§ Mr. F. MEEHAN
asked the President of the Board of Trade (1) whether he has received a copy of the resolution passed 2140W unanimously by the Leitrim County Council at their quarterly meeting held on the 20th February last requesting the Government to confer powers, under the Defence of the Realm Act, on the Irish Exploration and Development Company, Limited, to acquire the necessary lands for the construction of the Central Ireland Railways on the lines of the application made to the Chief Secretary for Ireland dated the 24th April, 1917; and whether, in view of the fact that the granting of such powers would cost the Government nothing, and would facilitate the development of an important mineral area containing coal and iron ore needed by the public, and that the development of the coal would save shipping needed by the Government at present, he will retard the granting of these powers any longer; and (2) if he is aware that the proposed extension of three miles of the Cavan and Leitrim Railway, for which the necessary permit is supposed to have been given, is looked upon with disfavour by the people of county Leitrim, especially as this extension would only benefit the one company, and would not benefit in anyway the Irish Exploration and Development Company, which is developing the district on modern methods; and will he explain why one company should be favoured to the detriment of the other?
§ Mr. SAMUELS
Sanction has been given for the construction as a war measure of a short length of railway to the district of the Arigna Mines after full consideration of the coal supply to be obtained and the practicable means of making it available. No useful purpose would be served by a discussion of the various proposals which were examined. Regard has been had to the public interests rather than to the claims of the individual applicants.
§ Mr. MEEHAN
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that the capital for the scheme known as the Central Ireland Railways is available if the necessary powers are granted, and that the rails there for are offered by several large firms in America through the influence of the Government at Washington, and that the Irish Exploration and Development Company have given an undertaking to proceed only with so much of the railways as are absolutely necessary for the delivery of coal to the 2141W different districts until after the War, and that under this scheme the liability of the ratepayers of the guaranteeing areas of Leitrim would not exceed 6d. in the £ and be wiped out altogether in twenty-five years; in view of the fact that this proposed system of railway would connect up with the principal railway systems of the country, will he grant the necessary powers under the Defence of the Realm Act as quickly as possible; and is he aware that the scheme has the support of the county councils of Leitrim, Cavan, Roscommon, Sligo, and Donegal?
§ Mr. SAMUELS
The Chief Secretary has no reason to suppose that capital is available as is suggested, or that under the present conditions in regard to the provision of labour and materials for railway works, it would be practicable to do what the hon. Member desires.