§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."
§ MR. BAILLIE COCHRANE
, after presenting a petition from the Metropolitan Sanitary Commission against the measure, said, he opposed the Bill because the whole history of the water companies of the metropolis was a history of monopoly, which had been carried on for a long series of years, and under which the public had already suffered for so long, in spite of every effort on their part to protect themselves, and because he believed that this injurious system would be confirmed and strengthened by the adoption of the Bill before the House. The House, he hoped, would pardon him if, upon a question which every hon. Gentleman must consider to be of vital importance, he presumed to go back in the first instance to the history of the water companies, and their origin; 460 and in calling the attention of the House to the history of the water supply of London, he begged to state that he claimed no credit whatever for research in the matter, for the whole had been detailed at length in the columns of the Times, and afterwards collected and published in the form of a pamphlet. All he had been able to do was to confirm the statements contained in those papers by a reference to the original documents; and he could honestly say, that in no one single instance had he found a statement at variance with the facts as there recorded. The history of the water supply of London might be divided into four periods. The first might be described as the period up to the middle of the 13th century, before any system of artificial conduits was resorted to. The second was from the middle of the 13th century up to 1580, during which time a certain description of waterworks was used for supplying the metropolis. The next period was from 1580 to 1787, in which interval Sir Hugh Myddelton first proposed to bring the New River into London, which was the origin of the New River Company. That company, which conferred the greatest benefit upon the metropolis, was at the same time the cause of the greatest evils, because with it was introduced the principle of monopoly. The Sew River Company was allowed to impose whatever rates it chose on the public. In fact, the greatest privileges ever conferred on any body of men, even in that age of monopoly, were conferred on the New River Company. The company went on for a century, the rates increasing, and the dividends, of course, increasing likewise. The result was, that fresh companies were started in 1723, 1728, and 1785. In 1787 steam power came into play, and this commenced the fourth epoch in the history of the water supply of the metropolis he would now take the liberty of calling the attention of the House to the circumstances which occurred with respect to the water companies at the commencement of the present century. In 1805, there was a water mania, just as we bad had a railway mania a few years ago. The consequence was, that all kinds of prospectuses were submitted to the public, and all kinds of promises made. In order to show the House the system which was carried on by the water companies of that period, he would quote the authority of the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir W. Clay), who, in his pamphlet, described the evils 461 that resulted from the operations of these rival companies. According to the hon. Baronet's authority—an authority favourable to the water companies—the result of all this competition was the greatest waste, the squandering of large sums, and ultimately that combination of all the companies, under which the public was suffering, and which had led to a large increase of rates, to pay for the expense of the previous competition. The public, finding the rates increasing, and the supply of water becoming worse than ever, at last began to get impatient. The public indignation was roused to such a pitch that, in 1821, an inquiry was instituted. The result of that inquiry was that a Bill was brought into the House of Commons by Mr. Michael Angelo Taylor, to change entirely the footing upon which the companies were placed, and to destroy the monopoly. That Bill passed the House of Commons, but was thrown out in the House of Lords by a majority of one. After that the public indignation gradually relaxed again, and they quietly submitted to their grievance for a time. In 1827, there was a famous pamphlet published, to which he would venture to call the attention of the House. That pamphlet, which was called The Dolphin, originated, as its author declared, in the deathbed repentance of one Robson, a director of the Grand Junction Company, who, to use his own expression, "feared God would never forgive him" for having been a party to the wronging of 7,000 families by the false promise of good water, and the cruel service of poisonous filth; and who shortly before his death, to ease his conscience, divulged the enormities in which he had taken part to Mr. Wright (the pamphleteer), with an earnest request that he would, by every means in his power, seek legislative reparation of the fearful wrong inflicted on the public. In 1828, a scientific commission was appointed to inquire into the quality of the water supplied to the public. The facts elicited in the course of that inquiry were almost incredible, and were only equalled by the facts which he had himself witnessed on a personal inspection which he had taken the trouble to make of several parts of London, and to which he would come presently. The New River Company, which was the first examined, were driven to admit that its principal reservoir had not been cleansed for more than 100 years, and that when at last the water was run 462 off, eight feet of mud was found at the bottom. To crown all, it came out that Sir Hugh Myddelton's aqueduct itself had, by the neglect of the company for 200 years past, degenerated into a common ditch, and was the receptacle of filth of every description. In 1834, there was another inquiry instituted; and in 1840 a Committee of the House of Lords was appointed to consider the subject. To show the hardships to which the companies were in the habit of exposing the public, he would call the attention of the House to the case of a Mr. Tubbs, with the details of which nearly one-fourth of the Lords' blue book was occupied. Mr. Thomas Tubbs was a cowkeeper in the New-road, and the New River Company supplied his premises with that very moderate quantity of water which could be brought through a three-quarter pipe an hour per day for three days in the week—a quantity estimated by him at forty or fifty gallons at a time. On finding that he gave the water to his cows, they claimed 30l. back rate, and 30l. a year besides his house. He refused to pay this demand, and the company forthwith cut off his pipe. He appealed to the New River Board for redress; but "the chairman," said Mr. Tubbs indignantly, "compared their water to my milk, and said, 'You are not bound to supply your milk unless you like;' to which," continued the witness, "I replied, 'No, but you are bound to supply us with what water we require, and at a fair price." The company having refused redress, Mr. Tubbs sank a well of his own, whereupon the Company immediately countermined him in sinking another well much deeper than his, in consequence of which his well was immediately left dry. The cowkeeper sank a still deeper well, which, in spite of a second attempt of the Company to countermine him, continued to hold out. In 1838 another Commission was appointed, and in 1842 the information thus obtained was given to the public in a condensed shape, in a report (the first on the Health of Towns) which created a great sensation. In 1844 Sir Robert Peel appointed another Commission, which, in 1845, made a report of a most important character, and which recommended consolidating under one management the various services of water, drainage, and sewerage, of this metropolis. In 1847, the present Government appointed a Commission to report on the means of carrying that proposal into effect, and then followed the famous Public 463 Health Act which was passed in 1848. In 1849 the Genera! Board of Health reported on this question; and in 1851, the Government, after having asked that Board to inform them in what way the general water system of this metropolis should he conducted, brought in a Bill containing provisions entirely opposed to the views of the Board of Health. It appeared that not one member of the Board had ever been consulted on the subject. The gentlemen connected with the water companies, however, had been consulted, and, of course, approved of the Bill, and doubtless for very good reasons. He now came to the main part of the question, namely, the state of London at the present moment, and he begged the House to listen to him while he read to them a statement of what he had seen with his own eyes and heard with his own ears on the subject. But first he begged to say that from November 20, 1847, to February 5, 1848, there died in London 4,000 persons above the average number; and in one month, December, 1847, 1,000 persons died above the average. It was this alarming state of things which led to the inquiries of that able man to whom the public health of England owed so much—he alluded to Mr. Chad-wick. He would now read, with the permission of the House, the notes to which he had referred, without the alteration of a single word. The first place he visited was Jacob's Island, in Bermondsey:—A small space, containing some two or three acres, surrounded with a filthy fetid ditch. Mrs. Hastings said that her husband had suffered a great deal from drinking that water. Many people had died. Five deaths in one house at the time of the cholera. Some gentlemen have at their own expense erected a waterbutt, in the hope that, during the intervening time, something would be done for those poor people; but they will not any longer incur this expense. The landlord refuses to set on the water. She (Mrs. Hastings) drinks ditch water often. The landlord had only owned the houses five weeks. The previous landlord refused the water. In 1832 the cholera broke out at one end of this district, and in 1849 at the other. Providence-buildings—A child sent here for change of air The foulest possible place. Water obtained by means of buckets close to the filth. A. tenant in one of the houses drinks the water every day; always causes something like cholera. The landlord will not do anything. It is against the law for tenants who have water on to supply others by sale or loan. Mrs. Broekwell asserts that some of the company (South Lambeth), hearing that the water had been given away, came and said that it would be cut off. John Chanley—Takes water from the ditch. In one house there was a case of cholera only three weeks since; such a foul, miserable hovel as this house could not he imagined. It over- 464 looked this ditch, full of festering pollution, into which all the dirt of the houses was poured. The walls were reeking with mildew, and blackened with decay. Now, by the Act, these should be whitewashed every two years; but the board of guardians do not choose to interfere with the landlord. In some eases they have an interest in this brutal economy. 7, 8, 9, London-street have no water; beg what they can get; that day the water was comparatively clear; it bad been let in the previous night; but even now it was covered with scum an inch thick, masses of filth, dead dogs, &c, floating in it, and the exhalations were horrible. Sometimes this water remains as long as three weeks, for the miller will not renew it. The Commissioners of Sewers have purchased the right of the water from the miller. Mrs. Jeffrey, who pays 4s. 6d. a week rent for two rooms, actually drinks the water. Fish put in it to keep through the night. When people died of cholera the old beds were thrown into the water. To her great honour be it mentioned, Mrs. Hastings, of the "Ship Aground," supplied the poor people for nothing. Mrs. Callaghan, ground floor, 9d. a week rent for a perfect hovel; upper-floor, 1s. 6d. a week rent. Complaints have been made to the hoard of guardians by the medical officers, but quite unavailing. There are about 70 houses, and the population exceeds 1,000. Mrs. Lank, in a wretched room, pays 1s. 6d. a week rent. Guardians take the filth away once a month. Mr. Woodcock, the missionary, gives his services gratuitously. Cooper's-garden, Kensington. —Public privy, quite fearful to look at; but this is an improvement, for formerly there was none at all. The landlord, in one place keeps the public privy locked up. There are more than 80 families, six or seven in a family. Mrs. Asling.—One wretched room with six people living in it, 1s. 8d. a week. Upper floor of the same house, 1s. 8d. a week. William Wakefield, 1s. 9d. a week for a miserable room. Two years since it was whitewashed. Loathsome with dirt. No water laid on. Trouble and expense of fetching water; some say it costs 6d. a week, others 1s. a few 1s. 6d. to fetch it. Loss by soap and soda. Tea would go farther. People attend Chartist meetings. They were placarded on the walls. Pumps often fail. Mr. Shepherd, proctor to the Bishop of London, has done great good; built clean substantial cottages. People much improved who reside there. Lord Carlisle visited the place while the cholera was raging. When an open drain carried the water away from Kensington-gardens people all fetched it. Was a great boon. It has since been covered in. Potteries, Notting Hill.