§ Order for consideration, as amended, read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now considered."
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Louth, N.)
, in moving the Amendment standing in his name, said that throughout the history 1297 of private Bill legislation there had been no more flagrant case of Parliamentary perfidy than was to be found in connection with the construction of the Cork to Fermoy line. At first he had been inclined to lay the blame at the door of the Great Southern and Western Company, but, having read the correspondence that had taken place on the subject with the Treasury, he concluded that the Great Western of England were mainly responsible. Bearing in mind that the company had stated before one of the Committees that they would never venture to come to Parliament on any other matter before this pledge was carried out, it would be for the House, when their Bills come up next session, to treat them accordingly. The right hon. Member for the Clitheroe Division of Lancashire was chairman of the Committee which considered a Bill to create a new route from Rosslare to Cork. All the Irish Members joined in acknowledging that that right hon. Member had given to the Report and the examination of witnesses a painstaking research and acumen which had seldom distinguished the chairmen of Private Bill Committees of that House. The new line was to be an alternative to the existing route, and the people in that district were to have a Competitive route, instead of being tied to the Great Southern and Western Railway Company, as in the past. The chairman of the Committee said that, instead of leaving them at the mercy of the Great Southern and Western Railway Company, he would bring in a great English company whose word was their bond. In paragraph 14 of the Report of the Committee—which was a Hybrid Committee—it was stated that the Rosslare and Fishguard Railway system, so far as Cork, would be under the joint control of the Great Southern and Western Railway Company and the Limerick and South Western Company, the latter having a preponderating influence. But a more direct route from Cork to Fermoy was to be the subject of another Bill which the promoters were pledged to pass the following year. Three years after that pledge was given the Great Southern and Western Railway Company opened up communications with the Treasury, and said they could not make the line at all, as they did not 1298 think it was of any use. Their next excuse for the breach of faith was that if they were let off making the line from Cork and Fermoy they would build a bridge across the Lee, giving communication with Berehaven, although they had been pledged before to build that bridge within a reasonable time. The railway companies now said they could not build the Lee bridge because they could not get the promised "co-operation" of the Cork Corporation and the Cork Harbour Commissioners. It was true that the word "co-operation" was used in the Report of the Committee, but it was absurd to suppose that this meant, as the companies now contended, financial co-operation. All that the Cork Harbour Commissioners had promised was their goodwill—not monetary or other assistance. As a fact, the Treasury had, behind the backs of the Irish Members and in the dark, given away the power which had been specially granted by Parliament for the making of a through route from Dublin to Cork. This was a matter which affected the whole of the south of England, quite as much as the south and west of Ireland, because it affected the prosperity of the trade between the two districts. A more misleading memorandum than that which had been sent to the Treasury signed by Lord Cawdor, the chairman of the Great Western, he had never seen. It began by stating that in the original Bill, as sent to the Committee in 1898, there was no proposal whatever to make the Cork and Fermoy line. That statement was false and pernicious. The Committee insisted, being convinced of the necessity of some such line as the Cork and Fermoy line, sanctioned it, and at the same time inserted a clause binding the Great Southern and Western Company to come in the following session for power to make a line from Fermoy, with a slight deviation. In other words, they passed what was virtually an Abandonment Act, and at the same time an Act authorising the construction of a line to replace the abandoned portion. It seemed to him, from the action of the Treasury, that the Admiralty and the War Office must have stepped in and taken the matter out of the hands of the Government, with a view to the strategetic importance which they attached to keeping the 1299 French out of Bantry Bay, or from some such consideration as that. The company now proposed to build a bridge in lieu of the railway, but what security had the House that they would build the bridge any more than the line? The House had only the word of