§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Clause 1 (Explanation of s. 68 of Act 10 & 11 Vict. c. 17).
§ MR. W. M. TORRENS
said, that, in fulfilment of the pledge he gave to the House some time ago, he would propose, as an Amendment, in page 1, line 15, after "shall," to insert—Within the Metropolitan area as defined by the Act of the eighteenth and nineteenth of Victoria, chapter one hundred and twenty, section two hundred and fifty.The object of the Amendment was to limit the operation of the Act to that district which came under the control of the Valuation Act of 1869. That Act constituted a standard of value, and means of ascertaining value, which did not exist in other parts of the Kingdom.
In page 1, line 15, after "shall," insert "within the Metropolitan area as defined by the Act of the eighteenth and nineteenth of Victoria, chapter one hundred and twenty, section two hundred and fifty."—(Mr. W. M. Torrens.)
§ Question, "That those words be there inserted," put, and agreed to.
§ SIR SYDNEY WATERLOW
said, that as the Committee had agreed that this should be a Bill confined to the Metropolis, the Amendment which stood in his name was merely consequential. The scope of the Bill was to assess the water rate upon the value determined by the Loral Authority from time to time. The Local Authority, acting through the Assessment Committee, had no power whatever to assess the net annual value; in fact, "net annual value" could not he found in the Act of Parliament. Under the Act the Local Authorities were called upon to fix two values, the gross value and the rateable value, and to insert in the valuation list, as set out in the Schedule, the value Tinder the two heads. Water rate should be paid on the same basis as local taxation; and that basis should be fixed by an independent authority—namely, the Assessment Committee, acting under the Valuation Authority. He fancied that was the intention of the Committee, and that that was the wish of the rate payers of the Metropolis. If they retained the words "net annual value," they would have a phrase which could not be defined even by the Water Companies themselves. With those words it was possible to have litigation upon every assessment; whereas if they adopted the words, "rateable value," they would have an amount which could not be challenged except through the Assessment Committee, and through the Court of Queen's Bench. If the words "net annual value" remained, the Bill would be inoperative, because the Local Authority would have no power; they had no power to settle the "net annual value," but only the rateable value. A paper had been circulated this morning—it bore the endorsement of the most eminent legal firms in the Metropolis, acting for the Water Companies—and in that Circular it was stated that net annual value and rateable value meant the same. If that was so, let the Committee adopt "rateable value," because that was a term generally understood.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 15, to leave out "net annual," and insert "rateable."—(Sir Sydney Water-low.)1452
§ Question proposed, "That the words 'net annual' stand part of the Clause."
§ MR. W. M. TORRENS
said, the reason why he could not agree with his hon. Friend (Sir Sydney Waterlow) on this change was simply this. Everyone knew that this controversy had arisen through the decision of the House of Lords sitting as a Court of Appeal, which decision was to the effect that Parliament, in 1847, could have meant nothing else than to establish the test of net annual value. He (Mr. Torrens) took that as the basis of this Bill; and with the assistance of the hon. and learned Member for Southwark (Mr. Arthur Cohen), and many other Gentlemen of great experience, he had, he hoped, obtained the consent of the House to turn into legislation that which was successful litigation. In other words, he believed that net annual value would be found to be identical with rateable value; but if the House of Commons should determine to substitute the phrase "rateable value," which did not occur in the decision of the House of Lords, for "net annual value," which did occur in that decision, he thought they all knew there were influences in the Upper House which were very likely to fasten upon that as an objection, and say that was not what the House of Lords decided in the case of Dobbs. His hon. Friend (Sir Sydney Waterlow) had vast experience in London rating, and he must know what the thing would come to. If it was inevitable that "net annual value" and "rateable value" were the same thing, why quarrel about the phrase? Why give a handle to those who were opposed to this legislation if there was no essential difference in the two terms? Either the two would come to the same thing in the end, or they would not. The Amendment of the hon. Gentleman would certainly give rise to an objection which it was well known there were people out of the House quite ready to take. If the Committee thought fit to substitute his hon. Friend's phrase for his (Mr. Torrens's), he, of course, would submit without a murmur; but he warned the Committee that they would run a great risk if they changed the phraseology.
