Motion made, and Question proposed,
That the Order of the House of the 21st June, referring the Tramways Order in Council (Ireland) Bill [Lords] to the Examiners of Petitions for Private Bills be read, and discharged."—(Mr. John Morley.)
§ MR. BIGGAR, (Cavan, W.)
I wish to know, Sir, whether this Bill is a Private or a Public Bill, and whether or not, if nothing further is done with it now, it will be taken in the new Parliament at the stage which it has reached at present, or whether it will lapse with the termination of the Session? I entertain strong objections with regard to some of the provisions of this measure, and I think it is desirable, if possible, that some of the persons who are interested in the matter should have an opportunity of being heard, so that they may give their reasons for opposing this tramway line. On the other, hand it is also desirable that the promoters of the Bill should have an opportunity of giving their reasons in favour of the 206 scheme. My own opinion is that the landlords in the localities which are affected by the measure should be made liable for one-half of the guarantee as well as the tenants. By this Private Bill, as it now stands, the occupiers will be called upon to pay the whole amount of the guarantee payable under this measure. I think it is only fair that the landlords should pay their fair proportion. If it is decided that this Bill is a Public Bill, and that it will lose the position it now occupies in the event of a Dissolution, I think it will be an exceeding awkward thing to prevent it from having an opportunity of going before a Select Committee. On the other hand, if it is simply in the position of other Private Bills, I think there would be a general agreement to allow it to be read a second time now, on the understanding that no further stage shall be taken, but that it will come before the now Parliament, so that an opportunity should be afforded to all persons who are interested in the locality to show whether the provisions of the measure are of a nature which will justify the House in passing them into law or not. If the Government will afford me an opportunity of moving an Instruction to the Committee to-morrow, or of opposing the clause to which I particularly object, I shall raise no further objection to the proposal now made. All that I want is that a fair opportunity should be afforded to the House for saying whether or not it will insist that all the guarantees in connection with this proposed tramway shall be paid by the tenants, and no portion whatever by the landlords. What I wish now to ask you, Mr. Speaker, is this—Whether or not this is to be treated as a Private Bill, or as a Public Bill; whether, in the event of its being held to be a Private Bill, it will come before the new Parliament in the position it now occupies; and whether, in the event of its being held to be a Public Bill, it will lapse entirely with the Dissolution about to take place in the same way as other Public Bills?
§ MR. SPEAKER
In reply to the question of the hon. Member, I have to say that this is essentially a Public Bill, and, therefore, that it will lapse entirely with the Prorogation. If it had been simply a Provisional Order Bill, it would necessarily partake of the nature of a Public Bill; but, in my judgment, it is 207 something more than a Provisional Order Bill, and the character of its provisions is such that it is essentially a Public Bill.
§ DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid)
Perhaps the House will allow me to say fiat I have presented a considerable number of Petitions from my constituents in favour of this Bill. The measure itself runs through the heart of my constituency. [A laugh.] Hon. Members may laugh; but this is the first attempt I have ever made to carry any Bill through this House, and if, in doing so, I am guilty of any mistake, I hope the House will pardon me. This scheme has been under (he consideration both of this House and of the House of Lords for a very considerable time—I believe something like two years—and during that time the persons who first of all drew up the scheme—people who have been called upon to furnish the guarantees for carrying forward the measure, and the majority of whom are certainly the very reverse of wealthy—have subscribed upwards of £7,000; and, out of that sum, up to the present time from £3,000 to £4,000 still remains at this moment in the hands of the trustees, and is, at any rate, the money of the persons who have to furnish this guarantee. It certainly appears to be extremely hard that a scheme of this sort, which was brought forward four years ago, and for which the people of the county of Cork were begged to subscribe their money, should be treated in this way, and that the scheme should be hung up from time to time to suit the pleasure of the opponents of the measure. I may inform the House that the principal opponents of the scheme are the Cork and Macroom Railway Company. That Company have done their utmost on every occasion, and by every means, to oppose the scheme on the ground that if it were carried out it would injure their own material interests. Perhaps I may be allowed to give the simple history of the scheme, which has had to fulfil many conditions. In the first place, it had to pass the Cork Grand Jury. It passed that ordeal satisfactorily, not only once, but twice. It had also to pass the Cork Board of Guardians and the Cork Town Council, and it was successful in each instance. Now, the Cork Grand Jury, we all know, contains within itself gentlemen of the aristocratic type 208 and order; nevertheless, this scheme has been twice passed by that Body, and also by the Cork Town Council, which is an essentially democratic Body, and by the Cork Board of Guardians. It then went before the Privy Council of Ireland, who also passed it. It has, consequently, fulfilled all the conditions that are necessary. When I was asked to take up the scheme, I must confess that I did not decide upon doing so hastily. Although I felt that the scheme might be of material advantage to my constituents, I determined that I would not have anything to say to it until I had ascertained what the feeling of those persons who were most materially affected by it was. I consulted the gentlemen who were asked to guarantee the scheme, and I received from a large majority assurances in favour of the measure. When I last happened to be in Cork, I took a bind of plébiscite of the guarantors in every district; and perhaps the House will allow me to state what the result of that plébiscite was. In the district of Blarney there are 98 rated occupiers who would be required to furnish the