the company for it. On the 3rd April last, nearly three years after they had pledged themselves to construct this line, they wrote to the Cork Harbour Commissioners, saying—Of course such a line could only be commercially constructed with the assent of the Cork Harbour Commissioners and the Corporation of Cork, but my directors are advised, and they themselves fully believe that, under present circumstances, no useful purpose would be served by the construction of the proposed line from Fermoy to Dunkettle, and if with the approval of the Cork authorities my directors were relieved of the obligation to construct this line, they would, notwithstanding that Parliament contemplated that the connecting lines through Cork should be constructed only at the joint expense of the Harbour Commissioners, the Corporation, the Cork and Bandon, and the Cork and Macroom Railway Companies, and of this company, be themselves prepared to bear the whole cost of the construction of the connecting lines through Cork, without asking for any contribution on the part of the Cork authorities or railway companies.The Cork Commissioners replied at once that—Without expressing any opinion at present on the subject of a connecting bridge, the commissioners desire to make it clear that they never gave, or implied, any undertaking whatever to contribute towards the cost of connecting the railways.The suggestion that the assent and co-operation of the local bodies had been refused was absolutely false. The Treasury bound themselves by a parliamentary pledge to insist that within the year ending on the 31st of this month the contracts for the construction of the Cork and Fermoy line would be let and the lands taken and the work commenced. That pledge was given through the mouth of the Financial Secretary, who was now the Secretary to the Board of Agriculture, but where was the continuity between the right hon. Gentleman and the present Financial Secretary? In July of last year Mr. Hanbury stated in the House that no portion whatever of the proposed Treasury grant of £93,000 would be paid until at least one-half of the work was completed, 1300 and the grant as a whole was dependent on the whole work being completed before 1904, and the right hon. Gentleman added that, in view of the apparent reluctance of the company to begin the Fermoy portion of the undertaking, he proposed to require the immediate payment of this sum unless a satisfactory assurance was at once given that the Fermoy and Cork branch would be undertaken and completed before August, 1904. The Treasury released the company from the immediate payment of £93,000 in consequence of the pledge then given, and this pledge was embodied in a written undertaking, and yet the whole of that written pledge had been broken. We were now within ten days of the expiring of the time and not a single thing had been done, except that the company had written a lying letter bamboozling the successor of the right hon. Gentleman. The Treasury and Parliament had been diddled and humbugged. What was Parliament to do to compel these companies to keep faith? Was it to tolerate this kind of thing? The net result was, that in spite of the pledges and the written assurances given to the House, they were now told that the company had got the House to give them all these amalgamation schemes, and that they had got out of the payment of £93,000, but that they now hoped that the House would forgive and forget. He had no desire to prevent the making of the line to Cashel, but he would like to know what Parliament could do to compel this company to carry out its undertakings, and to keep public faith. He was quite content to withdraw his motion if the right hon. Gentleman could give him some assurance that this matter would not be allowed to proceed. The right hon. Gentleman was the protection of minorities, and it was for him to see not only that the rules of Parliament were carried out, but also that parliamentary bargains made in good faith should be kept by those who made them for their own benefit. He regretted to learn of the death of Mr. Pope, who had represented the Great Southern and Western Railway Company in these transactions. That great lawyer said in the committee-room, "This project of giving Ireland a new through route has for me an extraordinary attraction." 1301 He never left the Committee room while the question was under consideration, and it was certain he would be the first man to condemn this attempt of his former clients to evade their solemn undertaking. In conclusion, the hon. Member said that he had no prejudice in this matter, and he approached the consideration of the question with an open mind. He merely stated that if Parliament was prepared to allow great railway companies to override Acts of Parliament, the functions of Parliament would be at an end, and no Committee would ever again be able to trust the word of a railway company.