—A place called the 'Ocean,' a filthy pool, surrounded by houses, which may cover a space of say half an acre. Dead pigs floating in it. A disgusting exhalation from it. Commissioners of Sewers build drains; but, as no water has ever been laid on, the people were not allowed to use them for fear of obstructions. No water laid on. Some say they 'catch it where they can,' others that they 'buy it.' The duration of life here is 10 years. The pigs were got rid of during the cholera, and the mortality decreased. Good houses are fast increasing in this district, so the greater excitement prevails on the state of the people. In one corner, where the National School looks out on a bed of filth and refuse so festering and loathsome it is not possible to approach it, sometimes as many as 22 dead pigs may be seen swelling with 465 putrefaction until they burst. There are a few dead trees overhanging the pool with decayed and rotting branches. It is estimated the accumulation of filth here is three yards deep. In warm weather the whole surface of the pool is covered with foam throe inches deep.This system had been going on from year to year, and, according to the reports of medical officers, the breaking out of the cholera was the result of this abomination and filth. To show the injurious effect which this filthy condition of living, resulting from want of pure water, had on the health of the people, he would with the permission of the House read the following short statement of the average duration of life in different localities:—Average age at death in the Potteries in the year 1850, 10 years and a fraction; a few years ago (1841–42), the average age at death in England generally was 29 years; in Liverpool (all classes), 25 years; ditto, gentry, 43 years; ditto, operatives, 16 years.By the reports of the present water companies, whose rights were now to be perpetuated and confirmed for ever, there were 17,400 houses unsupplied with water. The hon. Baronet opposite (Sir W. Clay) stated, in the clever pamphlet which he had published, that the supply of water to each house was 164 gallons, and had endeavoured to prove that the supply to each house was double the quantity supplied to any other town, and double the quantity any reasonable person required. But the quantity of water wasted was enormous, and this waste, principally caused by the intermittent supply, created damp in low houses, and increased mortality in a great degree, as was shown by the facts which had been ascertained, namely, that the deaths in habitations five feet above high-water mark were 1 in 255, while the deaths in habitations eleven feet above high-water mark were 1 in 425. The hon. Baronet had, however, taken care not to state, that out of 44,000,000 gallons of water supplied to London, 29,000,000 gallons were utterly wasted by the intermittent supply, and that from what remains must be deducted three gallons per head per day for watering streets, sewer flushing, and other purposes. Taking every class of houses, and estimating the supply of water to each house at seventy-five gallons per house, it would far exceed the amount of water really applicable for the purposes of the inhabitants, after deducting all waste. At the present moment, the average expense of water per house per week was 7½d. If an entirely different system were adopted, the water 466 could be supplied at 2d. per week per house, instead of 7½d. There never was such a piece of jugglery practised on the people as was attempted by this Bill. The gross income of the present companies was 432,000l., and their expenses 176,000l., leaving a balance of 256,000l., which the public pay. This balance arose after deducting, under the head of expenses, all the cost of litigation, and all the public were called on to pay for the wanton folly and extravagances, the wanton competition, and the wanton combination of companies in former days. Still, this 256,000l. a year was equivalent to five per cent on 5,000,000l. of capital. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir G. Grey) in his speech remarked, that the companies never divided more than 5 per cent; and that they were a most moderate set of gentlemen. This 256,000l. represented 5,000,000l. of capital. What said the Government Bill? he would take Schedule B, and make calculations upon the average of seven rooms per house. The returns for water supplied to houses he took at 352,000l., the water for the roads at 43,000l., and for stables and carriages at 25,000l.; or a total of 420,000l. Under the present system it was 432,000l. They must add the future requirements for baths and wash-houses, at 18,000 gallons, or 124,000l., which made a total of 546,000l. From that he deducted 96,000l. for expenses of management, and there remained 460,000l. profit, which these companies were to have under the present measure, representing, not as now only 5,000,000l., but positively 9,000,000l. of capital. He would next address himself to the consideration of the Bill itself; and he would ask what the right hon. Baronet (Sir G. Grey) meant, when he said that he proposed to give the management to new men? There were no new men, but the old companies dealt with in the Bill. All the measure did was, to confirm the powers of the existing companies, merely removing from them their responsibilities, and preventing competition. The water companies had the face to come down, and, under the name of a Bill to improve the supply of water to the metropolis, to ask for an addition of 100,000l. a year to their income, assuming that their working expenses were not diminished, hut remained at the same amount as at the present. Whilst all competition was to be effectually prevented, powers were given for making any by-laws the companies chose, for breach of which 467 the water could he cut off altogether. Simultaneous with this Bill was the publication of a Soft Water Metropolitan Contracting Company. They were willing to undertake to supply London with water at a sum much under 2,000,000l. That was the sum named in one clause of the Government Bill, which the companies were to have the power to borrow, in addition to their present capital. The new company would undertake to lay pipes, and supply, at high pressure, clear and beautiful water, with a constant, not an intermittent, supply, without any assistance, at 1d. per house per week. Adding 1d. per house per week for compensation to the present companies—for he admitted they ought to be treated with justice—they had an additional 2,000,000l., making 4,000,000l. At 5 per cent that would require 200,000l. a year, for which water would be carried at high pressure into every house in London. The saving by the use of soft water in cooking and washing was of the utmost importance. It was calculated to amount to about 250,000l. per annum. Mr. Napier reported that 50,000,000 of gallons a day could be obtained from the neighbourhood of Farnham, and his Report was approved by the Board of Health; and yet they were asked, with their eyes open, to refuse, to supply at one-third the expense, and much better than that of the present companies. He wished to know what these companies had done, that the Government should go out of the way to benefit them? From the foundation of these companies up to the present time—always excepting moments of public excitement, when the companies did listen to a little reason—their policy had been grasping, cruel, and avaricious, enough to stamp the character of inhumanity on those who had the management of the water companies, he did not wish to reflect on the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir W. Clay), but the scenes of horror he had related were sufficient to prove that the conduct of the companies had, from the first, been open to the charge of inhumanity. The hon. Baronet opposite said boldly in his pamphlet, "We must have a monopoly." But he (Mr. B. Cochrane) asked why should there be a monopoly in regard to one of the first necessaries of life, when, at the present period, they were striking at the root of all monopolies? He was well aware that great evils were incidental to great cities; that in New York there was occasionally the yellow fever, and at Cairo the plague, but 468 London was the only city in the world in which they had an evil which never left the dark alleys and narrow passages, and that evil was typhus, which was the consequence of the miserable system on which the sanitary arrangements of the metropolis were carried on. He would here quote the opinion of a distinguished man, who now occupied an eminent position—M. Leon Faucher:—Side by side we find an opulence which defies all comparison, with the most abject and frightful misery; and the same city that possesses unrivalled mansions, handsome streets, and noble squares, contains in its depths half-ruined houses, ill-paved lanes, unlit, undrained alleys, which have no issue either for air or water; in a word, disgusting dens which no other population would inhabit, and which, for the honour of human nature be it said, exist in no other town.And again—Such focuses of infection resist all individual remedies, and require the intervention of the Government. Every thing here accuses the carelessness of the local administrations. One might imagine there were districts created in the middle ages, which the magistrates surrounded with walls to protect them from a foreign enemy; but which they devoted, in their ignorance, to more fatal epidemics.In another place he said—Nine different companies distribute water into the houses at exaggerated rates, and the poor people who cannot meet the demands of the companies are often obliged to drink the hard disagreeable water of the wells.This was the account given by M. Leon Faucher, who, however, it ought to be noted, had not been to Jacob's Island. He had been unwilling to trespass on the House further than to prove, as he trusted lie had done, that the present Bill conferred no credit on the Government. It bore upon the face of it the appearance of having been drawn up by the water companies themselves, to perpetuate their monopoly. It was sufficient for him that he mistrusted it; and, mistrusting it, and knowing that the poor people longed for the destruction of that monopoly, and that the blessing of pure water could be secured at one-third the price, it was with feelings of deep indignation that he begged to propose an Amendment, which he trusted would have the effect of throwing out the Bill.
To leave out the word 'That,' to the end of the Question, in order to add the words, 'it is the opinion of this House that no Bill for the Supply of Water to the Metropolis shall be proceeded with, unless the works required for an improved and competent Supply of Water to the Metropolis shall be put up for competition as to
the terms on which they shall be executed and maintained, upon a contract for a term of years, on a general rate,' instead thereof.
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ SIR BENJAMIN HALL
said, it was not his intention to support the proposition of the hon. Gentleman, as he did not very clearly understand its scope or object; he would suggest whether, with a view to simplifying the discussion, it might not be better for the hon. Member to withdraw his Amendment, and to allow the subject to be decided upon the simple question of the acceptance or rejection of the Government Bill.
§ MR. BAILLIE COCHRANE
said, that finding that the feeling of the House appeared to be in favour of the course proposed by the hon. Baronet, he would beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Question again proposed, "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."
believed it was admitted on all hands that the present supply of water to the metropolis was deficient in quantity, inferior in quality, and extravagantly high in price. That those were the facts, the reports of the Board of Health distinctly and fully proved. It was shown by those reports that the quantity was exceedingly insufficient for the wants of the people. It was further shown that the quality of the water was very objectionable and unwholesome, and that organic and vegetable matter was found in it of a highly prejudicial character. It was also very clearly set forth that the cost of the water was much higher than it need be. By the returns of the water companies made to Parliament, it would be seen that the cost of water to this metropolis was about 450,000l. a year; and by the Board of Health report it was shown that it could be reduced to probably one-half, or less than one-half that price, and that the water would be of a much more useful character for every kind of domestic use, and also for manufacturing purposes. The report also clearly showed that in cooling meat, making tea, and washing, there was great economy by the use of soft water. The present hard water used in washing caused great wear and tear of the articles washed, and a great increase of labour. By substituting a softer water, the greatest benefits would be derived. A grievous objection to the Government Bill was, that it proposed to take the whole of these water compa- 470 nies at a fair and liberal valuation, as it was termed. That fair and liberal valuation would doubtless be upon their present value, not the value at which they would stand if there were fair competition, but the value which resulted from extravagant expenditure and combination. By this Bill the water companies were all to be amalgamated, and they were to have a fixed charge of 5 per cent, and they were not to be allowed to charge more. Unless altered in Committee, the passing of this Bill would add 5,000,000l. to the cost, without increasing or improving the supply. They all knew the difficulties and struggles which must be encountered in endeavouring to open a fresh supply of water; and he really thought the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Department had enough upon his hands, without undertaking the supply of water to the metropolis. He (Mr. Moffatt) had set out by stating that the cost for water in the metropolis was extravagantly high, and he did not see the slightest prospect of any advantage to the inhabitants by this Bill. By the schedule of prices there was to be some reduction to large rooms and small rooms; but, coming to the actual admeasurement of the gross quantity, it would be still 6d. for every 1,000 gallons. Some two years ago a Bill was passed for the supply of water to the town of Whitehaven, and now that town was supplied from a stream seven miles distant, with 1,000,000 gallons a day, at a cost of 1d. for every 1,000 gallons; yet by the Bill of the Government, it was proposed to maintain the price to the metropolis at 6d. for every 1,000 gallons. He might be asked, "But what do you propose?" His answer was, "Do with water as you have done with gas." Clauses were introduced into new Gas Bills, and care was taken that the companies should not merge into combination. The effect had been, by lowering gas from 6s. to 4s. per 1,000 cubic feet, to save the public nearly 200,000l. a year in the cost of gas; and a small district with which he was connected would save 1,000l. per annum by the diminished charge for lighting. Was it not, then, extraordinary that Her Majesty's Government should propose the merging the supply of water into a monopoly of the strictest and most rigid kind? He called upon the House to reject any such measure.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."471
§ SIR BENJAMIN HALL
