§ Order for Second Reading read.
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
This Bill is one to enable the Treasury to make temporary advances to Railway Companies in Ireland. The character of the measure is fully described in a Treasury Minute which has been laid on the table. Very briefly I may say it is this—a number of railway debentures are becoming due at the severest moment of the monetary distress, which unfortunately still prevails. It is totally impossible for the Railway Companies to meet those debentures at the present time, and as the holders have power to seize the railways—to seize the rolling stock—there was every prospect of the general railway communication in Ireland being stopped. This is a matter of convenience of the highest order, and, consequently, it had to be considered by the Government. The late Government very wisely decided on affording temporary assistance in the manner which is described in the Minute on the table. Under this Bill the Lords Commissioners of the Treasury will have the power of advancing, through the Loan Commissioners, a sum of not more than £500,000 for a period of three months, with a power of extending the time to twelve months, but not to any longer period. The Bill contains all the necessary clauses usual under such circumstances—namely, clauses authorizing the appointment of receiving in case of default, and the fixing of interest at not more than 4 per cent. I beg to move that the Bill be read a second time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer.)
§ MR. SYNAN
said, he regretted to observe the limited character of the Bill. A sum of only £300,000 would be required to meet the debentures now falling due, but the whole sum would be required to meet them and the collateral securities which would be due within the next three months on debentures that would not be due until after that period. He wanted to know if the Government would assent to an alteration of the Bill in that respect?
§ SIR FREDERICK HEYGATE
said, he was glad the Government had brought in the Bill. He had recently been in Ireland, and he could state the rolling stock was in such a bad condition on some of the Irish railways, that if some assistance were not given to the companies, travelling on their lines must soon come to an end. He was also glad that the remedy was only a temporary one, because if public money was to be carried from this country to Ireland, the whole railway system in that country should be revised. He thought the public ought to reap some advantage in the way of a reduction of fares or a compulsory carriage of the mails, or a better arrangement of trains in return for the assistance which the State afforded to those railways.
§ MR. CHILDERS
said, he thought it would be very improper to introduce into a temporary measure clauses of a permanant nature which would open up the whole question of Irish railways. As to what the hon. Member for Limerick called collateral securities, the state of the question was this. The money was secured upon certain primary securities, and if these securities fell due either three months before or twelve months after the passing of the Act the first section would enable the Public Loan Commissioners to make an advance. If the securities were good and duly issued under the powers of the company, there would be no objection, provided the Commissioners were satisfied. If the securities were not duly issued, the House would be slow to assent to any proposal to advance money on them.
§ MR. THOMSON HANKEY
said, that the fourth paragraph of the 4th clause, which required that the Commissioners should not make any loan unless the security offered was in their opinion sufficient and proper, would go far to neutralize any good effect which could be wrought by the Bill. If the Treasury threw on the Commissioners the responsibility of seeing that the security was ample, that circumstance would stand very much in the way of the measure. The Treasury ought to take that responsibility upon themselves.
§ MR. HUNT
said, that the Bill was brought in to meet a temporary purpose and under exceptional circumstances, the Irish railways having suffered in consequence of the Fenian disturbances. The fourth paragraph alluded to by the hon. Member for Peterborough was framed in the ordinary way, which required that the 1363 Loan Commissioners should see that the security was right and proper. With respect to the proposal to extend the operation of the Bill, he could not hold out any hope that the wish of the hon. Member for Limerick could be complied with.
§ MR. MAGUIRE
said, there was no foundation whatever for the assumption that the Railway Companies had suffered from Fenian disturbances. Long before the Fenian conspiracy the Railway Companies themselves complained of the falling off of traffic, and attributed it not to any political cause, but to the diminution of the population.
said, the matter would require to be watched or it might form a dangerous precedent. When Parliament was beginning to authorize the advance of money in that way, they ought to see whether it was not likely to lead to any inconvenience if pushed to a great extent, and whether they might not be unjust to other parties who might be equally deserving of assistance.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed for Thursday.