To leave out from the word 'That' to the end of the Question, and add the words 'this House is not prepared to consider any Bill relating to the Great Southern and Western Company's system, until that company has given effect to the parliamentary undertakings for which it is responsible respecting the construction of the Cork and Fermoy line under the Acts of 1898 and 1899.'"—(Mr. T. M. Healy.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
SIR U. KAY-SHUTTLEWORTH (Lancashire, Clitheroe)
said that, as the chairman of the Committee which had considered the original Bill, he trusted that the strongest view would be taken both by the Government and the House of the attempt to evade their obligations on the part of these two great railway companies, who were united under the concession granted to them three years ago by a very strong Committee specially appointed by this House, and that they should not be released from the solemn obligations they had then entered into. The concession which was then granted to them was a very large and a very exceptional one. In some respects it was a great monopoly, and the Committee had taken great care in granting that concession to consider all the obligations which they were bound to lay on the company in order that the public interests might be properly secured. The obligations placed upon the company were so numerous that he would not attempt to state them to the House, but among them were two. One was this: 1302 When the Bill came before the House there was a disposition on the part of the company to try and withdraw that portion of it which provided for a short route from Fermoy to Cork. If that portion of the scheme had been dropped, as the company desired, all the traffic would have had to go several miles round by Mallow. There were other objections to the company being allowed to drop that part of the Bill. One of the obligations to which the company solemnly pledged themselves was that they would, in deference to the unanimous view of the Committee, make this line from Fermoy to Cork. It was in order that they might wriggle out of that solemn pledge given to the Committee, and embodied in two Acts of Parliament—the Act passed in 1898 and another Act passed by a Committee of which he had also been chairman in 1899—that the company had approached the Treasury, who had a voice in the matter. Not only had Parliament the usual power owing to those Acts which had been passed of keeping the company to its obligations—as he hoped Parliament would do—but owing to a grant of public money advanced by the Treasury being involved, and owing to the Committee having insisted on the agreement with the Treasury being scheduled to the Act, the Treasury also had a great power, by insisting on payment of a certain sum of money to keep the company to its obligations. He hoped the Treasury would stand absolutely firm upon that. He was under the disadvantage, and so was the House, of not having had an opportunity of seeing the correspondence alluded to by the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down. That some hocus-pocus had been attempted was pretty plain, but he was bound to tell the House that the Committee had considered they ought to take exceptional precautions with one of those companies on account of what he would characterise as the short-sighted, selfish policy that had been pursued for years past with respect to the city of Cork. That opened the Committee's eyes to the importance of binding down the two companies in a way which, perhaps, exceeded the ordinary practice of Parliamentary Committees. The Committee tied down the two companies most specially in the clauses that had been 1303 read. But when he spoke of the treatment of the city of Cork by the Great Southern and Western Company which made a profound impression on the Committee, and led them to take the steps they did in the course of their inquiry, he would also say that the policy pursued by that company was in the opinion of the Committee not only hostile to the public interests, but hostile to their own interests, and was a policy of what he would call penny-wisdom and pound-folly. He most thoroughly believed that in this attempt now to evade the obligations laid by Parliament on the company a similar policy of penny-wisdom and pound-folly was being pursued. If this connecting link was not made, the route from Cork to the west of England would not be that desired by the Committee, who had only granted that great concession to those companies in the belief that there would be constructed a railway giving first-rate through communication from London, Wales, and the west of England to Cork, and to that important district of the west of Ireland lying beyond Cork. Before he sat down he would refer to the idea mooted by the company that they would offer an alternative to the construction of this railway. But what did they offer? They offered as an alternative to carry out a second obligation—one of many, but a second obligation which they equally solemnly undertook, namely, with the co-operation of the city of Cork, to connect this new system with that particular district for the benefit of the fishing and agricultural industries. He hoped the House of Commons and the Government would not for a moment entertain the idea that, because the company offered to carry out one of their obligations, they, therefore, should be let off carrying out the other, The hon. Gentleman had read a paragraph of the Report containing the word "co-operation," and it was perfectly true that that word as used there could not have been intended to mean financial co-operation. If they had had financial assistance in view, the Committee would have taken care to have put that in the Report. What was meant was that the company should be given power to make this line, and that the Commissioners should co-operate with them in the construction of a bridge 1304 across the river Lee, which would be greatly to the advantage of the southwest of Ireland, namely, of all parts of the country beyond Cork.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR, Manchester, E.)