guarantee, with a total rateable qualification of £7,097. Out of that number I find that 65 were in favour of the Bill, and 33 against it. The 65 in favour of it possess a rating qualification of £5,748; whereas the 33 occupiers and freeholders who were either neutral or against the Bill, or whose opinions are unknown, only represent a rating qualification of £1,349. In Ballincollig there is only one gentleman who would be called upon to furnish a guarantee, hardly any of the ratepayers being within the area of taxation in the district, and that gentleman is in favour of the scheme. In Coachford there are 167 in favour of the Bill, with a rateable qualification of £8,232 6s. 9d., as compared with 47 against it, and a rateable qualification of £1,737 6s. In Farsan and Mac-room, through which districts it is proposed that the tramway shall actually run, it is found that the people who may be called upon to guarantee it are naturally not so favourable to the scheme. That is easily explained. We know perfectly well that in all schemes of this nature, where it is proposed to run a tramway line, or a light railway, through a particular district, there are a certain number of people who would 209 be called upon to furnish the guarantee who would not be so materially helped by the scheme as those who live in other areas. In this case, the consequence is that in Farsan there are only five rated occupiers in favour of the Bill, with a rated qualification of £249 10s.; whereas there are six, or a majority of one against the Bill, who command a rating qualification of £404 in the district of Farsan. There already exists a railway running direct to Cork, and it cannot be expected that the people of Macroom would be so much in favour of the construction of this railway as other persons who would derive very material benefit from it. In Macroom there is a majority of 11 against the scheme. There are 12 rated occupiers, representing a rating qualification of £630 7s., in favour of the Bill; whereas there are against it 23, with a rateable qualification of £1,164 10s. In the district of Shandangan, which lies to the North, the population would be equally benefited, although not in the same way, as the districts which lie on the coach road to Blarney. In Shandangan, 26 rated occupiers, with a rateable qualification to the extent of £1,424 7s., are in favour of the scheme, as against two rated occupiers, with a rateable qualification of £85, who are against it. The total result is this. There are 276 rated occupiers, with a rateable qualification amounting to £16,313 6s. 9d., in favour of the Bill, and 111, with a rateable qualification of £4,739, against it. Consequently, there is a majority of 165 rated occupiers in favour of the Bill, and an excess of rateable qualification to the extent of £11,573 10s. 9d. That is the result of the plébiscite which I have taken. I think those facts speak for themselves. The measure has been taken up as a Public Bill. If it had been introduced as a Private Bill, I could easily understand the objections which might be raised to it by private individuals. They would object for many and various reasons, and probably to a large extent from motives of a purely private character, because, undoubtedly, private reasons do frequently influence individuals in regard to measures from which they are not likely to derive any particular material benefit. But I feel bound to maintain that, taking this Bill as it stands, and considering the benefit it is likely to confer upon the district which will be 210 served by it, remembering also the depressed times through which we are passing, and considering further that a large class of unfortunate labouring people are at the present moment driven to the verge of starvation—taking all these things into consideration, I cannot help feeling that hon. Members who are taking upon themselves to oppose the Bill, supported as it is by the vast majority of the people of the district through which it is to pass, and who are alone to furnish the guarantee, are entailing upon themselves a serious responsibility. I know this district thoroughly, and I am convinced that this light line of railway, if its construction be sanctioned by Parliament, will not only pay interest upon the capital expended upon it, but will be of vast benefit, not only to the population generally, but especially to the labouring classes, in this time of deep and general distress.
§ MR. O'HEA (Donegal, W.)
I am very much inclined to support the view of the hon. Member for Cavan (Mr. Biggar) respecting this and cognate measures—namely, that the guarantee and the burden of taxation is allowed to rest unduly upon the tenants, and that the landlords entirely escape. But, after having heard the figures which have been quoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Cork (Dr. Tanner), and being quite satisfied that the people of this district earnestly desire that this scheme should be carried out, I feel bound to give the measure my support. I am informed that all the Representatives of the county of Cork are in favour of the scheme; and when we find that the people of the district, who are certainly the best judges of their own affairs, desire the Bill; when the Representatives of the locality share the views entertained by their constituents, who, they believe, will be benefited by the construction of the line, we have before us strong reasons which ought to be quite sufficient to induce hon. Members to pause before they do anything that may impair the progress of the Bill or prevent the scheme from being carried out with as little delay as possible. There was another fact mentioned by my hon. Friend which ought not to be lost sight of. In addition to the ultimate benefit which the district will receive from the construction of this line, there is also the fact that the 211 labouring classes at this moment are sadly in need of employment. By carrying out this work employment will be given in the coming winter. Instead of the labouring classes having to pass through an exceptional gloomy winter, employment will be found for them; and not only will they be able to provide for their own wants by honest industry, but the bulk of them will be prevented from becoming the recipients of outdoor relief. Having regard to the arguments which have been adduced by my hon. Friend in favonr of the Bill, much as I desire to see the landlords compelled to pay their due proportion of taxation, I am quite satisfied that it will be of advantage to the locality if the Bill is passed as rapidly as possible.
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY (Mr. HENRY H. FOWLER) (Wolverhampton, E.)
