HC Deb 28 April 1869 vol 195 cc1782-98

Order for Consideration, as amended, read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now taken into Consideration."

MR. MORRISON moved that the Bill be re-committed to the former Committee. What was sauce for the goose was sauce for the gander, and he did not see why the same course should not be pursued in regard to both Bills. He regretted to say that the gas consumers in the metropolis were in this matter very much like "sheep without a shepherd." Last year he introduced a Gas Bill for the metropolis which passed into a law for the City of London, and had given satisfaction to the consumers, and he believed also to the companies. The reason why the clauses extending the Bill to the whole metropolis had been withdrawn was the very faint support the promoters received from the Metropolitan Board of Works. Great indignation had in consequence been felt throughout the metropolis; and the Metropolitan Board had promised to mend their ways with reference to all future gas legislation. The result was that they appeared by counsel before the Committee on the Imperial Gas Bill; but the counsel having made his speech, calling attention to the legislation of last year with regard to the City of London, left the room; and in the case of the South Metropolitan Gas Bill the Board made no appearance at all. Although the defalcations of Mr. Benjamin Higgs must have been known to the Metropolitan Board of Works, and although it was owing to the appointment of an auditor by the Board of Trade that the defalcations had been brought to light, not one word was said by the Board as to the appointment of a public auditor. This showed a very inadequate sense of duty on the part of that Board. Having made an appearance, they ought to have properly represented the interests of the gas consumers of the metropolis; but, if it had not been for the attention of independent Members of that House, these Bills would have been allowed to slip through. Under these circumstances the best course would be to refer the Imperial Gas Bill back to the Committee, with a view to the incorporation of all those clauses to which no possible objection could be taken with regard to the testing of gas and the auditing of the accounts by an official public auditor, and also with reference to the question of price, and when a reduction in price should be made. In all future legislation with regard to Gas Bills, the proper principle to lay down, with a view to the interests of the public, was that which had been recommended by the Select Committees of 1866, 1867, and 1868, and carried out in the City of London Gas Act of last Session.


seconded the Motion. At the same time he could not help thinking that the course taken by the hon. Member for Southwark (Mr. Locke), in concert with the hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. Goldney), in asking the House to agree to nineteen new clauses, on the consideration of a Bill which had been already considered by a Committee upstairs, was not only unusual but wholly unprecedented in the annals of Private Bill legislation. As Chairman of the Committee he thought the proper course would have been for the Board of Trade to be represented before the Committee, and to have informed them that it was the desire of the Government that the clauses now proposed to be incorporated should be added to the Bill. The Board of Trade did not appear before the Committee. The Metropolitan Board of Works, who had petitioned against the Bill, were represented by counsel, who called the attention of the Committee to two important features in the Bill—namely, the price of gas and the rate of interest to be allowed. Both those points the Committee took into consideration. The company had considerably reduced the price, and the Committee decided that it should be still further reduced. He should therefore offer a strenuous opposition to the Bill being re-committed for the purpose of re-considering the price of gas. The Committee also decided that the new capital proposed to be raised should bear interest at 7 per cent in lieu of 10 per cent as proposed by the company. In regard to the appointment of an auditor, the clause in the City of London Gas Act of last Session had not been brought to the notice of the Committee, as it should have been by the Metropolitan Board. With the exception he had mentioned, he saw no objection to the reference of the Bill back to the Committee.

