HC Deb 25 March 1852 vol 120 cc76-9

LORD JOHN MANNERS moved, "That it be an Instruction to the Committee of Selection that they have power to 6x the Committee on the Metropolis Water Supply Bill for Thursday, the 1st day of April next." In doing so he wished to State that he did not pledge himself to support the measure introduced by his noble Friend who preceded him in office (Lord Seymour), because in one important item—that relating to the scale of charges to be made by private companies —the present Government dissented altogether from what was proposed by his noble Friend.


said, he believed that this Bill, which had originated with the late, and been taken up by the present Government, would not remedy any one of the evils under which the metropolis was suffering from the present bad supply of water, both as to quantity and quality. It did not even go so far as to compel the companies to provide a supply to every house. The 17,400 houses which were now without any supply of water would remain so under this Bill, which merely required that a supply of water should be afforded in any locality, on the requisition of a majority of the ratepayers. Again the source of the supply was still to be the Thames, which all competent authorities had joined in condemning, and no provision was made for the supply being continuous instead of intermittent. The average rate charged for water by the present companies was 7½d. per week per house, whereas the evidence which had been taken on the subject showed that it ought not to exceed 2d. per week per house; and the Soft Water Company undertook to supply clear and pure water, of the best quality, drawn from the Surrey Sands, at an average charge of 1d. per week pet-house, and another penny for compensation to the old companies, making 2d. in all. The sufferings to which the poor were subjected in such localities as Jacob's Island, where they were compelled to drink the filthy water from the ditches, it was impossible to describe; and as to the quality of water supplied by the present companies, it might be judged of from the fact, which was admitted before the Committee, that one of the reservoirs of the New River Company had not been cleaned out more than once in a hundred years. He would urge on the Government the necessity of bringing in some effective measure for ensuring a supply of water to the lower classes. With regard to the present Bill, its only use appeared to be to perpetuate the existing system.


begged to explain that the step he now proposed was necessary in order that all the Water Bills should go before the Committee to be judged of on their respective merits, in the hope that some check might be placed on the evils of which the hon. Gentleman (Mr. B. Cochrane) complained. With regard to the charge, had the hon. Gentleman attended to what took place in that House, he would have known that he (Lord J. Manners) had only last week laid on the table a scale of rates at which the poorer class of houses would be supplied, and which he could not but believe would be satisfactory to those for whose benefit it was proposed to legislate.


said, he might have complained that this great public measure—for it could not be called a private one, affecting as it did the health and comfort of nearly 2,500,000 people—had been dealt with, in regard to its principle (it had been read a second time on the previous day without a word), as though it were a mere Turnpike Road or Marsh Drainage Bill, without notice or discussion. He protested against this Bill being sent to the Committee upstairs without a previous discussion on its principle, which was opposed to the recommendation of all the various bodies who had inquired into the subject, from 1828 to the present time, and also to the Bill of the Government of last year. At all events, he hoped that a full discussion would take place when the Bill came back to the House. He had no objection to the present proposal, that all the Water Bills should be referred to the same Committee.


said, he considered it of great importance that the question of the water supply to the metropolis should be settled; and there was no prospect of their coming to an early and satisfactory settlement in the way they were now going on, for it was not likely that the inquiry by the Committee would terminate in sufficient time for any measure to pass in the present Session. Last year a Committee sat for six weeks, and collected much valuable information on the subject, and it was to be regretted that the Chairman of that Committee, the right hon. Member for Ripon (Sir J. Graham) did not preside over the Committee of this year. There was evidence enough already of the evil, and the only question now was as to the remedy. The subject was one for the Government to deal with, and he regretted that the Government Bill had not been the only one referred to the Committee. What right had the old water companies to have their Bill sent to the Committee? It would have been as reasonable, if, because a Bill for the protection of life from railway accident were referred to a Select Committee, every Rail- way Bill brought before Parliament were also referred to it. Let the old water work companies take their Bills before another Committee, and there squabble and fight as much as they pleased; but let this measure, which was to over-ride them all, be settled by itself and upon its own merits. He would move as an Amendment that the Committee have power to take evidence, and that they be instructed to confine their attention to this Bill only.

Amendment proposed— To add to the end of the Question the words 'and that they have power to send for persons, papers, and records, and confine their inquiry to the Metropolis Water Supply Bill.

Question proposed, "That those words be there added."


did not think a discussion on the subject of Water Bills could be satisfactorily conducted in that House. He considered the noble Lord (Lord J. Manners) had been somewhat hasty in placing before the House and the public a scale of charges which, if enforced as against the water companies, would amount to confiscation of their property. He could hardly understand how it could he said that those companies had not a locus standi before the Committee, seeing that their private property was so materially to be interfered with. He hoped the House would not place too much reliance on what the Board of Health stated with reference to the existing water supply.


said, that the Amendment of the hon. Member for Finsbury was irregular; it must be put as a substantive Motion, and notice given.


said, he would give notice, then, for To-morrow.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn; Main Question put, and agreed to.

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