§ MR. CLANCY (Dublin County, N.)
said that in moving the adjournment 770 of the House in order to call attention to the state of affairs that had resulted from the permission given to steamers of the London and North Western Railway Company to use Carlisle Pier, Kingstown, he trusted he might be allowed to state briefly his own position in the matter and to make it clear beyond doubt. His object was to prevent Dublin Harbour from being cheated, as he held it was being cheated, out of a sum of 771 at least £5,000 a year, by the action of the Government. He desired in the second place to see fair play given to the Irish Steam Packet Company, and, in the third place, to say most emphatically that he had no objection whatever to a third service between England and Ireland by the Kingstown or Dublin route, provided it worked no such injustice to the Port of Dublin as that to which he had referred. He was in favour, in fact, of as many routes between England and Ireland as could be established under the conditions he had mentioned. Further he had no objection to the steamers of the London and North Western Railway Company sailing to Kingstown provided the result would not be to injure the Port of Dublin, and provided also that it would not involve an invasion of the legal rights of the Irish Steam Packet Company, and finally that it would not lead eventually, as he believed it would, to the creation of a monopoly in the hands of an English company, which, in his opinion, would be disastrous to the interests of Ireland. He had given notice of several Questions on the subject and they showed that the objects that he and, he believed, his hon. friends had in view, were those he had stated. He did not want to discuss the merits of the main question raised by the permission given to the London and North Western Railway Company to use the Port of Kingstown at a nominal charge, because he conceived that it was raised by the action which the City of Dublin Steam Packet Company had instituted. His contention was that the action of the Government, of which he most emphatically complained, amounted to prejudging that question, and to anticipating thereby the action of the Court a few days hence. It would, however, be necessary to give a short narrative of the facts, and he should state them with as little "comment as possible. The London and North Western Railway Company had for many years been using the port of Dublin and berthing their steamers in the Liffey, and up to 1902 had used rules of measurement in such a way that they reduced the registered tonnage of their vessels very considerably by what was, in his opinion, a trick. He felt all the more 772 free to use that language, because in 1902 the Port and Docks Board in Dublin came to Parliament with a Bill which proposed to put a stop to that practice of the London and North Western Railway Company. That Bill passed into law and enacted that the harbour authority in Dublin might fix a certain scale of dues. They did so, and every company, he understood, got six years, from 1902 to the present year, to prepare for the change. Every company fell in with the new arrangement except the London and North Western Railway Company, who, when they found they could not alter the views of the Dublin Port and Docks Board, had sought, and successfully up to the present, to evade payment of a portion of those dues. The means they had resorted, to were these. They went to the Government and asked them for leave to use the Government Harbour at Kingstown for 5s. a trip, and the Government—whether they knew all the antecedent circumstances or not he did not know—set up their own harbour, maintained out of the taxes of the public, as a competitor with the commercial harbour of Dublin. In other words they allowed the London and North Western Railway Company, one of the richest commercial corporations in the three kingdoms, if not in the world, to compete unfairly with the struggling Irish Steam Packet Company, and allowed them also to make use of their Government harbour at the expense of £5,000 a year to the poverty-stricken harbour of Dublin. That was a sample, and only a sample he regretted to say, of the mean and selfish preference given to English commercial interests. He did not want to comment upon the facts at all, because they were sub judice, but the City of Dublin Steam Packet Company, thinking it had a right to the exclusive use of the Carlisle Pier after fifty years, presented, he supposed, after vainly remonstrating with the Government, a Petition of Right to the King. As every lawyer knew, that Petition of Right must have been examined by the Attorney-General. It could not come as a suit before a Court of Justice unless the Attorney-General certified that there was a real bona fide question of law to be argued. The petition then went 773 forward and came as an ordinary action at law before the High Court in London. The contention of the City of Dublin Steam Packet Company might be correct and well-founded, but the point he raised was the action of the Government in prejudging the question before it had been tried in the High Court. In order to prevent any such prejudging of the case the City of Dublin Steam Packet Company applied for an injunction to restrain the Government from continuing this permission until the question of law had been settled, and it came before the High Court on the 26th ult. and it was refused. He thought he was not incorrect in saying that the reason why the Judge refused an injunction immediately was that he understood that the action was to be tried at once. More than that the Judge said it was an urgent matter. But the Crown applied for an adjournment till 31st March, and when 31st March came they were not ready and they applied for another adjournment till 7th April. Now he understood the Crown would not be ready on 7th April, and that the action had been set down as late as 29th April. Every delay that had taken place in the matter had been due to the action of the law officers of the Crown. Under these circumstances was it not too bad to give an answer in the House of Commons as if it were all-sufficient that when on 26th March an injunction was applied for it was refused? It was refused because the Judge understood the trial was to come on on 31st