HC Deb 03 August 1891 vol 356 c1121
MR. HOWELL (Bethnal Green, N.E.)

I beg to ask the President of the Local Government Board if his attention has been called to the fact that the East London Waterworks Company, and other London Water Companies, have been charging on the new assessment, which came into force in April last, increased rates for the three months preceding the date of such assessment coming into force; and whether this demand for such increase by the Water Companies is legal?


I have communicated with the East London Waterworks Company on the subject of the hon. Member's question. I understand that it has been the practice of the company to make their rates half-yearly, one quarter in arrear and one quarter ill advance upon the valuation in force at the time the rates are made, instead of making and collecting them quarterly in advance as they are entitled to do. The effect of the practice is, of course, to anticipate by one quarter the effect of a new valuation list, whether as regards increases or decreases of assessment. I have no authority to determine whether the practice is legal or not, but the company are now in communication with their legal advisers, and I have received an assurance that if, in the opinion of those advisers, the practice is erroneous in point of law, the company will at once take steps to return any sums which may be found, in consequence, to have been overpaid.


May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he thinks it right or legal that, as the company collect the money half-yearly, they should charge consumers on the quarter preceding the period when the new assessment comes into force?


If the hon. Member asks my own opinion, I should say it was neither right nor legal.