railways. I presume that the noble Lord would have no idea of referring these individual Bills to such a Commission. These Bills must he dealt with by Parliament, either in a Joint Committee or in the ordinary Committees of the two Houses. I imagine, judging from the length of time inquiries by Commission take, that it is not likely that such an inquiry by a Commission, if it is granted, would be completed in sufficient time to enable these Bills to be dealt with in the present session of Parliament. It is hardly fair to the promoters or, indeed, to the opponents of the Bills, that the consideration of them should be further postponed.


Will the noble Earl tell me whether I should have an opportunity of moving my Amendment at a later stage in the event of a Commission not being granted?


It is open to the noble Lord to move an Amendment such as that of which he has given notice at a later stage. If the House of Commons assent to the appointment of a Joint Committee it will then be my duty to make a motion appointing the Committee. The noble Lord can move his Amendment then, but I think it right to inform him that I shall feel myself bound to oppose it.


Then I need not trouble the House by moving my Amendment to-day.

On Question, agreed to.

Ordered, that a Message be sent to the Commons to communicate this Resolution, and to desire their concurrence.