said there were several questions which had been mixed up in the course of the debate, but it seemed to him that the first question before the House was what was best for the district which was, or might be, served by those two lines of communication. He thought everybody would admit, probably even the hon. and learned Gentleman who initiated the debate, that the most important thing in connection with that route was the joining up of the west of Ireland with the west of England by direct communication. That, broadly speaking, and putting aside all other points, was the real question before the House—What was the best thing to be done from the point of view of Ireland? The right hon. Gentleman who had just spoken had told the House that the railway company was bound to make that through communication quite irrespective of all consequences about the line from Cork to Fermoy. He confessed he did not quite understand what the rights of that question were. It was not quite so clear as it would appear from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, who ought, as chairman of the Committee, to know. If he were rightly informed, the Committee had made it a condition that that through line should be made with the co-operation of the Cork authorities. That co-operation had not been granted.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
It has. It has never been refused. The only thing they have refused is to allow the abandonment of the Cork and Fermoy line.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said he had there a volume of correspondence on the subject which he quite admitted he had not had an opportunity of reading—
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Quite so. He had not read the correspondence, but he 1305 had seen one or two of the letters, and it was quite evident that, if the co-operation of the Cork authorities had not been refused, at all events it had not been given. Difficulties had been raised by the local authorities as to the building of the bridge over the river. It was not plain on the face of the correspondence that the Cork authorities had co-operated with the railway company in the manner which might have been anticipated.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND
said the right hon. Gentleman was quite mistaken, The Cork Harbour Board and the Corporation were willing that the company should make the bridge, but they were not willing to allow them to get out of their obligation to make the Cork to Fermoy line.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
He would come to the Cork and Fermoy line directly, but he could assure the hon. and learned Gentleman, who probably had facilities which he had not, that certainly, so far as he could gather from a glance at the correspondence, the railway company seemed to have been writing week after week and month after month in connection with the bridge over the Lee. Whether it was now settled, and the authorities of Cork were prepared to co-operate, he had no notion. So much for that branch of the question, upon which he did not feel he had the information at his disposal to enable him to give an opinion to the House. But there was something in a sense more important than the commercial and financial interests of the South and West of Ireland at the bottom of the matter. There was what the right hon. Gentleman opposite had told the House, which appeared, so far as he could gather, to be absolutely the fact. The Great Southern and Western of Ireland had been given, in a Bill which was bitterly opposed, a privilege which they asked on certain specific conditions. If there was any doubt as to the conditions, there was no doubt that one of them was the building of this line from Cork to Fermoy. His opinion was that once a railway company came before a Committee of that House and got a Bill for value received, it ought to carry out its obligations. It might be that the obligation ought not, in the interests of Ireland, 1306 to have been entered into. It might be that the money to be spent on this line had much better be spent in carrying out other railway works in the south and west of Ireland. Upon that point he did not offer an opinion, though he inclined to the opinion that the money probably might be better spent. But that did not alter the fact that a bargain had been made in the most solemn manner before two Committees—the Committee of that House and the Committee of the House of Lords—and that it was in consequence of that bargain that the railway company obtained from the House the privileges it now enjoyed. He thought they must distinguish that question from the question of expediency, and he did think the railway company were bound to carry out the bargain into which they had entered. However, the Treasury had nothing to do with the matter, except so far as regarded the calling up of the £93,000, which, as his right hon. friend the President of the Board of Agriculture had told the company, they would have to pay unless they built the line. He confessed he did not see any alternative in the matter. When that money was called up it appeared that the Treasury would have done all they could be ex-expected to do in connection with this question. For the rest, it would be for the House to decide whether the bargain made with one of its Committees was not to be fulfilled by the railway company. One word before he sat down in regard to the Bill before the House. It had no connection with the Cork and Fermoy line or with the construction of the bridge over the river Lee, but it was a Bill, the object of which was to improve the conduct of traffic between the south of Ireland and England. It was an omnibus Bill, and in his judgment the House would act very foolishly if it attempted to penalise a railway company by refusing to pass an omnibus Bill simply because the company had incurred, and perhaps justly incurred, suspicion in relation to certain matters. Let the House refuse in the future to remit to another Committee what one Committee had already decided; let the House refuse to allow a company to go back upon a parliamentary bargain; but it would be unwise in the interests 1307 of the travelling public, leaving out of consideration the shareholders, to penalise this or any other company because they had incurred the displeasure of the House in connection with an entirely different matter. Therefore he would suggest that this Bill, having been duly before a Committee, ought to be read a third time; but hereafter if either the Treasury or the House was asked to release the companies from a bargain into which they had solemnly entered for value received, then an entirely different set of considerations came in, and probably a different course ought to be taken.