said, that representing as he did a very large portion of this metropolis, he had no hesitation in declaring, from his knowledge of the constituency, and of the general feelings of the inhabitants, that there was but one desire, from its eastern extremity to its most western portion, and that was, that the Bill should not be proceeded with. The measure appeared to have been framed with a view specially and exclusively to the advantage of the holders of shares in the London water companies, who had, certainly, smaller claims on the consideration of the citizens than any other class of men whatsoever. Unless that House were now to testify, in a manner not to be mistaken, its determination to afford some effective relief to the public in this matter, he very much feared that the evils of the present system might be prolonged for an indefinite period, and to an extent perfectly intolerable. Certain companies were now existing in London for the purpose of supplying water. It was not the intention of the Government to abolish or to take the direction from the hands of those companies; but it was their intention to continue the direction in the hands of the present directors, and to perpetuate such a monopoly as would render it utterly impossible for any other company to come forward and compete with it. The ground upon which the Government proposed to award compensation was, that valuation should be made of all the stock and plant of existing companies; and, no matter whether the plant was well situated or not, the ratepayers would have to pay for the plant as it existed at present, though the sources might be objectionable, and the right hon. Secretary of State for the Homo Department might afterwards determine that the whole plant should be removed, for the purpose of opening other sources. The inhabitants would have to pay for the first outlay, and also for the removal and substitution of a new plant. Another point to which he wished to call the attention of the right hon. Secretary of State was this: there was to be a certain valuation of shares, and the holders were to be granted five per cent. No reduction of rates whatever was to take place but upon the approval of the directors; and although a schedule was appended to the Bill, that schedule was not to come into operation until the directors shall have realised their five per cent. The directors might carry on the most wasteful and careless extravagance, and so long as 472 they took only five per cent, no reduction to the public would be made. What would be the effect on the stock of these companies? The Three per Cents were now at 98, and with a guarantee of five per cent, every 100l. share in these water companies would be worth 130l. in the market. A Bill more to the advantage of the holders of shares could not be introduced. He thought, that before they gave such advantages as these, they ought to see what the water companies had done for the advantage of the metropolis. There was a paper circulated at the instance of the hon. Gentleman who moved the first Amendment (Air. B. Cochrane), and he (Sir B. Hall) wished to direct the attention of the right hon. Secretary of State, and the Members of the Government, to one or two passages, because if the House granted this great bonus, it ought to see that these water companies had done some good. Had they carried out their intentions, when they came to Parliament asking for further powers? He would refer to the Minute of the Board of Health on the 14th of January in the present year?—Almost every existing company, except the New River Company, was introduced to the public upon a promise of reductions of charge, based on competition and the opportunities of free choice from more than one supply. That promise has been violated. The companies have hitherto been enabled to hold out to the consumers this fact, that new companies have not cheapened the supplies, as a discouragement to the use of such means as may present themselves of obtaining reductions in price or improvement in works.That was true. No new company could come forward, because every time they came down to this House they were opposed by that very influential body, the shareholders of these Government companies. He was informed, that no less than seventy Members of Parliament held shares in these companies, and it was not very likely, if they voted, they would vote for any competition: it would be much better if those Gentlemen, who were so materially interested in the matter, would, for the sake of their own reputations, at least abstain from voting on the present occasion. By their influence all competition with new water companies had been removed. What was the effect of competition where it existed? If they turned to the next page of the Minute, they would see what had been done in the instance of gas companies, to which allusion had been and careless extravagance, and so long as I made by the hon. Mover of the Amend- 473 ment, which he (Sir B. Hall) had now the pleasure of supporting;—The various gas companies introduced on the ground of competition had, one after another, districts divided amongst them by the consent of the rest. Within each district they had as complete a monopoly as that which the water companies now have. Their manufacture of gas was careless, and the price they charged for it was from 7s. to 12s. per 1,000 cubic feet. It may be manufactured in large quantities at 2s. 6d. per 1,000 cubic feet. A new company canvassed the shopkeepers and the large consumers of gas, and obtained from them engagements that they would take supplies of gas from the new company if it were supplied at the reduced price of 4s. per 1,000 cubic feet of gas promised by them. Upon these engagements new capital was raised, and the works of the new company introduced. One of the old companies has been compelled to reduce its rates to 4s. per 1,000 cubic feet, a sum from one-half to one-third the former prices. Another new company has compelled a reduction of the price from 8s. to 5s. per 1,000 cubic feet.If the present directors of the water companies were allowed to have the management of this great company under the Government Bill, they would be reckless and careless; they knew that under any circumstances they would have their price, and they would care little for the ratepayers of the district. But let the House see what is the effect of competition in effecting a reduction of the price of water. The West Middlesex Water Company, where there is no competition, charges 1s. 0¾d. per 1,000 gallons. The Grand Junction, of which the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Sir W. Clay) was the chairman, charges 8d. per 1,000 gallons. But more remarkable, another company, of which the hon. Baronet was also the chairman, the Southwark and Vauxhall Company, charged only 3½d. per 1,000 gallons. He entirely concurred in the opinion, that the evils under which the public were suffering, in the matter of water supply, were the results of the nefarious combination amongst these companies. Those high-minded and public-spirited corporations charged 128 per cent more for water in districts where no competition existed, than they charged in other parts of the metropolis where they had to encounter rivalry. This fact was in itself sufficient to prove how essential to the interests of the community was a fair system of competition. The hon. Gentleman (Sir W. Clay) wrote a remarkable pamphlet in 1849 upon this subject, which showed the views of the directors of waterworks with respect to the present supply. The hon. Gentleman said, in that pamphlet, that the Grand Junction Company drew their water from 474 a place on the Surrey side of the Thames, which was removed from any sewerage. Now he (Sir B. Hall) felt convinced that a great deal of sewerage came into the Thames at that district. The hon. Baronet (Sir W. Clay) was also Chairman of the Southwark and Vauxhall Company, which he said drew its supply from the Thames at Battersea, a little below the Red-house. That was one of the foulest parts of the Thames that could he found; the supply was drawn just from between two large sewers; so that when the tide flowed up they had the benefit of the one, and when it flowed down they had the benefit of the other. Yet the hon. Baronet was satisfied with that supply of water for the metropolis. He said that the only improvements required were that the water should be filtered prior to delivery; and that when it was taken from the Thames within the tidal range, it should he taken in such proportion as to ensure its being unaffected by tidal drainage. But how was that possible? It was a very good argument for gentlemen who were the directors of these companies, and who did not desire any interference by the public. The whole inhabitants of the metropolis desired that there should be different sources of supply, and more especially that the whole direction of the affairs should be taken out of the hands of the present directors of the water companies. He would now allude to the nature of the water which was so supplied. The Board of Health reported, that "it frequently came in tainted with the smell of decayed animal and vegetable matter, having a slightly putrescent smell and taste." Yet the hon. Gentleman thought the supply, under these disgusting circumstances, was good enough for the metropolis. The water of the Thames at Richmond, and other places, was thus described by a witness, whose evidence appeared in the Report of the Board of Health:—Richmond water began to show very strongly the change caused by towns. It contains, in a gallon—chlorine, 184 grains, equal to, as common salt, 807 grains. A quantity of brown flocculent matter fell to the bottom of the vessel, containing animalcules in great abundance, with some of a kind entirely different from any yet perceived higher up, such as the eel-like animals, vibrio fluviatilis. This creature is about 1–88th of an inch long, I believe, but I could not well measure any of them, they were in such constant motion. The change in the nature of the deposit is sufficiently indicated by its appearance, the animalcules preceding seldom going beyond l–400th of an inch, many of them much smaller. There was also a patch of dirty brown on the side of the vessel, which, when examined by the microscope, was 475 resolved into thousands of animalcules, the navi-cula fulva, I believe. The number of animalcules was greater at Chelsea than at Hammersmith, of the smaller kind, chiefly 1–700th to l-400th of an inch; with the exception of the naviculœ forming the brown deposit before mentioned. There was also a mass of flocculent brown matter, but it was not very thickly inhabited; it probably had passed the stage of most active animalcular life when I examined it, as the amount of matter left material enough for the formation of many little creatures. This is borne out by the water at Lambeth. The water opposite Lambeth Palace did not get clear after long standing, containing a fine clay not dissolved by acids. When burnt, there is a strong acid smell, and there is also nitric acid perceptible in the remaining salt. It has therefore the qualities of well water in a badly-drained district, or water too near any source of organic impurity. Such waters do not leave carbon when boiled down and heated; the saltpetre burns the charcoal. Water got at Hungerford-market had—inorganic matter, 47.55 grains in a gallon; volatile and organic, 13.7; of matter in suspension, 61.25. The organic matter burnt had the smell of rotten wood. A specimen got between Black-friars-bridge and Southwark-bridge, near the London side:—inorganic matter in suspension, 43.12 grains; volatile and organic, 13.12; total, 56.24. This specimen gave a smell like burning wood also when boiled down and heated. Both the specimens last-mentioned contained animalcules larger, fatter, and uglier than any preceding. One creature was observed about a 30th of an inch in size. When the deposit of mud was removed and the water seemed clean, these specimens, along with the specimens from Richmond and Hammersmith, were allowed to stand some time. In a short time the flocculent matter spoken of was formed, brown, like iron rust, and the covering of one side of the vessel by the brown naviculœ took place also on the side next to the light.Now as to the saving that was to be effected by this Bill. He found that the scale proposed by the Government, and sanctioned by the directors of the several companies, was materially higher than that charged by the New River Company, whoso original 100l. shares were now worth 17,300l.: they brought in an annual return of 896l. For a five-room house the New River Company charged 10s., and the Government by their proposed Bill would charge 10s.; for a seven-room house the New River Company charged 1l. 4s.; Government, 1l. 4s. 6d.; for a nine-room house the New River Company charged 1l. 10s., Government charged 1l. 10s. 6d.; for a ten-room house the New River Company charged 1l. 16s., and Government 2l. Thus the Government came down with that modest assurance so characteristic of all their proceedings, and asked the public to pay a higher rate for water than the New River Company charged. It was one of the most monstrous propositions ever 476 brought before the House. Let them allow competition in order that the public might be better and cheaper supplied, or else let them adopt the proposition of his hon. Friend below him, and place the works of the existing companies under a very different species of control from that to which they were at present subject. If the Government felt prepared to introduce any measure for the purpose of checking the proceedings of the directors of these water companies, they ought by all means to adopt the principle of placing the control and management in the hands of the ratepayers themselves. Don't let the public be subject to all the caprice, the schemes, and the extravagance of the directors of the existing companies. They had a sample of what they might expect from these directors, when they found the chairman of two of the companies deliberately and coolly putting forth a pamphlet stating that the public ought to be satisfied, he believed if the ratepayers were allowed, upon fair terms, to buy up the existing companies, they would be satisfied; but they must have the plants at the lowest cost, because some of them were perfectly useless. Such a plant as that which drew its supply from between two sewers was quite worthless. He confessed that he did not at all approve of that provision of the present Bill, which proposed to give the controlling power to the Home Secretary. That the public would not be benefited by committing to the Government the control of affairs which properly belonged to the public themselves, was satisfactorily attested by what had happened in the case of the Interment Bill, which was read a second time, with the almost unanimous concurrence of the House. The working out of that Bill had been unfortunately entrusted to the Government; hut so remiss had the Government been in the discharge of its duty, that to this day no change had yet been effected in the system of burying in the metropolis. Indeed, so far was this from being the case, that in some cases churchyards which had been long closed had been actually reopened for interments since the passing of the Bill. He trusted the House would reject this monopolizing measure.
