HC Deb 23 May 1871 vol 206 cc1209-49

rose to bring before the House the Reports which had been presented by two Royal Commissions—the Commission appointed in 1866 on Water Supply, and presided over by the Duke of Richmond, and the Commission appointed in 1868 to inquire into the best means of preventing the Pollution of Rivers. There was much in the Report of the latter Commission which would hereafter deserve the separate consideration of the House, but he proposed on that occasion to confine himself exclusively to those parts of the Reports which had an especial bearing upon the Motion which he should have the honour to submit— That, in the opinion of the House, the water supplied to householders in London should be derived from pure sources, and should be delivered on the constant system. He supposed no one would deny that hardly any subject could engage the attention of the House of greater importance, not only to this Metropolis, but to the country generally. They were all deeply concerned in the cleanliness and health of their capital. Whether they were inhabitants of London, whether they were only occasionally resident in London, or whether they were, as Members of that House, responsible to the ratepayers of London, it seemed to him that the supply of pure and wholesome water was a subject of the deepest interest to them. The subject to which he desired to draw the attention of the House was but a part of the great problem of sanitary reform of the whole country; and now that they had, by the legislation of the first half of the present century, given to the people of that country political and commercial freedom, and a system of national education, he thought that no subject deserved a larger share of the thoughts of Members of Parliament than the subject of sanitary reform. They were told by a high medical authority, Dr. Simon, the Medical Officer of the Privy Council, that there were no less than 100,000 preventible deaths in this country in the course of a year, and if they were entrusted with the knowledge how those deaths might be prevented, he ventured to assert that they, as Members of the Legislature, might be held, in a great degree, responsible for that loss of life. Regarding this subject in so serious a light, he asked the kind attention of the House while he proceeded to justify the course in which he would ask them to embark. Her Majesty's Government, at the commencement of the Session, introduced a Bill for the purpose of amending and enlarging the Metropolis Water Act of 1852. His hon. Friend the Member for the Universities of Edinburgh and St. Andrews (Dr. Lyon Playfair), who would second his Motion, had undertaken, as a division of labour, the consideration of that Bill so far as it related to the Motion; and therefore he (Mr. Kay-Shuttleworth) would only make one or two passing observations upon it. The Bill seemed to him to deal with the subject in a very incomplete and unsatisfactory manner, and it was on account of its incompleteness and unsatisfactoriness that he had desired in any discussion that might take place upon the Bill to raise a larger and wider question as to whether they should not go to purer sources for their supply of water. But there seemed no prospect of such debate at a late hour on a Government night. He had, therefore given notice of his present Motion that he might ask the House not to tinker the present system of water supply, but rather to follow the example, not of our modern cities and towns only, but even of ancient Rome and the great cities of Italy, when they went to distances comparatively great in order to ensure for their large populations the inestimable advantage of pure water. His first duty was to convince the House that their present supply was derived from polluted sources, that it was always suspicious, and sometimes absolutely dangerous in character. He should have to dwell on many unsavoury topics, for his object was to disgust the House, the country, and the ratepayers of London with the water now provided. Their supply was chiefly derived from the River Thames. There were two companies, the Kent Water Works Company and the New River Company which did not supply that water. The Kent Company's water was altogether drawn from chalk wells south-east of London, and the New River Company's water to a great extent from the chalk springs which formed the head waters of the River Lea; and though it was in part taken from the Lea itself, where the river was open to suspicion of contamination, yet, on the whole, the water supplied by the New River Company and the Kent Company would bear examination. But the East London Company, the Chelsea Company, the West Middlesex Company, and the Grand Junction Company, which supplied London north of the Thames, and the Lambeth Company, and the Southwark and Vauxhall Company, which supplied the South of London, obtained their water either exclusively from the Thames, or, in the case of the East London Company chiefly from the polluted portion of the River Lea. The Chemical Commission, which consisted of Professors Graham, Miller, and Hoffmann, in their Report, presented to the Home Office in 1851, mentioned the great disadvantages of this water supply in the following order:—first, its fluctuating temperature; secondly, its turbidity after floods, shown by the yellow flood tinge of the Thames, with which they were all acquainted; thirdly, its vegetable discolouration during the autumn, which rendered the processes of the laundry very much more difficult; and fourthly, that its source was the main drain of a populous district. He (Mr. Kay-Shuttleworth) objected to such a supply, and could state fearlessly that such water was a great cause of diarrhœa, cholera, and typhus fever. He would not rest that statement on his own authority. In the evidence which Mr. Simon, the Medical Officer of the Privy Council, gave before the Royal Commission on the Water Supply, he was asked— Have you any idea of the outbreak of cholera in any part of London having been caused by the quality of the water? Mr. Simon replied— It is, I think, a matter of absolute demonstration that in the old epidemics, when the south side of London suffered so dreadfully from cholera, the great cause of the immense mortality there was the badness of the water supply then distributed to those districts of London. In the interval, between the 1849 epidemic and the 1854 epidemic, one of the two companies which supply the south side of London had amended its source of supply—it had gone higher up the river—and we at once lost a part of the mortality on that side of the river. But it was found that this great difference did not prevail uniformly through the south side of London, but was confined to those houses which were supplied by the improved water supply. There was still great mortality on the south side of the river, but this belonged exclusively to the houses which were still supplied with impure water. Mr. Simon called this "a gigantic crucial experiment performed on 500,000 people," and gave details which showed that whilst the cholera death rate per 1,000 was greater in 1854 in the houses still supplied with impure water than in 1849–13 instead of 11.8—in those supplied by the new water it had sunk from 12.5 to 3.7. But he could give more recent evidence of the assertion he had made, that this pollution was a great cause of cholera. He would take the case of the epidemic of 1866. In order not to weary the House with quotations he would simply give what Mr. Simon said on the subject in his evidence. He said— As is now a matter of notoriety, within the area of another water company in London the population last year [that was in 1866] suffered very dreadfully from the cholera; I refer to certain eastern parts of London. Cholera in high development was confined to those parts of London, and those parts of London were in the area of one water company. And what makes the case the more remarkable is that not the whole area of that water company suffered; the water company gave two waters, and the high cholera mortality was apparently restricted to those parts of London which received one of these two supplies: so to speak, to half the district of the East London Water Company, The source from which the company supplied this half of its district was a source peculiarly exposed to contamination from a foul part of the River Lea. The contamination was sewage. Speaking broadly for the whole Metropolis, the area of intense cholera in 1866 was almost exactly the area of this particular water supply, nearly, if not absolutely, filling it, and scarcely, if at all, reaching beyond it. He knew it would be said in answer to that statement, that the Committee, which was presided over by the right hon. Gentleman the First Commissioner of Works, made a Report which completely whitewashed the East London Water Company. But he thought the combined testimony of the Registrar General, Dr. Farr, and Mr. Simon, and almost every other medical authority who knew anything about the subject, would outweigh the opinion of that Committee. The danger to the population from polluted water was not confined to cholera. Sewage pollution of water produced many other fatal diseases, and they knew that typhoid fever especially had been frequently traced to the drinking of polluted water. An interesting case occurred at Guildford in 1867, where a high and healthy part of the town was for a single day in August supplied with water out of a particular well. About 500 cases of typhoid fever occurred immediately afterwards, and there were 21 deaths. In all those cases, except three, the persons stricken had on that particular day drunk water from that particular well, and on examination it was found that sewage had made its way from a neighbouring sewer into the spring which fed the well. It might be said that the Thames Conservancy Act would purify the London water; but the fact was that the Thames was more polluted than ever. It might also be said that a River Pollution Bill, based on the Report of the Commission on the Pollution of Rivers, might be passed, which would mitigate the mischief to a great extent. But although that legislation was most desirable and most pressing, and though they might make rivers look decently clean, might get rid of smells, and improve them sufficiently to enable fish to live in them, yet the Rivers Pollution Commissioners told them, in their first Report, that— No process has been yet devised of cleansing surface water once contaminated with sewage, so as to make it safe for drinking. The sewage of Oxford, Reading, and Windsor might be purified, so to speak, by filtration or irrigation, and admitted into the Thames; the Commissioners, speaking of this purified sewage, said— Although this water cannot be used for domestic purposes without great risk to health, it is so bright, colourless, and sparkling, and contains, moreover, such a minute proportion of organic matter, that the most fastidious could not object to its admission into running water. That was in their first Report; but in their third Report they said— The use, for domestic purposes, of river water to which sewage (even after deodorization or employment in irrigation) gains access, and of that pumped from shallow wells in populous districts, ought to be carfully avoided, since the analyses which we have made of very numerous samples of water from such sources, in various localities, have rarely failed to reveal in it the presence of organic matter of disgusting origin; and we have proved in our first Report (1870) that no possible length of flow in any British river affords any guarantee that such sewage or organic matters have been oxidized and destroyed. And they then went on to use strong language, which, however, under the circumstances, he (Mr. Kay-Shuttleworth) thought he was justified in quoting. They said— If it be admitted that it is disgusting and dangerous for man to drink water containing his own excremental discharges, it is our deliberate opinion that all water which is intended for domestic purposes should be intercepted either by reservoirs, conduits, or deep wells, before it reaches the beds of sewage-contaminated rivers. The conclusion to which he wished to draw the attention of the House was that they should go either to heads of rivers or to springs from pure sources for their supply, and that they should not go to a river after it had passed through populous towns and had been polluted by sewage. He knew it would be argued that any sewage thrown into the Thames was destroyed by oxydation after a flow of a dozen miles in the river, and he was aware that Dr. Letheby had given evidence before Committees and Commissions tending to that conclusion. But Dr. Letheby was not an independent authority. He had for many years been the analyst of the water companies, and his evidence must be looked upon as having been given with a certain bias; and, when one found that it was in direct contradiction to that of great authorities, he thought they might safely disregard it. What did Dr. Frankland, in his evidence before the Royal Commission on Water Supply, say? He was asked the following question:— Then you do not accept the theory that sewage travelling down the river is so oxidized, as it passes a distance of six or seven miles, and is so entirely destroyed that its original elements are not to be found, but it is converted into some other substance or substances which are not detrimental to human health? And he answered— I believe that that is by no means a generally true proposition. I believe that, under favourable circumstances, that effect may be produced as far as regards the dead organic matter in the sewage, but not at all as regards the living germs that may be present in that sewage. And Sir Benjamin Brodie, the Professor of Chemistry at Oxford University, entirely confirmed that view. He replied, in answer to a question— I think what is stated by Dr. Frankland is true—that there are no known causes in operation on which we can adequately rely to remove the sewage from the water. And Mr. Simon was asked— Supposing that sewage is discharged from one of the sewers—say at Windsor—would it be possible to detect the presence of that sewage seven miles lower down the river, having regard to the volume of water in the river? He answered— I believe it would be absolutely impossible for chemists to discover it; but the practical sanitary question is different. Supposing tape-worm eggs to be sent into the river with that sewage, would those tapeworm eggs be alive seven miles down, and assuming (which is a frequent pathological opinion) that the respective contagia of typhoid fever and cholera are living germs, would those germs be alive seven miles down?