§ COLONEL MAKINS
said, he agreed with the hon. Gentleman in charge of 1453 the Bill (Mr. W. M. Torrens) in objecting to the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Gravesend (Sir Sydney Waterlow). But he could not agree with the hon. Gentleman in saying that "net annual value" and "rateable value" were the same thing. He would not, at that late hour (2.45), go into very many figures; but he felt bound to occupy the Committee for a short time, more especially because the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board (Sir Charles W. Dilke) was good enough last night to refer to the hon. Member for Middlesex (Mr. Coope) and himself (Colonel Makins) in not very complimentary terms. He wished to assure the right hon. Baronet that he and his hon. Friend were not anxious to oppose themselves to the wishes either of the right hon. Baronet, or of the Metropolitan Members generally. They were there simply in the discharge of what they believed to be their duty, and in 1he support of what they believed to be a real and vital principle—namely, the maintenance of Parliamentary faith. With regard to the question of the difference between "rateable value" and "net annual value," there was a test which he thought must convince everybody. The object of the Bill, as he understood the hon. Member for Finsbury, was to bring the law into conformity with the judgment on the subject of the highest Court in the land. Now, the House of Lords, in Dobbs's case, fixed the "net annual value" as the basis upon which the water charges were to be made. Hitherto, under the language of the Act itself, it was "annual value" only. The judgment of the House of Lords had made it "net annual value;" therefore, if the Bill simply carried out that judgment, it would stop at "net annual value." But then the Bill went on to provide "as settled from time to time by the Local Authority." That was exactly what the hon. Member for Gravesend proposed.
§ COLONEL MAKINS
said, the Local Authority fixed what was the rateable value, and the Local Authority was the assessment authority. Since the Dobbs judgment was given, the Water Com panies had tried, as far as he knew—he had no official connection with any Com- 1454 pany—to bring themselves in conformity with the law; and they had, in several cases in which there had been a dispute between them and the consumers, applied to the magistrates with regard to the rates. He had a Return of 17 cases in one Company which had been before the magistrates; and the result of those 17 cases was that the parish assessment was at least 13 per cent lower than the assessment fixed by the magistrates. He could give the figures if the Committee desired it; but he thought hon. Members might take his word for it. He, therefore, maintained that if it was the desire of his hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury to bring legislation in accord with the judgment of the House of Lords, he ought to stop at the words "net annual value," and not bring in the Assessment Committee. In various parts of the Metropolis the action of the Assessment Committees was very different. A Paper had been circulated to day—he had received a copy, and he supposed every hon. Member had received one—showing the difference between the real sum—that was, the actual value of the premises—and the rate in the assessment list. There were a large number of cases given in the Paper, and the differences varied from 50 to 100 per cent. Now, if they fixed the "rateable value" or "net annual value" as fixed by the Assessment Committee, they pro tanto reduced the basis on which the water charges were made to that extent, and they took from the Water Companies something Parliament had endowed them with. It might be desirable, in the interest of the consumers, to pass a measure like this; but it was not justice to the Companies, and it would be a precedent fraught with the most evil consequences with regard to all future enterprizes based upon Acts of Parliament. He was sure the right hon. Baronet (Sir Charles W. Dilke) would give him credit for not desiring to do anything but to uphold the principle which governed all commercial matters. He hoped that when the Amendment he had upon the Paper was formally before the Committee he might be permitted to argue upon it. It was practically a negative to the Amendment now before them, and he desired to move it because it would settle all doubts. It would bring the actual law into conformity with the 1455 latest and highest judgment on the subject—namely, the judgment in the Dobbs case. If this clause passed as it now stood, it would inflict great injustice on the Companies; it would reduce the basis on which they were entitled by law to make their charges, and it would be a distinct breach of public faith. Of course, he knew that, in a case like this, he must be in a great minority; but, nevertheless, he felt it his duty to make this protest, in order that it might not be said when the question was argued, as it was sure to be. In "another place"—["Hear, hear!"]—he supposed that cheer meant that they had to look elsewhere for justice than from the present occupants of the Treasury Bench—he could not put any other construction upon it. However, he would not now detain the Committee longer. He should vote against the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Gravesend (Sir Sydney Waterlow); and if that was not carried he should propose the Amendment which stood in his own name.
