asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, Whether, before concluding his negotiations with the London Water Companies, he obtained Reports and Estimates from competent engineers of the probable cost of extra works, if any, required to give an adequate constant supply of pure water on the transfer of the various undertakings; a similar estimate for works having the same object during the period covered by the proposed payments of deferred stock, and a Report and Estimate of the cost of establishing entirely new works adequate to afford such a supply over the area served by the existing Companies; and, if such Reports and Estimates have been obtained, whether he will lay them upon the Table?
MR. ASSHETON CROSS
Sir, of course, all these questions were matters which had to be very carefully considered; and if the Bill had gone into Committee, I should then have been prepared by evidence, before the Committee, to have shown actually what would have been the estimated cost and expenses of these matters. They are not in such a form as could be placed on the Table of the House, nor at the present moment do I think it would be conducive to the public interest that they should be laid upon the Table. But whenever the Bill gets into Committee, if it ever does get into Committee, I will take care that all these matters are laid before it.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
asked the right hon. Gentleman, Whether he could not give any Return on the subject? He understood the day before that a Return would be given, although in a slightly altered form, and he had been expecting that Return from the Home Office.
MR. ASSHETON CROSS
If the hon. Baronet will allow me, I will communicate with him in reference to this matter before the close of the evening, and explain my views upon it.
§ MR. ALDERMAN COTTON
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, In what position the new Water Bill (Metropolis) now stands; and, whether it would not be better to withdraw such Bill at once, seeing that there in not any chance of its being 688 passed before the dissolution of Parliament?
MR. ASSHETON CROSS
Mr. Speaker, I thought I had stated, in reply to the hon. Member for Chelsea (Sir Charles W. Dilke) a day or two ago, that the Bill would not appear upon the Paper again this Session. At present the public do not appear willing to pay the price at which alone the Companies are willing to sell, and therefore the matter will remain in abeyance. But I wish, with the permission of the House, to correct a few errors which appear to prevail as to what I said on two points in connection with the Water Bill. I am reported to have said that there would be a saving of £50,000 in the year 1880 from the consolidation of the staff and in engineering operations. What I believe I did say was that there would be a saving of £50,000 owing to the basis on which the income of the Companies in that year was calculated, and the abolition of directors' fees, besides the saving by consolidation of staff and in engineering operations, which is variously computed at from £75,000 to £100,000. Secondly, as to the impression which appears to prevail that the ratepayers will not be consulted, I do not understand how this impression could have got abroad. The whole object and end of the Bill was that the ratepayers should be brought into the same Committee-room as the Companies, and that they should have every opportunity of pressing their views on the Committee for rejecting the Bill if they thought it was not beneficial to them. Should the matter again come forward, the ratepayers may rest assured that they will be duly consulted, and have ample opportunity of making their views felt.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
May I ask a Question also of the right hon. Gentleman with regard to this Bill, which, if more convenient, I will put down for Thursday? It is, Whether any steps could be taken before any legislation takes place with regard to the Water Companies to prevent any alteration in the relative position of those Companies and the public in the interval? I mean, for instance, precautions that the Water Companies should not again raise their rates upon the public before the next valuation, and then make that raising of the rates a further argument for an increased price when fresh negotiations were opened. 689 I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he can state anything now to the House, or whether he would on Thursday be able to make a statement as to whether it is possible by a short clause, or by any other means, to endeavour to maintain the status quo in regard to these Water Companies?