—I cannot say they would not; and he added, that he could only detect them by their effects. Dr. Farr gave similar evidence. Mr. Simon further said— I think the rule ought to be that no sewage should go into any water that can be used for drinking purposes. I think even that allowance should be made for the proper decent taste of people. Water into which sewage has been discharged is, in relation to the matter now under consideration, an experiment on the health of the population, and I do not think that that experiment ought to be tried. I think the drinking of such water is dangerous. Now, they had been trying that dangerous experiment for many years, and they ought not any longer to continue it. The population of the Thames basin in 1867 exceeded 1,000,000 persons. Oxford, Reading, and Windsor, and many other towns and villages, drained into the Thames, and whatever might be done by filtration, that water could not, in his opinion, be made fit to drink. Whatever they might do with the ordinary sewage of a town, supposing he were to admit, which he did not, that they could by irrigation, deodorization, and purification, render it unobjectionable, yet they could never prevent flood waters washing in vast quantities the sewage or manure from the towns or from the land, and that alone would render the Thames water very unfit to be a source of water supply to the Metropolis. Mr. Simon, in his Report on the cholera visitation of 1866, after asserting that an Englishman who contracted cholera might be said with almost absolute certainty to have received it from cholera sewage, laid down two local conditions of safety—the one that all fæcal impurities should be promptly removed—the other that water supply should be derived from such sources and conveyed by such channels that its contamination by excrement should be impossible. He had said enough in condemnation of their present system of water supply from the Thames. But it would be his duty to offer some alternative plan or plans, whence they might derive a sufficient supply of pure water for their population. Now, the Royal Commission had before it several alternative plans. First of all, there were plans for obtaining water from mountainous districts. Mr. Bateman had a plan for bringing a vast supply from North Wales; Messrs. Hemans and Hassard proposed to procure a supply from the lakes of Cumberland and Westmoreland; Mr. Hamilton Fulton had a plan to bring it from the River Wye in Mid Wales, and Mr. Remington proposed to bring it from the hills of Derbyshire. One very serious objection to those schemes was that of expense. That of Mr. Bateman would involve an expenditure of £10,850,000. Another argument was urged against them—namely, that the water would have to be carried in such large open conduits that the supply would be liable to interruption in frosty weather, and possibly, if ever they should have the misfortune to be at war, and to have an enemy on the soil of England, which was a contingency that Englishmen very seldom contemplated, they would be ex- posed to the risk of having their water supply for London cut off. He dismissed those plans with less reluctance since there were other sources than mountainous districts from which an excellent supply might be obtained. The water in the chalk round London had been frequently proposed as a source of supply. The chalk strata in the neighbourhood of London were a formation extending over more than 2,000 square miles. It was stated by the Commissioners of 1851 as being 3,000 square miles in extent. The strata varied from 500 feet to 1,000 feet in thickness. The Water Supply Commission stated this and added— Almost all the rain falling on the surface is absorbed or percolates through the fissures of the chalk, and so close is its texture that the bulk of the rain takes weeks and months to filter down to the level of the water-line in the interior of the chalk hills, a line the depth of which below the surface of the ground may vary from 100 to 300 feet, according to the height of the hills. Considering the quantity of water which the chalk formation could hold, the House would not be surprised at hearing, on the estimate of an eminent engineer—Mr. Homersham—that there would not be the slightest difficulty in getting 10,000,000,000 gallons a-day for the supply of London. Already, he might remark, the towns of Brighton, Croydon, Hull, Portsmouth, Chatham, Gravesend, Canterbury, Winchester, and many other towns, derived their whole supply from the chalk strata, and the Water Supply Commission reported that the highest demand that need be reasonably looked forward to for the metropolitan supply on the constant system, with a population increased to 5,000,000, was 200,000,000 gallons a-day, being only one-fiftieth part of what Mr. Homersham said that the chalk would yield. The Royal Commission on Water Supply, in their Report of 1869, said— With natural subterranean reservoirs extending over above 2,000 square miles, a storage reserve is provided comparatively independent of the seasons, and maintained by the ordinary operations of nature, while no filtration can equal that effected through masses of sand, sandstone, earthy limestones or chalk, from 50 to 300 feet thick. The quantity of mineral matter taken up is, in most cases, moderate, while the really objectionable ingredient—the organic matter—is reduced to a minimum. At the same time, the water is kept at a uniform low temperature, and protected from light and air—conditions unfavourable to the existence of living organisms. Springs from such sources probably represent potable waters in their best state; and amongst the favourable specimens of such waters may be instanced many chalk springs, the water from the lower chalk at Caterham, and some of the springs of the lower greensands of Surrey. It had been urged, as a great objection, that this water from the chalk was very hard water. He did not doubt that there were great inconveniences in hard water; but the hardness of water depended on the presence in solution of carbonic acid and carbonate of lime or chalk. Now, a very simple means had been invented by Dr. Clark for the removal of that hardness. It consisted simply in adding lime, which combined with the carbonic acid, increasing the quantity of chalk, which, however, was insoluble in water not containing free carbonic acid. Thus all the chalk was precipitated and removed from the water. The cost of that process was inconsiderable; and as the water was perfectly filtered by passing through the chalk, the expense of other filtration would be avoided. The Chemical Commission of 1851 said, at the conclusion of their Report— The inhabitants of London appear to have within their reach, in these chalk strata, a supply of water which is asserted on good authority to be inexhaustible, and which may be considered as everywhere of a uniform composition and quality. After having been softened, it is an extremely pure water. The chalk water alone is uniform in its excellence at all times, the sources of it lying beyond the influence of weather or season. In the judgment of the Commissioners, this softened chalk water is entitled, from its chemical quality, to a preference over all others for the future supply of the Metropolis. The water recommended appears to approach most closely to the standard of all that is excellent in a town supply, and is worthy of the greatest efforts and grandest works to procure and convey it; but the sources are near at hand, and the water is attainable without difficulty or great expense. It is our deliberate opinion, which we would enforce in the strongest terms, that the much desired and most necessary improvement in quality of the London water is associated with these sources of supply, and will depend upon their proper application to the uses of the public. Another advantage of this chalk water was its temperature. The temperature of chalk water was uniform at about 51° Fahrenheit in summer and winter. Therefore it was pleasantly cool in summer, and it did not freeze in winter. It would not alter its temperature appreciably in passing through pipes and mains on the constant system, because it would not take more than 18 hours in its passage from the depths of the chalk basin to the mouth of the consumer. He now came to the estimate of the cost of the chalk supply to London. The present supply to London from the chalk was about 20,000,000 gallons a-day by the Kent and New River Companies, and Mr. Homersham said the cost of wells, boreholes, and works to procure a further supply of 100,000,000 gallons a-day would not exceed £200,000, and that might be considered an outside estimate; and he said he would guarantee to procure a supply of double that quantity—that was, of 200,000,000 gallons a-day for £400,000, and that he also considered an outside estimate. And in support of that estimate of Mr. Homersham, which might appear to them somewhat startling, he (Mr. Kay-Shuttleworth) might mention that the total cost of 600,000 gallons a-day for Plumstead was only £2,500, and that the total cost of procuring a supply of 1,200,000 gallons a-day was only £700 or £800 more—namely, £3,500—and that the cost of increasing the Brighton, supply from 800,000 gallons to 2,500,000 gallons was about £3,000. And now as to the cost of the softening process. That took the place of the filtering process, and it must be remembered ought to be applied to their present Thames water, which was nearly as hard as the chalk water. Mr. Homersham's outside estimate of the cost of structural works for softening water in covered reservoirs was £6,000, for 1,000,000 gallons; and therefore, for 100,000,000 gallons a-day, their present supply, the cost of those structural works, the initial cost, would be £600,000. And he was advised by persons competent to form an opinion that they considered this a very excessive estimate. Besides the expenses at starting for the softening of the chalk water, there would be the cost of lime and labour. The expense of lime would be about £1 per 1,000,000 gallons, and that of labour about 7s. per 1,000,000 gallons, making a total of £1 7s. Mr. Simpson stated that £1 per 1,000,000 gallons would be a nearer estimate, and Dr. Frankland went still lower, and stated the current expenses at 15s. per 1,000,000 gallons. But perhaps the best estimate was that of the Chemical Commission of 1851, who calculated that the additional cost for softening the water would not amount to more than 2 per cent on the present price of water, and some return would be obtained for the lime used in the process, for Mr. Homersham estimated that the precipitated chalk would be sold at 15s. or 16s. per ton. In any case he thought the expense of softening the water ought to be incurred even for their present Thames water, as by softening the water a vast outlay would be saved in the expenditure of soap. The saving of soap in Glasgow, after the introduction of Loch Katrine water, was fully one-half. The question, as affecting laundries and the washing of linen, was important. They spent a great deal more in the washing of their shirts than they did in buying them. The total expenditure for soap in London was £1,000,000 a-year, and according to Mr. Bateman's estimate £500,000 would be saved by the use of soft water. Even supposing that estimate to be exaggerated, some £100,000 or £200,000 might be saved, which would more than cover the cost of the softening process. There would also be an economy in wear and tear, as the linen would be washed without the use of any chemicals. He now came to the second part of his Motion, which dealt with the way in which water was delivered. At present the water was supplied on the intermittent system, which stinted the supply of one of the chief necessaries of life, and occasioned great loss, since fires could be far more promptly extinguished under a system of constant supply. The constant supply system would save the expense of putting up cisterns in new houses, and lessen the liability of pipes to become frozen in winter. But the great objection to the intermittent principle was that water kept in cisterns was liable to contamination from soot, dust, filth from insects, vermin, sparrows, and cats; stench from adjoining cesspools, and smells from the waste-pipe. It was often stored in dirty, mouldering, coverless butts. The evidence of Mr. Simon, and of all the authorities before the Water Supply Commission, showed that an intermittent supply could not be defended. Even if the cisterns were ever so clean, the long retention of the water in them made it very disagreeable to the taste. It was most undesirable that men should be forced to the gin-shop and the tavern for want of pure and agreeable water. All the scientific and medical authorities, all the Commissions reported in favour of a constant service; and the supply of water on that system had been successfully carried out almost in every large town of the United Kingdom. Indeed, it was quite exceptional to find a town with an intermittent supply; and London was therefore conspicuous for its disadvantages both in the quality of its water, and in the mode of its supply. In London the average consumption of water per head per day on the intermittent principle was 32 gallons. In Plymouth, Devonport, Shrewsbury, Oxford, and other places on the same principle, it was 30 gallons or more. But the average consumption in the large manufacturing towns of Lancashire and Yorkshire, including that for trade purposes, was only from 16 to 21 gallons on the constant system. In Manchester, the consumption for domestic purposes was only 14 gallons on the constant principle, less than half of the total consumption in London. In Mr. Bateman's opinion, the normal requirements of the inhabitants of the Metropolis, even including a large supply for baths and water-closets, which were great sources of waste, would be met by from 15 to 20 gallons per head per day. It was urged that under the constant supply the pressure was so great on the pipes that they would burst; but he maintained there was greater pressure under the intermittent system, where the pipes were idle for the greater part of the day, and then were suddenly put to a great strain and pressure for a short time, having to force water to the tops of houses. Mr. Bateman had never known pipes to burst in consequence of a constant supply. It was said that there would be great interruptions during repairs. But Mr. Bateman said complaints of such inconvenience were never heard of in towns where the supply was constant. He also said that the introduction of the constant supply into Manchester had reduced the amount of property destroyed by fire from 21 to 7 per cent, and increased the amount saved from 78.6 to 93.2 per cent; and Captain Shaw, chief officer of the Metropolitan Fire Brigade, said that by the use of constant high-pressure service the quantity of water used in extinguishing fires would be greatly reduced, and being applied at an earlier stage of a fire would be far more effective than a large quantity later. It might be urged against his proposal that it would create considerable alarm in consequence of the increase of rates which it would cause; but that objection was not difficult to meet, by the experience of other places. In Manchester the supply had cost £1,780,000, and in Glasgow £1,600,000, the result being that in Manchester the water rate was a great deal less than formerly, whilst in Glasgow it was no greater. Mr. Bateman gave the Water Supply Commission the following estimate as to his own plan— The people of London could be supplied, after the expenditure of nearly £8,000,000, with the softer water of Wales at a rate of 10½d. or 11d. in the pound on the rateable value. These rates are much lower than those charged for the supply of the hard water of the Thames. He might quote comparative statements of the outlay actually incurred in several large towns for improved supplies of water, including compensation to old companies—Glasgow, £1,600,000; Manchester, £1,780,000; Liverpool, £2,000,000; Birkenhead, £320,000. The Water Supply Commissioners said that the proportionate outlay for London would be more than £25,000,000 on the basis of the assessable value of the dwelling-houses; but great as was that expenditure, he maintained that they should not shrink from it, if the result be that they obtained a pure water supply for the Metropolis. But such an expenditure was not necessary, and the cost to be incurred would be much less. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving his Resolution.


