§ MR. GOSCHEN
I wish to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, Whether he has considered the possibility of taking steps, by a Bill or otherwise, to prevent the Water Companies in the Metropolis from further raising their rates to the consumers on the strength of existing Acts of Parliament, pending further legislation on the subject? Perhaps the House will allow me to explain that when I used the words on the strength of existing Acts of Parliament, I am thinking of the Metropolis Valuation Act of 1869, under which the Companies have raised their rates when it was not intended by the framers of that Act or by Parliament that they should do so.
MR. ASSHETON CROSS
Sir, I could not quite understand, until the right hon. Gentleman gave his explanation, whether he was referring to the Metropolis Valuation Act, or the Local Acts which regulate 812 the Companies. There is no doubt that the Metropolis Valuation Act was passed for the purpose of getting a proper valuation in the Metropolis for the special purpose named in the Act. There can be equally no doubt that, considering what the annual value of property was, the Water Companies did take advantage of that Valuation Act, and raised their rents considerably. Parliament took no notice of the matter, and it has gone on to the present time. Rents, however, are not determined by the Statute, but by the Companies' own Acts, and the only thing in dispute is as to what is annual value. But in regard to this the consumer has precisely the same remedy as he had before the passing of the Act; and he may, if he thinks himself aggrieved, go before two Justices. In the case of a Company having a fixed price, either in the case of railway fares, or gas, or waterworks, Parliament never alters that price so fixed unless the Company applies to Parliament for further powers. In one particular case—that of the Southwark and Vauxhall Company—who are at present applying for further powers, the House may depend upon it that I shall take care that ample precaution is taken against any additional rates being imposed; and I am prepared to state that if I find, on the part of the Companies, any intention of raising rents for the purpose of enhancing the price to be paid for compensation, I should recommend Parliament to pay no attention whatever to such augmentation.