§ MR. W. WILLIAMS
said, it was quite unnecessary to inquire into the character of the water which was supplied to the metropolis at present, for, from one end of it to the other, the quantity, the quality, and the price of the water wore fruitful sources of complaint. The question for 477 decision was how to remedy the evil complained of. The Bill of the right hon. Baronet the Home Secretary would not remove the existing complaints. Instead of being called "A Bill for the better Supplying of Water to the Metropolis," he thought it should have been called "A Bill for the purpose of establishing a huge job, to perpetuate a deficient supply of impure water to the metropolis, under the patronage of Her Majesty's Government." He believed that no system would be satisfactory to the ratepayers, except one which would give them the management of the water supply into their own hands. The Bill of the right hon. Baronet was for the purpose of uniting nine companies, seven of which were already combined in one great monopoly. These seven companies had partitioned amongst themselves certain districts of the metropolis, north of the Thames. There were two other companies which supplied Lambeth and Southwark: there, there was competition; and what was the difference? Why, the average cost per house for water in Lambeth and Southwark was under 20s. perannum; whereas the average of the seven companies per house was 35s., and in the West Middlesex district the charge averaged 58s. per house. Thus there was a difference of nearly 300 per cent in the cost of water in two different districts of the metropolis. Then how did the right hon. Baronet mean to compensate those different companies for the surrender of their privileges? Did he mean to compensate those who supplied water at 3½d. per thousand gallons at their rate, and those who charged 1s. 0æd. at their rate? That would, he conceived, be an act of manifest injustice. The great reason given by the right hon. Baronet for the union of these companies into one huge monopoly was, that it would save something in the management; but it had been found that the cost of management was hardly one sixpence upon each house in the metropolis. It would be infinitely better to allow a competition to come into those districts of the Middlesex side of the metropolis, similar to that which existed on the other side of the Thames—that would secure a much cheaper supply of water than the system of the right hon. Baronet. Look at the situation which Lambeth and Southwark were placed in. They got a supply of water for 3½d. per thousand gallons; whereas the Bill of the right hon. Baronet would make a charge of 6d. per thousand gallons, for the supply, not of houses, but of public works and manufactories, which, of course, 478 are always supplied at the cheapest rate. The right hon. Baronet should leave the management with the inhabitants. In all other local affairs the management was vested in them; and he thought they should also be allowed to manage for themselves such an important matter as the supply of water. That was the only security they could ever have for a supply of good water upon reasonable terms. There must be something in the background to cause this Bill to be brought forward contrary to the universally expressed opinion of the inhabitants of the metropolis. The subject had been much discussed at public meetings, and the universal desire was to have the management in the hands of the inhabitants. It had been stated that there were seventy Members of that House who were shareholders of the water companies at present existing. Now, suppose the proposed change was to take place in the mode of management, and that at anytime when the Government were in a position of such difficulty as they had been of late, even if one-fourth of those Members were to go to the Home Office, and say, "If you don't take such and such a course with respect to the supply of water, we will divide against you upon all questions that can affect the Government," it might have an improper effect. In fact, such a power as that proposed by this Bill should not be vested in the Secretary of State, or any other department of Government. He was surprised that the right hon. Baronet should have thought of vesting the power in himself. Nothing could bring him into such disagreeable collision with the inhabitants of the metropolis as the exercise of this power under such an influence as the water companies possessed. He should give his most decided opposition to this Bill, which he hoped would be thrown out, for the sake of the poor of the metropolis, who ought to have a supply of that indispensable necessary of life, at the cheapest possible rate, and of a quality much purer than the water that was supplied to them at present.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
said, he was anxious to reply to some of the objections which had been made to the Bill, and also to explain some of its provisions. The hon. Member for Bridport (Mr. Cochrane) had spent a good deal of time in proving what he himself, in moving for leave to bring in the Bill, had admitted, namely, the defect which existed in the present supply of water to the metropolis. He (Sir George Grey) had referred in general 479 terms to the various inquiries which had taken place before Committees of the House of Commons, and particularly to the inquiry which was undertaken by the Board of Health in the course of the last eighteen months; and he had assumed as a thing which could not be disputed, that some essential change was necessary in the supply of water to the metropolis, in order to secure what must he the desire of all parties, the best possible supply at the cheapest possible rate. The hon. Members for Bridport, for Dartmouth, and for Marylebone, had dwelt at considerable length upon the bad and defective nature of the supply, and the expense of it, as if they had thought he (Sir George Grey) was prepared to combat that, or as if the introduction of that Bill was not founded upon those very defects. He did not think he was bound to enter into any defence of the companies—if any of the hon. Gentlemen present who were connected with water companies chose to do so, he had no doubt the House would listen to them—but without being able to express any opinion as to the correctness of some of the statements which had been made of minute detail, of which he knew nothing, he was quite prepared to admit that the present sources of supply were defective, that the quality and quantity of the water supplied were not such as were required by the exigencies of the metropolis, and that the expense at which the water had been provided was greater than he considered to be necessary. Another point also had been insisted upon, as if he was not also prepared to agree in that—namely, that competition had failed to effect the desired object. The principle upon which this Bill was framed was one which had been demonstrated by past experience to he correct, but which had now been con-troverted by two hon. Members—namely, that competition was not a principle that could be applied to the supply of water to the metropolis; and, judging from past experience, and from the facts stated by the Board of Health, he did not think the House would be justified in introducing further competition in the hope that it would lead to the desired result. The hon. Member for Marylebone said, that competition was the right principle, and that the control of the ratepayers ought to he superadded to it; and in the abstract he (Sir Geovge Grey) concurred with that. But he had previously stated, that peculiar reasons existed in London—speaking of it as a metropolis—which were not ap- 480 plicable to any other large town, which would prevent the system of competition from accomplishing the object in view. The House had recognised the principle of competition up to the present time. Nine companies existed, having powers under Acts of Parliament, Parliament each time letting in some new element of competition; and the consequence, as was stated clearly in the report of the Board of Health, was that the metropolis was divided into nine districts. Competition for a time produced its results; a reduction of the rates took place; after a time it became ruinous to the shareholders, a combination succeeded, and now there was a monopoly under that system which Parliament had sanctioned as being capable of giving the best and the cheapest supply. The Board of Health had been entrusted with an inquiry into the best mode of regulating the supply of water for the metropolis. Their report had been carefully considered by the Government; and although it had been truly said that the Secretary of State had so much to do that be should not be entrusted with the superintendence of the supply of water to the metropolis, still, in consequence of the steps which had been taken by the House for procuring the inquiry, he (Sir George Grey) did not consider himself absolved from the duty of giving the most careful consideration to the report. The result was, that although the report was most elaborate, abounding in facts of the utmost value, the Government did not feel justified in assuming it as a thing proved and demonstrated, that the existing sources of supply should be altogether abandoned, or that the sources of supply indicated in that report were preferable to the existing ones, and that therefore Government must of necessity, at a great expense, adopt them. The course which the Government took was—and the Board of Health had acknowledged the expediency of that course —to select three gentlemen competent to express an opinion upon the subject, to lay before them the whole of that evidence, and the evidence of a contrary character; and they were directed with all convenient speed to report upon the questions addressed to them. That inquiry was still pending, and no doubt, under those circumstances, the easiest course for the Government to have taken would have been to say that, pending that inquiry, they were not in a condition to propose any measure on the subject. But they thought it was their duty to propose some 481 alteration in the system, leaving open the question of the source whence the future supply should be drawn, but taking to the Government absolute power, without any appeal on the part of the bodies to whom the supply might be entrusted, of closing the existing sources of supply if they should be found to be unfit for the purpose. Now, the principle of the Bill which he (Sir G. Grey) proposed, was not to perpetuate an irresponsible monopoly such as that which at present existed. For the present system the Government proposed to substitute a combined management, to which great importance was justly attached in the report of the Board of Health. For the present irresponsible boards of management, they proposed to substitute one combined management by a consolidated company responsible in a certain extent to Government, and responsible also to Parliament. All the benefits of combined management would be secured, and the company would be subject to limitation, not only in the declaring of dividends, but also in the levying of rates. There was one condition attached which was of an important character. The Government had the power to buy up the interest of the companies, without doing injustice to the shareholders, while, doubtless, conferring benefit on the public—
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
On the present Five per Cent Stock. It had been said repeatedly that these companies had abused their privileges, and, therefore, that they ought not to be trusted in future. If these accusations were well founded—and to a certain extent they were well founded—the evil they expected would be remedied by the control under which it was proposed by this Bill to place them. The hon. Member for Bridport had referred to the prospectus of a new company; but a matter of that sort should be received with great caution, if not with distrust. The object of the parties issuing such a document was to invite shareholders to invest their capital in the undertaking.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
begged to draw the attention of the House to the recommendations of the Board of Health. The right hon. Baronet then proceeded to read from the Report of the Board of Health their recommendations regarding the proper ma- 482 chinery for working out the supply of water to the metropolis, and the mode of regulating the same. [Parliamentary Papers, 1850, (1,218).] By the prospectus of the projected company, a board of salaried officers was proposed, appointed by the Crown, with the power of adopting proper measures with reference to the supply of the metropolis. He presumed that the prospectus was only a paper drawn up amplifying the principles suggested by the Board of Health. He (Sir G. Grey) thought those principles were sound, to a certain extent at least. They were sound as to the agency proposed for working out the supply of water to the metropolis, and they were also sound and just in the recommendation they made, that whatever was done, a fair and adequate compensation should be awarded to the shareholders in these companies, either by arbitration or jury assessment. He had been charged with a desire to take the matter altogether into the hands of Government. What he had done was this. He had declined, on the authority of Government, to take those powers which the Board of Health had suggested, and to which be thought many practical objections existed, and Government had only wished to take on themselves some necessary amount of control. The hon. Gentleman had said a great deal about the character of the water. Now, he was not prepared to controvert what Mr. Napier had said upon that point; but he was not prepared to say, looking at the many contradictory recommendations which had proceeded from the Board of Health itself, and to the conflicting evidence on which Parliament would be called upon to determine, that all the water supply necessary for the metropolis should be taken from the source indicated by the Board of Health. With regard to the expense, it had been said that the expense under the Government Bill would be greater than under the present system. Now, it was difficult on the second reading of a Bill to enter into the question of expense, which it was more usually the office of a Committee to investigate and determine upon. But he might state that the schedule proposed by the Government would effect a great saving as compared with the present charges. The present amount of charge had been stated at 450,000l. The schedules to the Bill now proposed, which had been drawn up after the most careful investigation, would be considered by the Committees, and he believed that they 483 would effect a great saving in the amount at which water was supplied. He was informed, as the result of an inquiry into these schedules, that the expense would be reduced by at least 100,000l. The sum stated in the schedule as the cost of the water supply under the new system was 321,000l. He would, however, estimate the cost at 350,000l., which would be a reduction of 100,000l. He (Sir G. Grey) did not pledge himself to the accuracy of the figures; but after an investigation by competent persons, the result was as he bad stated; and he had no doubt that reduction would be effected. The Committee, however, in the discharge of their duty would compare the schedule in the Government measure with the present rates of charges made by the water companies, so that it might be ascertained whether any further reduction was expedient or possible. The cost of supply, according to the schedule of the Government, was, he believed, estimated at a less sum than any of the companies had proposed who had offered themselves to remedy the evils of the existing system. There had been a Bill introduced proposing to draw the supply from Watford, and the estimated cost was 470,000l., which was an increase on the present rates, and much beyond the sum estimated by the Government. The Government scale was lower than that of any of the London companies, and, with one exception, he believed that it was also less than the charge upon any of the provincial towns. He should therefore hope that the progress of the Bill would not be opposed by any hon. Members in this stage, in the fear that the rates intended to be laid on would be excessive; for the Committee would consider that point, and all possible and reasonable reductions could be then made in the schedule. It had been argued that the compensation to the present companies would be on an extravagant scale. In reply to that supposition, he could only say that the Government had adopted as a kind of precedent the Liverpool waterworks scale, which had proved to be a very satisfactory arrangement as regarded the interests of parties. There was no ground for alleging that the compensation would be extravagant, because the Bill would contain powers of referring compensation questions to the decisions of juries, who would assess the true value. The hon. Member for Marylebone had said that 484 the Government offered to guarantee an interest of 5 per cent upon the stock of the new company, which would raise the price of that stock in the markets, and make it very valuable stock, whatever might be the malversation or reckless expenditure of the company. His hon. Friend must have made that statement without having read the Bill, or be would have seen that there was no provision contained in it to pay that amount of interest. There was no guarantee at all in the Bill. Indeed, the complaint of the existing water companies was, that they were not guaranteed, and that there was no security for the payment of a dividend to persons who had invested their money. But take the hypothesis that the consolidated company should make 5 per cent, and yet that they should be reckless in their administration and expenditure, then, as the hon. Member would see, by the 31st clause of this measure it was provided that the Lords of the Treasury should have the power, if they believed the affairs of the company were badly administered, or thought their expenses reckless, of reducing the rates, and preventing the company form laying on any sum beyond that which might be considered a fair remuneration for a good supply of state, he concurred with the hon. Member for Dartmouth, that the duties of his office were already too onerous and multifarious to permit him to bestow the proper attention on this subject; and it was for that reason the Government had decided not to take the undertaking entirely upon themselves. An hon. Member had inquired whether a closet was to be considered as a room, in reference to the mode of rating. It certainly could not be established that a dark closet was an apartment within the true intent and meaning of the Act; but this point was among those matters of detail which were best considered in Committee. It had been said that it was desirable that the management of the water supply should be placed entirely in the hands of the ratepayers. Now, there was a Bill before the House, to the introduction of which he had given his assent, and which bad been printed, and upon the second reading that principle might be brought under discussion. That Bill proposed to give a better supply of water under a board of management to be elected by the ratepayers, and 485 if the House thought the principle was right of buying up the existing companies, and entrusting the management of the water supply to a body appointed by the ratepayers, it would be in their power to refer that Bill to a Select Committee. He should not object to such a proceeding; but from what he had seen of that Bill he did not think it was calculated to remove any of the practical objections and difficulties which existed, owing to the vast extent of the metropolis, and other causes—but he would say nothing to prejudice the fair consideration of that Bill, which would be before the House in a short time. If the Government Bill were now rejected, it could be only rejected on the grounds stated by the hon. Gentleman, that it would be desirable to have recourse again to competition, and to let a new company compete with the existing companies: but he thought they had already had sufficient experience of that experiment, and that the result had proved that the system of competition had not attained its object. Whatever principle might be decided upon by Parliament, it was necessary that they should exercise the utmost care and caution in effecting so great a change. He did not pretend to say that this was a perfect Bill, calculated to remedy at once all the evils that had been complained of; but he only asked for the second reading of the Bill, without wishing to pledge the House to any of the details, in order that it might be sent to a Select Committee, where the whole subject might be thoroughly sifted. If the House would read the Bill a second time, he would, although it was not strictly a private Bill, propose that it should be treated in a similar way, and that it should be in the first instance referred to the Committee of Selection, who would choose the Select Committee as in the case of an ordinary private Bill. The Bill must evidently come before the House again, and he hoped they would consent to the second reading.