March, and that the London and North Western steamers were not to go to Carlisle Pier until 1st April. He did not like to make a personal charge and he hoped the Attorney-General would not understand him as doing so, but it looked as if someone misled the Judge—at all events as if the Judge acted upon stated facts which did not exist. Surely the usual practice in these matters was to delay action until the question of law was decided. He admitted at once that if this were a frivolous action, if it were known universally that there was no substance behind it and that the question of law was a mere bogus question, the action of the Government might be justified. But that excuse was taken away by 774 what he had mentioned. Under these circumstances and seeing that the Attorney-General had certified that there was a real bona fide question of law involved, he held that it was a monstrous thing for the Government to anticipate the judgment of the Court by allowing the London and North Western steamers to go to this pier, with regard to the use of which the Dublin Steam Packet Company had challenged them to prove their right. The worst of the matter was that they need not break their contract, if they had made a contract, with the London and North Western Railway Company. No hardship would be done to that company by their being prevented from going to the Carlisle Pier; they could go to the Victoria Wharf where he had seen hundreds and thousands of soldiers embarking from the ship's side on to the quay. Under these circumstances there could not be any hardship. He had no objection to the London and North Western Company going even to Kingstown, provided they did not thereby rob the Port of Dublin. He believed the London and North Western Company by one of their Acts had the power to go into Dublin or Kingstown, but whenever they went to Kingstown or Howth they were to pay dues equal to those they were paying in Dublin. If that was true the Government were conniving at a violation of an Act of Parliament. But he challenged the Attorney-General to say whether what he had stated was a fact. If it was not, any argument he had based upon it fell to the ground. If it was true he repeated that the Government were conniving at the violation of an Act of Parliament, in the interest of an English commercial company, and to the prejudice of an Irish port. He begged to move.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—(Mr. Clancy.)
§ MR. MOONEY
repudiated the idea that their interest in this debate was the interest of a private company. He was of the opinion that Kingstown ought never to come under the control of a private company, and it was for that reason they challenged the action of the 775 Government who, by that action, they submitted were prejudging the case, and attempting to create a monopoly in favour of a particular company. They would like to see far more traffic than there was in Kingstown, and instead of trying to keep the London and North Western Railway Company out they would like to see other companies come in. But they held that the public interest, the safety of the mail service, and the convenience of the public ought to be considered, and submitted that by their action the Treasury had acted in a manner calculated to create a prejudice in favour of one of the parties in the action now pending before the Court. They held also that the Treasury had prejudiced the speedy carrying of the mails, the safety of the ships, and the comfort of the passengers. He wanted to know who it was that gave orders to arrest the porter. The superintendent must have been acting under the orders of somebody. Who gave those orders, and who gave the authority to the police to take action which was prejudicial to the case now before the Court? The Chief Secretary knew nothing about it. The Treasury and the Postmaster-General knew nothing about it. On whose authority did the harbour authorities at Kingstown refuse to clear the way for the Royal Mail steamer that morning? Why was the launch not there on the previous day? It was a curious commentary that while the harbour launch refused to clear the way for the Royal Mail steamer she was in attendance and cleared the way for the London and North Western boat. Was that the action of the Treasury? The first duty of the Treasury was not to provide monopoly terms for any individual company, but to provide that the mails were carried in the best and safest manner. The other point he wished to take was this. When they were told, as they were told, that Mr. Justice Eve refused the injunction, he (Mr. Mooney) remarked that what was before Mr Justice Eve was that the London and North Western Railway Company could not use the harbour before 1st April. The application was made on 25th March and the learned Judge put it down for 31st March. It was then pointed out that the Attorney-General could not conveniently attend, 776 and it was again postponed until 29th April. The delays had taken place to meet the wishes of the Crown and not those of the Steam Packet Company. Their complaint was that the case of the company was undoubtedly prejudiced in the public mind. The Government, by their action, seemed to be taking the part of one side. To bring into play the Vice-Admiral and the Dublin Metropolitan Police, and to use them for one party against the other was distinctly to prejudice the case to be heard on the Petition of Right. The London and North Western Company under the Act of 1868, had a right to use the harbour. But was there no other place in the harbour? There was the Victoria Wharf to which they could go without inconvenience. That wharf was used for the landing of troops, it was used for the landing of the Queen the last time she went to Ireland, and it was also the place at which the King landed. There was very strong ground for complaint against the authorities for taking sides against the City of Dublin Steam Packet Company and with the London and North-Western. When the Dublin Port and Docks Board Bill was before the House, the London and North Western Company came before the Committee and objected, but the Bill was passed notwithstanding, and the London and North-Western Company were now attempting to get behind the decision of the Committee and of both Houses of Parliament.