In the absence of my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary, who is not able to be in his place this afternoon, I have been requested to communicate to the House what the views of the Irish Government are in reference to this Bill. It is not necessary that I should go into the details of the case, which are well known to many hon. Members. But the circumstances of the case entail peculiar hardships upon the locality in which this line runs, and form a strong argument in favour of some alteration in our mode of doing business so far as Ireland is concerned. This measure has passed through various stages both as a Private and a Public Bill, and it has now become undoubtedly a Public Bill. I may state shortly that the scheme has been twice sanctioned under the provisions of the Tramways Act by the Grand Jury of the county of Cork, and it was then submitted to the Irish Privy Council, according to the provisions of the law. The Privy Council unanimously approved of the Order, and the matter was very fully discussed. It was next brought before the House of Lords, and the officials of that House made the mistake, last year, of treating it as a Private instead of a Public Bill. It was referred to a Private Bill Committee, and the parties were put to the enormous expense of bringing over witnesses from Ireland. Ultimately the Select Committee rejected the Bill. Shortly afterwards the change of Government took place, 212 and representations were made to the authorities of the House of Lords, and the matter was considered by both sides of the House. The late Lord Chancellor (Lord Halsbury), and his Predecessor (the Earl of Selborne), were satisfied that a great error had been committed, and that it was a Public and not a Private Bill. It was therefore decided to re-commit the Bill, and to treat it as a public measure. It was passed without a division, and sent down to this House late in the Session. The consequence was that it was blocked, and finally lost. The Dissolution took place, and the thousands of pounds which the unfortunate promoters had expended were thrown away. It has now been brought forward again this year as a Public Bill, and it has received the support of Earl Spencer, Lord Fitzgerald, of the present Lord Chancellor of Ireland, and of Lord Ashbourne, the late Lord Chancellor. I am sure the House will not agree with the hon. Member for Cavan (Mr. Biggar) that this is a measure upon which to raise the question of requiring the landlords to join in the guarantee in reference to future taxation. I think it is only just to the promoters that the Bill should be allowed to pass after the tremendously expensive ordeal to which it has been subjected; and it must not be forgotten that it comes down to us with the united support of the Noblemen whose names I have mentioned, of the present Government of Ireland, and of the late Government. Those who are now responsible for the government of that country ask the House to pass the second reading and to suspend the Standing Orders in order that that course may be taken.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR (Donegal, E.)
I think there is a great deal of reason in what has been said by the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury, and there was also a good deal in what was said by the hon. Member for Mid Cork (Dr. Tanner), as to the want of employment for the labouring classes in the county of Cork at the present moment; but, at the same time, I think there can be no argument more dangerous for advocating a scheme of this kind than that of the existence of distress and the impossibility of finding employment for persons now out of work. I do not think that the House 213 ought to be called upon to entertain any scheme upon that ground; but it ought to be considered entirely upon its own merits, altogether irrespective of any distress that may exist. In regard to the Bill itself I have this remark to make—that it is one of a character which ought to be jealously watched, because the authorities have had no opportunity of making themselves heard. The measure is not one which has achieved such an amount of success which renders it desirable that it should be hurried through Parliament, as it is now proposed to hurry it, without detailed examination. My hon. Friend below me—the hon. Member for Mid Cork (Dr. Tanner)—made a great deal of certain figures which he quoted in reference to the districts in the county of Cork which will be affected by the construction of this tramway; but those who are not as intimately acquainted with the county of Cork as he and I may not be able to appreciate the significance of this question. If, however, hon. Members will refer to a map, and examine the figures by the light of that reference, they will find that about the city of Cork there is much support to the scheme; in Blarney also there is a considerable amount of support; the people of Coachford also, whose doors the line is proposed to run past, are also in favour of it. But when you get further off, and approach Macroom and other parts, it will be found that the scheme receives nothing like the same amount of support. Nevertheless, it is proposed to charge a large district with a heavy amount of liability with regard to this financial project, although in its entirety it is scarcely benefited at all. Places which are remote from this line of tramway will receive no benefit whatever from it, but will be saddled, notwithstanding, with a serious financial burden. I think that is altogether unfair. If we suspend the Standing Orders in the way in which it is proposed to suspend them now, what will be the effect? The Bill will go before the Examiners of Private Bills, who will be able to call the promoters before them. [Mr. HENRY H. FOWLER: No; that is not so.] I understand that the Examiners would hear individual proprietors of property along the proposed tramway line, and also some of the shareholders of the Company. If it is to be treated 214 as a Private Bill, as I understand it is—[Mr. HENRY H. FOWLER: NO.]—it will be necessary to refer it to the Examiners of Petitions for Private Bills. If it is not to be treated as a Private Bill, the case is made worse, because not only would the promoters have an opportunity of being heard before the Examiners of Private Bills, but it would be open for other persons to complain of non-compliance with the Standing Orders, and, in some form or other, to ventilate the merits and demerits of the scheme. If that were done now, I have no doubt the result would be the same in this House as it was after the careful scrutiny which was made by the House of Lords, and which resulted in the decision that the Bill ought not to pass. We are asked now to do a very singular thing. The Government informed the House that it was intended to bring the Session to a close as rapidly as possible, and that in the meantime no contentious Business would be taken. Now, this Bill has been opposed over and over again. It admittedly contains matter of a contentious character, and we find the Government deliberately departing from their promise, and themselves pushing contentious Business through the House at a moment when they had given hon. Members to understand that no contentious Business would be taken. They are even asking us to dispense with our own Standing Orders, which require that the Bill should go before the Examiners, and proposing that the Bill should be committed, in the Whole House, at once. I maintain that this is an extreme course to take; and unless the necessity were very great—a good deal stronger than it is on the present occasion—I am of opinion that Her Majesty's Government are not justified in what they are doing. I assume, however, that it will be useless to divide the House on the matter; but I am glad to have an opportunity of recording my protest against the course which the Government propose to take.