§ MR. FLYNN (Cork, N.)
said he was sure the Irish Members had listened with satisfaction to the concluding words of the First Lord of the Treasury. The point was that in this matter of £93,000 it was only by means of debates of this kind that Parliament could put pressure on the company to discharge its obligations. The communities in the south of Ireland heard with amazement and Indignation the statement which was recently made by the Secretary to the Treasury. He had, week after week, put questions on this point to the Secretary to the Treasury, and information had been refused, and at the last moment they found out in a very unsatisfactory manner that a long correspondence bad been going on between the railway company and the Treasury. It seemed very strange that, without consulting the public opinion of the districts concerned, this company should have been able to carry on this correspondence behind their backs—and that with a great public Department like the Treasury. He complained that this correspondence had not been given to them in time to be used in this debate.
§ THE FINANCIAL SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY (Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN, Worcestershire, E.)
said he could not possibly have the correspondence printed and circulated in the usual way, because it was only on the previous day a question was asked about it.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND (Waterford)
said he desired to point the moral of what had occurred. This was a matter in which the great body of the Irish Members were interested, and no communication, good, bad, or indifferent, had been made, from any English source to any of the Irish Members. By mere chance rumours reached some of them, and a question was put. Then they were informed by the Secretary to the Treasury for the first time that the Treasury had had this matter before them, that this railway company had asked permission to evade their obligations, that the Treasury had referred the matter to the Irish Office, that the Irish Office had approved of the proposal of the company, and that on this approval being given the Treasury had given their sanction. Irish Members had heard with great pleasure the speech of the First Lord of the Treasury. On being called in, the right hon. Gentleman had taken an entirely different view, and reversed the decision of the Irish Office and the Treasury. The moral he wanted to point was that it was an inconvenient method of transacting Irish business for the Irish Office and the Treasury to attempt to come to decisions on purely Irish affairs without in any way consulting the representatives of Irish public opinion. The humiliating position in which the Treasury and the Irish Office now stood was one they never would have got into if they had taken the ordinary precaution of consulting the representatives of Irish public opinion. He was glad that the hon. and learned Member who had initiated the discussion had stated that he would not divide the House. If he divided, he (Mr. Redmond), for one, should have voted against him, because, although he entertained strong views on the action of the company, his views were so strongly in favour of this Bill that he would not vote against it. The Bill would be of great benefit to guarantors of the counties of Kerry and Limerick, and it proposed to construct a line to Cashel, and therefore he could not have supported the hon. and learned Gentleman if he had pushed his motion to a division. He (Mr. Redmond) was 1309 exceedingly glad to hear the First Lord announce that the Treasury would at once call up the £93,000. That was a sum which had been originally lent by the Treasury for the construction of railways in Co. Waterford, and he had always felt that it should be spent for the benefit of the county. As a member of the Committee presided over by Sir U. K. Shuttleworth he had agreed to this money being devoted for the purposes of the whole line, but only with very great hesitation, and only when he had evidence of the enormous good which this great through line would bring to the whole of the south of Ireland. Now that this money was to be called in, he agreed with the First Lord that it might be more usefully, or at any rate more fairly, expended in the future than it would have been under that scheme. He did not wish to discuss the matter further, as he had merely risen to point the moral that the First Lord had to throw over the Treasury and the Irish Office, because neither the one nor the other had taken the trouble to consult Irish opinion.