§ SIR JOHN JOHNSTONE
said, that having the misfortune to be connected with one of the water companies of the metropolis, he trusted the House would allow him to make a few observations in reference to this Bill. If, indeed, nothing worse could be brought forward against the Now River Company—the company with which he was connected—than that the milkmen stole the water for the purpose of diluting their milk, he thought there was no great cause of complaint. It certainly was a 486 great misfortune that all the inhabitants of the metropolis were not supplied with water, but the charge made by the companies was very small, being six shillings per annum for a house of two rooms; and, if the poor classes wore unable to pay it, some Bill should be introduced to compel the landlords to do so. An hon. Gentleman (Sir B. Hall) had spoken of the 100l. shares in the New River Company being worth 17,300l.; but that was not altogether correct. It was absurd to call them 100l. shares. The whole expense of 400,000l., which ruined the projector, Sir Hugh Middleton, had been originally divided in the time of James I. into 72 parts, and those shares had certainly been sold in the last few years as high as 18,000l. or 19,000l., and he believed they were reckoned to be worth about 12,000l. or 14,000l. twenty years ago; but then they must now include all the expenses to which the company had been put since that period. The objections of the New River Company to this Bill were four. First, they objected that the Bill did away with all the existing companies, their rights and privileges. Secondly, they objected to there being a forcible amalgamation of the companies, however incongruous they were as to distinct sources of supply and mode of management. Thirdly, they objected that there was no principle of arbitration laid down in this Bill such as was promised to the companies in the first instance when the right hon. Gentleman the Homo Secretary sent round the sketch and outline of his proposed Bill to them; and, though there was, he believed, the same clause as was in the Liverpool Waterworks Bill, the House ought to know that in the Bill introduced by the hon. Member for Falmouth, a clause is introduced to confiscate our property, or, what is the same thing, to buy up the companies' shares at ten years' purchase; but, if there was no principle laid down by the Government, the companies have a right to assume that the arbitrators might be disposed to take the same view of their rights, and direct them to be brought up at the sum set down in this Bill of spoliation to which I have just alluded. But their fourth and principal objection was this:—That the company would only be allowed to divide 5 per cent upon whatever capital might be allotted to them by arbitration, although they might be called upon to go to some undefined source to get a new supply of water for the metropolis; and wherever that source might be, or however in- 487 adequate it might eventually prove, whatever the cost might be, even if it amounted to two millions of money, there was no arbitration clause to entitle the company to any compensation for such outlay. The House would also recollect that by this Bill it was proposed to manage, through the medium of one united Company, a district reaching from a long distance in Kent to Hampstead Hill. The persons on the board would have to sit daily; they would have large salaries, and there must be district boards in various parts of the metropolis to hear complaints, and to manage the different parts of the district allotted to them; but, having looked into the Bill, the New River Company could not see their way in effecting such a saving as would justify the House in forcing the companies into an amalgamation. But then it was said that, apart from such a saving, they ought to amalgamate, because if there were any source clearly superior to any other, that could only be brought in by the agency of an united company for the metropolis. But what were the grounds before the House; to lead them to believe that there was any one source so superior to the present sources as to justify the House in calling upon all the companies to amalgamate in the manner suggested? No doubt everything that could be said had been said of the Farnham scheme; but the report upon that scheme was a one sided report: it had been drawn up by parties not of the highest authority in this kingdom as to engineering matters in reference to water; and he thought their deductions had been completely refuted by two gentlemen who had been sent into that district to examine the sources of supply. He had also with him a letter written by a competent person, to the New River Company, in answer to the last report of Mr. Napier; and which was a complete refutation of that gentleman's report to the Board of Health. He found, moreover, that various gentlemen connected with the Board of Health, when called upon to give an opinion at Southampton upon the most eligible source of supply for that town, recommended the same water, or nearly the same, as that which came from the chalk-hills near Ware, in preference to that from the gathering grounds; whilst, when they went to Ware, they changed their opinion and preferred the latter kind, so determined were they to object to any source now used by any existing Company, however pure. If the House should be 488 of opinion that something ought to be done with reference to the existing companies, those who objected to an amalgamation were bound to show what they were ready to submit to; and he would_ now state to the House the measures to which they were prepared to accede. He considered that inquiry should precede legislation; and he would suggest, on behalf of those who objected to an amalgamation of the companies, that a Committee should be appointed to examine and consider all matters connected with the water supply of London. The investigations of that Committee would, of course, be aided by the inquiries instituted by the Board of Health; and the Committee should be directed to report upon every point connected with the companies, upon the supposed deficiency of water, the proposed sources, as compared with the existing sources, of supply, the state of the works of the different companies, the nature of their respective districts, and what power they had of improving their supplies, and also upon the liabilities of the companies, and the compensation to which they would be entitled if a new system were adopted. In his opinion the Committee ought also to inquire into the respective scales of rates, and report whether they were reasonable or not. The Committee might also settle a clause, laying down the principle of arbitration, if it should be thought desirable to destroy all the existing companies, and substitute a large one for the supply of the whole metropolis. He considered that Parliament would then have a basis upon which they would be much better able to legislate than they could be at present, when they had no knowledge whether the commissioners appointed to examine into the chemical qualities of the water could recommend any sources superior to those to which recourse was now had. His own opinion was that the Farnham scheme could never be anything more than a supplementary scheme for supplying a portion of the metropolis. He thought he had shown in a former debate that the company to which he belonged had a right to object to the proposals contained in this Bill. They were in a different position from any other company, for they supplied a district larger than Liverpool; and he thought the Government might readily control them, if it was thought necessary, by a Bill. He believed that an efficient supply might be obtained through the agency of the exist- 489 ing companies, if Parliament regulated the mode in which the water should be distributed. The New River Company had now a Bill before Parliament for the purpose of filtering their water, and were ready to give such a constant supply as the ratepayers generally should demand. He did not think it possible that any one company could supply 2,300,000 people from one source upon the constant supply system, all plying at the main at the same time, between the hours of eight and eleven in the morning. It was not probable that the larger class of houses would dispense with their present cisterns, and the company would not be able to give an adequate supply except from some store provided overnight for the next morning's use. The company with which he was connected courted inquiry. He did not believe the complaints against them to be well founded; they wished to have the opportunity of meeting their accusers face to face, where both parties could be fairly heard.
§ MR. MOWATT
said, it would not be necessary for him to occupy the time of the House to any great extent in endeavouring to demonstrate what was admitted on all hands, that the supply of water to the metropolis at present was bad and vicious in the extreme—bad in point of quality, bad in point of quantity, and bad in point of price. All this had been shown already; he had not heard the allegations contravened on any side; and he had heard the fact boldly admitted by the right hon. Baronet the Home Secretary, who had most pertinently remarked that the very act of his attempting to legislate on this subject, was a proof of his opinion that the supply of water was bad, and that legislation was requisite. Now, if legislation was necessary, did the right hon. Gentleman propose to legislate so as to supply all these vital defects? He (Mr. Mowatt) said, that so far from that being the case, the effect of that Bill which they were now asked to read a second time, would be to perpetuate through all time the very evils and abuses which were said to have been the inducement of the right hon. Home Secretary to legislate at all on the subject. It might appear at first sight impossible that such would be the result, but nevertheless he lamented to say that there could be no doubt as to the fact. He had himself taken considerable interest in this question, not only as a member of the Legislature, but also as a citizen of London, and it was now some 490 years since he discovered to his astonishment that the water we were drinking, although containing apparently nothing very exceptionable, was in quality of the most impure and injurious character to health. Such being the case, he had been delighted, at first sight, to hear that the Government, after having given sundry notes of warning, were prepared at last to come down to the House and to legislate upon the subject. But bearing in mind the importance which ought to attach to this question, and the fact that a succession of Committees had been appointed to report upon it, he had been led to expect a measure of a very different and much more energetic character than that which the right hon. Gentleman had brought under their notice. Let the House look at the Bill before them. Bid the Government propose that they should go to better sources of supply than the impure sources which all the existing companies were compelled to resort to? No. Did the right hon. Gentleman propose to reduce the cost which this metropolis paid for that most inefficient supply of water, both as to quantity and quality? Not at all. The Government proposed to consolidate the present companies, so as to give them an existence in perpetuity; and so far, in his opinion, from rendering any service to the metropolis, he thought that if the Government succeeded, they would inflict the greatest calamity upon London which it was possible to devise. For the Government, by breaking down the separation between these nine companies, and amalgamating them into one, and placing them under the control and the patronage of the Government, would give them a perpetuity of existence which it would be impossible for them to obtain in any other manner. The only advantage he could perceive that would result from the consolidation of all the water companies would be to simplify their management; but that was an advantage merely to the companies themselves, as though the object of the Bill had been to legislate in their behalf. In fact, the present measure might be defined to be "a Bill to protect through all time the powers of the existing water companies against any invasion that might be hereafter contemplated by the Legislature, and for securing to them an income of five per cent per annum in perpetuity upon the maximum value of their property." The citizens of London did not want the present companies consolidated or con- 491 tinued in any shape or form; and for this simple reason, that all the plant and property they possessed was necessarily connected with the present impure supply of water, which was wholly unsuitable to its purpose. He was not influenced by any hostility to these water companies; on the contrary he thought that the metropolis was under an obligation to them, seeing that they had come forward at a time when there was but little consideration given to such questions, and had embarked their capital in rather a hazardous speculation. That being the case, it was quite natural that they should endeavour to make the most of their undertaking, and therefore he was not disposed to charge them with anything like cupidity because they endeavoured to profit by the enter-prize in which they were engaged. But what he objected to, as a citizen of London, was that that House should interfere in the matter in such a way as to perpetuate the present mode of supply. All men who had made this subject a question of inquiry, and had written upon it during the last twenty years, had maintained that it was one which demanded to be legislated upon, not only in a physical, but also in a moral point of view. He admitted that by this Bill the Government reserved to itself the power—after consolidating the different companies, and laying down regulations for their guidance, to signify their intention to the consolidated company of not having recourse any longer to such impure or inadequate sources of supply, and of seeking for some better source, both as regarded the quantity and the quality of the water. But such a reservation implied that the present sources of supply were not yet conclusively proved to be bad and insufficient; he, on the other hand, maintained that they had already passed that stage of the discussion, and that it was now admitted on all hands with scarcely a dissentient voice that the present supply was wholly inadequate both as regarded quantity, quality, and price; and therefore he said that the right hon. Gentleman (Sir G. Grey), by postponing the settlement of this point for a single day, was inflicting a frightful evil upon the metropolis. The right hon. Gentleman said, that as the scientific gentlemen whom the Board of Health had engaged to report upon this question had not yet come to a decision, he did not think it would be consistent with sound policy that they should legislate upon that part of the 492 subject. He (Mr. Mowatt) maintained that such a statement of the right hon. Gentleman amounted to a confession that he was not in a position to legislate upon this important matter at all. He considered that the right hon. Baronet should have had the frankness to say, "Although I am desirous to prevent the frightful loss of life, destruction of health, and deterioration of morals caused by the present deficient supply of water, yet, bearing in mind that our legislation upon this subject will probably be for all time, as I am not in a position to point out where we should find better sources of supply, I think the least evil will be to defer the consideration of the subject till the next Session of Parliament." If, in the face of the pressure upon the Government to make some instant provision for a change in the water supply, the right hon. Gentleman had allowed so much delay and procrastination to lake place, how could they hope to make any beneficial alteration, when a legislative measure had been already passed on the subject, when the companies had been consolidated together, and their existence guaranteed by statute? He would not attempt to discuss the schedule attached to the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman, who, he thought, was right in not pinning his faith to the terms of that schedule. The right hon. Baronet had committed an error in stating, in reply to the hon. Member for Marylebone (Sir B. Hall), that it was not the fact that under the proposed Bill a greater rate would be exacted from the community than was paid to the existing companies—
§ SIR JOHN JOHNSTONE
said, that according to the schedule of the Bill, the cost of water to the metropolis would be diminished by about 25,000l. a year.