§ DR. COMMINS (Roscommon, S.)
This Bill is not now for the first time before the House, and its merits are not required to be gone into now, seeing that they have been amply discussed before. Indeed, the measure has been before the House on its merits since 1884, and upon those merits there have been two decisions in its favour by the 215 Grand Jury of the county of Cork. The House are, therefore, aware that the persons who are intrusted with the care of the interests of the particular locality affected by the Bill have already twice decided that the Bill ought to be passed. The Town Council of the city of Cork and the Cork Board of Guardians, who are perfectly well acquainted with the wants of the locality, have also decided in its favour. In addition, it has received the approval of the Privy Council of Ireland. After all these decisions, and after all the occasions in which those who object to the scheme have had an opportunity of being heard against it, my hon. Friend the Member for Cavan (Mr. Biggar) asks now that some particular individuals who have already had an opportunity of being heard shall be heard again, and be able to re-state their case in such a manner as to throw an enormous expense upon the promoters of the scheme. This Bill, which to some extent is a Private Bill, has now become a Public Bill; but, through a mistake on the part of the officials in "another place," it was relegated back as a Private Bill, and the promoters were compelled to incur an expense of £2,000, seeing that they had to bring over 14 or 15 witnesses to London, and to go into the merits of the Bill over again before a tribunal which I maintain, with all due respect, was not nearly so well qualified to come to a decision upon the scheme as the Grand Jury of the county of Cork or the Privy Council of Ireland. The expense of bringing witnesses from Ireland to this country is so great that the promoters were unable to call some of their most valuable witnesses. Then I say that those who are opposed to the Bill have had an ample opportunity of being heard twice already, and that the matter has been decided against them, except in the single instance when the Bill was sent back to a Private Bill Committee by the House of Lords. On that occasion the promoters, almost without notice, were called upon to re-state their case, and to endeavour to prove it by witnesses who could only be brought from Ireland at an enormous expense. I think it would not only be a great hardship, but an act of great injustice, to the promoters, who are only acting in the public interests, to impose upon them a repetition of the large expenditure already incurred. I 216 therefore think the best course is to accept the proposal of Her Majesty's Government and take the measure as a Public Bill.
§ MR. FLYNN (Cork, N.)
As one of the Representatives of the county of Cork and a resident in the district which is proposed to be served by the construction of this tramway, I have great pleasure in supporting the Motion of the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury, and I hope the House will assent to it. Of course, one must naturally expect opposition to a measure of this kind; but I take it that if the House were to adopt the course recommended by the hon. Member for East Donegal (Mr. Arthur O'Connor), it would have the effect of requiring the merits of this Bill to be discussed for a third or fourth time, whereas the opponents of the scheme have already had an opportunity on several occasions of stating their case, and the decision has been against them. The Board of Guardians of the district through which the tramway is to pass have unanimously passed resolutions in support of it. It is also strongly supported by the Corporation of the city of Cork, who are well acquainted with the locality and the local requirements. I therefore think that a strong case in favour of it has been made out. The opposition to the Bill comes principally from the Cork and Macroom Railway Company, as has already been explained by the hon. Member for Mid Cork (Dr. Tanner). That hon. Member is a Representative of the district, and he would certainly not have supported it if he did not believe that it would be for the benefit of the locality, that it is a scheme which will eventually pay, and that it will serve the material interests of his constituents. I have very great pleasure in supporting the Motion.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. John Morley.)
§ MR. BIGGAR (Cavan, W.)