Amendment proposed, To leave out the words "now taken into Consideration," in order to add the words "re-committed to the former Committee, with a view to the insertion of Clauses to make the Bill consistent with the provisions of 'The City of London Gas Act, 1868,'"—(Mr. Morrison,) —instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


said, the statement of the hon. Member for Gloucester (Mr. Monk), who was Chairman of the Committee, was perfectly correct with one exception. So far as he (Mr. Locke) could understand the speech of Mr. Rodwell, the counsel for the Metropolitan Board of Works before the Committee, it amounted to this—that the City Act which was passed last year, and was founded on the Report of the Committee, over which the present Secretary of State for War presided, should be the model for the Committee on the Imperial Gas Bill to act upon. With regard both to the quality and price of gas the Committee had not acted upon it. The South Metropolitan Gas Company had acted on it, and put the price at 3s. 6d., whereas the Imperial Gas Company charged 4s. at present, and 3s. 9d. afterwards. What he was most anxious about was that, in all future gas legislation for the metropolis, the provisions of the City Act should be strictly carried out.


observed that the statements which had been made with reference to these Bills clearly showed the want of some officer to revise Bills which had passed Committees, and see that they contained nothing contrary to public policy or the spirit of recent legislation. He did not know whether this point had received the attention of the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Dodson), and whether it would be consistent with his duty to undertake it. The duty was performed "elsewhere" by Lord Redesdale in a very efficient manner. Here they found a very striking instance of this want, a Bill having come out of a Select Committee with the legislation of the last three years utterly ignored; and yet the history of that legislation was sufficiently remarkable. Early in 1866, the Government endeavoured to improve the quality and lower the price of gas in the metropolis. The Government, of which he was an humble Member, took up the subject where the previous Government had left it. A long correspondence ensued between the Board of Trade, the different gas companies concerned, and the Metropolitan Board of Works, the result of which was that the then President of the Board of Trade (Sir Stafford Northcote) brought in a Bill in 1867. What then occurred would not be easily forgotten. An agitation was carried on throughout the whole country, and a pressure was put on Members which was totally unprecedented—going, as he thought, far beyond the bounds of propriety, and what was due to the independence and dignity of that House. He was overwhelmed with letters accusing him of every sort of crime. He was told in letters from shareholders that he was robbing the widow and the orphan; but they had since found out that the shareholders could be robbed most effectually by others. Then came the Committee presided over by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Cardwell). Before that Committee, the Imperial, the Chartered, and other companies appeared, and agreed generally on the whole principle of the legislation proposed; but the Bill was rejected, because they would not come to an agreement with the Committee on the question of the back dividends. The legislation of last year was more successful. The City of London Gas Company agreed to propositions made as to inspection, purity, price, and other matters. The Chartered Company behaved very well in the matter; a Bill in regard to which passed earlier in the year containing, by anticipation, the conditions imposed by Parliament on the City of London Gas Company. The Imperial Company and South Metropolitan Company were wiser in their generation; they waited till the storm had blown over, and then brought in their Bills. The object of Parliament last year was to secure uniformity of gas legislation throughout the metropolis, and that would have been entirely defeated but for the vigilance of the private Members who had called attention to the subject. In consequence of the legislation of last Session, an elaborate machinery for the inspection of accounts, for testing gas, &c., had been contrived and set on foot by the Board of Trade, and inspectors and auditors had been appointed. It might be said that the Board of Trade should have watched these Bills. Well, but they might say very fairly that they trusted the Metropolitan Board of Works, and that would probably be a sufficient answer to anything that could be said against them. If he had been in their position, he believed he should have done the same thing. The Metropolitan Board of Works asked for these powers over the companies, and they were given to them by the legislation of last Session. It might well be supposed by the Board of Trade that, when the Metropolitan Board of Works were represented by counsel, all the points would be fully brought before the Committee; but, as the Chairman had stated, they had not been properly instructed in the matter. He quite agreed with the proposition laid down by the hon. Member for Southwark (Mr. Locke) as to a model Bill on this subject. They might, perhaps, pass a Standing Order, or come to some understanding that, in all cases in which metropolitan gas companies came for greater powers, the clauses in question should be incorporated in their Bills. With regard to price he was a little more doubtful. The Chairman (Mr. Monk) had stated that they had considered the question of price; if so, he did not think it necessary that point should be again referred to the Committee. But he thought that, at any rate, the House should have an opportunity of pronouncing an opinion upon it. He quite agreed that the clauses as to audit and inspection ought to be inserted in the Bills of these gas companies, and that the Bills should be referred back to the Committee for that purpose.


