HC Deb 14 May 1850 vol 111 cc15-9

Order for Second Reading read.

SIR W. MOLESWORTH moved the Second Reading of this Bill. He said that the scheme which the promoters of the Bill proposed to carry out would be most advantageous to the metropolis, and he hoped the House would assent to the second reading, that the provisions of the measure might be considered in Committee.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."


thought this Bill more objectionable than the last, and moved that it be read a second time that day six months.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."

Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."


said, this measure had been discussed at great length last year, for the only difference between this Bill and a Bill introduced last Session was, that they proposed to convey water by different means from the same locality. This Bill was opposed by all the landowners and millowners along the line by which it was proposed to convey the supply of water to the metropolis. The promoters of the Bill proposed to take 60,000,000 gallons of water daily from the Thames at Henley, and the consequence would be that the mills in the neighbour-bourhood would be deprived of their supply of water during the summer season, and the navigation of the river would be impeded at the same period of the year.


considered that, as this Bill would not interfere with the propositions of the Board of Health, and as there would be ample time to consider the report of that board before this measure could go through Committee, it would be unfair towards the promoters of this scheme, who had expended a large sum of money in order to carry out their plans, to prevent the progress of the Bill.


said, that the Board of Health had already recorded their opinion, in resolutions which had been laid before the House, of the inexpediency of sanctioning the expenditure of capital upon schemes of this kind until the board had considered the subject, and agreed to a report. On that ground he was prepared to oppose the Bill; but any one who looked into the measure, and considered the plan which it proposed, would see that it was one that ought not to be carried out, except under the sanction of the Government. The statement of the company was, that they required 200,000,000 gallons, and that they intended to take 100,000,000 gallons of water from the river Thames and the other 100,000,000 gallons, at certain periods of the year, would be taken from other sources. This was a much larger quantity than the company could require for the purposes of the metropolis. It was well known that a large proportion of the water brought into London was entirely wasted, and it was not mere quantity that was to be regarded, but quality and distribution. At present the distribution was most defective, and the quality bad; but the plan proposed by the promoters of this Bill did nothing to improve the quality of the water. The company proposed to obtain water from the river above Henley; but that water had been tested by most experienced analysts, and they found that it was no better than the water below Battersea-bridge taken at the ebb tide. The promoters of this Bill contemplated the investment of an enormous amount of capital in the scheme, and the provisions of the measure were very defective. If the House wished to benefit the poorer classes of the metropolis they must do what this Bill did not do—compel the owners of houses to provide a supply of water for their tenants. The commissioners to be appointed under this Bill, however, would have no jurisdiction whatever over the house service. He believed that a board constituted by that House could regulate the supply of water at one-third the expense proposed by this Bill with regard to salaries; and that as to capital, instead of requiring 2,000,000l., such a board would not find in necessary to raise more than 300,000l. in order to supply the metropolis with wholesome water. He should therefore support the Amendment.


was surprised at the opposition offered to this Bill by the noble Lord. It was clear, however, that his object was to deprive the ratepayers of the appointment of the commissioners, and to leave the regulation of the water supply in the hands of the board of which he (Lord Ashley) was chairman. It had been said that the rights of millowners would be prejudiced by this measure; but it bad been clearly proved that the proposed supply of water might be obtained from the river without either impeding the navigation or depriving the mills of water. He hoped, therefore, that the House would allow the Bill to go into Committee, when the objections to it might be considered, and could no doubt be removed. Clauses might be inserted in Committee to secure an efficient control and a proper distribution.


did not think that any of the arguments that had been urged against the Bill ought to induce the House to prevent it from going into Committee. The question for the House to consider was, whether the metropolis was well supplied with water; and, if it was not, what objection could there be to obtaining a sufficient supply? How was the metropolis to be supplied with water? Some time since a plan was proposed for sinking Artesian wells; but that project was strongly opposed. Now, it was proposed to obtain a supply of water from the Thames at Henley; but that plan, it was said, would stop the mills and destroy the navigation. It was clear they must get a supply of water from somewhere; and in order that the subject might be fairly sifted and considered in Committee, he would vote for the second reading of the Bill.