§ THE ATTORNEY-GENERAL (Sir W. ROBSON,) South Shields
said he did not propose to enter into any question on the merits of the case or as to the conduct of the Government in allowing the London and North Western Railway Company to go to Kingstown Harbour. That was a question as to which, for anything he knew, there might be a great deal to be said, but it was not a question which came within the terms of the Motion. It was not a question on which he possessed any information, nor was it one on which he was authorised to speak. The facts were these: A Petition of Right was presented to the King, and before it came on for hearing the suppliants, the Packet Company, asked for certain interim relief. What they asked for was an expression of opinion from the Court which would 777 have the effect of preventing, or would indicate to the Government that it ought to prevent, the use of the pier by the London and North Western Railway Company as from 1st April until the case was heard. They further asked for any other relief that might be proper in the circumstances. The substance of the application was that it invited an expression of opinion from the Court upon which the Government might act. The application was not made so early as it might have been, as the controversy had reached an acute stage before the petition was presented. There was an announcement in the Dublin papers on 14th February that the London and North Western Railway intended to run their steamers to the pier, and the Packet Company took no action until 17th March when the petition was presented, and shortly after the Packet Company gave notice of application for an interim injunction. That application was heard on the 25th, and the Company said they could not efficiently carry out their contract to carry the mails unless they were granted some relief. The learned Judge heard all the arguments on the application and gave judgment, and it was not true that the application was summarily disposed of. It was fully heard and adjudicated upon. He listened with surprise to the statement of the hon. Member that the Judge refused the application because he understood there was to be an early trial. The Judge knew perfectly well that the trial could not take place before 1st April, and there was not the slightest foundation for saving that the Judge was actuated by any such reason in giving judgment. He gave judgment on the merits of the application and not on any suggestion that there was to be an early trial.
The Judge said—In my opinion the suppliant Company have not made out such a case as entitles me to interfere either by granting an injunction or by expressing the opinion which I have been invited to express.Hon. Members would see that that was a very important factor in the case. Later, the Judge went on—I say frankly that if there were, a case where, in my opinion, the burden cast upon the suppliant Company was being unreasonably increased, and certainly if it were a, case where 778 danger to life was involved, I should have no hesitation in expressing any opinion which would have assisted the suppliant Company in preserving the status quo until the petition has been disposed of. But, taking the view I do of the evidence, I think it falls far short of making out any such case as that. It undoubtedly does show, for the purpose of carrying out this contract, manœuvres and work would have to be done which hitherto the suppliant Company has not had to do. But beyond that it does not appear to me that it will inflict, or that it is calculated to inflict, any such injustice on the suppliant Company as to call for my interference at this stage of the proceedings. I, therefore, can make no Order, and express no opinion, as invited by Par. 1 of the Notice of Motion.And then Mr. Justice Eve went on to say—With regard to the alternative relief claimed in the Motion, so far as the Court is concerned, any day which is convenient to the supliant Company and the Crown can be appropriated.What then took place? In behalf of the Crown he told the Court that he was very anxious to meet his learned friend, Sir Robert Finlay, with regard to the suggestion for an early and expeditious trial. He had no desire to delay the trial, and he discussed with Sir Robert Finlay in Court what day could be fixed. Of course, hon. Members would recognise that he could have got an adjournment on the ground that he had had no time to read the affidavits. He, however, made no such application, bat discussed partly in the hearing of the Court and partly in the way of a private conversation with Sir Robert Finlay to what day it was possible to fix the adjournment. In the hearing of the Court he said that he was engaged every day except one, which he mentioned to Sir R. Finlay, but that he would put aside these fixed engagements provided he got leave of the Court to do so, and that the other side should have the earliest