said, as some complaint had been made with reference to the Board of Trade not being represented before the Committee he must point out that the Board of Trade had no locus standi before a Committee on a private Bill. No doubt, the question might arise whether it was not the duty of the Board of Trade to bring in a general Bill; but the President of the Board of Trade felt himself entirely precluded from taking any action by the recommendation of the Committee of two years ago, over which his right hon. Friend, now Secretary of State for War, had presided, to the effect that, unless terms satisfactory to the consumers could be arranged, the Board of Trade should abstain from the introduction of any measure similar to that which was then before the House. It had been represented to the Board of Trade that the Metropolitan Board of "Works would appear before the Committee and watch the interests of the consumers of gas in the metropolis, of whom they were the natural guardians. It turned out, however, that the Metropolitan Board had contented themselves with appearing by counsel, who only made a speech and did not call independent evidence; the Committee, therefore, had only heard one side of the question—the evidence of the promoters, and it was not to be wondered at, therefore, that they had come to a decision favourable to the promoters. No blame, of course, attached to the Chairman or to the Committee, but under the circumstances, their decision having given great dissatisfaction to the consumers, and being also entirely at variance with the decisions of two previous Committees in relation to the testing of the gas, auditing the accounts, and other points, only one course remained—to refer the Bill back to the same Committee. With regard to price the whole question had not yet been before the Committee. No evidence had been laid before them on the part of the consumers. This question ought to be considered, more especially as the South Metropolitan Company in their Bill now before the House had reduced their price. It was considered by the Committee, over which his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War presided, that the price of gas could be lowered, and its illuminating power raised, if there was an amalgamation of the companies. If this Bill passed in its present shape that amalgamation would be practically prevented.


said, he rose, as a member of the Committee, to explain the conclusions to which they had come. The price of gas had been considered by the Committee. The only Petition in favour of a reduced price alleged that it ought not to exceed 3s. 9d., and the Committee had inserted a clause providing that, after the 1st of January, 1871, the price should not exceed 3s. 9d. No doubt all the gas companies ought to be under the same regulations as to audit, &c.; but it was distinctly the duty of the Metropolitan Board of Works to see that clauses to this effect were inserted in the Bill of any company not now under those regulations. The Committee on this Bill, however, could not deal with clauses that were not before them. The Board of Trade were represented before the Committee. The Imperial Gas Company were at present charging 4s. for gas, although they were entitled to charge 4s. 6d., and they consented, in accordance with the only Petition before the Committee, to reduce the price to 3s. 9d. There was, therefore, no ground for referring the question of price back to the Committee.


said, the hon. Member for Gloucester (Mr. Monk) complained of the unusual course taken by private Members in interfering with the decisions of Select Committees.


said, he objected unless it was proposed to re-commit the Bill.


