§ Order for Consideration, as amended, read.
§ MR. SAMUDA,
in moving that the Bill be now taken into consideration, said, that, though he had just heard that this Bill was not to be opposed, he thought it desirable to make a short statement to the House on the subject. The Commercial Gas Company had been in existence for upwards of 20 years, and had faithfully carried out its pledges in respect of supplying gas to an important and still-growing district of the metropolis. The Company now required means for extending its works and mains, and had come to Parliament for the necessary powers. The present Bill was not opposed on the part of the public in 1235 the neighbourhood, who had, in fact, petitioned in favour of it. The opposition came from certain amalgamated Companies, mainly the Chartered and Imperial, which sought to prevent the acceptance of the terms on which the Company was willing to supply their gas. This Bill and the Metropolitan Gas Bill were referred to a Select Committee, not constituted in the ordinary way, but which was known as a hybrid Committee. That Committee passed the Preamble of the Metropolitan Gas Bill, and then they took the present Bill into consideration, and came to the conclusion that it was right this Bill should be allowed to go on. The Commercial Company had accepted terms more liberal in the interests of the public than any other he was acquainted with. They limited their charge to 3s. 9d. per 1,000 feet for gas of 16 candle illuminating power, and agreed that whenever it should be necessary to increase the rate beyond 3s. 9d., for every penny increase they would reduce the dividend 5s. per cent from the maximum dividend. The Committee accordingly thought the Company should have the opposite advantage, and that whenever they should be able to reduce the price, they should be allowed to increase their dividend proportionately. The opposing Companies had increased their price to 5s. per 1,000 feet in 1873 and 1874—a charge very much beyond the price charged by the Commercial and Ratcliffe Companies, whose price at the time never exceeded 3s. 9d. and 4s., and the truth was that the Chartered and other large Companies did not like to see small Companies working economically and selling at the low rate proposed. The Commercial Gas Company had loyally carried out all its promises and engagements, and he declared he could not see why any external influence should be brought to bear in that House to upset a decision arrived at in the way he had described. He would move the consideration of the Bill.
§ MR. GOLDNEY,
in seconding the Motion, said, that the subject to which the Bill related was one of great importance to the metropolitan public, and a move in the right direction; because, although when such a question was brought forward in the House anyone asking in the Lobby what was going on there was told—"only a squabble about 1236 gas," such a squabble related immediately to the expenditure of no less than £3,000,000 sterling a-year. He had given great attention to the subject, having sat on the Committee of 1867 under Lord Cardwell, and studied it carefully in all its bearings. The Metropolitan Board of Works and the Corporation of London had, he believed, done their best in the interests of the community for the gas and water supply of the metropolis. He thought the Bill ought to be allowed to pass.
§ Motion made and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now taken into Consideration."—(Mr. Samuda.)
§ COLONEL MAKINS
said, he had no intention to oppose the Bill, or to enter into the discussion of the various questions raised by it, which would be more satisfactorily dealt with "elsewhere." He only wished to guard the House against assuming that the statements of its supporters could not be controverted.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, he was glad to find that the Bill was not opposed; but, as Chairman of the Committee on the subject, he appealed to the Government to do their utmost to give an opportunity for the public Bill, which had been before the Committee, to be discussed. If the Government had done so much in reference to it, it ought, he thought, to have done more. The rule as to half-past 12 o'clock ought not to be allowed to interfere in such a case with the full discussion of the Bill. In his opinion, too, a hybrid Bill of that sort ought not to be sent to a Committee at all.
said, the other Gas Companies did not intend to oppose the Bill, for if the Commercial Company could work miracles or chose to commit suicide they were quite willing to let them do so.
§ MR. BIRLEY,
as a Member of the Select Committee upon the Bill, expressed his gratification at finding that it was not to be opposed; and joined in the appeal of the right hon. Member for Bradford that the Government would give facilities for the consideration of the general question.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill, as amended, considered.
§ Standing Orders 224 and 248 suspended.
§ Bill read the third time, and passed.