I gather from the remarks of the hon. Gentleman opposite (the Secretary to the Treasury) that he objects to two propositions which have been made—namely, that he declines to agree to afford me an opportunity to-morrow of discussing the propriety of throwing half the expense of 217 the guarantee upon the landlords, instead of throwing the whole of it upon the occupoing tenants. He also objects, and perhaps not unfairly, to allow the Bill to be entirely lost, because he knows that it is practically impossible to have its merits considered at this period of the Session by a Select Committee. My appeal to the hon. Gentleman was that he should give us an opportuity tomorrow of considering whether it was not desirable to insert a clause in the measure which would allow part of the responsibility of the guarantee to be laid, where it ought to be laid, upon the landowners as well as the tenants. It is notorious that this Bill was originally promoted by a large landowner in the county of Cork. Not only is that the case, but it is somewhat singular that so much stress should have been laid upon the fact that the Grand Jury of the county of Cork decided in favour of the scheme. I am credibly informed that the late High Sheriff laid the Bill before a Grand Jury altogether friendly to his views, and, in fact, that they came to a decision upon the representations made to them by that gentleman. Sir George Colthurst, a former Representative of the county, was the High Sheriff by whom the measure was brought before the Grand Jury. Coachford, one of the points to which it is proposed to carry this railway, is a village about 15 miles from Cork. I would ask hon. Members to consider seriously whether it is desirable to encourage projects for making light railways to the villages in all parts of Ireland?—and yet that is really the gist of the proposal now before the House. I would further ask whether it is deemed advisable to encourage the construction of tramways to distant villages in competition with regular lines of railway already in existence and paying very small dividends? In regard to this projected line, it runs almost parallel with the Cork and Macroom Railway; it is not more than five miles away from any part of it, and, consequently, it cannot be alleged that the district proposed to be served is very badly off for railway accommodation. Persons residing within a mile of Macroom would naturally continue to use the Macroom Railway as a mode of conveyance to Cork in preference to the proposed line, and yet they are to be made liable to find the guarantee for 218 this Bill. I would ask the Government if that is a proposal in support of which there can be any fair argument? As has been pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for East Donegal (Mr. Arthur O'Connor), the Government, when they announced a Dissolution, gave a promise that no contentious Business should be taken. Now, this Bill certainly contains provisions of a highly contentious nature, and if they were allowed to be fairly fought out on their merits, I am satisfied that they would be thrown out. My hon. Friend the Member for West Donegal (Mr. O'Hea) talked about the construction of the line providing employment for the labourer. But are hon. Members prepared, in order to find employment for the labouring classes to the extent of some £10,000, to tax the ratepayers permanently to the extent of £70,000? The serious part of the expense of a railway is incurred in providing rolling stock, rails, and other materials, whereas the cost of labour is only a small fraction of the entire expense. I maintain that the reasons which have been given in support of the Bill are altogether untenable, and I think Her Majesty's Government ought to agree to my proposal, and afford an opportunity of considering the propriety of throwing the responsibility of supplying the guarantee upon the persons who are the real promoters of the scheme, and not of confining the burden of taxation solely upon the unfortunate occupying tenants. The landowners should undoubtedly bear their fair share of the expense, and perhaps it would teach them not to go in for these expensive railway schemes. At any rate, their views in that direction would probably be more moderate if they knew that they would be liable to incur their proper share of the expense.
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY (Mr. HENRY H. FOWLER) (Wolverhampton, E.)
The answer I have to give to the hon. Gentleman on behalf of the Government is simply this—that if we were to afford him the opportunity he asks for, the result would be merely to throw out the Bill. The House will only meet to-morrow for the purpose of being prorogued, and neither House will meet for the purpose of going on with Business. Therefore, to postpone the second reading of the Bill until tomorrow, would amount to the practical 219 throwing out of the Bill. I do not propose to go into the merits of the case again. The local people are in favour of it; the Local Authorities have twice over decided upon it; the Irish Privy Council has given its sanction to it; and the House of Lords, including two Lord Lieutenants, both the late and previous and present Lord Chancellor, and the Chief Secretaries past and present, in addition to the Members in this House who represent the district, have decided in favour of it. I hope, therefore, the House will not listen to the appeal which has been made by the hon. Member, but will do in this matter what I consider to be justice to Ireland.
§ MR. SEXTON (Sligo, S.)
I quite agree with the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury in the conclusion to which he has arrived, and I would ask my hon. Friend the Member for Cavan (Mr. Biggar) not to persist with his opposition to the Bill.
§ MR. M. J. KENNY (Tyrone, Mid)
I think the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury is somewhat mistaken in the statement he has made, that this Bill commands the universal assent of the locality through which it is to pass. The House has been familiar with the Bill since last year, and hon. Members who belong to the Party who sit on these Benches have reason to be familiar with it by reason of the fact that they were waited upon by two deputations of local ratepayers who came over from Ireland to make representations in regard to the Bill. One was a deputation from the tenants of Sir George Colthurst, who were naturally in favour of it, because it suited their personal convenience, and because this line of tramway—which I believe is really a bogus line—is to run past their houses, and will, of course, be of some benefit to them. It was supported also by the local landlord party, and by the Grand Jury, specially packed by Sir George Colthurst, who, in 1884, was High Sheriff of the county of Cork, because the line is intended to benefit his own property, and will be of advantage to his tenants. He sent a deputation of tenant farmers to us, all of whom lived in the immediate vicinity of the proposed line, and, of course, they were in favour of it; but immediately afterwards a large deputation of tenant farmers came across who do not live in the immediate vicinity of the line, but 220 who are supposed to derive benefit from it. They distinctly told us that the Cork and Macroom Railway affords ample accommodation to the district already; they, therefore, objected to be burdened with taxation for it; they maintained the line, if constructed, would never pay; and I think it is perfectly obvious that a narrow gauge line of railway of this nature, instead of being able to pay, will be a dead loss. The consequence will be that it will have to be taken up by the Grand Jury as soon as it ceases to pay, and the community will be taxed to the extent, probably, of 1s. in the pound, simply for the purpose of gratifying the interests of Sir George Colthurst, who, at that time, was Member for the city of Cork, and his tenants. The hon. Member for West Mayo (Mr. Deasy), who is intimately connected with the county, is altogether opposed to the scheme.
§ DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid)
Will my hon. Friend allow me to interrupt him? I only wish to say that the hon. Member for West Mayo (Mr. Deasy) did oppose the Bill at the outset, but he has since withdrawn all objection and opposition.
§ MR. M. J. KENNY
My hon. Friend the Member for West Mayo has ceased to be a Member for the city of Cork, and he does not trouble himself now about the affairs of that city. Probably it would have been different if he had remained one of the Representatives of that city. Not only did the hon. Member for West Mayo oppose the construction of this line, but the hon. Member for East Cork (Mr. Lane), who was not then a Member of this House, was also strongly opposed to it.
§ DR. TANNER
I must again interrupt my hon. Friend. The hon. Member for East Cork is one of the strongest aiders and abettors of this Bill.
§ MR. M. J. KENNY
I remember that the hon. Member who now represents East Cork (Mr. Lane) distinctly stated last year that he had been led by error into supporting the Bill; but as soon as he found out the real nature of the measure, and the real intentions of the promoters, he at once communicated with my hon. Friend (Mr. Parnell), who was then the junior Member for the city of Cork, with a view of inducing him to oppose the measure, on the ground that it proposed to 221 burden the locality with an enormous annual charge. Already the local ratepayers are petitioning against the Bill. Persons living in the locality, rated at £1,500 per annum, have petitioned against it, and are altogether opposed to it. Their contention is that this scheme, which is brought in under the provisions of the Tramways Act of 1883, is open to great objection, on the ground that there is no prospect of the line being able to maintain its way. The only thing that has been said in its favour is that its construction would involve the expenditure of money for the benefit of the labouring classes; but I contend that that is one of the greatest possible delusions from an economic standpoint. Suppose there are £20,000 or £30,000 spent in the payment of wages among the navvies and other persons engaged in these works. The money may benefit the men who receive it, but the locality will be very little benefited. There may be a small temporary benefit, but in the end there would be a permanent charge on the rates. Thus the locality is to be taxed in perpetuity for the benefit of a small gang of navvies; and the navvies who construct lines of railways in Ireland are not local navvies, but persons who come from a distance and go about in gangs from one public work to another. The idea that the construction of this tramway line will benefit the locality seems to my mind to be all moonshine. I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury has supported the scheme, for I am perfectly certain that if he had had the opportunity of inquiring into the question he would have taken the opposite attitude.
§ MR. E. HARRINGTON (Kerry, W.)
My hon. Friend the Member for Mid Cork (Dr. Tanner) excited some laughter when he said that this question was one which ran through the heart of his constituency; but I maintain that it runs through the heart of Irish property generally. I would ask hon. Members on both sides of the House whether there can be any doubt whatever as to the Irish feeling on this matter, or of those who represent the locality principally affected by the measure? If the Bill were decided by the vote of the Irish Members alone, I am satisfied that it would be carried by a very large majority.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR (Donegal, E.)
I would make an appeal to hon. Members who are supporting the Bill to agree to the very reasonable proposal that that burden should be restricted to those who are to enjoy the benefit. There are certain districts which are already within reach of a railway. Such districts will derive no benefit at all from the proposed line. They have signed a Petition against it, and they have moved against it not only this year, but in previous years. It is perfectly absurd that persons living within a mile of Macroom Railway Station, which is in direct communication with Cork, should be taxed in order that another line, of doubtful benefit, should be run in a district which is not theirs. If those who are in charge of the Bill will agree to exclude from the area of the measure Farsan and Macroom, I am perfectly ready to withdraw the opposition to the Bill; but I cannot see how the House can in fairness insist in throwing the charge upon Macroom for a scheme which can in no way benefit it, and in respect of a railway service which they regard as no supplement whatever to their own line. These are the only two districts in regard to which there is any substantial ground of objection; but in respect of these two it seems to me unreasonable that the promoters should refuse to modify their scheme. I would ask my hon. Friend below (Dr. Tanner) to say whether, if this Bill goes into Committee this afternoon, he will be willing to submit a limitation of the area of charge so as to exclude the districts I have mentioned?
§ DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid)
So far as the proposal which my hon. Friend has made is concerned, I should have no objection to it; but I must remind him that the matter is entirely in the hands of the hon. Gentleman opposite, and, as far as I can see, if the proposition were entertained the Bill would be hung up and practically destroyed for the present Session, and would have to be introduced again. If the House will bear in mind the figures which I have already read in reference to the two districts which my hon. Friend desires to omit, they will recollect that in one of them—Farsan—there were five rated occupiers in favour of the Bill, and only six against, while in the dis- 223 trict of Macroom there were 12 in favour and 23 against; so that there were altogether, in the two districts, 17 in favour of the scheme and 29 against it. Accordingly, you are to hang up the Bill for another year, and put the unfortunate promoters to an immense amount of expense, in order to gratify the wishes of 12 persons who may be called on to give a guarantee. I certainly think that it is a ridiculous proposal, and I hope the hon. Gentleman opposite will not give it his serious consideration. The House may rest satisfied that all classes and sections in the locality are united in supporting the measure, and the sooner it is passed into law the better it will be for all parties concerned.