I congratulate my hon. Friend (Mr. Kay-Shuttleworth) on the ability and knowledge which he has displayed in introducing this important subject to the attention of the House. If I do not follow him very closely in regard to the sources of supply to which he has directed our attention, it is because I prefer to accept the challenge of the Secretary of State to make this discussion one upon the subject of the Bill which is to be presented to us for a second reading tonight. I suppose he thought this Motion would serve as a conduit pipe for the flow of our ideas on the subject-matter of his Bill, and I think he is right. As I cannot technically discuss a Bill which is not formally before us, I shall confine myself to its general scheme, and especially to its Preamble, which professes to secure "a constant supply of pure and wholesome water." Parliament is perfectly justified in imposing any restrictions on the water companies, for though they are private commercial ventures, yet they enjoy a monopoly gigantic and complete. The supply of gas is a monopoly also; but in no sense so complete as that of water. If I am discontented with the gas, I cut it off, and illuminate my house with oil or candles. But I am bound, hand and foot, to a water company, for the wells and pumps of London afford us only the filterings of cesspools, sewers, and churchyards. It has been said that the money interest of the companies, involving a capital of £10,000,000, is sufficient to ensure proper quality in the supply. This is contrary to the history of the whole subject. I need not go so far back as 1827, when a water company's director, in a fit of death-bed repentance, published a famous pamphlet to atone for his sins in supplying 7,000 families with poisonous water. I have in my hands a Parliamentary Paper of 1856, in which the medical officer of the Privy Council, referring to the cholera epidemic, two years before, speaks of one water company as Purveying the filthiest stuff ever drunk by a civilized community.…Contaminated with the out-scourings of the Metropolis, and containing unmistakable molecules of excrement. Finding the necessity of improving the quality of supply thus neglected by commercial venture, this House, ever since 1828, has had numerous Select Committees, and has passed various Bills for the protection of our teeming population. And now this Bill is intended to fulfil the recommendations of the later inquiries, especially those of the Select Committee of 1867, presided over by the First Commissioner of Works (Mr. Ayrton), and of the Royal Commission of 1869. London is not now polluted with such water as it had during the cholera epidemic of 1853–4, for the Act of 1852 obliges the water to be drawn from above Teddington Lock. But even above this source of supply, there is a watershed of 3,656 square miles, securing the main part of the ex-crementitious drainage of 860,000 human beings, besides the manurial drainage of 2,250,000 acres of land. London has already spent £6,000,000 to get rid of its own filth, and when this Bill asks us, possibly at least, to spend twice as much more for the regulation of the water supply, it is not too much to inquire whether it gives us security that the water shall not contain the filth of the towns and villages above us. Yet, in fact, the Bill which requires the Board of Works to secure pure and wholesome water to the Metropolis gives to that Board no power to do so, for they are made the mere distributors of water, even when they purchase the companies, and are not associated in any way with the conservancy of the two rivers, the Thames and the Lea, which supply seven out of the eight water companies. No doubt there are the Acts of 1866 and 1868, by which these rivers are put under conservancy; but it depends wholly on the manner in which these Acts are carried out whether either the companies or the Metropolitan Board of Works can give us unpolluted water. Yet, with the usual fragmentary and chaotic form of our sanitary legislation, these Acts are not even mentioned in the Bill. If the conservators of the Thames and Lea do not properly scavenge the surface of their rivers, and divert the sewage of the towns and villages on their banks, the Bill cannot give to us pure and wholesome water; and we must be content to drink, as heretofore, our share of the excrements of 660,000 human beings. My hon. Friend was perfectly right in pointing out the erroneous conclusions drawn by the Royal Commission as to the spontaneous purification of the river. I may be permitted to profess knowledge on this subject, as the Royal Commission itself has done me the honour to quote largely from my evidence. But I prefer to support my views by the direct experiments made by the Rivers Pollution Commission, which has proved beyond doubt that the dissolved filth of a river is destroyed with extreme slowness and uncertainty. The Metropolitan Commission chiefly rested their conclusion on the apparent purification of the Thames after its junction with the Kennet below Reading; but they were ignorant that these rivers are not effectually intermingled until they reach the rapids at Sonning Bridge, and they mistook the dilution of the impure Kennet with the purer water of the Thames for a process of self-purification. At all times such purification is slow and uncertain; but in epidemic periods, such as typhoid fever, scarlet fever, and cholera, there is no evidence at all that the actual seeds of disease are destroyed, as inert sewage matter is by simple oxidation, or burning up by the air in water. The excrementitious matters of sewage in such epidemics have intensely infectious properties, and there is a large experience to indicate that rivers thus polluted are powerful means of spreading diseases through the water-drinking populations on their banks. At all events, in typhoid fevers and cholera the experience is as large and decided as one can expect to attain. Yet in this Bill the whole sanitary conditions of the subject are left in disorganized disassociation. You tell us that we are to have pure water by this Bill, and yet those who are intrusted with the scavenging of the surface of the rivers, and with the prevention of its pollutions by sewage, are wholly disassociated from its distribution. You do make a junction of importance when you bring in connection with the water companies, which control the inlets of water, the Metropolitan Board, which has charge of its outlets. This is more important than is at first apparent; but, even here, we have only a fragmentary reform, for though that Board controls the main drainage, the branch drainage is under the management of the vestries, and they have shown little intelligence on the question before us. So that even when we pass this Bill, see in what an unsatisfactory position we stand by our piecemeal legislation. There will still be eight water companies, two Conservancy Commissions, a Metropolitan Board of Works, and numerous vestries—all of whom should be consolidated in any general scheme which is sufficient to secure the health and comfort of this great Metropolis in its relations to one of the two great necessaries of life. The Preamble of the Bill is too ambitious. It will not, if passed, assure to us wholesome and pure water without further consolidation; but it may secure a constant supply of such water as the Conservators of the Thames and the Lea send down to the water companies. Is the necessity for a constant system of supply, as distinguished from an intermittent system, so important that we should accept this Bill as another fragmentary instalment of sanitary reform? I have no doubt on this subject, for a constant system of supply is an immense gain to the community. The present intermittent system requires that each house shall store water in a cistern of sufficient capacity to ensure a supply during those hours when the water is cut off from the pipes. In the houses of the wealthy this is a mere question of cost, for they take care that the storage room is ample and sufficient for all their wants. But in the houses of the poor the case is altogether different, for they possess neither money to erect large cisterns nor space to afford for them. In order to economize cost and space, the smallest possible store cisterns are used, so that the poor are stinted, and even practically defrauded, of their fair share of the water supply, which amounts in the Metropolis to an average of 32 gallons daily. It is not only by reducing the quantity, but by largely deteriorating the quality of the water, that cisterns act injuriously. The waste-pipes of the cisterns are connected with the sewers, and very frequently by an untrapped communication. At all events, I can testify that this untrapped communication existed in a house which I recently bought in town, and that the same thing was found in the houses of two of my friends, one of whom had typhoid fever in his family in consequence. If this sanitary evil is found to prevail in dwellings such as Members of this House occupy, we may be certain that it is common in houses of the poor. Under such circumstances, the sewer gases find their way into the cisterns and become absorbed by the water, which is thus rendered unwholesome both for potable and culinary purposes. Besides this common source of evil, the water in a poor man's house is often fouled by the unventilated air of the dwelling, and is rendered hot and unpleasant for drinking purposes. If any hon. Member will go into a poor tenement, and draw some of the hot and vapid water from the cistern, cask, or tub, which forms its substitute, often resting upon, or in close proximity to, the most objectionable places, he will understand how it is that the poor so often resort to other beverages than water. At least, one of the West-end vestries has petitioned this House to reject the Bill, because it proposes to ensure a constant system of supply. They forget that this is not a rich man's question, but a poor man's question. In large wholesome dwellings, with plenty of space and air, the intermittent system of supply is sufficient for health and comfort. But the constant system, offering always cool, well-filtered water, not fouled by keeping, is of vital importance to the poorer classes. But it must be given freely and without stint. I read the evidence of a water company's official in the Blue Book before me, which filled me with indignation. He coolly proposes to introduce constricting rings into the delivery pipes for houses of the poor, so as to diminish the supply afforded. If these are to be the tactics of any company, the sooner they are absorbed by a public Board the better it will be for all of us. The greatest sanitary law for large cities is contained in the few words addressed to the leper of old—"Wash, and be clean," and nothing should stand in the way of the poor from obeying this law. The constant system of supply, apart from such dodges as constricting rings, gives the best conditions for its observance. By it, water is delivered fresh and unfouled by vitiated air. As it does not involve the necessity for cisterns, the cost of its introduction to a poor tenement is insignificant. Water is always present, and is never cut off as now on Sundays, the very day when the poor require it most. At present, in most districts, the Saturday morning's supply has to last for 48 hours, on the very two days when abundance is most needed; and, as a poor man's house has no room for large store cisterns, the absence of supply becomes an intolerable evil. I need not stop to remind the House of the palpable advantages which the constant system offers in cases of fires. It may be sufficient to state that since Manchester has adopted it the amount of property saved, after having actually taken fire, has gradually risen from 60 to 97 per cent—a result, if only attained in a distant degree in the Metropolis, that would reconcile us to a very large expenditure. Recognizing then, as I do—and as all men must do who have considered this question in a public point of view—the immense advantages of the constant system of supply, I would accept this new instalment of sanitary reform with gratitude, fragmentary though it be, if I felt assured that the Bill was powerful enough to achieve its purpose in this respect. But even here I have misgivings. We have already intrusted considerable powers to the Board of Trade by the Act of 1852; but many of the reforms then indicated remain unachieved. Clause 4 of that Act renders efficient filtration compulsory on the companies; and yet I hold in my hand a Report from a competent authority, which tells me that one company, at least, has delivered water on various occasions, during the past year, in such an unfiltered state "as to be entirely unfit for domestic use." If the Board of Trade, with the powers of this Act, are unable in eight years to perfect such a simple and well-known process as filtration, I fear that the vis inertiæ of the water companies will be too great for the Metropolitan Board of Works, especially as there are real difficulties to contend with in changing from an intermittent system to a constant system of supply. Some difficulties are real, others are imaginary; but both will be formidable, when the interests of the companies are involved in magnifying them. No doubt there will be a large cost involved in altering fittings for the change. For as long as water is supplied by cisterns, the goodness of fittings is more a question for the consumer than for the company. But they must be made good to prevent waste of water, if it is to be on at all times and without cisterns. A public trust could make the change on better terms than the companies. A differential rate might be applied, lower for houses with good fittings and higher for those with bad, and a water police, with power to lower the rate, would soon bring about a cordial co-operation between the consumers and the public trust. When the fittings are properly adjusted, all experience shows that there is greater economy in the supply on the constant than on the intermittent system. On the intermittent system you turn a cock, and, finding no water, leave it open, and the water, when it comes, is wasted; but on the constant system no such negligence is likely to occur. There is little doubt that, with a well-managed system of constant supply—taking the experience of Manchester, Norwich, Wolverhampton, and other towns—you might reduce the average consumption in London by one-third, and this saving would enable you to introduce water into many separate poor tenements which now depend upon some common stand cock. The Government have, I think, committed a grave error in abandoning the compulsory clauses of purchase which they introduced, wisely and advisedly, into their Bill. They had ample justification for their bold step; but none, that I can see, for retracing it. It is true that they may plead the Report of a Select Committee of this House in 1867, which recommended that the companies should be united with a metropolitan public Board, and that this union should frame rules for controlling the house arrangements. But the Royal Commission reported, in 1869, against such an arrangement in the following terms, with which most of us will agree:—That it "would be difficult for such a complex arrangement to work satisfactorily." Yet this is the state in which we are landed by the withdrawal of the compulsory powers of purchase. The Royal Commission recommended most strongly the course which the Government originally took, and which they now abandon. In their Report of 1869 they say— The constant supply cannot be effectually introduced in London so long as the supply remains in the hands of private companies, to whom it would be inexpedient to confer the great powers necessary for this purpose. This is, in fact, a reiteration of the recommendation made by the Health of Towns Commission in 1846. Well, why have the Government yielded to timid counsels? They are only postponing the evil day. Had the Government bought the companies in 1856, as proposed by the General Board of Health, they would have probably purchased their interest at £4,000,000 less than they will have to pay now. The companies try to frighten us by saying that the cost of changing the intermittent into a constant system will be £1,500,000. It undoubtedly will be large; but in no way could it be more costly performed than by eight distinct companies, with their separate engineering staffs and management. The Bill loses altogether the advantages and economy of consolidation. It actually goes out of the way to defeat these advantages by the separation of accounts, and by treating each company's work, even when bought, as a separate unit. In 1851, when this subject was before this House, the economies from consolidation were estimated as being at least equal to £90,000 per annum; and they must now be still greater. The sum capitalized would have been more than sufficient to change the intermittent to the constant supply without increased cost to the ratepayers. The supply of a first necessary of life, like air or water, is a most unfit subject for commercial speculation. In the ancient history of the kingdom, the supply of water was always considered a public duty, and the violation of the trust was first committed in the case of London, when it contracted with the New River Company. Following our bad example, other towns ceded the supply of this necessary of life to commercial adventurers; but, as the Records of the House show, they have been rapidly coming back to us to obtain powers for purchasing the private companies. In almost all such cases they have changed the intermittent into a constant system. London stands almost alone among great cities in adhering to the antiquated system. Our fragmentary way of dealing with great hygienic subjects has grown into an intolerable evil, and with the Report of the Sanitary Commission before them, I think the Government might have offered us a bolder Bill. Yet it is only fair to admit the difficulties of their position. Any hon. Member who has read a Parliamentary Paper, with a very uninviting title—the Report of the "Shoreditch Improvement Bill"—will learn with regret that the Metropolitan Board of Works takes little cognizance of the necessities of the Metropolis as a whole, but is easily influenced by the clamant demands of particular vestries. The latter have shown small interest in obtaining a constant supply of water for the Metropolis, and as they seem to be the springs of action of the Metropolitan Board, and as this Bill continues to keep them so, I fear that the Bill, when it becomes an Act, may be as little effective as the Act of 1852, which also had provisions for constant supply. Doubting the efficiency of its machinery, the Government may have disliked to ask for larger powers till it got a better system of local government for the Metropolis. In sympathy for their difficulties, I shall vote for the second reading of the Bill when it comes before us; but I do not conceal from myself, or from the House, that a subject of this magnitude, affecting, as it does, the health and habits of a population almost equal to that of a nation, deserves a larger and bolder treatment than it receives in this Bill. Whether the Bill realizes its purpose or not, it records our opinion that London should no longer stand almost alone among large cities in adhering to the antiquated and unhealthy system of an intermittent supply of water, and that the supply of such an important necessary of life should be regulated, and, I think, should altogether be performed, by a public trust, and not by commercial venture.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That, in the opinion of this House, the Water supplied to householders in London should be derived from pure sources, and should be delivered on the constant system."—(Mr. Kay-Shuttleworth.)