§ THE SOLTCITOR GENERAL (Sir FARRER HERSCHELL)
said, be should like to say a word or two in this matter, because he was probably as familiar, or even more familiar, with the Dobbs case than any other Member of the House. He did not think there was any substantial difference between the words as they existed in the Bill and the words proposed by the hon. Member behind him (Sir Sydney Waterlow), as be believed the two expressions "net annual" and "rateable" would be held to mean the same thing. But the speech that his hon. and gallant Friend opposite (Colonel Makins) had just delivered seemed exactly to point to the desirability of shaping the Amendment, and putting beyond question what the meaning was. The hon. Gentleman behind him (Mr. W. M. Torrens), whose measure this was, had, he thought, somewhat depreciated its value when he said that its object was merely to carry into effect a decision of the House of Lords. No Bill would be necessary for that purpose.
§ SIR SYDNEY WATERLOW
said, the object was to remove a doubt with regard to the decision of the House of Lords.
§ THE SOLTCITOR GENERAL (Sir FAERER HERSCHELL)
said, the Bill pro- 1456 posed to do something beyond that He believed that what it proposed to do was quite right; but there was no use in shutting their eyes to the fact that it would go somewhat beyond the decision of the House of Lords. That decision said that the net annual value they were to arrive at was the net annual value after making certain deductions, there being a sum required for the purposes of rating to cover estimated rental above rateable value. It was left open for cases to be tested as to what was the net annual value—that was to say, what were the annual deductions for purposes of rating to be made from a given sum The measure proposed that within the Metropolitan area all this litigation should be got rid of—inasmuch as they had an independent authority, under statutory regulations, working out this very problem, and arriving at the net annual value. After making these deductions, it should be taken, within the Metropolitan area, as a satisfactory solution of the question of what the net annual value was. That was the purpose of the Bill. Inasmuch as the Local Authority, from time to time duly constituted, when they arrived at that, by Act of Parliament called it "annual value"—which they were bound to do, as they intended to include all the rateable value—it was much better to say so, because in the Statute that regulated these rates they found the words "net annual value." Though it did not make a change in the substance, it made a very distinct declaration, and avoided the possibility of controversy as to what the meaning was, and he did not think his hon. Friend behind him would find it make any substantial difference in "another place." What they were doing was to make the decision of the Assessment Committee conclusive, instead of leaving it open to litigation in each case.
said, he took a very different view of the justice of this Bill, and he agreed that if they were going to make the net annual value the rateable value they had better call it so.
MR. THOROLD ROGERS
said, he was obliged to the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General for his statement on this question. He (Mr. Rogers) had always thought that the decision the House of Lords arrived at in a perfectly well-known case was that 1457 the annual value should be taken, which they explained to mean the net annual value; but he could not help thinking that the House of Lords would be very glad if the House of Commons were to decide for them that it should be the rateable value. Net annual value was not a phrase known to the existing system, and they would stop an infinite amount of litigation which was not only open to them in consequence of such an expression as this being used, but which had been imminent in many cases over since Clarke's case. They constantly saw in the Police Courts attempts made on the part of the Water Companies to indirectly evade the consequences of the proceedings in Dobbs's case. That was very well known to most hon. Members in the House; it certainly was well known to him, having, as he had, been connected with local government for a long period, and having once taken upon himself the function for three years of working out the local assessment of the town in which he lived. He was bound to say that the proposal of the Government was intelligible and satisfactory, and one with which every person interested would agree.