§ MR. MOWATT
The effect of the Bill, in some cases at least, would be to enhance the rate. But the rate, in his opinion, was a matter of secondary importance. The quality of the water was the main consideration with him, and at present he considered the quality infamous. He considered that the bad supply of water was one of the main causes of the great extent of sickness in this metropolis. He himself resided within the range of the West Middlesex Waterworks; and after giving a great deal of attention to the subject, he had satisfied himself that it was out of their power, if they maintained the existing water companies, to provide a remedy for the present state of things. He had the 493 cisterns of his own house, which was supplied by the West Middlesex Waterworks, cleaned out on the first Monday in every month, and he assured the House that he was not exaggerating, when he stated that their contents had more the character of what was called pea-soup than of water. Whenever he drew off the contents of the cisterns, at the end of three weeks or a month, they were found to contain as much as six to eight or nine pails of matter that might be taken out with a shovel. The fresh water coming in every twenty-four hours disturbed this filth; but he was bound to say that in the course of four or five hours it settled down, and the water became astonishingly clear. These were facts to which he had repeatedly drawn the attention of the company; and he had frequently sent for the servants of the company to see it in this thick state, but they always took care to let throe or four hours elapse before they came, as they know that in that time a sediment would have taken place, and the water would have become clear. The right hon. Baronet proposed in his Bill to allow the companies to charge the existing rates, even after they should, under the Bill, supply the whole metropolis: now, if the supply of two-thirds of the metropolis gave them 10 per cent upon their bonâ fide capital, it would seem to stand to reason that charging the same rates upon one-third more houses would add a third to their present dividend, and at all events they would be secured 5 per cent, though there might not (as had been stated) in terms be a guarantee of that amount. Taking the companies in the aggregate, they divided of late from 5 to 6¼ per cent upon stock amounting to 4,800,000l.; but they had in fact paid little more than 2,000,000l. Being ashamed, when a great outcry arose, to make a very extravagant dividend, they put down as capital what they ought not, by placing to it the cost of the plant. The effect of this Bill, therefore, would be to guarantee them 10 per cent at least upon their bonâ fide capital; their capital, in part fictitious, would be placed under the protection of an Act of Parliament, and they would be virtually guaranteed 5 or 6 per cent in perpetuity upon double the capital they had laid out. The ratepayers would never agree to any such measure as this; and even if the Bill were to pass the Legislature, the metropolis would in a short time be in a state of such commotion that the companies themselves would pause 494 until the question should be again brought before Parliament next year. It would be absurd to suppose that the ratepayers would be such idiots as to tax themselves in such a manner in order to perpetuate so villanous a supply of water as they were at present—it might be said—cursed with. There were other monstrous provisions in the Bill besides those he had alluded to; and the only thing that disarmed criticism was the consideration that the right hon. Baronet might have found it impossible, in the press of business, to give the Bill ordinary attention. If it were a common Bill at all, so far from opposing it, he (Mr. Mowatt) would vote for sending it before a Committee, for this obvious reason, that discussion before a Committee would prepare the way for legislation on this subject. It appeared to him only consistent with our national usages, that as the ratepayers were to bear the expense of providing the works for a new supply of water, they should be allowed to have a voice in the matter; and it was a subject of surprise to him that the right hon. Baronet, after stating, when he introduced the Bill, that he was of opinion that the ratepayers wore the proper parties to decide upon all the great points of the question, should have proceeded upon a principle wholly at variance with that declaration. In the Bill that he (Mr. Mowatt) had had the presumption to introduce to the House, he proceeded on the broad ground of giving to the ratepayers a voice as to the construction of the works and as to the cost. The Bill had been referred to the examiner, with directions to report whether the Standing Orders had been complied with. His agent attended to prove that the Standing Orders had been complied with; but to his surprise the examiner had declined to report, not because the Standing the Standing Orders had not been complied with, but because a host of agents of the existing monopolies appeared before him and said this was quite a new thing, and they requested him not to report on it good or bad that day at all, and accordingly the examiner had declined to report. In that Bill he proposed that the metropolis should be divided into seventeen districts; each of these districts was to choose four Commissioners, who, in conjunction with four Commissioners nominated by the Lord Mayor and Common Council of the city of London, and four others selected by the Government, should constitute a Commission for the purpose of supplying the metropolis 495 with water. He had also made provision for allowing that Commission to nominate an Executive Committee, whose number should not exceed five, which Executive Committee should be appointed with the view of giving effect to the provisions of the Bill, and with power to appoint a secretary. The Government Commissioners should receive a salary. The Commission should be empowered to levy a construction rate, for providing new pipes, and new plant generally for the metropolis; and the rate should not in any one year exceed the sum of 3d. upon the rateable property of the metropolis. It would be competent for the Commission to purchase the works of the existing companies within a period of twelve months upon terms not exceeding ten years' purchase. So far as he could understand there was not a single commercial establishment in Great Britain which could be sold for more than five years' purchase. In the event of the water companies requiring the Commission to purchase their works, it should be in the power of the Commission, under the provisions of the Bill, to levy an additional rate, not exceeding 3d. in the pound; and he might say that, taking the rateable property of the metropolis at 12,000,000l., this rate would, in the space of thirty years, be sufficient to confer on every freeholder the possession in perpetuity of a supply of water free from any further charge for the construction of works. The Bill which he (Mr. Mowatt) had introduced left it optional to the Commissioners to go as far as a threpenny rate, or to lower that rate to twopence. His only object in now alluding to his own Bill was to contrast it with that of the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, and to show that, instead of perpetuating, as the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman would do, the present vicious system of water supply, at a cost of four times the amount which ought to be paid, the best way would be to remit the whole question to the ratepayers to determine, and to say what the course of supply should be. It might be objected that in his (Mr. Mowatt's) Bill he had not made it compulsory on the Commissioners to take the supply from any prescribed sources; but he had done so partly because he agreed with the right hon. Gentleman in thinking that the source of supply was still a most unsettled question, and partly because he thought that the ratepayers were the proper persons to determine from what sources the supply should be taken. He regretted 496 that he was obliged to oppose the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman; and he trusted that the House would excuse his having troubled them at so great a length, on account of the circumstances in which he had been placed.
§ MR. HUME
said, that there had been no difference of opinion expressed on the propriety of obtaining an increased supply of water for the metropolis. There were two Bills before the House, and the question was, how this supply could best be procured. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary had made, in his opinion, on the part of the Government, a very fair proposal. He was sorry that any reflections should be made on the charges or the management of any of the water companies, and therefore he would suggest, as the Government was willing that the present Bill should go to a Committee to be examined into, that the House should not reject the Bill, but upon the condition that in agreeing to the second reading with that view, the House should not be understood to commit itself to the principle of the Bill. He understood the right hon. Gentleman to propose that both Bills should be referred to a Select Committee; not a Committee selected in the ordinary way, but a larger Committee than usual, in which the interests of the water companies as well as of the ratepayers should be represented and protected.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
said, his hon. Friend had misunderstood him. What he said was, that the Bill should be referred to the Committee of Selection, who would choose the Select Committee like that appointed to consider any other Private Bill, without the representation of interests. If they admitted one interest, they must admit all.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
did not mean to enter into the general question, but he felt bound, in justice to the officers of the House, who performed very arduous duties in a very meritorious manner, to notice a statement which had been made in the course of his speech by the hon. Member for Falmouth (Mr. Mowatt). The hon. Gentleman had complained that the examiners had not reported that the Standing Orders of the House had been complied with, and that consequently his Bill was not brought before the House for a second reading that evening. The facts of the case were, that his hon. Friend brought in his Bill yesterday—that it was printed that morning—and that although the House 497 had given leave to the examiners to report forthwith that the Standing Orders had been complied with, yet there were a number of objectors to the Bill, who said they meant to oppose it upon the ground that the Standing Orders of the House had not been observed. He apprehended, therefore, that the examiners would have grossly neglected their duty if they had not allowed time for the consideration of these objections, they being bound to pursue the same course with respect to this as with any other Private Bill. He was quite sure that if his hon. Friend had been aware of the practice, he would not have said what he did say on this subject.
§ Sir W. CLAY
said, that the circumstance of his having paid a good deal of attention to the subject now under the consideration of the House, would, he trusted, enable him to compress in the smallest possible space the remarks which he felt it necessary to make. It seemed to have been assumed as a matter of course that the existing water companies were exceedingly interested in this Bill, and anxious for its success. He thought, however, that there could hardly be any one who now entertained that opinion, after hearing the speech of the hon. Member for Scarborough, who, being himself a member of one of the companies, had declared his intention to oppose the Bill. He might say also that it was a matter of perfect notoriety that not only the New River Company, but other companies, and he believed he might say the majority of the companies, were strongly opposed to the measure. In this particular the companies would, in his opinion, have pursued the path which wisdom and sound policy pointed out if they had abstained from opposition. It was their interest and their duty to submit themselves wholly in this matter to the discretion of Parliament. They must have felt that the public were entitled to the very best supply of water, delivered in the best possible mode, and upon the lowest possible terms consistent with a fair regard to existing interests. In claiming that their interests should be so considered, they might have grounded themselves on the Health of Towns Act, which he observed was particularly referred to in the very important paper laid on the table of the House that day, and in which there was a provision that where in any locality there was an existing water company, no new company should be allowed to furnish a supply of water, until it was shown that the ex- 498 isting company was unable to afford a sufficient supply, or were only willing to do so on terms which were not admissible. The water companies should have manifested their readiness to assist the views of the Legislature and Government. They should have said that, if their intervention were required, they would be willing to give it on such conditions as Parliament might impose, and if, on the other hand, it was wished to put the water supply under a public department, or under a public authority, that they wore ready to relinquish their rights and property on receiving a fair compensation. Had they done so, his opinion was that they might safely have trusted to Parliament, because it would be new to him to find that that House was disposed to deal unjustly with any party who had invested property under Parliamentary sanction. He would now notice some of the misstatements which had been made during the debate, and he would deal first with those made by the hon. Member for Bridport. He wholly abstained from following him into the history of the London companies, as it would be a waste of the time of the House to do so; but he could assure the hon. Member that in many particulars he was strangely, even whimsically, mistaken. He would invite him, however, as he had invited him formerly, to bring forward his charges of malversation against the companies at a more fitting opportunity, and before a more competent tribunal.
§ MR. BAILLIE COCHRANE
I never made use of the word "malversation." I merely said that the companies did not perform their duty to the public.