said, the hon. Member for Hastings invited the House to affirm two propositions. The first was that the water supply of London should be taken from pure sources. It would be difficult to get a more simple proposal, or one that the House would be more inclined to regard with favour. But it was asserted that the quality of the present supply of water to the Metropolis was prejudicial to health. They must remember, however, that in 1867 and 1869 there were two exceedingly painstaking and accurate inquiries, in which men of known science assisted, and he thought he had a right to say that such facts as were elicited by the Committee presided over by the Chief Commissioner of Works, and by the Duke of Richmond's Commission, ought not to be altogether ignored. First, with regard to the Report of the right hon. Gentleman's (Mr. Ayrton's) Committee—it said that the quality of the Thames water might compare advantageously with the water of any other town; and in the Report of the Royal Commission there was no evidence to lead them to believe that the water supplied by the companies was not generally good and wholesome. Those statements were the result of the most careful investigations, and the highest science that could be obtained, and it did appear to him that if his hon. Friend wished to upset the Reports of the Committee and the Commission, his proper plan would be to ask for another Committee or Commission, by which he could prove that the statements he had made that night rested on the highest authority. At present his statements must be accepted with less deference than the Reports of the Committee and the Commission. His hon. Friend had proposed a substitute for the Thames water; but his idea was not new, and, if it be adopted, it should be only adopted upon high authority. Now, the Royal Commission, amongst other things, reported with regard to the supply from the chalk districts. It did not agree with those who contended that an unlimited supply could be obtained by simply tapping the chalk; and it went on to say that, if a supply could be obtained, it could only be done by subtracting from the supply of it to the rivers. Now, would it be a considerable benefit if, by supplying London from such a source, they were to dry up the rivers? However, let his hon. Friend prove his case. Let them have a Commission, and then they would see whether, if his hon. Friend got his supply, he did not dry up all the neighbouring small streams. He would not, he (Mr. Clay) believed, wish to dry up the Thames, because that was not potable water. A great deal of evidence on that point was taken by the Royal Commission, as to the difference between chalk water and Thames water for drinking and other purposes, and many scientific men were examined, and the majority gave their opinion that one water was just as good as the other as to softness, some going so far as to say that the Thames water was decidedly the softer. They were, therefore, asked to express their approbation of the system of drawing water from chalk in direct opposition to those scientific men, and when they did get it, they must expose it to Dr. Clark's softening process. Now, supposing that 100,000,000 gallons was the daily consumption of London—which he believed was the amount stated by Dr. Frankland—he asked what would be the expense of softening such a vast amount of water as that. Dr. Frankland fixed it at 15s. per 1,000,000 gallons, but he (Mr. Clay) fancied he had seen an estimate for 14s. 7d. Mr. Homersham had, however, calculated the cost at 27s. per 1,000,000 gallons. He (Mr. Clay) had himself consulted an engineer, who thought it would not be less than 27s. He would, however, split the difference, and take 20s.; and, putting the expense of erecting the reservoirs for softening at £600,000, that sum, at 5 per cent, would give £30,000. They were asked to give an increased supply from this new and doubtful source, and to do it at a cost of £66,500 a-year. He did not say that the proposal was absurd; but he asserted that the hon. Gentleman was bound to establish his facts, and not to ask the House, in this casual way, to affirm his Resolution. There was another proposal, which had been gone into at great length by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, and which contained the principle of constant supply. That principle had been more than once alluded to. But he would rather prefer saying what he had to say respecting it when the Bill came before the House. In 1852 the water companies were obliged—and to his mind very properly obliged; he made no complaint whatever about that—but they were obliged to go up the river, and take their supply from where they took it now—namely, at Hampton. That necessitated a very great expense. But the companies fulfilled the commands of Parliament, as they had always done, within the time, with the utmost accuracy and without any complaint whatever being made against them. He was sorry, therefore, to hear complaints made by the hon. Member that such was the vis inertiæ of the water companies that they never would do anything. All he could say was, that he challenged the House to point out anything which Parliament had desired the companies to do that they had not done with the greatest accuracy. He would only say that if he spoke against the constant supply, he did not do so in any way as the representative of one or more of the water companies, but as a householder, and he should ask Parliament not to enforce it upon him.