day possible. That was left by the Court to be arranged between Sir Robert Finlay and himself. Unfortunately, immediately after that the harbour-master, the principal witness for the Crown, fell ill, and in order to prevent delay, to his very great regret, he came to the conclusion that it would be better to take his evidence by commission, so that so far as expedition was concerned he was quite sure that hon. Gentlemen opposite would say there was no evidence of anything like a desire for delay. There had been no 779 delay, and so far as they were concerned there would be no delay. The case was an appeal by the City of Dublin Steam Packet Company, by way of petition. The petition was presented and it proved to be a most remarkable claim on the part of the company. It was a claim that although there was no contract for the exclusive user of the port on their part and no restrictions, yet that they had by some amplification, which was not very clearly expressed, by some mysterious grant acquired the right to the exclusive user of the pier. The Packet Company added that that claim should be held as prima facie evidence to this extent, that as they had for fifty years employed this user, the London and North-Western Company should not be allowed to share that pier until after the hearing. That application was refused. The Court had full knowledge that 1st April might come and go, and the Judge said that the trial might not take place until after that date. He argued that the Packet Company had not shown a sufficient case for anything in the nature of an interim injunction which they applied for, and he pointed out that the Postmaster-General was as anxious as the City of Dublin Steam Packet Company not to interfere with that service. He further pointed out that in relation to this very point they had expert and authoritative advice, and that it was not to be supposed, if the London and North Western Company on 1st April came in for partial user of the pier it would be of any kind of use to the Postal Service. The Packet Company came into Court and their application was dismissed. What had they done? Had they obeyed the law? Had they decided to wait until the claim should be tried, whatever the result might be? Not at all. The Packet Company did not obey the law. The very people who came to the House and accused the Government of pre-judging the case had slighted and disregarded the law in a manner which, in a great commercial company of that kind, he could only describe as deplorable. It was very unusual to find this course being adopted by a Steam Mail Packet. Company, having been told by the learned judge that he would, grant them no interim 780 injunction. What was their duty? To obey the orders of the harbour master. The harbour master, in pursuance of his duty, and in exercise of his rights, proceeded to make arrangements for the user of the pier by the London and North Western Company; but the Packet Company refused to obey his orders. There was a daring, at all events a complete, defiance of the proper powers of the harbour master. Yet their friends came to that House and complained that the Government were pre-judging the case because they were compelled to obey the orders of the constituted authority. It had been said by the seconder of the Motion that the Government refused to allow the Dublin Steam Packet Company to use the harbour, and that there was very nearly an accident. He had received a telegram from Dublin in relation to that question. The person who sent the information was the proper person to do so.
§ SIR W. ROBSON
said that the telegram had been received from Sir George Holmes, the proper person to send it. He would read what was said and then they could discuss it as much as hon. Gentlemen pleased. It was said—This morning a collier was about to leave the harbour at the time when a mail steamer was due to leave. The collier was warned, but proceeded and the mail steamer had to stop. The delay was slight but a summons was taken out against the collier.That might or might not be a fact, it might be a little scrap of fiction telegraphed over to this country.
§ MR. MOONEY
said that all he did was to ask the Postmaster-General whether he had received a telegram to that effect, and he did not think it was fair to say that he made a statement of fact which was not a fact at all.
§ SIR W. ROBSON
said he was attributing a little accuracy to Sir George Holmes and there was no ground for the suggestion that there was any collision on the part of the Government in regard to the matter. It was said that the Government had been delaying litigation, but it was not the case, as they were doing their best to expedite it. The Dublin Steam Packet Company had, it seemed to him, been guilty of a most grave and lamentable disregard of the law, and the House would be ill-advised under such circumstances if it passed the Resolution.