§ MR. O'HEA (Donegal, W.)
If the suggestion of my hon. Friend the Member for East Donegal (Mr. Arthur O'Connor) were carried out, this Bill, which is framed on the basis of certain areas of taxation, would be entirely changed in its character, and the entire fabric which has been built up would crumble away. I cannot see how the suggestion of my hon. Friend could be carried out compatibly with the retention of the remaining provisions of the measure.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."—(The Secretary to the Treasury, Mr. Henry H. Fowler.)
§ MR. BIGGAR (Cavan, W.)
Before you leave the Chair, Sir, I must again protest against the way in which this Bill has been dealt with. It came down from the House of Lords on Tuesday last, and no Notice of it was given to any Member of the House until the Papers were issued next morning. Yet we are now asked to push the Bill through all of its stages. What is the result? The result is that we have had no opportunity of drafting any Amendments which might be considered fair and reasonable; we have been prevented either from giving Notice of Amendments, or from having any opportunity to block the Bill. I think, Sir, that that is a mode of conducting the Business of the House which we have a right to protest against in the strongest terms we can use. Further than that, we were told when the Dissolution was announced that Her Majesty's Government would 224 proceed with no contentious Business, but would simply wind up the ordinary Business of the Session. Yet they have introduced, almost on the last day of the Session, a measure of a highly contentious character, and they propose to force it through all of its stages in a single Sitting. It is notorious that there has been no debate in this House on the merits of this scheme, and that however desirable it may be to introduce Amendments into the Bill it would be impossible to have them properly considered unless previous Notice of them had been placed upon the Paper. If the Government had taken measures to have the Bill brought down from the House of Lords on Monday, so that we might have been afforded an opportunity of giving Notice of Amendments on Tuesday, there might have been some slight justification for the course which has been pursued; but, under the circumstances, it certainly seems to me that the Government have been guilty of sharp practice in regard to the Bill. We have been told by the hon. Member for Mid Cork (Dr. Tanner) that the opponents of the Bill are very few; but there have been Petitions against the Bill signed by ratepayers who are rated as occupiers to the amount of £4,700 per annum. No doubt, a certain class of persons will get some convenience from the construction of this line and will reap advantage from it. Of course, they are in favour of the measure; but, on the other hand, there are a considerable number of large ratepayers who will be taxed by the Bill and will derive no benefit at all from it. I think that, under the circumstances, Her Majesty's Government ought to withdraw the Bill altogether.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ (Sir LYON PLAYFAIR in the Chair.)
§ Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR (Donegal, E.)
I beg to move, in the Schedule which confirms the presentment of the Grand Jury of the county of Cork, to insert, after the word "Barretts," "with the exception of the parish of Aghina." This is a clause—Section 8 of the Schedule—which reads in this way— 225The presentment of the Grand Jury of the County of Cork, which is set out in the first Schedule to this Order, is hereby confirmed so far as it relates to the charge to be defrayed by the portions of the baronies of East Muskerry and Cork and Barretts as particularized in the said presentment for the payment of dividends at the rate of five pounds per centum per annum upon the paid-up capital of the undertaking as limited by this Order, and so far as it relates to the liability of the same portion of the said baronies to provide for the completing, working, and maintaining of the undertaking.I understand from my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Cork (Dr. Tanner), who, although not in charge of the Bill, represents the interests of the promoters, that he is not, in principle at any rate, opposed to the modification of the limitation which I suggested a short time ago. He only appeared to be afraid that any alteration of the Bill in Committee would involve delay and imperil the passing of the measure. But I understand that there are other Amendments which it will be necessary to insert in Committee, so that the acceptance of the Amendment which I propose would not involve any delay at all, seeing that I propose no further alteration of the Bill than will be effected by the other Amendments to which I allude. I simply propose by this Amendment to limit the area of charge by inserting in line 13, after the word "Barretts," the words "with the exception of the parish of Aghina." That parish is the parish which is most hardly dealt with by the scheme as it is now drawn. There is no portion of the parish of Aghina of which it can be said that it will derive any benefit whatever from the Bill. It is the parish from which the loudest and best grounded objections to the scheme proceed, and there is certainly considerable cause for the complaint the ratepayers make. In order to effect a compromise in the matter, I simply limit the Amendment to this particular parish. I beg to move that in Section 8 of the Schedule, page 4, line 13, after the word "Barretts," to insert the words "with the exception of the parish of Aghina."
§ Amendment proposed, in page 4, line 13, after the word "Barretts," to insert the words "with the exception of the parish of Aghina."—(Mr. Arthur O'Connor.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."226
§ MR. FLYNN (Cork, N.)
I would ask the hon. Member how he thinks it is possible that a revaluation can be now made for the purpose of this Bill? A large portion of this very district which the hon. Member for Donegal (Mr. Arthur O'Connor) wishes to exclude, and a considerable portion of this very parish of Aghina, will be served by this tramway line. No doubt, there is some portion of it which is conveniently situated so far as the Cork and Macroom Railway is concerned; but there are other parts which will be directly served by the construction of this light tramway. In addition, it will have the advantage of competition, and we all know that in case of the transport of goods either by sea or land there is nothing so advantageous to the general public as competition. The entire district to which the Amendment refers will be served by the Bill; and the promoters, therefore, strongly object to the proposed alteration.