said, that in the few words he had to say on this subject, he would not lead the House to suppose that he was not a party, to a certain extent, interested in this question. He was the inheritor of certain shares in the New River Company, which had not been attacked to-night, and, therefore, he was not going to address himself to any point connected with that company. But in consequence of that connection he had certainly taken great interest in the question of water supply, and he believed that he had, as far as possible, made himself acquainted with the whole of the evidence that had been given on the subject with reference to London. He could not help thinking to-night, as his hon. Friend the Member for Hastings was speaking, how easy it was for a counsel to bring forward a very satisfactory case. They knew that if in a Committee the opening speech of counsel was taken in the place of evidence, the decision of the Committee would be very simple and very easy. But when his hon. Friend proceeded with his case, and, quoting from Mr. Bateman and the other great authorities who had been examined before those different Commissions and Committees, said, he was not going to bring forward their scheme, but was about to back up a scheme of his own,—that of getting water from the chalk formation—then he (Mr. G. Hardy) could not help thinking how very improper a tribunal he was addressing with a view to inviting them to come to a decision upon such a question. The House of Commons was called upon to overthrow, at the bidding of a single Member, backed though he was by the hon. Member for the University of Edinburgh, conclusions arrived at by Commission after Commission and Committee after Committee; and they were asked to do that at once, and come to a conclusion upon the statement of one hon. Member in the House, without any reference whatever to any evidence that had been adduced upon this subject, as though none of the matters referred to had never been inquired into at all. He would venture to say that if the House would take the trouble to look at the extracts from the chemical evidence which were in the Report of the Royal Commission on Water Supply, they would see that chemists, like doctors, differed materially. They would see a great deal more than that. They would see that chemists of the greatest eminence were content to place their conclusions before the Commission by guess-work, and not from actual experiment. He ventured to say that there was not in that chemical evidence which had been pressed upon the attention of the House to-night one single instance of chemical analysis upon which they relied for the conclusions to which they had come. Look to the evidence of Dr. Simon. He was asked about the flow of the water through the soil, and whether he had formed any opinion as to whether the water taken from above Teddington Lock, and running 15 or 20 miles, would be safe water, and his reply was— I should think it quite as safe water as regards the danger we are speaking of. Then he went on to say that— A speculative answer is not enough on this subject, and I can only give a speculative answer at present. I think the water would be harmless, but possibly the result might show that the water could not be deemed quite safe. And that was the nature of the evidence of every one of the chemists. He (Mr. G. Hardy) took up the death-rate of different towns, and what did he find? That in the towns supplied with that beautiful soft water which the hon. Member for the University of Edinburgh alluded to, the deaths were 28 in 1,000, while in the towns where the people were supplied with hard water the deaths were only 22 in 1,000. He did not come to the conclusion that the water was the cause of death in each instance; but surely in cases where the chemists could not detect what existed in the water, it was just as unreasonable that they should, come to the conclusion that the water was the cause of the exceptional death-rate in other parts of the country. But here they found a conclusion drawn by one medical man quite contrary to that drawn by another. When his hon. Friend told them that his wish was to disgust the House with the water drunk in London, he confessed he felt a little uncomfortable; for, when in London, a glass of water every morning and the last thing every night was what he had taken for many years past, and he had never experienced any of those dreadful and poisonous effects from it. There was a disposition, however, to attribute every evil under the sun to whatever beverage a man drank. If a man was pleased to drink beer, it was supposed to be adulterated; and if he (Mr. G. Hardy) were to be ill, his hon. Friend the Member for Hastings would probably attribute his illness to the Chelsea water, for he had the misfortune to drink Thames water, and had drank it for many years past. With respect to the cholera outbreak in 1849 and 1854, he would ask was, it owing to the water supply here. He did not say it was not. He had no means of knowing. All he wished to point out was, that the greatest possible difference existed amongst the doctors themselves on the subject; and he knew that the conclusion arrived at by the Committee over which his right hon. Friend the Member for the Tower Hamlets presided, and which was selected with great care, was, that the water was not the cause; at all events, that there was no proof that it was the cause. They went further, for having investigated the supply of water in London, they came to the conclusion that it was impossible to say that the Thames water was not a safe supply. He would refer to one passage on this subject which his hon. Friend the Member for Hastings did not read to the House. In 1867 the Committee reported that they were satisfied that both the quantity and the quality of the water supplied from the Thames was so far satisfactory, and that there was no ground for disturbing the arrangement made in the Act of 1852. His hon. Friend (Mr. Kay-Shuttleworth) said he threw over Dr. Letheby. Well, it was true that Dr. Letheby and others took different views from those of Dr. Frankland, and adopted different modes of dealing with the water. What conclusion did he (Mr. G. Hardy) come to upon that subject? Not the same as his hon. Friend, who threw over all those who did not agree with his own conclusions. He (Mr. G. Hardy) said that the chemists had not arrived at a definite solution of a great question, and that we ought to wait. He was quite content that those matters should be referred to a Committee, and to wait the result of further investigation. With respect to the question of compulsory sale, he had not a word to say against it. If they could find a public body who would and whom Parliament could, thoroughly trust to deal with this great question, and if they thought the thing could be done better by a public body than by commercial bodies, he personally had no objection to substitute such a body for the water companies. But with respect to commercial speculation, let him remind the House that without that commercial speculation, beginning with the honest Dutchman who preceded Sir Hugh Myddelton, they would never have had anything like a water supply. Much also was due to James I., who did a successful thing in promoting the New River scheme, and in committing the whole management of it to the adventurers who took half the shares, so that to that day, though the Crown was no longer interested in them, the King's shares had no part in the management. With respect to Manchester, so far from the water of Manchester paying its way, he did not believe that it paid its way at that moment. He believed they took £12,000 a-year from the profits on gas, which was also in the hands of the corporation of the City of Manchester, to pay the expense of the water, and he had always thought it a most unjust thing that the supply of light should be taxed for the purpose of supplying other people with water. His hon. Friend talked of £25,000,000 for the Metropolis as if it were a mere fleabite. But what was the most remarkable thing in this whole transation was, that instead of the metropolitan Members coming forward to tax themselves for the benefit of their constituents, and with a view of affording a supply of water to the Metropolis, his hon. Friend complained that they cried out against the proposal. With respect to the chalk formation, he ought to speak favourably of it, for the company with which he had the good fortune to be connected by inheritance, got its main supply from the chalk, and very excellent water it was, no doubt. He noticed that his hon. Friend laughed when an allusion was made to the effect which might be produced from pumping too much from the chalk. But one of the greatest geologists in this country was a reverend gentleman whom he had had the honour of meeting on several occasions, and he knew he was consulted on these subjects continually. What did he say on this subject? He disapproved of obtaining water from the chalk. He said— You would obtain a certain quantity, but it would be at the expense of the rivers. The rivers would cease to flow. When my advice has been asked, I have invariably said, 'Take the water which flows down above ground, and do not tamper with it below.' That is what I have invariably said, and I believe it is sound advice. The Commission embodied what he said in their own words. Many years ago Mr. Napier, an engineer of ability, proposed to supply London with water from the Surrey sands. In the course of the inquiry into his scheme experiments were made as to softening the water, and it was found there were two kinds of softness, or rather hardness, one of which was permanent, and it was ascertained that water from the Surrey sands was of 6° of hardness. He (Mr. G. Hardy) believed that the water with which London was supplied was of 14° of hardness, but when it was boiled it was reduced to 6°—the same as the water from the Surrey sands. Therefore, when his hon. Friend put forward the advantage of soft water, he did not think his hon. Friend could remember the Report on Mr. Napier's scheme. In that Report he would find that the process of boiling water made the greatest difference possible. Thus they came to the necessity of using Clark's process, which he admitted to be one of the most beautiful known in science. But there was one great objection to it, independent of the expense. The process, to be effectual, must last 24 hours, and they could not duly supply so vast a place as London with water if so long a stoppage of the flow was necessary. It might be easily done in such a place as Canterbury; but just think of the enormous reservoirs that would be required for London. In fact, the delay, combined with the expense, would render it totally impossible. With respect to the points which had been put forward by the hon. Member for the University of Edinburgh, who said they had a right to impose conditions on a monopoly, he agreed with the hon. Member there, and he thought that the great water monopolies should be subject to conditions the same as railways or other similar large undertakings. He did not object to that on the part of the water companies. He thought it a fair subject for inquiry; but it must be remembered that the Act of 1852 was supposed to establish State control. He would now say a word with regard to constant supply. In the Act of 1852 it was provided that if four-fifths of the inhabitants of a district asked for a constant supply they should have it, and it had never been applied for up to the present day. With respect to the poor, he knew that several of the companies had made great efforts to supply them, but a great difficulty arose in the shape of the owners of houses. Many propositions had been made. It was proposed, for example, to have a stand-pipe in every court. But then it would disappear the first night, if there were any metal about it that could be sold. If they established such a supply, they must also establish some means of protecting it. All those things must be considered. His hon. Friend might make his speech and propose his abstract Resolution, but, after all, the question was one of evidence, and must be carefully considered and inquired into. He was not connected with the management of the New River Company, but he was authorized to say in its behalf that the managers were, and had been, most anxious to supply the poor districts abundantly. They had in many instances supplied their poor customers on Sundays, and were ready to extend the advantages of constant supply to all cases where they were really needed. With respect to the rich, he knew that they cried out against the constant supply, and would prefer to be left with the large cisterns which gave them, in fact, constant supply. He was sorry that the hon. Member for Bath (Sir William Tite) was not here, but the hon. Member told him (Mr. G. Hardy) that his house, being full of costly books and pictures, he dreaded the results of a constant supply, in case of any extraordinary pressure being put on the pipes and causing them to burst. In such a case, he told him, an amount of damage would be done that nothing could repair. The companies were perfectly ready to have the question inquired into, and had no doubt but that it would be justly decided on by that House. But let it not come to any rash conclusion. They could not carry out their own Acts of Parliament already passed. The towns up the river which polluted the Thames with their sewage were prohibited from doing so by Act of Parliament, but they continued to do so nevertheless. He objected, not only as regarded the water supply, but generally to these abstract Resolutions that pledged them for ever after. It was a serious question that of how they should obtain the best water for the supply of such a vast population as London. Do not let the House be led away by specious arguments, but let the question be tested by the body of evidence in their possession. Let the subject be inquired into by the public, and then come to the conclusion as to whether the Metropolis should be supplied by private companies or public bodies, and whether the water was to be drawn from the present or from any other source.