§ COLONEL MAKINS
said, that, so far as he could judge, the Companies had loyally accepted the judgment in Dobbs's case, and had invariably endeavoured to carry it out. He believed that in almost every case which had come before the magistrates the contentions of the Companies had been upheld. In not 5 per cent of the cases which had been adjudicated on by the magistrates had the Companies been proved to be wrong.
asked whether the hon. and gallant Member had said that the amount charged was 13 per cent above the rateable value?
§ COLONEL MAKINS
No; what I said was that the decision of the magistrates gave 13 per cent above the assessment value.
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ Question, "That the word 'rateable' be there inserted,' put, and agreed to.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
rose to Order; the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Chelsea (Mr. Firth) had an Amendment down which came to the 1458 same point as that of the hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. W. M. Torrens), and stood first upon the Paper. The reason why he rose to Order was, because his hon. and learned Friend's words were so drawn that those of the hon. Member for Finsbury would properly follow them; if they were to put the words in the opposite order they would have to be altered.
I understood that the hon. Member for Finsbury intended to propose another Amendment altogether.
§ MR. FIRTH
said, he should be willing to give way if the hon. Member (Mr. W. M. Torrens) desired it; but, if not, he would proceed to explain his own Amendment, which was, at the end of the clause, to add—So, nevertheless, that where on any reassessment of the Metropolis under the provisions of 'The Metropolitan Valuation Act, 1869, the assessed net annual value of any tenement is increased by the assessing authority, no Water Company shall be entitled to charge any higher or further rate in respect of such increase, except where such increase is in respect of structural or other alteration of the premises, or in respect of other matters than unearned increment of value.This Amendment followed upon a Question or two he had put in the House in regard to what had been suggested by the hon. Member for Middlesex (Mr. Coope), who was not now in his place, which was based upon a misapprehonsion. Under the Act of 1869 there had been a quinquennial valuation, the tendency of which had been in the Metropolis to increase the value of a house by what was supposed to be absolutely increased value, but which was unearned increment; and the Water Companies were entitled, as they knew, to charge upon that annual amount, and would in future be entitled to charge upon the annual rateable value. He (Mr. Firth) had stated in an interrogatory form that the increased rateable value between the quinquennial valuations upon which the Companies could levy their rates amounted to £2,000,000, representing an increased income of £100,000, which, of course, increased the vested interests of the Companies to an enormous extent. The figures he had used in this way—The Metropolitan Board of Works Report had given the valuation of the 1459 Metropolis for the present year. The increase during the past 12 months had been £496,000. In 1869 the valuation was £16,287,000; but in 1870 it had increased by £2,462,000. In 1876 the increase for 1875 was £2,225,000. As between 1880 and 1881 the increase was £2,904,000, since which period the average increase had been between £400,000 and £500,000, This year, if this Bill did not pass, there would again be an enormous increase in the value of the property of the Water Companies. So much with regard to finance and figures. The Water Companies did not supply any more water in respect of that increase. The supply to accommodate the necessities of life ought to be paid for according to the amount consumed. A Return had been supplied which showed that between 1872 and 1883 the number of houses or other buildings supplied with water by the Companies rose from 497,736 to 659,249, an increase of 32.4 per cent; while the water rentals in respect of such houses and buildings rose from £948,277 to £1,505,057, or 58.7 per cent. The average rental had thus increased from £1 18s. 1d. per house in 1872 to £2 5s. 8d. in 1883, or 19.9 per cent. It had been suggested in regard to the Return to which he was alluding, and from which he was quoting, that the houses newly erected were, for the most part, of a superior class—that those rebuilt were generally much larger than those which they replaced. But, as a matter of fact, the houses were much smaller, for the reason that there had been an enormous development in every part of suburban London, an enormous increase in the number of working men's houses. Then, as to the amount of water supplied, according to the Table contained in the Return he had alluded to, the average amount of water supplied daily to each house for domestic purposes by six out of the eight Companies was less in 1883 than it was in 1872. Thus, as they advanced, the dividends of the Water Companies had enormously increased. Loan and share capital had enormously increased, and yet there had been a disadvantage to the public in the increased amount they had to pay. The increase per cent in the amount of share capital between 1872 and 1883 had been 30 percent; but the increase per cent on the esti- 1460 mated value of share capital between 1871 and 1883 had been 101.1. Owing to the working of the Act of 1869, Water Companies had enormously increased their vested interests, which was certainly not in the contemplation of the House when the Act was passed. The Act had had an effect on the Water Companies which was not at the time contemplated; and he very much regretted that they had not had in the Metropolis any properly qualified authority to sufficiently protect the interests of the ratepayers, and to prevent this sort of thing going on. The Amendment he was moving he brought forward in the interests of all persons, simply to remedy an oversight of the kind he referred to in the Act of 1869.