said, he had misunderstood the hon. Member. He had been induced to give notice of clauses on this Bill from having had the honour of sitting upon a Committee in 1867, of which the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War was Chairman, which examined the whole question of the supply of gas to the metropolis. That Committee began its inquiry on the 19th of May, and sat almost continuously up to the 3rd of August. [Report Aug. 8, Parl. Papers, Nos. 520, 521.] They took evidence, and the result was a long and elaborate Report drawn up, for the greater part, by the Chairman, and which embodied in five heads of Resolutions that which the consumers of gas were entitled to ask. The first was that there should be a reduction of price and an increase of illuminating power; the price fixed on being 3s. 9d. per 1,000, and the illuminating power sixteen candles. This was a compromise, the evidence for the consumer pointing to 3s. 6d.; but 3s. 9d. and the illuminating power of sixteen candles were assented to between the companies and those who represented the public, and the date of January 1, 1869, was named for carrying the arrangement into effect. The next Resolution of the Committee, which was also assented to by the companies, was that an examiner should be ap- pointed at the expense of the companies, to test day by day the purity and illuminating power of the gas, and that any penalties which might be inflicted, should go in a reduction of the dividend. The third Resolution was in favour of an amalgamation of the different gas companies. It was found that there were at that time no less than thirteen companies which supplied the metropolis, each company having a separate staff of engineers, secretaries, solicitors, collectors, and other officers, involving a large amount of money in salaries and expense of management. The Committee suggested, and it was agreed, that the number of companies should be reduced to four, who should supply the whole of the metropolis. The fourth Resolution was that there should be a public audit of the accounts of the companies by an auditor appointed by the Board of Trade. This the Committee were unanimous in regarding as most essential for the safety and protection of the public, and this was also agreed to. The fifth was a Resolution limiting the dividends to the profits of each year. It was proved to be essential to the comfort and convenience of the metropolis that the companies now existing should practically have a monopoly of the gas, as it could not be endured that the streets should be broken up at the pleasure of every new company that might come into the field. The four first Resolutions were, as he had said, assented to by the companies, but they refused their assent to the fifth, and the negotiations went off on the question of the back dividends. When the defalcations of Mr. Higgs became known, these questions, and especially the necessity of an efficient audit of the accounts were forced afresh upon the attention of the public; and he had felt constrained to take the matter up, as he was a member of the two Committees that investigated these questions, and as two of his then Colleagues were now Members of the Government, one had left the House, and one, his hon. Friend the Member for South Warwickshire (Mr. John Hardy), was then engaged with his election petition. He owned he was surprised to find that the Committee, whose Report was before the House, had passed two Bills without inserting the clauses which provided for the protection of the public. He was glad to notice the feeling on the part of the House that this was a public question. The metropolis was at the present paying more than £3,000,000 a year for gas, and the consumers were paying a higher price than in any other of the largest towns in the kingdom. Complaints were constantly made that Manchester and Liverpool had better gas for 2s. 9d. per 1,000 feet. He thought that the Report made, after an inquiry instituted by a Committee of that House, and extending over three months, was entitled to some respect.


said, he had no objection to the Bill being re-committed, but he must object to the suggestion of the hon. Member for Plymouth (Mr. Morrison) that they were to re-open the question of price. He was in favour of a public audit, for, as a gas shareholder and gas director, though not in this company, he was anxious for the protection of his property. The directors of gas companies could only look to their auditors to give them in their half-yearly reports a clean Bill of health. The notion was that the post of auditor was a stepping-stone to that of director, and it must be admitted that the directors usually exercised great influence in their appointment. He must, however, protest against the Resolutions of the Committee of 1867 being regarded as the basis of all future legislation on the subject of gas in the metropolis. An experiment was being tried in the most thickly populated districts, and, if it succeeded, it might be adopted by his and other companies who supplied the more scattered portions of the metropolis. That experiment in the City of London, however, might not be quite a fair test of what all could do. The shareholders in gas companies had, he thought, some little claim on the consideration of the House. He happened to hold some hereditary shares, upon which his father received no dividend for years. The originator of lighting by gas died a pauper. He had lately gone over the dividends paid upon his shares, since 1825, and found that the average was slightly above 5 per cent. The original shareholders went into the business under some risk, and oven now, besides the interference of the Legislature, they were at the mercy of any discovery of a superior illuminating power, which would make their gas works worth nothing at all.