said, that those who were present at the commencement of the debate must have been struck with the ability with which the subject had been treated both by the Mover and the Seconder of the Resolution. The Resolution itself consisted of words to which no Government could possibly take objection. It said "that the householders of the Metropolis should be supplied with water from pure sources." Surely no one could take any objection to such a proposition. It also asked that the water should be delivered by the constant system of supply; and that was already sought by the Bill of the Government. With much of the speech of his hon. Friend the Member for Hastings he cordially concurred, but there was one reservation he would make. The hon. Gentleman quoted most correctly a great number of authorities, eminent chemists and others, as to the polluted quality of a great deal of the water supplied to the inhabitants of London, and as to the pollution of the sources of supply; and he thought his hon. Friend was also careful to read the dates of his quotations; but the effect on the House would have been very different if they had recollected that many of the charges contained in those quotations were applicable to a state of things which had long since passed away, and were by no means applicable to the London of the present day. He knew himself that much of what his hon. Friend had said was not applicable to the present state of things. For example, nothing could be more explicit than the quotation from Dr. Simon; nothing more emphatic than that gentleman's condemnation of Thames water; and yet he knew, as a matter of fact, that if proper care was taken to prevent pollution, Dr. Simon would be perfectly satisfied to retain the Thames as a source of supply. The statements of his hon. Friend were, in fact, not new to the House. Over and over again it had been asserted that the Thames was not a safe source of supply. Alarms had been raised, and inquiries instituted, but always with the same result. In 1849 it was asserted that the Thames water ought not to be used for potable purposes. A Commission was appointed, and that Commission included some of our most eminent chemists. Their Reports had been quoted by his hon. Friend as strongly condemnatory of the Thames as a source of water supply. But what was the ultimate finding of the Commission? The finding of the Royal Commission, which included the names of Dr. Miller and Dr. Hoffmann, who was now, unfortunately for them, in Berlin, was that the Thames water was perfectly wholesome, palatable, agreeable in flavour, and uniform in temperature. The Commission, however, recommended that means should be taken to prevent contact with the sewage, and that the water should be drawn from sources above the tidal range. They reported unfavourably on some of the schemes submitted, but drew attention to the chalk basin at Watford, supposing that its water could be made soft. In consequence of that Report the Act of 1852 was passed—an Act which, however, fell far short of the expectations of those who framed it. The opposition of the companies foiled much that was intended by the Act—especially the project of uniting all the companies under one organization. Supposing that scheme to have been carried out, a great economy would have resulted, but that idea was ultimately abandoned. The Act also provided for a constant supply for the Metropolis, provided that it was demanded by four-fifths of the inhabitants of a district. His right hon. Friend (Mr. G. Hardy) asked how it had come to pass that the constant supply had never been asked for. He should like to know for what purpose four-fifths of the inhabitants of a district had ever been able to come to a common agreement? The hon. Member for the University of Edinburgh had drawn a frightful picture of the immense amount of contamination suffered by the water of the Thames. He said that, in round numbers, some million of people lived in the basin of the Thames, and that the whole of the sewage of that population passed into its waters. But that statement was in direct contradiction to the finding of the Commission. [Dr. LYON PLAYFAIR: I said 860,000.] Then it was the Mover of the Resolution who gave the figures without any deduction, whereas the Commissioners made very large deductions, and stated that, in their opinion, only a very small part of the pollution that might be anticipated from that large population really did pass into the Thames. But the answer to the supposed charge was that natural causes—in the flow of water and the various chemical processes going on in the flow—had the effect of purifying the waters in their passage down to the various sources of supply. Dr. Frankland, the Commissioners of 1851, and the Committee of 1867 were all agreed that the water of the Thames was good and wholesome; and after hearing the fullest evidence from gentlemen perfectly competent to give an opinion on the subject, the latest finding they had was that there was no evidence to lead them to believe that the water now supplied to the Metropolis was not generally good and wholesome. The right hon. Member for the University of Oxford was quite justified in saying that the House, and he (Mr. Bruce) might add the Government, must rely in those matters on the finding of authorized Commissions and Committees, and not upon the opinions of hon. Gentlemen, supported by individual cases. He had no doubt the water of the Thames was capable of considerable improvement, but he had also no doubt that it was in course of receiving that improvement at the present time. A good deal of what had been said was derived from the Report of an inquiry into the East London Water Works, and no doubt very hard and true things were said of that company at the time; but it has since exerted itself to improve its supply and delivery, and it now stood at the head of all the companies in the pains it took to give the poorest classes in London a constant supply. He held in his hand an abstract of the Metropolitan Water Companies Returns, and he found that, whilst there were in all London only 35,188 houses that received water on constant service, the East London Company supplied 32,723. Out of 96,000 houses in their district they had succeeded already in giving a constant supply to 32,000. He quite admitted that, as a rule, for the better class of houses an intermittent supply was quite sufficient for all the ordinary purposes of health and cleanliness. For the reasons he had stated he could not accept the Resolution in the sense that it was condemnatory of Thames water, but as a general statement he had no objection to it at all. In the face of all this evidence, depending upon different inquiries by different minds, the most scientific as well as the most practical, it was impossible to accept the conclusion that the Thames was not a proper source of water supply for this Metropolis. When he came to the second part of the Resolution, he confessed he should be glad to see it adopted by the House. At the same time he must admit that there was great force in what was stated by the hon. Member for Hull (Mr. Clay), and also by the right hon. Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. G. Hardy) as to the difficulty of providing a constant supply so long as the supply was in the hands of various companies, each of which it would be necessary to arm with very large powers for the protection of their property, if they were called upon to give effect to the constant system. The subject had been carefully considered by the Government, and they had introduced a Bill, which he should be glad to see read a second time, and referred to a Select Committee. He would not anticipate the discussion that might take place on that measure, but would only say in regard to it that he thought the Government had been met by the water companies in a very fair and liberal spirit. He had no doubt that the effect of a constant water supply on the health and happiness of the people would be great indeed. His hon. Friends had quoted evidence to show the evil results of the present intermittent supply. They had shown, from the evidence of persons authorized to speak on the matter, the foulness of the water drunk by a large portion of the poor people of London. They had shown that it was collected in receptacles which were receptacles of a great deal besides water, and that of a filthy description, and in all their great towns the constant supply system was found not only conducive to health, but, properly managed, to economy also. The Government, therefore, felt it better to introduce a measure which they admitted to be imperfect, but which was capable of conferring great advantages, than to wait till they could consolidate the various companies into one, and hand the management over to such a system of government as the corporations of Manchester and Liverpool. He was glad this discussion had preceded the discussion on the Bill which the Government were anxious to pass, because he thought that whatever might be the opinion of Members as to the details of that measure, no one who had heard that discussion would venture to assert that the measure was not called for by the exigencies of the Metropolis. To the Resolution as it stood he, on the part of the Government, could offer no opposition, although he could not accede to the interpretation which his hon. Friends had put upon a certain portion of it. The Resolution itself was perfectly harmless. It was an abstract proposition which bound the House to that which he believed every Member was at perfect liberty to affirm, and therefore, on the part of the Government, he was very willing to accept it.