In page 1, at end of Clause, add, "so, nevertheless, that where on any re-assessment of the Metropolis under the provisions of The Metropolis Valuation Act, 1869,' the assessed net annual value of any tenement is increased by the assessing authority, no Water Company shall be entitled to charge any higher or further rate in respect of such increase, except where such increase is in respect of structural or other alteration of the premises, or in respect of other matters than unearned increment of value."—(Mr. Firth.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
said, he could hardly believe that the Government proposed to accept such an Amendment as this for several reasons. It was not a fact, as the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Firth) had said, that the Metropolis Valuation Act, 1869, had given the Companies power to raise their charges every time there was an assessment made. They were told that the advantage of the present Bill was that there would be a fixed value upon which the Companies would have to charge their rate; but that would not alter the present condition of things in the least, as there was already a fixed value. If the Amendment were adopted, however, that would no longer be the case. He looked upon the measure as an unjust one in every respect, although, personally, he should be prepared to accept it, because he quite saw the advantages which would accrue both to the public and the Water Companies of having a basis of charge fixed by a quasi-independent authority. A Paper had been handed round to hon. Members showing 1461 the discrepancies which existed between the rateable and the gross annual value of houses in the Metropolis. There were nearly 100 cases given in this Paper; but he was prepared to say that, in all probability, for every one case here set down it would be quite easy to find a thousand; therefore, the document really represented a large number of cases. If this Amendment were carried, these houses, a large number of which were probably paying on the net annual value—because Companies were aware of these facts and had made their charges upon the net annual value—would have to pay on the rateable value. By the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Chelsea they would have to be kept at that rateable value, which was admittedly less than half what they ought in many cases to be paying—which was less than half that which in many instances their neighbours on each side of them were paying. Was that a state of things which should exist? The real injustice of this arose from the fact that the Government had supported this Bill, allowing it to come forward as a public measure, and not requiring it to be sent like other private Bills to a Select Committee, where it would have been thoroughly inquired into and sifted by counsel on the one side and the other. He would undertake to say that there had never before been a case in which interests involving millions of money, and being dependent on Parliamentary sanction, had been attacked in Parliament without any sort of inquiry being instituted. It was impossible to know what the effect of this clause would be. He himself had been connected with the New River Company for something like 20 years, and he knew the circumstances of that undertaking very well; but he could not possibly tell the House, by reading these clauses, what the extent of their effect upon that Company was likely to be. He could not say whether they would be likely to effect it to the extent of £10,000 a-year or £100,000 a-year before the matter had been inquired into by competent authorities and the provisions had been viewed in all their bearings. Surely it was not possible for the Government to accept a clause so unfair as this, which virtually said to the Water Companies—"Heads I win, tails you lose—your rates are never to rise; but 1462 under certain eventualities they may go down." The House had before it a statement to the effect that in the 100 cases submitted the rateable value was not within 100 per cent of what it ought to be; and yet it was proposed to stereotype the injustice not only against the Water Companies, but against the very neighbours on each side of a ratepayer who might be called upon to pay a higher rate.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
said, he did not in this matter speak on behalf of the Government so much as he spoke as a Metropolitan Member, and as one interested in the subject. He did not think that in a Bill of this kind, introduced by a private Member, it was necessary for the Government, as a Government, to take a very distinct position; but he certainly thought it right to express an opinion upon the subject as a Member of the House, and one whose constituents were interested in the question. The hon. Member who had just addressed the Committee (Mr. Hardy) declared that the Companies hitherto had acted in the way of making a valuation for themselves. It must be remembered that in the Metropolis there was no control——