§ *MR. T. M. HEALY
said he hoped the hon. and learned Attorney-General, who enjoyed the confidence of the House, would not suppose they were impeaching his action or throwing a shadow of blame upon him. There was, however, one remark in the hon. and learned Gentleman's speech which he regretted, and that was that in the attack which he made upon the Dublin Steam Packet Company he seemed to think that those who came forward on that occasion were the friends and representatives of that Company and the opponents of the London and North Western Railway Company. He had been criticising the Dublin Steam Packet Company all his life, and he had, to a great extent, often defended the London and North-Western Railway Company, because anybody who had crossed from England to Ireland, or vice versa, during the last thirty years must feel under a boundless obligation to the London and North Western Railway Company for the personal civility of every man connected with it, from the highest to the lowest; and the notion that they had come there to assail that Company, and as the advocates of the Dublin Steam Packet Company, was quite an erroneous view. They did not come there as friends and representatives of the Steam Packet Company, but they came forward because they conceived that there was a glaring injustice done to an Irish Company and not caring whether it was a Conservative or a Liberal Company. It was an Irish Company, and it was as such that they were defending it. He wished to make it perfectly clear that if the 782 London and North Western Railway Company had come into Kingstown Harbour in a proper and regular manner, he believed they would have been welcomed by that harbour, and he thought they were entitled to fair facilities for coming, and not one word that he uttered would be in depreciation of them, or used with a view of taking one side or the other. That was not their position, and he believed if the London and North Western Railway Company had got this concession from the Treasury in a proper and regular manner that every man in the House would have rejoiced. As far as they had been permitted to know the facts, as far as they had been able to open the local shutter of the Treasury for about the millionth part of a second, which was all the exposure they could get, the facts were these. He was not taking the side of the Port and Docks Board of Dublin. On the contrary, he believed that the London and North-Western Railway Company had not been fairly treated by that Board. What he complained of was that in one of the most delicate transactions affecting local life in Dublin the Treasury had thrown their sword into the scale to the damage of a local institution. As far as he understood the facts were these; for very many years the shippers of the three Kingdoms had an advantage over the port authorities. He remembered very well about twenty years ago, when the shipping interest was very strong in this House, a Grand Committee sat upstairs, and nobody that was not a shipowner could get listened to at all, and they prepared an Act of Parliament by which they "cheated the measurement" of the tonnage of vessels and thereby sent their ships into the various ports of the Kingdom, comparatively paying little or nothing for them, thereby diminishing to an enormous extent the dues which the port authorities received. The London and North Western Railway Company was in a very peculiar position, because by its passenger steamers there were scarcely any goods carried, and by its cargo steamers there were scarcely any passengers carried. It had to have three or four, passenger steamers get into the dock every day, and consequently they constructed ships by 783 which they ran a coach-and-four through the Act of Parliament. He did not blame the London and North Western Railway Company for trying to cut down their tonnage dues. But for the last twenty years the provisions in favour of the shipping interest of the three Kingdoms were found to be, too unfavourable to port authorities, and had been repealed, first by private legislation with regard to the different ports around the coast, and then, he thought, a public. Act was passed. But gradually, whether by private or public Act of Parliament, the ports got the better of the shipowners and were enabled to get a change in the measurement of tonnage, whereby a larger sum was extracted from the shipowners than hitherto, and the payment of a greater sum of port dues became necessary. The Dublin Port and Docks Board, a body with which they had not the least sympathy—at least he had not, and he had tried to reform it again and again, but in vain—began undoubtedly to squeeze the London and North Western Railway Company, and to extract from them, so to speak, the last drop of their blood. In so doing they declared they were legally advised that they had no option save to enforce the maximum dues. Still he did not hold with the port authority of Dublin in trying to put this pressure upon the London and North-Western Railway Company, but what did the Railway Company do? Under pressure of these exactions they thought of their contribution from the Treasury, granted years ago for their accelerated mail service, £4,000—[A NATIONALIST MEMBER: £6,000]—Well, £4,000, £5,000, or £6,000. He would say £6,000, and if he was wrong in the amount it was not his fault. If this had referred to Zululand they would have had a Blue-book about it. Immediately these astute men, because the men who conducted the great railways were almost as able as the Gentlemen who sat on the Treasury Bench, saw they could make their own advantage and get rid of this Dublin exaction, and get their ships into Ireland cheaper by dropping the gratuity from the Treasury, for what was called acceleration, and at once informed the Treasury Remembrancer of Dublin, 784 who was the brother of the head of the Board of Works which control Kingstown Harbour. That was the gentleman who went down into the kitchen and cellars of Dublin Castle, and other places, and inspected the coals and the cat's meat, and saw whether he could cut down expenses. These gentlemen cut down a messenger boy's salary from 5s. 6d. to 4s. 6d., with the result that a couple of hundred a year afterwards was added to their own. They said to him: "We will let you off this £4,000 or £5,000 if you will let us come into Kingstown free." Mr. Holmes, who cared no more about Ireland