§ MR. BIGGAR (Cavan, W.)
The position which the opponents of the Bill occupy is a most unsatisfactory one. The unfortunate people who live at the terminus of the railway will be called upon to pay part of the guarantee, but can by no possibility derive benefit from the construction of a new line. I do not see how Her Majesty's Government can defend a proposition of this sort. As I have already said, part of the property which it is proposed to tax is within one mile of the town of Macroom, and four miles distant from the terminus of the proposed line. Nevertheless, the occupiers of that property will be taxed if the Bill is allowed to pass in its present shape. I do not see how the Government can defend such a proposition, and I fail to see what objection they can urge to the reasonable proposal of my hon. Friend the Member for Donegal (Mr. Arthur O'Connor). The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down (Mr. Flynn) says that if the Amendment is assented to, the property affected by the Bill will have to be revalued. That is not at all necessary, because under the Government valuation every holder holds separately, and there will not be the slightest difficulty in striking out a whole parish if it is thought desirable to do so.
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY (Mr. HENRY H. FOWLER) (Wol-
227 verhampton, E.)
The Government are anxious to see this Bill passed in the form in which it has been introduced by the promoters, and that as little change should be made in it as possible. It has already gone through the House of Lords, and it is desirable that the form in which it left that House shall be adhered to. The Government, at all events, have shown that they are not enamoured of the principle of revising questions which have been settled by the Irish authorities. In this case the Bill has been approved by the Irish Privy Council, the Board of Guardians of the county of Cork, and by all the Local Authorities; and the course I ask the Committee to take now is to accept the decision of the Local Authorities, the Privy Council, and the House of Lords. If not, the effect of altering the measure in the way suggested would be, I am satisfied, to destroy the Bill. I trust that the hon. Member for Donegal (Mr. Arthur O'Connor) will not throw on this House the responsibility of amending the provisions of the Bill on a question we do not understand.
§ MR. M. J. KENNY (Tyrone, Mid)
I think it is a great pity that the Bill cannot be referred to a Select Committee, because, as a matter of fact, this House is altogether incompetent to deal with the question involved in it. The Committee have no evidence before them, or, at any rate, only conflicting evidence, as to the feeling of the local ratepayers on the matter. What is proposed is to construct a light line of railway within a mile of the area at present occupied by the Cork and Macroom Railway, and to compel the ratepayers, who are already more than amply provided with railway accommodation, to pay the cost of the new tramway, although it will only benefit a few persons who live on the route of the proposed narrow-gauge railway. I believe that, under any circumstances, it would be impossible to induce any body of sane men to subscribe to the construction of this line. I certainly consider it unfair to expose persons living in the parish of Aghina even to the risk of being called upon to pay for the railway. They do not want the line, and it is not only unfair but unjust to require them to run the risk of being liable to pay for a scheme which is 228 bound to collapse, eventually leaving the entire district responsible for the payment of a rate in perpetuity. I trust that the Committee will see their way to accept the Amendment of my hon. Friend, because, although not all that could be desired, it would save the inhabitants of this parish from the risk they are asked to incur, of guaranteeing a railway from which, they can by no possibility derive the smallest amount of benefit.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:— Ayes 3; Noes 115: Majority 112.—(Div. List, No. 143.)
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY (Mr. HENRY H. FOWLER) (Wolverhampton, E.)
moved to insert in the Schedule the following sub-section relating to the limit of guarantee:—(9.) The capital to which the guarantee set out in the said presentment shall apply is hereby limited to the sum of seventy-five thousand pounds. The guarantee shall apply to so much of the capital so limited as is for the time actually paid up. The aforesaid capital of seventy-five thousand pounds shall not he issued as fully paid up, or he called up, save as said capital may from time to time be required for the actual construction and carrying out of the said undertaking: Provided always, that the entire of said capital shall not be issued until the expiration of a period of two years from the confirmation of this Order by Act of Parliament, unless the said undertaking shall be sooner completed.
§ Sub-section agreed to.
§ MR. HENRY H. FOWLER
moved to insert Sub-section 11—(Guarantee by Treasury.)(11.) When in any half-year after the opening for traffic of the light railways the said baronies have paid to the Promoters any sums in respect of guaranteed dividend, exclusive of any sum paid in respect of the completing, working, or maintaining of the undertaking, the Treasury shall, if and so long as the light railways are maintained in working order and carry traffic, authorise the Board of Works, out of moneys provided by Parliament, to pay to the treasurer of the county, to be put to the account of the said baronies in the proportion of the sums paid by them, a sum amounting to one half of the sums so paid by them in respect of guaranteed dividend, exclusive as aforesaid, during such half-year, but so nevertheless that the sum so authorised to be paid shall not exceed a sum equal to interest at the rate of 2 per centum per annum on the paid up capital limited as aforesaid.
§ Sub-section agreed to.229
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Question, "That this be the Preamble of the Bill," put, and agreed to.
§ Bill reported, with Amendments; as amended, considered; read the third time and passed, with Amendments.