said, that having been Chairman during two successive Sessions of two Committees on this subject, he wished to state that, while he agreed that the Resolutions of the Committee which sat two years ago were not to be regarded as a conclusive guide to the legislation of the House, he thought that the House would desire to maintain some consistency in its legislation, and to show that there was some principle in what it did. The Members who sat upon the two Gas Committees were, so far as he knew, entirely unconnected with gas property, and they desired to come to an independent conclusion without pressing too hardly upon the gas companies. They rejected the Bill of the Board of Trade because it did not recognize the claim of the gas companies to the 10 per cent dividend, which was said to be guaranteed by the Act of 1860. There was a strong feeling on the part of the Committee not to interfere with the just rights of the gas companies. But they felt that there were other persons who had rights—the gas consumers of the metropolis, who were helpless except so far as Parliament took care of them. There was no power whatever on their part to establish competing companies, and, if justice were to be done to the consumers, Parliament must impose terms upon the existing companies when they came to Parliament for fresh powers. The Committee recognized the right of the companies to a 10 per cent dividend, but they would not admit that the companies were to be at liberty to carry on their business at whatever expense, and that a dividend earned upon an expensive business was to be charged upon the consumer. These two Committees were not exclusively composed of the same Members, but they were unanimous in their conclusions; and, if their decision, arrived at after so much inquiry and consideration, was to be overruled, it ought not to be by a Committee which did not appear to have the opposite side of the case before them, and which was, therefore, not to be blamed if it had decided upon insufficient evidence. It was said to be of no use to refer back to them the question of price, but he maintained that the question of price was cardinal. That which concerned the consumer was that he should not be charged to make up back dividends and upon an expensive business. It was clear from the evidence adduced before the Committee that if all the gas companies joined together they might be able to supply gas to the metropolis on the terms of 3s. 9d. per 1,000ft. for sixteen candle gas. This was now done by two companies—the South Metropolitan and Independent, which charged 3s. 4d. for gas of fourteen candles, nearly equivalent to 3s. 9d. for sixteen candles. The gas companies accepted these terms, but the proposed Bill went off on the question of back dividends, although there was to be an arbitration on the part of the Board of Trade raising the limit of charge to the consumer if the companies with due care and management did not pay 10 per cent. The whole subject of gas supply to the metropolis ought to be carefully investigated by the House, whenever the companies came for new powers, unless they meant to give the consumer wholly over to the companies. It was the practice of all the courts in this kingdom to maintain respect for themselves by paying respect to previous decisions, and the House would do well not to over-rule a decision which had been deliberately arrived at upon the Report of a Committee which did not appear to have had the advantage of hearing the opposite side.


said, he wished to state, as a Member of the Select Committee on this Bill, that they investigated the whole of the ease that was brought before them. If anything were wanting it was on the part of those whose duty it was to oppose this Bill. If the Resolution were not peremptory, he did not see how the Committee could act differently, for none of the questions referred to by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Cardwell) came even incidentally before them.


said he had attributed no blame to the Committee.


said he did not understand how the Committee could have instituted an inquiry into previous legislation when the fact of previous legislation was not brought before them. To re-examine the question of price would be beyond their power.


said, he concurred in thinking that the Committee had performed their duty under the circumstances in which they were placed. They would naturally feel hurt that a peremptory order should be made by the House directing them to arrive at a certain conclusion, but it would be most inconvenient if any reference back to them were made in such terms as would prevent their reconsidering any question that might be brought under their notice. He would recommend that the Bill should be re-committed to the former Committee, with instructions to consider the expediency of inserting clauses to make the measure consistent with the provisions of the City of London Gas Act of 1868. The blame of what had taken place was wholly due to the neglect of the, Metropolitan Board of Works. The Committee had been seriously misled. The Metropolitan Board ought to have brought under their notice all the legislation of the last Parliament, and the opinions of the Committee of which his right hon. Friend (Mr. Cardwell) had been Chairman. This ought to have been supplemented by further information, so that the Committee might have had the whole subject before them. It appeared, however, that the local authorities had entirely failed to perform their duty to the metropolis; and when the Committee reassembled they would be in a position of great difficulty, for what reliance could now be placed on the assistance of a body which had proved to be undeserving of the confidence of the inhabitants of the metropolis? On such occasions it; was usual to have the assistance of a Member of that House, who was charged with the duty of representing the interests of the public. The House might appoint one hon. Member to represent the interests of the public before the Committee, and if so it would be necessary as a counterpoise to appoint another Gentleman on the side of the companies. These two representatives having been added to the Committee, the whole subject might be brought under their notice by them in case the Metropolitan Board of Works did not appear to perform their duty.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment proposed, To leave out the words "now taken into Consideration," in order to add the words "re-committed to the former Committee, with an Instruction to consider the expediency of inserting Clauses to make the Bill consistent with the provisions of 'The City of London Gas Act. 1S68,'"—(Mr. Ayrton.) —instead thereof.