than he (Mr. Healy) cared about Roumania, who was one of those men who were only looking out for a C.B. or some other honour, saw he could make a deal, and said to himself that he would be a big man at the Treasury if he made this bargain with the London and North Western Railway by which the English taxpayers were let off whatever the sum was for the acceleration of the mails, and he made the bargain and the Railway Company deprived the Port of Dublin of the dues they should receive, and was allowed to come in free to the great harbour of Kingstown, which had cost the people something like £1,000,000. Why should the Port of Dublin be denuded of its dues from the London and North Western Railway Company because of some bargain which they struck with the Treasury. For that petty concession the Railway Company had conceded to the Treasury that which was granted by the Treasury for the carriage of the mails. Let the House remember that the extraordinary thing about Ireland was that when new men came into office they entirely forgot the continuity of policy. Was there a man on the Treasury Bench who remembered Mr Gladstone's action in 1883? Lord Richard Grosvenor was then the Chief Whip of the Liberal Party, a very faithful Whip to Mr. Gladstone. He was now Lord Stalbridge and Chairman of the London and North Western Railway Company. Mr. Gladstone sealed and signed a contract with that Company taking away in toto this mail contract from the Dublin Steam Packet Company. The 785 Irish Members without exception signed a memorial to Mr. Gladstone, and said that this was a poor Irish Company. It had had the carriage of the mails for fifty years, the shareholders were generally widows, parsons and small traders—he could assure the House that none of his friends had any shares in it—and the result was that Mr. Gladstone with the peculiar sense he had of public opinion, whether it was English or Irish, said to Lord Richard Grosvenor: "Let us defer to Irish opinion." Lord Grosvenor, to his eternal credit, although it was signed and sealed tore up the contract and gave back the mail contract to this little Company. That was the act of the liberals in 1883. They seemed to have travelled as far from 1883 in the matter of liberality, as they had from Mr. Gladstone in the case of home Rule. To gain £4,000 or £5,000 for the English Treasury the Port of Dublin was deprived of a much bigger sum in dues. They welcomed the London and North-Western Railway into Kingstown, but why should the Packet Company be inconvenienced? That company could surely take its steamers to the pier where the King went. The King went twice to the Victoria Pier, and Queen Victoria went once to the Victoria Pier. Were they now to be told that the pier that was good enough for Royalty, for Kings and Queens was not good enough for the third class passengers of the London and North Western Railway. The case was this, there was the Carlisle Pier at which the Packet Company had been in the habit of mooring their ships. He did not know much about nautical affairs, but he understood that these ships must, at a particular time of the day when they came in, damp down their fires to get their tubular boilers cleaned, and to swing round, and that unless they had the entire use of this pier they could not, as they said, carry out their service efficiently. But there was more than that in it. Let the House remember that this mail service between England and Ireland was the one thing in the British connection of which they might be proud, and accordingly they wished to do away with it. One could travel as regularly from England to Ireland as he could come down to the House in a cab from the Strand. They could travel 786 to the minute, the day, the hour, and why? Because in the days when there were statesmen in the land who, instead of building "Dreadnoughts" thought it wiser to build great passenger vessels. and more of maintaining commercial supremacy by that means than by shotted guns, the House voted £50,000 a year to maintain the service between England and Ireland. They could go back almost forty years in Hansard, and they would find speeches by Gladstone, Sir Robert Peel, and other great men upon this question of the mail service between England and Ireland. It was not until the Government took up with South Africa, and Wooloomooloo and all those great foreign places, that Ireland ceased to be of consideration to the House and Irish affairs ceased to be of interest. Great English statesmen in those days did not disdain to examine these small domestic questions which affected the lives of the Irish people. Now that they had to look after New Zealand and Jerusalem and Macedonia and all these other foreign places the Irish case was entirely neglected. What did they now propose? Mr. Gladstone's contract was made in 1883 and went up to 1893, when a fresh contract was made for twenty years. There was only a short time for this contract to run; and accordingly, with that eye for futurity which the gentlemen who looked after the cash-box so generally had, they wanted to rob Ireland of this little service. He knew the Treasury too well. What they were thinking about was something to help the "All Red" route to Canada. He called it the "all rot" route. They were looking for some foreign cows with long horns. They were looking for some route that would take them across the Equator or the North Pole or some other interesting part of the world and the idea was, that the Irish were not quite so watchful as they might have been and that this million of money that was given for twenty years was entirely too much—it was going to the Irish. The great thing would be to get it for the people in Vancouver, who paid no contribution to Imperial taxation. "Our Imperial souls, they said "are distending, and we cannot see anything nearer than Vancouver," and, accordingly, the Treasury were making, in this business, a reconnaissance 787 in force. The first thing to do was to jostle the Irish company out of Carlisle pier and bring in the London and North Western Company. Possibly the London and North Western Company would do this business rippingly and slappingly for five years for £5,000. The Irish company would be dead and wound up and there would be nobody left to compete in five years, and then the London and North Western Railway Company would talk to them. Let him remind the Postmaster-General what