desired to explain. He had been speaking solely against the Amendment, and not against the Bill. Without this Amendment, personally, he should be prepared to support the measure.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
said, the hon. Member submitted that an enormous discrepancy between the real value of premises and the amount at which they were rated had been shown. He (Sir Charles W. Dilke) was bound to say that a great deal of care had been exercised in the Metropolis which was not exorcised elsewhere in the preparation of the assessments. Though there was power to appeal to the surveyor against the decision of the Assessment Committees in cases where it was believed that over-charges had been made, it was remarkable, as evidencing the accuracy of the valuations, that over a valuation of such an enormous number of millions alterations to the extent only of a few thousands had been made in the decisions of the Assessment Committees. That was a fact, and he had the figures before him at the present moment, and could submit them to the 1463 Committee if necessary. The surveyor of fixes had the power of appealing against the valuation; but he found the figures so correct that in hardly any cases was he obliged to alter them. In the Metropolis the property was assessed for the purpose of House Tax and Income Tax. He agreed with what had fallen from his hon. and learned Colleague (Mr. Firth), as to the enormous unearned increment in the water rentals within the last few years. The hon. and learned Member had mentioned some facts on that branch of the subject which he (Sir Charles W. Dilke) could supplement. The average supply of water to the houses of the Metropolis had diminished. The Companies said that the houses had increased in size; but, even if that were so, the average supply, house by house, had greatly diminished, and a smaller amount of water was now supplied than was supplied in 1883. The aggregate capital of the Companies had enormously risen. In 1872 the amount of share capital was just under £8,000,000; but in 1883 it amount to £10,333,000. In the same period £8,500,000 had been paid in dividends, and the amount of share and loan capital taken up by the shareholders at par had been nearly £3,000,000, which was estimated as equivalent to a bonus of £1,500,000 more, so that the dividends really amounted to more than the whole share capital of the Companies. In face of that fact he did not think it could be wisely contended that the Amendment of his hon. and learned Friend would amount to confiscation.
§ MR. EDWARD CLARKE
said, he was sorry to hear the right hon. Baronet (Sir Charles W. Dilke) declare it was his intention to support the Amendment. He (Mr. Edward Clarke) was anxious that the Bill should pass; but he considered it extremely dangerous that this Amendment should be inserted in it. It was, he thought, essential to mention the intention of the Bill as it was first proposed. The measure had the intention of providing a definite method of valuing a house upon which the rate was to be levied; but if the Amendment were accepted and added to the Bill, it would set up at once the very difficulty and uncertainty which it was the object of the measure to remove. Let the Committee remember 1464 what the words of the Amendment were—No Water Company shall be entitled to charge any higher or further rate in respect of such increase, except where such increase is in. respect of structural or other alterations of the premises, or in respect of other matters than unearned increment of value.Suppose a house was rated at £200 a-year, and, in a year or two, its rating was increased to £230, a controversy would take place as to whether the increase had been caused by "structural alterations" or "other alterations" which was a very large expression indeed, and one which might mean decorative alterations or "other than unearned increment of value." What "structural" or other alterations would mean in an Act of Parliament he could not pretend to say; but he was sure the adoption of this Amendment would be fatal to the hope of getting the Bill on the Statute Book, because if they were to add it to the Statute Book with this phrase in it he believed that the litigation which would result from the attempt to interpret that section would diminish, if not altogether destroy, the value of the measure. If the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Chelsea (Mr. Firth) desired that the Bill should pass, and that the ratepayers of the Metropolis should be relieved of their doubt and uncertainty as to their position in regard to what they were to be charged for water, he would withdraw this Amendment.