said, he had heard with great satisfaction the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War that the question of price was to be considered a cardinal one, but he regretted that the Committee objected to re-consider the basis on which the price was to be arranged. The hon. Member for Helston (Mr. Young), said that a low price might succeed in the City, but not in the suburbs. He would remind the hon. Member that if the City was the most populous district it was also the richest, and if they reduced the price to the wealthy it would be impossible to refuse the same reduction to the poorer classes. He did not censure the Committee, but as an analogous case to that of gas was water, he would remark that he had been member of a Committee some years ago which sat for forty days to consider the Water Bills of the Metropolis. The Bill originally before them was the Chelsea Water Bill, and the first thing the Committee did was to apply the same rules indiscriminately to all the water companies. That was what ought to be done with the gas companies. He hoped the House would declare that the question of price was worthy of re-consideration by the Committee.


said, he would admit, with a previous speaker, that much credit was due to the metropolitan. Members for now bringing the subject before the House, but he should add that they would have been entitled to much more credit if, when notice of this Bill was given in the London Gazette, they had communicated with their constituents and put thorn on the alert. Sufficient evidence would then have been forthcoming to enable the Committee to come to a right conclusion. There did appear before thorn a body who professed to act on the part of the public, and they were represented by eminent counsel, but they did not produce any evidence in support of their allegations. Failing that, as the Committee had before them a Petition complaining of the price the company proposed to charge, they took the allegations in the Petition, and put it to the promoters whether they could give any reason why the price should not be reduced to 3s. 9d. They were unable to give any evidence against the proposal, and the Committee put in a clause reducing the price after a certain date to 3s. 9d. It had been said that there ought to be a uniformity of price. He quite agreed that a uniform price for gas throughout the metropolis would be a most advantageous thing, but it could not be arrived at without an amalgamation of all the companies. A gas main might go through a district where it produced from £1,500 to £1,800 per mile. Another gas main in another district might produce £1,000, and a third in a thinly populated district only £300. At present the whole of the metropolis was parcelled out among different companies, and the consumers must expect to pay a larger price in the suburbs than was charged in central districts where the mains were concentrated, and where large consumers abounded. Evidence was produced before the Committee to show that the Chartered Gas Company, having been brought compulsorily under the regulations of last year, had been obliged to reduce its dividend to 4½ per cent, with the anticipation of a further reduction to 3½ per cent. How could the Committee, who were without a particle of evidence to show the necessity of a further reduction, undertake to reduce the charge of the Imperial Gas Company below the price suggested by the only Petition against the Bill? It was not in the power of the Committee to call before them any public officer to give them the information they required. Why did not the metropolitan Members assist the Committee?


We could not appear before the Committee. We had no locus standi.


said, that the metropolitan Members had full notice that there would be such a Bill, and ought to Have called their constituents together in the several parishes and districts affected by the measure. This was what the Members for the City of Dublin did. They considered themselves as the guardians of the interests of their constituents, and apprised them of every provision in any Act which could affect them. The metropolitan Members might have had no locus standi before the Committee quâ metropolitan Members, but they might have put their vestries and public bodies in motion. The hon. Chairman of the Committee (Mr. Monk) could get no evidence from the Metropolitan Board of Works. He pressed them for evidence, and asked them to give the Committee information, but they were silent, and left the Committee to act on their own discretion and upon such facts as came casually before them. With regard to the South Metropolitan Company, they were already under the reduced price. He doubted whether it would be considered courteous to the Committee to appoint the two additional Members suggested by the Secretary to the Treasury; but, if it were competent for the Board of Trade to come before them and make out a case, and call evidence, the Committee would be very willing to re-open the subject again. He objected to new Members being added to the Committee, as if the House had not confidence in those who originally considered the Bill.