his predecessor Mr. Arnold Morley did when he was in office in 1893 when this contract was to expire. Mr. Sexton, then a prominent Member of the Irish Party, himself, and others of the Irish Party spent hours and days with Mr. Arnold Morley trying to devise something when the contract ran out that would keep this little company on its legs, and trying to do something not only to maintain the credit of the Post Office, but also this great international route. What they had to complain of was not of the Government's interfering with this question of the Petition of Right. It went deeper than that. It went really to the relations between the two countries, to the way in which Irish affairs were regarded by the Treasury. It was really part of the great case between Ireland versus England, that was their grievance. He did not know whether this company acted violently and illegally or not, and he was sorry to hear the Attorney-General, who was generally so scrupulous in giving an opinion, prejudge that matter. He did not know whether English Judges read the newspapers, he presumed they did not. He presumed that the Judge before whom the hon. Gentleman would appear would not read what he said in this House. Nobody ever did, nowadays, and so the Judge would not have read the statement of the hon. Gentleman, that this company had acted in an illegal manner. Therefore he would pass from that to the action of the Chief Secretary in lending the police to help one party to the dispute. He could only say that a very bad example had been given to the people in that country by reason of the attitude of the police and officials 788 in Dublin. What was the conclusion of the whole matter? What the London and North Western Railway Company wanted was to get better terms out of the Port of Dublin. He believed that they had not been well treated by the Port and Docks Board, and that they were fully entitled to better terms. The London and North Western Railway Company could not in one sense leave the Port of Dublin. They had built a magnificent hotel there, and all their plant was at the North Wall. So far as the London and North Western Railway Company were concerned, he believed their entry upon Kingstown was only tactics and manœuvres. If he was right, was it not deplorable that the Treasury, in order to gain some mean and paltry advantage in England, should have lent themselves to injuring Dublin, and interfered in a struggle of this kind? He thought they had good ground for raising the whole question. It was symptomatic of the state of Ireland and of the treatment which Irish affairs received from the Treasury. He believed the time would conic very soon when they would have to have a steadier method of checking the action of the Treasury, so that, whether by way of a Standing Select Committee or a separate Committee on Public Accounts for Ireland, or by some other means, the Gentlemen who joined the Treasury as apprentices, and who a day or two afterwards wanted to become great statesmen by showing a saving on Irish accounts, could be brought more readily to book.
§ MR. MOORE (Armagh, N.)
said he wished to say a few words as a representative of the North of Ireland. The efficiency of the services which connected the two countries had been proved again and again by experience to depend upon the existence of competition, and the best services were those which the London and North Western Railway Company ran in competition with rival routes. He associated himself with the apprehensions of the hon. and learned Member for North Louth that the real object and final result in a few years of this manœuvre on the part of that company would be absolutely to extinguish 789 competition between Kingstown and England, and he believed it would be a very disastrous thing for Ireland. Every additional passenger service across the Channel was another bond of connection between the two countries and made for the commercial development and improvement of Ireland, and it would be a matter of regret to anyone interested in the welfare of that country if one of those services were wiped out. It was because he thought this link of competition in the direct service from London to Dublin was threatened by the action of the London and North Western Railway Company that he intended to vote for the Resolution. He thought the remarks made by the Attorney-General were over-critical. He could not see that the strictures which he passed upon the action of the City of Dublin Steam Packet Company were in any way justified from the legal point of view. As he understood the case, the company had possession of the pier for the purpose of their mail business under a licence from that branch of the Government represented by the Post Office and, being in possession of a licence under the Government, they went to an English Court and asked it to restrain the trespass and invasion of their rights by this foreign company, which it was true fortified themselves on the same ground of the grant of a licence. He could quite understand a Judge saying the granter was the Government and solvent, and it was not a matter for an interim injunction. They could carry on the business, with some inconvenience probably, but still without sufficient inconvenience to paralyse them, and he would leave the matter until the trial of the point at issue. It was not as if the London and North Western Railway Company had obtained an injunction preventing, under their licence, the Steam Packet Company interfering with them. If they had done that the Steam Packet Company would have flouted the authority of the Court and been guilty of contempt. Up to that time the London and North Western Railway Company had been so timid about the licence, they claimed from another branch of the Government that they had not gone to the English Court at all 790 for an injunction, and yet the Attorney-General had denounced the company as if the London and North Western Railway Company had obtained an injunction. He concurred with the opinion of the hon. Member for North Louth that it would be better if, while matters were sub judice, censure from the head of the English Bar and counsel in the case were not passed upon the action of either of the litigants. In the interests of the competition, which was vital to the maintenance of the excellence of the route, he would vote on this occasion with the hon. Members below the gangway.
