HC Deb 20 February 1868 vol 190 cc997-1000

, in moving for leave to bring in a Bill to make better provision for the Preservation and Improvement of the River Lee and its Tributaries, and for other purposes, said, that the Bill was brought in in accordance with the recommendation contained in the Report of the Select Committee on East London Water Bills, which sat last Session, under the presidency of the hon. and learned Member for the Tower Hamlets, and it carried out the recommendations of the Pollution of Rivers Commissioners, appended to their Report on the River Lee, which was issued in May last. The object of the Bill was the preservation of the purity of the water. It dealt, indeed, incidentally, with the navigation, but only in the way of transferring authority from the old Lee trustees to the new Board of Conservancy. The Bill did not deal at all with a most important branch of the valuable Report of the Committee—that, namely, relating to the constant supply of water, the internal fittings of houses, the pressure to insure a sufficiency of water in case of fires, and other points of a kindred nature. Not that the Government dissented from that portion of the Report; on the contrary, they fully concurred in those recommendations, but they deemed them beyond the scope of the present Bill, which simply dealt with the conservancy of the River Lee and its tributaries; and they thought those points should form the subject of a separate Bill—if for no other reason, because such provisions ought to be applied to all the water companies of the metropolis, and would involve the repeal of old Acts which were not incidental to that special question. While altering the constitution of the authority in charge of the Lee, the Government had no wish to cause a revolution or to destroy the Lee trust, which under the able presidency of the Marquess of Salisbury had worked extremely well, and done even more than might have been expected when its constitution and powers were taken into consideration. That Bill would re-constitute it with smaller numbers, fuller powers, and an enlarged jurisdiction, and also strengthen it by the addition of representatives of the various interests affected. The old Lee trustees, 120 in number, were converted into a constituency, to elect seven members of the new Board of Conservancy. The traders on the river and bargeowners would elect one, the New River and East London Water Companies one each, the Board of Trade two, the Corporation of London one, the Metropolitan Board of Works one, and the Stort Navigation one. That would make fifteen, and to that body were to be committed powers for carrying into effect regulations for the preservation of the flow and purity of the water, the prevention of the passage of sewage or offensive matter into it, and the power of making bye-laws to be approved by the Queen in Council on various minor details. No rate would be levied on the inhabitants of East London for these purposes, but an additional payment would be made by the two water companies in return for the increased purity of the water and other incidental advantages they would obtain. The new regulations were proposed to take effect in April, 1869. That Bill was analogous to the one lately passed for the conservancy of the Thames, with the difference that whereas the Thames conservators had jurisdiction for three miles only on each side of the river, that of the Lee conservators extended over the whole watershed; for the manifest reason that in order to preserve the purity of so small a river it was necessary to have control over all the tributary streams which flowed into it. That Bill, though brought in as a public Bill, was really a hybrid one, and therefore he could not fix the second reading; but if the House allowed the measure to be read a first time he would then move that it be referred to the Examiners, and on their Report that the Standing Orders had been complied with, he would give notice of the day for the second reading.


said, he was glad that the Government had taken up the question of the River Lee. He had sat on the Committee to which two Bills elating to the Thames and its navigation were referred, when it was shown that the state of the River Lee was a great nuisance. He trusted, however, that this Bill would be made more effectual for its purpose than those two other Bills had been found in practice since they became law. The first of those two Acts relating to the Thames was passed in 1866, and as a Member of the Committee upon it he deemed himself a party to an arrangement then come to, by which the London water companies were to pay £5,000 a year towards the navigation of the Thames, upon the condition that the river was to be purified by the exclusion of the sewage of the different towns above Staines from it. Since then the London water companies had punctually contributed their £5,000 a year; but till this moment nothing has been done towards carrying into effect the agreement made with those companies. No step had been taken by any of the towns above Staines to exclude their sewage from the river, and he understood that those towns said they could not be compelled to do so, and were determined to go on discharging their sewage into the Thames. He did not know whether the powers of the Conservators of the Thames would enable them to enforce compliance with that condition upon those towns; but, in good faith towards the water companies, in some way or other, the people of those places should be compelled to cease polluting the river. He trusted, therefore, that care would be taken so to frame the provisions of the present Bill as would make them efficacious for the purification of the River Lee; and he hoped, also, that the Government would take into consideration the two Acts relating to the Thames to which he had alluded, for it was useless attempting to purify the Thames in London if the towns situated higher up its banks continued to empty their sewage into it.


said, he trusted that this would not be the only Bill of this class which would be introduced during the present Session, but that, having dealt with the River Lee, they would also deal with the Aire and Calder, the state of which urgently demanded their attention. The population occupying the basin of the River Lee was about 250,000, whereas that occupying the basin of the Aire and Calder exceeded 1,000,000. The Commissioners, in reference to the River Aire, recommended that there should be a central board, instead of leaving that river to local management; and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman's attention would be directed to the suggestion; and he hoped also that provisions, as in the Thames Conservancy Act, would be introduced into this Bill to prevent the deposit of solid matters in rivers.

Motion agreed to. Bill to make better provision for the Preservation and Improvement of the River Lee and its Tributaries; and for other purposes, ordered to be brought in by Mr. STEPHEN CAVE, Mr. AYRTON, and Mr. HUNT. Bill presented, and read the first time. [Bill 38.]