said, the scheme in question would rob the river, and affect the navigation, as well as stop the mills. The Bill was but a rechauffé of that of last Session, and was now sought to be forced through the House to override the shareholders.


thought it would be admitted that every inhabitant of London, whether rich or poor, suffered great inconvenience from the present inadequate and impure supply of water. The Sanitary Commission had not submitted to Parliament any measure on this subject. If they had done so, the House might have compared the merits of the plan proposed by this Bill, with that proposed by the board. It had been said, that the promoters of this Bill asked for 2,000,000l. They did not ask for a farthing of money; all they asked was, that the inhabitants of the metropolis might be allowed, at their own expense, to supply themselves with water from the Thames; and by whom was this request opposed? By some eleven or twelve millowners on the river Thames! Why, supposing these persons lost all their property, he contended that that consideration ought not to weigh one iota against this Bill, because such loss might be compensated by a grant of money. He had no interest in this question except as an inhabitant of the metropolis; but when undertakings were commenced, bearing on their face evidence of practicability and usefulness, he contended that the House was bound to consider such schemes in Committee. The noble Lord the Member for Bath seemed to forget that his commission had been for years considering this question before they had been able to decide upon their report. ["Oh, oh!"] He could only say that he wished hon. Gentlemen who did not seem desirous to consider this subject, had seen one of the cisterns in his house. He hoped that, with a view to prevent the inhabitants of the metropolis from being exposed to disease and contagion in consequence of the imperfect supply of water, the House would sanction the second reading of the Bill.


said, as an inhabitant of this metropolis, no one could be more desirous than himself that all its inhabitants should have an ample supply of pure and wholesome water; but bethought it desirable that that supply of water should not be left to trading companies. That system had been tried, and he thought it had universally failed. He considered that the supply of water should in future be regulated by some other authority, which might determine the mode of supply, and the cheapest and best method of its distribution. He cautioned the House not to sanction the further investment of capital in schemes of this nature. If they allowed this Bill to be read a second time, they would entail great expense upon the opponents and promoters of the measure, and probably without any ultimate benefit to the inhabitants of the metropolis. The hon. Member for Penryn had said, that the Board of Health had long been engaged in the consideration of this subject without adopting any report; but he begged to inform the hon. Gentleman that that commission had only recently had their attention directed to this important part of the question. He hoped the Bill would be postponed until the House had an opportunity of seeing what other measures were proposed for affording an efficient supply of water to London.


could assure the House that no subject could come under their discussion in which the inhabitants of the metropolis, and of the county of Middlesex generally, felt greater interest than that which was involved in the present Bill. Although some hon. Gentlemen seemed disposed to treat the subject lightly, he could assure them that it had agitated the metropolis from one end to the other, and had been discussed by no less than 1,800,000 of the inhabitants at public meetings. He was astonished that the noble Lord at the head of the Government, as the representative of the city of London, had not expressed his views on the question. His hon. Colleague, from whom he regretted to differ, had represented the promoters of this Bill as a trading company. He (Mr. Osborne) had no connexion whatever with the company, but he believed that the working of the Bill would be vested altogether in the hands of the ratepayers. ["No, no!"] At all events, the ratepayers were interested in it. Why, the inhabitants of London were being daily poisoned by the most nauseous streams that could be given to any animal. He had with him an account of a microscopical examination of the water supplied by the three companies south of the Thames, with plates of the animals which hon. Gentlemen were in the habit of imbibing; it appeared that the nastiest animal was drunk by those who were supplied by the Lambeth company. If Gentlemen would take the trouble to look through the book, they would be perfectly astonished to see the animals they were in the habit of imbibing—at least, those of them who drank water. Now, the question being whether the inhabitants of London should not be supplied with a better article, at a cheaper rate, the House ought surely to send such Bills as this to a Committee to decide on them upon their merits. It was the best course to take, in order to secure immediate legislation.


objected to the attempt of the Board of Health to carry the centralising system further, and maintained that the people could manage matters of this kind themselves, and did not want the interference of the board with them.

The House divided:—Ayes 116; Noes 216: Majority 100.

Words added; main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.

Second reading put off for six months

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