said, it had over and over again been ruled that vestries had no locus standi before a Committee, because their interests were absorbed in those of the Board of Works; but, inasmuch as an impression prevailed that the interests of the consumers had been betrayed by the Board, the consumers should, in his opinion, have an opportunity of being heard in their own behalf.


said, he would add his assurance to those already given that there was no intention on the part of those who supported this Motion to cast any reflection upon the Members of the Committee. The House had, however, to consider public opinion, and, rightly or wrongly, there was an impression that the matter had not been properly sifted. He was inclined to believe, with the Chairman, that that was the fault of those who did not appear before the Committee to support the interests of the consumers. At the same time, if there was a feeling that their case had not received consideration, it was the duty of the House to secure a hearing for them. He thought the suggestion of the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ayrton) best met the case. He (Mr. Dodson) entertained objections to the Motion of the hon. Member for Plymouth (Mr. Morrison) as too peremptory in its terms. Moreover, there was some danger that if the Bill were simply referred to the Committee again, they might in the end find themselves in the same position as they were before. But the suggestion of the hon. Member (Mr. Ayrton) to add two Members, one in the interest of the gas consumers, and one in that of the shareholders was, in the circumstances, calculated to produce the fullest investigation. He thought, however, those two additional Members should not have power to vote, so that, following the ordinary course, the Committee would be perfectly free to come to whatever decision recommended itself to their judgment.


said, he must protest, on behalf of himself and the rest of the metropolitan Members against the imputation of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Kilkenny (Sir John Gray) that they had in any way been wanting in their duty to their constituents in the matter of this Bill, and he had yet to learn that they could, in any respect whatever, profit by looking to Ireland for advice on such a subject as this. The ratepayers of Chelsea and Kensington had only accepted the Bill on the principle that half-a-loaf was better than no bread. Why should his constituents be compelled to pay at the rate of 4s. 6d. for 14-candle gas, when the City obtained 16-candle gas for 3s. 9d.? All the circumstances of the ease showed the necessity for having one municipality for the whole metropolis.


said, the object of raising the present question was not simply to obtain a reduction in the price, but to have the illuminating power of the gas increased. The consumers outside of the City of London had no locus standi before a Committee of this House, except through the Metropolitan Board of Works, and although they had done all in their power to urge that Board to represent them before the Committee, the Board refused to pay any attention to their representations. They had, therefore, no alternative but to look to the House of Commons for protection.


said, that the charge against the metropolitan Members of neglecting to bring the rights of their constituents before the Committee was groundless, inasmuch as the hon. Member for Southwark (Mr. Locke) had stated the case of the metropolitan consumers to the House when the Bill was introduced before the Committee was appointed. He would remind the House that it alone was the guardian of the interests of the consumers of the metropolis, as it had granted to certain companies a monopoly of the manufacture of gas; and the consumers had no other means of protection than the insertion of clauses of the character proposed. If the consumers were at liberty to erect new works for themselves when and how they pleased, they would not ask assistance from Parliament.


said, he wished to draw attention to one point of interest to every consumer of gas throughout the country. The clause proposed by the hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. Goldney) required that penalties should be paid out of the divisible profits of the company. It was necessary to add to this, a provision requiring that losses occasioned by gross neglect on the part of the directors should be made good from the same source. The public believed that the loss of £70,000 through the frauds committed by Higgs was attributable to the directors' neglect; and, as he considered that the proposition he had made would go far to prevent such frauds, he would promise, if the Committee did not bear it in mind, to propose a clause to that effect on the bringing up of the Report.


said, he was willing to accept the suggestion made by the hon. and learned Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ayrton).

Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question," put, and negatived.

Words added.

Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.

Ordered, That the Bill be re-committed to the former Committee, with an Instruction to consider the expediency of inserting Clauses to make the Bill consistent with the provisions of "The City of London Gas Act, 1868.