§ SIR SYDNEY WATERLOW
said, he hoped the Committee would not agree to the Amendment, as it seemed to him that it would be creating a mischief which, when the Committee had agreed to the words "rateable value," they had been endeavouring to get rid of. The Amendment would have the effect really of establishing two rateable values. He agreed that it seemed very hard that ratepayers should be called upon to pay a larger sum every year, notwithstanding that they might not use a larger amount of water; but the question would then arise whether the people should not be asked only to pay for the amount of water they really used—that a sum should be fixed for a certain quantity, that the consumption should be ascertained by meter, and that if the rate charged was not sufficient to recoup the Water Companies, Parlia- 1465 ment should be called upon to adjust the amount. That, however, important as it was, was a question that did not come under this Bill. Under the measure, they were endeavouring to get an uniform rate notwithstanding that under it, if the value went up, so would the charge for water. Supposing that from accident or want of information—some inadvertence on the part of the Assessment Committee—premises had been assessed too low, then the Assessment Committee would have power to make the necessary alteration, surely the Water Companies would be entitled to charge upon the additional valuation. He hoped the Amendment would not be assented to.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, he was a strong supporter of the Bill, and considered that the Water Companies were alone to blame for the necessity of any legislation on this matter at all. The Companies had been very severe in their exactions; they had pushed their claims to an intolerable extent; and, therefore, he willingly joined in bringing in this Bill, the object of which was to fix some definite and distinct basis on which the charges were to be made in future. Such being the scope of the Bill, he was unable to support the Amendment which had been moved by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Chelsea (Mr. Firth). He would suggest that if there was any desire to have legislation such as the hon. and learned Member proposed, it would be very much better to introduce it in a separate form in a separate Bill. They would run a very great risk of losing the benefit of the Bill altogether if such an Amendment as this were tacked on to the Bill. There was another reason why he could not support the present proposition; and it was that if the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member were accepted, he did not see how the Committee could, with any justice, refuse the Amendment to that Amendment which stood in the name of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for South Essex (Colonel Makins). It would be a very unjust thing to say that the Water Companies were to derive no benefit whatever from any rise which might take place in the assessment, and yet be bound to accept any reduction made in the assessment. Under all the circumstances, his hon. Friend in charge of the Bill (Mr. W. M. 1466 Torrens) would do wisely not to accept the Amendment proposed by the hon. and learned Member for Chelsea, but to allow the Bill to remain substantially in the form in which it was brought in by himself and those associated with him in the Bill.
§ MR. JESSE COLLINGS
said, he hoped his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Firth) would not withdraw the Amendment. It was better that the Bill should be lost than that the Amendment should be withdrawn, and for this reason—that the state of things which now existed would not exist much longer, and the matter could be settled much more easily as a whole, than in the piecemeal fashion suggested. What hon. Members on the Opposition Benches had been discussing were difficulties of method. The hon. and learned Member for Plymouth (Mr. Edward Clarke), and hon. Gentlemen near him, seemed to demand that the Water Companies should, in addition to having a fair price paid for the water they supplied, be also made into the rating authority—that they should be able to rate the community of London for things they did not supply. In other words, hon. Gentlemen desired that the Water Companies should not only receive money for the water they supplied, but that they should have an increased income every five years, resulting not from any increased value of the article they supplied, or from any increased quantity supplied, but simply by the method of rating adopted. This was a question whether a private Company should, for its own profit, put a tax on a community for which it rendered nothing in return. That was the principle on which this question would have to be settled. He did not think that the House of Commons would sanction the injustice of the people, not only of London, but of all large towns, being required to pay exorbitantly for so common a necessary of life as water; to pay, not on account of the increased quantity or quality of the water supplied, but simply because the Company had power which should not belong to any private Company—that of taxing the people for five years.