§ MR. GILHOOLY (Cork Co., W.)
urged that the construction of a bridge to connect the Cork and Bantry Railway with the Great Southern and Western Railway would assist the congested districts, develop the fishing industry, and assist the transit of agricultural produce. As to the "co-operation" of the Cork local bodies, if they acted towards this scheme in a selfish and niggardly spirit, he trusted that that would be remembered by the House when the Cork authorities came for further powers.
MR. BARRY (Cork Co., S.),
as a Member for the western portion of the county of Cork, wished to emphasise the importance of through communication for the purpose of the transit of fish, butter, and cattle. At the present time fish and butter and other produce which came up to Cork from the West Riding were placed at the great disadvantage of having to be unloaded at the terminus and transported across the city. He had no intention of taking isolated action in this matter, but he thought that these facilities ought to be given to the company and this link line completed.
§ MR. FIELD (Dublin, St. Patrick)
said that as the chairman of the Irish Railway Reform Association he took a much larger and more comprehensive view of this matter than had been taken by previous speakers. The real question at issue was whether railway companies were to govern the House of Commons or the House of Commons were to govern railway companies. The Great Southern and Western Railway, instead of improving facilities, lowering the rates, and helping their customers, had simply put on the screw. They had come down to the House and said—We will not build this Cork and Fermoy line, and not build this bridge across the Lee. Railway companies had now become legislative rather than commercial bodies; they governed the House of Commons and the House of Lords. There were in the House of Commons seventy-eight and in the House of Lords forty-eight railway representatives. If the House of Commons allowed these two great companies to override it in this way there was an end of railway legislation.
§ MR. SHEEHAN (Cork County, Mid)
joined his colleagues in urging that, in the interests of the agricultural and fishing industries, this link line should be constructed, and that the companies should not be allowed to go back upon their solemn pledges to Parliament.
§ MR. LUNDON (Limerick, E.)
said the House of Commons was over-ridden by railway directors and railway managers, and the Irish Office also had been over-ridden in a similar manner. He believed that the people of the south of Ireland lost their trump card the day they assented to the amalgamation. That was the time when the Cork and Limerick and Cashel should have stood out against the amalgamation and insisted on their rights. Instead of that they consigned their interests to this merciful House of Commons, which was largely composed of railway men. There seemed at the present time to be no remedy for these matters, because the House was in the hands of the railway interest.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
said that, after the statement made by the First Lord 1311 of the Treasury, he would ask leave to withdraw his Amendment, but at the same time he must express some surprise that no one on behalf of the company had thought it worth while out of the respect due to the House to explain the position of the companies, but that they had allowed this debate to pass against them practically in silence. The present position of the Great Western and the Great Southern and Western was that they had been convicted in the face of Parliament of a shameless breach of faith.
§ MR. DAVID M'IVER (Liverpool, Kirkdale)
said that, as a director not only of the Great Western Railway but also of the Fishguard and Rosslare Railway which was practically in partnership with the Great Southern and Western, he was in a position to say that they had never for one moment denied or sought to deny the Parliamentary obligation that was cast upon them to make this Cork to Fermoy line. What they did say was that it was not in the interests of the district that that particular line should be made.
§ MR. DAVID M'IVER
What possible object can the Great Western have except to do that which is best for the south of Ireland?