§ SIR W. CLAY
conceived that to be malversation. He denied that malversation in the most positive terms; and he asserted that while, on the one hand, the companies had charged much lower rates than they were entitled to charge, they had on the other hand expended very large sums in the improvement of the water supply, which they were under no Parliamentary obligation to expend. He was not disposed to dispute that there were many deficiencies in the supply of water to some of the poorer classes of the metropolis; but he did deny that this state of things was attributable, in the smallest degree, to the water companies; on the contrary, it was in spite of their utmost exertions to prevent it that it occurred; and he could give the hon. Member the most convincing instances of the exertions made by the 499 water companies to induce people to take water on terms lower than those proposed by the hon. Member. The fact, however, was that persons who occupied houses as weekly tenants, had no means of getting a water supply themselves, and their landlords altogether refused to procure it for them. He thought that the figures of the hon. Gentleman were wholly erroneous, and his calculations as to the price at which water could be supplied were without foundation; but that was not the question before the House. The hon. Baronet the Member for St. Marylebone referred at some length to the subject of the quality of the water supplied to London: having quoted a passage from a pamphlet published by him (Sir W. Clay) in the early part of last year, which expressed opinions favourable to the supply of water taken from the Thames by the Companies, he proceeded to read an extract from the report of the Board of Health, which, as the hon. Gentleman said, gave the real character of the water with which he had said the people of London ought to be satisfied. He would bog to inform the hon. Gentleman, first, that the water referred to in the report of the Board of Health (or rather in the pamphlet quoted in the report) was not the water of the Thames as supplied by any of the London Companies, but water taken under totally different circumstances; and, secondly, that he had never said that the inhabitants of the metropolis ought to be contented with the present supply if a better could be procured. The hon. Member was equally inaccurate in stating that a supply in the New River district was now charged at 6s., which would be 10s. under the schedule; whereas under the schedule of the Bill it would be only 5s. He asserted, in opposition to the statement that there would be no diminution of rates under the schedule, that, on the contrary, there would be a very large reduction. All these matters, however, would be more properly discussed in Committee. The hon. Member for Falmouth said that the Bill contained no security for good behaviour on the part of the company; but if the directors did wrong they must do it for its own sake, and with the certainty of pecuniary loss, for the Bill reserved to the Government the power of stopping the dividends of the company if they did not honestly carry out the intentions of Parliament. The hon. Gentleman said that there would be no fresh sources of supply if the Bill passed; but the measure made it imperative on the 500 directors to get a better supply of water when they were called on to do so by the Secretary for the Home Department, that officer being the exponent of public opinion and of the decision of that House. The hon. Gentleman spoke of ill health being occasioned by the bad quality of the London water; but was he aware that the Board of Health positively denied that the health of London was affected by it? The hon. Gentleman used once or twice the word "monopoly;" but he denied that the word had any meaning when applied to the supply of water. In one sense, undoubtedly, all water supply was a monopoly; because they could not, without injury to the public, have more than one set of works and one capital applied to the supply of one locality. The only question for the House was, what conditions they ought to impose on those to whom the supply of water was entrusted; and the point on which they had now to deliberate was, whether this Bill was the best practical solution of a question which imperatively required to be solved. He did not believe that the measure was one of absolute perfection, but he did think that it held out at least this advantage that it proposed something definite and easy of execution for the adoption of the House; whereas throe distinct parties having united to oppose the Bill, every one of them differed as widely as possible from each other as to the best mode of administering the supply of water. What the Bill would do was this—it would give, and that with certainty, the best possible supply of water; it would distribute that supply in the best possible way and on the lowest possible terms consistent with the respect due to existing interests. If any one supposed that he could violate with impunity the engagements into which Parliament had entered, he greatly mistook the temper of that House. They could not take from these companies their existing charters without compensation. Their only course, consistent with justice, would be to create fresh companies to enter into competition with them; and the result would be, not to bring down the rates, as was provided by the Bill now under consideration, but probably to raise them, after a short struggle, to a higher level than at present obtained. His own opinion was that the Bill, under the circumstances, offered a wise and practicable compromise and solution of a very difficult question. He did not think the House would ever deal unfairly with the existing companies; and it would be 501 not only a pitiful policy if they abused their power by dealing unjustly with those who had embarked their capital on the faith of a Parliamentary sanction, but it would be also a most unwise policy and one which would shake to their very foundations those feelings of unbounded confidence in the justice of Parliament which lay at the very root of that spirit of enterprise by which all the great works in England had been accomplished. He left the question with the most perfect confidence in the hands of the House. If the House did not pass this Bill, they would put off, certainly for another Session, a reform which was highly desirable for the public good. He thought the Board of Health, in their report, had originated a very important suggestion for the adoption of a supply of much softer water. He had been so strongly impressed with the importance of that opinion of the Board of Health, that in the spring of last year he had taken means to ascertain whether the plan developed by the Board of Health could be carried into effect; and the result of the inquiries that had been made by those on whose opinions he could rely, was, that sufficient quantities of water of the quality recommended by the Board of Health could be procured. But he believed that nothing would be gained by going to the Wandle or to the Colne. He would not trouble the House with any further observations; and with perfect confidence he left the question in its hands.
§ VISCOUNT EBRINGTON
said, the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department had begun by stating that the Motion of his hon. Friend opposite (Mr. B. Cochrane), with regard to a contracting company, was perfectly unintelligible, and utterly inconsistent with the recommendations of the Board of Health. But the fact was the reverse; for the Board of Health, in the report on the water supply of the metropolis, which he held in his hand, expressly declared their opinion that the works ought to be executed and kept in repair by contract. When his hon. Friend the Member for the Tower Hamlets stated that the quality and quantity of the water supplied had nothing whatever to do with the disease of the metropolis, he must excuse him for producing on the other side the authority of the Registrar General's report of June, 1850. It there appeared that the mortality from cholera was lowest in those districts which have their water chiefly from 502 the Thames as far up as Hammersmith and Kew; whilst the mortality was ten times greater in those districts which have their water from the Thames as low as Battersea and Hungerford Bridge. He wished the House would remember that the question before them was the second reading of a Bill brought in by the Government, and he therefore altogether deprecated the proposal of the hon. Member for Montrose, to give it a second reading without sanctioning its principle, and to refer it to a Committee upstairs. Above all, he deprecated the course proposed by the Secretary of State, of referring along with it to that Committee, as if it were a mere ordinary Private Bill, another Bill, virtually giving a new representative municipal constitution to a population of two-and-a-half millions of persons concentrated within a small area around the seat of Imperial Government. The present Bill placed at the discretion of the Secretary of State both the source of supply, and the decision whether it was to be constant or intermittent; it proposed to limit the dividends of the water companies to a maximum of 6 per cent, and to restrict their rates of charge according to the schedule now attached to the Bill; whilst it also sought to amalgamate the companies on a principle of settling the amount of their capital stock by arbitration—their capital stock—a very vague term, but yet one pregnant with a signification which he confessed alarmed him. Such being the character of the Bill, he would proceed to state some of the principal objections he entertained to it. The Board of Health had instituted inquiries not only by distinguished chemists, as to the quality, but also by engineers, as to the quantity of water required for the metropolis; they had offered to procure, indeed had asked for leave to procure, additional information. This, as appeared from the papers before the House, the Government had refused; when, therefore, the Government came down to that House with a Bill on the subject, it ought not to be a crude measure, left to be licked into shape by a Committee upstairs; but, being a Bill affecting the health and comfort of a population of two-and-a-half millions, it ought to have a definite and intelligible shape—such that the House, as representing the public, would be able fully to discuss and consider it, with a distinct knowledge of what they were going to vote upon. The Bill very 503 inadequately recognised the principle of constant supply, as opposed to one that was intermittent. That principle was treated by the Bill as still a moot question, and left open to the discretion of the Secretary of State; as if the constant-supply system had not stood the test of ample experiment in Glasgow, Nottingham, Preston, and many other large towns; as if it had not been shown, not only ex concesso to be more convenient, but actually more economical in management, and involving far less expenditure of water, and because there was loss waste; for people took just what they wanted, and no more, knowing they could have it whenever it was wanted. The hon. Baronet (Sir J. Johnstone) had spoken of the inconvenience of so large a number being dependent on one supply, and all possibly drawing on the same mains at the same hour; saying, that though no inconvenience might have thence resulted in smaller towns, that gave no security for the infinitely larger metropolis; as if the magnitude of the concern did not render the average consumption infinitely safer to be relied upon; as if every day's experience in the working of every system based upon a calculation of averages, did not tell most strongly against, instead of in favour of, the view taken by his hon. Friend. But, after all, his great objection to the fundamental principle of the Bill was, that it practically vested in public companies for ever the right of supplying water for the metropolis: the resumption clause he considered as practically illusory; that, therefore, alone would be a sufficient reason with him for refusing his assent to this most unfortunate measure, Mr. Mill, chap. ix. of the 1st book of his most valuable work, the Principles of Political Economy, speaking of water and other similar companies, after mentioning the expense of double establishments, where one only with a small income, could perform the whole operation equally well, and that of double sets of works, machinery, and pipes for working, goes on to say—It is an error to suppose that the prices are only kept down by the competition of these companies. Where competitors are so few, they always agree not to compete; they may run a race of cheapness to ruin a new candidate, but as soon as he has established his footing, they come to terms with him. When therefore a business of real public importance can only be carried on advantageously upon so large a scale as to render the liberty of competition almost illusory, it is an unthrifty dispensation of the public resources that several costly sets of establishments should 504 be kept up for the purpose of rendering to the community this one service. It is much better to treat it at once as a public function, and if it be not such as the Government itself can beneficially undertake, it would be made over entire to the company or association which will perform it on the best terms for the public.That was, the competition should not be a competition in the ordinary sense, not the competition of several bodies within the same field, but competition by a single body for the exclusive occupation of the entire field; the question would be who, for the whole field, will give a certain supply on the cheapest terms, or who will, at a certain price, give the best supply for the whole field. Such were Mr. Mill's views when he published that great work; since that, Mr. Mill had further stated, in his answer to the questions put to him by the Metropolitan Sanitary Asssociation—The maxim, that the supply of the physical wants of the community should be left to private agency, is, like other general maxims, liable to mislead, if applied without consideration of the reasons on which it is grounded. The policy of depending on individuals for the supply of the markets assumes the existence of competition. If the supply be in the hands of an individual secure against competition, he will best promote his interest and his ease by making the article dear and bad; and there will be no escape from these influences but by laying on him a legal obligation, that is, by making him a public functionary.Now, in the case of water supply, there is virtually no competition. Even the possibility of it is limited to a very small number of individuals or companies, whoso interest prompts them, except during occasional short periods, not to compete but to combine. The article being one of indispensable necessity, the arrangement between the companies and the consumer is as much compulsory as if the rate were imposed by Government; and the only security for the efficient performance by the companies of what they undertake, is public opinion, a check which would operate much more effectually on a public board.Of all these operations it may reasonably be affirmed to he the duty of the Government, not necessarily to perform them itself, but to ensure their being adequately performed. The question is not between free-trade and a Government monopoly. The case is one of those in which a practical monopoly is unavoidable; and the possession of the monopoly by individuals constitutes not freedom but slavery; it delivers over the public to the mercy of those individuals.The cases to which the water supply of towns bears most analogy, are such as the making of roads and bridges, the paving, lighting, and cleansing of streets. The nearest analogy of all is the drainage of towns, with which the supply of water has a natural connexion.If he might venture to take exception to anything laid down by such a high authority, he would remark that in his opinion Mr. Mill should have attributed the ten- 505 dency to coalition instead of competition; in such cases rather to the point of the value of the article supplied being mainly dependent on locality or position, than to the point of largeness of plant being required. As an illustration, the price of water and that of copper at Tavistock might be taken: the plant required for a copper mine there is much larger and more expensive than for the town's water supply, yet the water supply is, and must be essentially, a monopoly; while the price of copper there, as elsewhere, follows that of the general markets. In fact, the supply of water came not at all within the ordinary category of articles to be supplied in the ordinary way of trade; it ought to be dealt with in a manner analogous to the drainage of towns; and he was glad to find this principle recognised by Mr. Mill, and also, although not in acts, by the Secretary of State, for he had just acknowledged the expediency of a combination for the supply of water in the same manner as they carried out other public works. He (Viscount Ebrington) considered the separation of the two functions of carrying off foul water and supplying pure wholesome water for the public, was a necessarily wasteful, extravagant, and inconvenient System, and he therefore thought the two functions ought to be combined. The present nominal competition, it was acknowledged, could not afford any protection to the consumer, but he was sorry to find that hon. Members of so much experience had been induced to give in their adhesion to this measure, which looked to the limitation of the dividends and the schedule of prices for protection to the ratepayer. After the experience we had already had of so many abortive attempts to gain security by the limitation of the dividends of corporations of capitalists, he regretted exceedingly that a Bill like the present, based on so illusory a principle, should have been brought in by a Government which had rendered such inestimable services to the public in the cause of sanitary reform; and this brought him to another important point, the question what is the capital stock—on what principle are the arbitrators to fix it? Was the new capital stock to consist of all that the companies had spent in the course of what the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets had called "their career of folly and ruin?"—was it to consist of all that they had expended in defiance of every known law of engineering and hydraulics?—was it to consist of all that 506 they might have nominally charged to their capital account, in conformity with a plan often adopted in commercial companies, for the purpose of keeping their dividends nominally low, while they distributed considerable profits among their shareholders? And if he had little confidence from the experience of its working in railway companies—if, in the clause for the limitation of dividends he had little more in this schedule of prices, he did not think the schedule annexed to this Bill would produce any appreciable reduction of rates; and he believed that whoever had framed it had done so with a very keen eye for the interests of the companies, so far as was consistent with making a great show of concession to the public. The average rateable value of the houses of the metropolis was some 40l. a piece, and the schedule of the Bill fixed on a rate of 3s. per room, which would give (allowing every 40l. house to have six or seven rooms) about 1l. per house. This would yield in the metropolis, on water for domestic purposes alone, 300,000l. a year, independent of the water used for manufacturing and other purposes, which could not be taken as yielding less than another 100,000l. a year. It had been estimated that for an outlay of 2,000,000l., the whole of the metropolis might, de novo, be supplied with water; and he asked, therefore, why they were to be called on to pay a sum of 400,000l. or 450,000l. a year for the benefit of the water companies, when the article brought in by a competing company could be supplied at about half the sum? But they were told that water companies' shares were some of them in settlements and mortgages, and that much hardship would follow the depreciation of their value. But to whom was this addressed? To the House, which had passed the repeal of the corn laws: that, whatever else it had done, had unquestionably depreciated the great amount of landholders' rents—to the House which had passed innumerable Railway Bills, which had practically annihilated not only much property in inns and coaches, but had also rendered almost valueless an enormous amount of turnpike-trust poll-deeds and securities, that is, Parliament had rendered valueless securities for money lent by individuals for a public purpose not less indispensable than water supply—the construction and maintenance of the roads—but advanced with this slight difference, viz., that the maxi- 507 mum interest received by them was 5 per cent, the minimum nothing; while it was impossible to say what the maximum received by the water companies had been; and the minimum proposed for them by this Bill, which they complained of, was exactly the poll-deed holders' maximum of 5 per cent on their capital stock. But, granting that some exception should be made in favour of the water companies, at all events, if the public shall be required to compensate them for their bonâ fide losses, why should the ratepayers have to pay interest on all the money which had been squandered by these companies in ignorance, in jealous rivalry, or in utter disregard of the best known laws of physics? At least, if the public were to compensate the water companies for the sums they had expended in ignorance of the discoveries of modern science—if their property was to be valued in respect partly of what it cost, and not merely of what it would be at present actually worth—lot the Government make up their minds on a just, distinct, and intelligible, measure—intelligible to themselves, to Parliament, to the water companies, to the ratepayers, and to the public at large. In conclusion, he did not believe that if the House rejected the present Bill, they would really delay an actual and substantial improvement in the supply of water. It was an old saying, "The more haste the worse speed." If the Government had laid on the table of the House a Bill not of a vague and illusory character like the present one, but a plain, intelligible, and well-considered measure, he should have hesitated, even though he could not approve of every part of it, before he was accessory to throwing it out, and to being a party to prolonging the present state of things; but it was his firm conviction that not only was further consideration and inquiry necessary to produce a better Bill, but it would really lead to the better execution of the required works, and better expedite a new and improved supply of water for the dense population of this vast metropolis. For these reasons he must add his humble voice to that of those who opposed the second reading of the Bill before the House.
