§ MR. FIRTH
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, Whether he is aware that at each of the last three quinquennial valuations of the Metropolis its rateable value has been 434 increased between two and three millions sterling in respect of simple increment of value, and irrespective of all increase consequent upon new houses or upon the structural improvement of old ones; whether he is aware that under the working of "The Metropolis Valuation Act, 1869," there has thus been an increase of nearly eight millions sterling of assessed annual value upon which the Water Companies are able to charge London consumers, and thus enormously increase their income without any increase of supply; and, whether as this year a further assessment of the Metropolis is taking place, he will take steps to prevent the continuance of the system under which, in default of immediate legislation, the London Water Companies will this year be able to increase their income by £100,000 a-year, and the capital value of their property by more than £2,000,000 sterling, at the expense of Londoners, and without in any way improving or increasing the water supply?
§ COLONEL MAKINS
asked the right hon. Gentleman, Whether he was aware that it was a fact that Water Companies' charges were based upon an assessment of their own, which was not affected by the variations in the quinquennial assessments; whether the Water Companies were assessed on their profits, while all other trades were assessed on the rental value of their premises; whether since the last assessment the Water Companies had paid £50,000 a-year more than they had paid before 1880; and whether, since 1852, they had not incurred an expenditure in works on the Upper Thames amounting to upwards of £7,000,000?
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
In answer to the Question of the hon. Member for Middlesex (Mr. Coope), I cannot say that the Question of the hon. Member for Chelsea is based on an entire misapprehension. Although it is true that water rates are founded in law on the net annual value, it is quite certain that a rise in the assessment is 435 extremely likely to lead in the future, as in the past, to a rising in the estimate of the net annual value. That is to say, if you find that the houses are rated higher than they were in the previous five years, it is extremely likely that the Water Companies, basing themselves on the net annual value, will say that the net annual value must be higher than before. Consequently a rise—no doubt a considerable rise—in the quinquennial assessment is extremely likely to lead to a great rise in the charges on the houses for water. I can only repeat what I have said before, that I think the continual increase in the charge for water, without any proportionate increase in the supply, is a great injustice to the people of London. It has arisen, no doubt, from improvident legislation in the past. What is to be the remedy is not very easy to say. The Corporation of London attempted it last year without any very great success, though I did what I could to help them. As to the real remedy for this state of things, I think my hon. Friend the Member for Chelsea and myself are pretty well agreed what it ought to be.