HC Deb 05 March 1875 vol 222 cc1347-9

, in rising to put a Question to the President of the Local Government Board in reference to the powers in existence to check the supply of bad water by the Metropolitan Water Companies, said, that between a month and six weeks ago it was brought to the notice of the medical officers and the inhabitants generally of the south-western parts of London—in particular Westminster and Chelsea—that the water supply of the company supplying those districts—the Chelsea Waterworks Company—was virtually in an unfiltered condition. It appeared on inquiry that there had been great floods, not only in the Thames, but also in the Mole, a stream running into the Thames near Molesey Lock, just above the works of the Chelsea Company; and that owing to the large quantity of clay which had come down, the filtering apparatus of these works had been completely choked, and the water supplied thence had been, as official reports showed, quite unfiltered and full not only of clay, but of impurities of every kind, visible to the eyes of the consumers. On the matter being brought to its notice the company stated that two years ago a Bill which had for its object the construction of new reservoirs was thrown out by Parliament, but that another Bill, enabling them to make new reservoirs above Molesey Lock, was to be promoted this Session, which, if passed, they hoped would have the effect of preventing a recurrence of a bad supply. They were not, however, able to state that the same thing would not happen again. In connection with the matter many of the inhabitants had naturally been led to inquire into the law on the subject, and as to the penalties, if any, which a defaulting company became liable to. The Preamble of the Metropolis Water Act of 1871 recited that the object of the statute was to secure a constant supply of pure and wholesome water to the inhabitants, and provision was made in cases where the water was impure for an inquiry by the Local Government Board; but no definite penalty was directed to be enforced in case the companies failed to supply pure water. In one part of the old Act there was a general penalty of £100 fixed in cases where the companies were guilty of a certain class of offences, and he wished to know, Whether the fine of £100 distinctly applied to the case where the Companies had neglected to supply pure water, and whether there was any instance in which that fine had been enforced?


said, in reply, that he was not aware that, under the earlier Act, any penalty had been enforced, at least no instance of it had been brought under his notice; but he believed the fine could be enforced on the complaint of a certain number of inhabitants; at the same time, the more recent Act to regulate the Water Companies would be that to which they would look to remedy any grievance complained of. On the occasion to which the hon. Baronet had alluded, the first week in December, the bad state of the water had been occasioned by unusual floods, which had fouled the river and had rendered it impossible to filter the water properly. On the 5th a complaint was received from the officer charged with the inspection of the water supply that the water was in a bad condition. No time was lost. A special analysis was made by Dr. Frankland, and within a few days he reported that the water was in an extremely unsatisfactory state. That report was sent to the Water Company, who did all they could under the circumstances, and explained that the mischief complained of would not have occurred had their Bill to enable them to make additional water-tanks and reservoirs not been thrown out by the House of Lords. The measure they had introduced during the present Session was preferable to their former Bill, because it required the intake to be above instead of below the mouth of the river Mole. It had not been proposed to inflict a fine, because the main object was to get the water properly filtered, and steps had been taken to secure that object with the least possible delay. The company had met the complaints made in a very proper spirit, and had shown by their conduct that they wished to do all they could to remedy the evil. He could assure the hon. Baronet that the powers of the Local Government Board had not only been exercised in the matter, but had been found to be effectual.

Main Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.