§ MR. WAKLEY
said, the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Sir W. Clay) had stated that the water companies did not support this Bill. Who then, he would ask, did support it? The right hon. Baronet (Sir G. Grey) had commenced the discussion early in the evening; and ever 508 since the delivery of his speech, with only a single exception, throughout the entire debate not one word had been uttered by any Member of that House showing that this measurse was one which ought to be supported. The hon. Member for Pal-mouth (Mr. Mowatt) had stated the principles and the details of his Bill; and had the proposition of the right hon. the Secretary of State for the Home Department been a fair one, both Bills might have been referred to the same Committee; but if the Bill now before the House had actually no supporters, if it was deficient both as to the principles and the details; if it was equally disliked in and out of the House—he did not see that any advantage would arise from referring it to a Committee, as the House had already undertaken a good deal of unprofitable labour. He thought that the Government should have taken a different course upon a question of this kind. The people had asked the House for various things; they had asked for cheap malt, but they had been refused; they had asked for cheap hops, but this was denied them; they had asked for unadulterated coffee, but their request had, as in the other instances, boon refused. The inhabitants of the metropolis, upwards of 2,000,000 in number, said, "Give us clean wholesome water; we have been ill used in a most atrocious manner by some very virtuous gentlemen, who have long persecuted us with bad water, with filth and every kind of abomination;" and what was the answer of the Government to this reasonable appeal? "We will deliver you into the hands of those very parties who have so long persecuted you." He would assure the right hon. Secretary of State that if the House read this Bill a second time, and sent it to a Select Committee, the people would very naturally say, "There must be tadpoles in the House of Commons; for no one but a tadpole would support such a Bill as that." The Bill afforded no remedy whatever for existing grievances, but merely proposed to convert a very odious set of monopolies into one monster monopoly. True, it was to be subject to a Ministerial control, which never would be exercised. It was well known that the public now drank vile water, and paid an enormous price for it; while it was equally well known that if the disposition existed, clean and wholesome water could at once be furnished at an excessively low price compared with what they had to pay at present. The ratepayers were therefore beginning to be angry that this was 509 not done; and when John Bull was angry, he generally got what he wanted. The Board of Health had prosecuted their inquiries into this matter with great zeal and ability, and he thought that Mr. Napier had proved that an ample supply of very pure water could be procured from the sands of Surrey, near Farnham; but this Bill of the Government did not provide for obtaining such a supply. It was true that the right hon. Secretary of State was to have the power of interfering; but as the Bill now stood, the public were to have identically the same detestable water as they ever had had. It has to be supplied through the same pipes as at present, and to be lodged in the same filthy cisterns, which were corroded, and in a great measure dissolved by the unwholesome water which they had received. Under these circumstances he thought that the inhabitants of the metropolis had good reason to complain of the conduct of the Government, who had not even in this matter supported their own officers; but had almost directly opposed the Board of Health. And after highly competent parties had proved at how unnecessarily high a price water of the present objectionable character was furnished, while water of a pure character might be furnished at a much lower price from at least one source, somebody connected with the Government employed another set of agents to make whatever report they thought proper, and they consequently published one just the reverse of the preceding. Seeing, then, that the Bill held out no prospect of bettering the condition of the inhabitants of the metropolis, but actually made it worse, and believing that the public of the metropolis would unanimously object to this measure, he should oppose the second reading. If the Bill was sent to a Select Committee, the right hon. Secretary for the Home Department would in a few days sec a manifestation of feeling against it, which would astonish him; and, under these circumstances, he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would abandon the Bill, because it was, both in principle and detail, utterly incapable of accomplishing the object which the public had in view.
§ SIR De LACY EVANS
said, that he could not affirm the principle of a Bill to which the great majority of the inhabitants of the metropolis, for whose benefit it was said to be brought in, were opposed. He objected entirely to the consolidation of the water companies, which he believed would 510 create a monster monopoly; and past experience had shown that the supply of water should not be in the hands of trading companies. It was true that the Bill contained a provision that the Government were to have a control which they did not possess before; but he believed that the exercise of that control would be attended with much greater difficulty than was at first apparent. Although the statement of the hon. Member for Marylebone (Sir B. Hall) that this Bill contained a guaran the of 5 per cent, had been contradicted, it would be found that not only were the water companies enabled, by the 17th and 18th clauses of the Bill, to lay such rates as would pay 5 per cent upon the outlay, but after the rates were reduced to a certain amount, they might then divide 6 per cent or upwards. This was clearly a virtual guarantee of a minimum dividend of 5 per cent. Under all those circumstances, he should vote against the second reading of the Bill.
§ Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 95; Noes 79: Majority 16.
|List of the AYES.|
|Adair, H. E.||Glyn, G. C.|
|Aglionby, H. A.||Grenfell, C. W.|
|Armstrong, R. B.||Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.|
|Bailey, J.||Grey, R.W.|
|Baines, rt. hon. M. T.||Guest, Sir J.|
|Baring, rt. hon. Sir F. T.||Hanmer, Sir J.|
|Baring, T.||Harris, R.|
|Bass, M. T.||Hastie, A.|
|Bell, J.||Hatchell, rt. hon. J.|
|Bellew, R. M.||Hawes, B.|
|Berkeley, Adm.||Heywood, J.|
|Bernal, R.||Howard, Lord E.|
|Blackstone, W. S.||Hughes, W. B.|
|Blakemore, R.||Jackson, W.|
|Bouverie, hon. E. P.||Labouchere, rt. hon. H.|
|Brotherton, J.||Langston, J. H.|
|Burke, Sir T. J.||Lewis, G. C.|
|Clay, J.||Lygon, hon. Gen.|
|Clay, Sir W.||Mahon, The O'Gorman|
|Cockburn, Sir A. J. E.||Marshall, W.|
|Compton, H. C.||Melgund, Visct.|
|Cowper, hon. W. F.||Milner, W. M. E.|
|Craig, Sir W. G.||Moncrieff, J.|
|Dawes, E.||Morgan, H. K. G.|
|Denison, J. E.||Morris, D.|
|Drummond, H.||Mulgrave, Earl of|
|Duncuft, J.||Mundy, W.|
|Dundas, Adm.||Norreys. Sir D. J.|
|Dundas, rt. hon. Sir D.||Ogle, S. C. H.|
|Elliot, hon. J. E.||Ord, W.|
|Evans, W.||Paget, Lord C.|
|Farrer, J.||Palmerston, Visct.|
|Fergus, J.||Parker, J.|
|Fordyce, A. D.||Pilkington, J.|
|Freestun, Col.||Plumptre, J. P.|
|Geach, C.||Ricardo, O.|
|Romilly, Sir J.||Tancred, H. W.|
|Russell, Lord J.||Townley, R. G.|
|Russell, F. C. H.||Townshend, Capt.|
|Slaney, R. A.||Vane, Lord H.|
|Smith, J. A.||Wawn, J. T.|
|Smith, M. T.||Wilson, J.|
|Somers, J. P.||Wilson, M.|
|Somerville, rt. hn. Sir W.||Wood, rt. hon. Sir C.|
|Spooner, R.||Wood, Sir W. P.|
|Stansfield, W. R. C.||Wyvill, M.|
|Stanton, W. H.||TELLERS.|
|Strickland, Sir G.||Hayter, W. G.|
|Sutton, J. H. M.||Hill, Lord M.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Arkwright, G.||Hume, J.|
|Baillie, H. J.||Humphery, Ald.|
|Barron, Sir H. W.||Keating, R.|
|Barrow, W. H.||King, hon. P. J. L.|
|Bennet, P.||Knox, hon. W. S.|
|Berkeley, hon. H. F.||Locke, J.|
|Blandford, Marq. of||Lockhart, A. E.|
|Booker, T. W.||Lockhart, W.|
|Bramston, T. W.||Lowther, hon. Col.|
|Broadley, H.||Lushington, C.|
|Bruce, C. L. C.||Martin, J.|
|Buller, Sir J. Y.||Masterman, J.|
|Cabbell, B. B.||Mitchell, T. A.|
|Child, S.||Mowatt, F.|
|Cochrane, A.D.R.W.B.||Naas, Lord|
|Cocks, T. S.||Noel, hon. G. J.|
|Colvile, C. R.||O'Cormell, J.|
|Cubitt, W.||O'Flaherty, A.|
|Denison, E.||Power, Dr.|
|Disraeli, B.||Prime, R.|
|Dod, J. W.||Repton, G. W. J.|
|Duke, Sir J.||Reynolds, J.|
|Duncan, G.||Rufford, F.|
|Dunne, Col.||Sandars, G.|
|Ebrington, Visct.||Scholefield, W.|
|Estcourt, J. B. B.||Sibthorp, Col.|
|Evans, Sir De L.||Stafford, A.|
|Evelyn, W. J.||Stanford, J. F.|
|Farnham, E. B.||Stanley, hon. E. H.|
|Forster, M.||Stuart, Lord D.|
|Fox, W. J.||Sullivan, M.|
|Frewen, C. H.||Thompson, Col.|
|Galway, Visct.||Thompson, Ald.|
|Gaskell, J. M.||Trollope, Sir J.|
|Gore, W. O.||Tyler, Sir G.|
|Granger, T. C.||Wakley, T.|
|Greenall, G.||Walmsley, Sir J.|
|Greene, J.||Williams, W.|
|Heneage, G. H. W.||Hall, Sir B.|
|Henley, J. W.||Moffatt, G.|
§ Main Question put, and agreed to; Bill read 2°, and committed, and referred to the Committee of Selection.