§ MR. SWIFT MACNEILL
said that in 1902 the Manx Company asked for the same privilege with regard to the Carlisle Pier as had now been given to the London and North Western Railway Company. The Steamship Packet Company very much opposed that, on the ground of its interference with the mails, and also on the ground of their user of the pier being interfered with. Their objection prevailed, and the Manx Company did not get the privilege. What was the difference between the Manx Company and the London and North Western Company? He would never forget the scene created in the House when Mr. Hanbury, speaking from the Treasury Bench as the representative of the Government, said that it was hard to see when public interest ended and private interest began. The Manx Company had not the advantages of the London and North-Western Company. They had not a chairman who was for years a Treasury Whip. They had not a directorate including no fewer than four peers, of whom one was a duke, four sons of peers, two Members of the House of Commons, and a brewer. Could that be the reason for the difference? Of course not! The Attorney-General had alluded to Sir George Holmes. The London and North Western Railway Company was his alma mater. Sir George began life and was educated as an engineer.
§ *MR. SPEAKER
An account of the life of Sir George Holmes is wholly irrelevant. The hon. Member must speak to the Motion before the House.
§ MR. SWIFT MACNEILL
said he would not say another word about it. There was a contract between the Manx Company which was refused and the London and North Western Company, which was granted the privilege. For the gain of a few hundreds to the Imperial Treasury this very severe loss might be sustained by an Irish Company to the benefit of an English Company, and above all the means of communication between England and Ireland might be impaired. He would be glad to hear from the Chief Secretary some account of the way in which he regarded the matter. His hon. friend had not yet told him what he had twice asked him. Under what authority were large posses of police brought down to Carlisle Pier on the previous night when the right hon. Gentleman knew nothing about it? It was done in the interests of a private company as against a public right and they ought to have some explanation of that.
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. BIRRELL,) Bristol, N.
I think it is realised that my connection with this matter is of the very slightest. What we know about it is that this Carlisle Pier at Kingstown, which many of us know only too well, was on the 1st April the scene of a considerable amount of rivalry between two very powerful companies—the City of Dublin Steam Packet Company and the London and North Western Railway Company, each struggling for berths for their great steamers. Each of those companies have, as we know, followers of their own—men in their own service each eager to support the case of the Company who employs him. I do not think therefore 792 it is at all an unreasonable thing that persons anxious to maintain peace in the harbour, which is peculiarly unsuited for anything like a struggle, should look to it that there was a sufficient police force. With the single exception to which I have alluded, the police took no part whatever in this matter. They cannot be accused of being partisans or of having anything to do with the merits of this very complicated dispute. They simply stood by and did nothing, but their presence was supposed to prevent anything like a breach of the peace. I personally regret that in one case a porter was arrested, and, as I have already told the House, on hearing that he had been placed in custody, I immediately telegraphed that he should be released. Fortunately he was not in custody. He was on bail, and after protracted legal inquiry before a magistrate, which no doubt he thoroughly enjoyed, he was subjected to a fine of 40s. in order to enable him to appeal, but the fine was reduced to 1s. in case he did not avail himself of that legal privilege. I certainly regret very much that anybody should have been arrested, for, after all, obeying an order. I quite feel that that case was a departure from the rule. Otherwise the police, I am informed, behaved with perfect composure and took part in no way whatever in this affair, or expressed sympathy with one side or the other. My hon. friend asks me who informed the police that it was possible a disturbance might arise. That is a fair question. I am told the information came from Mr. Stevenson, who is a Commissioner of Public Works. He informed the police that it was quite possible that there would be a breach of peace, and accordingly the police who, naturally on an occasion of that sort, would not communicate with me, being satisfied that the request was made in good faith, sent a sufficient force to preserve order which I dare say would not have been broken if they had not been there. In these matters nobody can be expected to run any risks. I think, therefore, the House will apprehend that in the situation at the harbour—rivalry between the companies, great steamers coming and going, animated men anxious in one 793 case to delay the steamer from leaving its moorings, and in the other case anxious to assist it to do so—disturbance might very possibly have arisen. The police were demanded and they were there. Now I trust we will hear no more.
§ MR. MOONEY
Can the right hon. Gentleman say, was the porter arrested for committing an act that might lead to a breach of the peace.
§ MR. BIRRELL
We shall have a full account of the protracted proceedings before the magistrate. The charge made against him was, I believe, that he had obstructed the assistant harbour master in the discharge of his duty by loosening a hawser from a bollard on the pier. That was the charge preferred by the assistant harbour master, and that was the matter tried before the magistrate.
§ MR. CLANCY
The debate having answered the object which my hon. friends and myself had in view, and no Minister—and I say this with some deliberation—having risen to defend the trick by which the Port of Dublin has been deprived of £5,000 a year, I ask leave to withdraw the Motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.