§ COLONEL MAKINS
said, he had on the Paper an Amendment to this Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Chelsea (Mr. Firth); but he hoped it would not be necessary to move it, 1467 because the evident sense of the Committee was that the Amendment now under consideration should be withdrawn. The right hon. Baronet opposite (Sir Charles W. Dilke) and his hon. and learned Colleague (Mr. Firth) had dealt only with private supply. They had said that houses only received the same amount of water as formerly. They had lost sight altogether of the fact that in London the private consumption of water was not paid for by meter, as was the case in Manchester and Liverpool. In addition to the payment by meter for the water consumed, each house in Manchester and Liverpool was rated for the public supply. In London the whole service, whether public or private, was included in the rate which the consumer paid; therefore, when the rateable value went up, it meant that the rates were increased, that the quantity of water used for the extinguishing of fires and for other public purposes was increased, though the actual amount per head of the population might not Lave been increased. He should be perfectly prepared to consider a measure, if it were brought in by the Government, providing that water used for domestic purposes should be paid for by meter. Of course, to that would have to be added such a rate for water for public purposes which would make the remuneration of the Companies that which. Parliament intended it should be. The Amendment now before the Committee was one-sided. They all desired the same thing, though they might not view the matter from the same point of view.
said, the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for South Essex (Colonel Makins) was mistaken when he supposed that all public supplies were gratuitous. It was only the water supplied for fires that was supplied without payment.
MR. LYULPH STANLEY
said, that some hon. Members of the House would be very glad to see the Bill passed; while others simply wished to make it an engine for future agitation. He wished to see the Bill passed; and, therefore, he should vote against the Amendment of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Chelsea (Mr. Firth).
§ MR. FIRTH
said, that all he had to say was that they would have to buy 1468 out the Water Companies sooner or later, and that if this Amendment were not passed they would this year be found to have increased their vested interest by £2,500,000. He would not, under any possible circumstances, be a party to so wicked an injustice as that; and, therefore, he intended to carry his Amendment to a division.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided: —Ayes 21; Noes 34: Majority 13. — (Div. List, No. 150.)
In page 1, to add at end of the Clause—"Provided, That where the water rate is chargeable on the annual value of a part only of any hereditament entered in the valuation list, such annual value shall be a fairly apportioned part of the rateable value of the whole tenement, ascertained as aforesaid, the apportionment in case of dispute to be determined in manner provided by the said section."—(Mr. W. M. Torrens.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ SIR SYDNEY WATERLOW
said, he would point out that the words "annual value" could not be found in the Metropolis Valuation Act, 1869.
§ Question put, and agreed to; words added.
§ Clause, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 2 (Short title) agreed to.
On the Motion of Mr. W. M. TORRENS, the following Clause agreed to, and added to the Bill: —
(Construction of Act.)
'The Waterworks Clauses Act, 1847, and this Act shall be construed together as one Act, and the provisions of this Act shall be held to repeal and supersede such of the provisions of that Act as are inconsistent with this Act.
said, that the new clause ("Supply of Water by Meter") standing in the name of the hon. Member for Marylebone (Mr. Daniel Grant) appeared to him to be beyond the scope of the Bill, and, therefore, could not be put. The same observation applied to a new clause standing in the name of the hon. and learned Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Bryce).
In page 1, line 7, after the word "not," to insert "in the Metropolis."—(Mr. W. M. Torrens.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
said, there WHS a little ambiguity with respect to the Metropolis. He did not oppose the Amendment; but he might find it necessary to ask the hon. Gentleman to move another Amendment on Report. There were two purposes for which the Metropolis was not the same. Under the Metropolis Management Act, that which was called the Metropolis was not the same as the Metropolis to which the Valuation of Property Act applied. The area would have been better defined as unions and parishes to which the Valuation Act applied, and he would suggest that his hon. Friend (Mr. W. M. Torrens) should move an Amendment in that form on Report. The difference was that Penge was included in the Metropolis Management Act, but was not in the Valuation Act; and the hamlet of Nottingham was included in the latter, but not in the former Act.
§ MR. W. M. TORRENS
said, he would bring up an Amendment on Report, as suggested by the right hon. Baronet.
§ Question put, and agreed to; words inserted accordingly.
§ Amendment proposed to further amend the Preamble, by omitting the words "net annual" in line 7, and inserting the word"rateable."—(Mr. W. M. Torrens.)
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Preamble, as amended, agreed to.
§ Bill reported; as amended, to be considered upon Friday next, and to be printed. [Bill 152.]