said, that the necessity for obtaining a softer and a better water for the purpose of supplying London had been, in his opinion, enormously exaggerated, and when the Thames was properly purified, he had no doubt whatever that it would supply a sufficient quantity of good and wholesome water. Nothing could be more erroneous than the deductions which were drawn from statements with regard to the purity or impurity of water. The idea that very soft water was good for nothing except the laundry or the tea-maker, he was prepared, upon very good sound physiological grounds, to assert was not correct, nor did he say that the deduction which the right hon. Member for the University of Oxford had drawn with regard to the connection between hardness of water and mortality was absolutely correct; but he said it was a simple fact, that in 50 or 60 of the largest towns of this country exactly in proportion as the hardness of the water decreased the mortality had increased. In towns where the average degree of hardness was 16 per cent, the mortality was 21, and in those towns and districts where the average hardness was only 1 3/10 per cent, the mortality was 28 per cent. As to the question of constant supply, he found, that in London one-third of the houses supplied by the eight companies were under £20 a-year rental, and more than one-half of all the houses supplied were rented at less than £30 a-year. Now, he believed that the solution of this great and important question was not to adopt a gigantic scheme which would cost the Metropolis millions of money, but to trust to the companies—who had done much to improve the supply, and were still spending large sums for the purpose—to trust to them to give the lower class of houses the requisite supply upon the constant system. Consider what must necessarily take place if they put all London upon a constant supply. Let Members reflect for a moment upon what took place in their houses from half-past seven till ten o'clock in the morning on any given day; there was a rush upon the boiler, upon the bath, and upon other services, which demanded a very large supply of water, and if all the houses of London—of the middle and upper classes of houses more especially—were to make that rush upon one main during those hours, no company in or out of London could give them a sufficient supply. During the rest of the day, no doubt, the supply would be more than abundant, but between those hours no main would supply as much as was wanted. He thought it probable that the House would come to the conclusion that it was incumbent to furnish a constant supply to all the poorer class of houses, and to leave those that had an abundant supply, and had no want at the present moment, to the supply they already possessed. After this discussion, he hoped they would be content with simply calling upon the existing companies in London to do that which the House had a right to demand; but he hoped they would not be led by high-flown ideas, either medical or chemical, to rush into a stupendous expense such as that proposed by the hon. Member for Hastings, and of which failure was the only probable result.