§ MR. DAVID M'IVER
repeated that in doing what was in the interests of the public they were doing that which was best for their own interests as a great railway company. What they wanted to do was this. He was speaking both for the Great Western and for the Fishguard Railway. They wanted to make a thorough good route to the south of Ireland. They wanted to benefit Ireland. In so doing they would benefit themselves. They had no possible object in desiring to avoid making any railway which could possibly pay its expenses. With regard to this particular line he admitted that they did not think it was in the interests of the company that it should be made, but the obligation was upon them, and, if it was insisted upon, the 1312 line would be made. What was the position of the railway company as a commercial undertaking? If this railway was made, a railway that could not pay, and one that was not necessary to the scheme, in some way or other its expenses would have to be met. It must be more or less a burden upon the trade of the district. It was not in the interests of the south of Ireland that the line should be made. If they thought differently, the Fishguard Railway Company in no way wished to avoid doing what they had pledged themselves to do. They had never for one moment desired to evade their obligations. He did not think it worth his while to reply in any way to the perfectly uncalled for statements as to their chairman Lord Cawdor, whom they loved and respected, and who was well known to many Members of this House. None who knew him could doubt for a moment that he would be the last man to wish to evade any obligation that he had undertaken. But for the hon. and learned Member's concluding remarks he should not have troubled the House at all. He thanked the House for kindly allowing him to say those few words.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ MR. MURPHY (Kerry, E.)
proposed to move to recommit the Bill in order that he might move—That it be an Instruction to the Committee on Great Southern and Western Railway (recommitted) Bill [Lords] to insert provisions that no preferential railway rates shall be allowed to passengers staying at any hotels at present owned or in future to be acquired by the Great Southern and Western Railway Company, and also to prevent in future unequal charges for the carriage and delivery of goods being fixed by the said railway company.
§ MR. SPEAKER
intimated that if the Bill were recommitted, he would have to rule the Instruction out of order. The charges to be made by the company to customers travelling on their lines and using their hotels was a general matter of railway law; so was the question of unequal charges; neither question could be discussed on this Bill.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
pointed out that the Bill authorised the company to 1313 raise additional capital, to be applied to the hotels already in existence; and he contended that the House ought not to give them that privilege except upon a pledge that the hotels would be conducted in a fair and reasonable way.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Member for East Kerry is, I understand, seeking to raise the general question of the company making a charge to their customers which shall include travelling and maintenance at their hotels. That is a general question of railway law, which cannot be dealt with on a particular Bill.
§ MR. SPEAKER
Yes, but first of all the question must be disposed of, "That the Bill be now considered."
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill considered.
§ MR. MURPHY
said that a few facts which he would place before the House of Commons would, he thought, say a good deal more in favour of the motion which he proposed to move than any words which he could utter. One of the hotel keepers in Kerry had given him the figures in reference to this matter. The cost of a first class return ticket to Killarney was 45s., but the cost with three days board and lodging at the Great Southern Hotel was only 55s.
§ MR. SPEAKER
said the hon. Member was now attempting to do a thing which he had already ruled was not in order.
§ MR. MURPHY
said that that being so, he would move to omit Clause 34, which was the clause dealing with the subject of hotels. He moved its omission as a protest against the rates which the company would charge if it was allowed to acquire hotels in Killarney and Kerry generally.
§ Amendment proposed to be made to the Bill, by leaving out Clause 34.—(Mr. Murphy.)1314
§ Question proposed, "That Clause 34 stand part of the Bill."
§ MR. GOULDING (Wiltshire, Devizes)
said, on behalf of the promoters of the Bill, he could not accept the Amendment. The clause was vital, and if it was struck out the responsibility for the loss of the Bill would rest on the Members from Ireland.
§ MR. GOULDING
said he did not say so, but that the clause dealing with the hotels was vital. The Bill had been before two Committees, and this objection had not been taken before.
§ MR. FIELD
said the remarks of the hon. Member were in the recollection of the House. He had stated distinctly that they must accept the Bill as it stood. That brought the House to the condition of things which he had foretold only a few minutes before. This railway company now came to the House and said they must take the Bill as it stood or leave it. This was a condition of things which should not be allowed. He knew something about this railway company: they wanted to best everybody in Ireland, and he was sorry to say more often than not they did it.