said, that as far as he understood the question the result was this. If the first part of the Resolution meant anything, it meant that the present supply of water to London was not derived from pure sources; but the evidence given before the various Committees and Commissions did not prove anything of the sort; and he was not prepared to affirm by his vote that which he did not believe to be true. With regard to the second part of the Resolution, he thought it should again be referred to a Committee to consider. He believed that as respected the occupiers of the higher class of houses, they would consider it an intolerable nuisance to have the constant service forced upon them. At the same time, he believed, there were great advantages in applying it to the lower class of houses. He should not have risen but for an observation made by the seconder of the Resolution, who complained of the vis inertiæ of the companies in respect to improve- ments. Now, as respected one company, he could state that they drew their supply for many years from the Thames at Hungerford Bridge, and then at a great expense, paying a large sum annually, they removed their works to a higher part of the river, and they subsequently spent £40,000 for the purpose of obtaining the water some dozen miles still higher up. He did not think it right, therefore, to charge the companies with vis inertiæ in the matter of improvements, seeing that they expended these large sums of money to improve their sources of supply, although they would obtain no increased revenue in return for that outlay. The water companies of London had got no more than a fair return for their capital.


said, the hon. Member who had just sat down had reflected very much the opinion of the House. He thought the House had been placed in considerable difficulty by the Home Secretary having assented to this Motion. There was no doubt that the water supply of London ought to be derived from as pure sources as possible; but the question was whether the present supply was not for all practical purposes derived from pure sources. Then they had heard from high authority that if they had the water driven into their houses on the constant system the pipes in a great number of the houses would be totally insufficient to bear the pressure. Therefore, to agree to a Motion of this kind might lead to dangerous consequences. At the same time he should be sorry to negative it. He thought the House would do well to remain content with the discussion that had arisen, and that it should, for the present, postpone giving a decision on the subject, and therefore they should say it was a question that ought not to be put. He begged to move the Previous Question.


seconded the Amendment. Notwithstanding the many instructive speeches they had heard, no opportunity had arisen for any of those who represented the ratepayers of the Metropolis to be heard, even for a moment, on this question; and, seeing that it so vitally affected their interests, they ought to have that opportunity before the House came to a decision. But there was one thing which his experience in that House had taught him, and that was the danger of passing general abstract Resolutions; and this was espe- cially the case when the Resolution was on a subject on which no half-dozen Gentlemen were agreed. A gloss had been put on the Resolution by the Home Secretary, and if they passed, the Resolution they would have people saying to-morrow that the House of Commons had condemned the present sources of supply, and the inadequacy of the present sources of supply, as well as decisions so carefully framed by Committees of the House, more than one of which had investigated this subject, not empirically, but by the light of scientific and practical evidence. He might remind the House that he was the only Member now present—and he believed the only one who was now a Member of the House—who sat on the Committee on whose Report the Act of 1852 was passed. That Committee comprised men whose business qualities were certainly never surpassed in that House; and after 40 days consecutive sitting, and after the examination of numerous scientific and other witnesses, they came to the conclusion that the Thames afforded one of the best sources of supply. This Resolution was a virtual censure on the proceedings of that Committee, because they had been told by the supporters of it that the Thames was an unfit source of supply. He believed that was a mistake; he believed that the water of the Thames was capable of being made a perfectly healthy and useful source of supply. They should then, he thought, be careful not to pass an abstract Resolution of this kind on the eve of sending a Bill on the subject to a Committee. They ought to be very careful not to lead Members of that Committee to a foregone conclusion. Why, on that Committee of 1852 they had a scheme brought before them similar to that propounded by the hon. Member for Hastings. The late Mr. Hope had a favourite idea that the water supply of London should be taken from the chalk at Watford, and Mr. Hope Scott introduced the subject in a long speech, in which he said that the water had fallen from Heaven about the year 1668, that it had since percolated through the chalk slowly, and that it was now, to use his own words, "prime old water." In a matter which affected the lives of millions, he did not think that the House should rashly restrict itself to any particular plan, and therefore he hoped the hon. Gentleman would not press his Motion.


said, the House had been told that the opinion of the hon. Member for Hastings (Mr. Kay-Shuttleworth) rested on his own authority and that of the hon. Member for the University of Edinburgh (Dr. Lyon Playfair). But the Report of the Committee had produced on his mind a totally opposite impression. In fact, their opinion appeared to coincide with that of the hon. Member for Hastings. Again, Dr. Graham, Mr. Hoffmann, Dr. Miller, who constituted the Chemical Commission, preferred the water from the chalk. The Water Supply Commissioners said the water from the present sources—the Thames and the Lea—would be good if means were taken for excluding sewage and other pollutions, and obtaining a proper system of filtration—in other words, that the Thames water would not be so good as that from the chalk without two conditions, which it was physically impossible to obtain. Of course if no impurities were allowed to enter the river the water would be comparatively pure; but, considering the large and increasing population in the district drained by the Thames, he feared this would be very difficult. On the other hand, the chalk was a natural filter, and from the chalk an immense supply might be obtained at comparatively small expense. With regard to hard water and soft, it was true that boiling diminished the hardness, but the boiling must be continued so long that it was a question whether it would not be more economical to apply Clark's process. As to the objection that taking water from the chalk formation would exhaust the surface rivers, he could not see that this effect could be produced more by taking water from a deep reservoir than in taking it from the surface, for the same quantity would be taken in each case. He did not wish to say a word against the water companies, for he thought they did their best under the circumstances; but it was of the utmost importance to the Metropolis to have a supply of pure and wholesome water.


said, that he entirely agreed in what had been said as to the impropriety of passing an abstract Resolution, so that he should certainly vote for the Previous Question, if it were pressed; but, at the same time, he was convinced that a constant supply was indispensable to the population of London; though it was right to say the de- ficiency that had hitherto existed in this respect was not so much the fault of the water companies, but was chiefly owing to the want of efficient arrangements in the houses supplied. By constant supply, he meant water constantly in the mains, from which it could be drawn at pleasure. In the case of houses with cisterns the difficulty was capable of an easy solution; but in the poorer class of houses some control was required in order to secure a sufficient supply without waste. In regard to the question of purity of water, he believed that the Thames water might be rendered unobjectionable.


said, there were some things stated in the debate to which he should like to have replied, but considering the kind manner in which he had been received, he would not occupy the time of the House any longer. He should be quite ready to withdraw his Motion, being satisfied with the discussion which had taken place, but should take an opportunity of raising it on another occasion.


thought it was very undesirable to occupy so much of the time of the House in the discussion of abstract Resolutions, and if the right hon. Member for Shoreham would press his Motion he would vote for it.


objected to the withdrawal of the Motion of the hon. Member for Hastings.


said, that in that case he should have great pleasure in voting for the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. S. Cave).

Previous Question, "That that Question be now put,"—(Mr. Stephen Cave,)—put, and negatived.