§ MR. CONDON (Tipperary, E.)
said he had been placed in a most embarrassing position by the remarks of the hon. Gentleman opposite. He himself was in favour of the passing of the Bill, but if the hon. Gentleman was speaking on behalf of the Great Southern and Western Company he certainly thought he should explain the clause to the House, and give some reason why they would not accept the Amendment. That was the least the hon. Gentleman could do, remembering all that had taken place in the Committee. The Great Southern and Western Company's behaviour was not inviting; they simply held a pistol to one's head and said if they did not take the whole Bill they would have none. 1315 Hon. Members were entitled to better treatment at the hands of this railway company, and the least thing that its representatives in the House could do was to adopt a conciliatory attitude. Why was this particular part of the Bill so desirable? It would take a great deal to make him adopt any action which would jeopardise the passage of the Bill, because the interests of Cashel were vitally interested, and therefore before proceeding further he invited some explanation from the hon. Gentleman.
§ SIR JOHN COLOMB (Great Yarmouth)
disclaimed having a brief to speak upon this motion. He only wished to point out that one of the greatest draw backs in Ireland up to a recent period was the absence of good hotel accommodation. Such a thing was against the best interests of Ireland, and a company was formed to deal particularly with Kerry, and establish certain hotels. They built some magnificent hotels, but in consequence of their not being able to manage them the railway company proposed to take them over. He thought it would be disastrous to the development of the tourist traffic of Kerry if the Great Southern and Western Railway were not to be allowed to run hotels, and he therefore hoped that every hon. Member who wished to see justice done to such a beautiful county as Kerry would support the clause.
§ MR. T. O'DONNELL (Kerry, W.)
said he did not intend to oppose the Bill, but this was the only occasion on which they could protest against the anomalies which they complained of. He did not wish in any way to hamper the Great Southern and Western Railway in establishing convenient and suitable hotels. The object of himself and his friends was to create fair and open competition between all hotels, but they did not desire to establish a monopoly. He would quote one illustration to show that the Bill proposed to hand over the hotel trade of Killarney exclusively to the railway company. A traveller could obtain a ticket from Dublin to Killarney, with three days at the company's hotel in Killarney—
§ MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! That is a question which cannot be discussed. 1316 It is the common practice for railway companies to own hotels.
§ MR. THOMAS O'DONNELL (Kerry, W.)
said that nature had blessed his county with many advantages, and he desired that the hotel traffic should circulate among others than railway directors. That was his only object, and he would like to obtain from the promoters of the Bill some guarantee that at least equal facilities would be given to the other hotels as were given to the company's hotels. He suggested the postponement of the Bill until Thursday, in order to permit of an arrangement being arrived at.
§ MR. CULLINAN (Tipperary, S.)
said he, too, should very much regret anything happening which would interfere with the passing of the Bill. He and his hon. friends were very anxious to have the Cashel line built, but after the threat used by the hon. Member opposite he thought it was time that steps were taken to prevent a series of proposals, some of a popular character and others of an objectionable character, being included in one measure. The hon. Member opposite was not, as far as he knew, a railway director, but he was sorry to add that he was an Irishman who had run away from his own country to find a seat in England in order to be able to support his brother and the other directors of the Great Southern and Western Railway.
§ MR. CULLINAN
said with reference to the clause, the amalgamation Bill was opposed by the south of Ireland on the ground that it would give a monopoly to the Great Southern and Western Railway, and on the same ground he would oppose a hotel monopoly also. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Yarmouth had referred to the benefit which would be 1317 conferred on Kerry by the tourist traffic. As far as he was concerned personally, he should be delighted so see the beautiful scenery of Ireland appreciated, but the tourist traffic as at present managed was no advantage to the country. The railway and hotel companies would not purchase supplies in the localities concerned, but in their own centres, and to talk of the advantages of tourist development in such circumstances was the merest sham. He thought an explanation was required from the promoters.
§ MR. MURPHY
, in asking leave to withdraw his motion, said that unless a satisfactory arrangement were arrived at further action would be taken on the Third Reading, but in consequence of the strong interest taken in the Bill by his hon. friends he would not proceeed to a division.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Bill to be read the third time.